New Fantasyland: A Sneak Peek at Belle’s Village

2012-10-23 16.41.36The New Fantasyland, part of  the largest expansion in Disney’s 40 year history, and the most popular land in the most popular park in the most popular theme park in the world is – in a word – spectacular. It doesn’t open until December 6th, but I got a sneak preview of Disney’s latest piece of magic.

Enter the New Fantasyland through the old castle walls – a hint at the history inside. The Beast’s Castle – visible from a distance, but accessible inside – looms high on a hill.

“We are always working on different levels” explained Imagineer Diego Parras,“We create experiences for parents, children and grandparents – for everyone -  to enjoy together.”

But The New Fantasyland has added another dimension to that multi-level thinking: 2012-10-23 16.35.53 the physical one.  Unlike the rest of the park, much of which is built over a complex series of tunnels that made digging down virtually impossible, The New Fantasyland had no such restrictions.  The result is a topography that feels natural.  And the unusual amount of real, native, non-manicured landscaping helps The Fantasyland feel very real indeed.

The Imagineers, creatively spearheaded by Eric Jacobson, wanted the entrance to bring to mind entering the Magic Kingdom itself, where a statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse greets every guest.

In Belle’s Village – the first of the areas you enter – “Its all about Gaston,” jokes Parras, so he got the statue, a fun, funny fountain just outside Gaston’s Antler Infested Tavern.

Disney has always been incredibly attentive to detail. The tree in the special Boo to You Halloween parade I saw Tuesday night didn’t just have leaves – it had lichen hanging from its branches. The air in Tomorrowland’s spectacular “Soarin’ Ride” is pine scented when you’re (virtually) flying over the pine forest, and humid when you’re soaring over the desert; the old animatronic Pirates in the (relatively) new Pirates of the Caribbeann attraction have age spots on their hands. And the New Fantasyland is no different. In fact, it may take that attention to detail to new levels.

At Gaston’s Tavern every faux-wood beam has different, incredibly real looking faux graining.  Inside the tavern, look up at one of the antler chandeliers hold remnants of crazy parties – and you’ll see a hat – presumably thrown up there during a wild party and never recovered.  Look carefully at the walls and you’ll see they’re nicked – even knuckle marked – from bar brawls past.

2012-10-23 18.07.50Here, you can order Fools Brew, a frozen concoction that looks like Ale – but is really made from a base of frozen apple juice topped with a mango foam.  Delicious, and not too sweet.

What really makes the New Fantasyland special – and what will seal it in the memory of every child who visits, is the level of interaction it allows.

At Enchanted Tales with Belle, Disney guests are not just watching the attraction – 2012-10-23 16.29.46they are in it – part of the story of Belle and the Beast.

You enter through a magic mirror (I won’t say more – no spoilers here) and once inside, guests are given basic props that turn them into characters from the story, and then, when Belle appears, they get to play those parts with the princess herself.  Enchanted Tales puts you scarely in the story – in the movie – it’s hard to know where the line is drawn. Lumiere is not a projection – but a three dimensional, moving talking character. Take a look:

I was there with a room full of jaded bloggers – and we were all giddy with the novelty and proximity of it.  I can only imagine what a child, picked to be The Beast, and given the chance to dance with Belle – might feel.  Take a look:

This, said Thomas O. Scaggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Resorts Worldwide, “Takes meet a greet to a whole new level.”

You bet.

“We think Walt would be proud.”  said Scaggs.

I think so too.

Come back for my next post about dinner at the Beast’s Castle in the Be Our Guest restaurant.

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