Disney to expand Fantasyland at Walt Disney World

ANAHEIM, California Sat Sep 12, 2009 7:34pm EDT

Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps rides down Main Street USA with Mickey Mouse during a parade at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida August 29, 2008. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps rides down Main Street USA with Mickey Mouse during a parade at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida August 29, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Scott Audette

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ANAHEIM, California (Reuters) - Mickey Mouse's house and his Toon Town world will make way next year for a vastly larger Fantasyland, in the biggest-ever expansion of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, Walt Disney Co said on Saturday.

The Fantasyland expansion, whose price tag was not disclosed, will open in two stages in 2012 and 2013 and builds on the popularity of the Disney Princess and Fairies franchises, which have topped $4 billion in global retail sales.

Disney theme parks Chairman Jay Rasulo said the Fantasyland project, which breaks ground next year, will be paid for from funds designated for the theme park division's annual capital expenditures.

Plans call for four Disney Princess characters -- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" -- to be featured in "fantasy lands" where park visitors engage in dancing, storytelling or a birthday party with costumed characters from the films.

The expansion includes two new dining spots -- Gascon's Tavern and the 552-seat Beast's Castle. A new underwater ride based on "The Little Mermaid, will be built both in the Florida Fantasyland and at the ongoing expansion of California Adventure in Disneyland.

The second phase of the Fantasyland expansion will be an oversized world based on the fairy world of Pixie Hollow from "Peter Pan," but no other details were available because the attraction was still in early development stages, Rasulo said.

As part of the Fantasyland expansion, Disney plans to double the size of the popular Dumbo ride to add a covered "three-ring circus" waiting area with interactive games and a play area.

Disney Imagineers, who design rides and attractions, said the Toon Town attraction would be dismantled and its popular Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse houses relocated to another section of Walt Disney World.

Rasulo also announced an upgrade to the Star Tours rides at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney's Hollywood Studio in Florida to open in 2011.

Star Tours simulates a ride through space aboard spacecraft like those in the original "Star Wars" film.

The updated version features new digital 3D effects and projectors that let ride operators vary "destinations," as well as upgrades to the Star Speeder cabins, Rasulo said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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