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September 7, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000: Introduction

In September 2000, Roger and I packed up our things and headed off to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida for a much deserved, fun-filled vacation. We both are annual passholders to Disneyland in California, so we came to WDW with a west coast slant. I had been to WDW during the same time of year back in 1992 and have been itching to come back ever since. We decided to go during the same time of year as before due to the low crowds. However, be warned! The Love Bugs are out in full force and a hurricane is always brewing this time of the year. If you can put up with these small inconveniences, it is well worth going during this period.

We chose the Dixie Landings Resort mainly because my experience last time. I wanted to try a new resort, but none of the other resorts in my price range appealed to me. Dixie Landings had prime location (Near EPCOT and Downtown Disney, and not too far from the Magic Kingdom) and the fact that it will be swallowed up by the Port Orleans resort next year cinched our decision.

September 8, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 1: Home, Dixie Landings, EPCOT

Friday September 8, 2000
The day began early, as most first days of vacation begin. Actually, the day began the night before, as Roger and I decided to stay at the Le Meridien Hotel in Beverly Hills so we would not have to get up super early for the trip. So Thursday night we relaxed at the hotel (see pics in the photo section). On Friday morning we awoke around 6am to get some room service and catch a cab to LAX. The morning was a blur as we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Unfortunately, the cab driver delivered us to the wrong terminal, despite asking us where our destination was. After a quick hike to the other side of the airport, we relaxed in the terminal and eventually boarded the flight. Through some sick and twisted American Airlines master stroke of planning, our non-stop to Florida was on a 737. Way too small for transcontinental flight. At least American didn’t disappoint and provided its usual quota of snobby, rude stewardesses who were more concerned with other matters than the passengers.
About 5 hours later our plane landed safely at Orlando International. I made a mental note to arrange for a chiropractor when I return. In record time, we had our luggage, caught the tram and before too long we found ourselves at the Dixie Landings Resort at Walt Disney World. After receiving our briefing and supplies, we hiked to our room. With the humidity as it was, both of us were soaked when we reached the room.
We decided to go over to EPCOT to catch dinner and a glance at the fireworks. It was a bit different than I remembered, but I was glad to be there. We managed to ride Spaceship Earth with the new Jeremy Irons narration. Not as good as the Walter Cronkite version, but oh well. After eating, we checked out GM’s Test Track and picked up some Fastpasses. We wandered around to the World Showcase to catch the tail end of the Tapestry of Nations. Looked like a cool parade and we vowed to return the next day to see all of it. We returned to redeem our Fastpasses on Test Track. True to GM build quality, the ride broke down as we were getting ready to board it. Disney was nice enough to give us line cutting passes for the next day. Wandering back over to World Showcase, we caught the tail end of Illuminations 2000 – another show we want to see in full tomorrow.
By then, the park was closed and we just sauntered around the pavilions until we finally caught the bus back to the hotel. A long day, but I am glad we had a chance to get a sneak preview of what is to come. I should note that EPCOT seems to be following the annoying Sea World trend of piping music throughout the park. Unlike the 80’s mix of Sea World, EPCOT opted for the feel good background music. I really find it all distracting from the experience, but I am sure there is some happiness inducing reason that these parks do it.

September 9, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 2: EPCOT

Saturday September 9, 2000
After a long day yesterday, Roger and I decided to take it easy and slept late. By the time we were up and ready to go it was already 1pm. We headed over to the Dixie Landings food court for some lunch. I ordered some spaghetti and Roger ordered the Chicken Salad. My spaghetti was less than thrilling and was no where near as good as the stuff they serve at Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port at Disneyland. We then caught the bus over to EPCOT.
As we disembarked the bus, we noticed that it was beginning to rain. By the time we hit the first canopy, it was downright pouring. It poured non stop for at least 10 minutes before it let up. We then decided to make a run for the next canopy. By the time we arrived, we were both soaked. After another 5 minutes we decided to try for the entrance area. Halfway there, it poured again and we dashed under a nearby overhang. Completely soaked we decided the heck with it and ran over to the entrance where we were able to purchase Ponchos. I didn’t want to get one since I had one back at the hotel, but I had no choice. We entered EPCOT and headed over to the Universe of Energy. Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy provided a humorous look at energy with a little help from Alex Trebeck. It was definitely funnier than the last time I was here. Checking in with the Test Track, we discovered it was closed due to the weather so we headed over to the Living Seas.
The Living Seas is an interesting concept, but not really that exciting. We skipped the movie and went onto the tram to the aquarium area. The fish and dolphins seemed disinterested and our stay in this pavilion was short. We then headed over to the Land pavilion, which albeit cheesy, was a tad more interesting than the Living Seas and Roger enjoyed the boat ride through the experimental agricultural areas. Done with the Land, we headed over to the Journey into Imagination pavilion. We skipped Honey I Shrunk the Audience (it’s the same as Disneyland), we went onto the Journey into your Imagination ride. It was nice that they used the same character that was in Honey I Shrunk the Audience played by Eric Idle. I wish they had kept more Figment, for his appearance at the end of the ride was out of the blue. Overall the ride was OK and despite the fact the old song from the previous version of the ride was gone, I enjoyed it more.
Heading out to the World Showcase, I heard the Test Track up and running so we headed over. Finally, we were able to ride it. The ride was super-cool and on the straight-away we hit 70mph and it was quite a rush. I recommend it to all who come to EPCOT. After this ride, we headed over to the World Showcase and Roger picked up a Passport to get signed in each country. First stop – Mexico.
The Mexico pavilion had some sculpture from Pre-Colombian Mexico and some shops and a Boat ride. I am not quite sure what happened to the boat ride, but it was called Journey in Time and the ride seemed more like Journey through Mexico. From Mexico, we transitioned to Norway. Norway has a cool boat ride called “Malestorm”. It is definitely the best boat ride in EPCOT and features a few surprises. From Norway, it was off to China. They had a circle-vision movie called “Wonders of China” which is the same movie they used to show at Disneyland every now and then. Roger got some good shots of various parts of the pavilion. While we were in China, the Tapestry of Nations was going on and it was a great parade. From China it was off to Germany and Italy. Roger continued to get his passport signed. In Italy, there was a group of musicians playing classical music on modern electronic equipment. Our trip continued on to the US, Japan, France, UK, Canada, and the Millennium Pavilion. All of the pavilions offered shops and restaurants with items from their respective countries. It was sad that the US Pavilion featured standard Disney fast food. Oh well. Each person who signed Roger’s passport was very courteous and offered info on their countries. Our favorites were Jose in Mexico, Ben in Germany, Oliver in France, Hiroshoko in Japan, and Leon in the UK. The Millennium Pavilion offered 23 other countries. Everyone there was friendly and Kudos goes to Sweden for a great exhibit on the four seasons in Sweden (and no, they were not all snow).
By the time we finished, Illuminations was over and the park was closed. I still had not eaten dinner, so we took the bus back to the hotel. Once again, we dined at the food court (by this time the only thing open). It was a tad better this time, but I did buy the all you can drink mug which gets me free drinks at Dixie Landings and Port Orleans whenever I want. It was then time to go to bed. We want to get an earlier start tomorrow to go to the Magic Kingdom. I did notice that the pics of the UK and Canada didn’t come out, so we will have to return on another day to get pics of them.

September 10, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 3: Magic Kingdom, Disney/MGM, Downtown Disney

Sunday September 10, 2000
We awoke around 8:30 and were out the door at 9:45 for our day at the Magic Kingdom park. Entering the Magic Kingdom, my first observation was that the buildings were all much bigger than at Disneyland. All the shops were in different places, except for the Emporium which was undergoing some sort of renovation. We headed out to look for a place for breakfast, but unless you had reservations for the character breakfast, you were out of luck. We finally found the Pecos Bill Café and settled for lunch. From there, it was off to Pirates of the Caribbean. I will not go into detail about each ride in this report, I am going to create a separate page at the conclusion of the trip that talks about the rides that are also in Disneyland. I will mention more detail on the rides that are unique to Florida. For Pirates, and this goes for most of the attractions at Walt Disney World with cousins elsewhere, the theming was excellent but the overall ride lacked the warmth and ambiance of Disneyland. From Pirates it was off to Big Thunder, the Haunted Mansion, and then over to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain. My most lasting impression of SM was that the queue line was HUGE. I can only imagine how bad it must be in the summer or holiday season. Because of the time of year we are visiting, most of the rides had no longer than a 20 minute wait. It was then time for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (or as I like to call it the People Mover). Since Disneyland replaced theirs with the Rocket Rods, I appreciated the opportunity to relax on a nice slow long ride.
It was then time for a Magic Kingdom exclusive – Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Despite the fact I can’t aim worth a darn, I enjoyed this cross between laser tag and Roger Rabbit’s Car-Toon Spin from DL. I was expecting just a copy of Roger Rabbit, and the interactive aspect was fun. From there it was over to another ride unique to Florida – Alien Encounter. I had heard a few things about this ride, and they are definitely true. This ride is way too intense for the kiddies, but a great show altogether. Everything from the preshow to the actual ride was well done. I certainly wish that we had this in DL instead of the pizza place. After some ice cream, it was time for the TimeKeeper. He looked like Tom Morrow, but sounded like Robin Williams. His traveling companion named Nine Eye was voiced by the Brave Little Toaster. This was another fun attraction, though a bit smart-alecky. I got the feeling from other attractions that they have updated that they are going for the Aladdin-esque humor. Overall, this ride was miles ahead of the Rocket Rods queue line (and I even recognized some of the footage).
After a few dozen shots of the castle it was off to the Tiki Birds (under new management). I know some people will hate me, but I enjoyed the show much more than the classic show, though I can see this one getting old real fast. From there, it was off to the mini-Small World and then to the Hall of Presidents. I know some people fall asleep during the show, but I enjoyed it. I always get a kick when they introduce the animatronic presidents and they all look at the ones being introduced. Good show guys! By this time, our Fastpass was up for the new Winnie the Pooh ride. Or so we thought. The Fastpass commandant informed us that we had to wait another two minutes before getting in line. This ride had the longest ride by far in the entire park at 50 minutes and was glad to have the pass. I know people were upset when Mr. Toad was let go, and that ride is a classic, but I really like the Pooh ride. I would prefer they axe Snow White instead of Toad, but I think the Pooh ride is a classic. From Pooh it was off to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. This area used to be Mickey’s Birthdayland, but was re-named and better themed after Toontown opened in DL. From there, we were off on a trip around Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom aboard the steam train. We went completely around the park and decided to get one more ride on Space Mountain and then head off to Disney-MGM Studios.
We rode the Monorail to the ticket/transportation center and transferred to the EPCOT Monorail. It is so nice to ride a Monorail for a long time without stops, a luxury we don’t get at Disneyland. At EPCOT, we boarded the bus for the Studios. With only two hours left, we decided to hit the two new attractions, the Rock and Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We got a Fastpass for the Tower, and stood in line for the Coaster. I must say the coaster kicked some major butt. It included a high-speed take off, a loop and a corkscrew – all indoors. We liked it so nice, we rode it twice. A definite favorite. We then headed over to redeem our passes for the Tower of Terror. There was still some mighty queuing and some bizarre seating arrangements to deal with, but it was well worth the wait. The TOT basically sends you up a few floors, then drops a few and then up a few and then down a few. Man – were my knuckles white. Roger loved every minute of it as well, and tomorrow when we return, we are going on both again. It was then time for Fantasmic. I am a big fan of the show at DL, and it was interesting seeing how it was staged in a theater. Keeping in the tradition of WDW, it was bigger and updated to include 1990’s movies. There was no Peter Pan sequence (replaced with an awful Pocahontas bit), and no Mark Twain (replaced by an anemic Steamboat Willie), but overall I like what they did with the show in Florida. I think I give it the slight edge over Disneyland because it has seats. But if you are in the seats at the Disney Gallery, it is worth suffering through the elephants bits and is the best way to go. After the show it was off to the hotel – finally to relax. After an hour we headed off to Downtown Disney.
Since I live in Southern California just a stones throw from Universal Studios, Downtown Disney looked a lot like a CityWalk rip-off. I remember the Marketplace and Pleasure Island from my last trip and they were mostly the same – nice shopping and store in one, and an eclectic mix of night spots in another. The West End was the blatant CityWalk spin – oversized themed buildings and all. Sorry to say for the Universal folks, but Disney did a much better job with he layout and the choice of shops and just plain overall themeing, but then that is what Disney does best. After dinner at the Wildhorse Grill (honest I didn’t know it was a country bar until we sat down) and New Year’s Eve (which is EVERY night at Pleasure Island – still) and a brief stop in a 70’s bar, it was back to the hotel and to bed. A very full day. I think we are sleeping in a bit tomorrow and then off to the Studios.

September 11, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 4: Disney/MGM, Boarwalk, EPCOT

Monday September 11, 2000
Late start today. I was glad for it too because I was really socked out by yesterday. We made it over to the MGM Studios by 1:30 and made a b-line for lunch. After a quick lunch it was over to Muppet-vision 4D – a unique movie experience that I remember being my favorite attraction from WDW when I was last here. It has held up pretty well, but will face some stiff competition when the final tallies are in at the end of the trip. From there it was off to the Great movie ride. Boy – I remember being impressed by this ride as well, but man this time it was disappointing. This attraction hasn’t aged well over 11 years, and I was glad to hear that plans are in the works to update/replace it. We next ventured over to the Animation Tour. Overall it was a good presentation, but I kept feeling rush, and didn’t have time to linger around where you can see the animators working. I saw lots of items from “The Emperor’s New Groove”, but nothing from “Atlantis” or anything else that was in the future. I am sure items were there, but I am also sure Disney is protecting their secrets. We then headed over to the Studios Backlot Tour which is a VERY blatant rip-off of Universal and unlike CityWalk, this one pales in comparison to Universal. It is short and not very informative or entertaining – a definite skip. Roger did enjoy seeing props from one of his favorite movies “Hocus Pocus” but alas the pics were out of Focus – hopefully we will go back and get more pics later in the trip. We then headed off to the ABC Sound Studio for an impressive entertaining demonstration of 360 degree sound with effects. Roger didn’t care for the bees though. A short hop away was Star Tours – which has better exterior themeing but essentially the same ride inside.
By this point it was late in the day and I procured a visor to ease the strain on my eyes from the sun. After a bit of shopping, we decided to take the Boat Cruise down to Disney’s Boardwalk. I like the presentation of the Boardwalk. It is not as gaudy as Downtown Disney’s West Side yet was still full of shops and restaurants. The ESPN bar was hopping in anticipation of the Jets-Patriots NFL game that was getting ready to start. We sauntered through the Boardwalk, taking a minute to browse the models of Disney’s Vacation Club – which Disney is pushing like crazy. I am a fan of Timeshares, but there is no way I’d ever be able to afford one. C’mon Disney – how about something like this for the rest of us??
After a brief walk, we found ourselves at EPCOT once again. I was finally able to try the Fish & Chips at the UK pavilion. A bit price at 6.50 for two pieces and fries, but it was very good. (The Sprite was out of syrup and by the time we drank from the sodas we were too far to go back.) We then headed over to Test Track to get a ride in before the park closed. We noticed a long line, so we grabbed Fastpasses and headed over to the single-rider line. We ended up just ahead of where the regular line was, but managed to get through the ride and the exit and then get back into line with our Fastpasses. This time through the ride, the cast members let us ride twice in a row because it was the end of the day. I think this is a great ride and had a blast riding it three times in 30 minutes.
It was then time to call it a day. We had some dessert at the hotel and headed off to bed. We want to get an early start tomorrow for the Animal Kingdom, and maybe some Magic Kingdom.
Some end of the day notes: It seems the Studios are blaring music like crazy. I still don’t care for this practice and the mind boggles at what they do at the Animal Kingdom. Also- while some cast members are fun and greet you and talk to you with warm, there are definitely a few that need attitude adjustments. Some are just downright rude. Maybe we had a few too many in a row, but it seems that WDW is not as friendly a place as Disneyland. Could just be me though. But whatever you do, don’t ask questions to the lady selling Nestle Crunch Ice Cream bars outside the Great Movie Ride as she is tallying up her bars. Instead, go talk to the cast members in Mouse Works after the park has closed and the shop is jammed with tired tourists – they are helpful, professional, and courteous – everything I have come to expect from the Walt Disney Company.

September 12, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 5: Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Pool

Tuesday September 12, 2000
Our trip has hit the half way point as we finally hit the fourth theme park at the Walt Disney World Complex – Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My first impression of the park was man are there a lot of plants. My second impression was man there are a lot of bugs here! The setting and theming of this park were magnificent. I was very pleased with this park until I ventured into Dinoland USA – Sponsored heavily by McDonald’s. There was a McDonald’s Restaurantasouras, and the big attraction – DINOSAUR (formerly Countdown to Extinction) included a prominent “This experiment was funded by a generous grant from the McDonald’s Corporation”). Now I have no problem if Mikey D’s wants to have a restaurant, but I think they crossed the line with Dinoland and the Dinosaur ride. It seemed more like a McDonald’s theme park that a Disney one. As for the big attraction, it is the Indiana Jones ride system from Disneyland with a great queue area, but the attraction itself was mostly dark with nothing of the level of Indy. A big let down.
Moving over to the Africa section of the park, we hitched a ride on the Kiliminjaro Safaris. It was an interesting ride – full of great animals who seemed to be enjoying life roaming the range. The approach that Disney went with this ride was not a Sea World approach, but rather as just a plain attraction. It is like the Jungle Cruise with real animals and trucks instead of boats. The tour guide was too quiet and didn’t enunciate enough to get anything across. We did get some great animal shots, though. Next to the Safari, was one of the “walks” – the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. The guide said gorillas were on the trail, but we didn’t see any. Some good shots of hippos and some interesting birds. From the trail, it was onto the Conservation Station area – accessed by a train which took us through the backstage of the Safari ride. We did get to see some of the attendant areas for the Rhinos, Hippos, and Giraffes. I had thought all the animals were roaming freely (as implied by the promo materials), but a good portion of the animals were in their pens. I wonder how animals get stuck in the back or put onto the savannah. Conservation Station was a bunch of exhibits about saving animals and pushing the Disney Wildlife Fund. The only thing worthwhile was meeting Tarzan and seeing some of the pre-natal care areas. Some spy cams of the animals were cool as well. There was a petting zoo ( or “Affection Station” as Disney calls it.) which the kiddies seemed to enjoy, but by this point it was extremely hot out. I suggested to Roger we head to Asia and go on the Kali River Rapids. So it was back to the train and then off to Asia.
The Kali River Rapids was your standard River Rapid ride with some kick-butt themeing. I managed to get doused pretty good and loved every minute of it. It was then off to another trail – this time to the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This trek was well worth it as we got up close with tigers and some reeeealy large bats. After the trek, we realized we had hit all the attractions in the park, save for the shows. Camp Minnie-Mickey was basically a big meet and greet area with a Pocahontas show. We hopped in for a quick peek and then left.
As we left the park and headed for the Magic Kingdom, I had some final thoughts on the Animal Kingdom. It reminds me a lot of the Disney/MGM Studios in its early years. It was real pretty, but there was not a lot to do. It is a beautiful park (well save for Dinoland and Camp Minnie-Mickey) and it has a lot of potential. I suggest yanking the Living Seas from EPCOT and building an Oceania area of the park – however don’t do the Dolphin/Whale show thing, but rather give them some kind of respect like they do on the safari.
Bussing over to the Magic Kingdom, Roger picked up some swim shorts for tomorrow’s Typhoon Lagoon outing, and then we rode Haunted Mansion (man was it nice to be inside a cool building) and then Space Mountain. It was an E-Ticket night at the MK, but we both felt it was silly to pay 10 bucks for 3 hours to ride the best of the parks rides since a) we already shelled out a wad of cash for our passes and b)the longest line that we had to wait for anything was the Dressing room at the shop in Adventureland. Every thing else has been at most 20 minutes.
After MK, we relaxed at the hotel and sampled the pool. Then it was off to bed in preparation of our Character Breakfast in the morning and Typhoon Lagoon during the day.

September 13, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 6: Breakfast, Blizzard Beach, EPCOT

Wednesday September 13, 2000
Early up this morning to get to our character breakfast. We chose the Grand Floridian Hotel, since Roger wanted to see the hotel and I knew most of the other places would be jammed. Upon reflection, I think we should have stuck with the Magic Kingdom for it since it took us forever to get to the hotel, and the only characters that were at the Grand Floridian were Mary Poppins, Geppetto, Pinocchio, Pluto and Goofy. Apparently Mickey is only at the Contemporary Resort. It was overpriced, and full of screaming kids. I can recommend it only if you bring kiddies to Walt Disney World. We then walked around the hotel and Roger captured some neat shots of the place.
From there, it was back to the hotel to change for our first Water Park day. We decided to change to Blizzard Beach and save Typhoon Lagoon for Friday. It was downright oppressively hot when we arrived and it felt good to relax in the slow moving river (I think its real name is the Cross Country River, but I prefer to use ‘Lethargy River’). We ventured on a couple of the tube rides – first as tandem and then as single riders in the dark. It was then off to Steamboat Springs – the mondo raft ride. Now, as most people are aware, water parks require massive amounts of stair climbing. Who needs a Stairmaster when you lug up a raft several stories for a 20 second ride. Blizzard Beach solves this long-standing pain by installing a ski lift (keeping with its frozen theme). This lift conveniently drops the patron off at the top of the hill where it is just a short walk to most of the rides. Of course, if you want to ride a raft ride – no lift for you! There were a few standard mat flumes – mats shaped like toboggans of course. Roger and I did not have the patience for the big drop rides – the wait was about 30 minutes. We did go on the high speed tube drop which was very fun. Now being a water park, we did not get the chance to take pictures because of the vulnerability of the camera. I did manage a shot of the outside so that will have to do for now. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. The park did not seem very Disney-oriented other than some minor themeing here and there. It will be interesting to compare Blizzard Beach to Typhoon Lagoon. Roger managed to score a Blizzard Beach mug in lieu of the 2 dollar refund for returning the all day locker key.
After recuperating at the hotel for a scant 20 minutes, we headed over to the only theme park still open – our old friend EPCOT. We tried to eat dinner at one of the nice restaurants, but the only way to eat at them is to plan WAY in advance. This is a royal pain in the neck, and I wish there was a way to have some respect for us impulse diners. We had to placate ourselves with the excellent Fish and Chips in the UK. It was then time for Illuminations 2000. We had yet to see the whole thing and decided to stay and see what all the hubub was about – (every cast member at EPCOT raves about it.) I can now say that Illuminations 2000 is a neat show, but no where near as good as the old Illuminations (they used to light up the pavilions with music from the respective countries). I still think the Believe show at Disneyland is the best set of Disney fireworks currently in production. On our way out of the theme park, we noticed that GM’s loveable Test Track was still open. We promptly rode it and had a great time. I love the acceleration to 65 on the banking turn. Now it was time to visit the big EPCOT shop Mouse Works again. This time I managed to score a Spaceship Earth that attaches to my Monorail set. Very Cool.
It was then time to come home and inspect our sunburns. Thanks to a heaping amount of sunscreen, mine is pretty minor and Roger just turns dark so we came out OK. I am not sure where we are off to tomorrow, so stay tuned!
Wrap up note: It dawned on me as I finished my Fish and Chips that EPCOT is my favorite part of Walt Disney World. Probably due to my background as a geography nerd, but despite some of the hokey parts I really have grown to love it. If I was living in Florida I think I would get an annual pass to the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, but not the others. Despite Disney/MGM Studios two marquee attractions, I couldn’t justify it. I will write more in my post-trip park reviews but that is what is most on my mind right now.

September 14, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 7: Disney/MGM, Florida Mall, Downtown Disney

Thursday September 14, 2000
Well the day started out nice. Roger and I slept in to take advantage of a relax day. First order of business was to arrange our tours. We decided on the EPCOT “Treasures of the World Showcase” as our Flex pass option for Sat, and we decided to take the “Keys to the Kingdom” Magic Kingdom tour tomorrow. After arranging this, we decided to get lunch at the Dixie Landings food court and then head off to the Disney/MGM Studios to take in some of the shows and to ride the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster. At the Studios, we picked up a few nick knacks including name badges and a replacement fan for Roger. It was as we were boarding the Coaster that I realized that something was wrong. My prescription glasses were missing from my glasses case. It would be OK if my sunglasses were gone, but my regular glasses are a problem. After riding the coaster, we headed back to the hotel re-tracing our steps. We checked with the bus driver (the same one who took us there) and he said no one spotted them.
Back at the hotel, we searched the Food Court, the hotel room and the bus stops to no avail. I have no idea what happened to them. I think I was being warned in the morning when I couldn’t find several items right away (but eventually did). So I checked with the hotel’s lost and found. They reported a pair of glasses were found the night before but not today. I asked where the nearest place to get replacement glasses in the area was and they directed me to Lenscrafters at the Florida Mall. It would cost 50 bucks roundtrip to get their and back, so we opted to rent a car from National which has several cars available from the Disney Car Care Center. We ended up in a tan Chevrolet Cavalier four door for a mere 50 dollars for a day. After the National bus picked us up, we were on our way to the mall. The car was typical of rental car fleets, but I was happy to be able to drive since my sunglasses also were prescriptions. It also helped to have them because Lenscrafters could read them and make new ones.
After a half hour, we arrived at the mall. I was surprised at the amount of traffic, but by the time we got to this point it was already 5pm, so I guess people were getting off of work. We met up with Lou Gerber and manager Barbara at Lenscrafters, and after picking out new frames, they promptly began my order. Roger and I walked around the mall. It reinforced the idea that the names might be slightly different, but most malls have the same stores. An hour later we were back at Lenscrafters to pick up the glasses. With a few minor adjustments I was ready to go. I still have to get used to the new frames, but they are very stylish. Back in the car, we headed down International Drive to check out what has grown up around Disney. My favorite buildings were the Ripley’s Believe It or Not building which appears to be sinking into the ground, and the Wonderworks building which is upside down. Nothing too special, though I can see it does offer a night or twos worth of entertainment. Oh, and if you are really pressed there is always Sea World.
Back at the hotel, we decided to head out to Downtown Disney to have some fun and try and recoup the day from the glasses experience. I am really surprised that Disney does not have a Lenscrafters or something similar at Downtown Disney. There must be tons of people who lose or break their specs while here at the park, and they could rake in the dough. Also it would be a great convenience to people at the resort. We settled on a club called Mannequin’s at Pleasure Island since it was the biggest club and it had a really cool revolving dance floor. We recognized a few of the people from Dixie Landings as well as one guy from Northern California. It really is a small world. We closed the place down at 2am and headed off to bed to get ready for our early rise and tour at the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrow promises to be another full day, and hopefully I wont lose anything else.

September 15, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 8: Magic Kingdom, Downtown Disney

Friday September 15, 2000
Woke up at the un-godly hour of 6am to catch the behind the magic tour. Roger had way too much fun the night before and had a wicked hangover. Dark sunglasses and lots of water were his accessories for the day. We arrived at the tour garden at the Magic Kingdom right on time. We mingled with the others on the tour while we waited for the tour to begin. People in the group were from Florida, New Jersey, Michigan and Roger and I as the California delegation. Our tour guide’s name was Jill and she was also from Michigan. We started on Main Street USA where Jill told us about the Disney priorities: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. She pointed out examples of each up and down Main Street. She also told us what TEAM stands for: Together Everyone Achieves Magic. She emphasized that Disney is a team effort and it takes everyone working together to make the show happen. She pointed out some of the windows on Main Street including Frank Wells, former President of the Walt Disney Co., Roy Disney, and of course Walt’s Window. She also pointed out the lightning rods that are on every structure in the park to protect guests. From Main Street, we walked over to Tomorrowland where we rode the TTA (or PeopleMover as I like to call it) so we could see Walt’s original model of EPCOT. Jill confided in me that since Walt died before construction began in Florida, they all go ape for any artifact that is photographed or personally linked with him. At Disneyland, we have the luxury of Walt’s stamp on everything. As we moved over to Fantasyland, Jill pointed out that some of the benches were not at uniform level in the transition area. She said it was because they needed extra time for the concrete to set, they did not spend as much time leveling the ground as they should have. She said no one fixed it because it didn’t really detract from the four Disney priorities.
After a quick break, We headed over to the castle where Jill gave us some quick facts on the construction of the castle and how it helped form the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the municipality that controls the land that Disney owns. Apparently Orange County was not going to let Walt build with Fiberglass, so he went to the legislature and asked for his own municipality to make their own building codes. The legislature laughed until Walt also said he needed massive amounts of infrastructure paid by the taxpayers. He then said that if given his municipality, he would pay for it all by himself. Needless to say, the Florida legislature agreed and the Reedy Creek Improvement District was born. Jill then pointed out Cinderella’s statue and how that from a child’s perspective she has a crown on her head and that all the adults pay respects when they get a drink of water. It was now time for our first trip backstage. We were led downstairs to the main employee access tunnel. It was interesting finding out that the Magic Kingdom is actually on Level 2 while the cast member areas are on level 1. We managed to sneak a peek at several areas including the lunchroom, costuming room, and makeup/hair room (where Aladdin, Belle, and Prince Charming were getting their final touches). It was fascinating to be in this part of the park. I had always wanted to go underground at Disneyland, but they do not offer this type of tour. I can understand some of the cast members not liking the idea of tours backstage, but I agree with Jill who said that it adds another level to the magic. Disney policy prohibits photos backstage, but there was really nothing to take pics of save for the endless room of costumes. Jill mentioned that WDW has over 2 million pieces of costuming. She also mentioned that Characters at the hotel restaurants received their costumes from the nearest park (i.e.: Contemporary gets it from MK while Yacht Club gets theirs from EPCOT). Cast members then carry the costumes over to the hotels in black trash bags that look like they are full of body parts. All in all it was a cool experience. We emerged topside back in Fantasyland and then broke for lunch.
We regrouped in Liberty Square. I once again noted what a fabulous air conditioner that the Hall of Presidents has. I think it is the best one in the parks. It should have its own exhibit – “Hall of Air Conditioning” Oh yes, when pressed Jill confirmed that they are indeed studying George W. Bush and Al Gore so that the winner of the 2000 Presidential election can be put in the attraction fairly quickly. We then headed over to the Haunted Mansion where she provided some “unofficial” story lines for the attraction. I wont go into detail here, but one of them was very interesting and explained a great deal of the ride, but had too many gaping holes to be totally believable. We got a chance to ride the attraction and I again noticed that the sound was not as good as DL. Jill mentioned they just recently digitized a lot of the effects and that is why the faces singing and Madame Leota all look a bit brighter than usual. We then headed backstage of Frontierland where we were shown where all the parade floats were parked. Floats included Spectromagic (due back at WDW sometime after March), The Disney Magical Moments parade, and the Main Street Electrical Parade (the original one from CA is here for the millennium celebration). For some strange reason it was very humid in that part of the backstage – it might have to do with Splash Mountain’s large water tanks. Apparently once a week, someone scuba dives into the tank to retrieve sunken lost and found items. This is in addition to the daily skimming of floating objects. It was then time to wrap up our tour with a brief stop at Pirates of the Caribbean. Jill went over some of the details of the ride, including some information on Marc Davis, the original designer. She also had me do a demonstration of forced perspective by having me climb up to a balcony where I towered over the door.
It was then time for us to leave the MK and head back to the hotel. We thanked Jill for a great job (be sure to request her if you are taking the tour), and then caught the bus. We decided to nap for an hour then go return the rental car from yesterday. On my way into the hotel after returning the car, I started talking to the Disney Vacation Club people. The whole plan sounds very cool, but I still don’t think I can afford it for awhile, so hopefully it won’t get too expensive over the next few years. It was then time to get Roger and head off to Downtown Disney. I wanted to visit Disney Quest which I had heard mixed reviews for and felt the need to investigate. We had dinner at the Cuban restaurant Bongo’ s Cuban Café (created by Gloria Estefan and her husband). The food was excellent and the view was great.
Inside Disney Quest was a very interesting set up. Basically they have everything from Virtual 3D rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and a version of the Jungle Cruise to Creating your own Roller Coaster at Virtual Space Mountain. Roger and I created a level 5 (apparently way wild with 4 upside down parts). It looked scary in the drawings, but when we rode it, the ride was lethargic and not very exciting at all. There was a booth where you pick lyrics, singer, and music style to create your own song. Roger got one using the name Rogelio Charo. DQ was 5 stories tall and definitely had some promise, but I can see why people would only visit once or twice. This does not bode well for the future of the franchise. In the merchandising shop, I made a photo mug using Goofy and the Gorn. I think this virtual theme park might go the way of Club Disney unless they can figure out a way to make it more appealing to all ages. Based on the admission price and the crowd, I think they have a lot of work to do. We did have fun, so it was not a complete waste of time. I created a very respectable Pluto in the animation lab.
We then headed back to the hotel to turn in and get ready for tomorrow. It is our last full day here, and we have a tour in the morning and the Main Street Electrical Parade and Fireworks at night.

September 16, 2000

Walt Disney World 2000 Day 9: EPCOT, Magic Kingdom

Saturday September 16, 2000
Woke up early yet again. This time we headed over to EPCOT to take the Hidden Treasures of the World Showcase tour. Our tour guide, Myrna, from Puerto Rico greeted us. She works for the Disney Institute teaching children and occasionally leading tours. Were we’re lucky because the tour started at 9am and the World Showcase was not open to the public until 11. This gave us a great opportunity to see the details of the pavilions without the crowds and get some good photos. We started in Canada where she told us about forced perspective and gave us details about how the Rocky Mountains were built. She took us backstage to give us a view of how it was done. We were then off around the Showcase. I had been through the Showcase several times and she managed to surprise me with some details that I had completely missed. For instance, the hedge maze in the back of the UK pavilion. I had never made it back that far and thought it was way cool. In France, she took us backstage to see how they had to remodel the backstage areas of the pavilion to hide it from the guests at the Swan, Dolphin, and Boardwalk resorts. She also pointed out that the Paris restaurant used to be open air, just like the ones in the real Paris, but guests complained of the weather so EPCOT converted them into covered restaurants. Myrna then took us into the Morocco pavilion where she showed us how the King of Morocco sent his best craftsmen to help build it. She also let us glance at the letter written to the King, thanking him for recognizing the US as a country before anyone else.
It was then off to Japan. We discussed how sometimes Chinese and Japanese customs are linked. She mentioned ponds and their differences between the countries (Chinese stagnant, Japanese running water with fish). She also told us why the two samurai statues were facing different directions in the area leading to the Shogun castle. Despite some creative answers from the peanut gallery, Myrna explained that Disney made a mistake and cast both statues from the same mold instead of mirror molds. They solved the problem by rotating the statue. From Japan it was time to head to the American Adventure. The American pavilion is the only one that does not go by the name of the country. It is also one of the few buildings that uses reverse forced perspective. Instead of making a 3 story building look like 10 as in Canada, they use it to make the 6 story American building appear to be only 3. Also, the building was built in the same space as most of the other pavilions, except it was placed farther back and the front was opened up to give the appearance of a bigger setting.
We then crossed the Atlantic and headed to Italy. At this point the love bugs started swarming and the humidity soared. Myrna discussed the origins of Alfredo sauce and the fact that it is the same Alfredo family that oversees the restaurant at the Italian pavilion. Germany was next, but there was not too much to talk about save for the explanation of the buildings. Some of the pavilions of the World Showcase contain several different architectures that represent parts of the country. Some are just one distinct style (like the American Adventure). Germany’s outside is Bavarian, but each building is a different Bavarian house. In Italy it is mostly Venice with a sprinkle of Rome. Between Germany and China, Myrna paused to tell the story of the Equatorial African pavilion that never came to be due to the squabbling of the governments involved. In China came the biggest secret of them all. The detail work of the pavilion is not painted, but rather wallpaper developed by the Imagineers. There was no way to tell but it was fascinating to see people’s reactions to the news.
In Norway it was off to church as we went into a little known part of the pavilion that is a replica of an authentic Norwegian church from the 900’s. Most churches like this have been torn down due to a law passed in the 1800’s that require communities to provide adequate church facilities. Only 28 of 1500 remain. Also tucked away from view, a Viking ship replica sits in the back utilized as a play set for kids. Most people focus on the boat ride and overlook the small details of Norway. By this time the weather began to cool dramatically and the bugs started to leave. We were all puzzled but apparently a hurricane is approaching our part of the world (and I mean Florida, not Norway). By the time we were inside the Mexico pavilion it started to pour outside. Myrna wrapped up the talk by telling us that today is Mexican Independence Day, and they were celebrating all day long. She also pointed out that the pyramid that is Mexico is actually a combination of three styles – Inca, Mayan, and Toltecan – all melted into one. She also pointed out strategically placed artwork that prevents people from climbing to the top and getting hurt.
It was then time to say goodbye to Myrna. She was a great tour guide and provided ample insight and a new perspective into the World Showcase. Roger and I decided it was time for lunch. After scouting out several pavilions (and me being my usual picky self) we ended up hiking over to the Land in Future World. After lunch, we bummed around Future World hitting Spaceship Earth one last time. It was fitting that our last ride at EPCOT was the first one that we rode over a week ago. By now the rain had thinned out to sprinkles, so we headed back to the hotel. We were both tired from the extensive walking and the early start, so we opted for a two-hour nap. Revitalized, we headed out for an evening at the Magic Kingdom which was open late. Also, there were fireworks and the Main Street Electrical Parade to look forward to. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to ride any more attractions. We spent our few hours eating and then waiting for the parade to start. Now, Roger is a big fan of the parade, and I am the sort of person who sees parades as a chance to get on rides with shorter lines. However, I must confess to having a Disney moment as the music started and the first floats began to appear. Sure the floats are tacky and dated, but gosh darn it was fun. It was then that I said to myself that this was a perfect ending to the trip. Seeing Disneyland’s old parade tied it all together for me.
After the parade it was time for the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks. While not as sophisticated as the Believe show, they certainly were ten times louder. You could hear the booms echo through the entire place. It must be nice not having to worry about the city of Anaheim and the residents around you. One can only imagine what our shows would be like (something I alluded to with Fantasmic). It was then time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep. Of course, we had to wait a good hour because of the sheer mass of humanity that was trying to leave at the same time. The Magic Kingdom has a bigger capacity and therefore creates huge log jams at the boats and monorails to the hotels and parking, and even bigger headaches with the busses to the other resorts. I expect Disneyland will be having the same problems when the new park opens and everyone is trying to get to the trams to the garage. We managed to save some time by getting on the Port Orleans bus. We intended to hoof it back to Dixie Landings from Port Orleans, but they picked up Dixie Landings people as well so we got dropped off in our usual spot.
That brings to a close this day at Walt Disney World. Tomorrow we will try and hit as much as we can before checking out at 11 and getting the shuttle to the airport at 3. I am not sure if we can pull off a four-park day, but it is worth a try (I’d settle for a three). This actually is a tradition I started my first time here by visiting all the gated attractions on my last day. I didn’t have a chance to get to it today, so I will try and carry on the tradition as much as I can tomorrow.