Animator's Palate Dining Room on Disney's Fantasy has an Amazing Bit of Magic for Aspiring Cartoonists

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Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Fantasy, is, at first glance, identical to its sister ship the Dream. Think of the two ships as houses on the same street that look alike from the outside but inside have their own design touches. Of course, few tract homes have over a thousand bedrooms and entertainment rooms that seat 1340 people, but you get the idea.


The Fantasy has the same branded restaurants as the Dream, including the upscale Remy, whose menu is co-designed by Victoria & Albert’s chef Scott Hunnel. But I noticed several design differences when I visited the new ship in New York last week. For instance, the Royal Court dining room doesn’t have the big pumpkinlike chandelier over the center table.


But I experienced one major change that goes beyond just fixtures and furniture. It was in Animator’s Palate (not Palette) and it has to do with the rather simple looking paper place mats at each table. The place mats have a crude outline of a figure outlined in blue, and guests are encouraged to draw within the blue lines to give the outline features: face, hands, feet, clothing accessories, etc.


I pooh-poohed the idea as I sat down for dinner following the christening ceremony. Obviously, I thought, this is nothing more than a way to keep children occupied until the food arrives.


Boy, was I wrong.


The servers quickly gathered up the drawings -- including my hastily scribbled effort, done only at the gentle urging of my waiter -- and whisked them away. And while we dined on delicious pan-seared sea bass and tenderloin with lobster tail, magic was taking place somewhere behind the scenes. And at the end of the dinner, no less than Sorcerer Mickey appears on the many screens throughout the massive dining space to introduce the finale.


The drawings leap off the page and move and dance and play with Mickey and other characters from Disney movies. It’s really impressive (and it made me wish I’d spent more time on my drawing). Check out the video above to see what it looks like. I noticed as I looked around that dining alcoves on the other side of the room were seeing different animated images, so effort is made to ensure that each table gets to see its drawings. And at the end of the show, the names that were scrawled on the place mats appear in the rolling credits. I can only imagine what it will be like for kids to see their drawing come to life; it’s pretty neat for an adult, too.


It’s all brilliant, and as a nice touch the place mats are returned to the “artists” for a souvenir. (If someone hasn’t figured out a way to sell the DVD of the shows to the diners later, they’re missing out on a great revenue stream.)


I’ll be taking a cruise later this month and I’ll tell you about any other changes I find.