Animator’s Palate Review
Animator’s Palate is a restaurant on the Disney Cruise Line ships that’s more like a dinner show. It is part of the standard, rotational dining, and is arguably the highlight of the cruise for many guests. This is an animation-centric restaurant aboard each DCL ship that uses some clever Imagineering to put on one seriously cool (dare we say “magical”) show. The menu purports to be “Pacific Rim,” but it more or less seemed like standard, American cuisine.
Even if you’ve never stepped off of dry land, if you’re a Disney fan, chances are you’ve heard of Animator’s Palate. It’s the cool restaurant that is touted as changing from black and white to color during the course of the meal. If you said “huh?” as you read that last sentence because you’re actually not familiar with Animator’s Palate, you may not want to read any further.
Reviewing Animator’s Palate is a bit tricky. It has been featured in approximately 1,534 Travel Channel specials by this point, so most people at least understand the premise. I’ve seen just about all of these specials, and even I didn’t know how the full show played out before experiencing it. So in that regard, I don’t want to “spoil the show” of Animator’s Palate for anyone else…
To that end, we’ll start with the food at Animator’s Palate and finish with the show component. To be honest, the cuisine is not particularly important. The food at Animator’s Palate is not going to be what you remember about this meal, and while it might be nice to get an idea of what’s served, the magic is in the overall experience.
In fact, since first publishing this review, we’ve done several additional cruises and been back to Animator’s Palate countless times. We’re big fans and Animator’s Palate even made our list of the Top 10 Moments of Disney Magic. Suffice to say, this is one of the reasons to set sail with Disney Cruise Line.
It’s also challenging to review Animator’s Palate because our experience with the meal itself was radically different than it was with the dinner show. We’ve heard many people praise Animator’s Palate for its cuisine, but we were much (much!) more impressed with Palo, and even our dinner at Lumiere’s was significantly better.
By contrast, I will freely admit that I got goosebumps from Animator’s Palate at the climax of the show. I can’t imagine that being as special of a moment the second time around, but we would still promptly return to Animator’s Palate even if they were serving dog food.
We ordered several appetizers, starting with the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes. The portion was small, making it perfect for splitting.
Given that it was pasta in a cream sauce with truffles and cheese, we were expecting something rich and flavorful. It was good, but it didn’t quite hit the ‘high notes’ in terms of flavor.
The Smoked Salmon Tartar with capers, dill, onion, pickles, and a horseradish cream was excellent.
Despite being in a tartar, the salmon had a fresh taste to it, and it was perfectly complimented by the onion and dill, with the horseradish cream being a perfect enhancement to the flavor. This was probably the highlight of the meal for me.
We had heard great things about the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, so we gave it a try.
It was drizzled with sour cream, which is probably what made the soup. It was sweet and rich, well deserving of the praise.
This is the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup.
It had bacon and cheese in it…of course it was delicious.
At our server’s suggestion, we also ordered the Pennete Bolognese. This is described as Pennete Pasta mixed with a rich Bolognese sauce garnished with shaved Parmesan Reggiano and Toasted Garlic Ciabatta.
Truth be told, I’m not really sure why we ordered this, as even the most impressive pasta never really wows either of us. The dish was good and I couldn’t really find any fault with it, but it struck us both as fairly ordinary. The flavors were not all that complex, and compared to what we had elsewhere on the Disney Magic, it disappointed.
We also ordered the Seared Red Snapper with scallops, crushed new potatoes, and salsa verde.
This was another “meh” dish. Snapper is a relatively mild fish, and that’s fine, but the whole dish was pretty mild and bland. It seemed a bit uninspired.
The Ginger-Teriyaki Dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin on wasabi mashed potatoes with bok choy and tamarind-barbecue reduction was the big disappointment.
The meat was overcooked and lacking in flavor, and was just really subpar. A bit more on this one below…
We also ordered a lot of desserts. (For those concerned about wasting food…we ate EVERYTHING we ordered at every restaurant. We don’t waste food, we’re just hogs–and by we I mostly mean me.)
First up is the Sweet Temptations. White Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake, Lemon-Raspberry Tart, and Mango Mousse. The standout here was the Mango Mousse, which was delicious, and inventive. The cheesecake was also good–we weren’t impressed with the tart.
This is the Cookies ‘N’ Cream Sundae. It was delicious, but a very simple dessert.
Tough to screw up ice cream with chocolate sauce on it.
This is the Crunchy Walnut Cake. It’s a dark chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis.
It was rich and decadent, but overall only slightly above average.
The White Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake was a dessert highlight.
The chocolate flavor wasn’t all that strong, but the cheesecake was good, and the presentation was solid.
It’s worth noting that subsequent meals we’ve had at Animator’s Palate have been much better, but we still find this to be among the weakest rotational dining option across Disney Cruise Line’s entire fleet.
With that said, the food is not the star of the show at Animator’s Palate.
The real star of the show is the restaurant itself. I can’t think of a single place in the parks to which I can compare this restaurant/dinner show. Calling it restaurant doesn’t quite do it justice, but calling it a dinner show is probably a bit too much. It doesn’t compare to normal restaurants, but it’s nothing like Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, either.
It’s sort of like The Magic of Disney Animation: The Restaurant. It’s an engaging, dynamic restaurant that has that certain je ne sais quoi that can best be described as Disney magic. That really doesn’t explain it at all, but it’s the best you’re going to get.
Like every restaurant on the Disney Cruise Line, service is absolutely spectacular at Animator’s Palate. This excellent service coupled with the show elevates what would otherwise be a pretty average restaurant into something truly special.
Overall, Animator’s Palate is one of the most fun Disney restaurants we’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying something. Animator’s Palate has “Disney magic” and that’s a quality that cannot be overlooked. At the same time, we can’t overlook the food quality, either. It is a blemish on an otherwise incredible restaurant, and while the show totally redeems the restaurant, we can’t give it a complete pass on the food. With that said, Animator’s Palate is one compelling reason to sail on the Disney Cruise Line, especially if you have kids, and you shouldn’t hesitate for a moment to dine here. Just keep in mind the reason why you’re there–and it’s not the food.
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Have you dined at Animator’s Palate? What did you think of it? If so, what did you like? What did you think of the show and effects? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
I have to say, your review is still spot on, 8 years later.
I just got off the Magic (9 night Mediterranean, June 2022), and ordered the Angus Tenderloin with Tamarind Barbecue Reduction, just like you did, and it was overcooked, just like you said. And the meat quality seemed very prone to being overcooked (a bit dry and stringy). The sauce was very good though and the vegetable accompaniments were good. If only DCL would just upgrade the quality of the meat in that dish, it would be a real winner.
I agree too that the walnut cake was totally fine, but also seems a bit uninspired for Disney.
The food and service at all three of the rotational restaurants on the Disney Wonder was pretty similar, which I expected. Our service team rotated with us, and we had very consistent (and excellent) service in all of the restaurants. IMHO, all of the restaurants did a good job with American food, but could have used a good Asian chef!!!
I would not expect the same from the rotational restaurants that I would at Palos – it is a specialty restaurant with a $40 per person surcharge. I’ve been on many different cruise lines and the specialty restaurants are always superior to the main dining room(s). That’s why people are willing to pay the surcharge!
In terms of the entertainment at Animator’s Palate – I agree, that it was the best of the three dining rooms, and very unique to Disney. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was very impressed! I loved seeing “my” animation on the screen!!!
I don’t care much for most food. Just got back from cruise and would love to have the recipe for ‘Crunchy Walnut Cake – Dark chocolate Mousse and Raspberry coulis’
Same here!Amazing cake
I was also blown away by the dining experience at Animator’s Palate (not the food). I’ve found the food at all the rotational restaurants to be very average and I believe that it’s just part of the mass production of serving that many people at one time. Last week, on the Magic, we dined at Cabana’s (sit down dinner) for Pirate night and had a fantastic meal. The ribeye steak was cooked to order and delicious. Not to mention, you can just walk in and dine at any time and you are not tied to your 5:30pm or 8:15pm time slots. On my next cruise, I’ll be spending more time at Cabana’s and Palo for dinner.
Ok, I’m just going to say it then run away. Those plates would totally accidentally ‘fall’ into my bag 🙂 (Unless you can buy them – then I’d buy them).
How lucky for Disney that I don’t like cruises! Hahaha
@Disney Wonder. The restaurant didn’t do anything for me. Sorry. Even my kid didn’t care. The video presentation was overplayed. I felt the food wasn’t anything special. Only Pirates night made a difference. This restaurant was oversold. Very disappointing. Yes, Palo was the best restaurant. Very nice that we went twice. Great to have the free kids daycare.
Funny you mention the Pirates Night. We thought that was pretty lame. Just goes to show that we all have different taste! 🙂
It was interesting, my in-laws, who had been on the Wonder before, said that the Pirate night on the Wonder was great, but on the Magic wasn’t nearly as good. I don’t remember exactly why right now, but it was enough for them to mention it.
Everything about our Disney cruises have been absolutely perfect except the food, always mediocre with the great exception of palo. We dine for the shows and enjoying the wonderful crew. If you want great cuisine you wont find it on any cruises,but if you are looking for the ultimate in DISNEY MAGIC you will find it on their ships. Looking forward to the next one!
We had really good food at Lumiere’s, too. Maybe we just got lucky there?
We had a table up against the wall on the Wonder, so saw “something” going on in the middle of the room that kind of looked like the “island” version of Disneyland’s Fantasmic! (When the Mark Twain is not in the show, the characters just stand on the dock and wave their Barnette’s Banners.)
Funny that you mention Fantasmic. I almost compared it to Fantasmic because it seemed like there were some similarities (right down to the music), but I thought it was a bit of a stretch. I guess not! 🙂
I think you hit it on the head. My experience was virtually identical, except that the man at the other table in your story was my father in-law in my story. I think I had the snapper, too, it was good, but not great. We loved the show, too. Our service was good, but not stellar that night, there were some longish gaps between visits where a drink refill would have been nice, but we were busy guessing what was being drawn on the screens.
We had Animator’s Palate on the first night and it kinda spoiled the other restaurants a little because they didn’t have any “show” elements. At Carioca’s, it was forgivable, but maybe I was expecting more of a Be Our Guest experience, but while the roses in the chandeliers were a nice decoration, that they didn’t do anything special (even just twinkling like in the movie or something would have been enough) was not disappointing, but… anti-climactic. With all the remodeling and re-imagining of the ship, I couldn’t believe that Lumiere’s, named after the character that recommended it himself, doesn’t have The Grey Stuff, when it exists at the Magic Kingdom. How does this happen?! But I digress.
The kids had a blast though, and they thought the macaroni and cheese was utterly delectable.
I’m surprised they didn’t bring “The Grey Stuff” to Lumiere’s. Especially after they reimagined the Disney Magic and overhauled menus. It was at Be Our Guest at that point!
…maybe they want to keep it exclusive to Be Our Guest? That’s the only explanation I can think of. Not like it’s a hard dish to prepare.
I cannot agree more with your review! I would say that the show is absolutely phenomenal and cannot be missed!!!
I was on the Magic last week and this was my favorite main dining room (Palo was BY far the best Meal honestly one of the best meals I have ever had! Andre was our server for both Brunch and Dinner and he was absolutely incredible!!! I will be on the Magic again next February for 7 nights and plan on dining here at least 2 times for dinner and hopefully both brunches as well!!!)
I will say I had the Veal and found it very good at Animator’s and really suggest that on your next visit! Animator’s is now my 2nd favorite Disney Dining Room out of the Dream and the Magic only to Enchanted Garden! This Animators is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the Crush version on the Dream!
Can’t wait for more reviews and hope you try the Dream or the Fantasy to see the different ships! I’m on the Dream in October and am incredibly excited for Remy!
I’m just curious, I’ve only been on the Magic, why do you say the Magic version is so much better than the Crush version? I’ve seen snippets of the Crush version, but not enough to draw any conclusions.
Dave it is not terrible on the Dream but to be honest its kind of loud and annoying, have you done the Turtle Talk at Epcot? The nice thing about this is its intimate its not overpowering when you move it to a huge dining room with hundreds of kids all screaming that Crush hasn’t come near their table or LOOK THERES CRUSH after 10 minutes or so its kind of overwhelming… on top of the screaming the colors are changing too… Unfortunately I’ve only done it on the first night so with the ship moving as well its just a lot ( I don’t get sea sick AT ALL but with everything at once for me its sensory overload) It reminds me of Main Street USA before Wishes on July 4th (obviously different setting but that much going on)…
Sorry long explanation but I don’t want you to think I hate Crush or even the Dining Room its pretty just a lot going on for me.
Gotcha, I know that over-stimulated feeling, I get it when riding Winnie the Pooh at WDW. I can see where that would take a little away from the experience. The magic was a nice, slow-building show. I must say, though, that one thing I really, really liked about the cruise was that even at it’s most crowded, there was always elbow room.
The Crush show on the dream is terrible. You almost expect the voice to be somewhat similar to the Epcot crush or even the movie crush but its mad terrible. Also every cruise we do on the dream we make sure we skip this dinner now. The food isn’t that great so we do Remy instead or palo
The show is good however when the fish are just wandering around the restaurant