Perhaps the seven coolest features of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in New Fantasyland at Disney World's Magic Kingdom are Bashful, Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Dopey (especially Dopey)—eight if you include Snow White. But it’s likely that you are already familiar with the beloved characters. You may not be familiar, however, with the unique attraction that opened in 2014 at the park. It is based, of course, on one of Disney’s most enduring and popular animated films. The ride has proven so popular, The Mouse built a clone of it at its Shanghai Disneyland park.
In honor of The Seven Dwarfs, let’s take a look at seven of the more intriguing elements and features of the ride.
First-of-its-Kind Swinging Coaster
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the ride is the design of the coaster train and its cars. Instead of fixed cars, they are mounted in cradle-like pivots that give them the ability to swing side to side during the ride.
There are spinning coasters (like Disney World’s own Primeval Whirl at Disney's Animal Kingdom) in which individual Wild Mouse-style cars spin around. And there are fourth dimension coasters such as X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which have cars that rotate to the sides of the track. But the innovative design of The Seven Dwarfs coaster marks the first time that coaster cars pivot, somewhat like a Ferris wheel but with side-to-side motion instead of back-and-forth movement.
Note that the cars gently sway to and fro. The amount and intensity of the swaying (which never gets too intense) is dependent on the weight of the passengers and the weight distribution in each car. The attraction is not considered a thrill ride. To learn more, read our full review of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
It's a Coaster. It's a Dark Ride. It's Two Rides in One!
Disney World has other themed coasters, such as Space Mountain, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest. But the stories largely take a back seat to the coaster thrills (although of the three, the Animal Kingdoms Yeti ride has the most compelling story). The Seven Dwarfs doesn’t have the same thrill level as Expedition Everest, but it has a more immersive story.
It is more of a full-fledged dark ride, like Pirates of the Caribbean, with animatronic characters, show scenes, props, music from the film, and other elements that tell a linear story and immerse riders in the dwarfs’ mythical workplace.
Unlike Disney World’s other mine train coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the New Fantasyland ride more than just hints at mine activity by taking riders into a “working” mine. In that sense, it gives equal weight to its status as both a coaster and a dark ride, not unlike (the wonderful) Revenge of the Mummy at the Universal Studios parks.
It Has Variable Speed Vehicles
Most traditional roller coasters use a chain lift to carry a train to the top of a lift hill and allow gravity to handle the rest of the ride. That system would make it difficult to incorporate dark ride features. Instead, the Seven Dwarfs ride has variable speed vehicles that allow them to slow down and rev up to accommodate both the show scenes and the coaster elements. Revenge of the Mummy has similar ride vehicle capabilities.
Media-Enhanced Animatronic Technology
The Imagineers have enhanced the animatronic dwarfs with digitally mapped media projected onto the faces. It allows the characters to be highly expressive and really pop. The feature is also used to animate Sebastian the Crab’s eyes in The Little Mermaid ride at the Magic Kingdom and for the characters in the Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot.
It Is Mildly Thrilling, but Widely Accessible
Disney and other broad-appeal theme parks must perform a delicate balancing act of delivering thrills while allowing as many of its visitors as possible to experience its attractions. Rides that are too intense exclude younger guests who don’t meet the height requirements as well as older wimps who don’t have much of a tolerance for thrills. How many guests can’t or won't ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror because of its extreme drops but would otherwise love its incredible effects and engaging story?
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride hits the sweet spot. It has some mild thrills (even milder than the relatively mild Big Thunder Mountain), but is not intimidating enough to scare away most wimps. It is a true family coaster that most young children would be able to enjoy with their grandparents.
By the way, if you or someone who will be visiting the resort with you is thrill-averse, you should learn how to navigate Walt Disney World as a wimp.
It Includes an Interactive Queue
The bane of theme parks has long been the interminable lines guests must endure to experience more popular rides. For the last few years, Disney has been adding entertaining diversions in its queues to make the waits more palatable. This has included features such as a tricked-out pipe organ in the line for Haunted Mansion and an air-conditioned "circus tent," complete with benches, games, and climbing equipment, for guests waiting to board Dumbo. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride includes a fun gem game to pass the time.
A Surprise Ending
We are not going to spoil the ride and reveal the exact nature of the surprise. But near the end of the attraction, before you enter the unloading area, look over to your right. You’ll see a foreboding figure ready to cause mayhem. Shh. Don't give away the secret!