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Disney's Magic Kingdom castle image

Walt Disney World has begun construction of the long-awaited expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, resulting in changes to a number of character greeting areas.

Ariel's Grotto, Pooh's Playful Spot and the Scuttle's Landing snack location are all now closed, with the first construction walls appearing in the area. Guests will still be able to meet Winnie the Pooh and friends next to the Toontown train station until May 9, after which Pooh and Tigger will meet guests in the Town Square area.

However, the Little Mermaid's Ariel will not be doing meet and greets with guests until a new grotto location is completed as part of the expansion. The character will still appear in the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade at the Magic Kingdom, as well as in the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Ariel will feature heavily in the updated Fantasyland, with Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid set to be the area's headline attraction. The ride will be a "musical adventure", taking guests on a journey under the sea to meet Ariel and her friends. Few details have been released on the ride system to date.

The expanded Fantasyland will open in two stages, in 2012 and 2013. It will include new areas themed around famous Disney princesses and two new restaurants. The plans will see individual areas constructed based around four princesses - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) and Ariel. 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 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.

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.

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