By Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel
6:41 PM EDT, June 20, 2012
The new doubled-up Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride has entered the "soft opening" stage at Magic Kingdom. For the first time, both of the side-by-side, up-and-down carousels, were operated with guests on board Wednesday.
In theme-park-speak, soft opening indicates that guests may or may not be allowed to ride the new parts of the attraction while Disney officials finish off details pertaining to mechanical, operational, decorative and other kinds of issues. Tentative status also applies to the new air-conditioned queue for Dumbo. One side of the ride is expected to work for guests always, but Disney continues to list July as the opening date.
"We want to make sure we're providing a great guest experience," said creative director Chris Beatty during a Wednesday walk-through of this section of Storybook Circus, a subsection of Fantasyland. Some visitors are asked for feedback, he said, and "behavioral patterns" are being studied.
Inside the new queue area is a circus-themed playground with slides and other playthings. Folks will be issued a pager marked as "1 ticket to the amazing Dumbo." It's similar to a familiar device found at restaurants.
"There's no learning curve with it," Beatty said. The pager lights up when it's time to board the ride.
High in the play tent is a flying Dumbo and by his pal Timothy Q. Mouse. The area includes a tall burning building as seen in the 1940 animated film "Dumbo." (It resembles the climactic scene where he discovered he could fly.) Pulling a cord near fireworks display sets off a light show.
Benches line the outer edge of the space, providing rest for rattled parents until the pager goes off, which is expected to be 15 or 20 minutes.
A center ring, designed for 2-to-3-year olds, has interactive elements such as a little fire truck with horn, tap-touch lights and various cranks. Animal prints create noise when stepped on.
A four-part puzzle allows kids to mix-and-match circus characters' hats, heads, torsos and legs. That's an enlarged variation of those found at Dumbo's old location near Cinderella Castle.
Every 15 minutes or so, a spotlight shines on the flying elephant during an announcement by Timothy Q. Mouse that reminds folks that the big ride is ahead.
Outside, the actual Timothy figure that resided atop the Dumbo ride stands on the entryway sign. It rotates and bows.
"We cleaned him up and moved him over," Beatty said.
Coming later: a photo opportunity with the grounded Dumbo vehicle that was at the previous location.
Double Dumbo is part of the ongoing expansion of Fantasyland, which will continue into 2014. Magic Kingdom introduced the Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station last week, which was preceded by the reopening of the neighboring Barnstormer roller coaster.
More bits of the area will be revealed throughout the summer, Beatty said, including an archway greeting people to Storybook Circus. Fantasyland attractions based on "Beauty and the Beast" and"The Little Mermaid"are expected to be ready the holiday season of this year.
•Eventually, Dumbo the Flying Elephant will be a FastPass ride, but FastPass holders will not experience the indoor stretch of the queue. (The play tent is designed to be an option feature. If the lines aren't very long, it may not be used at all.)
•Landscaping is under way behind the Fantasyland construction walls. "Most of the trees for [Under the Sea – Journey of the Little] Mermaid are in now," Beatty said.
•An opening date of 2013 is, indeed, correct for Princess Fairytale Hall, which will take up residence in the former home of Snow White's Scary Adventures. The space is being made extremely "regal," Beatty said. Look for lush woodword and full-sized portraits of the princesses to decorate its interior.
•Construction is progressing for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster, which has a 2014 completion date. The steel beams now seen over the wall represent almost the top of the ride. Imagine it to be about 12 feet taller once décor and other matter are layered on, Beatty said.
DBevil@Tribune.com or 407-420-5477
Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel