Monday, October 27, 2014

Walt Disney World Day 9: Another Time ‘Round World Showcase, Maintaining This Trip’s Crazy Pace

The day greeted us with Pinocchio on the page a day Disney calendar. I’d make some comment about how significant that was based on the night before, but then again, it’s pretty hard to have a Disney image show up that doesn’t have significance to our family.

As usual, the TV was on while we got ready to let us hear Stacy, the Ultra Happy Disney Immortal be snarky about how FastPass was included with park admission.

We got to see the Phineas and Ferb Mission Marvel painted bus while waiting for our return to EPCOT.  I’m not sure if anyone got to ride it. There may have been some issues with the hero licensing from Universal. Maybe it just had to drive around empty.

We usually clump the EPCOT visits on trips, even when they aren’t as compartmented as this one was.  The place contains such vast spaces and locations; it makes it feel like one long cohesive visit if the days there are in close proximity

We must have been slowing down toward the end of the trip, once again arriving shortly after park opening.  It was still early enough that Spaceship Earth had no line, allowing us to symbolically return to “original” EPCOT to kick off the day. 

The bulk of the ride, excluding the interactive “what language” “what future” screen in the cars hadn’t changed since its inception.  Dame Judy Dench’s relatively new narration served to indicate progress in views and historical information about the animatronics. 

I continued trying to pay attention to little details and surprises I missed before.  There’s quite a bit in the sound bites connected to each section. It’s great that they kept the footage of the first moon landing, allowing early Big Ball narrator, Walter Cronkite, to have a cameo.

Anabelle didn’t show up in the video she and Rosa created at the end.  We theorized it was because the face she made was far too silly for the computer to handle.  Luckily, we still had a FastPass Plus for this ride later, and remembered some positioning tricks we had figured out on previous vacations.

One ride into our second and final day in EPCOT and I could wait no more. I was having deep fish meditation time withdrawal that could only be cured by visiting the Living Seas. 

The pavilion is much better with a ride. Whether it was the original immersive (ha!) journey under the sea, or the new Nemo based one, it adds a sense of occasion to the entrance.  For the most part, the new scenes were animatronics, with minimal ainima-ing, and video images superimposed on a real tank.  The overall effect still evoked both the tone of the film and the grandeur of the underwater world.

I loved the self-reference gags in the show as well, such as the poor starfish complaining about the “Big Blue World” song on a loop at the end of the ride.
“Take me with you! They keep singing it over and over!”

My tank time was delayed yet again because we de-rided just as Turtle Talk with Crush opened up.  Similar to the Monsters Inc. Comedy Floor, the use of Digital Puppets and Cast Member’s improv skills paid off in a big way every show.  Maybe I’m old, but I still get surprised at Disney fart and bra jokes.  I mean, I still laugh at them like a ten year old, but I still get surprised.

Rosa and I were wearing Nemo themed shirts from our first visit as a family, but Anabelle had grown out of hers. We found nearly all the merchandise in the gift shop was seagull based.  Sometimes, memes are a pain in the keister.

We saved the big tank for last. Orbiting its entrance was easy as the force drawing me towards it was considerable.  We learned that a whopping 85% of all manatees have propeller injury scars. Manatee supporters publish papers citing different kinds of intelligence, and cautioning humans not to judge all animals using a similar bias.  However, I would think “knows how to get out of the way of a boat” would be a reliable benchmark for aquatic animal smarts.

Anabelle was the only one of our little group to get all five questions right on the advanced level of Mr. Ray’s video screen quizzes. Maybe I spent too much time next to the manatee. 

We finally entered the big tank, and after all these years, despite the loss of the music, I still found it completely hypnotic. Luckily, for the first time in all of our trips, we caught a dolphin training demonstration. It focused on location bias.  Anabelle marveled at her favorite animal up close, and barely noticed her dad wandering zombie like with his head leaning on the glass.

Before leaving we hit the one side room we had missed. Every other aquarium in the world, and all the Chinese restaurants I frequent, created displays based on the species in Finding Nemo.  It would be silly not to expect Disney themselves to capitalize on it.  My daughter proved how much she loved me by indulging my "That's A Moray!" song.

Anabelle was going to buy a book about sharks…but after coming home to the big tank, Daddy bought that for her. Also, we found a tie-dye Nemo tank gang shirt for Anabelle on the way out, hidden behind some seagull wear.  Now all in matching gear, we could pose in front of the fish statues near the pavilion entrance. 

We hurried over to catch the end of our FastPass Plus window at Spaceship Earth.  Yes, we were going again, Long Live Educational EPCOT!  The normally bright green Mickey indicators flashed an ominous red when we tried to enter. We had just missed the edge of the window.  I pulled out the SmartPhone in an attempt to bump the time, something designed into the system, because Disney is awesome and doesn’t want to freak out the schedule minded vacationers it was built for.  The Cast Member said he could do a manual override, but seemed desperately concerned we were wasting a FastPass on his fifteen minute line.  He near insisted that we switched it for Soarin’ or Test Track.  We already had Soarin’ programmed for later in the day.  As for Test Track, attempts to explain my Magnetic Levitation Man issues generated a nervous uncomprehending stare, and I switched gears to, “My wife doesn’t do thrill rides, and my daughter doesn’t care about cars.”  Eventually, he let us in, highlighting the lack of understanding how best to use the new system in this location.  The FastPass line bypassed the outside portion of the queue, but not the inside.  If it did, using the “express lane” would have netted us the zero wait time one would expect when the real line is only a quarter of an hour.  Instead, we shaved off the thirty seconds it would have taken to walk around a couple outside turnstiles to reach the line proper.

My daughter cemented herself as a true Disney McGinley by speaking along with the door warning in both English and Spanish. Due to the other side of the family, it was the best Spanish door warning ever done by a McGinley.

Based on the earlier photo failure, Anabelle and I worked on positioning her properly at the start of the journey through the history of communication.  It created a successful video at the end of another trip looking for new details.  I did remember noticing several times in the past, something when Dame Judy said, “Far from the dying embers, Islamic wise men preserve ancient wisdom and weave a rich network of new knowledge linking east and west.”
The individuals bore a striking resemblance to other “Wise Men” from the East, primarily known for trying to smoke a rubber cigar.  What I didn’t remember noticing, and I’m not sure how I missed it, is the chubby guy hanging around with Pharaoh who looked an awful lot like Victor Buono’s King Tut from Batman.

Another reason clumping EPCOT days makes sense is the combination of vast post show areas and the sprawling World Showcase layout.  The second day soon after the first allows fresh memories of which areas merit a more leisurely exploration.  That’s a great theory on paper, anyway. Since it’s us, we view all of them as worthy of a more leisurely exploration, meaning the day isn’t that leisurely at all.

Anabelle and I took turns at the “future tech” driving game.  Considering there was a control malfunction and the vehicle couldn’t turn left, the fact that we both completed the mission speaks volumes as to the difficulty level of that particular challenge.

By the time I finished the game, and recovered the feeling in my arm from over cranking the wheel to go almost straight, they had moved on to the “brain challenge.” 

Following them, I only missed one on both the memory (due to the bucket of useless crap that is my head) and coordination (due to all the time I used to waste juggling, which I now waste writing).  My reaction time, however, was somewhere between “below average” and “you haven’t slept in how long!?”

Anabelle was rated “good” on every exercise, which is pretty impressive considering she was completely wiped out from waking a million Mickey miles every day for almost two weeks…and nine.

Rosa passed the ultimate brain test by not trying, and therefore not letting us make fun of the effects of exhaustion on her scores.

Instead she secured a place for her and Anabelle to play the shuffleboardy fill in the power Grid game.  I think it was supposed to teach about environmentally friendly and efficient power sources.  It turned out to be a much better lesson in frantically moving around a very tight space while flailing large metal sticks without killing a family member.

Keeping a constant theme, we headed over to Innoventions.  Uncle Jesse’s “Sum of All Thrills” roller coaster simulations had an excessive wait and went upside down, earning it no more than a quick watch and wave.  It is notable that, in opposition to nearly every thrill ride in Universal, this was the only Disney attraction I saw with the “Are you too fat for this experience?” test seats out in public.  Disney cares.

Anabelle scored some more stickers at the Storm Watch Eco friendly house display and first aid kit thing, but wasn’t able to enjoy the fun of the “Escape your burning home” simulation because they were waiting for a real fireman arriving shortly for a presentation. 

A real person?
In the classic home of awesome Disney animatronics?
Yeah, like we were going to hang around for that.

We wanted a quick lunch, which we figured we could find at the nearby Electric Umbrella.  We knew selection would be limited going in, especially compared to the rest of the park, but sometimes there are compromises.  Surprisingly, it was Rosa who decided there was “nothing” to eat there, leading us to cross Future World and try Seasons in the Land Pavilion.   I’m sure the fact that we had to pass the Fountain View Starbucks again had absolutely nothing to do with her decision. 

While the experience in the upscale counter service place was a disaster when Anabelle was five years old, with her palate twice as experienced it became a rousing success.  Sourcing from a vast array of fresh ingredients, some grown in that very building, the selection was amazing.  Anabelle chose the Spicy Tuna Salad, based on stealing my tuna nicoise salad in the Beast’s castle.  It turned out to be a little too spicy, leading us to steal each other’s fish. She enjoyed my salmon a great deal.  Rosa showed up while we were eating with her equally tantalizing and healthy roast chicken, and the Frappachino that pulled her off our path. 

Anabelle tried to take advantage of a lull in the day to interview us about her birth as part of a homework assignment.  After following my lead of taking notes on the SmartPhone and then accidentally deleting them, she switched to the more primitive, but reliable, notepaper.

Full and happy, we went back over to the Innoventions we weren’t in before.

East, West, some other direction?  They finally oriented the map properly, and I still never remember which is which.

Mickey and Pluto were together in the Disney Visa exclusive character meeting secret hideaway…place…thing.

Anabelle had pretty much stopped getting autographs, because they would all be doubles at this point, and was enjoying time with the characters. This is a view I have always recommended, usually complaining that autographs create such a focus on signing, they dilute the meetings themselves.  That adds to the embarrassment of my forgetting not only did we meet Pluto two days before in EPCOT, but we were also having dinner with him.  I dove into her backpack to grab the autograph book for Pluto, transforming into what I had mocked.

We rode Imagination again, to say goodbye to Figment, and his Pythonian pal.  I realized the giant end scene with multiple Figments would be perfect for a SmartPhone panoramic picture.  I cannot prove this, because the SmartPhone can only be moved in one direction to take a panoramic picture. That direction is not the direction I decided to move the SmartPhone in.

I already had a PowerAde with lunch, and downed the extra one Rosa had gotten with her meal on the way to Imagination.  This was to battle off any dehydration in hopes of defeating the curse of becoming a RAVING LUNATIC on the second EPCOT Death March.  Rosa didn’t need a drink with lunch because of that happy coincidence involving the Fountain View Starbucks and Disney Dining Plan snacks.

Packing a double load of electrolytes and with the tripod this time, I led my family across the bridge into World Showcase for the start of the second EPCOT Death March.  The laminar flow fountains were firing.  Due to the oppressive heat, and Anabelle’s mourning over the loss of Goofy’s Foot, we stopped a bit. In a cute Circle of Life type thing, a baby girl the same age as Anabelle was on her first Disney visit (which included splashing in an EPCOT fountain) was running through in the same full force, unconcerned manner that she did at that age.  The fact that she ended up splashing Anabelle repeatedly added to the cuteness.

Rosa also soaked her head in one of the water jets to deal with the day’s weather.  Apparently, I made too many “soak your head” jokes to my wife for Karma to stand still.  Whatever insect bit her under the Magic Band previously, got me on the back of the neck. Once again smashing it to minuscule bug bits rendered identification a tad difficult, but whatever it was left a bite that itched for months.

Duffy had no line at all, which may explain why his excessively thanked handlers had no issues with our incredibly soggy daughter hugging the plush merchandise machine.  Exiting his fuzzy presence, I was ready to fight the Curse of the Second EPCOT Death March.

We took our first family photo with the Mexico Pavilion Pyramid behind us, and then entered it because I was travelling with the Grand Fiesta Tour’s biggest fans.  We had a boat all to ourselves and were able to do two trips in a row.  Heck, we didn’t have to get out of the boat because of Rosa asking, “Can we go again?” in flawless South American Spanish at the end of the first pass.

Due to growing children and shrinking fabric, Rosa and Anabelle’s ride shirts they wore two days before didn’t fit quite right.  Following a bit of confusion about who gets which existing ones, we purchased gap filling commemorative wear, and all ended up with red Fiesta Tour shirts.  We also found mom's favorite blue glasses from the Castle which now live in the Mexico restaurant.

To continue a family tradition that dates back to me at age two, we were startled by a parrot. This one was animatronic and talked.  I’m not sure if he was connected to the Perry the Platypus World Showcase Adventure.  I am positive, however, that the familiar faux Eastern European accent we heard shortly thereafter was. This is because it accompanied the appearance of Doctor Doofenshmirtz on the “rooftops” above the plaza.  They need to get on having a meet and greet with him, preferably in an area with hands-on “inator” exhibits.  Maybe they could clear up the confusion with Universal and base it on Mission Marvel.

Sorry, got distracted crossing the streams of too many geek references.
(Ooh! There’s another one!)

The Norway photo came off well, and we were about to ride the Maelstrom again.  Disney’s boat issue surfaced once more, stranding us next to the Viking in Mickey ears. As we were about to give up and press on, repairs were completed and one last “backwards in a boat” happened.

The mysterious and bathroomless China was next on the photo safari.  I thought Rosa was a victim of Cyber-conversion when she started referencing deleting people. However, she was only referring to using Photoshop to clear out our family Far East shot.
Anabelle got the last birthday message and stamp on her Duffy, and we all checked out one of the coolest stores in all of EPCOT. I considered adding another laced neck shirt to my wardrobe, but then decided owning a single shirt that I nearly strangle myself when donning was sufficient.

We didn’t need to use the tripod in the Africa Traders. I still bet it’s a placeholder until another country merges with the Empire of the Mouse.  I did listen carefully to physical needs in order to continue battling the Second Death March curse, and grabbed the first bottle of regular Coke I’d had in years while my wife helpfully stuffed a Power Bar into my face.  Anabelle enjoyed her first taste of the non-diet version of the classic beverage in her life, indicating how much we’ve overly leapt on the calorie free wagon.

Rosa also found a visor she had been looking for. It had the EPCOT logo and a flag motif.  Yes, I did say she found a Minnie visor at the World of Disney Store. I probably don’t need to tell the parents that Anabelle ended up wearing the pink Minnie visor almost as soon as the receipt ink was dry.

I’m sure the German wide view picture of us was fine, but I was more focused on close ups.  A bunch of Florida lizards that hang out on the park grounds were invading the houses of the miniature village and train set. It looked like a scene from one of the groovy old movies shown in the Sci Fi Dine in Theater.

In Italy we walked into a juggling show…literally. Sergio was setting up his big finale, involving an audience thrown ball across the entire pavilion.  Anabelle needing to go on her dancing stage (that statueless pedestal in the center) cleared us out of the way.   Looking around I realized that while the other countries are represented by mini museums, rides and specialized shops, Italy only had food, wine and loud people in the street.  Once again, Disney wins at realism.

We reached the center of the Second EPCOT Death March with no sign of me being a RAVING LUNATIC, but also knowing we’d missed the timing for the American Adventure.  Rosa and Anabelle’s, “Awwwwww,” proved I’m far form the only sarcastic smart aleck in the family.  In fairness to them, it was difficult trying to coordinate an arrival time at the far end of World Showcase, when there weren’t any other attractions at the American Pavilion to kill time, and the nearest films were three countries away in both directions.

We did catch the highly patriotic Fife and Drum corps presentation. This group of older Cast Members was in perfect colonial character, and continued building Anabelle’s participation senses by inviting all the kids to come up and join them for the Pledge of Allegiance.  I was also finally able to ditch the Coke bottle as none of the other countries believed in recycling. 

America – the most ecologically friendly country! 

Yes, I’m going to continue to base my knowledge of world practices on this park, what of it?

In Japan, Anabelle settled on the lucky cat and owl colors that represented patience, and being calm and relaxed.  Perhaps that aided in defeating the RAVING LUNATIC curse.  There were some awesome looking dragon shirts there, but as they cost more than all of my suits combined, they remained on the rack.

The trek continued into Morocco.  On the way we passed another of an increasingly large amount of families all wearing matching Perry the Platypus shirts. It was nice to see the best comedy writing on TV getting so much attention.

As authentic as Morocco tried to make its area, the Aladdin influence was steadily growing. The lamp store was only the tip of the iceberg.  We finally identified the headache inducing smell in that location, tracking it down to incense burning in many of the shops.  I zigged when my family zagged in the back streets and found a hidden mini museum with some unique fashions.
Frankly, if I wore an ugly seventies era lampshade on my head, I’d hide my museum too.

As Avengers fans, Anabelle and I were keen to try Schwarma, but as it turned out to be a full up entrée, we passed on the opportunity.  Proving juvenile references is not just my hobby, some guy in the men’s room launched into a highly skilled Morocco Mole impression.

While posing in front of France, we saw Belle in her blue dress. Her line was closed, though, leading my exhausted child to have a bit of a break down. My infusions of the Power Duo (Ade and Bar) helped me to not only avoid RAVING LUNATIC land, but become the voice of reason during the crisis.  By the time she would come back we’d already be in Future World, and we’d already seen Belle in her ball gown twice.  Therefore, as that voice of reason, I explained to my child that we’d finish our pictures in the remaining countries, and then walk back to France.

Hey!  This is Belle in her blue dress we’re talking about here.

For our picture in England, a Latin Grandmother stood well out of the way of our timer based camera set up.  That is until the light began flashing rapidly indicating the photo was imminent. Then she walked right between us and the tripod.  I guess she was lonely.

We did the Canada photo, and reversed direction back to Belle. 

So?  I have a thing for dark eyed brunettes that like big, hairy, clueless guys with occasional temper issues.  Like that should be a surprise?

Passing repeatedly by the edges of the World Showcase lagoon we noticed that, while Illuminations is surely a beautiful spectacle, it certainly required an excessive amount of crap in the water to pull it off.

The repeated passings also let me notice, for the first time ever, that the England toy store looks like a castle from the outside. Apparently, I’ve always been looking at the pub across the street.  That probably says something about me I shouldn’t admit publically.

We made it back into Future World after the second one and a half times EPCOT Death March with no evidence of me becoming a RAVING LUNATIC. While we couldn’t move the end of the day Turtle Talk FastPass Plus we didn’t plan on using, my spirits were still high.  I had beaten the Second Death March Curse.

Sadly, we would learn the following day that I was battling the incorrect curse.

The Character Spot continued to have absolutely no line, prompting another visit.  Minnie did another dance when seeing herself on Anabelle’s earrings, and we grabbed a video of Mickey waving to our nephew to keep him from feeling left out.  After over a week of interactions, Anabelle still got very confused when characters would mime Happy Birthday to her. As that isn’t what one would call a “practical life skill” I’m didn’t sweat it much.

The sign next to the character spot summed up all a person needs to survive:

Land   Sea   Imagination   Rest Rooms

There was a reference to Captain EO, causing Anabelle to read it as:

Land   Sea   Weird Movie!

We entered the Land Pavilion, home of our dinner, and pre-meal FastPass Plus for Soarin’.  Honestly, the hike down Fast Pass Alley to the hang gliders, even when empty, takes as long as some of the more crowded attractions.  Upon entry, many of the ride’s smells still hung in the air.  I guess the ventilation system gets overtaxed by the end of a high capacity day.   The olfactory preshow didn’t dull the awesomeness of the ride, however. 

Our flight ended just in time for the dinner reservation at the Garden Grill.  Harry, the retired Awesome Happy Disney person at check in asked how old Anabelle was and reminded us to “cherish every moment.”  We explained that was why we were about to have dinner with Mickey instead of having her attend the first couple days of school.   Harry gave us an Awesome Happy Disney person smile of approval.

Anabelle’s Nets bag remained under the table with her pink fluffy princess book stowed for the night. She wanted to enjoy her time with the characters:
“No signing, just have fun.”

That’s my girl.

Before we finished checking out the menus, Chip showed up to dance with the birthday girl for a stretch.  Our waitress, Jenell introduced herself, and when I noticed she was the perfect combination of Disney Happy and Southern Happy, I realized I had thought that before.  She was the same waitress we had on our last trip in 2010.  She’d been working there nine years, and was an Extra Awesome Happy Disney Person.  Since it’s an all you can eat family style meal, we spent time talking about previous trips, and the new apple juice fountain, which all three of us adults agreed dispensed some crazy good beverage.

As always, it was exciting to meet Mickey, even though we only saw him a half hour before. He was thrilled over the picture Anabelle made him, her Minnie earrings, various stickers we all had on our persons with his likeness and just being Mickey in general.  He left with much hand kissing, clapping, and blown kisses.  He truly is the leader of the club.

The fresh and fantastically tasty food came and went in waves throughout. The place rotated so slowly that we would forget, look up to see the surroundings had changed and went, “Oooh!”

Yeah, we’re kind of easy to amuse.

Dale came by, just as sweet, funny and excited as his brother, friend, co-conspirator…really what are they to each other? Maybe they’re college roommates like Bert and Ernie.

Anabelle panicked and called him Chip. She apologized when he looked disappointed (which is pretty dang impressive in a big ole head) and pointed at nose.

Pluto was late, but very huggy, and his delay allowed for a return visit from the Mouse himself, complete with added birthday mime-age.

We rolled out of the Land, stuffed with healthy goodness, and split up.  I hit the giant Mouseworks gift shop with Anabelle as a near last ditch hope to find a replacement bumper sticker, and the Mickey sneakers we’d spotted in my size.

Rosa went to get the Disney Visa Picture, and straighten out more of the PhotoPass Plus issues, before meeting us in the store.  This would have been a great plan if I didn’t have the picture receipt in my wallet. 

We grabbed some squashed pennies for Anabelle’s collection and ran to the photo place.

Last Shop on the Left, because Disney is Awesome.

A Cast Member offered Anabelle a pin off his lanyard with no trade because:
1) It was her birthday
2) As I may have mentioned, Disney is Awesome.

She picked cute little baby Pluto, as he had recently come up on the Random Favorite Character Generator she keeps in her head.

With everything straightened out, we rushed to the exit in order to beat Illuminations, and the crowd that goes with it.  Sadly, that meant we had to decline getting to go into a side room for a quick survey on the way out, and rave about how Awesome the place was.  That “sadly” moment would turn into a benefit the next morning.

Back at the POP Rosa started packing while I took Anabelle to use the complimentary two hundred credits in the arcade.  That translated into about two dollars, an amount I added to by triple before we left.  Nicely marketed Disney.

The arcade used digital tickets, which sucked the same amount of fun out of the games that using printed receipts does in slot machines. 

She played her favorite, the chameleon tongue game, and also Fruit Ninja and the disturbingly named, “Boink.”  It was very odd for an old gamer like me to see many games like those and Temple Run that began life as an app transferred to arcade cases.  It somehow seemed backwards.

She learned a valuable lesson about gambling in a “drop the ball in the hole” game. On her first try, she hit the jackpot, and on her second, won a whopping three tickets.

By the night’s end she had a great deal of fun and won 220 tickets. That haul translated into a small bag of slightly higher quality plastic junk than non Disney arcades.

While cashing in, and talking about characters we saw, we learned some groovy Disney Insider tips from the Awesome Happy Disney people.

A)  There will never be PhotoPass Photographers with Alice in Wonderland or Mary Poppins characters due to the weird, franchise, license, legal jiggery pokery involved in using them.

B)  Megara was making a comeback for Friday the 13th, and had been in the International Gateway, which is where characters go for training. (We are totally detouring over there on the next EPCOT Death March)

C)  The Friday the 13th Villain thing was going to be more awesome than we imagined.


We met Rosa back in the room, displayed the “winnings” and did some minor packing and postcarding.  Miraculously, we still ended up in bed before midnight before another early morning rise.

No comments: