I almost didn’t want to write this comparison. However, it is only natural that major Disney geeks, theme park junkies, bloggers, and other analytical types make some sort of comparison between New Fantasyland and Cars Land as well as Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
New Fantasyland is not due to officially open until December 6. However, this past Friday (October 12), New Fantasyland began “dress rehearsals”. Mere minutes after opening, pictures, videos, and blog posts flooded the internet. And then the criticism began to trickle in. Comparisons to Wizarding World of Harry Potter, comparisons to Cars Land, comparisons to “old and busted” Fantasyland. I am here to offer my two cents. I will start with the one that started it all.
New Fantasyland vs. Wizarding World of Harry Potter
It all began with Harry Potter. The ultimate game changer. I won’t repeat the points I made in my post about How Harry Potter Changed Theme Parks Forever, but please feel free to check it out. The details, the storyline, the theming were unprecedented. The stories of Harry Potter came to life. Never before has the world of a movie or a book been brought to life in such a way and theme park fans around the world rejoiced.
In the details…
New Fantasyland follows a similar formula. It is extremely detailed. The themes of Beauty and the Beast as well as The Little Mermaid are carried to a level that is incredibly immersive. The Cast Members actually stayed in theme during every interaction I had with them (which is how it should be every time at any theme park anywhere in the world, but we all know that is not the case). Though, I know from experience, give it six months and the perfectly themed Cast Members will transfer to new areas and be replaced. I pray that the freshness, the excitement, the ultimate theming and friendliness does not wear off. But I digress.
It is painfully obvious that Disney leadership looked to Wizarding World for many tips and cues. The most obvious of which is LaFou’s Brew. In the battle of the brews, I choose LaFou’s. Wizarding World’s Butterbeer is practically an institution. It has a stronger emotional connection to fans since it is something actually in the films. LaFou’s brew is a made up concoction with no real connection to the storyline of Beauty and the Beast. Heck, it is an exact replica of Red’s Apple Freeze in Cars Land. However, I found it to be much more refreshing and drinkable than the overpowering, sickly sweet, diabetes inducing Butterbeer. (Disclaimer: I have only tasted frozen butterbeer, and vow to try the regular stuff within a week’s time… I may be singing a different tune at that point).
They both have plot holes…
Wizarding World brings to life two very loved Potterverse landmarks: Hogwart’s Castle and Hogsmeade Village. Although Hogsmeade is very well themed and awe-inspiring at first sight, one of its major shopping attractions is Ollivanders and it is something I consider to be a theme park plot hole. In the stories, Ollivanders is on Diagon Alley which is a hidden borough of London that is home to any shop a wizard could need. But for the sake of super awesome retail sales, Universal relocated Ollivanders from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade… without any themed story in Wizarding World to help explain it.
New Fantasyland’s plot hole is the storyline of all the Beauty and the Beast elements. The conundrum of the new normal in theme parks is that guests have to suspend their disbelief. If the goal is to recreate the world in which characters from books and movies “live”, then there are parts to the these stories that have to be forgotten.
Because of our love of such characters as Lumiere, Cogsworth, the Beast, and so on, the Beauty and the Beast elements exist in an alternate universe where Gaston is alive and well, Beast is still a beast, and Belle loves him,…. kinda, sorta. In the Be Our Guest restaurant, one of the dining rooms is themed after the West Wing. The enchanted rose still blooms and looses petals, the curse / spell still exists throughout the castle (hence the omnipresent gargoyles instead of angels as is the case in the “spell is broken, happily ever after” finale of the film).
The other plot hole in this alternate Beauty and the Beast universe is the Belle and Beast musical statue in the Rose Gallery dining room. This is meant to be a gift from Belle’s father Maurice. A maquette of the statue can be found in Maurice’s cottage (home to Enchanted Tales with Belle). In the movie, Maurice does not know about Belle and Beast’s friendship until right before he and Belle are thrown into the asylum wagon. Twenty minutes later the spell is broken- which apparently comes after whenever New Fantasyland is on the proverbial timeline.
Who comes out on top?
As for the real comparison, I can’t choose a winner. Wizarding World changed the landscape of theme parks forever. However, I can’t go on any of the three rides – for thrill seekers the attractions are wonderful. New Fantasyland offers nothing for thrill seekers, and boys have a tough time getting excited over it (trust me, I went with two 11 years old boys). Each expanded land has its pros and cons, I simply cannot pick a winner and I am not convinced I should have to.