|A Mockup of Disney Fantasy's Bow at the D23 Expo|
This past weekend Disney held their biennial D23 Expo fan convention, and I was there specifically to get all the latest scoop on the upcoming Disney cruise ship, Disney Fantasy, sister ship to the just released Disney Dream.
While you may have seen CruiseMates' earlier pictorial of the concept art for this next ship, I can now give you more specific details on the new features unique to Disney Fantasy which will set sail in March of 2012.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Lasecki, the Public Relations Director for Disney Cruise Line, as well as seeing an in-depth presentation by the Disney "imagineers," Joe Lanzisero and Bob Zalk, who are part of the design team responsible for overseeing the Disney Dream and the upcoming Disney Fantasy.
There are certain things that will remain common between the two sister ships as the new Disney Fantasy will also include the AquaDuck water coaster on the upper deck, the Enchanted Art program with interactive digital art pieces, and the inside stateroom Magical Portholes which display a video view from outside the ship along with surprise appearances by some of Disney's famous character animations.
But the differences begin with your first impression upon stepping aboard the Fantasy, as you enter the main atrium. The art deco lobby decor on the Dream has been transformed into an art nouveau aesthetic on the Fantasy, with peacock design cues and rich pastel colors. According to the Disney Imagineers, the atrium acts as the "establishing shot," to set the scene for this "three-dimensional story" that the ship itself tells during the length of a cruise. The trademark lobby statue on Fantasy will be Mademoiselle Minnie toting her luggage and umbrella with a pose and wardrobe straight out of The Great Gatsby, as seen in the photo below. The ship's design is both refined and playful, a testament to the design philosophy outlined by imagineer Joe Lanzisero as he explains, "one of our challenges is to balance the amount of, I'm going to say, Disney whimsy with elegance."
Speaking of such whimsy, the Disney Cruise Line always includes a three-dimensional tableau of characters painting the ship's name on her stern, Goofy on Disney Magic, Donald Duck and his nephew Huey on Disney Wonder, and Sorcerer Mickey and his magical brooms on Disney Dream, and while the Imagineers teased a new character for the Disney Fantasy, they only went so far as to show us a picture, seen below, of the blank canvas soon to accept the finishing touches. They claimed during their presentation that they were not yet at liberty to reveal who the character will be. So stay tuned.
The most dramatic updates on Disney Fantasy over her sister ship, Disney Dream, will come with the dining experiences. First, the Royal Palace on the Dream will become the Royal Court on the Fantasy, complete with illuminated pumpkin coach fixtures Ã la Cinderella. Further enhancing the lighting experience since the Dream, the Enchanted Garden on Fantasy will have floral fixtures that "come to life and change" with a blooming effect.
With a greater emphasis placed on guest experiences that do not repeat during the longer seven-day itineraries, an additional show entitled Animation Magic has been added to the ever popular Animator's Palate exclusively on the Disney Fantasy. Having seen a demonstration first hand, I believe it's superb. At the beginning of your meal, you will be given a placemat that includes a sort of draw-inside-the-lines humanoid grid in which you are invited to illustrate your own figure, promising that you will see "your characters come to life". This takes place before you order your meal. Once your placemat is taken "backstage," a video presentation shows Mickey, excited by your drawings, saying they will be perfect to create some "animation magic." As you enjoy your entrÃ©e, a collection of Disney art related to culinary activities is presented for your visual enjoyment.
The grand finale happens during dessert. Mickey, in sorcerer attire, brings your line art to life, colorizing it and animating it as if a custom flip-book of your own design has been published. Then the experience kicks up a notch as your character steps into Disney's famous animated films, now interacting with a whole cast of characters such as Donald and Snow White. Even your signature is extracted from your original placemat to be included in the final credit crawl of "guest animators." As the show ends, animated dalmatian puppies then scatter onto the restaurant floor by way of fiber optic lighting. To top it off, at the end of the meal you get your placemat back as a keepsake - now stamped to say you're an official Disney animator. The Imagineers ensure that guests seated in the 700-seat restaurant will get to see their character displayed on the screens closest to them.
I learned something new at the Expo last weekend. I thought that with Disney's arsenal of designers that all of the interior spaces were designed exclusively by the Imagineers themselves. During our interview, Jason Lasecki informed me this is not true. In fact, they often hire outside designers who are supervised by the Imagineering team. Such was the case for Europa, the adult-only section on the Disney Fantasy with its Italian, French, British, and Irish design influences, manifesting the concept of "a night out in Europe."
According to Jason, "we try to use the best in the world, really, especially when it comes to our night clubs. We wanted to make these more edgy and more kind of adult if you will. We really wanted it to be a haven for adults. So we went out and got designers that have been designing clubs in Vegas, London, and all around the world, to help give it that edge."
The first space found here is La Piazza, a bar set under the canopy of a merry-go-round with masquerade-style adornments and bar stools modeled after horse saddles. The bar also features fun lighting arrangements which transition as day turns into night. Ooh La La is the new champagne club reminiscent of a French boudoir. The Tube is Fantasy's red and white dance club inspired by the British Underground. So be sure to mind the gap. Lastly, there is the traditional O'Gills Pub and the Skyline bar featuring actual photographic vistas animated with vehicle traffic and airplanes flying by.
There are also new entertainment offerings on the ship including what is sure to please the little princesses onboard. The Disney Fantasy will be the first ship to feature a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, the popular retail experience first introduced at the Disney theme parks. Here girls can get makeovers complete with princess wardrobe, makeup, hairdos, and all the accoutrements. Boys are not left out, either, as the boutique is converted to a pirate lair where they can gear up on fake scars and eye patches just in time to celebrate the pirate deck party.
Accommodating the seven-night itinerary, the Walt Disney Theatre will be home to three production shows. The show Believe from the Dream will be joining the new ship as will the new Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular which is based on the production that has already delighted guests at the Disney California Adventure theme park for many years. The third unique show to debut aboard the Fantasy is still in development and to be announced.
Finally, the Imagineers teased us with talk of "a few surprises on the upper decks" which I'm sure will be among the "Disney differentiators," those elements that Disney Cruise Line has excelled at enhancing beyond the experiences of its competitors. The Imagineers cited the Magical Portholes, Enchanted Art, the AquaDuck water coaster, and the willingness to spend millions more to elongate the bows of their ships just for effect as such differentiators. While all cruise lines focus on attention to detail, Disney truly goes above and beyond, sparing no expense for the overall guest experience, and the Disney Fantasy when it embarks on its maiden voyage is sure to exemplify that very philosophy.