Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Journey through a New Fantasyland!!




What a lucky day!
If you are following our blog, chances are pretty good you are a big Disney fan!  And, chances are if you are a big Disney fan, you have probably heard of a little thing called “New Fantasyland” in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World!  This project to expand the current Fantasyland has been years in the making.  Earlier this  month, I was spending a leisurely morning with my family and some friends at the Animal Kingdom, when my phone blew up in a flurry of messages from friends and fellow agents that New Fantasyland was open for dress rehearsal right then!  With much thanks to understanding friends and annual passes that let me park hop, I was on the first bus I could grab to scurry over to the Magic Kingdom!  Two days later when we were back at the Magic Kingdom our luck continued as New Fantasyland was in dress rehearsal again.  So, without further adieu, here’s a recap of all the fun we had, and a bunch of pictures, too!!

The entrance to New Fantasyland lies just through there.
Right off the bat you are greeted by the castle walls.  It’s amazing how well they fit in as if they’ve always been there.  What’s really amazing too is how different the land feels over there with Dumbo no longer there, and yet, it just feels as if it is all so right.  








Playful friends carved in the castle walls.
The architecture of the walls matches and compliments Cinderella Castle beautifully, with that ever present attention to detail.

From the entrance of the walls, you cannot see the Fantasyland Forest that you know lies behind; it lies perfectly hidden and you cannot help but skip through the entry in anticipation (ok, maybe not you, but I certainly couldn’t help it!).  The Fantasyland Forest is truly that - a land so lush and full of so many different types of foliage.  I have read about how the horticulture team put everything together, and they definitely succeeded in creating a full French forest in the middle of palm tree filled Central Florida!


Belle's Cottage
Heading into the forest now, first up and encompassing the area “straight ahead” and “to the left”, if you will, is Belle’s world.  To make it simple, I’ll work from the left to the right as I talk about everything we saw.  That makes our first stop Enchanted Tales with Belle.  As you may know, this experience takes storytime and meet and greet and multiplies it by an exponent of AWESOME.  The outside of Belle’s cottage looks as if it has been plucked from the big screen and dropped into the Magic Kingdom; the perfect replica is chock full of details.  

The queue is filled with objects that you would expect to see in Maurice’s workshop.  There is plenty of shade as the line winds along, and it moves at a good pace compared to other meet and greet type experiences.  








Love the nod to Mrs. Potts and Chip!
Once you approach the doors of the cottage, a group of people are admitted into the living area.  This may have been my personal favorite part, as I really felt as if I was standing in Belle’s living room.  There were so many details that felt so personal - like the height markers on the wall (I’m still shorter than an 18 year old Belle!), and the portrait of Belle as a child with her mother, reading a book.  





After waiting for a bit in this room, you are brought into the next room, Maurice’s workshop.  The workshop is all wood and woodtones, and “decorated” in ways using objects only an inventory like Maurice could!  What happens next was so magical.  A cast member comes out to greet you, and directs your attention to a magic mirror on the wall.  The mirror begins to glow, to sparkle, and the image of the forest we see in the opening scene of the movie appears.  The magic keeps going, and the mirror begins to expand up, down, and out, until a doorway appears that leads us on our journey!  



First the mirror looks like this..... 

Then this.....



And finally, this doorway!!




In the next room we are told the kids (and a few “big kids”) will receive their roles in the story - and who better to help outfit everyone for their big role but Wardrobe herself! Wardrobe was quiet and still as we entered, but right on cue she lit up and began moving and talking - everyone in the room was stunned!  She is so fluid and lifelike, boisterous and warm!  Once all the important roles are filled and rehearsed (Beast has roared, plates have danced and wolves have howled), the door opens to our final destination - Belle’s library.  










Wow.  The lighting is purple, giving the room such a magical feel.  Chandeliers glow from above, books line the walls, rich red carpets cover the floors (and the benches remind you of a certain friend of Beast’s Castle!), and in the center of the room is a grand fireplace.  Upon the mantle sits everyone’s favorite candelabra, Lumiere.  The children sit on the floor up front, and suddenly Lumiere springs to life!  If you were amazed by Wardrobe, you’ll be floored by Lumiere!!!  I am 100% positive he was real :)  Belle joins us all, and we surprise her with a retelling of the story of how she and the Beast fell in love!  









During the storytelling the kids all take their proper turn, and all the adults on the benches get involved, too.  After, the children are introduced one by one as “Lord” or “Lady” to Belle, and she poses with each child for a photo and presents them with a special bookmark.  With a final grand farewell, our time is sadly over.  On the way out, we are given a specially printed PhotoPass card from the photographer who snapped pics of the entire storytime - super!  This was, hands down, my favorite part in all of New Fantasyland.  The experience was so rich with details and interaction, it made for a truly memorable time!

The gargoyles create such anticipation!
Moving on, we pass by a bridge line with gargoyles.  The stone arch at the entryway is broken in the middle.  A mountain sits at the end of the bridge, and atop the mountain, looms the Castle of the Beast.  The Castle doesn’t sit quite as high and far as it seems (Disney has perfected forced perspective), but it’s grand in its presence.  On our second visit to the new land, we were so excited to see that the iron gates at the end of the bridge were open, and just beyond we were called in to take a look around the highly anticipated Be Our Guest restaurant!!  











The stone lions guard the heavy wooden doors, and above the doors is a beautiful stained glass piece depicting key scenes from the Beast’s transformation.  The lobby has a very medieval feel with more stonework, flags, tapestries, and suits of armor.  Off to the right are the self-serve kiosks where guests will be able to order their counter service lunches.  













Off to the left is a gorgeous mural of Belle and the Beast - sure to be a very popular photo op!  Behind velvet ropes lay the grand ballroom.  It. Is. Stunning.  There are few words to describe the beauty of this room - the velvets are rich, the ceiling murals are delicate yet intricate, the architecture is royal, the chandeliers are elegant, and the windows, where you can watch the snow gently fall, are beyond magical.  Pictures do not do it justice.  My belly was rumbling in anticipation of my upcoming dinner reservation here next month!










The stunning ballroom at Be Our Guest Restaurant  

Back outside, we head right into the village that is dedicate to the manliest man in town, Gaston.  The fountain of Gaston and LeFou serves as a centerpiece for Gaston’s Tavern, a quick service eatery, and Bonjour Village Gifts.  Gaston’s was serving their full menu, so we stopped into this rustic lodge for a bite.  The decor was exactly as shown in the movie - heads of game on the wall, a fireplace with a gigantic portrait in tribute to the tavern’s namesake, and the most appropriate chandelier you’ve ever seen!  


There is no one in town half as manly!


The raccoon cap makes the perfect addition to this already perfect chandelier!




LeFou's Brew in Souvenir Goblets
As for the food - we of course had to try the signature items, LeFou’s brew and the roasted pork shank.  I personally have a food allergy, and even in previews the staff was able to accommodate with a smile!  The brew is a frozen beverage of apple juice with a toasted marshmallow flavor, and a passion-mango foam on top.  It is offered in a regular cup, or a souvenir stein featuring Gaston or a goblet featuring Belle.  The brew is sweet - very sweet! - but definitely refreshing on a warm day and enjoyed by all in our group.  The roasted pork shank was fantastic.  It is simply seasoned and slow roasted to where the meat falls off the bone.  Our group dubbed this the “new turkey leg” - we loved it!

Over at Bonjour Village Gifts, there was a fantastic array of unique merchandise.  I found some of the things to be a little more “upscale”, such as china and glassware that were very beautiful.  


Back out in the courtyard, be on the lookout for a visit from that perfect paragon himself!  He sauntered over to my two daughters who were resting in the shade and stunned them with his good looks.  Or so he said!

Don’t forget that even though you feel so hidden away from the rest of the World in this lovely forest, there are other adventure awaiting just around the bend, adventures that will take you under the sea!  From inside the village courtyard, you cannot even see Prince Eric’s castle that is waiting for you on the other side.  The castle is so deep in details; while that might be expected standards from Disney, they never cease to amaze! 


 Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid is a classic Disney dark ride that incorporates new technology to create a sure to be favorite!  Winding along the queue you see water elements, seashells, starfish, and so much “human stuff” as you journey closer to your undersea adventure.  There is a fun little interactive game to play with some housekeeping crabs as you walk along (I was sad the line moved so quickly we weren’t able to partake!).  Deeper you go and you enter the caverns, and then your clamshell is there ready to take you away.  If you have ridden the version of this ride in Disney’s California Adventure, you will see a lot of similarities. 

This is a great storytelling journey with some really great audioanimatronics - Ursula is my personal favorite!!!  Under the Sea also has a FastPass option; the machines are located at Mickey’s Philharmagic.  

One last adventure awaits, and that is of course the famous mermaid herself!  Over at Ariel’s grotto, the beauty awaits to greet you, in her fins, of course!  As much as we enjoyed her in her human legs, it was great to see her flipping her fins again!

We were just so excited to have gotten this very special and very unexpected peek into a very long awaited land.  Words cannot do it justice, so I’ll let pictures do more of the talking!  Look to our Facebook page for a more expansive photo album in the coming week!  


I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour around New Fantasyland.  It really was, in a word, Fantastic!  Are you planning to visit this new land?  What part are you most excited to see?

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