If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida recently, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the Fantasyland area is under heavy construction – that’s because the area is currently undergoing a major expansion that will double the size of the original Fantasyland. This is the biggest expansion project ever in the Magic Kingdom. We’ve been reporting on these changes as they happen in these blog articles: Dumbo’s New Home In Storybook Circus Opens in March! and Fantasyland News Announced At D23! In March, I got a peak at Dumbo in his new home in person, and he appears to be perfectly content with the move! And, I’m pretty excited about one thing in particular. The Beast’s Castle!
Having three daughters of my own, I have lived through just about every royal story in the Disney archives. But, Beauty and the Beast was the favorite of my middle daughter. It was her first big screen movie at 3 years old. For the Halloween following the release, I lovingly sewed her Belle’s beautiful gold ball gown exactly as specified by my little princess. She wore that gown every where, much to the chagrin of her older sister, until she literally wore the gown out. I will never hear a bar of Be Our Guest or see anything Beauty and the Beast related without seeing my own little Miss Belle, as her grandfather still calls her, twirling in her gold dress. That is why THIS project is so dear to my heart.
The Beast’s Castle will sit high atop what will become the “Be Our Guest” restaurant. The Beauty and the Beast inspired restaurant, which is set to open in late 2012, will offer lavish full table service dining at night and counter service dining by day. Three dining rooms are located within the castle, including the ballroom where Belle and the Beast danced, the mysterious West Wing where the rose is kept, and the library where the Beast presented his vast collection of books to Belle. Medieval windows will stretch floor to ceiling depicting the Enchanted Rose and our favorite characters from the film, including Belle, the Beast, Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumiere and Cogsworth. A massive mural will serve as the restaurant’s backdrop. Two larger than life minotaur sculptures (mythological figures that are half man and half bull) will flank the castles guest entrance just as they did in the movie when Belle entered the castle for the first time. Walt Disney Imagineers are truly working hard to make guests feel as if they are walking into the film.
Although Beast’s Castle will be prominent in the new Fantasyland, Cinderella’s Castle will still reign supreme over the entire Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney Imagineers used forced perspective architecture to make Beast’s Castle look far more grandiose in size than it really is. Beast’s Castle is really only visible in the distance when you are actually in new Fantasyland. For that, I am thankful, because I really hope to live in Cinderella’s Castle one day and I don’t want my view blocked by the neighbors!
Eventually, other Beauty and the Beast themed building will open around the Castle, like Gaston’s Tavern, Bonjour! Village Gifts and the cottage of Belle’s father Maurice. I know my daughter will love that! She has always wanted to see Maurice’s cottage! And, of course, there are plans for meet and greets with Belle and her friends.
Gaston’s Tavern is another restaurant themed to look like the tavern where Gaston sings his title song in the original film. Of course, the tavern features a larger than life portrait of Gaston over a large fireplace. Antlers and buckskins hang upon the wall, which is lined with barrels. Mugs compose most of the glassware found at the tavern. Just outside is a water fountain of Gaston, posing with his foot on LeFou’s head. “My what a guy, that Gaston!”
Maurice’s workshop is modeled after a French cottage, will be surrounded by a wishing well, footbridges and lush landscaping. Once inside, guests will step through a magic mirror and find themselves inside Beast’s expansive library, which he presented as a gift to Belle in the film. This room will serve as the setting for a memorable character interaction experience with Belle – which will require a little help from Lumiere, the enchanted candlestick.
Along with the Beauty and the Beast additions, the expansion will also include new attractions for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid, and Dumbo, as well as Princess Fairytale Hall, the new home for Disney Princesses like Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana, Rapunzel and more.
Miss Belle’s dress has long been gone to the trash. There wasn’t even enough of it left to hand down to some other little Belle. But, the minute I walk past those minotaurs, guarding the Beast’s castle doors, I know I’ll see my little Belle twirling in my heart. I can’t wait to visit the new Fantasyland and relive those memories!