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?


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