This story was originally published on December 21, 2012.
After years of hour-long Dumbo lines, melting ice cream bars and brain-melting repetitions of It's a Small World, this lifelong Disney fan was ready for a little sprucing up of the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. • In case you head to Orlando over winter break, here's my wrapup of the good, the okay and the overpriced of the new Fantasyland.
Belle's Enchanted Table
Although this restaurant wasn't open when I visited, the casual service lunch menu posted on the wall boasts thoroughly Americanized French chic, including Tuna Nicoise Salad (tuna salad). The room transforms into a formal sit-down establishment for dinner. The setting is gorgeous, with the main dining room a perfect replica of the movie's ballroom scene. An Enchanted Rose sparkles in an area off the main dining hall, and the high, arched ceilings and mosaics make you feel far away from Florida. I'm guessing that many a wedding reception will be held in this space, and as a girl who grew up wanting to be a princess, I could feel my childhood coming to life when I entered the room.
Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid
While my group waited in a long line that wound between rough coral pillars, I could see that Disney was trying to remedy its endless line-boredom dilemma, with crabs scurrying across "portal" video screens searching for lost human items. An animatronic Scuttle (the seagull who mistakes forks for hairbrushes) off-handedly dismisses the Mona Lisa as trash while mistaking a bikini top for earwarmers, something that made the younger kids in line giggle. The ride itself is fairly standard, a clamshell for two moving slowly through Ariel's animated story. I dare you to leave the building without Under the Sea stuck in your head. Try. Just try.
Enchanted Tales with Belle
This attraction is part show, part interactive experience and part humiliate-the-parents, which is always delightful. After entering Belle's cottage, a step through the (ridiculously cool) enchanted mirror takes you back to the night Belle and the Beast shared a first dance. But hey, the match-making cutlery needs your help! After giving several dozen guests parts to play with basic actions (mostly little kids and embarrassed fathers hiding in the back), guests move to another room where Belle and a scarily lifelike animatronic Lumiere help tell the tale. I'll be honest, the real amusement in this one is watching the little kids giggle and blush. But hey, everyone gets free bookmarks in the end! At least for nerds like me, that's a definite plus.
A place for light snacks and drinks, the tavern is adorned just like Beauty and the Beast's infamous bar scene, complete with antlers guarding a crackling fireplace. It's begging for a cup-slamming villain song (potential flash mobs, take note). The food is the average, overpriced Disney snack fare, although a pack of hummus and crackers is a health-conscious choice. However, the bar's signature nonalcoholic drink, LeFou's Brew, is a $10 concoction best ignored. A combination of frozen apple juice, marshmallow and passion fruit foam topping, it is sickeningly sweet and brain-freeze inducing.