THE SEVEN DWARFS MINE TRAIN
Background: Built as the final piece of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train officially opened in 2014 after years of construction, basically in the center of the park. The family coaster is the Magic Kingdom’s fourth and is also the closest thing to a new “e-ticket” attraction in the park since the opening of Splash Mountain in 1992. (Although not really and I’ll have more on that later.)
Queue: The winding track is visible from various points in Fantasyland but the actual entrance is near Winnie the Pooh and the Teacups. The queue can sometimes back up into the walkways of Fantasyland (a nightmare on a hot summer day) but is for the most part a winding path through trees, past the dwarfs cottage, and then mercifully inside the mine itself. There are some of the now-standard time wasting games and diversions for the kiddos but by and large the queue is nothing all that inventive or spectacular. The story here is pretty simple: we are whistling off to work and joining the dwarfs in their mine.
Ride: We board a mine train car that is more akin to a one that would haul rocks and gems than people like its Frontierland counterpart. The cars do a little bit of free range rocking as we head out of the station, down a hill into a curve, and then up a lift hill. The dwarfs “Heigh Ho” working song can be heard in the distance as we reach the top of the hill and then twist and turn through “the countryside” and finally down into the mine. The dwarfs are down there, picking at rock, collecting gemstones, and singing their tune just like in the movie. Dopey is first to make an appearance, followed by some “blink and you’ll miss it” cameos from the others including Sleepy who is, naturally, asleep on the job. Finally Doc calls out to the others to head on home as our train heads up another lift hill. The dwarfs’ shadows are projected on the wall of the cave as we climb to the top and get a good but brief view of Fantasyland including Beast’s castle in the distance.
The train heads down another hill, twists past a waterfall, and then winds back towards the station. We make one final stop in front of the dwarfs’ cottage. A quick glance inside reveals Snow White dancing with her friends while the Evil Queen, disguised as an old hag, lurks outside the door while carrying a basket of presumably poisoned apples. Then, in a moment completely unprecedented for Disney Parks, the ride does something that I am almost certain has never happened before. It ends on a cliffhanger. There is no resolution to the story. Our heroes are stalked by an evil villain who never gets any comeuppance…she just lurks. What a strange, strange ending.
Thoughts: So yeah…the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a short but fun little coaster that delivers exactly what it promises. It’s an enjoyable ride, perfect for whole families to go on together. It’s got thrills for kids who haven’t quite graduated to the “big” coasters and it’s tame enough for grandma. Its popularity successfully draws some FP+ reservations and riders away from the park’s other headliners but it is definitely not the big time “e-ticket” that some people had hoped for when it was announced. While not a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination, it is certainly not a second-coming of Toy Story Mania that people will wait hours to ride time and again.
One big selling point of the ride are the unique train cars that independently rock and back and forth. The effect is noticeable more if you know that it happens and try to feel for it. My wife, upon riding for the first time, had no idea that the cars moved until I told her and agreed on a second ride that she noticed it then. Overall I’d call it a unique but underwhelming feature.
I also just can’t get over that ending. Disney has been on a streak of delivering rides that break the cliché of “…then something goes terribly wrong” and serving up attractions that are heavy on pure grin-inducing fun (Toy Story Mania; California’s Radiator Springs Racers.) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train appears to be well on the way of doing the same until the final moments when, for no explainable reason, they throw a villain into the mix to do nothing but look menacing. Would anyone ride this thing without the witch and come off asking why she wasn’t in it? If someone went into the ride hoping to see the witch cause tension, would they be pleased by her randomly appearing in the ride’s final seconds to serve no purpose? It’s such a wacky final scene that also isn’t helped by the fact that you can’t even see into the windows of the cottage depending on where in the sky the sun happens to be when you ride. It just jars me every time and I can’t shake it. The ride ends…in a CLIFFHANGER. Why?
Rating: *** ¼