Disney's MGM Studios Archives

August 28, 2017

RIP Great Movie Ride, Universe of Energy, and Main Street Electrical Parade


So we took a short break from our everlasting Expo coverage to make a hasty Walt Disney World and Disneyland pilgrimage to say goodbye to a couple of old friends.

Over at Disneyland, the evergreen Main Street Electrical Parade glowed away once again. It's always a little sad to see something that's been around that long leave, but it's also a little hard to get too worked up about it, given that it has come back from the dead more times than Ra's al Ghul.

Between Disneyland, DCA, and the Magic Kingdom, it ran for about 45 years and was periodically replaced by "Light Magic," "Spectromagic," and "Paint the Night," with varying degrees of success. Its final form was shy a few floats that had gone by the wayside with the years, such as the Blue Fairy and the Cigar Indians, but it still commanded pretty respectable crowds even up to the end.


Although successors such as Tokyo Disneyland's "Dreamlights" are arguably superior in both content and technology, MSEP will always have the cache of being the nighttime parade most guests remember from their childhood (as it's probably older than most of them) and having one of the most distinctive tunes in the Disney catalogue.





So back at the D23 Expo, many announcements were made about the addition of new rides to some of the parks over in Walt Disney World. What was not announced at the time, was the many closures that would be happening to accommodate those rides. One of the sacrifices was the EPCOT pavilion "Universe of Energy" and its attraction "Ellen's Energy Adventure."



While the ride itself had gone through some changes, in many ways it had remained true to its original vision of educating people on the topic of the production, utilization, and conservation of energy. Both versions also kept the traveling theater ride system and the trip through the primeval diorama.




[For a much better review of this ride than I can furnish, I encourage you to re-read Jack Spence's blog on it.]

While the filmed portion was starting to seem a little dated both in appearance (it clearly features Ellen from "The Ellen Show" days, versus the contemporary "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Ellen) and discourse, and I was never a huge fan of the radio segment ("MAMMALS ARE GETTING HAIRIER!") I think it's a pity they're taking it out instead of updating it. I am a huge fan of long attractions and this one clocked in at around 40 minutes (in air conditioning,) which made waiting for it, if you ever even found a wait for it, a pretty good deal, time-wise. The cars were enormous, so if you had big groups it was easy to get everyone on, and all ages could ride it. More than that, it represented one of the last gasps of the original EPCOT edutainment mission which I've always found so admirably ambitious. It will be replaced with a "Guardians of the Galaxy" attraction.

The real gut-punch of the lot, however, and the main reason for me making a hastily-scheduled trip to Florida in the unbearable heat and humidity of August, was the closure of "The Great Movie Ride."


The original symbol of the Disney-MGM Studios Park, and what I always considered the flagship attraction there, GMR took guests on a 20 minute trip into the classic film genres utilizing audio-animatronics, live actors, theater cars, screens, and branching storylines.

[Again, for a better, more in-depth look at the attraction, check back at Jack Spence's 2009 blog on it.]








This had always been one of my favorite attractions at WDW, because it was so unique and so specific to the MGM Studios Park. As a huge classic film buff, I loved all the movies it referenced right down to the trailers they used to play in the pre-show area.



Even the outside, a detailed replica of the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, was fantastic and beautiful to me. If you live in Los Angeles, you're used to visiting the real, current-day Hollywood which is frankly something of a dump. It's dirty and crowded and the scent of failed dreams (which oddly closely resembles that of urine) is pervasive there. This version, just like a lot of the rest of MGM Studios, was the sort of clean, friendly, hypersaturated "Hollywood that never was and always will be" that a kid growing up watching MGM musicals would dream about.


I am a particular fan of musicals, so it was always a joy for me that no less than four archetypal movie musicals were celebrated in the ride: "Footlight Parade," "Singin' in the Rain," "Mary Poppins," and "Wizard of Oz."




In so many ways, I felt the ride was exceptionally well crafted. The juxtaposition of the different movie genres kept guests' attention engaged, and the constant variation in live performances from the Cowboy or the Gangster made for high re-rideability.

Last trip with The Cowboy. #greatmovieride #disneyhollywoodstudio #GMR #disney #disneyworld #waltdisneyworld #MGMStudios

A post shared by Jeanine / @JustJeanine (@jnyama) on

While I was there, I was able to attend a function where we were able to walk through the attraction after closing, and former Imagineer Brian Collins gave a brief talk about his involvement with the attraction.


He also gave us copies of character profiles he wrote for the Bandit and Gangster roles which were intended solely for the use of the performers. (Apparently not all read them, as the Bandit one notes "do not try to talk with a strong Western accent. It sounds bad, is very cliche and is, in general, bad show.")

Roughly five hours after that ended, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the D23 event they held the next morning before opening. At this event, Imagineers Gary Landrum and Diego Parras walked attendees through the attraction pointing out different details of the ride and how they related to enhancing each scenario's authenticity and levels of communication.



Afterwards, we were given a great print of original concept art for the attraction's marquee.


[At this point, I start ranting. If the gripings of one little person doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world to you, you are free to cut out now, with my blessing.]

In all the rationales people ever gave me for wanting this attraction replaced, I frankly never found any with which I had much sympathy. Most of them end up being:

a) "It's old and needs to be updated." While the ride did suffer from the wear and tear of years and periodically spotty maintenance, I'm not so sure the films depicted in it did need updating. These films were chosen because they were, in fact, Great Movies and I don't think their status really changed with time. Films like "Raiders of the Lost Arc" and "Casablanca" were chosen because they were some of the best of their genres, and they still are. It's not like we stopped reading Shakespeare or Dickens because they've been around awhile and needed to be replaced with something new.



If you want a comparison between whether updated tech can compete with consummate craftsmanship, take a look at these two clips. One is one of the oldest of the currently used major audio-animatronics, and one is the very newest.

Which one is more arresting? What story is more interesting? Who has a more clearly defined viewpoint, with goals and personality? Can you tell what either one is thinking? How many times would you want to see one, versus the other?

b) "It's not relevant because kids/young adults/no one has heard of these movies anymore." This one is my very favorite. How dull would it be, to only experience things that show you what you already know? What kind of low expectations must you have for humanity, to think that only the completely familiar could be of any interest? Why wouldn't you think that people who haven't seen these films might get interested in them and watch them on their own and thereby increase their personal experiential database? Going back to the whole concept of "edutainment," this ride could serve as the guests' introduction to films and genres they never saw before, and arguably widen their worlds--not a bad function for a theme park attraction.


At the end of the day, however, although I do feel that objectively GMR was a good and necessary ride for the park, a lot of my nostalgia is subjective as well. For one thing, I associate it quite a bit with my original trips to WDW with people and situations that are no longer repeatable. For another, my actual favorite movie of all time is "Singin' in the Rain," and two of the things I enjoyed most about the MGM Studios park was the raining umbrella back on Streets of America, and the Gene Kelly segment in GMR. They're both gone now, and although I'm sure their replacements ("Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway" for GMR) will be fine, and people will enjoy them immensely, I'll always be a little bit sorry not to see them there.

"Enjoy the rest of your day here at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and I'll see you at the movies: The stuff dreams are made of."

January 13, 2016

Walt Disney World - Disney's Hollywood Studios Changes


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos.

In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me at Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando. It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site

This post takes a look at Disney's Hollywood Studios which can best be described as a park in transition. Over the past year quite a few attractions have closed around the park as it prepares for a new Toy Story Playland and Star Wars area to be built.

One removal was greeted with applause from most Disney geeks, myself included. The giant blue sorcerer's hat that has been obstructing the Chinese Theater for over the last decade was removed. There was a stage for a dance party set up in December in the area.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Speaking of the party here are a few pictures at night.

Jason @ image from December 2015

The Genie was one of several characters that rotated through the crowd.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has taken over sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride.

Jason @ image from December 2015

As you journey through the movies there is a new pre-recorded track that goes along with the cast member spiel. At the finale a new introduction and the film clips were updated and arranged differently.

Jason @ image from December 2015

A photo op as you exit the attraction.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Nearby the American Idol Experience is gone and the theater is now called the Hyperion and features the Frozen Sing-Along.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Inside the Brown Derby a gingerbread creation this year for Christmas.

Jason @ image from December 2015

In the far corner of the park, accessed through a gate by Rock n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith is the new Sunset Showcase. While I was there it featured Club Disney. Max was greeting guests.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Inside a dance floor dominates the room with seating around it. A DJ plays music and hosts the club. Projection and lighting effects occur around the room.

Jason @ image from December 2015

There were several interactive kiosks to color too.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Daisy on the dance floor.

Jason @ image from December 2015

A brief video of the scene inside Club Disney.

There were also two snack carts selling drinks and food.

Jason @ image from December 2015

The Star Wars Launch Bay has taken over the former Animation Building.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Storm Troopers on patrol.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Video of the Storm Troopers.

Inside the Launch Bay you can opt to watch a film featuring interviews with many involved in making the upcoming films. And see props and models from the films.

Jason @ image from December 2015

As you head down the hallway a crawl to introduce you to the Launch Bay.

Jason @ image from December 2015

More props on display in the queues for characters. You can choose the light side to meet Chewbacca or the Dark side and Darth Vader.

Jason @ image from December 2015

We choose Chewbacca.

Jason @ image from December 2015

There is a section featuring Star Wars video games.

Jason @ image from December 2015

And other random characters roaming around a Cantina area.

Jason @ image from December 2015

You close out your visit with merchandise in the Launch Bay Cargo area.

Jason @ image from December 2015

The ABC Sound Studio features a Star Wars film now too.

Jason @ image from December 2015

The former AFI Showcase building & former Wandering Oaken Trading Post now houses Watto's Grotto

Jason @ image from December 2015

Inside more Star Wars merchandise.

Jason @ image from December 2015

The Jedi Training is now the Trials of the Temple.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

The Backlot Express features Star Wars food. Here is some of the menu.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

Last but not least this year was the last for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Disney announced their retirement to make way for the new Star Wars project.

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

Jason @ image from December 2015

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed at Disney's Hollywood Studios since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

December 14, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 6


RADP Day at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was COLD today. Windy all day, and I don't think the temperature ever got above 45. How cold was it? It was so cold that the gardeners were covering a lot of the plants because they are expecting a hard freeze tonight.


It was so cold that I think everyone (even the Canadians!) was wearing at least three layers.


It was so cold that a priority seating was not to be had anywhere in the park, and even the ABC Commissary had a 30+ minute line to order.

And, if you can believe this, it was so cold that there was a line to get into Sounds Dangerous!

Still, about 20 of us braved the cold and came out for the Rock'N'Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror meets at 9:30. The line for RnRC was 10 minutes when we went in, and 40 minutes when we came out. And it was chilly in the building when we were zipping around in that super-stretch limo. My fleece earband really protected my head and neck on those corkscrews, though - usually I get banged around a lot on those.


Our group of 14 had its own library room on the Tower of Terror - that was fun. We didn't get our own elevator, though - we felt a little bit sorry for the 7 poor unsuspecting folks who had to ride with us.

Because of the cold, several of the meets we'd planned were canceled or changed. We were supposed to do the Backlot Tour, but that sounded like torture on a cold day. So a lot of us went into One Man's Dream instead - I hadn't seen the current version of it. Some of the exhibits were different, but the movie was still the same. There was a family behind us who all fell asleep during the movie - a couple of them were even snoring!


Lee and I went to Mama Melrose for lunch with some of the group. It was inside, and, bonus, the food was really good, too! We had a very nice meal. I ordered the goat cheese ravioli and Lee ordered the Chicken Parmagiana, and we shared. They were both good. We also shared a half carafe of Sangria - it tasted good even if it wasn't warm. :-)



A couple of our table mates ordered this Tomato Mozzarella salad - doesn't it look wonderful?


After lunch was the "Bad Santa Tacky Gift Exchange". This was another meet that was moved indoors - even though the sun was out it was way too cold and windy back at the Backlot Cantina. So we went to the ABC Commissary instead. Which was busy, but we managed to find a place for most of us to sit. The idea was to bring a tacky white elephant type of gift, preferably from your hometown. So we had snowglobes from Pennsylvania and Nashville, keychains and magnets from Cape Cod, a shot glass, some chocolate candies, and even a couple of souvenirs from Canada. It was fun.


Afterward we posed with some of our gifts at the statue of Betty White, who has a special place in our hearts after one of those "you had to be there" meets two years ago.


Most of us went to the Great Movie Ride - it was indoors! Not much of a wait, and we got the cowboy side, which I prefer.

Every time we went back outside after being indoors for a while it felt colder! We had some time before the last meet of the day so Lee and I went to the Backlot Cantina, which is selling some specialty drinks for the holidays, and we got the Captain's Hot Cider - hot apple cider with a shot of Captain Morgan's. It tasted really good - but even in an insulated cup it didn't stay warm for very long! We wander along the Streets of America, where the Osborne Lights are, while we were drinking it. Even during the day when the lights are off there were some things to see. We found this Jack Skellington-themed ornament - appropriately enough it was outside the office of the Funeral Director. :-) We also found the Halloween cat that they place somewhere different every year.


The final meet was the Toy Story Mania meet, where we used the Fastpasses that we'd all gotten when we arrived that morning. The standby line was 120 minutes!!! Maybe at that point people didn't mind standing in line for two hours as long as they could be inside where it was warmer.


It was even colder when we came out (the sun was completely gone by then), so several of us went to see MuppetVision. Ahhh...warmth! Sean and Pam had the idea to have a quick dinner at the Tune-In Lounge and then go to the Osborne Lights - but lots of other people had that same idea and it was packed. So we went back to the Backlot Cantina for some more holiday cheer (Lee got the Bailey's Coffee this time, though), and then went onto the Streets of America - it was less than 10 minutes until the lights came on. It started snowing - it was cold enough tonight that it really could have been REAL snow!


We also found Catherine and Amy back there - one positive thing about the cold is that it really keeps the crowds down!


By that time it was 38 (wind chill of 29) and it wasn't really getting colder, but we'd been out in it enough that we were feeling it a lot more, so after watching the lights "dance" several times we called it a day. We walked over to the Dolphin with Amy and Catherine (that was a LONG walk in the cold!) and had a nice mellow dinner at Picabu. There were very few people in there so it was quiet. And the food was pretty good (and the 20% DVC discount is nice, too).

The usual final RADP meet is for miniature golf, but I think it was a unanimous decision that mini golf would be No Fun tonight. So after dinner we walked over to Kimono's in the Swan, where part of the group had gathered, and were planning to sing Karaoke later. Even that short walk between the Dolphin and Swan felt very cold! But it's really windy along that causeway. I said my goodbyes early but Lee decided to stay. And it's been over two hours and he's still not back, so he must be having a good time. :-)

It's hard to believe that the RADP Meet is over, and that our trip is also over - we leave tomorrow. :-( It went so fast! It was wonderful to spend so much time with terrific friends who are so much fun to be around. It would have been nice to have weather that was a little warmer, but I know that the joy of friendship warmed all of our hearts over the last four days. I enjoyed the meets, and the impromptu get-togethers, and the opportunities to spend time with some people that I didn't know quite as well.

Each RADP meet is different, and they all have their special and memorable moments - I'm sure we'll all remember the cold weather this year, and the Mediocre Presidents meet, and of course Kevin and Lee appearing as Santa Claus, and how good baby Anthony was on his very first trip to Walt Disney World. Until next time, my friends!

We'll have a little bit of park time tomorrow, but not much.

October 29, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 6

Considering our late night Sunday night we got up fairly early on Monday, since we wanted to be at the Studios when it opened to try to get a couple of rides on Toy Story Mania.

It was another absolutely gorgeous day - clear and sunny, but a little bit cool - most of us were wearing jackets in the morning, but didn't need them the rest of the day.

We arrived on Hollywood Blvd just as the park was opening. As expected, most everyone headed for Toy Story Mania. We went straight to the Fastpass machines, which had pretty long the time we waited, the return time went from 9:45 to 10:15! Unfortunately Toy Story Mania was not yet up and running, so we couldn't ride it then. :-(

We wandered into One Man's Dream instead. The video on some of the exhibits wasn't working, and some of the sound in the movie was really awful - and the worst of it was Julie Andrews' narration - which was not something recorded over 40 years ago like the various excerpts of Walt's voice.

Over at the ABC Commissary we had breakfast. The last time we did that they were still serving stuff like eggs, bacon, french toast, etc., but they have really cut down on the menu - there was a bagel sandwich, hot or cold cereal, fruit, yogurt, and pastries available. Which was actually ok for us, but anyone wanting a more substantial breakfast would have been very disappointed!

The next Voyages of the Little Mermaid show was seating when we went by so we went into that - Lee and I hadn't seen that in a couple of years - not because we don't enjoy it, but mostly because the queueing and pre-show areas are so unpleasant - they pack you in like sardines. Which I guess is appropriate giving the theme of the show, but still. Anyway...this show was not full, and we walked straight into the pre-show area, and didn't have too long a wait before the doors opened. I really enjoy the puppetry, especially in the "Under the Sea" song. I think whoever plays Eric must have one of the easiest jobs in the parks, though - he's on stage for what, 3 minutes maybe?

By then it was time to use our Toy Story Mania Fastpasses - fortunately it was up and running by then. We had a longer wait in the Fastpass line than we did the other day, but it still beat the 60 minute standby line.

Lee had read some tips on the web the night before on how to score higher on the ride by cooperating, so we tried those - we were successful with one but not with the other. Overall it hurt our scores, though, and we didn't score as high as we did the other night.

Prince Caspian was hanging out in his meet and greet spot when we walked by - he wasn't too busy, so he was spending a lot of time with the kids (including the not-so-little girls!) that came to see him.

We went over to Epcot after that to eat around the world again and do a little sightseeing. We saw Serveur Amusant in France - or Sherry and I saw it, at least - Lee doesn't like it - he says it makes him nervous - and Jim was off getting some Crawfish Etoufee from the Louisiana booth. They have changed the chair-stacking routine a bit since we last saw it. The guy who actually does the balancing used to appear to be a tourist who was pulled out of the audience, and now he is one of the "waiters", and obviously a part of the show.


Ran into an reader at the Tokyo booth - she saw my AllEars hat and asked about it. I'm sorry I didn't get your name, but if you're reading this, it was nice talking to you!

I was very disappointed to look at the entertainment schedule and find that Voices of Liberty was not performing at all. :-( That's one of my very favorite things at Epcot. Lee and Jim and Sherry consoled themselves with food (and beer) from the Hops and Barley booth, and then they went to the Beer School, which they enjoyed. While they did that I saw a cooking demonstration down at Italy - the chefs were making petate - the Italian version of fried dough balls. They looked pretty good, but unfortunately we didn't get to taste them. :-(


As we ate our way around the world we explored a couple of the other entertainment options, like the two Circle-Vision films in China and Canada. I've only seen the Canada film a couple of times since it started showing - Martin Short's narration is fairly amusing.

Things we tried on our eating adventure around the World:

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche - France


Crawfish Etoufee and Pecan Praline Bread Pudding - Louisiana
Lamb Slider and Bay Scallops -New Zealand



Spicy Tuna Roll - Japan


Lobster Roll and Crabcake - Hops and Barley



Boxty and Cheese Plate - Ireland



It was a bit after 4:00 by then, and we had a 5:30 reservation at Jiko so we made our way back to the room to get a chance for a short nap before dinner. Lee set his alarm for 5:00 - good thing, because otherwise we would have all slept too long!

We still arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge in plenty of time. Something that was new to us - when we went through the guard shack the guard gave us a parking pass on which he had written "Jiko". So I guess they are cracking down on parking a bit more now? Since we had some time we wandered around the lobby a little, and down to the Arusha Savanna - saw some birds and a zebra, but that was all.

At Jiko we were quickly seated at a nice table next to the window. And we had a wonderful dinner. Jiko has changed their menu quite a bit since we were last here a year ago, and I think it's even better. We shared two appetizers - the BBQ chicken flatbread and the vegetable samosas. Both were great - the samosas were especially good. We'd had samosas at the Food and Wine Festival and at Tusker House the day before, but these were SO much better!



Our waiter had recommended a wine made from South Africa's pinotage grape and we shared that bottle. It was also really good.

For entrees, Jim and I had the maize crusted halibut, served with vegetables of the moment, and that was wonderful. Lee had our server's favorite - the beef short ribs with crushed potatoes and garlic. He'd told Lee it was so tender it would fall off the bone, and that's exactly what happened. Sherry had the Swahili Curry Shrimp with coconut rice - we all got to try some of her shrimp. Lee, Jim, and I cleaned our plates - our server told us he was going to show the chef how clean how plates were. :-)




We were pretty full, so we decided to split two of the desserts - again, we went with our server's recommendations and had the Pistachio Creme Brulee and the Tanzanian Chocolate Cheesecake. They were both quite good. The cheesecake had a great chocolatey flavor but was not too rich. It was served with lavender ice cream, though we really couldn't taste any lavender.



It was really a great meal - definitely the best of our trip. Jiko made a good impression on Jim and Sherry - whew. :-) (Yeah, because they have been SO hard to please this week...NOT!)

After dinner we went outside to see if there were any animals visible on the Uzima Savanna (the one next to the pool) but we didn't see any.

We headed back to the room after that - it was after 8:00 by the time we got back. We were all pretty tired after a couple of late nights, so no one was interested in trying to go to Illuminations or Downtown Disney.

October 25, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 3

Day 3 - this is going to be a lot shorter, since it's after midnight already...

It rained most of the night and was still raining this morning, so we put off going to the Studios until about 10:00 when it mostly stopped - we had a few occasional showers after that.

Got Fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania at 10:30 - the return time was already 3:55! And then got in line for Narnia - where they were handing out lanyards for a Dream Extra Hour Event in the Studios tonight. We knew we wouldn't be able to make it because we were going to City Tastes at Epcot, but figured we'd give them to a nice family before we left. I was the only one who had seen the movie, but they show enough of it in the exhibit that you get a pretty good idea!

Terrorized Sherry on the Tower of Terror - she screamed most of the ride. But I think she still enjoyed it. Hard to tell from this photo. :-)


Lee had to leave for the Apple store, to replace his iPhone which apparently got drowned in last night's downpour, even though it was in his pocket. :-(

Jim, Sherry and I went to watch High School Musical 3, which premiered today. Found my friend Kenny, who helped us get a terrific spot to see the 12:00 show center stage. (The 10:00 had been rained out, and it had been showering a bit so we were concerned about the 12:00 show, but it came off ok. I liked it - I can't say I'm a huge fan, but of the three shows I think I like this one the best. Here's a link to lots more photos of High School Musical 3!


We got Fastpasses for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and had lunch at Rosie's - the Studios is probably my least favorite park to eat in. Then went to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular - good timing, since it was raining a bit by then. We tried to get Sherry volunteered for the show, but that didn't work. :-( Some of the stunt sequences got left out because of the wet stage/sets.

Saw the Jedi Training Academy, which was cute (though this Jedi Master was not as good as the rest I've seen), and then went to see MuppetVision. It was fun - that show has held up pretty well for something almost 20 years old!

Planned to go to One Man's Dream after that, but it was 3:15 and it closed at 3:00. :-( We had 15 minutes to slowly walk back to Rock'n'Roller Coaster to use our Fastpasses. I called Lee, who had gotten his new phone and was on his way back.

Sherry screamed throughout most of Rock'n'Roller Coaster, but she and Jim both enjoyed it.

Went back to Toy Story Midway Mania, where Lee had arrived just a few minutes before, and we used our Fastpasses. The Standby line was 100 minutes!!! Sorry, but there's NO ride I'm going to wait 100 minutes to ride!!! It was great fun, even though Lee beat me this time (first time that has happened!) Still more fun than a barrel of monkeys! :-)


On our way out of the park we gave our Dream Event passes to a nice family with two teen aged sons. They were very happy to get them. So I hope they had a good time!

Had a short break back in the room to get ready for City Tastes - Spain over at Epcot. We really weren't sure WHAT this was going to be - very little in Disney's description. Sounded sort of like Party for the Senses on a smaller scale. We were about half right. It was mostly a wine-tasting event - the guide they gave us called it "Great Match Wine & Tapas 08". It was sponsored by Wines from Spain. They must have had over 200 wines from over 30 Spanish wineries. Some very good wines, too! Not much in the way of food choices, though, and NO desserts, which I found VERY disappointing. Nice entertainment, though - a Spanish guitar group and a pair of flamenco dancers and their guitarist.

One of the best parts (for us) is that the event was quite *under* attended and not at all crowded - there were actually some empty tables. That meant the people pouring the wines could give us a lot of extra attention. One of them, from Grupo Faustino, became Lee's New Best Friend - I think Lee sampled just about everything he had (and most of it was pretty good!)

I'll be writing a lot more detail in a report that will be published on AllEars.Net - once I have time to write it!

We all really enjoyed it, though I wish we'd known a bit more about it before hand.

It was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so we decided to stick around for that and do some attractions that Jim and Sherry hadn't yet experienced. Test Track first, though the line ended up being a lot longer than we expected. Tried to do Soarin' but Standby was 40 minutes, so we went back and did Ellen's Energy Adventure instead, then headed back to the room. I was surprised how many people were still in the park at 11:30.

Not sure about tomorrow...we need to go pick up our Tower of Terror race packets, and then we'll see what else we want to do - Lee and I should try to stay off our feet a bit tomorrow! The rain is supposed to subside by the afternoon...I hope so. I wouldn't have wanted to run in the weather we had tonight (it rained, though we were only out in it once).

May 11, 2008

My Bonus Trip to WDW - Part 5

You can blame commando Lee for the fact that there was no blog entry yesterday. Since it was his only day to play in the parks he made the most of it - we got a short afternoon break back in the room, but that was it.

We started our day with a three mile walk around the resort area - it was warm and muggy already. After breakfast (and after he did some work stuff) we drove to Animal Kingdom. It was a lot more crowded than when I was there on Wednesday - the standby lines were double what I experienced.

After we got Fastpasses for the Safari we visited the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Where we learned the first of several new things that I learned that day: Never get into a staring contest with a Komodo Dragon. They only close their eyes to sleep or to protect them from the sun.

The tigers were doing what tigers do best - sleeping. Though at least they were sacked out right up against the windows of the viewing area so people could see them.

Over at Expedtion Everest we asked for our CM friend - and of course he was on his break. A nice CM went and found him, though, and we had a brief chat before he had to go back to work. Lee and I went to see the Flights of Wonder show. Which we've seen many times, but we still enjoy it. There was a new (and much younger) actress playing Guano Jane this time. And even a few new jokes and puns. We also saw some different birds - instead of the crow who usually does the dollar bill schtick, it was a parrot. And this particular parrot was fairly new, and hadn't mastered the part about returning the money - he kept putting it back into the trainer's pocket. :-) Eventually Guano Jane had to take it back, doing her best flapping her arms bird imitation. Which was pretty scary, actually.


And here we learned a second new thing...there was a grackel who had taken offense at some of the birds in the show and was dive-bombing the owl and the Harris hawk when they were out - even though they were much larger than he was! The trainer said this behavior is called "mobbing", and the birds do it in defense of their nesting areas. It didn't seem to bother the larger birds very much, though.

The standby line for the Safari was approching an hour - we're used to zooming right on with Fastpasses, but even the Fastpass line was backed up quite a ways. Once we got to the point where the Fastpass and Standby lines merged it stopped completely, since there were no jeeps showing up! After about 10 minutes they finally announced that there was a "wildebeest migration on the savanna" that had delayed the jeeps. One finally showed up...and then there were no more for another 10 minutes. It was definitely the longest I've ever waited for a safari when I had a Fastpass!.

The safari itself was just ok - not as many animals as we sometimes see, though quite a few on the savanna. Where we learned something else that was new - the male sable antelope are darker, almost black, while the females are the lighter brown color.


In Pangani Forest the four gorillas in the bachelor troop were all out and moving around - that was quite a treat to see all of them!


One of them picked up a branch and carried it around before sitting down to strip the bark off and eat it.


Before we left the park we rode Everest (where our friend collected our Fastpasses!), and then had ice cream from the colorful truck there. It was melting pretty fast on such a warm day! I think they have the best soft-serve in the parks.

Back at the room we relaxed for a little while and made a late lunch out of the cold pizza Lee's coworkers had insisted we take the night before. I went through some photos and we took a short nap before leaving again around 5:00 - this time we took the bus.

We didn't have to wait too long for the bus and soon were on our way to the Studios. We noticed that the pre-recorded bus spiel that plays automagically when you get close to the park still talks about the Stars and Motorcars Parade, which is no longer running. Oops.

I'm not quite sure why Lee wanted to go to the Studios, since it's our least favorite park, but it was his day to do what he wanted. Lines here were pretty minimal - posted 10 minute standbys for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Though the queue for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster completely stopped moving not long after we got in it - no explanation as to why, but after 5-10 minutes it started moving again and we rode with no further incident. We were starting to think we were a jinx! (Why does everyone feel like they have to run their hands over those glass doors at the ride's entrance? Does anyone else find it as annoying as I do?)

After we'd twisted and turned on the streets of L.A. and made a visit to the Twilight Zone, we walked around the park a bit, and rode Star Tours, which only had a 5 minute wait. As we headed out of the park there were a lot of groups of kids coming in - there were signs posted for some kind of Disney-Josten's Grad Night event. Even though it was 7:00 by then the sun hadn't gone down and it was still quite warm. Very different than the weather in California where it just doesn't stay hot all afternoon and evening!

We walked to Epcot from there - it had Extra Magic Hours that night and would be open until midnight. And besides we'd only walked about 8 miles so far that day. ;-) It seemed very strange to be walking past the Boardwalk and not going into it, though.

Once inside Epcot we got our Extra Magic Hour wristbands and caught Off Kilter's final set of the evening and got dinner from the Fish and Chips shop in the UK pavilion. They seemed to have changed the brand of malt vinegar they use - it didn't have much of a bite to it at all. We sat on a curb and listened to British Invasion while we were eating. They performed several songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think British Invasion has been performing together longer than the Beatles did.


After the show an AllEars reader (who noticed the logo on the shirt I was wearing) came over to talk to me for a few minutes. Unfortunately I forgot to ask her name, but if she's reading this, it was nice chatting with you!

Over in France we got in line at the Patisserie to get something for dessert before Illuminations. We both had the chocolate mousse, which was pretty good. There were a lot more people in the park than when we were here Monday night, but we still found a spot in our favorite area near Germany, and the people in front of us obligingly remained seated on the ground for the entire show!



Most people were headed out of the park but we went into the Seas pavilion and rode the Nemo ride. Man, that is a looooong queue!!! Fortunately it was pretty empty, and we just kept walking all the way to the loading area. The ride is cute - I liked the starfish that's up against the glass at the end who talks to you - one of her comments was something like "I saw 18,352 people yesterday!" Lee wanted to "talk turtle" so we went in to see "Turtle Talk with Crush", and that was fun, as always.

From there we Jouneyed into Our Imaginations. And watched the fountains outside, which were very pretty at night.


At 10:30 at night Spaceship Earth actually had a line, though it was only a few minutes long. There were several people in line with us who did NOT have wristbands, but the CMs weren't checking, and let them on anyways (we noticed that at Imagination, also). So much for a "Resort Guest Only" event...Once we got on the ride we discovered we'd apparently managed to break another ride...though we could hear Judi Dench's narration, the rest of the audio soundtrack was silent. So no music or instructions, and it was sort of eerily silent when Judi Dench wasn't talking.

The computer in the Project Tomorrow area wasn't as good with its facial recognition this time and we had to tell it which photo was ours. A photo I would have included here, but it doesn't seem to have been emailed to me - which is what happened with the first one, too.

It was almost 11:00 by then, and we were tired, so we headed to the bus stop. The Port Orleans bus was there, but there was a line - I thought there was no way we'd get on but we did - and there were even 10-15 people who got on after we did. Standing room only of course, but it's a pretty short ride. We were back at the room about 11:15. Kind of a long park day for us, though! But it's all Lee's fault. :-)

We walked about 13 miles yesterday.

So today was departure day...sigh. We went to breakfast at Boatwright's. Lee had the Sweet Potato Pancakes and I had the French Toast. The French Toast was actually *real* French toast, made with thick slices of French bread. Of course then it was battered and deep fried and coated with sugar...but it was really good. :-)

Since we only had carry-on bags I suggested we get our boarding passes printed at the resort. This took a lot longer than I thought it would because of some problems with people ahead of us in line, and Lee was grumpusing at me for wanting to do it. But I looked like a genius when we got to the airport and the Continental check-in line was insanely long.

By the way...I was not real happy with Advantage Car Rental - they are off-site and we waited over 15 minutes for the shuttle to the airport - and there were people ahead of us that had waited longer than that. They couldn't get everyone who was waiting on the bus, either. They said that they only had two shuttle buses. Not good.

Some final thoughts...

It was very nice of Lee to take me with him to enjoy myself while he worked - thank you, dear. :-)

Though I missed being within walking distance of a theme park, I really liked a lot of things about Port Orleans Riverside. It's a lovely setting, and the paths around the resort are nice for walking/running - just not quite long enough. Lee and I thought there should be a path all the way along the river that connects it to Old Key West, and then to Saratoga Springs and Downtown Disney. The room was comfortable, though it was very inconvenient to have the outlet for the internet connection behind the nightstand rather than over next to the table. And I could've done without the annoying sound of the turbo-toilets flushing overhead - we were on the bottom floor, and one night I think I heard it 8 times between midnight and 7:00. The bus service was good - I never waited more than 10 minutes, and usually it was less than 5 whether I was at the resort or a theme park.

The Food Court was great, though - SO much better than anything available at any of the DVC resorts. There was really quite a selection with all of the different stations - you could order an omelet made-to-order at breakfast, and pasta and salads made-to-order the rest of the day. There were sandwiches and pizza and grilled items available, also, and I already raved about the turkey dinner. The bakery section was pretty good, too - the cinnamon rolls were especially delicious. And I thought the prices were very reasonable, also. And I enjoyed using my refillable mug. :-)

It seemed to be a good time to be at WDW, at least from a crowd standpoint. Mid-week (Monday-Thursday) the crowds were minimal - even at Magic Kingdom. The weather was pretty good, too. Not even a hint of rain, and the heat/humidity was not too bad, even for this wimpy southern Californian (though it got progressively warmer as the week went on and by yesterday afternoon I was starting to drag.) It is very nice not to even have to think about carrying a jacket at night, though!

I enjoyed the displays of Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival - there were a lot of topiaries that were new to me. Though I was disappointed in the Rose Walk this year - there didn't seem to be as many rose bushes, and not as much of a variety of roses, either. I enjoyed the Flower Power concert I attended. And I really wish our trip had been one day longer - I could've seen Davy Jones (I hear he puts on a great show), and we could've gone to the Toy Story Mania Annual Passholder Preview. Oh'll be opening in California next month.

Speaking of Flower and Garden Festival...AllEars reader Susan tells me: "As part of the Flower and Garden Festival trolls have been hidden all through Norway." So that explains the ones that I noticed. I'm glad that I haven't just been unobservant all these years! :-) Thanks for the information, Susan!

It was really cool to get "dreamed", and to be able to attend the "Special Park Dream Time Event- event at the Magic Kingdom!

As usual, I didn't have nearly as much time to relax as I thought I would...though every day it was my plan to be back at the resort by 2:00 I never made it - though I came close on Thursday. There's just never enough time to do everything.

Thanks for reading!

May 7, 2008

My Bonus Trip to Walt Disney World - Part 2

Lee got up bright and early at 7:00 (which is VERY early when you just came from the west coast!) and kissed me goodbye when he left for his conference. I'm trying not to gloat too much about this whole "you're working and I'm not" thing... :-)

I actually got up not too long after he left and went out for a walk around the resort area - it was a very *bright* morning, but really comfortable for walking. I brought my runner's GPS with me on this trip, and I know that I walked 3.5 miles (you can walk a lot of miles on all of those serpentine paths in the Alligator Bayou area.

It was really a very nice walk - I saw a fair number of joggers on the main paths, and lots of bunnies and ducks. And I enjoyed the reflections in the Sassagoula River.


I walked down to Port Orleans French Quarter, also - I'd never noticed King Neptune riding the sea serpent at the pool before. Of course, that may be because he was hidden by palm fronds...he may be King of the Ocean, but apparently he has no lordship over trees!


I did something this morning that I have never done before - I bought a refillable mug! We're usually at the Boardwalk where it just isn't convenient to use one. We'll see if I get my $12.50 (plus tax) out of this one. So far I've gotten two drinks.


And then I did something else I hardly ever do...took a bus to Epcot! That just seemed so wrong somehow. :-) I waited maybe 10 minutes. Though it was weird that the first three buses that came by were all going to Blizzard Beach and Animal Kingdom. Not too many people riding any of the buses at that time of morning (about 11:30). The Port Orleans bus stop at Epcot is one of the closest ones to Epcot's entrance.

The Flower and Garden Festival has a surf theme this year, and the topiaries inside the front entrance reflect that. And I loved the background music - it's all Beach Boys songs! I couldn't help singing long as I walked through there - and I wasn't the only one.


At Epcot I did something else I've never done - got a Fastpass for Mission:Space - I'd never ridden it before. I had about 50 minutes to kill so I rode Test Track using the Singles line - I walked right into the briefing room (briefing was almost over) and then had just two other Singles in front of me, so that certainly didn't take long. I was watching the speed indicator on my GPS, which was kind of freaking out during the speed loop. :-) It thinks that my fastest pace today was a 51 second/mile pace - so that's pretty consistent with the 64 mph maximum speed you supposedly get on the ride.

I visited Minnie's Butterfly Garden, which is always one of my Festival favorites. Not too many really colorful/unusual butterflies were out at this time, though.


After I rode Journey into your Imagination it was time to use my Mission:Space fastpass. Interestingly enough, it was the first time for all four of us inside my pod - two other ladies were a bit nervous about it, but we all worked together and it was a successful mission. I was the Navigator. I really enjoyed the ride - even without the spinning the motion simulator sensations were interesting.

I always enjoy playing the Space Race game in the post-ride area, and a game was just starting when I got off the ride. I uploaded 19 fixes, which I think is a new record for me - I came within about a second of getting to 20. My team, Orion, won the race. :-)

I had about 20 minutes to get from there to the American Adventure pavilion, where I wanted to see Voices of Liberty at 2:00. Which reminds me...The weather was really great today - it was supposed to be 90, but I don't think it got higher than 85, and it wasn't very humid. I made it with 5 minutes to spare - even stopped to take a few pictures on the way.


And the crowds were fairly minimal, too - 20 minute standby lines for Test Track and Mission:Space, though of course Soarin' had a 60 minute wait, and Spaceship Earth, since it was still morning, was 35 minutes.

The Voices of Liberty performed America the Beautiful, Yankee Doodle, Oh Susanna, and, one that I'd never heard from them before, Old Man River. Oh my...that was awesome, and gave me chills. About half the singers were new to me, including the bass who sang the solo on Old Man River. Incredible voice.

I did something else I'd never done - ate at the Liberty Inn. I had the Vegetable Wrap with apple slices - and I threw on some more tomato slices and lettuce from the topping bar. It was pretty tasty - it was lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, shredded carrots, a big slice of zucchini, and mild roasted red peppers wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. It needed some dressing, though...I put some mustard in mine.

The Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps was just starting their set as I was finishing eating. In addition to some other patriotic tunes they played a medley of all four of the military service anthems - The Caissons Go Rolling Along (Army), From the halls of Montezuma (Marine Corps), Anchors Aweigh (Navy), and Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force).

By then it was 2:40, and I had planned to see the Block Party Bash parade over at the Studios at 3:00. Not even I can make it from the American Adventure to the Studios (over 1.5 miles) in 20 minutes - but I did it in about 25.

Unlike any of the other Studios parades that I remember, this one starts from the end of Hollywood Blvd near Sid Cahuenga's, rather than from Star Tours. So it effectively blocks the entrance for people trying to come into the park. They were routing people over to Sunset Boulevard via the super-secret gate by Oscar's Gas Station (normally used by people who have the Fantasmic! dinner package).

People were lined up at least 2-3 deep all around the parade route - I never saw it that crowded at DCA (which is where it came from), even when it was new. Nice to see people in Florida enjoying it. I think it was pretty much the same as the version in California, though it seemed a little shorter, but I couldn't tell you why.


One cool thing I noticed before the parade - Cast Members had different activities set up along the parade route before it started to entertain the kids - I saw hopscotch, a limbo contest, and bubble blowing, among other things.

Lisa Berton called me as I was on my way to the bus stop - she'd also seen the Block Party Bash, so I just missed her at the Studios. We're going to try to meet up tomorrow, and for sure plan to get together on Thursday.

I took a short break back in the room - downloaded photos and worked on this blog entry mostly. Lee's conference had a private party at Animal Kingdom tonight, but he came back to the room to change clothes and drop stuff off. On the way to Animal Kingdom he dropped me at the Boardwalk and I walked back to Epcot from there. It's almost exactly 1/3 of a mile from the Boardwalk lobby to the International Gateway.

I arrived at the America Gardens theater about 10 minutes before The Tokens took the stage - there were still PLENTY of seats left. And who are The Tokens, you might ask? I wondered that, too. They are best known for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", a song they recorded about 40 years ago! They really put on a good show, though most of the songs they performed were hits they produced for *other* artists, like The Chiffons (He's so Fine and One Fine Day) and Tony Orlando and Dawn (Candida). They did a really fun version of Wipeout (pictured) where they all put on surfer shirts. The show was 30 minutes long, but didn't seem that long at all - I wish they could have played longer.


While I was walking up towards Future World I took this sunset photo...


Dinner was from Sunshine Seasons - I had the rotisserie chicken dinner, and picked up some chocolate mousse cake and a chocolate brownie that Lee and I can share later.

According to my GPS I walked about 11 miles...It was One Fine Day!

November 1, 2007

Walt Disney World - What's New?

New to us, that is - since we haven't been here since last December. That's one of the things we really enjoy about Walt Disney World - it seems like every time we're here there's always something that's new, whether it's a new attraction or exhibit or live entertainment group.

Contrary to what you might think we aren't just eating around the world, though in the first four days of our trip it seems like that's about all we did (well, there was that little 8 mile run on Saturday night...) We did actually get out into the parks and try a few new things that weren't food-related.

Our first night here was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so in addition to eating, we had the opportunity to see all the new (to us) things at Epcot. First was the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion. While I don't miss the annoying street vendors at all, I do miss the narration in the first section when you were floating by the pyramid, and they talked about the ancient civilizations. Now it's basically "it's a small mexico" with the Three Caballeros. My favorite part was something Lee pointed out to me - the "it's a small mexico" kids whacking away at a Donald Duck-shaped pinata. :-) I'm not sure it's really an improvement over the previous version, but in any case it's not something we'll be in a hurry to do again any time soon.

We also visited the Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery behind Club Cool. (We recognized the room - it's where they originally held the Segway Training sessions!) We had the exhibit all to ourselves, and enjoyed seeing the concept art and the original costumes and the various models. If you're interested in more information, as well as lots of photos, see Linda Mac's excellent blog entry on the Gallery, which is HERE.

At The Seas with Nemo and Friends we rode the clam-mobiles. We had done this before, but I hadn't seen it since I'd ridden the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, which employs similar technology in producing the visuals of Nemo and Friends in their underwater environment. I think it's much better here at Epcot - especially the section where the Nemo gang appears to be out in the tank with the *real* fish. The clam-mobiles are also a lot more comfortable than those cramped submarines!

What was new since our last visit was the new (and much bigger) theater for Turtle Talk with Crush, though the show itself isn't very different. We lucked out and arrived just as they were loading the theater for a show. Crush always makes us smile. Awesome, dude. :-)

At Disney-MGM Studios (or is it now Disney Hollywood Studios?) we did a couple of new things - saw the Jedi Training Academy on its new and permanent stage - though it was the same Jedi Master we'd seen 2-1/2 years ago. And we watched Mulch, Sweat, and Shears on the Streets of America. They're a "Rake n' Roll" band working as landscapers while they wait for their big break. They put on a good show, performing songs by the Rolling Stones, Eagles, etc.


During Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party on Tuesday night we had a chance to do the two new things at the Magic Kingdom - and we were glad for the excuse to get out of the rain, too. I'm not enough of a Haunted Mansion aficionado to recognize many of the changes that were made during its recent rehab, but we noticed the creaking of the stretch room as it starts to stretch, the glowing eyes in the wallpaper, the glowing footprints overhead, and Madame Leota's floating crystal ball. And of course the creepy bride in the attic, with the husbands disappearing from the wedding portraits. Nicely done.

The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club was fun - I'd heard some not-too-positive reviews of it, but we enjoyed it. (I have to say that there were members of the audience who seemed to be enjoying it a little TOO much, though - both kids and adults. At any other park I'd blame it on alcohol, but since it was Magic Kingdom during the Halloween party I'll attribute it to sugar overload.) Like Turtle Talk With Crush, this show also features real-time animated characters who can interact with the audience. (Disney is getting a lot of mileage out of that technology!) Most of the jokes are pretty corny but it was fun - and part of the fun is laughing with the audience members that they pick on and show up on the big screen. There are some truly awful puns, though.

Today (Wednesday) we finally made it to Animal Kingdom. The only new thing that I'm aware of there is a new spiel for Kilimanjaro Safaris - I'd heard they eliminated at least some of the annoying elements. The entire "Warden Wilson Matua" recording is different - it sounds like it could be the same voice, but I can't tell. That silly Miss Jobson, who doesn't realize that Thompson's gazelles are called "Tommies", is gone, though - as is the whole "Tommie" thing, which I always thought made Wilson sound like an idiot. No more Big Red and Little Red either - just a baby elephant that the wardens found which had gotten separated from his mother. But Wilson is still chasing poachers, and towards the end our mission (which we weren't even given a choice to accept!) was to help drive the poachers towards him. I have to say that it was less annoying than the original, but I still wish they would offer a poacher-free safari. We DID learn something new from our driver, though - elephants frequent the red clay pits because they rub their tusks in the red clay and then eat it - it gives them extra minerals, apparently.


Coming up...More Food and Wine Festival, our thoughts on our first stay at Animal Kingdom Villas, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - not necessarily in that order. So many things to write about, so little vacation left!

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About Disney's MGM Studios

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Disney's MGM Studios category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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