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Dumbo Dumbo; MiceAge.com's Kevin Yee takes a closer look at the newly reworked attraction

The downside to taking a road trip in the summer (I wrote about our destinations last week) is that you miss so much back home. Orlando is like a bullet train, moving at impossible speeds. I cannot hope to be comprehensive in my coverage of what’s going on, so I’ll be selective about what to discuss here at MiceAge in depth. This week: We take a closer look at the new Dumbo, the Dumbo interactive queue, and the Casey Jr. Splash and Soak water playground, all of which opened together a few weeks ago. Executive summary: good stuff. Very good stuff. On par with the other excellence on display in Storybook Circus, which is to say, meeting the raised bar Disney has set for itself.

Read what you’re missing...

First up is the “interactive queue.” That’s actually a misnomer for this area. Space Mountain’s standby line has an interactive queue, as does Soarin’s, but this one is different for at least two reasons. First, it’s not right along the way as the games are in Space Mountain; it’s a separate room that you have to make an effort to go here. Second, and more important, it’s really just a playground. Calling it interactive is like calling a banana peel a “toddler-stopping device.” It’s overkill and not really descriptive of the actual thing. It’s just a playground. But, it’s a good playground.

FastPass issue for Dumbo is by Mickey’s Philharmagic

In large strokes, you can think of it as about the same size, layout, and scope as the playground in Mission Space. It’s two-story with a large tunnel connecting dual towers. The towers in this case include more interesting platforms, though, since they not only look like clown trampolines (the whole thing is meant to represent a circus big top), but they also light up and give off a sound effect when kids step on them.

There are two slides here, both rather modest, but at least they are present. The Mission Space playground doesn’t have any. And while there are other playgrounds (DAK’s dino dig springs to mind), they are usually out in the brutal heat. I’m loving, loving, loving the wisdom of an indoor, air-conditioned playground.

They didn’t have to make a detailed painting/mural here, but they did.

There’s a prop of fake fireworks, and a pull string to light them off (for pretend). It’s like a gag from Disneyland’s Toontown (they never had many of these in Orlando’s version), and kids reacted well to it.

The room is excitingly lit with small bulbs and every so often the lights dim for a canned announcement by Timothy Mouse that their flight will start soon.

The netting lights change color, too.

Other lights cycle on and off, many of them colored, giving the area a quite festive feel. Some white pattern lights only appear when someone is going down the slide.

The Dumbo in the ceiling flies around, and around, and around…

Speaking of slides, do you suppose this dog-house one is named after the dog in Carousel of Progress? In some versions of that attraction, the dog changes names in each set, but in others, he’s always Rover.

Buster? Queenie? Rover?

There’s a toddler zone here in the middle of the room, which seems like a great idea. We didn’t see many toddlers use it, but for any who need it, this will be a welcome place to crawl around.

Even the scamper equipment has some buttons and levers that move around.

Mostly kids of playground age were scampering around. Parents usually sat down on the provided bleacher benches that helpfully ringed the room (another grand idea, and even done in theme – bravo!)

I looked around, but didn’t spot any Hidden Mickeys. Are there any here? Let me know in the comments!

When we visited (mid-day on a weekend), there was no wait for Dumbo, because both Dumbos were operating, and the doubled capacity must have been enough to knock out the line. On the one hand, this is great news. Families who love to ride Dumbo can do it now with no line! We were asked if we wanted to skip the playground since there was no line. Since we wanted to see the playground, we were given a restaurant-style pager anyway, kind of for no reason, since we could leave and go ride any time we wanted. But the pager is how we would NORMALLY be called to leave the playground.

Your Olive Garden table is ready!

The lack of a line is a touch troubling, though. If you had built a second Dumbo right next to the first one behind the castle, you would NOT get that line down to zero in the middle of a weekend afternoon. The only explanation is that demand is down, and it’s not hard to guess why. Location, location, location. Being off to one side of the park is making the ride less of a destination.

In retrospect, that makes perfect sense. The DAK spinner seldom has a line. The Aladdin spinner has a much shorter line than Dumbo. So for Dumbo to have a huge line a year ago, there could only be a couple of reasons why. Maybe it was because people just loved this movie from the 1940s and HAD to ride it. Or, it could be because it was a spinner ride in the middle of everything else. I guess we have our answer now. It makes me wonder if this playground will be around in five years if the ride never has a line. Perhaps the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster and the Little Mermaid will change the dynamic?

Double Dumbo – lots of red, blue, and gold.

The fact that the Dumbos rotate in opposite directions means that they “duel” technically, but they are pretty far apart from each other, and the visual excitement gained is pretty minimal.

Of greater note is the damage already visible on the older Dumbo. Almost every one of the ride vehicles sports a white abrasion about the size of a grapefruit on the outside “knee” of the elephant, where the car scrapes the sidewalk when the ride is in the lowered position.

Will this happen to the second Dumbo mechanism as well?

Not to belabor the obvious, but someone miscalculated something. Not good engineering, and not, I’m afraid, very world-class. Is it dangerous? The Epcylopedia blog was the first to point this out, and the writer there seems to think Disney otherwise gets its CMs in trouble for endangering visitors, so why is it allowed here?

Things are happier across the way at the Casey Jr. Splash and Soak zone. This is a kinetic, unpredictable, and frankly fun water playground. There are multiple nozzles and hoses shooting off water. Not so many that it’s a solid wall of water, but not so few that you could figure out what’s going on very quickly. In trying to get closer, I realized that I was playing a game of “laser maze” trying to avoid getting wet, and it was pretty fun for me as an adult.

Water is hard to capture in photos, but it’s here!

Kids, on the other hand, lost their precious little minds, squealing and darting everywhere. I view that as a good thing, not a negative. People wishing to avoid this area can do so easily, but for the kids wanting to get wet and let off some steam, this is a pretty good place. It used to be that Tom Sawyer Island was the place to do that, but Orlando’s island has never seemed like much of a playground to me, with few climbing or scampering opportunities and concrete pathways.

Just the thing for a summer day.

There’s a fence around the engine, which I’d seen in photos before seeing it with my own eyes. I expected to be irritated by it, but while I was there, it ended up not bothering me at all. I kind of forgot it was there. Perhaps I was mesmerized by the “show” – the water shoots off in a pattern, culminating in a chuffing Casey Jr train that spits out very big glugs of water from his smokestack rhythmically (and it doesn’t happen often). Or perhaps I got caught up in the fun of avoiding the water.

If you look inside the engine, you’ll see wheels and other props that look like they are meant to be touched. Look at the step just below the cab, and the grab-handles on the side of the entrance, and you’ll likely come to the same conclusion as my friend who pointed it out to me: this was likely meant to be climbed in. Did the Imagineers design it one way, and the Operations folks decide something different?

See the tribute?

As the author of a book about tributes and homages at Disney World, you know I’m all ears when new ones appear in the parks, and we’ve got tributes here in Casey Jr. Each of the four circus cars sports a number: 71, 82, 89, 98. Those correspond with the years in which WDW parks opened—a nice tribute.

What to make of the number 7 on the merchandise cart? A friend pointed out to me that Casey Jr’s engine number (9) is likely related. The two together only make sense when you remember that the Casey Jr. train ride in Anaheim has two engines, which are numbered 7 and 9. So this is a tribute to the OTHER Casey Jr.


I’m continuing to blog more observations, photos and thoughts at http://ultimateorlando.blogspot.com/ - drop by!

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Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2012 Kevin Yee

Find Kevin on Social Media

Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular "Where in Walt Disney World" photo quizzes.

On his public Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Google+ account, he also offers regular smaller updates on the parks.

Kevin’s Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

  • Jason’s Disneyland Almanac (co-written with Jason Schultz) is an exhaustive listing of every day in Disneyland history, from 1955 to 2010. You’ll find park operating hours, weather and temperatures, and openings and closings of any park attraction, shop, or restaurant… for every day in the park’s history.
  • The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
  • Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted.
  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.