Walt Disney World - Day 4 - February 8, 2005
Walt Disney World '05
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Mom and I awoke a bit later than usual, but we figured that would not be a problem since Epcot would be open until midnight tonight. We'll just fast forward through getting ready for the day and fast forward to us heading to breakfast.
On the way to breakfast I showed mom the Medicine Show arcade, it was just a quick walk through to show her that part of the resort. We then wlaked through the main building and headed to Riverside Mill. IIRC mom did the french toast again and I did the traditional breakfast platter (eggs, bacon, sausage, roasted potatoes, and a biscuit). After breakfast I went off to return the drink mugs to our room. I returned to meet my mom in the lobby. My mom hinted that maybe I should check out the restroom before heading to the park.
Hmm, curious, I entered the men's room. In most themed environments the theming falls apart in the restrooms where only cursory hints of decor may serve to continue the theme. At Port Orleans Riverside, the toilets in the stalls have the old fashioned style toilet tanks mounted high up on the wall with a long chain hanging down for you to activate the flush. Just a note to the level of detail in the resort.
We then headed out to the bus stop and are soon aboard a bus headed to Epcot. We had a very talkative bus driver who filled the journey to Epcot with park trivia, park information, and even statred a chorus of Happy Birthday to those passengers who were having a birthday. The upshot of that is that it made the trip to the park seem really short. We noted that our return bus would be at stop 8, and made the seemingly long walk to the park as we were dropped off at about the furthest drop off area from the gates.
We made our way to the park, entered the park, navigated our way through the uterly useless "Leave a Legacy" area where for like $25 you too can leave a postage stamp sized real low-res black and white image of yourself mounted to what looks like memorial walls at the front of the park. That's all I'm gonna say for this shameless (not to mention gaudy) money making venture.
I asked mom if she'd like to walk or ride today, and bearing in mind the large size of the park she opted for the wheelchair. Ay Disney parks the stroller/wheelchair lines are located at a small gift stand near the front of the park, full of soft drinks, candy, sunglasses and other practical souveneirs. I do wonder if they have problems with product shrinkage since there a laregely unsupervised crowds lined up here. As we waited in the line, we overheard the clerk doing a sales pitch for a multi day rental. Basically you purchase a strip of pre-paid rental vouchers, then when you arrive at the parks, you can skip the rental lines and proceed directly to the podium where the person who actually distrubtes the strollers and wheelchairs stands. Not only that the prepaid ticket strips are offered at a 10% discount.
When it ws our turn to be served I asked the man if we could get the prepaid ticket strip for a wheelchair rental. Upon hearing that we could, we were sure we would be going to parks for 3 more days (including today) so we bought a 3 day ticket strip. We then went to the podium to claim the chair.
We now deviate from the standard trip account to a time for me to go off on a tangent and offer my theory on Epcot.
When EPCOT first opened, it was designed to be an educational theme park. The first half of the park is Future World where various pavilions each take once facet of life (communication, trasnportation, the land, energy, and so forth), and explore that subject from the past, to the present and a glimpse into the future. The pavilions were presented in an educational tone, perhaps using amusement park technology, but eudcational none the less. The second half of the park World Showcase feautres a series of pavilions each presenting the sights, sounds, culture, cuisine, and merchandise of a different nation.
In other words the park was designed to be like a permanent World's Fair. Not look at how Epcot has evolved, World Showcase has been a great success with almost no changes being required except for the addition of two more nations. Now look at Future World, where only one pavilion is basically the same as it was when it was opened, and in some cases the changes aren't merely a retheme but a complete gut the pavilion and start over type changes.
My theory is that when people are on vacation, they don't want a full 12 hour day of educational exhibits, especially when they are at Disneyworld, paying Disney prices. I'd say that World Showcase has survived despite not having many traditional theme park experiences because of peoples natural tendancies to eat and shop, as well as all the culturaly based live entertainment. Not to mention exploring the exotic street scenes. World Showcase has been a crowning achievement, whereas Future World seems to be an abject failure wih almost all the exhibits and attractions requiring a comprehensive retooling. The main focus of this retooling seems to be to soften the blow from being an educational park that just happens to be entertaining, to an entertainment park where you might just learn a thing or two.
Lets' take a walk through Future World, and let me start by covering the stuff I covered in the Day 1 report.
I covered this ride in my Saturday (Day 1) report and I did not ride it today. But let's discuss it, as it is perhaps the only bit of the original Future World left. Spaceship Earth is at its heart a dark ride that explores communication from the cavemen all the way up to the future. You slowly spiral up past incredbily detailed scenes within the big geodesic sphere, then at the top you look down on the earth as if you are on a communications satellite, then you slowly return to ground level on the tighter downward spiral while faced backwards for your comfort. Its a lengthy highly detailed dark ride that does a great job presenting its theme.
While they have had to keep updating the future state, the attraction is pretty much the same as it was when the park opened. What has changed is how you exit the attraction. Originally the attraction exited into Earth Station. Earth Station was the parks Guest Relations area. Yeah, great idea funnel guests at a constant pace through your main guest service facility. But, recall that Earth Station was Guest Relations of the Future. While you could opt to talk to a human you were encouraged to go to a kiosk, dubbed the Worldkey Information Sytem. The kiosk was an interactive touch screen computer that could present photos, videos, sound clips to tell about any Epcot attraction, as well it could display information on the screen in repsonse to a variety of frequently asked questions. And if you had a question the computer program couldn't resolve, it was set to turn into a video phone where you talked with a live customer service rep via videophone. Recall that when these were installed both videophones, and computers were really high end inventions that many park guests had no exposure to, even touch screen was a real novelty, as well as a GUI interface and a multimedia information system. As a result I think that these did not get used so much to answer guest questions as much as they were for both children and adults to play with and go "oohh, look neat!" At any rate it should be noted that "Guest Relations of the Future" has been returned to human face to face contact, and that the WorldKey kiosks have all been decommsioned. I don't know when that happened, because I remember as recently as 1995 using a WorldKey kiosk to make dinner reservations.
Guest Relations itself has been relocated to a less hectic area in a former gift shop. The office is still in an easily found central location, but it is now not directly in the main traffic flow. After that time Earth Station became the hands on follow up exhibit area for Spaceship Earth. See the thought process was that you would be so inspired by what you just learned at a pavilions headline attraction that you will be in the frame of mind to explore the subject further. To that end most Future World pavilions have/had areas with minor attractions that feature mostly hands on interactive exhibits for you to explore the subject more on your own, but could contain small scale shows. At Spaceship Earth these hands-on minor exhibits have been removed and a construction wall has been erected to guide people exiting Spaceship Earth to head directly back outside without going into the former Earth Station area.
Of course, that begs the question where Spaceship Earths interactive exhibits were before Guest Realtions moved. For that we must go deeper into the park. Epcot is setup so that every single guest who enters or leaves the the main gate must walk around Spaceship Earth. (This planning error has also caused long lines to swell at Spaceship Earth in the morning despite its high capacity, due to the fact that most guests decide to stop by and ride it as they enter the park) Once beyond Spaceship Earth you enter a plaza with a fountain in the middle, if you head straight ahead you go to World Showcase, and on the sides are two kidney shaped buidings that are now called Innoventions. About halfway along the buildings length, there is a breezeway on each side to get to the remainder of Future Worlds pavilions which are located along a circular outer ring behind the Innoventions buildings.
Let's look at Innoventions, formerly CommuniCore. CommuniCore was meant to tbe the parks Community Center. In it you had the marketplace represented by the parks main mega gift shop, as well as a selection of fast-food dining restaurants. You could express your opinion in the People's Forum (you went into a theater where you were asked to answer multile choice style questions related to current events, you answered via keypads located in the armrests, and the poll results were shown on a screen in front of the theater. CommuniCore also held the hands on "explore further" exhibit areas for both Spaceship Earth and Universe of Energy.
Other Communicore offerings were an educators research center where they could get class materials for incporating the Epcot exhibits into their clasees, as well as a nifty little show where you sat in an auditorium that was actually a gallery overlooking the parks computer center while you heard a presentation that purported to show you how computers run Epcot.
But except for the eateries and the gift shop, all that is gone now, to be replaced by Innoventions. You won't find a detailed Innoventions report here becuase I have never had time for it. I do, however, have it on authoirty from trusted friends that I am not missing anything. Innoventions is basically a giant trade show where leading companies get to show off their most advanced products (You can see a Segway demonstration, for example) If Epcot is a World's Fair, Innoventions is the Industry and Technology pavilion. It's also stuff I can see at a State Fair for $8, instead of taking up my Disney time at $50+/day. I'll pass on Innoventions.
I may be totally off-base, but I decided to skip it based upon what I have heard about the pavilion. Besides if you want to see a Segway demonstration, stick around Future World, it seems that some cast members use segways to get around this jumbo sized park. There is the product acutally seen for its native purpose.
This is another attraction we got out of the way on Saturday, whcih is a good thing as the attraction in the pavilion is about 45 minutes long. (And the park guide says doors open every 17 minutes, which means they must be able to have three groups exploring the attraction at the same time, each group being about 600 people) Universe of Energy is a perfect example of the type of repurposing I have mentioned. In the original version, you first watched a film in the lobby preshow area (which had the novelty of having a screen that could change shapes and textures), then you entered the auditorium and took your seats. You then learned that the seating area was presumeably on a turntable as the audience then rotated around to face the wide format screen that was behind them as they walked in. You then watched the first of two educational documentary style films, then the shows feature gimmick took place, the sections of the seating area rotated to face the side wall, then one by one the sections of the theater went through a small opening in the wall to experience a dark ride set in the age of the dinosaurs (to learn where fossil fuels came from) The dinosaur dark ride was also the much needed comic relief in the middle of the 45 minute education prsentation. It is noteworthy that when people mentioned Universe of Energy they talked about the moving theater seats and the dinosaur exhibit before they would mention the movies, if they mentioned the movies. At the end of the dark ride the sections of the theater would reform into a theater layour for another documentray then moved forward back into the original theater where a "Wake you up and dazzle" you indoor light show was taking place and all the curtains along the walls had ben raised to make the room entirely a mirrored room which enahcned the light show.
It is interesting to note that they redid this attraction. They kept the dinosaur dark ride section, but all three films (pre-show, screen 1, and screen 2) were totally redone so that while the attraction presents much the same content about energy and conversation as it always did, the tone is now much more comical and entertaining. It takes on the life of a sit-com and a Jeopardy! game. Interesting use of the Jeopardy theme as that is a rival television studios product.
Wonders of Life is another pavilion that you won't get an account of from this trip. Not becuase I didn't want to see it, but because Disney now feels they only need to open this one up during periods of high peak attendance (or whenever the mood strikes). Please note they don't lower the gate fee to compensate for this pavilion being closed. A true indicator that Disney doesn't really care for this pavilion is that its gift shop has been removed, as well as its restaurant. I have a theory here that states that people don't really want to hear about fitness and nutrition while they are on vacation. The food stand was all health foods in this pavilion.
I was able to visit this pavilion in prior years, and from memory, the pavilion's headliner is a motion simulator where you go "Fantastic Voyage" style on a ride through the human body, and Cranium Command. Cranium Command was a unique multimedia audio animatronics show about the brain. Real whitty and funny.
Continuing my tangnet the next pavilion around would be Mission: Space. You can read about this one in the Day 1 report and much later in this current report. For my history lesson, I'll remark that Mission:Space totally replaced Horizons which was completely razed. Horizons was a slow dark ride about life in the future. Pure comic relief, and if I recall featured the same family as Carousel of Progress in the Magic Kingdom.
Okay, history lesson tangent over, let's talk about today, shall we?
After taking care of preliminary tasks, my top priority of the morning was to ride Test Track, and so that's where I went first.
Test Track is one of Epcot's newer offerings. It replaced a slow dark ride called the "World of Motion" which told the story of transportation through the ages. Test Track is a very complex ride, and after years of problems got off to a late start.
Test Track begins with a walk under a canvas canopy, up above you you can see a portion of the outdoor section of the ride, and every few seconds a car should come zooming around the high speed banked turn located right over your head. I approcahed the ride and looked at my ride options. After looking them over I decided to take Single Rider at 10 minutes. The regular queue was about an hour at this point.
The Orlando theme parks have tried many new ideas, and one of them is Single Rider Queue. The idea is this: on some rides due to the configuration of the ride vehicles, a lot of seats go out empty. This is true on Test Track becuase each row seats 3, while most rides are setup for groups of 2 or 4. The idea is simple, the park would rather not see as many as 2 seats per car (or 33% of) of the seats go out empty, so somewhere along the line they thought "Wouldn't it be neat it we had a group of single riders waiting nearby that we can use to fill in those seats that would have otherwise gone empty?" What the single rider line was meant to do was to offer the park guest an option, if they agree to fill in the next available empty seat, they won't have to wait in line. Heed that you are not guaranteed a ride if you opt for the single rider line, but Disney has studied the traffic flow enough to be able to guesstimate how many single riders they will need. That's the tradeoff, you trade in a guaranteed seat on the ride, and the long regular queue line, with the ability to skip the line by basically agreeing to ride on a standby basis where needed.
Sounds pretty simple, but I don't think we'll see a great rush to install single rider lines becuase people just don't seem to understand them. No matter how many signs you post sayng "Single Riders Only" or "All groups will be split up", people will still insist on trying to enter as a group via the single rider entrance. After all, who can blame them, I mean if they see two entrances, one posted at 55 minutes, and the other at 10 minutes, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that people will try anything to save that 45 minutes, and some guidebooks about the park even encourage the practice. What winds up happening is that these groups get to the loading platform and then get upset when the grouper splits them up. Test Track has added several signs trying to inform people that the single rider entrance is for single riders, and if you enter as a group , you won't get to ride as a group. They have even been proactively trying to split groups up, for example at the loading area where there are 8 possible lanes to send people to, the crew will first try to seat people out of the regular line, then fill in the empty holes from the single rider line. Some will purposely assign seats in a manner that insures that people will be seperated. For example they may assign seats like this: 1,8,3,6,5,4,7,2.
Anyway, I enter via the single ride lane, and walk through the construction type barriers that mark the lanes headed to the front door of the building. I enter the building and note the the nice indoor waiting area has an industrial look with toolboxes and toolbenchs laying around, chain link fence barriers, and labeled displays showing some of the safety features used in designing and testing cars. You see at Test Track you get to ride along in a GM car that is getting its road-worthiness testing.
I already like the look of the line which is much shorter than it was Saturday, and so quickly make my way halfway up the ramp. The sign said 10 minutes, and at 10 minutes later I was entering the pre-show. I did note that they have a seperate pre-show room where they sequester single riders.
Anyway, the preshow is a little movie you watch while standing.. The movie sets the tone for the ride,, you are informed you are in a GM testing center, and you hear a bit about each test your car will perform, including one test they aren't going to tell you about, but the technician gets that evil grin when she presses the button on her computer. After the testing program compiles the doors open that lead into the loading area.
You wait a short time in the loading area, and I was then assigned to fill in an emty seat in row 5. I go to row 5 and note there are already 3 riders in row 5. I figure one of them must not be riding so I wait around, and the next car pulls up and the 3 people in front of get in and all three take their seats. I wait behind the automatic gate awaiting further instructions, and by the time the next car comes around, there are people behind me. The automatic gate opens, and I get in the car and take a seat. As luck would have it they had sent three more people to Row 5, and they were all in one group, which meant I got the entire row to myself. The loaders exchanged glances like "What happened here?", but then the ride started.
You get to ride in a GM test car, which just like most sedans has two bench seats holding three persons each. The driver seat does not have a steering wheel or pedals, but then we are to believe that the on-board computer is controlling the car. Speaking of the computer we can see a readout on the dashboard. The passenger restraints are also more true to real cars. While the people in the window seats have regular 3 point automotive lap/shoulder belts, the people sitting in the middle seats merely have a lapbelt.
Anyway, the ride starts and you start to go up a slow spiral ramp. Signs along the spiral ramp warn you to buckle up and that there will be a seat belt check ahead. At first I thought that maybe they had retained this spiral ramp from the old World of Motion, then I realized that the direction of the spiral is wrong. It used to be a clockwise spiral, where now it is counterclockwsie.
At the top of the spiral ramp your car comes to a stop. This allows for two things. First, the ride attendant can verify that everybody has fastened their seatbelts, and it ensures that the cars leave the preparation area at the proper time intervals. Once you pass the seatbelt inspection, you start to move forward when the on-board computer tells you that you are about to perform a test to see how your car holds up to a steep incline. You car races up a steep incline, then turns to the right, then goes down a small drop. You then navigate the rough roads using two types of test construction "German Blocks" and "Belgian Blocks", both surfaces are meant to simulate extreme rough road conditions, and you get jostled around slightly as you pass over them, but I guess your stunt car does have some shocks.
Past the rough road test, you next go into the antiskid test. You will perform this test two times, the first tie you perform the test with your cars antilock brake system disabled. The car goes forward at a good rate of speed, then goes into a skid and crashes through the cones marking the proper path, you then slow down, make a turnaround to the right, and the on-board computer announced that you are going to run that test again, this time with anti-lock brakes. You might notice the antilock brake light come on the dashboard just before the car starts up again, but this time thanks to the anti-lcok brakes you more or less smoothly make the curve. You then slow down so you can compare the results of the two runs on a television monitor located to the side of the track.
Next up is the environmental testing. First you go through the extreme heat test, and the test chamber is lined up with row upon row of the hottest heat lamps they could find. Right when your are lined up right in the middle of the heat lamps they all turn on. Soon after is the extreme cold segment where you get hit with a super cold blast of air. The third chamber is the corrosives test, and you start to think, hey this car has no roof and no windows. The clear chemical they want you to think is corrosive hits the car low enough where you do not get wet, okay maybe just a teeny bit.
After the environmental testing you start doing a lot of curves indoors in low light, all the while your car gets progressively faster. Roller coaster enthusiasts will cheer when the announcer says "I think we are experiencing some laterals here" At the end of the acceleration testing, your car comes yo a stop in a room that they tell you is the crash barrier test. Before the words crash test register, your car is zooming real fast towards a seemingly solid wall. At the last second some strobe lights come on temporarily blinding you while the wall gives way to reveal the outdoor portion of the ride. The on-ride photo must be here set to catch the look on your face when you are headed right for that 'concrete' wall.
Once outdoors you go down a drop, then its the outdoor road course. Banked curves, high speeds (up to 65mph) as you complete the (high speed) road course. Yes including that high speed turn over the rides entrance. Your brakes are tested at the end of the road course where you then re-enter the building. A thermal imaging test takes a thermal image of the car and the comment is that the car is at the right temperature after its testing battery. After the imaging test you re-enter the show building where your car is brought around to the combination load/unload station.
You can see why this ride, which is essentially a dark ride, is so complex. Unlike most rides of its type, this ride has variable speeds, including sudden braking and sudden changes of speed. These are sure to take their toll on the ride vehicles. Its part dark ride, and part hi-speed thrill ride. Situating the high speed turn right over the rides entrance solidifies the ride as a thrill ride in most folks minds, especially the folks who decided not to ride.
After you unload onto the opposite side of the platform, you head down a small ramp and into the hands on interactive area. The hands on interactive area had some neat looking virtual reality attraction, but it was posting a wait time of 25 minutes, so I skipped it. I made my way through the interactive area, and noted that one thing hasn't changed since World of Motion. GM has managed to work in a virtual showroom. After all, why not get your photo taken sitting in one of GM's luxury products. After the showroom is the attractions gift shop.
I exited the attraction, collected Mom, and then having decided we were done with the East side, we headed to the West side. On our way through the central plaza, I noted an igloo. Yep, on the end of the Innoventions building, there is an igloo.
We went to explore the igloo, and entered the igloo. You go through a curvey, somewhat long and really cold ice cave. Welcome to Ice Station Cool. I mentioned earlier that Innoventions is little more than a sponsors trade show, well Ice Station Cool is no exception. Ice Station Cool is a miniature World of Coca Cola. The key feature here is the Coca Cola gift shop. Oh and the FREE product tastings. Yes, FREE soft drinks at a Disney park, I hope you were sitting down.
Now before you eagerly grab a sample cup and head to the soft drink dispensers, be forewarned that you won't find a single domestic Coca Cola product anywhere in the room. These are all coca cola drinks from foreign countries, and their flavors run from refreshing to Bleeeeech! There are numerous soft drink machines so that several guests can be getting their samples at the same time. I did a quick check and it seems that all the machines that were open were dispensing the same 6 flavors. They even have a set of low dispensers, apparenly for wheelchairs and small children.
So lets grab our free sample cup (no ice), and head for an available sampling station. The fountains are labeled with a short description of each product, which is a good thing in this case.
First up was "Smart Watermelon" (China) - as you probably guessed, this is a watermelon flavored soda, and it wins the "Best of Show" award from me from the drinks that were on the sample station.
Next was "Kinley Lemon" (Israel) - this is a lemon-honey soda. Tastes like cough drops, while not a bad drink by any imagination, I don't see myself running out to get any, even if it were available.
Third was "Mezzo Mix" (Germany) - Think Fruit Punch and you have the idea, this was my second favorite of the samples.
Fourth was "Vegitabeta" (Japan) - This one tastes pretty much like orange Gatorade. I'm not a fan of Gatorade, so you can probably guess how much I failed to like this one.
I skipped selection five for the moment, and headed to the final selection
"Krest Ginger Ale" (Mozanbique) - It's ginger ale. Not much here, move along.
Now, you knew it had to be there somewhere, with all the free samples, the Sample of Gastronomical Misfortune. May I introduce you to Beverly!
"Beverly" (Italy) - described as a non alcoholic Aperitif from Italy. I had to Google Aperitif. Google indicated to me that an Aperitif is a bitter, dry, acloholic beverage intended to be comsumed before eating to spark the appetite without overwhelming the senses.
Beverly also enjoys a reputation on both roller-coaster and Disney fan forums as being quite possibly the foulest soft drink on earth. Luckily I knew this going in, so I wasn't completely shocked with what I experienced. Beverly is so foul that it is a very common practical joke at Epcot to trick unsuspecting friends (or even random park guests) into taking a big hearty swig of it.
I took a glass of Beverly and I can't quite describe it as anything other than a rough chemically taste. I have seen others desscribe it as liquified rubber bands, and having had a glass I can see where that description would come from. I was sure to follow up Beverly with several cups of "Smart Watermelon" and "Mezzo Mix" to clear my pallete of that stuff.
One last footnote on Beverly, I spent two weeks in Italy, and at no time was Beverly offered to me. The Italians must know to hide this hazmat in a glass when the tourists come round. That's not to say I didn't get to try some rather interesting Italian interpretations on soft drinks while I was over there.
One negative aspect to this attraction is that with all the free taste testing going on it seems like an inordinate amount of sticky soda winds up on the floor, and therefore on the bottoms of your shoes. I wonder how much of it is Beverly that people have gaged on.
We next exited Ice Station Cool and headed towards the Imagination building.
Imagination is a very pictureeque pavilion, and had botht the jumping fountains, as well as the waterfall that falls up to amuse you. We approached he Imagination building. This is yet another attraction that has been seriously re-worked. Originally you went on a legnthy quite whimsical dark ride through your wildest imagination, courtesy of the Dreamfinder and Figment, then while in the same pavilion you went upstairs to the Imageworks which had all kinds of neat interactive exhibits. Painting on the commputer with a light pen, getting into a movie scene courtesy of chromakey, conducting your own virtual orchestra, the rainbow tunnel where the lights moved through the tunnel at the same pace you did, the touch tone floor with sound effects depending on where you tocuhed, and much much more fun could be yours, including the first "Design your own coaster" videogame. After exploring this high tech playground you returned to the first floor to watch a 3D movie where yoo follow along in somebody's imagination. Succefusl themepark 3D movies themselves were quite the novelty when this opened.
Some years ago, they decided to explore the synergies with the popular "Honney I shrunk the kids" franchise, and transformed the whole pavilion to The Imagination Institute, and you are invited to an open house. The 3D movie became "Honey I shrunk the Audience", the dark ride was greatly shortened, and was a trip through your imagination, and explored the five senses and apparently was not that great, and more crucially, Dreamfinder and Figment were given severance packages. There was apparently a public uproar, and they decided to redo the dark ride again, but without much expense. The result is something like the Imagineers said "They want to see Figment, do they, well we'll show them enough Figment they will be sick of the little purple creature. "
We entered the Imagination building, and the first change I noticed is that the big open spacious lobby which allowed access to all three parts of the attraction has been replaced by a themed queue area serving only the "Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment" darkride. I say the the queue was themed, but I can't report any detail as we flew through that queue at the speed of light due to the fact that the ride was a walk-on. Unlike most dark rides at Disney with a continuous chain of cars, Imagination uses several 4 car, 16 passenger trains. The individual cars can still rotate any way the Imagineers want you to look, and instead of being in constant movement, you advance, stop, watch a scene, advance, stop, watch another scene, and so forth.
The ride starts with you being introduced to a very dry academic tourguide who has Figment trapped in a cage. Well Figment escapeds the cage ("Imagination is its best when it's set free"), and you go through a series of scnenes that start demonstrating the 5 senses. Convincing surround sound sound effects in the sound studio, then a pointless scene about sight, the you move along to Smell, and you see a big slot machine with fruit symbols.
Just as you wonder what fruit smell you are going to get hit with, the reels stop and hey you got three of a kind... 3 Skunks. Add Imagination! to the ever growing number of Disney attractions that include spraying offensive odors into the air. The educatinal sounding dude says he has to stop the toutr before Figment turns the whole thing upside down, you then go to Figment's open house, and his house is all, you guessed it, upside down.
Its nowhere near as good or endearing as the ride it replaced. Funny moment is that a couple scenes they hit you with fans. Mom was just straightening up her hair as we entered what would prove to be the last room, and Figment says something like wasn't that a blast, and a big old gust of air hits you full force. The automagic doors then open leading you to a dull gray hallway. Normally I would not critizise a rides exit path, but hey ths is Disney.
At the end of the dull gray hallway is the new shrunken Image Works, on the first floor, with the second floor completely sealed off. The new image works is hardly a shaodw of its former self. The Virtual Orchestra machines are there, complete with Figment graphics, a much smaller area of stepping stone sound effects got to stay. But, what takes up the vast majoirty of the space are several very eye catching kiosks. The kiosks are digital photo booths. You have your digital photo made, then can do all kinds of neat special effects to the photo, then email it to yourself free of charge. Sounds innocnet enough until the machine advertises that you can get a professional print of your digital photo - only $12.99. Yep the vast majoirty of Imageworks is a photo store. Then a large chunk of what used to be the lobby is the pavilion's gift shop.
The interior hallway to the 3D theatre is gone, forcing you to walk around the outside. We entered the line for Honey I shrunk The Audience and moved directly to the preshow room. When we were walking through the lobby, it sounded like some alarm was going off, but the ushers were motioning for us to proceed on into the preshow area , after picking up our 'safety goggles'
The pre-show for this, frankly, is little more than an extended length Kodak commercial, but it fills the time. The last part of the preshow tells you that you are attending an open house and are about to attend the "Inventor Of the Year Award" presentation. The automagic doors open, and you take your seats in a large 3D theter.
The basic story is an everything goes wrong exhibition of a new miniturization mchine, and a 3D duplicator. First the 3D duplicator malfunctions and creates lots of little white mice, who are seeing on screen fleeing towards the audience, then after the words "I think they are heading into the audience", a trick in your chair makes it feel like a mouse tails is swatting at your leg. Yes, there were several screams. Then the minituriaztion ray accidently gets pointed at you, and shrinks the audience. The volume of the show goes up way high, a camera on screen causes a blinding strobe light flash. The key effect is when the little brat picks up the miniturized theater. It feels like motion bases in the chairs cause your seat to lift up when the theater is picked up, and to cause your seat to wobble around as the miniature theater is jostled. Careful observers will note than when the theater is miniturized, and is being held in the brats hands, and apparently with no electricity, all the usual "EXIT" signs above the doorways go out for that scene. Of course the answer is an elarging machine, which yes it succesfulyl restores the audience, but then it also enlarged the familys pet dog to jumbo size, concluding with the do sneezing, and it feels like he sneezed on you, thanks to water effects. All in all a neat show.
We left the theater and headed down the hill. and went past the Land pavilion. The Land pavilion is currently closed as they are getting ready to open a new motion simulator inverted Omnimax hang-glding type ride called Soarin. They decided to do some heavy duty maintenance to the rest of the pavilion while they are at it. All new food court, new theming, new gift shop, and I dont' know what is up with the Garden Grill table service restaurant, nothing has been announced but it won't reopen for a few months after the rest of the pavilion. Escaping unscathed are Living with the Land, a dark ride in a boat that features a trip through the experimental greenhouse, and "Circle of Life" a film about conservation staring the Lion King cast. The Circle of Life movie replaced a much more educational tone movie on the same topic. An attraction casualty appears to be "Food Rocks",the audio-animatronic "rock concert" with dancing foods singing song parodies dealing with nutrition. What did I say about people not wanting to hear about fitness and nutrition while on vacation. But since that whole area was closed, we skipped ahead to "The Living Seas"
The Living Seas, as you might guess deals with life under the sea, and our marine life friends, in other words, its an aquarium. In an interesting juxtaposition, you can either Find Nemo by touring the attraction, or you can Eat Nemo in the parks upscale seafood restaurant located within the Living Seas. The seafood resturant even features stadium seating and a wall to wall, floor to ceiling look into the aquarium. Hmm, that seems odd, but not unusual as our local aquarium is located right accross the plaza from an upscale seafood restaurant.
The Living Seas is undergoing a change to cash in on the success of "Finding Nemo", a Finding Nemo statuary has been placed out in front of the pavilion for starters. The pavilion entrance is located behind an interesting fountain that creates artifical waves. We walked up the winding entrance path and behind the fountain to enter the building.
You first enter the waiting room. The pavilion has a waiting area filled with vintage underwater diving apparatus, and the queue itself is curvy with blue carpeted barriers, much like waves. The effect is increased because the queue area is constantly on an uphill grade till you reach the other end. The storyline here is that you are visitng Sea Base Alpha, which is an underwater laboratory at the bottom of the ocean.
On my visit the line was backed up just into the mian waiting room, so after a few minutes wait we were admitted to a large round lobby like area. If I recall correctly you used to wait in this round room while a plug for the pavilions sponsors played on a circlevision type screen that ran around the upper perimeter of the room. Then you were admited to one of two briefing rooms to start the presentation. This process has changed, and there is now an accomodation for those who wish to get to the actual animal exhibits without all the formalities. When you enter the round waiting room, the overhead round screens just show a underwater wave motif with labels over the appropraite doorways. The left-hand doors read "TO HYDROLATORS", the right hand doors read "TO BRIEFING ROOM" Next to the sign advertising the briefing room is a countdown clock that reports the time to the next show. Also, even if you do wish to skip the show and go straight for the hydrolators, you still have to wait in the wiatinhgroom for the doors to be opened.
About a minute or so before the doors open, an attraction host welcomes you to The Living Seas, and explains your options. If you are a first time visitor, they strongly suggest you go to the Briefing Room first, if you are returning to the pavilion, you may go directly to the hydrolators, the choice is yours. He also explained that the doors to the briefing room would open first, and then the doors to the hydrolators a few moments later. Since we hadn't visited the pavilion in quite some time, we opted to go to the briefing room.
In the briefing room you see a film that is educational in nature and starts out like a film that might be seen in any marine life ehxhibit, the film then seques for the setup intorducing you to the idea of a research facility on the ocean floor, Sea Base Alpha. Then, forgetting the fact that you are in Central Florida, you learn that you will be visitng this underwater facility. The film then sets up the transition from the visitor center where you are now to the underwater facility. They tell you that you will ride in a hydrolator to the facility, and you see a picture of a hydrolator lobby (Water Elevator, or Elevator through Water, get it?) Then the automagic doors open and you find youself being ushered into a very familiar looking hydrolator lobby.
Along one wall you will see three slighly offset hydrolators in the middle of a pool of water with bridges stretching from the main part of the room to the hydrolator doors. They look like elevators for the most part complete with a floor indicator that charts the cars progress to and from the bottom of the ocean, and you may note the pool of water around the hydrolator bubbling when the car surfaces and submerges. A host tells you to line up in front of any hydrolator and not to worry if you don't make it on the next car, the hydrolator will return in about a minute or so.
We boarded a hydrolator (and is that an Otis nameplate visible on the floor as you walk through the car door.) The hydrolator is an unusual shape, I think maybe 6 sides. Next to the doors are progress indicators that show your progress during your decent to the bottom of the ocean, in addition the car has several windows where you can see the rock formations moving upward and some water bubbling as you make your way down to the ocean floor. to complete the effect the car vibrates, shakes and rumbles the whole way down. The hatch on the other side of the car opens up, and you find yourself standing in a rather plain looking room. Not the ooh-ahh moment you would be expecting.
At one time you boarded a Sea Cab for one way transportation to the main area of Sea Base Alpha. The Sea Cab was a dark ride, but it was a very unusual dark ride in that instead of passing through a lot of differnt sets, on the Sea Cabs the cars took you through a tunnel that ran directly underneath the aquarium through a tunnel, with views into the auqarium all around you. Unfortunately, they have since eliminated the Sea Cab ride part of the attraction and now route you down rather plain hallway that comes out in the back of the pavilion's gift shop. Yep in this case you see the gift shop before you even get to the bulk of the attraction.
So we walked through the gift shop and out into the main chamber of Sea Base Alpha. All along one side is the floor to ceiling viewing windows out into the ocean (or the aquarium), to acoomodate more sea life gazers and to give you more vantage points, there are escalators up to additional aquarium viewing areas. Along the other wall are 4 'modules' with addditional attractions. Other parts of the room include exhibits like a cutaway modern undersea suit, and the airlock/waterlock which allows cast members (and anyone with a SCUBA certification that pays the appropriate extra fees) to exit Sea Base Alpha directly into the aquarium (ocean). Its a prety dramatic display as the airlock is in the center of sea base alpha, and the diver enters the airlock, then the room fills with water then they swim directly up throught he ceiling. The exit the tank by swimming down the tube from above, then the tube seals off and all the water drains aout before they re-ented Sea Base Alpha. We were not fortunate enough to see any of this hapen on our trip.
We explored the 4 modules - once contained smaller aquarium exhibits, another had a childs climbing structure and kids activity area, including a chance to have your photo taken while 'inside' a sharks mouth, yet another has a manatee tank, with a live presentation, You can watch the animals caretaker on overhead monitors, as the cretaker is standing on a ledge at the top of the tank.
The fourth module has been walled off so you can't see inside, but a signifigant queue area has been errected just outside the module. This is where the new Turtle Talk with Crush show is held. There isn't much to tell people what they will see inside, and the attraction is not advertised in any of the brochures and literature I have seen about the park, not even on the parkguide you get as you enter the park. About the only mention is that it exists, and thats printed in small type on the already crowded show schedule. I noted this led to one of the attraction hosts going to the microphone that is really for the airlock area and using the microphone to assume the role of carnival sideshow talker advertising the attraction and what is waiting for you on the inside. It's about a 15 minute show in a releatively small venue, so by the time the doors opened a prety sizeable crowd had been gathered.
Turtle Talk with Crush is very much a children's attraction staring the turtle, Crush, from "Finding Nemo". The premise is that you can see Crush through the aquarium viewing window directly in front of you, and through amazing technology, using microphones mounted on both Crush's side of the glass, and the mcirophone your host is holding, Crush can talk to the audience and the audience can talk to Crush. Now in reality the aquarium window is a movie screen, and you watch an animated Crush interacting with the audience. But this is more than just some guy standing just out of range 'voicing' Crush, no in this attraction the on-screen Crush acts and reacts appropriate to the discussion, and even has some props like sunglasses he can whip out. In fact when Cursh talks to someone, he looks directly at them and makes eye contact. In other words its a neat new attraction that deserves more publicity than it seems to be getting. Also in this show, children are invited to come to the front of the auditorium and sit on the carpet, and Crush directs the host to take the microphone to various people, mostly the children to interact. "Hey, what about the cool dude with the yellow shell" or "The cool dude-ette with the pink shell" For most of the act you alternate with Crush asking a child a question about being a human and the children asking Crush questions about being a turtle. Its's quite humerous, with the finale being Crush giving the children a surfing lesson, and before the parents think they get off scott-free, nope the parents have to create the waves, by doing the wave. Very cute little show, I'm glad I stuck around to see it.
We exited Turtle Talk, then exited the pavilion itself. Remembering that you are in an underwater research facility, you walk down a short exit hallway, then there is a bank of hydrolators waiting to take you back up to the surface. It's nice to see the illusion not fall apart at the exit. The exit hydrolators do not have windows, but they do have a portal in the ceiling of the car. I thought that the view through the top portal used to get lighter and lighter as you reached the surface, but that didn't seem to happen this time. The hatchway opens and dumps you outside the pavilion.
Having completed Future World, it was time to head to World Showcase. We first stopped for a Mickey Premium Bar each. (A Mickey Mouse shaped chocolate coated vanilla ice cream bar, kinda like a Klondike bar).
In direct contrast to the much maligned, and constantly tweaked Future World, World Showcase has proven to be a very succesful area of the park that offers the visitor the chance to explore several nations of the world via pavilions that present a taste of the architecture, food, merchandise, people, and culture of the host nation. Yes, I do mean people quite serioulsy as most of the people who work in World Showcase are either foreign exchhange students or are otherwise goodwill ambassadors from the nation being presented. The nations themselves sit around a massive lagoon in the center of World Showcase, wiht the pavilions being on the outboard side of a walkway that goes around the perimteter of the lagoon.
Our tour around the world started in Canada
Canada is the first nation you come to on a counter clockwise tour of World Showcase. High up on a hill you see the Hotel Du Canada, which is often claimed to be patterened after the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. I can see the resemblance, but the Hotel Du Canada does not do the Chateau justice, as I can claim as I have been fortunate enough to be a guest of the Chateau Frontenac. A bit lower down the hill you see some rustic wooden buildings and some tall totem poles. In the background behind the Hotel du Canda you can see the "Canadian Rockys", in this case a man made miniature mountain range. Following the signs for wheelchair access, we took the ramp down past a miniature "Victoria Garden" and past the La Celier Steakhouse, a wine cellar steakhouse that is apparently in the basement of the Hotel Du Canada.
The pavilions show takes place inside the Canadian Rockeys and is usualy accessed by stairs. We went down the exit path for the attraction and followed the signs to a one person wide bridge that goes over through a canyon formed next to the Rockys. You then enter into a waiting area that is themed to the entrance of a mining tunnel.
We had a 10 minute wait before being admitted to the main auditorium for a showing of the made-for-Epcot movie "O Canada!" "O Canada is a documentary/travelougue type movie about Canada, and having seen Montreal and Quebec City the scenes from those two cities were quite familiar to us. All in all an interesting movie. A novelty is that the movie is shown in Circlevision 360. That means the audience stands in the middle of a round room, where a screen wraps around the perimeter, completely surrounding you. It takes 9 synchronized movie projectors to present a CircleVision 360 movie.
We enjoyed the movie, and left via the same walkway past Victoria Gardens, then I started the assent up the various ramps. On the first level up from the midway is the gift shop located in that rustic wood building by the totem poles, up two more long steep ramps is the Hotel Du Canada. I would have thought that a shop or something would have been inside the imposing looking building. You do get a nice view of the Rockies, but apparently they make people climb all the stairs to get up here, just to go down more stairs to get to the mining tunnel entrance to "O Canada!" We returned to the main midway level, where I noted a food stand that looks like it is in the process of being dismantled. I wonder if that was the Beaver Tails stand.
And so, just by walking down the midway around the lagoon we soon arrive at the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom does not have a hedline attraction, but like all the pavilions it does present culturally appropriate entertainment several times daily. The area itself consits of a nice Pub on the lagoon side of the midway, and a quaint London street on the other side. The street scene area ls lined with interesting stores, and at the other end of the street is a formal square with a bandstand and everything. While we were walking around the square, Pal Mickey informed us that we may want to be careful not getting lost in the Hedge Maze. We looked around the sides and back of the bandstand, and yes there is a hedge maze. There were no fences or signs saying I couldn't, so I set off to explore the hedge maze. All in all its not that difficult of a maze, but it was a relaxing diversion. We left via the street scene browsing some of the shops.
We walked past the Pub, and noticed accross the street from the hub is a pretty little area with little cottages.
We continued our tour, and crossed over the river that connects the World Showcase Lagoon with the Epcot Resort Area lagoon. (The area also holds a rare second park admission gate, allowing people to enter and exit the park directly to/from the Epcot Resort Area, which now boasts the Boardwalk entertainment district, and boat transportation to Disney Studios park) The stream must represent the English Channel becuase once you cross it and go down the ramp you find yourself in France.
Before entering France I took advantage of the bridge to get some photos of the various pavilions from across the lagoon.
You approach the pavilion walking down a Parisian street with a fountain down the middle of the street, a sidewalk cafe and upscale French Restaurant on one side, and gift outlets on the other. Standing guard over the back of the pavilion is a miniature Eiffel Tower. At the far back end of the street is the Palais De Cinema (Movie Palace) The Palais De Cinema is open, and shows a documentary/travelogue about France. We were able to enter the theater just before the doors were closed and to get settled in just before the movie started. The movie, titled "Impressions De France" (Impressions of France) . is a wide format film taking up the width of 5 standard movie screens. This means they can show breathtaking panoramas, which they do. We enjoyed the movie about France, which exits directly to a gift shop. I thought about buying a miniature eiffel tower, even had my hands on one, then I realized that I could buy one much closer to home, and for the same reason it would not be as special or noteworthy as a curio piece in my city. You see our local theme park uses an Eiffel Tower scale model as its central landmark. Think of Main Street USA with an Eiffel Tower instead of a castle and you get the idea.
Renovation work is being peformed on the French Bakery, but pastry fans, have no fear as access to the serving area is being maintained, and some tables have beeen setup in the gift shop next door.
We were soon leaving France, and magically just a few footsteps away we arrive in Morroco.
We pass by an unusual shaped fountain at the entry way to Morocco. Its an interesting shape that I find pleasing. The shape was a big motif element I noticed when I participated in a recent local guided tour through a local mosque. It is kind of like two squares sitting on top of each other, one rotated 45 degrees from the other.
So we entered and did some self exploration through the Morocco pavilion. We had missed the last guided tour sponsored by the Morocco Torusim Office, but we walked around the shopping bazar, which is kinda neat in that sometimes its hard to tell if you are inside or outside. As we were leavng the pavilion I caught a glimpse of a closed door that advertised an art gallery. I tried the door and found it to be unlocked. We then proceeded to tour a smallish art gallery. There was some pretty art pieces in the gallery, and I find it interesting that Disney doesn't provide a currator in their various art galleries.
I failed to get a photo of the pavilion's landmark which is of a gold domed prayer tower.
Having completed our visit to Morocco.
Next up on our way around the lagoon was Japan. On the lagoon side of the midway is a large Tori Gate, and just inland we spotted a small crowd gathered around what looks to be a cooking demonstration booth. We edged our way close enough to get a view and it looked like the person was making exquisite lovely animals out of a pliable candy, sort of like a taffy. We agreed with a fellow park guest that if we were lucky enough to get one of the candy creations that she sometimes passes out that it would be much too lovely to actually eat it.
We watched the candy art person for a while, then toured the big department store. I lost some time at the display of puzzle boxes. A puzzle box is a box that can only be opened after manipulating the box a certain way. Bascially the outside of the box is a very decorative pattern that disquises the fact that the indiviusl sections of the pattern can be moved around ever so slightly. In order to open the box you have to move these sections around in just the right order. I tried the beginner level box which requires you make 7 moves to open the box. I didn't even think about tying the one that said it took 40+ individual moves to open the box. The kind folks at Disney were nice enough to post the various solutions to the boxes nearby in case you gave up and wanted to see that it really could be done.
We continued through the large store and came out in a litle shaded area that had two samauri statues. We walked down the main street of the pavilion past its landmark pagoda and around to the other side of the pagoda for a snack.
There is a Kaki-Gori stand (apparently Japaneese for "shaved ice"), which had some unusual flavors as well as just about the finest shaved shave ice I have ever had. Its almost like a frozen powder. I had the Rainbow, which consisted of Tangerine, Honeydew and some Strawberry. Shortly after starting to eat the Kaki Gori, I heard some drums, so we walked abck around to the performance stage side of the pagoda for some live entertainment. We stayed around for a song or so before continuing on.
The USA pavilion consits of a big stately looking building that looks like it belongs in Philladelphia. We sipped its gift shop, and fast food restaurant, we also skipped the main presentation, "The American Adenture" as we had seen it on Saturday. For full details on "The American Adventure", kindly see Day 1 of this series of reports.
On the lagoon side of USA is the American Gardens Theatre, a major performace space which is apparently between shows and under rehab.
Continuing along the lagoon, we come to Italy. There is a small raised platform on the lagoon side which over looks the currently gondola-less Venitian canals. Tonight this area was apprently going to be used for a catered event, as I noticed the catering setup area hidden by some landscpaing area that had been erected to obscure the food serivce area. The Italy pavilion leans heavily towards Venice with its Doges Palace gift shop, and the famous bell tower. I may have mentioned in an erlier report that I have had the pleasure of visiting the real Venice. I took some photos as we had already explored the shops (and Alfredos) on Saturday (details - part 1 of this series).
We next walked through a miniature train dislay on the way to Germany, then looked at the glass blowers booth as well as the Bier Stien store. The central plaza has an interesting fountain as well as an animated clock. (Glockenspiel).
Gift shops line the sides of the square, and in the back is the Biergarten and Sommerfest. This is the pavilions eating district. Sommerfest is the pavilons fast food outlet, we opted for the Biergarten, which is the pavilions feature restaurant.
Biergarten is a very popular eatery, as edvidenced by the fact that the line to check in at the podium was clear back to the pavilions central fountain. Unfortuantely I learned that even with Priority Seating I would have to wait through this line. It took nearly 20 minutes just to get checked in. The host said to proceed into the restaurants lobby and we would be seated very shortly.
They have a loose definition of very shortly as we waited for quite some time. We saw others who we knew were behind us in line get seated, and we saw others who we overheard had priority seatings for the same time block get seated. We still waited. At around 7:15 (20 minutes after our official priority seating time) I go the desk inside the restaurant where the server is assigning tables and ask when we could be expected to get seated, and that we had been waiting for some time. She goes through her entire Prioirty Seating card rack and our card is nowhere to be found. She then finds out card buried in the Walk Up card rack. No apologies, but she moves our card over to the Prioirty Seating card rack and assured us that it will like just 2 minutes more. Of course with a show going on there is going to be no table turnover till about 7:30 as it turns out. So at that time we fially get seated, still no apologies. You know, I was having such a great time that normally I would give the park the benefit of the doubt what with the large crowd hitting the restuarant all at once, but in looking over the restaurant reviews on several Disney message boards, the Biergarten seems to have a persisting issue with messing up priority seatings.
We get seated with 3 other parties it turns out in order to get maximum use out of our 10 top banquet table. The Biergarten is themed to a German Bier Garden, (imagine that), yes its indoors but it looks very much like you are outdoors. The feautre entertainment is a German band on the bandsheell playing polkas and other bier hall favorites. You may even hear some yodelling and alpen horns. In order that everyone may see the restaurant employs stadium seating with the tables turned sideways so that no ones back is to the stage. In true German bier hall tradition the tables are LONG wooden tables, that in this case seat 10 people each. They were nice enough to use individual chairs insted of backless benches. This type of seating naturally lends itself to social conversation with your new neighbors, and so we had a nice conversation with two other families that were sharing our table.
Shortly after getting seated a server takes drink orders. I order a Bier (Tall or Short, sir?), I'll take the Tall, and we are invited to explore the buffet.
Biergarten serves buffet style with a buffet of all your german favorites. Schnitzel, sauerbraten, roast pork loin, roast chicken, bratts, metts, kraut, red cabbage, spatzle, potato dumlings, and hey I didn't know that Mac and Cheese was German, ya learn something new every day :) I grabbed a really hot bowl of the chicken soup and made a nice sampler platter of the buffet. When I returned to the table, my 1 liter bier was waiting for me. I must compliment the park on this buffet. I didn't see one thing on t e buffet (save maybe the vegetable department) that I didn't like, and everything I tried (which was most of it) tasted pretty good.
Then I hit the desert buffet: studel, black forest cake, cheesecake, and much more. Yep I tried every single desert on offer. The goal here seems to get you to be settled down and well into your meal, then the floor show starts. Kind of like a dinner theatre. We stayed and I paced my bier to last until the end of the 8:05 show. I need not have worried because the servers did not even drop the checks until after the show.
The musical entertainment was also quite good, and they got the crowd worked up. After hearing about the most unenthusiastic reaction to the Prosit, the bandleader said "That was about the most pathetic Prosit I have ever heard. Come on this is a Bier Hall, not a library, let's try this again" I dont know what he was talking about becuase seated next to us was a party of about 20 taking up two full tables, all midle aged guys, and all enthusastically participating. The fact that I saw several paddles of shots being delivered to their tables had nothing to do with that I am sure. And no one could posibly cheer the "Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke HOY HOY HOY" louder than they could. Enthusiasm is of course infectious, and soon thereafter it seemed like the whole room was into the show. It was a very fun evening.
I must admit the liter of good German bier had an affect on me, and I was joking if it was possible to get a DUI while pushing a wheelchair.
We left the German pavilion and scurried towards China.
We approached China just before IllumiNations was to begin. Since we saw IllumiNations on Saturday we decided to try to use it for additional touring time. (See IllumiNations review in the Day 1 report of this series) We entered China and were heading up towards the Temple Of Heaven replica. The Temple of Heaven houses a Circlevision 360 movie about China "Wonders of China" Alas we had just reached the base of the ramp up to the Temple of Heaven, when i saw the attration host coming down the stairs. Not a good sign. I asked the attraction host if we were too late to see the movie, to which I recieved a pleasant reply. She first warned us that we would miss IllumiNations, not a problem, she then told us that she had just started the last showing of the movie a couple minutes ago, but it wasn't very crowded, so if we would like we could just walk up into the Temple of Heaven ourselves and pull on the right most automagic door and we could let ourselves into the theater. We entered the Temple, and proceeded as directed to the right most door. I expected to have to pull hard to overide the automagic mechanism, but found that the doors are designed so that at the lightest touch that door opens, waits a few seconds and then closes again. We let ourselves into the theater. By 'not very crowded' she meant 'less than a dozen people" We still got to see a farily good chunk of the movie.
At the end of the movie, we exited out the other side of the theater and noted that when they say Epcot closes at 9PM, they mean Epcot closes at 9PM, inclusive of the gift shops. There would be no stop in the gift shops in the China pavilion. I also negelcted to look and see if the former art gallery in this section of the park has been transformed into the Disney Hong Kong preview center yet.
Well its after 9PM, that means the park may be closed to most people, but not for those staying at the disney Resorts. Tonight is Extra Magic Hour, which means I have slightly less than 3 more hours. All I have to do is get a wristband. They do not start passing out wristbands until 2 hours before park closing, so I had not been near any of the distribution points. I noted that according to the flyer there should be a distribution point by the bridge near Mexico. Therefore we left China, took a right, zipped past Norway and then saw Mexico. Ahh, the bridge is on the other side of Mexico, so we crossed the bridge. Still no pick up point, however there was a sign identifiying this as a pick up point. They did have a cast member there who was telling people that they would have to go to the World Showcase Plaza to get a wristband. That doesn't seem too far, but the pickup point was more in the heart of Innoventions Plaza, but the line strtetched clear back into World Showcase. We joined the line, and joined in the grumblings of the other guests as to just how poorly handled this wristband distribution thing is.
After waiting in the suprisingly slow moving line for a bit, another cast member flew by on a Segway and anounced that there was absolutely no waiting at the pick up point in the Innoventions West breezeway. Small wonder as the only thing open west of Innovations is the Imagination! pavilion.
We hiked to get the writbands in the new minimal wait line. We flashed room keys and recieved wristbands. I aksed why they could not start passing out wristbands earlier, like at the front gate on your way in. They claimed it was for a guest discomfort issue. We hiked back to Mexico. Hey dont laugh its a long hike from Orlando to Mexico.
Having killed nearly an hour of the Extra Magic Time already we approached the Mexico Pavilion.
The Mexico pavilion features a lagoon side fast food restaurant and magarita bar, and on the inland side, features a large mayan pyramid. We found the wheelchair ramp up to the pavilion entrance, which happens to take you on a dark densley landscaped path. I could not help but doing a chorus of "In the jungle, the mighty jungle..."
The Mexico pavilion is contained mostly indoors inside the mayan pyramid. Okay the Mayan pyramid itself contains an art gallery, and a ramp down to the show building located behidn the pyramid. The show building contains a Mexican street market in perpetual twilight. Gift shops line the sides and street vendors sell their wares in the center of the room. At the far end of the street a sidewalk cafe serve Mexican food while diners watch a river with boats slowly floatig past. In the distnace the most active volcano errupts every few moments.
Also at the end of the street is a boat dock to ride the boats the diners see slowly floating past. We show our wristbands and are admitted to ride El Rio de Tiempo (The River of Time), with no wait. The River of Time starts with a voyage past a riverside sidewalk cafe, diners are watching as you slowly float past, then through a bit of mexican history before passing by what is intended to be the culutre of Mexico as presented in several sets your boat passes by. In several ways this ride has been comapred to "It's a Small World" and the final Carnival scene could have been lifted straight out of Small World. The ride even has a catchy jingle and everything. (I have heard the ride reffered to by the title "It's a Small Burrito") That was cute anyway.
We entered the market and were able to be the last customers to visit the Arribas Bros. glass blowing studio before they closed for the night. Mom added a blown glass Cinderella Castle to her extensive blown glass collection. We made our way out of the market, back to the Pyramid "Audios Amigos", and back through the Jungle/wheelchair ramp. "In the Jungle, the mighty jungle..."
Next stop, we had to complete our World Showcase tour with a visit to Norway.
As we approached Norway we saw a big Viking Ship set back in the distance. No, this one wsn't connected to a pendulum as I usually see "Viking Ship" rides in other parks. That doesn't mean I won't get to ride a Viking ship ride tonight, but that ride will also not involve a pendulum motion. We looked at the viking ship, then we looked at the Stave Church, inside the stave church is an exhibit on Stave Churches that we went inside and looked at. We entered the town square of Norway and headed to the back where Maelstrom waits. We recalled Maelstrom being a log flume type ride, and Mom did not want to chance getting wet.
I flashed my wristband and was admitted to walk down a plain blue hallway decorated with a row of Norwegian flags. I noted that Fastpass was not in operation, and I soon realized why when they were having trouble even filling the boats. I walked right onto a boat. The boat is modeled after a viking longboat, complete with a carved wooden dragon head on the front. A tall carved wooden dragon head on the front. Even if you get a row to yourself you wil not want to sit in the center of the bench, so that you have some chance of seeing whats coming.
You enter the ride and go up a lift hill, then you float through the land of the trolls, until you bump into some troll who is having a bad day, and before you knew what hit you, he pushes your boat backwards and you go backwards down the drop. You float through another scene and then you boat comes to a stop. At this point people watching the fake mountains from outside the show building see a boat that is about to go over flying backwards out onto the midway, but luckily for both you and Disney the boat doesnt do that, instead it pivots sideways and you go down a forwards drop. Truth be told you might get three drops of water max on this ride. Its not a water ride by any means.
Normally after the drop you make a turnaround and float into the unload station, where you wait in a waiting area to enter a theater to watch a 5 minute movie on Norway. I could see the doors were open as my boat approached the unload, and I was sure they would take just long enough so that I would have to stay around for the next show. (There is no bypass, though some have created one by rudely cutting right through the theater as the doors open) The host at unload informed us that there were no movies during Extra Magic Hour and to just walk right through the theater and out the other side. A rope prevents you from going through the open door right out to the midway, where Mom was waiting, and instead directs you through the gift shop, where most doors have been roped off so you must go through the entire gift shop.
I regrouped with Mom who had struck up a delightful conversation with the Maelstrom entrance host. Neither the host nor I could convice her to try the ride, so we left Norway and headed towards Future World, now that our day of globetrotting was over.
I left mom in the major giftshop in Innoventions, whish seems to be the park main mega gift shop, while I rode some thrill rides.
I first walked over to Test Track where I noted the fastpass supply was exhuasted, so I went to Mission Space to check out how things looked over there.
Fastpass was not available, so I read my options: Single Rider - 5 Minutes, Standby - 10 Minutes. I decided to just go ahead and get in the regular queue.
Mission: Space is in a very futuristic building with a planet motif. Additional space realted props line the walkway up to the entrance which is right through the red plant itself. At the red planet you choose your option and enter the inside waiting area. I missed the space related mementos in the waiting area, but did notice the scale model of an outer space living environment. In this case I walked right up to the Mission Control part of the queue and found myself to be the 4th person in line. Soon thereafter we were admitted to a briefing room. I could tell in the briefing room that my space crew mates were either really enthusiastic or drunk, or maybe a combination of the two. A lot of hoot and hollering while we watched the preshow. We were then admitted to the pre-flight circle where you get your individual assignments, a lot of enthusiasm and such then they doors opened into the space pod.
The three people I was riding with reached for their barf bags before the ride even started, and must have known the loader becuase the interaction was classic. The shoulder bars went down, the view screens lowered down closer, the spacepod doors closed, and off we went.
Our rocket launched and wow is that launch impressive, particullary the spinning while lying down on your back. There is a moment right when the car rights itself after the launch and maybe even rolls forward a little bit so you are in a face down position that causes a nice gut wrench. If you get through that you can get through the ride. Last time I was the Engineer, this time I got to be the Navigator. Same drill press your flashing button at the right time, then in the everything goes wrong finale grab the manual control stick and try to pilot your craft while the stick vibrates and adds force against the way you want to move it. I LOVE this ride, it is quite possibly the best simulation experience anywhere. Why does it have to be so far from me. Oh, after the launch settles down be sure to explore your station, read all the labels on the controls, check out the guages, look over at the controlls along the sides... (For even more details on this attraction, see Day 1 of this series)
I exited the attraction and quickly walked through the post ride interactive area and gift shop as fast as I could.
Next stop, Test Track which I already rode once today, so you can scroll WAY up and read about it. The only thing different is that the single riders line was short and I walked right into the pre-show video, and was on the ride in almost no time at all. When I exited the ride I took a look over at that VR attraction, but the line already looked to be cut so I zipped on out of the hands on area and gift shop.
I returned to the main gift shop to regroup with Mom. We checked the time and decided to try to beat the resort crowd out of the park, and thus left the park around 11:45. The plan worked and soon we were on a bus back to the resort, and yes we rode around to the east Depot, and yes, we got to our room without trouble.
We made some last minute phone calls to my Uncle and Aunt to firm up their visit with us tommorow. Yes we will ecpect them around 8, yes they just have to mention that they are coming to visit with us when they get to the guard station. (And yes, I had soft drinks waiting in the in-room fridge).
Already after midnight, so we don't dwell long and head pretty much straight off to bed.
Continue to Day 5
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