This morning I had the opportunity to experience a preview of the new Enchanted Tales with Belle inside the Fantasyland Expansion in Magic Kingdom. I went with my family, which includes two toddlers aged 3 and nearly 2. While they are familiar with Beauty and the Beast, it is not a movie they watch over and over, so I was not sure how they would react to the expanded meet and greet.
Since the preview was not open to the public, we had to wait outside the construction walls for a Cast Member to come check us in and take us back to Maurice’s Cottage. While much of the expansion was still blocked from view, what we could see was gorgeous! There were trees and other plants everywhere…quite the change from the barren Fantasyland we are used to. We queued up in front of the cottage and could see the impressive Beast’s Castle peeking through the trees.
After a short wait outside, we were taken into the first room of Maurice’s Cottage. Here there are remnants from Belle’s childhood: height marks on the wall from every year as she was growing up, a portrait of Belle reading a book with her mother, and books and invention plans on every available surface. This room is so immersive and detailed; you can really picture Belle and Maurice living in this space. There are even some fantastic somewhat hidden appearances by Sleeping Beauty and Mrs. Potts and Chip! So keep your eyes peeled.
From there we were led into Maurice’s Workshop. Inventions lined the shelves, including a wonderful music box that played simple selections from the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. The whole room, including the light fixtures and other decorations, are so ornate and detailed. It truly felt like a crazy old inventors workshop.
The centerpiece of the room in an ornate golden mirror on the wall that does not seem to fit with anything else in the room. Once everyone is inside the room (they take groups of about 45 people), the Cast Member explains that the mirror was a gift from Beast to Maurice. The mirror is enchanted and allows Maurice to not only see his daughter in her home in the castle with Beast, but actually allows him to step through and visit her. The crowd is then instructed to ask the mirror, “Show us the night when Belle fell in love with The Beast.” The mirror then begins a breathtaking transformation in which it expands and grows into a full door, all while showing us up to the Beast’s Castle and in through the front doors. The mirror is seamlessly turned into an open doorway that takes the entire group into a chamber in the castle.
In the next room guests are greeted by Madame Wardrobe. The impressive audio-animatronic explains that Belle is preparing for a big dinner with the Beast, but we are all going to surprise her and reenact the story of her falling in love with the Beast. A Cast Member then opens up Madame Wardrobe, and begins assigning parts to the crowd. To pick who is best for each part, she made the assembled crowd “audition” as a group by roaring like Beast, hopping like Chip, and even shivering like a scared Maurice imprisoned in the dungeon. Each character is represented by a cutout prop of some sort that the chosen actors carry throughout the performance. All of the children and many parents were assigned roles, and then the Cast Members asked if everyone who wanted to participate got a part. They have extra parts of dancing dishes to ensure that anyone who wants to can be in the story.
One thing they do not mention at this point is that if you want to meet Belle, you will need to have a part in the story. Regular audience members will not have a chance to meet her. Update: While this may seem to be the case, it turns out that you can indeed join in to meet Belle without participating, you just need to jump in the back of the line after the parade portion when the introductions and photos begin.
Once every one is ready, Lumiere calls us into the next room to prepare for Belle’s arrival. The room you enter is one of two rooms on either side of Madame Wardrobe. All participants are seated on the floor (children) or in the front row (adults); everyone else fills in the rest of the benches. The incredibly realistic Lumiere explains that we are all going to surprise Belle with the story. He then turns the lights down and calls for Belle. Once she enters, the crowd yells, “Surprise!” and the show begins.
Lumiere, assisted by two Character Attendants, tells a short version of the Beauty and the Beast story (minus any mention of Gaston) up to the point of the song, “Be Our Guest.” In our group, some of the kids (our Beast in particular) really got in to their roles and had a great time. The story was simple and silly, and all of the kids and adults in our group seemed to really enjoy it. As can be expected, very young children had a difficult time following the direction, but it was all very cute.
When Lumiere sang “Be Our Guest” at the end of the performance, Belle took the children and the other performers and paraded them around the room to where they all got in line and the actual meet and greet portion began. The actual meeting was a bit rushed, but no one seemed disappointed. A PhotoPass photographer was on hand to capture all of the action, and at the end all participants were given a special “Enchanted Tales with Belle” PhotoPass card and a special bookmark.
Overall, my family really enjoyed the whole experience. The special effects were mind-blowing. The mirror transformation literally gave me chills. It was amazing. The children really enjoyed getting to be a part of the act and having more participation than a traditional meet and greet. I predict that this will be the “sleeper hit” of the Fantasyland Expansion. I want to go again and again just to see the animatronics!