Older World

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 08, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ah, I enjoy the long sleep-ins that I get to have on holiday.  It wasn't until a bit after 11am that I walked the short distance around the lake to Epcot.  From the hotels area at the lake there is a side entrance to the park, which allows guests like me to enter between the 2 main areas - World Showcase and Future World.

Basically the park is scizophrenic - these 2 areas are distinctly different; Future World is the famous area that forms the first half of the park from the entrance and features Spaceship Earth.  World Showcase is the back half of the park and is a collection of pavillions representing different countries around the world.  Each pavillion is staffed by young people from the relevant country as part of a "Cultural Representative Program".  Some of the country pavillions were funded by the governments of the countries that they represent, most by investors from those countries.  Amongst what you'd expect like the USA (which "hosts" the World Showcase), China, Canada, UK, Germany, France and Japan there are also others like Morocco and Norway.  The Norwegian pavillion is perculiar in that Epcot has as many visitors annually as the entire population of the country this pavillion represents.  The Norwegian government even helped to directly fund the pavillion for 10 years.

So back to the bipolar park - the World Showcase is themed to be like guests are visiting each of the countries and is scenicly built around a large central lagoon whereas Future World is an almost post-modern area that is concious of being a theme park, being fake.  Attractions like Test Track and Innoventions are aware that people are just people in a park going to learn about something and have some fun but then others like Mission:Space and Soarin' subscribe to the suspension of disbelief theory; guests are really going to space (simulators on centrifuges) or flying over California (moving seats suspended in front of an IMAX Dome screen tilted 45 degrees forward).  Add to this the dated architecture and large unshaded concrete spaces and Future World is stark, disjointed and sad, trying to hard to be too much.

After all this analysis I'll admit that I did enjoy myself, as there are solid attractions here.  Mission: Space did a great job at simulating shuttle launch and space flight with intense G forces, Test Track was fast, fun and interesting while Soarin' was inspiring and Spaceship Earth had been updated, making it a window into the past, their visions of the future and the modern day.  Oh, and how could I forget the Coke Cool Station, where guests can get free cups of different fizzy drinks made by Coke around the world.  I kept coming back whenever I was thirsty.  I just feel that these attractions are let down by a poor and dated context.  Future World has few attractions and focuses on shops and dining - I had beer, bratwurst and sauerkraut in Germany whilst browsing the German Christmas shop.  As you can see in the photos I was wearing my DDR pedestrian crossing lights shirt (thanks Mum and Dad) which a few of the German cast members picked up on.

I met up with Alicia, Emily and Ed in the park later in the afternoon and we rode a few more rides and caught up with some fellow cast member friends of theirs before exploring World Showcase.  During our travels, and search for ice cream, we engaged in conversation with a cast member from somewhere in Massachusetts near where Emily lives in New Hampshire.  This conversation ended up garnering us access to a priority viewing area for the nighttime lagoon light and pyrotechnics show, Illustrations: Reflections of Earth, due to start an hour later.  We finished with the Canda pavillion and their Circle Vision show, O, Canada, before returning to our priority area for the show.  The show was pretty cool, with lots of low pyrotechnics on and above the lagoon, fire, fountains and a centrepiece world globe.  Our priority area was great in that we had heaps of space to enjoy the show and no other people obstructing the view.

After Illuminations the park was closed and so we made our way out of the main park entrance to Emily's car.  During the course of the afternoon my 3 US hosts had discovered that I hda not experienced the wonder of Taco Bell, which they found amusing, so it was decided that we would have dinner there.  Taco Bell was next to Olive Garden just outside of Disney property and looked like a stock fast food joint.  The food was so cheap and the locals were excited by the exclusive to Taco Bell Mountain Dew flavour.  Despite the cheap prices I am yet to be sick from the food, it tasted pretty good (although its authenticity is debateable) and apparently the staff get paid over $8 an hour!  Lucky these guys like Disney otherwise perhaps they should work at Taco Bell for more cash...  All this was after the revelation made in the park that they only get 3 weeks paid leave after 10 years of service or something insane like that...

After Taco Bell we travelled to some of the Disney cast housing so that Ed could pick up some things from his place before dropping me back at the Boardwalk.  I farewelled Ed and Emily and returned to my room to get some rest ahead of my final day in the parks.  Waiting in my room was a note from Disney's Magical Express reminding me of my departure at 3:20am on the 20th - nice and early for my flight at 6:30am.

This morning was another glorious late start, with me once again on the bus, this time to the Magic Kingdom, at around noon.  I would've prefered to walk the short distance to Epcot and take the monorail from there to the Magic Kingdom but there is no path to the front entrance of the park (where the monorail leaves from) and I wasn't going to fork out an additional $13 for each day of my stay to have the park hopper ability just to walk through Epcot from the side hotel entrance to the front.  As such I was forced to take the bus all the way up to the northern end of the property to visit the park.

Upon disembarkation from the bus instead of heading straight into the park I boarded the monorail for an express trip around Bay Lake to the Ticket and Transport Center.  Interestingly the carpark for the Magic Kingdom is at this centre on the southern side of the lake while the park is on the northern side.  This requires all driving guests to take the boat or monorail around to the park.  The monorail loop consists of 2 tracks, which operate different services.  The outside track operates in an anti-clockwise direction and runs express between the park and the Center.  The inside track operates in a clockwise direction and also stops at the hotels around the lake.  I took the express because it is the most frequent (trains every 2-3 minutes) and it was fun to express through the 3 hotel stations, particularly at the Contemporary Resort, where the tracks run through the central atrium/lobby.

At the Ticket and Transport Center I transfered to the only other monorail track, which runs down to Epcot.  This line operated a more modest frequency with only 2 trains at the time I was riding, one of which was decked out in advertising for TRON: Legacy.  The line runs through the Future World part of Epcot prior to arriving at the station, which offered a nice bird's eye view of the park's offerings.  This line does however also parallel the main north-south road when running between the parks and it was disheartening to see the buses travelling slightly faster than us on the "highway in the sky".  The ride was a bit rough and the trains tired.  I think it's time for Disney to spend some money on this system, especially also at the Center which looked very tired and riddled with asbestos.

Back at the Magic Kingdom I headed to the outdoor sunset-closing attractions in Frontierland first.  I enjoyed exploring Tom Sawyer's Island and seeing the Liberty Bell steamboat steaming around the Rivers of America as well as hearing the nearby Railroad passing by.  This is one of the things that I miss most about Hong Kong Disneyland - there's not a large exploration area with dynamic surroundings.  The base of Tarzan's Treehouse provides an as yet undeveloped opportunity for this.  From this part of the park I did a lap on the railroad, which thankfully features real (LNG-fired) steam engines.  I was however shocked and disappointed that at several times on the trip guests can see outside of the park.  A particularly bad part was around in Tomorrowland where even guests in that part of the park could clearly see the carpark outside!

I didn't have much order to my visit, focussing instead on making Fastpass windows to avoid relatively short 20 and 30 minute waits at the major attractions.  I saved riding on Pirates of the Caribbean until after 4pm, when Alicia was due to be working.  I rode it twice without seeing her but managed to track her down later in the day.  We had a quick chat on her break, got a photo taken and I thanked her and farewelled her.  It was great to have here here at Disney World and to see what life is like for the workers rather than just the tourists.  Her friends are great and helped to make it a fun visit.

Highlights of the Magic Kingdom were riding the original Space Mountain, which is in a larger dome, with smaller rockets (6 vs 12 passengers) on 2 tracks, Splash Mountain, which is similar to Tokyo's but not quite as well done and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is a slightly more modern take on Disneyland's now deceased Peoplemover that I loved as a child.  Although Space Mountain had tiny rockets that prohibit the installation of onboard audio and the interior scenes, whilst numerous (which is great) were tired and dated, the tracks were slightly different and rough as hell, creating an exciting ride.  Additionally the station is in the far side of the structure so that there are lengthy undulating paths to and from it, which they have adorned with games and mini show scenes, which was cool.

The day was of course capped off by Wishes, the nightly fireworks show.  Thank's to Disney owning a large amount of land and air rights the park is buffered so high-level fireworks were used in the show.  It was a bit corny going on about making wishes come true and the lack of castle projections to which I have become accustomed to was weird but overall a good show, that the crowd went wild for.

It took ages to get out of the park on the bus because the Americans couldn't manage to get themselves onto the bus.  It was somehow extremely difficult to get on and move down the back.  I had to push my way down and encourage others because there was plenty of space.  It's as if they've never been on a bus before...

Back at the room I packed up in preparation for tomorrow's early 3:20am departure to the airport and am about to hit the pillow for a short 4 hour sleep until then.
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