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A Magical Universal Disney World: There and Back Again (Part II)

A Magical Universal Disney World: There and Back Again (Part II)



We have some dinner, hit the Pirates of the Carribean Ride (ok-animatronics) and head for Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. Guess what, our ride gets stuck. Again. And we have to see Ariel’s shadow kiss the prince’s shadow in a maddening loop long enough to give you mental phrenesis. The ride itself is short (in theory) and doesn’t follow the storyline. Boo!

After a good day of rides getting stuck, some Disney nostalgia, several boring rides and Gaston ("Stay handsome!" he said.), we head home to prepare for you timeshare session the next morning and to charge my camera. And it turns out I didn’t pack it. My charger lies peacefully under my desk in New Orleans. I’m sad angry and disappointed with myself.

Additionally, I’m angry because the bad theme park food makes my body wobble. I long to feel the magic of childhood, but the only thing that makes me feel like a child again is the fact that my skin breaks out in places I’ve never had spots before. It’s not as dodgy as it sounds, I refer to my shoulder. My face makes me look like a teenager again and I hate the world (the Disney one, that is), the trashy food, and the disgusting Florida water. Who would have thought I would ever miss Louisiana water?

And while I’m ranting, let me tell you this as well: those little girls, whose parents pay a shitload to get their daughters dressed-up and made-up and hair-done into the Disney-princess of their childish choice inside one of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques, obviously named after a linguistic idiot, they all end up looking the same: ugly. Dresses made of plastic, tiaras made of plastic, eye-shadow colours that weren’t even cool in the 80s (baby blue or apple green), glitter-spray for the hair (more un-necessities from the 80s), and hair pulled up into tight buns that seriously CANNOT flatter their little fat baby faces. Just. No. And nobody seems to ask themselves why there are no boys in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Because nobody wants to be a nameless prince! You can find the odd little pirate with eyeliner-stubble on his cheeks, but that’s about as Disney as it gets. The lady at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique claims that every now and then they make a little knight. Questionable.

It is with this positive attitude that we listen to timeshare sales personnel from 8 to 12 on Wednesday. They cannot believe our defiance and how much we enjoy telling them “No” after each proposal (We are so good at this.). We sure get 100$ for our patience and a ride to the Animal Kingdom with a lovely cab driver. But to say it out loud for all the poor people who find themselves prone to say yes to such things: Beware of anything WESTGATE when you’re in Orlando! Start practising saying “No, thanks!” right away!




THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

The Animal Kingdom is truly... I guess odd is the right word for it. It’s less rubbish than it is just complete bollocks. (schwochsinnig) The “exotic” continents find themselves as disneyfied stereotypical mini-versions in here: Asia and Africa sit among Discovery Island and Dinoland. There are drums in Africa and Tibetan/Nepalese prayer-flags in Asia. 
"Mount Everest"
The few rides are not as much fun as they pretend: the Dinosaur ride lacks the thrills of Universal’s Jurassic Park-ride, Expedition Everest is neat at best although it even runs backwards, and we just don’t want to do any wet rides anymore: By now it is so cold that my bikini will most probably remain lonely and crying in my bag. Unpacked, she never even sees daylight in Florida. Dear Robert buys me a beanie and a black-and-white Mickey Mouse pin. I need it.

There is a Finding Nemo musical that’s fairly cool and interesting when it comes to puppeteering. It compresses the whole film into 30 minutes and certainly has one lovely song in it. Else, there is just so much in this theme park that I’m not interested in. The 3-D film It’s Tough to be a Bug is pretty funny and obviously scary for kids, as you can hear right after.

My highlight in the Animal Kingdom is the Pocahontas character. I like her for not being a Disney princess and for not being provided with a happy end by her creators. So we queue with the other kids in line to take pictures with the lovely, uncannily Hispanic looking Pocahontas. 
When it’s my turn, I refrain from handing her my little book for an autograph because I think Pocahontas shouldn’t be able to write, right? She’s an uncivilised savage, right? She asks me where I’m from and I tell her Austria. I’m surprised that she knows where Austria is (what a break in character, man!) and she asks me whether I arrived with the “white clouds” like her friend John Smith. I would be her John Smith anytime, and I tell her I arrived with white clouds – horizontal white clouds – and feel terribly witty. We take the pictures. I ask her what her real hair colour is. Pocahontas rolls her pretty eyes, runs her fingers through her long black wig, and says: “But what do you mean? This is my natural hair colour!” Well, sure gal. Don't ask, don't tell.


Having enjoyed what little the Animal Kingdom had to offer we head for EPCOT to do a couple of the rides there. 
Spaceship Earth (presented by Siemens) located inside the huge iconic golf ball is oh-so-pleasant, partially because Dame Judi Dench leads through this classic and informative journey through the history of communications technology. 

Then we start queuing for Mission: SPACE. I say start because we never make it in. In theory, this ride is an astronaut/cosmonaut training simulation where you are strapped in a capsule and centrifuged to experience up to 2.5 G-force. Obviously, people already died in there or after it, so they added motion sickness bags and warnings outside and inside that would scare an astronaut/cosmonaut enough to reconsider their decision. I am sufficiently creeped (crept?) out.

While we queue we meet a very young actress who tells Robert of the wonderful opportunity that some Disney-acting thing has offered her. And it only cost some 2,000 $. And if she passes some audition she will go to California’s Disneyland (to pay more money there). American Family #2. Robert tells me later it’s basically fraud. Oh and we don’t do the Mission ride because something is broken (tataa!) and we cannot be bothered waiting much longer.


On the way out we grab some delicious rice cookies made by Minnie Mouse Bakery.



THE HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS (formerly known as MGM Studios)


It’s Thursday and time for some Hollywood action. My Lonely Planet Florida claims that the Hollywood Studios are the least charming of all the Disney theme parks. I beg to differ, Lonely Planet. It is actually one of the coolest. There is a shitload to do here, so little time, and so many people: the weekend is approaching and the masses start to spill in. So first thing we do is get a FastPass for the Aerosmith roller coaster.


There are many rides, several live-action shows with actual people, and informative sections on Walt Disney, the man himself. The first show we stumble into is Beauty and the BeastLive on Stage because of Robert’s earlier mentioned Gastonification. It’s fairly impressive in costume and cast, story-wise not too much simplified, and the little girls squeal in delight as Belle strides out in her yellow-gold-glittery gown. The singing is so-so according to Robert, the nightingale.




We watch the promising Indiana Jones Epic Stunt-Spectacular which doesn’t keep what it promises and doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be a real show or a reality show. The Star Wars based Star Tours are sort of fun-ish but also lack spectacle. The Muppet Vision 3D is the same: fun-ish, but I’m so tired I fall asleep, making it now the second time I pass out in Disney World with boredom.


According to the Lonely Planet there is “decent coffee” at the Writer’s Stop. There is not. It’s so bad that I beg the lady behind the counter to add an espresso into my water. No, it doesn’t make it any better. And you would think that Florida has the best connections to South America and the best coffee-beans in the whole world, and yet they still don’t know how to make coffee.
The fun-est ride in Disney!
Finally, our FastPass for the Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith admits us to the ride. We shoot out into the dark of this indoor roller coaster to Aerosmith’s Love in an Elevator and Walk this Way (every car has a different song) and it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g! And here’s why it is so unexpectedly amazing (according to my BFF, wiki): “The coaster accelerates from 0 to 57 miles (96 km/h) per hour in 2.8 seconds (making this the second-fastest attraction at the Walt Disney World). The riders experience 4.5 G (44 m/s2) as they enter the first inversion, more than an astronaut does on a space shuttle launch.” And seriously, who does not like Aerosmith? This ride is a must-do!



After this great thrill we take it easy in the Great Movie Ride, which is not at all that great but fairly entertaining, and brush up our knowledge for the next Disney-trivia quiz that will hopefully never come in Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream and The Magic of Disney Animation. You’ll find something interesting everywhere. Pixar place has the coolest character in their streets: the little green soldiers from Toy Story.

D'aww.

For some reason, I really want to see the Ariel live show Voyage of the little Mermaid. It breaks my heart. Not only does it neglect the already disneyfied storyline of the fairy tale, but it montages all the scenes into one: Ariel with her fishtail sits on a rock in the middle of the stage and doesn’t move until the last minute of this bad, bad 15-minute show. Additionally, the girl who plays the mermaid is vocally completely unarmed. She is unable to hit and hold the high notes – she sings everything flat. It is a truly painful experience as Ariel penetrates the threshold of discomfort, again and again. I am thankful when Ursula takes her voice.

The Horrors of Disney 2: Ariel in a painful search of the perfect pitch
We finally do the Mission: SPACE ride – it really is far less scary than expected. Apart for claustrophobia, there is nothing to be afraid of. 
We also head for the nearly antiquated Captain EO show. Now, this is great: this short film was produced by George himself Lucas in the mid 80s, directed by Francis Ford himself Coppola, and stars a young Michael himself Jackson. The budget for those highly entertaining 15 minutes was some 23 Million Dollars, if you can believe wiki. It is a mélange of Thriller-elements sprinkled with H.R. Giger designs. FYI: That’s the guy who designed the Alien queen and is known for a biomechanics thematic style. It’s good fun and they actually raise the entire audience room to shake the seats. No waiting time is a super plus for this gem.
We head on out and back to EPCOT to start our mission of “drinking around the world”. 



EPCOT’S WORLD SHOWCASE PART I


This is great! Selected countries of the world have enclaves built around a lake. Each country has food and drink options and is supposed to look and feel like their macro-versions in the real world. It’s relaxed, it’s fun, there is nothing wrong with eating and drinking around the world.


We have churros and a Margarita in Mexico, nothing in Norway (wow, those poor food-deprived Northerners - winter might be coming!), a veggie bun and plum wine in China, one Bratwürstel im Brot in Germany, a toenail full of panna cotta in Italy (very disappointing food options here, too) and Sake and beer in Japan. 
Our bellies are stretched to their limit when the night fireworks above the lake begin. The consensus and message of this light and fire show is: we are one world. I know we are, but does anyone else really feel that way?


On the way out, we take a break in the United Kingdom and have ourselves a decent portion of black & tan and half & half at the local pub. Two American chicks clearly try to pick up the English waiter. We take our shuttle home and fall into our soft, king-sized American bed.



Friday is our designated shopping and souvenir day in the shopping area called Downtown Disney. It takes us forever to go there. I realise how cunning the Disney system is: you pay a shitload to get in and then you pay another shitload inside, meaning you pay a shitload just to see the things inside that you will spend more shitload on. Nifty!


Several shuttle busses and too many American Dollars later, we are back in the Magic Kingdom and head straight into Tomorrowland in hope to finally do the notorious Space Mountain indoor roller coaster, which should be oh-so great. But by the time we arrive, the waiting time for this attraction is some 135 minutes (!) and there are no more FastPasses available. We are not completely mad.
The Horrors of Disney 3: 135 min. wait time for Space Mountain

We do the classic Big Thunder Mountain Railroad instead. Again, too child-friendly to be serious fun, especially considering the waiting times.
 
We call it an early night and have a salad for a change, not knowing that the last day of our spring break would be a disaster and would bring inconceivable challenges.


We have a magnificent master plan: we hop on the shuttle bus with our luggage, leave the luggage with Disney’s guest Service, head to Epcot to do more drinking around the world, recollect our stuff and take the shuttle back to the airport. Here’s how it happened:


In the morning, the shuttle bus driver, a particular breed of asshole, doesn’t let us on the bus with our luggage, although the belly of the big coach is completely empty. We are allowed to bring strollers but no luggage. What I forgot to mention is that I am halfway in the bus’s doorway as the driver pulls away with screeching wheels. The wheels on the bus go screech and screech! 


The receptionist at the hostel-hotel, a particular breed of dim-wit, is tremendously unhelpful and averts the hotel has nothing to do with the shuttle service. Hardly believable since we had to pay a resort-fee which is primarily used to provide shuttle service to the parks. The receptionist calls us a taxi; I sigh, this is going to be expensive – somewhere between 30 and 40 dollars.


The taxi driver, an old man from somewhere that gives him an accent in English which I cannot possibly understand, and by the way a particular breed of douche bag, tells us stories about how he can find backstreets where he (ergo we) don’t have to pay the parking ticket for Disney. To cut a long, terrible taxi ride short, he still gets ticketed, ergo we and all in all we pay 59 dollars for this ride that was completely unnecessary to begin with.


Robert and I cling to each other to keep each other from crying or murdering, when a very friendly Disney guest person approaches us and asks if everything is all right. We tell him about the badness of our day and he asks if there is anything he could possibly help us with. We smile. This lovely and forthcoming person will forever be in our hearts as the “guy who cared” when we needed it most.


From then on it gets better: we can leave our entire luggage with the Disney Guest Service at Epcot, free of charge. Hiphiphurrah to those lovely people!


We make our way to the place we like most: the World Showcase.



EPCOT’S WORLD SHOWCASE PART II


It is still early in the day and only few people are in the streets. I breathe in the freedom as we walk up to the American Adventure, a show about the past of the American nation with film, music and animatronics. While you wait for the show to start you can have a look at the Singer sewing machine the Susie Plummer Pooler used in 1900. No idea who that was.


I also try my last coffee at a coffee stand in the American section. I blatantly ask them whether their coffee is good and they claim: “Yes, have you tried this other one? Ours is much better!” It’s a lie and Robert’s double espresso is the only thing remotely tasting of coffee, however terribly bitter. I give up.


The show is, well, it’s really difficult for me to say. It starts out with the arrival of the pilgrims, thus ignoring the fact that there were people in America prior to Western settlement (so this is how they teach history). “We, the people” refers to a limited group of people only. About halfway through the show and shortly after the Civil War, a Native American animatronic pops up, speaks his peace for about 2 minutes and vanishes forever. The show elements of animatronics and touching music end with a painfully patriotic film full of flat pathos. It’s worse than Pearl Harbor; it’s propaganda that could potentially level with North Korean efforts. Please forgive me.


We, especially me, need a beer in O'Canada and we get ID’d for the first and only time during our entire trip. But then, the young man from Canada is still earning his ears (?). 

EPCOT by day is terrific: many of the Disney characters actually reside in the different countries and we end up meeting more of them than on any other day: Mary Poppins and Alice in the UK, Belle in France, Mulan in China, Snow White in Germany, Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco. I take a ton of photographs of other people’s children.





           

And then, all too soon, it’s time to leave and head back to the real life.




So was our trip magical? Magic. Magic is such a wide term. One of the most magic things about Orlando is perhaps Orlando Magic. See what I did there? Slamdunks and all.


Jean Baudrillard once said that Disney World is the earth’s only true simulacrum: it never claims to be anything else than it is: a theme park, isolated from the real world. He said it is the existence of Disney World that creates the real-ness of the world outside the park’s fences, but in doing so, paradoxically, Disney World becomes the most real and honest place on earth. It is just what it is, nothing more than fairy land, a facade. The princesses in Disney are “real” fictional characters, never breaking with their invented alter ego (hardly ever), staying true to the vision of their inventors. Their lifespan is as long as their films. They have no past and no future.


If this be true, and Disney is in fact the most real place on earth, then it is about time the world beyond the reach of Walt Disney learned something about building a world, that is (seemingly) non-elitist and open to everyone.  For example, from what I’ve seen in Disney World, integration of physically or mentally disabled people in both staff and guest areas is possible, and I believe the real world could indeed learn from this. Making the world accessible to everybody, not just the young and healthy folk (the enabled?), is an ideal of fairness we should all strive for. I said “(seemingly) non-elitist” earlier because there is this little catch called entrance fee. The entrance fee is precisely why Disney world very much mirrors the American society on a micro-level: Those who have the money to get in will be treated well; those who have the money in the real world can make their lives comfortable, even in sickness. Those poor bastards that cannot make it in will never experience the illusion of equality that Disney offers. It is the entrance fee (to Disney, to Life) that decides over the acceptance of the individual in the respective environment. Money equals comfort. All quiet on the Western front. 



Here are Maryberry’s lists to end this entry:



Maryberry’s Orlando Boo-List:


  • The bus driver to Disney on Saturday who wouldn’t let us on although there would   have been plenty of space, Metro shuttle service Route #45
  • And while I’m at it, the rest of the shuttles that go to Disney, never on time, never nice
  • The guy at the reception of the Quality Inn who didn’t do anything to assist us in our plight
  • Taxi driver Reinaldo who charged us 59$ to go to Epcot
  • That person who threw paper ads through our door in our hotel on a daily basis
  • Alejandro/Alex at Universal for being a shameless WESTGATE timeshare minion
  • Those bloody parades that constantly keep you from getting where you want in the parks
  • The Despicable Me ride: such a long, long line for nothin
  • Ariel: all the best in her pursuit after the perfect voice
  • Coffee, anywhere



Maryberry’s Orlando Yay-List:


  • Terry, the sing-along-bus driver to Universal, what a cutie
  • Giordano’s, the Pizza place next to the Quality Inn that does stuffed Pizza
  • The honest little boy and his mum at Universal who found Robert’s wallet
  • The “guy who cared” when we needed it most at a Disney monorail station
  • Butter beer in Harry Potter World
  • The friendly staff at Guest Service, Epcot
  • Pocahontas, for being so pretty
  • Rose & Crown Pub, UK, Epcot
  • Mears airport shuttle
  • All those little minions that help making your theme park ride experience smoother, they are particularly skilled at Universal, a little overwhelmed at Disney
 
Maryberry’s Orlando Coolest-Rides-List:

  • Dragon Challenge in Harry Potter World, Universal
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Universal
  • Revenge of the Mummy, Universal
  • Rock’n’Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith, Hollywood Studios, Disney
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster, Universal
  • Captain EO, Epcot, Disney
  • The Amazing Spiderman, Universal 




 

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