Curious as to what’s so special about Disney’s newest cruise ship, the Fantasy? Deb Wills and I have been sharing what we found to be the major differences between the Fantasy and its sister ship the Disney Dream over the last week, as we recap our experiences from our three-night media preview cruise on the Fantasy.
While every ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet has a restaurant called Animator’s Palate, the “show” performed during dinner varies. The restaurant on the classic ships, the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, simply features a change in the decor and atmosphere during the course of the meal. Everything starts off in black and white — the paintings on the walls, even the servers’ attire — but ends in an explosion of color. On the Disney Dream, diners are treated to an interactive conversation with Crush, the sea turtle featured in the film Finding Nemo, using technology similar to that of the Epcot attraction “Turtle Talk with Crush.”
The Disney Fantasy also offers an evening with Crush, but more importantly it is the home of an all-new, technically ingenius show called “Animation Magic.”
The basic premise of the show is fairly straightforward: diners draw their own character on a placemat provided to them, and then through “Animation Magic” that character is brought to life on screens scattered around the restaurant.
Now, you can read that description and think you have a reasonably clear understanding of what is going to happen. But the truth is you have no idea how absolutely delightful this show is until you see it for yourself.
I don’t want to spoil the fun too much for you, so you won’t find any video of the actual show here. But I will share a few stills, along with a few personal observations.
The decor of the restaurant really sets the tone for what you are about to see. Details like preliminary sketches for many of your favorite cartoons, and the Pixar lamp Luxo, adorn the walls. The table settings are based on artists’ tools, and even the lenticular menu is animated.
Your server and your placemat provide very basic, easy-to-understand instructions about how to draw your character.
Don’t worry if you think you have limited artistic talent. I barely know which end of the pencil to hold, yet was able to come up with something usable. (See below.) The key thing to remember is to not draw on the blue outlines when creating your character. You’re only given a choice of one color of marker (although that may change in the future) to help speed the drawing process along, then your placemat is collected and you enjoy your dinner.
We were fortunate enough to be seated directly in front of a screen — we were almost a little TOO close — so we had a front-row view of the gorgeous animated sequences from classic and current Disney (and Pixar) films that played out during our appetizers and main courses. I noticed that the cartoons began with scenes of gathering food, like the ants from “It’s a Bug’s Life” harvesting for the winter. Eventually the scenes graduated to preparing food, and finally eating and celebrating with food. (I felt a little smug when an Imagineer confirmed what I had discovered on my own!) The collection of clips shown is a treat in itself, especially for someone of my generation. Many snippets are from classic Disney cartoons that are seldom seen these days, including Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and the ORIGINAL Winnie-the-Pooh.
Periodically throughout dinner, Sorcerer Mickey appears on-screen to tease you with what’s ahead. Finally, sometime after you’re through with your entree, maybe already starting on dessert, the main event begins with Lumiere, the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast, inviting everyone to “Be Our Guest.”
I can’t explain to you the excitement that rippled through the room as adults and children alike began to spot their drawings tripping across the screens before their eyes. Squeals of “There’s mine! There’s mine!” and a rumble of laughter filled the room. I confess, when I spotted my lame attempt at drawing dancing among the other figures, I couldn’t help shouting out as well.
This is my masterpiece (you can see why I’m a writer and not an artist by trade!):
And here’s what it looked like once animated for the big screen:
The show progresses for several minutes, and you wish it would go on longer. It is so cleverly done — and just when you think it can’t get any better, familiar Disney characters are interspersed with the audience’s hand-drawn ones, adding another level of excitement. The show concludes with rolling credits, listing the names of all the evening’s artist-diners.
Truly, this was an unexpected highlight of the Fantasy cruise for me. I only wish I could have seen the show again — I think the repeatability factor for this one is very high.
And oh, by the way, my dinner was exceptionally good this evening, too, but I’ll have more on that when I get around to writing about the Fantasy’s food.
I had the opportunity to speak at length with Imagineer Bob Zalk, who is Senior Show Producer for the new Animation Magic presentation. He told me of the numerous challenges the Imagineers faced in bringing this new show to life, from deciding what sort of placemat should be used to designing entertainment that would not interfere with the service of a meal.
It was no surprise to me that he called this one of the coolest projects he’d ever worked on. Again, as I said earlier, no video spoilers of the actual Animation Magic show here –in my opinion, it is really something magical that you should experience in person for yourself.
DISCLOSURE: As an invited media guest, AllEars.Net’s cruise expenses for the Disney Fantasy Media Preview Cruise were paid by the Disney company. Opinions expressed herein are solely mine, however, and do not reflect the opinions or policies of the Walt Disney Company or its affiliates.