What would you do? Finding Disney's answer to Butterbeer

September 12, 2011, 5:51 PM · Concept art of the upcoming Gaston's Tavern in the new Fantasyland expansion at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is sparking rumors that Disney's working on its own version of Universal's wildly successful Butterbeer.

Concept art of Gaston's Tavern, courtesy Disney

Unless Disney's planning on losing its liquor license and getting a record fine from the state of Florida, I think we can assume that the kids in that picture ain't drinkin' beer.

From the picture, Gaston's Tavern looks, uh, heavily inspired by the Hog's Head Pub in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure. This would hardly be the first example of Disney knocking off a competitor's design or concept. (Take a ride on the Log Flume at Knott's Berry Farm sometime.) But should Disney go for a straight copy of Butterbeer, or try something a bit different?

That's my "what would you do?" question for you.

Splash Mountain won raves and an enduring fan base not because it copied Knott's Log Flume, but because it took that basic design and layout and fused it with "Song of the South" to create a unique narrative and musical experience. If Disney thinks that offering "Butterbrew," or whatever they call it, in the Magic Kingdom will be enough to keep potential visitors from heading up I-4 to Universal Orlando, I think Disney's underestimating its audience.

Butterbeer's a hit not just because it's a tasty drink (which it is). Fans love Butterbeer because it gives them a rare chance to experience a beloved theme using their sense of taste, as well as their eyes and ears. Butterbeer was part of the Harry Potter books and movies and by tasting it - and using that additional sense to do so - fans feel even more connected with that Wizarding World.

Beauty and the Beast doesn't offer any such imaginary food. That puts Disney is a bit of a bind. First, there's no unique food or drink from the movie that fans have been dying to try. (Though I'd love to sit down for that animated feast!) Second, since Butterbeer was imaginary, Universal was free to make it taste like something unusual - which it did. Despite the fears of some parents, Butterbeer tastes nothing like alcoholic beer. It's a sweet, butterscotch-like drink that has as much in common with alcohol beer as root beer does.

If Disney simply copies that, it won't be offering a unique taste, as Universal did, for Butterbeer now already exists. And if Disney simply tries to create a non-alcoholic version of beer for its kid visitors, well, O'Doul's already exists, too, doesn't? And does Disney really want to endure the potential parent backlash from hawking that to kids?

So either Disney just settles for copying Universal (boring!) or it needs to find some unique flavor and identity for its frothy mug beverage.

Personally, a creamy chocolate/peanut butter drink sounds absolutely delightful to me. If I were in Disney's test kitchen, I'd be looking to popular milkshake flavors for inspiration in trying to find a new flavor for a creamy-headed soft drink.

But what do you think?

Replies (35)

September 12, 2011 at 5:58 PM · I know this isn't exactly the point, but O'Douls and other non-alcoholic beers actually contain some alcohol and are subject to the same restrictions as other alcoholic drinks.

Sorry kids!

September 12, 2011 at 6:05 PM · I'd imagine the Be Our Guest restaurant will have "the grey stuff" because "it's delicious". If you don't believe me ask the dishes.
September 12, 2011 at 6:58 PM · To me copying universal what not be the best for disney. What I would do in the test kitchen is make something better. I know what I'm saying I've had butter beer and it's outsanding had nothing ever like it but disney is magical and I feel as if someone can beat butter beer it ought to be disney. To me what can beat butter beer and send it down the universal studios drainage pipes is to have Disney characters milkshakes. like for example mickeys can be a choclate with cookies and stuff and goofy can have a crazy one and Donald can have a mean one it can all work out as long as they sit around and talk about it.
September 12, 2011 at 7:17 PM · Universal Studios rides are sub-par in the quality department. Their Butterbeer is the least of Disney's worry's.
September 12, 2011 at 7:20 PM · New drink....It is not a good sign if Disney starts to copy Universal.
September 12, 2011 at 7:23 PM · A few things come to mind: Gingerbread, cinnamon spice (apple pie?)Pumpkin Pie. I think the spicy/sweet combination would appeal to kids as seeming "grown up" (my juvenile champagne substitute was, of course, ginger ale) and also seem suitably medieval/pub like.
September 12, 2011 at 7:29 PM · I'm a little disappointed in the design for Gaston's Tavern. It looks very British with a what looks like a German server. This is supposed to be France, right? That's a little confusing, but they are, as Mr. Niles pointed out, trying to copy The Three Broomsticks/ The Hog's Head. I really hope Disney isn't trying to make just a straight copy of Butterbeer, and actually make something completely new and different. If it's not, I will be very disappointed.
September 12, 2011 at 8:00 PM · Hey, who was the one who denied WWOHP in the first place? "Looks at WDW"
September 12, 2011 at 8:30 PM · I think Disney should make a new drink.

As far as saying that Gaston's Tavern looks like a rip of of Hog's Head, I think that's a bit much. Sure it MAY look like Hog's Head, BUT it will more than likely look like how it did in Beauty and the Beast, which was around LONG before the Potter movies.

September 12, 2011 at 8:31 PM · Kids don't often drink beer, but when they do they prefer Dos Equis. Stay thirsty, my friends.
September 12, 2011 at 8:39 PM · Anyone know that blue drink that Luke Skywalker has during dinner during Star Wars? I would like to get one after Star Tours.
September 12, 2011 at 9:42 PM · I would go for a good rootbeer!

Maybe something with rose?

September 12, 2011 at 10:01 PM · maybe themeparks would consider a dry-ice drink for a enchanted mystical effect?

(Conflict of interest, I run this site)

September 12, 2011 at 10:20 PM · I would suggest they try Birch Beer in some fashion. I love birch beer but it is so hard to find because root beer is sweeter and cheaper to make. Birch Beer is also an old world European drink that can be produced in casks and kegs and would really fit into the tavern scenario.
September 13, 2011 at 2:36 AM · I agree with Colton that it does look like a traditional English Pub - I live near Nottingham and the oldest pub in the country is there and looks a lot like the artist drawing. As for the drink - Disney have imagineers to produce new things so for Disney's sake, I really hope they come up with a new concept for a ale looking drink. How about a nice non alcholic shandy (mixture of quarter non alcholic beer mixed with 3/4 sprite). This is a winner in the UK but with english style lemonade.
September 13, 2011 at 5:58 AM · Disney definitely needs to go for a unique concoction. I agree with Robert that people love Butterbeer for more than just flavor. If word gets out that Disney's brew is simply a copy of Butterbeer, then those not blinded by Disney-magic might be inclined to skip it, especially if it's pricey. I'm probably alone here, but I think the fact Disney is copying the concept is a bit desperate on their part anyway.
September 13, 2011 at 6:28 AM · I haven't had the opportunity to sample Butterbeer yet but the name alone isn't rocking my boat and the description of it is doing even less to convince me that I should try it.
So now Disney might be entering the world of fantasy beer. Urghh........sounds awful.
There's even a possibly slightly sinister side to encouraging kids to drink beer like their parents too. In the UK we've addressed the issue of sweet / candy cigarettes as they were perceived to be encouraging kids to take up smoking. Now we have fake alcohol. C'mon kids drink beer like your parents.
Don't get me wrong.......I'm not suggesting that Butterbeer, and whatever Disney comes up with, should be outlawed. I personally think that sometimes the "powers" go too far in their efforts to protect our children. I ate candy cigarettes, and pretended to smoke them too, when I was a child and I've never smoked. Not one drag. Nor did it have any subliminal effect that encouraged me to smoke.
But I can see the lobbyists forming a line longer than the one at WWOHP to take issue once Disney joins the bandwagon.
There's probably a marketing banner somewhere that warns the PR bods.
It might easily read : " Beware : Overkill kills ".
Watch this space.

By the way Zena.
Is that the " Ye Olde Jerusalem" pub in Nottingham Castle ? Think it dates back to 1100 and is a very nice pub.

September 13, 2011 at 7:10 AM · What is it about the concept art that makes it appear to be lifted from Universal? It seems to me, they are simply recreating the pub from BATB -- a film that pre-dated the first Potter book by six years.

As for beverages, I'd go for a signature labled Root Beer or Crem Soda with characters from the flick on the label(s)

September 13, 2011 at 7:07 AM · A couple of notes on this one (aside from the fact that I can't believe there are actually people protesting Universal for selling kids Butterbeer)...

1. I actually think the artist's rendering of the pub looks a heck of a lot like the one in the actual movie...which was probably the whole point, right?

2. I'd say Disney doesn't even attempt to create a "new" drink. I'd just go with brewing their own line of root beer, birch beer, white birch beer, vanilla cream soda. Sell floats and bottles of the stuff to take home. They can easily make a ton of money selling something unique and delicious without flat out copying Universal. That's how I've always imagined the pub, anyway.

Heck, I don't even care if they team up with A&W or Barq's or whatever and sell their root beers. The point is that it's a pub that sells turkey legs and other counter service food along with big frosty mugs of cold drinks. It's gonna serve it's purpose.

I don't think people should read too much into it.

September 13, 2011 at 8:16 AM · Come up with something unique. Like coming up with flavors to match the characters fom Beauty & the Beast. Do not copy Universal "Butter Beer".
September 13, 2011 at 8:42 AM · Robert, you say Butterbeer taste unique. I think it tastes like overpriced cream soda with a weak butterscotch foam.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it's just rootbeer, like old bar in Bear Country used to serve. And if it is coming up with it's own beer, of course it isn't butterbeer, silly to even consider Disney expecting it to do that well. Nonetheless, it could provide a fun and unique experience for those younger kids to taste something that they equate to beer, something they can't have, whether it be because it's fiction or their age.

As for the design of the pub. I think it looks like the movie, which I need not point our predates Potter. Not only that, but it looks bigger, less crooked and more french country that Hogs Head anyway. I think it was somewhat unjust, uncalled for, silly....something.... to say it looks like a copy

September 13, 2011 at 10:30 AM · Hi Rob P - I am thinking of Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. Not quite Gustov style is it.
September 13, 2011 at 12:04 PM · Why would you want to make a drink like Butter beer? It's horrible,I had one in Feb 2011 & did not like it at all. If disney do one,I won't be drinking it
September 13, 2011 at 12:56 PM · That's the one Zena. Proper pub with proper beer. Twin Peaks had damn fine coffee and we have damn fine pubs in the UK.
The proposed inn at Disney will be fun and well themed. Of that you can be certain. But I spent quite some time travelling through France in my youth (way back in 1975 ) and would've liked to have seen a more Gallic designed hostelry. I think that the French have some wonderful drinking establishments, away from the tourist spots, from which to draw inspiration. Let's hope Disney gets it right. We'll see.
September 13, 2011 at 12:57 PM · That's the one Zena. Proper pub with proper beer. Twin Peaks had damn fine coffee and we have damn fine pubs in the UK.
The proposed inn at Disney will be fun and well themed. Of that you can be certain. But I spent quite some time travelling through France in my youth (way back in 1975 ) and would've liked to have seen a more Gallic designed hostelry. I think that the French have some wonderful drinking establishments, away from the tourist spots, from which to draw inspiration. Let's hope Disney gets it right. We'll see.
September 13, 2011 at 6:28 PM · Well, the Coca-Cola company currently has the soft drink franchise at WDW, so it can probably be assumed that whatever will be in those mugs will be a Coke product (Barg's root beer, perhaps, or something from Epcot's Club Cool?). But, looking at that picture, it seems to me that it is the mug itself, rather that what's in it, that Disney will be marketing.
September 14, 2011 at 7:13 AM · Years ago I was on a ski trip with some friends. On our way to the resort, we stopped by roadside shop and I bought a Dad's Root Beer out of a vending machine. When I opened it up, the smell of root beer permeated the whole car. When I drank it, it took my breathe away like eating a really strong mint. I would love for Disney to fashion a drink like that.
September 14, 2011 at 7:39 AM · Disney could benefit from just serving root beer type drinks with a foam topping. They can take a page from EPCOT's Coca Cola exhibit. Have many different soda products from around the world.
September 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM · Disney would fail if they tried copying a single drink. Just like Splash Mountain, they went above and beyond a copy.

I don't think Disney really has a "signature" drink that was found in any film.

What they should be doing is going beyond that and providing a unique experience... or at least seemingly unique. Maybe a Little Mermaid themed restaurant, or even though some people are sick of Pixar themed attractions, a Wall-E themed space station where you DON'T get fat.

September 14, 2011 at 2:03 PM · I havn't had the Butterbeer yet but I'd like to direct the Disney folks to a semi-local landmark in So. Cal. The Charlie Brown Farm store in Little Rock (Antelope Valley) on Hwy. 138. They have a huge variety of Milk Shakes and Malts (including a choclate and peanut butter one that is wonderful), as well as a variety of Soda Pop that is hard to fine. That would be a place to start with sampling diferent flavors and come up with something creative and Disney-ish for the theme parks and their store in Hollywood.
September 14, 2011 at 5:10 PM · Disney..... ugh.

If this is true, it seems rather desperate and pathetic. Universal found a magic formula to drive attendance to record numbers based on the most successful movie franchise to date.

I am starting to like Disney less and less, and we used to be hardcore visitors. I think a lot of it has to do with the awful shows they crank out.. they are simply awful.

September 15, 2011 at 11:05 AM · I'm on board with a variety. Come on in and try vanilla, chocolate, marshmallow, or even butterscotch flavored "beers."
September 17, 2011 at 2:57 AM · I've gotta say, I'm no prude, but that picture just...bothered me from the first time I saw it. Kids guzzling...on beer. No matter what it really is, it looks like a big mug of beer. So, like when kids come to WDW now to ride the Autopia to have the fantasy "adult" driving experience, now they can fantasize about having...a beer, just like Dad.

I'm sure many will say it's harmless, but so were candy cigarettes, and they don't make those anymore. It's just in poor taste, I think. The last thing we need is kids emulating drinking.

Just my thoughts - for comparison sake, I also find the fighter jets over the Castle disturbing - I mean, juxtaposing war machines over the symbol of the happiest place on Earth. I can't think of anything more creepy.

September 17, 2011 at 9:20 AM · Hmmm Butter beer-tasted like your local grocery store's Cream soda!Good to drink but nothing ground breaking.
September 18, 2011 at 7:51 AM · I also think that the pub itself looks pretty much exactly as it does in BATB movie. So if there is a rip off, it is on the HP side.

The picture is kind of disturbing (kids drinking beer). But even if people wouldn't freak about giving their kids Near Beer (yes, I am that old to remember the term), kids wouldn't drink it. I will readily admit, I am a beer snob to an extent. I don't drink "yellow, fizzy beers". You are not going to get NA Guinness. You get NA Milwaukee's Best. No child is going to like that taste of that. Not that they would like the Guinness either, but my point is near beer tastes terrible!

The milkshake idea seems to be the best so far.

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