Disneyworld Day 4: Magic Kingdom

  • Breakfast at Be Our Guest was an exceptionally unmagical experience because we had to orbit the three dining rooms for five minutes waiting for a table to be freed up. Clearly the restaurant operates on having a minimum of (say) 2% of tables being free, which isn’t really enough to avoid an annoying search. Part of the problem is that there weren’t many tables for just two people, which led to some poor resource utilisation.
  • I was also expecting a higher tech experience. We’d ordered online in advance so I expected some kind of RFID-powered location detection for the wait staff, but as far as I could tell, they just used the printed receipt we received on entry.
  • They did have an electronic ordering system for normal guests, which is… interesting. I haven’t seen any quick service restaurants at Disneyworld using ordering screens, but they’re using it for the fancier one?

  • It’s a Small World reminded me, in a good way, of Toyland Tours at Alton Towers, which in retrospect is a blatant ripoff. It has a similarly catchy song and fun, stylised design.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight was great! One of the best slow rides in terms of layout, sight lines, models, and overall experience. I wasn’t expecting that our ‘cars’ would be hanging from the ceiling.
  • Mickey’s Philharmagic is another one of those dated 3D movies, albeit with great music. I laughed at the comedy transition to The Lion King song, which doesn’t at all fit into the narrative framing device.

The Swiss Family Treehouse is based on the fake news movie rather than the book, which I loved as a kid. I haven’t watched the movie but the fact that they retrieved a miniature organ (or whatever it was) from their shipwreck is hilarious.

  • On entering the Enchanted Tiki Room, a wag suggested “robots are stealing real birds’ jobs now”, which is kind of the theme of Disneyworld as a whole now.
  • A few years ago, I had the ultimate pleasure of being shown around Disneyland by a team of Imagineers. Along with getting some Dole Whip, they urged me in the strongest terms to see The Enchanted Tiki Room, which they clearly loved. And you can see why – it’s a perfect example of a fully automated, immersive experience with music and environmental storytelling. And while the tech is clearly old, it works well and there are the typical over-the-top Imagineering flourishes of the clouds and rain outside the windows.
  • That said, this attraction doesn’t get a high score on my ‘Disneywoke’ scale. One could easily ding it for cultural appropriation, but more egregious is the lack of any speaking roles for women birds.

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: not bad, but not as good as Expedition Everest yesterday.
  • Tom Sawyer’s Island was fine. Nice little picnic area. Fun mines.
  • The Carousel of Progress is right up my alley – a set of dioramas populated by animatronic actors from across the 20th century, showing the progress of technology. Putting aside the massive issues of politics, race, discrimination, multiple World Wars – it really is a good reminder of how technology has genuinely improved almost everyone’s lives compared to a hundred years ago, with a good family-centric framing device focusing on big holidays.
  • I was disappointed by how they updated the final ‘future’ scene, which is obviously neither what Walt designed back in the 60s (since it features VR and voice assistants) nor actually futuristic (since we have VR and voice assistants today). Either keep it as Walt had it for historical purposes, or update it a bit more often.
  • Of course, the women were kept in little transparent modules while the man of the house got centre stage…

  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for lunch. We used Mobile Ordering for this meal and future ones, and it works surprisingly well (you can even use it for the Dole Whip place). A good way to avoid the queues although once again, it favours those who are comfortable with doing everything on their phones.
  • The unexpected highlight of the park was Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, which used similar – but I assume more advanced – tech than Turtle Talk from Epcot, this time adding audience video cameras, multiple characters, and a very fine 4K screen. Incredibly polished yet clearly fresh and interactive, this ought to be the future of Disney’s screen-based park attractions since you can go multiple times and get something new(ish); and it’s a unique experience, unlike traditional 2D and 3D movies (water and air jets notwithstanding). My one criticism is that because they’re on a very tight schedule, sometimes the acts are rushed and it’s hard to comprehend them.

  • Peoplemover: pretty boring, mostly used as an opportunity to promote other attractions. I bet the dark bits during Space Mountain were very popular as a make-out moment in the olden days.
  • Festival of Fantasy Parade had some fantastic floats. Nicely done.

  • The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History: a cute little show in the windows of a building beside the Hall of Presidents. Only slightly marred by the uber-fan at the front reciting all the lines in advance.
  • I have to admire how Disney has designed the shopfronts such that they seem separate and characterful and unique, while they’re all connected inside. Insidious!
  • Tomorrowland Speedway: they should get sponsored by a car company to upgrade this to electric.
  • Tomorrowland in general is a bit of a mess, stuffed with old attractions that are sometimes of historical interest… and others that are not. The poor showing of the movie couldn’t have helped things. I assume this part of the park is not long for this world, at least not in its current state.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: a nice relaxing way to sit down. Tells a good story.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid: also relaxing, but just a recap of the movie. Not really worth it – especially if you’re behind a guy using his SLR to take flash photos every five seconds.
  • Columbia Harbour House for dinner. It’s fine.
  • We picked a great spot directly facing the castle for the fireworks about 30 minutes early, which seems like a decent amount of time. The projection mapping worked even better from this angle, of course:

  • You can see a guy FaceTiming the fireworks with a little girl in the next photo. Obnoxious and yet also touching. This is 2018, I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Holy shot, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Hotel is fun. The cocktails aren’t amazing, but the decor and special effect and ‘acting’ when certain cocktails are ordered are a lot of fun. I wonder why this concept hasn’t been ripped off yet – maybe it’s a lot more expensive than I think, or perhaps it’d instantly get filled with assholes who’d break everything.
  • I do wonder how (or whether) this bar makes money. It has a maximum occupancy of 51, which it seems to achieve most of the time, but I counted four bar and wait staff, and two front of house. Six people is a lot for such a small place with prices similar to other bars, and that’s not including capital or maintenance costs on all the stuff the breaks.
  • On the other hand, they get the rent for ‘free’ and maybe they sell a lot of those souvenir mugs. Perhaps Disney threw this one to the Imagineers as a gift.
  • Tomorrow: Kennedy Space Center

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