When it opens in Spring 2014, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster at Disney's Magic Kingdom will boast two innovative new features.
Disney had previously revealed that the coaster would feature a new ride system that will see its trains swing from side to side as they round the corners in its track. Now, it has unveiled the new-look audio-animatronic characters that will feature in the attraction's dark ride section, which it describes as "the most advanced audio-animatronics Walt Disney Imagineering has ever created".
With the first riders having experienced the attraction and a soft opening rumored to be due to begin soon, let's take a look at what these two features will bring to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
1. Fully-animated characters
Disney first introduced audio-animatronic characters back in the 1960s, when a robotic version of Abraham Lincoln took the 1964/65 New York World's Fair by storm. Since then, hundreds of lifelike figures have appeared in Disney attractions all over the world.
The dwarf figures in the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will mark a major departure from Disney's traditional approach to animating its audio-animatronics. The movements will still be created using robotics, although Disney claims that they will be smoother than ever before.
However, the facial expressions of the dwarfs will be projected onto them - something that has been attempted in other theme parks' attractions before. The difference here is that whereas faces are normally projected onto static heads, in this case the dwarfs are moving. The overall effect is strikingly close to the original characters in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as can be seen in the video below:
Of course, the dwarfs are cartoon characters. It will be interesting to see if Disney brings this new projection effect to realistic human characters in future - perhaps starting with Pirates of the Caribbean - Battle of the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland.
2. The swinging ride cars
Disney has called in Dutch manufacturer Vekoma (which has been responsible for nearly all of its modern steel roller coaster work) to work on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But this will be no off-the-shelf coaster, identical to other Vekoma creations elsewhere. Instead, it will feature custom trains designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, complete with cars that swing from side to side.
The cars will be mounted in pivots, giving them the ability to swing as they round bends in the circuit. This can be seen in the video below, shown at the D23 Expo in Anaheim in 2011. It includes footage of Disney Imagineers carrying out testing on the vehicles, which are mounted on the back of a pick-up truck.
You can just about see the swaying action in Disney's point-of-view video of the ride below, although it is likely that it will be very different once the cars are loaded up with the weight of actual riders:
We'll have to wait until the debut of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to find out how much the swinging ride cars actually influence the ride experience.
Want to find out more about Disney's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Check out these articles:
- 7 scenes to look forward to in Disney's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- 10 fun facts about Disney's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: The Complete Guide
You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter.