Details: Walt Disney World
We wind our way around the cottage of Belle, a.k.a. the Beauty in Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” and her father, Maurice. Surrounding us is a steady soundtrack of water tumbling in storybook falls and chirping (recorded) birds.
Eventually we make it into the cottage, where, of course, there’s more waiting. The room is done up like a cozy living room for the father-daughter pair. The Minnies rush to measure themselves against the height hash marks on the wall. Other tots attack the books on a table and chair, which are wisely not books at all but imitations anchored in place.
At last, a cast member — not employee, thank you very much — beckons us into yet another holding area, this one resembling Maurice’s workshop, where an “enchanted” mirror dramatically transforms into a door leading into another room.
“How does that work?” asks one child.
“It’s magic!” the cast member brightly replies, as if here, at Disney World, no other explanation is required.
Which it isn’t, really.
All about princesses
We start our day primed for princess-watching by waking up in our “royal guest room” at Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside. The recently renovated quarters feature pictures of Disney movie princesses and other fun-to-discover details, the story being that they’re mementos left for Tiana of “The Princess and the Frog” by her royal friends. So the faucets are magic lamps from “Aladdin,” the bench resembles the dog/footstool from “Beauty and the Beast,” and the shower curtain’s theme is, appropriately enough, “The Little Mermaid.” My favorite detail: The headboards that light up with a fiber-optic network to look like fireworks.
But our mission demands that we actually leave the room. It’s time to find some royalty, starting with Belle.
Enchanted Tales with Belle is part of an expansion — officially opened on Dec. 6 — that when completed will nearly double the size of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, one of the four parks that make up Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It’s called New Fantasyland, Fantasyland being one of the Magic Kingdom’s six themed areas. Fantasyland is the land of classic Disney and fairy tales. Think Peter Pan, Pinocchio and Cinderella. It’s also home to the ride — and unstoppable earworm — It’s a Small World.
New Fantasyland capitalizes on the princess phenomenon that girls and their mothers love — or loathe. The other princess getting top billing is Ariel of “The Little Mermaid,” who has both a grotto where princesses-in-waiting can meet the under-the-sea royalty and a slow-moving ride that takes visitors through a condensed version of the film. Coming in 2014 is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”