Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

Walt Disney World: The happiest place on Earth. Sure, why not?

What could be more delightful than waking up well before the sun and hitting the road? And not just any road – but Florida roads. For those who haven't driven Florida roads, it's important to understand that these roads were designed by schizophrenic out patients suffering from sever A.D.H.D.

Oh, you don't believe me? That's understandable. You're under the mistaken impression that there is some sort of logic and order at work here. Well, my friends, you are wrong. Terribly terribly wrong.

Take, for example, the fact that a one lane road through a residential area where children play and walk – without the aid of sidewalks – has a speed limit of thirty-five miles an hour. This translates roughly to fifty-six kph. Now this may not seem all that fast – but consider this, a three lane divided highway also rockets along at the same thirty-five miles an hour. But it doesn't stay this way, no. When the road cuts back to two lanes without a grass median, that's when it decides to zip up to forty-five. Only to fall back to forty a few hundred meters on, for no apparent reason.

Now this may not seem all that bad in and of itself, but as soon as you leave the highway, and cut through a town you'll find yourself barreling through at fifty-five miles. And then jumping up to seventy miles as you clear the final building. Once you're cruising along, finally hitting the swing of things, you'll be shut back down to forty-five, forty, thirty-five. Why? Because Florida roads hate you. They absolutely despise you, and they don't want you to get comfortable, they want you to crash, and more than anything they want you to miss one speed reduction sign, eighty meters after the speed increase, so as you can subsidize the underfunded police force through the age old practice of speeding tickets.

How long after cars were invented do you think speeding tickets were created? How long after they were created, do you think they became abused?

While you may be starting to lose that joy-joy feeling John Spartan, you will soon find yourself turning on to Disney's private roads. They are terrifying in their enormity. Don't try to conceive the size of Disney's private landscape. They have their own downtown. Just accept it and move on. Just head to Magic Kingdom – pay no attention to anything, else you may go mad. Mad as a giant baby, floating through space.

Then you'll simply hand over your fifteen dollars, be flagged into a parking spot, and board the tram for the ticketing gates. Wait? What are those on the side of the fences? Pictures of Goofy – pictures of Pluto? Where did I park?! O.K. Pluto – somewhere in Pluto. Fine. That'll probably be alright.

Then head up to the ticketing booth, say it's your first visit to get the button (I failed in this respect) and then jump on board the monorail. Or the ferry. Your choice. Best to stick with the monorail though, then you can justifiably sing “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail! Mono-doh!” all day long.

Alright. If you can settle enough, and stop from bouncing up and down on the train, scaring the Spanish family sharing the compartment with you, you'll find yourself at the real main gates to the Magic Kingdom. Here is where it all comes together. Yes, that's the head of Mickey made with flowers. Yup, that's Main Street USA just ahead of you. Sure is, the great white castle in the centre of it all.

But first, scan your ticket as if it were an overpriced European subway pass, and in you go. (Actually, it was about the same price as a weekly subway pass in Scandinavia, so not that overpriced at all.)

You've made it! Disney World! The most magical place on Earth! And you're so wrapped up in this new experience that you can focus on nothing but getting inside and letting the fun begin! When exactly does the fun begin? How does one have fun at Disney World.

This seems to be the question. You've got inside, and you have a map. But when does the fun start? What do yo do in Disney World? I was so caught up with just getting there, that I didn't think to research what to do once I was inside. Well – might as well hit the bathroom. With that taken care of, it was time to go towards the Castle and – O! M! G! Did I hear someone say the Jonas Brothers were performing live just ahead?! Omigawd! Omigawd! Omigawd! Breathe. Breath. Wow, I had to go!

So I took Katherine by the arm, and rushed towards the gated area where they said stay in your coloured zones, but – like – we didn't have colours, so we didn't have a zone, and then – like – there were all these people, and they had been waiting for hours, but that was fine cause we just got there, and then we – like – totally stood at the back, but – like – I pushed forwards, and then – like – like – like – I said, no there's a mini stage in our way and it was blocking us, but – like – fine right cause we got there late so we just waited, but then it started and omigawd omigawd omigawd!

And the best part?! The mini stage that was blocking us turned out to be a stage where they would perform half their song! Swoon!

Alright – enough of that. I don't really like the Jonas Brothers, but the song was alright in a poppy kind of way. And, plus, they were right there. How could I not spend the five minutes to watch them do their thing? It's a story to make twelve year old girls the world over jealous with. It's not like I stayed there as they played their song five times over, getting all the angles they needed for the DVD release. I didn't! Promise.

I was too busy exploring Adventureland. Off we went through some big ol' Swiss tree fort. They sure do know how to make a Tree Fort in Switzerland. Didn't see any quite like it when I was there, but I was too busy in the mountains. I should have been looking for the forests, I guess.

And then it was off to the Tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-hut. Iago sure got his beak in that one, huh?! And then over to the Safari ride where it has started to become a joke all its own. I remember riding it when I was just a wee little Barltrop. But now that I'm big and grown, I still appreciated it. The “tour guide” was fantastic. I'm told if you get a bad one, it's three minutes of even more pain than it needed to be.

Jokes were also made at my expense. Apparently I looked like I worked there. And if my travel hat, shirt, and shorts – well – so maybe I did.

Then on to Pirates of the Caribbean! “Is this based on the movie?!” I was asked. Ugh. Head hung low in shame. That's the worst part of the ride – how they'd changed it to put Jack-bloody-Sparrow throughout the whole thing. He just caulks it up, in my opinion. I mean, a children's ride that features murder, assault, and the selling of tied up women into sexual slavery?! What more could you ask for?

Honestly – go see the ride – check it out -and report back. Tied up women, being auctioned off into sexual slavery. Disney? Really? Happy-happy-joy-joy feelings indeed!

And then it was off to the next kingdom. No hearts to be found here, however.

I grabbed two fast passes for the train ride, and then headed off to Huck Finn's island. Katherine was complaining about hunger by this point. Apparently people need to eat. And when I say complaining, I mean she probably once said, “can we get some food,” and then never mentioned it again. Still – I had Injun Joe's cave to explore (You know, they had a nickname for Jim too – but they kept that one off the island. Why is Joe allowed to keep his slur?)

Then – with that island explored – and feet wet from too much jumping on the barrel bridge, we headed for food. This was, perhaps, the first time I wasn't upset with having to miss out on exploration due to eating. Because of the fast pass, we had our virtual body doubles waiting in line, as we scarfed pulled pork and burgers. Some of this scarfing was done in line too. Katherine? She's the best.

Wee! Woo! O.K. Train ride done – on to the next thing. I felt like Cartman running around Casa Bonita.

It was about the time we hit the Haunted Mansion, and the thirty minute fastpassless line, that things started to slow down. I started to look around. I started to notice something. Something strange. No one, and I mean no one, was smiling. It didn't matter if they were going onto the rides, coming off the rides, exploring, buying souvenirs – there was no happiness to be seen on the faces of anyone in the park. Only the pre-recorded holographic ghosts seemed to smile (and yes, I know they're not holograms, but simply reflections in sheets of glass – a trick developed over one hundred years ago – but let me have my futuristic fun. Next thing you'll be telling me that the cowboy in the Time Traveller arcade game wasn't real either.

Throughout the great realm of Fantasyland, there was no delight to be found. This may have been caused by the one hour line up for the Peter Pan ride – but a quick swipe assured us fastpass access for – four hours from now?! Very well. Well there were no smiles there, or over near the It's a Small World ride. Mind you, there are never smiles at the It's a Small World Ride. No one gets in that line expecting anything more than seven minutes of mind numbing pain. Often they're dragged on by their obnoxious seven year old child. Looking beside me, seeing a great big grin on the face of my partner skipping off towards that god forsaken place – I thought that was about right.

Never you mind that I too was skipping with joy. I mean, come on, Disney World! Sure no one else was happy to be here – but we were! Honestly, though, think about it. Imagine a seven day vacation – you have your two kids who never get along, won't shut up, and prevent you from doing what you want to do. Now picture yourself having spent the last five days at the parks. You're on day six. You can't escape. You don't have the joy of knowing you're just hours from freedom. You wouldn't be smiling ever.

And just think, your misery makes it all the bestest for those still in love with the atmousphere! On to the PhilharMagic Orchestra! This was one thing we nearly skipped, but I dragged us in, as the line was only two minutes. I can't resist a short lineup. And inside – well, let me tell you, it was the greatest thing I did in all of Disney World this day.

It's a 3-D movie where you think you're about to watch an orchestra play. Goofy is bumbling around backstage, with the fully surround sound making it feel as if there really is a backstage. Then Donald steals the magic hat, and – well it doesn't matter from that point. What matters is you spend the next fifteen minutes watching the best songs from Beauty and the Beast, with the scent of apple pie blowing through the seats followed by The Little Mermaid.

Oh Ariel. How you caused quite the uproar when yo sexualized the Disney Princesses all those decades back. We'll not think about your sequel or your prequel. They hardly count. Besides – we all know your real mother was Ursula disguised to trick the Triton.

And yes – there she is too, reaching out into the audience in full 3D glory. There may be some splashing, and water involved here.

Then off to the world of Aladdin. You're flying far away on a magic carpet with the wind blowing through your hair. Seriously. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to fly, this is one of the best simulators I've seen. There was a Lion King thing in there too. Good for it. But Donald gets blasted through the back wall at the end, and oh how wonderful that is. No one likes that duck.

Riding the high from that ride, it was off to Tomorrowland where Space Mountain waited. I quickly grabbed a second fastpass for the Toy Story ride, and then hunkered down for the one hour line for the in-the-dark coaster. Disney knows its line psychology. I tell you, whoever designs the lines here, deserves whatever they get. They're all created in such a way that you either forget, or quickly stop caring, that you're in line. In this one there was a video game where you could blast asteroids from orbit. Yeah – I beat all other eight players. I am teh best.

The coaster itself? Not too shabby. There was much screaming, and shouting. I'm sure the people in the seat ahead of me loved that.

Then off to the Toy Story laser gun game, where I kicked serious booty – even while turning left and right in jerky motions, and then aiming behind me to blast the next car right in their alien zapping faces. The Transit Authority offered a peaceful cruise around the area, and then the Carousel of Progress showed us that Chinese Food did exist in America back in the forties. And that the kid in that carousel really sucked at video games. Grandma for the win!

Back to the Peter Pan ride! It's time! It's time! It's... over in about forty seconds. Really? People lined up an hour for that? Look – I love Peter Pan and Wendy (especially Wendy. Wendy Moira Angela Darling, to you.) as much as the next person, but come on? And Ariel as the mermaid? Please – at least Pocahontas didn't replace Tigerlily.

Back to Tomorrowland! Into the Monsters Inc. Laugh Club. If you're in Disney – do not skip this. It's wonderful, and the comedy is all live, by people back stage. I was thrown up on the video screen as Sully. It's quite the experience. I want to do it again. But no – instead, over to Lilo and Stitch. A “ride” where you sit in seats, and shoulder bars come down to lock you in. Lock you in for no reason other than to hurt you in the future. They would slam on your shoulders over and over and over again – bringing pain as Stitch jumped around the room. Why this ride is so cruel I'll never know.

Oh no! Closing time! Quick, sneak into Mickey's House – then get caught, and moved to the front, little by little. By the time we had really exited the park, we had managed an extra hour. Park closes on the hour, sharp, indeed!

Then it was a monorail ride back to the gate which should have taken ten minutes, but took thirty due to their lies about “routine maintenance” and other such nonsense. A quick shuttle to the car, and then – two and a half hours back to our place. On roads. Where the speed limits make no sense.

The happiest place on Earth! Let's do it again!

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