This is the tale of the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history, and the interactive adventure that helped reveal it to the world. It began with a simple story—the story of growing up, and the fantastical lands that go on existing without us, just out of view.
New Fantasyland is a vast, meticulously crafted world built on a foundation of the most classic Disney tales. But a kid’s likeliest idol today is Elsa or Lightning McQueen—not Ariel or Dumbo. Our task was to reawaken the memories of parents while selling a whole new generation on the golden age of Disney past.
This vibrant new land was begging for a reason to exist. Sacred Disney stories gave us hundreds of interweaving plotlines to work with. So with white (Mickey) gloves on, we went to work building an adventure that would make sense with the dozens of heroes, villains and settings.
Fantasyland’s story is your story, and mine. When we were kids, Dumbo really did fly. But our memories were clouded with age. In our tale, the villains take advantage and steal the symbols from the films that taught us so much of life, effectively hiding the magic of Fantasyland from the world.
To showcase the park and provide a setting for our adventure, we reconstructed, brick by brick, an utterly exact digital version of the park—plus a few enhancements.
We’re talking months of consultation with Disney Imagineering. Dozens of walkthroughs. Tens of thousands of photographs. More than a few teary nostalgic evenings of Disney movie-watching. All of this happened as the actual park was evolving and being built.
...and finally it all came together in beautiful animation. Check out all four New Fantasyland areas (Belle, the Beast, Little Mermaid, Dumbo) in this video gallery.
As the environments took shape, it was time to geek out on the details. An adaptive, contextual soundtrack. Hidden visual backstory in the uber-detailed print scenes (keep an eye out for the stained glass from the Beauty & the Beast intro sequence, Belle’s book from the village scene, a searching Prince Eric, Casey Jr’s train, and plenty of hidden Mickeys).
We all felt the immense privilege of digitally representing the intricate brilliance of the park—and of course its imaginary counterpart.
The journey to reveal New Fantasyland started online at FindingFantasyland.com. Immediately you are plunged into the bleak reality of a cursed forest kingdom. As you rediscover the magic of the lost stories and reveal pieces of the land, the voice of David Ogden Stiers (Beauty & the Beast) guides you through the lush, expansive landscape and ultimately declares you hero of New Fantasyland.
Upon completion of the adventure, a Hero's Decree is bestowed upon you, signifying the eternal gratitude of the inhabitants of this land. Bring your Hero's Decree to the park for some royal treatment.
When New Fantasyland was revealed (opened) in the real world, the narrative we started online came full circle. The cursed shield stood as a symbol for a whole and united land. And in the end, you and your heroics were the reason for it all.
Think of a tactic, and we probably did it. Apps, print, out-of-home, experiential, social, email, mini teaser campaigns, press kits, microsites, flying dragons, celebrities, PR, blah blah blah. You know when Disney revamps the core of the core of the core of its parks, we weren't going to mess around.
Working on this thing, there were a lot of times when we would forget we were making ads. The story just sort of swallowed boundaries and walls and silos and begged to be told. The best part was seeing it all come full circle when all the kids-turned-cursebreakers entered the park to see the tribute to their heroism on display—only Disney could make it all so real.