Fantasyland expansion artist's impression

Disney has announced the largest expansion of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in its history, with the existing Fantasyland to be doubled in size.

The expanded Fantasyland will open in two stages, in 2012 and 2013. It will include new areas themed around famous Disney princesses, two new restaurants and - perhaps most significantly - a clone of the Little Mermaid underwater dark ride that is due to open at Disney's California Adventure in 2011.

The plans will see individual areas constructed based around four princesses - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) and Ariel (from The Little Mermaid). The areas will be themed around each character - for instance, guests might meet Cinderella in her country chateau, and witness the Fairy Godmother transform her rags into a ball gown.

The area's major new ride - The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure - is a "musical adventure" that will take guests on a journey under the sea to meet Ariel and her friends. Few details have been released on the ride system to date.

Parents who have waited in line for hours to ride Dumbo: The Flying Elephant will be relieved to hear that Disney plans to double the size of kids' favorite. It will also a new, covered waiting area with interactive games in order to ease the wait.

Coming in the second phase of the expansion is an oversized world based on the Pixie Hollow fairy world from Peter Pan. Disney declined to release details of the area, which is still in the early stages of development - although it is expected to be similar to the Pixie Hollow which recently open at Disneyland.

The two new restaurants coming to Fantasyland are Gascon's Tavern and Beast's Castle. Making way for the expansion will be Mickey's Toontown Fair, although the Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse houses will be relocated.

In addition to the Fantasyland expansion, the Magic Kingdom will get an upgraded version of Star Tours in 2011. Disney is gearing up to compete with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opens at Universal's Islands of Adventure in 2010.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest confirmed and rumored new attraction opening dates using Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch".


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