Welcome back to the WDW Ride Guide! I hope you are ready to explore another great WDW Ride! I’m your host Ben Crain and we are continuing on our mission to explore Walt Disney World one ride at a time. As I’ve said before, there is so much to do and see at Disney World. Knowing which rides to enjoy can require some serious planning.
Of course, knowing which rides you want to experience is only half the battle. Once you have your list, you need to know when is the best time to ride in order to avoid those long lines. That is certainly true of our ride today! Two weeks ago we covered the Top 5 Fastpass+ Rides and this popular guy made #2 on our list.
It isn’t as simple as grabbing a Fastpass+ though, there is a lot to know and consider when selecting your time to ride. Today, we are heading underground and digging for gems of knowledge that will send you flying through the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on just the right track. Let’s get rolling with our…
Know Before You Go Essential Facts
- The ride is located in the Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland
- You must be at least 38” tall to ride
- Fastpass + is offered and recommended
- The fright factor is 2 out of 5
- Guest must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV
- Expectant mothers should not ride
- Children under age 7 must be accompanied by a person age 14 years of older
- Rider switch is offered
- The ride is 2:30 long
- The ride opened on May 28, 2014
Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to ride we go! Say hello to this sparkling gem at the center of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is equal parts roller coaster and Disney dark ride with a modern twist. This short, but sweet family fun mine train is a can’t miss ride in the heart of the park.
To really appreciate everything this ride offers, we need to go back in time. All the way back to opening day, October 1, 1971. On that day a completely different ride made its Magic Kingdom debut. Its name, Snow White’s Scary Adventures. When you talk classic Disney dark ride, many will point to Snow White’s Scary Adventures as THE example of this ride genre. The original version in the Magic Kingdom ran from 1971 to 1994, and truly lived up to the “Scary Adventures” title. Snow White was not present in the ride, as you the rider were meant to be in her place. Even the dwarfs only showed up in one scene of the ride. What riders did see was the evil Queen disguised as the hag witch. The ride was very dark, in both light level and theme. In 1994 the ride was redesigned to include Snow White in several scenes, as well as more appearances by the lovable seven dwarfs. With these additions the ride took on a lighter tone, although it could still be rather frightening for young children. At the end of the ride, Dopey could be seen waving to riders, helping to end the ride on a positive note.
I believe it is good to understand the evolution of the Snow White themed ride as we move to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Snow White premiered in 1937, and as we get further away from the film, we tend remember the movie’s fun, light-hearted moments most fondly. Of course, those moments come courtesy of Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Bashful, and Doc, so when it came time to completely overhaul Fantasyland, the decision was made to retire Snow Whites Scary Adventures. The ride closed May 31, 2012, but Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had been previously announced on January 18, 2011. However, the idea for a ride featuring the Dwarfs had not always been part of the plan.
The overhaul of Fantasyland was first announced in 2009. The Imagineers got to work and chose to replace Snow White’s Scary Adventures with Princess Fairy Tale Hall. Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Under the Sea-Journey of The Little Mermaid were added to the plans, and all of the sudden new Fantasyland felt a little princess-centric. To help balance out Belle, Ariel, and the rest, Disney turned to the idea of a mine train featuring the Seven Dwarfs. The full backstory of this ride is very fascinating, but to cover that we would need another podcast. If you are interested in learning more, let me direct you to Episode 058 of The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill.
For now, let’s focus on our friendly Dwarfs. With the mine train on the blueprints for Fantasyland, the Disney Imagineers turned their attention to creating a new type of roller coaster, filled with new high tech audio animatronic figures. They began developing a new type of ride car that would allow riders to sway back and forth while they soared down the track. This was inspired by the mine cars in the film which have the capability of tilting all the way over to unload their payload of precious gems. The cars on the ride don’t tilt that far, but the Imagineers did a lot of experimenting with how far they could push this innovative technology. I remember seeing a teaser video before the ride opened, showing Imagineers going for a ride in a parking lot aboard a mine car loaded in the back of a truck. At the time I got really excited because it looked like there was going to be a lot of sway back and forth adding a whole new element to the roller coaster experience. I can’t say with certainty, but I believe the limitations of the swaying motion were dialed back a bit from that early video. Still, this is a patented new technology that you can only find in a Disney park. It does add a gentle back and forth motion as you round the curves and come over the roller coaster drops.
The other focus for this ride came in pushing the envelope of the AA figures by utilizing projection mapping technology. Rather than have classic Audio Animatronics, this ride features Dwarfs with lifelike facial movements. If you have yet to experience this new tech, it is a little hard to describe. The bodies of the dwarfs are created using the latest AA framework, but the faces are only partially sculpted. You will still see 3-dimensional ears, noses, and beards, but the eyes, mouth, and surrounding facial features are all projected onto the surface. This allows the Imagineers to literally animate the face with movement and expression. The result is an overall figure that appears to have come to life right off the silver screen. You can see the same technology utilized on a much smaller scale with Lumiere over at Enchanted Tales with Belle. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s back up and talk about where to find these incredible creations of Dopey, Grumpy, and the crew.
As I said earlier, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is equal parts roller coaster and Disney dark ride. By this, I mean don’t expect to go full blast from start to finish like you do on Big Thunder Railroad Mountain. If I were to rate it on the Disney coaster scale, it is the next step above Goofy’s Barnstormer, making it a good coaster for almost anyone. I would characterize it as having 3 distinct phases. Phase 1 starts as the coaster gently rolls out of the station and into the surrounding landscape. You will curve around several embankments, drop down a couple of low hills, and have some great views of Fantasyland. I consider this the warm up phase.
Phase 2 begins by slowing the train down significantly as you enter the mountain. Phase 2 is the dark ride phase, and where you can expect to see those amazing AA figures with projection mapping technology. Inside the mine all Seven Dwarfs are busy dig, dig, digging, and sing, sing, singing as its off to work they go! The mine is full of sparkling gems, brightly illuminated against the dark mine walls. They come to life in 4 sizes and 6 different colors. There is so much to take in during this part of the ride it makes repeat visits a must. Eventually, the Dwarfs change their tune and the mine is filled with their familiar phrase, Heigh Ho! This is a lot of fun as most riders join in singing the beloved tune. Finally, you come to my absolute favorite part of the ride. As your train begins its climb out of the mine, you will see the Dwarfs’ shadows moving along the mountain wall. It is a simple effect, but I love it so much because it comes straight out of the animated movie, reminiscent of the scene where the dwarfs walk around a bend in the mountain and you see their shadows, larger than life on the mountainside. This magical touch from 1937 blends in perfectly with the cutting edge technology, and gives the ride a timeless feel.
As you reach the crest of the mine, you get a wonderful view of the Beast’s castle in the distance, right before you drop and pick up speed as Phase 3 begins. This is the most thrilling part of the ride, with the biggest drop and fastest speeds. It is also when you will be able to feel your mine car swaying from side to side the most. Still, it is probably the smoothest and quietest roller coaster you have ever experienced. Your quick roll through the well Imagineered landscape does not last long though. About as quickly as it began, the mine train begins slowing down and the end of the ride is in sight. However, there is one gem left to take in and you don’t want to miss it! As you approach the interior unloading station, you will see Snow White’s cottage on your right. Look very closely and you will see Snow White inside dancing with the Dwarfs. The best part is that several of the dwarfs are old AA figures brought over from Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy, and Doc were saved from the old ride and given new life here at the end of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train! Oh, and there is one more character you might recognize. Just outside this happy scene is the old hag holding her basket of bewitched apples. She is knocking on the door and laughing her sinister laugh as she awaits Snow White. Just another wonderful nod to the old ride and to the film itself. When it comes to telling a great story, the Imagineers really outdid themselves on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
That reminds me, that great storytelling begins before you even board the axe-carved mine cars. Like Peter Pan’s Flight, this ride has a fun interactive queue. The queue is divided into 3 distinct sections. After passing through the forest and getting a good look at the front of the Dwarfs’ cottage, you will enter the first section of the interactive queue. Here you will find Doc has left a note with instructions, “CATCH THE JEWELS AS THEY FLOAT PAST THEN MATCH’ EM UP, BUT YA GOTTA WORK FAST!” This is the jewel sorting section, where you find a touchscreen trough with jewels floating downstream. On each side of the trough are virtual boxes containing 3 different colored slots. You simply touch one of the jewels floating in the water and drag it over to the corresponding slot in your box. The goal is to match up all 3. After the jewels have been sorted you move on to the section 2, the jewel washing station. Here you find a series of hand-carved spouts, each shaped like a different woodland animal. Wave your hand right under the spout and watch the water and music pour out. Each spout actually dispenses a stream of water that hits the trough of jewels down below. As you wave your hand to activate the spouts, you will discover each one produces a different musical note. A well timed wave produces a nice melody. Parents may want to stay close by at this station because kids can get pretty wet if things get out of hand. Finally, with your jewels sorted and washed it is time for section 3. For that you enter the vault, where Doc promises a grin if you give the barrels a great big spin! Sure enough, when you spin the barrels full of jewels, you discover projections of the dwarfs on the ceiling above. I can only imagine how mesmerizing this would have been when I was a seven year old. Even the adults seem to have a lot of fun at this station. All of this serves as a good way to help the extremely long wait time go by more quickly.
For me, that still isn’t enough to forego using a Fastpass+ on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Maybe I should stop and smell the roses, or in this case precious jewels, a little more. However, my Disney time is too valuable to wait more than 45 minutes for a ride that last only a little over 2 minutes, so I highly recommend obtaining a Fastpass+ for this ride. Speaking of Fastpass+, this week Disney announced new enhancements to the system. We won’t go into the details here today, but be sure to come by our website, wdwrideguide.com, to learn about the exciting new options available for Fastpass+.
All right, now you know a little about the history of this ride, the cool new technology, and the great storytelling. You might be thinking, “Why haven’t we covered this ride before now?” After all, for the past two years Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has boasted the title of newest ride at Walt Disney World. If you are going to the parks for the first time, or even the first time in more than 2 years this is probably the ride you are most curious about. Well, I have been patiently waiting to cover this ride so that I could get a few rides under my belt before podcasting.
Let me tell you about my brief history with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I was in the Magic Kingdom at the beginning of May in 2014. Remember, the ride opened on May 28, 2014. In the weeks leading up to our trip I kept checking to see if the ride was open yet. When we arrived at the park the ride was still a few weeks away from its grand opening date. However, there was the slim chance that a soft opening would occur while we were there, so we kept checking, and checking, and checking. I could see the sign, the queue, and the mine train track just waiting to be explored. We would walk past the entrance over and over, many times going out of our way to do so, all with the hope we would get lucky and be one of the first to ride. Well, sadly that never happened. We flew back to Texas and my first encounter with the dwarf’s mine would have to wait. Needless to say, this only added to my anticipation, and therefore expectation.
My wife and I returned to the Magic Kingdom the fall of that same year, and I made sure to secure our Fastpass+ to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 60 days in advance of our trip. The moment I had been awaiting for more than a year was about to come! We got to the park, rode some of our favorites, and then made our way over to Fantasyland in the early afternoon. We scanned our Magic Bands, walked through the Fastpass+ queue, and boarded our mine car. I was so excited! Then, a short 2 1/2 minutes later it was over. Everything went by so fast and the ride felt so short I experience an immediate let down. Sure, the ride was wonderfully themed, but I didn’t feel the sway of the cars like I expected and it was nowhere near as thrilling as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I was just a little bummed.
I wanted to ride a second time, but that was the only Fastpass+ for the trip. We tried to ride late at night on our way out of the park only to discover the ride had been shut down. After leaving the park we learned the reason for the closure was a small fire had started on the exterior of the ride’s mountain slope. Evidently, a piece of debris from the nightly fireworks show, Wishes, had come down in just the right spot and caught on fire! Disney’s local fire department had to come and put out the tiny blaze. Not only did I miss the chance to ride a second time, but I had narrowly missed getting to see a fire put out on the ride! Oh well. My second ride would have to wait several more months.
To make a long story short, I have now been on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train four times. Only once per a trip due to the long wait times. As I discussed on our Top 5 Fastpass+ Rides podcast, I learned the hard way that the line builds up even before the park opens. Now, the good news is that I have slowly fallen in love with this ride. Each time I go I enjoy it more than the last. One key thing I have learned through the 4 rides is SIT IN THE BACK! I have been at the very front once, the middle once, and the back twice. Normally, I don’t find that the car’s location factors in so much on a roller coaster, but boy does it ever on this one. I can’t stress enough what a difference this makes. Because of the short track length, and stop inside the mine halfway through the ride, there isn’t a lot of time to build up speed on this coaster. However, if you sit in the back, you are pulled into every drop with greater force and therefore more speed. Unlike other coasters that can really whip you around in the back seat, the patented ride system on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train keeps the cart swaying smoothly back and forth no matter what car you are in. You just get to experience that sway at a faster velocity. When I discovered this, my affinity for the ride greatly increased.
Now, anytime we are planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, I very much look forward to experiencing this ride again. There is a rich level of detail in both the interior of the mine, as well as the forest outside. I know I will see something new with each ride. Plus, I’m still working on finding the perfect time of day to ride. While I love a lot of rides at night, I don’t think that is the best time for this one. During the day you can see so much of Fantasyland as you whip around the outside of the mountain. Its central location makes it feel like you are in the heart of the magic as you see happy people going by on every side. At night, you lose a little of this as so much blends into the darkness. The one time I think might be best, is riding at dusk. Just enough light to see your surroundings, while the sky turns orange in the distance. Also, this cuts down on the light bleeding into the mine, making the underground world feel even more buried.
If you have a favorite time to ride I would love to hear from you. Or, if you have a question that I haven’t answered let me know. Send me a message via our Facebook page, or shoot an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed our look at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. If you go into this ride with the right expectations I think you will have a wonderful time. Remember to think of it as an expansive Disney dark ride with a splash of thrill. Oh, and use this as an excuse to introduce a new generation to the Disney classic film that started it all. Walt liked to remind people that it all started with a mouse, but I don’t think we would have the theme parks today without Snow White.