30 September 2008

Please step carefully

Remember the days when you would walk into a park right at opening, hand off all of your tickets to one member of your group, and then take a leisurely stroll to meet them at the attraction of your choice while they sprinted across the park to get the first Fastpasses of the day? I know I do, and I cannot count the number of times I have been told to slow down and walk.

Over the past several visits I’ve begun to notice a trend, the days of sprinting through the Land to Soarin’, down Sunset to Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster starring Aerosmith, or under the Oldengate Bridge on your way to Expedition Everest are over. Now, after the morning shows, you are not just turned loose to race your way around the world, you are walked back by a line of cast members. Even though these cast members walk at a brisk pace, it still keeps a jostling crowd together longer and keeps the queue and Fastpass lines a little more congested for a brief period. Despite these facts, and despite the fact that I have heard a lot of grumbles from the groups I have been a part of, I think that this is a change that is for the better of the guests.

That’s right, the loss of some personal freedom is a good thing. Firstly, I think it has, and will continue, to cut down on injuries. I have seen several people kiss the sidewalk while others, including myself, just ran on by and around them in order to get to their attractions. And that brings me to my second point, we may only be civil to one another now while we get clumped together, jostle for position, and shoot the gaps, but at least that is better than running by a fellow human being in obvious pain just to get a better place in line somewhere. Anything that puts some humanity back into our adventures cannot be a bad thing.

The next time you are planning your trip to Walt Disney World, remember the line quoted at nearly every attraction and show, “No eating, drinking, smoking, or flash photography,” only add 'no running' to that list. Forget the sprinter's stance and enjoy the walk with your family, you know, the people you came on this trip with to spend some quality time with? Sure you may get the 9:45 Fastpass time, but is 9:30 really that much better? And, if you still have that itch to run through the parks, then there is always the option of running the half and full marathons at Walt Disney World.

29 September 2008

Addendum: The right amount of earth

We’ve showcased the mosaic that precedes The Land pavilion in Epcot before, discussing how the collage of tiles and textures represent a cross section of the Earth’s crust. What was missing in the previous article, however, was a glimpse at the often-mentioned, seldom-seen signature tile; that lone green tile that is the only true difference between the two mosaics that climb the sides to the entrance to The Land pavilion.

After much searching, and it did take me a little while, I was able to find that slippery little piece of glass. Here it is, along with the mirror mosaic for comparison.

I'm lovin' every step I take

I used to try and write out very detailed trip reports, for the sole fact that I love to read trip reports and felt it uncouth if I myself did not present one for others to read who had worked so hard on their own. Yet, every time I tried to consolidate my notes and anecdotes into a constructive narrative, the process took so long that it seemed like it was time for my next trip already. So, to hold true to the spirit of trip reports, and to give all of you some ideas of how the week was spent, here is the truncated version of my trip alongside some photographic evidence.

Monday (September 22)

Checked-in to Pop Century before the sun was up and headed over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You might say we were a little excited to be there…

Aileen had her first experience with Yak and Yeti’s Local Food, Finding Nemo the Musical, and the updated Haunted Mansion.

We spent the afternoon and early evening trapped in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland due to a torrential downpour. During said downpour I became a Galactic Hero on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which was followed by me dancing around in the open of Tomorrowland singing Singin’ in the Rain with the hood of my poncho down. A less raucous dinner was spent at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café.

Exhausted from the trip down, and all that it had entailed, we decided to head back to Pop Century a little earlier than expected to catch some sleep.

Tuesday (September 23)

Opened Epcot, though not as early as we had Disney’s Animal Kingdom the day before, and took in Soarin’ twice (Top Left and Bottom Right, this information will come in handy later in the trip report).

Aileen was finally able to experience the newest versions of O’ Canada, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, and Spaceship Earth, along with the games of Project Tomorrow.

Lunch was spent at Sunshine Seasons before a whirlwind tour of Canada, France, and Norway.

Dinner was at Everything Pop, before heading out for an evening of resort cruising.

Fantasia Gardens, the Gardens Course, ended-up being a much closer game than expected: Aileen – 50 to Ryan – 46.

The evening concluded with a monorail trip from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the resorts of the Seven Seas Lagoon. The highlight of the evening were drinks at the Polynesian’s Tambu Lounge, followed by a viewing of HalloWishes from Sunset Pointe.

Wednesday (September 24)

The morning was started off with stand-by and Fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania! I love this attraction, the games and 3D systems are top-notch, and it will be a must for us for many years to come. But, despite the overwhelming lines, this is not an E-ticket attraction. As Aileen said, “Oh, it’s an updated version of Buzz Lightyear.” I felt that Toy Story Midway Mania was fun for the whole family, a great addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a definite must-see D-ticket attraction.

Despite much fool-making of myself, I was unable to secure a spot as an extra for Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular this trip.

We received Fastpasses from other guests who had ADRs and could not return to Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster and Chris at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror absolutely put Aileen through the ringer (It was awesome!)!

Lunch was at Backlot Express.

Upon arriving at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, received a Magical Moment and were taken from our parking lot (Dinosaur) all the way to the front entrance via golf cart. I must admit it was fantastic, even though I felt like heel having to drive by all those families with all their gear waiting for the tram.

Took in a final showing of Pocahontas and her Forest Friends, I really hope whatever finds a home here brings with it the same message of humans must find a way to protect nature.

Dinner at Yak and Yeti Local Food (BEST EGG ROLLS ON PROPERTY) was followed by drinks at Victoria Falls with Doc, Mrs. Doc, and their friends Nancy and Rose.

Thursday (September 25)

Crashed the gates with Doc, Round 2 of Toy Story Midway Mania.

Lunch was served at the ABC Commissary.

Met up with Lou, Lori, and Pat and took in Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Aileen and I had a quick dinner at Rosie’s All-American Café just prior to Fantasmic!

The evening concluded at Pleasure Island with a multitude of other geeks. I only have two notes to report on the evening, other than it was a wonderful time. One, I will definitely never forget that night on Pleasure Island for multiple reasons, but I will leave it at the fact that I had my fair share of adventures. And two, Fiona, with all that was going on, I feel like I had absolutely no time to actually spend time with you, and I feel absolutely wretched about it! Can you ever forgive this crazy old geek that got caught up in the moment?!?!

Friday (September 26)

Up early, and at the Magic Kingdom in time for the Good Morning show, we proceeded immediately to Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, and Tom Sawyer Island.

The Jungle Cruise placed us in Mike’s capable hands. This had to be one of the best trips down the river I have ever had!

As we made our way through Mickey’s Star Traders, Push came in and talked to Aileen. When the conversation was finished Aileen left the store, and Push followed her right on down the walkway yelling at her to stop. Push was only satisfied when Aileen had her picture taken with it.

We grabbed hot dogs at Casey’s Corner before I fulfilled my duties to the Carolwood-Pacific Historical Society by taking a loop around the Magic Kingdom on the Walt Disney World Railroad (Engine 1: Walter E. Disney), not that I am complaining mind you.

After a nap, much needed after the previous night, we dined at Flying Fish on the Boardwalk with Doc, Mrs. Doc, Glenn, and Lori. While waiting, we were serenaded by Musicale Mike and his Pedaling Piano. Dinner itself was, in all honesty, probably one of the best meals, if not the best, I have ever had on Disney property.

Saturday (September 27)

Sunup to sundown at Epcot, starting with Soarin’ (dead center this time which, along with the two previous rides, gave Aileen and I Soarin’ Tic-Tac-Toe).

The 2008 International Food & Wine Festival was delicious, even if lines were long. Lunch was a meandering affair, which included: Chicken Sha Cha and Pork Pot Stickers (Shanghai), Samosa with Tamrind Sauce (New Dehli), Durban Chicken with Coconut Milk-infused Root Vegetables (Cape Town), Irish Cheese Selection: Reserve Cheddar, Dubliner, and Ivernia Cheese with Apple Chutney and Brown Bread (Cork), Seared Beef Medallion with Cheddar Cheese Polenta (San Francisco), Milk Chocolate Crème Brulee (Lyon), Manti with Yogurt Sauce (Istanbul), and Cheddar Cheese Soup (Montreal).

My only real complaint of the Food and Wine Festival is that, aside from a few activities in the Pearville Fair area and the Kidcot stations, there were very few offerings for children. Lines were long and, due to the amount of alcohol available and consumed, crowds were unruly and unseemly at times, all of which makes for a not so family friendly event.

We had dinner with Doc and Mrs. Doc at Restaurant Marrakesh, a fantastic meal, before capping the evening with IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.

We attempted to make our way over to Pleasure Island, but, after searching for a parking spot for the better part of an hour, decided that we had waited too long to make the drive over and conceded that we had already had our last night on the island. Still, it was nice to see and hear it on its last night.

Sunday (September 28)

Magic Kingdom was fairly quiet. We walked on Big Thunder, Splash Mountain (we had our own log), Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, and the Haunted Mansion all before an early lunch at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café.

One last ride on the Liberty Belle and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, before heading down Main Street U.S.A., and one last ride on the monorail, this time as co-pilots.

28 September 2008

Pleasure Island

The clubs of Pleasure Island have turned off the lights and music, silenced the laughs, and closed the doors behind them as of this morning. This isn’t the first changes to the clubs of Pleasure Island, but it does appear to be the last, at least for the time being. I don’t think there could be a better day to take in a little of the history, photographs, and mystique of Pleasure Island. The article below is from the Disney News’ 1989 Fall issue.

Legend has it (Disney “Imagineering” legend, that is) that sometime in 1911 industrialist, inventor, and bon vivant Merriweather Adam Pleasure debarked his Mississippi Riverboat at Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and claimed a small island as his own. Here he created a bustling enterprise – Pleasure Canvas and Sailmaking, Ltd.

Buildings quickly sprouted. Dominating the skyline was the Canvas Fabrication Plant, Sailmaking Factory, and Administration building. Smaller shops made up Chandler Row – a brass foundry, upholstery shop, tool crib, and graphics shop all for lavish, unique yacht ornamentation.

Later, a library was built and became the headquarters for globetrotter Pleasure’s Adventurer’s Club. In 1924, Pleasure sent to China for the latest in pyrotechnics and built his fireworks factory. Finally, to contain his collection of desert flora, he built an elaborate greenhouse.

Merriweather Pleasure was lost at sea in 1941 and his island of industry soon fell into neglect.

More than forty years later the Disney Imagineers discovered the wreckage, worked a little magic, and, viola, from the ashes arose Pleasure Island, a nighttime hot spot with nightclubs, eateries, shops, a 10-screen movie house, and non-stop entertainment. Each of the original buildings has been refurbished to house the ultimate in after-dark excitement.

A wind tunnel for flying machine tests became the XZFR Rockin’ Roller-Dome, complete with roller rink encircling the disco dance floor below.

Mannequins (once the cavernous warehouse for canvas and sewing equipment) showcases live and animated mannequins mingling with dancers on a unique turntable dance floor.

At Pleasure’s Adventurers Club, guests encounter outrageous storytellers, mysterious characters and the quirky memorabilia they’ve collected on their world travels.

The greenhouse is now the Neon Armadillo Music Saloon, for country-western fans.

Then there’s Videopolis – dancing to contemporary sounds for the under-21 crowd, and the Comedy Warehouse.

Dining on the Island ranges from gourmet – the Portobello Yacht Club and Empress Lily Riverboat – to barbecue at the Fireworks Factory. There are also fun-food “grazing” stands under one roof.

And don’t forget movies, movies, movies at the AMC Theatre – 10 theatres, seating from 200 to 500 each.

Pleasure Island is open to all for shopping and dining. In the evening, a single admission charge covers entry to any or all of the clubs.

As Merriweather Adam Pleasure used to say, “It’s fun for all, and all for fun!”

The last ride out of town

How do you do?

One more morning

27 September 2008

'In just 5 minutes...'

It is dinner time

Gets me every time

My stomach in Wonderland

Time travel in style

Valiant to the end

Tonight is the last Last Call for the clubs of Pleasure Island. What, specifically, will replace each individual venue remains to be seen. Over the years I’ve made many a fond memory along that stretch of pavement, from recording a version of Eiffel 65’s Blue to having a song sung about my date, and I will miss no two clubs more than the Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurers Club, both of which I plan on stopping into tonight.

In the greatest tradition of love letters, I present to you today a letter from the Adventurers Club member Hathaway Browne to fellow member, and cuddlewinks, Weggie Wishmeyer.