Monday, September 15, 2014

Walt Disney World 2013: Day 3 - A Fountain View and a Mountain New

The title of the day after Universal does not refer to the Fountain View reopening in EPCOT on this date as a Starbucks; we’d be there often enough later on this trip.

In spite of another early wake up time, we all breathed one more well-established McGinley Disney Sigh of happiness at our first full day on the home turf. We got ready to the sounds of what we thought was the new non-Stacey full Disney World Tour channel, but it turned out to be a short loop only about Downtown Disney.  Its lack of Stacyness doomed it to never be watched again.

Dumping some cereal into ourselves, we loaded up and went out to meet our first Extra Magic Hours bus.  The Animal Kingdom early crowd was far different from the Magic Kingdom travelers at the same time. There were only a couple of kids on the bus, and none of them in costumes.  I guess it’s a more mature bunch that wakes up early to visit zoological exhibits in Disney World…and us.

We missed the park pre-opening, but were still well within Extra Magicness on arrival.  Disney once again acknowledged our presence musically by playing the “Bear Necessities.”  Rosa grabbed some multilingual maps, I danced like Baloo, and Anabelle pretended not to know the crazy guy in the Scar shirt.

During planning Expedition Everest was a “maybe” meaning we didn’t use a FastPass Plus for it.  Therefore we walked straight over to it when Anabelle decided she wanted to try.  Rosa set up camp outside, ready to take photos of every train that shot down the mountain until we came out in the hopes of finding us. This way she could share in the stress of a thrill ride, with none of the motion sickness.

There was no line through the densely packed with coolness Himalayan artifact and Yeti stuff museum area.  The whole way in was a repeat of the Tower of Terror. Anabelle kept saying, “I’m scared again,” over and over. 

Once more it was story elements, this time the Yeti, which scared her far worse than the prospect of the fast moving ride.

Even for a massive thrill ride like this, with Disney the story took precedence, starting with the aforementioned line.  The cars had what appeared to be large steam engines at the rear, enhancing the illusion of the loading area being a mountain train station.

The chain lift pulled us through a Yeti shrine cave and overlooked a “local” village as we climbed ever higher into the sky.  Anabelle was still mumbling about being terrified of the Yeti. Meanwhile, I was silently being terrified that we were high enough to see the Rock of Gibraltar to the east.

After cresting the magnificent mountain, the train went down and around some sissy little hills and curves, which were barely “Weeee” worthy.  Then we rounded another curve, and the train stopped because the tracks had been torn up.

The train hung there for a while, letting us stew over the broken tracks and the roars behind us.  With a soft click almost covered by the Yeti calls, we zoomed backwards into utter darkness over a couple of bumps, until we could feel ourselves being ratcheted upward in the impenetrable blackness.

Suddenly a bright craggy shaped spot on the wall treated us to a shadow puppet show of the Yeti tearing up more tracks, before swinging off with a growl.

It was only then that the train dropped out of the cave mouth at fifty miles an hour, tearing around a curve like a bat out of hell.  A few more fierce twists and drops led us back into the mountain to pass under the strobe lit, giant, red-eyed Yeti himself, before the ride finally came to rest.

Overall, it was like Big Thunder Mountain on steroids.  Anabelle’s fear evaporated once the movement kicked in, shifting her into her normal coaster mantra,
“awesome, Awesome, AWESOME, AAAAAAAAAAA!”

She did, however, close her eyes for the Yeti appearance. I told her he looked just like a dirty Wampa, the Hoth creature from Empire Strikes Back.  That may have pushed her over the threshold as she constantly sings the Wampa song from Robot Chicken’s “Empire on Ice” when we play cards with the Star Wars deck I unsurprisingly own.  The Extra Magic lines were mostly nonexistent, but we did walk through the line/museum a little slower the second time to appreciate it better.

She kept her eyes open for the monster and happily screamed just as much.  Rosa spent enough time in the gift shop getting the ride pictures on our PhotoPass card to form an attachment to a cute stuffed Yeti. (After trying to figure out which screaming train was us, of course.) Naturally it accompanied us the rest of the journey.

Rosa wanted to perfect the timing for photographs, since it was quite difficult to determine which fifty mile an hour trainload of screaming individuals were related to her from the safe coaster viewing distance.  As we walked toward our normal park opening time FastPass Plus for Kilimanjaro Safaris, she began asking where the big drop following the flash of light in the cave was.

There were problems with this seemingly straight forward question:

(1) Not being on the ride, she had absolutely no idea how much of it was hidden from view and that several moments matched that description.

(2) Being on the ride, which goes up to the previously mentioned fifty miles an hour, both forwards and backwards and through a variety of twists, we had no idea where we were at any given moment.

The ensuing conversation was somewhat heated and distracting.  A good side effect of not focusing on the path was walking the wrong way into Asia, and discovering the fountain Anabelle played in for an hour at age five.  We literally and figuratively cooled off a bit before heading the correct way into Africa.

The sign for the “bumpy bus” said it was ten minutes, but fortunately we were unfamiliar enough with the FastPass Plus system to try and change one yet.   They must have not updated the notice quickly enough after park opening, and we queued past a giant conglomeration of guests deeper inside the waiting area, easily and painlessly boarded our transport.

As could be expected from animal filled lands large enough to fit the Magic Kingdom in, it was extremely impressive.  The new zebra area fit in seamlessly, and had a much better connection to the rest of the story now that “Little Red” was gone.
Rosa switched between her “near” and “far” lenses (which she actually knows the proper names for) on the Super Deluxe Magic Camera in order to get good close ups.  The SmartPhone back up camera was sufficient for me to take my usual animal moon shots.

Cast Members performing an animal survey were seated behind us, and ended up providing a more informative tour than usual. They confirmed that the rickety bridge did do a false collapse drop for a short while when the attraction originally opened.  It was nice to get official confirmation that I wasn’t crazy…
Or at least that I didn’t hallucinate the drop the first time.

We then continued our counterclockwise circumnavigation of Animal Kingdom to reach the soon to be evicted Camp Minnie Mickey. There was time before our Festival of the Lion King FastPass which we frittered away on line for Pocahontas.  She went for a coffee break, and it would be a couple of days before we figured out “be right back” for face characters had a drastically different meaning than for the rest of the gang.  Anabelle did have one of the Awesome Happy Disney line technicians sing her, “This is your birthday song, it isn’t very long!”  Though the fountain was the first time she heard it, and he was far from the last, this older gentleman’s version had the most involved and entertaining build up and introduction.  He also recruited some help to sing the real birthday song “backwards” to Anabelle and another girl.

Anyone needing details of what they did clearly needs to spend more time with Awesome Happy Disney People.

We bailed on the Powhatan Princess to catch our prescheduled viewing of Rosa’s favorite: the Lion King Show.

Using the FastPass Plus didn’t seem to bestow any “preferredness” to our seating.  We entered a separate door from the main one, and then filled available space.  Maybe it works better when the park is packed to capacity.

We did get extra time to pick our section because of the entrance location.  After careful discussions, planning and recommendations we chose our spot.  We ended up in the warthog section, which is where we’ve ended up pretty much every time we’ve seen the show. I’m sure there’s a “with you, everything’s gas,” joke with my name on it somewhere in there.

Rosa filmed the show, leading to a very shaky video as she was recreating the one handed version of all the cast’s dances.  Since she was occupied, she bestowed the great honor upon me of using the Super Deluxe Magic Camera.

Unfortunately, the Super Deluxe Magic Camera hates me.  It refused to focus on anything, zooming randomly in and out whenever I pressed the button. Considering we have infinity plus twelve pictures of this show from previous viewings, the loss wasn’t too epic.

This trip I focused a great deal on details. Instead of merely enjoying returning to favorites, I actively searched for subtle things I hadn’t noticed before.  The faces the tumble monkeys made were anything but subtle, however I never registered how constant and varied they were throughout the show.  

The expressions were only a small part of the nifty background stuff.  Most dancers waved and greeted the animals on the floats they loitered on between numbers.  As opposed to Timon who UNENDINGLY looked to be keeping up a running commentary with Pumba throughout the entire proceedings. At least I think so.  He had one wonky eyeball staring at the inside of his own head that made it hard to tell what he was looking at.

We hopped back on Pocahontas’s large line listening to Guitar Dan.  Rosa sent me over to ask about the color coded benches on the floor level of the Festival of the Lion King. We knew one set were for special needs guests, and I learned the others were for V.I.P.s.  Despite the obviousness of our non-V.I.P. status, Rosa sent me back to find out what one had to do to reach that level.

The less than helpful answer I returned with was that Anabelle would have to grow up and get a job as a performer in The Festival of the Lion King. Then, as relatives of the cast, we would be V.I.P.s.  To toss in a smidge of foreshadowing, that was close to the truth of Saturday morning.

When I started asking why so many people wanted to see Pocahontas, before I could qualify that question, Anabelle jumped in with, “Because she isn’t wearing much clothes.”

I think they both made fun of my being a fan of Leela again before I could continue my thoughts.

I clarified that when Pocahontas was wandering around as a free range character; she was mostly ignored by passersby, and now that she had an official spot with a sign; Animal Kingdom’s only Princess drew a mob.

We reached the front of the line, and there were birthday greetings, hugs and smiles at our first bit of wonderfulness that is a Princess encounter.  

This was followed by considerably less wonderfulness as we ran like crazy back into Africa to make our Donald’s Safari Lunch Reservation at the Tusker House.

We tend to view Animal Kingdom as a one day park, due to the limited number of attractions on our must see list. Any extra days or parts thereof are a bonus.  However, the place is freakishly large, leading us to exhausting sprints to traverse the vast distances within it.

We caught our breath as we checked in, took our photo with Donald, and sat for only a couple of minutes before the pager signaled we were going in.

The host and one of the busboys were from Brooklyn, and our waiter was from the Bronx.  If that wasn’t a good omen, I don’t know what is.

As soon as we entered, the parade and dance with Mickey while playing various African instruments started. Anabelle joined in, and became very puzzled when they took the instruments back shortly after the procession began. In hindsight, it appears that one kid in the front of the line changed his mind and didn’t want to play.  The kids next in line followed suit, popping all the instruments back in the box well before the parade was done.

Shortly after Mickey wandered off, to recover from dealing with a room full of dancing, screaming children, the other characters came by.  Daisy was fun and cute, and Goofy led to an unusual question anywhere but in central Florida:

“Hey, do you think Goofy is taller than Doctor Doom?”

The Tusker House had several large rooms off of the buffet area, and I got lost for a bit trying to get back after one trip once Anabelle was loaded up and returned.  Rosa was afraid to go eat due to Mickey’s delayed visit.  She did eventually find time to sample the amazing mix of traditional and African recipes a couple of times.

The delay netted us a second visit from Goofy.  My attempt to take a picture with the lens cap on earned me a face palm from him. 

Yes, Goofy was commenting on my stupidity. How’s that for impressive?   

There was another Mickey celebration parade, this time with full instrument involvement, before we had our personal Mouse time at the table.  Yet another birthday cupcake rounded out the vast and varied mix of desserts provided.

Tusker House lunch is going to cause a big internal debate for Future Grid creations.   The lunch is a new offering. We had used it for breakfast several times in the past to allow pre-opening entry to Animal Kingdom.  Using it this day would have wasted extra magic hours, which is what led us to lunch in the first place.

There are a below average number of characters at the meal, only three inside as opposed to the usual four. Also, for a one day visit, the character lunch gobbles up far more time than counter service would, and eliminates eating at the most excellent Flame Tree Barbecue.

On the other hand, the food was freakin’ fantastic.  That’s not just me being the insane Disney fan and complimenting their everything again.  This place had delicious and diverse food even compared to the rest of Disney World’s awesome eateries.  Clearly, the non-existent Grids of the Disney’s yet to come will be altered by this meal.

Deciding not to run East Jeezus across Animal Kingdom for a change, we remained in Africa. Our walk through the Pangani Forest Trail was undeterred by the disturbingly large flock of vultures circling over the exhibit.

Anabelle decided she wanted to check out one of the many Wilderness Explorers’ booths that were splattered all over the park, but more concentrated in the walk through safaris.  She received her faux scouting guide.  It was similar to the worksheets I tend to complain about at museums and zoos.  However unlike them, this being Disney, it was straightforward and entertaining, while still being educational.  Most of the badges (distributed as stickers) involved interacting with the Awesome Happy Disney Wilderness Guides at the stations for some interpersonal learning. 

I didn’t have to worry about missing the “back side of water” on the Jungle Cruise.  This is because the Pangani Trail gave me more than enough exposures to the backsides of monkeys, the backsides of hippos, and the backsides of so many other animals, I was quite done with backsides by the end of the day.

We took some brief interludes in the little shops to unsuccessfully find Rosa a visor, and to listen and watch the street drummers in Africa and Indian dancers in Asia.  Anabelle’s audience participation-o-meter was at a low, preventing her from joining in as we continued around toward Discovery Island for our third and final FastPass Plus in that park.

The pass was definitely needed for Mickey and Minnie’s new home as the line was close to an hour on this uncrowded day.  They were together in their digs at the Adventurer’s Outpost, just across from the entrance to “It’s Tough to be a Bug.”  The move could have been due to giving them a larger, sheltered line for what is now the only Meet and Greet with them together, since the destruction of Toontown, by the Princess owned New Fantasyland demolition crew.  More likely, though, it was to move them out of Camp Minnie Mickey before it was crushed beneath the giant smurf-cat driven bulldozers to make room for Avatarland.  The Main “Camp Minnie Mickey” sign near Pizzafari had already been changed to a “Festival of the Lion King” sign, which will allow them to keep it once that show moves to Africa in 2014.

They really should have more places to meet the First Mice together, they always play off each other staggeringly well, and it’s an entertaining treat for the whole family.   They both were very excited about Anabelle’s shirt featuring them, and Minnie comforted Mickey when he was afraid of my Scar shirt.  I tried to demonstrate through clearly inadequate mime that I chose the shirt more for Ed the Hyena than for Scar. Sadly, my actions ended up causing Mickey to need more comforting.

Minnie demonstrated her muscles by handling Anabelle’s giant pen, greatly impressing her husband. (Walt stated that even though they date on screen, those are only roles, and they are married in real life.  He would have known.)

The Up meet and greet had ended already, leading us to zig zag a bit for no reason, one of our favorite Disney pastimes, before entering the bug movie.  There’s almost never a line for the giant theater, but I’m making the same suggestion to everyone else that I made to my family.

Take your time walking under and through the Tree of Life, the sculptures are outstandingly beautiful.  Many blend in perfectly with the natural looking surroundings, and can be easily missed when running by at Mach Five.   Even if the delay causes you to just miss one seating for the show, the time can easily be filled by checking out the witty Broadway parody posters in the waiting area, or just leaning on the giant dung ball.

The movie was fun too.  Anabelle handled it much better than the fiasco at age five.  She was still highly disturbed and grossed out for quite a while afterwards by the maggots, roaches etc. that she felt passing across her butt at the end of the show.  Mission accomplished Imaginers.

Our next stop was the character trails we missed over at the doomed Camp Minnie Mickey.  This completed our clockwise circumnavigation of Animal Kingdom.  I point out the excessive walking for those planning to give me a hard time about the ice cream I’m about to mention in ten sections.

With Jungle Book my favorite, and formerly (her first trip at age two, very formerly) Anabelle’s favorite, the main priority was Baloo and King Louis.  The Cast Members once more complimented our shirts, Rosa’s wood carved Bambi included.  I felt bad having to answer the repeated question of, “Did you get that here?” with, “Sort of, there wasn’t a ‘here’ when I bought this in Adventureland.” Not only did my t-shirt predate many employees, but Animal Kingdom itself.   Anabelle’s selection of the pirate belt buckle also proved popular with nearly every PhotoPass person.

Baloo mimed singing and dancing to Happy Birthday for Anabelle.  Many characters did this, and it managed to confuse Anabelle every time.  This is why we really pushed for this trip, while she was still the age to be star struck by the experience.  Baloo signed her pink fluffy princess book while King Louis tried to keep dancing with her, because he’s a very musical ape.  As fun and cool as he is in the film, in person he’s kinda short, and has weird extended hands, making her reluctant to grab on and join in.

We finished our last possible trip to Camp Minnie Mickey with Chip and Dale, because they are awesome.  They did random goofy and confusing things to Anabelle and her pink fluffy princess book because that’s who they are.

We have very strong Disney traditions, which should be insanely obvious by now.  Some center on Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. 

One) We always find a great, close up spot to watch the festivities. 

Two) The spot we find is always directly in the fierce and blazing afternoon Florida sun, leading to possible heatstroke.

Three) In order to fight off some of the heatstroke, we look for Disney Dining Plan approved Mickey Ice Creams, and fail to find them.

On every other trip, we would approach our sun bleached parade spot from Africa or Dinoland, where the only ice cream vendors were serving hand scooped Hagen Daas.  While that particular treat is both on plan and probably higher quality than what we were looking for, it was not “what we were looking for.”  Also, several of those stands were on the parade route itself, and shut down while we found our self-baking spot.
This trip however, we found the appropriate cart on our way out of Camp Minnie Mickey and grabbed some Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bars and a Cookies and Cream Mickey Sandwich on route to jammin’ and junglin’.  See above for any complaints about my falling off the food wagon.

The parade was just as much fun as every other time we sweated through it.  The heat seemed to addle the brain of a family near us, causing them to decide to leave right before the fun started.  That netted us an even better spot in front of the store than we started with, allowing characters and giant animal puppets to harass us throughout the show.
Rosa’s video once again wobbled to the beat as she continued her own tradition of single hand dances.
Farewell awesome parade, you'll be missed.

A quick check of the ever helpful MyDisneyExperience app indicated our plan’s for doing the whole park in one day was shot by a broken Dinosaur ride. Plan B of revisiting Everest was similarly busted, as was the coaster.  This switched Saturday’s Grid entry from “Probably Animal Kingdom” to “Definitely Animal Kingdom.”  I guess I’m experienced enough with Gridmaking by now that most of the “probably”s turn out to be correct.

The only other attraction we cared about was back in Asia.  We still refused to go to the environmentalism heavy Rafiki’s Planet Watch, partially because none of the descriptions excited us, but mostly as a tribute to Dad.

There was a brief stop for both Rosa and Anabelle to battle the effects of the parade heatstroke in the old favorite Asia fountain.  As much as I normally dislike walking around all wet, even I saturated my hat to chill my brain after the heat jammin’.  It was there that the little Peruvian kid patch got loose on Anabelle’s cap leading Rosa to remove it to keep it from getting lost.  This left her headgear without any image whatsoever on it. Clearly we had to remedy that situation. The McGinley family Disney trip display standards are high.

The Asian Jungle Trek provided more Explorer stickers for Anabelle and more animoons for me.  A large group of us were staring into the Komodo Dragon exhibit for a long time, while one guest kept trying to point out the animal.  He kept talking about it being “near the stump.” I think all of us thought he meant the large fallen tree when he said “stump.”  Then the tree lifted up its scaly head and we realized it was a MASSIVE Dragon right in the center of the enclosure.
The guy had every right to look at us like we were all idiots when it moved.  After taking the beautiful scenery, giant bats, sleeping tigers, and a boatload more birds, we started working our way out of the Animal Kingdom. 

Anabelle still was in non-participating mode, and went to get the currency badge while nearby a Bhangra dance demonstration that pulled in an extremely fun looking older anniversary couple.  We saw them at several dance demonstrations throughout our trip, proving very clearly that kids aren’t needed to have a wonderful time in Disney World.

We stopped for some final pictures, shirt compliments and Explorer Badges on the way off of Discovery Island.  The PhotoPass guy gave us a new card, which puzzled us, since we had PhotoPass Plus and not an old card. He explained the PhotoPass web site was changing that day, but not to worry as there wouldn’t be any issues.


On the way out of the oasis to the park exit, we saw the anteater! 

Nearly impossible to photograph due to movement and shadows, but we got to see him walk around a while.


I like anteaters, leave me alone.


Some entertaining fellow switched the arrow on the bus stop direction sign, sending us in the wrong direction. We recovered just in time to see a half empty bus leave our stop, and then have to pack in the next one sardine like. 

We sat near the same family we were near on the way in.  It was obvious because they were very distinctive.

They had three girls.  Based on their looks Rosa thought they were twins and a sister close in age, and I thought they were triplets.   Based on their accents Rosa thought they were from Chile, Uruguay, or Argentina and I thought…

They spoke Spanish.

Animal Kingdom closed early, at 5PM. Instead of rushing to a distant dinner reservation, we left this night aside to explore and pool hop at our new neighbors, the Art of Animation resort.

Of course, the daily thunderstorm of inconvenience hit as soon as we de-bussed.

Knowing the minimal duration of Florida storms, we changed into our TARDISy pool wear, grabbed umbrellas, and crossed the bridge to our sister resort.

Art of Animation was pretty much a mirror to the Pop Century, though the theming was film specific rather than decade, which added more cohesiveness and immersiveness to each area.

The center of the resort was Finding Nemo based, and oriented around giant sculptures like the Pop. The difference was instead of a main and kiddie pool, there was one large fenced in area containing the pool, a coral themed playground and a laminar flow fountain. The fence was keyed only to Art of Animation guests’ key cards and Magic Bands. This saddened Anabelle more than the rain. 

The Lion King section matched the Pop’s Seventies area, since it had no pool. However, instead of a giant statue at each building, there were several sections of slightly smaller, but still oversized, dioramas featuring scenes from the movie.  There were some play areas in and around the animals as well.

The furthest area from the main building, and the whole reason Anabelle wanted to come, was the Little Mermaid section.  It followed the Pop layout, with the addition of a couple of smaller extra statues representing Ariel’s grotto, such as Eric’s birthday sculpture.  The good news was that the pool wasn’t labeled for guests only. The bad news was it was still closed.  The life guard said it would probably open later in the night, and also that we could easily “sneak” into the Nemo pool if we wanted, since no one ever checks.  Anabelle was visibly and severely uncomfortable with the entire concept of sneaking in anywhere.  The new generation’s unhealthy over fascination with rules really needs to be addressed.
We waved to giant Ariel, and passed by giant Triton again, giving giant Ursula as wide a berth as possible, to cross the complex, and see the last remaining section: Cars.

The Cars area was easily the most immersive, with the walkways made into “the new road” from the film, complete with Route 66 signs, and Burma Shave like Rust-Eze adds.  The pool was the Cozy Cone, and the buildings themselves became the Wheel Well motel, Luigi’s Casa De La Tires, and Mater’s Towing.
Oddly, with all the other statues being oversized, here all the cars were undersized.  One would think that would be so kids could more easily and safely climb on them, except for the myriad signs instructing the kids not to do that.

As we passed though all the sections, we discussed the post lottery win stay in Disney World for a year plan, and how we would be changing hotels and areas during that time.
To quote the ads, “Hey, you never know.”

Once again, we had walked off the “too full to look at food” feeling from lunch and were starving.  The main building was filled with concept art from each of the four films.  While the cafeteria followed the same general plan as Everything Pop, it was slightly more upscale.  There were multiple “make your own” stations for Pasta, salad, and others. The ingredients also seemed a bit fancier, such as salmon instead of tilapia fillets.  The plates and flatware were real as well, forcing me to concentrate a great deal to prevent throwing them out, especially after the opening day mug lid fiasco.

The rain ended, as it always did, and we had time to fulfill Anabelle’s fantasy of swimming in the Ariel pool.  Though the Nemo pool itself was much larger and had more amenities, it didn’t have Ariel, meaning Anabelle wanted no part of it, sneaking or not.

When we heard the finale of Illuminations from EPCOT, we realized our “go to bed early in Disney World” plan had, yet again, vanished in a puff of, “We’re having too much fun.”

As soon as we exited the pool the temperature dropped and it started raining again.  More rushing was in order, to get back across the bridge and behind the Play Doh can to the warm room.

On the way, a large group of teenage girls cheered our shirts yelling about the TARDIS and Doctor Who.  I smiled and waved, while the geeky kid hidden in the back of my mind yelled, “Where the hell were you thirty years ago!?”

We dried off extensively and changed. I went on the more required than usual hot chocolate run. On the way back, I priced a shot of Bailey’s at the bar pool for my coffee to aid in warming up.  I decided not to buy one because I was concerned it would make me fall asleep even before I stopped moving.

We placed both Anabelle’s pairs of soaked sneakers near the vent with packing paper acquired from the Awesome Happy Disney gift shop lady to try to get some moisture out before the next day.  

We finished up any and all other preparations to be ready for much more important extra magic hours the next morning.

Disney 2013 Trip Index

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