Saturday, January 12, 2008

M-I-C, See Ya Real Soon! K-E-Y, Why? Because...

Click for Larger View of Disney Balloon SellerI've been in Central Florida for a couple weeks now, so I decided it was time I visited Mickey. Walt Disney World is about a hour and a half from here, and, depending on the route you take, you can run into rush hour traffic going in and out of Orlando. The day before, Florida experienced what is arguably the worst accident of recent memory: a 70 car pile-up on I-4, caused when thick fog and smoke almost instantaneously reduced visibility to zero. This accident happened between Orlando and Tampa, and was not on the road I was taking to WDW -- but I-4 was still closed 24-hours later (it would not reopen until the following morning), and roads all over the area were likely to be affected. My "Disney Strategy" has been to be there when they open and hit the popular attractions first, so I set the alarm (yuck) so I could both beat the traffic and the crowds. But when I looked out the next morning, leaving early was not an option -- it was another day of heavy morning fog, and I was not willing to risk a repeat of the day before just to see a Mouse, even if it is Mickey. So I waited until it about 9:30 when the fog had burned off before leaving. Besides, it's mid-January. How busy could WDW be?

Click for Larger View of Micky PumpkinI got to the Magic Kingdom around 11, and discovered "very" was how busy they could be. There were kids and parents and even some retirees everywhere (and, since this was the middle of the week, why weren't all these kids in school?). I pushed on because I wanted to see the newly re-done Pirates of the Caribbean. When I got there, the line was about 20 minutes, so I sighed and started the "line crawl." The revised attraction turned out to be, mostly, a pirate here and there redressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with dreads and eyeliner. Click for Larger View of Making Micky FruitI have always liked Pirates, but now I just found it to be tedious. I exited, had lunch, and found the lines were even longer than before. The crowds were really starting to annoy me (really, WHY weren't these kids in school?), so I took the monorail to Epcot where the visitors were mostly retirees, and almost everything was a "walk on." I got to revisit some old favorites like the Test Track (better than a coaster) and the Living Sea, and saw how they make Mickey Vegetables in The Land (see photos).

Click for Larger View of Spaceship Earth and IllumiNations EarthSpaceship Earth (inside the huge silver geodesic dome, seen here with the IllumiNations Orb that is waiting to be towed to the center of the lake for the sundown show) was supposed to be closed for renovation, but it was open for "testing" when I was there -- so I got to see the changes. The journey through history on the way up has been shined and polished, and emerging into the starry sky at the top of the dome is still impressive. The major change is the ride down. A touch-screen monitor is now in your car, and you are asked some basic questions about your travel and adventure preferences. Then an animated sequence, based on your responses and featuring "you" -- is shown. The image of "you" is taken at the beginning of the ride, and if no one is seated in one (or both) of the seats, a cartoon figure is displayed instead. It was interesting, but I missed having more to look at on the way down. Here are a couple of stills of "me," my cartoon companion, and our rocketship (as always, click for a larger image):Click for Larger View of Me and My Spaceship

I kept wanderng, and when I got tired, I left -- and realized I had walked all the way around both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, including the World Showcase. Now only two more WDW theme parks to go!

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