There really is something magical about Disney World. When you walk into Magic Kingdom, you are swept into a world made up of one man’s imagination. Walking through the Walt Disney history exhibit at Hollywood Studios reminded me of that. But even more than that, you are in world where dreams and fairy tales free themselves from imagination to coexist with the dreamer. As you become an adult, most of us realize the impossibility of our dreams and give up on them. Rare is the experience that returns those feelings of childhood wonder.
When we decided to go to Disney World, I knew that one section of Magic Kingdom held more appeal for me than anything else. Disney opened New Fantasyland in December 2012. It contains homages to Beauty and the Beast, my ultimate favorite Disney movie, as well as some other classics.
Anyone who knows me, probably knows how much I adore Beauty and the Beast. There was a period in my life when I watched the Disney classic at least once a month….and, no, that time was not as a child. For a while, my ultimate career goal was to be Belle at Disney World. I thought it would be the best job ever. Get dressed up, maybe get to perform in the show at Hollywood Studios, have children love and adore you. It sounds about perfect, right?
Nearly as good, and better in some ways, was being immersed in the world of Beauty and the Beast. A good portion of New Fantasyland is devoted to my favorite movie and, Kevin can tell you, I was giddy with excitement while in this section of the park. They have a small replica of the village square, including an amusing monument of Gaston which he apparently had erected himself. They also have a replica of Belle’s cottage, in which the attraction Enchanted Tales with Belle is located. I do not think we went on a single other attraction that week that had a wait longer than 30 minutes and no Fastpass option. But skipping anything Belle-related was not an option.
As you waited in line, you got to spend time in the little entry room of the cottage. As with everything, Disney has thought of every detail. The book Belle reads in the movie is there – in French! It was fun trying to read some of it while we waited. There is a portrait of young Belle and her mother. There are marks on one wall showing Belle’s height throughout the years. I could have stayed in that room alone for an hour or two. But, they move you on to Maurice’s workshop. You are not in there for long, so I did not get a good look around. The focal point of the room is a large mirror. The mirror first shows a little video and then, suddenly, expands and opens into a doorway leading into the castle. Seriously, Disney? Why do you make everything so awesome?
In the first room, you are met by the Wardrobe, who, with the help of some human assistants, tells you about a surprise for Belle! You are going to take part in recreating the love story between her and the Beast as a surprise for her. Makeshift costumes are handed out. At this point, I was praying with everything in me that I could be Belle. I mean, I was practically having a heart attack in the corner hoping I would get picked. Turns out, there is no Belle part. Also, they pretty much just recruit children to act in this mini production. Dang it.
But wait! They were in need of a few strong knights to help with the story. Enter Kevin. Or rather, Kevin gets forced into this by a Disney worker and his overenthusiastic wife. You can see how excited he was in that picture.
At this point, you are all escorted into the library, where an animatronic Lumiere offers more instructions. Parents of children in the little show jockeyed for positions at the front to snap pictures of their little darlings. I may or may not have pushed my way to a front row center seat. I was not about to miss whatever happened next. And good thing I did! Next thing you know, Belle walked in!
With instructions from the Disney cast, the ragtag crew of actors made their way through the story of Beauty and the Beast for Belle. I will say, the girl playing Belle did a great job. She was wonderful with the children, even dancing with the little boy playing the Beast and taking the hand of very young girl to help her join a little parade around the room. Kevin, meanwhile, stood in the corner and tried to be invisible. At one point, he got in trouble for putting his knight mask away too early. (Side note: I married a man so much like my father, it’s crazy.) He may have hated it, but I have never been more jealous of him than when Belle spoke to him and when he got to take a picture with her. She took pictures with all the kids. No one offered the chance to non-participating adults, though. As a consolation prize, Kevin gave me the Belle bookmark he got for participating.
Thankfully, the real magic of my day had already been provided next door in the Be Our Guest restaurant. I had attempted to get us dinner reservations in the new eatery, but the place is booked six months in advance. So, instead, we enjoyed lunch there. To say I was on top of the world is quite an understatement.
We had to wait about thirty minutes, but it was totally worth it. Inside, you were escorted to a computer where you placed your order. Then, you were given a plastic rose disk and told to find a seat. The restaurant has three dining rooms. One room is modeled after the West Wing; one is a portrait gallery of sorts; the main room replicates the ballroom from the movie. After checking out all three rooms, we chose a table at the end of the ballroom.
Once you find a table, the servers located you based on what I assume is GPS in the rose you have been given. They bring your order out on a little cart. We had a bit of a mix-up with our order, so clearly the system is not perfected yet, but it was still cool. The restaurant serves French food; I had braised pork with mashed potatoes and green beans jardiniere while Kevin had a turkey sandwich with french fries. For dessert, we ordered a lemon-raspberry cream puff.
The food was fine (we have lots to say about Disney food in general and we’ll get to that in another post); the experience was surreal. About every three minutes I looked around and simply could not believe where I was. The room truly does look like the movie come to life. The windows we sat by had been made to look as though snow was falling outside and the mural on the ceiling matched that famous crane shot which was so revolutionary at the time. It took everything in me to contain myself; I literally had adrenaline coursing through my body. It was absolutely one of the top ten most magical moments of my life.
Yes, I am a complete weirdo to get this excited about the reproduction of an animated movie at 25, but what can I say? Disney brings out the child in you. They think of every detail and immerse you in a world that, thusfar, has only lived in your imagination. How can you not get excited? If you are looking for a more balanced opinion of our Beauty and the Beast activities, know that Kevin thought they were fine. Mostly he just liked watching me be so happy.
Ok, enough with my Beauty and the Beast obsession. The rest of Fantasyland had some fun things to offer as well. We enjoyed the Under the Sea ride. It’s basically just a tour of the movie, like many Magic Kingdom rides. While we walked through the Storybook Circus area inspired by Dumbo, we did not ride anything back there. That back corner of the park was sacrificed to our limited timeline.
We actually skipped quite a bit in Fantasyland; most of our time there was devoted to Beauty and the Beast. We passed on the Prince Charming Carousel, the Winnie the Pooh ride (which had an inexplicably long line all day), the Mad Tea Party (spinning teacups + us = bad news; we knew better), and even It’s a Small World (we’d both ridden it as children and had no desire to have the song stuck in our heads for hours to come).
We did go on Peter Pan’s Flight at the very end of the day. After all, we both loved Peter Pan as children. It was cool, but nothing spectacular and I will never understand why it consistently has one of the longest lines at Magic Kingdom. We loved Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a 3D movie which sends you through songs in multiple Disney films.
As we made our way through the park, I could never turn down snapping a picture of the castle. I think I have one from just about every angle. I know Kevin got tired of my constant stops, but I am so glad to have some really great shots of the iconic landmark.
We closed out our night by wandering down Main Street, U.S.A. We had a Fast Pass to meet the Princesses, but it took us less than two minutes in the line of screaming children to know it was not worth it to wait. After all, we had already met Belle; they only princesses available that day were Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel. No thanks. We wandered in and out of some shops while we waiting for our dinner reservation. This time gave us a great opportunity to pick up a frame to hang next to our scratch map representing this trip.
We ate at Tony’s Town Street Restaurant for dinner. It’s themed around Lady and the Tramp, although there’s little connection outside of the Italian menu. The atmosphere was crowded and loud, hardly the romantic spot I had been hoping for when I made the reservation. Thankfully, though, our location and timing ended up giving us a perfect spot to see the Main Street Electrical Parade.
We closed out the night with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. We had not waited around to see fireworks at Hollywood Studios or Epcot, but I am so glad we did at Magic Kingdom. Leave it to Disney to impress even us with a fireworks show. We both agreed it was one of the best fireworks shows we had ever seen. Although, Kevin was disappointed that they did not have character-shaped fireworks. It would have been cool to see some Mickey ears in the sky. The finale was huge, making it look almost as though Cinderella’s castle were on fire – in a cool way.
It was all a great close to a wonderful, magical, very long day. We made one quick stop on the way out to take a picture with the Mickey Mouse shrubbery at the entrance, just as Kevin’s family did at Disneyland many years ago.
Have you been to Magic Kingdom? What was your favorite part? Did anything give you the same childlike excitement that the Be Our Guest restaurant gave me?