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Disney World opens first phase of Fantasyland expansion

Disney World opens first phase of Fantasyland expansion
(Disney)

The first phase of the multi-stage unveiling of the Fantasyland makeover has moved into "soft opening" mode in advance of an official unveiling later this month at the

in Florida.

Three years in the making, the

at Orlando's

Walt Disney World

resort adds a Little Mermaid dark ride and a Seven Dwarfs roller coaster while updating the classic Dumbo ride and recreating the village from "Beauty and the Beast."

Among the new additions officially opening in late March:

> The Goofy-themed Barnstormer kiddie coaster gets a makeover as the Great Goofini, combining circus sideshow elements with a flying school story line.

> The clockwise half of the dueling Dumbo flying elephants ride debuts with a second counterclockwise Dumbo carousel expected to arrive this summer.

> The redressed Fantasyland station of the Walt Disney World Railroad returns to service.

Later this year, the Casey Jr. Roundhouse water play area and Pete’s Silly Sideshow will complete the Storybook Circus portion of the Fantasyland expansion.

Work is expected to continue into late 2013 to early 2014 on the "royal" side of Fantasyland expansion, which includes:

> The "Beauty and the Beast"-themed Be Our Guest restaurant, Gaston's Tavern, Belle's Cottage and Maurice's Workshop.

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> The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster, which takes riders through the story of "

Snow White

," featuring ride vehicles that swing back and forth.

> The Princess Fairytale Hall, serving as a meet-and-greet area for

Cinderella

, Aurora, Tiana and Rapunzel, takes over the Snow White's Scary Adventure dark-ride location (which closes May 31).

> The

dark ride, which will be identical to the $100-million attraction added at

Disney

California Adventure in 2011.

Back in September 2009, Disney Imagineering rushed out plans for a girl-centric makeover of Fantasyland in a hasty effort to counterprogram the Boy Wizard's imminent takeover of Orlando, Fla.

After weathering the arrival of the

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

at

, Disney went back to the drawing board on its ambitious Fantasyland expansion plan to significantly scale back the princess-focused elements of the original outline.

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