Disneyworld Day 7: Animal Kingdom

  • Lazy morning today, partly because we’re running out of things to do at the parks.
  • Most of the Disney resort hotels have a respectable if slightly aged arcade; ours had the best game ever, skeeball.
  • Festival of The Lion King in Animal Kingdom was a good musical, although I wasn’t sold on the pair of birds who stood in for Simba and Nala during the love song bits. I get the logistical problems involved in having ‘lions’ do it, but it’s just confusing to have birds instead. I liked the ‘human’ performers best.

  • Satuli Canteen in Pandora (aka Avatar-land) is the best quick service restaurant we’ve been to in Disneyworld. Not just because the bowls are tasty and healthy (well, comparatively), but the theming is great given it’s essentially a huge canteen.

  • Finding Nemo – The Musical had a War Horse-esque conceit of human actors driving the animals. It worked well, although I imagine it feels a bit silly for some of the audience at the start. Music was too loud though, and whoever’s on the follow spotlight needs to drink more coffee.

  • Kali River Rapids was good. In our boat, one person got soaked, and everyone else was more or less fine, so take those odds as you will. At least the new iPhones are waterproof now!

  • It’s Tough to be a Bug is a fantastic ‘4D’ show. I don’t want to spoil it, but it really exceeded my expectations. Possibly too scary for younger kids.
  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail again. Very peaceful. Lots of animals.
  • Ditto for Maharajah Jungle Trek.
  • We didn’t do Wilderness Explorers, an educational mega-scavenger hunt for kids, but it looked super impressive. Various cast members will ask you questions tailored for your age level, and you can fill in your answer book as you go along, earning badges.
  • Avatar Flight of Passage was one of the main reasons we came to Disneyworld at all. It works using an upgraded version of the tech behind Soarin’ – in other words, you’re suspended on a robot arm in front of a massive 3D screen, with movement and wind and smells synced to what you see. It’s a sensational experience and you really feel the loops and dips of your flight. I was a little disappointed that we were sat right at the end of the row as it meant the visuals and 3D were slightly distorted.
  • I really wonder how well Flight of Passage will age. Within 5-10 years, consumer VR headsets will far exceed the visual fidelity and immersion of most 3D screens, including Disney’s best – try as they might, they can’t stop me from seeing the edges of their big screen, not to mention the distortion. Of course, we won’t all have robotic seats or wind machines at home, but I still think this 3D tech is not long for this world.
  • DINOSAUR was a good contrast in that it felt like the Flight of Passage of the 90s. When it launched, I imagine it was very popular and high tech, and even now it has  more motion and environmental depth than you’d expect from a not-so-slow ride. Even the premise is similar to Flight of Passage, albeit done in an now-cheesy 90s style. This just goes to show how po-faced Avatar is, I guess.
  • Once again, Disney’s mostly-suppressed educational impulses burst into view in the DINOSAUR queue, with several fine displays.

  • Tree of Life Awakenings was fine. Not worth hanging around for.

  • Dinner at Jiko was not up to our expectations. Let me preface this account by saying that I realise there are far worse things than a bad expensive dinner; and also that I am generally not one to complain about bad service. So. Jiko is one of Disney’s ‘signature’ dining experiences, which means that it has Michelin Star-level prices. Since it’s Disney, I know their profit margin will not allow for Michelin Star-level service or quality, but I’d still expect it to be a good restaurant.
  • And the food was indeed really good. But we were met with a parade of mistakes: being taken to the wrong table and having to hang out in the middle of restaurant lamely while they found another table; being sat between two tables of kids (yes, it’s a family restaurant, but it’s not ideal; don’t tweet at me though); our server not taking our order correctly; and three servers trying to give us the wrong food. Any one or even two of those things is understandable if regrettable from a good restaurant, but all of them put together is either incredibly bad luck, or a sign of larger problems.
  • I imagined what my dad would do in this situation, which would be to have a quiet word with the manager in a “it pains me to say this but…” manner, with no explicit expectations of any compensation. So I did the same, while taking utmost pains not to criticise anyone in particular, and to say that everyone had been very polite so far. The manager, to her credit, was very sympathetic and took care of our drinks and dessert. Still, I wasn’t overjoyed as I’d have preferred that none of this was necessary.
  • tl;dr: you can have bad experiences in even the most expensive restaurants in Disneyworld.

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