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I almost screamed with joy after opening up my email to find an invitation to join the press event for the opening of the New Fantasyland. I couldn’t believe I was granted such a coveted badge to the biggest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom. This was my first major press event, so naturally I was nervous as well as excited to cover it. So I began my preparations.
Some of my friends couldn’t understand why I decided to book a hotel close to the parks, considering I live only forty five minutes away. See, I knew that Disney was going to make this a party–one that might start before dawn and end long after the sun went down. The hotel was a must, and so, with my family in tow, we set out for three days of Disney fun.
The first night was a party in the park with all of New Fantasyland to ourselves. We were bused in a back way, and from the moment we set foot at the park we were treated like royalty. The food was amazing, and with all of the new attractions open and ready for us, the lines were significantly less than what the guests would be experiencing the next day. The really cool part about the first night was that there were no speeches or talks, just lots of food and fun for everyone to enjoy.
The highlight of my night came when I saw the most amazing dragon fly over and around Beast’s castle. The cloud coverage was just right to hide how Disney was performing this amazing feet of magic. My son was really excited to see the dragon as he breathed fire a few times, as if to tell us all, “I’m here, look at me!” Then the creature disappeared into the night. I heard someone say that the dragon made the special appearance in honor of the opening of New Fantasyland, so it’s a shame that regular guests won’t get to see it for themselves.
After the dragon was gone, we made our way into Be Our Guest, where I jumped in for a picture with the Beast.
Later, once the stunning fireworks performance was over, we were all sent home with New Fantasyland Mickey ears. I was really happy to have a room close by, because by the time we got to our car, it was well after midnight and the next day was going to be an early one. 7 A.M to be exact. I was right in my planning ahead.
Day two was the big day: the grand opening of New Fantasyland.
We were greeted into the park early by friendly cast members with free treats and popcorn in Storybook Circus. We took our son in to Dumbo he immediately wanted to hit the playground. After all, who cares about a flying elephant when you can have a spacious playground to yourself? Eventually we got him out and on Dumbo. We were the only ones in the queue, so my husband and son experienced it all to themselves.
Afterwards, they hit up the Great Goofini (formerly known as Goofy’s Barnstormer) and had front row seats and the entire train to themselves. After we were done with the rides, we made our way into the rest of New Fantasyland, and we were given a real backstage view of how something of this magnitude goes on. There were racks of costumes, boxes of equipment, film crews and Disney characters done up in their finest, either filming or getting ready to film a segment on the expansion.
We walked around the areas not being used for the filming and got some great pictures of Gaston’s Tavern. Be Our Guest was being used for the radio shows and interviews so we made sure to avoid that area.
Next, we ventured onto the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and I was amazed at the details in everything from the pavement to the animatronics. Once we were done with the rides and taking final pictures for my report, we left New Fantasyland and enjoyed the rest of the park.
We had a few hours to kill before the grand opening at the castle, so we walked around, got some lunch, and just relaxed. It had been a while since I had visited the Magic Kingdom and I was really happy to see they were making some improvements in certain areas of the park. One of the “construction” areas I enjoyed seeing the most was Rapunzel’s tower where the old Skyway ride used to be.
All this time, my head buzzed with excitement. I tried to take in every detail and made notes about everything, as I was afraid I would forget. When it came time for the grand opening, we made our way to the castle only to be disappointed at the lack of viewing areas. I asked a cast member were the press were supposed to stand, to which she replied “with everyone else”. I was bummed and a little surprised, so I made my way into the crowd, hoping I could at least catch a small glimpse of what was going to happen.
While looking for a place to stand, another cast member saw me and noticed my badge–he was very quick to point out that I was a member of the “privileged class” today and told me exactly where I needed to be… at the very front of the crowd. Score! However, with five minutes to show time, my son declared the inevitable: “I need to go to the bathroom.” Thankfully, my husband was with me and ran him (faster than he has ever ran before) to the bathroom and back with only seconds to spare.
The ceremony was amazing, complete with familiar Disney characters, and Jordin Sparks and Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White on Once Upon a Time) as well as a formal speech by the Chairman of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Mr. Thomas Staggs. The total ceremony lasted about ten minutes, but it was the best ten minutes of my day.
After the ceremony was complete, the rest of the day was ours. We enjoyed hanging out at the Magic Kingdom, but finally had to head back to our hotel for some much needed rest and relaxation before the grand opening of Test Track that night.
A few hours of rest and a dip in the pool later, we headed out to Epcot to enjoy the new Test Track and some more amazing Disney food. We got there a little early, so we hung out that the Coke testing station and toasted to a great day.
When the festivities were ready to begin, we jumped in with two feet and found ourselves knee deep in shrimp, steak medallions, and a ton of other delicious food. I let my son pick us out a spot to sit and eat and boy did he… right in front of the all you could eat ice cream bar. Thankfully, the servings were about the size of a small stack of quarters, so I didn’t feel too bad about letting him have a few with his dinner.
The highlight of the night was the grand opening of Test Track followed by a private concert featuring One Republic. As for the ride, they made quite a few changes to the queue line and the actual ride now had more of a Tron feel to it.
The next day was all about 2013 at the movie theater at Downtown Disney. Children were treated to a theater all to themselves, while the adults sat in on a special presentation about what to expect from Disney in 2013. During the presentation we learned more about the many different experiences that Disney has to offer including the Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney.
At the end of the presentation our host announced the new Limited Time Magic opportunities for guests and we all got a special surprise of our own: the original boy band, the Dapper Dans, performed a remix of new boy band hits in their own unique style. It was a great little surprise and a neat way to introduce the kind of surprises that Limited Time Magic will bring to the guests.
After a very early (and very yummy) lunch at Splitsville, we headed back to our hotel and I started work on my New Fantasyland post. My husband and son took in some much needed time at the pool, and then we departed for home.
Looking back, I’m still in awe at being able to be a part of it all. Even though the entire experience was a lots of fun, I also wanted to make sure that I took the notes and pictures I needed to give you, the readers, the best coverage possible. There wasn’t a moment during the three-day experience when I wasn’t thinking of you and what you wanted to hear about when I got back.
For all intents and purposes, I wasn’t there to have a magical vacation, I was there to work; but I have to say, it was the best three days of work I’ve ever had.