Perfect Princess Presence in the Parksby Todd Pickering, contributing writer
Last month we explored the presence of Disney/Pixar properties at the Disneyland Resort in the article Pixar vs. Disney Animation at the Disneyland Resort. Cars and Toy Story had the most attractions and representation throughout both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland each have two attractions in Fantasyland, and Alice has an entire neighborhood with two of the best characters roaming around the park. But for all of the princess fans out there you needn't worry. We will point out the obvious along with the obscure to please your little princesses and even give a tip or two for those aficionados of Disney history.
Main St. USA, Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the Princess Fantasy Faire
When you get your little one dressed in her favorite gown and head to the parks, all your little princess is talking about is meeting her favorite princess. You may be lucky enough to meet a princess right when you walk into the gate of Disneyland. If you are too early or the lines are daunting you needn't worry. Disney has many opportunities to see your favorite princesses. The curtains part to reveal Main St. USA and you have time to stroll by the Emporium to enjoy the window displays of popular Disney movies. Anna and Elsa appear with Olaf in one window, Cinderella goes from rags to riches, and Tiana dances on a river boat with Dr. Facilier menacing in the bayou (This last window has been under refurbishment as of late). You look down the streets of Main St. dreaming of faraway lands, dragons, and of course princesses. You look off in the distance at the end of the street and there is Sleeping Beauty's Castle (also under a major refurbishment but opening soon).
To the west of the castle is Princess Fantasy Faire. Here is where you are guaranteed to meet the princesses at the Royal Hall. You wait in a queue and get to meet three princesses listed outside on a sign; if there is one special lady you are looking for you should be able to check. Sometimes there are only two listed and a third may be random. If it is a hot day the air conditioning is wonderful and the light is always perfect for pictures. Make sure you check the Disneyland website to find the times of the Royal Hall as it may open after the gates on slower days and it does close for the evening.
As far as finding princess-themed things to do throughout the park we shall break them down from the least represented ladies so you can have an idea what to see and where to go at the Disneyland Resort. Also make sure to get your entertainment schedule that has both parks listed upon entering for all the parade and show times. Disneyland's are right next to the right entrance and Disney California Adventure's are to the right of Buena Vista Street near the restrooms. Custodial staff and the Guest Relations also have them handy. Times are also listed in the Disneyland smartphone app.
Let us now take a look at the Princess Presence going from the least to the most popular in shows, meet and greets and attractions.
Moana and Merida
If your daughters are fans of this Polynesian princess or the fiery-maned Scottish princess these two are tricky to find. Merida was spotted a lot near the attraction "it's a small world" and Moana was in Adventureland when those films were out and popular, but they seem to be relegated to just a nod here or there in the parks. The musical group Pixarmonic Orchestra plays Merida's theme over in Pixar Pier but she is definitely someone you would have to ask about seeing by inquiring at City Hall or asking a concierge at the Guest Services located through out the parks. This is a tip for finding a character when your little one just needs that last autograph or must get a picture. Maybe with the summer months coming we may see Moana in Adventureland?
Pocahontas and Mulan
Mulan is often seen walking around the parks but can definitely be found at Lunar New Year from January into February at Disney California Adventure. (Princess Elena is also around for the Holiday Celebration in November, December, and early January). Mulan (technically not a princess) and Pocahontas can be seen singing in Mickey and the Magical Map over in the Fantasyland Theater along with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. It is musically one of the best mashups and terrific to hear these talented performers. A seat in the shade is a great thing for your little ones and this show is great fun. Look closely in the China section of "it's a small world" and you can see Mulan flying a kite with Mushu by her side.
With Cinderella having a gigantic castle in Florida she must take a back seat at Disneyland to Princess Aurora. You may see her in the Soundsational Parade. She is almost always available for a meet and greet at the Royal Hall and it's fun to see her miniature village, pumpkin, and castle in the Storybook Land Canal Boats. She is also fun to spot in doll form in the French section of "it's a small world." There is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for princess makeovers, but the nod to Cinderella is simply with the Fairy Godmothers that do the makeover. This is a magical fun thing to do, and you may read about that in the article Is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Worth It?
With the loss of the Aladdin show in the Hyperion Theater in Hollywood Land, Jasmine (and Aladdin) have been sprinkled throughout the park. They used to do meet and greet in Adventureland but now are more often found by "it's a small world". You get to see them live in Fantasmic! flying on a carpet as they have added an entire Aladdin section. There are two songs from that movie including "A Whole New World" in World of Color over at Disney California Adventure. And if you look up high in the Middle East section of "it's a small world" you can catch them both on a magic carpet. Agrabah is beautifully represented in Storybook Land Canal Boats over in Disneyland.
We are all awaiting one of the biggest refurbishments the castle has had in a while so we might see a lot of Briar Rose in the near future. Princess Aurora has just a little leg up on Cinderella with a walk through and a castle to represent the film Sleeping Beauty. This walk through really does a great job of telling the story of the film and has some lovely special effects, music, and a few fun frights. It is also air conditioned in the summer. Princess Aurora also appears on the Soundsational float. Maleficient turns into a dragon in the show Fantasmic! for a very big and fiery nod to that film. Of course she is also often available for a meet and greet at the Royal Hall. We do hope you are more of a fan of the Good Fairy Flora who prefers the pink dress because we have only one picture ever from Walt Disney where we see her in the preferred blue gown of Merriwether. "Make it pink!"
Characters from Beauty and the Beast are found throughout the Disneyland Resort. Belle dances with the Beast in Fantasmic! and you can eat at the Red Rose Tavern over in Fantasyland. Gaston is also spotted in Disneyland mostly around the castle. The Beast's library is a fun interactive place over in Disney California Adventure's Animation Building. You get to see Belle in Mickey's Soundsational Parade over at Disneyland. But the best is the Royal Theatre where Belle tells her story along with the children sitting up close. This show is great fun especially for the little ones. It is very interactive and for a more thorough critique read the article Trodding the Boards at Disneyland.
Tiana and Rapunzel
The Princess and the Frog has such a fantastic soundtrack that it is pretty obvious to have a lot of those songs available in the park. You can hear her singing live at Mickey and the Magical Map. New Orleans Square is where Tiana lives and she is a pretty solid fixture there. She was even recently spotted with Prince Naveen. She often gets on the Mark Twain River Boat for photo opportunities. You may also see Dr. Facilier lurking around the Square. Tian makes cameos in Fantasmic! and has a segment in World of Color. She also has an amazing float in Mickey's Soundsational Parade. Plenty of moments to see this favorite and a lot of the score is even played when the Disneyland Band plays in Frontierland. You don't have to "dig a little deeper" to catch this princess.
Rapunzel is also quite the presence. One of the most romantic songs in the Disney songbook is "At Last I See the Light" and you can hear that four times in Disneyland. Rapunzel has the central float piece with her tower and her hair in Mickey's Soundsational Parade. She sings that song with Pocahontas and Mulan in Mickey and the Magical Map. And she closes out the princess trio in Fantasmic! with magical projections of the lanterns. And lastly she appears alternating with Belle in the Storytelling at the Royal Theatre. There is even a miniature sculpture of her tower that lights up at night in the plaza of the Princess Fantasy Faire. So suffice to say this princess takes the prize for the most sung anthem at Disneyland. And it's a great song indeed.
Anna and Elsa
The second film to get a fully staged production at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure is Frozen. For a full critique of this hour long production read the article Uneven Frozen Live at the Hyperion is Still a Hit. Once again we must stress that waiting for this show to start, with the bathrooms outside near the Hollywood Backlot and a run time of one hour may be a bit much for the little ones. Go to Disney Junior Dance Party on Hollywood Boulevard or if you have a park hopper. Storytelling at the Royal Theatre is much more friendly to the little ones with shorter attention spans. They are both shorter and more interactive. And worry not if Anna and Elsa are their favorites they have Anna and Elsa Royal Welcome in the Animation Academy on the very same street in Hollywood Land. They may have only these two places to be seen but the production values and the stellar singing bump this Queen and Princess up the list.
Ariel takes the cake when it comes to the hands down best princess dark ride over at Disney California Adventure. We do hope that one day they will create a meet and greet nearby where we can get a picture with the mermaid Ariel. You will have to settle for the Ariel with legs over at the Princess Fantasy Faire in the Royal Hall. There are two songs from the movie in World of Color. You can see Prince Eric's castle and the beach where the met alongside of King Triton's Castle behind a watery curtain on the Storybook Land Canal Boats. Sebastian makes a big splash singing "Under the Sea" in Mickey and the Magical Map. Ariel and some of her sisters are in doll form in "it's a small world". In Mickey's Soundsational Parade you really get to see her flipping her fins in her own float. At nightime she is also in Fantasmic! If this is your little one's favorite there is plenty of opportunites in both parks to see her.
Walt's very first princess, Snow White, may actually be a tie with Ariel. If you are history buffs then The Carthay Circle Restaurant is a glorious recreation of the movie palace where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937. Even if you don't want to spend your money on a gourmet meal or exquisite cocktails the cast members would be happy to let you peak into the lobby for photographs and souvenirs from that opening night. They tore the theater down in Los Angeles so it truly feels like a shrine to this classic film and the first princess. That said this probably isn't what you little one is looking for. Snow White's Scary Adventures was an original dark ride over at Disneyland complete with the Evil Queen peering through her curtains if you look up. This ride may be a bit much for kids. You may also see Snow White in the Royal Hall.
Just off to the east side of Sleeping Beauty Castle is Snow White's grotto with a wishing well complete with an ethereal recording of "I'm Wishing" from the film. Eight statues were anonymously sent to Walt of the Seven Dwarfs and Snow White. Snow White was the exact same size so Imagineers put her atop of a waterfall and had the dwarfs placed lower to give the illusion that she was taller. This was completed in 1961 and is one of the most magical nooks in the park. Tossing a penny into the wishing well is one of the most memorable things you can do in the park for just one red cent. Wasn't it lovely of Aurora to give Snow White this space? You may also see the Seven Dwarfs cottage in Storybook Land Canal Boats and Snow White is on the princess float in Mickey's Soundsational Parade.
In March they began offering a Disney Princess Breakfast Adventure at the Napa Rose restaurant in the Grand Californian Hotel available Thursday through Monday from 8 a.m. until noon. It is $125 exclusive of tax and gratuity for adults and children ages 3 and up alike. The food items range from breakfast to brunch items and the princesses come by your table and also appear on the patio for storytelling and inspiration at this grand restaurant. It does come at a high price but certainly allows for a full gourmet meal and more intimate moments with the Disney Princesses. Check out the Disney web site or ring (714) 781-DINE or book on line at the Disneyland web site with reservations taken 60 days prior to your visit.