We Say Some Of The Stupidest Things at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Five

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

— Anatole France

Thursday November 14, 2013

The shuttle bus rattled down the resort road, filled to standing capacity with happy children and cheerful parents, and pointed toward the most visited zoological park in the world. The sides of the bus were wet with morning dew, as the morning air held faint traces of the previous evening’s relative cool.

Tucked into a section of contoured plastic seats, our touring group – me and Amy, brother and sister Rich and Hydee, and their mom JaNae – was more subdued. We had left our rooms that morning just ahead of 9:00, which was not bad for a collection of inveterate night owls on vacation. But, in trade, we seemed to be operating on essential systems only, and our usual discoursing had been replaced with bleary silence.

Usually the vultures are hanging out in Splash Mountain.
Usually the vultures hang out in Splash Mountain.

From my seat I could watch our distant gazes and vacant expressions. We looked like commuters on our way to another eight-hour stretch at the office. I always say that I could live in Disneyland, but if we were already starting our mornings with thousand-yard stares, then maybe my reservoir of Disney devotion was not bottomless, as I had always thought.

We rolled into the Animal Kingdom complex, and with squeaking brakes and hissing hydraulics, the bus stopped to regurgitate us into the park. I was still deep in contemplation. But then, a miracle appeared in the heavens. It was a juxtaposition of images so unexpected that I grabbed everyone and pointed it out, and it made us laugh out loud, and turned our mornings around:

In the skies above Disney’s multi-million dollar animal conservation park were a dozen vultures, turning lazy circles.

******** Continue reading “We Say Some Of The Stupidest Things at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Five”

An Incomparable Day at Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Four

Comparison is the death of joy.

– Mark Twain

Wednesday November 13, 2013

Our ambitious Walt Disney World vacation was about to get real.

Magic Kingdom was almost instinctively familiar to us, being the East Coast version of our home park, Disneyland. Day four would be our first visit this trip, and we could not have been more excited about it. Our touring group was Amy and I, with our friends: siblings Hydee and Rich, and their mom, JaNae.

This view has never failed to make us happy.
This view has never failed to make us happy.

A swirling breeze and low, 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures greeted us as we left our rooms, which was a change from the warm, wet blanket of air from the previous mornings. I was still in the shadow of the towering, Callipygian Ursula when I wondered if I should double back and grab my coat. But, no, I would manage. I was confident that my decision would not come back to haunt me at the end of the day.

The bus was packed, although we found a seat for JaNae next to some very nice people from Poughkeepsie, NY on the bus. True to her engaging and outgoing nature, JaNae made friends with them at once. Our conversation buzzed with talk of today being the “true” and “genuine” start of our trip – unfounded and unfair though it was to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Continue reading “An Incomparable Day at Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Four”

From History Lessons to Horseplay at Epcot – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Three

The stone slabs leading up to Spaceship Earth look a little too mausoleum-y for my taste.
The stone slabs leading up to Spaceship Earth look too much like a mausoleum for my taste.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

― Winston Churchill

Tuesday November 12, 2013

Epcot was still something of a mystery to us, and I woke up the morning of our third day eager to change that.

Amy and I had vacationed at Walt Disney World twice before, in 2007 and 2009. These trips cultivated a burgeoning love for the amazing East Coast property, but were also barnstorming affairs. We had thundered right past masses of experiences in each of the four theme parks* on our way to the high-profile attractions. We also knew that these lesser luminaries – the things you “discover” – were the battleground. Either you found them, loved them, and it crystallized your fan heart forever, or you spent the rest of your life complaining about the price of ice cream bars and the line for Winnie the Pooh. There was no middle ground. Not for fans like us, anyway.

(*To say nothing of the two water parks and twenty-plus resorts.)

Continue reading “From History Lessons to Horseplay at Epcot – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Three”

Lowered Expectations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Two

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

― Alexander Pope

Monday November 11, 2013

At last, after months of planning and daydreaming, and one long-and-winding travel adventure, we woke up to our first full day at Walt Disney World.

The last person to snicker at this view was turned into a sea slug.
The last person to snicker at this view was turned into a sea slug.

We had chosen Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (AoA) for our stay, and were in the Little Mermaid wing, on the second floor of the building marked by a five-story statue of Ursula the Sea Witch. Our doorway opened to a view of Hourglass Lake and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Just around the corner was the open-air elevator lobby, and having it so close boded well for aching feet at the end of the day. The window of the lobby also happened to perfectly frame the billboard-sized derrière of the Ursula statue. Amy pointed it out with characteristic dryness: “Well, there’s Ursula’s butt.”

Our experiences had been great since the airplane landed the day before, but I had misgivings about our destination for the day. We were heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS), and I had been ambivalent about it since we first made our plans. The truth is, I was much more excited about Epcot the next day. The memories of our previous visits to DHS were not unpleasant, but were also overshadowed by better ones in other parks. Continue reading “Lowered Expectations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Two”

The Under-Appreciated Value of Waiting – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day One

“Time always seems long to the child who is waiting – for Christmas, for next summer, for becoming a grownup…”

– Dag Hammarskjöld

T-Minus 13 Months and Counting

There are life lessons to be gleaned – should a person be so inclined – from the animated feature films of the Walt Disney Company. Many of these are Big, Important Themes: love overcoming obstacles, accepting those who are different from you, and being kind to your fellow creatures because you never know when one of them will spring you from the room where your abusive stepmother has locked you in order to keep you away from your true love.

"You're not my real mother!  YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE!!"
“You’re not my real mother! YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE!”

The challenges our heroes and heroines face is an essential element of Disney movies. Although everyone takes pleasure in the happy ending, we require the struggle in order for us to value the happiness. Delaying our gratification is necessary, in other words, so we can better appreciate the conclusion. From that point of view, the under-appreciated value of waiting may be the most important lesson any of us take from Disney movies.

At least, that is what I tried to convince myself as we planned our next Disney resort adventure.

Continue reading “The Under-Appreciated Value of Waiting – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day One”

Down the Stretch We Come – Disneyland October 2012 Days Seven and Eight

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself in exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

– Steve Prefontaine

We are Disneyland Marathoners, to put a label for our park strategy. For anyone counting, this post describes our seventh and eighth days of vacation, and subtracting the travel time, our sixth and seventh straight days visiting the parks. Plus, when we are in the parks, our efforts are equally marathon-esque. We spend long hours on the go, always engaged, observing our environment, rarely sprinting, but with practiced motion.

Don't bother looking for me in this photo.  I promise, I am not there.
Don’t bother looking for me in this photo. I am not there.

When I speak with friends and colleagues about our Disney vacations, most express amazement at how we could spend so much time in one place. This is something I suspect is heard by many of our compatriots in the Obsessive Disney Fan Community (in which, frankly, we are relative lightweights): Don’t we wish for other adventures?

Well, of course. We don’t take every bit of our yearly vacation time to a Disney park, after all. We love travel, period. But when we are here, we are focused on Disneyland. We circle it on our calendars, we develop an approach, we reserve our time, and we plan everything we can in anticipation. Just like any good marathoner.

Incidentally, I am making broad assumptions as to the nature of running a marathon. I am not in any kind of physical shape to do more than watch a marathon on television, provided I take frequent pauses to catch my breath. I often remind myself – with substantial self-loathing – that if I did a better job of resembling an actual marathoner, I would not need to take occasional stops on a bench or second laps around the park on the Disneyland Railroad to rest aching feet. I plan a lot of exercise programs in the Toy Story Mania queue. Continue reading “Down the Stretch We Come – Disneyland October 2012 Days Seven and Eight”

Rituals, Quests and a Quick Trip to Hell – Disneyland October 2012 Day Six

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

— Pat Conroy

Amy and I have travel rituals. Rituals for road trips, rituals for camping trips, rituals for airplane rides, and rituals for almost every other aspect of our vacations. Of course, it goes without saying, we have rituals for Disneyland. For example, every time we go, we do something we have never done before at the Disneyland Resort.

This is sometimes hard for me to imagine, considering how many times we have been there, but there are things Amy and I have never done at the Disneyland Resort. There are three reasons this is possible:

Sacred Cow
It’s sometimes surprising where you find the Sacred Cows in Disneyland

First, the Disneyland Resort is much bigger than it seems. At a bit over 500 acres, the current, developed property can feel claustrophobic for two theme parks and a shopping district, especially when compared to Walt Disney World’s 25,000 acres. But there is a lot packed into that space.

Second, the Disneyland Resort is always changing. Walt Disney originally bought 160 acres for Disneyland, to address the first point, but it is not just expansion. There are very few sacred cows at Disneyland and change is the only constant, as management develops new experiences and opportunities for guests just like us. This is not always met with widespread public enthusiasm, but they do it anyway.

Third, our definition of “never done before” is pretty flexible. Like, really flexible. Continue reading “Rituals, Quests and a Quick Trip to Hell – Disneyland October 2012 Day Six”