Friday, November 16, 2012

Disney Whirled: Hightlights of a Nine-Day Adventure into Magicalness, PART 7: "Why So Sad?"

The Disney Whirled series isn't quite over, but after today's post, I am going to hold off on the final post or two.  The final post of this series will be called something like, "Lasting Impressions," and I want to give our clan another month or two to make sure that the impressions I deem "lasting" are, indeed, lasting.  I may slip in one more "on site" post as well, if I am inspired to do so.

This is a fine time to summarize where we've been.  Here is a summary, in convenient link-form.  I'll give you a second to catch up.
PART 1: "Preparations"
PART 2: "First Impressions"
PART 3: "Pretend People, Real Autographs"
PART 4: "Mac and Cheese and Legos"
PART 5: "Rides and Attractions, Volume 1"
PART 6: "Rides and Attractions, Volume 2"

So, we've covered the future and the past.  Here in the present, today I will be writing about those not-quite-Norman-Rockwell moments experienced by the family of the Hungry Preacher during their time in Disney World.  After all, even in the world of magic, the girl sometimes accidentally gets sawed in half, right?

Without further ado, he is photographic evidence of a few times during our trip that the magic wore off.


The Monkeys were mostly just tired at this point.  While Monkey 1 is not quite as unimpressed as McKayla Maroney, there is definitely a vibe of "Oh, a giant Lego version of the Loch Ness Monster that is actually partially submerged in water?  Meh."


I don't remember exactly what the problem was at this point, but judging from the expression of Monkey 2, we can conclude that she was just told that Disney World would be permanently closing, effective immediately, and that all positive memories of the Disney World experience would be wiped from her memory, a la "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."  Oh, and that movie title was actually a typo: It was supposed to be "No Dogs Go to Heaven."


Not to be outdone, Monkey 1 here was just told that she would not get to play with her new Lego set until we set the world record for most consecutive times riding the "It's a Small World" ride.

The thing I'm NOT sure how to interpret in this picture is my own expression.  At first, I thought maybe I was just oblivious to how miserable my children were.  Then I thought, "No, I know how fried they are, and that half-smile is one of determination NOT to let family morale be dragged down by the grumpiness of an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old."  Then I looked even closer--at my eyes--and am now thinking that I myself was about to snap.


Monkey 2 had found this little branch on the ground and decided that she wanted to keep it as a souvenir.  At first we were like, "That's fine.  No harm in that."  After about ten minutes, we realized that letting her carry around the twig was going to inconvenience everyone in various ways.  So we told her the leaves had to go, but we could take a picture of her holding them in front of the Disney Princess castle so that we could always remember them.  The half-smile means she's only half-happy with this plan (or half-unhappy with it, depending on your outlook on life).


From the "you should have seen her a few minutes before" file, here we have Monkey 1 pleasantly sitting, waiting for the Light Parade to start.  Notice how there is no one else around her?  It's because she was banished.  After lot of whining and antagonizing of her sister, we finally told her to go over and sit on that little wall until she's ready to be with other people again.


This is the only picture of the bunch where the person being asked "Why so sad?" is not in our family.  Random out-of-context expression, or seething disdain for happy little girls?  We'll never know.


I snapped these gems just as we were arriving to Hollywood Studios, which means we had experienced all the stress of getting up and getting ready and getting to our destination for the day, but none of the payoff of actually doing anything fun.  Beth wanted a picture with the girls in front of the Micky Mouse hedge.  Hey, you've got the girls, you've got the Micky hedge--mission accomplished, right?


The classic "Now hug your sister" pose.


The existence of this picture explains its inclusion in this post.  See, Beth asked Monkey 2 if she could hold the camera for a second.  Monkey 2 promptly dropped the camera on the ground.  So the next few seconds were pretty tense, until this test picture turned out just fine.  Big, magical sighs all around.

All things considered, the magical moments far outweighed the "Why so sad?" moments.  But they were all memorable, and I can't think of any that I regret.

Like I said earlier, I'll add a closing post or two for this series in a few weeks.  In the meantime, I've got a bunch of posts in blogatory, as well as plenty of "from scratch" ideas to tide us all over through the holidays.  Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Disney Whirled: Highlights of a Nine-Day Adventure into Magicalness, PART 6: "Rides and Attractions, Volume 2"

In case you missed Volume 1, you can read it here.

Space Mountain:
It’s a completely enclosed roller coaster.  Pretty fast, lots of turns, almost completely dark throughout the ride.  The problem was that the cars sat one person per row.  This meant that Monkey 2, who has a history of being utterly terrified on roller coasters, had no one to sit next to her.  I ended up sitting behind her and spent most of the ride stretching my arm forward as far as I could so she could cling to my wrist for dear life.

Since you asked, Monkey 2’s roller coaster trauma stems from riding the Screaming Eagle at Six Flags near St. Louis.  Frankly, I was pretty shocked that the minimum height for that ride was only 42 inches.  Monkey 2 measured 43 inches.  Within about 4 seconds of being on the ride, she was crying and screaming “No, no, no!” and was clutching the lap bar with both arms (which meant she was almost sideways in her seat, causing her trembling little feet to stick out of the car).  Meanwhile, I communicated as calmly yet urgently as I could that she was doing great, and that it was almost over, and so on and so forth.  I didn’t tell her this at the time, but I was also thinking, “You know, it really does look like you’re going to fly right out of this thing.”

Space Mountain wasn’t quite this traumatic, but Monkey 2 decided once was enough.  Monkey 1—who loved the Screaming Eagle—was initially only lukewarm to Space Mountain.  She gave it another try, though, and ended up liking it enough to ride several times over the two days we spent at Magic Kingdom.

$14.95 or "free" if you don't mind having "$14.95" superimposed over your picture.

Anticipation builds

Astro Orbiter / Dumbo the Flying Elephant / Magic Carpets of Aladdin:
I’m not saying that coming up with new and different ideas for amusement park rides is easy.  It’s probably pretty hard, especially when you have guidelines like “people can’t die on this ride, not even every now and then.”  That eliminates a bunch of my ideas right away.  So if you’ve got a ride that is unique, thrilling, efficient, safe, and has a small footprint, you may as well make a thousand of them.  If you have a ride with maybe half of those characteristics, then you make three of them.

Which brings us to the "bike wheel on its side" design.  But instead of a tire at the end of the spokes, there are cars that you sit in.  As the wheel is spinning, the spokes (and attached cars) can go up and down.

The Astro Orbiter was obviously the first of the three.  It has that rustic “this might fall over” feel to it.  It is on the roof of building, and it is accessible by—get this—an elevator.  It’s kind of adorable.

If the subject is slightly off-center, it is artistic.  If the subject is literally as off-center as they can possibly be without ceasing to be the subject, does that make the photo infinitely artistic?

I suspect the Dumbo-ized version of this ride was the next to open.  What sets this ride apart from the others is that while you are waiting in line, you can play in a large, Dumbo-themed playground to pass the time.  When you get to a certain point in line, you are released into the playground.  After a certain amount of time passes, you are summoned to return to the second half of the line.  The girls loved this.  In fact, Monkey 2 later said she wanted to go on the Dumbo ride again.  When pressed, she admitted that she really just wanted to play on the playground.  Pretty clever, Disney, turning “waiting” into the fun part.

The side-by-side seating lent itself to close-up photography

The original script of "Dumbo" didn't have a magic feather at all.  Instead, Dumbo "flew" by skewering himself through the side with a giant steel beam that was attached to the ground.  It was a much darker movie.

Carpets of Aladdin is smaller than the other two.  That's its unique contribution to the "wheel and spoke" family of rides.  I think one of both of the Monkeys rode this while I was not around.

It's a Small World:
Yes, we rode it, but I'm still trying to get the song out of my head, so please don't ask about it.

Main Street Electrical Parade:
Some disclosure: I'm not a big fan of parades.  This might stem from the time that my Cub Scout troop got to march in my hometown's parade.  It was then I realized that people in parades are usually at least as normal as I am.  That strangers would line up on sidewalks to watch me walk seemed pretty arbitrary; I could just as easily stopped walking and started watching them, and it would have made just as much sense.

The times that there is something interesting in a parade (like a fancy car), I can almost always make arrangements to see the interesting parading thing in a setting where there are no crowds, no possibilities of inclement weather, and no feelings like I just didn't get enough time to see what I wanted to see (like at a car dealership, or on the internet).

Finally--and this will be the most controversial part of this post--I feel like many (most?) people also aren't crazy about parades, but convince themselves that parades are great things to go to because, hey, what kind of grumpy old grumple-face doesn't like parades?  If that's you, I want to let you know that it's OK not to like parades.  Be liberated!  Wait, hold on.  I just realized that maybe there IS something wrong with us for not liking parades.  Maybe our feelings are not OK.  I hadn't thought of that.  So my new message is "You're not alone."  Just replace my old message of "it's OK not to like parades" with my new one.  The new message probably won't feel as liberating, but at least you can be sure of its validity.

So we were talking about the Main Street Electrical Parade as Disney World.  It was on Monday.  Monday was our longest "park day," and the MSEP started about an hour after the time the girls probably should have been in bed.  But the kids were VERY happy about lining up on the street to wait for the parade to start.  This picture really captures those feelings.  I'll pause for a few minutes while you count all the children's smiles.

Remember not to count grown up smiles
Oh, you're done already?  It doesn't take very long to count to "1", you say?  Yeah, I guess that makes sense.  Let's just move on to the actual parade-part of the parade.  There was a lot of marching.  I vaguely remember some sort of storyline being presented.  And there were vehicles with lights on them.  Here is a picture of one of those:

It was a lot like the parade that I marched in as a kid, only replace "Cub Scouts" with "vehicles decorated with thousands of Christmas lights and driven by mascots"

The parade was progressing rather uneventfully, when all of the sudden, Monkey 1 caught a serious case of "dance fever."  She just started dancing.

This move loses a little something when captured with a single frame photgraph.

At that moment, this became my all-time favorite parade ever (and I've seen the Rose Parade in person).  Here's the equation to show my work:  OK PARADE + SPONTANEOUS MONKEY DANCING = BEST PARADE EVER.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!:
Despite Disney's choice of punctuation at the end of this attraction title, I give you permission not to shout when you read it (especially if you're at work).

Had I gone to see this show by myself, I would have thought, "It's pretty cool.  It's neat watching how well-choreographed and controlled they can make the all of the chaos seem.  It's certainly more realistic than the last Indiana Jones movie.  Not life-changing, but still a good show.  B-."

But the truly engaging part of the show was watching my daughters take it all in, watching them see it for the first time.  "Was that supposed to happen?" and "How did they do that?" were the most popular questions for those 30 minutes.

Most endearing was the concern expressed by my younger daughter over the fate of the woman who was grabbed and thrown into a van, which then blew up.  You and I know it's all part of the show, but my younger daughter was very concerned until we walked her through exactly when and how they switched vans so that no one was inside the one that blew up.

This deep compassion for others is completely in-character for her, by the way.  Case in point:  The other day, she volunteered: "Daddy, you know what I hate most about the pigs in Angry Birds?  I mean, besides that they want to steal the birds' eggs?  It's that if you kill some of the pigs, but not all of them, the ones that are still alive smile, even though their friends died.  It's like they don't even care about their friends."

Pre-show shenanigans

The Monkeys trying to figure out how things work

Beauty and the Beast--Live on Stage:
The show was entertaining.  To Beth and I, the most amusing moment was when the narrator explained to the audience, "Through a series of circumstances, Belle became a prisoner in the castle of the beast in order to save her father."  Alrighty, then.  I suppose that's one way to transition from Belle singing with the town folk to Belle singing with Mrs. Potts and the castle gang.  Fortunately, most of the crowd wasn't there for the story development.

Better than the show itself, however, was the pre-show entertainment provided by our very own daughters, especially our younger one.  With 20 minutes to kill, and only a bag of Cheetos to kill it with, Monkey 2 invented the game: "What Do You Think This Cheeto Looks Like?"

The answer, of course, is "Cuteness.  This Cheeto looks like cuteness."

That is my summary of selected rides and attractions, and I'm sticking to it.

Next up: PART 7: Why So Sad?