The most prized piece of real estate in the Magic Kingdom has some competition.
With the opening of New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, Cinderella is no longer the only castle-dwelling royalty in town. Now Prince Eric of "The Little Mermaid" and the beast from "Beauty and the Beast" also have castles in the Magic Kingdom to call home. New Fantasyland, which officially opened last month, marks the largest expansion since the Magic Kingdom first opened.
The decision to take the Magic Kingdom from one castle to three was a necessary one, Disney executives said, to please fans of two of the company's biggest movie hits of recent years. (The Walt Disney World Company is the parent company of ABC News).
"In every storybook story there are multiple kingdoms, places you can travel to, woods to wander through and get lost and come upon a new story," said Chris Beatty, senior creative director Walt Disney Imagineering, as we toured the park. "Now you can journey beyond the walls of Cinderella castle and find yourself in the forest and then at Beast's castle, or go to the seashore and visit Prince Eric's castle. It's these other stories, these other destinations, where we want to take our guests."
Prince Eric's castle sits atop the new ride Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. It's the least grandiose of the three Magic Kingdom castles and far less foreboding than Beast's castle nearby. And the attraction it houses is anything but threatening. Guests climb into slow-moving clamshells and relive the most memorable moments of "The Little Mermaid," from the almost-first kiss between Ariel and Eric to the theft of "poor unfortunate souls" plotted by Ursula.
Beatty said this gentle ride is really about the music. "The attraction sets the stage for that incredible adventure under the sea. Here, we really focus on the music. We Imagineers wanted to take guests under the sea and hear Ariel sing 'Part of Your World,' hear 'Under the Sea,' 'Poor Unfortunate Souls,' all of them."
Beast's castle is home to New Fantasyland's much anticipated restaurant, Be Our Guest. The French-inspired menu is complemented by a Magic Kingdom first: beer and wine. It's the first time ever that alcohol is being served in the Magic Kingdom.
It's also the site of the new attraction "Enchanted Tales with Belle." With this attraction, Beatty said, "We loved the ideas of letting guests meet Belle in a way that's intimate and new. It really lets guests visit the cottage where Belle and Maurice live."
Here, small groups of guests enter Maurice's cottage and then are transported to the library of Beast's castle, where every child who wants to participate acts out a story for Belle and the other guests. Each child also gets to spend a moment with Belle and get a photo.
So with all that's new in the Magic Kingdom, what about Cinderella? She and her castle have nothing to worry about, said Beatty. "Cinderella castle is still the heart and soul of the Magic Kingdom," he said. "It's really the crown jewel."