Details fall into place at Disney
Does Cinderella have a TV?
Curious Walt Disney World fans such as Leny Sou of Chicago want to know.
Of all the prizes Disney is giving away in its big, 15-month "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign, perhaps none is more tantalizing than a night in Cinderella Castle, the signature icon of the Magic Kingdom.
It's also the one prize that seems to have most taxed Disney officials' imaginations.
What's a fictional 17th-century French princess's home like, anyway?
Is it haughty and opulent, or does Cinderella draw on her humble roots to mix luxury with down-home comfort? Is there food? Would a night in her room be boring? Does Cinderella have her own butler — pardon — her own comte du cierge? Is there a good view from her castle windows? Would Cinderella herself drop by for a visit?
Sou, visiting Magic Kingdom Monday with husband Tony, son Kyle, 4, and daughter Kayla, 2, loves the idea of staying in the castle. But she's a mom. So she's practical.
"Do they have television? I mean, what is there to do up there, for kids?" she asked. "Especially overnight. That's going to be a long night, you know."
When the Cinderella Castle plan was announced, Disney officials weren't sure how it would work. Only now are some of the details emerging.
Yes, there will be TV. Yes, it looks as if the family will be shut in after the theme park closes for the night. And yes, a butler (known as a comte du cierge in old French), will be at their call.
In June, Disney announced the Year of a Million Dreams campaign. The company is giving away more than 1 million prizes, some worth tens of thousands of dollars apiece, such as time-share contracts and trips halfway around the world.
The plan to give away stays in the Royal Suite of the Cinderella Castle provided a challenge: The suite never existed. There is a roughed-in living space halfway up the castle, which was once envisioned as the Disney family apartment. But it had never been finished.
So since the campaign was announced, planners have been trying to sort out the logistics of putting a family into a single, lonely hotel room in the middle of a closed theme park. And Disney's designers are trying to create a royal suite worthy of a 17th-century princess living in a 21st-century fake castle.
And they're having a ball doing so, insisted Disney Imagineer Stephen Silvestri, who's overseeing much of the design. The project was dropped on Silvestri and his team without much warning in June.
"Exactly. It was about that way. But could you think of a better way to spend your time?" he said. "It's such a pleasure."
He and his team have been researching 17th-century royal French life and trying to create mosaics and other artwork, accoutrements and furnishings, often by hand, to fit in.
The suite, he said, will come with a "traditional" big, flat-screen, high-definition TV. But people won't notice it unless they look for it, just like the complimentary shampoos and lotions in the bathroom, bottled in what will look like old, French glassware.
"You want the fantasy," Silvestri said. "All those things are there, but they're not immediately recognizable to your eye."
Among other details:
Before dinner, the winning family will be escorted to the suite, regaled with the Cinderella story, and shown around the rooms. Disney will arrange transportation for them and their luggage from wherever they were.
They'll be taken to Cinderella's Royal Table Restaurant for dinner, where the actress in Cinderella character will meet with them.
After dinner, they'll go back upstairs to freshen up, then be escorted to the "Wishes" show or other evening Disney entertainment.
In the morning, Cinderella will give them a wake-up call and check on them.
The 650-square-foot suite has a bedchamber, a bathroom and a parlor. The parlor has two sets of three windows: one overlooks Fantasyland; the other, Liberty Square.
Silvestri promised the rooms will be comfortable and luxurious, but not embarrassingly so. Designs call for an elevator inspired by Cinderella's carriage, a foyer with inlaid stone floors, wooden walls, a big stone (though faux) chateau-style fireplace, two big, soft beds and other pieces of faux period artwork and furniture. The princess' glass slippers will be on display.
The grotto-style bathroom will be dominated by three large, handmade mosaics of 17th-century landscapes, designed by Disney artists Katie Roser and Mary Hartwig to match the five 15-foot-tall mosaics that Dorothea Redmond created in 1971 for the castle breezeway.
A half-dozen Disney artists have been tediously selecting, cutting and gluing thousands of imported glass tiles for over a month to create the new mosaics. But given the tight castle conversion schedule they were all handed, that's hurrying, Roser said.
"We think they had over a year and a half to do the originals," she said. "We are in our fifth week, and we have one more week. I think that we've done something that some traditional mosaic artists would think we're crazy."
"But we're good at that," Silvestri insisted.