Posted in Travel and Diversions

Disney – Land VS. World

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I am a bit of Disney Geek, in the Age of the Geek where does a Disney Geek (DG) fall into the hierarchy of Geekdom?  Where does DG rank on the pecking order in the geek world; higher or lower than Trekies, Browncoats, Star Wars Fans.  How about Boys of the Dwarf, Whovians or Bronies.

But we are here to discuss Disney World versus Disneyland.  I first visited the World in the late 70’s as a kid, back then it was only the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT was in the planning stages and the E Ticket system still existed. (My memory is we chose Pirates of the Caribbean over Jungle Cruise.)  Animal Kingdom and Disney Studios were maybe bouncing around in some Imagineers heads but that was as concrete as they got.

As an adult I have been to the World numerous times seeing all the parks each time, staying on the property four out of those five times. I enjoy Disney not only for the rides, shows and the stories they represent but for the wonderful atmosphere created by the attention to cleanness, service and comfort.   (The Disney Company does have issues, but they do provide a product people want.)

I just returned from California where I had the great experience of visiting the original park, the magical land that Walt Disney himself actually participated in, he entertained there, he slept there and personally had a hand in keeping the parks running by doing spot checks incognito.  I think every DG no matter how many times they visit the other parks around the world still consider it a right of passage to visit the original in Anaheim.

My first impression of the Land it is just as magical as the World.  The attention to detail, the cleanliness the setup, the cast members attitude and of course the rides.  My priority when I arrived was to experience what I could not at the World and what was original to the Land.  First stop, the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, then on to Pirates of the Caribbean (a bit different from the ride in the World), the Matterhorn
followed by a short stop in Mickey’s Toontown for a picture with Mr. M. Mouse.   Unfortunately Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and The Disney Railroad were closed due to construction and decorating for Halloween.  (Along the way my daughter and I noted the first time Disney Visitors who had already made purchases they would have to tote around all day, we both commented “Amateurs”, there is always time to buy items at any Disney Park.)

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Pirates of the Caribbean Gift Shop, the World, none exists at the Land.

One thing I noticed that was pleasant in the Land is not every ride deposited you into a gift shop, unlike the World where as soon as you walk off a ride you are blitzed with stuffed characters, souvenir mugs and ride themed knick-knacks.

 

Since I was not partaking in all of the rides I had time to slip over to Disney’s California Adventure Park and enjoy Soarin, the Cars themed land and walking on Paradise Pier. (I had been to the Santa Monica Pier the day before, it was cooler and parking was cheaper.)  I did not do any research before hitting California Adventure, no plan so I  just enjoyed the great things my daughter picked out for us to do. I  appreciated the park and it was great not having a plan and “have to” see things.  I even got to do a little bit with some street performers.  (Had video of my playing a pink tambourine with some Green Army Men from Toy Story but the resolution was low and readers of aaforringer.com always get the highest quality, so no video today.)

One thing I love about Disney World is the Monorail, it captured my imagination when I was a kid and ride it every time I visit a park, I even have ridden in the front compartment which unfortunately was stopped in 2005.  Riding on the Land’s Monorail was okay, it is a short ride (only 2.5 miles of dl-monorailtrack vs. 14.5 in the World) The ride is a way to move from the park to the adjacent hotels, but it is primarily an attraction and the first monorail in the United States.  My suggestion though is do not ride it, you don’t see that much of the park and the illusion is actually broken because you see outside of the park, the real world as it is, no Disney Magic lens just Plexiglas looking at Mimi’s Café and the Bus stop for the Manchester/Harbor 460 Line Bus Stop.

 

Of course all Disney Geeks will know that it is one of the biggest regrets of Walt Disney of not having enough land around his first park. The biggest reason that the World exist is Walt did not want the neon/cheap/touristy/crowded phenomena that occurred outside of the Land so he bought 43 square miles as opposed to the Land which is only .13 square miles.  The Magic Kingdom in the Word (which is basically the Land reproduced in Florida) is .22 square miles, so even if the Walt Disney Corp. had stopped there they would have doubled the size of Walt’s original dream.

I really delighted in my visit to Disneyland; anytime I can experience exceptional service, PG rated adventure that reinforces great stories and in an environment I can relax in I am all in.  As a DG any visits brings wishful thinking.  Ideas that maybe/possibly/hopefully/optimistically would make the Parks even better.

Here are my suggestions Disney:

Update most of your Dark House rides. For those unfamiliar with the term you ride in a vehicle with up to four people touring what is essentially scenes from one of Disney’s movies, such as Cinderella, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland and the fan favorite Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  These are fun and all and had long lines but the only updates I have ever noted is the Winnie the Pooh ride which is better lit and with some 3D characters.  Technology has come a long way since the 50’s with plywood cutouts and synchronized lighting so get with the times Disney and allow the Imagineers to do a remodel.

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Most Boring Ride in EPCOT, notice the boat is empty.

Secondly, why is not every ride they have at the Land reproduced somewhere in the World, it is not like they don’t still have room for expansion.  Disney could add the Indiana Jones ride next door to the Indiana Stunt Show in Disney’s Hollywood Studio.  They should also add the Cars Land to the back part of the Studios and you could walk thru the town of Radiator Springs, just like the Streets of America section of Studios.  The Matterhorn, or maybe rename it if you had to, to be placed somewhere in EPCOT. Let’s face it the World Showcase is a bit of snooze fest, unless you are shopping or eating; maybe throw Alice In Wonderland ride into the United Kingdom Pavilion or Pinocchio’s Daring Journey in Italy.  Mickey’s Toontown should come back to the Magic Kingdom.  Mickey’s Toontown was nice when it was in the World, but it was tucked back behind Fantasyland and closed in 2011, again Walt Disney World has the space, so why not duplicate the Disneyland attraction in a nice space giving the guest another choice.  Of course maybe the company is living up the one of Walt Disney’s axiom, ‘you can’t top pigs with pigs‘.

Lastly, why not make every queuing area in the shade and with interactive displays and games, Disney has done great things with the Haunted Mansion, the Winnie the Pooh Ride and the videos games in Space Mountain, so it is time to make all the waiting areas just as positive and experience, adding to the ride.

Of course I can sit here at my computer like many other Disney Geeks, wishing upon stars, but I am not responsible for budgets, visitor numbers, and the bottom line to the stockholders.  I love the Disney parks in all their incarnations and phases, hopefully some day I will hit all the parks around the globe, but until that day I will dream and write.

As to what is the placement of the Disney Geeks in the pantheon of geekdom.  Well actually pretty high now that the company owns, Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Muppets.  Will Disney Geeks ever get respect for following a Mouse and being fan boys and girls for Frozen, Toy Story and a Little Mermaid.  Who knows and who cares just don’t yuck my yum.

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An article on the Walt Disney Wilderness Lodge 

Posted in Travel and Diversions

Disney World Wilderness Lodge

 

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I love to sit in the lobby of Walt Disney World Wilderness Lodge, to me it is one of the best places in the world to sit and watch people, take a short snooze, read or a pleasant combination of all three.

Let me set up the scene, the place looks like a giant log cabin, the term grandeur comes to mind but logs cabins and grandeur do not seem to go together. Perhaps fantastic, majestic or resplendent are better suited to the feelings I have for this interior space. At the same time I feel warmth and comfort which does not usually match up to large closed in spaces. Having been in a number of covered stadiums, warehouses and other large closed in spaces warmth never comes across. Seven stories tall, with an 80 foot fireplace made of stone, wood everywhere (remember I said it was a log cabin). Maybe it is the wood or the perfect mixture of all the elements or maybe just my state of mind but it is an almost perfect man made space. I have stayed at the Wilderness Lodge three times and I feel a sense of wonder every time I walk into the lobby.

Like I said my favorite thing to do there is to watch people, and who are my favorite people to watch, new arrivals, especially people who are experiencing the lobby for the first time.
A word about people watching. I consider myself a semi-pro at it. I enjoyed watching people as a kid I loved guessing about such things as which car people were walking to in a parking lot. Then I joined the ranks of law enforcement and was trained in observing body language, eye movement and distance between persons. Coupling the training, with the hobby of watching people, and the final ingredient of wanting to tell stories about them it can provide hours of fun. Say you have a guy standing around, is he waiting for someone, is he impatient, does he want to see the person, how will he greet them when they show up, a kiss, a hug, a look at his watch to see how late they are? One thing I try and do when watching them is give them a name, nothing complex, maybe Dad in the Vacation Hat, Mom Who Needs A Glass of Wine, or Little Sister Whose Phone Is Dead And Is So Bored.

I would have loved to have a picture of me when I first walked into the lobby, but I can look for that expression on other people. I caught a glimpse of it once while sitting on a perfectly situated couch near the front door. I was doing some reading and people watching when a family came in, Mom, Dad, Older Brother and Little Brother. Mom and Dad went directly to the registration desk intent on getting important things done, Older Brother followed along engrossed in his Gameboy. Meanwhile Little Brother walked in, bringing up the rear of the family unit; he stepped into the lobby and stopped and started looking around, the grin on his face grew until it was painful to look at, fearing he would hurt his face. Little Brother’s eyes got big as he struggled to take in the whole place. He stood in the in the middle of the doorway, and I am glad no one was coming thru the door after him because they would have interrupted the pure delight he had in viewing his surroundings.

It is even greater when more than two or more members of a family or group gets struck with the awesomeness of the place at the same time. You see them turn to each other and start to point out things, like the chandeliers which looks like Native American Teepees,wll chandlier wll animals front desk        or the small sculpted woodland animals on recessed shelves at the Front Desk, or the two seven story tall totem poles. But like most Disney things there are more than meets the eye, the rock layers in the fireplace replicate the layers in the Grand Canyon. There are so many little touches in the Wilderness Lodge that Disney gives tours on a regular basis to help you learn about them.

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Did I mention the music, well it is not typical Disney music, no African mammals singing “no worries”, no tropical fish singing about living under the ocean, and no English nanny extolling the virtues of the end product of cane farming when added to a medicinal product. No this music is from Hollywood soundtracks, large orchestral pieces about the American wilderness experience from movies like Silverado, Wyatt Earp, The Last of the Mohicans, of Mice and Men, and John Williams theme for Earth Day. I asked in the gift shop if they had the music they play in the lobby on CD and they said no, but they did have a list that they give out. If you want to get a feel for the music you can use the Pandora app on a smart phone and in the search engine type in “The Sons of Katie Elder” and it will give you a similar mixture (minus The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Theme which pops up from time to time.) 

The furniture is nothing fantastic, just your regular hotel lobby fixtures, couches, rocking chairs, end tables, easy chairs and coffee tables all with a western motif in fitting with the rest of the lobby, but there are plenty of them and they are comfortable enough to spend a couple of hours in if you have the time to spare. There are other places to sit and indulge yourself, chairs are placed around the upper rails surrounding giving you an raised views of the lobby and the other is the Whispering Canyon Café. The Whispering Canyon is a family style sit down restaurant with a rowdy staff who lead children around the tables for impromptu horse races and other Disney mandated shenanigans. You are a little higher off the floor and opposite the Front Desk. If you are looking to not be interrupted well this is not the place, but it does have one feature that makes up for any interruption, all you care to enjoy, bottomless, refillable MILKSHAKES, of which you can switch between Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry.

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On the other hand if you do not want to watch people closely and want some relative quiet but want to say inside but out of your room there is a small fireplace and seating area directly above the main doors, you do not have to see people and hardly anyone wanders through.
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Little and big items enrich the place; the hot springs which bubbles up from the floor and starts a small stream which ends outside in the pool area; the character totem pole outside of the gift shop (which according to Native American culture, the lowest position on the pole is the most important with the top being the least, so Humphrey the Bear the is the most important, followed by Donald Duck, then Goofy and finally Mickey Mouse; or the dozens of Hidden Mickeys scattered about the place (some even in the light fixtures).

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I will end with the fact that everyone I know that has been in this lobby loves it. There is a quote I dearly love, that sums up the appeal of the Walt Disney World Wilderness Lodge and how it is a place where dreams come to life, like a lot of the Walt Disney parks.

All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream. T.K. Whipple

 

 

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DisneyÕs Wilderness Lodge

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Coming next week Bellow Beach, Windward side, Oahu, Hawaii