Sunday, 8 May 2016

We Go Into Disney's Magic Kingdom

Tuesday 19 April 2016. The Monorail took us to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom and it was the first chance for all of us to use our Magic Bands to enter the park. You hold the band against a post with the Mickey Mouse logo and then put your index finger into a fingerprint reader. The first time you do this it registers your fingerprint with your band so that if you lose it no one else can use it. After that you must use the same finger every time and hope it works! We had a few fails during the holiday but they were very quickly resolved. You also quickly got used to the attendant knowing your name as soon as you scanned your Magic Band. "In you go, John...!"

All bags are searched before you get to the gates and random guests, as Disney calls its customers, are pulled out of the line to pass through electronic scanning portals like in airports. We all got pulled out at some point during the fortnight.

"We're only looking for one thing..." a security guard told me cheerfully.
"Well I haven't got one of those!" I said in a determined voice. I thought about it afterwards though. I had presumed they meant guns - but what about knives, bombs, knuckle dusters etc... The "one thing" could have been weapons I suppose.

As a quick aside, at Orlando airport as we waited for a flight home, I noticed amongst the list of banned items on aircraft an illustration of a set of knuckle dusters. It was labelled "self-defence items"...

To enter the park from the gates you go through a short tunnel under the Disney Railroad station and this is the view that faces you. Town Square, looking along the length of Main Street, U.S.A. towards Cinderella's castle at the far end. Stitch and Pluto were doing a meet and photo session with anyone who cared to stop and queue. It's a stunning first view as you enter the Magic Kingdom. On one of the benches in this little garden is a statue of Roy Disney, sitting with Minnie Mouse, a tribute to their invaluable supporting roles.

In creating Maine Street U.S.A. it was Walt Disney's attempt to preserve for the future a street typical of the type of building facades that he remembered from his childhood in small town America, that were fast disappearing. One side (on the left as we are looking from Town Square) is a single shop, despite the many different buildings on the outside. You can enter it at the bottom and not leave the shop until you reach the far end of the street!

It is well worth a gentle stroll up the street, looking upwards as the architecture and the general street dressing of bunting, posters, signboards is just stunningly attractive. Also you will be unlucky to reach the far end without seeing some sort of street entertainment, barber shop harmonists, marching bands, or a singing troupe singing American standards whilst riding in a horse-drawn omnibus. Nowhere else does anything similar this well. You can go in the park and not go on a single ride and you will still have a magical day.

To one side of Town Square is the Town Square Theatre where you can join a line to meet either Mickey Mouse or Tinkerbell. We joined the line for Mickey which would take 35 minutes to reach him. You can book Fast Pass entry for up to three attractions a day. They must all be in the same park during the day, but then you can skip most of the queue and get on the ride within a minute or five depending on how busy it is. It's worth doing it for the busier rides as the lines for these can easily be over an hour for a two-minute ride at the end! Also at times the lines can take longer than the time displayed every now and then.

Grace coped quite well with this and as we neared the final corner she had her autograph book and pen at the ready! The lines zig-zag and there is plenty of people watching to do. A distinguished man in a wheelchair passed us repeatedly. He had a fine trim white beard and was wearing a flat cap and was with a Hispanic family. He smiled at Grace who was stamping her feet to make her shoes light up and we exchanged a smile and nod. On the third time we passed I leaned over the rope barrier and his hand came up straight away for a handshake. He and his family and their own families were from Venezuela. I have always found that the trick to a fabulous holiday as opposed to a merely good one, is to talk to as many people as are happy to reciprocate.

Flushed with her success with the flashing shoes with the old man and with Tigger earlier in the day, Grace met Mickey Mouse with a display of shoe lighting and pointed down in case he had missed them!

It might have been a 35 minute wait for a short meeting, but Grace by now was in no doubt that it had all been worthwhile! She had her photo taken (several times!) and then Gill and Eddie joined in and finally so did we, for the shot that appeared two days ago on the first entry in this series.

We come out into the inevitable shop. The trick in these places is to look above the shelves where you often find little displays of interesting old antiques and artifacts.

On coming back out to Town Square we found Stitch and Pluto still with a constant stream of people to hug. We looked for the nearest loo or rest rooms but they were being refurbished and we had to go to the far end of Main Street U.S.A. to find some. Which did mean we had to rather hustle along the street and missed all the things I was telling you to watch out for earlier. No matter, it's only our first day after all!

If you walk all the way through the shop, this is where you come out. Casey's Corner is a fast food outlet specialising in hot dogs. Rest Rooms are to the right of the photo and there are several benches there which we found a useful place to have a sit down at various intervals during our visits to the Magic Kingdom. There are quite a few benches around the park, but these are always in the shade and that is a very welcome relief on a hot day! Incidentally, whilst you can buy all the fizzy drinks and bottled water you want, you will always find free drinking fountains by the entrance to all rest rooms in the parks.

There is a large roundabout at a crossroads here. From the first exit on the left is Adventureland, with the Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle River Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room where flowers, birds and statues sing to you. The next exit takes you to Frontierland, themed around the Wild West with big rides, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, the Haunted House, Liberty Square River Boat, Hall of Presidents and more.

Over to the right are Fantasyland and Tomorrowland where everything has a futuristic theme. Right in front of us though is the fabulous Cinderella's Castle. (Thank you Gill for this and the next photo!)

There is a short tunnel-cum-corridor through the castle which brings you towards the rear of the park and perilously close to the It's a Small World ride. I escaped it for a while but there's no getting away from it for long if you are with kids! I took some shots of the mosaics lining the corridor through the castle, but not until the last day so we'll see them later!

Once through the castle you come to the flying hooves of the Prince Charming Regal Carousel horses. In front of the ride is King Arthur's sword set into an anvil on top of a large rock. It's a classic photo opportunity. I ignored it. Eddie took Grace on the ride.

It was only a short wait but whilst they were on the ride I started to sketch it, but ended up squashing one side of it. I resolved to have another go once home!

And this is it. I did the sketch yesterday and added the colour this morning. Pencil and coloured pencils on A5 white paper.

More Magic Kingdom on our next article!

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