Hi Liners! It’s been a quick 10 months since I last posted to this thread. I had fully intended to finish this trip report, but life really got in the way. I lost a job and got a new one. DD studied abroad in Germany and came back. DW and DD went on another mission trip to Uganda. I got to go to the World Expo in Milan, and fulfilled a lifelong dream to “Imagineer” a Disney-level attraction for my favorite charity, which will open in early 2017.
This weekend marked the anniversary of our trip, so I pulled out this report to help us reminisce and relive some of the amazing memories. At the same time, facebook started reposting their ‘one year ago’ click baiting on all of our pages. Then, I started getting emails from this forum with some of you encouraging me to start up again and finish the report.
For better or for worse, that’s what I hope to do. Thanks to @bciranow, @BackIntoTheFray, @MiniRif, @Kyla307, and @MinnieWinnie for the kick in the butt.
So without further ado, I present to you the continuing saga of “The Vacation of a Lifetime!”
Friday, January 9, 2015 - 9:40AM Eastern Time
Wow! When the system works, it really works. We were already twenty-four minutes ahead of our next planned arrival time and I was certain we’d be able to keep that pace—IF we could maintain our energy and not run out of gas.
We ducked into Innoventions East to explore and catch a few exhibits before facing the giants of Future World East
Innoventions East – StormStruck
Apart from SOAT, StormStruck was one of the Innoventions exhibits most highly recommended by liners, and as we rounded the corner into the attraction, the throng of thirteen other guests testified to its popularity.
StormStruck is a fairly simple, 4-D theater attraction intended to bring awareness to disaster preparedness by simulating a Florida hurricane striking an underprepared home. Guests are given an opportunity to interact with the attraction by voting on the best ways to prepare for a hurricane and then observe the consequences of their collective choices.
It has all the expected 4-D effects that seem to be the standard these days. 3-D glasses, rumbly seats, bursts of air, squirts of water in the face, and push-button panels for audience voting. However, it lacks some of the magic of attractions that use the same gags. It’s probably due to tight budgeting for the sponsor’s sake. FLASH.org apparently wanted all the prestige and marketing benefits of sponsoring a Disney attraction, but approved a much smaller budget than necessary to truly make it memorable. The seats rumble like a phone on vibrate, the bursts of air sound like hydraulic brakes, and the water squirts are less like a simulated hurricane and more like a close talker reciting Peter Piper.
At the same time, I wouldn’t suggest that the attraction was unsuccessful in its mission. We definitely left knowing more about hurricane preparedness. While we may never use the specific tips for our house—not a lot of hurricanes blowing through Los Angeles these days—we were definitely reminded that preparing for a disaster is much better than reacting to one. Our earthquake kit has now been refreshed.
ANTHROPOLOGICAL DIGRESSION: It was in StormStruck that we clued into one of the significant cultural differences between Disneyland Resort and WDW. It appears that many more of the attractions hosts at WDW are of retirement age than at DLR. I speculate that this is due to a few factors.
First, Florida is a great place to retire, so it follows that there would be more retirees available to hire for unskilled labor. Comparatively, Anaheim’s high cost of living makes it a rotten place to spend one’s wintering years. Second, DLR is smack dab in the middle of a suburban sprawl. While WDW is so far from the nearest towns that it has its own time zone and weather system, neighborhoods in Anaheim literally back right up to Disneyland. I used to live in the apartment complex across the street and would wake in the morning to the sound of the Mark Twain’s whistle as it chuffed its morning crawl around the Rivers of America. DLR is surrounded by schools, churches, convenience stores, shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and freeways. So it follows that local teens would just as soon apply for a first job at Disney than at Chick-fil-A or The Gap. Therefore, DLR’s attractions host population appears to be largely made up of late teens and twenty-somethings.
Does it make any difference? Well, yes, but it’s not a bad thing—just different. The attractions host who ran StormStruck was a gentleman in his seventies whose flat delivery lacked the excitement or joy one comes to expect from Disney cast members. DS’s first comment coming out of the show was not, “Cool effects.” Instead, he kicked into a spot-on impression of the host, droning through his monotone monologue about tile roofing shingles in a Jersey accent.
It’s not that the host did it wrong. His spiel was by the book with no clear deviation from the SOP. He simply didn’t infuse it with any personality or spark.
I’m not suggesting that attractions hosting should be reserved for the young. In fact youthfulness often leads to trouble of it’s own. Energetic and fun-loving can quickly become obnoxious and self-serving, which distracts from the magic we’ve paid to experience. Not everybody is meant to be a Jungle Cruise skipper, so lets save the untested yuks to the green river.
Of course this is only an observation based on one visit during an off-peak season. The diversity and charm of the people we got to meet at WDW more than makes up for the occasional dud.
At StormStruck’s exit there’s a little hallway leading to the restrooms. Perfect. While the girls were doing whatever it takes girls 50% more time to do in there (I don’t want to know), DS and I wandered down the same hall which connects to the Electric Umbrella restaurant. It wasn’t open yet, but the soda fountain was right there in front of us. Per some liner’s advice, we had our resort mugs clipped onto our backpacks, so we went to the fountain for a water fill up.
Since nobody was around, the temptation to break the ‘refills only at the resorts’ rule was pretty strong, so I decided to test to see if the chips inside the mugs really do prevent you from getting free soda pop in the parks. Out flowed a burst of brown fizzy liquid.
I guess it’s like that thing parents told us about the chemical they put in pools that makes pee turn bright purple to identify the culprit. It’s a myth, but nobody’s brave enough to try to find out. Anyway, that would be stealing, so we filled everybody up with water and set out on our way back through Innoventions East.
Incidentally, we found out then that carrying around resort mugs filled with water isn’t such a good idea after all. Unless you’re happy walking around with your mug in your fist like a hobbit, you’re better off leaving it in the room and bringing along a Nalgene or something else you can fill, close, and stuff into your bag or backpack.
Innoventions East – Character Meet ‘N’ Greet
Deep inside Innoventions lies one of the fun benefits of holding a Disney Chase Visa. In the months leading up to the trip, we made all our purchases on the Disney card and racked up a lot of reward dollars. Ching ching! But because we chose a dining plan, none of the dining discounts applied to us. The only on-site perk we had coming was private time with the head mouse himself at the Character Meet ‘N’ Greet.
Either we were too early, or they don’t get many guests taking them up on this offer because the cast member seemed quite surprised that we showed up. We were their only guests so they led us directly into our private visit with Mickey and Goofy. They were surprised to see us too. They had to quickly put their cigarettes out and put their heads back on to take the picture (jk).
Something special happens when you meet these silent characters in person. Without the benefit of speech, they’re somehow able to communicate a range of ideas and emotions using simple hand gestures and body language alone. If you’re not careful, you might leave their presence believing that you had an actual adult conversation with a giant mouse and a dippy dawg.
Still, we were blown away when Mickey was able to clearly communicate with us that he recognized and appreciated DD’s outfit as a tribute to Mary Poppins without using a word.
If you’re wondering how he did it, take a look at this group picture. There’s a clever clue hidden in the backdrop that helped Mickey convey his precise meaning. While you’re at it, how many hidden Mickeys can you find?
We swiped our Magic Bands, to save this awesome moment in our Memory Maker memory bank for later and burst into the light of uncertain skies over Future World East.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure
It was 10:10AM when we stood under the Monorail tracks with Ellen’s Energy Adventure to our left, Test Track to our right, and Mission: SPACE dead ahead. But thanks to the speed with which we moved through our plans during the first hour, we were nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Our touring plan had us at TT at 10:38, then EEA at 10:54, and finally MS at 11:43. We had back-to-back FPPs on TT and MS, but we still had 10 minutes before we could use the first one. Now, we faced a decision. We could stand still for 10 minutes and stick with the plan, or we could redeem the 10 minutes by flipping the order and going straight to EEA before TT. It seemed like a solid plan. The only risk being that most of our FPP window would be used up, so any breakdowns or long queue waits might forfeit our TT line cut.
We decided to risk it and broke left to see what Ellen and Bill Nye were up to behind that glimmering reflecting pool.
It’s funny how the passage of time breaks things down. I understand that this version of the attraction has been in operation since 1996. That means that the stars of the attraction filmed this almost 20 years ago. While Ellen has aged well, you can easily tell that you’re not looking at the same celebrities you’re used to watching on YouTube every day. Alex Trebek still had his mustache, for crying out loud!
And unlike other classic Disney attractions, the celebrity factor definitely locks EEA in a specific time frame. Do kids know who Bill Nye is anymore? I guess there was once an attraction in Epcot that featured Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live. It’s no wonder celebrity driven attractions fade quicker than the rest.
Also, I’m surprised that environmental groups don’t boycott EEA regularly. Of course, there is plenty of talk about green energy, but 1996 Bill Nye also shares enthusiastically about the wonders of hydro-electric (salmon and trout killing) power, deep-sea (BP disaster) drilling, and nuclear (mutant mice and dawgs) fusion. For the record, I’m not against any of those energy sources, but I’m guessing 2015 Bill Nye would consider these some of mankind’s greatest sins.
The attraction geek in me was pretty impressed with the ride vehicles. To see the whole theater break up into remote controlled pods was pretty spectacular. It’s also fun to consider how the technology in an attraction like this evolves into some of the modern marvels we love today. You can see in EEA the genetics of projection based rides like Soarin’.
It was also pretty exciting to see the animatronic dinosaurs from the 1964 World’s Fair used in a different context. Those unfamiliar with Disneyland might not know that the Dinosaurs in EEA are copies of those created for the Ford Pavilion and now reside in the park’s Primeval World diorama. You get to see them when you travel on the Disneyland Railroad from Tomorrowland to Main Street USA. DS said that it was great to see the dinosaurs up close and all around us rather than behind glass. We also thought the tyrannosaurus rex seemed a little silly being painted to look like a Fisher-Price version of a scary dinosaur.
One cast member seemed to miss the point of the dark theater in EEA. She chose the darkest moment, just before the Big Bang was about to go off, to open a door to a brightly lit hall and have a loud conversation with someone inside. It totally broke up the magic and distracted our attention from the wacky science propaganda. Come to think of it, it was probably a good thing.
To be continued on Test Track…