Walt Disney World's announcement of a brand new rollercoaster themed around Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has sparked intense speculation about the nature of the ride - but what has been confirmed, what is rumored, and what is just plain wrong?
The new coaster, dubbed the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will form part of a major expansion of the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland that is scheduled to open in phases from late 2012. It was a late addition to the plans, replacing an area that was to host multiple "meet-and-greet" locations for Disney princesses. This has been seen by some as an attempt by Disney to address criticism that the expansion would be too girl-centric, as well as adding an all-new attraction to the mix.
Minimal details have been released of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train by Disney, but it is known that the coaster will take guests on a musical ride deep into a diamond mine. It will feature a first-of-its-kind ride system that will allow the vehicles to swing back and forth as they move along the twisting track, accompanied by tunes from the movie's soundtrack.
Disney fans have been poring over concept art for the new ride since its announcement, trying to turn up more insights as to what kind of experience it will offer. Let's take a look at seven rumors about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - and whether they are likely to prove accurate or wide of the mark.
1. The concept has been resurrected from Disney's Imagineering graveyard
Disney's Imagineers have dreamed up a huge number of concepts over the years, many of which never made it into construction. When the company decided to revise its plans for the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion, did it draw upon its list of "parked" projects to fill the gap left by the dedicated princess areas? After all, a Snow White-themed rollercoaster had long been rumored - with many expecting it to be a simple retheme of the existing Barnstormer coaster.
Speaking to Deb Wills of AllEars.Net, Imagineer Eric Jacobson confirmed that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train concept had been kicked around for several years before being resurrected. With plans for the updated Fantasyland having been in the works for some time, it's likely that designs for the ride were reasonably advanced - enabling it to be quickly slotted back in. However, the original rumors about a Barnstormer retheme proved to be inaccurate - with the junior coaster instead to be renamed as Goofy and the Great Goofini.
Fact or fiction: Fact
2. It has increased the number of rides in the expanded Fantasyland
On the face of it, the addition of a new ride to the Fantasyland expansion in place of a set of meet-and-greet areas is good news for all but the most enthusiastic princess-huggers. However, the princesses have not been shunted out of Fantasyland entirely - with a new indoor area dubbed the Princess Fairytale Hall set to replace the existing Snow White's Scary Adventures dark ride.
With the old Snow White-themed attraction set to close later this year, the net number of attractions in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland will still only increase by one following the expansion. On the plus side, the other new ride - Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid - will add substantially to the area's capacity. As you can read in our in-depth preview of its sister ride at Disney California Adventure (which will open in May 2011), the Little Mermaid ride will reuse the classic OmniMover ride system used in the Haunted Mansion attraction.
Fact or fiction: Fiction
3. It will use an existing ride system from Mack or Premier rides
Disney was insistent in its announcement of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train that the rollercoaster's ride system will be a world's first. Despite this, the description of the ride vehicles as being able to "swing back and forth" as they travel around corners has led to some to suggest that existing "drifting" coaster models from Mack and Premier Rides could fit the bill.
Premier Rides' Drifting Coaster and Mack's e-motion model feature cars that can "drift" around corners, with the back of the car sliding outwards. However, Premier Rides has already sold one of its drifting coasters to the F1-X theme park in Dubai (where construction has stalled), seemingly ruling it out of the frame for Disney's first-of-a-kind experience. And Mack's e-motion is a "wild mouse" coaster that features only one car per train, while Disney's concept art showing multiple cars in every train on the Snow White-themed ride.
In any case, Disney's description of the swinging action on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train does not seem to match a drifting coaster. Imagineer Jacobson says that the company is trying to create cars that "tip to the side" and "swing back and forth" to unload their diamond cargo, which would seem to indicate that they will rock in both directions rather than simply sliding slightly to one side. This can be seen in the concept art, with the cars seeming to be anchored at both ends to allow the tipping action.
Fact or fiction: Probably fiction
4. Most of the ride will be indoors
Several images have appeared online claiming to show the planned layout for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, most of them based on a post on Disney fansite Discussion Kingdom. The authenticity of the layout has yet to be fully confirmed, but it shows a lengthy queue running into the "mine", with the coaster itself only emerging outdoors for a couple of brief periods. This conflicts slightly with previous rumors and Disney's own concept art, which shows the mine train travelling through an outdoor forest area for much of its course.
One aspect of the layout that has been confirmed is that it will end with a scene showing the Seven Dwarfs celebrating along with Snow White in her cottage. It seems likely that the train will pass alongside the cottage, rather than through it, although speaking of the ride Disney's Eric Jacobson did say that the ride will travel "inside the mine and inside Snow White's cottage".
Fact or fiction: To be confirmed
5. It will use the FASTPASS system
Eagle-eyed fans have spotted that Disney's concept art for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train shows three pedestrian walkways heading into (or out of) the the mine. Although concept art is not designed to be completely accurate, this does point towards the ride implementing Disney's FASTPASS system. This enables guests to receive a ticket stamped with a "time window", during which they can return to the ride and join a much shorter FASTPASS queue.
With the ride seemingly featuring trains that hold sixteen riders, it is unlikely to process guests at the same rate as the non-stop OmniMover system used by Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. With the coaster likely to prove very popular, it is likely that Disney will utilize the queue-jumping system - bringing the total number of FASTPASS rides in Fantasyland up to four (as many as in the whole of Disney's Hollywood Studios).
Fact or fiction: Probably fact
6. It will be a cross between a dark ride and a rollercoaster
Disney is removing a dark ride from the Magic Kingdom when it closes Snow White's Scary Adventures, but it appears that its replacement will incorporate at least some elements of a classic slow-moving Disney attraction. The concept art released so far shows animated dwarf figures hard at work in the mine, with the coaster likely to slow down at least long enough for riders to have a look.
It wouldn't be the first time that Disney has merged dark ride elements with a gravity-driven coaster. For example, Crush's Coaster at Walt Disney Studios, Paris features a slow-paced opening section followed by a thrilling high-speed finale. The duration of its latest ride has been described as "less than five minutes" - pointing towards an experience that is shorter than many dark rides, but potentially longer than a typical coaster.
Disney has described the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as sitting somewhere between Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain in terms of thrills. With those rides reaching top speeds of 20mph and 30mph respectively, it's unlikely that the new ride will rocket around its course - with the thrills more likely to come from the swinging action of the cars.
Fact or fiction: Fact
7. It will reuse elements from Snow White's Scary Adventures
With Disney ripping out one Snow White-themed ride and building another, inevitably some have asked whether it will look to retain elements of Snow White's Scary Adventures in the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Could some of the animated figures from the 1994-built ride make their way into the new one?
The plot for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will differ from the previous attraction, which sees guests travelling around a series of iconic scenes from the movie. The coaster's plot will focus on guests joining the dwarfs for a "day at work", seeing them dig in the mine and finally witnessing the celebration at Snow White's cottage.
Despite the differences, there will inevitably be some crossover with Disney already hinting that the wicked Queen (who has become infamous for terrorising children in the current ride) could make an appearance. In addition, Snow White's Scary Adventures features a scene set in the mine - so Disney could decide to reuse some items, even if only as a token tribute to a former classic.
Fact or fiction: To be confirmed
Whether the rumors about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train prove to be accurate or not, the announcement of the ride has reignited interest in the Fantasyland expansion. While it can hardly be seen as the Magic Kingdom's response to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it has triggered more excitement and debate in just a week than the canned meet-and-greet areas managed in over a year. We look forward to seeing whether Disney's Imagineers can create a fitting centerpiece for the new Fantasyland, as well as getting the rare opportunity to try out an all-new ride system.
What do you think of Disney's plans for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Let us know through the comments section below.
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