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Florida Theme Park Vacation Days 4--Magic Kingdom and Disney/MGM Studios

Walt Disney World: My wife and I enjoy a day split between two of the Disney World parks.

From Russell Meyer
Posted November 14, 2007 at 9:46 PM
Tuesday brought us our first real Disney magic of our Florida vacation. We started the day at the Magic Kingdom, arriving at the front gate just before the park opening ceremony. Aside from one minor snag, we managed to have great luck with wait times and FastPass use. We started by heading over to Tomorrowland, grabbing a Fastpass for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin before getting in the standby line for Space Mountain. Rumor has it that Space Mountain may be undergoing a major rehab next year, but this ride still packs quite a punch, especially considering that it's no more than a run-of -the mill wild mouse coaster. After surviving our journey through space, we decided to ride Buzz Lightyear via the standby queue, since our FastPass return time had not yet arrived. Buzz is really cute, and it's nice to have control over the spinning of the car, but having the guns mounted on the car is a royal pain, especially after riding Men In Black many many times. Men In Black is light years better as a shooting dark ride, and I don’t understand why Disney will continue to use the Omnimover ride platform for Toy Story Mania at Disney/MGM Studios. To fill time before our FastPass return, we tried out the Magic Kingdom's newest attraction, Monster's Inc Laugh Floor. This show is an extension of the popular Disney/Pixar film, but instead of bottling screams, Mike Wasowski and his monster comedy team have been tasked with bottling human laugher. Before entering the main theater, guests are given the opportunity to text message jokes that could be used during the performance. We actually submitted a joke that was used during the show, despite its general lameness. Just remember to include your name and city if you choose to send in a joke. The main theater of the attraction uses the same technology as Crush's Turtle talk with projected animated characters interacting with audience members. Video cameras in the theater also capture audience member reactions and use audience members as part of the show through humorous captions. The show was really cute, and fairly funny, but it can be really dependent on the enthusiasm of the audience, so for best results, go into the show wanting to have a lot of fun and play along.

Our FastPass return time for Buzz finally arrived, so after riding again, we went through the central hub towards Adventureland, grabbing a FastPass for Jungle Cruise along the way before proceeding to Pirates of the Caribbean. The last time we rode this attraction, it had not been updated with the Captain Jack Sparrow figures or new effects. These enhancements are very cool, and really help to tie the movie franchise into the ride. However, purists of this classic attraction, of whom there are many in the Disney universe, may be disappointed. While waiting for our Jungle Cruise return time, we rode Splash Mountain. It's still a shame that while the Disney Parks embrace this wonderful story, the movie division cannot find a way to release Song of the South on an updated and enhanced DVD. This was actually the wettest I've ever gotten on Splash Mountain, as we got blasted by one of the Briar Patch cannons before even entering the main part of the ride. We were able to get another FastPass, this time for Big Thunder Mountain railroad, before heading over to the enhanced Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion has received many improvements since our last ride two years ago. All of the new effects really help to improve the experience and solidify the storyline. The changes shouldn't disappoint purists, as the overall feel of the ride gives all guests the chance to be reintroduced to one of Walt Disney's classic attractions.

It was now time for our ride on Big Thunder Mountain. As luck would have it, we were able to sit in the front row, although this could be considered somewhat detrimental to the ride, since the trains are so long! However, like all of Disney's roller coasters, it's not going to satisfy the hard-core thrill seeker. We then moved on to the Jungle Cruise. As everyone knows, this ride is all about the skipper. Sometimes you get a great skipper and it's the most memorable ride of the day, and sometimes your guide makes you wonder why people are willing to wait an hour to ride. Our guide was average, doing all of the normal corny jokes and silly puns that are a part of the traditional Jungle Cruise script, but her delivery was so dry that it was like being at a Steven Wright standup show.

It was now time to move to Fantasyland. Parents with small children should definitely head straight through the castle when arriving at the Magic Kingdom, so that their children can experience the rides with minimal waits. However, for guests with more mature ride tastes like us, experiencing all of the Fantasyland attractions is not a necessity. When we entered Fantasyland, we headed straight for Peter Pan, which we knew would have the longest line due to its low capacity and popularity. Sure enough, the standby time was 40 minutes, so we grabbed a FastPass and willingly subjected ourselves to the torture of It’s a Small World. After 15 minutes of auditory bombardment, we were free to ride Snow White's Scary Adventures. I don’t understand why this ride is not more popular. It isn't really that scary, and it captures the heart of the Snow White story, but for whatever reason, this attraction consistently has shorter waits that every other attraction in Fantasyland. We were still waiting for our FastPass return time, so we caught a showing of Mickey's Philharmagic. This 3-D CG extravaganza follows Donald through many classic Disney movies chasing after Mickey's sorcerer hat. The 3-D effects are really good, but seeing classic Disney characters in CG form just seems wrong.

We still had lots of time to wait before our FastPass time arrived, so we decided to pay a visit to the Magic Kingdom barbershop. I had needed a haircut and thought, what better place than the Magic Kingdom to have my hair groomed. This is one of those experiences that most Disney guests know nothing about, and we were lucky to get to the barbershop just before many families with kids arrived. Haircuts are given on a first come, first served basis (no appointments are available), with children's haircuts costing $14, and adults costing a reasonable $17. The shop is like any barbershop in the country, where you can get a standard haircut, but given that it is in the Magic Kingdom, guests are offered special Disney touches like glitter, wild color hair gel, colorful Mickey head engravings, and pixie dust. In true Disney style, while we were in the shop, a young boy was getting his very first haircut, and received lots of special perks to commemorate the occasion. Of course these perks are at the discretion of the barber. All I got was a handful of glitter stuck to my hair with hairspray, but the haircut was just fine.

Our FastPass time had finally arrived for Peter Pan. I don't quite understand why this attraction is so popular. It’s nothing more than a quick ride through the story of Peter Pan and quick ultimately means a ride duration of less than 3 minutes. It's definitely a ride to FastPass if the standby line is any longer than 20 minutes. We ate lunch at Pecos Bills, which is home to an elaborate burger fixings bar, complete with sautéed mushrooms and onions, as well as the standard burger toppings. We had accomplished everything we wanted to do at Magic Kingdom, and it was time to move on to Disney/MGM studios. When we arrived at the Studios around 3:30, we immediately headed for Tower of Terror, getting a FastPass, then riding Rock and Roller Coaster via the standby line. I've never really been impressed with Rock and Roller coaster. The ride itself is fine, but the theming could be so much better than it is (black lights and street signs are not what I would consider Disney level ride themeing). The rest of the attraction is very well done, but the on-ride experience could be so much better. We then headed back to Tower of Terror and discovered that our FastPass was not needed with a non-existent standby line (straight into the pre-show library). I simply love this ride, and next to Mission Space, it is probably the best Disney attraction created in the past 20 years. The random ride sequences only help to add to the excitement and anticipation of the ride. The attraction is even better when cast members are fully immersed in their characters, as one of the elevator operators was during our day of touring the tower. After a few additional rides on Tower of Terror via the standby queue, we walked over to the other side of the park, and took in the Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey attraction.

I had actually never done this attraction before, and didn't know what to expect. It really wasn't all that great, and probably could have been a lot better if the theater were equipped with a multi-channel surround sound system, instead of guests wearing individual headphones. The plus of this attraction is that it can be a good place for a quick nap, since the theater is completely dark for over 7 minutes. We then proceeded over to Star Tours, which is in desperate need of a new movie, but as a hardcore Star Wars fan, I couldn't pass it up. When we came out of the store, the Jedi Training academy show was in progress, so we watched lots of cute kids learn how to become Jedi, and eventually battling evil Darth Vader. This show used to only occur during Star Wars weekends, but due to its popularity, it has become a year round show. I only wish that I had been able to get on the platform and give Darth Vader a few whacks with a light saber.

Two years ago, we had chosen to watch the Lights Motors Action stunt show, so this year we decided to skip that show and watch the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I'm still not sure why this park is maintaining two stunt shows, but seeing that a new Indiana Jones movie is on the horizon, Disney is likely to maintain an Indiana Jones attraction in this park for the foreseeable future. This stunt show is still a lot of fun to watch, but like the Lights Motors Action, there are large gaps in the action where cast members have to set the new scenes with large pieces of scenery, which seems incredibly inefficient. While I appreciate the intricacy of the sets used, I would much rather have a stunt show that runs continuously for 20 minutes than three 5 minute scenes and 10 minutes of filler between each scene. Next, we tried another attraction we had never experienced before, The Chronicles of Narnia Walkthrough. There is really nothing special about this attraction, and I felt sorry for the actress who portrayed the snow queen in full costume and makeup for 15 seconds of performance. This is nothing more than a trailer for the upcoming release of Price Caspian next May and The Lion Witch and Wardrobe, which is currently available on DVD. We then moved on to another new to us attraction, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. This is a cute show that quickly summarizes the classic Disney movie using puppetry, animation, and some cheesy laser and mist effects, as well as lots of singing. However, I'm sure every little girl who loves this movie or any Disney Princess movie would love the show. It was approaching 7pm, which was when Fantasmic was scheduled to begin. We had seen this show a few times before, and it hasn’t changed much since our last trip, so we decided to take advantage of the empty park and ride Tower of Terror until closing at 8. During one of our rides, the main drop shaft malfunctioned, and we got to see the inside of the drop shaft lit up, including the nanny and child effects, and some theming elements that most guests will probably never see. All in all, we had a very productive day, riding all of the major attractions in two of the major Disney theme parks. Our only regret was missing MuppetVision 4-d, which we had seen before, but were unable to fit into our schedule this trip.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Gareth H
Posted November 15, 2007 at 12:08 PM
Great trip report.
I totally agree about The Chronicles of Narnia Walkthrough. It is such a waste of time, as it serves as a promotion for the DVD (And film when that was being released) The only plus side is the AC on a hot day.
I think it also got left there to fill in the gap while the new area is being built.

From Larry Zimmerman
Posted November 15, 2007 at 3:33 PM
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I disagree on your comparison of Space Mountain to an average wild maus...I think it's more complex, and of course, it's DISNEY. The Spin in Animal Kingdom - now THAT's a Disney wild maus. But your haircut description reminded me of MY own Disney park haircut, at Disneyland Paris, but I didn't get the glitter...I agree, it IS a unique tonsorial setting.

From TH Creative
Posted November 18, 2007 at 7:05 AM
Great review! I think Disney's Hollywood Studios has the potential to be the best theme park on the planet. I love the hodge-podge layout of the park. Two simple additions:

1. A. big water flume ride.

2. Replace the Great Movie Ride with another movie themed dark ride.

Excellent review!

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