Sunday, November 11, 2012

Annual Passholder Preview of New Fantasyland

As you know, we are Annual Passholders to Disney, and we like to go whenever we can. In October, we got an invitation to an Annual Passholders’ Preview of New Fantasyland. We were able to score a ‘reservation’ for Saturday, November 10th.

Oh right – the same weekend that I’m doing Gator Gallop and Fallen Heroes.  Hmmm….

Oh, are you kidding? It’s Disney! I’d dump Gator Gallop before I dump the opportunity to be one of the first to see the biggest expansion in Disney History!

Feeling pretty good after my 2 mile ‘Gallop’ yesterday, we woke up and headed out later than we normally do, I think around 7ish. Our reservation was for 12:30, so this gave us plenty of time to get the donuts, get to Disney, park and commence the Preview!

We got to the TTC by 11 and trammed our way to the front and went to one of the specially marked Will Call booths to exchange our confirmation email for armbands that would let us into New Fantasyland.

It was a very easy process, but as we headed back towards New Fantasyland (NF, I’m lazy), we saw that we could have gotten armbands there as well. It’s a good thing we didn’t though, because it was full of people, most lookie-loo’s, trying to sneak in, but also a handful of Passholders who didn’t read their confirmation page and realize that they could have gotten their armbands up front.

We waved our armbands and headed in, first going to the left, and Enchanted Tales with Belle.  The theming in ALL of NF blew us away, and ETwB was no different. 
Enchanted Tales with Belle (Left) - Entrance to Beast's Castle (Right)
This attraction is not a ride, but not really a show either. It is an interactive experience that will transport you into Belle’s library. I’d heard a bit about it earlier, from other sneak peeks, so I was really excited to see it in person.

You walk up to Maurice’s cottage, passing interesting lights and water fountains, before entering the actual cottage, where there is a chessboard, lots of books and other homey touches that remind you that Belle grew up here. 

Light Fixture
Double Light Fixture
Water Fountain in line
A cast member comes to invite you into Maurice’s workshop, where there a lot more to discover. 

This might look familiar later...
Maurice's Magic Mirror

It's enchanted!
Through awesome magic, you are transported to a hallway in Beast’s Castle where you are greeted by another cast member (CM) and Mrs. Armoire.   She is my favorite anthropomorphic character in Beauty and the Beast, so it was cool to see her move in real life!

She talks, moves her eyes and kind of nods her head around. 
Not only does she move, but she talks too, and tells us how we are all going to put on a surprise show for Belle in the Library, and that we need volunteers to act out parts, such as Beast, Chip, Ms Potts, knights, Felipe (the horse), her father and so on.  Immediately, all three of us started trying HARD to get parts, and luckily, we all did!  Hubby and I both were knights, and The Kiddo got to be Mrs. Potts.

I got to be a Knight!
So did hubby!
Kiddo got to be Mrs. Potts. Behind her is Felipe, Maurice (with the jail bars) and "Artwork"
Everyone who was a character was taken into the Library first and put into position ,then everyone else came in behind and sat on benches. No flash photography is allowed in the Library, and the lighting is more conducive to story-telling rather than photos, so photos don’t come out great in here.

All the "actors" in the story sit up front.  We Knights stand guard on each side. 
Lumiere calls Belle into the Library and then we all retell the story of how Belle came to live at the Castle, and how she fell in love with Adam (Beast).  Knights march, Felipe neighs, Mrs Potts pours tea, etc… And at the end, the cutest thing happens – Belle and the little boy (or girl!) who is playing the Beast dance. Then, each person is introduced to Belle (Princess Lisa, Prince John, etc… I think I was introduced as Lady) and we get our photo taken with Belle (both Knights get their photo taken together with her). Before you leave, you get a bookmark from Belle as well, and a Photopass card from the photographer that has all the photos on it.

This little guy was SO excited to dance with Belle it made my Mommy heart swell for him!
All in all, the technology of this attraction is pretty amazing. The ‘party’ itself is cheesy, but of course it’s meant for little ones. Would I do it again? Oh, yeah!

Leaving Belle’s Village, we came upon the bridge to Beast’s Castle and there were CMs at the entrance to the bridge, handing out menus for the Be Our Guest Restaurant.  We wanted to go inside to see the restaurant, but we went ahead and checked out the menu for dinner. Nothing jumped out at us, plus we were on a budget, so dinner was a no-go. When we asked if we could go in for a tour, the CM said that we could go in and have lunch, if we wanted!  OMG, seriously!  Hell YEAH!!!!

The bridge leading to Beast’s Castle is festooned with gargoyles and offers a great view of Maurice’s house and the mountains beyond.

I probably took 20 photos of the Gargoyles, but this was my favorite!
You enter into the foyer of the Castle, and for lunch, turn right, into a hallway filled with suits of armor and pedestals that have the menu on them. 

If it's quiet enough, you can hear the suits talking and cracking jokes
At the front of the line, you are given a red RFID rose that will serve as a homing beacon for the CMs to find you.  You can order at a kiosk, or, if you are not tech-savvy, you can order at a standard register. We are tech-savvy.

Start here.... You'll do each person before moving on to the next person. 
At the podium, we touched what we wanted, and discovered that it is not very “special-order” friendly.  For instance, I didn’t want lettuce on my sandwich but there was no option to say that anywhere.  I guess I’ll just pick it off.  Once we placed our order, we paid (had a little trouble there, but not too much), then we were told to go pick a seat and put our rose on the table. 

I headed directly for the West Wing. Dark, mysterious, spooky. Awesome!

Our table was right by the entrance, so it wasn’t as quiet as I hoped, but I was eating in the West Wing. OMG!

One wall had all the soda machines, straws, and whatnot. No condiments though. Odd.  

L to R - Straws, Soda Lids, Soda Machine (fancy!), Sweet & Low/Splenda/Sugar, Soda Cups
L to R - Coffee, Creamer/Milk, Lids, some other machine, Sweet & Low/Splenda/Sugar
Metal Silverware and Napkins
The wall opposite our table had a fireplace that glowed warmly, as well as the torn portrait that Belle discovered in the West Wing.  Pay attention to that painting!  

Adam always seemed a little feminine to me...
On the far wall, was a large window that showed a stormy night, complete with thunder, lightning and rain, and on the table in front of it, the Enchanted Rose, complete with falling petals!

This is a very popular area, and people crowded all around it. 
Very soon after we sat down, a CM with a rolling, glass-covered cart found us and delivered our meals.

Food comes out under a glass dome. They will also bus the tables with these. 
I got the grilled steak sammich with fries. The steak was tender and easy to eat. I had to pick off the lettuce, but it wasn’t too much to deal with.  The fries were hot, crispy and salty, and seemed to be different from other Disney fries. I liked these a lot!

Grilled Steak Sandwich with lettuce mix, french fries
Hubby got the turkey sammich with fries. He also had to ‘clean’ his sammich, and he gave it a “Meh”.  Since basically all he ended up with was turkey and bread, that is to be expected!

French fries, Turkey Sandwich with lettuce
The Kiddo got the Croque Monsieur with fries. I think she won this meal! The bread was a multigrain bread, which I thought would be gross, but totally made the sammich! It was crispy on the outside, gooey and yummy on the inside, and of course, the same fries that we all had. Super yummy!

Croque Monsieur on Multigrain Bread with fries
After I finished eating, I tried to get a few really good shots of the West Wing, but the lighting makes it hard to do so in here.  

There are lots of torn tapestries and drapes in here, as well as the Enchanted Rose and the ripped painting
After the rest of the family finished eating, we all began touring the restaurant. The Ballroom is PERFECT! (Well, except for all the tables and people!) Standing under one of the ginormous chandeliers was the highlight for me. It was EXACTLY the same as the movie. The ceiling was painted and full of cherubs (close ups reveal some realistic faces – family members of the Imagineers who worked on the design!) The windows at the far end of the ballroom looked out over a balcony and it is snowing! I have a feeling that all of these tables will be hard to get, kind of like the Small World tables at Pinocchio Village Haus.  

Can't you just see Belle's dress swirling around her as she dances?

What do you think - too big for my dining room? 
I left the ballroom (begrudgingly) to explore the last room – the Library (I think that’s what it is).This room has banquette seating all the way around, as well as in the middle of the room, lining the pedestal on which a huge music box sits.  This room is the lightest and brightest of the three, and it was also the most vacant. It didn’t feel like it belonged to any part of the movie, so there was no draw for people to come to it. I might take advantage of this fact in the future – less intrusions into my meal!

Large Music Box that Maurice created for Belle

The Library seating - only open for Lunch
Sadly, though, we’d been in here for like 2 hours, and we wanted to head out and see the rest of NF. We refilled our drinks (LOVE that we can do that!) and made our way back into the village to check out Gaston’s Tavern.

Gaston’s Tavern, as you can imagine, is themed to look like the bar where Gaston and LeFou hung out in the movie. Lots of dark wood, lots of animals on the wall. Lots of antlers! He does, in fact, use antlers in all of his decorating (oh, what a guy!).

Straight from the movie. It's so much more awesome in person
The Tavern is a place where you can pick up a quick snack – they serve cinnamon rolls, drinks, pastries and something called a Pork Shank – basically a huge hunk of meat on a bone! They also serve a beverage called LeFou’s Brew, a slushie drink that tastes like apple juice, and it is topped with some sort of ‘foam.’ You can get it in a cup or in a cool souvenir mug or princess cup. We didn’t try it (the line was CRAZY!).

When GT opened, the Shank was on DDP, but they quickly took that option away!
However, we did check out the d├ęcor…

LeFou's not that good at darts. He's got bad aim...
Can I get one of these chandeliers for my house?

This thing is like 10 feet tall! Will this one fit in my dining room?
How about this chair?

I attempted to sit in it like Gaston in the movie, but I just look creepy...
Can I have the fountain – it would look awesome in my backyard!

G looks a little weird, but I love LeFou!
After exiting the Tavern, we of course had to check out the bathrooms. I don’t have a photo that shows it, but this bathroom has one of those cool Dyson hand dryers where you stick your hands in it, up to the wrist, then pull them out and they are dried like a car wash! They are loud, but they work!  (There are still paper towels, if you are a germaphobe like Sheldon, or a hater of things new and different).

Sorry, mom, but if your kid is this big, he needs to pee in the MEN'S room! 
One thing this area is lacking, I think, might be seating areas.  There are a few tables outside of the tavern, the rim around the fountain, and a small stone wall by the bathrooms.  I don’t know what could be added, and maybe when it’s not so busy, it won’t be so bad, but today it was hard to find a place to sit for a moment.  

Having had our fill of Provencal France, we made our way to the seashore to Voyage with the Little Mermaid.  

Small sign for the ride - Triton, Ursula, Flounder and Sebastian adorn the corners. Who do I love the most?
Duh! And I love that they 'pre-tarnished' the copper!
The queue for this ride is spectacular and there are a few nods to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which used to be in this spot 20 years ago.  

Prince Eric's Castle - I love that they even showed a 'water line'

You walk under this 'bridge' in the queue - up top (hard to see) is Prince Eric's crest with the big "E"

Lush landscaping and a nice waterfall
I guess this is where you park the boat when you are done with your "Kiss the Girl" boat ride
First, there is an impression in the rocks of a Nautilus-ship, the ship that took you underwater.  Second is the water.  When 20,000 was closed, some of the water was kept in storage. Seriously, Disney kept WATER in storage for decades.  When this ride was ready to open, it was ‘christened’ by having more than a dozen people each pour out that water into the sea of the new ride.  Go HERE to see that video. 

Dead center of this photo is the outline of a Nautilus boat from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride
Anyway, the rest of the queue is amazing too! Bridges and rockwork make up the outside queue before you enter into caves, or grottos.

These rocks will 'gurgle' just like they would if you were at a rocky coast.
You’ll find Scuttle inside talking to you, much like Mr. Potato Head talks to you at Toy Story.  You wind through cool grottoes and into the bottom of the castle. Here there are lots of arches and buttresses and frescoes painted on the ceiling.  The queue here is customizable with poles and chain, so you may not always have to go through ALL of the bottom of the castle.
Scuttle tells jokes and stories to you while you wait. Not quite Buddy Hackett, but close. 
You ride a Clammobile and it’s a short ride through the story of the Little Mermaid. There is a mix of audio-animatronics and movie screens. My favorite scene of course is Ursula’s conjuring scene!

"Under the Sea" dancing Ariel
Like I said, it’s a short ride, and one of those “I waited an hour for THAT?” kind of rides, but if you love Little Mermaid, it’s worth it. Plus, once you get to the inside queue, it’s air-conditioned.

When exiting the ride, you can go right and head back towards old Fantasyland, or you can turn left and go towards Ariel’s Grotto (and, eventually, Storybook Circus).  We went to Ariel’s Grotto, cuz, duh – Ariel!

While there was no line and no wait (boy, that will change come December), we were led immediately to a special separate room where Ariel with her fins was waiting for us. I like how they did it – it feels much more intimate. No gawking kids, no screaming babies, no grouchy parents (hurry up!) – Just us, Ariel, Photopass and the character handler. Ariel was very chatty too. I don’t remember what we talked about though…

It was cold in the Grotto, so she wore her long-sleeve shells that day
With everything in New Fantasyland ridden, experienced and photographed, we headed over to Adventureland for a quick ride on Pirates before stopping at a popcorn cart for my souvenir – Santa Mickey, complete with Popcorn Brains! (Okay, so it’s not brains, but you DO eat popcorn out of his head, so …. Brains!)

We hopped on the monorail, and headed to Epcot for dinner.

Yes, Fountainview Ice Cream counts as dinner.  Especially when you get double-scoops in a waffle cone!

He just looks creepy, with his tongue sticking out...
We sat around for a while after our ice cream, figuring out if we wanted to do anything else.  We ended up hitting up the Chase Lounge over at the Wonders of Life pavilion to charge our iDevices, hit the potties and grab some soda (why pay $3 if I can get it for free!?)

Obligatory Restroom Shot - Chase Lounge Bathroom (only 2 stalls, highly "Circusy" and cheerful!)
Once there, however, we decided that we were pretty much done for the day. Hubby had to work in the morning, I was still tired from Gallopin’ the day before, so we threw in the towel and headed home.