Gone are the flat painted plywood scenes in Snow White’s Scary Ride, torn down to make room for Princess Fairytale Hall. Instead, a holographic rose drops petals in Be Our Guest restaurant in the Beast’s Castle, snow sparkles on ledges of Cinderella Castle, and electronic crabs get help from guests in the scavenger hunt in the Under the Sea queue.
Guests now have more opportunities to interact with characters, which for many youngsters are as important as the rides — the Beast in his restaurant, Belle in Enchanted Tales, Gaston by his tavern near the Beast’s Castle, the Little Mermaid in Ariel’s Grotto, plus Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Minnie at Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus, which opened in October.
Disney is promoting Be Our Guest restaurant in the Beast’s Castle as another attraction, and in some respects it is. It is set in beautiful rooms designed to look like the film, with as much attention to detail as any new ride, and the rose theme woven throughout. In the ballroom — the main dining room — diners can see snow falling beyond the high, arched windows. Red napkins are folded and twisted into the shape of large rosebuds. Belle and Beast whirl in a dance atop a seven-foot music box in the Rose Gallery. In the West Wing, a slashed portrait of the prince changes to a portrait of the Beast.
Since the original story was set in the French countryside, the cuisine is French influenced. Lunch is fast-casual: Guests place their orders on touch screens, and the food is brought to the table. At night, servers take dinner orders. For the first time in Magic Kingdom, wine and beer are available, although with dinner only.
The ambience is quiet and as elegant as it can be in a theme park where the Beast stalks through the dining room and many guests are wearing sneakers. For theme-park dining, the food is very good, but not as good as meals in several of the resort’s hotels. The wait staff is attentive, sometimes to the point of being intrusive, but that might be expected in a new and very visible opening. Here’s hoping they mellow as they find their rhythm. Dinner entrees are $15.99-$29.99; wine $8-$17 per glass.
Be Our Guest’s dessert cart offers tempting cupcakes and cream puffs, but we opted to stop by Gaston’s Tavern for a LeFou’s Brew, a nonalcoholic slushy based on apple juice with a taste of marshmallow and a mango-passion fruit foam. The drink has a nice tang, as if the juice came from Granny Smith apples. (If you’re keeping score, it’s not as good as the frozen Butterbeer at that other theme park, but better than the Pumpkin Juice, which is also apple-based.)
Not all of Disney World’s news comes from Fantasyland.
At Epcot, Test Track, closed for upgrading in April, reopened this month with Chevrolet sponsorship. The basic ride remains the same — the car still hits 65 mph, the fastest of any ride at a Disney park — but all the visuals have changed. Plus, the Imagineers have added a pre-show and an after-show.
Before the ride, guests design their own custom concept vehicle — shape, wheels, engine, color — on a touch screen at a design kiosk. As they work, the screen shows how the design affects capability, responsiveness, efficiency and power. It’s a game of balance — increase the power, for example, and the car will lose efficiency. Riders get an electronic card that they swipe at the kiosk so their design follows them through the ride and the post-ride show.