Part XII: Coast-to-Coast Disney Trip Report
I neglected to introduce our team previously, mostly because I didn’t want to reveal the photo of my brilliant Figment costume prematurely. Our team consisted of myself and Sarah, plus our friend Nick, and JL Knopp of http://TheDisneyDrivenLife.com. As we stood in line earlier that morning at Epcot, we were struggling for a team name. Suddenly, as if my horns picked up on the “signal” of Imagination floating through the air at EPCOT, the team name came to me. It was thought-provoking, deep, meaningful, and brilliant all at the same time. The TouringPlans Tourminators. Get it? Brilliant, right?! Now you know our team and our story.
After finishing the little photo shoot at EPCOT, we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Upon receipt of our book at the Magic Kingdom, we spent about 10 minutes organizing questions, and giving a hard look to the 5 and 10 point questions. We identified a lot of questions that called for answers for Main Street (or started there). This was actually one disappointing aspect of the Hunt: way too many of the questions pertained to the windows on Main Street. These windows are interesting, don’t get me wrong, but far too many people know far too much about these windows, giving those participants an advantage there. Disney touted the Hunt as putting everyone on a level playing field (and for the most part, they did a great job with this), but this is one area I’m sure some had a decided advantage. On top of that, 10 questions about windows becomes a bit monotonous. I don’t know if this was done out of necessity because the Magic Kingdom is somewhat devoid of little details as compared to the other parks (I highly doubt this), or because the windows just really interested those writing the questions.
After spending a long time on Main Street, we headed off to the other areas of the park. Frontierland had some difficult questions, as did Liberty Square. By contrast, the Tomorrowland and Adventureland ones were pretty easy. We even managed to guess correctly at a 10 point question in Adventureland, which was a huge moral victory for us. However, given time constraints, we decided not to answer the questions (16 points worth) over on Tom Sawyer Island. This worried us at first, as we had answered every question at EPCOT, but after the Hunt, we talked with a few other teams that said they also skipped TSI. We were doing the Hunt for fun, anyway. With all of the obsessive Disney historians out there, we highly doubted we’d place in the top 50% of the teams.
We turned in our Magic Kingdom book with 10 seconds to spare (we weren’t really this ‘down to the wire’ we approached the desk, guessed at answers we couldn’t find, and checked other answers all while watching the clock) and collapsed on benches near the table afterwards. Given my brief discussion of the Hunt here in the trip report, it actually did take more than a “couple paragraphs” worth of time. This Hunt was seven hours of our day! By contrast, I’ve fixated on the toppings bar at Cosmic Ray’s for more text in previous trip reports despite it only taking up a few minutes of delicious time. Unfortunately, since I don’t have any photos from the Hunt, and since the questions are impossible to remember, it would get quite monotonous (for both you as the reader and me as the writer) if I wrote, “we went to X attraction/shop/postshow/detailed area in Y land/pavilion/area of the park and answered a 1/5/10 point question. We think we got the question right/wrong/undecided.” The Hunt was very interesting and fun, but reading 400 sentences following that model would be mind-numbing.
Finally, it was time to enjoy some attractions! Or so we thought.
Sarah had to use the restroom, and the line for this looked fairly long, so while she was doing that, I made my way up Main Street to capture some photos. I needed to compensate for the photos I “missed” during the day, after all! As I was taking photos on Main Street, I noticed some beautiful sun rays peeking out from behind clouds up by Crystal Palace. So I ventured that way. From there, I saw the rays at the edge of Adventureland. To make a long story short, I found myself outside of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when I received a call from Sarah, asking where the heck I was. I had just wandered to the opposite end of the park without giving it a second thought. It’s really a wonder I never got (permanently) lost as a child.
One thing you may notice throughout this report is that I have a lot of weird photos of random buildings or more shots with guests than I have had in previous trip reports. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, in looking through some of my favorite shots from past trips, there have been a surprising number of shots that I would categorize as shots that “take me back” to that moment. They can be as simple as a photo of a tray of food at the water park to a wide capture of Hollywood Boulevard at sunset. These shots are typically far less unique or artistic than my other shots, but I think they’re still pretty interesting (and well-captured), and more importantly, they capture that feeling of being in the parks so well. Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment, but I figured if that type of shot gives me that euphoric (okay, maybe that’s going too far…or is it?!) feeling of being at Disney, it would give others the same feeling.
The second reason I’m including more shots like these is because I took fewer shots on this trip than I otherwise would. During the Scavenger Hunt I didn’t take any photos, and during the Destination D seminars, I took very few photos (and the ones I did take look pretty similar to one another). So I tried to compensate be going nuts when we finally got out into the parks.
I knew they probably didn’t want to wait around while I wandered back to the front of the park, so I told Sarah that she, JL, and Nick could do TTA without me. Not a big loss as far as I was concerned, because it was still too early for the ideal TTA riding conditions. I took some more photos, then met them at the exit of the TTA. From there, we headed to Space Mountain.
When in Tomorrowland, as they say, do what the Tomorrowlandians do. This meant stops at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Space Mountain, both of which were pretty lousy experiences. Sarah beat me at Space Ranger Spin, and anytime this happens, it’s clearly the result of my laser blaster malfunctioning. No other explanation is reasonable. Then, when riding Space Mountain, the work lights on the TTA were illuminated! I love Space Mountain as a coaster, but its appeal is largely in the darkness of the attraction. There is a new thrilling wrinkle when the track is brighter, though: the ride track is so close to your head in certain sections that you fear decapitation! This coming from someone who isn’t exactly tall, either. Pretty interesting, but probably not the best way for an attraction to be labeled a white-knuckled thriller. I prefer not to fear for my bodily safety when on board any attraction, but that’s just me.
The Tomorrowland Speedway is an attraction we rarely do. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. From a personal perspective judging the substance of the attraction, I’m not that wild about it. However, it seems like one of those Magic Kingdom rite-of-passage attractions, and kids do seem to like it a lot. In that regard, it’s a lot like Dumbo, and I can’t imagine people advocating the removal of that classic attraction.
Perhaps, like Dumbo, the Tomorrowland Speedway should receive some plussing indicative of its status as an important attraction for children (if Disney perceives it as such). In any case, it’s an attraction we’ll do once every few trips just to relive those childhood moments and let loose as kids again.
By this point, Tomorrowland was beginning to come alive in all its nighttime, neon-y glory. When the lights come on in Tomorrowland, you know the party has started. I think there’s is a Ke$ha song to this effect on one of her albums. It was far enough beyond the dinner hour that things wouldn’t be too hectic at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, so we headed there for dinner. The two best Walt Disney World counter service restaurants in one day. We were living the life!
Since we were with others, I restrained myself in the toppings department. Although in fairness, I think it should be poor manners to not load one’s burger with an obscene (well, I guess it wouldn’t be obscene if it were appropriate manners-wise) amount of toppings. Still, I placed a copious amount of mushrooms on the burger, along with plenty of other toppings. My secret to keeping the burger relatively small: condensing the toppings using the bun. The jury is still out on how well that worked, as you can probably tell from the photos.
Halfway through our meal, Sonny Eclipse went silent. I don’t know if Cosmic Ray had gone from paying him weakly to not-at-all or what, but for whatever reason, the music died. This was a bit disappointing, especially given that he’s the reason Cosmic Ray’s scores so highly on the dining “Brick-O-Meter,” but we knew we’d be back again before the trip concluded, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.
There are multiple pages in this Walt Disney World trip report installment. Navigate to the next page below!
Tom, this may be a really dumb question but how do you get so many pictures at night in the parks? How late do you have to stay after closing to get those shots (without people in them)? Do the cast members mind if you stay that late? Is there some point when they ask you to leave? For some reason, it has never occurred to me that I could stay past closing, I always thought I would be kicked out (and mainly I am exhausted). Next trip I will definitely try to stay that late in many of the parks to get some pictures, I would love to see the parks like that.
PS: I love all of your trip reports and your website!!!
Tom and Sarah, I love your website and pictures. My husband and I are huge Disney fans as well. He proposed to me during Wishes and we even got married in WDW at the Wedding Pavilion, and honeymooned at the parks and on the Disney Cruise. My husband and I have often joked with each other saying that the amount of times we have visited WDW and DLR we could publish books sharing our knowledge and excitement for the parks, etc. We totally understand your love for Disney but I have to ask, now that you have put yourselves out there for our enjoyment, does it make it difficult for you when you get recognized during your trips? Has your work on various websites only added to your love of Disney or do you sometimes feel pressured to get that perfect photo or think of something clever to post? I am just curious, and I do want to thank you for this website and for putting yourselves out there. My family and friends think that we are strange for wanting to visit the Disney resorts (at least) once every year and it’s nice to know that there are a lot of us out there. It also helps with park withdrawal between visits! Sorry for the long first post, but I wanted to thank you both for basically sharing a bit of your lives with all of us Disney fans.
OK, now that my hate of slow people has receded a bit, I’d like to comment on the interactive queue and why HM was selected. I can’t say for sure, but I’m in project management and can take a guess.
To build the interactive (if you can call it that) queue for HM, it didn’t take much. They didn’t have to really demolish anything or build anything large bc there was land there. They just cleared the land a bit and plopped down some items. Then they just put up a little railing around it. Easy.
Now, imagine if they had to build an interactive queue for, say, Peter Pan. They would have to demolish the bathrooms and move them to where the skyway used to be, or by small world (so, demolish one set of bathrooms and build a new one somewhere else). Then they’d have to physically build a new queue line (PP doesn’t really have one). Then install whatever interactivities they wanted, probably along the wall like Winnie the Pooh or Soarin’ (and rumor is this is happening eventually). This would cost mucho $$$.
So, my guess is they did HM first because it was easy and cheap. It lets them get guests reaction to the idea without spending a boatload of cash.
Well done as usual. Love the picture of the stretching portrait – that room is one of my favorite things in all of WDW (I’m still trying to talk my wife into hanging the four portraits in our living room).
Your point about interactive queues is interesting. I have no clue what an attraction truly costs either, but redoing the queues seems unnecessary to me. In fact, I honestly can’t think of what other queues need enhancing. Maybe I am too much of a traditionalist or don’t mind standing in line or would rather see another top attraction or two in HS or AK, but it seems to me that adding an interactive piece of the queue might actually make the wait longer as kids linger (especially at Space Mountain).
Anyway, great shots and keep the reports coming. It helps bridge the gap until our next trip!
Redoing queues seems unnecessary to me, too, but I think that’s what attention spans in America have come to. Disney is a business, and can’t really fight that or declare that people should just be “entertained by the great details of the queues.”
My general point is that although I might prefer a new attraction, it’s really difficult to say, “a new attraction would only cost $X and these queues also cost $X, so build the new attraction instead!” No one in the fan community is privy to the actual long term costs OR the benefits of either, so it’s really not our place to make bold assertions about one versus the other. We certainly are free to speculate and say which we’d prefer, but I see plenty online declaring that the new queues are “stupid” or “bad investments.” We simply cannot contend things like that with the information available to us.
You said it. I couldn’t agree more with your take on the attention spans. It seems that our society has to be constantly engaged or boredom takes over. As it is, many of the queues help set Disney attractions apart from other theme parks (Six Flags, Universal, etc.). The newly enhanced queues will only widen that gap and more and more guests will not even remember the lines were long because they were entertained constantly.
Anyway, it is all about the experience and I am sure Disney is making good decisions with the resources available. Plus, it is not like Disney isn’t doing enough work at MK right now anyway. I think an entire land expansion is plenty.
Thanks for the reply!
Tom, all of your photos are FANTASTIC!
The Tiki shot is my favorite and the Adventurland in the evening photos are stellar.
Thanks for sharing these with us!
Glad you enjoyed them! Adventureland at night is gorgeous!
It’s not just that these irritants are moving slowly, but all that this implies about the state of humanity. Many times have I experienced such situations, not just in Disney parks but in virtually any public setting where crowds gather. I do not mind slow moving folk per se. An elderly person shuffling along with a cane would cause me no irritation, nor would a person moving slowly because he or she wishes to deliberately enjoy the surroundings at such a pace, (so long as he or she does not block me). The problem that you articulate and that many of us have experienced to our exasperation is, however, a completely different matter. These pests annoy us because they are (1) inconsiderate and (2) disorganized. Their meandering is without purpose or necessity, and their attitude seems to be that they (or their group) are alone present. When a group stops in some inconvenient place, such as the middle of a path or the entrance to an attraction, I refer to it as a “committee meeting” and always make some (hopefully) audible and snide remark, such as “What a great place to hold your committee meeting!” When all is said and done, the Disney parks are relatively familiar landscapes and, even if not so for everyone, they are not that hard to navigate. How can people be so disorganized! How hard can it be to decide to ride Pirates of the Caribbean! When all is said and done, what really bothers us (I now speak for all righteous people in the world) about these irksome folk is that we must assume that they are not very intelligent, and this is a thought that mars our experience of a place that strives to create a perfect environment. These people intrude upon the fantasy. They are clearly, when not clogging the path at a Disney park, the same unhelpful people who work in sluggish DMV offices or who man the phones in Orwellian corporate call centers. Whatever life or intelligence that might have once had, has drained away, leaving a mass of unappealing flesh that is now blocking our way into It’s a Small World. And, far and away, the worst of it for me is resisting the temptation to give them a good shove. H.G. Wells once said that he dared not drive a car in Paris because the temptation to run over a priest was too great. My own challenge is similar: avoiding the temptation to shove bovine creatures plodding along in the happiest place on earth!
This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read, anywhere. I sums up so many of my views on life and traveling in general.
I understand people may be lost, confused, have small kids, etc. But for God’s sake, move to the side and let other people pass you! If I am ever in the parks (or anywhere) and decide to slow down and make a decision I slowly veer off to the side and collect my thoughts.
I also hate people that walk at a moderate pace and then just STOP DEAD in their tracks. HELLO! There are people behind you!
I walk like a man on a mission (I am). Slower people don’t bother me so long as they leave room for others. Like you, that’s my biggest problem: they don’t realize they are blocking others and are just inconsiderate. Then, when you try to speed walk past them, they look at you like YOU’RE rude. PLEASE!
On a totally unrelated topic, I love Tom’s pic of Splash Mt (and I don’t even like this attraction) and Crystal Palace. Beautiful.
You guys are hilarious. Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Love the shot of the Leaky Tiki’s. Tiki’s really pop off the picture with the motion blur of the palms in the back. Good stuff, looking forward to the next!
I always forget those guys are called the Leaky Tikis. I am partial to that shot, too.
I love the shots of empty Adventureland at night! Very cool! The Main St & Castle shots are beautiful as well.
Also I totally agree about the annoyance of the slow walkers. I don’t even know how it’s physically possible for some people to move that slowly. I couldn’t do it if I tried! It also never ceases to amaze me the way a party will block the entrance to an attraction, hemming and hawing over whether they should go in or not, while holding up the line for everyone else. Move it along people, it’s not that complicated!
Just thinking about slow people makes my blood boil. Being slow and making a concerted effort to constantly be in everyone’s way are inextricably interwoven, I think. The slow-movers walk 10-wide, block entrances, and are just in the way in general. Slow movers wouldn’t bother me if they stayed out of the way, but they rarely do.
It’s even worse when those slow walkers have strollers. Then they think they rule the walkways.
“It’s just is annoying that so many people don’t know where they’re going, stand in the middle of walk-ways, walk as slow as humanly possible with their entire party in taking up an entire pathway as they walk in a line of slow-ness, and so on.”
This is a metaphor for life!