August 22nd, 2001 - I've decided to give these old pages a new home. The content is old, but perhaps it is still useful.
On this page you will find various mini-reports of trips I have made to The Magic Kingdom in the past year or so. I keep the older ones around so you can get an idea of how the park evolves from year to year. Many of the entries you will read were composed in the evening after the park visit and uploaded from the hotel, as inspired by the Bank's Family Virtual Vacation pages.
November 1999 Magic Kingdom Infobits
A few things have changed at the Kingdom since my last visit in October '98. First, the new Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland is open. While I miss Mr. Toad (my favorite Fantasyland ride), Pooh finally gives Walt Disney World a modern dark ride. There are many uses of fiber optics and other effects simulating rain/water droplets, and the ride vehicle wobbles to simulate floating as well as "bounces" to simulate riding along with Tigger. Very well done! The story line follows Pooh as he dreams of getting his honey, and takes riders through a dream sequence with alot of bright colors -- the closest thing to Alice in Wonderland you'll find in Florida.
Over at the Haunted Mansion, the horse hearse out front was missing. Rehab?
Sadly, the Skyway closed during my visit and was not running the first weekend I was there. Bad timing, since this was my first trip with my new digital camcorder and I had hoped to take some nice shots from the cable cars.
An old-time favorite, The Main Street Electrical Parade, was back. Using floats from the Disneyland parade (which, if you recall, ended a few years ago and the bulbs were all sold off), the only changes that stood out was the lack of a sponsor on the main train. Even during off peak season, crowds lines up a few hours ahead of schedule to see this parade. Gotta love it! A MSELP soundtrack CD was also available, which seemed to be the same track from the Fantasmic CD available at Disneyland.
The Exposition Hall was open (formerly the location of the Walt Disney Story). The main area was a camera shop with various exhibits and "put yourself in the cartoon" photo booths, and the former theater now takes the place of the Main Street Cinema running various classic Disney cartoons such as Steamboat Willy. There were standouts to take photos in from various Disney features, as well.
The new fireworks show features music from Pirates and the Haunted Mansion. The Mansion track seemed to be from Disneyland Paris' Phantom Manor. During that sequence, ghosts are projected onto the castle and fly around -- very nice. It was shocking to notice (and video tape) during one fireworks performance that many pieces of flaming fireworks were falling onto the crowd in Fantasyland. Ouch. Bad winds.
Disney's FastPass was installed and working at Space Mountain, and booths were being set up around Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, and the Jungle Cruise. The system worked great allowing one to step up, put in their admission ticket and receive a coupon with a time printed on it -- usually about an hour from the time you do this. You are given an hour window to come back and walk onto the ride. In the case of Space Mountain, the larger right hand walkway was now for FastPass, while the stand-by line was the thinner (former cast member) line to the left. The inside queue area is not used other than one row, and a cast member takes FastPass coupons right at the left/right split. It worked great, giving one a chance to grab a reservation then go see a few other Tomorrowland attractions.
A note about FastPass: They only have so many to give out, so on a busy day you may find them no longer issuing passes in the late afternoon. This may become an issue during the summer months and causes tempers to flair. Regardless, the worst thing that happens is you have to wait in a line, just like always. Several ways to "cheat" the system have already been pointed out (and possibly exploited) but I am certain Disney will crack down on this during the summer months.
The Magic Shop on main street is now back as an expanded candy shop with all kinds of devices carrying baskets of candy around the ceiling, such as the baskets at Star Tours. Very nicely themed.
The McDonald's fry cart outside of Frontierland seems to be falling apart at the wagon wheels have been broken. Pity.
That's all for now --- more later! Be sure to check the new pictures!October 1998 Magic Kingdom Infobits
First, a quick note about the following Haunted Mansion photo. This image was taken out of a second story window from the seafood restaurant in Liberty Square. Since I really like the clam chowder you can get at the Galley House food shack just outside Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and I decided to try the Florida moral equivalent this trip. The chowder was good, as to be expected. I wandered up to the second floor (where I'd also never been). Virtually no one was up there due to it being a low-crowd time of the year. In fact, part of the area was roped off. I noticed a decent view of the walkway leading up to the Mansion and wanted to take a picture. I asked one of the cast members there, named Scott, if I could pop over the ropes and take the picture. He let me and we got into a conversation about working for the park. It turns out he is a former Universal Studios employee and it seems he keeps tabs on alot of the stuff going on in the Orlando area. I always find it refreshing to bump into someone who is willing to do a more than just their "job" (such as talking with guests, or assisting with a camera shot like this one). So, thanks, Scott, for letting me take that picture. It must be pretty cool having worked for Universal and now Disney. (Now if I could just find out what happened to the Tomorrowland rollerblade guys that were hamming it up so much last year when I visited. One of them clued me in on the coming of the Buzz Lightyear attraction -- wow, a rumor than panned out!) Anyway, on to the reports...
10/18/98 - Another visit to the Magic Kingdom. Unlike Saturday, the park didn't fill up by 2pm and turn guests away. Crowds were decent, with the longest wait times I saw being around an hour for things like Splash Mountain. After 1pm, most of these lines died down considerably.
I spent most of the day wandering around looking for changes. Pecos Bill Cafe is new at the exit of Country Bear. They removed the three animatronic animals that used to sing at the exitway, darnit! That was a favorite of mine from childhood. Perhaps they can send them to Disneyland and replace the non-animatronic ones at the Mile Long Bar in Critter Country? That would freak out the locals... During the weekend of the 22nd, Liberty Square featured wrapped light posts (corn stalks) in honor of the fall season. The outlying area of Frontierland (near Splash) also featured a display of bails of hay and pumkins.
There is a Sleepy Hollow caramel popcorn shop now in Liberty Square (think Cracker Jacks) that sure smelled great. The Jungle Cruise was closed (but opened back up on Monday) and I was told no talk of change was expected until 2001 or so. The Tree House didn't seem any different, but did look in excellent shape. I checked out the new Tiki Room again and noticed a few more details: When Iago gets "poofed" by the Tiki God and pulls back into the ceiling with a cloud of smoke, a few feathers drift down from his perch! Great stuff.
What else? Oh, the battery display at Buzz Lightyear had "Made in Glendale Califorina" on it. Cute. Hmmm. I took some aerial photos (from the Skyway) of the closed Mr. Toad and it looks like nothing external has been done, but construction workers were seen going in and out. Small speakers were sitting on top of the former ride building playing music piped in from the carousel.
On Main Street, the Magic Shop is gone, but I can't remember where it used to be. I did take a few shots of a storefront which was blocked by an ODV cart. That must have been it. At least the park looked like it was in pretty good shape. It seems they recovered from the 25th just fine. Oddly, the anniversary parade still goes on, but they renamed it :-)
The castle was closed on Friday and they started shutting it down on Sunday in preperation for the taping of a Trisha Yearwood special. Crews were everywhere, and the "stay out of the area or you may be taped and shown worldwide" signs were up. Fun stuff. Pity I didn't get to hang around and get some shots that night when it was actually happening. The park was scheduled to close at 7pm, but anyone who was still in the park could stay for the 7:30 concert (free) and also some rides would remain open. Did anyone go? How was it?
10/15/98 - Today I arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 4:00 p.m. My mission was to see all the new things before the park closed at 7:00 p.m. I headed into Tomorrowland to check out the all-new Buzz Lightyear Spin attraction.Tommorowland: Buzz Lightyear Spin
WOW! What a neat idea. Envision yourself in a slow moving dark ride with blacklight targets all over the place. Each buggy has a joystick that will rotate you in 360 degrees (slowly, and automatically unlike Roger Rabbit at Disneyland where YOU spin it...) There are two "guns" that have thumb triggers to fire lasers at targets throughout the ride. A score is kept, which is really neat too. The theme is that the bad guy is stealing all the batteries and Buzz is recruiting Space Rangers to get them back.
The outdoor sign is a 2D painting, as is most of the artwork on the walls inside. This seems tacky, but I know Disney spent some money. Near the loading area is an animatronic Buzz with a fiber optic projected face using the same technique done for Madam Leota at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. This is the next generation in application. Buzz's face can be seen from ALL sides and is fully animated. It looks like a living 3D cartoon! There is another Buzz towards the end of the ride, less animated, but with the same type of face. AMAZING! The ride itself features "Z" targets throughout, many of which do something when you shoot them, from flashing lights to triggering animations. This is alot of fun. I rode it twice ;) just to get the hang of target shooting. I must say, this is one fun ride! (And yes, there are some targets that are just painted on the walls and which do not contain sensors that give points.)
During the queue/pre-show, the theme song plays in dual channels. One channel seems to be mainly military sounding drums while the other is a synthesizer playing "You've Got a Friend in Me," which serves as the ride sound track. Neat. Some lights/alarms go off during Buzz's presentation and near the loading area is an illuminated "control panel" done in a comic book-style.Adventureland: The NEW Tiki Room
Next stop, Adventureland, to check out what the "new management" has done to our beloved Tiki Room. I've already read about the addition of the bird from Aladdin and the one from Lion King, and even heard the audio on someone's web site. I wasn't too impressed. Seeing the show, however, really was something. First, the outside barker bird is no more (sigh), but the preshow is still there. Voices of (apparently) Phil Hartman and Don Nickles (what are you looking at, hockey puck?) act as managers -- each claiming that their bird now owns the place! Co-ownership? Wow.
The show is all-new, but starts out more or less like the original (with the missing "Hello seniorita..." at the start, since guys run the attraction now). The initial song is ended abruptly by Iago (whatever his name is ;) being all loud and obnoxious. He is comes down from the ceiling next to where the white birds are. Soon, a more soothing Zazu steps in. Ziago wants to make the show hip, and there is even a joke as the birds explain they have been doing the same show since 1963. "Get a life!" is the reply. At some point, one of the gods rises out of the place where the fountain USED to be. She is a wooden carving with color-changing glowing eyes and she threatens to zap Iago. Great stuff, acutally, with alot of nods to the historical aspects of the show. Pop dance numbers of "Hot, Hot, Hot" are done, with the Tiki Gods getting angered and striking Iago with lightning. Poof! The Gods then take over and perform many songs, such as the talking wall faces doing a doo-wap number (Still of the Night) and many other things. Disco lights abound! It's hilarious. Even the former Hawiian flowers have glitter on them and sing along. It's GREAT! Hopefully I'll fill in more details later, but they end with a dance version of "Get On Your Feet" to get folks up and out, then go into an updated "Hi Ho, It's Out the Door You Go" in another tribute to the original. This was very well done, even though the two new starts are more "full and fluffy" than the older birds. I came prepared to hate this, and ended up loving it. It was alot more fun than the stale 1963 version.Main Street Misc.
The Photo Shop is gone (but I failed no notice what replaced it) and the cinema is now a shop. Sigh. They did keep one projector screen running, so I guess it is not THAT bad. The former 25th Anniversary greeting area (Walt Disney Theater) is now a much-expanded photo shop, not only selling film and batteries, but having tons of interactive picture studios where you can be inserted into Disney scenes and put on t-shirts and the like. Neat stuff, and some interactive computers are coming soon. They had Kodak (of course) digital cameras hooked to them, so we'll have to see what they do with that.
The castle is now restored, and has been retrofitted with thousands of color changing lights. I can't wait to be there after dark to see it!Adventureland Misc
The wooden tiki statues that play the bongo-sounding music (just outside the entrance to Jungle Cruise and down from the Tiki Room) have been modified to randomly squirt water and mist. They still make the music, but this will no longer be a great place to take photos at unless you want to get wet. It appears Disney is turning alot of things into water squirters lately. It really suprised me to see this classic fixture turned into a children's water play area, though.
Look for pictures at my FTP photo archive site from today as well as more posted Saturday and Sunday night, then a new batch the following weekend. Follow the link into WDW and then NEW to find them.January 1997 Magic Kingdom Infobits
It was nice to get back to the Happiest Place in the World (?) during the final weeks of the 25th Anniversary celebration. For once I was able to see the cake castle without the crane parked behind it! And, for all those who hated the bright Pepto-pink monster, rest at ease since it will be returning to "normal" soon.
This was the first "vacation" I've taken to Disney World since 1995. Usually I'm there just in the evenings while working in town, and maybe getting to spend a Saturday. I got to do quite a bit this trip that I had never done before. Upon arrival Friday morning I got to do the "rope drop" as the park opened. It wasn't at the end of Main Street like I always see on TV (such as when Rosanne or other shows visit the parks), but rather at the entrance of each section. I headed into Tomorrowland to hit Alien Encounter, hoping to avoid massive lines later on (which never appeared). Tomorrowland has a few minor changes, such as a new soda place with a large open area featuring a Jetsons-ish space ship above it that spouts mist. It seems each park has a new cool off area such as this, so perhaps they are testing the idea. At least it was very well themed, unlike similar areas at Six Flags and other parks. Also, it looks like Take Flight, which was formerlly Delta Dream Flight (I guess up until they lost Delta as a sponsor?) was boarded up and being reworked, possibly to become the new Buzz Lightyear (Space Ranger) attraction I was told about by a cast member this past summer. I can't wait for that one - Buzz rules! :)
In Fantasyland several shops had been remodelled, including a Mickey and the Beanstalk themed place with massive vines growing out of it! Very nicely done. Nearby, Mickey's Toontown Fair was completely open and the crowds were massive to meet the characters in the big top. Just for fun, I checked out the former 20000 Leagues Under the Sea area which has been repainted and is now another character meet and greet area. Ariel's Grotto also had quite a long line, but once there you had a great view under a waterfall of the old lagoon. The neatest thing I did this trip was getting to have a character breakfast in Cinderella Castle. For about $15, an all-you-can eat meal was had featuring eggs, sausage, bacon, cheesy potatoes, fruit, juice, coffee, french toast, and other yummy items. Roaming around were: Peter Pan (complete with his crayon), Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the Fairy Godmother, Alice, Snow White, Belle, and others. It was a fantastic experience, and we just walked up and entered with no reservations that morning! Special hellos to Jana and Christa, and Chris who was our server. Don't miss this if you get a chance. The castle itself is very intereasting on the inside, as you dine on the second floor ("41 steps up" or use the circular wooded elevator) and look out into the back of Fantasyland. The restrooms here are also quite fancy, featuring "golden" plumbing (photos on my ftp site).
Roaming around Liberty Square was Ben Franklin, commenting on the weather and asking folks if they read his almanac. The Haunted Mansion has some new goodies as well! A ghost hearse similar to the one at Disneyland is now out in front surrounded by a gate. Their hears is black, and a concrete path leads from the center gates up to the hearse, complete with horse footprints and wheel tracks in it. Also, up on the hill to the right side of the mansion is a fenced in pet cemetery with statues similar to the ones (or maybe exactly the same as) the ones at Disneyland. Inside, the attic scene has some updates. The popping ghosts now wear top hats and tuxedos (but still scream instead of shouting "I DO!") and a new "floating" bride hovers where she used to just stand a wobble. Very nicely done! Unfortunately, the laserdisc singing busts soundtrack STILL does not sync with the music track in the graveyard, so I assume they may never fix this. Also, the raven over the arches right before the hitchhiking ghosts was missing.
Here's an interesting Haunted Mansion page which has some fun "history" of the spirits inhabiting it.
In Adventureland the Swiss Family Treehouse was fenced up with scaffolds and a crane around it while it's being restored. Also, the Tiki Room is closed while it's updated to feature the birds from Aladdin and Lion King, along with some/most of the old cast. This should be fun! (And don't even think of complaining --- for ages, folks seem to get up and just walk out of this attraction during the show, so this update might help bring back the crowds).
Frontierland seemed about the same, but a plague of seagulls and other birds was really annoying. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw one dive down and swipe a pastry that was just purchased out of someone's hands! The "Please Do Not Feed the Birds" sign (with several birds sitting around it) also made me laugh.
Tomorrowland Rollerblade Crew - John, Mike, and Oscar from May 97. If you know if any of the guys are still working for WDW, let me know.
May 1997 Walt Disney World Infobits
ALOT of changes since the past summer due to the 25th Anniversary. They have installed TV screens at the Ferry boat landing running Disney commercials (in an effort to keep guests doing Disney during their trip to Florida). The castle is under construction again with yet another crane behind it, just like last August (darn it), but they fixed the top part real quick (it was all exposed grey on Monday). Alot of red light signs all over at ticket counters and stuff displaying park hours and prices and pictures of Disney characters. Ariels Grotto is open in Fantasyland with water areas for the kids and an indoor area to meet the Little Mermaid herself. MGM is under major construction with brick- like cloth covering alot of it, including the tram tour area (formerly the SFX tour), the "archway" you see NY Street from the tram tour, Muppets and tons of other buildings. Tacky. The moat at TMK is partially drained as well. Again. Epcot is doing the best out of all of them, with everything basically intact and alot of vegitation (flowers and the like) all over. Very interesting. The new Ellen's Energy Adventure (not 'Crisis' as was originally seen) is actually very good in my opinion, and has tons of laughs and a really amazing audioanimatronic Ellen "shoo-ing" a Dinosaur. Very well done. What else? Lots more. Virtually NO WAITS at Epcot and MGM, and only minor ones at TMK. Very nice week, so-so weather. Piss-poor attention to cleaning at the parks tho. Chipped paint everywhere, light bulbs out, and possibly the worst employee facial expressions I have ever seen here. ALOT of non-smiling employees. Very disappointing. Oh, also they have a large preview center (formerly the Walt Disney story) at TMK with a movie made for the event. Little stick on 25th Anniversary badges are available for free as well as a poster. They stick the first year you visited on the tag, so I have one with 1976 now. Neat. I have only seen a few 1971s around, tho.