The new meet and greet in Fantasyland, Princess Fairytale Hall, opens on September 18. I was given access Friday night as part of the DisneyParks blog “Treat-Up” (meet up with treats), which was free to attend. Disclosure: as part of that meetup, I was given free admission to the Not So Scary Halloween party going on around us, as well as Glow With the Show Mickey ears. Verdict: it’s a solid addition to the park, with quality trappings and a stately feel that matches the castle. Its elegance, though, will do little to staunch the controversy that dogs this attraction. It’s a meet and greet that replaced a ride, a fact that will continue to irritate many fans but leave others happy that the characters (finally) have a permanent home.
First, a caveat. We were cautioned that our sneak peak does not constitute a “soft opening” and the attraction is still not necessarily “done”, so any operational details discussed here could easily change by the time it opens for real.
It’s worth remembering why the Princess Fairytale Hall was needed in the first place: because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of families that visit the Magic Kingdom on a daily basis looking to take photos of the Disney characters with their children. It may not match the demographic of every visitor (may not in face match the demographic of the majority of visitors to THIS site), but it’s nonetheless true that if any of us were suddenly put in charge of Walt Disney World, we’d want to cater to this demand. The larger Disney company has been creating demand for princess merchandise and princess mania in general for more than a decade, and yet these characters have only a temporary home in a corner on Main Street. The facilities there LOOK temporary, in fact. The first waiting room was about as unexciting as you can get, painted a dull blue color with no adornments.
The new digs are a definite step up. The furnishings, finishings, and trappings are highly reminiscent of what you’d find inside Cinderella Castle itself – and that makes sense, given the proximity. This is essentially an extension of the castle. You’d want there to be some thematic unity in the land, after all. That unity extends out to the new sections of the land. The Beast’s castle – seen in Be Our Guest – is all about refinement and luxury, not excessive Rococo decorations. This style is more Chateau Chenonceau (the opening castle in Impressions de France) than the mixed medieval look of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle decorations, especially indoors.
Castles, in other words, don’t come in just one shape or size. Schloss Nymphenburg outside Munich impressed me with its Rococo decorations when I visited several years ago, but this is not the style of the new Fairytale Hall. It’s actually closer to Neuschwanstein, the interior of which is less ostentatious, though it is also unfinished. The Orlando Fantasyland is now mostly a princess-land, and all of it seems to match the rest: emphasis on grandeur and artistocratic refinement rather than flashy decorations. The Disneyland Fantasyland area ALSO has a unified theme, but theirs is centered around medieval charm: you’ve got the medieval castle (notice the storybooks in the walkthrough are done in medieval style?) and the quaint German Fachwerk designs for most of the rest of the land. Like most comparisons between the two coasts, this too comes down to a simple spectrum: Disneyland is all about charm, and WDW emphasizes grandeur.
The new Princess Fairytale Hall is actually TWO attractions in one space. Like Orlando’s Space Mountain or Anaheim’s Matterhorn, it has two sides that never meet. One side is dedicated to Cinderella (the blue wallpaper shows off her slipper in the design) and the other to Rapunzel (her pink wallpaper has a rose in it). In each case, the princess in question is ALSO accompanied by another princess who is not promised or advertised from the outside. It could be Mulan, Tiana, Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White, all of whom have portraits in the main waiting hall. Or it could be a character from Frozen – that movie gets a call out in one of the props here in the set (see below).
The main waiting hall has six portraits of princesses. I took especial note of Tiana. Her picture shows not only firefly Ray, but another firefly companion. The implication is that this is Evangeline, his impossible-to-attain love interest from the movie. For Ray to finally get his Evangeline here in this magical place just drives home the message all the more: everyone’s wish is granted here!
A collection of books (princess stories, of course) in the meet-and-greet area pays special attention to ONE fairy tale: that of Snow White. The title is given in German, because, of course, the Disney movie was based on the German tale. The artwork, by the way, is reproduced from the original Little Golden Book on Disney’s Snow White.
Those bookends you see there are lifted from the Disney movie Cinderella.
Most of the book titles in the meet-and-greet room are accurate to the original language. But “Küss den Frosch” (which means “Kiss the Frog”) is not the title of the original tale from the Grimms’ collection, which is the most famous of the fairy tale collections. In Grimms, the title is Froschkönig, which means Frog-King. I guess the real title would be a distraction from the female heroine, who is the focus of this attraction?
One of the titles is Snedronningen – Danish for “Snow Queen,” the source material for the upcoming movie Frozen. It’s a fair bet the princess from that movie will soon find a home here as well! Missing from this list: the storybook for Mulan. Chinese characters would stick out too much here?
Both sides have artwork in the antechamber (just before the actual meet and greet room) and just inside the room itself, and that artwork is universally in the style of Eyvind Earle, the artist behind the look of the movie Sleeping Beauty. This prints are reproductions of actual backgrounds from the Sleeping Beauty movie (not all are necessarily from Earle; his fellow background artists painted in his style for that movie).
A more detailed photo tour is available here.