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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Culinary Cabaret (Part 3) - Tale as Old as Time told through a Dining Experience

11 November 2012

The past two weeks, Sunday Brunch took a look at the appetizer and main course of the fantastic Test Meal I was a part of at New Fantasyland's Be Our Guest restaurant. This week, we step away from the meal portion of the Be Our Guest experience and explore the history and the progressive story we find ourselves in at the magically immersive setting of the incredibly themed Beast's Castle. As stated in the first article of the series, my friend had a chance to hear firsthand from not only Imagineer Chris Beatty, but also Teresa Roth, director of Food and Beverage at Disney, and Liz Clark, General Manager of Magic Kingdom Food and Beverage. Knowing the great wealth of knowledge these leaders in Disney would share, my friend took many notes from the seminar and shared them with me to share with you!

Be Our Guest started 4 years ago from a new concept in restaurant operations for the Disney theme parks. The desire was for a combination Quick Service Restaurant and Table Service Restaurant to accommodate guest capacity needs. This concept was first wanted for the incredibly busy Tokyo Disneyland Resort and soon wanted around the world. For the Magic Kingdom, the original starting team had to keep the project so secret, they couldn't even discuss specifics to the Magic Kingdom team they were collaborating with. Another collaborator was a team for the also top secret NextGen technology projects for the Disney parks.

Chris Beatty in front of Maurice's Cottage
Image from

Imagineer Chris Beatty stated he and his team were approached by Phil Holmes, the Vice President of the Magic Kingdom, with the concept of a combination QSR/TSR restaurant and that was all. The theme and design was entirely up to them with the New Fantasyland umbrella to stay under. Their first idea was an Under the Sea Restaurant that would in fact be under the sea, or rather under the planned Little Mermaid attraction. Thanks to the Florida water table and the thought that an attraction and restaurant was too much Mermaid, the idea was scrapped. The next idea came from Disney's current and future animated releases at the time, and a Princess Tiana themed restaurant was brought up. Upon further thought, the Imagineers realized that the New Orleans fairy tale story did not really fit with the forest area as well as the European fairy tales that the other attractions would be themed around. Finally, they realized Beauty and the Beast and Be Our Guest should have been the obvious choice from the start.

The various corporate and design teams completed a final design, though they would have to wait an additional 2 years to start until the land that is New Fantasyland was ready for construction. In the meantime, back in California at Walt Disney Imagineering, the Imagineers built multiple models of not only Be Our Guest but all of New Fantasyland. A 16th inch scale model was made to sell the vision of New Fantasyland to the leaders and budget givers of the company. A 1/4 inch scale model was the next level for visualization of the concept and is the model seen in One Man's Dream at Hollywood Studios. A 1/2 inch scale model used to examine the rockwork designs took up a whole model shop bay.

Chris Beatty continued his discussion by bringing up the work and ideas of Ted Robledo, the lead concept designer/art director for New Fantasyland. His main goal was to make sure the restaurant represented the Beast. While Belle is the more popular character, it was his castle and home to begin with while Belle's original home is the cottage she lived in with her father, which is next door. That's why you'll never see Belle at Be Our Guest, since her first home (and attraction) is far away in the Enchanted Forest.

The heavy use of stone and rockwork represent the Beast

Story is the central proponent of any Disney attraction so Ted Robledo decided to use the layout and sequence of a guest's journey through the restaurant to reflect the transformation of the Beast to his original human form. We begin with by crossing the bridge and starting at the Mural above the entryway. Along the bridge are 6 gargoyles, considered sentries for the castle and give a sense of foreboding doom for those who dare to disturb the beast within. The great use of stone around the bridge and entryway are supposed to make one feel uncomfortable as they approach the home of the beast.


The river that the bridge crosses over hits this painted dam, but eventually it will continue to flow towards the Seven Dwarfs mountain

The Restaurant Crest decorates the castle gates

The entryway is flanked by beasts such as lions and sneagles, half snake half eagle

The mural sets the story of the castle (in case you didn't already know) and explains the Prince's unfortunate encounter with the punishing Enchantress. After entering, we find that the lobby is also all stone, aside from the tapestries that decorate this cold entryway. From the lobby, guests can go forward towards the ballroom or right towards the Knights hallway. The entrance to the ballroom features a great stone archway depicting the Prince in the midst of his transformation with a mane of hair and two gnarled horns growing out of his head. The serpents extending from it in a bed of roses represents the pain and anguish in his heart. The minotaurs that hold up the archway are stressed and melancholy as they are burdened by the curse of the Beast by holding up the consequences of the decision he had made.

For lunchtime guests, the next part of their journey is the Knights hallway, where carpet is introduced, showing the Beast has eased up a bit after the curse fell. In this queue for waiting lunch guests, terminals show the menu (during dinnertime, sheet music with French lyrics to Be Our Guest appears) and careful listeners will hear the knights speak to each other. The next room is the small parlor room where Maurice and later Belle first meet the Enchanted objects; with the fireplace and warm curtains, this marks the beginning of Beast's journey to breaking the spell with Belle's arrival. This room is where guests can order their food at the Guest Activated Terminals, touch screens that allow guests to not only order their food but make modifications for dietary restrictions if needed. From here they will receive a 'rose' which they take to any table in the three dining rooms and a server will magically know which table to bring the order to.

The menus in the parlor room also change to sheet music at dinnertime

When finally seated to dine, guests are then thrust into the magical tale of Beauty and the Beast as Belle enters the castle and the Beast's life and helps him to break the curse. Next week we'll look more into detail of these three incredible dining rooms, but before I leave you to wonder about the incredible magic of these rooms, I'll leave you with the happy ending to your meal. Located at the exit doors of the lobby, a beautiful mosaic of Belle and the Beast show that through the mutual love between the two, the Beast has reached Reconciliation and the spell has been broken.




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