The Magic Almost Ends as it Starts in Epcot (Saved by a Journal and Crayons)
|Hey, I found him!|
After entering Epcot on her fifth birthday, Anabelle informed us she had decided she didn’t want to go on any rides at all, only see characters. We were near the character stop, which should have been a good place to start given that revelation, and then ease her into other areas once she was “happy”. She excitedly waved at everyone through the window as we went inside.
Things were good.
The line went pretty quickly and the first meeting with Mickey was all it should be. Then we stepped to the next station for Pluto, who came forward - arms outstretched - to give Anabelle a big hug. A small blur shot underneath me as she ran toward the window like the Lion running from Oz. Her random fear generator was working on overdrive and she refused to approach him, even to get the Ariel tattoos he offered for her birthday. Anabelle hugged Minnie for comfort, but was too shaken up even to see Donald. Goofy, of course, was out of the question. In fact, even the birthday phone call from Goofy many cast members offered her throughout the day (mostly right after we had just calmed her down) was also out of the question.
There we were, at the start of a long Disney vacation, with a child who wanted to go on NO rides and see NO more characters…
We eventually managed to talk her into trying the new Seas with Nemo, and even though she closed her eyes for the sharks and anglerfish, she still loved the ride. Then she spent a long time in the downstairs post show area, looking at the fish and dolphins in the big tank, the smaller tanks in other rooms, and even playing around Bruce’s Shark Zone. (Y’know, the same sharks she was afraid of on the ride…Try predicting any of this folks.) We went upstairs, and for reasons only her subconscious knows, she suddenly became terrified of the main tank, and wanted to leave. Walking down the hall to the main tank has always been one of my favorite Disney places, so I went back in while Anabelle had a snack outside. I learned that they had new Kidcot stations in some Future World pavilions where kids can color items to hang on a badge. (This is similar to the masks that had been in World Showcase for years.) I came quickly out and asked if she’d like to color a dolphin. We all went back in and were able to spend more quality fish time while she happily colored away.
Lunchtime approached, and we walked into World Showcase. The laminar flow fountain was polite enough to be off when Anabelle passed it, so we were able to get to Norway early for our Princesspalooza reservation. Anabelle was more excited about fairy costumes than princess ones then, making an Iridessa dress the outfit of choice. The original plan was to use the costumes just for the meals, but her inevitable cuteness led to them being worn in the parks as well. After her change, it was still too early to eat, but crayons saved the day when she colored her mask at the Kidcot station. Since the two ends of World Showcase are Canada and Mexico, anyone coloring a mask in another country makes the attendants smile.
When it was time to eat, the Disney Magic kicked into high gear. Belle was in the initial greeting room, and Aurora, Snow White, Ariel, and Cinderella made the rounds. Anabelle nearly exploded as each of them wished her a happy birthday, and signed her card. Of course amid all this excitement, it was very hard for her to focus on eating. The food was spectacular for the rest of us though. This marked the start of the tradition of disassembling my sandwich in order to throw bacon at my daughter so that she would at least eat something.
With desert served, Belle left her post and headed back to the “coffee break room”, saying goodbye and happy birthday to “Iridessa” as she passed. Anabelle was now on look out, and dropped several relatives with birthday wishes off the phone to say good bye to each princess as they passed. Ariel (her favorite) took a different path back to the room, and Anabelle leaped out of her chair and took off after her, both to say goodbye, and get a last hug. I really thought we were going to see a pint-sized fairy throw a full body tackle from behind on a ball gown wearing princess, but that Kodak moment was avoided at the last minute when Ariel turned to bid a farewell.
Another tradition started after lunch when we went next door to Mexico.
We spent half the vacation trying to talk, cajole and convince Anabelle to go on rides we thought she would like…
and the other half trying to talk, cajole and convince Anabelle that she couldn’t go on the same attraction over and over as she yelled, “Again!” as each one ended.
To be fair, the upgrade to the Mexico ride with the Three Caballeros added a lot of fun. (Remember this moment later when I start complaining about other changes.) She also got the second hangy thing for her mask. This required setting off on the “Epcot Death March” (phrase copyright John Pinnette) around World Showcase to get the remaining hangy things from each pavilion.
Travelling from country to country we learned two things.
The first was that Anabelle inherited my patience for distractions when completing a collection. She ignored any show going on in her quest for hangy things. The rest of us watched what we could as we passed by. She did enjoy sightseeing the various displays (fountains, mini railroads, hedge mazes etc.) because she could leave them whenever she wished. She also put on a very entertaining dancing show of her own on the center platform in the Italy pavilion, but only, of course, if we stopped watching her.
The second thing we learned was that most of the progress she made toward being brave with characters the last time we came had eroded. She wouldn’t approach Belle again in France, because the Beast was with her, and the Genie in Morocco and Dopey in Germany only got nervous waves from far off.
There was a short stop outside China to buy Anabelle a unicorn marionette, where the salesman showed us how to store it tangle free. This was followed by a much longer stop in China, where another salesman tried to get a small tangle out of the puppet, and ended up turning it into a macramé project. It became so snarled that he eventually had to give us a new one. Thanks to him, Anabelle was afraid to play with it anymore. Exiting the store, we saw Mulan for the first time ever, which thrilled Anabelle.
We also saw Mushu for the first time ever…which did not.
Luckily, after the Pluto Incident, his handler told us that we could ask character sets to be “broken up” if she was afraid of one of them. Mushu was content to hang in the background while Anabelle met another princess. Grandma bought herself and Rosa a Cappuccino and me a Tiger beer from Singapore that helped us make it through the Death March.
We finished the full loop of World Showcase, which was somewhat more crowded than normal due to the International Food and Wine Festival, and headed back into Future World. I noticed a stand selling McDonald’s french-fries and said, “I can’t believe people are eating McDonalds with a world of good food around them.” (Look, foreshadowing! Literary devices used while you wait.)
Anabelle still had no desire to try any new rides. Rosa had a stroke of genius to get us over that hurdle. She bought Anabelle a small notebook that became her “journal”. Rosa said she could write or draw in it if she didn’t like the ride or show she was at. Anabelle spent the rest of the vacation looking like Lois Lane feverishly taking notes wherever she went. She also wrote, “I’m sorry,” notes any time she got in trouble. (Just tear my heart out now, please.) The first thing she wrote was, “I don’t like it,” which she planned to look at during parts of a ride she didn’t enjoy.
Fortunately, after riding Journey into Imagination with Figment, she crossed out “I don’t like it,” and wrote, “I love it”. Then she spent a good while goofing around in the Imagination playground and, overall, things were looking up.
One of the main things Anabelle remembered from her two-year-old Disney visit was the silly little computer games she played in Innoventions. Of course this is the one exhibit which changes the most frequently, so nothing she remembered was there. Luckily for everyone involved, both the East and West sides had Kidcot stations. Her bouts of coloring saved us from a substantial meltdown, even after being scared by the Disney fun of the “Learn how to escape your burning house” exhibit.
(We really could have used an “Escape your burning cupcake” exhibit, but I get ahead of myself.)
She even played a bit in the mechanical test lab exhibit, which didn’t involve crayons at all.
|The fortress of classic EPCOT|
Once again after much convincing, we got Anabelle to try “The Big Ball”. I was thrilled at how much she liked Spaceship Earth, the last remaining bit of the old, animatronics filled Future World. We played around the post show area for a bit, and then went to the Land Pavilion. There was a wait for dinner, but crayons saved the day yet again. Anabelle could happily while away the time at the Kidcot station till we were called.
Dinner required some gymnastics. The restaurant rotated, preventing getting up and down like other character meals. We had to hide Anabelle in the middle for Pluto, and then pop her out to the end of the booth for Mickey as well as Chip and Dale, who are everywhere, and always awesome. The food was outstanding, we got to see part of the Land boat ride (which usually had a prohibitive line, thanks to overflow from the newly installed Soarin’ ) and the waitress was from Throggs Neck in the Bronx. All in all a great experience.
And now, an autograph note. I always thought they were kind of a waste, as they limited the unique interactions between the characters and the kids. Last time, we brought birthday cards for the characters to sign at the meals when there’s a little more time. This trip, something changed my opinion. We brought Anabelle’s “Jumbo Pen”, approximately the size and length of two toilet paper roll tubes end to end. The characters were very happy to have a pen they could handle, and played with it a great deal, miming how large and heavy it was and all sorts of things that really enhanced the meetings. We ended up letting them sign her journal wherever we encountered them. Only Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Incredible had to use stamps instead of signing. Apparently, elbows are more important for autographs than fingers…how about that?
We went to bed exhausted but happy (after Anabelle hid in the closet from the Water Pageant again) in full knowledge that we’d need another day in Epcot.