The new Fantasy Faire Village opened for Annual Passholder previews today and we have a look at what to expect from this new extension of Fantasyland. With much trepidation, we watched from the hub as the traditional dance floor of Carnation Gardens and its quiet surroundings were transformed into a new hive of princess activity. The tranquil dining area slowly transformed into a charming Bavarian village backdrop while the Carnation Gardens stage was morphed into a gold and pink monstrosity. This, so close to the castle, really seems as if it would visually compete with the central icon of the park. What were the Imagineers thinking?
Then we visited the new area. In short, this is a surprisingly nice addition to the park that actually works a lot better than we anticipated. Why? To begin with, the details laced throughout the storefronts and facades are exemplary. Once surrounded by the patchwork architecture and cobbled rooftops, one feels immersed in the little village. Glancing back at the Sleeping Beauty Castle only reinforces the illusion that you are in a magical place.
Its footprint is relatively small. It is understandable that Disney would want to offer a place to take advantage of the wildly lucrative princess dress-up market they have created. But the old Princess Fantasy Faire next to it's a small world was far too large for this purpose and, when in operation, put an otherwise nice theatre on hiatus. Not to mention that the new Fantasy Faire Village is literally just down the path from the Bibbidi Bobbidy Boutique inside the castle. The new placement just makes sense.
There is one meet and greet, The Royal Hall, one store, Fairy Tale Treasures, one food location, Maurice's Treats, and one entertainment offering, The Royal Theatre.
Expect massive lines for the nicely done Royal Hall princess meet and greet. They mercifully built a large shaded queue and pathway through the gardens below the castle to allow for a wait that won't be nearly as painful as the Royal Walk (the outdoor meet and greet area on small world mall). Once inside, guests are directed to one of two paths, and allowed to visit with not one, but three separate Disney Princesses. The first main room has a divider wall that separates the area into four meet and greet spots, serving two sides. After the first main hall there is another, final room with one more princess. On our visit we got to meet Aurora, Ariel, and Cinderella.
There is one small problem in the first main hall, regarding sound. There have already been reports of children asking why they can hear more princesses on the other side of the divider wall, as it only divides the area and does not reach the ceiling. They should be able to address this simply by bumping the music up a little. When we entered the meet and greet, it had a ten minute wait. When we exited, it had ballooned to 45 minutes. Something tells me that the lines will only be longer after previews. If you plan on going, be sure to bring patience and pixie dust.
Next up is the charming show staged at the Royal Theatre. We ignored the eye-popping colors on the tent above us as we took our seats and were treated to an adorable show. A small troupe of actors played out the story of Rapunzel, with her newly crowned prince, Flynn. The performers, with live piano accompaniment, engaged the younger audience members without talking down to them or excluding everyone else in the room. Playhouse Disney, this ain't. Catch this show if you can, as they really did an impressive job here.
Jumping over to the Fairy Tale Treasures (check In The Parks tomorrow for photos and a review), we see that the merchandise here is just another extension of the existing Princess dress up stuff over at the boutique. But, in this shop, one can clearly see why this entire area was invented. It's almost too blatant. But, there is a market for it, so...
Finally we stopped by the food cart, Maurice's Treats. The edibles here are fine, but nothing outstanding. The Boysen-Apple freeze for $4.69 ($9.99 in a souvenir mug) is similar to what you can grab in Carsland, but with a berry flavored twist of course. We next tried the Cheddar Garlic Bagel twist for $4.19 Ouch! That cheddar is awfully jagged. The flavor is fine, but not exactly worth $4.50. Bring it south of $3 and we'll talk.
While we are actually very happy with this little addition to the park, there are some downsides. Some purists, including this journalist, would argue that the magic of Fantasyland belongs behind Sleeping Beauty's Castle, not in front. They have attempted to make it work by extending the wall of the castle over to the new facades, and it certainly blends well. But again, it's a minor qualm. The fact is there was no room to do this behind the castle without serious infrastructure work or the removal of a ride or two. It's a decision that had good and bad sides, but one that we can live with.
The other downside is, of course, the tent for the Royal Theatre. Its pink, purple and gold color scheme and crowns atop the center pole are so brightly colored that they pull the eye away from the castle and compete for attention. If that was the intention, and we are guessing it was, then we can understand why they might have felt they needed to go this direction. But it feels like an obnoxious ingenue trying to upstage the established star of the park. If the tent for the royal theatre was toned down in color by about 50 percent, and the crowns pulled down to half their size, it would easily blend more with its surroundings. Especially when viewed from afar (from the hub or Main Street).
Those minor issues aside, we can safely say that the Fantasy Faire Village is a lovely addition to the park, even if it's a little too close to the hub and castle. Little girls are gonna go nuts over this place.