Princesses of the Magic Kingdom

I just got back from Florida, and my trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Magic Kingdom! Ever since the 2013 Fantasyland expansion, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom has become the ultimate destination for theme park princesses. I noticed some changes to the princess attractions since my last trip. Unlike Disney Springs, these changes were all improvements. Instead of waiting in a long line to meet three princesses at random and hope to get the one you want, the princess meet'n'greets have been streamlined to specific spots for specific princesses, eliminating the guesswork and frustration of learning your favorite princess just got swapped with another one when you reached the front of the line.

As usual, Ariel is in her grotto next to her ride. You can meet her in mermaid form at Walt Disney World, as opposed to Disneyland in California, where she only makes appearances as a human. Belle comes out in the secret library through the magic portal in her cottage where she performs her Enchanted Tales with Belle show along with some help from an animatronic Lumiere and Wardrobe. Merida is in the old location for Belle's show, and Aladdin and Jasmine are still at their usual spot in Adventureland. The Princess Fairytale Hall, which used to feature three random princesses, is now split between two lines that each lead to two specific princesses. One is for Tiana and Rapunzel, while the other is for Elena and Cinderella.

I have a suspicion that Disney started a new policy for their princess interactions. When I went to meet princesses in previous years, they would usually ask me how I was enjoying my day in the parks and suggest that we get a picture while only occasionally referencing their movies unless I prompted them. During my trip yesterday, every single princess I encountered regaled me with anecdotes about her kingdom and hobbies that aligned perfectly with her unique story and persona. Ariel told me about how Flounder liked to swim around and see her collection of human things, Tiana talked about New Orleans and how I should come during Mardi Gras and visit her restaurant next time I'm there, Rapunzel talked about a romantic date that Eugene planned for her that started with surprising her with cupcakes for breakfast, and Cinderella talked about playing a game called "Hide and Squeak" with her mouse friends, Jaq and Gus.

I was particularly excited to meet Elena of Avalor for the first time. We got into a long discussion about mermaids that was triggered by the Ariel dress I was wearing. She talked about how her friend Sofia (from Sofia the First) is able to transform into a mermaid with her amulet. Then she started telling me about how she asked her abuela to help her make a carrot cake for Sofia's bunny, Clover, but the cake didn't turn out very well. She asked me if I would come swimming with her and Sofia, and I said that I would love to be a purple mermaid like Princess Marisa from the Song of the Sirenas special. Elena said I could have a purple tail with tacos on it! I'm not sure where she got the taco idea from. She also gave me a high-five when I remembered the name of the seaweed she used to breathe underwater. At the end of our meeting, she said she would send a jaquin to take me to visit her again.

Another attraction that I looked forward to for this trip was the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game. This interactive experience is a mix between a trading card game, a scavenger hunt, and a video game, while not quite qualified to be any one of those individually. The challenge I gave myself was to defeat the game's villains using only princess and prince cards. In order to make sure I had the right cards, I ordered a complete set of the 60 main cards on ebay. The only princess cards I was missing were Ariel and Jasmine because they are from an ultra rare set of 10 cards that can only be obtained at random by purchasing packs from the gift shop. When you register to play this game at the Fire House on Main Street, you get a pack of cards for free, so there's no need to purchase them in advance unless you are planning a challenge that requires specific cards like mine did.

You play the game by locating secret portals throughout the Magic Kingdom park like the one pictured above. These portals can be located on a map you receive when you sign up for the game and identified by the gold keyholes nearby as well as the circular sorcerer symbol on the ground in front of the portal. When you wave your park ticket over the keyhole and stand on the sorcerer symbol, a screen magically appears on what otherwise looks like an ordinary storefront display. A cartoon of Merlin plays on the screen where he recruits you to defeat a Disney villain that has stolen a magic crystal in an attempt to take over the park. The plot of the game is vaguely reminiscent of the Kingdom Keepers book series by Ridley Pearson. In order to fight the villains, you must pick a card from your deck and hold it up to the camera at just the right angle so the character can unleash their attack. I had trouble getting it to read my cards the first few times I tried it. You have to hold them at different positions an angles until the portal reacts. There are nine villains in all, and I managed to get to seven of them during the one day I had to play the game.

I was pleased to find that some princesses appear in the game with brand new animation and in their original voices. As far as I know, there are three princesses in Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. I saw Pocahontas in several of the portals I activated to defeat Ratcliffe, Tiana when I faced off against Dr. Facilier, and a few brief cameos of Ariel when I fought Ursula. Princess Aurora is sadly absent from the Magic Kingdom these days, despite Maleficent being a villain in the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game and having a dragon float during the new parade. I did use Aurora's card quite a few times, though. Her attack is quite elegant, portraying a shower of petals falling from a blooming rose onto the villain you are attacking. The funniest princess attack card was Snow White's, which basically just tosses a big pile of brooms, soap bars, and other household cleaning supplies at the enemy. Cinderella's attack is also pretty funny. She strangles the enemy inside fancy purple ribbons. Mulan's looks the coolest. It fires a dragon cannon with Mushu riding on top just like in the movie when she started the avalanche.

I braved the heat to watch the new Festival of Fantasy parade, which I must say is the most princess-friendly parade I have ever seen at a Disney park. It is introduced by three pairs of beautiful court dancers twirling and curtsying in gorgeous gowns resembling Tiana's wedding dress followed by a massive float containing Belle, Beast, Cinderella, Anna, Elsa, Tiana, and Naveen on rotating platforms. They are proceeded by an elaborate Tangled float that replicates some of the architecture of the Snuggly Duckling tavern with Rapunzel excitedly waving to everyone up front while Eugene swings back and forth on a giant ax behind her. After that, Ariel has her own float with colorful "Under the Sea" dancers, Merida has her own float with Scottish dancers, and the Three Good Fairies precede a giant fire-breathing dragon Maleficent float while Prince Phillip fights off her goons below. Even Snow White and Alice are among the parade's many colorful dancers alongside all seven dwarfs, who interact with the audience on the sidelines.

There has never been a better time to interact with all your favorite Disney Princesses than right now at Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida. I'm not sure if the rules for meeting princesses changed or if I just got really lucky, but I absolutely loved regaling in all of the wonderful and energetic stories that they recited for me. Though I didn't get a chance to see Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire in person, this show features princesses whose movies came out within the last decade in contrast to the previous castle show, Dream Along With Mickey, which featured the three classic princesses whose movies were released when Walt Disney was alive. Between Ariel's ride, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster, Belle's village, the Festival of Fantasy parade, princess animations and trading cards in the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, and more streamlined meet'n'greets, the magic of living our your princess fantasies is more alive than ever before.


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