23 October 2009

Off to Neverland

Dreams, sometimes referred to as fantasies, are always changing. The same can also be said for the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. The land of dreams, where little boys never grow up, princesses reign, and elephants take to the air, has wrestled with many drastic changes in the years since 1972.

Menus have changed across the board in Fantasyland, but the fairest fare of all in the land has always been offered at Cinderella Castle, whether as a part of King Stefan’s Banquet Hall of Cinderella’s Royal Table. 37 years ago sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs were the dining selections of the peasants and were available at Pinocchio’s Village Haus, Tournament Tent, and The Round Table. These days, Pinocchio’s Village Haus is still a viable option, but now focuses on pizza and salads. Meanwhile, The Tournament Tent has been replaced by the frozen beverages of Scuttle’s Landing, and the corner of Fantasyland once known for The Round Table is now under the management of Mrs. Potts and Friar Tuck, complete with their cupboards and nooks. The Troubadour Tavern, which served Welch’s juice products, also played its last tune many years ago, but Fantasyland has added to its dining opportunities with the treats of the Enchanted Grove.

When it comes to the availability of Fantasyland souvenirs in 1972, the wide array of items available is astounding. From Tinkerbell Toy Shop and The Mad Hatter, to The AristoCats and Merlin’s Magic Shop, it is clear that some classics, and their collectibles, never go out of style even though there is always a new animated feature to marvel at. Almost four decades ago, guests could also stop in at the Castle Camera Shop or the Fantasyland Art Festival, where caricatures were the art of the day. These days, the time-honored tradition of focusing stores around family favorite films has continued with Tinker Bell’s Fairy Treasures, Sir Mickey’s, and Pooh’s Thotful Spot. For the princess of every family, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers a royal makeover.

Once upon a time, many many years ago, Fantasyland was more animated than it is today. The motion of the buckets belonging to the Skyway, submarines launching from their home port of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, the flights of Dumbo, and the parade of carrousel horses corralled as a part of Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel all made the area feel alive. Even the manic melody from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or It’s A Small World added to the atmosphere. Today the submarines’ lagoon has become overgrown with shrubs and the Hundred Acre Wood of Pooh’s Playful Spot, Mr. Toad has handed his deed over to The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, and the alpine Skyway building still towers over Fantasyland as a reminder of the bygone days. Still, Mickey still composes his magical melodies, though he has traded in his Revue for the PhilharMagic, Cinderella’s steeds, the spinning tea cups of the Mad Tea Party, Dumbo’s flapping soaring ears still ferry guests, and it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Snow White still carry on with their adventures.It would be remiss of me at this juncture in time and space, and fantasy, if I did not mention the impending expansion of Fantasyland. The plans, which include almost doubling the size of the current Fantasyland, include a new E ticket attraction based upon the Little Mermaid, interactive experiences highlighting the lives and times of the princesses, and several new dining experiences. The pieces of concept art released in September were enough to cause my heart to skip a beat, and that is not an exaggeration. It may not all come to pass, and what exactly it will look like when it is finished is anyone’s guess, but I am cautiously optimistic. Especially considering the ideas I have seen include the return of water and gorgeous greenery to the area.

Dreams do come true, and many of them have found a home in Fantasyland. The land of heroes, princesses, talking critters, and venomous villains has always been at the heart of the Magic Kingdom and the twinkle in small children’s eyes. Yesterday, Fantasyland offered an amazing assortment of attractions and experiences, and the promise of tomorrow looks bright.

No comments: