After a few minutes, we’re allowed into the castle. It may as well be a movie set, except for the fact that the source material was, of course, animated. A group of tween-ish girls in front of us is singing the movie’s eponymous romantic ballad. Suits of armor lining the hall chatter away. Sensory overload.
By day, Be Our Guest is a so-called quick-service dining option where you order your meals at a touch-screen terminal and then choose a table where waiters will bring food. It doesn’t matter where you sit, because each table gets a palm-sized disk with a rose on it that helps servers unite the dishes with their intended consumers.
The main dining room has a high frescoed ceiling, lots of marble and floor-to-ceiling “windows” behind which animated snow is falling. Two smaller rooms flank the main space, one patterned after the forbidden west wing of the Beast’s castle, complete with a hologram-like wilting rose that in the movie ordains the time the Beast has to redeem himself with love so that he can turn back into a human. The other room houses large images of scenes from the movie, as well as Beast and Belle figurines that dance in graceful circles.
So charmed, we take another gander at Enchanted Tales. The 70-minute estimated wait hasn’t budged. It’s almost time for our FastPass Plus entry into the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. If we do that, we can then use our regular FastPass at the Barnstormer kiddie coaster in Storybook Circus, the other revamped themed area in New Fantasyland. Then it’s back to Belle.
But first we make an impulse decision. The stand-by wait for Dumbo the Flying Elephant is down to 10 minutes. It probably helps that the park now has two of these rides that spin you around in your own pachyderm, which you can maneuver up and down.
We don’t wait in a traditional queue. Instead we get an electronic buzzer, a la the Cheesecake Factory, and bide our time in a circus tent where children can romp around on the indoor playground. We just sit on the periphery, and as an almost-30-year-old sans offspring, I worry that I look annoyed at the shrieks around me, or just plain out of place. But Disney’s meant for kids of all ages, right? When it’s our turn to ride, I let my husband operate the altitude control stick while I try not to get too nauseated by the relentless whirling. I guess I’m not quite as much of a kid as I used to be.
Next door, the Barnstormer takes all of about a minute to ride, which is infinitely shorter than the time we waited to board, even with our FastPass. Still, it’s a nice change of pace from the more intense roller coasters.
The pace slows a lot more once we bite the bullet and start our wait for Enchanted Tales.
Inside, in the post-magical-mirror room, the brassy, lilac-hued Wardrobe from the movie stands at attention at the front. She’s a sort of hybrid, an actual closet merged with a head that has both animatronic and projected facial features.
She welcomes us and further explains why we’re here: As a surprise for Belle, we’re going to re-enact the night that she and the Beast fell in love. The cast member, hoarse from a long day of enthusiasm, I presume, assigns roles to some of the audience to play. I hang back, preferring to watch the spectacle.
After several minutes quietly surveying the room, Wardrobe springs back to life and bids us farewell as we stream into the Beast’s library.
In addition to being awed by Wardrobe and her colleague Lumiere, the candelabra figure in the library, we enjoy the children’s acting. It’s all quite cute.
By the time we leave the cottage, the sun has set. The pint-sized princesses are all turning into Sleeping Beauties. We slowly make our way toward the front of the park, our speed slackening as we stop in various souvenir shops. I walk out of one, and my breath catches in my throat as Cinderella Castle comes into full view, illuminated in purple and dripping with white icicle lights. It’s beautiful — even, yes, magical.
We go into another store on the park’s Main Street. When we come out, it’s snowing — Disney’s manufactured version of the white stuff, anyway. The flakes come puffing out of the building rooftops. I grab my husband’s hand.
I may not have an elegant ball gown on, but I think that even a Disney princess would be hard-pressed to experience a better fairy-tale ending.
Details: Walt Disney World