Disney opens first phase of Fantasyland

Walt Disney World in Orlando had a “soft opening” of the first phase of its Fantasyland expansion this week.

Spring break tourists were greeted by changes to the Magic Kingdom's Storybook Circus area, featuring the revamped Barnstormer roller coaster to fit a circus theme and a new take on the popular Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride.

The iconic ride had been closed since January, and will ultimately feature two carousels. For now it has the single carousel, but it dazzles with its a red, blue and gold color scheme. Golden storks are on top the ride, followed by a ring of elephants representing Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo's mother in the 1941 movie.  LED lighting sets the ride and the water from its fountain alight when the sun goes down.

The multimillion-dollar expansion  --the largest in the park’s 40-year history-- will take place in phases over three years.

Chris Beatty, creative director of the expansion told The Baltimore Sun that Disney has not set time frames or the order the attractions will appear, but everything is expected to be completed sometime in 2013.

Other additions expected for the official opening in late March include a second counterclockwise Dumbo carousel expected to arrive this summer and a return of the Walt Disney World Railroad. The resort will also eventually add a Little Mermaid dark ride based on the movie, a Seven Dwarfs roller coaster and recreation the village from "Beauty and the Beast."

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