My Time at The Most Magical Place on Earth

So my wife decided that we were going to have ourselves a vacation to Florida; her grandmother has a nice house out there, and she would let us stay there while we went to either Disney World or Universal Orlando.

I was hesitant at first because….. I’m always hesitant when it comes to spending large sums of money. But after thinking about it for a while, I’ve spent almost every single day working this summer, and it would be nice if I had a long stretch of time not working in hopes to impede my eventual descent into insanity.

   

So we decided to go to Disney World, we booked the flight, and off we went.

 

 

And I honestly enjoyed myself… But of course, as with pretty much everything in life, I have some criticisms.

Since I haven’t reviewed a movie at all during vacation, I thought it would be fun to summarize the most interesting events and observations from the trip. Think of it as a non-serious review of Disney World, except I won’t give it a grade at the end.

 

Getting To Disney World

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Dear Florida, your toll booths suck.

As someone who came from a state that has practically no highway toll booths (Missouri), I found the concept of them to be irritating. Of course, this irritation would probably not exist if there weren’t so damn many of them.

To get to Disney World from where we were staying, it took a full hour and involved multiple highways. Every single highway we had to travel on had at least one cancerous toll booth on them, almost all of which cost $1.00 — $1.50.

We budgeted $20 for toll booths for the two days we were at Disney World… and it wasn’t enough.

If we wanted to stop and get gas or a drink, we’d have to pay another toll to get back on the highway.

If there wasn’t a toll booth attendant, and we didn’t have exact change, we were penalized.

When there WAS a toll booth attendant and we ran out of money, they wouldn’t accept credit cards, and we were penalized.

 

So not only is Florida a penny-pinching, highway robber, but they’re an ARCHAIC penny-pinching, highway robber. If you’re gonna charge people at every given opportunity for the luxury of driving on your stupid highways, then AT LEAST give us some freaking options, you knuckle-dragging neanderthals.

 

 

Also, after paying the $400-ish to spend two days at Disney, we still had to pay a minimum of $20 a day for parking (double that if you want the super-duper special parking), and most of the merchandise we could have bought at Disney were excruciatingly overpriced. At the Morocco part of Epcot, my wife found a belly-dancing skirt that barely covered anything that was set at NINETY FREAKING DOLLARS.

 

 

Day 1: Epcot

 

Epcot (or “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”) was a very fun time. The lines for the rides were extremely reasonable, and many of the lines eventually led to an air-conditioned room, nullifying the wretched Florida heat.

 

Futuristically Photogenic

The first ride we went to was Spaceship Earth, and it was a ride that went through all of the ways we recorded history, and how it allowed us to expand as a species, and that was fun. My wife and I were almost positive the narrator for the ride was Judi Dench (please comment if you can confirm or rebut this).

One of the best things about the ride is that they take your picture at the beginning… and I thought they were just going to use it like most rides do: goading you into buying some stupid, overpriced roller coaster picture. So I made the most ignorant snarl I could manage…

… little did I know that this would be used to put us into a video about life in the future.

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‘Twas Amazing.

 

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In all honesty, the future looks pretty similar to the present; I already drink coffee constantly while being mad about everything.

 

 

 

 

Other Rides

The rest of the rides were pretty okay.

 

They had this Lion King video you could watch, which was basically a very heavy-handed Don’t-Pollute-The-Environment-Kids! message, but they made some good points.

 

They had a place where they showed Pixar and Disney shorts (like Feast and Piper) in 4D (basically with 3D glasses, rumbling floors, air breezes and the occasional water splash), and it was nice to see some of Disney’s best shorts again in a more stimulating way. It was especially more entertaining because while in line for the show, they actually interviewed some of Pixar’s animators, and they had a short explanation of how and why Pixar got into animation. It was really cool, and it was arguably just as fun as the 4D show itself.

 

 

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There was also this “Journey to Imagination with Figment”, and that ride was pretty awful. While I was in line for the ride, and they kept showing this purple dragon named Figment, I was wondering why I never heard of him, and why he never caught on…

… it’s because Figment is a cartoon made for babies, and it sounds like he perpetually has snot stuck in his throat with his high-pitched, fart horn voice.

If you don’t have children, I wouldn’t recommend this ride, and even then, I’m not sure if that would justify giving it a shot.

 

The last ride of the day for us was a ride called ” Soarin’ “, and it was the longest line we had to stand through, but it was alright because the majority of the time at Epcot was so great anyway, we waited in air conditioning, and Soarin’ was a really cool ride. It was a massive simulation that made it feel like you were flying through all of these amazing places around the world, accompanied by bursts of air and pleasant scents from around the world.

 

 

The Circle of Culture

The rides I mentioned above were in the first half of Epcot. The other half was a massive lake surrounded by attractions that were made to look like certain countries like Norway, Japan, Canada, and so on. I’ll just highlight a few things so this article isn’t super long:

 

 

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  • I didn’t know this until I went there, but apparently Frozen was inspired by Nordic culture and architecture. Practically all sellable merchandise at the Norway section was Frozen themed.
  • The Chinese section was really fantastic when looking at it on the outside. On the inside, half of it was a video attraction that wasn’t working when we got there, and I kid you not, the other half was literally showcasing a Disney World in China, as if to advertise it’s existence to everyone else. It was shameless and hilarious.
  • The Mexico one was probably the coolest out of all of them. The scenery inside and outside of the attraction was breathtaking, and I was almost tempted to have dinner there, because it was so beautiful.
  • The America section was really neat, if not a little outdated (the ending presentation showcased most of the current presidents all the way until Bill Clinton… George W., Obama, and Trump were not pictured). If you go to Epcot, make sure you stick around for the singing group. They sang some American classics in some of the most beautiful harmonies I have heard in a very, very long time. They sang the national anthem last, and it was extremely touching seeing every single person of various ages, races, and ethnicities standing together. For a second, it made me forget how divided this nation is at the moment.
  • The Japan section was by far the most bizarre. Nearly every single other attraction had store showcasing merchandise from Disney properties, and then we get into Japan, and for some reason, I was guessing that maybe they had Big Hero 6 and Studio Ghibli. They did have some of the latter, but everything else was from some of the most popular properties in Japanese Anime and Nintendo. It was like walking through an extremely cool, unreasonably expensive Anime Store.

 

Morocco, however, stood out most of all. As I was walking there, my wife informed me that it was sort of like the world of Aladdin. And that made me pretty excited! What was even more exciting was when I discovered one of the attractions.

 

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If you have read my article “Movies That Impacted my Life“, you’ll know that one of my favorite movies as a child was Aladdin, and my first crush was Princess Jasmine.

Some of my closest friends are aware of this, and it’s a running joke between us every now and then. So when I found this attraction out, I was really considering getting a picture with whichever girl was dressed as Princess Jasmine, and share the picture with my friends…

 

… except when Jasmine finally came out… the girl was 15-16 years old (or at least looked like she was) and taking a swooning picture of me as a joke suddenly seemed extremely creepy.

So I chickened out. I was disappointed.

Later on, I found a Belle and Aurora that looked about my age, but I don’t have any running jokes about those Disney princesses, so I didn’t bother getting a picture with them.

 

All in all, I loved going to Epcot. The way the park is set up is extremely convenient, comfortable, and all-around pleasant. I would highly recommend going there if you don’t have children, and you’re having trouble deciding what park to go to.

 

 

 

Day 2: Animal Kingdom

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Animal Kingdom was not really my first choice, but my wife really wanted to go because PANDORA. If you haven’t heard, Disney somehow got the rights to include the mythical world of Pandora in their Animal Kingdom despite the fact that Avatar is not a Disney Property.

Because of the new Pandora attraction, it was INSANELY overcrowded.

 

 

I Unintentionally Piss Off A Guy

So when we first got there, we boarded the cart headed for the park, and a gentleman was holding one of the entrance doors open with one hand and a stroller in the other hand. My wife, not one to sit around, immediately jumped into the cart through the door the man was holding. I, someone who through years of intentionally stepping on people’s toes and reaping the consequences, realized that the man wasn’t holding the door open for us but for his family.

(EDIT: This is not how my wife remembers the story. She says that she got into the cart before the man opened the door for his family, and that I was the only one who got in as he was opening the door for his family. I don’t believe this is correct, but I’ve been wrong before. In any case, if she was right, it made the man that much more irrational.)

But it was too late. I hopped in right after her. Next thing I know, the guy’s wife and daughter sit next to us, and the guy sits behind us. I hear him say to someone he was sitting next to, “Did you see that? Unbelievable.”

Yes, what we did was unintentionally insensitive, but Disney cars get packed in really quickly, and I figured it was just a mark on our asshole card, and we would be done with it.

After about 10 minutes, we arrive at the park. The man’s wife opens the door, she gets out, the daughter gets out, and then the man, seeing that I was next, grabs ahold of the door, and shuts it before I can get out.

I’ve worked 6 years in restaurants and retail handling difficult people… so this petty act didn’t really bother me, and plus I figured this was in retaliation for jumping in a car that was meant for him and his family. So I just opened the door and tried to walk away.

The man then gets in my face and said, “I did that because that’s what you did to my daughter. You slammed the door right in her face.”

My eyes widened; oh… this man doesn’t think we cut in front of him, he thinks I personally insulted his family… and his daughter no less.

“I did?” I responded. “I did not mean to do that. I am really sorry.”

“You shut it right in her face!” He repeated again.

I repeated myself: “Sir, I honestly didn’t mean to do that. I’m sorry.”

The man snarled at me. “Yeah, right. Whatever.”

 

My wife, not one to back down from a confrontation, and not realizing the context of what happened, looked at him and said, “Look! He got in the car because he was following me, okay!?”

“I don’t care.” He said in response.

“Listen, I got in before you did, okay? That’s why he went in!”

“Why don’t you get out of this conversation, lady? What’s your problem?”

“YOU STARTED ALL THIS!” she yelled back.

… I had to ask my wife about this part, because I was seriously focusing on pushing her and myself out of this scenario, and did not pay attention to this interaction. I was not about to get into a fight at Disney World.

 

After getting out of there and calming my wife down, I played out the entire scenario over and over in my head… and I honestly don’t recall shutting the door behind me. I couldn’t have shut the door behind me; he was holding it open with his body. He either misremembered or lied. Regardless, I realized that at the very least, we cut in line, and that was worth apologizing about, but I didn’t realize the situation would escalate so quickly.

 

Happiest place in the world, am I right?

 

 

Pandora is Packed

Our initial plan was to get to one of the two Pandora attractions and get in line immediately… and we did… and it still took us an hour and a half before we got onto the ride.

 

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Unlike Epcot though, Animal Kingdom’s lines don’t lead to air conditioned buildings. Some of them do eventually, but the vast majority of line waiting is done in the Florida heat.

So we finally got to the first ride, which was a boat ride through Pandora-like lands with its animals and plant life, and it was really cool. They even had some near-lifelike animatronics for the blue people.

Was it fantastic? Yes. Was it worth sweating and standing for an hour and a half? Eh, I’d say no.

 

 

Then, we went to the next Pandora ride, which was supposed to be more exciting… but by the time we go in line, it was a 2 and a half hour wait.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

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Hats off to this hero, though. The line for the ride stretched so far, that they made one of the employees (or as Disney calls them, “cast members”…) sit here and hold a sign signifying the end of the line.

 

Homeboy didn’t even complain. What a bro.

 

 

 

 

We then explored the rest of the Animal Kingdom.

 

 

RIP Harambe

We then went to a live Lion King show with dancers, performers, and an animatronic Simba, except he wasn’t telling kids to recycle like in Epcot. Oh well, it was still really entertaining and impressive.

 

We then went to the restaurant area of the park, a place the park calls “Harambe”. And now, because of the death of Harambe the gorilla, and the internet making a meme out of it, this part of the Animal Kingdom had a whole new meaning.

 

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It was hilarious! If not for the internet, then these signs would have been things I ignored.

 

The final ride we went on before I became physically exhausted from all of the heat was the Kilimanjaro Safari, and it was probably the best part of the whole day.

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The pictures don’t give it full justice, but we essentially went on a huge safari truck, and we drove around seeing animals up close in what felt like their natural habitat. The picture on the bottom left is my favorite: the elephant started throwing water on his face as we drove by. The happiness on his face was awesome to see, especially up close.

 

While waiting in line, there was also videos of a woman talking about some cool animal facts.

 

Did you know that when a hippo opens his mouth, it’s not to yawn; it’s about showing his male dominance to intruders.

Did you know that when a giraffe rubs necks with another giraffe, it’s not to show affection; it’s about showing his male dominance to rivals.

Stuff like that.

 

After that, I became tired of all the heat and overcrowding, and my wife and I took my introverted self back home.

 

 

 

Animal Kingdom was fun I guess… but I wouldn’t recommend it until all this stupid Pandora hype dies down. It made the waits extremely long, and there is significantly less relief from the sun while waiting in line. Not to mention that because there are only two other Pandora rides, it made all the other rides have longer lines too because where else is everyone gonna go afterwards?

 

 

Short, Final Thoughts

 

— I don’t understand why parents take super young children to Disney World. Well over half of the kids I saw that were younger than 5 where sobbing uncontrollably.

 

— Bring water bottles and snacks on the trip… unless you want to pay $3.50+ for a soda/water, and more than that for any other food item. I saw a menu for a restaurant there where the Caesar Salad was $19. I almost preferred the toll booths over this.

 

— If you DO spend a crap ton of money there, spend it in the Pandora shop. You could make your own amateur Pandora attraction at home with the stuff they have there.

 

— You may be thinking, “Steve, I know you say that most Disney movies these days are overrated. Do you think Disney WORLD is overrated?”

The answer is yes, but honestly, I really appreciate all the massive effort Disney puts into their attractions. It is often insanely breathtaking. I probably only find it overrated because I would be just as happy staying home.

 

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Thanks for reading!

New reviews coming this work for sure.

 

stevejdonahue.wordpress.com

 

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