Monday, September 8, 2014

Walt Disney World 2013: Day 2 – Leaving Disney Resorts to Visit Hogwarts

We were told before our first day that the morning traffic could cause the trip to Universal to take well over an hour. This prompted a groggy arising in order to make the 7:25AM Mears shuttle and leave Disney property voluntarily for the first time in my life on a vacation.  We were hoping to arrive around the time of park opening.  After stumbling our way through various cereals in the room for breakfast I ran toward the “Leaving the Hotel” bus area, because the Mears operator stressed the urgency of being on time, and I planned to stall the driver while Rosa and Anabelle hurried along behind me. 

The bus showed up ten minutes late, and we sleepily climbed in. We would have liked to recline our seats to rest during the drive, but couldn’t due to the large family behind us.

There weren’t very many of them, they were the other kind of large.

It hardly mattered since we hit no traffic and reached the Universal drop off location in well under a half hour.

This gave us time to wander pointlessly about the mostly unopened Universal City Walk, wave to the NBA restaurant on behalf of my basketball loving family (since there was no way we were going in it), and allow Anabelle to pose in and around the laminar flow fountains and other props.

When the gates opened, we joined in with the large percentage of the guests in a sprint to Hogwarts.  We did occasional pointing to cool things in Seuss Landings, and slowed down in the Mythology section by accident because it looked Wizardish, but basically didn’t stop moving until we saw the locomotive that usually launches from Platform 9 ¾.

I often chastise people for not doing the proper research and planning before visiting Disney World. I am somewhat guilty of the same sin on this visit to Universal.  Considering we really only went for the Harry Potter stuff: choosing an extremely uncrowded day, reading up on attraction descriptions, and previewing a couple of menus turned out to be sufficient.

Since it was what prompted the violation of a lifetime of Disney loyalty, we started with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  Walking up to the castle was truly impressive and appeared like we inhabited the world of the films.  There was a brief break in the immersiveness to navigate the Locker Labyrinth, where guests use fingerprint access storage areas that have TARDIS like interiors compared to their tiny doors to store backpacks and such.  Since only the initial time frame is free, I can imagine Universal makes a mint and a half on days when the park is packed and the wait is long. 

Once back on the line proper, the illusion of being in a real “Wizarding World” returned and increased exponentially.  As we wound through the various grounds and interiors of Hogwarts, statues, settings and other props from the boy who lived’s adventures greeted us around every turn.  We found ourselves stopping traffic as there wasn’t much of a line, and we kept pausing to take it all in.
Video screens of Dumbledore, plus Harry, Ron and Hermione were exceptionally well positioned to make it appear the characters addressing us were flesh and blood.  I’m guessing similar technology and placement was used to create the living portraits of the four house founders, the Fat Lady, as well as the group of paintings that provided the safety lecture.

There were also a few mechanical effects mixed in, such as Ron’s botched spell that made it snow in Dumbledore’s office to push the realism over the edge.

Unfortunately, the line had to come to an end and the ride started.

The first sign of trouble was that the moving walkway and the seats moved at slightly different speeds generating some anxiety right at the loading area.

Rosa enjoyed the ride the most out of the three of us, and she had to close her eyes on a few parts due to the motions, both real and simulated.

The ride’s primary direction of motion was sideways, but it used visual cues, extreme tilting, and air jets to simulate forward and backward movement.  This played havoc with Anabelle’s balance centers, and threw me off a bit as well.

The ride is not the awesome tour of the Wizarding World that the line introduced us to; instead it was a succession of the most horrifying animatronic elements of the Potterverse, interspersed with some Soarin’ like Quidditch (and other flying moments) on screens that appeared a little blurry, to me anyway. 

Anabelle thought the dragon was a little cool, but scary.  However, following it up in quick succession with giant spiders, the collapsing Chamber of Secrets, the Whomping Willow, and “skeletons wrapped in toilet paper” (those were dementors) was completely overwhelming, leaving her terrified and screaming, “Mommy take me off of this!” throughout.

My problem was the story line, or lack thereof. Why and how we were going from spooky place to spooky place wasn’t clear at all. It took looking the attraction up on Wikipedia when we got home to find out we were supposedly using Floo Powder at the beginning, and that I was supposed to see a projection of my face when the Dementor was trying to drain my soul. (Or as it appeared at the time, when the skeleton covered in toilet paper was blowing smoke out of the paper towel tube in its face.) 

It had some cool looking moments along the way (the animatronic dragon stands out) but was quite a letdown after the line.  The extreme motions of the vehicle, and the switching between animatronics and video made more of a thrill ride for certain, but made it feel far less like we were existing in the world that the pre-ride area had created so well.

Anabelle needed a stress release after the Hogwarts experience.  We scanned the gift shop quickly to note any interesting items, before declining the ride photo of the three of us crying, nauseous, or not looking.  The backpacks were rescued before the time ran out, and I took Anabelle for a couple jaunts on the Flight of the Hippogriff kids’ roller coaster.  Think Goofy’s Barnstormer, but it looked like a wicker mythological beast instead of a plane.  The experience relaxed Anabelle, who was cheering and yelling “Awesome!” almost the entire time.  She did pause briefly, being the more mature and sensible of the two of us on the ride, to warn me I was going to drop my SmartPhone as I snapped pictures of Hagrid’s Hut
and Buckbeak.

As we ran through on the way to Hogwarts Castle itself, the impressiveness of the snow covered village of Hogsmeade was visible.

However, it became much more apparent when we took time to get a better look around.  Although there were only a few shops and one restaurant, there were multiple false fronts to generate the illusion of a more diverse set. 

A particularly impressive example was the storefront of Dogweed and Deathcap’s plant merchant, which I believe was a façade in front of the men’s’ room.  The Windows were completely full of flora from the stories, including a mobile and vocal mandrake root.

In front of the ladies’ one was a Quidditch supply shop featuring a case of balls, with the bludgers fighting to escape.

There were also nice little touches, like the sign for the ATM indicating it was handled by Gringotts Bank.

Being advised by a more experienced, and generally awesome, cousin that the Butterbeer line could get crazy long later in the day; we stood behind the half dozen people at the cart and ordered up a souvenir mug full.  Rosa wasn’t a fan, leaving Anabelle and I to finish off the kinda like cream soda, but much tastier and “denser” (for lack of a better word) beverage.

Credit where credit is due:  Universal beat Disney in the artificial beer department.

Mug in hand we positioned ourselves on what ended up being the longest line of the vacation.  We were told the wait for Ollivander’s was forty five minutes, but the people who got on line shortly after us were told an hour.  I think our estimate was slightly closer, although they may have missed our show.  The line was mostly in the shade and allowed us to take pictures of Anabelle in her witch costume with several appropriate and interesting backgrounds, making the wait seem shorter.

That witch costume, combined with Anabelle’s “it’s my birthday” button, no doubt had another beneficial side effect.  The long wait to get in was made extra worthwhile when she was chosen as the customer when the proprietor came into the small, dark, excessively movie accurate shop. 

They worked the “rule of three” expertly.  The first wand Anabelle tried succeeded in wilting some flowers instead of growing them.  The second rattled shelves, as opposed to bringing the ladder asked for.

Of course the third wand, made of vine with a unicorn hair core, proved that “The Wand Chooses the Wizard” by causing impressive mystical tinkling, a supernatural spotlight, smoke and a rather loud, elated squee from my daughter at the mention of “unicorn.”

We were then let out into the owl post shop, which was full of animatronic owls, but served as the check-out line for the main store behind it.  The assistant wand dude whispered to Anabelle that she could take her wand to the desk if we wanted to buy it for her.

The effects of the show and the expressions on her face during it made it well worth handing over a chunk of change for a stick in a box.  As a much more behind the scenes in a theme park savvy friend pointed out, “The Wand Chooses the Wallet.”

The line had only built up to fifteen minutes on the Forbidden Journey. Rosa and I figured we should see it again since it was the main reason we came all this way.  Anabelle liked the castle line enough to enjoy that part, and then waited in the kid swap room with each of us in turn.

I really think the video scenes were blurry. I kept wondering if I was supposed to get 3D glasses but didn’t.  I still couldn’t figure out the story.  More importantly, unlike any other ride (again, we did twenty different coasters/mountains/towers, plus nearly a dozen simulators) my SmartPhone was knocked out of its holder onto the seat.  I scrambled frantically for it, causing me to turn my head sideways during the ride. This left me exceedingly unsteady and “urpy” on the attraction and afterwards while waiting for Rosa to return.

The Hippogriff coaster was fun, but I did not fit comfortably into the tiny seats.  We let Anabelle ride alone on an attraction for the first time…twice.  While she was whooping and cheering, and Rosa was panicking, I was scared by the haunted rest room. 

Now, it wasn’t the voice of Moaning Myrtle eerily echoing off the tiles that frightened me.  It was the fact that I forgot I was wearing a backpack, which hit the automatic flush button that caused me to jump twenty feet in the air.
On the way back I saw the beginning of the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons Tri-Wizard demonstration.  Anabelle wasn’t interested in the show at all because
(A) She was hungry
(B) They didn’t actually do all that much.

She did take the time to point out that I mispronounced Beauxbatons…again.

While they were visiting Myrtle, I went to check out at the menu for the Three Broomsticks.  The place looked exceedingly cool, but the preview we did of the menu on line made us worry about finding anything for my cardiac tinted, and Anabelle’s little kid tinted taste buds. 

At the door I met Jack, a guy a bit older than me who turned out to be “Awesome Happy Disney Person” caliber.  He was raving about the high quality of the food, the large portions, and walked me though which menu selections would meet our requirements.

We entered the restaurant, which maintained the completely immersive atmosphere from Hogsmede in general.  Anabelle wanted another Butterbeer, and to add to the experience I tried a pumpkin fizz. It turned out to be a nifty little carbonated apple and other juice mix that was just as tasty as we were to find out the food was.  They were going to split a roast chicken and ribs platter while I went with the roast chicken in a salad, as my resolve hadn’t fully collapsed yet. 

The food was phenomenal, including the potato and corn sides that came with their platter.  This began Rosa’s new love affair with ribs for the vacation, and they sent me back up to order a second platter for them to split. I helped too. Honestly, we probably could have finished a third order with very little problem. Between getting up and down for some other questions and supplies, and ordering the second full platter the temptation became overwhelming and I asked what the Hogshead special brew was.  The answer was an exclusive Scottish ale, made only for Potterland.  Realizing I missed out on my planned spiked shake the day before, I returned to the table with yet another souvenir mug. This one was filled with a quite outstanding beer.

Credit where credit is due:  Universal beat Disney in the real beer department as well.

I made sure to thank Jack for his suggestion when we came out, and he gave us a nice speech about his job being to make sure we had the best time possible.  We made sure to single him out in the post park survey for his Awesome Happiness.  He also pointed out how lucky we were as there were only about twelve thousand people in the section.   An average day was double that, and crowded days got far worse.

This amazed me as the shops were packed to the point of it being difficult to move.  That had to be due to J. K. Rowling’s demand that everything matches her vision for size and layout, but it terrified me to think about trying to get through them during peak season.  I know that the Wizarding World is the most crowded section on any day, but the emptiness of much of the rest of the park, and the fact that the lines for the Forbidden Journey and Dragon Challenge never topped twenty minutes highlighted how the shops and streets were laid out exclusively to look cool and immersive, but not to accommodate crowds.

We were exploring a bit, following paths we hadn’t seen. We found the Weasley’s Anglia automobile, and a few other interesting objects, that led us to Tri Wizard tournament banners.  At this point we learned we had inadvertently ended up in the middle of the line for the Dragon Challenge, a looping dueling coaster themed to the Tournament for the Goblet of Fire.

We beat a hasty retreat apologizing to the attendants at the entrance of the line. Anabelle still refused to go upside down, Rosa wouldn’t even try the Hippogriff coaster, and I still hadn’t learned I liked that sort of thing yet.  We were clearly in the wrong place.

We finished up our shopping in the mobbed stores.  The two shops directly based on Harry Potter environs were sadly underwhelming inside.   The joke shop was full of non-related over priced novelty items, with the exception of very expensive, electronic extendable ears.  Honeydukes candy shop did have many of the candy seen in the pages of the novels. Sadly, almost all of them were large and ten bucks each.  They also didn’t match the sizes seen on screen: the chocolate frogs for example, were gigantic.  It’s a shame, if they were more in line with the actual products from the stories, I probably would have bought bagfuls as souvenirs. As it was, Anabelle used some of her own money to buy a chocolate frog, which stayed sealed after carrying it around in the ninety degree heat until we could get it home and chill it for a while.
 She eventually was thrilled to get the Rowena Ravenclaw card when she opened it.  The chocolate was in no way in the same league as their ribs or beer, however.

We all had another stop to meet Moaning Myrtle, and Anabelle took a last jaunt on the Hippogriff.  I looked into buying them a black feather quill which we’d seen at every check out desk. The Rita Skeeter one was green and all the others on the shelves were white.  The clerks informed us that the black ones were only available to Ministry of Magic members and required extensive background checks.  Many of the people working in the Wizarding World section were close to Disney levels of awesomeness. 

My Disney bias is pretty renowned and documented.  However, I did not want it to shoulder the blame for my family missing anything they might enjoy at Universal. Therefore, as we entered Mythologyland between Hogwarts and Seuss Landing, I pointed out the attractions and presented their descriptions in the coolest way I could.  My family had no interest in them and we passed through the section with only a single stop.  That was for an interactive talking fountain that struck up a conversation with Anabelle, sang happy birthday to her, and gave her an epic spritzing before selecting its next victim.

Seuss landing looked very cool, to those of us who are fans of his works.  Again, it was pretty much a ghost town, and the transition going from one Island of Adventure to another was very jarring.  Even the varied Lands of the Magic Kingdom have a layout that leads to gradual transitions.

We started out with the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley.  It was basically the Tomorrowland People Mover, but shorter, bumpier and with Sneetches.  We did get a nice overview of all of Seuss Landing, including the inside of the Circus McGurkus cafeteria,
which had very cool decorations we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.  It also allowed us an unobstructed view of the massive Hulk roller coaster, allowing me to say “Weeee!” to Anabelle, and her to say, “No Way!” to me.
This is a game we played the entire day.  Almost the entire day, anyway, at least until she threatened to kill me. Her no upside down rule was firmly in effect, and having only been on the relatively tame Hippogriff and linear motioned Tower of Terror, I wasn’t ready to give my new stent that much of a test.

Our next stop was the Carrousel of various Seussly looking creatures.  It was a very short ride, but even with no visible line in the county, Anabelle didn’t care enough for a return ride.  I wanted to try some Moose Juice or Goose Juice at that stand, but based on my Dad’s inability to EVER complete that passage I was laughing too hard to order any.

The Lorax had a nice area to look at, but that’s it.  It was only something to look at.  You’d think with a movie made of that story, they’d have jumped on the bandwagon and added a reason to stop while passing by the Onceler’s.

The One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish ride was pretty much Dumbo with water squirters. It caught Anabelle’s eye, but since it combined my three least favorite ride elements:
Sustained Height

We let her go alone.

She had fun, and it introduced a nifty twist to an otherwise standard attraction.  Rhyming riddles were played to give hints on which fish would spray the ride, allowing those who figured them out to avoid the shots. 

Or in my daughter’s case, aim right at them.

She was tempted to try it a third time, but changed her mind when she saw the Seuss characters to meet had arrived near the exit of the ride. The scheduled appearance was one of the reasons we steered her toward the fish ride in the first place. See, I did do some research.

Yes, the characters were fun, and were easily identifiable.
Yes, I am overly Disney prejudiced.
Yes, they were certainly many steps above many other characters, such as the shabby Mall meet and greets, or the grimy Elmo hordes in New York City.

But I was disappointed that the zippers on the costume backs were plainly visible.
Come on people; sew an extra seam or something.

Anabelle went to meet the Cat in the Hat, and Thing One and Thing Two

She likes them mainly due to their voice actors:
Martin Short for the Cat (in his new show) who she likes from The Three Amigos and also the Canada 360 film in EPCOT.
The Things by Mellomen founder and constant Disney Bass voice Thurl Ravenscroft, who she became a huge fan of on this trip.

You guessed it. She’s tying other park experiences to Disney.

That’s My Girl.

She was a little nervous about meeting the Grinch, as he was being accurately creepy.  The fact that Thurl sings his song too may have helped her eventually go over. She had little time to debate as there continued to be nothing that remotely resembled a line once we left Potterland behind us.

The Grinch was entertainingly rude (covering her face) and gross (making armpit motions).

I accompanied her to meet Sam I Am, due to my mother’s over the top, musical interpretation of Green Eggs and Ham from my childhood.  (And we’ll just file that one in the too much information column and move on.)

Because it was early in the vacation, and we hadn’t hit our groove yet, we all forgot about autographs for these meetings. That’s kind of a shame as the pink fluffy princess book she was using would have matched the texture of these characters perfectly.

Being one of my favorite Seuss books, the If I Ran the Zoo playground caught my attention, and then disappointed me.  It was a small maze filled with occasional fountains and mechanical items that were based around, or would make characters appear from, the book. These characters were all in desperate need of some love, maintenance and a fresh coat of paint.  The mid day sun burning down on the completely unshaded area (which is a heck of a trick considering it was a high walled maze) drove us out pretty quickly
Our last stop in Seussland was the Cat in the Hat dark ride. Now, I’m no expert on ride design, but I would venture to say that an important element of a Dark Ride would be that there should be some DARK parts in it.  There weren’t any, unless the several times I almost passed out from the excessive spinning and jerking motions of the car count. The ride followed the book closely, which was a shame as the 1971 cartoon had fantastic songs that would have greatly enhanced the experience.  The animatronics were average at best, and like most of Seussland, looked in need of some lovin’.  This made it even more puzzling when the ride stopped part way through to issue a warning that NO PHOTOGRAPHS CAN BE TAKEN.  Nothing looked particularly state of the art, maybe they wanted to preserve the illusion that the ride was better than it actually is.

The final main Island of Adventure to visit was Marvelland.  We all had various Marvel super hero shirts on, as a way to wear something appropriate for Universal, yet still owned by Disney.
Ha Ha.

Rosa’s character collage got the first complements as we entered that area. We’d all forgotten to put Anabelle’s on over her witch costume, since it, and her birthday button, were getting her much attention already. I think my shirt featuring every Avenger ever (…like ever, to get all Taylor Swift about it) was too overwhelming for most folks to figure out what it was.

The Marvel settings were very cool, and pseudo immersive. It was much like the old Marvel Restaurant in California Universal’s City Walk.  Part of it looked like the inside of a comic book.
Signs for Nelson and Murdock and others
Newspaper bins for the Daily Bugle
Buildings that looked straight out of a four-color New York.

The addition of giant pop art style pictures of super heroes and villains everywhere make it more like the old 1970’s super hero Halloween costumes.

Yes the mask looks cool and the colors are bright and exciting, but I’m pretty sure the Hulk doesn’t wear a shirt with his own picture and name on it.

The trading off of extra stylization and coolness for some immersiveness did work in its favor however, and it was overall a very groovy place to wander about.

We looked in some stores, including at some offensively overpriced action figures.  Perhaps this was due to anger at Disney owning Marvel, since the same figures in stores on Disney property were only annoyingly overpriced.

We followed the map to the character area, which was oddly in the center of the street. There a person holding a “Spider-Man this way” sign told us the hero “parade” was at a given time, but Spidey was “this way.” 

We entered his little room, where the wall crawler stood in front of a green screen, and waited for the two people in front of us.  Being used to silent masked characters, and the Electric Company, it was quite a jolt when he started speaking. I almost leapt up and clung to the celling myself.

Spidey complemented Anabelle on the “webbing” design on her witch costume as they stood in the “thwip” pose, that the attendant would then transform into a comic book cover of the two shooting webs. (Yes, that was extremely cool.) My four colored high tops seemed to confuse old web-head, especially when I told him they were my super power.

After the photo, we remembered that Anabelle was still not wearing her Avengers Assemble shirt. She put it over her dress, hopped back in the nonexistent line, and got Spider-Man to sign the picture of the two of them (Yes, that was even more extremely cool, plus it gave Rosa an idea for PhotoPass trick later on in the week.)

We came out and found who may be my favorite Marvel character, the awesome (and awesomely large) Doctor Doom. He had a guest by the shield on his Captain America shirt and did not look happy.  His line was closed, and we wandered into a couple more stores waiting for the “parade.”

There were several announcements by Nick Fury about villains in the area, the already seen and gone Doctor Doom, and the Green Goblin.  Gobby showed up and ran around part of the street with a roped off section until the Super Heroes responded to the call riding on shiny, color coordinated four wheel motorbikes.  Maybe this is where the “Hero on a Cycle” toys that are all over the place, but never made any sense to me, came from.

The heroes: some X-men, plus Spidey, and Captain America, chased away Norman Osborne’s alter ego, and then took up posts around the block to watch for more evil doers…and to have lines of people wait to see them, of course.  Except Spider-man, he ran back into his little green screen room, in case the Goblin was trying to hide by blending into the back drop perhaps.

Luckily, Storm and Rogue formed up right next to us.  I say this, because they were long gone before the other heroes hopped on their odd vehicles and took off.  If I was a studio executive, I would conclude that this was because “girls don’t like superheroes.”  However, since I have a brain, I concluded, “No one likes superheroes that don’t seem to like the idea, or understand, that they are superheroes.”   Anabelle had fun; we took some pictures and moved on.  Since Rosa was reluctant to be in pictures and/or hand over her Super Deluxe Magical Camera, I took every opportunity to try to talk her into the photos.  She unexpectedly accepted my suggestion with the two X-Men-Women confusing me to the point I didn’t realize it would be a great “Girl Power” shot until I already gave the camera to the handler, and was behind my family.  I was somewhere between getting into a superhero pose with the rest of them, and realizing I should leave when the image was snapped. Therefore it looked like Marvel Girl Power and their arch enemy the Photo Bomb Geek!

After spending many years in Avengers fandom trying to convince hordes of X-men fans that “my” heroes were cooler, seeing Captain America’s line longer than all of the X-lines combined did my heart good.

Due to the short span before they rushed off to fight crime elsewhere, Rosa held a place on Cap’s line, while I took Anabelle over to see Cyclops.  The field leader of the X-men…
The former leader…
The one time leader...
The occasional leader until he became a villain, who may still be a leader?
The X-men are so confusing.

Anyway, he was dressed in his then current (which lasts for about a week and a half) costume, his line was pretty short, and he was hysterical.  The people before us were from Brazil, causing him to announce the entire country was here and ask if they all had to leave for some reason.  He greeted Anabelle and was excited to learn she was from New Jersey.  He requested to be sent some cold weather because:
“It’s REALLY hot standing around in Florida in a full body suit and long leather coat.”

When she came back to me he said good bye, then stared at my arm tattoos and indignantly asked, “DC?!  REALLY?”  I told him, “We imprint on what we like when we’re five, and then we grow later.”
He gave a small bow and replied, “You are a wise man.”

We made it back to the first Avenger’s line with no problem.  I’m not sure if he was more popular than the other options. His line length may have been due to his being way chattier.  He was definitely the square jawed moral lesson spouting hero.

When Anabelle answered his question about her favorite super hero with, “You.”
He smiled and said, “That IS the right answer.” He complimented all of our shirts, and claimed my tattoos were a positive sign of “All good guys working together.”

There was time to run over to Wolverine right before they all left.  Wolverine’s character accuracy consisted of:
Being short
Being grouchy (particularly when asked to sign the pink fluffy princess book.)
Saying “bub” a lot.

His response was more direct, but less funny than Cyclops, “Good shirt, tats need work.”

With the heroes departed, it was time to try the Spider-man ride. 

It was, wait for it, Amazing! The Forbidden Journey should have been done in that format.  The ride vehicle was like an open cockpit Star Tours, but could actually move, as well as tilt. That allowed for a mix of 3D video and practical effects.  The changes and extra motion enhanced the thrills of the ride, but did reduce its immersive believability somewhat.  Overall, however, it was a great deal of fun, some of which came from the requisite Stan Lee and Sixties Spidey Song cameos.

We started to get hungry, and checked out the Fantastic Four themed cafeteria. While it was very cool to enter the Baxter Building, the menu was on the limited side (or nonexistent side, for me) and we decided to check elsewhere.

We walked back up Marvel Street saw Doctor Doom emerging from the Free Fall like ride that bore his name that we had no intention of trying.  It was next to the rotor like Storm named ride we also had no intention of trying. Kind of a shame that they just stuck character names on very run of the mill amusement park thrills instead of more attractions along the lines of Spidey-Ride.

We ran over to be on his line.

OK, I ran over and my family humored me.

Come on! It’s Doctor Freakin’ Doom!  A main inspiration for Darth Vader, just as awesome, but with dark magic powers, and no whiny back story!

He glared at Anabelle’s pink fluffy princess autograph book until he finally could no longer withstand the power of her puppy face.

He glowered very angrily at my Avengers shirt for quite a bit as well.  I finally shrugged and said, “I’ve been trying to find a shirt with a good picture of you for years, I looked in all these stores. There aren’t any!”

He stood regally and announced, “They must fear to put Doom’s visage on a shirt.”
After posing for the picture he announced, “When you return, see that I am on your shirt,” and gave me my leave.
Anabelle and I took another spin on the Spider-Man ride.  A tour group went through ahead of us. Having to slow down a bit made it clear that the assorted Daily Bugle artifacts and random cartoon clips were not random and assorted after all, but were the back story of the ride.  We were new recruits (or something) sent out with night vision goggles in the prototype news vehicle (or something) to report on the super villains attacking New York, since all the regular reporters were injured, or dead, or on vacation (or something.)

We met up with Rosa afterwards. She stayed outside to avoid the “thrills” and watched the superhero motorcycle… parade … something, again.

After not seeing anything that motivated us, other than the patriotic décor, in Captain America’s diner, we hiked our tired bodies into Comicstripland which was - odd.

Instead of fully recreating (like most of the other islands) or partially recreating, but with pictures added (like Marvelland) the settings of the theme, Comicstripland featured buildings festooned with all manner of characters from the various strips.  It looked kind of like a Roy Lichtenstein gallery exploded.

The remaining rides were all flumes.  Rosa didn’t want any thrills, I didn’t want to get wet, and Anabelle didn’t really want to ride anything.  Part of the Jurassic Park area had closed early, which we knew was happening, but never got truly motivated to try and see it.

Hear that Universal?
Disney bias is one thing, but your set up didn’t motivate giant dinosaur geeks like my daughter and me to even ATTEMPT to see the Jurassic Park section. Clearly there are issues that need addressing.

Unfortunately, the Mears shuttle required at least two hours’ notice for pick up.  I think we all knew we were done somewhere before the Captain America diner, but didn’t want to admit it to each other.  This added some unneeded dead time at the end of the visit.

Anabelle played in multiple cartoon themed spraying fountains as we left Comicstripland, as well as the Laminar flow area back out on the City Walk that she’d run through in the morning.

While she was laminaring, I ran into the Hard Rock Café to pick up a pin for a coworker who collected them.  There were three clerks, two of whom were wandering aimlessly behind the counter in a trance like state.  The third was having a deep and detailed discussion with the first of six people on line ahead of me about when he worked in a now closed branch in another city. I don’t remember which city, because after standing there immobile for fifteen minutes, the flames shooting out of my ears incinerated the appropriate brain cells.  I stomped out deciding a Rock ‘n Roller Coaster Pin would be a much more appropriate memento from a Disney family such as ours.

After fountaining, Anabelle would have frozen solid in the overly air conditioned stores. I waited outside one or two while Rosa shopped a bit. Since there wasn’t anything she hadn’t seen in the park stores, we found our way back to the bus stop for our longer than it should have been wait.

We planned to eat back at the POP, since Universal was extremely resistant to accepting the Disney dining plan.

How rude. 

Unfortunately, due to our flawed previous evening packing protocol, we forgot snacks and power bars the only day we’d be miles from any Disney Dining Plan Approved Snack.  Anabelle got a free birthday Churro on the way out, but that plus the small bag of roasted Edamame we found when we reached the concession standless bus stop wasn’t going to cut it.

Aside from hearing talk of a big goofy guy in a superhero shirt snoring on the bus on the way back, I can’t report on anything that occurred.

Back home, (because one of the great perks of staying on Disney property is calling a room six feet from a giant can of Play Doh “home”) we changed into our pool attire for dinner.  Clad in swim suits and TARDIS tank tops, we sampled more of the variety of the Everything POP Food Court.  The sad looking pasta salad would begin pushing me in the dietary direction the trip would eventually end up at.

Anabelle heard a Whovian complement our shirts on line, but the biggest reaction was from a woman and kid after we sat down.  She came over and started raving about how cool they were saying they just started watching the show and even got into “the old ones.”  A little conversation revealed that the “old ones” she meant were Eccleston’s.  I provided her a bit of education and historical context, but didn’t dwell too long on it.  This is because the conversation also revealed that they were introduced to the show by her son’s mother’s kid’s friend, I think.  It was a rare moment when I was the more confused one in a Doctor Who conversation.’

Re-energized by food, we went over for what was expected to be the first of many trips to “Goofy’s Foot.” Anabelle was horrified to discover the laminar flow fountains on the way to the Seventies section were shut down. Only the spongy ground, minus the holes, remained in front of the statue of Goofy near the Sixties ‘Vette.

The amount of time she got to play in the big fountain at Universal cushioned the blow somewhat.  However, she resisted any offers to spend time exploring around the resort or trying the other decades’ pools after that night.  We take the loss of Disney favorites hard in this family.

We all did relax for a nice time in the Hippie Dippy pool before returning to the room, properly sorted Hot Chocolate mugs in hand.

Our rest continued by watching the Must See Disney channel. It’s cool, but on a very short loop. I miss the other channel that used to have in depth looks at various parks, each one as long as the entire “Must See” sequence. I guess it wasn’t cost effective to keep changing the long ones with the constant upgrades the place gets.

Must See Disney, which featured all the biggest new attractions, was still hosted by Stacey. She’d been the same host since we were entertained by those in room TV tours when I was a kid.  I believe she’s some special immortal kind of Crazy Happy Disney Lady.

I think the stress of all the walking was starting to get to Anabelle.  She kept yelling, “STOP SNORING!” for no reason I could detect.  The next day...

Disney 2013 Trip Index

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