Magic Kingdom: Exceptional, Acceptable, and Regrettable

Written by Sam Gennawey. Posted in Magic Kingdom, Samland, Walt Disney World

Tagged: , ,

frontpagepic_

Published on June 27, 2013 at 3:00 am with 32 Comments

Last time, I took at look at my recent trip to Epcot. This week, the focus is on the Magic Kingdom. As we now know, the Magic Kingdom is Disney World’s premier park, with a higher admission price than the three other parks at WDW. Does that mean the other parks are lesser? Not sure that is what the Company intended, but that is the result of their new pricing policy.

I enjoy the Magic Kingdom. It is kind of like Disneyland, but not. I am sure East Coast readers feel the same way when they compare their home park to Disneyland. It is familiar, but definitely different.

EXCEPTIONAL: MAGIC KINGDOM MAIN STREET OMNIBUS

One of the big differences between Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom is the traffic along Main Street. Rarely do I see motor vehicles at the Magic Kingdom. Even the horse-drawn trollies only run for a brief period in the morning or used as a moving stage for performers. So, much to my surprise, I spotted the Walt Disney World Omnibus on my last visit. Like all the excited kids, I ran toward the back to find my way up to the second level.

vert1

The Omnibus was designed by Imagineer and Disney Legend Bob Gurr. For Disneyland, Walt asked Gurr to see if he could design a bus based on a red model bus from Dinkie Toys of England that he owned. Gurr was very excited about the project, because his father and uncle both worked for the Los Angeles Transit Lines omnibuses at one point. Gurr went to Travel Town in Griffith Park to begin his research.

The challenge was to get full-size adults into a double decker bus that had to fit the miniaturized scale of Main Street. Gurr started with a chassis from International Harvester that would typically be used for beer trucks. This allowed for a low inside center aisle. The truck weighed 8,500 pounds and was powered by a six-cylinder “in line” motor with a three-speed transmission. The two-level bus was beautifully detailed, with leather and oak, painted by the Crown Coach Company. He used the same decorative tooling that was applied to the horse trolley cars.

I hope management is starting to run these vehicles more often. They serve the useful purpose of providing transportation and they add life to the street. Good show.

REGRETTABLE: CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS

The oldest attraction at WDW is the Carousel of Progress. Maybe more than any other attraction, this was Walt’s project from beginning to end, and it represents everything the man was about. He liked to tell stories. He was optimistic about the future and how American technology could solve any problems. The show can inform as well as educate. It really is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, his pride and joy.

pic

At what point does Disney become embarrassed? The attraction is in awful shape. Lighting is bad, the scrims are dirty, and the Audio-Animatronics are not in the best of condition. The final scene, a look into the near future, is completely outdated. Because the Park shows so little respect for the attraction, the audience seems to do the same. Throughout the show, people are pulling out their cell phones, not just to check for messages, but even having conversations. People are constantly trying to leave, usually as the turntable is moving. The last couple of times I visited the attraction, people decided to leave the moving building early and triggered the door’s emergency stop.

The show’s 50th anniversary is coming up in 2014. Wouldn’t it be nice if Disney could show a little bit of tender love for this very special attraction?

REGRETTABLE: MAIN STREET STATION

It is bad enough they removed the Penny Arcade. The few machines remaining were moved into the Main Street station, where they still stand, broken. I am going to continue this rant to include the stage in front of Cinderella Castle. Just one time I would like to visit and see Herb Ryman’s original vision of ramps that act as welcoming arms and the castle set properly on its podium.

EXCEPTIONAL: THE PIRATE ADVENTURE GAME

I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Disney: Instead of building new, expensive, high-capacity immersive rides to give their guests something to do and to get out of aisles, now they have come up with games using the already existing (therefore, paid for) environments. There have been a number of games introduced at the Magic Kingdom. I am not fond of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game. I understand the draw to collect cards, but standing in front of a television as my other reward just wasn’t enough motivation. Kim Possible/Agent P at Epcot is a lot of fun but the chirping little cell phone becomes annoying after awhile. Plus, if you are fan of Breaking Bad, those type of cellphones have a whole new meaning. However, I am fond of the new Pirate Adventure Game.

pic

You start by enlisting at a the HQ right at the western edge of Adventureland. Scan your ticket and the computer will assign you one of five quests: Guardians Curse, The Kings Ransom, Blackbeard, Heads You Lose, or Haven Defense. Which quest you start with depends on the computer rationing out the experience. You first challenge is to look at the map and find the icon somewhere in Adventureland that matches your instructions from the computer.

To find the icons, you must grab one of the beautifully illustrated maps. I love these maps. They are printed on thick paper with the edges serrated and ragged just like an old time pirate map. The artwork is outstanding and each map highlights different parts of Adventureland, listing only a few of the many game stations. The maps are a terrific prize, so grab them while you can before the inevitable squeeze on the cost to reduce the quality!

Walk out into Adventureland, look at your map, grab your bearings, and find that icon. There is a drawing of the area where the icon is located.This may be confusing at first, but you get the hang of it very quickly. Once you have found the icon, tap your ticket and something marvelous and magical will happen. But be watchful. Your next clue will appear somewhere and if you get distracted you may miss out. The maps show more destinations than you will visit on that particular journey, so be careful. Follow the clue to the next station, tap your card, and wait again. Follow the instructions and you are good to go. Pretty simple. Once you have found three or four stations, you will be directed back to HQ for another challenge.

The game works for me because it meets one of my primary tests; Quality, Variety, and Surprise. As I stated before, the maps are wonderful and the destinations are well themed and add to the area ambiance. Better still, unless you are playing the game, you might not notice them. Brilliant. Like the Epcot game, It is fun to set off a physical gag. Plus, sometimes the gags were so funny I caught myself laughing out loud. What more can you ask?

ACCEPTABLE: THE UPDATED COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE

pic

I know that there are many purists out there who are not happy with the revised version of the Country Bear Jamboree. I am not one of those. The new version forgoes the jokes and just sticks to the music. A cynic would suggest that trimming the show by just a few minutes is only to increase turnover. They would probably be right. But the reality is the show moves along just fine. This is due to the brilliant work by Imagineers Marc Davis and Al Bertino. They just happened to pick all the right songs and created memorable characters that bring them to life. The crowd was roaring with laughter when hearing classic favorites like Little Buford or when Trixie sings the blues. For those familiar with the show, you will probably fill in the jokes inside your head, but your ears won’t mind. It is nice to sit down and watch Audio-Animatronics entertain you. I fear we will never see anything quite like it ever again. For that reason, I am happy it remains.

REGRETTABLE: TANGLED TOWER

One of the signature elements of Disney design is the lack of visual contradictions. Removing visual conflicts creates a sense of reassurance that immediately puts the guests at ease. With that in mind, what were they thinking with the Tangled Tower? This icon, high above the fanciest bathroom in the Magic Kingdom, is clearly visible in Liberty Square.

ACCEPTABLE: LIBERTY TREE TAVERN

I thought the comfort food to be found in the Liberty Tree Tavern would hit the spot and I was right. I got there just as the restaurant opened, just in time for the family of the day to stumble through the opening announcement and ring the lunch bell. As always when I travel alone, I asked for a table with a view and they took good care of me. I knew what I wanted. The pot roast was calling my name. To demonstrate how quick the service was, my entree came out before they could deliver my drink. From now on, I proclaim the dish to be the Liberty Tree Tavern Minute Man Pot Roast. New to me was the added bonus that I can get a refill of my drink in an adult size “to go” cup. A trip to WDW is always a learning experience.

Well that is enough of my impression of Andy Rooney. Next week I will visit Disney’s other two Florida parks. Love the comments. Keep them coming.

Amazon link. Barnes and Noble link.
Twitter – samlanddisney
Facebook – Sam Gennawey
Linkedin – Sam Gennawey

About Sam Gennawey

Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Sam is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County. Sam is the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City which you can find on Amazon.

Browse Archived Articles by

  • KennyVee

    One point of contention: the Carousel of Progress is definitely not the oldest attraction at Walt Disney World. Prince Charming Regal Carousel was originally built in 1917, so it has even the 1964 World’s Fair iteration of Carousel of Progress beat by almost five decades.

    • Mousecat

      If we are to get technical, the Roy O. Disney locomotive was built in 1916. To be clear, CoP is the oldest “Disney” attraction. I would put the Haunted Mansion next since it was the first ride completed (it was fabricated at the same time as the Anaheim version).

      Thanks for reading.

      Sam
      http://Www.samlanddisney.blogspot.com

      • DisWedWay

        The large 2 ton open sided ball mill in Big Thunder Mountain, is actually from about 1860, and was reported to be 1 of 2 made back then as a prototype. I would call it an attraction’s attraction. The mountain itself actually has over 100 tons of high grade gold ore tailings from a mine in the Mojave Desert in California. They became tailings around 1880. Big thunder is full of all sorts of great old mining artifacts. I would agree with Sam however on the Carousel of Progress being the oldest attraction there, created by Walt and his WED and MAPO Imagineers. It really should be shipped back to California and put back in Tomorrowland in it’s original rotating carousel, after a thorough renovation and updating as was done when it was shipped to Florida in the 70′s. I would love to see what the new last scene would predict with the Star Wars and Avitar influences. PD

  • tarihc

    Nice read. I hope the Pirates Adventure Game will make its way to Disneyland. Its a perfect fit for the Pirate’s Lair on TSI.

  • Terrytiger

    I also like the new Pirate Adventure game a lot. The only regrettable part is the placement of so many of the stations in the always packed shop at the exit to PotC. I had trouble playing a few because shoppers were trying on t-shirts in front of one station and blocking others.

  • ParkerMonroe

    Couldn’t agree more about the Carousel of Progress – you’re absolutely right.

    I wrote my own blog entry dedicated to this attraction a few months ago.

    http://parkermonroe.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/time-for-a-complete-overhaul-part-iii/

    The more people we can get making noise about this attraction (and what a shame it is that it’s left in this current condition) the better. Preach on, Sam!

    • MrTour

      Agreed! I am sad CoP ever left Anaheim, and even sadder so see America Sings get scrapped.

      • ParkerMonroe

        At least when America Sings got scrapped the majority of the animatronics were re-purposed and left in tact; instead of being torn apart. Most of the time unused animatronics end up in some body-farm wherehouse or a landfill. Example: in Orlando a lot of the current CoP animatronic parts are leftovers from Horizons. That’s sad… and somewhat creepy. Not to speak poorly of an old classic, but I’d say Splash Mountain has much more staying power and appeal than America Sings ever had. Those same singin’ critters will live on for a long time.

    • ttintagel

      The CoP definitely needs major sprucing up, but I actually really like that the scenes encapsulate the progress made in the 20th century. I wouldn’t rewrite the final scene.

  • Lord Alfred

    While I love the Carousel of Progress, even after the last refurbishment when it looked and sounded good, most people still didn’t pay attention and either talked during the whole show or tried to leave. Sadly, this type of attraction can no longer hold the attention of most normal, non-Disney geeks. The only times it is both full and quiet is late on extremely hot days when people are so hot and tired that they just want to sit in the AC and relax. Furthermore, while I agree that it would be nice if CoP was updated or at least refurbished, I have long feared that eventually they will look at the costs and guest reactions and just pull the plug. This makes it hard for me to complain too much.

  • Susan Hughes

    I guess you can’t talk about Orlando’s Magic Kingdom and “not” mention Disneyland as a comparison. As we all know, Disneyland is the only park that was entirely created by Walt’s hand. I prefer to think of Florida’s version as “Roy Disney World”.
    I think that the advantage for Disneyland is that Walt Disney Studios (and it’s big wigs) are just up the road. And they seem to act as the stewards of Walt’s legacy. Yes, Disneyland is constantly changing. But I think they try and make the type of changes that Walt would make.
    And much like Walt, who could be found at Disneyland on a regular basis (and lived there in his apartment), the higher ups visit often with family and friends. So they can’t help but keep a watchful eye on the place.
    It just seems to me that the folks running things at Walt Disney World don’t seem as passionate about maintaining a park that never really had the ‘touch” of Walt’s hand. Disneyland belongs to Walt. Orlando’s Magic Kingdom…can’t say who’s park it is.

  • ntz4bbl

    I agree with the comment about the stage in front of the castle. I was there in April and was shocked when I saw a castle that you couldn’t walk through! Such a shame.
    I did get excited to see the Country Bear Jamboree was still there. I really miss it at Disneyland.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      You can walk through the castle after the last stage show of the day. They open it up to traffic then.

  • horizonsfan

    I have mixed feelings about CoP. I’m so glad that it’s still open and hope it survives the next year so I can ride it again. That said, it needs help. The final scene is embarrassing. I think it might be fun to use the original finale (with a few GE product placements removed) and make it a vintage attraction. The other option is to try and find something that’s futuristic but way into the future so it doesn’t seem dated in five years. Having broken AA figures is another matter entirely. That should not happen on any ride for a significant period of time.

  • bhb007

    COP is a real problem. I love it and so do my wife and daughter. Recently, though, I think we might have been the only ones in the theater that day who did. Tastes change. Narratively, the show has other problems. When it debuted, there were undoubtedly members of the audience who recalled living in each scene. Within a few years, anyone who even remembers what life was like in scene 3 will be dead.

    You could update the final scene, but the symmetry is gone. 1900, 1920, 1940… and 2014?!?!?! Doesn’t work. To say nothing of the costs needed for a redo every 5-10 years.

    You could keep it as museum piece and set the final scene in 1980 or something, but considering the dwindling interest, I don’t know if that makes sense either (plus, recall Walt’s “not a museum” quote). Breaks my heart and makes me feel like a nostalgic old guy… but I think it might be time to think about installing something else.

  • OrangeFlash

    Magic Kingdom: Exceptional, Acceptable, and Regrettable

    Exceptional

    Sir Mickey’s shop in Fantasyland with the beanstalk growing through it.

    Acceptable

    The Crystal Palace — feels like the center of the World.

    Regrettable

    It’s a Small World with no facade — what were they thinking?

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    Carousel of Progress is indeed a problem. The current condition of the attraction is absolutely unacceptable. I just experienced the attraction on June 1st of this year. In one of the scenes, the father’s neck was broken. It was tilted so far to the side that the covering of his neck actually popped out of his shirt, exposing the fact that he’s really a robot. It was quite shocking looking. Aside from that, the lighting on the scrims is so far off that you can see through them even when you aren’t supposed to. A total mess.

    But as long as the attraction fails to draw a crowd, it also isn’t going to get the attention it needs to stay up to date and in good working order.

    Yes, this attraction is a Disney treasure. But it likely no longer belongs in the theme parks. I think they should take the scenes, put them on a turntable (instead of having the audience on the turntable), and send them to the Walt Disney Family Museum (or even the Walt Disney Hometown Museum) as a gift.

    The attraction would work much better as a museum piece than it does as a modern theme park attraction (as sad as that is for me to say).

    • Big D

      That’s a really good idea! They could also put back the original final scene from the 1960′s. However, I don’t imagine that the museum can afford to build a rotating building, so Disney would have to pay for that for it to happen. Even keeping the building and the show scenes in good working order would be a challenge for the museum. So unfortunately a more realistic / affordable option would be to spruce it up and then close it and leave it as something that they only open on special occasions such as paid AP events. That alone would probably get more people to attend the private event, thereby increasing revenue and justifying the cost to maintain it properly.

  • FREQDUDE

    Truly, as bad as you may seem to feel the CoP has become, the answer is an update or a thorough cleaning to freshen up a classic attraction. You could be saddled with Innoventions, as us out west are. This is a true waste of space and money, would have been better to keep CoP here, or even America sings. The tastes of the public have indeed changed from wanting to see attractions that are purely entertainment, with a display of technological advances, to experiencing thrills and excitement. Country Bear Jamboree, as much as I miss it here on the west coast, was getting long in the tooth and didn’t hold much entertainment value for the younger generations who felt they were wasting precious time that could have been better spent waiting in line for Indiana, or Space Mountain. Too bad, as I really liked both of them very much.

    • DisWedWay

      Maybe Carousel of Progress should come back to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and send Innovations to Walt Disney World, in it’s place, where you have the clicking cell phone watchers mentioned earlier. I would love to say Disneyland is more Historic and would appreciate the Carousel more and get better attention here, if Mr Iger would back me up.

      • DoppelV

        FYI, WDW has the original Innoventions.

  • EasyRover

    The CoP will probably be removed…someday. Who knows when, but I don’t think they would just get rid of it. I think they would either bring it back to Disneyland or put it in EPCOT.

    I think today’s culture are responsible for the CoP’s demise. People can’t just sit back and enjoy a little bit of history, as it gets in the way of checking their Facebook newsfeed. Constant stimulation is needed.

  • waymire01

    Biggest disappointment for me is Small World… it’s just a sad excuse for the original glorious ride. Not even sure why they bothered to be honest. My exceptional would be Mickey’s Philharmonic… if it were in better shape than on our last visit. It’s funny, exciting… uses the 4D technology to great effect… has all the best songs… and features Donald Duck who we never see anywhere anymore. Unfortunately they have let it fall into disrepair and it’s seriously affected the show.

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    Carousel of Progress really needs some TLC. It’s in bad shape. And it seems to break down nearly every time I ride it! It’s gotten to the point where it’s a joke between a friend & I because it breaks down a lot on her as well. It even broke down the last time I rode it and I ended up in such a fit of giggles I was getting looks from others. LOL!

    And I’m sorry but I really hate the redone Country Bear Jamboree. It was one of my favorites since I first visited WDW in the late 70s. I even still have my original soundtrack record, which I listened to constantly as a kid. I knew that show by heart as a result and now the flow is all screwed up for me. I will say now the best part of the show is watching Max, Buff & Melvin. You can see them whispering back and forth and laughing during various songs. And their drop-jaw expressions when Teddi Barra comes down for her song is freaking hilarious (to me at least).

    I tried the new pirate game on my most recent visit and it was pretty cool. However I got a shock getting wet from one of the props (won’t give it away and spoil the surprise). I was actually mad for a couple minutes (I HATE getting wet), but I finally laughed it off.