the Backpack ~ Strange and Unexpected
when I post something from the archives, it involves bringing
back an essay or article or such that had appeared on the In My
Backpack web site and was removed during one of the updates or
computer issues over the years.
entry is a bit different though… in addition to appearing on the
site, it was part of the Travel
Trilogy project… or, more specifically,
and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road – Volume One: Florida.
that means a couple of versions exist… somewhat specific, almost
definitive versions if you will… the work that was on the site,
and the chapter that was edited and potentially revised from that
piece and used for the book.
material was originally posted on April 2, 2007. It was later
published in April 2013. Some minor proofreading edits and adjustments
may have been made while bringing the material back to the site
in this posting.
~ ~ ~
third park built at Disney World… and yet it has to be approaching
its twentieth birthday. (I looked it up… all information points
to a 1989 opening. So 16-plus at this point.) This place is home
to some of the most diverse attractions you will find at Disney.
Thrill rides (Tower of Terror, Rock N Roller Coaster)… innovative
shows (MuppetVision 3-D)… stuff for kids (Little Mermaid)… stuff
for adults… and one of the best shows any theme park in the world
puts on (Fantasmic). Now, to a degree, in some fashion
all of the parks here have that diversity. Heck… it’s
Disney! But Disney-MGM is something unique. Something that is
hard to put into words, but easy to see in person…
as I also believe about the Animal Kingdom… it’s because one full
day here will pretty much satisfy all your needs. Will it do so
perfectly? No. We missed the Indiana Jones Stunt Show on this
trip (I had seen it before, so when the schedule didn’t work that
was fine). We missed the Lights, Camera, Action! show. (The show
brought over from Europe that I really, really wanted
to see, but it wasn’t being performed often and we weren’t coming
back to this park for that one thing).
it’s because the attractions aren’t as numerous as at the Magic
Kingdom. That park can be almost overwhelming in what it contains,
while still being surprisingly subtle as you move around. Here,
the difference between the Tower of Terror and MuppetVision 3-D
is readily apparent.
it’s because the park isn’t as clearly defined and easy to navigate
as Epcot. (Come on… despite the interesting paths in Future World,
what could be easier to navigate than a big circle?)
it’s because the shows… from Indiana Jones to Little Mermaid…
run on schedules where if you don’t notice it from the moment
you walk into the park, the day will quickly slip away with you
having to cut one or two things from your plans. (Just like we
did on this visit.)
are all things to keep in mind. There is a lot to do, but not
as much as there is in the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. The park can
be difficult to navigate despite the basic entryway you know so
well (gates leading to a main street into the park, which is sort
a movie credits opening that I’ve heard attributed to Disney,
but don’t have time to cover here). And Little Mermaid may be
continuous shows, but it is shows performed in a theater and not
a constantly moving line.
that I know Tigg and I went on, because I was there…
Tours – It isn’t the Star Wars ride everyone
seems to build it up as. In fact, in Orlando the settings outside
the ride are probably as much fun for a Star Wars fan
as the actual ride. But it is fun. You are on a shuttle… a group
tour shuttle… that gets lost. A thrill ride… a jerky, bumpy thrill
ride… follows. It’s ok, I wouldn’t miss it, but it isn’t in my
top five attractions of the park.
of Terror – It’s an exciting free-fall type of ride based
on a Twilight Zone story. One of the best rides Disney
Movie Ride – I like this ride for a number of reasons.
It’s a nice, easy ride… not fast and white knuckle. It’s also
fun, the line moves quickly and you can sort of catch your breath
while enjoying a nostalgia-filled, quality production. The movies
they depict are pretty good choices. And moving around on the
tram will make you smile as you think of the actors and actresses
and movies represented. If I’m not mistaken, Disney did such a
great job designing Grauman’s Chinese theater for the entrance
here that when the actual theater was being renovated in Los Angeles,
workers were sent to Orlando to see what the place should look
like. This is one to appreciate for the details.
N Roller Coaster – Another great ride. A roller coaster
that Disney added a story to… including Aerosmith in the effort.
3-D – Well, you knew I would bring the kids to see Kermit…
right? Two visits to this one for me… on the same day.
Tigg, Kei and Kris sat out the second visit. I love this show.
It may not top anyone’s list of musts at Disney, but for me it
may just be one of the most creatively designed shows at Disney
World. It maintains all of the flavor of the Muppets while focusing
on new characters (something Star Tours doesn’t truly accomplish).
It has the elements and details to make you smile… Statler and
Waldorf, Sweetums, and an entrance with boxes of Miss Piggy’s
others supposedly went on according to my notes, and I want to
preserve them here, but I wasn’t on them during this trip…
of Disney Animation – The first of a series of adventures
with the grandparents and grandkids. While the older kids hit
the thrill rides, the grandparents were going over to see Bear
in the Big Blue House perform at Playhouse Disney. But the show
schedule or seating or such was off, so they had to walk around.
Hence, seeing Playhouse Disney and Little Mermaid led to also
seeing Disney animation and the Walt show.
Disney – Was showing Bear in the Big Blue House. Got
rave reviews from Naya and Tamsin.
One Man’s Dream – My Mom liked it, but the group said
it was really a time killer while they were in this section waiting
to get to the Little Mermaid.
Mermaid – I’ve seen this before, but only twice out of
five visits. I missed it this time. The reason I don't get to
see it that often is always the same... because the line, for
whatever reason, always seems amazingly impossible for this ride.
It’s a strange combination of things all coming together that
probably creates to true difficulty in seeing it… including scheduled
show times with limited theater space. It’s also a good attraction
for the kids. Whatever. If you haven’t gone to it, try to. It’s
good. Again, the girls loved it.
& the Beast – Another live-action stage show based
on the movie’s story. I saw it years ago and don’t feel any need
to see it again. The kids enjoyed it though, and the grandparents
really seemed to enjoy two things… the response of the grandchildren
and the ability to sit down for a show.
we ate at, or food we enjoyed…
– The dinosaur in the lake… serving ice cream. Not a must do…
but years ago Jay and I took a Disney Animation class that was
held in this park and included a short walking tour. During part
of that stroll, they gave us a history of animation and Gertie
was covered. The story is great, so stopping here now is a special,
make me smile, little moment.
Time Café – Mixed emotions on this one. In 1999
Terry and I stopped here with Ellen and Richard. We had a great
time. Lots of memories from that visit, including a picture of
us with our waiter and a story involving six glasses of Coca-Cola.
The concept of the restaurant is that you’ve come home, mom is
in the kitchen cooking, and everyone is a cousin… we’re all related.
A nostalgic nod is being made to Father Knows Best, Dick
Van Dyke, and so on. The family meal days. But here we go
with our story from this visit…
didn’t know what day we would be going to MGM, so there were no
thoughts given to making advance reservations. In fact, it was
as we were riding to the park that morning that the conversation
came up about splitting into smaller groups and meeting for lunch.
Terry mentioned the Prime Time, 1999 was recalled, and basically
we just decided it sounded good. Twelve people though. Big group.
On our arrival at the park in the morning I immediately went in
to the guest services area to try and make reservations for lunch
or dinner. I knew it was going to be tough, likely wouldn’t happen,
but figured it was worth a shot.
an amazing unDisney-like display, the representative
taking care of me didn’t smile and actually reacted kind of grumpy
when I told her what I was looking for. Basically, her mannerisms
and tone of voice indicated that I was an idiot for not making
such reservations sooner and for even thinking there might be
a chance at seating twelve people at some point that day. (All
of which I knew, and had told her I understood when I explained
the story, but whatever.)
once she opened up the reservation system, there was a 3:15pm
opening that would work for a party of our size.
she didn’t apologize or anything. She just mumbled… not kidding,
she did… “you got lucky.” She finished by telling me to be about
ten to fifteen minutes early to check in.
day developed in a way that placed some of us in the area around
2:45pm, so we showed up at Prime Time and went in to check and
see if we might be able to sit a few minutes early. You know…
a “we’re here” kind of arrival, hoping to sit around 3:15pm, but
if by chance our table was ready early we’d take it.
wonderful and always-giving-perfect-attention-to-detail representative
from the morning had booked our meal for 3:15pm on Monday, November
14, 2005. That created a bit of a difficulty since it was Monday,
November 7th. We were told that they would fit us in, but it might
be a few minutes.
a few extra minutes.
this point, the kids saw and heard a parade off in the distance.
You know… the parade they wanted to see in every park, but we
didn’t tell them existed because we figured we would be sitting
at a table out of sight on this day. The very same parade we dare
not leave the restaurant to go see since we didn’t want to lose
our place waiting for a table.
all… you know… just a few extra minutes.
4pm, Tigg and I began to get a bit antsy (yeah… antsy… that’s
putting it mildly for the wait). Go figure… no one in our group
was yet sharing in our fondness for the Prime Time Café.
In fact, I don’t think any of them believed our stories from 1999.
So we started asking questions and collecting names… the person
supposedly inputting seating assignments… the manager… stuff like
that. In case you’re wondering, “a few minutes” at Disney in a
case like this is one hour and seven minutes past the reservation
time you were given by the agent you inconvenienced in the morning
by asking her to do what she was being paid for. (But I’m not
like a good memory though. I still love the place, and would go
back without hesitating. So here’s some of the story that explains
why we wanted to stop here.
in 1999 when we ate here, our waiter was tremendous. He was laughing
and kidding around and we just had a great time. Well, I kept
finishing my soda. It had been a hot day. One glass after another.
So, eventually, he came over with a tray that had six glasses
on it and placed them all in front of me. Hysterical. Before we
left, we held a camera up to him and, after explaining to him
that we wanted him in the picture... after all, he was family...
we finished a tremendous lunch with a group picture.
is what Disney should be about. (And by far, most often it is.)
though… this visit? Not so much.
really need to know…
– Yes… it’s a great show. It’s a combination of fireworks, live-action,
scenes from Disney films displayed on a screen created out of
water, and general fun. Be early! Can’t stress this enough. If
you want a seat you have to get there early.
unexpected fun we had…
I’ll say the Muppets. Tamsin is a huge fan of frogs. So Kermit
was a big hit… and there is a great drawing of Kermit near the
isn’t really a stay away from concept, but it is a warning. Check
those reservations! Get specific times! Look at dates!
we had been told there wasn’t any space at the Prime Time Café,
we would have eaten at another spot… probably for less money…
and had a great meal, a good experience, and never given a second
thought to not getting a reservation. We knew we were asking for
a miracle when the day began. Heck, if they had told us it would
have been an hour, and not continuously “just a few more minutes”…
we would have at least known what was happening. Even if we had
moved on to another place and been disappointed by the reservation
error, we would have gotten over it. But no… we stayed. And it
all honesty, there are times when I wonder which memory will be
stronger in the future. It’s possible I’ll look elsewhere when
I return to this park. I doubt it... I’d like to think that while
I may eat in another place in Disney-MGM, this restaurant will
be there and I will return. And, most likely, BOTH memories
will become part of our Disney stories.
put a ribbon on it…
is a funny park. I’m normally one of those people trying to explain
how to only eat one meal in a park. You know... cut down on expenses.
But because it really isn’t worth spreading out over multiple
days, and involves a must-see show at night along with creative
scheduling to get to several shows during the day, in this case
it becomes something that requires a bit of planning.
passes? Sure… fair enough… but we had a group that traveled together.
We never went four people to Animal Kingdom, three to Magic Kingdom,
the rest by the pool. I don’t know if coming from another park
just to see Fantasmic… or using one of those spare days
to come in the late afternoon or evening… or some other idea would
have been just as simple or convenient as staying to see Fantasmic.
And if you attack it that way, this turns into a full-day park
that extends into the evening in order to see that show.