New rides don’t come along very often at Magic Kingdom. The reality is that The Walt Disney Company always faces long odds in introducing new elements into their most popular theme park. Guests share a certain expectation about where everything should go and which attractions should always exist. Amusingly, many of the same people also want to enjoy new and exciting experiences while visiting Walt Disney World.
Historically, Disney has combatted these conflicting consumer demands by adding new rides at the other theme parks while constantly renovating the most popular attractions at Magic Kingdom. Sure, there’s the occasional repurposing of a space to turn The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter into Stitch’s Great Escape!, but the general practice is to perfect rather than create anew. That’s why the introduction of Seven Dwarfs Mine Trains proved so shrewd for the corporation.
While performing an expansion of Fantasyland, Disney opened enough space to add a new roller coaster. The instant crowd pleaser isn’t a thrill ride along the lines of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Test Track. What is does deliver, however, is a joyous experience starting the moment people enter the line that continues all the way until the final stop of the coaster cart. In fact, the Imagineers saved a special surprise for people when they reach the end of the line. Let’s go Behind the Ride to learn about how Disney developed such a wonderful new attraction.
The Experience: A New Roller Coaster in an Area Planned for Princesses
The Trick: New Construction and the discarding of a potential attraction
Okay, this isn’t a trick per se, but to appreciate what The Walt Disney Company achieved with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you first must understand what they faced. The opportunity to build a new attraction in an established park hub doesn’t come around very often for any Disney theme park gate, much less Magic Kingdom, its crown jewel. Building a new attraction in Fantasyland wasn’t just about constructing the latest and greatest technological marvel. It was about maintaining the delicate balance of guest satisfaction. Deciphering the perfect balance required a nuanced approach.
As originally intended, Fantasyland would stand as a Disney Princess haven. In 2009, Disney announced their plans for the Fantasyland expansion. The initial blueprints suggested a pair of Princess attractions featuring Aurora and a princess to be named later as the stars. The former became The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. The latter…became something different. The Fantasyland expansion was to include a large Pixie Hollow section, a broadening of the same premise that remains at Disneyland today. Disney had opened this Magic Kingdom park setting at Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 2008, and they felt satisfied enough with the results to delve deeper into the setting.
Over time, the park planners responsible for New Fantasyland accepted the obvious. The scales of this section tilted undeniably female. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with this as more than half the population is female. If you’re going to tip the scales a particular way, targeting women makes more sense than men, statistically speaking. Imagineers felt differently. They wanted everyone to experience the same euphoria once the improved park section opened to the public. So, they dropped Pixie Hollow altogether and reconsidered how to approach the second princess. In the end, they prioritized a family-friendly ride that would appeal to everyone. By the start of 2011, plans were in place for a new roller coaster, albeit one that wouldn’t break any land-speed records. After all, that wasn’t the point. This new ride would appeal to Disney loyalists who loved a certain fairytale already popular in Fantasyland.
The Experience: Relief from the boredom of waiting in line
The Trick: employing technology in extremely clever ways
Disney enjoys an enviable problem at their theme parks, especially at Walt Disney World. They enjoy a high volume of traffic from theme park tourists across the globe. That’s why half of the most visited theme parks on the planet are Disney’s Orlando gates. The downside of this is that the company faces an ongoing struggle to eliminate theme park queues. Frankly, there’s no ultimate solution to this problem. It will always exist in some form.
Rather than sit idly by while customers suffer through agonizingly slow, boring lines, however, Imagineers have aggressively attacked the problem. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train stands as one of their greatest achievements to date in this regard. Imagineers have meticulously timed distractions along the ride queue in order to reduce the amount of aggravation that park visitors endure.
Once people enter the covered part of the line, they start to notice a Bejeweled type of touchscreen videogame. There are multiple consoles available to play, and guests can interact from both sides of the display, meaning that they can play for several minutes if so inclined. Best of all, the interactive game allows multiple participants at once, so there’s no fear of someone hogging the game.
This collaborative type of activity spills over into the indoor area. Once people reach the interior part of the queue, they see barrels that they can spin, which is a pitch perfect addition to a dwarf mine attraction. Once people begin to spin, the genius of the apparatus reveals itself on the ceiling. The various dwarfs appear on the roof when people gyrate the barrels quickly enough. If enough people do so at once, a hidden Easter egg unfolds. Snow White herself joins her beloved dwarfs in dancing on the ceiling. Due to its newness and instant popularity, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train claims one of the longest waits at Walt Disney World, frequently in excess of 100 minutes. The enjoyable line games cause a lot of this time to fly by, though.