Once upon a time there was a restaurant called Animators Palate, which was first introduced on the Disney Magic cruise ship in 1998. It promised to give diners the experience of seeing it turn from black and white to color during their meal. That wasn’t exactly how it worked. In reality, various black and white pictures around the room would light up in color while music from the relevant movie played, culminating in a cartoon montage on big monitors and the previously black-and-white-clad servers reappearing in colored uniforms while the whole room lit up in color. Its incarnation on the Disney Wonder in 1999 was almost identical.
Fast forward to 2011 and the Disney Dream, the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet. Its version of Animators Palate is to the original what modern-day Audioanimatronics are to the original Tiki Birds. In the more than a decade that has passed, technology evolved to enable Disney to literally bring cartoons to life in the restaurant. If you’ve ever seen “Turtle Talk With Crush” at Epcot, imagine it as a dinner show. Crush talks to people at individual tables throughout the evening, and he also does some pre-programmed bits. There are big monitors near every table that make it seem like you’re looking out into the ocean. Other “Finding Nemo” characters like Dory, Marlin, Nemo and Bruce show up randomly to swim by or do silly little things. When the show is over, the monitors turn to static concept drawings of the characters. Click the video at left to get a taste of what you will see.
I absolutely loved this reimagining of Animators when I dined there earlier this week. After 79 Disney cruises, the original version had become old-hat. Now this has suddenly been transformed into the do-not-miss restaurant for me. Of course, “Turtle Talk” is one of my favorite Disney attractions so perhaps I am a bit biased. Problem was, it was hard to concentrate on eating because I kept watching nearby monitors to see who would appear and what silly antics would ensue.
Be warned that Crush apparently doesn’t get to every part of the dining room for the personalized banter. He worked the outer rim of the rim but never talked to us or the other tables at the monitors in front of us or behind us. Prepare the kids so they won’t be disappointed.
But even without chatting with my favorite turtle dude, I had an absolute blast. Not only did I love the show, but I had a great time exploring all the memorabilia as we were leaving. There are models and trinkets of characters from various Pixar movies (my favorite was the Incredibles Pez dispensers and the Buy & Large coffee mug). Take some time to talk around and soak it all in, especially if you are a Disney fanatic.
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