March 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM ET
What do you call a gathering of princesses? A pack? A gaggle? A bevy?
We don’t know, either, but travelers heading to Disneyland may find themselves pondering that question when the theme park’s newest attraction, Fantasy Faire, opens on Tuesday, March 12. With the likes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” on hand to meet and greet little visitors, it promises to be a regular princess-palooza.
“There are an awful lot of little girls who love princesses,” said park spokesman John McClintock. “I’m surprised how many already come to the park in their princess dresses.”
Of course, princesses are hardly a new franchise for Disney. This is the company, after all, that produced “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the first full-length animated film in the U.S., in 1937 and informal meet and greets have been a park staple for years.
Fantasy Faire, however, better befits the princesses’ regal status. Located near the forecourt of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the attraction resembles a medieval village; highlights include a Royal Hall, Royal Theatre and Tangled Tower, a lighted sculpture inspired by the story of Rapunzel.
There will also be food and beverage available and, needless to say, a gift shop full of dolls, dresses and enough tiaras to outfit Honey Boo Boo for life.
The most popular feature will likely be the Royal Hall, where visitors will be able to chat, get autographs and pose for pictures with up to three princesses, including Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (in her human form, thankfully) and Cinderella.
Once through the royal gauntlet, guests will enter the Royal Theatre where they’ll be treated to a show based on either “Tangled” or “Beauty and the Beast.” Depending on the show, Rapunzel or Belle will stick around for more up-close-and-personal princess interaction.
“It’s definitely focused toward the princess-mad little girl,” said Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, CEO of mouseplanet.com, a Disney fan site. “When a little girl dressed up as Cinderella gets to meet the real Cinderella, that’s pretty special.”
Princess crazed or princess crazy?
Unless, that is, you have doubts about the whole princess mythology thing — you know, young, helpless girl requires saving by tall, handsome prince — or decry the commercialization thereof. For some parents, there’s a fine line between princess-mad and princess-obsessed.
Take Mary Finucane, a Rochester, N.Y.-based psychotherapist, who has witnessed enough princess-worship that she launched a blog, Disney Princess Recovery, to chronicle her “quest to reclaim (her) daughter's imagination after it was hijacked by Disney Princesses.”
As Finucane tells it, her two-year-old daughter went from being an active, rambunctious child to a proto-princess who would sit on the steps because she was “waiting for her prince to come.” She also refused to let her parents cut her hair because “princesses have long hair” or give up her dresses because “princesses don’t wear pants.”
That was four years ago and while Finucane’s daughter has moved on to other passions, her mother is still irked by the power princesses hold over young girls, especially when those princesses are connected to commercial enterprises.
“Princess fairy tales have been around for centuries and there’s a natural human draw to them,” she told NBC News. “But they’ve been commercialized and they’re now connected to a lot of products and to things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with being immersed in a fairy tale.”
Presumably, the denizens of Fantasy Faire would beg to differ. Then again, they are princesses and, as everyone knows, princesses are far too nice to get into fights.
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.