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  1. #1

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    Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    I just got home late last night from my first trip to WDW in years. I had the chance to do all the new (to me) attractions (Expedition Everest, Nemo show, Lights/Motors/Action show, Seas with Nemo, Haunted Mansion "re-haunting," Gran Fiesta tour, new O' Canada movie, WDW's version of Soarin', etc.), as well as experience Behind the Seeds, MNSSHP, the Food and Wine Festival, and Epcot's 25th. I've got a lot of thoughts -- and photos, but I'm a bit of a luddite when it comes to such things, and don't really know how to post them.

    Anyway, here's the first segment -- more to come later.

    Disney's Animal Kingdom
    Expedition Everest
    Loved it. The queue is fantastic, and the line moved quickly. The steaming train engine effect in the load worked perfectly. The ride itself is smooth as butter, and the Yeti is far more daunting in the flesh than on YouTube. Because I enjoyed EE so much, I hate to carp, but... if they only tweaked a few things, this attraction's place in the pantheon of true Disney classics would be cemented.

    For one thing, it's a bit short. I don't think there's much that can be done about that at this point. However, the theming of the ride itself (as compared to the impressive queue) can stand to be beefed up. The first part of the ride, while traversing a nicely landscaped area, is boring. Couldn't they add some Himalayan village buildings and/or sherpa AAs? Just a few simple pieces would make all the difference in the world. (The barrenness of EE, themewise, is particularly apparent when it's compared to, say, BTM.) The climb to the peak is nice, but the fog effect only worked once out of five ride-throughs.

    The backward portion of the ride was, to me, the most fun (and disorienting) part -- but why are there so many places where riders can clearly see the infrastructure of the mountain? This was pointed out by many when EE first opened, and it still hasn't been rectified. It really snaps you out of your suspension of disbelief. Cover up the light leaks, and add a few subtle effects -- like a cold blast of air -- and the inside of the mountain will be as compelling as the outside.

    I don't want to sound disappointed... I was really impressed by EE overall, and it's now near the top of my all-time favorite Disney attractions. But when something's this close to perfect, it's frustrating that the extra few steps aren't taken to push it over.

    Hester & Chester's Dinorama

    I'm going to pretend I didn't see that. No, seriously... what were they thinking? It's like a bad joke or something. Just because something is ostensibly done "deliberately tongue-in-cheek" doesn't insulate it from being tacky. TriceraTop Spin is pretty and colorful, but it just doesn't belong in DAK. Similarly, while Primeval Whirl is zippy and fun (and I do like the name), it's also frankly an eyesore, and really has no place in this park. And, I can overlook a little scuffing around the edges, but Primeval Whirl was just in horrible shape. The queue structure had chipping paint and rust everywhere, and the vehicles smelled like the inside of a gym bag. This whole mini-land needs to be razed to the ground, and stat.

    Dinosaur
    Mrs. Huxtable's "How? That's proprietary." makes me laugh every single time. Not sure why. Anyway, I think the last time I was on this ride was back when it was still Countdown to Extinction -- a much better, and ominous, name. First of all, "Dinosaur" is so ridiculously generic. Why not call simply Expedition Everest "Yeti"? Or Splash Mountain "Critters"? I know they wanted to tie into the movie of the same name, but let's be honest -- I can probably count on two hands the number of people who even remember the movie now. As someone who saw it in the theater and also has it on DVD, I still can't say I remember anything about the movie other than its cool meteor strike scene. I mostly think of it as a 3D "Land Before Time." As for the ride itself -- well, it's a poor man's Indy. There are way too many places in the ride that are just dark and devoid of content. And Wallace Langham's voiceovers are frankly really annoying. "We're not going to make it! We're not going to make it! ... We made it!" Ugh. Dinosaur could really be great, but a lot needs to change.

    Nemo - The Musical

    Wonderful. Great sets; great effects; great acting. I'm not the biggest fan of stage shows or musicals, but this one is something special.

    Kilimanjaro Safaris
    This was probably the fourth or fifth time I've done this, and I just found it boring. The Big Red/Little Red storyline seems incongruous now, and I can see most of the same animals at my local zoo. The Safari is no longer on my "must do" list of things at DAK.

    It's Tough to Be a Bug
    I skipped it this time. Being jabbed in the backside and stink-bombed lost their novelty the second or third time around.

    Flametree Barbecue
    I'd never eaten there before, but was glad I did so this time. While the ribs weren't quite at the same level of your local off-the-beaten-path, hole-in-the-wall place with legendary, falling-off-the-bone ribs, they were pretty darn good. I'll go so far as to say they're the best theme park ribs I've ever had, and one of the best counter-service food experiences in WDW. I'll definitely be eating here again. (The accompanying beans are a bit too gluey and sweet, and the cornbread dry and crumbly -- but the ribs more than make up for it.)

    Yak and Yeti

    The building looks quite nice. I'm looking forward to seeing the interior.

    That's it for tonight... more later.

  2. #2

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Great so far! I can't wait to hear about and see more!

  3. #3

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Disney-MGM Studios
    Tower of Terror
    The original, and still the best. I have to admit to being blown away by Tokyo DisneySea’s ToT when I rode it last fall. But having done Florida’s again after a hiatus of several years, I think the original comes out on top. The TDS ToT does have fantastic detailing on the outside, an interesting and well-developed backstory, and terrific exterior lighting effects at night. But the Florida ToT has an equally, if not more, compelling exterior -- its smaller size lends the feeling of being a more human (and thus real) edifice, and less the sense of being an exaggerated replica of a building. The 5th Dimension scene is also a nice (and unique) interlude, and the randomized drops and drop-shaft effects exemplify that added extra mile that puts everything over the top. Definitely an attraction that inspires you to get right back in line and do it over and over again.

    Great Movie Ride
    On the whole, the GMR is still fun and worth a ride. However, the technology of many of the AAs is dated and needs work. As others have pointed out, the Alien scene is particularly drawn out and tired. As much as I like Fantasia, the short animated (i.e., non-AA) Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene also sticks out like a sore thumb. And, despite some welcome new additions to the medley of film clips at the end of the ride, the montage still suffers from a surplus of ‘80s Touchstone movies that now have little to no resonance with anyone under the age of 30.

    Lights, Motors, Action!
    A fun, amusing, and exciting show, and a worthwhile addition to a park that’s already a bit heavy on the shows. I’m not sure how much the stunts that are shown are varied over time. If they’re constantly tweaking what’s shown, I’ll definitely see it again. If not, it’s probably not worth many more repeated viewings -- the Indy Stunt Spectacular got old quickly for me. (As an aside, it was nice that they attributed the stunt show to DLP -- and Soarin’ to DCA. It’s a nice bit of cross-marketing, but also an appreciated bit of honesty -- if you’re going to copy something, provide the necessary attribution; don’t try to pretend that you came up with this entirely new attraction/show out of whole cloth.)

    The Hat
    Taken by itself, it’s whimsical and nicely done. But put into its current context, it’s completely out of scale in relation to its settings -- even despite the gracious size of the plaza in front of the Chinese Theater. Its fantastic theming is completely discordant with the more realistic (and hyper-detailed) Chinese Theater, now almost completely obscured, and Hollywood Boulevard. I miss the clean, inspiring sight lines from the front of the park. And just why is Mickey’s hat supposed to represent movies specifically, or entertainment generally? While groundbreaking, Fantasia is more an exemplar of animation specifically than of moviemaking generally. Disney seriously needs to re-think this.

    Everything Else
    After doing the stunt show, the GMR, and ToT (multiple times), I felt done with the Studios. RnRC was closed for refurb, and I didn’t really feel the need to do any of the other shows that have seemingly been playing since the early 1990s without any updating. Right now, the Studios are currently a half-day park. With Toy Story Mania coming, and some possible, badly-needed TLC for Star Tours, that might change in the near future. I sure hope so.

    MNSSHP and Epcot to come…

  4. #4

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Magic Kingdom
    Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
    OK, I can now say that I did it once. It’s an interesting concept, but the execution can stand some tweaking: the show I saw was not that amusing either to the adults or to the children in the audience. (Turtle Talk with Crush featured both better animation and much funnier dialogue.) Disney needs to know that some people just do not like to be called on or made fun of -- and that many of those people don’t know the exact nature of the attraction before they go in. One of the audience members put up on the big screen was a woman who didn’t speak much, if any, English, and she looked genuinely embarrassed. One solution might be to have two dedicated rows of seats in the back that are reserved for those who are “shy” or who simply choose not to take part in the interactive aspect of the attraction -- kind of like a Misson: Space “green team” version of MILF. Also, they didn’t solicit or take any texted jokes from audience -- has this aspect of MILF been discontinued?

    Stitch’s Great Escape
    I still prefer Alien Encounter. But, come to think of it, that wasn’t a highly repeatable attraction either -- how much fun is it to be repeatedly “spat on” while you sit in the darkness? All the water shooting has taken its toll -- the entire viewing area smelled a bit like a locker room, and the seats and restraints were sticky. Still, I found the range of movement and realism of the Stitch AA to be extremely impressive, and leaps and bounds above older generation AAs still in service throughout WDW.

    Tomorrowland Transit Authority
    I’m so glad it’s still around for multiple reasons: it gives Tomorrowland a much needed vitality and sense of motion that every other Tomorrowland lacks. It’s also a relaxing break that’s appropriate for guests of all ages, not to mention a good means of getting photos of Space Mountain with the lights on when you’ve been told that it’s temporarily out of commission…

    Astro Orbiter
    My favorite of the Orbitron-type rides. Its third-story site provides an appropriate kinetic centerpiece for the land and lends it a literal and metaphorical loftiness that elevates it above other spinner clones. Contrast that with DL’s version -- presently stuck on the ground, impeding traffic at the entrance to the Hub.

    Carousel of Progress
    It’s certainly aging, and I don’t just mean the AAs -- the son’s reference to a “car phone” dates this to the last century (millennium!). But it’s a classic, and I’d sooner see MILF and SGE (and probably even Buzz Lightyear) get removed than CoP or the TTA. Props to the CM who repeatedly chastised an audience member for letting her child wave around a light-up spinner during the show… I find that too many CMs take a passive stance, letting guests get away from behavior that’s exceptionally disruptive to everyone else in the attraction.

    Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
    As I’ve said before, it sounds like a lawnmower convention, infecting an entire corner of Tomorrowland/Fantasyland with noise pollution. The next refurb should add the silent, electric HKDL cars that have individual sound effects. And a name change to Autopia would be nice too.

    Space Mountain
    I don’t get why so many people complain about how “rough” the MK’s Space Mountain is. It’s no rougher than the Matterhorn Bobsleds, yet you rarely hear anyone complain about them. As far as I’m concerned, the main problem is the light pollution -- they really need to do something about that. Also, fix the effects so that the “stars” don’t look like dabs of paint on black girders. Otherwise, I’m more than happy with the MK version; I’ve done every other version (including DLP’s and HKDL’s smooth-as-butter, brand-new SM), and I’d still take the MK’s over any of them. The “smoothness” of DL’s SM doesn’t count for much when the queue is uninteresting and the ride layout itself is deeply boring, with barely detectable drops and right-turn after right-turn after right-turn. I don’t mind having a soundtrack, but when you’re simulating a race through the vacuum of deep space, it’s hardly necessary. Also, of all the SMs out there, the MK version comes closest to the original idea of a Space Port with multiple attractions -- the interaction between the attraction and the TTA enhances both of them. Whatever they do, they definitely should not do away with the in-line seating of the rockets -- I’ve always hated the two-abreast seating of the other SMs, which makes them feel that much more like any other generic roller coaster. The single-file seating makes you feel much closer to the ride on either side of you. Also nice is the dual-track layout, which actually makes SM a quasi-dueling coaster (with a few near “misses”) if both Alpha and Omega tracks launch at exactly the same time. There’s nothing like having a perfectly timed launch -- you’ll get a rocketful of screaming people zip by you at the beginning of the lift hill, and “race” your parallel rocket all the way up, as well.

    "it’s a small world"
    The white DL façade that was added not too long ago really does wonders. All that empty space in the loading area was wasted before, anyway. The AAs and backdrops look clean and work fine, but the vignettes are dated -- it’s too bad they didn’t do more with the story during the last rehab. The Asia section remains relatively miniscule -- Antarctica and penguins almost get more representation than every single East Asian country put together. The slanty-eyed dolls are also cringe-inducing. I’m hoping the next major refurb really does something with the sets and the substance of the story. Maybe they can take a cue from the forthcoming HKDL version (with or without added Disney characters).

    Pooh’s Playful Spot
    It’s not necessarily a bad idea to give kids a playground to burn off a little energy, but there has to be a better place for it. PPS just takes up too much prime Fantasyland real estate, which could be used for so many better, higher purposes.

    Pirates of the Caribbean
    The mist projection effect and Jack Sparrow AAs are very nice additions, and do enhance the attraction. In particular, the Jack AAs are very impressively animated. Still, after having experienced both the DL and TDL versions of the ride multiple times since my last visit to the MK, the MK’s version just feels too truncated and anticlimactic now. They can’t do much to lengthen the attraction, but putting an extra scene into the beginning would help at least a bit.

    Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    From the bats that are attached to all-too-visible wires, to the collapsing mine that’s not-quite-collapsing, BTM needs TLC ASAP. Here’s hoping the rehab it’s currently undergoing takes care of these issues.

    Haunted Mansion
    Excellent, excellent rehab. The stretching room is 100% improved. I absolutely loved the creaking walls, the “floating” Ghost Host voice, and the bat effects (which were working very well). The new portrait gallery is wonderful, as is the original Escheresque staircase scene. Floating Leota is nice, but as others have pointed out, the wire is discernible -- this is just a quibble, though. The disappearing-heads-on-the-grooms effect was not working; I hope they’ll go back and dot this i. The singing busts were synched properly though, and the entire graveyard finale is just about perfect. I feel comfortable saying that the MK has the best Mansion operating currently, and it’s about time. One request: bring back the mariner; I always found him to be the creepiest portrait. There’s an empty space in the load area, to the left of the vampire portrait, where he could go.

    Next: MNSSHP…

  5. #5

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
    I was initially hesitant to spend over $40 on something I felt should have been included in the cost of MK admission. However, at a friend’s urging, I decided to give it a try. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.

    The general park decorations were nice -- although there certainly could have been more of them, and if you think about the Main Street decorations, they were pretty much just orange crepe-paper-looking ruffles. But they did a fine job of setting the mood. It was the lighting and other effects that really put the icing on the cake, however. In particular, the green mood lighting around the riverboat landing was terrific and suitably eerie. And the Haunted Mansion honestly blew me away -- the copious billowing fog in the queue area; the changing lighting effects on the exterior walls; the red “eyes” in the windows; the swirling ectoplasmic green effects in the conservatory windows. I was very, very impressed at the overall effect -- if only the Mansion looked this way every night.

    The rides were all walk-ons; I didn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for anything. I got tons of candy -- and lots of primo stuff, like Snickers and Nestle Crunch. The dance parties looked fun, but I didn’t indulge.

    Best of all, the parade and fireworks were truly top-notch. Seeing the Headless Horseman gallop down Main Street (or through the streets of Frontierland) is really something everyone should experience at least once. While some of the floats in the parade were a little on the dull side, the performers were all really enthusiastic and more than made up for it.

    HalloWishes was fantastic and utterly inspired, and now ranks right up there at the top of my all-time favorite Disney fireworks performances. I loved the “trick or treat” aspect played out on Cinderella Castle, and the lighting effects, fireworks, and music theming were all perfect. (It was a hundred times better than the regular Wishes, which I found to be underwhelming.)

    There were lots of rare characters throughout the park, and interacting with guests in ways you’d expect to see in brochures, but not in practice. For example, Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee were riding the Teacups with groups of children. Best of all, there was just a sense of excitement and fun that sometimes seems absent in the MK during the day, when you get the feeling that some folks are just trying to get through everything on their checklist… All in all, MNSSHP was really a wonderful experience, whether or not you have kids or are in costume. Despite the price of the tickets, I’d recommend it to everyone.

  6. #6

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Epcot’s 25th Anniversary
    It was truly one of my best days in a Disney park ever. I feel very fortunate to have been present for the occasion.

    I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get there early enough. I’d been told by the concierge that the earliest resort bus to Epcot left at 7:45. Still, I got to the bus stop at 7:25, and lo and behold -- there was an Epcot bus waiting. What’s more, it was pretty full. When we got to Epcot at 7:50, I went straight to the little souvenir cart outside the gate, hoping to see some 25th anniversary pins. No such luck, but then I noticed some of the new “retro” guidebooks and event schedules sitting in a rack, and snagged copies. You’ve probably already seen photos of both -- the guidebook is quite nice, and fronted in an appropriate silver color for the park’s silver anniversary. The inside features a replica of the original ’82 guidemap, which made me so nostalgic it hurt. Everything from the graphics to the font brought back a fond wave of memories.

    As I stood in a relatively short line at the gate, I was surprised that the CMs were starting to let people in -- this was around 8:00. I had no idea that they were going to open early, because the official word (as far as I had heard) was that the park would open as originally scheduled, at 9:00. Anyway, as soon as I made it through the turnstiles, a smiling CM handed me a 25th anniversary button -- which you’ve also probably already seen. I’ve never gotten any free button of any sort at a Disney park, so it was a nice touch. The official 25th anniversary logo -- Mickey holding a scroll with Figment on it -- was a bit odd, but not too objectionable.

    I made my way briskly toward SSE -- and saw a mob scene inside Gateway Gifts. I looked in just in time to see someone grab the last of what looked to be the limited edition t-shirts off the rack, and redoubled my efforts to make sure I didn’t experience something similar at Mouse Gear. Even before getting to Mouse Gear, though, I encountered a crowd of people at a souvenir cart just past SSE. It was worse than Best Buy pre-dawn on Black Friday; a flurry of hands grabbing everywhere and everything. Because I had not been checking the internet since having arrived at WDW three days previously, I had no idea that there would be any special merchandise other than the t-shirt -- and so I was very pleasantly surprised to see that they were selling a special Figment plush as well. Needless to say, I grabbed one like a drowning man snatching at a life preserver. I also picked up two t-shirts, and got in line.

    That line got so long so quickly that they diverted us into Mouse Gear to pay for our purchases. This was probably quicker than waiting outside, as there were many more open registers, but unfortunately a lot of the CMs manning those registers seemed inexperienced and overwhelmed. While I was trying to find an open register, I noticed that a CM was putting out some of the 25th anniversary pins. I grabbed one of each of the 6 normal limited-edition pins (I’d found the 3 non-limited 25th anniversary pins the previous day at D-MGM, of all places), but Mouse Gear was not selling the jumbo pin. With Figment, t-shirts, and pins in hand, I made a beeline for the register with the shortest line, which happened to be at the watch section. There, I discovered that there was a 25th anniversary watch for sale as well. Probably because I had lost my head in the heat of the moment, I decided to get one of them, too. I paid for my purchase and headed outside…

    … where I encountered what seemed to be an interminable line for pins at Pin Central. I made my way to the end of the line, which was almost to the base of SSE. This turned out to be the longest line I was in all weekend -- it was 90 minutes before I got to the front. Ironically, I ended up missing the rededication -- I saw just the CMs trooping in with banners, and saw the fireworks go off. Still, I did have a nice conversation with a very nice couple in front of me -- and got something out of it, as well. They offered to buy me the passholder-only pins, which I didn’t think I’d have any chance of getting. If you’re reading this -- thanks again! Pin Central also still had the jumbos in stock, so the wait was worth it. (I later discovered that the Art of Disney store was also selling the jumbo pins -- I really wish that someone had come down the really long line and informed people of this fact, as well as the fact that the smaller pins were readily available in Mouse Gear.)

    All in all, I love the merchandise. The watch doesn’t have the best design -- it features the now-gone wand next to SSE -- but it does lights up. That has to count for something, doesn’t it? The t-shirt is wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for a better image or slogan: “The 21st century began October 1, 1982.” I even love the color -- a deep blue that seems just a tad faded in some way, like a pair of old and comfortable jeans. The Figment plush must have been rushed into production, because it features a number of errors: “JOURHEY INTO IMAGINATION” and “SPACESHLP EARTH,” as well a version of the Universe of Energy logo that doesn’t actually exist. Still, the overall design is quite nice, and now my original ’83 Figment plush has a companion.

    Marty Sklar was a class act. (I was amused that there were some clueless people who had no idea who Marty Sklar is and were actually annoyed that the Circle of Life theater was closed for the day.) The presentation I attended was very informative, and included a great musical montage that featured most of the original Epcot pavilion theme songs. It made me realize how enduring and classic some of them are -- like “It’s Fun to Be Free” and “One Little Spark” -- and how much poorer Epcot is for no longer having them.

    The special 25th anniversary exhibit in Innoventions West was very moving and bittersweet for the same reasons. Seeing displays featuring much-missed attractions like World of Motion, Horizons, The Land (including Kitchen Kabaret), and the original Journey into Imagination (including Magic Journeys) only put into stark perspective how much Epcot has lost since its opening day. It was, frankly, a bit depressing to see a group of teenagers who were learning for the first time that Test Track and Mission: Space had, at one point, been completely different attractions chock-full of AAs…I was also a bit surprised to see that the exhibit wasn’t mentioned at all in the event schedule that was distributed the next day. Since it looks like the exhibit is going to be around for a little while, it would be nice if the general public were made aware of its existence.

    I liked the special 4-minute tag at the end of IllumiNations, but felt it could have been better. Yes, there were a lot of fireworks going off, but it would have been truly special to have had some of the original theme songs accompanying them.

    What I liked best about the day was feeling like I was among many, many people who shared a love of Epcot and everything it stood -- and stands -- for. There was really a feeling of comraderie and mutual respect that I’ve never felt at a Disney park before. (That feeling was completely gone the next day, when it felt like things had reverted back to normal, and the vast majority of visitors were just people who happened to be passing through.) Anyway, here’s to 25 more years of Epcot…

    Tomorrow: general thoughts on the newer Epcot attractions, plus Food and Wine…

  7. #7

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    I have to disagree about MK's space mountain, I found DL's new version so much better that Im hardly interested in riding MK's much anymore...plus it IS TOO ROUGH now and seriously needs a rehab.

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Epcot
    The Seas with Nemo and Friends
    The Clamobile portion of the pavilion was much better than I’d expected, with some very nice visual effects throughout. The movement on the angler fish (or whatever it’s called -- the one that’s all teeth) was impressive. (The audio for Marlin and Dory was out during one ride-through, but fixed during the next one.) All in all, this is what a modern-day dark ride should be; I don’t think it purports to be anything more, and that’s OK.

    Turtle Talk with Crush
    After having been unamused by MILF, I was pleasantly surprised by Turtle Talk: I liked it much more than I thought I would. Of the three attractions I’ve seen with similar technology (this one, MILF, and Stitch Encounter in HKDL), I thought the animation and dialogue in Crush were by far the best. Of course, a lot of that had to do with both the nature of the show and the performer as well. He was very quick, clever, and genuinely funny -- there was just the feeling that the entire audience was on the same page throughout the performance and having a great time. I’ll be back.

    Soarin’
    I hadn’t been on Soarin’ since early 2001, when DCA first opened. I found it to be exactly what I remembered: a fun and relaxing attraction that ultimately doesn’t inspire me to run and get back in line right away. To me, it’s a “do it if the line isn’t too long or you have a FastPass” attraction. As an aside, I love how the people on the golf course are laughing at the hang gliding folks almost getting struck by a speeding golf ball…

    Mission: Space
    I’d been on the original (now Orange) version of Mission: Space shortly after it opened. I decided to try the milder, non-spinning Green version this time around. I found it to be still pretty fun -- and more engaging physically than I expected. (I thought there would be no movement whatsoever, and that you’d just be sitting in a motionless cabin watching a video and pressing buttons.) Overall, however, my personal feeling toward M:S, as with Soarin’, is that it’s not quite a must-do attraction; despite the impressive effects, it just doesn’t inspire multiple repeat rides. YMMV, of course.

    Gran Fiesta Tour
    Cute and engaging. It certainly doesn’t hurt that The Three Caballeros is one of my favorite semi-obscure Disney movies -- it’s always nice to see Panchito and Jose Carioca represented in the parks. I’m a bit on the fence as to whether AAs of the three would have been better at the end of the ride; I wonder whether having AAs in that scene, after having been through an entire attraction where they are portrayed solely in “2D” animation, would seem incongruous. Anyway, I also liked the unique souvenirs that were sold -- like the Three Caballeros/Gran Fiesta mug.

    O’ Canada
    Overall, the new changes are not an improvement. Martin Short is hardly a marquee name that’s going to draw people in. (And, in any case, Disney didn’t seem to be advertising any of the changes, so I’m not sure how casual guests would even know that the movie is any different from what they might have seen on a previous trip.) The script was mildly amusing, but just seemed too ham-handed and sitcom-ish. The original presentation did verge on the overly ponderous, and a change was probably needed; I just don’t think this was it. Also, the new Canadian Idol vocalist has a nice enough voice, but I prefer the original duet -- the use of two voices, one male and one female, was appropriate to the bilingual nature of both the song and the country.

    Everything Else
    As always, Test Track was fun but forgettable. I learned that a semi-heavy rain hitting one’s face at 65 MPH is unpleasant. I also felt no need to do Universe of Energy. Not that it’s horrible or anything; it’s just too long an attraction, and the Bill Nye/Jeopardy portion feels dated.

  9. #9

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisFL View Post
    I have to disagree about MK's space mountain, I found DL's new version so much better that Im hardly interested in riding MK's much anymore...plus it IS TOO ROUGH now and seriously needs a rehab.

    I like it rough - oh boy, thats just asking for trouble.

    Seriously though, I like a coaster that knocks you around a bit. If I want a smooth ride I will get a Caddy

    Rode that sucker three times on Tuesday, as did the 5 other people in my group. Screaming, cheering, and basicly acting like 35 year old morons - nothing could be better

    -dave
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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phonedave View Post
    I like it rough - oh boy, thats just asking for trouble.

    Seriously though, I like a coaster that knocks you around a bit. If I want a smooth ride I will get a Caddy

    Rode that sucker three times on Tuesday, as did the 5 other people in my group. Screaming, cheering, and basicly acting like 35 year old morons - nothing could be better

    -dave
    LOL a little TMI!! Psst...I like it rough too!! ROFL!! I don't want the coaster to be too rough though where you look like you've taken a beaten afterwards!! I miss going to Panama City Beach and riding the wooden roller coaster at Miracle Strip Amusement Park. Stinks that the park is no longer in existence.
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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by SweetPeaRules View Post
    LOL a little TMI!! Psst...I like it rough too!! ROFL!! I don't want the coaster to be too rough though where you look like you've taken a beaten afterwards!! I miss going to Panama City Beach and riding the wooden roller coaster at Miracle Strip Amusement Park. Stinks that the park is no longer in existence.
    I *think* that rollercoaster that was at Miracle Strip is now open at Cypress Gardens.

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    I truly enjoyed reading your trip report on EPCOT Centers 25th aniversary. I really with I could have went. . Oh well. Thanks again.
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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kuhio View Post
    What I liked best about the day was feeling like I was among many, many people who shared a love of Epcot and everything it stood -- and stands -- for. There was really a feeling of comraderie and mutual respect that I’ve never felt at a Disney park before. (That feeling was completely gone the next day, when it felt like things had reverted back to normal, and the vast majority of visitors were just people who happened to be passing through.) Anyway, here’s to 25 more years of Epcot…
    I agree...it was one of the best days I've ever had at EPCOT. It had a genuine great feel to it...more truly "Guest" related. In addition to all the reasons you give, I mentioned another reason it felt this way in my "LIVE From EPCOT's 25th!"thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Opus1guy
    One more thing. Didn't see a soul all day from any media outlets. No Press being escorted. Nada. Just a few Disney cameramen wandering around capturing things for the company. So this really did have the feel of one of the old-time celebrations that used to be done mainly for the Guests rather than the media. Because of that...the day had a real nice feel to it, IMHO.
    It was a very special day and the type you don't get to experience much anymore, IMHO. I felt more sincerity and appreciation from Cast Members and fellow Guests...than I've experienced at a Disney theme park in a long time. And as you mentioned...there was also a lot of great camaraderie going on. It was a day I didn't want to end, and I'll always remember.


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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Kuhio... as Mrs Huxtable would say... "Continue...."

    Great TP. Too bad you didn't run into me at EPCOT Center on the 1st.

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    Re: Random thoughts: Epcot's 25th, MNSSHP, Food & Wine, etc.

    Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
    This was my first time at the Food & Wine Festival -- I’ve never happened to visit WDW in the autumn months before. I had the opportunity to sample quite a few of the food and drink options over the course of three days -- and most of the booths seemed to be well patronized most of the time. Some were more popular than others, of course.

    Most of the things I tried were pretty good -- which was impressive considering that the food items weren’t individually prepared to order in an actual kitchen, but rather en masse in an oven in an outside booth. I had some absolutely delicious grilled beef with chimichurri sauce at the Argentina booth, and a really good grilled lamp chop with caramelized onions at Australia (the lamb chop would have benefited from having slightly less of the overly-sweet sauce, though). Also really good was the boxty (potato pancake) with bacon chips and herb butter from Ireland, the lamb slider from New Zealand, and the escargot persillade en brioche from France (it tasted kind of like mushrooms in beef bourguignonne sauce). As far as potables go, the green tea plum wine cooler from China was great (and very addicting), as well as the Bunratty meade honey wine from Ireland (though some might find it to be too sweet). The Maine lobster roll from the U.S. booth was just OK -- but then again, I’ve had many, many terrific lobster rolls in my life, so it probably just suffered from the comparison. There were some misses -- South Africa’s spice cake with marinated fruit was dry and mostly flavorless -- but most of the items I tried were quite satisfying.

    I was a bit mixed on the Ratatouille theming throughout. I really enjoyed the movie, and I thought the stylized decorations looked good. On the other hand, it annoyed me that Disney felt the need to tie-in the festival to an established property, and not just let it stand on its own (I thought the non-Ratatouille-themed artwork used in the festival guides and other signage was elegant and worked well). On the other other hand… the Ratatouille displays weren’t ubiquitous -- mostly just at the park entrance and at the gateway to World Showcase. So, on the whole, it wasn’t too bad.

    What I really liked about the festival was seeing so many guests who were clearly enjoying it on its own merits, and enjoying Epcot as well. It made me feel that Epcot had really come into its own, and was being appreciated for its own unique events and charms -- rather than as just another “second gate.”


    Behind the Seeds
    I’d always wanted to try this tour at The Land, but never got around to it, for one reason or another. I decided to take this opportunity to do so. At less than $15 and just about an hour in length, it’s the perfect guided tour for those who balk at some of the other backstage tours, which can take from half-a-day to a full day, and cost much more. Although some of the Disney brochures seem to promote this as a tour for families and kids -- and there are some aspects of the tour that are focused on children -- it’s appropriate for anyone who enjoys the Living with the Land boat ride specifically, or the themes of The Land generally. I also enjoyed it quite a bit just for the sense of being backstage and having a semi-private view of the scenes.

    The tour guide started by showing off some of the beneficial insects used at The Land to control pests, as well as lab techniques used to grow plants using hydroponic and other methods. The tour then proceeded into the “greenhouse” area of the pavilion, where we got to see Guinness-record breaking crops and vegetables. (I particularly liked the “25” that was being cultivated from green and purple plants, which was partially obscured from the vantage point of boat riders.) The tour guide handed around some sliced cucumbers that have been grown in the pavilion; although I don’t care that much for cucumbers, I thought they were really quite fresh and surprisingly tasty. To wrap up the tour, the guide allowed us to feed a tankful of voracious fish in the “red light” aquaculture area, and the children in the group got to release a vial full of ladybugs into the environment.

    Our tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, and treated the entire group as if we were the only guests he’d had to escort that day -- or ever. All in all, it felt very personalized and special, exactly what you hope all Disney experiences are like. I probably won’t do Behind the Seeds again, as I don’t think the tour varies that much -- but it was definitely worthwhile doing it once.

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