Disney's Imagineers — the company's term for the artists, designers, and engineers who create its theme park attractions — are about to revolutionise the art of turning the studio's animated films into rides that bring visitors right into the movie. Tokyo Disneyland is in the process of building a Beauty and the Beast ride with animatronic characters that are like nothing we've ever seen before.
Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast will be a dark ride, where visitors sit in vehicles that carry them through a series of animated vignettes recreating scenes from the classic Disney animated film. The actual vehicles will be giant teacups that can navigate autonomously without the need for a track, allowing them to follow unique paths and even repetitively circle a room, which is a technology that has become incredibly popular in the company's overseas theme parks.
The Beauty and the Beast ride will even let visitors dance along with Belle and the Beast in the movie's much-loved ballroom scene, which will undoubtedly be one of the ride's highlights.
The ride will also recreate the catchy "Be Our Guest" dinner table sequence (which is probably now stuck in your head), but it's the animatronic characters that will be the most advanced part of the attraction. They're designed to look and move exactly like the animated characters from the movie, and the fluidity demonstrated in this behind-the-scenes sneak peek from Disneyland Tokyo is absolutely astonishing.
Unlike the animatronics in attractions like the Hall of Presidents, which look like they're robots doing their best impressions of humans, Belle looks like a cartoon come to life. Part of what makes this possible is the continued advancements in robotics that Disney's own research division contributes to.
But the Imagineers responsible for designing this ride were also able to work with some of the same animators who contributed to the original film back in 1991. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a firm date for when the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast will open.