Same plans as above, overlayed on an aerial shot of the current Fantasyland (aerial photo courtesy Bing.com). Click image for a better view.
For the past week, the plans you see above have been making their way across the internet. As the story goes, these are apparently plans for a rumored major expansion of Fantasyland. Whether or not these are genuine plans or some fan hoax has yet to be determined (if it ever could be determined). Naturally, Disney has no comment on these supposed plans (which I'm not surprised about).
In any case, I initially held off commenting on these plans because I didn't want to spread the hoax (at first, I thought these plans were fake). The more I see other Disney fan sites and mainstream media discussing these plans, I thought I should go ahead and give some comments about what may or may not be in store for Fantasyland.
To help me get a sense of just what would stay and go, I superimposed the plans over an aerial image of present-day Fantasyland (thanks to Bing.com for the aerial view). As you can see from the second image above, much of the expansion (for argument's sake, let's consider this to be actual plans) will use land not currently in use. In fact, it would be a good thing for Disney to finally make something useful out of the old 20,000 Leagues site (of course, I'd like to see 20,000 Leagues make a return, but something's better than nothing).
This expansion does mean the death of Toon Town, which in my opinion isn't a huge loss. WDW's Toon Town never made it to the level of Toon Town at Disneyland. The most interesting part of Toon Town, the Barnstormer, would be staying. What's would be replacing Toon Town? Pixie Hollow. Now currently just a meet and greet area, Pixie Hollow would be greatly expanded to include a play area and a larger meet and greet area.
I also found it very interesting that much of the "planned" expansion centers around princesses. It should come as no surprise, since young girls (and their parents) are a huge target demographic for Disney. Boys, don't worry, you still have much of the rest of the park to visit if the princess-related attractions aren't your thing (think Pirates, Buzz Lightyear, Space-Splash-Big Thunder mountains, etc.).
Probably the biggest question I have is this "castle wall" section just beyond Cinderella's Golden Carousel. What's up with that? Fantasyland already has a big castle, does it need a second? Perhaps this is a low wall meant more to expand the castle theming rather than another castle altogether.
As we look further north, we get into some serious princess action. Cinderella, Aurora, Belle and Ariel each have attractions (though Aurora and Belle's attractions appear to be pretty small -- perhaps just walk-through areas or a movie-based attraction?). Most likely the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" attraction (not to be confused with the show currently running at Disney's Hollywood Studios) will be similar, if not an exact replica, of The Little Mermaid attraction coming to Disney's California Adventure as part of that park's major renovation currently under construction. Note that no mention is made of Disney's newest princess, Tiana, making her on-screen debut this December in The Princess and the Frog. If these plans are genuine and do move forward, I suspect Tiana would find her way into these plans pretty quickly, perhaps at the expense of another princess, (Cinderella maybe -- after all, Cinderella does have a huge castle and a carousel already).
In addition to a Belle-themed attraction, the plans call for a new "Be Our Guest" restaurant (presumably table-service) and Gaston's Tavern (probably a counter-service or snack-service). Based on the layout, it appears these areas would be heavily themed and landscaped (no surprise).
What may be the most interesting element of all is the new "Dumbo" area with not one, but two Dumbo attractions (most likely similar to the current ultra-popular Dumbo attraction). What I find to be even more interesting than the dual attractions, which is probably a good idea given the immense wait times for Dumbo, especially in the afternoons, is the "nextgen interactive queue." I can only guess this would be a queue similar to Soarin' and Space Mountain (in the soon-to-be completed refurb), where guests would be able to play games or otherwise interact with different elements.
It's also worth noting that the old Toon Town train station has been re-named the Fantasyland train station -- further evidence of just how big Fantasyland would become -- easily the largest land in all of the Magic Kingdom.
I showed these possible plans to my elementary-aged daughter who is all about Disney princesses right now. She couldn't wait to see these new elements, especially the expanded Pixie Hollow and the new Little Mermaid attraction. When I asked her about the demise of Toon Town, should these plans move forward, she said "there isn't that much to do in Toon Town besides the Barnstormer." My sentiments exactly. Don't get me wrong, I like Mickey and Minnie's houses. They just aren't enough to make Toon Town a viable "land" all it's own. I imagine Disney might find a way to relocate those two elements. As for Donald's Boat, it looks like it could be taken up by an extension of the Dumbo area, though it's not clear on these plans what might be there.
Again, I want to stress that we have NO IDEA if these are genuine plans or not. If these are a fake, then someone's gone to a lot of effort to develop some very interesting plans using as much space as is available for expansion. If these are genuine plans, then I think Disney's got a great idea going. Fantasyland (and the Magic Kingdom as a whole) could really use some real attention.
There is one possibility. The 40th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom is coming in 2011. Could it be that this expansion was/is in the works to coincide with that major milestone?
Of course, there's another major element to consider when it comes to expansions -- the economy. Disney's not exactly raking it in right now, though I think things are better now than they were six months ago. All the same, Disney has billions committed to an expansion of DCA, half a billion (or so) committed to the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland, is in the works to build an all new park in Shanghai (as part of a joint venture with the Chinese gov't) and is still working on a significant renovation to Space Mountain at WDW. That's a lot on Imagineering's plate.
Does Disney have the capital for a multi-million dollar project like this expansion? I have no idea.