Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Review; Educating teh Childrens; MagicBands Update

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Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Review

On Friday I was in the Magic Kingdom for its annual 24-hour event, and got to ride the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the last part of the New Fantasyland construction project that began in 2010.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as seen from the Be Our Guest queue in Fantasyland.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as seen from the Be Our Guest queue in Fantasyland.

There are a lot of things to like about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. For one, it’s faster than I expected, but not so fast that it would frighten small children. Also, the ride track is much smoother than any comparable ride in the Magic Kingdom. This should be good news for both families and for seniors who want to avoid the rough ride of attractions like Big Thunder Mountain.

The outdoor queue is very pretty at night, with dramatic lighting and a background soundtrack that incorporates forest sounds such as chirping crickets. The interactive games in the queue, where you “sort” and “wash” gems on a horizontal screen built to look like a mine trough, are fun and easier for children to play than, say, those at Space Mountain.

7DMT-endscene

The final show scene – with Snow White and Dopey dancing – is done well.

On board the ride, the animatronic effects in the cottage scene at the end, which shows Snow White dancing with the dwarfs, is quite good. The animatronic Snow White’s movements are fluid, and the effect lets you believe she’s really “dancing” long enough to get you through that scene. While Disney has hyped the scene of the dwarfs inside the mine as the central show element, I think this scene is done better.

The other thing I really like about the ride is that it doesn’t try to tell you the entire Snow White story in 90 seconds; the ride ends in the middle of the narrative, with the evil queen about to knock on the cottage door. I think every other Fantasyland attraction tries to compress an entire story inside the ride, even when doing so has to sacrifice an important part of plot (I’m looking at you, Journey of the Little Mermaid). That’s a clever bit of storytelling, and the Imagineers who thought of it should design more rides.

That said, Seven Dwarfs is only the fourth best of the Magic Kingdom’s five roller coasters (counting Splash Mountain), and I’d give Seven Dwarfs Mine Train around 3 ½ stars on our 5-star grading scale. Here’s why.

First, the ride is short. If you exclude the lift hills and the time you spend creeping along in the central mine scene, I’m thinking there might be around 40 seconds of actual ride time, maybe a little more. If 7DMT is supposed to fit a niche between the Barnstormer and Big Thunder, the ride time is closer to Barnstormer. My cynical theory here is that Disney decided on the slow-motion ride through mine scene as an inexpensive(ish) way to pad out the ride to a reasonable length, instead of paying for more track.

Second, the swinging effect is much less noticeable than I would have thought. Riders in the front and middle cars may not even realize they’re swinging – it feels more like a set of really tight, banked turns. Families I spoke with after riding say the swinging is more pronounced at the back of the train, and you can ask Castmembers for those seats at the boarding area.

Third, there don’t seem to be many visual features to the ride. Unlike, say, Big Thunder, which has mine equipment strewn throughout the layout and gags placed in various scenes, the trip here doesn’t seem to have interesting artifacts or in-depth story references along the way. I mean, there are approximately eight bajillion public domain fairy tales set in German forests from which Disney could have pulled jokes or funny references for free, so lack of material isn’t the issue. I’m pretty sure this would be relatively easy to add, however, and looking for gags might make re-riding more enjoyable.

And while there’s a lot of colorful, sparkling gems in the mine scene, the dazzle only lasts for a few seconds before you realize there’s not much more to see. It’s a lot like the inside of the major show scene at Journey of the Little Mermaid, where Disney went with dozens of simple spinning animatronics rather than attempt anything sophisticated.

Sure, the projection technology driving the dwarfs’ facial expressions may be a solid technical achievement, but the dwarfs’ faces represents maybe 20 square feet out of a couple thousand cubic feet of space, and any subtle details there are lost.

Finally, it’s surprising that the ride experience is worse at night. While you get glimpses of the lighting effects at other Fantasyland attractions from various points around the ride, most of the area inside the ride boundary at night is just inky blackness. The queue lighting is vastly better and more nuanced, so perhaps the outdoor lighting isn’t yet finished? But for now, the nighttime visual experience is more more like Space Mountain (which is indoors, and in the dark), than Big Thunder or Splash Mountain.

Should you ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Yes, if you can get a FastPass+ reservation or happen upon a short (ha!) wait. Most of the families I spoke to who’d been on the ride said that they’re be willing to wait maybe 30 minutes to re-ride it, but not more. That sounds like good advice to me.

Educating teh Childrens

Early last week we did a presentation to Furman University math students in class MXP-205 “Math & The Mouse: Explorations of Mathematics and Science in Walt Disney World.” These 12 students are in Disney for 3 weeks, along with 3 faculty members, covering the math, science, and operations research problems that tourists typically encounter in Disney World. The students are blogging about their class lectures and assignments here.

Our presentation, held in the posh Columbia Harbour House conference center (i.e., the upstairs dining room), covered the pros and cons of different algorithms for creating touring plans, the “big data” problem of predicting wait times at attractions, how the Least Expensive Ticket Calculator is an instance of the classic bin-packing problem, and how a system of linear equations can tell you the value of each component in the Disney Dining Plan. Our statisticians Fred and Steve then went in to much more detail about the practical problems faced when doing wait time predictions, and the tools we developed to check our results. Here’s a link to my presentation (PDF).

It was a lot of fun to talk in detail about stuff we work on behind the scenes. And it was also scary to see how much the students had already learned about these topics. One of the very first questions we got was on how we handled asymmetric walking times, i.e., when the ride’s entrance and exit were very far apart, such as at the Studios’ One Man’s Dream. That’s the kind of nuanced detail I would have expected from, you know, advanced grad students or commercial developers. The class’ professors, Drs Bouzarth, Harris, and Hutson, did a great job in teaching the background material for the class.

MagicBands / My Disney Experience Update

My MagicBand worked flawlessly on both trips last week, and my FastPass+ reservations were redeemed without a hitch. Disney’s website is much easier to use with FastPass+ now.

I had a couple of issues with the check-in process and with My Disney Experience:

  • Despite doing on-line check-in, and providing a credit card, cell phone number and email address to use when my room was ready, I never got notification that a room was ready and had to go to the front desk to check in.Even stranger, I was told that because I didn’t check in at the front desk (I went directly to the Magic Kingdom for the 24-hour event), my room reservation could have been cancelled and reassigned when I didn’t show up that night.That’s not how it should have worked. What should have happened is that Disney’s systems should have figured out that I was on property, because I (a) was using the MagicBand in the Magic Kingdom that night, (b) lived in North Carolina, and thus was far enough from home that driving back wasn’t a likely option, (c) the Magic Kingdom was hosting a 24-hour event, so people were going to stay in the park.The upshot is that even if you’re using online check-in and providing contact information, Disney may not check you in automatically.
  • I found out in a Magic Kingdom restaurant that the PIN I set online didn’t actually get applied to my MagicBand or to the bands of anyone in my party. PIN problems seem endemic to MagicBands, and I have to think there’s a fundamental flaw with how Disney’s computer system handles them; I don’t think my success rate with them is above 20%.
  • Even though RFID readers are attached to the side doors at each Art of Animation building, they never worked with my MagicBand on either reservation. And since the side doors are closest to the parking lot at many of the buildings, the fact that the side doors don’t work mean that you have to lug your bags all the way around the building to get in. It should be simple enough to enable access to these doors for people who have MagicBands attached to rooms on the appropriate floor.

That’s it for now. If you’ve experienced the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, leave your comments on it below.

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Posted on May 28, 2014

34 Responses to “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Review; Educating teh Childrens; MagicBands Update”

  • by Anthony Cotugno on May 28, 2014, at 6:41 am EDT

    Hey Len! We were also at the 24 hour event and rode 7DMT. We got in line eay am when the posted time stated 60min. We waited 34. Your review is spot on. We walked away very happy to have gotten a chance to ride but ultimately walked away a bit underwhelmed. True the visuals are cool, but the ride aspect left a lot to be desired. Anything more than your review would be gilding the lilly so to speak. But my wife, who is a far bigger Disney fanatic than myself said it best – “It was just okay.”

  • We rode Tuesday and loved it. I have one child afraid of roller coasters because of BTM and he thought this one was great. My 4 year old loved it as well. Very smooth, beautiful ride.

  • I’m guessing then that Gringott’s is going to be much better?

    • It should be, yes. Keep in mind that Disney built New Fantasyland to add capacity to the Magic Kingdom, not to compete with Universal (and not to compete with Diagon Alley). So they’re two different projects with two different goals.

      Gringott’s should be amazing, though, from everything we’re hearing.

      • I would that is a problem though- while Disney added capacity, Universal is busy building E tickets (Journey followed by Gringotts). I don’t think WDW has added an E-ticket since Everest ( i dont count a refurbishment as an add). They’ve added cool things to do, e.g. Drink at Epcot after hours but not attractions.

  • I was there for the 24 hour event and rode 7DMT as well. I was in the middle and found that the swinging cars did add a bit, but it’s subtle.

    In terms of lines long-term, if you take a look at how much line inside the mountain could actually handle it looks to be a bit under an hour. That is, from the time I entered the normal queue (not the large overflow that was against the wall outside) to the time I got on the coaster was a bit under an hour. To me this suggests that Disney doesn’t expect the line to get over an hour very often after the initial opening rush.

  • Great review; interesting info about the MB; yeah, online check in is really not all that; it’ll shorten your wait upon arrival, but if it’s not going to hold the room (maybe 60 days is too much time in advance?) then they should rename it. Oh, is there a way you could shorten the URL so we can more easily share this blog with, I dunno, say Lines Chat. (Oh, and nice use of the Oxford Comma -spelling on the other hand…lol)

  • Start of last heading: “My MagicBand worked flawlessly on both trips last week”

    3 bullet points later: “Even though RFID readers are attached to the side doors at each Art of Animation building, they never worked with my MagicBand on either reservation.”

    Ummmm…

    • Good point. I consider the locked door a problem with Disney’s operations policies, not the MB. The MB worked as it was supposed to, the RFID reader worked as it was supposed to. It’s apparently Disney’s security policy not to unlock those doors, and that’s the thing that needs to change. It would have been the same if I had a standard mag strip hotel key.

      • Wondering if you had used your band to access your resort room first before trying to use the side doors? (I’m guessing not, since you referred to lugging your bags around to the main door). When I was at CSR in Jan, they told me my band wouldn’t work to enter the business class lounge until after I had used it for my room. Could it be the same kind of thing?

  • My family and I are headed to Disney World in just a few weeks. I get motion sickness and can’t handle roller coasters like Mt. Everest though I can handle rides like Splash Mountain that aren’t too fast or “jolt-y”. I’m trying to decide if I could handle 7DMT. Where would you rate 7DMT in terms of likeliness to induce motion sickness?

    • 7DMT is slower than Everest, and the ride isn’t anywhere near as jerky as Big Thunder.

      If you’ve been on Barnstormer, it’s a little faster and more mild than that. If the Carousel of Progress is a 1 on a 1-to-10 scale of likeliness-to-induce-motion-sickness, and Mission: Space is a 10, then Barnstormer is probably a 4.

      To reduce the swinging sensation, ask to sit up front. I’m told there’s less motion there. Good luck!

  • Len:
    As Irene alluded to, but you apparently missed since it isn’t fixed yet, one of your subtitles in this article is “Educating teh Children”. Ironic, no? :)

    Cheers,
    –Lee

  • What an awsome class to take. Wish I was still in college, at least for that reason.

  • by Married to the Mouse on May 28, 2014, at 11:54 am EDT

    I must be a total geek because I want to sit in on the stats presentation. I spend my days pouring through tons of big data so thanks for posting it. It brought together my two worlds!

  • An absolutely fascinating presentation! It *almost* makes me want to brush up on my math and stats skills. Thanks for sharing, and I’m sure the delivery of the presentation was ten times as entertaining.

  • by Keith C (TheFugitiveGuy) on May 28, 2014, at 4:38 pm EDT

    I rode 7DMT during the day on Friday, and although the queue was full and extended out in a roped section back to the corner near Tea Cups (posted 60 minutes), I was quite happy that it took approximately half that time to actually ride. I think the fact that the attraction was fully operational, and I assume had no FP+ to deal with, made the standby line move quite quickly.

    In contrast, on Monday during the day I got in line after it reopened from a closure, and so got quite a bit closer in the official queue (just barely outside from the covered section). However, the coaster seemed to be running intermittently, and also they were probably processing lots of FP+ from the earlier closure, so we ended up waiting 73 minutes before getting to the loading area, and then the ride shutdown for over an hour due to lightning in the area! We eventually bailed on waiting for the weather to clear and the ride to reopen, but luckily we had FP+ to use a couple of hours later that afternoon. It was an amazing contrast, with waiting only about 5 minutes in the FP+ line before riding. I think there is a strong preferential treatment of FP+ at this attraction, or again, maybe they were just trying to keep up with the huge backlog of FP+ from earlier closures.

    One interesting FP+ note: Although we did get to use our 4:20 FP+ for 7DMT that day, it wasn’t clear if the ride would reopen during our FP+ window. I was surprised to receive an email from Disney at 4:39pm stating that our FP+ needed to be changed because 7DMT was temporarily unavailable. Two things impressed me about this:
    1) The automated system is hooked into current conditions, and was pretty prompt in emailing about the change.
    2) The alternative plan offered in the email seemed incredibly generous, giving us a “golden ticket” FP+ that could be used at one of 8 FP+ attractions (including 7DMT!), at any time from 4:20pm – park closing (12am), and without having to book it ahead of time! This is such a sweet deal, it makes me hope in the future that some minor attraction that I have a FP+ gets closed, so that I can get a “golden ticket” again :)

    • Hi Keith!

      I’ve run into the issue a couple times of an attraction being down during my FastPass+ window. However, the ONLY way I was notified was via email. The first time we didn’t get emails with the alternate FP options until hours later (this was back in January). CMs were clueless how to handle it, and the app showed nothing in regards to our FastPasses. On a second trip it happened again, but I knew to check emails thanks to the previous experience. But on that day, the app refused to work in MK either via wifi or on data.

      Is the app posting a notification of this yet? Or is it still via email only? What good is the notifications feature of the app if not for situations like this?

      • Can’t speak to the app, but the MDE website now shows a fastpass reservation with no ride attached from the current time till the park close time when this happens.

  • Our MB didn’t work on the side doors of our Lion King building at AoA either- that was several months ago. I hoped they had fixed it by now. The front desk actually gave us an old school room key to use to get in the side door, which kinda defeats the purpose of the Magic Band but was waaaaaay better than schlepping around to the front.

    • We also could not get the MBs to work for the side doors in the Cars Section (February). We never got around to trying to do anything about it (not after the runaround I got trying to do something about the A/C). Definitely bad they still have not fixed this.

  • What did you think of the ride vehicle? I’ve heard that they are relatively small and guests of size may have to request to ride alone. How would you compare them size-wise to Big Thunder?