REVIEW - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster at the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland

May 28, 2014 in "Fantasyland"

Posted: Wednesday May 28, 2014 10:00am EDT by WDWMAGIC Staff

The long awaited Seven Dwarfs Mine Train officially opens today in the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland rounding off over 4 years of construction and a significant investment in expanding one of the most crowded areas of the park.

WARNING: The following provides a complete overview and review of the attraction which does contain spoilers. Read on for our review of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Before we get into the review, it is first important to understand the target audience and what criteria we are using to review this attraction. Being part of Fantasyland, the attraction is firmly aimed at families, and in particular those with children. Right from the start of construction, Imagineers have been careful to call the attraction a “family coaster,” fitting right between The Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in terms of intensity. The height requirement is just 38”, compared to 35” for The Barnstormer, and 40” for Big Thunder Mountain. There will no doubt be guests who head to Magic Kingdom expecting this coaster to be something like Expedition Everest or Rock ’n’ RollerCoaster. It was never intended to be at that thrill level, and those who expect that will be disappointed.

We’ve been following the construction for the last 4 years and bringing you photos of the exterior throughout that time. So those of you who are regular readers will be very familiar with the look of the Mine Train. There is no question that is a beautiful looking structure. Sitting right in the center of New Fantasyland, guests can walk all the way around, and the theming is just as impressive from any side. The best views are perhaps from the Be Our Guest bridge, where you can see the water linking up to the Mine Train from Be Our Guest, the rides main drop, and the depth of the environment leading to the horizon. 

The landscaping of the Mine Train is particularly impressive. There is a mix of artificial and live plants throughout the attraction, but when viewed as a whole, it is is difficult to spot one from the other. They all fit together well and blend into a cohesive look.

Also worthy of mention is how well the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fits with the rest of New Fantasyland. Rock work has been a key component of Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid, and the exterior of Be our Guest Restaurant. The Mine Train can often be seen with those areas in the same sight lines, and the extensive use of rock work on the Mine Train ties them all together wonderfully.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Queue

The entrance to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train begins just inside the castle walls, not far away from the original Snow White's Scary Adventure attraction. There is the typical setup, with one queue for standby, and one queue for FastPass+. There is no dedicated single rider line, although Disney has taken some steps to make use of single riders, more on that later.

As with many attractions, if you opt for FastPass+, you will bypass most of the queue area, and just take a short walk through an outdoor line before entering the mine within a few feet of the loading area. 

For standby riders, the queue is approximately split into half outdoor queue space, and half indoor queue space. The outdoor queue is very well landscaped, but most of the trees are still young, and do not yet offer much shade. In the mornings, the queue is mostly in shade, but later in the day, the sun will certainly be a factor. There are fans through the outdoor queue which provide some relief from the heat.

The outdoor queue is beautifully themed, with everything you see covered in rich detail. From the ground, railings, light fixtures - it is all custom, nothing off-the-shelf here. The queue in some ways reminds us of Splash Mountain, and perhaps the outdoor portion of Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid.

Towards the end of the outdoor queue, guests enter a covered area which contains the interactive elements of the queue. Although still outdoors, the area is covered, which will be much appreciated by guests in the summer months. The first of the interactive features is a game where guests sort gems floating along a sluice trough. It is easy to play, and provides a distraction for a couple of minutes. There is also a water activity where you can place your hands under a spout to have colored streams of water run out along with a musical note. You can even use the 12 notes to play a classic tune from the Snow White movie. Leaving here, guests enter the mine vault, and move into fully indoor air conditioned space. Here they find the final interactive queue element that is a barrel spinning game, where guests spin barrels of jewels to see projections of Doc on the ceiling. The faster you spin the barrels, the more action takes place on the roof. As with all the interactive queue elements, they are fun, but tend to get old quickly, and a lot of guests feel under pressure to keep moving before they really get a chance to see what the games are all about. Other guests get so engrossed in the game that they hold up the entire queue, causing Cast Members to have to try to move the line along.

The interior mine vault queue area is richly themed, with rock work throughout, providing a fully immersive environment. There are no exposed ceilings or light fixtures, everything is in the queue space is top rate theming. A few switchbacks here and there, and guests get a first look at the loading area and see the trains boarding. After a few more switchbacks guests reach the FastPass+ merge point. This is the location where FastPass+ guests enter the queue, and are mixed in with the standby riders. Interestingly, the queue from here is split into two separate lines. One is for even number groups, and one is for odd number groups. So although there is not a dedicated single riders line, there is a line that contains odd numbered groups, which helps Cast Members at the load area group guests and fill trains.

The loading area is a typical setup that most guests will be familiar with. There are numbered loading points, with automated gates. The guests are directed to a numbered location and await the arrival of the next train. The unload area directly proceeds the load area, so guests can see the previous train unload, but once it arrives at the load area it is empty and ready to load. 

The trains consist of 5 cars, each with 2 rows of 2, giving a total of 20 riders per train. Although they don’t appear small on the outside, the cars are a fairly tight fit for adults, particularly if you have a bag or are on the larger side. There is a pull-down restraint lap bar, similar to Big Thunder Mountain, which is for each individual guest. This means that if two riders are of differing sizes, the lap bar still fits properly for each guest.

The load and unload process is fast moving, with Cast Members dispatching trains approximately once every 45 seconds.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride Experience

We have already mentioned that there are 5 cars comprising each train, with each car seating four guests in a two by two configuration. There are a total of five trains on track at the same time during maximum operational periods. 

The individual mine cars are designed to reflect similar vehicles that appear in the film, handmade of wood by the Dwarfs, shaped with an axe, and used to haul rocks and jewels. Hand-hammered metal bands and nails are used to bind the wood. In the film, the mine cars sit in a cradle that allows them to be tipped to unload their contents. Here, the cradle design allows the cars to swing back and forth as they carry riders along the winding track. The rocking action is a unique feature to this coaster, and is the first of its kind. Each car swings independently as it takes a corner, providing an extra element of thrill to the ride. It is also possible for the riders to rock the cars by shifting body weight. How effective the rocking motion is has been much debated. It is probably safe to say that it is not a significant factor to the ride. It may have some impact on some of the corners, and it would be hard to really judge without riding the same track without the rocking, but don’t expect it to be a major component of the ride experience.

Leaving the station, the train takes a short drop out into the sunshine and into the first of two lift hills. The lift hill uses Vekoma's new silent lift mechanism, just like the Mine Train’s big brother, Expedition Everest. Along with being silent, and no chain clank, it is also much quicker than a traditional chain lift. The train reaches the top of the lift in a matter of seconds. At the top of the lift are two vultures that originally appeared in the Snow White’s Scary Adventure attraction.

From the top of the lift the train drops down into a series of banks and turns, all taking place outside and giving riders views into the rest of New Fantasyland. This first outdoor section of the ride takes about 30 seconds to complete before heading inside the mine for the major show scene of the attraction.

During the first outdoor section, something that strikes you is just how smooth the coaster is. Not only is it extremely quiet, but it glides along the track. It is the complete opposite of Space Mountain.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Dark Ride

Once back inside the mine, the coaster switches mode into a dark ride and slows down to pace more like that of the Haunted Mansion and other omnimover rides. The show scene inside brings guests up close with all the dwarfs, each brought to life in audio-Animatronic form. 

The new audio-Animatronics used here are leaps and bounds ahead of those found in the former Snow White attraction. Each character is fast moving, with compliance - the effect that only Disney seem to be able to achieve, where the figures move fluidly and do not jolt to a stop at the extremities of the movement. But instead slow down just as a real human body part does as it reaches an extremity of movement. The faces of each Dwarf are projection-mapped onto the figure, which gives them wonderfully animated faces. The effect of the fast moving body parts and life-like facial animation make these some of the best animatronics to be found in a Fantasyland attraction. Perhaps only the Ursula figure in the nearby Mermaid attraction eclipses these.

Providing the soundtrack to the inside mine show scene is some of the catchiest music put into a theme park attraction in recent years. We guarantee you will be humming along during, and for hours after. The audio is clear and well mixed for the attraction. It is played off-board in the indoor scenes only, and does not use an onboard sound system like Rock n RollerCoaster.

Leaving the Dwarfs animatronic show scene, the train starts to climb up the second lift to the highest point in the ride. Following the train up the lift are shadows of the Dwarfs marching home to the cottage. The projection was actually taken from the original film, using the scene where the Dwarfs march across a log bridge. Once the train reaches the top of the lift hill it takes a small drop giving the riders just enough time to take in the view of Fantasyland below, before the train plummets down the main drop and into the final outdoor coaster section of the ride. Taking some nicely banked turns and crossing a bridge, the ride comes to a brief halt in front of the Seven Dwarfs cottage as the finale. Meticulously detailed, just as seen in the classic film, right down to the wisteria vine and birdhouse at the front door. Inside the cottage, Snow White can be seen dancing with the Dwarfs. A note for fans of the Snow White’s Scary Adventures - Grumpy, Doc, Bashful, Sleepy, and Happy were all taken from the old attraction and reused here. Snow White, Dopey and Sneezy were created specifically for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. These figures are not really classed as animatronics, and are more like animated figures - certainly not close to the quality of those found earlier in the ride’s main show scene. As a result, the finale is perhaps anti-climatic compared to the standard of the earlier show scene. 

Leaving the cottage, the Wicked Queen can be seen in her disguise as an old hag watching Snow White and the Dwarfs through a cottage window. She turns toward the train as it passes, and cackles wickedly. The next stop is the unload zone, where guests disembark and head back out into the exterior queue area and exit at the main entrance. The exit walkway takes guests past the back of the cottage, giving more time to take in the beautifully detailed building.

There is no doubt that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is one of the best Fantasyland rides in any of the Disney parks. Positioned perfectly for its intended audience, the ride provides an experience that anyone in the family can enjoy. It is mildly thrilling for adults, but will no doubt be quite a thrill for the youngest of riders. It provides the perfect bridge ride between The Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain. The exterior look of the Mine Train especially is Imagineering at it’s best, forming a beautiful center-piece to the New Fantasyland project.

Looking at the ride more critically, some riders may well leave feeling slightly short changed on the length of the ride. Yes there are coasters out there, such as Rock n Roller Coaster, that are barely 90 seconds in length. But those travel at 60mph, and zip through the track at break-neck speed. Here, the ride speed is much slower, and at least half of the ride is spent traveling at omnimover speed through the show scene. The total ride time is around 2 minutes and 30 seconds from dispatch to unload. The first coaster section outdoors lasts for 40 seconds, the indoor show scene 60 seconds, and the final outdoor coaster section 50 seconds. It may be unrealistic to expect lengths of 10 minutes like Splash Mountain in today’s short attention span world, but the ride could have been considerably more with perhaps another indoor show scene, and another outdoor section of coaster track. It would also have been nice to have seen the final cottage scene animatronics match the quality of those found earlier in the ride. 

Overall, a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train should be a must do for anyone heading to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. With it now being included in FastPass+, we would expect the new coaster to join the rotation of rides that are part of most people’s trip, and an absolute must-do for those with young children who meet the 38” height requirement. Unlike The Barnstormer, which firmly falls into the realm of kiddie-coaster, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train sits above that, and adults will certainly not feel out-of-place riding this one, even without kids.

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ScuttleMay 29, 2014

Mostly agreed, I was actually pretty impressed with it. It's not that headliner the MK has been in need if for 20+ years, but I still think this is a thousand times better than a few meet and greets. We got the front row which was still pretty wild and I agree the speeds were surprising at parts. The queue is pretty well done and I especially like when everyone spins the diamond buckets together Snow White appears... Nice little hidden trick. I say B+ I'd give it an A, but I can't do that knowing it received many cuts and should obviously be a longer ride. Oh and we also experienced a WAY shorter wait then the posted time. It said 90 and we were on in 35.

wdwmagicMay 28, 2014

I think everyone will have a different opinion on this, but for me the ride would be elevated to a higher level with another big show scene and another outdoor section. It would push it from a good attraction to something great. Just my view.

71jasonMay 28, 2014

I really don't get the criticism of the length of the ride. I think it's just long enough--the show scene in the middle helps here--if it's a kid's first roller coaster, as it no doubt will be for a generation to come, it doesn't need to be 5 minutes. Couple thrills, show scene, couple more thrills, welcome back. BTW, haven't seen anyone mention the final scene in the show building, with animated shadows of the Dwarves along the wall. Simple effect but works perfectly.

Kman101May 28, 2014

The review was spot on, IMO.

ravenMay 28, 2014

Audio inside the mountain was a tad loud but I expect it was to cover up the sounds of the animatronics operations. The coaster is very smooth, very quiet operating, and has some surprising speed at times. Nicely done but not worth more than an hour wait....then again, some people wait more than 90 minutes for Peter Pan.

kap91May 28, 2014

Absolutely perfect, well-balanced, review that doesn't fall into the hyperbolic traps so common here. Well done.

Matt and KellyMay 28, 2014

Great review! Can't wait to ride in September!

Magenta PantherMay 28, 2014

Sounds good. Of course TDO cut corners. :P But at least they're not too damaging, unlike the obvious cheapness of much of the Little Mermaid ride.