Princess Animatronics

There are many ways to find immersive princess experiences at the Disney Parks. The most common way is through meet'n'greets. They let you interact with the princess in real life, allowing you to ask them any question you can think of and learn how they might respond, not to mention the terrific photo ops. Another way is through dark rides, which is the official term for the slower rides at the parks that allow you to travel through movie scenes that are recreated by animatronics, a revolutionary technology that bring sculptures to live with mechanical movement and programming. All of the dark rides at the Disney Parks use animatronics for their constantly moving characters. Until a few years ago, the only Disney Princess dark ride that could be experienced in this way was Snow White's Scary Adventures. This ride was overseen by Walt Disney himself and is one of the few remaining rides that opened with Disneyland's launch in 1955. Even though it feels a little dated now, it's still a classic that brings many of the most famous scenes from the movie to life.

In 2010, Disneyland added another princess dark ride to their roster, which I was all too excited to be among the very first to ride. Ariel's Undersea Adventure is still my favorite ride out of all the Disney Parks, possibly because it features my favorite Disney Princess. This ride was created over 50 years after Snow White's Scary Adventures, and the technological advancements are very noticeable. Ariel's Undersea Adventure brings Ariel and her friends to life in ways that Walt Disney never could have dreamed. It using smaller mechanical pieces to accommodate her petite frame and has extra little touches such as easter eggs and seamless projections of animated sequences in between the animatronic rooms.

One of my favorite parts of the ride is watching Sebastian pop up in three different places in Ariel's grotto while she sings "Part of Your World." It's like an interactive game of hide-and-seek. A popular fan favorite is the hidden fish sculpture from the film The Incredible Mr. Limpet, which you can only see if you turn around in your ride vehicle at the end of the "Under the Sea" room. The ride made several updates over the years, including replacing Ariel's hot pink "ice cream swirl" hair from the "Under the Sea" section with something more realistic-looking and giving all of the characters realistic-looking doll hair during the second half instead of the sculpted hair they used initially. They also replaced the CGI projections of Ariel looking for human treasures and turning into a human with more traditional-looking animation. One of the great things about Disney rides is that they are always finding new and innovative ways to make them even better.

It's no secret that Tokyo contains my favorite Disney parks in the world. Earlier this year, they announced that they are adding worlds inspired by Tangled and Frozen to their DisneySea park, but the biggest announcement of all came just last week. Using even bigger and better technology than ever, Tokyo Disneyland is building a dark ride for Beauty and the Beast! I was absolutely blown away by the preview footage that they released of Belle's new animatronic figures. She looks so incredibly lifelike that it's as though they took her right out of the animated film. What's even more amazing is that the ride is reported to have no track, meaning that when guests enter their ride vehicles, they will have no idea what is going to happen next. The vehicles look like giant cups and saucers with the same pattern on them as Mrs. Potts and Chip. They are programmed to move in sync with the events of the animatronic rooms on the ride, creating an even more interactive and immersive experience than ever. Tokyo really does get all the best stuff! See for yourself below.

The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast ride is slated to open in Tokyo Disneyland in the spring of 2020. It's incredible how many small and subtle movements the Belle and Beast animatronics make throughout the video. They blink, form realistic facial expressions, and appear to be breathing and fidgeting just like a real person would. It's unbelievable how far animatronic technology has come since Walt's fascination with it in the '50s. I hope that this ride is successful enough to be brought to the American parks in a few more years. It recreates so many classic scenes from the film, such as "Be Our Guest," "Something There," and of course, the famous ballroom dance. Thanks to modern technology, it is now easier than ever to live out our fairy tale princess fantasies.


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