Day 3 - 9/5/16 - “The Force will be with you, always.”
The day starts off with me “sleeping in” as it’s 6:30AM before I’m moving. Unlike the previous day, I had no breakfast scheduled and so I was looking forward to my cereal. As I said before, a fond memory from my first trip was my mom preparing me a small box of cereal for breakfast and I wanted to recreate it a bit. But don’t worry, there’s no underlying sadness to this memory or it’s recreation. My mom is alive and well and simply didn’t go on this trip.
As I breakfasted out on the balcony, I once again became awestruck at my view. The rain had passed but everything was still soaked from last night and the air was cool. Down below, at the gates, I could see the morning crowd start to form. Unlike yesterday, however, I told that nagging feeling to take a flying leap and leisurely finished my breakfast.
Once I had a belly full of a healthy mixture of coffee and cereal, I packed up my gear for the day and headed out. A short time later I was at the gates of MK and followed the procedure I had done yesterday. The only difference was this time I had an 8:00AM tour instead of a breakfast reservation.
As experienced the day before, I found being in the park during this time to be absolutely sublime. But unlike yesterday, I made my way straight to Tony’s and the Town Square Theater instead of down mainstreet as that was the meeting place for the tour.
Inside, small pouches were organized on the counter, each with a colored tag on it. Everyone lined up and gave their name to the cast member by the counter to check in for their tour. Once you gave your name, they gave you a pouch(it’s a hearing device so you can hear your tour guide), telling you not to open it, and have you pick out your lunch that would be provided later.
Going into this, I would’ve swore up and down that I had scheduled my tour for 8AM, and when they couldn’t find me on the list, I was ready to scream “shenanigans!!” But then they found my name… on the 8:30AM tour. Wha? I had them double check it and then just kinda rolled with it as so long as I was schedule FOR a tour, I didn’t really mind when it was to take place. But, just to satisfy my own curiosity, after I got my pouch and picked out my lunch, I checked my Disney Experience App to see when exactly I had noted it. There it was, right there at the bottom: “8:30AM KEYS TOUR! Set 3 alarms!” So it would seem back when I scheduled this months ago, I must’ve thought “8AM? What nutcase gets up that early?!” and decided 8:30 AM was as early I would go. Good job, dingus. Lesson learned, folks. Don’t underestimate the power of Disney making you ok to wake up early!
Oh well, so with time to kill I sat down and watched a bit of Lady and the Tramp playing on the TV in the waiting area of Tony’s. And now it’s time for a small confession: Only just then, seeing the movie, did I finally make the connection that “Tony’s” was from the movie. Up until now, I didn’t realize it had any connection to anything. Smiling at having one fo those “ah ha!” moments, I watched the movie I hadn’t seen in years.
As I sat watching though, it dawned on me that I was still in here before park opening, and I could watch this movie nearly anytime. So, with that I got up and went out onto the porch area while I waited to take some photos of a, once again, empty park.
Yesterday’s early access lead me to experience Main Street at, what I thought, was it’s quietest and most sparsely populated I’d ever see. Today, I learned that was not so. After the initial crowd has blasted down Main Street to get to their destinations, even their low murmur of noise vanished. It was a ghost town, and if this was at night, it would’ve been spooky. It was so quiet, I actually heard a conversation between a vendor a security guard from over by the far entrance where I came in at (try experiencing THAT at Rope Drop!). I took this opportunity to photograph some of the empty corners…for no other reason than I could.
After a bit, the tour gathered and we got started. I won’t go into much of what was said here because for the cost of the tour, I really feel one should experience completely through fresh eyes. Anything else and I would consider it robbing you of your experience. While you certainly can probably find all the information online, I will not contribute to it. Sorry
But I will say this: I had an absolute blast on this tour! As I said, I love Disney History and so hearing the origins of details of the park was phenomenal. And I don’t mind sharing that the “story/plot of the two Disney Brothers statues” got me right in the feels. While the cost is certainly high for the tour, it was probably the best “extra” I spent money on. Though it is probably far more easy to justify 1 ticket vs 4.
Because of this tour, I got to see details of some of the rides in ways I wouldn’t be able to throughout the rest of this trip. I’m also glad I did the tour early in the trip as well because it gave me a new appreciation for when I would go on the rides or even experience the park later in the week. The details of the one side street (I forget the name) alone made the tour worth it for me, but I’m a sap for that kinda stuff.
So to sum up, if you have the cash and the time, and love Disney “backstage” stuff, do the tour. You’ll love it.
After the tour, I had a fastpass for the Festival of Fantasy parade. For those that don’t know, the FPP puts you in a roped off area just by the entrance gates at Main Street. So you get to see all the floats for an insanely long time as they will circle around you as they finish the route. I hadn’t seen the parade in its entirety yet, so I was looking forward to this.
Before the parade began, the Ole Miss marching band was in town and strutted their stuff down the way. Not sure if that’s a normal thing for Disney to do, but I liked the addition none the less. Following them was two “first families” who, based on the smiles from inside the car, were having the “Best. Day. Ever!” The whole crowd got into it and returned their enthusiastic waves.
I’m actually not a huge parade guy, but there’s something about a Disney Parade. And this particular parade stood out as one of my favorites because Mickey happened to notice me in the crowd and posed on his float for a good while so I could take a picture. Such a small thing and yet it made a huge impact.
This made a far larger impact than it probably should have.
So after the parade, which was sped up because of a bit of rain, it was off to Hollywood Studios! Since Hollywood Studios is currently under a refresh, and because of the advice found here, I felt confident being able to not dedicate a whole day to it, and instead give it half a day. I was really only going for the Star Wars stuff anyway. Besides, if I found if there was more to do, I could easily go back, right?
Getting to HS from MK couldn’t have been easier and I got there with no issues. Once again, the bus system at Disney is such an upgrade over what I remember. Unlike showing up to Animal Kingdom, you can actually see the park entrance from the bus unloading area so it was easy to find my way.
The 1950’s era decor is really cool looking as you walk through the gates. As I step through and pass by the old ticket-windows, I get hit with a flood of memories. It all looks so familiar, and yet completely different all at the same time. I don’t remember much detail from the original time I was at HS because my brain had extreme focus on only two things we experienced here back then.
In 1990, my brother and I were HUGE fans of the Ninja Turtles and it was THE reason we were there at HS, back then I believe it was called “MGM Studios”? During the day, the Turtles had a singing and dancing show, as Disney tends to do, and I remember we had dragged our parents to be there early enough for us to get a really good viewing position. Because of this, we ended up waiting for a long while for the show.
Now, I was going to go into a whole description of the TMNT show, but thanks to the magic of the interwebs…Here, view it for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_-h1nAwfko
ahem….So yeah… after considering the “nap torture” my mom imposed on us… I now consider us square after that show.
After the rain from yesterday, the threat of rain today, and the early rise the past two days, I’m starting to feel the effects. I’m sluggish to move and the 5 Hour Energy and Power Bars I’ve eaten aren’t really helping much. But I soldier on and I head toward the back of the park. My reservation is at Mama Melrose’s and I want to locate it first before I do anything else so I can better plan how much time I need in order to make sure I’m not late for the reservation.
For a park that’s so under construction, maps that look so small, this place is still pretty big. It takes me some time before I find the restaurant, but once I do and I note where I am, it’s off to check out the Star Wars stuff. The original plan was to make a line for Star Tours, but the earliest fastpass I could get was an hour from now, and I had a feeling the line would be really long to chance a stand by. But that’s fine, because while I waited, I just took in the sights and went to find the Launch Bay.
I would soon find myself at the Launch Bay and, going inside, I realize I’m at the “exit” area. Which I thought was odd as I didn’t remember reading anything about a ride here, so I’m not sure why there’s an “exit area.” I would end up working my way back to about where the Jawa trading area is before deciding this place probably should be seen properly from beginning to end and not in reverse. So with that, I go back outside to locate the entrance.
The entrance was pretty easy to find thanks to the Stormtroopers directing a line into the place. This was the first time I noticed them walking around and I found that really cool. Mainly because, so far in my trip, Disney Characters seemed to be stationed and unmoving at specific spots, most likely because they can’t go walking around without being mobbed. So to see “Free Range Stormtroopers” struck me as a little odd and a welcome surprised.
Anyway, following the crowd, I soon found myself at the entrance of a movie theater to which we were being directed into. I wasn’t aware there was a movie at Launch Bay (ok, so my planning wasn’t THAT thorough outside of MK, sue me), so with the feeling “why not?”, I took a seat to watch. My initial hesitation was brought about because I’m not a huge fan of the latest Star Wars (blasphemy, I know), so watching a film gushing about their latest “achievement” was something I wasn’t really interested in, but I’m here to “see it all” and this counts…so…on with the show.
Lucky for me, though, the movie was absolutely not what I expected. The movie was short, but I found it completely inspirational as it reminded me why I love Star Wars and spoke to the impact it’s had on others and where the future of the franchise was headed. A similar effect that “Carousel of Progress” had on me earlier. Coming out of the theater, any weariness I was feeling from before had completely disappeared. The movie had left me psyched up for the future of one of my favorite franchises and that left me energized in general.
With my second wind, I made my way into the “museum” and took… a… ton… of… pictures! The ships, the models, the props, the costumes, everything got its picture taken. One of my favorites would turn out to be a closet filled with “junk”, that, if you’re a star wars fan, you can identify almost every piece in that closet. I’m not sure it was actually intended like that, but if it was, yet another hat off to the imagineers.
Once I got out of the museum (it took a while), my FPP window for Star Tours opened, so I started heading over that way but stopped when I saw more Free Range Stormtroopers, this time they were searching the strollers for contraband (ha!). What was really great is they were interacting with the guests using canned phrases that were somehow not random. A little extra touch that was very cool watch.
Heading into Star Tours, I fondly recall my first trip with the massive AT-AT, and the droids making comments as you go up the ramps to board. It’s nice to see that hasn’t changed. When I first rode this, way back when, it was with the original droid pilot (RX-24), and as the ride would dip and seem to plummet during take off, it actually scared me so I ended up closing my eyes for the first bit. It wasn’t until my mom noticed and then told me, quite sternly, to open my eyes on the ride that I was able to enjoy it.
Today, my eyes are wide open without needing to be told and it’s such a fun ride. The addition of 3D and the different endings are excellent. I’m glad they kept the “you are not supposed to be here” aspect of the ride as it goes through the various worlds.
After Star Tours, I stumbled across the Jedi Training Academy during their final training. Now, let me start by saying that I enjoyed Disney World as a solo adult quite thoroughly. I was able to see and do things in a way you just can’t as a kid. I could go where I want, eat what I want, and have no one tell me what to do. But if there was something I could give all that up to be a kid again, it would have been for this.
As I stood there witnessing the Jedi and Sith cast members interact with the kids, I could only be envious and know that I would’ve given my left arm to be a part of something like this back in 1990. To get up there, and BE a Jedi, complete with lightsaber, and actually face off with Vader, with the effects and music backing up the experience? Wow…that’d be something.
As the final celebration scene unfolds, with the music swelling up, and the Jedi Master triumphantly proclaiming that these are the “Future of the Jedi!”, I’m caught up in the moment and find myself full-on cheering for these completely anonymous children, along with the rest of the crowd, as if they had actually defeated the Dark Side. An absolutely fantastic part of Hollywood Studios and I can only hope the kids that participate realize, whether now or in the future, just how lucky they were.
After the Jedi Academy, there’s still one thing left on my to-do before dinner and that’s the Star Wars Galaxy Far Far Away show. I found that this is a weird show where it seems like filler and a prelude to something that never follows. It’s cool to see the costumes (and that semi autonomous R2), but beyond that, it seemed rather hollow. Still, if it’s this or some weird and cringy dance off, I’ll take this any day of the week.
After that, it was a straight shot to the restaurant and I had just made it to Mama Melrose’s in time for my reservation when they kindly informed me that… I didn’t have a reservation. Confused, we compared devices and sure enough, my ADR was not there on their screen but it was showing on mine(not sure why), but the girl assured me it was only going to be a few minute wait.
The wait was, indeed, not long and I was then treated to one of the more lackluster dining experiences of the trip. I was seated next to a group of 6 (4 adults, 2 kids) who, apparently, imbibed a little too much and now one of the women was getting loud, and she demanded RESPECT for something that happened earlier in the day or she was going to go back to the hotel! But her husband knew this game and was not interested in letting her get the respect she so deserved. Or something. All this seemed to cause quite a distraction for my waitress who seemed to be only able to focus on them, and I kind of felt bad for her. For myself, I was rather glad I was alone for this as I wouldn’t want to have to compete with the group as I would be trying to talk to a companion. I used this time to update my notes on my phone and organize some pictures on my phone.
To start off my meal, I was delivered a dipping plate of the nastiest olive oil I’ve ever seen complete with, what I hope, was oregano (I didn’t touch it). Disregarding it, as it really had no bearing on the meal, I ordered a vegetarian lasagna. It took some time to get to me but the wait wasn’t really worth it. The dish wasn’t bad, just nothing to write home about. Throughout the dinner, my waitress only interacted with me 2 times: Once to take my order, and once to give me my check. I didn’t even get a refill on my drink. Like I said, the group next to me was very distracting, so I didn’t really hold it against her really. It was an “ok” meal, but nothing I am eager to repeat.
What. The heck. IS THAT?
Good, but let’s not get over excited here…
By the time I paid my check and was able to get out of there, it was only minutes before the Star Wars firework show and I had to move with purpose to get to the viewing area. Surprising myself, I made it in time and got a relatively good spot, not quite prime but pretty close and far better than what I was expecting given my lateness.
This was one of the few shows I had watched on youtube prior to coming here and the video I saw was from someone who did get a perfect viewing spot. Thanks to the video, I had a real good idea of how the show was going to go. The video left me less than impressed, though as it seemed like just a compliation of clips and sounds from the movies with no cohesion at all, and that I’m no fan of. When I originally heard about it, I had hoped it was going to be something like Star Tours where there’d be some sort of story, whether a retelling of the movies or something new I didn’t really care, but not random scenes and images from the movies. That’s that lack of “level of refinement” thing and I expect more from the new curators of my beloved Star Wars. Especially after that movie earlier today. So I was really only here watching the show because I was at Hollywood Studios and so I could say “Yeah, I saw it.”
The good news is the video doesn’t tell the whole story. While it IS a clip show, and I’m still not wholly behind that, holy crap those combat scenes are a whole other level of amazing when actually seeing it in person! You FEEL the walkers moving, you see the TIE Fighters and X-Wings shooting at each other over your head (kinda). It’s fantastic! This is definitely one of those things that a video just cannot do justice, and, in fact, kinda ruins the expectations a bit. If nothing else, the combat scenes alone are reason enough to view it again.
But looking at both Galaxy Far Far Away and the Fireworks show, it certainly seems like a missed opportunity on both fronts. As I said Star Tours creates a unique story, sure it’s flimsy and full of plot holes, but it’s still a story. Star Tours isn’t a clip show, and for that I feel it is far superior than either one of these shows. The same can be said for the Indiana Jones show, you don’t have to blaze new territory, but it should be more than just something akin to a screensaver on a computer. Hopefully, all this is just the hold-over until the Star Wars Land is done and that’s when they bring out the really amazing stuff.
After the end of the show, the park closed, and everyone made their way to the busses. Once again thanks to the advice found here, I knew I didn’t have to evacuate the park immediately and took this opportunity to go through some stores and see some of the movie memorabilia that could be found. After about a half hour or so of waiting for the crowds to dissipate, I was able to just walk onto my bus heading for the Contemporary.
An absolutely fantastic day concluded and as I take one final look at the castle for the night, I smile at at the thought that tomorrow is my first buffet experience. While, yes, that sounds awfully lame, I was really looking forward to Mickey Waffles!
To be continued…