But it’s way too good just for kids. First of all, there’s the theme. The attraction looks at the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs film from the point of view of the dwarves. Enter the queue and you enter their world, from the cottage they live in to the mines they…well…mine.
The story begins outside the dwarves’ cottage, where pick axes, saws, buckets, barrels, crates and shovels add to the atmosphere. We, along with the rest of the media group we were attending the opening event with, were like giddy children as we posed for pictures in front of the cottage and pointed at the various tools scattered around. The realism of Fantasyland Forest is beautifully completed here, and the sense of immersion makes it difficult not to notice your inner kid-at-heart.
Once inside the covered portion of the queue, the story’s interactive elements begin. Guests first encounter a sluice box, where digital jewels make their way along the sluice, and honourary miners (you!) get to sort them into smaller boxes. Match them up to their correct boxes and you’re rewarded with the sight of them dropping into a shimmering pile below. It’s a classic sorting game with a high-tech touch, and even pre-schoolers will feel successful as they play.
Next up is a fanciful water harp, with carved woodland animals and more glittering jewels. Pass your hand under the animal-carving spouts and a musical reward—along with a stream of coloured water—pours forth. The youngest visitors will have no problem making this element work, but the adults in our media group were reluctant to move on, too.
Further along you enter the Vault, and the first thing that strikes you is a sense of realism; this place is dark, especially when you’ve just come in from Florida’s blazing sunshine, and this is also where the final interactive element of the queue can be found. Guests come upon a set of barrels loaded with gems just before reaching the loading area, and giving the barrels a good spin triggers a magical reaction on the ceiling of the mine. The faster you spin them the more ‘magical’ it is!
By now your eyes have adjusted, and you wind your way toward the loading area, where a mine train has conveniently been parked. Jump on board and you’re off!
The first part of the ride is an outdoor coaster, where a small plunge and a big turn see you whizzing past some rather familiar-looking vultures (former Snow White’s Scary Adventures, anyone?), peering down from their perch atop wooden crates and mining equipment. Several more big twists and turns bring you back inside, this time in the mine ‘where a million diamonds shine’.
And here’s where the word ‘charming’ comes in. It’s hard not to be enchanted by the rich veins of jewels encrusted in the walls of the mine and waiting in barrels to be taken away. It’s equally difficult not to smile when you see the stars of this particular attraction—Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, and Doc—along with their forest friends, all dig, dig, digging and Heigh Ho-ing the whole day through. Don’t be afraid to sing along; everyone else will! Even if you choose to sit quietly, trust us: you’ll be singing that song in your head for the rest of the day.
Fans of the movie will recognise beloved scenes, including the shadows of the dwarves as they march home from work. New elements not found in the movie have been added too, giving visitors a broader view of the story’s merry miners.
And there the dark ride ends and the coaster element picks up again. Your ride vehicle plunges (gently!) back outside for another twisting, turning journey, ending at the dwarves’ cottage, where the lovely dance scene from the movie plays out in ‘real life’. It’s a happy ending to a magical adventure.
But wait…take one final look before you enter the unloading area. Perhaps everything is not as idyllic as it seems! We won’t give away the surprise, we’ll just tell you the attraction is appropriate for all ages, and children who meet the 38 inch height requirement are going to love it. But just because youngsters find it thrilling doesn’t mean their older siblings and adults will be bored or find it too twee. With all the technology, it still feels like riding through the yesteryear charm of the original movie, and the dynamic nature of the coaster sections should easily keep everyone’s interest. The single complaint we heard (and the only drawback we noticed ourselves) is that the ride vehicle’s seats are a bit cramped for guests of a larger or taller build.
But let’s get to the question those who don’t necessarily love roller coasters are asking. How dynamic is it? Let’s just say if Big Thunder Mountain and Goofy’s Barnstormer had a baby, it would be Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There are no big drops, but the banked turns provide enough high-speed thrills for older kids and adults. The slower mine scenes in the dark-ride portion will fascinate youngsters, but are captivating enough for older visitors who remember the film fondly, and there are a few comical touches that are geared more toward older guests than young’uns.
The mountain fills in the empty space that once occupied this area, and the mine train adds the element of movement that was missing in Fantasyland Forest, completing the story of this lovely land in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. His Imagineers have, we think, hit a real home run, and we can’t wait to give it another go!
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train officially opens on 28 May, 2014, and we’re certain it will become a firm family favourite. Now, if we could just get that song out of our heads….!