Early Review: Enchanted Tales with Belle

Disney is at work providing previews of their new Enchanted Tales with Belle experience at the new Fantasyland Forest at the Magic Kingdom. Other than portions of Storybook Circus, this is the first of the new attractions to be seen by guests. There is purpose in this. Disney is doing considerable testing and tweaking to make the experience the best possible. This does not mean that the attraction is open when you visit. But if you keep an eye toward the new castle walls you may find guests being admitted. I wouldn’t be surprised if guests testing the NextGen experience will be invited as well to visit during the next few weeks. More on that later.

Be aware: There are many spoilers ahead, and some behind the magic explanation of how this is coming together.

Most people waiting in line had no idea what they were stepping into other than it had to do with Beauty and the Beast. Standing in the queue next to a couple with two young girls, they inquired as to whether it was worth their time. I explained to them that they were among the first to visit this attraction, and that while there would be some wait, they would find the experience memorable.

Some of the castle walls are now up and open to walk through.

Step past the construction wall and you find the charming home of Maurice, Belle’s father. It is settled in the countryside, and several winding paths lead up to it. Beyond you see the Beast’s castle, Gaston’s tavern, and further beyond—Prince Eric’s castle. The details in every direction are amazing! I was especially excited for Be Our Guest restaurant. The castle has sit for some time on the hill, and I dismissed it as being little more than Cinderella Castle in Storybook Land Canal Boats at Disneyland. But up closer, the anticipation of entering the mountain and visiting the dining rooms of the Beast were pretty exciting. You can see more details here.

No question about it…this addition to the Magic Kingdom is going to be very special.

Our wait was some 45-50 minutes in a line that would not be much longer than what you would find in the old days for Dumbo. Like the original Dumbo, the line wasn’t that long, but it didn’t move very quickly. This line in fact, was probably the slowest line I’ve encountered in the parks in some time.

Stepping into Maurice’s cottage, you enter a main living room, a non-descript hallway, and then into Maurice’s work shop. The first room was simply nothing more than simply an extension of the queue—a culminating place before you stepped into the experience itself. Everything is within reach, much like going through Mickey’s house in Toontown. The first room will struggle with upkeep as guests and especially children waiting there are not moving through, but are simply standing around touching and grasping every object in site.

A painting of Belle as a child along with her mother.

Unlike the front room, guests are not in the workshop long. Once we are all gathered, our host directs us to the mirror at one end of the room. We are invited to join together in wishing to visit the Beast’s castle when Belle and the Beast first fell in love. The mirror unfolds like a door, and it really is quite magical. It’s at that moment you know you are in no ordinary meet ‘n greet.

To see more of the inside of Maurice’s cottage, click here.

Suddenly the door opens and you are led into a short stone corridor into the hallway. We are now at the Beast’s palace, with the Wardrobe welcoming us. The Wardrobe and the host invites us to surprise Belle with a re-enactment from the story. The Wardrobe’s wardrobe opens up and several props are dispersed among the guests.

This delightful animatronic character really sets up the experience to follow.

We then enter the library of the Beast’s castle. You can see many of the beast’s castle photos here.

The centerpiece of the library is a fireplace mantle with Lumiere. He comes alive and invites us to surprise Belle. He turns down the light and Belle enters. She is delighted by the surprise, and joins in the reenactment of her story. She then creates a processional around the room, followed by an individual meet ‘n greet/photo opportunity. A Photo Pass operator helps support the photo session. While there are many who participate and receive a photo with Belle, essentially all who would like a picture are welcomed at this point. Each guest is given a little gift from Belle—a lovely little bookmark—so appropriate for the library!

The individual playing the Beast has the opportunity to dance with Belle.

Guests exit from the library into a final room that transitions them to a cave-like exit that comes out of the mountain. It’s all very seamless, and really quite immersive. The setting has plenty of lovely details and the animatronic stars are truly fantastic! Lumiere is amazing because he is so alive, though so small. Wardrobe is so amazing because she is really so very big and yet believable. The special effects are terrific, and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience. The father of the family I befriended swept by me in the library while taking photos, exclaiming: “I’m glad you made us wait…this was so worthwhile!”

It is worthwhile and every bit a Disney experience as any that has ever been created. In truth, it’s really no different than the experience the Magic Kingdom had a few years back near the Mad Tea Party (it later became a meet ‘n greet for Tangled and then for Brave). I remember that experience very well because I was called to play the role of the Beast on the very first day it opened. We had great memories of that experience. This experience is essentially the same, though souped up and more immersive than can possibly be imagined.

That said, we never really repeated that moment after we had done it. I wonder what the repeatability of this attraction is. Because it is one of the first attractions you walk into, and because it centers around one of Disney’s greatest princesses, I’m concerned that the crowds will overwhelm this fairly small attraction.

Earlier I compared the experience with Dumbo when that attraction was placed not too far away from where it is currently. Unlike Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Flying Carpets, Dumbo always had a lengthy wait. That was partly due to the fact that the carpets had two rows per vehicle. But it was also because if you walked a straight line down Main Street through Cinderella Castle and straight through Fantasyland you dead-ended at Dumbo. The new Dumbo is located in a corner of the park. It has two spinners and a circus playground, with restaurant-like beepers calling for you to come forward when you are ready. Having visited that attraction several times, you wonder if all of that is really needed.

An earlier Dumbo for an earlier time.

Conversely, this new attraction occupies almost the same location as the previous Dumbo–though now some 50 yards back. In some ways, you dead-end at this attraction. For that reason alone it will be busy. But the experience is fairly intimate and doesn’t exit quickly. Mind you, it also has two libraries that you can enter into once you work past Wardrobe. Only one appeared to be working the day we were here. But what wasn’t factored into was NextGen.

Next Gen has a separate queue that brings you into the experience through a separate hallway. Those guests will miss the first room of Maurice’s chateau, but they will be ushered into the workshop without regular stand-by guests having any idea that others are bypassing them.

A fork in the road divides the regular guests from those who are taking advantage of NextGen.

What’s the message here? If this event is important to you, you may want to take advantage of NextGen when it arrives. This is probably one of the most compelling reasons to utilize that service. It certainly won’t be Dumbo, another option that will be available in the future.

Otherwise, if you have small children and/or a love of all things Beauty and the Beast, you will want to get in line for this attraction when the park first opens unless a Fast Pass opens sometime soon, which may yet be happening.

This little structure looks like it was designed with FastPass in mind.

All said and done, this attraction is a great experience and well worth my wait. Moreover, like much of the new Storybook Circus components that have been added, there is a level of magic and wonder in everything you see. And looking beyond Maurice’s cottage, what still awaits us in the new Fantasyland Forest is pretty exciting.

Do you want to see more?

To see pictures of the approach to Maurice’s cottage and its surroundings, click here.

To see inside Maurice’s cottage, click here.

To visit inside the Beast’s castle, click here.

To see more photos of the construction going on throughout the Fantasyland Forest, click here.