Monday, September 29, 2014

Disney World 2013: Day 5 - Same Park Again to See that Buzz Fella, Before another Dinner with Cinderella

We hit our stride and the efficiencies and decisions in the second day in the Magic Kingdom made up for the multiple “wait for nothing” events of the day before.  The learning also came from past trips. When we reached the bus stop, and were munching on various bars, we realized we left the little white towel usually kept in the backpack behind.  When I rushed back to the room to grab it, I didn’t run past the pool at top speed and therefore didn’t slip, go flying and nearly kill myself like on the last visit.

Entering the Magic Kingdom the very next morning after spending fifteen hours in it the previous day, amazingly in no way decreased the magic or excitement.

Checking our account at night, we learned there really was no effect when the PhotoPass website changed.  That is, if you consider the fact that a large volume of the pictures were missing as “no effect.” 

Rosa hit the PhotoPass location in Town Hall to work out the details. (Last building on the left!) Between receipts she kept, and general Awesome Happy Disney People being able to locate pictures based on where we were, in what shirts, at what given time, she found just about all of them.  Sadly, this would not be the last time she had to undertake this exercise.

I brought Anabelle into Tomorrowland, the section of the park we saved for the day we wore our matching Buzz Lightyear shirts.  While Rosa was picture hunting, I was taking advantage of the only day it was open to give Anabelle her first ever Space Mountain flight.  It appeared that Disney was interrupting a maintenance shutdown in order to have it running during the “Night of Joy” Christian Music Festival.   I felt like a failure as both a father and Grid maker, when MyDisneyExperience told me both Splash and Big Thunder Mountains had five minute waits, while we were stuck in a faux future funk, past the point of the video games on the Space Mountain line.   
The ride had slow throughput because only one of the two tracks was running. I guess they didn’t stop the maintenance all together. 

We finally launched.  Anabelle enjoyed it, but it wasn’t an “again!”  She found the ride too dark, and too full of roaring.  Gotta credit the Imagineers for effective use of atmosphere. She loved the Fifty mile an hour Expedition Everest, but was afraid of the twenty-seven mile an hour Space Mountain.

We grabbed the receipt for the picture, and stopped so Anabelle could goof around with the lineless Stitch for a bit.  Rosa was still in the middle of the photo hunt, and texted that Magic Mickey’s line was only five minutes.  We figured to see him, and move the later FastPass Plus we had for him to something else.  As per normal for us, the line was twenty minutes by the time we arrived.  The Frontierland Mountains were still listed as very short, and instead we hurried off to the upper left corner of the Kingdom.

Rosa followed later, after stopping for her first of many Disney snack approved Starbucks.  She also paused to pose in her sparkly Minnie shirt, with Marie from the Aristocats.  There was a concentration of cuteness on Main Street.

Anabelle and I grabbed a regular Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain, because its line expanded a bit, and rode Splash Mountain twice.  Really, considering it’s about the same length boat ride, full of colorful animatronics and catchy music, the experience was very similar to “it’s a small world” if you ignore the pants wettingly steep fifty foot drop.

The waterproof container in my pack was vibrating ridiculously throughout the first ride, because Rosa had urgent good news.  She arrived at the exit and scored a place near the spot the Toy Story friends were due to come back from a coffee break.  We made it to her shortly before Woody and Jessie’s grand entrance.

The two Cowfolks looked very natural together. Woody playing with Anabelle’s pink fluffy autograph book and rubbing it on Jessie’s cheek made me forget who she’s coupled with on film.  That’s why it caught me off guard when she acted super excited about our Buzz shirts.  It hit home a little later when she grabbed my arm and did a “leg pop” for our family picture.  Disney really puts the “character” in “in character.”

After Anabelle and my exciting/terrifying second Splash, we used our Thunder Mountain FastPass while Rosa registered the photo. 

I need to pause a moment to extend multiple thanx to my wife who patiently browsed the little shops at the exit of the thrill rides she had no intention of sharing with us, and then making sure the pictures of us enjoying it made it into our account.

Big Thunder Mountain was my favorite Disney coaster as a kid, and it still is.  Besides being a wild and fun ride, full of unexpected twists and drops, the scenery would make it worthwhile even at a slow pace.  The views, bighorn sheep, and dinosaur bones impressed Anabelle as well.

In spite of the fact that my wife in no way believed my comparison to it’s a small world, she decided to try Splash Mountain with us when the line was still short as we exited the coaster.

This was because the woman at the photo counter talked her into it, based on a fantastic view of Cinderella’s Castle.

For those of you keeping score at home: Rosa tried a ride not because her husband said she’d like most of it, but because a total stranger recommended it.   I’d like to think sharing her daughter’s favorite played into her decision as well.

She had my arm in a death grip, and constantly said, “That WASN’T the big drop!?” The ending was declared “bad,” but she said she would go again the next day we visited.  The Awesome (and persuasive) Happy Disney Person at the photo counter greeted her with an excited, “You did it!”  That’s pretty ironic considering that specific Cast Member had never worked up the courage to try it herself.

We crossed the park yet again, to get back to our planned tour of Tomorrowland.  Stopping for PhotoPass opportunities was a given, because no matter how many times Cinderella’s Castle is passed, it’s impossible not to pose before it. We also had to take a picture of the little Pinocchio statue.
As I said, he was this trip’s addition to Anabelle’s “characters I’m going to randomly decide to like a lot” pile.

We made it to the Buzz Lightyear ride seemingly in time to get on the short stand by line, before using the FastPass Plus to get us a twofer.  The line stopped cold when we got on it, forcing us to have a little queue based excitement and jump the turnstile to get to the FastPass side before ours expired.   The ride stuck in the perfect spot for me, allowing a score above 700,000!  There was some discussion about who needed to be facing which way in the other car that I was in no way going to get involved in.  Rosa and Anabelle both scored significantly lower.  

The Ranger himself had a short line and we excitedly went to meet him in our matching shirts.  Buzz ended up being far more enthusiastic than we were.  My guess is that the princesses see piles of girls dressed as them each day, but Buzz only sees a few boys and almost no girls. 

He did a little dance and made Anabelle stamp her own autograph book with his name, before trying to get her to take his place while he went for coffee. (I had no idea Mr. Lightyear was such an accomplished mime.)  He then took it up a notch by explaining what he wanted to do, completely non-verbally, and following through with the plan.

He took a page out of Anabelle’s pink fluffy princess book, and stood on line waiting for her autograph.  Playing the part of a nervous child perfectly, he hid behind his arm, stutter stepped back and forth, stood happily for a picture, and finally jumped with glee while showing the signed page to the PhotoPass guy.  The exuberance continued when he saw I also had a shirt that matched him.  After exchanging a proper military salute, he moved the two of us into position on his podium for some impressively posed, defending the galaxy type photos.


We returned to Buzz’s ride, full of inspiration from meeting the man himself.  Rosa went alone this time and netted a high score similar to my previous one.
I let Anabelle spin us wherever she wanted, got a much lower score, but took in the sights.  With all the focus required for aiming and scoring, it’s very easy to forget how cool the thing looks.  It’s a good idea to reserve at least one trip to enjoy the scenery rather than the competition.

As we passed through the gift shop (of course) after the ride I was surprised at the large number of Donald Duck hats on display. I was unaware he had a new surge in popularity.  It turned out he didn’t. The bills were on Perry the Platypus hats.  Due to his popularity, by the end of the trip I said, “Oh, there you are Perry,” enough to annoy even myself.

On the way to lunch Anabelle got more stickers, this time from the Disney Vacation Club people.  Considering how they shower kids who aren’t wearing birthday pins with stickers, our daughter had enough to wall paper Long Island by the end of the trip. 

Meal time was at Cosmic Ray’s, because I don’t care how old I am, I get one meal with Sonny Eclipse.  Anabelle, in order to maintain the mystique of us never being able to predict our child’s fears in Disney, decided Sonny was creepy and insisted on facing the other way.  There was a brief moment of panic when we started to leave as we thought we’d (once more at thislocation) abandoned a backpack elsewhere.  Luckily we had only managed to lose it at the table we were at.

This should provide a strong hint that we were, yet again, overdoing it in Disney World.

Fairytale Garden was right outside the restaurant, on the border with Fantasyland.  We made it just in time for Merida’s meet and greet to reopen, granting us another short line and plenty of time before our next FastPass Plus.

Yay off season Disney!

The area was redecorated with an appropriately beweaponed Celtic theme, and Merida herself fit the part better than the usual high standards for Disney.  Even Mulan was very much on the dainty side, but Merida was the right build for someone at complete ease wielding swords and bows.  Her Scottish accent and patter were also spot on, asking if our Buzz shirts represented out clan colors. 
“Aye,” we replied. 
Well, I did anyway. Anabelle went back to rolling her eyes at me.

There was a foam tipped bow and arrow lesson in the same area that Anabelle took a shot at.  The guy running it remembered her from Enchanted Tales with Belle the day before. 
Because Awesome Happy Disney People, that’s why.

Then it was up into New Fantasyland for the day’s required Ariel ride FastPass visit.  Anabelle went on the attraction alone again, while we watched the ride through slightly tear blurred vision over our baby growing up.

More experienced with the FastPass Plus mechanics, we timed the ride at the end of its window, allowing us to go straight to the beginning of the window at Ariel’s Grotto.

The Little Mermaid was slightly less chatty this time around, but just as bubbly.  She complemented Anabelle being both a Space Ranger and a princess, and was thrilled about being asked to sign the photo of the two of them together Rosa had printed out during her PhotoPass adventure proclaiming, “OOH! It’s us!  How Cool!”

Continuing with our increased FastPass Plus knowledge, we moved the Magic Mickey meeting to a Peter Pan ride, thinking we’d seen the Mouse in charge all over, and didn’t need to see him again at Town Hall.  Five days later we’d be tickled to learn howwrong we were.

Before leaving Fantasyland, Anabelle took a solo flight on the Barnstormer; while I addressed that my PowerAde-o-meter was reading a quart low.  The way we navigated the parks amounted to a week and a half forced march with full pack, I couldn’t risk dehydration.

She ran straight on the coaster again, allowing me to accompany her this time.  The attendant, being one more Awesome Happy Disney Person, greeted the “Buzz Princess” on her return.

We took the Disney World Railroad two thirds of the way around the park to Frontierland.  We never did manage to see the last third of the ride, which is a shame because it is the only way Rosa could ever see the cool designs and sights of Big Thunder Mountain.  However, taking the train from Frontierland to Fantasyland would mean avoiding passing both the Haunted Mansion, and it’s a small world.  With my family, that ain’t ever gonna happen.

Anabelle and Rosa amused themselves, and likely everyone else on the train, by pretending to be characters that we had no chance of seeing for the other one to meet.  There’s a fine line between “living the Disney Magic” and “exhaustion generated insanity.”  We like to dance on that line.

Our walk over to Pixie Hollow was interrupted by some spritzing by tiki statues and spitting camels to reduce effects of the Florida hot and humid day.  We were shocked and disturbed to see the ginormous line snaking on the outside of Pixie Hollow, considering it was not only off season, but parade time.  Luckily, that was really the line for the pineapple Dole Whip stand.  That was equally surprising, but far less upsetting since we don’t drink those.

The fairy line was marked at an accurate half-hour.  A long wait for this trip, but justified as the only meeting place for these favorite characters.  Bonus points for the wait area being air conditioned, which may have been a bigger draw than the fairies for us parents. 

A combination of the magic painting on the wall showing Fairy Shorts, (that’s mini-cartoons, not fey hot pants) and the excited, pixie like, Cast Member running the line (who seemed more excited about the Phineas and Ferb autographs than the little girl showing her them)  made the time pass quickly.

Our entrance time was signaled by the tinkling of pixie dust (YAY!) and we shrunk down into the Fairies’ new home.
Vidia greeted us first and was as entertainingly snarky and rude as to be expected from a reformed Disney Villain.

Tinkerbell also had chunks of attitude, demonstrating more of her personality from Peter Pan than the Fairy DVDs.  She got into a snark off with Vidia for a while, before aiming her talkativeness at Anabelle.  She ended up interrupting her own yapping when the pen she was using to sign Anabelle’s pink fluffy princess book wouldn’t retract.  As a tinker fairy, she had a highly recognizable engineer moment when she became determined to repair the pen.

The rapidly increasing humidity hit us once we exited the air conditioned hollow, and returned to Adventureland.  Aladdin was running away, and Pirates was closed. Boat troubles yet again in the Magic Kingdom meant it was time to return to Fantasyland.

We all rode in the same ship for Peter Pan, a unanimously better use of a FastPass Plus than any thrill ride could be.  No amount of speed could ever surpass the magic in that attraction.

Boat problems continued as the small world was also shut down. The daily thunderstorm of inconvenience opened up with hellacious force on us, shutting down all of the outdoor rides as well.  We ponchoed up and made a run back to Tomorrowland.

Wet and cranky, the classic Carousel of Progress was a perfect respite from the storm. We sang along all the way through. Rosa may have stopped singing for a brief nap, but Anabelle more than made up for it by continuing to sing along for the rest of the day.

The obvious next choice was the other “never has a line” ride in Tomorrowland, the People Mover.  Anabelle waved to everyone below us and had a grand old time in spite of the rain. She also yelled “Weeeeeeeee!” and threw herself from side to side on the curves.   Anything can be a thrill ride in Disney World if you are willing to be thrilled.

We continued our tour of Tomorrowland, stopping only to avert the onset of rain induced crankiness with Power Bars, one of which may have been forcefully stuffed into my face.

In order to make up for the lack of bad jokes due to the closure of the Jungle Cruise, the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor was a required stop.  I rushed and texted a particularly lame joke, but made up for it by my performance as Randall in the movie summary portion.  I got some rousing applause for my demonstration of “invisible,” after getting a laugh for continuing the running gag by first covering my eyes.
Anabelle was suitably impressed, or perhaps embarrassed. At least the kids on line behind us at the next attraction were impressed.

As we waited to enter the Not Alien Encounter Anymore with Stitch, I thought about the automatic doors and yellow safety lines.  At first I was thinking it would be safer if the doors opened into the attractions, making the yellow lines less critical.  Then I realized that some fool would likely press against the door, fall into the attraction and sue.  There’s probably much less legal liability in smacking the occasional guest with a door who doesn’t understand the phrase, “don’t pass the yellow line.”   Those hit are in clear violation of the safety directions and are therefore probably less of a legal liability.

Anabelle learned not to turn sideways, and to always push up against the safety bar in this encounter. The shoulder rig ended up trying to crush her for the duration of the show.  Kinda funny (the attraction, not my child being mashed) but I think I withdraw my previous praise for this ride being an improvement. It’s still too scary for little kids, but lacked the impact of the monster alien version.

The research about crowd levels had proved correct.  While their presence in the park was visible, the “Night of Joy” Christian music festival crowd did not create a high volume park day.  As a teenager, my family had occasionally crossed paths with Gay and Lesbian weekend at Disney World.  They also did not affect the park’s overall attendance levels, but they were definitely a far more fun and festive crowd.  Also I don’t recall nearly as many unforcasted, scary looking thunderstorms on those weekends of my youth. Take from that what you will about whose side the Divine Intervention was on.

We needed to go on the small world again because Anabelle had learned about hidden Mickey leaves between the giraffes in a book she peeked in at a gift shop.
At least that was her most recent excuse.  To insure we had enough time to make dinner, I asked the lederhosen clad Cast Member how long the ride lasted.  The answer of “twelve minutes” was surprising. Sometimes it felt much longer.  Although Rosa may have taken another short nap, we all found the Hidden Mickeys.

Our standard levels of luck and timing held up. A man in the boat in front of ours stood up for the entire ride.  While this proved a mild distraction during the trip, it was a major delay at the end.  The Cast Member refused to pull the boat up the ramp to the loading/unloading point until George Washington sat down.  I have no idea why he refused to sit down, or why he was allowed on the ride with whatever condition prevented him from sitting down in the first place. I only know that by the time he did follow the instructions, we needed to tear out of the park at a high speed if we were going to have any hope of making our Cinderella’s Happily Ever After dinner reservation.  We chose this night specifically because the park closed early for the Music Festival, allowing us to use the Grand Floridian’s proximity to the Magic Kingdom without feeling like we were missing quality park time.  I tend to be greedy about park time on our trips; we don’t go often enough to squander it.

We ran for what is usually the fastest way to the Floridian and found that the boat docks were all closed because of the thunderstorm. This forced us onto the Monorail. I do love the Monorail, and its bilingual door announcements, but getting to the resort we needed meant taking it around the entire route.  This was where Anabelle received her first set of Transportation Trivia Cards.  They were little fact filled nuggets handed out by the various drivers, conductors and boat captains.

We did make it to the counter with five minutes to spare, making our slightly fractured plan better than past attempts to reach the Grand Floridian from the always early closing Animal Kingdom in the far reaches of the other side of the World.  Before checking in, Anabelle changed while we took in the fancy atmosphere and the high quality, even by Disney standards, house band.

Finding 1900 Park Faire always takes a bit of remembering, but is very simple.  All that was required was to follow the crowd of people who looked the most out of place in the posh surroundings, toting kids in princess costumes and beepers with them.

We were led to the exact table in the back room that Cinderella had personally escorted Anabelle to in order to take care of her and dry her tears when she was five. Disney Magic!

In the area with us were several families finishing their dinner, a couple of which could be best described as “Zoo Like.”  The characters all wisely avoided our room until the families left, after which they came through in a streaming parade.  I ran out to the buffet to grab Rosa, who had foolishly thought she found a window to get some food.

Prince Charming came first, complemented the princess folder Anabelle was bringing her drawings in, and asked if she knew how to waltz.  She reminded him that they waltzed together on our last visit, and of course he remembered.  They talked a little about favorite princesses. He said his was Cinderella, which is what he always says when Snow White is out of town.

The star of the show was the next arrival. Anabelle gave Cinderella the picture she forgot to bring when she was seven to make up for the note she lost when she was five. We’re pretty invested and connected to Disney World in our family in case you haven’t noticed.  Cinderella thanked her profusely and said she had been saving a spot for it on her wall all this time.

Lady Tremaine arrived with some pointers on manners and EXTREMELY reluctantly returned Anabelle’s hug.  Villains, gotta love ‘em!

Anastasia’s visit was disorienting. First she told us, “Don’t mind the waltz, it’s not for us.” While she said this, Drizella was jumping around to the music like a loon.  For the whole encounter she was disturbingly sweet and friendly.  Anabelle was theorizing that we were seeing her after she was happily married to the baker.  That theory vanished in a puff of smoke when she left and immediately yanked her sister’s skirt, leading to an entertaining bout of screaming and fighting.
She acted loopy at the next table, and when an obnoxious kid let out a scream she fired off a louder and shriller one right back at him.  The kid was silenced, and his exasperated grandfather nearly fell off the chair laughing.

The fight over, Drizella came to our table next in a giant pile of sneer.  She picked up the princess folder and asked, “Where’s my picture?” before tossing it back on the table.  When Anabelle told her she liked her dress Drizella replied acidly, “I like it too.”

Once the character fun ended, we could focus on what is one of the most delectable meals in the park.  At this point I broke. I know I have written an entire review of how to eat healthy in Disney World, but half way through this vacation I decided my rough summer between work and catheterizations meant I deserved better.  I don’t like most sweets and fried food anymore, and the plate of Disney Mousses combined with the roast beef beyond compare pushed me over the edge.  Don’t judge me, people; we still hiked enough each day that my weight didn’t go up over the trip…

Once I got home and was used to eating enough to fuel insane amounts of walking every day, that’s another story.

As we were leaving I looked around and noticed more sparkles on the floor than an infinite number of dance recitals could form.  I asked the waiter if they had some sort of Disney Magic Sparkle Remover System.  He grinned and said, “Something like that.”

I noticed something else important as we left.  Disney Princesses get an awful lot of flak for being bad influences and examples for little girls. I’ve never once seen anyone point out the fact that they also make little girls blind to race differences.  There were Black Snow Whites, Asian Cinderellas, Caucasian Tianas, Hispanic Jasmines and every other combination. The kids don’t see the skin colors, they only see and become “a princess.”  That’s gotta be worth something.

We got directions and made it out to the dock just in time for the Electric Water Pageant.  The bad news was because of the earlier thunderstorm, it was being towed by without music, possibly, but not definitely, for a much later start. The good news was it lit up anyway and was frighteningly close to the dock.
Therefore we enjoyed the high speed but immense procession before heading back inside to allow our daughter to take more hammy photos in the high fallutin’ surroundings.

Instead of braving the bus station during the music festival at the Magic Kingdom, we decided to enjoy a long Monorail ride to EPCOT and catch the bus there.  Explaining the benefits of this plan to my exhausted wife was near impossible, but the phrase, “long restful monorail ride sitting down” convinced her.

I used this opportunity of a mostly empty car to record the door warning announcement and text it to my sister.  She said that it, added to later videos for her kids, was the only thing that made her believe a SmartPhone was worth owning.

We waved at our preview of the park we still hadn’t visited yet while passing over.  EPCOT’s extra magic hours had forty minutes left, but the bus was still full.  Luckily, it was a much shorter ride to the POP and we made it.  

Following the required hot chocolate mug run, and scoring another stack o’ stickers for Anabelle because I knew some obscure Eeyore trivia, we collapsed yet again filled with happy Disney memories and food.

The original plan for the next day was a "slow pace."  Uh huh...

Disney 2013 Trip Index

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