Hello and welcome to Dateline Disney World! This week, we'll be bringing you construction updates from the Magic Kingdom, taking a look at the preparations at Disney's Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends, and also taking a look at something interesting that has happened near the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom. So, let's get started by heading over to the Magic Kingdom!

Inside Dateline Disney World</center>
  • Magic Kingdom
    • Main Street refurbishments
    • Fantasyland expansion: Mine Train Rising, Dumbo #2, Castle Wall Growing

  • Disney's Animal Kingdom
    • Falling Trees

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios
    • Star Wars Weekends Preparation


Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!

Mending Main Street
Not much new to report on Main Street. The scrims are still up on all the locations they were on last week.

The two above aren't all that bad, but I am very ready for the scrim on the Main Street Bakery to come down.

It really obstructs the view of Cinderella Castle, and has been up since at least February.

Hopefully they are doing some really great work, and that this building will shine once it's finished up!

There is also some touch up work being done here at the end of Main Street leading up into the Hub:

While in the park, I decided to capture this shot of Roy and Minnie. I always feel like this statue is under-appreciated, as the Partners statue is obviously the big draw. Many people don't know that Roy Disney was very instrumental in making Walt Disney World happen, so I try to make new photographs of this statue often!

Let's check out what's happening at New Fantasyland now!

The biggest noticeable change this week is how quickly the structure for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster is rising.

These grey supports are going up more and more everyday, with construction happening right in front of park guest's eyes.

You'll notice that there are both brown supports, and grey supports. The brown supports are for the roller coaster track that the trains will run on, and the grey supports are for the large hills that will surround the coaster.

The pictures don't do them justice, but this first 'hill' that has gone up is very big. If you stand over by Winnie the Pooh and look over, you can imagine what it will look like when this is all covered with the green and brown that will make this attraction look great.

It is becoming more clear now that this attraction, once completed will definitely block the view of the Little Mermaid attraction, which is really great in my opinion. Depth in the Magic Kingdom!

Work on the second Dumbo spinner is rapidly progressing. This one is the 'old' Dumbo that used to reside behind the Carrousel. It was topped off this week, and now looks exactly like the new one that is currently running.

It definitely looks great. There was also a lot of work happening while I was in the park, as they are racing towards a July (or hopefully sooner!) opening for this much needed doubling of this attraction.

There was lots of painting happening, which to me is a sign that things are starting to wrap up. If there was a lot of dirty work left to do, they wouldn't be touching things up like they are! They also go through lots and lots of paint!

The other big change I noticed this week was the progress on the Castle Wall that will divide the old and new Fantasyland sections.

Lots of plywood is going up around the skeletons that we showed you last week.

Here's a close up of one section that is half covered:

This turret that is closest to the construction walls has been covered by a scrim.

If you look closely, you can start to see detail of the archways in this Castle wall.

They very much mimic that of Cinderella Castle.

It is really exciting to see that come along, especially considering the progress is happening at a rapid pace. I'm looking forward to seeing the brick go up as we get closer and closer to the Holidays when this area is scheduled to open.

Back over in Storybook Circus, the tents have really come along.

It seems like the skin that we showed you last week is all done, and that something different will adorn the front entrances of these tents.

Last week, we showed you the Casey Jr. progress, and how many of the show props were on site. Well, now it seems that most of it is in place.

This photo is a huge positive for me. It really gives a sense of how cool this little area is going to look right in front of the beautiful new Train Station. It also shows something that I've been hoping for as part of this expansion. And that is well themed and detailed pavement. I've always thought that Disneyland's Fantasyland is better themed than the one in Walt Disney World, and one of the things that I attribute to that is the pavement. If you look around Mr. Toad or the Carrousel at Disneyland, there are lots of brick pavers that are really neat. Same area in Magic Kingdom, there are just sheets of reddish pavement. They're rather boring, and it is really encouraging for me to see all this paver work in the New Fantasyland. Seeing the steps on both sides of the play area are cool too, as different height levels will make this area more interesting as well!

At the Little Mermaid, there isn't a lot to report. Some areas still have all the scaffolding on them:

And other areas seem pretty complete.

Seeing the attention to detail on Prince Eric's castle is very encouraging. I took that last shot with a 300mm lens and cropped it in significantly so you can really see how detailed this will be. Very cool.

Lots of little things still also happening around the Magic Kingdom. Last week, we reported on the new XPASS or Fastpass+ system being tested in the park. I don't know how I missed getting a photo of it last week, but they are also implementing this system on the Haunted Mansion, as seen here:

The Mansion hasn't had Fastpass in quite a while, so it is a little weird to see them putting it here. The attraction never really develops terrible lines with the exception of the peak summer days and the busy Spring Break/Holiday seasons. The bright turquoise RFID machine also really clashes with the grim colors of the attraction as well. I also thought it was interesting to see a Cast Member using an iPad to log data and information on this new system! Hooray for technology!

While over by Haunted Mansion, construction continues on the new pathway behind the Yankee Trader gift shop to Fantasyland:

Hopefully they clean this all up and make it look right now, since the way things are now, you can see the Mansion and its show building from over in Fantasyland.

Here's a look at what is on the other side of these walls, thanks to the windows at Columbia Harbor House:

Not much that is new, but work continues, and soon we will have more of an idea on exactly what will be happening here.

Some touch-up work is being done at the Frontier Trading Post:

A large scrim has appeared over its a small world:

And lastly, this pathway near the Mad Tea Party has been roped off, and a new construction block has been added.

This is probably a repaving to go along with the New Fantasyland theme. The walls that are up next to it at Winnie the Pooh have been there for some time, and were for the removal of the bouncy pads that were a failure of the new interactive queue.

That's it for Magic Kingdom, but before we head to Animal Kingdom, here's a shot I captured the other night after a small rainstorm:

What can I say, as a photographer, I'm rather drawn to Cinderella Castle! On to Disney's Animal Kingdom!

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Welcome to Animal Kingdom!

Falling Trees, Rising Nets

I had not planned on going to Animal Kingdom this week for the column, but after seeing some interesting information on Twitter, I had to head over for myself and check it out. Apparently, several weeks ago, a branch fell off of this fella:

After that happened, they closed It's Tough to be a Bug, and the surrounding paths along the Tree of Life. When I asked a Cast Member, he said "refurbishment". When I then asked if anything fell out of the sky, he gave me a little wink and said "I have no idea about any of that." Fast forward to this week. Tough to be a Bug is open again, and so are the paths along the Tree of Life. Well, sort of. You can now check out the path, but these things are now there:

Yes, they are large nets, and yes, they completely obstruct the grand view of the Tree of Life.

This was pretty appalling to me, as these pathways used to be one of my favorite things to do in the park. Curious, I continued down to see if the WHOLE pathway was covered by these nets. And what I found was even worse. They cut off the regular path with a construction wall right here:

So, as of right now, you cannot continue along this pathway and get up close and personal with the Tree for a great experience and great photos. Also, the 'detour' that they created leads to this:

Yup, a set of steps along this very organic, well themed pathway. And what happens when you head down the steps? This.

This is a dead end, with a whole lot of ugly attached to it. It is really bad show, and something that if it is going to look like this, frankly should just be closed until they can find a way to make it right. Personally, I don't think these nets would save anyone if a branch were to fall off the Tree again, and it also looks really bad. On the other side of the trail, there is another entrance. But, they have it roped off so you can't even step foot on it.

The rope pointed me to the park exit, and that was exactly where I went. I am a huge fan of all things Disney, and I usually don't get too on their case for much, but this was a sad thing to see and experience. Hopefully it isn't a permanent fix. If it is, they've taken something that was once grand, exciting, and remarkably well themed, and turned it into something undesirable. If you visit the park anytime soon, go to Guest Relations and tell them how you feel about it! Mention the Yeti too while you're at it! Before we head to Disney's Hollywood Studios, here's a special announcement about a future MiceChat event!
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You are invited to celebrate Epcot's 30th Anniversary in style with an evening of entertainment and a live taping of the MiceTube's Communicore Weekly in the Norway pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase (afternoon and evening of Saturday, September 29th)!

Come join Jeff Heimbuch, George Taylor, Dusty Sage, special guest stars and the Communicore Weekly orchestra for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.

The evening will include:
  • Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of Epcot (note: admission into the park is NOT included)
  • Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder
  • Decadent dessert reception
  • Short scavenger hunt event designed by Kevin Yee before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)
  • Meet MiceAge and MiceChat columnists and readers
  • Prizes, giveaways and more!
  • The chance to be a part of Epcot and Communicore Weekly history
  • Endless five legged goat stories and perhaps even a real life bathroom break
  • Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected Epcot attraction to cap off the evening
Fun, games, Epcot history, celebrities, and live performances of our catchy theme songs. This is an event you won't want to miss, but you'll want to act fast, there are a maximum 75 seats available.

For assistance planning your travel to this event, please contact MiceChat@FairyGodmotherTravel.com. You'll receive one free admission to this event with every room you book (minimum 3 night stay) through Fairy Godmother Travel (purchase your event ticket now and you will receive a gift card from Fairy Godmother Travel for for any free event tickets you earn).

Come early and stay late. We are also planning an early Halloween event for Friday, September 28th and a Sip and Nibble around Epcot's World Showcase for Food and Wine festival on Sunday, September 30th. More information about these two additional events will be available soon.
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Welcome to DCA! Oops, I mean the Studios!

Forceful Preparation

Preparation has started for this year's Star Wars Weekends, which commence a week from today, Friday May 18th. The huge stage has now gone up in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat, which is where the immensely popular Hyperspace Hoopla show takes place.

Since the stage is now up, the Disney Channel Rocks performances have been moved temporarily to the Streets of America.

Now that the stage is up, there is something blocking the Hat, which I feel is the thing that blocks the true icon of the Studios, the Chinese Theater. I always take a picture of the theater when I'm in the park. Lots of obstruction in this park!

These guide maps might be the ones that have been used for a while now, but with Star Wars Weekends around the corner, they are quite appropriate.

Darth's Mall is up and ready behind Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. This is the major merchandise location during SWW, and this area will soon be packed with Star Wars fans getting collectibles. It is also a cool place to head to get a unique view on Tower of Terror!

Speaking of merch, the American Idol Experience gift shop is now covered with Star Wars products, I'm assuming to help out with the rush of Star Wars fans over the coming weeks.

One of the coolest things happening at this year's Star Wars Weekends is the opportunity to have yourself frozen in Carbonite just like Han Solo! Our friends at Inside the Magic have the scoop.

This and That
Disney Photography Blog. You can also hear myself and a few other discuss Disney and photography on our podcast, ISO5571!

Don't forget to visit some of the other great content here on MiceChat, like Dateline Disneyland and Orlando Parkhopper. You can find all of our featured columns by visiting the front page at MiceChat.com.

Thanks for reading this edition of Dateline Disney World. We hope you'll join us again next Friday for even more WDW news and photos!