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Guest-created characters will be the stars at Disney Fantasy's Animator's Palette restaurant

Angela Ragno

Angela is the Walt Disney World shopping queen.

Guest-created characters will be the stars at Disney Fantasy's Animator's Palette restaurant

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So what can we expect from the Disney Fantasy when the newest member of the DCL fleet sets sail in March of 2012?

Well, as Jim Urry - Vice President, Entertainment & Port Adventures for the Disney Cruise Line - revealed last month during an informational presentation which was held in the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney's Boardwalk - the Fantasy will still have all of the elegance of her sister ships (Check out this concept art for the Fantasy's lobby ...


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... Which will be a celebration of the Art Nouveau style, with a swirl of pink, blue, green and gold on both the ceiling & the floor. Not to mention a cascading chandelier and the latest DCL character bronze, Mademoiselle Minnie) ...


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But building on those hi-tech touches that got guests raving about the Disney Dream (EX: The Virtual Port Holes. Which - according to Urry - have proven to be so popular with DCL cruisers that families have actually been refusing complimentary upgrades to cabins which feature real views of the ocean. Just so that they can then see which Disney character will come floating by next ...


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... not to mention the Dream's Enchanted Art program featuring 22 pieces of Disney-themed art work which not only come to life whenever guests are nearby, but also plays a crucial role in that ship's interactive Midship Detective Agency game) ...


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... The Imagineers have decided to take an already popular restaurant, Animator's Palette (which has long been a favorite with cruisers on the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Thanks to this eatery's ability to transform from a stark black-and-white space ...


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... to a dining room that's literally come to life with color & animation) ...


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... and then move this dining experience to a whole new level.

Mind you, on the Dream, WDI used that Living Character Initiative technology which had already wowed Disney theme park guests and then used it to totally reinvent their "bringing-the-dining-room-to-life" idea.


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But on the Fantasy, the Imagineers are seriously looking to up the ante.

As Joe Lanzisero, senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, explained at last month's DCL briefing, "We don't like to repeat ourselves. We gave guests who sailed on the Dream some undersea magic by having Crush visit every table. And on the Fantasy ... We're going to go one better by allowing each guest to create their very own animated character."


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The "Animation Magic" show begins as each guest is seated in the Disney Fantasy's version of Animator's Palette. At each spot around the table, there'll be this place mat with a blank spot. Which diners will then be encouraged to fill with a character of their own design.

Then the waiters & waitresses will collect all of these guest-decorated place mats. And later - as the meal draws to a close - Sorcerer Mickey will appear on screen inside of the Animator's Palette with an enormous pile of place mats ...


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... And then by using some pixie dust (as well as some cutting-edge technology that WDI had invented just for this venue) Mickey will conjure these guest-created characters right off of those place mats ...


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... and then drop them into some of the more memorable moments in Disney animation history.


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What's truly cool about this DCL experience is that  characters which guests designed before their soup & salad arrived will now be dancing up there onscreen right alongside beloved Disney characters like Timon & Pumbaa ...


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... and Jiminy Cricket.


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The test footage that was screened last month really wowed the crowd in the Atlantic Dance Hall. But Lanzisero had saved the best for last. After this amazing montage of classic Disney dance routines ended, the credits then rolled. And the credits featured the name of everyone in the restaurant who had handed over a place mat which had then been transformed into an animated character.


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And after that, all of these place mats would then be returned to their respective owners. With each of them affixed with an embossed seal which declared that this diner is now an "Official Disney Animator."


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Joe (who actually got his start at the Walt Disney Company by working as an animator) said that he had recently seen a rehearsal of the "Animation Magic" technology while he was on board the Disney Dream.

"And It was great to see all of this test footage being screened inside of the space that it had actually been designed for," Lanzisero explained. "The overall effect was genuinely magical. I guarantee you that the finale of this Disney Cruise Line experience will be something that our Guests will being talking about for years after they complete their cruise."


Joe Lanzisero speaks to the audience at the Atlantic Dance Hall about what WDI has
in the works for the Disney Fantasy. Photo by Angela Ragno

Now where this gets interesting is that  the Disney Cruise Line has no plans to incorporate this sure-to-be-popular "Guests-drawings-come-to-life" finale into the other Animator's Palette restaurants. Not on the Magic & the Wonder, anyway. But there is method to Mickey's madness.

"The Disney Cruise Line has a very loyal fan base," Joe stated. "Which is why we want to give guests who have already experienced the Magic, the Wonder and the Dream a good reason to book a cruise on the Fantasy. And one-of-a-kind dining experiences like 'Animation Magic'  will hopefully give people who've sailed with Disney before the excuse that they've been looking for to book another cruise with us."


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But what do you folks think? Will getting the chance to see a drawing that you yourself drew dancing alongside Disney 's iconic characters be a good enough reason to book a cruise on the Fantasy? Or does the Company's recent emphasis on adding interactive features & cutting-edge technology to its ships seem to be taking some of the old-fashioned fun out of cruising for you?

What do you think?

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