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Live Active Cultures

Red against blue is so last week – welcome to the battle of Beauty and the 'Bots

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The first of those is the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland, which officially debuts Dec. 6, but has already opened for previews. The fresh forested section features lush scenery that rivals Disney California Adventure's spectacular Cars Land area, but unless you're an 11-year-old girl, this addition may feel too little, too late.

New Fantasyland's centerpiece (and the only ride until the mild Seven Dwarves Mine Train coaster is completed in 2014) is an exact clone of California's slow-moving Little Mermaid dark ride. The only improvement over the underwhelming original is a hyperdetailed queue, complete with interactive scavenger crabs (seriously) and a super-creepy Ariel figurehead out front; essentially, it's a middling C-Ticket gussied up in E-Ticket garb.

Unlike Universal's ride-centric growth, Disney seems more concerned with selling snacks and souvenir photos. The Be Our Guest restaurant offers faux French cuisine – controversially including wine and beer for the first time in park history, in violation of Walt's explicit wishes – inside the Beast's iconic castle. If you can't afford the "grey stuff" (it's delicious), Gaston's Tavern serves pork shanks (the new turkey leg) and "LeFou's Brew," a blatant Butterbeer rip-off, minus the addictiveness. Finally, Enchanted Tales With Belle employs impressive animatronics and an amazing "magic mirror" effect while compelling guests to perform; I was forced to stand in a corner imitating a suit of armor.

Long on style but short on substance, New Fantasyland is the first of several imminent Disney upgrades, including Avatar-land in Animal Kingdom (think Soarin' in 3-D and a Jungle Cruise past giant Smurfs), Pixar-based projects in Hollywood Studios, and perhaps new Star Wars attractions inspired by the recently announced Disney-owned sequels. However Mickey's empire ultimately strikes back against Hogwarts, we ride-lovers will be the ones reaping the spoils of war.

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