So much is happening at the Magic Kingdom with the opening of the New Fantasyland, and so much more. We thought it would be well to take a closer look at the experience guests are getting at the Enchanted Tales With Belle. It's easy to dismiss this experience as a "souped up" character meet 'n' greet, and yet there really is something quite enchanting about it. It is much more involved than the interactive experience in the Fairytale Garden near Cosmic Ray's.
While others have documented every detail of this attraction, the purpose of this article is to help you plan your time and make the right choices so as to get as much enchantment from the Enchanted Tales as possible. There's also an important—and perhaps controversial—issue you should know about PhotoPass that impacts your decision as to whether or not you want to participate.
But let's start from the beginning.
The enchantment begins long before you step into the cottage. When you arrive and pass through the castle walls, you see a countryside laid out before you. I'm reminded of one of Walt Disney's original comments about Disneyland: "I've always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing. I've got that in Disneyland, even the trees will grow and be more beautiful every year." With hundreds of new plants and trees in this area, it's hard to imagine how this part of the park will be even more beautiful than it already is. It's simply has a wonderful feel to it. Don't rush so quickly through your day that you don't take the time to enjoy it.
When arriving, park your stroller in a designated area near the Fastpass distribution. One of the nice touches done by Imagineers is having dedicated spaces that strollers can be parked in a way that doesn't dominate the look and feel of everything around you. It makes it easier to park and come back to. Also, it simply helps to create a better setting. Note: Those individuals with special needs can bring their stroller or wheelchair through, but with rare exception they prefer everyone else to park their stroller before coming in.
If you can, you will want to get a Fastpass. Indeed, if you have small children I would highly recommend this over any of the other attractions that young children enjoy—even more than Peter Pan's Flight (though I might put that next). Fastpasses are available for Under the Sea: The Journey of The Little Mermaid, as well, but that attraction at least moves quickly and can consume a lot of people in any given hour. In the stand-by line you will truly be standing. And standing. The length of the line outside the house is essentially the length of the queue minus the inside front room. If it's more than 30-40 feet long (and I'm pretty sure it will be), I would get the Fastpass, or I would come back at the very end of the day. The line doesn't move quickly, even though to you it might not look that long. And since you've already parked your stroller, most of that time may be spent holding a toddler.
What will you miss if you get a Fastpass? There are a few touches in the standby queue outside. But the major loss is the front room of the home. Here are some highlights of that:
If you think that seeing the front room of the cottage is worth your time, by all means enjoy it. But know that unless you go at rope drop, it may be a very slow moving line going in.
Whether you enter through the front room in the stand-by line or through a back hallway in the Fastpass line, in time you enter Maurice's Workshop and you see any number of drawings and creations. Some of them tie into the theming and experience at the Be Our Guest Restaurant. Look all around, and then be prepared to be enchanted as you walk through a magic mirror into the castle. It really is a wow, and guests are all blown away by it.
Take a quick look at all of the quirky inventions and plans Maurice has in his shop. You don't spend too much time here before you are invited to step through the mirror on to the palace. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
In the wardrobe room, Madame Wardrobe along with a cast member help you to prepare for a surprise to Belle. Madame Wardrobe is amazing, and you really get the feeling like you are in the film. A number of roles are available to play such as the Beast, Chip, Mrs. Potts, Maurice and Philippe. The children are clearly excited by this attraction, but what I'm so surprised by is the excitement of the adults. One man was just dying to play the Beast, and was chosen to do so. Many other adults begged for the opportunity to do a role.
But after handing out the major roles they ask: Who else would like a role? Any number of forks, plates, and salt/pepper shakers come out and everyone who is willing is given a part. No one is really left out of this experience if they would like. So sign up if the child in you beckons to do so.
We then enter the library. There are seats for most everyone. Sit in the front if you want to get a close up view. Sit in the back if you think you might want to stand up and take some photos.
Here we are met by Lumiere--a fantastic animatronic creation in its own right. He really comes to life.
Everyone is invited to have a seat, though some of the players are set around the front of the room to await Belle. Soon the lights are lowered, Belle walks in, and everyone yells "Surprise!" Belle is delighted and asks Lumiere what he's up to. He announces a little play and all of the volunteers are brought into this little skit. Everyone sitting in the audience is invited to gallop their feet like Philippe or make other noises on queue. The culmination of this is when Belle has a procession around the room and everyone playing a role follows along.
By now you may have forgotten to take photos. Don't worry if you've been caught up in the magic. A PhotoPass operator has been taking pictures all through this. As the procession comes to a climax, Belle thanks each and every member of the procession and a picture is captured. What if you weren't part of the procession but would like to have a picture? No problem, let a cast member know and they will get you in there as well. Anyone who wants a picture can join in. And while that's a lot of pictures, it goes pretty fast.
Again, if you weren't in the photos with Belle, ask a cast member and they'll get you a bookmark, as well. Belle leaves and then the guests are invited to depart. As they do, the PhotoPass operator hands each person a special PhotoPass card.
Like any PhotoPass card, simply go online and you can see photos of you taken during the experience. But here's the funny part of all this: You also get photos of everyone else. This PhotoPass card allows you entry into all of the pictures taken while in the library. For efficiency's sake, they've simply clumped them onto one site. In other words, your photos and everyone else's, are now available for everyone to look at that attended that session.
This approach is very efficient, But think about it for a moment. How do you feel about this? The great news is that you truly miss nothing, because there are dozens of pictures online. But you're left with the funny feeling that everyone else in the room now has a picture of your child, as well. In some ways, it almost feels creepy. But in other ways, let's face it: Anyone could have taken a photo of your child while standing there in the room anyway. It's simply that the next step has been taken of putting it online on a secured site.
My thoughts are this: I wouldn't be too concerned, but if you are, then simply don't have your child volunteer. No one in the seats has their picture taken, just those who play a role are photographed at the end of the procession with Belle. But if this is an issue for you, decide now before you visit, as you don't want to let this bother you long after the experience is over. And if you still want a photo one-on-one with Belle, inquire as to where to go as she is still making appearances elsewhere in the park and in other parks.
As you exit the attraction, you are caught by the thundering falls and rocky mountain that awaits guests visiting the Be Our Guest Restaurant. You take a look back at the cottage, and you see Maurice's mill and fancy contraptions. You wonder how you got from there to where you are now, which is only a few feet away, but seems like another time and place. You then can head off to the other excitements that await you in the New Fantasyland, but you won't forget this Enchanting Tale With Belle.
Don't rush on your way out. The stroll through the exit is as lovely as any location or setting in the New Fantasyland. You'll see details like this mill that you won't see anywhere else. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
How about you? Have you visited Enchanting Tales With Belle? Do you have any tips or suggestions for making it more enchanting for you and your family? Please share.
(Send an email to Jeff Kober)
J. Jeff Kober, (@MousePlanetJeff) president of Performance Journeys and CEO of World Class Benchmarking, is also a thought leader on best-in-business practices at the Walt Disney Company. He brings those ideas to organizations via keynotes, seminars, and workshops to organizations around the world. He has authored "The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney" as well as a "Disney at Work" series of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, available via DisneyatWork.com. You can find out more about his newest book, "Lead With Your Customer: Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence" at LeadWithYourCustomer.com.