Disney Princesses will have a new neighborhood starting March 12 when Fantasy Faire opens at Disneyland Park. The 15,000-square-foot expansion of Fantasyland on the former Carnation Plaza Gardens site includes a dedicated princess meet-and-greet area called the Royal Hall, a Royal Theater with live storytelling sessions featuring Belle and Rapunzel, the new Fairytale Treasures shop, and Maurice’s Treats, a food cart named in honor of Belle's inventor father.
Yesterday, Disney invited reporters and bloggers to step behind the walls to look at the progress made so far in Fantasy Faire, and to listen from some of the Imagineers involved with the project. In an unusual departure from normal Disney policy, cameras were welcome behind the construction walls, and construction crews hammered, sawed, and painted away while we toured the site.
It's clear from our tour that Fantasy Fair is not quite ready for prime time, so it's unfair to draw any conclusions about the new land until the work is finished and the first little princesses meet their grown-up counterparts. Regardless, these photos will give you an idea of what you'll find when you enter Fantasy Faire—we'll reserve most of our opinions for now.
The main walkway from Sleeping Beauty Castle into Fantasy Faire leads over what was once a small arched bridge on the west side of the castle. That bridge is gone, replaced with a wide flat walkway—but happily, designers left some of the small ponds and a second bridge from the Carnation Plaza Gardens in place. If you enter Fantasy Faire from this direction, the Royal Hall is ahead and to the right and the Royal Theater (the former stage, sporting a new canopy but seemingly the same dance floor) is to the left. Maurice's Cart is also to the left, across from the Royal Theater.
The transition walkway between Frontierland and Fantasyland was extended into Fantasy Faire, providing both a better exit from the Royal Hall (otherwise, guests would have inexplicably found themselves in Frontierland after leaving the meet-and-greet), and room for the very small Fairytale Treasures shop.
Not yet complete was the village square with the centerpiece Tangled Tower, though the foundation was in place and workers were busily installing paving stones around the courtyard.
The highlight of the new land and what some say is its entire purpose, is the Royal Hall. This building houses the new Princess meet-and-greet area, and features a large outdoor shaded queue. Once inside, visitors navigate the corridors to a series of three chambers to meet three different Princesses. Disney declined to give hourly capacity estimates for this new meet-and-greet venue, but confirmed that Fastpass will not be used here, as is seen at some of the new meet-and-greet locations in Walt Disney World.
The exterior of the Royal Hall has two unique attractions that will likely delight younger visitors: A figure of Figaro (Geppetto's cat) will appear to be napping on a window sill, and will occasionally wake up and walk around in response to a particular bird call. Another element is "Clopin’s Music Box," which Disney describes as "a fascinating, interactive mechanical toy representing the Feast of Fools from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. "
The other big draw of the area is the Royal Theater, where two performers, a Mr. Smythe and a Mr. Jones, perform two "renaissance vaudeville" shows with the help of a piano player and the heroine of that particular tale, either Belle or Rapunzel. Each story is performed with Smythe and Jones portraying the other roles, and with the help of the audience. A meet-and-greet follows each story time session, offering another way to meet the princesses.
Fantasy Faire will also boast a new snack cart, Maurice's Treats. Another of the themed permanent outdoor food locations being added around Disneyland, this one is built to look like Maurice's steam-powered wagon. The cart offers a limited menu of sweet or savory bread twists—we sampled the cheddar-garlic bagel ($4.19), chocolate ($3.49), and strawberry-almond ($3.49) versions during our preview, and they were well-received.
Keeping with the trend of signature drinks, Maurice's will offer Boysen Apple Freeze, which is essentially Red's Apple Freeze from Cars Land made with boysenberry instead of marshmallow flavor. The drink is $4.69, or available for $9.99 in your choice of a Princess goblet or Gaston's Tavern stein. We also sampled the frozen drink today, and it looked to be a hit—nearly everyone drained their glass.