For the first time in more than a decade, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World has a new parade. Festival of Fantasy debuted on Sunday, March 9, 2014, and I have a ton of great photos for you from the parade, as well as a little background, some viewing tips, and my impressions of the newest addition to the Kingdom’s entertainment.
First, some general information. Festival of Fantasy begins at 3:00 p.m. in Frontierland and travels in front of the castle and down Main Street, U.S.A. This parade will be highly susceptible to rainy days because of the elaborate costumes and mechanics, so expect that if it’s raining at all, Festival of Fantasy will be cancelled. The FastPass+ viewing area for this parade is in front of Cinderella Castle in the inner ring of the hub. It’s a great place to watch from, but not the best place to photograph from as it puts you very close to the floats and makes it hard to get them in their entirety. Guests who have attended the parade in the FastPass+ area have reported that they were pleased with the number of people they watched with and didn’t feel crowded. Anna and Elsa are on a spinning platform with Tiana and Naveen. If the platform is still for the parade, which it has been both times I’ve watched, Anna and Elsa will only be visible from the Country Bears side of the street in Frontierland and the Emporium side on Main Street, U.S.A. The Tangled float has a lot going on, but it’s easiest to see the acrobatics taking place on the float from the Tom Sawyer Island side of the street in Frontierland and the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor side of Main Street, U.S.A. While the parade is very large, guests are allowed to sit on the curbs with their feet tucked under them.
And now we’re going float-by-float, so let’s get started!
First up? The Princess Garden float. This float is actually inspired by a Tokyo Disneyland float of the same name. Our version features Beauty and the beast, Tiana and Naveen, and as a special surprise, Anna and Elsa and Olaf.
Portions of the float rotate to reveal the sets of characters. Most popular according to guest reaction? You guessed it: Anna and Elsa and Olaf. Anna appears in her coronation dress on this float, the only place you can see her in this dress at Walt Disney World right now.
The Princess Garden float is accompanied by a court of swan dancers (seen above) and comes to us from the Jubilation parade at Tokyo Disneyland. Look closely at Anna and Elsa’s snow, as it’s rumored there’s at least one hidden Mickey in there.
Second in the parade is the Tangled float. There was a lot of criticism surrounding this float’s Viking ship design when concept drawings began circulating and while I’ll be the first to say that I thought it was an odd choice myself, one look at this float unit and you won’t care about the theme. Preceded by dancing maidens in rainbow dresses and a giant Ulf (he’s into mime), the Tangled unit is immediately joyful.
Then there’s the float itself. From its Snuggly Duckling poster to its giant swinging weapons, the float is a mechanical masterpiece. At nearly forty feet in length, it’s also gigantic. But its size is only part of what makes it a riotous sight; on each of the swinging weapons (one with a nearly life-sized Maximus), there are thugs and ruffians doing acrobatics. Yeah. That’s a ruffian in mid-air.
And if all that weren’t enough, you get not only Rapunzel, but also Flynn Rider. Outside of the Halloween and Christmas parties it’s the only place in Walt Disney World you’ll find him.
Third in the lineup is the Little Mermaid unit with sea creature dancers and Ariel’s float. This is one of the most colorful floats in the parade (and that’s saying a lot) and the costumed coral dancers, lion fish, Seashell maiden, and seahorses that complete the unit are breathtaking.
I have been so impressed with this float from the very beginning because it’s so much fun to look at and Ariel is a joy to watch. She’s pretty high up there and she really broadcasts joy. I love that Sebastian was brought in from Spectromagic, too, because I think it’s nice to give a nod to something that we all enjoyed for such a long time.
Last but not least in this float’s ensemble are several seahorses that dance with their cast members. The way they catch the light like giant sun catchers is gorgeous and the dancers add a lot of character, spinning the seahorses and dancing with the float’s Little Mermaid score.
Next up is the Peter Pan float. This unit leads off with a line of Lost Boys whose costumes were inspired by Newsies. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge fan of Newsies and thus I love this aspect. These Lost Boys also make me think of the boys in Hook, and I may or may not always want to yell “BANGARANG!” when I see them.
While Peter Pan is not my favorite movie, this float is pretty amazing if for nothing more than the complex design. Peter and Wendy ride in a pirate ship suspended on a rainbow nearly 3 stories above the street while Hook swings underneath on an anchor. Tink follows behind on a sunflower and she’s incredibly animated in her interaction with guests. All together it’s a really entertaining unit, even if it isn’t one of the most visually enticing of the show.
The Peter Pan float is accompanied by Mr. Smee and Tick Tock Crock as well, giving this part of the parade some silliness and laughter. You realize as a guest just how big this float is when Tick Tock Crock looks small next to it!
The end of the Peter Pan unit gives way to the Brave section of the parade which, not for lack of trying by its cast, is my least favorite of all the sections. The float is preceded by celtic dancers and lively Irish music and though they’re fun to watch, some of the costuming choices like the wigs on the men stand out in a way that’s not so visually pleasing. The plaids are lovely, though, and the choreography is boisterous.
Though Celtic theme is carried out fairly seamlessly through the Brave float, Merida has a tendency to be a little too high energy (that hair flies everywhere) and the little bears can be hard to see at times. The music in this parade unit is great, but the overall effect just isn’t as good as in some of the others.
Behind the Brave float is one of the most highly anticipated sights of the show. The Maleficent float unit has so much going on that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll just say this…FIRE. We speculated about it for months after Disney Parks Blog began teasing the design, and all our fangeek dreams came true when we found out that the 53-foot dragon does in fact breathe fire. As awesome as that is, it’s not all that’s great about this unit. First, there are the fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather. Seated on wheeled mechanisms, they appear to float down the street. And walking with them in a very rare princely appearance is Phillip, dressed for battle with the giant steampunk dragon.
Just after Phillip and the fairies come some of the most impressive walking characters of the entire parade, the ravens and the thorns. While these characters may be a little scary for very small children, their costumes and performances are stunning. They do a fantastic job of maintaining the feel of their float’s unit and are great to photograph.
And now, about that dragon. The Maleficent dragon float is 53 feet long and built in the Steampunk style. Steampunk is a mix of Victorian (19th Century) inspiration and steam machines and this dragon is a fantastic example of Steampunk design.
The dragon’s body is open in the middle and reveals the cogs and machinery that are hallmarks of this kind of design.
And, yes, the dragon breathes fire. We’re not talking fake fabric fire a la Pirates of the Caribbean here, either, kids. We’re talking warm-your-face holy wow FIRE. The fire effects won’t be used too close to trees or buildings or on windy days, but when the dragon’s head starts moving, get ready. It looks a little something like this…
The parade would likely have been a big “WOW” even if it had ended with the dragon, but the finale float, which is actually a series of three together, is over the top with things that make your eyes boggle. From the dancers in bubble dresses…
To the appearance by Jiminy Cricket…
And Snow White and the Seven Dwarves…
To the float that has everything from Pinocchio to swinging circus performers to Figaro and Cleo, this last round of floats and performers is an exuberant end to an already dazzling parade.
Last but certainly not least, Mickey and Minnie close out the parade drifting down the parade route on a hot air balloon float ushered in by circus dancers and a festive group of characters including Goofy, Chip, and Dale. The color and pageantry is off the charts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them and that you get to see this parade for yourself soon. You can also check out this video if the stills aren’t enough Festival for you.
Until next time, keep it magical! ~M