Riders aboard Walt Disney World's new roller coaster will travel through dark passageways and into the Florida sunshine in cars that wobble a bit while charging ahead.
But riders won't be turning upside down, reaching high speeds or soaring to extreme heights on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, set to open soon as the final piece of the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion.
Many of the nation's amusement parks promote their new coasters as the tallest, highest, longest or fastest, but Disney's new ride aims for the middle of the thrill scale: enough excitement for the kids but not too much for Grandma and Grandpa.
"This is a family-based experience from Day One: a focus on family, a focus on experiencing it together," said Mark Kohl, executive project manager with Walt Disney Imagineering.
Disney isn't the only theme-park company that has found "family-friendly" to be a sweet spot for roller coasters.
SeaWorld Orlando's Manta sports severe twists, loops and drops, but it still offers a sedate component: a walk-through aquarium built beneath the rails and accessible to nonriders.
"That was sort of the first evolution of what you've seen us do for the past five years, where we really invested in the folks that don't want to ride," said Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment's senior director of development and design.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal's Islands of Adventure has themed entertainment throughout its waiting line. People who don't want to experience the full ride, which has sweeping motions and spooky elements, can walk through the line and opt out before boarding. Some young Harry Potter fans can't meet the ride's height requirement of 48 inches.
The newest coasters in Orlando are at a smaller attraction, Fun Spot America, near International Drive. White Lightning and Freedom Flyer were constructed as part of last year's expansion.
White Lightning is Central Florida's only wooden coaster, but it was designed with a steel substructure that creates a smooth ride, said John Arie Jr., chief operating officer of Fun Spot Attractions, which also has a Kissimmee location.
"We're not going just for the extremists or something that's off the charts as far as the rides," he said. "We wanted them to be able to ride them over and over again."
Passengers have ranged from 5 to 95 years old, and about 300,000 people rode each coaster in the first nine months, he said.
"We're a big fan of them," Arie said. "There's a good chance that you'll see another one."
The intensity of Disney's new Mine Train ride has been described as somewhere between two other Magic Kingdom attractions: Barnstormer, which is a kiddie coaster, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which has more dramatic hills and turns.
The attraction's cars will sway, Kohl said. "You're moving in this way that's very acceptable and very friendly."
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is expected to open this spring. No date has been announced, though Disney removed the construction walls last week. It will be the first new Disney World coaster since Expedition Everest opened at Animal Kingdom in 2006.
Mine Train riders will roll outdoors for curves, dips and prime views of Fantasyland, then back inside through the dwarfs' workplace, Kohl said.
Disney has enlisted beloved characters from a quiet film — 1937's "Snow White and Seven Dwarfs" — while other companies go for superlatives to draw crowds. Debuting this spring, for example, is the Banshee, a steel coaster at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, that has 4,124 feet of track, making it world's longest inverted roller coaster.
Chris Kraftchick, regional representative for the American Coasters Enthusiasts fan club, said he's looking forward to the Magic Kingdom ride but isn't expecting a high level of intensity.
"I kind of look at it more like a 'dark ride' with a unique ride vehicle," he said. The coaster's cars are designed to look and move like the wagons the dwarfs used in the film to haul precious gems.
"With Disney, it's always about the story," Kraftchick said.
The Mine Train will complete the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. Alongside the coaster are new, gentle attractions tied to "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" films, plus an area called Storybook Circus, which features the Dumbo ride and the Barnstormer coaster. Analysts have estimated the cost of the new Fantasyland at $425 million.
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