On any given weekday morning, I wake up at 6:00 AM for work, swearing up and down that as soon as I get home from school that night, I will go right to bed. Because every morning I wake up tired, but always seem to forget this come nighttime. There I am at 1:00 in the morning, eating Bottle Caps and playing JT’s Blocks at Yahoo! Games. Next morning, I wake up and promise that this time I’m going to bed very early to catch up on sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Due to this never ending cycle, every single morning seems more and more like “Groundhog Day;” Except instead of waking up to “I Got You Babe,” I wake up to “EEE! EEE! EEE! EEE!”
Don’t fret; this actually does have something to do with the matter at hand. This sleep depravation phenomenon explains why I know I have to be up at 7:00 AM for a long and tiring day at Disney World, yet I still don’t go to sleep. I stay up watching a Tony Robbins infomercial. And no, I’m not saying that as a stereotype of infomercials, it actually was Tony Robbins. I’ve never seen one of his before, which is surprising, considering how often I watch infomercials and how often he airs them. I found myself unable to change the channel or turn the television off, he is hypnotizing. His energy and positive attitude are astounding. So one would assume that buying his tape set would allow some of those qualities to rub off on you. Also, his mouth is freaking huge.
I didn’t buy the tape set, so that was something of a small victory for me. I think it’s because I didn’t have a credit card handy, but I will choose to believe I displayed more self control than usual. The downside was that I wasted valuable sleeping time watching his informative commercial, so that was a big loss.
So, as always, morning rolls around. And I’m stuck there at 9:00 AM, cursing my foolish choices. Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but when I make the same obvious mistake night after night, it becomes apparent that I need some sort of foresight bifocals.
I’m not going to use any more metaphors for a while after that.
Standing at the shuttle bus stop with all of the tourist families, I must have looked like some sort of rock star. Minus the fame, riches, and good looks. Basically, I was just pale, unshaven, and unshowered, with my dark, tired eyes sunk into my head. I could have put on the sunglasses that I had in my pocket, but at that time of day ideas like that are way too complicated.
We had the same grumpy bus driver as the day before, who yelled at us and made us throw out our food, since it wasn’t allowed on “his” bus. If anyone had the right to be grumpy, it was us. We were tired, and because of him, caffeine free, and paying an assload of money for the privilege. The driver may have been just as tired, but at least he was getting paid. I work at seven in the morning, so don’t take your bad mood out on me and my tea. Suck it up, mustache.
Soon, we were at the park. Yay!
Oh wait, we’re not there yet. We were at the pre-park, where you pick whether you wanted to take the monorail or the ferry; like some sort of “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
Not getting our fill of faux-futuristic train travel at the airport, we opted for the monorail. Since even the mighty defenses of Disney aren’t immune to terrorism, we had to go through a bag check. They wanted to make sure we weren’t bringing in any contraband, such as guns, knives, or water bottles.
The bag check posed no problem, since I wasn’t sneaking anything in. Even if I was, it would have been fine, since I have learned from other parks that gesturing emptily at my camera bag and mumbling “camera” is the international sign that signals security to wave you right through.
Unlike Universal Studios, we didn’t arrive before the park had opened. Since the Disney parks are the most popular attractions in Orlando, more shuttles to the Magic Kingdom were offered. The Magic Kingdom acted as a hub to the other parks; you go from the hotel to the Magic Kingdom, and take a Disney shuttle to MGM, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. See, that’s actual information; Fodor’s makes a killing filling its books with stuff like that. Personally, I find giving useful information to be very straining and time consuming, so I avoid it as much as possible.
Since there were more shuttles offered, we went with a slightly later one. Granted, it was only an hour later, but that early in the morning, every extra minute is worth its weight in gold. Which I guess would add up to nothing, since time has no weight. I don’t think I need to explain myself; anyone who has to wake up to the sonic assault of an alarm clock has all thought the same thing. During those ungodly mornings when I think, “If I just don’t show up to work today, would they fire me? And if they did, would I care?” Fortunately (or unfortunately,) reason kicks in eventually, and I get up. I don’t even have the luxury of being sluggish, since by the time I stop procrastinating in bed, I’m about twenty five minutes late.
But, as usual, I digress.
Since we took a later shuttle, the park was already open when we got there. It was a good time to arrive, since the park wasn’t crowded, but wasn’t unsettlingly empty.
We headed for the back of the park, since by the time we worked our way back to the front, people would be heading towards the back and the crowd would have cleared out.
This strategy works just as well as any of the plans I make for vacations, which is to say, not very well. That doesn’t mean that heading for the back didn’t work out. The areas furthest from the gate were all but abandoned; in what is definitely a rare instance in my experiences with the park, it was like a ghost town.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last very long. Eventually, the crowd caught up to us. My theory was flawed; the park wasn’t quiet when we finally got back to the front of the park. This was because I neglected to factor in the constant influx of people. Logic would suggest that by a certain point in the day, people would stop coming in. If it’s that late in the afternoon, they’ll wait to come back the next day, right? Wrong. People flock to the park all day long.
I knew how packed the park can get, especially considering it was a Saturday. So I knew I should appreciate how quiet it was at the beginning of the day.
The first ride we headed to was Splash Mountain. It was definitely good to do this ride when it was empty, since this can have one of the longest lines in the park. I have never understood the massive appeal that log flumes have, especially the themed ones. Old school log flumes basically entailed going up a lift, and dropping down into a pool, and getting soaking wet. The newer log flumes have inserted a time consuming middleman. Rides such as Splash Mountain, Ripsaw Falls at Islands of Adventure, Journey to Atlantis at Sea World, and plenty of others have you riding around, looking at animatronics. While these can be mildly entertaining, they’re not usually very fun. So the experience of modern log flumes have turned into riding around somewhat bored, anticipating the wet ending that no one really wants to be part of.
The most entertaining part of Splash Mountain is seeing what they left out. The ride is based on the story “Song of the South.” I don’t know the exact story, and I honestly can’t be bothered to look it up. What I remember about it comes from a Book and Record based on Brer Rabbit I had when I was a kid. It was one of those books you would follow along with, where the record would tell you, “You may turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this…”
Point being, there was a character in the story named “Tar Baby.” So you can see why Disney would choose not to include this character in the ride. Obviously, they feel that the US is still recovering from the Exxon-Valdez disaster. Normally, I find Disney’s painfully politically correct actions to be off putting, but I fully support them in their decision to remove Tar Baby. Ecological disasters such as oil spills are not to be taken lightly; so I think there should be no Tar Babies on Splash Mountain, or anywhere else in the park. Bravo, Mr. Eisner.
The ride itself was completely empty, despite the fact that first thing in the morning seems like the perfect time for a stomach churning drop that gets you soaking wet.
I didn’t have any idea of just how wet I would get, since the ride was so empty I didn’t see anyone getting off. Also, the last time I was on this ride, I was already soaking wet to begin with.
I don’t even remember if I got very wet. I’m assuming I didn’t, since I would have been more likely to remember getting soaked. The ride was good; after all it was a boat ride, which is always cool in my book.
From there, we headed over to one of the few thrill rides in the park, Big Thunder Mountain. Despite the fact that this ride would be considered a children’s ride in most amusement parks, Big Thunder Mountain is one of the fastest rides in the park.
Something, however, was different this time. The Mountain felt extra dangerous, extra risky. The stench of death was all around. This was, of course, due to the fact that about a week prior, someone was killed on this ride. I guess that’s not funny at all, but it is quite related to the matter at hand. It also didn’t actually happen here. It happened at Disneyland in California, but they are the same ride. So viewing the Big Thunder Mountain in Disney World as a certain brush with death in the unholy underworld would be an understandable assumption.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t quite know, the ride was closed. I recall liking the ride, but my memories of Big Thunder Mountain are clouded by my experiences of hating the Runaway Train ride at Six Flags Great Adventure. Runaway Train is the halfway point between a child’s ride and a real roller coaster, probably leaning more towards the child side of the spectrum. The cars on the ride are also built for people with an average height of 4’5”, based on the leg room it offers.
I do have to give Runaway Train some credit, since it was on that ride that one of the greatest events that ever happened at an amusement park occurred.
A group of friends and I were waiting on line, and were about to get on. Some of them had already gotten into a car, and I would be on the next train. I then heard a scuffle, which turned out to be an irate park guest biting someone in the face. The blood and, presumably, skin had to be cleaned up by throwing a salt mix, used primarily to clean up vomit, onto the mess. Since they had been restrained by the lap bar, most of my party missed out on the gruesome face biting. In all honesty, I didn’t see exactly what happened either, but at least I was facing the commotion and got to see some scuffling. We never did find out what exactly prompted the face biting, although one would assume something like that has to have some sort of interesting back story.
So Big Thunder Mountain is a much better ride. And, as far as I know, no one has been killed on the Runaway Train. Yet Big Thunder Mountain lacks the ability to claim it was privy to violent outbursts; or more specifically, outbursts that resulted in facial gnawing. One could argue both sides for days, but it is a moot point, since the ride was closed. So onward we move towards the Haunted Mansion.
Let no mistake be made: I love this ride. I love haunted houses in general, but this is done to perfection. Sure, it isn’t exactly scary, but who cares? Everything about it is great. The outside atmosphere and appearance of the house is amazing, the elevator ride sets the mood appropriately, and even the moving sidewalk leading up to the little buggy cars is fun. Sitting down, you attempt to lower the lap bar, just like on any other ride. You quickly notice you are unable to move it; and just for trying you are promptly yelled at by a ghostly voice coming from within the buggy. This is no ordinary voice either; this voice belongs to Vincent Price. A man who, it just so happens, is dead. This means that you are being scolded by a voice from beyond the grave. Creepy stuff.
Okay, it isn’t actually Vincent Price. It’s the voice of an Imagineer who happens to possess the awesomely creepy vocal qualities of Price. But maybe he’s dead also. So it’s still creepy.
I’ll stop there. I could go along and mention every step of the ride, but I won’t bore you with that. I’ll bore you with other things, instead.
After walking back out into the bright sun, which is in stark contrast to the darkness of the Mansion, we headed to arguably the most popular area of the park, Fantasyland.
The first ride we came across was It’s a Small World. And oh, the luck; a 0 minute wait. This came as a surprise since the ride, as old as it is, still tends to draw a large crowd. This ride gets a bad rap; everyone says how much they hate it, because of the song and the overall terribleness. Well, to those people, I have one thing to say: You’re wrong. I have come to realize that I love this ride, but not for the same reasons I love the Haunted Mansion.
In fact, I like it so much because of how awful it actually is. I like seeing the gears and strings that hold the puppets up and cause them to move, then looking up at the ceiling that lets you know you are just floating to a moderately elaborate warehouse. Then there’s the song. Ah, the song. If there is one single thing that all visitors of the Magic Kingdom can rally against, it is the theme song to It’s a Small World. It is gratingly annoying and, even worse, gets stuck in your head all day. I’m fine with that. Even at the exit, where you are waved off by a faded picture taken at what appears to be Epcot in 1982, love is everywhere in this ride. In fact, I don’t just love It’s a Small World. I’m in love with it.
Overall, I give the ride an F… for fun!
From one of the most upbeat rides in the park, we head to one of the darkest. Snow White is one of the most hardcore attractions in the park. For a ride that, based on its subject matter, is meant for kids, it’s got a lot of creepiness going on. You are riding along in the dark forest when all of a sudden, BOO YAH, you’ve got a witch in your face. The story of Snow White is twisted to begin with, so basing a ride on the darkest aspects is a pretty bold idea for an attraction geared towards children. You can get a sense of how unexpected this ride actually is by looking at the happy children going in, and watching the screaming, crying children as they come out.
From the innocent fun of Fantasyland we move to the sterility of Tomorrowland. And apparently what “tomorrow” brings is…rain. Yes rain, my Floridian pen pal, here to greet me again. Luckily, I was able to find shelter in a futuristic gift shop. I consider myself fortunate to find one, because there really aren’t enough places to buy Disney paraphernalia in Disney World and in the Orlando area.
After the brief rain, crowds started to grow denser around the main pathways. This was because, unbeknownst to me, the parade was about to begin. Had I known this, I would have fled to the Hall of Presidents in one hell of a hurry. But alas, it was too late. I was like an insect in amber, stuck amongst the sweaty tourists that were giddily anticipating the parade.
The theme of the parade was Promises of the Future’s Wonderful Dreams, or something along those lines.
The parade consisted of the major Disney characters riding on floats, while loudspeakers broadcast dream-related dialogue. While this was going on, various second-tier characters roamed around poking people. The parade also contained the most effeminate Peter Pan I have ever seen; which is something, considering he has often been portrayed by women.
Eventually, God shone down his mercy from the heavens above, and the parade passed by. We were weary from the exhaustive process of being aggravated for fifteen minutes, and needed to sit down.
The Tomorrowland tram, officially called “The blue train that no one is really sure what ride it is part of,” is a good way to kill some time and get to sit down.
Since I’m assuming that 95% of the people reading this have never taken the time to go on this, I’ll give a quick synopsis. It basically takes you around Tomorrowland. Part of it is outside, the part that you always see. The rest of it is indoors, giving you a behind the scenes look at some of the area, including Buzz and a gift shop. Finally, you are treated to a behind the scenes look at a broken down Space Mountain.
I have now seen Space Mountain broken down so many times, I’m actually depressed that I’ve never been stuck on it myself. At least that would be a change from the norm.
After this, we were itching to go on another ride, so it was on to the Buzz Lightyear ride. This ride is a lot of fun; you ride around in a car while shooting at the hundreds of targets around you. The best part is the car has a lever that will violently jerk the car from left to right, and completely piss off your co-rider when it is done in repetition.
The biggest downside to this ride is that it isn’t much fun when your gun is broken. I realized this about a minute in, when my score failed to go up, except for random times when it would increase, even if I was not actually shooting the gun. When you are not able to shoot at anything, the ride is nothing more than jerking the car around while being surrounded by painfully bright neon colors. So I guess it’s pretty fun then also.
From there, it was on to Disney’s newest attraction, PhilharMagic. I wasn’t really expecting too much, from what I had heard and read about it, it seemed like it would be another one of the 3-D movies, with some added effects. The biggest downside to this attraction is that the line is deceiving. There had been a fairly long line for it all day, but for some reason we never got a Fast Pass for it (we had only wound up getting three the whole day, I think.) Later on, the line outside looked reasonable, so we jumped on. After a fairly brief wait, we were ready to go inside to see how good it would be. Instead, we went inside and were met with… another line. This line was much worse. Well, longer, not necessarily worse.
The atmosphere was enjoyable; it’s a theatre environment with mock movie posters featuring Disney characters. Since the movie takes place in a theatre, large groups of people were going in at a time. A large chunk of the line would go in, and then we would wait for about ten to fifteen minutes. We did this wait about twice, and just barely made the cut for the next group. However, you are not lead into the theatre; you are led into, you guessed it, another waiting area. So after three different waits, we finally got in. The movie itself is great. It is probably the best 3-D I have ever seen, and the extra effects such as scents and mists and such were done wonderfully. It’s definitely a good sign for Disney World that they are still able to add attractions of this caliber to the park.
After this, we didn’t have much left to do. This is the only logical explanation for what we did next; we went on the Mark Twain Ferryboat. Is it still called that? From there, we got a behind the scenes look at Big Thunder Mountain.
I don’t know whether this apparently major construction began before or after the death at Disneyland, but some serious looking overhauls seem to be going on. Nothing like a death or two to throw a monkey wrench into the whole damn operation.
We also see Native Americans in their native habitat, Orlando.
Disney didn’t see to be too active when it comes to Halloween decorations. This Mick O’Lantern (get it?) seems to be the extent of the thematic gestures. I could be completely forgetting other things, but I honestly didn’t even remember we went near Halloween until I saw this picture. Although I probably shouldn’t point out we went on Halloween, since it is now about six months later, and only goes to show what a lazy jackass I am.
Toontown, well, it’s not very interesting; it sucks. Although I refuse to mock anything about it, since it is clearly not aimed towards my age group. In fact, if I was younger, I think I would definitely like it a lot, since it seems very well designed for kids, and the cartoon look is very well done. Forget what I said earlier, Toontown is awesome.
In Toontown, we get to go inside characters’ houses. Here, we get to peer inside Minnie’s fridge, who is apparently on the Atkins diet, and is most definitely on the toilet eighteen hours a day.
Since it was getting late, and we had to make sure we caught the shuttle bus, we made our way towards the entrance. While Amy was playing the part of tourist with money to burn, waiting to purchase the picture the Disney employee took of us, I played a demo version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in the PC area of the gift shop. Sample question: Guess who paid $50 in park admission to play a game that comes free with a box of Golden Grahams?
It was when we stepped outside that I was finally able to truly understand that I like laughing at others’ misfortunes. While we were inside the picture shop (probably spelled “Shoppe,”) there was a fireworks show going on. This was evidently a big deal, since Main Street was absolutely packed with people waiting to watch it when we were heading towards the picture shoppe.
When we stepped back out, it was raining. However, it was not only raining, it was absolutely pouring out. There was absolutely no way to make it to the monorail without getting soaked, so I just completely gave up. We headed back, with me making no attempt to protect myself. It was freezing in the astoundingly air conditioned monorail, but I was fine, being kept comfortable by the warm feelings in my heart. I was able to witness hundreds of peoples’ nights abruptly ended by the force of nature I had clashed with so many times before. It was that night that rain and I understood each other, and formed long and meaningful friendships.
Overall, this trip to the Magic Kingdom was better than the last one. There wasn’t more to do, but I think less went wrong this time. And oh yeah, the sundaes they sell near the Jungle Cruise with the pineapple soft serve ice cream and pineapple juice are the most amazing things ever, and need to be made the official lunch food of the United States.