By Susan and Simon Veness
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom debuted its new afternoon parade, Festival of Fantasy, on 9 March, ending a 13-year run of multiple incarnations of the Celebrate A Dream Come True parade. With an original music score interspersed with Disney movie melodies, it definitely takes creativity to the next level.
Having seen every Disney parade in the past 20 years, we can safely say this is the most eye-catching and original cavalcade since the Tapestry of Nations made its debut at Epcot in 1999.The Festival of Fantasy begins with fanciful courtiers leading a flower-strewn float featuring Disney princes and princesses. Belle and the Beast waltz to their signature song on the front of the float, followed by Cinderella and Prince Charming against a larger-than-life backdrop of Cinderella’s pink ballgown, created by her mouse friends, who are adding the finishing touches to the dress. To ensure guests on both sides of the pathway have a chance to see the royal couple, the dais they stand on cleverly turns, giving equal time to viewing them and their friends, Jaq, Gus and Suzy.
The next section of the float features Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from The Princess and the Frog on one side of the rotating center, and the current Disney sensations Anna and Elsa from recent hit film Frozen, along with their snowy sidekick Olaf, on the other.
Next is the magnificent Tangled float, a Viking longboat with Rapunzel on the front, her braided hair traversing the length of the float. As clever as the turning centres are on the first float, this one cranks the movement up several large notches, with three enormous swings in the shape of a hammer, an axe and a mallet, ridden by characters from the movie, including Flynn Rider and his horse. The level of detail and creativity is incredible.
Colourful sea creatures dance their way along the parade route next, leading the Little Mermaid float, with Ariel sitting on a treasure chest high above the street in a fanciful open clam shell. Below her, Sebastian drives a pair of goldfish, coach-style, while brightly coloured fish dance to Under the Sea.
While you are still getting your breath back from that memorable creation, The Lost Boys from Peter Pan then dance ahead of Skull Rock, with Pan himself crowing on the bow of a pirate ship, sailing atop a glittering rainbow. Wendy is at his side, while Captain Hook rides on an anchor below the rainbow. Tinker Bell sits at the back, surrounded by flowers, and is clearly a fan favourite. Naturally, Tick-Tock croc is not far behind. Disney die-hards will recognise the independently-moving crocodile from the Boo To You parade during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but this was the only element we could notice from elsewhere. Everything else is purpose designed and built for Festival of Fantasy.
Characters from the movie Brave come next, featuring Merida standing in a crown on the front of a patchwork bagpipe. Her brothers (in bear cub form) peek from inside the bagpipe’s drones, and from behind a bull’s-eye, while a plate of Empire biscuits (the brother’s favourite sweet treat) twirls above the blowstick just above Merida’s head.
Then, just when you think you have seen everything that Disney’s parade designers can imagine and create, they raise the bar again.
It’s probably fair to say that no Disney production is ever complete without its dark side, and here we have the looming Maleficent in the form of a Steampunk-style dragon that not only fits the bill perfectly, it practically makes the parade.
This one is an absolute show-stopper, and never more so than when the dragon raises its head and breathes fire (go ahead and cheer wildly; everyone else will be doing the same thing). Prince Phillip battles the dragon bravely, but we don’t fancy his chances against this magnificent beast. Purely and simply, it is a technological marvel of moving, twisting, breathing grandeur, and we can imagine visitors turning up for this parade JUST to see the dragon!
Pinocchio and his friends, riding atop a clockwork Monstro, lighten the mood, while Jiminy Cricket, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland dance ahead of them, greeting guests, with Dumbo riding on the whale’s tail. Donald Duck and Daisy ride behind Pinocchio amid a cast of characters from the movie Fantasia, and Pluto is up to his usual hijinks at the back of the float.
Finally, Mickey and Minnie bring the parade to its elegant conclusion, waving enthusiastically as they pass by in a Storybook Circus-inspired hot air balloon as Goofy and mischief-makers Chip and Dale greet guests along the parade route. It’s the inevitable happily-ever-after ending to a gloriously creative parade.
We had high hopes for Festival of Fantasy, and it exceeded every one of them. Bright, colourful, and full of energy, it’s a brilliant addition to the park and a treat for all ages. We can’t wait to go back and see it again!
But that’s not all that opened at Walt Disney World this past week. Over at Epcot, the Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing, and the food kiosks that debuted two years ago seem to be catching on. This is ‘Food and Wine Festival Lite’, and a nice addition to the event, though the gardening aspect is still front-and-centre.
The cranberry bog, which has been a big hit with guests over the last few years, has gone, and its place is now taken by a soccer-playing Goofy photo op. But long-time favourite character topiaries remain, along with the butterfly house, Radiator Springs area, children’s playgrounds and informative Home and Garden seminars.
As ever, it adds an element of pure horticultural genius to Epcot’s expansive design and there is so much to see and admire, we found ourselves taking twice as long to tour World Showcase, with the clever interaction of colour and design being so easy on the eye.
With the imminent completion (hopefully in the next month) of The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride at the Magic Kingdom, it all makes for a fabulous array of new attractions at the House of Mouse – just in time for the Easter holidays!