Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Disney Dinosaurs and Disasters of The Ice Cream Kind...

Thursday 28 April 2016. This will be a dual-park day again for us, though with the bulk of photos coming from the Magic Kingdom. First we must go back in time...

We start the day at EPCOT in the science-oriented bits. The Universe of Energy has a show starring actress Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye, The Science Guy (?) looking at how fossilised fuels came about. This starts off as a film show, but then the rows of seats we are sitting in turn round like a train on a turntable and then move off into another huge hall with a literally breathtaking scene, glimpsed through the opening doors...

I didn't take any photos on the ride, but this is my sketch of the sight that awaited us with a whole herd of these gruntodons, one of which greeted us with a sneeze, spraying us with a mist of water! They were very lifelike with Audio-Animatronic movement. There were many more dinosaurs waiting to eat us or each other as our... er... cinema seats (!) moved through several scenes.

We decided to park hop on the Monorail from EPCOT to the Magic Kingdom. I still love the look of the Disney Monorail which goes all the way back to 1964. I remember how excited I was when I heard that Blackpool was to get a monorail in the Pleasure Beach in 1966 and then it looked as though they had made it out of origami folded cardboard... A bit like making a space ship that looked like a horse-drawn stagecoach...

By the time we got to the Magic Kingdom we were hot and thirsty and we decided on ice cream floats from a shop on Main Street U.S.A.

"You'll need to start drinking these straight away!" warned the man at the counter, handing over two large frothing drinks that threatened to explode lava-like over the edge. I took a big swig and Phew! mine was safe.

Miss Franny however was adamant she wanted to go outside before drinking and it erupted all over the cup, the ice cream carton that the man hastily thrust at her, her hand, several napkins that I grabbed, and half the floor before I could persuade her to take a gulp. We mopped up as best we could and left, safe in the knowledge that we couldn't be chased because everyone left in the shop was stuck to the floor...

I had been disappointed on our first visit here, this trip, to see that the Walt Disney World Railway was closed for refurbishment. But today - yahoo! - it was open. We got on at Town Square and did a full circuit of the park. There's not really a chance to take a good photo of the locomotive at the station as it pulls too far forward. It is, after all, the carriages which need to stop at the platform! I took this from behind the barrier as it steamed into the station.

The train stops in both Frontierland and Fantasyland. This is the view from the Frontierland station which overlooks the queueing area for Splash Mountain.

When we came back to Town Square and left the station, we found crowds had gathered for the daily Festival of Fantasy Parade. Oh what the heck! Let's watch again and just concentrate on faces.

We head into Tomorrowland for another trip on the People Mover. In the background you can see the stepless moving pavements that go up and down between ground and platform levels.

We met up with the family to eat at Casey's Corner. Well, the EGGs ate there. One look at the enormous hot dogs smothered in sauce was enough to convince us to look elsewhere but we all sat at the same table outside! By the time we made our way back down to the lagoon and the rows of bus stops, it was going dark and we could see but not hear flashes of lightning on the horizon.

This is one of the ferries that crosses between the Magic Kingdom and the nearest car parks. A fleet of land-trains (Disney call them "trams") run between the theme park and the car parks also. The car parks stretch for miles! Pay particular care as to which car park you leave your car in - it could take ages to find again if you forget!

Back at Caribbean Beach Resort. The sky is dark and cloudy and we can still see lightning. We don't hear any thunder or get any rain though.

Disney World Holiday Index

Monday, 30 May 2016

Disney Studios, Florida - Day Two

Wednesday 27 April 2016. We will be heading for Disney Studios for our second day in that park. There's another meal with characters but first will come a look at the park and some of its features and a close encounter with some Storm Troopers of the Star Wars kind!

Before we set off though there is another slow morning at the resort, at least for me. Miss Franny had decided that this morning she would visit the laundrette for our part of the resort and after a cry for assistance on how the machines worked (she's asking me???) I am free to enjoy a coffee and the view in Port Royale.

We had bought one of these mugs each as part of our meal deal. Without a meal deal they were $17.99 but once you had one you could fill it with any non-alcoholic beverage from a Disney resort (but not a park) as many times as you wished. That's tea, coffee, Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta etc... This was a great money saver over two weeks!

We have a meal booked in Hollywood Studios for tea time and decide to spend the full day there. Well... half a day there... This is the walk from the bus stop and it's already noon.

We in the UK pick up so much of America's cultural past from films and TV programmes set in the 1950s and 60s and from fun series like American Pickers and American Restoration where people chase all over the back roads of the States, looking for old things and then restoring them to an unbelievable level of pristine condition.

It's fun to see stuff like this. Mind you, I'd find it equally fun to see a Ford Zephyr or Hillman Minx in front of an Esso Golden or National Benzole petrol pump too...

A busy Hollywood Boulevard looking towards the Chinese Theatre at the far end. On the right, The Darkroom is one of the outlets where you can buy prints of any photos taken on rides or by the on-site Disney Photographers.

The balloon seller is doing business and makes a colourful addition to the street! So do the large groups of teenage girls - it turned out there was a Cheerleader's competition on. Each group had their own design of t-shirt printed and they really stood out in the parks. At night when some of them were dressed up (this did not necessarily involve much material...) Miss Franny had to tap my chin and roll my tongue back up a couple of times! However, after the competition weekend there were quite a number of them with a leg in kevlar (they probably would have not been able to mix so much plaster of paris...!) and crutches became the order of the day.

Sunset Boulevard runs off to the right from Hollywood Boulevard and recalls to mind Gloria Swanson's 1950 comeback as a silent movie star, reluctant to admit that she is getting older and given to watching films of her younger self. "We had faces then..."

It's not really a cinema, it's a shop selling Star Wars merchandise. I remember the original Star Wars in 1977/78 introduced the world to an explosion of merchandise and it is incredibly sought after today. Sadly there are no Millenium Falcons littering my attic...

Half way along Sunset Boulevard and with Hollywood Tower in front of us. It's a haunted hotel where you sit in the lift and it plunges 13 storeys at 39 miles per hour, pulled down slightly faster than a free fall would be. This causes riders to float out of their seats until restrained by their seat belt. Eddie had a go on it. There was a really neat video of it on our Memory Maker account folders once we got home too.

I'm not lugging a guitar that size about on stage!!! The Aerosmith Roller Coaster. No, I don't know why... Inside the shop they were selling 30p (UK price) guitar plectrums for $3. I refused to buy one and was dubbed Grumpy by the rest of the family. My lovely daughter bought me one as a present. Love you, Gill xxx. Nearly three quarters of the embossed design managed to stay on until we got home...

The sound of explosions rent the air and we made our way to the Center Stage where the Star Wars show was taking place. As the show ended a detachment of Storm Troopers marched before us.

If we thought The Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was fun yesterday in Magic Kingdom, then Toy Story Mania! here at Hollywood Studios is totally awesome! Again you have guns but instead of lasers they have a little pull string at the back with a ball and you yank it like a pop gun.

Instead of targets you face a 3D movie screen and you shoot little doughnuts at a multitude of moving and stationary targets. My favourite ride of the fortnight. I scored the most of the family by a factor of three, but Eddie was scoffing at my mere 30% hit rate. Hey - but I would have killed more baddies! Pull that string quicker! If you snooze, you lose!

Fran and I go on The Great Movie Ride before we meet up for tea once more at Hollywood & Vine. It's a dark ride through a series of scenes from old movies from Busby Berkeley musicals to Indiana Jones. The driver of your vehicle interacts with actors inside the ride and gets kidnapped at one point. Also to watch out for are some original movie props on display in the pre-show queueing area. It's worth walking through slowly even if there isn't a queue holding you up.

We meet back up with the EGGs at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant and this time the vibrating gizmo vibrates satisfactorily, our name is called and we are seated with great efficiency. Goofy, Donald, Mickey and Minnie are the characters for the meal.

Grace is as excited to meet the characters now as she was on day one, but on looking through her autograph book she particularly likes the comment from Doc McStuffins; "Thank you for taking good care of Lambie. Love, Doc McStuffins".

Disney World Holiday Index

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Magic Kingdom: Anna and Elsa, Diamond Horseshoe, and a Flirt On A Bendy Bus

Tuesday 26 April 2016, sometime after the trauma induced by the It's a Small World song...

In an attempt to shake off the song, which is going through our heads like an ear-worm, we indulge in a good old-fashioned (new-fashioned with lasers...) shoot-out in The Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Great fun!

We all go to meet Queen Elsa and Princess Anna from Frozen. The temperature remains bearable and Grace is proudly wearing her Frozen gown which has so far spent the day in Gill's backpack.

Even Minnie was getting into the Frozen spirit! Rather too well perhaps - she was frozen stiff, not able to move at all!

We have a meal booked at a restaurant in Frontierland and we head back that way to find the Liberty Belle just leaving on another journey around Tom Sawyer's Island. (I still haven't read the book...)

Our meal is at The Diamond Horseshoe, a western saloon. Sadly there were no swinging half-shutter doors to swagger through... Jus' plumb disappointin'...

The meal was an assortment of items placed in a central dish. I really enjoyed it - there were baked beans included which were pretty much our first sight of hot vegetables since we arrived over a week ago. I was getting my five-a-day from fruit and whatever vegetable extract there might be in my ration of one fizzy drink a day!

They could have made so much more of the venue though - the setting and interior were really evocative of the wild west. There should have been some singing and dancing girls, a shooting or a fist fight or something... Sadly in line with Disney's strict no alcohol rules in the parks, there was not even any gut-rot whisky for the bar tender to slide along the bar. The main entertainment feature was a self-player piano which came to life every 20 minutes or so for a single song. And, whoops, what has Fran said to Gill...?

We finish the meal and leave the EGGs who were going to stay for the night time parade. Us crumblies need our rest... In particular my legs are suffering from a rash of prickly heat due to the temperatures once again hitting the mid 90s. My calves are a blotchy red and itching like madness.

Now I'm home I keep finding I wish I'd taken photos of so many things that never occurred to me at the time... The buses for instance. Eddie is a bit of a bus enthusiast and had been frustrated as, although we saw quite a few, we had yet to travel on a bendy bus. We came back to our resort earlier than the EGGs on this particular night and thought it quite funny that a bendy bus turned up to take us back. I took a photo of it - to the obvious delight of the woman standing near the bendy bit, who is probably thinking I fancied her and was taking a photo of her... What? With my legs???

Back at the Jamaica stop at Caribbean Beach Resort. Eddie did manage to get a ride on a bendy bus the next day so he was only indignant for a few hours...

When we got back to our room I was going for a shower and wondered where all the towels were... They were being artistic next to the TV...

Disney World Holiday Index

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Magic Kingdom: Main Street, Riverboat and a Small, Small World.

Tuesday 26 April 2016. Our third day at the Magic Kingdom. It is already very hot when we got there and we took a seat in as much shade as we could find as Gill and Eddie took Grace to meet Tinkerbell.

We watched the horse-drawn bus head in for a spot of the same, shade and a bucket of water. (We had made do with a bottle...) The bus came out a little later with a much-refreshed horse.

These buildings front onto the Times Square area. The Emporium is the start of Main Street U.S.A. and the front end of the long shop that extends all the way to Casey's Corner at the other end.

I had the sketch pad and was doodling away, getting the basic shapes and enough detail of the first store to carry on and finish the drawing at intervals during the day whenever we found time and a space to sit and draw breath. It's not perfect by a long way, but it does the trick.

With the merchandise mainly on the left hand side as you go up Main Street U.S.A., the food shops are on the right. Special vents waft enticing smells at you as you walk past. Vanilla, the smell of baking, toffees... The other quite neat thing about the shops is that their windows are lower than they would have been in real life. Walt Disney knew that small children can't always see and he wanted to make sure that they could!

Everything is clean and kept in tip-top condition. I expect this is slightly easier here than in a wind-swept British seaside resort, but I'd also bet it does not stay this way without a fair bit of effort.

We head for the Liberty Square River Boat. The boat is named Liberty Belle and is a stern-wheeled paddle steamer. We thought we would watch it depart and then catch the next one.

She has three decks and apparently if you go up to the wheelhouse and ask, you can hold the wheel and you get a certificate to say you have driven her. But I didn't know that at the time...

I caught a glimpse of someone pointing a camera my way - well, not necessarily at me personally... It's amazing how many people - and not just kids - wear Mickey or Minnie ears. It's obviously their equivalent of the "Kiss-Me-Quick" cowboy hats that everyone at the UK seaside used to wear in the 1950s and 60s. Apart from people on a stag and hen do, even that tradition seems to have faded away now in Blackpool and other resorts.

And I must confess at this point to a minor disaster. Rather than carry my DSLR around, before we set off for America I bought a tiny compact camera thinking it would go in my pocket and be less bother. All fine so far. However when turned off it automatically put a shutter over the lens. Again all fine - but... it meant I didn't notice that I, or something, had inadvertently touched the lens, leaving a smear of grease at this point. Some of the following photos are ok, where I can disguise it with contrast and brightness, but it is noticeable on others as a fuzzy area and it will be two days of the holiday before I did see it and clean the lens. Duh...Should have taken the Canon...

We wait until the boat comes back round towards the entrance building and then make our way through and onto the gangway. We opt to stay on the middle deck near the huge paddle wheel at the rear.

Towards the rear is the Haunted House. Towards the front is the queue! This is probably one of the busier attractions and it always had a fair queue. Use a fast-pass for this one!

Harper's Mill complete with water wheel, on Tom Sawyer Island. This was a walk-round attraction with scenes inspired by the books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

It really is an island. You reach it from Frontierland by raft. I'm afraid I haven't read any of Mark Twain's books. I'm not really sure how I escaped that during school, but I might go back now and read one to find out why Tom's raft churns up the water at the back...

We pass by the roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with its runaway train. The ride was opened at Magic Kingdom in 1980 and there are slightly different versions in California, Paris and Tokyo Disneylands.

We meet up with the EGGs and queue for the "Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed". It's a long queue and very hot.

Oh no! I've been conned!!! How could they do this to me? Agh! The song! Stop the song!!!

It's a small small world and we think you'll find
By the time you leave, you'll have lost your mind.
It's a song, it's not rain, but it seeps through your brain,
It's a small, small world...

Already showing signs of confused acceptance... By the time we come out - the ride lasts 20 minutes(!) and it's still the same song as you come to the end - I need a lie down somewhere quiet and dark, whilst my brain replays the song another ten or twenty times...

Disney World Holiday Index