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Skipper Canteen Review

17 Dec

I stepped into my dream restaurant today. The Skipper Canteen paired the Jungle Cruise with good food (something other than chicken!), and it was a phenomenal experience.  

 I waited five minutes for a table, nearly an hour less than the attraction’s wait time. 

Theming remained similar to the Jungle Cruise style, yet felt distinctive (more than just it being a restaurant). The Skippers had new sets of jokes, and I learned everything can be made funnier by saying “am I right” at the end of everything, am I right? 

That was hilarious, I know. 

The menu’s offerings were inspired by African, Asian and South American flavors. I had the S.E.A. Shu Mai dumplings.  

 My roommate Erin had the arepas.  

 But seriously, look at this FOOD. The dumplings were sweet, and the soy had a bit of a kick to complement the sweet well. 

We both had the signature drinks. I had the Punchline Punch, and Erin had the Schweitzer Slush. The only thing missing was the souvenir glass; Trader Sam was behind on his route.  

   
For dessert, we had the Kungaloosh!, a dark chocolate cake with caramel coffee ice cream and a slice of banana.  

 
This is one restaurant I’ll be visiting just as much as the attraction itself. The list of things I loved could go on for niles and niles and niles. Am I right? 

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Disney Christmas Parade Review – A “Frozen” disaster?

25 Dec

Let me preface this by saying I really REALLY love Frozen (as the Elsa costume hanging in my closet might indicate).

Naturally, when I heard Disney’s yearly Christmas parade would be Frozen-themed, I squeed with delight while bracing for a barrage of whines from nay-sayers and purists who lament the snowball of millions of dollars padding Disney’s pockets. And so, as I sat in front of the TV, I was so excited to see a twist to the classic Disney parade.

That’s not what I got. At all.

After two hours of garbled Ariana Grande juxtaposed with touching reunion blips, the “parade” left me thinking, “What happened?”

Sure, it’s great to see Disney showing off their newer properties. Lucy Hale’s “country-fied” performance fit detail shots of Radiator Springs nicely. Aulani looks STUNNING; not even Disney Channel starlet Laura Marano could ruin the views. (A huge missed opportunity, however, was Samantha Brown’s segments of new and exciting things from the Company. Adventures by Disney could have been showcased extensively in a two-minute segment, but it was reduced to a 30-second commercial.)

However, sparkly close-up shots couldn’t fill the gaping hole in my heart from the lack of Main Street footage. What parade? The “celebration” was an amalgam of performances loosely pieced together with awkward segues (looking at you, Tim Tebow), a handful of floats, and *maybe* a glimpse of a character whose name isn’t Anna, Elsa, or Olaf. Plus, anyone who’s ever been to Magic Kingdom will notice Festival of Fantasy and MISICI floats were poorly converted to Christmas-themed pieces. Clearly, a majority of the budget when to Anna and Elsa’s floats and those 1997-era special effects at the end.

Seriously, guys, Santa is the big reveal at the end.

Why change an excellent structure for one film? It makes no sense to piece together these featurettes with Frozen when it cannot be duplicated another year. Producers could’ve just as easily added Anna and Elsa’s float into the usual parade route, kept the performances (maybe cut Trisha Yearwood’s songs to two instead of three?), and done the traditional commentary from the Main Street hub.

Dancers in Anaheim’s Disneyland Christmas parade. Can we have a bit more of this please?

We get it. Frozen was the biggest box office hit for an animated film ever. It won an Oscar it rightfully deserved. Every parent of a 5-year-old kid has a video of them belting “Let it Go.” Again, WE GET IT.

But what happens next year when Frozen fever melts away and you’re left with an awkward production structure? What movie is going to fill that gap? If this is a new precedent for future Disney Christmas celebrations, it’s a dangerous format to follow.

Hopefully, this was a one-time thing. (Please be a one-time thing.)

Festival of Fantasy Parade – The Story

16 Mar

After nearly a decade of planning, preparation, Imagineering and a whole lot of pixie dust, WDW’s the Magic Kingdom debuted its new parade, Festival of Fantasy, last week.

What a fantasy it is. I drooled for nearly 95 percent of the parade. The Peter Pan float got me all choked up (he’s been a long-time personal favorite), but the real stunner of the parade is Maleficent’s float. (How apropos considering we’re less than a month out from seeing Angelina Jolie’s performance as the Sleeping Beauty’s villain in the live-action Maleficent. Nice timing, guys…)

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She towers over Guests while she glides down Main Street USA, breathing fire every so often and rightfully instilling the fear of a steampunk god in those who behold her.

Other highlights of FOF include:

Rapunzel’s swinging float:

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Merida getting her own float (HUGE considering how popular Frozen has become in recent months. I would’ve guessed last-minute adjustments would’ve been made to the parade. I don’t doubt Elsa and Anna will be getting their own parade segment some time in the very near future…):

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There are so many amazing details in FOF that I really should just stop talking so you can watch the parade…

My final thoughts: I’m so jealous of all DCPs who witness and were a part of FOF’s debut, and incredibly proud of everyone who worked on this. IT LOOKS A MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN “CELEBRATE A DREAM COME TRUE” PARADE.

Finally, WDW gets an answer to Disneyland’s amazing performances and shows, and it seriously kicks some honey-buns.

What do you think of FOF? Anyone sad that some characters were missing from the floats (I’m looking at you, Pooh fans…)? Sound off by leaving comments. Also, 10 pixie dust points and a pat on the back to those who caught the Mulan reference!

WATCH: Seven Dwarves Mine Ride

24 Feb

The final piece of the New Fantasyland puzzle appears to be in place.

Disney parks released this new on-ride video of the Snow White and Seven Dwarves mine ride, which has been in construction since late 2012.

What viewers might not be able to fully appreciate from the video about this attraction is how completely silent it is. No clanking track, no gears churning. It’s as silent as a sleeping bat in a diamond cavern.

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The completion date is “officially” May 2014. It was originally rumored to be completed before Christmas 2013; however, construction didn’t make that (unofficial) deadline.

Imagineers announced the attraction during 2011’s D23 Expo, almost as an afterthought to the existing Fantasyland expansion plans.

Personally, I’m ready for this thing to be finished. It will (hopefully) alleviate some Guest congestion on the Mountains – Space, Big Thunder, and Splash – by giving Guests another “thrill” attraction.

Plus, the previous Snow White attraction was absolutely terrifying… Princess Fairytale Hall now stands in its former place.

Have a Haunted Halloween! – Fun Facts about Disney’s Haunted Mansion

31 Oct

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

Welcome, foolish mortals, to this blog post dedicated to a staple attraction at every Disney park. In the spirit of Halloween, here are some rarely known, bone-chilling facts about the attraction.

1) Haunted Mansion’s backstory is the most complex of any attraction backstory in ANY Disney park.

2) Ever wonder what the Ghost Host looks like? There’s a portrait of him hanging in the knocking doors hallway.

Just in case the corpse swinging from the noose in the Stretching Room wasn’t enough for you…

3) There’s this hidden Mickey you probably never noticed in the graveyard scene.

And there’s also one on the table during the ballroom scene.

4) The Haunted Mansion (or Phantom Manor) at Disneyland Paris was designed to be the scariest variation of the attraction.

It also has the most variation from the original. The premise being a young bride’s father murdered her fiancé, only to have her father mysteriously disappear in a tragic accident. Overwhelmed by grief, the bride believes her fiancé will somehow return and is consequently haunted by a menacing demonic spirit.

And I speak from experience when I say it is a million times darker and scarier than its WDW companion.

5) Who is Master Gracey? Is he the same as the Ghost Host?

Nope, not quite. However, the name was taken from Imagineer Yale Gracey who was a lead designer of the “spectral effects” for the original Haunted Mansion.

6) Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is already prepped for Christmas!

Well, Haunted Mansion Holidays that is…

7) Your doom-buggy’s backwards fall out of the attic supposedly symbolizes your inability to handle what you’ve witnessed thus far, so you jump out of the attic to your death.

Which also explains why the ghouls are suddenly so happy to see you in the graveyard scene, and might be why the groundskeeper’s dog is so scared of you.

8) Haunted Mansion CMs and Tower of Terror CMs are the ONLY Cast Members instructed not to smile on the job.

9) The newest Haunted Mansion, known as Mystic Manor, in Hong Kong Disneyland opened spring 2013 and uses Danny Elfman-produced score and trackless system.

So friggin cool.

10) In the WDW version’s pet cemetery, there is a headstone to Mr. Toad from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, an attraction that closed in 1998.

11) Ever wonder how the stretching room works? At Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, guests step inside a carefully concealed OTIS elevator. At WDW and Tokyo Disneyland, the ceiling itself stretches as guests are already located on the base floor of the attraction.

12) Want to get to the front of the queue after the stretching room? Head for the pink lady’s portrait. That’s always the wall that will open, regardless of which room you enter. (This only works at the WDW version)

13) The organ found in the Disneyland version’s ballroom scene is an actual prop from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. All other HM’s organs are direct replicas of that one organ.

 

Happy Halloween! “Hurry baaaacckkk…. We’ve been dying to have you.” What’s your favorite part of the Haunted Mansion? Comment below!

Scariest Disney Attractions

6 Sep

Since I’ve started at Stitch’s Great Escape!, there’s no telling how many small children and parents I’ve escorted out of the chamber right before the show starts. The show could be set to begin and suddenly, up pops little Johnny who makes a bee-line for the door. He’s followed by his exasperated mom who asks for the nearest exit and a non-thrill attraction little Johnny can enjoy. I send them to Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor before heading back inside to start the show.

To avoid situations such as these, I’ve compiled a list of the scariest attractions WDW has to offer. You might scoff at some of these, but please remember everyone has different fears. What seems harmless to one kid might scare the pants off another.

1) Stitch’s Great Escape! – I adore Stitch, and I’m not saying that because I work there. The attraction continues a great story that entertains a wide range of Guests. It remains stationary and includes amazing special effects. However, it gets pitch-black dark. You will not be able to see your hand in front of your face (and you CANNOT pull out your cell phone for light. DO NOT BE THAT PERSON. I WILL escort you out of the chamber). In addition to utter darkness, you’ll be harness into a seat where Stitch can mess with you however he pleases. He’s innocuous compared to when the attraction was still Alien Encounter (and if you’ve seen Alien, you can only imagine how terrifying that monster would be escaped in a dark room…)

2) Tower of Terror – Fun personal story about Tower: I chickened out the first tiem I attempted it. Dad and I were at the elevator doors about to board and I couldn’t do it. The same thing happened to a coworker of mine this week when we tried to get her on the ride for her first time. Luckily, a Cast Member takes you down the real service elevator to the exit. Most Guests think as soon as you load the elevators, you drop. Nope. The suspense builds as your elevator mosesy through darkly lit hotel corridors with trippy Twilight Zone effects.

3) DINOSAUR – Kids love dinosaurs. It’s a phase 99.9 percent of all children go through. There are two kinds of dinosaurs: the adorable ones (Rex from Toy Story, Land Before Time, 2000’s Dinosaur) and the ones that will rip you to shreds (Jurassic Park’s raptors). The dinos featured in Animal Kingdom’s DINOSAUR attraction are the latter. If your kid will have problems with this big guy chasing your time rover around, you might want to opt for Chester and Hester’s Dino Land instead.

4) The Haunted Mansion – Yeah, yeah, I know. The Haunted Mansion is essentially a kid’s parody of a haunted house. But the skeleton that pops out behind the tombstone during the graveyard scene still makes me jump.

5) It’s a Bug’s Life – The only reason I’m putting this one on the list is one scene. Those who’ve seen the Pixar film know about the movie’s villain, despicable Hopper the grasshopper. In the show, Hopper makes an appearance. Upset with Flik for allowing humans to enter into bug territory, Hopper sets to destroy the audience like they do bugs. There’s a very thick smoke effect to replicate bug spray during this segment, followed by large animatronic spiders dangling feet from the heads of audience members.

6) Expedition Everest – Easily the best coaster in all of WDW, it’s also one of the most terrifying attractions. The audio-animatronic Yeti that you encounter when you least expect it can give even the bravest mountain explorer nightmares. It used to be worse: the Yeti was meant to take a swipe at Guests as the train passed underneath him. However, the Yeti got a little too close to the trains for Imagineers’ comfort, so they made him a stationary figure.

Parents, please understand what terrifies your kids before getting in line. Also, read the clearly marked descriptions of an attraction or ask a Cast Member before boarding. It’ll make everyone’s day a little more magical.

Ever get the pants scared off of you by a Disney attraction? Feel free to comment below. Also, comment with any attractions I missed that you find particularly chill-inducing.

 

Don’t Forget About Us: Magic Kingdom

22 Aug

One of my coworkers and I were fortunate enough to snag a table for two at Be Our Guest restaurant after my friend’s shift ended yesterday. The food! The atmosphere! The Beast! The ballroom! It was enough to make a Beauty and the Beast fan nearly faint from excitement.

After we finished our incredible meal, Meagan and I walked around Fantasyland looking for something else to do. We decided to dedicate the rest of our night to visiting the overlooked attractions. You know the ones; they’re the blurs you see out of the corner of your eye as you race to the Space Mountain FastPass line, or the attractions you only go on if it’s pouring down rain and you’ve forgotten your poncho.

While it’s easy to pass over some of these attractions due to their age (and not being nearly as imposing as a log ride with a 50-foot drop), they shouldn’t be entirely forgotten. Here are some of the ones I rediscovered yesterday:

* The Hall of Presidents (Liberty Square): It doesn’t matter if you can name all US presidents in order or if you can barely remember who’s currently in office, The Hall of Presidents offers a moving tribute to the American spirit. Plus, it pays homage to Walt Disney’s love of history and his adoration to one president in particular, Abraham Lincoln (aka my homeboy). The approximately 13 minute show consists of animatronic presidents speaking on what it means to embrace the American spirit, all narrated by Morgan Freeman.

* The Carousel of Progress (Tomorrowland): Don’t forget about Carousel. It recently reopened after some refurbishment on the father, and it looks great. CoP is a display of holidays in the past, present, and “future,” plus it’s air-conditioned and the lines are virutally non-existent.

* The Country Bear Jamboree (Frontierland): I don’t believe people when they tell me The Country Bears are their least favorite Disney attraction (cough cough my mother cough cough) because it’s a fun, corny little show. And if you didn’t enjoy corny things in the slightest capacity, you would not be at Magic Kingdom. Animatronic bears put on a show of country/folk singing and the music will be stuck in your head the rest of the night. “There’s blooood on the saaaaaddle, There’s bloooood on the grooooound.”

* Philharmagic (Fantasyland): For some reason, this one easily forgotten by most. Maybe it’s because of a close proximity to the new Little Mermaid attraction, or maybe everyone is just too in shock by the Peter Pan’s Flight wait time to check it out. Philharmagic is an all-around sensory explosion starring Donald Duck attempting to conduct a concert after stealing Mickey’s sorcerer hat. Magic breaks loose, sending Guests on an adventure through some of the most memorable Disney moments.

These are just a few of the ones coming to mind now. Leave some of your favorite attractions in the comments below. Are there any attractions no longer at the Magic Kingdom you wish would return?