Editor: My friend, Lisa Battista, author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers recently was at Walt Disney World, and had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the new Fantasyland expansion. On Friday, she shared Part One of her experiences. Today she provides more details! 🙂
Guests that day were among the first to set foot in Under the Seas – A Journey of the Mermaid, make Belle’s acquaintance in Enchanted Tales with Belle, flipper flip (shake hands) with Ariel, flex their muscles with Gaston, raise a glass of Le Fou’s Brew in Gaston’s Tavern, and bring home a souvenir from Bonjour Gifts. Let’s take a tour, shall we?
Under the Seas – A Journey of the Mermaid. Guests wend their way through rocky cliffs to reach the boarding area where clamshells wait to take them under the seas. Guests move backwards to descend into the ocean’s depths all the while surrounded by bubbles projected on surfaces around the clamshell. Once on the ocean floor, this slow moving attraction takes guests through significant moments in the movie by using animatronics and music to create colorful vignettes. There is one dark section foreshadowing the appearance of a large Ursula that may frighten young children but it is brief. The ride itself is slow and tells a story without any particularly thrilling effects but the quality of the imagineering is what makes this attraction a standout. It feels as if the painted cels of the movie were replicated in 3-D with spot-on lighting and coloring.
Ariel’s Grotto. Ariel’s Grotto is a character meeting location for the headstrong mermaid herself. It is similar to meeting Mickey Mouse in Town Square Theater in terms of the reveal and small groups. Ariel is completely hidden from view behind rocky sea walls until a small group of guests are invited to turn the corner and enter the Grotto where Ariel (in her mermaid incarnation) greets guests on her clamshell. Guests are invited to sit, chat a minute, and have their picture taken. Ariel was very patient and warm with my son who was a bit confused about meeting a princess. I think it was the first time he met a face character that spoke instead of simply gesturing. Ariel remained in character and spoke of thingamabobs, flippers, and the like.
Enchanted Tales with Belle. Enchanted Tales with Belle was surprisingly high- and low-tech all at the same time. After waiting on a slow moving queue outside Maurice’s Cottage, guests are invited to enter his workshop where they could look around at some of his inventions. A mirror in a heavy frame adorned one wall. After asking the mirror to take us to the night Belle and Beast fell in love, the jaw-dropping effects took place. The mirror transformed literally and figuratively into a portal that took us to the Beast’s castle. Like a magic trick, the sleight of hand, if you will, may not have garnered so may oohs and aahs in the light of day but Disney sure knows how to stage an effect. The animated wardrobe in the next room was outstanding in her own right. This is also where things took a low-tech turn. Cast Members selected guests from the small audience to play a part in the Beast and Belle’s love story. Cardboard cutouts were used for the props. We moved into Beast’s library and Belle entered. Lumiere retold the Beast and Belle’s love story while the guest actors took center stage. At the end, Belle took pictures with all the participants.
Gaston. Gaston was meeting adoring townspeople in the town square. During my visit, there was no dedicated, roped section for a queue and guests simply lined up in the middle of the area for a picture. Gaston was quite happy to pose and be the center of attention. As the area becomes more crowded, I can see this as being a potential bottleneck unless his greeting location is changed.
Gaston’s Tavern and LeFou’s Brew. Gaston’s Tavern is a masculine-themed quick service location serving up snacks and its signature drink, the non-alcoholic Le Fou’s Brew. This frozen apple-juice beverage was delicious and refreshing although my mom proclaimed it to be too sweet. There is seating on both sides of the ordering counter but it’s pretty limited.
Be Our Guest Restaurant. The Be Our Guest Restaurant had its gates closed during our visit but it looks to be as detailed as the rest of the area. . Gargoyles stood sentry at the base of the lampposts on the bridge to the restaurant while imposing iron gates kept the townspeople from wandering into the still closed restaurant.
The New Fantasyland is sure to be an instant success with Disney guests, especially little girls. Once you visit, let us know what you think.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.