How Disney's Enchanted Tale Of Beauty And The Beast Ride Brings The Classic Animated Film To Life

"Beauty and the Beast" is one of only three Disney animated features to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and 30 years later, it remains such an enduring classic that the late Angela Lansbury was almost just as recognizable for her voice performance as Mrs. Potts as she was for her starring role in "Murder, She Wrote." Yet despite being the pinnacle of the Disney Renaissance and a "tale as old as time" (or at least one as old as the early 1990s), "Beauty and the Beast" never had its own dark ride at a Disney theme park until the 2020s.

You could see and feel the movie's presence in shows and dining experiences like "Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage" and the Be Our Guest Restaurant at Florida's Walt Disney World. However, the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast is the first and only attraction at Disney parks worldwide to offer guests a ride experience based on the film. The trackless ride and surrounding castle and village opened to great fanfare at Tokyo Disneyland in late September 2020, but because of pandemic-related travel restrictions, the usual "Be Our Guest" mentality could only be applied to residents of Japan and, eventually, foreign tour groups.

All that changed last month as the country finally reopened its borders to individual foreign tourists. Now, any movie-lover with the wallet for it could book a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort and immerse themselves in the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. Whether you plan on flying halfway around the world or not, we've got a walk-through and ride-through of the attraction here that will give you an in-depth, firsthand look at how it brings the beloved movie scenes to life.

Beauty and the Beast Castle at Tokyo Disneyland

When you're coming up on it from the outside village in Fantasyland, Tokyo Disneyland's Beauty and the Beast Castle peeks through the treetops the way the animated castle does in the forest at the beginning of the movie. It doesn't look as dark and gloomy as it does when Belle's father, the wacky inventor Maurice, first encounters it in the movie. But you'll pass through a gate and cross a long bridge to get to it, just like he does.

The Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom in Florida has a bridge like this, complete with the same gargoyles and a small, forced-perspective castle perched atop a rock. The difference here is that Tokyo Disneyland has built a true, life-size castle across the bridge. It's now a two-castle park, with Cinderella Castle still serving as the central landmark.

There's a waterfall beside the bridge, with mist rising off the rocks, and in contrast to the forced-perspective effect, the closer you get to Beauty and the Beast Castle, the bigger it gets. The one in the film has more of a vertical orientation; it shoots straight up like a tower, but as you near the castle doors (which are guarded by the same stone lions with ram-like horns as the restaurant in Florida), craning your neck to look up at it will give it a similar towering appearance.

Preshow and queue

The preshow for Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast takes you into a room with a grand staircase flanked by twin balconies. The design is similar to what we see when Belle and the Beast come down the staircase for their ballroom dance in the movie.

A stained-glass window at the top of the staircase becomes the focal point for some intro narration in Japanese. It's done very much along the lines of the cinematic stained-glass scene, explaining the backstory of how the Beast was once a selfish prince who ran afoul of an enchantress (as seen in the movie screenshot above).

The highlight of the preshow is when Belle and the Beast appear as Audio-Animatronic figures on opposite balconies, with him skulking in the shadows until she urges him to come into the light, like in the movie.

If you take the standby queue for Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast (as opposed to the line for Vacation Package holders and "Premier Access," the new paid Fastpass, available through the Tokyo Disney Resort app), you'll see some other things before the preshow. Lumiere and Cogsworth show up on a fireplace mantel, pretending they're an inanimate candlestick and clock, the way they do when Maurice enters the castle in the movie. On the floor, you'll see Sultan, the dog-turned-ottoman, wagging his tail, while Mrs. Potts and Chip appear on a dining table as you move further along in line.

In the merged queue after the preshow, you'll also see Lumiere and Cogsworth moving and talking through screen-based faces as they react to the Beast's shadow on the wall. The shadow evokes the movie moment when the Beast grabs Maurice to throw him in the dungeon.

Loading area

As you file into the loading area for the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast ride, you're basically entering the castle's kitchen like Belle does when she wanders out of her room at night in the movie. The line will take you past the sentient stove, Chef Bouche, before you board a big teacup, your ride vehicle, with nine other guests.

Be Our Guest scene

Once the ride starts, the first scene puts you in the middle of the dining room with Belle and Lumiere for a Japanese rendition of "Be Our Guest," the song performed by the late Jerry Orbach and company onscreen. True to the film, Belle is seated at the end of a long banquet table, which fills with singing and dancing dishes as your ride cup itself spins and dances in time with music.

This probably isn't the best ride for people prone to motion sickness, but as screens show plates flying out of the cabinet, and your cup orbits the colorful table, this scene really takes on the feel of a show-stopping "culinary cabaret," ripped straight from the film. You'll even see an ornate cake popping up, tier by tier.

Above, you can see a video clip of the grand finale of the "Be Our Guest" scene in Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Other ride scenes

The next scene in Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast takes you outside in the snow with Belle, her horse Phillipe, and the Beast, the latter of whom is up on a balcony. As in the corresponding movie scene, birds have landed on the Beast's paws, while "Something There," another song from the original motion picture soundtrack by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, is playing. The idea is that your cups are now ice-skating around on the frozen pond between Belle and the Beast.

After the "Something There" scene, your cup moves into a room where you see Belle and the Beast standing on a balcony in their ballroom attire, looking out at the starry sky. The only thing weird about this scene is that they have their backs to you, though it's framed in such a way that it does look like the part in the movie where they venture out on the balcony, right before they sit down and talk.

From there, your ride cup takes you past some transitional scenes where the living Wardrobe character and other furniture pieces hold back the doors as the shadows of torch-wielding villagers storm the castle. The villainous Gaston is seen but not heard here; he has more of a presence outside the ride, in and around Le Taverne de Gaston (see below).

The trackless technology, utilized in other Disney attractions around the world, ensures a randomized ride experience so that you'll have a different vantage point every time for certain scenes. Both times I rode it, I landed in the back for one of the biggest "wow" moments, when magic lifts the seemingly dead Beast up into the air, and he swirls around and transforms into an animatronic Prince, right before your very eyes.

The ballroom scene

Two years ago, there were some early stateside reactions to Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast that were judging it based on ride videos like this one, not all of which necessarily do the ride justice. The most common criticism seemed to be that you have these wide-open rooms with only a few animatronic figures and too much dead space around them.

All I can say is, when you're there in your cup vehicle, experiencing the ride's kinetic energy in person, you don't have time to dwell on that at length. And in the ballroom scene at the end, it's a thrill to see characters like Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and even the fetching French maid Fifi come to life as three-dimensional animatronic figures, modeled on their human appearance at the end of the movie.

Belle and the Prince dance, and your cup circles them and again bobs along to the rhythm of the Academy Award-winning title song, "Beauty and the Beast." It's a great way to finish before you move out past a stained-glass window — updated with the Prince on it — and a flowing fountain and the enchanted rose in a glass case.

Village Shoppes and Le Taverne de Gaston

At Tokyo Disneyland, the "Beauty and the Beast" experience continues outside the Enchanted Tale castle in the Village Shoppes, which sport names like "Bonjour Gifts" and "Little Town Traders," lifted from the lyrics to the film's opening song, "Belle." There's a recreation of Maurice's cottage in the vicinity, and a central fountain with a statue of Gaston and his sidekick LeFou, whose live-action Disney+ prequel series starring Luke Evans and Josh Gad is now indefinitely delayed.

Behind the fountain is Le Taverne de Gaston, a Frenchified clone of Gaston's Tavern at the Magic Kingdom, complete with menu items like French toast sandwiches with chicken and melted cheese. Sadly, Gaston's diet of four to five dozen eggs is not on the menu, and even if you're "especially good at expectorating" like he is, it's not generally recommended that you start up a spitting match in the dining hall. You can sit down in his chair next the fireplace, though, and maybe flex your biceps below his portrait.

Elsewhere in Fantasyland, you might spot a real rose or two if you look around in the flower beds. It's a romantic image, not unlike that of the castle at dusk.

The magic hour

Finally, no trip to the "Beauty and the Beast" area in Tokyo Disneyland would be complete without a sunset stroll. When the lanterns come on outside and the castle has the magic-hour glow behind it, it's even more beautiful than during the daytime (when the sun can sometimes be blinding and not conducive to the best photos).

At night, the castle is illuminated blue. Again, the overall atmosphere isn't as dark as the movie or as spooky as, say, the Haunted Mansion (which has another live-action film of its own coming next year), but once you get back inside the castle, you'll be living moments from the movie all over again.

Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast is an impressive feat of Imagineering with a high level of detail that should be a dream come true for anyone who ever wished they could step inside the acclaimed animated film. If Fantasy Springs, the new $2 billion expansion coming to Tokyo DisneySea in 2024, is anywhere near as elaborately themed as this (and it looks like it will be), then fans of "Peter Pan," "Tangled," and "Frozen" can probably look forward to their own great immersive Disney adventures in the years to come.