Review: Walt Disney World

The happiest place on earth.

Sure there were a few wailing kids and occasions when you’d choke on the smoke of someone’s cigarette, but there were way more couples holding hands. From the pair that just started dating, to the duo who just got engaged, to those who have been married for decades. I even caught a brother and sister walking hand in hand. The employees (or cast members) played an even bigger role.

Disney employees are like Chick-fil-A employees, happy and interactive. They like their jobs. I spent a lot of time watching them as I am currently searching for a job myself. Each cast member is a part of a group (like cleaning crew, a shop, or a ride) and rotates within that group, every so often switching jobs with other workers (like from crowd control to compartment loader). This is an ingenious idea as it mixes things up for the employees, making it easier to maintain that signature Disney cheeriness, even in the afternoon showers.

Summertime is Florida’s rainy season. Every afternoon in Disney ran like clockwork: rain came down, ponchos came out, and then all returned to normal. Still, it will take more than me and my family’s stay at Disney to work daily showers into our minds and out into our dressing and packing habits. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

Something else about Disney is that the parks are marketed for six, seven, and eight-year-olds. From the small costumes throughout the gifts shops to the slow movement of most of the rides. However, one thing I learned while at Disney is to never say “I don’t want to do that because it’s nothing new.” I found from experience that Disney more than likely has a trick up their sleeve to make any seemingly ordinary experience new and exciting. 😁 Still, there are not very many rides for teens. There aren’t many rides to begin with, mostly just gift shops and restaurants.

On those notes about rides, now would be a good time to mention that Disney has their system down. That was one of Mom’s first observations: “They are masters at herding people.” Did you bring a backpack full of your family’s sustenance for the day? No worries! Every ride throughout the parks has foot room, a pouch, or some other way to store your personal belongings with you, so there is no need to scramble around trying to figure out a locker system.

Another revelation I had is that Haydn and I aren’t exactly kids anymore. You know you’ve grown up when you spend rides contemplating the creation process and seek to spend souvenir money on practical items that can be used in everyday life. 😒

Epcot

Around the world in 80 days? In Epcot, you can walk around the world in one afternoon. That’s why Epcot actually stands for Every Person Comes Out Tired. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

Like I mentioned above, the large majority of the rides in Epcot are slow moving attractions for younger kids. Mom really liked Living with the Land, a boat ride through Epcot’s greenhouses where plants from all over the world are being grown through innovative techniques like aquaponics.

The exceptions to the overabundance of slow rides are Astronaut Training and Soarin’. The latter instantly became me and my siblings’ favorite. This hang-glider simulator seats you in individual rows which are then lifted up toward a ginormous screen so big that you can look in any direction and still see the scenery you are “flying” over.

Another favorite quickly became the Word Showcase, a self-paced walking tour around Epcot’s lake where several countries and their cultures are represented through sets and authentic products. From the change in music and employee “uniforms” (which are more like historical costumes) to how each set is built up around you, it really felt like you had traveled from one country to another.

Mexico was another one of Mom’s favorites because it really felt like you were outside under a night sky. My favorite place was the Arabian city of Morroco. I loved the culture, architecture, and modest style of their clothing. Ansa’s favorite was the United Kingdom from which Haydn liked the rock band that made an appearance.

I also like how Disney has characters and merchandise for the Disney princesses and other characters located their respective countries: Coco characters in Mexico, Mulan in China, Anna and Elsa in Norway, Rapunzel and Snow-White in Germany, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, and the Aristocats in France, Jasmine in Morocco, and Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh characters, and Alice from Wonderland in the United Kingdom.

Another fun little aspect of Dinsey is their badges. There are four standard ones (a wider variety can be found in the gift shops): “first visit,” “happily ever after,” “happy birthday,” and “I’m celebrating.” On each badge there is a little space for you to write your name, what marital occasion your celebrating, and so on. Wear this badge in plain sight, and any Disney employee who sees it will congratulate you. My father and brother, of course, wanted to have some fun, so they schemed about what they could write. Dad picked up an “I’m celebrating” pin and wrote “divorced.”

All day the usually-equally-as-enthusiastic employees just stared, unsure what to do. Dad was somewhat disappointed. He wanted someone to say something.

As our journey around the world came to an end, my family and I entered the waiting room for a highlight video about Canada. At the door were two employees, male and female, who Dad walked right by.

As I passed, the male lifted his pin trading board (another aspect of Disney) so that it covered his mouth. I thought he was showing me, who was wearing the lanyard bearing me and Ansa’s pins, what he had to offer until he let out some nervous laughter and whispered to the other employee, “Oh my word, did you see his pin?”

She had not.

“Should I congratulate him…?” The guy wondered.

Mom, who also overheard this, encouraged the guy to say something while Ansa, who also observed the exchanged, grabbed Dad and pointed him back toward the doorway where laughter finally arose over the case of Dad’s badge. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

“Have you ever seen that before?” Dad asked.

“I have not,” the male employee replied.

“I have,” the female one offered, “and it wasn’t a joke!” πŸ˜¬πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Epcot’s light show, Reflections of Earth, was alright. Put on from the center of the lake, my poor vision and lack of glasses (not to mention the tree we sat by) gave me a poor view. This was only made worse when particles from the fireworks got in my eye. 😬 I did think it was cool how the land on the globe centerpiece was used to display footage, but Ansa said she feels like the program could be more organized. Perhaps these are reasons why Epcot is redoing their light show.

Animal Kingdom

At one point in your life or another, there is a question we all have to face: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

For me, it’s always been a toss-up between invisibility and flying. I fly regularly in my dreams (like Superman), but it would also be cool to see what life is like when you are not around (a perk of invisibility). After experiencing the new Avatar ride, however, I am dead set on the power of flight.

My family and I waited an hour and a half in line for this ride, but it was undoubtedly worth it. Using technology similar to the ride in Epcot, we were placed on the back of a Banshee and got to soar through the exotic jungles of Pandora, up to great heights and plummeting down great falls. I spent the first half of the ride screaming in reaction to each drop. Halfway through, however, the Banshee took a breather which allowed me to collect my thoughts and therefore thoroughly enjoy the second half of the simulation. I left the ride wanting nothing more than to do it all over again and wondering why flying animals aren’t a typical means of transportation in our world. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Other highlights include the 4D movie It’s Tough to Be a Bug and the Safari, one of the reasons Animal Kingdom came to be ranked as Ansa’s second favorite park. The rapids had a ridiculous wait time, during which I worked on Google Photos project, but even my productivity did not make the ride worth the wait as it is just like any other rapid ride you’d find in any other theme park.

On a more positive note, another great aspect of Disney is all the people you can meet, visitors from all over the world. I experienced this best when my siblings and I got in the single rider line for Expedition Everest, meaning that we filled in any gaps throughout the two-seater compartments, placing us in close proximity to a stranger. Ansa also enjoyed this experience. Whenever she road by herself on any ride, she always came back chattering about the “very nice” whoever she met.

Animal Kingdom’s light show was easily better than Epcot’s. From the floating animal islands to using a screen of water to project movie clips on, the spectacle was quite impressive. The moving lights on the Tree of Life were cool, as well.

Magic Kingdom

This park turned out to be our favorite. From Splash Mountain (which conveniently handed out Ziploc bags for perishable items) to Space Mountain, Magic Kingdom contained several of our highlights including a good view of the ASL interpreters for one of the castle shows. The Buzz Lightyear ride, however, a shooting game which we heard nothing but enthusiasm about, did not make the list. Then, of course, there was meeting the Disney princesses.

Dad was unable to maintain game-face while Ansa creeped out. Although she did like Tiana’s accent, Ariel reminder her of a character from one of her favorite books, “Walk Two Moons,” called Mrs. Cadaver. The name alone should give you an idea of her impression. 😬 I will admit, the princesses did seem somewhat unnatural.

One of the many special offers Disney has is to spend $10 on a souvenir popcorn bucket which you can then refill for two dollars throughout your stay (versus the five dollars it would normally cost). Being the economical family we are, my people began searching for one that had been left behind. Dad took our hunt to another level by peeking into every. single. trashcan. we passed. It was on this search that Dad found Ansa a pair of Mickey ears, an apparently very popular accessory. We ended up just buying a popcorn bucket. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

While waiting out a bathroom break, Ansa and I sat on the curb of a plant box in which she noticed someone had uprooted a bulb of Monkey Grass. “Hold on!” My sister exclaimed. “I’m going to do some planting.” She promptly rolled up her sleeves and got to work while one of the two guys sitting next to us turn to watch, very intrigued. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

It was our first night in Magic Kingdom when Ansa picked out her souvenier: Eeyore, the letters of which she rearranged to create the name “Orreey.” This big-eyed donkey has her heart and does not go a day without profuse hugs and kisses. Although, as Ansa has amply explained, Monkey is not being replaced. πŸ˜‚

Magic Kingdom’s light show was the best yet. On to the castle, they projected movie clips sorted by theme (adventure, love, friendship, evil, family, etc), accompanied by fireworks, and woven together to create an inspirational display. Naturally, this showcase was Ansa’s favorite though she was equally touched by the proposal that happened right in front of us (an event I somehow missed).

On the tram back to the van (hey, that rhymed!), I was tickled by our announcer’s commentary: “The speed limit in the parking lot is 15 miles per hour. That’s one five, not five O for all you Lightening McQueens out there” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ “If you have any trouble with your car – it won’t start, you lost your keys, it got turned into a pumpkin – just wave down security and we would be happy to assist you.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

The first ride we did on our second day in Magic Kingdom was the Jungle Cruise, a 10-minute boat ride full of corny jokes. I was not too enthusiastic about this description but, again, I was pleasantly surprised.

Once boarded, our driver began his spiel (hitting us right and left with “Freudian slips” and play on words) only to suddenly insert, “And he is on his phone, isn’t he?” He was looking at Dad who was working via his phone and a BlueTooth keyboard. “And computer?? What are you doing??” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

A few more similar comments popped up throughout the ride so that Dad stepped off the boat 10 minutes later saying, “Well, I have been sufficiently called out.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Disney Springs

From our 2010 Disney trip, I remember Disney Springs being like an extension of the parks only in the form of shops instead of rides. Since recent renovations, however, it’s just like any strip mall only with a hint of Disney here and there. If I went in out of context, I would have no idea that the area is run by Disney.

Hollywood Studios

This was the last park of our Disney trip. The Star Tours ride was like the simulator at the Kennedy Space Center, but me and my family’s highlight was meeting the characters. From hugs with Chewy to the directness of the Storm Troopers, smiles were profuse, but the most laughter came when we met Kylo Ren.

You see, my dad has something he has self-diagnosed as “movie amnesia,” meaning he can see a movie any number of times and forget the whole of it soon afterward. You should know that bringing someone so prescribed to a theme park can be very dangerous, especially if you are meeting a dark warrior who is strong with the Force.

True to his character, Ren did not seem keen on the idea of taking a picture. He hovered on the outskirts while my family and I tried to get organized, unsure where Ren would go. Other characters had inserted themselves amidst our group while Ren suddenly pointed a finger at Ansa.

“I hope you not hiding something,” he said, “or someone,” he added, moving his point to Haydn who was standing behind Ansa.

Nervous laughter was attempted to be suppressed while Ren moved down the line, stopping at the other end and pointing a finger at Dad. In elevated terminology, he asked if Dad would join him on the dark side.

Having no idea what he was talking about, Dad replied, “Sure!”

“Dad!” I exclaimed, playfully slapping him.

“What!?” Dad replied, surprised and confused. “What’s the right answer?” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

When Haydn sought to get an individual picture with Ren, I was the confused one. “Just him?” I asked.

“Questions arouse suspicion!” Ren exclaimed, and I scampered to the exit side of the room. πŸ˜‚

Ansa later said that she was about to cry while Dad admitted, “I kinda liked him.” πŸ˜‚

When we met BB-8, the photographer interpreting the droid’s beeps let us know “he wants to know who you align with.”

I laughed. “We’re with the light,” I said, pointing to four out of five members of my family, “but we’re not sure about him,” I added, pointing at Dad. πŸ˜‚

The Rock-N-Roller Coaster was another of Ansa’s highlights, like Space Mountain only much faster. This high intensity banged my head around and gave me a headache, so my highlight was one employee’s crowd-herding commentary: “Please move all the way forward. All the way forward, filling in all available space. If you aren’t touching other members of your party, you aren’t close enough. If you’re touching members of other parties don’t, those are strangers.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

The Slinky Dog Dash was another favorite ride, the last one we did that day. I could tell that it is newer as it is faster than one would expect a kid’s ride to be. It was a lot of fun.

Hollywood Studios’ light show was very similar to Magic Kingdom’s, only a lot more fire and simultaneously a lot more heat. πŸ˜³πŸ˜‚ Their movie animations also went more movie by movie versus from theme to theme.

“Did you have a good time?” Dad asked Ansa.

“Yeah,” Ansa replied.

“That’s a good answer,” Dad said. “You know you had a good visit when you say that on the way out.”

Next stop, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

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