Magic Kingdom Expansion Focused on Boys

PHOTO: With a winding stone pathway leading the way, guests are invited into Belles childhood home for an inside look into Maurices workshop at Enchanted Tales with Belle.Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World News
With a winding stone pathway leading the way, guests are invited into Belle's childhood home for an inside look into Maurice's workshop at Enchanted Tales with Belle.

Outside Gaston's Tavern, one of the new quick-service restaurants now open at Walt Disney World's New Fantasyland in Florida, Gaston challenged a little boy to a push-up contest. They dropped to the ground, and push-ups they did.

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Gaston is one of the stars of New Fantasyland. The focus on a male character from "Beauty and the Beast" -- one of the most popular Disney movies in recent decades -- is just one of the many ways Walt Disney World has focused on boys in this expansion of the Magic Kingdom, the largest in the park's history. The grand opening is today.

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"It's the first time Gaston has had a constant presence," said Phil Holmes, vice president of the Magic Kingdom, as we toured the new attractions. "In this environment, he's like a rock star. The kids line up to see him the way they do with the princesses."

Gaston isn't the only male character now playing a major role alongside the princesses that have long been the main attraction. Beast -- also from "Beauty and the Beast" -- and Price Eric of "The Little Mermaid" each have their own castles in the expansion. Before the Fantasyland expansion, the only castle in the Magic Kingdom was its crown jewel, Cinderella's.

Beast's castle houses the new French-themed restaurant Be Our Guest, while Prince Eric's castle sits atop the new ride, Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. The addition of two new castles -- though neither is as grand as the Cinderella castle -- has changed the landscape of the Magic Kingdom.

Holmes was quick to point out, however, that all the additions to Fantasyland -- a second Dumbo ride, the new castles, the restaurants -- were less about singling out little boys, and more about inclusion of the entire family. "Walt's goal," he said, "was to be in the moment, to experience the family all together." (A reminder: ABC News is owned by The Walt Disney Company.)

In addition to the two new castles, there's a host of other new attractions. Dumbo has been moved to a new area called Storybook Circus, and a second Dumbo ride, as well as an interactive play area where kids can go while and parents can sit and observe while they wait to board the ride have been added. Gaston's Tavern is a quick service restaurant serving, among other items, a giant pork shank and a sweet, non-alcoholic concoction called LeFou's Brew. Be Our Guest restaurant offers quick-service lunch and seated dinners.

Enchanted Tales with Belle is a new, interactive experience in which every child who wants to can participate in a play put on especially for the princess. "It's a new way to immerse the guests," said Holmes. "It's being in the middle of everything, versus watching."

Dumbo, Enchanted Tales with Belle and Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid are gentle experiences, appropriate for kids of all ages. Roller coaster lovers, not to worry: The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will debut in 2014.