The Happiest Place On Earth

The last time I partook of the particular magic that makes up a Disney theme park was 2004 while I was in Long Beach, CA for a theatre convention. Before that it had been sometime circa 1992 or 93 in Orlando. So I was very excited while in Florida to spend a day at Disney World and a day at Dinsey's Animal Kingdom, which I had never seen before.

It was an incredibly good time to visit the parks. We chose Wednesday to visit Disney, and Thursday for Animal Kingdom. Both days were slightly overcast, but still warm. Whether it was by virtue of being there in November or being there on a weekday I'm not sure, but the parks were utterly empty. We arrived at Disney very shortly after 9 and started riding immediately. We never encountered a line, and were able to walk in and straight onto rides at nearly every choice. In rapid succession we had made it all the way around the loop of the park and back to the front gates. We had ridden just about every single ride in the park and it was 11:30. So we decided to do what any normal person would do and do it all again. By the evening we had had an incredibly thorough Disney experience and had not waited in a line longer than 10 minutes.

Disney World has been open since 1971 (Disneyland opened in 1955) and there have been lots of changes to the various rides over the years, some for the better, some for the worse. For instance a lot has been made by various critics about the changes to "Pirates of the Caribbean" to make it more compatible with the movies. Davy Jones has been added to the beginning and Jack Sparrow has been added to several places in the course of the ride. Most of these are unobtrusive and don't really effect the ride. I will complain a bit that the animatronics on Jack are SO much better than the original animatronics that the originals suffer by comparison. They are much less alive looking when they stand so close to the new machines. I also grieve a little bit for the loss of the first section of the ride, the New Orleans bayou, that has now been replaced by the Davy Jones hologram and some of the haunted figures that used to be at the end of the ride have been moved up to the opening area. For riders the New Orleans area of the ride may have been slow, but one of the coolest parts of the ride was that there was an adjoining restaurant that had seating inside that area of the ride. Diners appeared to be having dinner of the veranda of a plantation in the bayou as the boats for the ride slipped past. That no longer exists unfortunately.

Some of the other attractions have also lost a little of their charm in the revisions. The worst offender of the lot was the "Enchanted Tiki Room" which used to be a charmingly cute show of animatronic birds and tiki gods but is now a brash mess starring Iago from Aladdin. Who at Disney was silly enough to think that ANYTHING had ever been improved by adding Gilbert Gottfried to it?

I'll admit from the standpoint of a designer Disney does a simply amazing job of creating sets and environments that establish an experience. They are capable of creating what seem to be perfect replicas of places, both real and fictional, even using such materials as concrete and cast resin that are resistant to wear and tear, but are dressed colored and painted to be almost any other material. I spent an inordinate amount of time during this most recent visit just looking at the walls and plants and walkways trying to discern how they were created or what I could take away to use on one of my own sets at some point.

Thursday's visit to Animal Kingdom was a bit more crowded and actually had to take advantage of the "Fast Pass" system of reserved seating on rides a few times, most namely on "Expedition Everest" the newest ride in the park centering around a doomed expedition that runs into the Yeti. I LOVED this ride! We went out of our way to ride it several times, and it was the last ride we hit before we left the parks for good. Though I'm not sure why a park that is centered around animal conservation and the discovery of species by children has a ride about a mythological beastie, it definitely was worth seeing. Since it is one of only three or four ride type attractions in the park it will certainly draw a lot of attention.

Animal Kingdom had tons of great atmospherics. The replicas of African and Asian towns around their respective areas were superb, especially Africa. This is a beautifully put together park.

With Michelle living in Orlando now I'll probably be headed back down there at several future points. She's not overly keen on visiting the parks, but hopefully I'll get the chance to visit some of the others again soon. I haven't visited EPCOT or MGM since that trip in the 90's and I'd love to see some of the changes that have occurred there.

1 Response to "The Happiest Place On Earth"

  • michelle Says:

    what do you mean, i'm not "overly keen" on the parks? i loved my visit there, apart from the facts -
    1) it was in the 90's
    2) the park was really crowded
    3) i was with george, who doesn't do rides and jim, who does every ride while he runs around squealing
    can you blame a fat sister for wanting to take it in doses?