Disney's original classic animated film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is the inspiration behind a new high-tech ride at Orlando’s Magic Kingdom.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs Friday announced that the long-awaited Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will open to the public Wednesday, May 28 during a dedication ceremony.
"Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is both literally and figuratively the centerpiece of New Fantasyland, so we knew it had to be something special," said Staggs. "The attraction appeals to everyone in the family and provides just the right blend of heart, humor, and thrill while keeping with the charm of this special land."
On Thursday, Disney offered members of the media and others a sneak peek of the ride, which took four years to complete.
Billed as a family-friendly ride, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train takes park guests around tight turns and thrilling drops, while telling the story of Snow White from the dwarfs' perspective.
"We can take any classic story and turn it into something to immerse with our guests and this Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs story and not been told from the dwarfs' point of view, so it was a perfect opportunity for us," said show producer Pam Rollins.
The whole experience begins even before guests step into a mine car. Set in the middle of Fantasyland, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train lures people up a tree-lined hill past the Dwarfs' thatched cottage and toward the faint sounds of "Hi Ho" coming from within the mineshaft.
For those waiting to board, guests on line are offered interactive features, including a game where they can sort a row of virtual gems. Nearby, visitors can wave hands under animal carvings to trigger musical notes, colorful lighting, and streams of water to help cool off on a summer day.
Guests climb aboard mine cars (a bit of a tight squeeze) to experience the roughly two-minute ride that combines fast-moving drops and slow speeds through stunning visuals. There are no upside down loops or other scary features, so it is appropriate for children.
Adding to the sense of motion are the unique mine car ride vehicles that subtly sway left and right, making those tight turns feel even tighter. They're a first for Walt Disney Imagineering - patented technology.
"Our ride guys thought that was a perfect opportunity to bring this new technology," said Rollins. "It's the banking of the turns. It's such a smooth family coaster."
But the big "wow” moment of the ride happens when entering the mine itself. Guests are put to "work" alongside Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, and the rest of Snow White's little companions.
"You're actually seeing them work as you go," explained Rollins. "We have glistening jewels and special effects all through the mine shaft."
They dwarfs are brought to life with the help of advanced audio-animatronics figures developed by Disney. Animations from the classic "Snow White" film were recreated using 3D computer graphics, giving the dwarfs lifelike features. Their detailed facial expressions and singing of the famous working song as riders pass make them feel alive.
Surprises continue, including an out-of-your-seat moment when riders are speedily leaving the mine and plummet toward a character-filled finale. Cameos are made with some animated figures from the park's now-closed Snow White's Scary Adventures - a nice tribute to those who loved that classic ride.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train puts the final touch on Walt Disney World's Fantasyland expansion, a project that's been in the works for several years.
Disney hopes the ride will become an instant classic.
Coupled with the inclusion of Disney's new FastPass+ line skipping technology, visitors will hopefully be able to enjoy Disney's newest ride without many long, hot waits.
Ricky Brigante is a theme park expert and fan who edits InsideTheMagic, a blog focusing on Disney and theme park news and entertainment. He's also host of the award-winning "Inside the Magic" podcast.