Saturday, October 27, 2012

Disney Whirled: Highlights of a Nine-Day Adventure into Magicalness, PART 5: "Rides and Attractions, Volume 1"

Disney World isn’t renowned for its rides the way that traditional amusement parks are, but the rides are obviously still a major focus.  While we didn’t quite hit every ride in the three parks we spent time in, we hit most of them.  Here is our take on some of these rides and attractions.

Star Tours:
Everyone loads into rows of seats on a rectangular platform.  The lights go out, and the platform moves up and down and tilts in various directions.  The gimmick is that you feel as though you are moving more significantly than you are because the screen in front of you is showing Star Wars-themed, 3D footage “filmed from the captain’s chair.”  It’s a fun illusion.

More memorable than the ride itself were the 3D glasses everyone got to wear.

Monkey 2 working the "cool nerd" look

This picture came at a time when I was really starting to wonder if my "cool genes" actually made it to the next generation at all.  Turns out, they were just waiting for the right pair of shades before they manifested themselves.

Pirates of the Caribbean:
Maybe you’ve seen the movies.  I stopped after the second one, when I realized the filmmakers weren’t even pretending to maintain plot cohesion or believability.  The ride is unbelievable in its own right.  You ride in a boat on a lazy river, passing scenes of animatronic pirates engaging in all sorts of debauchery-themed hilarity.  Like when a pirate is torturing some guy to get information about a treasure, dunking him under water, then pulling him up to ask him more questions.  Oh, and there’s the part where women are tied up, then lined up under a banner that reads “Auction: Take a Wench for a Bride.”  I’m laughing just thinking about it.

In Disney’s defense, PotC first opened when moral outrage over traditional American slavery had mostly dissipated and moral outrage over global human trafficking was still in its infancy.  So, yeah, if you couldn’t make light of the buying and selling of human beings in the 1970’s, when could you?

On the other hand, it’s not like this zany take on raping and pillaging exists simply due to inertia.  It’s obviously undergone recent improvements (so to speak).  Case in point: Mingling with these less-than-completely-realistic animatronic creations of pirates and their victims is an extremely lifelike rendering of Johnny Depp—er, “Captain Jack Sparrow.”  Think “Chuck E Cheese” having a conversation with a real (but human size) mouse.  It’s a little out of place.  But so is this ride at a family amusement park.

The two best things about the ride?
-That neither of our girls asked what a wench was
-That I got to incorporate some themes from the ride into the next sweet nothing I whispered in Beth’s ear: “If you were a wench, I would pay 12 bottles of rum for you—at least.”
Swiss Family Treehouse:
I’m only kind of familiar with the Swiss family, but I gather that a while ago they crashed a boat and ended up on a deserted island.  Then they built a treehouse.  Here in the present, you can walk through an actual replica of their treehouse right in Disney World.

As a tourist walking through the replica, it’s easy to forget the hardship that the Swiss family went through leading up to the building of the treehouse.  But it’s kind of their own fault because, really, it’s a heck of a tree house.  Like, it’s really nice.  If the Hungry Preacher's family ever becomes stranded on a deserted island, I am not sure if we would be able to build such a nice treehouse.  Well done, Swiss family.


Tomorrowland Speedway:
Don’t let the steering wheel and four tires fool you: driving on the Tomorrowland Speedway is actually more like “walking” than “driving.”  That said, the ride does serve as a useful first step for parents to get used to the idea of their children driving actual cars (especially British parents, since the steering wheel is on the right).  As an added bonus, each of my children was just a tad hesitant to grab the wheel, even in this highly controlled setting.  Excellent.

I think Nascar telecasts have a name for this type of camera shot, but I don't care enough about Nascar to look it up

Monkey 2 doing her best "Where's Waldo?" impression

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin / Toy Story Midway Mania:
Two similar rides here.  But are they rides?  Or are they games?  Monkey 1 excitedly (and repeatedly) declared afterwards that they are “Both!”  For each ride, you load into a slow moving car that moves and spins on a track through a tunnel.  It's not that interesting by itself, but the fun part is that each rider has, mounted on the “dashboard” in front of them, a cannon you can fire at physical and virtual targets that are set up throughout the ride.

Buzz Lightyear’s ride seemed to be the first draft of this concept, while the Toy Story ride seemed to be the perfected version of the concept.  The trigger mechanism and the accuracy of the cannon is practically flawless on the Toy Story ride.  At the end of the Toy Story ride, you get a full report of how many targets you hit, and how your score compares to the scores of other people in your car and to the high scores of the day and of all time.

Even more impressive than the ride however, is the post-ride photography.  You know how a lot of rides have it set up so that after the ride is over, you can see a photo of yourself on the ride and, if you really like it, you can just have that photo for free?  What’s that you say?  “I don’t get them for free—I have to pay for them.”  Not any more you don’t.

I came up with the brilliant idea of using our own camera to take a picture of the screen that displays the expensive, official picture.  This idea is tied with “laying my daughter’s old mattress in the back of the minivan” for my best idea ever.  No, I didn’t mean to add “regarding our vacation” to that last sentence.  These are my two best ideas ever.  I’m obviously on a hot streak.

So here are our "free pictures" of "expensive pictures" from the Buzz Lightyear ride.  Bonus points if you can guess which one of the grown ups is participating with the most intensity.

Next up: PART 6: Rides and Attractions, Volume 2


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