On the second day of New Fantasyland soft openings at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World opened the gates to the ominous entrance of the Be Our Guest restaurant, one of the most highly-anticipated additions to the theme park. Though it didn’t begin serving food yesterday, guests were able to step inside and gawk at the impressively oversized decor throughout its entrance, nearby hallways, and immense main ballroom.
The approach to the Be Our Guest restaurant sets the stage for the believable environment Disney’s Imagineers have created within. This isn’t a cartoony representation of the famous halls of Beast’s Castle from the classic animated film “Beauty and the Beast.” This is a true-to-life recreation of the memorable visuals seen in that movie, thrusting visitors into the world much in the same way Belle herself was forced inside. But Disney fans needn’t be forced into anything here, willingly stepping through the large wooden doors for the first time yesterday, wide-eyed with excitement, as seen in the video below.
Video: Preview tour of the Be Our Guest restaurant in New Fantasyland
When it opens next month, the Be Our Guest restaurant will feature three separate dining wings, only one of which is being shown off during the ongoing dress rehearsal phase. Likewise, the restaurant will also change from lunch to dinner service, with the former allowing patrons to first-order food via kiosks in a special hallway, seen but not explored during this preview, ultimately served tableside. Dinner will feature traditional table service.
The Be Our Guest experience begins far outside its entrance, with a crumbling archway marking the first step. To the right of the “broken” arch is the restaurant’s main sign in the form of a shield, along with the menu under glass.
Continuing past the arch, guests must cross a bridge that offers stunning views that are most definitely not native to Florida. Mountains rocks tower beyond the bridge, with a waterfall roaring down alongside tall trees. Beast’s Castle is seen high atop the rocks, as if miles away. The bridge itself is lined with light posts featuring troubled-looking gargoyles, a theme that continues throughout the restaurant. It’s all a picturesque moment that will have first-time visitors stopping in their tracks to take in the view before heading inside.
The actual entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant is equally impressive, removing guests from the flatlands of Florida and transporting them into a believable fantasy world. The entrance area can be closed off doubly, first with metal gates, and secondly with large wooden doors. Surrounding the doors are large stone statues of creatures that seem to “watch” guests as they pass beneath a gorgeous tile mosaic that in a mere three frames tells the story of the Beast.
During this preview, cast members are handing out menus for guests to peruse, both for dinner options and a wine list. The menu has been previously released online, but actually holding it is a big milestone, one step closer to dining at this extravagant restaurant.
Stepping just inside the entrance, an open foyer is lined with tapestries and ornate design details, offering three directions of travel. An alcove to the left is a dead-end, but features a large tile mosaic of Belle and the Beast, after he’s been transformed back to a human, with the recurring rose theme continuing here. It’s a must-have photo opportunity.
To the right is a hallway lined with suits of armor and featuring a row of glowing screens down the middle. More tapestries, chandeliers, and other regal details are present throughout this area. The screens, which showed music for the song “Be Our Guest” in French, will be touch screen kiosks for ordering food. And it’s said that the suits of armor will do something special, but Imagineers have yet to reveal that mystery. Beyond that hallway is Beast’s Library, but that dining area was not shown off during this preview.
Finally, the most impressive of all areas is straight ahead when entering: the ballroom. It’s the most iconic setting from “Beauty and the Beast” and is every bit as huge and breathtaking in person. Guests pass a pair of sad minotaurs, sculpted to hold up the archway that separates the grey-toned foyer from the golden ballroom that seems to shine with glossy marble.
Hundreds of seats and tables sprawl across the massive dining room with giant chandeliers hanging high overhead next to murals of cherubs floating on clouds.
On the far end of the room, massive picture windows provide one of the most talked about features of the Be Our Guest ballroom, as snow appears to fall across a dimly-lit night sky over a mountain landscape (seen best in the video above). This is definitely not Florida anymore.
Guests could not explore the ballroom during this preview, but slight glimpses of the nearby Library room could be seen from the roped-off area, hinting at the rich detail that surely continues not only there, but also in the yet to be seen West Wing, the third dining area of the restaurant.
UPDATE (10/15/12): Disney has released a new video showing off the West Wing and Rose Gallery in the Be Our Guest restaurant:
Below are a few highlights from those areas, beginning with the Rose Gallery and its giant music box featuring Beast and Belle and a rose chandelier above:
The mysterious West Wing features that important rose from “Beauty and the Beast”, which will be animated to drop petals:
As each rose petal falls, a portrait will change between the human and Beast forms of the prince:
The rose will be on a table on the balcony of the West Wing, in front of windows that feature a nighttime storm effect, changing colors and featuring lightning.
Other portraits show off more familiar characters from the film:
New Fantasyland dress rehearsals are currently continuing daily during most park hours, not only including preview tours of the Be Our Guest restaurant but also the ability to ride Journey of the Little Mermaid, meet-and-greet in Ariel’s Grotto, explore Bonjour Village Gifts, dine at Gaston’s Tavern, and have a laugh with Gaston himself. These unannounced previews could close or change at any time and with cast member previews beginning October 20, they likely will. Annual pass holders and D23 members will get their own reserved preview slots in early November.
Then beginning November 19, New Fantasyland will officially enter an announced general preview phase, which also begins lunch and dinner service at Be Our Guest. Daily access to all of New Fantasyland will be available to all park guests starting that day, followed by a grand opening press event on December 5 and 6.
More photos of the Be Our Guest restaurant: