Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

This month we are celebrating a tale as old as time, one that can be found in multiple parks, and enjoyed in multiple ways.  Of course, I’m referring to Beauty & the Beast.  Today, we start by looking at one of the most unique character experiences in Walt Disney World.  Enchanted Tales with Belle is your chance to relive the magic right along side Belle.

We are going to kick off this three week series with an incredibly unique show found in the Magic Kingdom.  Enchanted Tales with Belle may be the surprise hit of your next Disney vacation, and today I’m going to tell you why!  Let’s get started with our…

Know before you go essential facts:

  • The show is located in the Magic Kingdom
  • Fastpass+ is offered
  • The fright factor is 0 out of 5
  • Guests must transfer to a wheelchair
  • Assistive listening, audio description, and handheld captioning are available
  • The show is about 15 minutes long
  • The show opened on December 6, 2012

The crowning jewel of New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  However, did you know that the family friendly roller coaster was not part of the original expansion plan?  In fact, the original plans called for three unique character meet ’n’ greets.  Guests would be able to dance with Cinderella, celebrate Aurora’s birthday with the good fairies, or enjoy a retelling of the enchanted love story with Belle.  Look at the pink building in the picture below.  In the initial artist rendering of the New Fantasyland expansion, this area would have been home of the Cinderella and Aurora meet ‘n’ greet.

Well, as Disney collected feedback, the plans began to change and the New Fantasyland expansion morphed into the finished product we have today. Cinderella and Aurora did not get their own cottage, but instead were moved into Princess Fairy Tale Hall, previously home to Snow White’s Scary Adventures.  The space that had been allocated to these two Disney princesses was taken over by Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs.  Essentially, they flip flopped real estate, making for a smaller meet ’n’ greet experience in favor of a much larger and more thrilling Snow White ride. Look at the rendering from 2012 and you will see the smoke billowing up from the new home of the Seven Dwarfs.  The surrounding forest is the cover for the Mine Train family coaster.

Fittingly, the one princess that survived the downgrade to a more provincial meet ’n’ greet was Belle!  Enchanted Tales with Belle is a 3-part interactive play that allows guests to relive the story of the day Belle and the Beast fell in love. This experience is half meet ’n’ greet, half show, and 100% magic!  I think this is one of the most overlooked experiences in the parks, but something you don’t want to miss.  Let’s explore this enchanted tale by looking at the three acts.

 

Act One brings you to the humble cottage of Belle and her father, Maurice.  Just like in the film, this home is not much to look at from the outside.  This is one reason I believe the experience is overlooked by many.  On its cover, Enchanted Tales with Belle is very unassuming.  There is not a roller coaster that zooms by as you walk around the ride.  It is not a huge building indicating something grand inside.  No, it is the quiet home of the inventor and his book-loving daughter.  The Imagineers may have done too good of a job nestling this cozy cottage in the foothill of the Beast’s Castle. Still, for those that find the path leading back to the home, there is a special experience inside.

 

 

The first act allows guests to walk through the cottage of Belle and Maurice.  The home is full of books as you might expect, and there is a lovely portrait of Belle and her mother hanging on the wall.  If you opt for the Fastpass queue, you will bypass this first room in the cottage.  The second room, where the Standby and Fastpass queue meet up, is the workshop of Maurice.  Here, the mind of the inventor is on display.  You can see drawings, models, and small pieces of inventions Maurice is working on.  Hopefully, the Cast Members inside the workshop will point out one item in particular.  It is a tradition in Belle’s family that the parents pass down a music box to the bride and groom as a wedding gift.  Look for the small wood carving on the shelf to the left of the magic mirror.  The final version is a 10-foot tall music box that Maurice gave to Belle & the Beast on their wedding day.  It can be found inside the castle, which can be seen when you dine at the Be Our Guest Restaurant.

The item Cast Members will be sure to point out is the magic mirror.  On the wall behind the workbench you will see the magic mirror that the Beast gifted to Maurice.  This is a much larger mirror than the small handheld mirror you see Belle use in the movie.  I guess the Beast has a closet of magic mirrors at his disposal.  Anyway, this particular mirror was given to Maurice so that he could magically visit Belle in the castle anytime he wanted.  That’s what I call a generous son-in-law.  Well, the Beast’s generosity is not only good for Maurice, but also for you!  It turns out this mirror can magically transport you to both a place and a time.  So, you are now invited to travel to the castle on the day Belle & the Beast fell in love.

The Cast Member will ask you to recite a phrase to activate the magic mirror.  Once said, the room darkens, the mirror magically lights up with sparkles of green light all around the frame and the interior of the mirror begins changing as well.  One second you can see your own reflection in the mirror and the next you are looking at the forest outside of the castle.  I won’t spoil the entire magical transformation here, but trust me, it is crazy cool!  Just like magic, the mirror becomes an open doorway and on the other side is the Beast’s castle.

A short hallway in the castle leads you to the scene of Act Two.  Just outside of the castle’s library you will find a life size Audio-Animatronic version of the wardrobe from the movie.  She is very excited to see everyone and talks to you as you find a spot in the room.  A Cast Member serves as the wardrobe’s assistant during this act and will be looking for volunteers to help in Act Three.  The roles of soldier, Maurice and his horse Philip, Mrs. Potts and her son Chip, the Wardrobe, and of course the Master of the house, the Beast will be played by members of the audience.  With each role the Cast Member will ask the audience to give their best impression of the character.  Usually, the most enthusiastic of the bunch are selected and given a small prop to represent their character.  If your child is not selected for one of the main roles they can still volunteer to participate.  The Cast Member will hand out picture frames, dishes, and more to make sure everyone that wants to be is included.  A short rehearsal ensues to make sure the cast is ready to surprise Belle with a reenactment of the story.  Next, the voice of Lumiere can be heard coming from the library.  That is your signal that Act Three is about to begin.

When the doors to the library open, you see a few benches facing a fireplace along the main wall.  On the mantle is Lumiere.  Like the wardrobe, he is a life size AA figure.  Rear projection technology brings his face and candlesticks to life in amazing detail.  Before the new AA figures debuted on Frozen Ever After, Lumiere was one of the most impressive characters to be brought to life in any Disney park.  The little french candlestick continues the story as he welcomes you to the library and sets up the big surprise for Belle.  The lights dim and Lumiere calls out for Belle.

The doors fling open and there she is, the Beauty in the yellow ball gown.  Belle walks into the dark room and the entire audience yells surprise!  Belle is startled, but delighted to see all of her friends.  Lumiere tells Belle that they have a story to share before her big dinner with the Master.  Over the next few minutes each member of the audience cast gets to interact with Belle as their character enters the story.  The highlight of this time is when all the kids get to follow Belle in a circle around the room as they sing and clap to the familiar music of Be our Guest.

Like any good play, each performer gets a chance to bow in front of the audience at the end.  From there, the kids take a seat on the floor.  Now, here’s the really neat part.  Each child has the chance to go up and take a quick picture with Belle.  A Disney Photopass photographer will be in position to capture the perfect shot, but parents are welcome to record from their vantage point as well.  A photopass card is handed to each participant and you can use this to purchase the photo or link it with your Memory Maker account.  In addition to the picture of your family member with Belle, the photopass card has many great photos taken by the PhotoPass Photographer throughout the experience.  Don’t forget to link this card or simply check out the photos for download.  In addition to the pictures, children are given a keepsake bookmark.  This special bookmark has Belle’s autograph, so those collecting Princess signatures will want to slide this into their autograph book.

Words really can’t express how special the character encounter in this intimate setting can be.  When you see a child, whether yours or someone else’s, hopping up to Belle as Chip, or dancing with Belle as the Beast, it just warms your heart.  The combination of the immersive environment, state of the art animatronics, and Belle herself interacting with the children is magical.

I have seen this show from two perspectives, having been both a part of the show as a suit of armor, and a viewer from the audience.  I highly enjoyed both experiences.  As the suit of armor I stood to the side of the show and couldn’t see a great deal behind my mask.  I could see the expression on those in the audience and some of the children as they got to interact with Belle.  I had a great big smile on my face the entire time, watching each encounter bring a sense of amazement to each child.  At the end of the performance I joined my fellow suit of armor on either side of Belle.  We held out an arm for Belle to take and had our picture taken together.  I have to admit, the experience was so real I think I might have blushed a little when Belle herself took my arm.  I know for sure my two little nephews blushed when they went up to have their picture taken.  Belle even gave them a kiss on the cheek, which was welcomed by one and embarrassing to the other.  That is a Disney memory I will cherish for a long time.

 

As a viewer in the audience I really enjoyed getting to see the whole show.  The seamless interaction between Lumiere, Belle, and the Cast Members is quite impressive.  The show moves very quickly, but never really feels rushed.  The three different acts serve to engage the audience throughout the experience, rather than just feel like you are waiting in line to meet Belle.  In a way, this character encounter is so memorable that I’m sad the plans for a similar experience with Cinderella and Aurora were put aside in favor of another ride.  Of course, then I go on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and I’m not that sad anymore!

Because of the small audience size and generous time spent with Belle, this is a show that can build long waits.  I believe this is another reason it is often overlooked by many.  When you can’t tell such a magical show awaits inside, and you see a wait time of 30-60 minutes, it is easy to pass this little cottage by.  Believe it or not, I think this is a very good use of a Fastpass+.  If you have smaller children in your group and you won’t be using your FP+ reservations on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, or Splash Mountain, this is a great candidate for Fastpass.  Actually, I just booked a FP+ reservation for Enchanted Tales with Belle earlier this week.  We are taking Caleb, Lacey, James, and Julia to Walt Disney World for the first time and I think they are going to love Enchanted Tales with Belle.

If you opt for the Standby Queue so you can see the entire cottage, plan to make this one of your first or last stops of the day.  Think of it in the same way you do Peter Pan’s Flight.  Due to the low capacity, it will always have a longer wait time.  You either need a Fastpass+, or you need to ride it very early or very late.

Thank you so, so much for joining me today.  I hope you have a great week and remember to make each day a ride worth taking!

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