We split from the Castle and Crystal Palace meal goers at the Magic Kingdom and hopped on the monorail with other hotel breakfasters. We made our return arrival at the entrance of 1900 Park Fair in the Grand Floridian before the 8AM opening.
Wow! We were finally getting good at this.
The participation magic of the vacation started with the WandShop, passed through the Lion King show and reached a mighty crescendo that morning. Whether it was the luck of the draw, or the combination of our early arrival, a birthday button and her fancy Alice inspired dress, I don’t know. Anabelle was chosen to open breakfast by speaking the magic word.
Being one of the few kids who looked capable of saying Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious may have sealed the deal.
Mary Poppins greeted Anabelle when the door opened, and personally escorted her to our table as the first to be seated.
I have a feeling any attempt on our part to make her birthday special for the next couple of years is going to pale in comparison.
Contrary to most character meals, where a fully signed card was presented at the end, the birthday card was left on the table for each character to sign as they passed. The live element made the card extra special. The first time we took Anabelle for her birthday, and before we knew about the Character Meal cards, we brought our own cards for the same reason. There went Disney, stealing my ideas again.
I don’t believe I’ve mentioned Disney people being Awesome recently enough.
The Hatter continued this awesomeness with his supremely goofy visit. When Rosa asked him to stand with me as well as Anabelle he reacted by saying, “I didn’t know this was a photo shoot,” and adopted several poses. They were equal parts artsy male runway model, and recently escaped, disturbed lunatic.
I was lucky to make the Mad Hatter’s display. I got into a discussion with one of the chefs. Actually, I wasn’t active for much of it. Sometimes Awesome Happy Disney Person-ness overflows and they feel the need to engage over and above. I heard an amusing and engaging tale of a man’s plans to retire in Idaho, and made it back in time for the character. So no harm, no foul.
Remembering the mob sized crowds we’d encountered in ChefMickey’s and at other meals, it always amazed me that 1900 Park Faire remained relatively empty. None of our co-monorail riders were heading to the Grand Floridian. Considering the quality of the food and interactions, they didn’t know what they were missing.
We left breakfast both physically and emotionally satisfied, but also earlier than expected. The power of MyDisneyExperience was called upon for some last minute FastPass Plus adjustment to organize the day more efficiently.
Efficiency in Disneyness doesn’t mean the same thing it does in manufacturing or power generation. It means organizing the time to increase both the amount of attractions, but also decrease the amount of rushing between them. Therefore Disney Efficiency means a slower pace, not a quicker one.
Yeah, we still ran everywhere trying to cram in as much as possible…shut up.
See, I do know what I’m talking about.
EPCOT, but in mobile form. We happily detailed the awesomeness of Disney for their record keeping, which cut off a minor disagreement by reminding us how much we were enjoying our time together.
Even though the entry crowds were concentrated on Main Street, the line for Magic Mickey in the Town Square Theater was negligible. We decided a picture with him would be a good shot for the ever elusive Christmas Card. We entered the backstage area and were surprised to see Mickey in his normal outfit.
on stage was a little unnerving, but right next to us? We were all near to running out of the building screaming.
We did calm down quickly, and the failed card trick worked perfectly as magic. That is, it kept everyone’s focus on how he did the “accidentally” revealed card identification, and drew attention away from the real trick – Talking Mickey!
Anabelle was thrilled to get a spoken Happy Birthday from the Mouse in charge. That came after one of the photographers yelled, “Hey Mickey! We have another BIRTHDAY!!!! Here!” OK, so the magic wasn’t completely hidden, but it was still cool.
We even got a, “M-I-C…See ya real soon!” on the way out. The handlers told us that was a really special farewell. The Cast Members there all loved our colorful sneakers, Rosa’s Snow White shirt, and my Headless Horseman shirt. Mock my shirt Gridding all you want, we get praised.
“In the unlikely event I should run bare assed through the cabin wearing a World War I Kaiser helmet singing 'Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley,' by God the drinks are on me.”
No, the reason it was inappropriate was that the trolley was being refurbished and they were riding in a vintage fire truck. They did yell “Happy Birthday,” to Anabelle, so I let that little transgression slide.
at dinner, but it was worth the short wait to interact with them all as a group. Keeping with the villain transforms to make them more guest friendly, instead of evil; the stepmother was merely cold, and an etiquette Nazi. Drizella reminded Anabelle not to shake hands with a “noodle arm” following up with a crack about Anastasia having a noodle head. The stepsisters were similarly not wicked, but more what would be described as entertainingly insane.
With the multiple rides, I got to pay attention to more details. The eyes on the wallpaper in that door hall now glow. There were a couple other elements I’d never noticed before. The suit of armor by the floating candle hallway has a cat’s face, and the creaking in the stretching room starts out as a subtle background noise. Again, I don’t think these were new, there’s just a limit of how much Disney can fit in my head. The more “lively” Hitchhiking Ghost animations definitely were new, as were the interactive tombstones on the line. They were also excessively more entertaining when not being horrendously rained on. Some talked, some played music, and the big bathtub one squirted, sneezed and blew bubbles.
I do love watching first time guests marvel at the goings on. There are always some full grown adults highly shaken and completely fooled by the stretching room.
(Awesome Happy Disney People are very sneaky…
Why do you think they make all the guests move toward the “dead center of the room” and inside that bordering line, leaving them a clear path around the edge?)
Rosa thought I had lost my mind…
More than usual, anyway…
She noticed I was leading us toward the Philharmagic entrance directly next to a Wait Time sign with a big ole “60” on it, a half hour before a FastPass window. It turned out to be her looking at the poorly placed sign for Ariel’s Adventure FastPasses yet again. As per usual, the massive theater had no wait, and we were able to walk in immediately, sit in the middle of the theater in an empty row, and bask in the awesomeness.
With plenty of time, we snuck in to the secret back entrance of Ariel’s Grotto once again to allow Anabelle to say farewell to her favorite.
I should probably point out that while Ariel is her favorite princess, The Little Mermaid wasn’t, isn’t and probably never will be her favorite Disney movie. That whole “women not making sense” thing starts early.
It may be noticeable that I think Disney is awesome, and that I tend to point that out with alarming frequency. There are times, however, where I am still utterly unprepared for moments where Disney Awesomeness surpasses even my considerable imagination.
The two families before us both had extreme special needs girls with them. The first was fresh from the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique with her two sisters. She was in a wheelchair and had obvious motor and speech issues. The second was almost completely withdrawn into herself. Ariel was nothing short of amazing, using the perfect methods to create bonds with both children. For the first, after learning they were heading to a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table, Ariel, in full bubbly and descriptive detail, babbled on about who they’d meet there. Then she related how her father would transform her to have legs, and meticulously described the outfit she’d wear, encouraging the girls’ enthusiasm the whole way. For the second, she used a much more quiet and subtle approach, but was equally successful in gaining eye contact with the child, getting her to come in for a quick picture, and making a connection.
Rosa and I were in tears well before our daughter said her good byes. I made sure to send a letter to guest services praising Ariel. (And also Buzz from the previous Magic Kingdom day, for less heart felt, but equally awesome reasons.)
tattoo but was concerned when she heard we wouldn’t be back for quite a few years:
Ariel asked, “Fish years or human years?” When Anabelle answered human, the princess replies, “Dang it! Those are a lot longer!”
On the way out, Cast Members once more complimented our shirts, correctly deducing they were bought in the park back when, “we used to sell good shirts…just sayin'. Y’know, I’m juuuuuuust sayin'.”
Actually, I got comments from almost everyone in the Magic Kingdom on my Headless Horseman shirt, which is common. I’ve worn that shirt to that park on every trip since Junior High. Oddly the only Cast Member who didn’t notice it at all was the woman working in Liberty Square in the Sleepy Hollow bakery.
Y’know, the one with all the Headless Horseman pumpkins in the window.
I guess even Disney Awesome needs some down time.
Butterbeer drove us to sample the wares at Gaston’s Tavern. The décor was truly straight out of the film. It really used antlers in all of its deeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-corating!
I thought about getting food there, but we had the big Floridian breakfast relatively recently, making me decide I couldn’t be hungry. In hindsight, this was the beginning of learning what the real curse I should have been concerned about was.
Rosa was looking for a way to wet her visor or hair a little and asked Anabelle how the elephant worked. Sadly, I didn’t have the camera ready for when she got a trunk full of water in the face. Then again, she would have deleted that one before we made it out of Fantasyland.
Anabelle and I took a farewell Barnstormer ride before leaving the circus area for the last time. I’m really glad I went with her for that one. On every other roller coaster ride, she had pigtails in, but her hair was down after the splashing and soaking was done. Apparently, it was her pigtails that kept her visor on for the other trips. It rocketed backwards off her head in a pink blur as we took the first turn. I managed to talk her down from the panic attack that hit while flying around twists and curves. It was high speed parenting in every sense of the word.
We came off the ride, and went to see if it fell anywhere we could get it. We thought we saw it inside the under coaster area several times. It was one of a large collection of hats in the underbrush, which looked like a local squirrel had a headwear fetish. The Cast Member running the ride let us know how the policy worked: they were only allowed to go into Losthatland after the park closed, and we’d have to call the lost and found in the Transportation and Ticket Center in a day or so.
The story has a happy ending. We learned the next day that the Hat Recon Team is deployed only every few days, but items are always returned. I called them after we returned home, and Anabelle got a little box with some Disney Magic and a pink Minnie visor in it a couple of weeks after our return. Again, because Disney is awesome.
Fully proficient in MyDisneyExperience after all the time spent there, we transferred our last FastPass Plus for Splash Mountain a little earlier to make the day flow better.
She confirmed my description of all things Disney by continually yelling, “AWESOME!” for the duration of both trips.
Our final FastPass Plus of the day at the mountain next door was due, and Rosa was ready to face her fears a second time. She timed pretending to cheer wrong on the previous drop and looked terrified in the picture. On this Splash Mountain plummet, she timed it perfectly, and was sporting a giant grin in the photo and raising her fist in triumph.
I, on the other hand, looked horrified. This is because her non raised in triumph arm had my bicep in an unyielding grip that prevented all blood from reaching my fingers.
Anabelle, as always was screaming with delight, and decided that every ride would be enhanced by adding a fifty foot drop.
We exited to find an example of Disney’s unmatched marketing prowess. The store packed to the gills every day with soggy sneakered guests had a giant rack of flip flops on sale.
The signs highlighted the rampant Disney boat problem that plagued them during our visit. Due to an early day shutdown, Splash Mountain still had a forty minute wait, while Big Thunder remained at a mere ten.
The plan was to cross into Adventureland for a late lunch. However, we stumbled out directly into the start of the parade. Anabelle immediately jumped up and down, overcome by the thrill of seeing it again. Her excitement coupled with the impassibility of the way we meant to go sealed the deal.
By the end of our final chance to “Share a Dream Come True” before the “Festival of Fantasy” moved in we had moved in to CrazyHungryLand. The chosen food spot of our Pirate friendly family was Tortuga Tavern. Sadly, it was closed again. Both in that form, and the previous name of El Pirata y el Perico, was listed as “open seasonally.” The season they were open appeared to be “Jeff Not in Disney Season.”
I forgot I could have gotten any other drink in the boot.
I forgot to ask Rosa and Anabelle what dessert they wanted before they went to find a table and had to leave the front of the line and start again.
I forgot to pick up the dessert once it actually arrived and had to leave the table to go back to get it.
I forgot to specify the right side dishes for everyone, and ended up with the wrong ratio of fries and corn.
I forgot to order my sandwich with no cheese or dressing, meaning multiple items I not only couldn’t eat, but never liked in the first place were all welded to my food.
Fortunately, the enormous, well stocked and veggie full fixin’s bar saved the day, and remnants of my sanity, as I edged closer to learning what the real curse was.
Anabelle amused herself by taking random pictures of light fixtures and walls around the restaurant. It didn’t really affect the total amount of photos, because infinity plus a few is still infinity.
Next door to Pecos Bill’s was the O-riginal Country Bear Jamboree. We went in because…
Once again, I failed at a perfect opportunity for a panoramic picture. Going forward, I decided to take several individual shots and glue them together in MSPaint.
Yes, my photo software skills rival my picture taking abilities.
The Disney Boat Issues reared their ugly head on the second trip through. Barbossa was silent, and the vessel in front of us was filled with water and being bailed by Cast Members. There was a Quality Control Cast Member in the seat behind us, making notes on his tablet the whole way. I guess it didn’t pass his inspection, because there weren’t any guests behind us. Due to this peculiarly empty exiting situation, I finally could hear the “beware the moving gangplank” exit message. T’was a nice good bye from my favorite ride.
Bidding farewell to yet another land, we witnessed Aladdin and Jasmine heading off on a coffee break. Tiana was still greeting guests in Liberty Square. Anabelle looked at her extended line and mused, “I don’t really like her all that much anymore.”
My baby’s growing up…Waaaaah!
Sorry, flashed back to being under the influence of the soon to be identified curse.
Anabelle’s enthusiasm became completely unchained, as she ran ahead for another solo Doom Buggy trip to say farewell.
Speaking of farewell, she’s the one who spotted Mr. Toad’s tombstone in the pet cemetery.
Our string of good byes continued to the nearby small world…
As exhausted, worn out, and overexposed to Disney as we were, there was still much dancing and singing along for the final Happiest Cruise on Earth. The only dent in the happiness came from temporary blindness caused by the guy in front of us who felt the need to demonstrate why taking flash photos when surrounded by others on a ride is a bad idea…especially every seven seconds.
The end of the trip was starting to weigh heavily on us as we were preparing to sadly pass out of Fantasyland the final time. The carousel never had a line, any time we saw it for the entire trip. Even so, Anabelle did not express any desire to ride it, until this final passing.
Rosa stayed on the outside, as the minimal spinning of this attraction would shake her up after barely surviving a return to Splash Mountain. However, the mood was too strong for all of us, and when we stayed on for a second spin; we found Rosa had snuck in to join us. In between jaunts, Anabelle slipped off her horse, and onto Cinderella’s.
Yes, I know Cast Members say it isn’t hers.
Yes, I know its Prince Charming’s carrousel now.
Yes, it’s probably just the Disney version of an urban legend.
Do NOT rain on our Disney Magic. It was Cinderella’s horse.
(For those others of you who truly believe…
It’s number thirty-seven.
MGM. There were a few exceptions though:
1) It was light out.
2) The characters stayed mostly on stage.
3) The crowd was one tenth the size, and not animated.
Anabelle looked at it and said, “Nah,” and we went over to the Monster’s Inc. Laugh floor for some final giggles instead. The interactive nature of the show, added to the creativity of the Awesome Happy Disney people running it, made it different enough to be fresh every time.
Someday, before I die, I shall be “That Guy.” This I swear.
We left our final land and emerged onto Main Street. Due to crowd size and traffic, it’s always inevitable that the day we arrive, we see people in the exhausted funk of having their magic time come to an end, and the day we leave, we see people in the sparkly delight of just arriving in the World.
Main Street USA, simultaneously the happiest and saddest street in the known universe.
This was the last chance to find a bumper sticker, or the Mickey sneakers in my size as we hit the shops on the way out. Rosa was heading for a final Disney Snack approved Starbucks, and we were to meet her in the store.
(Because yet again, Disney people are awesome.)
I tried to call Rosa to tell her I was taking Anabelle to dance with the characters on her last night, but my wife didn’t answer the phone. I tried running back and forth between where we were supposed to be, and where I thought she was supposed to be, constantly dialing over and over.
I wasn’t where she came to find us.
I didn’t feel or hear her phone ringing in the backpack I was wearing.
My constant dialing prevented her call from guest services from finding us.
Why did this happen?
Because, I became a RAVING LUNATIC.
I had been so proud that I defeated the curse of the Second EPCOT Death March; I totally failed to realize the March had nothing to do with it. It was the Curse of the Last Day Floridian Breakfast. Waking up extra early and the end of the trip, coupled with eating an unusually large breakfast of foods that filled my stomach and kept me from being hungry. However, it didn’t provide the proper anti-crazy energy to my brain, which caused the RAVING LUNATICNESS.
That combination made me live in Crazy-Hungry Land for far too long to maintain my sanity, and that of my loved ones.
Eventually we found each other in the street and yelled a bit, but managed to calm down to not storm out of the Magic Kingdom on our final night. We watched the characters Move and Shake back down Main Street to get put away, and grabbed a giant Mickey cookie on the way out.
The bus ride was a quiet one for several reasons, but I redeemed myself somewhat by winning Anabelle more stickers to add to her ever increasing pile. The trivia questions were based on the often recommended by me American Adventure attraction.
We had snacks from Everything POP and some leftovers for dinner. Rosa had saved me the veggie burger she got at Pecos Bill’s, made with all my favorite fixin’s. See, not only does Rosa know me well enough to anticipate RAVING LUNATIC moments; she still loves me enough to take care of me during them.
We spent a little while in the Hippie Dippy ‘60s pool again that night. For all the talk of pool hopping, and playing on the computer keyboard, Anabelle only wanted to go in “our” pool. We McGinley’s can get very territorial about Disney locations. Either that or she couldn’t face passing the shut down Goofy’s Foot fountain again.
They were showing Wreck it Ralph on a large outdoor projection screen.
Note to Cousin Mark: The public display system was smaller and quieter than the one in your living room. That may be a hint.
While soaking the day’s humidity and stress away, we heard Illuminations go off. That meant it was an extremely early night for us. Symbolically, the pool washed off the last of my Mickey tattoo. We eventually made our way back to the room, finished up packing, and dumped everything we didn’t plan to bring back with us.
While Rosa led the packing efforts, and Anabelle dropped into her coma like state, I went to run a few clothes in the dryer. I met some first nighters, and per our family tradition passed on crowd hints and tips.
The reason for getting lost was because I had been fiddling with my phone trying to pre check in for our flight. Once I found it again, I also tried at the front desk.
I took out the dryer contents; rebagged them, and returned to the room. Rosa joined Anabelle in a coma like state fairly quickly, after telling me they had decided at some point after my RAVING LUNATIC moments that we were going to MGM the final day. We’d left it open until the last minute. When staying close to the Magic Kingdom, that is ALWAYS the start and end park, and often the start park even when we stay elsewhere. It’s really hard to not begin with the Main Street Sigh. However, when staying in the POP, the longer travel time to the Kingdom would have cut a much larger chunk out of our final park day.
Though setting up two of our three last FastPass Plus times went quickly, I didn’t really sleep that last night.
After all, I didn’t want the dream to end.
You HAVE to take a picture of Fred.
Well...I do anyway..