Christmas 2012 Disney World Trip Report Day 2
Before I get started, thank you all for the great response to the first day of the trip report. It was quite popular and despite that it only caused the website to go down once! Since the site goes down about 4 times per day on a normal day now, I’ll consider it only being down once because of the trip report a huge success! We really appreciate all of the comments and tweets, likes, pins, etc. of the post. As always, we love when you help spread the word about the blog. Anyway, since the trip report didn’t cause any real issues with the functionality of the site, I’m already gearing up for writing more of them!
As a thanks for the support, we’re letting you choose the next trip report via this poll on Facebook. Although I haven’t voted in the poll, my vote would be for Disneyland Paris. Not to bias you or anything, but that trip report would be fun, unique, and (I think) enjoyable even for those who will never visit. However, past response to Disneyland Paris content on the blog has been awful, and I don’t want to waste my time writing that report if only a few of you are going to read it.
On with day 2 of the Christmas trip report…
The morning started out with me going on advance scouting to the International Gateway entrance of Epcot to try renewing our Annual Passes at the special $399 Disney Vacation Club discounted price while Sarah got ready and met up with me at Test Track. This advance scouting was in no way necessary, but I guess the substantial discount was like the Disney equivalent of a heist on the Smithsonian, so we wanted to make sure all of our ducks were in a row. The transaction went flawlessly, and my AP was renewed within about 5 minutes, giving me an extra 25 minutes to loiter around before the turnstiles opened. I don’t know why I thought there might be any issues with this, but oh well.
It worked out well, because they ended up opening the turnstiles earlier than I expected. Sarah still wasn’t done paying for her AP when I got in, so we agreed to meet up at Test Track. We had heard that the standby line was insanely long and stacked outside for this first thing in the morning (it was opening weekend), so I figured she’d have time to catch up while I was still outside waiting in line. The line was insanely long, but it wasn’t moving, as the attraction was down. Having no clue how long it would be down, we cut our losses and decided to head elsewhere. About this time we met up with Josh from easyWDW.com. I can only assume that he was at Epcot to taunt ducks or spend the day engaging in bootleg pin trading arbitrage, but he agreed to postpone those important endeavors and join us.
Test Track was really our only reason for heading to Epcot early that morning (literally–we planned on going to the Magic Kingdom immediately afterward), so we sort of aimlessly wandered around for a bit before having breakfast at Sunshine Seasons and going to the Magic Kingdom. Breakfast actually wasn’t half bad, but like most Walt Disney World counter service breakfasts, it was nothing special. Disney plays fast and loose with the word “egg,” and I think at some point they might want to add an asterisk next to egg on the menu.
We took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, which was fairly empty. I guess not many people park hop within the first hour of a park’s operation, but as they say, you haven’t really lived until you’ve done the Epcot->TTC->Magic Kingdom monorail run before 9 am. I’m not sure who says that, but I’m sure it has been said.
The Magic Kingdom wasn’t quite as quiet as the monorail. As soon as we entered the park, we were greeted by a large foreign tour group (or 6) milling about in Town Square. Some of them were lying on the ground, some of them were wandering without much direction. They reminded me of a herd of “walkers” from The Walking Dead, except none of them were out to eat us (to my knowledge). This was fortunate, as even with my extensive survivalist training, we would have been toast against this large of a herd.
The park was packed, so we immediately headed back to Be Our Guest to get in line for lunch, which was starting about 15 minutes from the time we got in line. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, which was fairly par for the course, as I understand it. I’ve already reviewed our Be Our Guest lunch experience, but the capsule version of that review is that Be Our Guest is mostly good, besides a few design issues and food that I think is just a bit overrated. I have plenty of other unimportant things to blather about here, so I won’t waste more space rehashing my Be Our Guest thoughts here.
Instead, as Be Our Guest was the last New Fantasyland thing for me to experience, I’ll offer my overall review of New Fantasyland here. New Fantasyland in Walt Disney World delivers some things the Magic Kingdom desparately needs. Despite this, it falls short of expectations and its own potential. Since my initial impression of the place, I’ve warmed up to it a bit, but it’s still a bit of a letdown.
The positives first. New Fantasyland is a lush area with plenty of kinetic energy thanks to water, gradiation, and landscaping. This is a stark contrast to the rest of Fantasyland, which is a concrete jungle and sea of strollers. The attention to detail that went into the expansion is truly astonishing, and I think what drew so many of us into Disney fandom in the first place is something called the “Disney Difference.” This means any number of things from service to cuisine, but in this case I’m talking about the level of theming. To be fair, in recent years other non-Disney parks have started to close the gap here, but overall, New Fantasyland raises the bar on quality of themed environments and is an all around beautiful place to be. From the building exteriors to the queues to the vegetation, everything seems well-thought and designed.
It’s also good to see the Magic Kingdom add another attraction with incredibly high hourly capacity, which is exactly what Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid (what a clever and succinct name!) offers. Between that, Be Our Guest Restaurant, and even Enchanted Tales with Belle (thanks to its line), New Fantasyland can help absorb Magic Kingdom crowds, which have at times become unbearable in recent years.
Unfortunately, New Fantasyland is a stark contrast to the rest of Fantasyland in that it has one new attraction (as of right now), whereas the rest of Fantasyland is fairly dense with attractions. While it’s nice that New Fantasyland is a beautifully themed area, it’s disappointing that an expansion of this scale and scope doesn’t contain more of substance. Prior to visiting New Fantasyland, I didn’t think this would be such a big deal. In fact, I wrote that New Fantasyland could be a game-changer for the Magic Kingdom, but I’m finding myself eating crow on that now. The environments and details are beautiful, but without more of substance in the land, I didn’t find myself compelled to stick around.
New Fantasyland is not like World Showcase in this regard. World Showcase is similarly somewhat lacking in attractions and strong in dining and themed environment, but the strength of World Showcase is that there’s plenty of breathing room there and the non-ride based entertainment and activities are so brilliantly woven into the countries that you feel more encapsulated by the experience. The restaurants, the shops, even the bars in World Showcase all add to a single, comprehensive experience that’s worth doing, and worth doing again. The themed design and these other forms of entertainment enhance the guest experience and serve as a great crutch to the largely lackluster attraction lineup (and I write this as a fan of the oft-overlooked films of the World Showcase). By contrast, even areas in New Fantasyland that should be “quiet corners” are cramped and crowded, and there are no redeeming smaller-scale attractions. A Casey Jr. ride would have been a great, albeit low capacity, attraction for this area.
This is not a fault of the Imagineers tasked with the project. Space is more limited in the Magic Kingdom, and the crowds that have already descended upon New Fantasyland have been huge.
As mentioned above, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid has its strengths. It also has its weaknesses. The advanced Audio Animatronics it has in various places through the attraction are juxtaposed against simple and mundane “spinny” fish that don’t really do anything. Overall, it’s a nice evolution on the dark ride concept from a technical perspective, but this alone doesn’t make it a winner. While it’s more advanced than Peter Pan’s Flight, it lacks the charm and guest engagement of flying out a window and over the streets of London. Some attractions can overcome this lack of charm by dazzling guests with “wow” moments that leave guests wondering how a particular moment occurred (although usually these moments resonate both from a technical and an emotional perspective). However, the Little Mermaid dark ride doesn’t have that, either. It’s not an attraction to which many guests will feel an emotional connection, nor is it a technical behometh. It’s just a good Fantasyland dark ride.
In fairness to the attraction, in many circumstances, there’s nothing wrong with just being a “good” dark ride. Fantasylands the world over are filled with them. Heck, even Disney California Adventure’s Little Mermaid dark ride, which is nearly identical to the Magic Kingdom’s once you get past the exterior and queue, is simply a good dark ride. In Disney California Adventure’s case, the Little Mermaid dark ride was merely a small component of an extravagant wholesale redo of the park. The only “pressure” it faced was providing Disney California Adventure with a quality family dark ride, something the park seriously lacked. And it succeeded on that basis. It wasn’t a cornerstone of that substantial overhaul, so it benefited from lower expectations. Cars Land, World of Color, and Buena Vista Street were (rightfully) the flagship elements of that expansion, and they delivered in spades, allowing Mermaid to simply be a nice small-scale attraction.
The Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland expansion, at least the part that opened in 2012, was anchored by Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. In some ways, it might seem a little unfair for expectations to differ for the two identical Mermaid attractions. It’s not. Theme park attractions aren’t built and judged in a vaccuum, so it’s very reasonable to judge Magic Kingdom’s Mermaid against that park’s full expansion–an expansion hyped by Disney as the largest expansion to the Magic Kingdom in its history–and Disney California Adventure’s Mermaid against that park’s full expansion. If a mixture of three D and E-Ticket attractions opened at the same time as the C-Ticket Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, it wouldn’t be judged as harshly.
We’ve already previously covered the excellent Storybook Circus sub-land in a previous trip report, so that just leaves Enchanted Tales with Belle. Although I anticipate us doing Enchanted Tales with Belle far, far less than Mermaid dark ride on future trips (we didn’t even experience it this trip), I think it’s the best attraction in New Fantasyland. Sure, I would have preferred a Beauty and the Beast dark ride, but I don’t quite get the vitriol spewed over Enchanted Tales. Meet and greets are undeniably popular and are not going away any time soon. That much is fact. Some fans seem to view them as some cancer for the parks, despite them having been around since the parks opened (yes, even when EPCOT Center opened). I remember the chaos of meet and greets back in the early 1990s. Basically, it was a free for all, with every kid around swarming the characters. My childhood photos are basically me standing near a character with countless other kids in the same shot. Contrast that with what Enchanted Tales with Belle offers–it’s difficult to believe the experiences even share any bloodlines.
Given that meet and greets are a basic and popular element of the theme park experience, I have a difficult time understanding why people would be so against such substantial improvements upon that experience. Critics say otherwise, but I truly believe that it’s because they are upset that Enchanted Tales doesn’t appeal to them personally, and they have a selfish desire for every new attraction at Walt Disney World to cater to them. I don’t blame them–I’m selfish, too! I can set aside this selfishness (for very small windows of time) and recognize that not everything will cater to me, nor should it. Space Mountain caters to me, but not other guests. Jellyrolls caters to me, but not other guests. Sum of All Thrills caters to me, but not other guests. Victoria & Albert’s caters to me, but not other guests. Impressions de France caters to me, but not other guests. Nowhere is it carved in stone that all guests must be able to enjoy everything that Walt Disney World offers. Just because Walt Disney wanted to create a place where he could enjoy attractions with his kids doesn’t mean he wanted a place where they could enjoy every single attraction together (remind me again at what point in history the Walt-era Matterhorn could be enjoyed by toddlers).
As for the substance of Enchanted Tales with Belle, it seems to work well for its target audience. I watched a few shows of it on a previous visit, and each time, the kids and their parents all seemed really into it. My enjoyment didn’t even begin to approach theirs, and I felt the story in the main room was a bit awkward, but the target audience ate it up. I enjoyed the immersive nature of the experience, the AAs, and the general flow of the experience. It’s not something I’d wait long to experience (meaning we’ll probably never get to see it again!), but it’s not the terrible addition some have vilified it as being.
I haven’t been too rough on New Fantasyland, so you might wonder why it was a disappointment. It disappointed me because it wasn’t what it could have been. It wasn’t what it seems like it should have been. New Fantasyland uses the now extinct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’s plot of land (plus some). It has been highly hyped by Walt Disney World as the biggest expansion of the Magic Kingdom ever, and has received years of coverage on the Disney Parks Blog. It opened months after Cars Land, and is Walt Disney World’s de facto response to Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yet it completely lacked an attraction with any “wow” factor, making it very much unlike Cars Land or Wizarding World of Harry Potter. None of its attractions are as good as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which it arguably replaced.
Part of me is unsure of whether this disappointment is unreasonable (hence my emphasis on “seems” above). The Magic Kingdom needed capacity, and New Fantasyland addressed that. As someone who closely follows Walt Disney World “news,” I want any additions to come in the form of stunning new E-Tickets. Yet I realize this won’t always be possible, or even appropriate. However, when the addition is the “biggest expansion ever,” and that expansion costs hundreds of millions of dollars and takes years to complete, I think the expectation gains merit. The problem, though, is that Walt Disney World is a mature theme park complex that is in no way comparable to the previously struggling Disney California Adventure, or even Universal Orlando, which is playing catch-up. It’s a little unreasonable to expect Walt Disney World to match these parks in construction now, because for years, they didn’t match Walt Disney World. Given that, is it the disappointment fair?
I still think it is. The portion of New Fantasyland that is open now cost a lot of money to build, and for its cost, it seems like the substance of Mermaid dark ride could’ve been much stronger. It could have blown the lid off the idea of what an E-Ticket dark ride is, and it could have made the other Fantasyland dark rides look antiquated. More importantly from a business perspective, it could have been the tent-pole attraction that got the press writing about New Fantasyland like they have written about Cars Land thanks to Radiator Springs Racers. It could have been something around which families who don’t visit Disney regularly planned a trip–to “see the awesome new Little Mermaid ride.” Some people thinking that this role will be filled by Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and that might be true. I’m withholding judgment on that (although I don’t expect a Radiator Springs Racers caliber attraction), and am only judging the land at the time of its Grand Opening.
To me, New Fantasyland is just an expansion that serves the needs of the Magic Kingdom without really making a huge impact. It’s like Tony Kukoc rather than Michael Jordan. Both very important, but very few people are lining up at Foot Locker to buy the shoes Kukoc wears.
That review dragged on for a bit, so let’s skip ahead to the afternoon and evening, which are the interesting portions of this day. Luckily, we didn’t do much of interest that day in the Magic Kingdom, anyway. We basically just ate at Be Our Guest, then wandered around, eating at Sleepy Hollow a bit later and riding the TTA a few times. I also spent some time testing out the Nikon full frame fisheye lens I borrowed, since there were some nice clouds in the sky.
We also did Carousel of Progress and didn’t receive the ‘no-photography’ admonishment, so I went wild. Here are some of the shots:
Then, we left.
Sarah wanted to grab a coat, so took the bus to BoardWalk Inn and then walked to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from there. Our plan for the night was pretty ambitious. We’d go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stay there until around 9 pm (it closed at 8 pm) for the Osborne Lights, then book it over to Epcot for Illuminations and some photos after (it closed at 9:3o pm), and then head to the Magic Kingdom, which closed at midnight. If all went according to plan, we’d (in essence) be doing 5 parks in one day.
Once we got to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we met up with easyWDW Josh and AJ of the excellent DisneyFoodBlog.com for dinner at our favorite DHS counter service spot, Studio Catering Co. It was a fun and funny meal, and everyone else seemed to be having a good time chatting, but towards the end I had my mind mainly on one thing: photographing the Osborne Lights. Despite capturing a couple of good shots of the lights in 2011, most of my photos were duds. The lights are relatively easy to photograph if you know what you’re doing, so I was really disappointed in my 2011 results. I was ready to redeem myself, and I wanted to start with some dusk photos including the lights against a deep blue sky.
I managed a couple of decent dusk photos, but compared to how many I shot, the results were again disappointing. One of those instances of everything looking good on the LCD screen, but being a little soft on the computer screen. I was using a slower shutter speed and often holding the camera above my head, which was probably a mistake. We spent most of the time here talking with AJ and Josh, and gazing in awe at the light displays. I probably should have put more energy into photographing the lights, but I thought my early photos had turned out well, so I didn’t put too much effort into photos again until the end of the night when I could get empty streets.
The Streets of America were absolutely packed for the Osborne Lights, almost to the point that it was difficult to move. I don’t think anyone minded too much, though, as the lights really gave everyone a good dose of holiday cheer. Or perhaps that cheer was from the $12 alcoholic drinks. Although we didn’t have any of those, we did have a glorious gingerbread cupcake, which had one of the light-up ice cubes on it. Cupcakes and booze are basically the same, so it makes sense that both are garnished with these same ice cubes at the Studios.
After about an hour in the Osborne Lights, AJ and Josh headed off in search of more cupcakes. It was a noble mission and we wished them the best, but we couldn’t pull ourselves from the lights. I mention this in our Walt Disney World Christmas Guide, but I could just stare at those lights for hours. It really is my perfect way to spend a Christmas evening at the Studios. In fact, that night we didn’t do a single ride, but I think we spent over three hours back on the Streets of America enjoying the Osborne Lights.
Later, as we walked around enjoying the lights, we met up with Mark Goldhaber of MousePlanet, we took a break from our glazed-eye light-gazing to chat with him for a bit. When we parted ways, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was closing, and it was just about time for me to start focusing more on photos. Unless you’re able to get above the crowds, this is sort of necessary when photographing the Osborne Lights, otherwise you have stray people in your photos. I don’t mind crowds of unidentifiable people in my photos or identifiable people in the photos if they serve a purpose in the frame, but more often than not with wide Osborne Lights photos, you end up with identifiable people basically photobombing the center of your frame unless you’re really lucky. The heavy crowds and general aimlessness most guests have when walking around Walt Disney World makes this pretty much a given.
This particular night was so busy that even by 8:30 pm, the Streets of America were still packed. I realized empty park photos were out of the question if we wanted to get to Epcot in time for Illuminations. Conservatively, I figured it would take 30 minutes to get to International Gateway, so we needed to leave soon to allow enough time to get my tripod and everything set up for Holiday Illuminations. Unfortunately, it was tough to pull ourselves away from the lights, so we didn’t end up leaving until 8:52 pm.
Walking was the best option, as destiny on foot was entirely in our hands. When calculating time, I failed to account for time walking within Disney’s Hollywood Studios and within Epcot. This was a bit oversight, as the Streets of America are at the back of DHS, and I wanted to photograph the fireworks from the Christmas tree in Epcot, which is at the front of World Showcase. As soon as we were outside of DHS’ gates we realized this, so I ran ahead of Sarah to make sure I’d have enough time to get my tripod set up. I’m sure the party people at Jellyrolls wondered why some fool with so much camera gear was running down the BoardWalk, but if my past experiences late at night on the BoardWalk are any indication, it was far from the oddest thing they saw that night.
According to the EXIF data on my first photo taken at my spot by the Christmas tree in Epcot, I was there by 9:24 pm. I don’t know the exact distance between the Streets of America and that Christmas tree, but I don’t think 32 minutes (probably slightly less since I’m basing the total time off EXIF data and I highly doubt I took the DHS photo the second we left or the Epcot photo the second I arrived) is too bad for the distance traversed. It was a little chilly out that night, but I was sweating profusely for about the first 20 minutes I was at Epcot. On the plus side, that bit of exercise earned me the “right” to have approximately 13 more cupcakes that trip (let’s round up to 14 just to be safe–you have to offset all that dangerous exercise somehow).
I was really pleased with the spot for the purpose of photos, but Illuminations definitely is not the same when you aren’t right at the water’s edge. If I were a local, there are all kinds of crazy places I’d photograph that show, but as a tourist who only gets to see it once in a while, I doubt I’ll choose such an “adventurous” spot again anytime soon. You just miss too much of the excellent show.
After Illuminations, it was time to get down to business (for both me and Sarah…you’ll notice her ‘Grammin’ in the photo below. Much to my surprise, the Illuminations World Showcase lights remained on for a while after the show. It has been a while since I’ve had this happen, and I was like a kid in a candy shop! I was especially excited to photograph France this way, and we spent a bit of time back there. While in the middle of a 60 second exposure, an elderly couple paused just outside my frame. I told them that it was okay, they could pass through (the camera wouldn’t pick them up), and the gentleman came over to me to see what I was doing. I told him that I’d show the photo to him in just a few seconds as soon as it was done, and he and his wife began chatting with us in the meantime. They were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, and they had been coming to Epcot since it had opened. Really nice and sweet people; the kind of couple you look at and say, “I hope we’re like that in 40 years!” We ended up chatting with them for about 10 minutes before continuing on around the rest of the World Showcase.
As is becoming par for the course in Epcot, no one seemed to care about us taking photos, but our desire to get to the Magic Kingdom before it closed created a self imposed deadline. After only a bit of shooting in Future World, we caught a monorail to the TTC and then another to the Magic Kingdom.
By the time we got to the Magic Kingdom, it was 11:30 pm. Our plan was for one ride on the Haunted Mansion before heading to New Fantasyland for some more shooting there. However, as we passed Sleepy Hollow, the ice cream cookie sandwiches called our names. After all that dreadful exercise getting from DHS to Epcot, we pretty much had to stop for one! The cookies were soft and the ice cream was delicious. I love Haunted Mansion, but I think at that particular moment, no other theme park experience on earth could trump that ice cream sandwich. Except perhaps an ALF meet & greet.
From there it was off to New Fantasyland. It had been sprinkling since we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, but right as we left Sleepy Hollow, it started pouring. Always being prepared, I had a poncho for my camera…but not one for myself. (Shows how I prioritize, right?) Sarah had a poncho, and I’m not too afraid of rain, so we stayed. Since it was pouring, all of the sane guests left, which posed a problem for the less sane of us, as Security herded us from New Fantasyland after only getting a couple of photos.
Fortunately, there were plenty of likeminded insane folks up by Cinderella Castle, so we were able to do some shooting there. Unfortunately, it was raining so hard that even with the poncho and a lens hood, I was having a difficult time taking long exposures that didn’t end up with water on the lens. Also because of the rain, I was reluctant to change lenses, even though I saw an awesome shot from the Castle down Main Street that was just begging for a telephoto. Instead, I used the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 that I was borrowing, and although it was a good wider view, most of the frame was filled with rain droplets and the scene really called for a telephoto. The heavily cropped version of that shot is below. I really wish I would have taken the risk of changing lenses and getting the shot I had in mind, but hindsight is 20/20 from the dry comfort of my living room.
As we continued on to the front of the Castle, I saw one of the most beautiful views of Cinderella Castle ever. I immediately sought out a “top notch” puddle of water and set up my tripod to capture the view. This scene called for my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8–no other lens would do it justice–and this time I didn’t hesitate at all in changing lenses. Once I was finally set up and I had dried the lens, one of the greatest things ever happened: the Kiss Goodnight started. The Kiss Goodnight is always great, but on this night it was really great, as it meant that the icicle lights were turned off briefly and the Castle would cycle through a bunch of normal lighting. I must have fired off 20 shots during the few minute show, and somehow, they were all free from rain droplets in the critical areas.
Here are a few of those photos; the rest have yet to be edited.
Once the show was over, I grabbed another series of frames as the Dream Lights lit back up. Right after I got these shots, I went to make an adjustment, and…disaster struck…I knocked over my tripod. I can’t bear to type the gory details again, but luckily there were no casualties (besides the overpiced built in lens hood). After a quick stop in the Emporium to clean off the water that got on the camera when it fell, I summoned up the courage (or something like that) to resume shooting. Nothing beats a rainy night in the Magic Kingdom, and I wasn’t about to let that go to waste just because I almost broke an expensive lens.
It’s a good thing we didn’t leave, because right about this time the rain let up and we had about another 45 minutes in the park. During this time, I recognized someone who we had seen in October at the end of the night. After a couple minutes of giving him awkward looks as I tried to figure out who he was, we finally said hello. He reminded me, saying he was a reader of the blog and had just gotten into photography. I know he was shooting with one of the newer Sony DSLRs with the translucent mirrors, but I again can’t remember his name (shows how my memory works–Sony Man, if you’re reading this, I apologize!). We talked for a bit, then both of us continued shooting.
It’s sort of an anti-climactic way to end this overly long entry, but as we were the last ones to leave the Magic Kingdom, I snapped this photo of the drink fountains right by the exit. I know very few people will care about this, but I figure if you’ve already read all 5,000+ excruciating words of this installment, your boredom-tolerance is pretty high. I’m largely a creature of habit, and every time we exit the Magic Kingdom at the end of the night, we do so out the same exit, and before leaving, I stop and get a drink at this drinking fountain, and then turn around to take one last prolonged look at the park–just soaking it in. I’m not sure how long I’ve done this, but I know it’s been at least a few years. It started as an unintentional thing that I realized I had been doing (I’m often dehydrated by the end of the night, so I guess it was a natural stop), and now I make a point of doing it. I don’t know why I felt compelled to take this photo or even share this detail in the trip report. I guess to point out that sometimes the things we savor and enjoy about the parks are the little things?
I guess that would be a fitting way to end this day of the trip report given that we closed out three parks that night yet didn’t manage to do a single attraction at any of them…so it’s obviously the little things about the parks that make them special to us!
(The day actually didn’t end there–after getting back to the BoardWalk, I walked over to the Swan & Dolphin to photograph the decorations there…but I forgot to edit those photos…oops!)
Stay tuned for Day 3…
For full size versions of some of the photos in this trip report installment, check out the last few pages of our Disney Photo Galleries.
Phew, lots of topics covered here. What are your thoughts on New Fantasyland, or anything else in this trip report installment? We love to hear from readers of these trip reports, so please share your thoughts in the comments!
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Thanks for sharing your spectacular photos…. Puts a little magic in my day!
My take is slightly different on the New Fantasyland expansion. There were some serious holes in their attraction based princess things. Most everything that they had was only character interactions, dining and paying an absolutely ridiculous price for the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. This gives a actual attractions to do with your kids – who only want to do princess stuff without waiting in lines (with nothing to do) for characters, or paying substantial amounts of money beyound park tickets. Storybook Circus takes things over the top with all of the additional stuff that I can now do with my toddler. So as a parent of small children, I am elevated over the new expansion. I also feel that Be Our Guest added some new dining and I love that eating their is like being in the movie.
Again, gorgeous pictures. I think that I might have convinced my husband to take that Christmas trip I have been begging for by looking at all of them!!!!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!!
Loving the new trip report and of course the always beautiful photos. I’ve also been inspired to purchase an entry level dslr (Nikon D3100) and am currently learning how to properly use it. Unfortunately I’ve always been just a “C” student. A+ for you on the new trip report though:) I feel like you do a great job of putting that “disney feeling” into words and I’m looking forward to the next installment. Thanks so much!
Glad you’re enjoying the reports! Good for you for taking up photography–it’s such a fun hobby!
Love that the trip reports are back! Really missed them.
Question: Where was the photo of Scrooge and Jiminey looking in the window taken? I’m sure it’s a Christmas decoration, and i’ve only been to WDW once during Christmas. But being Mickey’s Christmas Carol was my first real memory of Disney characters as a kid, I was intrigued by that photo.
Those are the windows of the Emporium. They’re really cool!
Amazing photos as always. 🙂
Reading your reports has been the sole influence in me deciding to uprgade to a bridge camera and push myself – as cheesy as it sounds, I can only hope that some day I can shots half as incredible as yours.
I love your trip reports too, they’re so much more than ‘went there, did this’ and I love hearing a more in depth analysis of things.
Hope the bridge camera works well for you–just remember, a camera is only a small part of the equation. Make sure you learn how to use it!
Very true 🙂
Have been studying art for five years now, and a lot of the rules of composition and colour that apply to painting, translate into photography. In other words I kind of have ‘the eye’ for it.
But I will, I think, have some thoughts on specific/more dynamic shots I want to take before I go. That might help me not just get too lost in the moment and forget everything!
Tom, of course I love the pictures, but I feel like I’m piling on with the praise since it’s such a lovefest in these comments.
I’m taking my 3 year old for the first time this December, and when I heard about the new Fantasyland, I was really excited. Now seeing everything, it’s more of a ‘meh’ feeling for me. The most magical part of the expansion for me is that there’s alcohol served in MK now. 🙂
Don’t let me opinions sour you before you see it for yourself. There are plenty of people who absolutely love it, and I have been known to be wrong about things from time to time (Sarah might go as far as to say I’m usually wrong!) 😉
If I tried a 60-second exposure my picture would be a big, white box.
i agree with your take on the new fantasyland. the hideous construction walls around the mine train don’t help. what they SHOULD do is build some kind of cable car ride from the area around the new restrooms over to tomorrowland.
I know people love and miss the Skyway, but I have to admit that I’m a little glad it’s gone. It offered views of the tops of buildings, including HVAC units and other junk, and made it easy to see show buildings. In other words, it ruined a lot of the illusion. Likewise, it reminds me of something you’d find at “lesser” amusement parks.
Even though it would offer some AWESOME angles for photos, I’m not for it returning. I know I’m in the minority on this one, though.
ok maybe the cable car ride isn’t a good idea, but a water ride in boats shaped like swans gracefully navigating the waterway near the castle might be a hit.
Fantastic report! The Hollywood studios sunset photo is gorgeous!
That one was tough. The sun was shining right in my eyes, so framing it was basically a matter of guessing and checking. I like it, too.
Nice post, as always. My favorite photo of this post is probably a style I don’t see you do a lot. The one with the sun glaring between the Tomorrow Land sign. Love it ! Same go for that boardwalk shot. Love the colors composition on it.
And I must admit, reading the part with “sony man” I’m kind of hoping to bump into you while in my honeymoon *cross fingers*.
For the New FantasyLand part, I’ll experience it for the first time in June. So, we’ll see how it’s actually is. I don’t expect it to be the Harry Potter of FantasyLand. But… it can’t be much worst than ToonTown Fair :S. So anything better than that, and I’ll be a happy man !
If I’m able to use that Nikon 35mm again, you’ll see more like that photo. That lens was great for that type of shot!
As for bumping into me on your honeymoon…I wouldn’t wish the awful experience of meeting me even on my worst enemy! 😉
Sarah, love your top! Btw, stop looking so good in all these photos!
Tom, love the world showcase night shots, so beautiful. Also, LOVE the shot looking down main street to the station. The soft glow of all the lights make it so dreamy, makes my heart ache a bit. Also, as always, your castle shots are amazing! You do amazing things with rain. Lastly, I love the last shot and story, it’s so personal and wonderful.
Yeah, in retrospect, I really, really wish I would’ve stopped to get a better version of that photo down Main Street towards the Train Station. It looks fine in a small size here, but it doesn’t look that great when viewed large.
Haha, that is an awesome top Sarah!
Great post. Enjoyed your thoughts on New Fantasyland and all the photos. We had the good fortune a couple years ago to make it to the Osborne Lights close to park closing, totally by accident. We’d left the park to eat at a resort with family and my wife and I decided to go back b/c we’d never seen the lights and wouldn’t get to go back that trip. It was fairly deserted by the time we got there even though it was the week of Christmas. We chatted with a cast member who showed us where to get some good pictures and even took our picture. It was the highlight of the trip for me and I think for my wife as well. Can’t wait to get to see them again.
Another coupla things:
Touring Plans “Lines” burned you in effigy when you didn’t envince the proper level of pie-eyed rainbow flatulence over new Fantasyland in the Huffington Post (I think? It was somewhere about a month ago) They don’t really get sarcasm over there. Or gin.
I’m pretty much in line with your take on the attractions. Some friends and I were there back in October (we were going to the Swan & Dolphin Classic that night) and stumbled into a “dress rehearsal.” It wasn’t that crowded: no wait for the Ariel thing and maybe 15 minutes for Belle. Which is about what both were worth. I was really at a loss to see where the half a billion went.
It’s OK to think the Be Our Guest menu is overrated. Really. Denouncing Comarde Stalin and the Broccoli Mandate aren’t necessary.
As for monorails, well. I’ve twice had the last resort monorail of the night to myself (yes, I’d been 86’d after last call both times). It’s kind of fun, sure. My odd solo touring habits mean that more often than not I have an afternoon bus from Saratoga or Old Key West back to the parks to myself. Bus drivers can be friendly folk, and are usually a little better about cheating the speed limits those times.
I think that was probably the “Awards” that I posted on the TouringPlans Blog. I didn’t know there was a negative reaction in Lines, but I’m not surprised. Since there are multiple bloggers over there, and none really share my writing style, my posts there often receive a negative response. That article was particularly poorly received.
I get the impression that a lot of people are counting on the Mine Train to be the savior of New Fantasyland. Because of that, they have this attitude that you can’t yet judge what’s open. As far as I’m concerned, what’s open is open and ready to be judged. If that weren’t the case, Disney shouldn’t have held the “Grand Opening” for the land. I have an open mind to the Mine Train, but those my expectations for it aren’t sky-high. I will be pleasantly surprised if it’s even an E-Ticket attraction. What I’ve heard is that it will be a short-duration D-Ticket. It’s less than a year from opening, and we aren’t seeing much buzz for it through Disney’s official channels.
We’ll see how the reaction to New Fantasyland changes once Mine Train opens. I really hope I’m the one changing my reaction, as I’d love for that ride to be what ties together the new area. I’ll gladly eat crow.
I understand Touring Plans, WDWmagic, DISboards, et cetera, aren’t representative of broader Disney fandom – and thank the baby Jesus for that, or I’d be all for taking off and nuking the site from orbit. I’m also a thoroughgoing cynic, really resistant to all the blather about “magic.” The Stockholm Syndrome the self-selected hard-core fans demonstrate, though, never ceases to amaze me. As I’ve said under different guises, there’s a lot of territory between “Disney cannot fail, we can only fail Disney,” and “THE NEW FANTASYLAND IS A THEME PARK HINDENBURG!!!” What’s wrong with a little well-reasoned criticism? The damned place is already built; it’s not like Iger’s going to drive a front-end loader through the place in a fit of spite.
I’d like it a little better, though, if those of us on the east coast might see a little of the love lavished on Disneyland. I guess the need for that park to depend on locals as something more than a mass of useful idiots to help through the really lean times is responsible for that.
And I do realize that a meta-discussion about posters on a website about an amusement park is truly the 30th sub-basement of wankery. If my self-loathing was electricity, I could light up Ft. Lauderdale.
Thanks for another great trip report withe some amazing photos as usual. This one is a bit more special since i am in it. I am the “Sony Man” that was talking to you that night. It was honor to shoot along next to you for a few minutes that night. That was a great night for some amazing shots with the water reflections in the hub and on main street and your photos along with mine bring back some great memories. I was following Sarah’s posts on twitter and i figured there was a good chance i would see you that night and i’m glad that i did. I’m still trying to process your run from DHS to Epcot for Illuminations. I’m not sure I would have been as successful as you in that sprint. And yes i was standing 3 feet to your left when i heard your camera tip over and hit the pavement, glad everything survived ok. Maybe i’ll see you there sometime in 2013.
Great to hear from you. Really sorry that I forgot your name (yet remembered your camera!). In my defense, I am really, really bad with names. Just ask my wife about the first few times we met. On second thought, don’t ask her about that. Not a good story! 😉
Ha! I’ll remember not to ask her that. Actually you aren’t the first person to remember my camera and not my name so i won’t take it personally. Next time i’ll just introduce myself as Sony Man and we’ll be all set. By the way i agree with you completely on the new Fantasyland. I was there on opening day and was left with a “that’s all?” kind of feeling. Here’s to hoping that the mine coaster can add a bit more when it opens. Thanks for everything
I wonder if you were there the same time we were 12/10-12/15. I would agree with Fantasyland. One thing I didn’t care for is that the Storybook Circus etc are is completely separated from Ariel etc. Maybe that’s by design, but because of it we never made it over there. It seemed very disjointed and maybe once the mine train opens it’ll all be connected. Not being able to get an ADR for BOG and not wanting to wait 45 minutes for Enchanted Tales left us little to do in New Fantasyland. I am a HUGE Mermaid fan though so I loved that ride. I love your photo of the tree and Goodnight on Spaceship Earth with Sarah in it. Sometimes a person can add so much to a photo. My heart skipped a beat when you said you knocked your camera over. Glad to see you got back up and kept on shooting. Jeez, this blog comment is _almost_ as long as your post!
“5” parks in one day…love it! If there is ever a time of year that calls for this, it’s December when there are so many extras to see in each park. I took a quick trip with a friend this year Dec. 20th-22nd and we hit “5” parks in one day – Magic Kingdom for opening, Animal Kingdom, back to Magic Kingdom to see the dream lights come on, DHS to catch the Osborne Lights before closing, and finally Epcot for PM EMH. We even managed to fit in a nap at the hotel in between AK and the second trip to MK – which was probably critical to our day’s success. When we collapsed in our hotel late that evening, we both declared it our most fun day at Walt Disney World of all time.
Great report, and I agreed strongly with your assessment of New Fantasyland. I thought it was fair and reasonable. Did you and Sarah happen to meet Gaston during one of the times he was wandering through his village greeting admirers? He was hilarious, and it would be great if they could find a way to continue this informal meet and greet.
5 parks plus a nap? That really is intense!
We saw Gaston in New Fantasyland and watched his shtick for a couple of minutes, but we didn’t actually meet him. The line was long.
Thanks for the report. I agree with your assessment of the two main attractions in New Fantasyland, but I think an overall judgement needs to hold off until the Mine Train opens next year. Right now it’s such a hole in the center of the area.
Great photos as always. I recognize a few of those since I purchased them from your smugmug site. I strongly agree with your comment on “one of the most beautiful views of Cinderella Castle ever” as I used that photo for the cover of a photobook form our last trip (which is currently lost within USPS because every order from Adorama must reverse the middle two numbers in our house).
I haven’t seen the night Epcot photos before and those are awesome. We typically loiter for a while by the fiber optics near SSE after illuminations (my daughter loves them), but I’ll have to make a point to stay back in WS sometime.
Thanks for the kind words, and the purchase of the photos! The Epcot photos are all new, which is why you haven’t seen them before!
The area where the fiber optics are located is a good spot to loiter!
We are making our first Christmas season trip to WDW in over a decade this coming December. I’m enjoying this trip report so much as I start planning our ‘must-sees’ for December. Very helpful! I do have one question, though: What is the “kiss goodnight” at the Magic Kingdom that you referenced? I’ve been visiting the Magic Kingdom for over 25 years and I’ve never heard of this. Thanks for letting us all follow along on your trip!
The Kiss Good night is a couple minute long show done with lights, music, and some narration on the castle 30 minutes after park “close”. It’s a perfect way to end your day and definitely worth hanging around for! (You can find youtube videos if you would like to see it.)
Here’s a video of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aq6Aab4p4zU
Thanks Kevin and Tom. I had no idea! Can’t wait to check it out!
Amazing shots as always. The one looking toward the MK entrance with rain and the Walt statue in the middle almost brought tears. Agree on your new FL sentiments. We were a bit disappointed. The theming is nice but as 2 adults with no kids, it lacked anything that really wowed me. Can’t wait to read day 3!
Thanks for the kind words on the photo–glad you liked it so much!