Enchanted Tales with Belle preview ends as Walt Disney World learns from guest feedback about new character experience

in Disney, Entertainment, Magic Kingdom, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World recently completed guest testing Enchanted Tales with Belle, one of the many experiences that will officially debut when the New Fantasyland expansion of the Magic Kingdom opens later this year. During the roughly two week preview of this particular experience, guests were periodically let behind construction walls, on an unannounced schedule, to explore Maurice’s Cottage, spend some face time with Madame Wardrobe and Lumiere, and engage in a storytelling activity with Belle, all part of the 20-30 minute “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired attraction.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

But Disney is hesitant to even called Enchanted Tales with Belle an attraction. It’s also not a show or a ride. Nor is it a traditional meet-and-greet opportunity. It’s something different. And it’s because of this uniqueness that Walt Disney World guests were allowed to see it early, offering designers and operators a chance to gain feedback in an effort to tweak its flow and content to find a balance between offering a new style of experience but also making sure not to disappoint those expecting something more familiar.

Before getting into the details of what Disney has taken away from this play test, take a look at the full experience itself, shot on its final preview day, Saturday, September 15, 2012:


Video: Full “Enchanted Tales with Belle” experience preview in New Fantasyland


Guests were notably impressed by the detail-rich Maurice’s Cottage, impressive magic mirror, and lifelike Audio-Animatronics figures of Madame Wardrobe and Lumiere.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

But the whole Enchanted Tales with Belle experience has left fans with mixed reactions. (My own opinions on the experience can be heard on Show 389 of our podcast.) The most commonly-heard negative feedback guests voiced upon exiting the preview is that many were confused and/or disappointed by the way it concludes. Without being offered any expectations or instructions, most guests entered Enchanted Tales with Belle thinking they would leave having met the famous Disney princess and with a photo to mark the moment. But many left without a memento, puzzled by the premise of it all.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Those who volunteered for (or were pulled into) roles in the retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” story were all offered a bookmark souvenir and a quick photo opportunity with Belle. Cast members were also supposed to scan those not participating, seated in the library, to see who appeared to also desire a picture. Inevitably, that process left quite a few in the audience who didn’t look visibly eager to hop up for a photo without one altogether.

Disney gets it. They’ve heard the feedback and plan to make some adjustments between now and the experience’s official debut near the end of this year. But they are also quick to admit that the vast majority of Enchanted Tales with Belle will remain exactly as it was previewed and as it is seen in the video above.

This new experience is designed specifically to be something other than a standard meet-and-greet. Disney does not want guests lining up for a picture, as it would break the story of Madame Wardrobe and Lumiere surprising Belle with a quick story time adventure before she rushes off to dine with the Beast nearby. Story is at the root of everything Disney does and with Enchanted Tales with Belle, they are counting on this immersion into a story to make up for the fact that not everyone gets a picture.

On the flip side, those who wander into Enchanted Tales with Belle, don’t participate in the storytelling, and have no desire to take a picture with Belle are “trapped” inside the library during the final portion of the rather long experience. The doors do not open until Belle makes her exit, leaving many sitting and waiting while others take pictures or prance around the room. Disney is actively figuring out what to do with this situation as well.

But not all negative feedback will be met with equal attention. The actual content and flow of Enchanted Tales with Belle will remain largely the same as it has been seen. Those who feel Maurice’s Cottage is far more decorated with props than the rather boxy and flat environments for Madame Wardrobe and Beast’s Library will likely find little change when New Fantasyland opens in a couple months.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

But even among the “complaints,” which also extend to the “cardboard cutout” character props used during the storytelling, all fans seems to agree that the area surrounding Maurice’s cottage looks fantastic and is just a small indication of the impressive place making Disney has in store for guests when the construction walls slowly come down around New Fantasyland. And while the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience may not be for everyone, all fans will at least appreciate the lifelike characters Disney has created within, bringing to life familiar faces of “Beauty and the Beast” like never before.

Though Enchanted Tales with Belle testing has wrapped up and it likely won’t reopen until the November 19 New Fantasyland preview date rolls around, all guests walking through the Fantasyland area can’t help but notice quite a few new things popping up. Most recently, construction walls have come down around new Cinderella Castle courtyard walls, which previously offered the entrance into the French countryside.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Beyond that, construction continues toward completion of the Be Our Guest restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern, and Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, all slated to open at the same time as Enchanted Tales with Belle, just a couple months from now. The rest of New Fantasyland (Princess Fairytale Hall and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) will debut by 2014.

More photos of Enchanted Tales with Belle in New Fantasyland:

16 Comments

  1. EricJ

    Think the big rollout made us expect the attraction would be “bigger”–
    Although my first reaction the day it was announced was “Oh, so they’re moving the old Rose Garden show to a permanent space, after Rapunzel and Flynn took over the old one?”
    (Presuming that the old castle Gardens space was now going to be either just scenic or used for temporary M&G’s. And yes, it was nice to wander in and out of the Garden if you were late or weren’t interested.)

    While the mirror and animatronics are good, fans have been “complaining” that it’s just the old kids’ audience-participation show. Sort of brings up the question of “What did they expect?”–More fan-dreams that anything Disney builds is “the next E-ride”?

    1. LC

      I agree 100%. Kids will love it and parents should be happy to watch their kids having a good time. There are several attractions I probably wouldn’t enter if not for my kids, but that’s part of going to WDW.
      My kids will be grown and gone soon enough. Sharing in their fun is all the fun I need.

  2. Mickey

    Honestly,this is a huge dissapointment. The interior of the castle looks quickly thrown together and blank. Also, the other originally planned meet and greets for the new Fantasyland would have tripled this making it better. VERY DISSAPOINTED DISNEY!

  3. Afgf

    Great idea on paper, terrible in execution. With this and the same Ariel ride from CA, the December debut is gonna be a disappointment. I’m more excited for next years openings.

  4. Bob

    At least we’ll be able to drink in the new Fantasyland before we subject ourselves to this new experience! 🙂

  5. frostysnowman

    I also agree with the idea of not wanting to feel trapped in this attraction. 30 minutes seems a long time, unless maybe it’s July and 98 degrees outside. I thought the same about taking Belle’s old show from the rose garden and putting inside; seems kind of lazy to me, considering how much work and money are going into this expansion. But I do agree that Madame Wardrobe and Lumiere look fantastic, and the details of Maurice’s cottage are quite nice. Disney is raising our expectations about this expansion, so I don’t think anyone could be blamed for feeling a little disappointed by this, I’m sorry to say.

  6. Previews are apparently not over, as my sister and her friends got to experience the attraction Saturday morning.

  7. JN

    We saw the Enchanted Tales with Belle on 9/22 and it was magical! We had no idea what we were in line to see and it was a very pleasant surprise!

  8. Wild Ol' Dan

    Some incredible animatronics…some wonderful magic…BUT, there is a real danger not understood by some at Disney. It is the danger of being too sweet, too saccharine, too childish. Play to the whole family, not just the littlest children in the family. Don’t embarrass the older kids or the parents who are not particularly fond of the idea of prancing around in Kindergarten again…but who would love to get their picture taken with Bell and her friends. The story of Beauty and the Beast is in no way saccharine…there is danger, terror, love, enchantment…and don’t mistake Belle’s love of reading is more about the love of “adventure in the great wide somewhere” than it is about people prancing about with cardboard masks. Story is the thing…and, I believe, a story theme could be developed for this experience that would be enjoyable to all who visit…not just the little ones. The area is too wonderfully developed, too full of beauty and enchantment and detail, to allow too much sweetness to destroy the magic. Belle is a
    beautiful princess…not a kindergarten or pre-school teacher. Think of the whole audience…the whole family…think of the movie…and make this experience truly enchanting for everyone. Too much saccharine, too much childishness, can destroy a beautiful opportunity for real magic.

    Adios for now. Talk to ya on down the trail.

    Wild Ol’ Dan

  9. Danielle

    I was very disappointed with this. I was excited to get a chance to see it in October with my three year old. Unfortunately she was too shy to volunteer to be a part of the show, which ultimately meant she was left watching other children meet Belle. She desperately wanted to meet her, but was not asked if she wanted to. The worst part about it was being stuck in that room for a long time watching other people’s children prance around. Even my daughter was not entertained by that. I saw several other children in the audience besides my own daughter that were not asked if they wanted to meet belle, which I found surprising.

  10. Celi Stuart

    Am an adult, visiting without children, I thought the experience was magical! I was in a party of 5 adults who all enjoyed it very much. We thought that that the other people in the room did too. I am really surprised at some of the negative reviews. It was encouraging to see single adults, dads, moms, and children participating in the story. I certainly did not feel “trapped” or that it was too long. We enjoyed watching the cast members get pictures and their special bookmarks. As we were leaving I noticed a reproduction of a unicorn tapestry that I had seen prints of in history books, and a very nice photopass photograper took my picture in front of it. A great “Disney Moment” for all of us! I thought that Belle and the other characters were charming!Thank you Disney, after all the months of anticipation we were thrilled!

  11. sue

    We experienced this attraction just a few weeks ago. Big dissapointment, we waited an HOUR in line with no seating and nothing to do (not even toys for the kids like the Winnie the Pooh ride has). The cottage has nothing to do as well. Overwhelmingly we heard look but don’t touch. I thought we were going on a journey through the castle!! Instead we were led into a room to then stand and watch a talking mirror, then to another room where the cut-outs were handed out, and then to a library for a photo op with Belle. The cut-outs didn’t make sense and weren’t even used in the story! My daughter was the wardrobe but all she did was hold it. She loved the picure with Belle, but a HUGE lost opportunity here..Beauty and the Beast is the best and this is all there is to show for it? So sad.

  12. michelle

    I unfortunately experienced this “attraction” on opening day. HUGE, HUGE,
    DISSAPOINTMENT after waiting in line for over 1 hour!! No indication anywhere that this was not a ride. Basically you stand around a mock up of Belle’s house then you move into Belle’s fathers workshop. The only thing entertainaing about the workshop was leaving it through a magic door only to be dissapointed by a talkin amwar. REALLY DISNEY for the amount of money you charge do you really have to resort to cardboard cut outs of characters on popsicle sticks for the chosen guests to become. At this point I was frantically looking for an exit. I said to myself the only think that can make this attraction worse would be if Belle herself showed up which unfortnately she did!! This clearly seemed like a RUSH job on Disney parts to come up with an attraction for the new fantasy land. Cleary very little imagination and effort was put into this attraction. HUGELY, HUGELY, disappointing!! Shame on you Disney!!

  13. I’m confused by the criticism. I feel like you enter the attraction knowing it’s storytime, so why would you not want to stay for the actual storytime?

    When looking at the Fairytale Garden version vs the New Fantasyland version, it’s got to be one of the most elaborate “re-imaginings” in Disney history. I guess expectations just have to be in the right place… if you go in expecting a fun but small character greeting, you will be impressed like we were. It was my favorite part of New Fantasyland, and I completely did not expect it to be at all!

    If you don’t have kids, I recommend going in the later hours. We had an almost all-adult audience and the tone was very different than I think it would have been in the morning.

  14. Thank you for this awesome review!! Belle is my favorite princess and I would Nerd out at this attraction.

  15. This really is useful info thank you
    Thank you Great Read!
    Great and on the idea, great reading!
    Well written Great work!

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