A bit more than a week ago, clowns invaded Storybook Circus at the Magic Kingdom. My wife hates clowns with a passion. I’ve always been cautiously indifferent about them. There’s something creepy about them on a conceptual level, but in practice they fall somewhere in the triangular zone between boring, droll, and pointless, moving variously throughout that metaphorical region.

Wowie, Wowzer!

The Magic Kingdom clown acts (there are two) manage to strike different reactions in me. The one-man show Wowzer, essentially a juggling act, managed to be mildly entertaining. This clown impressed with his skills rather than relied on “humor” (or the clown variant thereof) to try to distract. The Giggle Gang, though, was deplorable. My wife ran away shortly after the act started (coulrophobia had kicked in for THESE clowns). They did rely on the standard brand of clown humor, which is to say a certain kind of tongue in cheek attitude, with fake scenarios embraced as though real, and interactions are forced despite the brazen unnatural reality of it, all to achieve a punchline through pun or wit. They prowled the audience not once but twice to lasso an unwitting victim to come center stage and become part of the “fun”, which is probably what sent my wife packing. Not a great show to watch as an introvert; you’ll experience panic.

She will soon pretend that a male member of the audience is infatuated with her.

 

I don’t blame the actors. Even the script isn’t really the problem. I just don’t like the concept.

Not everyone hates the Giggle Gang. I have friends who found it funny and fun, and even appropriate for the Magic Kingdom. On the last point I don’t think I can be entirely convinced. The clowns, in fact, made me re-think my heretofore positive reaction to having a circus inside the Magic Kingdom. Previously I was OK with it since the art direction was so high, and the place did not exude your typical carny vibe of a circus. It was more like a classy period piece of the 1930s that happened to include elements of a circus. But with the inclusion of clowns, the area is being downgraded just to a regular circus again, and that’s a shame.

Celebrate the Magic

Can you believe there’s another thing new at WDW, and this is one that I haven’t seen in almost two months? It’s true. The castle projections started a new show back on November 12, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally got to see them. I’ve said all along that there is so much to do in Orlando that it’s hard to keep up, but even this is a new record for me.

The show, now called “Celebrate the Magic,” replaced “The Magic, The Memories, and You” – but it’s more than a name change. Previously, the emphasis was on “you” – the show was ostensibly built around photos of everyday guests that had been taken by PhotoPass earlier that day. Whether those photos displayed on the castle REALLY were thousands of day-of pictures is perhaps questionable. It looked like they used stock photos for the dozens and hundreds of still images that were animated, and only projected up actual day-of images in the big slots… so only maybe a dozen. And they were so hard to see, I’m not sure anyone ever really recognized themselves in there. A good idea, but it didn’t pan out in execution.

Things I liked about the new projection show:

  1. It does away with the conceit of guest photos as part of the show, and just puts on the same show every time, which is better.
  2. The projection technology itself is enhanced and advanced. It now features even sharper images, such as when they show Captain Jack Sparrow.
  3. Several scenes were re-done entirely from scratch. The Pirates of the Caribbean section was fuzzy and indistinct before, so they started over and just re-envisioned it. This was done with several scenes.
  4. Everyone likes the Wreck It Ralph castle.
  5. They kept the nifty fireworks effect for the finale, when fizzle-trails projected onto the castle turned into actual fireworks launched off the side with split-second timing that never fails to impress me.
The Cheshire Cat effect is well done.
Swirly!
I’m gonna wreck it!

Things that I liked better about the old show:

  1. The pacing was better before. There’s a start-stop, go-stop quality to the new show which feels like the designers didn’t really gauge correctly what the audience would feel at any given moment. It’s as if they are pausing for applause but few people felt the crescendo at the time deserved applause.
  2. While I liked the designs overlaid on the castle in the new show, I miss some of the ones from the old show. They used to delight in making the castle look colorful and fanciful in five or so different ways, but now there is an effort to make it look realistic, and yet like different castles, so the dramatic and bold color schemes don’t pop out as much anymore. Now they put swirls (or splashes) of color all over the castle, but previously they “mapped” the contours of the castle and changed the outlines.
  3. The holiday tag now comes at the end, which is logical in a way, but it results in an uneven experience. The actual finale occurs, and then there’s a little bit more show that dribbles out rather than finishes with a bang. It’s probably more inconvenient from a programming point of view, but I liked the current-holiday-tag stuff occurring in the middle.
  4. The old ending was better. It’s true that Walt was referring to Disneyland as “this happy place” rather than the Magic Kingdom, but there was a pathos in the old show that had me on the verge of tears every time I saw it. The new one is good, and it’s professionally executed, but it just doesn’t crescendo with the same ferocity and emotional punch as the old one (the old music was better, too). They did try to add Walt back in, but it just isn’t the same. Note: my wife disagrees with me about this point; she likes the new show better and thinks it makes her almost-cry more often. I wonder if she reacts better to the movie tie-ins than I do (especially romance-based ones?) and this might be a deciding factor for other visitors as well.
There’s kind of a World of Color quality to their approach
The holiday tag features a gingerbread castle, candy canes, presents, Christmas lights, and … the Pepto “cake” castle from the 25th celebration.

 

Top Tips for Visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort

I originally wrote a guidebook to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea back in 2008, then titled “Tokyo Disney Made Easy.” The idea was to provide step by step instructions on all the things that would normally be hard for a visiting American: how to navigate the Narita airport, where to stand to take the shuttle bus, how to move about the subway system on the way to TDL/TDS, and how to do everyday things while at the parks.

That book had to be discontinued using that title (more I really cannot say) and it went out of print. It’s taken me a few years to getting around to updating it. But it’s finally done! Updated with current info about new attractions and shows, and even menu items and prices have been updated (this is admittedly a moving target, but you can get a much closer approximation of the dining options with my book than any resource on the Internet or any other book).

The book is now called “Top Tips for Visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort.” For the moment, it’s only available  as a Kindle e-book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ASAuj44. Keep in mind that you can read such books (after purchase) on a regular Kindle device or on a computer by downloading free software (PC or Mac).

I’ve lowered the price significantly. The Kindle book is only $5.99 – a steal for what you get! No more hassle and guesswork in navigating a foreign country, foreign culture, and foreign language. Now nothing is stopping you from enjoying the best Disney theme parks on the planet. The Kindle version has no pages, but it’s about 170 pages when printed out.

It will be available as a paperback (176 pages) from Amazon in a few weeks. However, you can get it immediately from the CreateSpace store for $8.99: https://www.createspace.com/4109009

More information and updates

Readers are invited to connect with Kevin online and face to face at the following locations: