Last weekend we got the coolest opportunity to visit the new section of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World in Orlando. So far, whenever we’ve gone, it’s been open to other groups – Disney Vacation Club members, Annual Passholders who signed up in advance, etc. But my husband, who every now and then pulls off shenanigans, managed to get us in by stumbling across a University of Alabama fan / cast member who liked the BAMA shirt he was wearing. Before I knew it, we had yellow wristbands and were on our way to The Beast’s Castle.
Attractions in the New Fantasyland
Little Mermaid the Ride
Anytime you can get on rides at Disney World without waiting in long lines is worth writing about, but when the attractions aren’t even open to the general public yet, it’s twice as amazing. The first thing we did was to head to the new Little Mermaid the Ride, where we literally walked right on. It’s definitely set up for a long line, but like some of the other revamped queues at the park, this one features activities to pass the time when you do have to wait. Different screens have videos of crabs who’ve gotten their “human things” mixed up and you tell them which ones match and which ones don’t. Although it’s not quite as interactive as the queues for Soarin’ (at Epcot) at Space Mountain, it’s really cute and appropriately-themed to match the ride.
The ride itself is made of “cars” shaped like seashells that seat two to three people across. It’s a slow ride appropriate for most ages, where the focus is on the scenes you view instead of the feeling of the ride. After passing Scuttle, the crazy seagull who introduces the story, you turn backwards and descend slightly into the water, which is projected all around you, including onto the seashell behind yours (which you’re currently facing). Look up, and you’ll see Ariel and Flounder above you in her cave of human trinkets, singing “Part of Your World” on the ceiling.
After that comes several animatronic, three-dimensional scenes from the movie, including:
- Ariel and Flounder in her cave looking through her human treasure
- Sebastian, an octopus. and an orchestra of sea animals performing “Under the Sea”, which you see from both sides
- Ursula and her eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, tempting Ariel with the song “Poor Unfortunate Souls”
A quick video screen shows Ariel giving her voice to Ursula, and then you come on another animatronic scene of Ariel and Prince Eric in the boat on the lake with Sebastian singing, “Kiss the Girl”. The ride then has a final video screen interstitial of Ursula’s demise and Ariel’s voice returning, before the finale, a beautiful scene of Ariel and Eric’s wedding, with King Triton emerging from the sea and fireworks displayed in the background.
Video of Little Mermaid the Ride
The first time through the ride I recorded it; video is below.
Meet and Greet with Ariel
When you exit the ride, Ariel herself is just around the corner. Our family got to meet her and have our pictures taken, and as always the actress playing her was perfectly in character. She even gasped in mock fright when she saw an Ursula pin on my daughter’s lanyard.
Be Our Guest Restaurant
After taking a second turn on the ride, it was time for lunch. We stopped for a few pictures with Gaston before going into the Be Our Guest restaurant for a delicious lunch. The restaurant requires reservations for dinner, but at lunchtime it’s a quick service eatery where you order with a video screen using a plastic rose they use to match your order to your table once you choose a seat. There are three rooms among which you can choose to eat, including the Ballroom, the West Wing (complete with the Beast’s magical rose), and the Rose Gallery, which is only open for lunch, and features a rotating statue of Belle dancing with the Beast. And yes…there are hidden Mickeys!
Maurice’s Castle and Belle’s Meet and Greet
The most unique attraction in the new section of Fantasyland, however, is Maurice’s castle. Maurice is Belle’s inventor father, and his castle is so popular that we had a 40 minute wait despite the limited number of people being allowing in for the preview. Instead of a ride, Maurice’s Castle is a walking tour where participants interact as part of the story, including conversing with Madame Wardrobe and ending with a meet and greet with Belle. Cast members describe it as an “interactive storybook adventure with a little magic thrown in.”
We didn’t get a chance to sample the food and drink offered in Gaston’s Tavern, but the small eatery features LeFou’s Brew (a non-alcoholic frozen apple-based drink), pork shanks, and pastries. The tavern is decorated in true Gaston flair, with lots of mounted antlers, antler-based chandeliers, a picture of the man (Gaston) himself over the fireplace, and a dart board. A manly statue of Gaston marks the entrance.