Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Walt Disney World - Day 2 - February 6, 2005

Walt Disney World ' 05

February 5 - 12, 2005

Day 2

Stitch and Mickey team up to wake us up

The morning started with a phone call. One of the cute perks at Disney is that the automated wake-up service is Mickey Mouse calling to wake you up. This wake up service has been invaded by Stitch. The Disney hotels may be the only hotels to put speakerphones in guest rooms. I think the wake up call is the whole justification for speakerphone. I had memorized where the speakerphone button was the night before, and had turned the phone volume up. When the phone rang, I pressed the speaker button and: I'm not quite sure of the wording but I think the wake up call script runs something like this:

Stitch: Good Morning!
Mickey: Things have been a bit crazy around here ever since Stitch arrived. Well, have a magical day!
Stitch: No Sleeping!

Virtual Tour of the Resort

As a courtesy to you, the reader I won't make you read about the morning wake up procedures, rather I will try to introduce you to our resort. As I may have mentioned, we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside.

The resort is built around a river which runs down the middle of the southern half of the resort ending in a ring containing an island. The island is located near to but not at the exact center of the resort. Along the riverbank and around the buildings there is well cared for lawns, lush landscaping, and how can one forget the instantly tranquil and scenic river that runs through it. There are a few old fashioned looking wooden bridges to cross the river.

Starting with the on the western side of the resort, you first have the main guest parking lot, then a service building that contains the luggage services department. Of greater interest is the Sasagoula Steamship Company building, which serves as the main commons building for the resort. In the center of the commons building is an octagonal shaped sitting room, with round sofas, and a giant compass rose embedded into the floor. In addition with doors to the parking lot and the marina, a characture artist is there to entertain in the lobby. From the front doors of the resort immediately to the right is the Registration area, designed to look like the ticket office of the Steamship Company, this area contains the hotel's front desk, the Guest Services office which takes care of meal reservations, ticket sales, and answering questions. They also have a brochure rack full of park guides for all the parks and recreation areas, as well as special versions of the Times Guides that include information on Extra Magic Hours. The registration area also contains a desk to coordinate combination cruise/resort vacations, as well as a desk to push the Disney Vacation Club. Also on the right side of the lobby is a hallway which leads back to the Medicine Show Arcade, which as you may have guessed is the resorts gameroom.

To the left of the lobby, you have Fulton's General Store, which in addition to having an extensive selection of Disney merchandise, also serves as a convenience store and liquor store for resort guests. In addition if you opt to have souvenirs you purchase in the he parks shipped back to your resort, this is where you will claim them. Next to Fulton's is the River Roost, which is the resorts cocktail lounge. And lastly on the left, is a hallway labeled "Food and Drink". If you take the hallway labeled "Food and Drink" you will first pass the River Roost, then Boatwright's which is a table service restaurant themed as a boatwright's shop, and the lastly to Riverside Mill foodcourt. As I mentioned the foodcourt has a homey feel to it, and has a working cotton press inside, and a relaxing waterwheel on the outside. Directly outside of Fulton's is the South Depot, or the main depot for using Disney Transportation.

As I mentioned on the river side of the common building is the marina. You can access the resorts recreational facilities at the marina. In addition to boat rentals, they also rent bikes, and the hot item surreys. A surrey is a 4 passenger 'bike' that seats its riders in two rows of two (with room to seat two small children in the basket, the basket even has seatbelts for the kids) The surrey bikes have canvas covers to shade the riders from the sun, and they look like loads of fun, if you had the requisite 4 peddlers. I know that I saw several families taking them around the resort for a spin. The boat/bike rental office is also where you access the Sassagoula River Cruise. The river cruise, which is open from 9AM to 11PM (weather permitting) provides boat transportation to Port Orleans French Quarter and more importantly Downtown Disney. Its a relaxing 20 minute ride to Downtown Disney, but more about that later. The River Cruise is also free. Other services available at the marina are fishing excursions in the mornings, and horse drawn carriage rides in the evening. I also noted a hair weaving cart.

Next to the common building, on the marina side, is a wooden bridge which leads to Old Man Island. Old Man Island houses the resorts theme pool. The theme here is of a county watering hole, complete with water geysers and waterslide. Its a nice freeform pool complete with pool bar, bathouse, hot tub, and for your safety lifeguards. Old Man Island also offers dockside fishing.

The accommodation on the southern have of the resort are 4 large white 2-3 story mansions. The rooms are accessed from the exterior, but the southern ante bellum elegance is brimming, with fountains, gazebos, formal lawns and courtyards. Hidden amongst the mansion houses are two formal quiet swimming pools, complete with bathouses and guest laundries. The guestrooms in this half are elegantly appointed.

The northern half of the resort is the Bayou. The Bayou consists 16 smaller more rustic looking buildings that house the rooms. The area also contains a couple lakes, as well as 3 freeform swimming pools. From photos I have seen he guestrooms here are more rustic, with bedsteads that looked to be made from hand carved logs. I hear the other benefit is that the rooms in the bayou can accommodate 5 people if one of them is under 10, utilizing a trundle bed that slides underneath one of the larger beds during the day.

The tranquility of the resort is preserved by eliminating motor vehicles, except on a road that circled the perimeter of the resort, as well as parking lots along the resorts perimeter. Due to the large spread out size of the resort, in addition to the main Disney Transport bus stop by the common building, there are three other bus stops located along the perimeter of the resort.

Its Chow Time!

Okay, while my alter ego was giving you the tour of the resort, we have made our way to Riverside Mill. Time to more closely study the Riverside Mill. At one end is the food service area. It's more of a cafeteria than a food court. Starting on the left and moving towards the right, the food court stations include: a bakery, an ice cream parlor, the feature station, which for breakfast is an omelets made to order station, then a grocery area where you can buy prepackaged food items (along with larger containers of milk, juice, beer, and stuff for your room), along with deli sandwiches, fruit cups, yogurt and more. Further along is the grill that serves burgers during the day, and serves as the griddle and serves pancakes and french toast in the morning. Lastly is the Pasta and Pizza station which served a traditional breakfast platter in the morning along with breakfast sandwiches. Sitting in the middle of the serving area is a fruit wagon with fresh fruit.

We both opted for the French Toast this morning, and despite what the menu states you get both the bacon and the sausage not choice of one. I upgraded to the platter with also included scrambled eggs. I declined the Mickey Mouse shaped Crispy Rice Treats and note the careful way they labeled that product. (Cost of the meal - $13.82), that's more like it for a meal. After the checkout station, the self service beverage bar runs down the center of the dining room, and contains amongst other things, coffee, tea, cocoa, and a WIDE variety of soft drinks. It also contains a sink to wash out your mugs, and a small cooler that has the coffee creamer, butter, margarine, and lemons. After the beverage bar is the silverware rack, flanked by the condiment stations.

We enjoyed the simple yet satisfying breakfast, then I ran the mugs back to the room. We them made our way out to the South Depot and arrived in perfect time to board a waiting bus to Disney MGM Studios.

Welcome to Disney MGM Studios!

Within moments we arrived as the resort bus facility of Disney MGM Studios, where I checked and saw that our return bus would be at Stop #12, before heading to the gates. At Disney MGM Studios the useless bag check takes place at a checkpoint set out a ways before the turnstiles. In fact it is before you even get to the ticket booths. We took our tickets directly to the turnstiles. All the parks use the same type turnstile, that once you get used it you don't need assistance from a cast member. You just insert your ticket into the slot when the red #1 is lit, insert your fingers into the scanner when the yellow #2 is lit, and retrieve your ticket and enter the park when the green #3 is lit. One of the fringe benefits of using old style parkhopper tickets is that we were not required (or even permitted) to do the finger scan.

We entered through the park, and our Pal Mickey welcomed us to the park. Disney MGM is a park that has undergone several changes over the years, most of which have been to introduce thrills rides and other entertainment to the park, at the expense of the parks original premise, that of allowing a backstage peek into the art of making movies.

The entryway to the park looks familiar, its a street lined with eateries and gift shops. In this park the street is meant to be 1930's Hollywood. Welcome to Hollywood Blvd. After a quick check of the tip board, we proceeded to the giant sorcerer's Hat.

The Sorcerer's Hat only deserves a mention as it has become the iconic symbol for the park, the hat contains a gift shop. We decided to look for something a bit more entertaining.

The Great Movie Ride

immediately behind the Sorcerer's Hat is a building themed to look like Mann's Chinese Theater. A legendary theater that in real life has hosted many movie premiers. The sidewalk up to the theater doors contains sidewalk pavers that contain the handprints of several celebrities. We entered into the theater lobby, and owing to the short line we walked right through the empty lobby without taking much notice of the movie props on display, (such as the game table from Star Wars millennium Falcon) We next entered the main auditorium just in time to see trailers for famous movies being shown on the movie screen. It's a rather interesting theater in that instead of theater seats, it contains several wooden beams in a zig zag configuration. We zigged and zagged our way through the empty maze and joined the group waiting to go out the side exit doors in the front of the theater.

Within a few moments the automatic doors opened and we were let out into a side street in Hollywood. A strange looking tram like vehicle was waiting for us. We were sent to Row#1 and so got to ride up in the front. While waiting outside the theater marquee for the ride to begin, I noted that no guide track is visible on the floor for the ride cars to follow, and looking over to the side of the parking tram, there is a place for a driver complete with steering wheel. I looked at the size of the car, and the impossibly tight turn ahead, and thought "There is no way they are actually freely driving these things around" Let's just say I have my doubts as to the functionality of that steering wheel. The ride took a while to get underway, during which time we saw the show lights in the loading area and the theater marquee go off, then what sounded like a ride start up alarm before the ride sprang back to life.

Our tour guide greeted us,gave the safety spiel, then we took off into the theater. The ride consists of several animatronics in scenes made up of famous scenes from movies: (i.e.: Singing in The Rain, Marry Poppins, Tarzan, Indiana Jones, Alien, Casablanca, Fantasia), it also contains two generic looking sets, Gangster Alley, and Western Town. It is at this point where you learn that this is no sedate dark ride. You look on as your tour guide jumps out of the tram, and joins the action taking place, and you learn that not all the people in the tableaux are animatronic as one of them runs out and hijacks your dark ride vehicle, with you in it. The fire effect when they blow up the bank is very intense in the front of the train. Your hijacker takes you through several more tableaux until you reach the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom scene. Your hijacker, in a fit of greet tries steal the big jewel out of sheer greed, despite the warnings, and disappears in a puff of smoke, when out dashes your Disney tour guide to resume their tour. A few more famous movie scenes follow concluding with an extended length segment of Munchkinland from the Wizard of Oz. Suddenly the car stopped, and our guide motioned for us to look backward so that we could see the Wicked Witch of the Wests scene. You then follow the yellow brick road, catch a glimpse of the Emerald City, and then the ride cards go into the final room, and the tram cars split apart to form movie theater style seating. At this point a movie screen comes to life showing a montage of classic movie moments. Jut way to may moments to name, but if its a particularly memorable moment in an MGM film, you can bet its in there somewhere. The tram cars then start moving again and you return to the same Hollywood street that you boarded from. You give a big applause to your tour guide, then on cue you stand up and exit through the automatic doors at the rear of the boarding station. As we exited the attraction we noted the Green Army Men (you know the ones from Toy Story that look a lot like the green army men I had as a child), they were doing a little show that ends in a Meet and Greet. The Green Army Men, like soldiers in a formal group parade are carrying their colors, in this case the flags are of the "Toy Story" logo. This becomes interesting because I noticed one young guest who thought it would be neat to have their photo taken holding the Toy Story flag (complete on its parade quality flagpole, I also noticed that the Green Army Man, like any good soldier refused to give up his colors to the young girl. They compromised by both holding the flagpole together for the photo op.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

We walked past the disused ABC Television Theater, and headed towards Indiana Jones. This is my 4th visit to the park, I think, and on the prior three visits I never seemed to make it to see Indiana Jones, so this was a high priority attraction. We approached the amphitheater and I noticed the Fastpass service was closed off for today. I failed to see the famous rope that you are (not) supposed to yank on, and before to long we were headed through the people counter. Pal Mickey went off just as we were going through the turnstile, and the cast member said "He's saying that I'm a great cast member" We had to sit over a section or two off center, and found good seats about halfway down the bleachers. There was some time until showtime, so we participated in the great theme park time killing activity: studying the parkguide. Looking around the arena, several other guests were also studying their guide maps.

A few minutes before the show, a stagehand comes out and conducts an open call for extras. To be an extra on this show, you must be at least 18 years of age. They casted several people, the commonality is they all had to do different but equally entertaining (and possibly) embarrassing things on stage in front of the whole audience, to pass their auditions. Holding poses, acting out an emotions, making noises, etc. Right before the show the extras were led backstage.

I then started to take notice of the stage, it looks very Temple of Doom-ish. The show starts with a stunt sequence with Indy coming in rappelling down a rope, running across the stage dodging points looking spears pop up from the ground, dodging statues wielding axes, escapes a hidden pit, and finally makes his way to the top, where he snags the idol. Ooops, bad move! Indy is then chased by a big heavy boulder.

Indy jumps down into a pit while the boulder continues to roll down the ramp. Of course, Indy survives. The stunt corrdinator then welcomes you, and comments on how heavy that boulder is while two stagehands effortlessly roll it back up the ramp. He admits that the boulder actually is heavy enough to do damage, but not as heavy as it appears. He then claims that this show is going to show you how they do stunts in the movies.

Suddenly you see the Temple of Doom set being driven off the stage, revealing a shopping bazaar, by the looks of it in an Arabian city. The extras make their way back on stage, wearing their Arab-esque costumes. They explain the purpose of extras is to make the bazaar (or scene) look busy. We learn that the extras whole role in the scene is to act like they are shopping at the bazaar, and to help make the scene they are issued props to help out. Meanwhile the real stunt crew is going to do an Indy style scene, where they get attacked, and there is a lot of fight scenes, swordplay scenes, running on the rooftops, fighting their way on buildings, swinging on ropes from rooftop to rooftop, great falls and more. It's your typical theme park stunt show, and when its all over you realize that while it was very entertaining, you know scarcely more about performing stunts than when the show started. They use the rug out in center stage to demonstrate stunt fighting. They act like they are using an extra from the audience to be the human punching bag while they demonstrate stunt fighting, then all of a sudden the extra puts up a good defense, and you learn that yes the "extra" is really a professional stuntman. They they talk about stunt doubles, and the reasons for using stunt doubles. The bazaar drives off, and you are at an airfield, Indy and the heroine are trying to escape in an airplane when the Nazis come in to attack. Its got flame effects, its got a big rotating aircraft with propeller blades spinning, its got fighting, its got climbing around on the aircraft, again high entertainment value, low educational value. All in all a very good and entertaining show. The arena exits to the sides, and I noted the gift shop is closed for rehab.

We took a slight break from the action, and Mom had a frozen chocolate covered banana ($2.50) while I rode Star Tours.

Star Tours

Star Tours was the parks first attempt at a thrill ride. I think they have downgraded it to "Mild but Wild" now, but its a park classic. The AT AT out front was under rehab, and the Fastpass machines were out of commission. Therefore I joined the queue and walked through the treehouse forest of Endor. Wait I am waiting where, in the treehouse like civilization of Endor, and I am going into the Spaceport to fly where? Endor! Looks like I am already here. Somebody call the "attention to thematic detail" department, This is not making sense. The ride is a flight to Endor, yet the outdoor queue area looks like Endor, and the Spaceport where you land must be Tatoonie, as identified by its gift shop: Tatoonie Traders.

I make my way through the forest of Endor and enter the spaceport. With Fastpass out of commission, both lanes are serving standby flyers. You enter the spaceport and a wide sweeping S shaped queue takes you through the terminal of the spaceport. An announcer can be heard announcing gate changes, arrivals, departures and galactic customs regulations. A departure board can be seen listing flights to places in the Star Wars galaxy, a video board advertised future Star Tours expeditions, and incongruently, inside the terminal you can see a spacecraft similar to the one you are about to board. R2D2 and C3PO are busy making repairs to the spacecraft (a Starspeeder) "If it's so reliable, why are we always fixing it"

You continue through a doorway into the maintenance area of the spaceport. Parts bucket move along in an overhead conveyor system, repair droids are being unproductive and keep getting reprimanded by a supervisor droid. Careful observers can see the rides alternate entrance on a balcony around the edges of the repair bay.

Eventually you make your way to the gate agent, go through the people counter and told which gate number your flight will take off from, and which direction that gate is. To further help you the overhead signs for your gate are flashing and the attendants have configured the chains to funnel you to your gate. An agent at the gate area itself assigns seats in the spacecraft, and you watch a safety video/ pre flight briefing on monitors mounted above the automatic doors.

Moments later the automatic doors open, and a short loading ramp takes you to your spacecraft. A flight attendant helps seat people, checks seatbelts, and then closed the doors on the right side of the cabin, and then all but the first door on the left side. He then welcomes you aboard the first class cabin, and says "May the Force be with you, because I'm not going to be", he then dashes out of the cabin seconds before the last loading door closes, and then all the doors lock.

Star Tours may have been my very first motion simulator ride many years ago, and I still much prefer the Disney way of doing motion sim rides. At a Disney park (and apparently also at Busch parks (or parks formerly owned by Busch)), the riders sit inside an enclosed cabin looking forwards at a small screen at the front of the cabin. Then during the ride not only do the seats move, the whole cabin moves along with it. In short you have no fixed reference points to spoil the illusion. The cabin in this case also contains your animatronic pilot droid, a message board, and a secondary screen. Compare this to the Iwerks product where they mount moving chairs into a standard movie theater. You rock back and forth but the movie screen stays stationary as to the walls of the theatre. For my money I'll take the full cabin version.

Your pilot droid introduces himself, and as an icebreaker comments that you must be nervous on your first flight, but that's okay, because its his first flight too. He opens the cockpit shield so that you can see out the front window of your spacecraft. The ride starts like your typical space launch, your craft is lifted up on an elevator to the flight deck, and then moves forward towards the launch tunnel. You see another spacecraft come out of a side passageway and proceed to the launch tunnel, but wait that NOT where you're going, Your pilot takes a wrong turn and you head to a restricted area. You start to fall into a chasm, but you soon right yourself and go flying out a window in the restricted area out into space. You then dodge an asteroid field before going into Light Speed.

Coming out of Light Speed, you find yourself exactly where you didn't want to be, in a closed off area of space that is currently a battleground, an active battleground.

You avoid the tractor beams trying to pull you into the Imperial ship, you dodge fighters, and you guessed it, you soar over the surface of the Death Star. Of course you fly into and through the trench right behind Luke's X wing (well its never stated, but if you know your Star Wars history, you know who lands a shot right into the Death Stars ventilation shaft.) You peel off just in time to avoid the big Kaboomie, and go back into Light Speed. You emerge at another spaceport, and just when you think you have made a successful landing "Brakes, Brakes, Where's the Brakes" and you jut miss a truck full of spacecraft fuel". After that the cockpit shield closes and the pilot droid thanks you for flying and says something about "Hey it was my first flight, and I'm still getting used to my programming" Careful obsevers may note that the first time the ship goes into Light Speed, the "No Smoking" and "Fasten Seatbelts" symbols on the overhead aircraft style display go out. Does that mean the pilot has turned off the Fasten Seatbelt" sign and I am free to move about the cabin, does it mean he has turned off the "No Smoking" sign and I can now light up. ? Just kidding.

Some uplifting Star Wars movie plays as the unloading hatch opens up, and you walk out on the other side of the craft down a boarding ramp through some automatic doors and into the arrivals area of a spaceport. The spaceport you arrive at, however, has all arriving passengers pass through a gift shop. (Don't act surprised.)

MuppetVision 3D

After my spaceflight, I collected mom and we headed further back into the park and wind up at MuppetVision 3D. This show is a park classic, and for those of us who grew up on the Muppet Show a nostalgic blast from the past. As you approach the theater you see the statue of Muppets. Any resemblance to the statue of Liberty is purely coincidental. The theatre building looks rather nondescript from the outside, other than a big sign advertising the attraction. We walk up to the front doors of the theatre, and pass through the electronic people counters. Here I note that the electronic people counters have been themed to look like traditional turnstiles. But don't pay too much attention to those turnstiles, you might miss a hidden gem. As you enter the building their is a security office. On the office is a sign that says they will be back in 5 minutes, key under mat. If you look down below the door their is a doormat. If you pick up the doormat, you will find the key embedded into the floor. Just as promised. A friend pointed this out to me, and I want to know how they ever found it. I was expecting it to be a doorway along the hallway, but it isn't. When you go through the turnstiles, make an immediate 180 degree turn to the right, as if you had second thoughts and want to leave. The security office door is literally alongside the turnstiles, and you have to squeeze between the turnstile and the wall to get to the mat to lift it up, and the lighting in the area is not the greatest. The other doors, while humorous, don't to my knowledge hold any hidden surprises.

This hallway is another example of the mis-match theming in the park. To my knowledge I am going to see the Muppet Show, in the Muppet Theater, so why am I walking through Muppet Labs to get to the theatre. This is the type of stuff that would be backstage in the real Muppet Theater. Where is the opulent lobby befitting the opulent Muppet Theater. Curiouser and Curiouser it becomes evident that I must be entering the theater through the backstage. I mean security office, Muppet Labs, and then I walk into the preshow room which is decorated as a prop room backstage. I mean I see the trunks holding "Ms. Piggy's Satin Gowns" "More of Ms. Piggy's Satin Gowns" and "The rest of Ms. Piggys Satin Gowns" I see the chest containing Sam the Eagle's Patriotic Supplies (Flags, Banners Fireworks, and so forth). I dutifully pick up my 3D glasses, and yes I can use the term 3D glasses here. This show does not have a clever name for them.

The preshow comes on a bunch of monitors, and contains Sam The Eagle (very serious) trying to proudly describe the presentation while he keeps getting interrupted, first by a Mickey Mouse imitator, (Will you stop this silliness?, What kind of silliness would you like to see?)then finally he gives the safety advice and directions. And lets the orchestra into the theater, and then tells the muppets to enter the theater in an orderly manner to set a good example. Stampede!. The doors then open and you are admitted to Muppet Theater.

You enter an opulent theater, you see Statler and Waldorf sitting up in the Lincoln Box, you see the Swedish Chef preparing the projector., and its all done up in red, white and gold, just like on TV.

As you take your seats and wait for the show Statler and Waldorf are making snide remarks,. The show starts with some cheap 3D tricks, Kermit describes the 'show', a tour of Muppet Labs, including the top secret room, As you may guess as Bunsen and Beaker are demonstrating the equipment in the Muppet Room, stuff goes wrong, and eventually they start the first musical number starring Miss Piggy. The stagehand with the props keeps getting swatted by Miss Piggy and eventually told to leave. He does whch starts the whole strolling of his escape, they go searching for him, you see Animal come out and walk through the theater and much more happens. This break in the action is resolved when they tell the little fellow he can have a big role in the finale, he can push the button to start the fireworks. Then you have Sam the Eagles skit, "A Tribute to All Nations, But Mostly America" In the end there is cannonfire and you see the walls of the theatre get blown to bits before Kermit arrives on the firetruck to put it all out. It's a great 3D movie, and Statler and Waldorf get the last laugh in as you leave. Something about wanting to leave but being bolted to their chairs. You then exit the other side of the theater into a hallway, at the end of which are bins to deposit your 3D glasses.

It's a classic favorite of mine. Upon leaving the theater I noticed a gift shop that I never noticed before. Its the gift shop for the muppets, and contains props from the Muppets go to Europe movie. Its a very interesting gift shop, and we perused it before coming out across the street from Pizza Planet.

New York Backlot

WE continued out onto the New York Backlot. Look on e way and the street appears to go on for blocks, even though its a dead end, and those skyscrapers look real. Walk the other way and you can walk down a street where everything looks spot on at first glance, but further inspection reveals its just a big movie set. Try walking down the stairs to the subway, for instance. Looking down one of the side streets I caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, in what must be the San Francisco backlot scene, a bit further is a stately building that looks like it would be more at home in Pennsylvania. I also saw but did not use the Singing in the Rain umbrella. Its an umbrella mounted to a lightpole Hold the umbrella by the handle, and a light rain appears above the umbrella, perfect for those Singing In The Rain wannabe shots.

I could also see the arena for the Lights Motors Action stunt show that is coming as part of the happiest celebration on earth. There are still some construction walls around the area, but for the most part the arena looks ready. I also noticed a big turnaround for the backlot trams so they will run in a fenced off area between the new stunt show arena and the New York City backlot.

We followed the temporary construction path around until we came out on Mickey Ave. One snack cart has the largest 6 pack of Coke you have ever seen, and don't get to close to that giant Coke Bottle it like to flip its lid and mist anybody who dared get near it. We joined the queue for the Backlot Tour

Backlot Tour

The behind the scenes tours at this park have managed to be different all 4 times I have attended. On my first visit you entered the tram tour on the front end of Mickey Ave. nearest the Studios arch, in fact you could not walk down Mickey Ave. as that was the access path to the closed and live soundstages. The tram tour used to take you around the Earfull Tower, make its way along the back of the soundstages, then start the take you around the sights in the present location. You would exit the tram at the New York Backlot set, where you would be led through a gift shop and counter service eatery. When you were ready to continue, you re-entered the attraction where the tram tour entrance is now, but you did a walking tour instead. They showed you chromakey, and water effects, then you got to tour the soundstages and see whatever was running via a soundproof catwalk, they then showed you a 5 minute movie filmed entirely at the park, after which they told you how the movie was made, I mean really demonstrated how the stunts worked, then you went through a prop warehouse with props from the short film you just watched. After that you went through some rooms about post-production, and finally ended up in a theater where they showed you some previews for upcoming Disney movies. You wound up exiting right by the Studios Arch. The two part tour was a major investment of time, but it gave a pretty good movie studio tour, which is what you wanted.

On my second visit to the park, the entrances for both the tram tour and the walking tour were both at the back end of Mickey Avenue where you used to start the walking tour. The water effects demo which was the first part of the old walking tour, instead became the first part of the tram tour, and a new alternate route was setup so that people started the walking tour with the first indoor theater. The walking tour was also shortened by eliminating the movie preview theater, and post production. (You basically got to the end of the prop warehouse and exited onto Mickey Ave. ) You may remember the post production part of the tour was self guided and hosted by Pee Wee Herman. Rather than redo it when Pee Wee fell out of grace, they just axed that part of the tour.

On my third visit to the park, the walking segment remained pretty much the same, except it took on a Home Improvement theme. I got to be the audience volunteer in the Home improvement scene, so I got filmed in Chroma Key so that I appeared along with Tim Allen and performed a scene. Hey I even had lines, and with my speech problems, the fact that I got through it flawlessly is a wonder. Also on my Third Visit to the park the Prop Warehouse was added as the queue area between the water effects stunt and the boarding of the trams, and the tram tour ended with a tour through the AFI (American Film Institute) which shows changing exhibits on movie artifacts, and a gift shop.

Now its visit number 4, lets see what has changed. First of all the former walking tour has been totally eliminated. The tram tour remains a lot like it was, except of course residential Street is gone, and you tour around the new stunt show arena.

So we entered the tour waiting area, and found the lane with the least people in it (the left one, BTW), and in the waiting area they had some artifacts from Con Air and Pearl Harbor. They shows some film clips on the making of Pearl Harbor. We must have timed this right because mere minutes after we got situated, we were then allowed to walk up the ramp and take our places to watch the Water Effects demo. This too has been themed to Pearl Harbor. It basically the same show it always has been, one sucker gets to sit in the engine room set and gets several full dumpsters of water dumped on them, while the other are polishing the deck of the battleship and have to react to enemy fire. The rocking boat demo seems to be gone.

After this demo you walk down several ramps where you get that one restroom break they advertised, and its real early in the tour. You then self tour the prop warehouse, which is a line in disguise, we took the shortest route through the warehouse and were on the second tram out.

The tram shows the topiary earfull tower, and a closed off section of cast parking that is being used for the stuntmen to rehearse for the upcoming stunt show, Yes they are rehearsing during park hours, and if you get lucky you may get a glimpse. Past some aircraft, through the tunnel for the wardrobe and central shops tour, around back the automotive boneyard, and much sooner than before you pass Walt Disney's private plane before being told that they are shooting a commercial in the set you can just barely see, but its alright to go in and see it because they aren't filming today. Famous last words as just as the tour guide is starting to point things out to you the set goes live, torrential downpour, fuel trucks on fire, a buckling bridge. Its Catastrophe Canyon. Its another stunt show played for laughs to put you into the movie filming experience, After the show you are driven around back to see how it all works. Well you get to see masses of pipework and wiring, but no real explanations. It looks like an industrial factory gone mad. You pass Disney's plane again then more boneyard stuff including the Haunted Mansion crypt, the Roger Rabbit trolley, several craft from Star Wars. Odds and ends. You finish up with a tour around the back of the arena for the new stunt show, and a glimpse inside. You are then paraded past your fellow park guests at the show you forced perspective and New York Street and encourage you to explore it on your own, which is your cue that the tram ride is coming to an end, and sure enough you are let off at the AFI exhibit. This time around the changing exhibit is movie villains.

We wind up walking through the construction wall zone again, and back onto Mickey Avenue.

Let's look at those soundstages. At one time there were three, well it looks like one stage is being used as a Mickey Mouse meet and greet area, and stages 2 and 3 house "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play it" My guess is that catwalk has either been removed, or there is nothing they want you to see from it. We asked about the next showtime for Millionaire - too far off. We took a break for some soft drinks. Two bottles of Coke ($4) .

One Man's Dream

Well I found out what happened to the final part of the old walking tour, where the prop warehouse , post production and the movie previews were shown. We passed through the mechanical turnstiles and entered the building. One Man's Dream is an attraction similar to The Walt Disney Story, which used to be at the Magic Kingdom. You pass through a gallery of artifacts and photos from the beginnings of Walt's life (including his schooldesk), through his rise as a movie producer, and then through he creation of Disneyland and the other Disney parks. Lots of park models on display. Every so often they admit people into the auditorium to see a movie based on The Walt Disney Story, I think its a different film than the one that used to play in the Magic kingdom, but its the same general idea. It was a well done exhibit.

We exited the exhibit and noted that the Animation Tour was posting 30 minutes, and Little mermaid was a fair bit away to, as was WWTBAM-PI,. We got to Hollywood Blvd. just in time to watch the Stars and Motorcars Parade. Its a Disney character parade taking places on whimsical versions of classic cars. Its a motorcade like no other. Our ultimate goal was to cross Hollywood Blvd, which as you may guess is not that easy right after a parade so we held back, looked in some shops and when the coast was clear, headed towards dinner.

Hollywood & Vine: Where the Stars Dine

Back when I was planning the trip, I opted to get the Fantasmic! dinner package. This package includes dinner at your choice of one of three sit down restaurants at the park, as well as passes to enter Fantasmic through an alternate entrance which will lead you to a reserved seating area. The benefit of this is that you don't have to arrive at Fantasmic! mondo-early, and that you are guaranteed a seat for Fantasmic as long as you arrive at the alternate entrance at least 30 minutes ahead of show time. (As opposed to the 90 minutes to two hours they recommend for those entering through the main entrance). In what I though would be the off-season, the Fantasmic! Dinner Package isn't a big benefit, but since we knew we would be eating in the Studios anyway, and there is no surcharge above the price of the meal to get the package, its a nice tool to have in your toolbox.

We approached the podium outside the Hollywood & Vine, which we chose partly because it is the cheapest of the dinner package offerings (at $23 per person before tax/tip), as well as being more conveniently located than Mama Melrose's, (at $30/person before tax/tip) or the Brown Derby (at $40/person before tax/tip) At the higher priced eateries you pay a flat price then get an appetizer, entree, desert, and non-alcoholic beverage of your choice off the menu. Hollywood & Vine is a buffet style restaurant, so you get the buffet which includes all you can eat of all the above and more.

We waited on the porch of the Hollywood & Vine, and I noticed something that seems to be a persistent problem at Disney restaurants. The waiting areas are spread out, but the host calls parties to dinner using just their voice. No speaker system, no pagers, no video boards. At some restaurants it is quite hard to hear the announcements. But they don;t just call you to dinner. The restaurant has a script and the hosts aren't seating people, they are for example "Now casting the Bowers party of two".

At those magical words we enter the art deco restaurant. Directly inside the door and standing guard over the desert station is a giant chocolate dragon. No, he isn't on the menu, but its a nice change from the ice sculptures which are the normal buffet decorations. The tables and chairs and the buffet counter are all done in art deco, while murals line the walls in this bustling eatery. There was some confusion about which table we were being taken to, but I really like the one we got, it was a two-top at the end of a row, but better yet a support column was between us and the next table. Made for a nice more private dining experience.

Before going to the buffet, we were seated, and a waiter took beverage orders, though we opted for iced teas, declining the bar menus that had been set in front of us. I thought Sweetened ice Tea was a southern specialty, yet its hard to get at Disneyworld, and wasn't offered here. The waiter also gave us our Fantasmic voucher, before inviting us to go to the buffet.

The buffet is in the back center of the room, and features two very similar though NOT identical serving lines. One thing I like about Disney buffets is that everything is very well labeled. This is good because Disney puts out more upscale buffet fare than a Golden Corral or Old Country Buffet. You start with a bread board that has at least 5 different kinds of bread, and an equally varied selection of different flavored butters. You then pass through the salad station, which in all honestly is the only weak spot of Disney's buffets. I think they realized that the salad station at a buffet, particularly an upscale buffet is mere formality. Getting to the good part, they buffet had quality salmon, blackened pork loin, sirloin steaks (they get around having to issue steak knives by serving the steak to you already cut up into strips, not unlike a fajita) , roasted chicken, a wonderful seafood alfredo, and an equally impressive selection of sides. There is a lot of variety and a lot offered, be sure to at least take a glance at both lanes, because there are a couple items that are different on each side. At the dead center of the buffet is the kiddy buffet, which has comfort foods like Swedish meatballs, mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and if you feel like an item off the children's buffet don't worry, you wont be the only adult there bending down to reach the child level buffet counter. Across from the main buffet is the desert buffet. Disney has thoughtfully pre-sliced most of the deserts and has them available in little sample sized portions. The better to take a plate, and take one of each and every desert off the buffet. The desert station also includes a build your own sundae station with a toppings bar that can't be improved upon.

Long and short of it, we ate well, and thought the food quality to be much above average for your typical buffet food, and I'd put it on par with a decent Las Vegas style buffet. Some other notes, the lemons in the ice tea were served on serving sticks that hat the Earfull tower logo on them, and we witnessed another example of that exceptional Disney customer service. I may have mentioned they had a Penne Pasta Alfredo that was loaded up with different kinds of seafood. At the table in back of us we heard a family ask their server if there was anyway to get the pasta without the seafood (food allergy issue), the server did one better, the chef came to that families tables, asked what they wanted, told them what kind of pasta sauces and stuff he had at his disposal. The chef then went back to the kitchen and reemerged a short time later with plates of the pasta dish prepared to that families specifications.

All in all a very good dinner, and before leaving the restaurant I studied the Fantasmic voucher which told us that it had no cash value "This complimentary voucher...", and that we could enter fantasmic between 5:30 and 6:30 on the date stamped. The other side had a map which told us where the alternate entrance to Fantasmic was. Our server also verbally told us where the entrance was. Tonight the vouchers were teal blue, I don't know if they change the colors regularly.

Street Entertainment

We left the restaurant just in time to see some roving entertainment. It was a comedy routine by the Public Works. Basically two guys dressed up as public works workers who were telling jokes. We wound up catching the end of their show, just in time to see one guy bet the other guy $20 that he's not here.

The twisted logic goes like this:

Joker: "Take a Look Around you"
(sucker looks around)
Joker: "Are you in New York?"
Sucker: "No"
Joker: "Take another look around you"
(sucker looks around)
Joker: "Are you in Chicago"
Sucker: "No"
Joker "If you're not in New York, and you're not in Chicago, you must be someplace else, right?"
Sucker: "Yes"
Joker: "And if you're someplace else, you can't be here"
(Joker collects bet)

We looked at our watches, and it was nearing 6pm, which is too little time to really do anything, and get back to the alternate Fantasmic! entrance, which is in the very front of the park next to Oscar's Super Service. So we made our way to Oscars.


In the alleyway to the left of Oscar's, we noted that one of the big gates to backstage had been opened just a little bit, guests were going through that gate, and there were cast members manning the gate. We got in line, approached the gate, and upon showing the voucher, we were admitted to the backstage area behind Oscars.

This particular backstage area is a quasi-backstage area, because during the day it is purely a backstage service area, at night it becomes both the alternate entrance to Fantasmic, and one of Fantasmic's exit routes. Therefore even though the area has a backstage look about it, you won't see anything out of place or anything you shouldn't. They have painted a yellow line on the ground, and you are told to follow the yellow line to Fantasmic!. That's pretty straightforward, as that is the where that path is headed directly for. Be forewarned that it is uphill all the way to Fantasmic. At the top of the hill, you will see a ramp directly ahead of you that leads to the Fantasmic! arena, and a cast member who will collect your vouchers and make sure you do enter the arena.

At the top of the curving and finished ramp up into the Fantasmic arena, you will notice the right two sections (the sections nearest you) have been roped off so that they are in effect reserved for those using the Fantasmic Dinner Package. We got seats near the top in the second section in from the right. A glance around the arena showed that use of the dinner package was not necessary tonight, but we also saw a steady sea of people emerging from the regular entrances, by the time the show started all the seats would be taken, and other guests would be standing in the rear. The arena has a capacity of 10,000, so if the park has more than 10,000 people in that want to see Fantasmic, you can see the problem. During peak periods they start seating 2 hours early, and last time I was at the park (in July), I was told that I had to be there at least 90 minutes early if I didn't want to stand. It is worth noting that Fantasmic is the parks nighttime spectacular, and effectively closes the park, except during peak season where they may run it multiple times to allow more guests to see it.

One of the annoying things about Fantasmic is you have to get there early, the benches don't have backs, and you are exposed to the weather. Another thing is there is no pre-show entertainment, except for some background music. In true stadium fashion, folks try to get the wave going, and lest you think Disney has resigned itself to not making any money off you for 2 hours, the facility has concession stands, and concessionaires walking up and down the aisles selling snacks and night novelty products.

They make an anoucement every 15 minutes until 15 minutes before show, then every 5 minutes to update you on time to show. Right at showtime, all the arena lights go out, and it becomes obvious how well the night novelty people did.

Fantasmic is your classic good vs. evil epic story, starring Sorcerer Mickey of Fantasia fame. The show combines lighting effects, fireworks, fire effects, fountain effects, live actors on a multi level stage, and live actors on floats on the body of water that separated the spectators from the stage. Perhaps the most stunning effect is when the fountain jets put up a real fine water curtain. The show uses this water curtain as a projection screen to add video and animation of the show. What is more impressive is the image resolution off the water curtains. Totally stunning. As with other Disney spectaculars, the storyline isn't as important as watching all the special effects. Fantasmic is one breathtaking way to put an exclamation point at the end of your day at the park.. The 25 minute show even ends with a curtain call as the characters ride in on big riverboat floats at the end of the show.

Once Fantasmic ends you have up to 10,000 people all trying to get out of the park all at once. I'd like to be able to say that everybody exits at a nice slow calm pace, but you know that's not the case. There seems to be a lot of jockeying for position to be the first to get to the parking trams and resort buses. At the time, my Mom was having trouble keeping up with the crowd after two solid days of walking around the parks, so we veered off to one side where we could walk at a slower pace. It so happens we exited down the same service road that we entered through. Hey, at least its all downhill this way! We got to the point behind Oscar's, when we noticed the big gate we entered through was locked, and past experience has taught me that they march you down another service road that just so happens to let out back on Sunset Blvd. effectively maximizing your exposure to the parks gift shops on the way out.

I decided to see if we couldn't take a shortcut for the benefit of Mom's leg. I approached the CM who was directing (human) traffic at this point in the path, and asked politely if due to mom having trouble walking, if it would be possible to use the gate next to Oscar's instead of essentially walking all the way back to Sunset Blvd. to just turn around and walk back down Hollywood Blvd. The trademark Disney Customer Service shined again as one of the two CM's patrolling the walkway took the two of us and escorted us through a small opening that put us back on Hollywood Blvd. without the big walk. A big thank you, whomever you were!

This is our stop, right? - or getting back to the resort

At this point we exited the park and headed to the resort bus pickup area. We had to wait a couple buses before we started our ride back to Port Orleans. When we returned to Port Orleans, we decided to try to use the secondary bus stop near our room. Not having the resort map memorized, and having heard them announce the main bus stop as the SOUTH depot, and knowing that our room was pretty much directly across the river from the common area, I logically deduced that we needed the NORTH depot. Not so, as the depot names bear no relationship to compass headings. In fact both the WEST and NORTH depots are along the same edge of the property, and the EAST depot is the one practically directly across from the SOUTH depot.

So mistakingly, and totally by our own fault, we exited the bus at the NORTH depot, whereupon it did not take too long to realize that we were not at the right place. It does not help that the lighting around the bus depots and the paths from the perimeter road to the guest rooms could use some improvement. While we were still standing in the bus depot looking bewildered, another one of those great Disney Customer Service moments occurred. There happened to be another bus sitting in the bus stop. That bus was not on-duty, and the busses marquee indicated that the bus was on a training run. It so happened that the trainer stepped off of the bus, came over to us, asked if he could help. We told him we must have gotten off at the wrong place, and where we were trying to go. The trainer told us to get on his bus, and they drove us around to the EAST depot.

Having gotten our bearings, we returned successfully to our room. And if you thing this ends the nights merriment, you'd be wrong.

First I got my mom settled in, by running to the food court and filling both souvenir mugs with soft drink for he benefit, (after stopping at the food court to have a few drinks myself) , I also got the Big Grab bag of Lays chips for her ($!). After making sure she was settled in, and talking with my Uncle on the phone, I made my way to the resorts marina.

Sasagoola River Cruise

At the marina, I arranged passage (okay, got in the queue) for the Sasagoula River Cruise. The River Cruise is a nice calm tranquil relaxing boat ride that takes you from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney. The yellow boats with blue and white canopies have a multitude of benches and open air seating. In place of electronic signs telling you the boat's destination, the captain flag different colored flags on the bow of the boat. Yellow= Port Orleans/Downtown Disney Green = Old Key West/ Saratoga Springs/ Downtown Disney, and Red = service between Marketplace and West Side. The stern of the boat has the nautical version of the American flag.

Being late at night the narration was rather quiet,. We first made a stop at Port Orleans other dock at French Quarter. Then we started the 20 minute ride to Downtown Disney. As you might know the Downtown Disney area is build up along a huge lake, and when they say Pleasure Island, it really does look like pleasure island with the contrast of the mostly dark river to the barrage f fanciful lights beckoning you on to Downtown Disney.

Finding Disney Quest

Upon arriving at Downtown Disney, I soon realized that the boat dock, and Disney Quest are about as far as you could get from one another. Man, that was a haul. I checked my watch and realized I would have about 80 minutes at DisneyQuest before it closed. I might as well make the most of it. I pulled out my Ultimate Park Hopper Ticket, and walked inside.

Entering Disney Quest

I inserted my ticket into the turnstile and entered DisneyQuest. I received a handstamp and then was shown to a waiting elevator. DisneyQuest is five floors of fun, and to make sure you are totally and completely disoriented, the elevator has you come up in the center of the 3rd floor. This being Disney, of course this is no ordinary elevator. Looking through a window on one side of the car there is a video that plays, and some special lighting effects. Nothing to write home about. What is noteworthy is that there are no call buttons so you can't exit the facility the same way you came in.

CyberSpace Mountain

I checked the electronic tip board in the main hub, liked what I saw. And saw the wait for Cyberspace Mountain was 5 minutes (Yeah, uh huh, whatever) . I also saw on my watch that I had about 70 minutes to close, so I decided to head first to my main reason for coming, and that was Cyberspace Mountain. I followed some signs down a flight of stairs, through some rooms, and I finally got to the entrance for Cyberspace Mountain. Ahh, they must mean 5 minutes to enter the experience, not 5 minutes until you ride.

I waited in line for the next available Navigator (as associates here are called), who asked me if I wanted to ride a pre-built coaster, or design my own. I opted to design my own, so I was handed a plastic card with a barcode on it, and shown to a workstation in the Coaster Design Studio.

You first swipe your barcoded card so that your project can be saved to your card, then you watch a short orientation video on how to design a coaster and how to use the kiosk. Basically your coaster creation will be assembled on the main screen, where countdown will keep track of how much time you have left to complete your project, and how much more track you are allowed to use in your coaster. Along the sides of the screen are the track piece selector buttons, color coded of course. Green track elements are gentle, yellow are medium, and the red buttons, clearly labeled DANGER are extreme elements. In addition the touch screen often offers other track pieces that are not always available. At the bottom of the console are your Go Back and OK buttons.

First you choose a theme for your coaster (say outer space, or ice age), (I went with Ice Age) then you choose a speed (Ahh, it must be a launched coaster, and you get to choose Slow, Medium or "Hang On For Dear Life") Yep, I chose the fastest possible setting. You don't need a lift hill, you don't need to worry about direction (as you can't really turn anyway), and you don't need to make a complete circuit, although the computer "tests" each new track addition as you build, I didn't see any warnings for faulty layout due to physics. You can also be assured that I limited my element selections to the red DANGER buttons, and the DANGER items that sometimes were offered in the special. The ride I built is a nightmare on any street. We'll also excuse them for the catapult leap and track jump track elements. Clearly realism is not the issue here. The design studio then ranks your coaster, and you get to name your coaster (from a list of pre-approved names) The computer then tells you to take your card, and get in line for the ride experience. Hello, paybacks? "You made your bed, now sleep in it?"

Remember that hell on wheels coaster you just designed, now you, yes YOU have to go ride it. You are allowed to bring one friend along to share the fun (or misery as the case may be) with you. You enter a slow moving queue to wait for the next available coaster simulator (I think they have up to 8 two-person simulators) When a simulator becomes available you are told to head to a numbered door, and oh, be taking all loose articles from those pockets. Before your ride, the ride operator, allows you to place all your stuff into a courtesy locker, and you get to hold the key, which has an elastic band so it fits on your wrist. I happened to have all my stuff ready when the cast member came to me, and he comments "I see you've done this before", and I responded "No I read the warning signs", to which he answered in shock amazement "You mean somebody actually reads those things" (I mentioned it was a slow moving queue, didn't I). Luckily I was able to chat it up with a fellow park guest for most of it.

I was then taken into the torture chamber, (Oops, I mean ride simulator). I must admit I was worried when I entered the ride, not because I had created a wild hellish ride, but because I had read that large park guests sometimes can not fit into the ride. The simulator is sunken into the floor so much that when the hood is raised, you have to walk down some stairs to get into the ride tub. You then take your seat, and the overhead restraints lower automatically and lock into place. I must admit I was relieved when I heard the reassuring click as the mechanical locks engaged. The cabin done is then closed around you. Up front is a big movie screen, and in case you really need it, there is an "I want off of this ride NOW!!!" plunger sized button located within reach. The ride started,a and I soon realized that all the simulator can do is rock back and forth and roll over. No sideways movement (which my be why no turn pieces are offered). I was expecting a simulator with more axis of movement, what it is, in reality is a rider customizable simulator with about as much movement as a Haunted Swing ride. Forwards roll, backwards roll, except that in this case you are actually the one rolling, not the room. I also noted a nameplate on the ride "ZAMPERLA" which is a nice Italian ride manufacturer, and I think the same people who supplied the latest rebuilds of Dumbo, Flying Carpets, Astro Orbiter, Tricreatops Spin, and after a recent re-organization they can be held technically responsible for primeval Whirl. I exited the ride at its conclusion, where I noted the ride operator took my key and unlocked the locker for me. You don't think all the lock boxes are keyed the same do you? Having retrieved my stuff, I walked down the exit stairs and neglected to stop by the booth where you can buy a video of you riding your coaster.

I looked around the room I was in, and noticed they had a place where you can learn to draw a Disney character, some electronic sketchpad, a build your own toy workshop, a record your own music recording studio, and other similar attractions, all of which are free and most of which also have the potential to sell you your finished creation.

Alladin's Flying Carpets

Not knowing the layout , I started wandering through the facility. I next came upon Alladin's Flying Carpets, the VR experience. I merely had to wait until the next 'ride'. You are issued the inner working of a hard hat which you (literally) screw onto your head this has spots to which the VR helmet on the ride locks onto to. Its a nice touch which makes sure that the (expensive) helmet does not come off mid-ride. It also fully ensures that the helmet controls all that you can see and hear. The helmet also has motion sensors so that if you look up. down, or around the viewpoint changes so that what you see matches the way your head is turned. You then receive brief instructions on flying a magic carpet. You are seated on a bike seat. Lean forward to go down, lean back to go up, and steer with the handlebars, push forward on the handlebars to go faster, pull back to go slower. The ride itself is at its heart a VR videogame., fly and pick up the jewels while trying to rescue someone, You fly through and explore a fantasy world, lots of clever flying, and lots of decision, making points, though I wonder if you always complete the game. I mean we got all the way to the end on our game, and I noticed that those who flew down alternate passages were put back on the right course.

I next walked down a stairway and saw a row of what looked like a rowing videogame. Its the Virtual Jungle Cruise, where you and your group has to row a rubber raft (virtually of course) in accordance with what you see on he screen ahead of you. I passed on Virtual Jungle Cruise. I did go into Virtual Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirates of the Caribbean - the VR experience

In Pirates you are first issued some heavy duty 3D goggles, yes goggles, with a neck strap that tightens. You are then shown to your pirate ship. Onboard the group has to elect one person to man the ships wheel, and effectively steer the ship, the other members of the group stand alongside the edges of the deck and man the cannons. There are more cannons than people so you may have to run around the deck of the boat to find the most advantageous cannon to use. The cannons have limited aiming ability, and to fire, you have to yank on the rope. All around the very real deck of your virtual pirate ship is a wrap around screen, presenting in 3D, the ocean around you, and more importantly the rival pirate ships that your are trying to plunder and loot (Wake up me hearties, YO HO!) I don't quite get how it happens but when you sink a ship, you get all the treasure that was on board that ship. I would have thought that since you never leave your ship, and you have decimated the other ship, the treasure would go down with the ship. The game gets progessively harder as you go along, until finally you have to fight the ghostly pirates to claim the prize. Its a cute game. I decided to skip its counterpart, Alien Encounter which is a similar concept, only 360 degrees instead of 180.

Next off in my travels I stopped for a quick game of Marble Madness (and with my pathetic performance, it was a quick game) All the arcade games in DisneyQuest that don't offer prizes are included with the admission. Just hit start!, On some of the older classic machines, or arcade games that don't normally allow for free play, they have installed a button right where the coin slot would normally be. Press the button and one credit is added to the game.

Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters

I explored further and I found Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. These are Dodgems taken to the next level. The Dodgems are contained in an entirely enclosed environment, with clear walls and doors surrounding the L shaped floor. In addition the cars have fully enclosed clear cages for their riders. You may ask why all the high security. Well this isn't your grandfather's Dodgem car. Oh no, these cars have a vacuum mounted to the bottom of the car that can scoop up basketball sized "asteroids" that are littered along the arena floor. Just roll over one to snag it, it will appear in an ammo bin between the cars two seats. One you have an asteroid, you place it into the Astro Blaster and fire it at another car. Your goal is to hit the target on another car. This will cause the cars interior strobe lights to flash, the driver of that car to loose control, and that car to spin for a few seconds. What's not to like!

These Dodgems also come with a safety training. Mostly stuff like only one asteroid in the astro blaster at a time and since both the arena and your car doors are locked, it your astro blaster jams, you will be defenseless for the remainder of the ride. A truly sad fate. They also tell you to inspect the weaponry before the ride starts, to make sure the loading hatch on the Astro Blaster is OPEN, and that the ammo chamber is empty. This is to help make sure you don't have a jammed gun right from the start. Other tips involve seatbelts, If the belts are not fastened the car will not move., and to stay out of one end of the arena floor. Its a black hole and cars seem to get stuck there. Again if you get hopelessly stuck or your car malfunctions, there is nothing that can be done about it once the ride starts. I did not have a ride partner so I would have to be both Driver and Gunner in my car. The ride is ideally meant for teams of two. Also some ground rules: NO picking up asteroids while walking to and from your car, you may only use asteroids your car picks up during the ride. NO preloading the cannon.

Okay briefing open, the arena hatch was opened, and I made my way to my craft. Once seated inside my craft, I did the recommended weapons system inspection, then I familiarized myself with the craft. In front of the driver is a steering wheel which well you can figure it out, on the floor is a foot pedal which controls the speed of the car, (supposedly), but a new addition has been added in the form of a gearshift. You have forwards and reverse gear. The idea must be to make these some of the most manueverable Dodgem cars on the planet, even if they are huge and bulky. I then inspected the Gunners station. There is a bin between the seats to pick up asteroids you have found, and a huge cannon in front of the gunner. The cannon has limited aiming potential, it also has a fire button located at its base, and a knob on the side. The knob opens and closes the ammo loading chamber. Behind both seats is a netted shelf for storing loose articles. I then made sure both doors were closed, then I fastened the seatbelt on the empty Gunner's seat, before I fastened my own. The cars use standard 3-point automotive style seatbelts. The attendants come around and perform a safety inspection. (There are also tattle tale lights on the top of the cars that tattle on those with unfastened seatbelts) The ride then started, I think the car doors maglock, then remember that big plastic clear cage that surrounds you. You would be relieved when you hear a nice cooling fan turn on to circulate fresh air into your plastic cage.

whew, this is fun! I was at a disadvantage flying solo, but all in all I had a real fun ride, and the rides seemed to be a lot longer than your average dodgem ride. It did not take to long for e to learn how to pilot my craft, now if I could only load and fire cannon and drive at the same time. That would be an artform. As an extra bonus, due to the low crowds that night, we were offered a DOUBLE RIDE. Due to the ride control system we had to unfasten the seatbelts, wait until the ride reset, then refasten them, but Whee HEee DOUBLE RIDE! I want a set of these closer to home. What a wonderful way to help you take out your frustrations.

Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam

I wandered some more and came to Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam. hmm, a pinball themed game, I could hardly resist.

This one isn't that great. You stand on a giant joystick, by leaning on the joystick you can move your ball around the pintable. Yep its pinball in name only. Hit the targets, score goals, it a lot of players at once in this 'pinball' free-for-all.

I looked at my watch, 10:57, not really time to get to anything, but DisneyQuest also has a wide, wide, (and did I mention WIDE) selection of arcade games. I stumbled upon pinball alley. I played a game of Rollercoaster Tycoon pinball, and confirmed that even when its free and its at Disney, that pinball machine is still crap.

towards the end of my pingame, I thought that there must be a FunHouse machine just around the corner. Right at 11, I hear a grandfather clock go BONG, BONG, BONG, some yawning noises, but instead of "The funhouse is now closed" I hear "DisneyQuest is now closed..." Its a fitting closing announcement as DisneyQuest is very much Disney's modern answer to a funhouse!

Which leaves you this chilling challenge: To Find A WAY OUT

Remember that disorienting and purposely confusing layout, well the one thing that doesn't seem to be well marked is the EXIT. I walked around the same floor a couple times, and noted that in un Disneylike fashion, the cast members were not being overly helpful at helping you locate the exit. The goal seems to be to find the down staircases and make your way to Level 1, then find the exit turnstiles on level 1. I finally found one of the elevators that was configured for guest use, and instructed the Happy Vertical People Transporter that I would like to go down. As you may know Happy Vertical People Transporters like going down more than they like going up. It just so happened to be my luck that when the doors opened on Level 1, I was right next to the exit turnstiles. It should come as a surprise to nobody that the exit turnstiles let you out into Disneyquests giftshop, which was still operating.

At this point, I decided to check out the Adventurer's Club. I had read a lot about it on DISboards. Not being a Pleasure Island regular, I first approached, appropriately enough the building labeled TICKETS. When I asked about getting a ticket to pleasure island, the ticket booth guy swiped my UPH and told me all I had to do was show it at the first club I went to, they would set me up.

Adventurer's Club

I headed directly to the Adventurers Club, showed my card to the bouncer, where they merely looked at it, stamped my hand, and invited me into the club. I made my way around the balcony level, and down the grand staircase into the main salon.

Once in the main salon, I ordered up a beer, and took a seat in the lounge. It was sure nice to sit down and relax. Within a few minutes I heard that there was something interesting to see in the Mask Room. At this point everybody picks up their drinks and moves from the main salon to the Mask Room. You sit on little tufts in a room surrounded by masks of all descriptions. And well I don't want to spoil the fun of the Adventuerer's Club, but the premise is you travel from room to room in the club, while the adventurers lead you on comical stories about the clubs artifacts and all. Interesting shows take place in the library, and yes at times even the mail salon where you first entered to wait for the next activity sometimes has activities itself. If you want to find out what is going to happen when, you can either take the boring but sure approach of asking a club member, or you can peruse the main salon, where you will note schedules on the doors to the various rooms. I stuck around for a little under an hour, and thought it to a be a fun novel way to spend an hour or so.

- Kungaloosh!

It's always New Years Eve somewhere in the universe, right?

Pleasure Islands all encompassing theme is New Years Eve, every night of the year. Tonight the theme would be shared with Mardi Gras, as a Cajun band played the main outdoor stage, and the carnival style games offered Mardi gras beads for consolation prizes. Too bad the aforementioned carnival style games must close at midnight, as I just missed them.

anyway, I grabbed myself an order of chili cheese fries at the Missing Link Sausage Company, and settled in to watch the band at the bandshell, and the new years eve style countdown right at midnight, complete with a fireworks show. The cast of the Adventurer's Club was ripping on the fireworks show, which is all of 13 seconds long, and you think I'm joking. He wasn't joking.

I also knew I had an 8:45 appointment to keep the next morning and it was edging towards 12:30 am, so I dragged myself to the resort bus facility, and hey Port Orleans is bus stop 1!!
I then proceeded to take the quick bus ride to my resort, and yes this time I rode around to the EAST depot.

I quietly tiptoed my way into my room, and would anybody be surprised to hear that Mom waited up for me?

Stay tuned for our next exciting installment! Day 3! And that mysterious 8:45 appointment.


Blogger Huelzee said...

When I did the College Program @ WDW, I worked at the Sce Fi, Comissary and Studio Catering Company for my rotation. Anyway, backdoor walkway to runs parrale to the Great Movie Ride, so if you could imagine on one side there was the enormous building for the GMR and the other side was the big building that actually housed the Comissary and Sci Fi Dine Inn. how spooky it was at night. The last section of the GMR had large garage doors for the storage of extra GMR veichles, also this was the location of our emergency eye wash. So, after closing or early in the morning we could see the maitence manually moving the vehciles w/ the steering wheel you were talking about.
So far it sounds like you had fun, I just wish you would be finished with this trip report by this Sat. because Sunday I am on my way to Orlando, for Spring Break. I that sounds funny.
Anyway later.
I am trying to be positive and want it to happen,BUT in all honesty When do you think Italian Job will be finished, I am thinking the park is pushing for Memorial Day. Oh yeah also about Italian Job does it look like an overgrown wild mouse or is it just me.

4:44 PM  

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