Princess Adventures in Epcot

I went to Epcot at Walt Disney World this weekend for the first time in about seven years. The Future World side of the park is going through a rough patch right now while they work on their huge 2020 expansion that will include a new Moana-themed fountain, interactive city, and more. That meant that most of Future World was walled up for construction, but that wasn't too much of an inconvenience because as every Disney Princess fan knows, the World Showcase is the true princess side of the park. I made lunch reservations at Akershus, went on the new Frozen ride, and attended the new Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. Shortly before my arrival, I learned that I would be just in time for the tail end of Epcot's Festival of the Arts, a new seasonal event at the park that started three years ago. Similar to the Food and Wine Festival, this event set up stations throughout the world showcase selling sample portions of delicious and unique food items from all around the world. It also had these wonderful backdrops set up at various locations for Instagram-ready photo ops that make it look as though you've stepped right inside of a famous painting, such as the Birth of Venus.



 Even the Disney Princesses were celebrating the Festival of the Arts! Nearly every princess's greeting spot was accompanied by a painting of her that was signed by a character from her movie. Snow White's painting was next to her wishing well and signed by Doc. Aurora had a painting of her dress changing colors that was signed in pink by Flora and then crossed out with a blue pen and signed again by Merryweather. Belle had an ink sketch by Maurice surrounded by some clockwork gears. Anna and Elsa's meet'n'greet spot in Norway was not part of the festival, but it was a work of art in its own right. Their queue line takes you through a cozy section of their castle complete with a fireplace and wooden statues of the two sisters as children. Ever since Frozen 2 was released, Anna and Elsa have been greeting guests in their new costumes from the end of the movie. Beware that these lovely gowns are spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it yet! Anna was excited to gush over chocolate with me and got even more excited when I told her about some of the chocolate goodies that Epcot was offering for the festival. Elsa was happy to show off her new dress and acknowledged that it was a change for her.




In addition to the new costumes, I also grabbed an opportunity to hop on the new Frozen Ever After ride that was converted from the original boat ride in the Norway pavilion called Maelstrom. The new ride uses the same track as Maelstrom, but when you get to the part that originally had the big drop, an animatronic of Elsa shoots an ice beam at you and sends you backward, allowing this dark ride to remain nice and smooth. It used similar technology to Ariel's Undersea Adventure, such as smaller animatronic puppets with animated screens on their faces to allow more expression and projections of movie scenes on the walls in between the animatronics. The ride incorporated scenes and characters from both the original Frozen and the "Frozen Fever" short. Of course, there was nothing referencing Frozen 2 since it got produced before the recent sequel, but it's never too late for them to add something.


Another new attraction I witnessed during my trip was the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along at the France pavilion. The first thing I noticed there was the theater lobby. There were six gorgeous glass displays containing some of the most beautiful theater costumes I've ever seen. In front of each set of costumes was an open storybook with a brief summary of the movie or show that the costumes came from. Two of the displays held costumes from live-action Disney Princess movies. The one on the left held Cinderella's pink and blue work dress, and the one on the right had Belle's pink winter wear that Emma Watson wore during "Something There." The Sing-Along itself was a 15-minute presentation of the animated Beauty and the Beast movie narrated by Mrs. Potts and featured some brand new animations of Le Fou. I was impressed by how well the new animation blended in with the style of the movie, but the show's attempt at humor by pretending Le Fou was the main character fell a bit flat. I was also disappointed that of all the songs they used, "Belle" was cut particularly short, and her reprise was missing entirely. We had a full house during our show, but the audience was a little inconsistent about when they sang along. I was the only person singing for most of "Something There," but there was a lot of participation during "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and the Beast."


 

One thing that surprised me the most was the fact that the Aladdin meet'n'greet in Morrocco is now a Princess Jasmine meet'n'greet. Not only was he not there for the meet'n'greet, but he is also no longer featured as a meetable character in the park. It's true that little girls go to Disney World with the goal in mind of collecting every princess's signature and that Jasmine stole the show with the new song in last year's remake of Aladdin, but to cut Aladdin out of his own spot entirely seems kind of harsh. They might as well have changed the title of the new movie to Jasmine. This was my first time meeting Princess Jasmine in her new costume. I initially had a problem with how different it looked at first, but I found that it was very pretty and sparkly in person. It seems more appropriate now that the live-action movie is out because they altered her crop top to look more modest in that version and gave her a similar sheer skirt to flow around her harem pants as well, which makes the new park version to feel like a happy medium between the animated and live-action interpretations of her classic turquoise look. I found that Jasmine was more talkative animated without Aladdin to overshadow her. She complimented me on my necklace and told me about how the vendor at the marketplace tried to sell her a pretty necklace as well. When I asked her where Aladdin was, she said he needed to take Abu to monkey school because he was being bad and kept trying to cut class!


My latest experience in Epcot will probably be vastly different from my next one because the park is undergoing so many changes, even as we speak. Yet, as they say in Frozen 2, some things never change. I found that Akershus was virtually identical to the way I remembered it ten years ago. In fact, the song they played when the princesses walked around with the little girls sounded so cheesy and outdated that I even felt a little embarrassed! Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, and Mulan were there. I told Mulan I was disappointed that Mushu won't be in her new movie, and she said she hasn't told him yet and asked me if I wanted to tell him for her! It seemed like she was at the restaurant as a replacement for Snow White because when I went to look for her later at the Germany pavilion, they said she had an emergency and was no longer meeting people for the day. It was great catching up with some of my favorite princesses, and I can't wait to do it again sometime.


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