Observations from the Magic Kingdom: Special Edition – The Cinderella Castle Suite

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The last two weeks of Limited Time Magic at Walt Disney World have featured tours of popular rides with Disney Ambassadors and Imagineers. Week one was a detailed look at Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror with the Disney Ambassadors, while the following week treated guests picked via e-mail entry to a walk-through of Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest. When the third announcement was distributed via the Parks Blog, Disney upped the ante: this week’s tour included both Be Our Guest Restaurant and the Cinderella Castle Suite. It’s an understatement that I was excited to get in, and I’m equally excited to share what I saw and learned with you. While Be Our Guest was certainly beautiful, there was so much information between the two locations that I’m going to split the posts and start with Cinderella Castle. I hope you enjoy.

Our morning started with check-in and lining up behind a Cast Member with a Limited Time Magic sign.I thought about starting a chant as we walked behind a person holding a sign high in the air, but there were only seven people in my group, and I didn’t think it would have quite the effect of the tour groups we all know and love.

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Once we reached the breezeway we were introduced to Disney designer Cathy Carver. Cathy has been with Disney for a very long time and was really excited about sharing the story of her work as lead designer on the Cinderella Castle Suite with us. She started out by describing the mosaics in the breezeway. Designed by Imagineer Dorothea Redmond and constructed by a team of six artists, the mosaics incorporate more than three hundred thousand pieces of Italian glass, as well as some sterling silver and 24-carat gold fusing. They took nearly two years to complete, and each of the five is fifteen feet high by ten feet wide. More than 500 colors were used to tell the story of Cinderella. I think one of the most telling examples of the detail in these mosaics is the design on train of the blue dress in the first picture below.

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Through a small door in the breezeway that, honestly, I’ve never even noticed before, sits the first room guests staying in the suite will see, the reception room. This is where the staff greets guests of the suite, usually around 4 p.m., for their night’s stay. While the suite sleeps a maximum of six people, there are seven Guest Relations Concierge team members on duty for each stay. The decor is rich and detailed all the way up to the tapestries, and the clock in the corner has stopped at 11:59 so that guests’ magic, unlike Cinderella’s, never has to end.

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We crowded into a very small elevator, and Ms. Carver explained that one of the most challenging aspects of the suite was ADA compliance. Cinderella Castle’s infrastructure is a web of solid steel I-beams, making design work pretty difficult. Originally the space that the suite now occupies was intended to be an apartment for the Disney family when they visited, so the elevator wasn’t very big. After the redesign, it meets standards, but Ms. Carver relates that it was a huge challenge to add space. When the elevator doors open, guests step out into the suite’s foyer, an octagonal room with artwork inspired by Mary Blair.

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Ms. Carver explained that Ms. Blair’s influence on Cinderella and so many Disney attractions and productions after needed to be referenced in the suite. With six months to complete the design from drywall to done, Ms. Carver explained that she and her team drew heavily on Ms. Blair’s work for inspiration. She showed us two original pieces of Ms. Blair’s work that drove many aspects of the design. Because they’re original pieces, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but they were really fabulous. The ceiling and floor in this room are so fabulous that you nearly miss the case featuring a glass slipper, pumpkins, and Cinderella’s crown and scepter.

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Once you’ve had your fill of the foyer (I could have stayed for a good 30 more minutes just looking at the floor), it’s through a door (equipped for MagicBand entry, by the way) and into the master bedroom of the suite. The first thing you’re struck by is just how small the suite itself is. Though lots of design elements like vaulted ceilings and mirrors have been employed to make the space seem larger, it’s only 600 square feet total. The bedroom is amazing nonetheless, with fantastic details from floor to ceiling.

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From the bedroom we moved into a lovely sitting room with two sets of stained glass windows. While many people think that the suite’s windows can be seen from the front of Cinderella castle, you can only actually see them from the Liberty Square side and back. The suite is four stories up. The sitting room is just as opulent as the rest of the suite. The couch, designed to appear to be renaissance-era, is actually a pullout bed that sleeps two. The ceiling is vaulted and painted with decorative details inspired by one of the original Mary Blair artwork that Ms. Carver showed us. The floors are parquet and echo the wood paneling that hides the closet, mini-fridge, and other 21st century amenities. The television is hidden behind an ornate French mirror.

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Last but certainly not least, we toured the bathroom. In an interesting twist, it’s one of the most photographed spaces in the suite, and, as Ms. Carver describes it, one of the most challenging spaces to design. With the constraints of the construction of the space as well as the requirements of the ADA and the necessities of one bathroom to possibly accommodate six people, she related that a ton of thought and serious design went into the room. That’s definitely apparent from the starry sky and mosaics over the square jacuzzi tub to the stained glass window in the shower wall, and even the toilet designed to echo a throne. The overall effect of the entire suite is history combined with modern convenience to create an amazing space.

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Ms. Carver was so down-to-Earth about what she’s done with the suite and even took the time to tell us a few stories about the first family who stayed and her experiences designing for Disney. It was easy to see that her heart is in every space she designs, from the grandest of rooms to the most serviceable, and listening to her talk about her joy in seeing other people experience her work was a reminder of why I keep coming back to the Disney parks. I hope you enjoyed the photos. Until next time, keep it magical.

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Posted on October 18, 2013

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