Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Day #1 - Epcot, Pirates, and Princesses

Our first day at Disney was going to be a long one. We had signed up for a special Pirate and Princess party in the evening (starting at 7:00pm and going until midnight) for which they were closing the Magic Kingdom. Thus, for our first day we decided to hit Epcot and make it a relatively short day. We packed a lunch and headed to Epcot (although we didn't actually get into the park until about 11:30am). We hit a bunch of the attractions, the majority of which were not particularly thrilling, but a couple of them did stand out.

The first notable attraction was Honey I Shrunk The Audience. It was a 3D, interactive experience based on the popular Disney movie series. The cool part about this attraction was the fact that the entire movie theatre seating was movable, and matched what was going on in the movie itself. It was quite well done, and you actually felt like you were being lifted, dropped, and shaken. There were also times where certain things happened in the movie and the seats would blow air or water on you to simulate what was going on (for instance, one time there was an army of mice rushing up the theatre floor and jets of air blew from under the seats to make you feel like hundreds of mice were brushing alongside the back of your legs). The ending was especially fun (I won't spoil it for anyone who plans on going to see it).

The other cool ride - and my vote for best ride of all time - was Soarin'. It is a newer attraction at Epcot and it is basically an ultra-realistic flight simulator. You are strapped into a seat which is raised about 10 feet off the ground and placed in front of a huge movie screen playing various aerial scenes. The fact that your entire peripheral vision is taken up by the massive screen, combined with the synchronized control of the seating to make you feel like you are turning, rising and falling (and it does an amazing job of fooling your senses) results in an ultra-realistic experience that had *everyone* cheering - even the kids! There are times where you actually thought you could dip your toes in the water as you sail by, or that you needed to pull up your feet to avoid them being whacked off as you zip over the peak of a mountain. It is really a breath-taking experience and the best ride I have ever been on by far. It was simply awesome.

So that was our *day* in a nutshell. We zipped back to the hotel for a quick dinner and then headed back to the Magic Kingdom for the Pirate and Princess party. This was really Drew's only reason for coming - he wanted to meet Jack Sparrow. He was supposed to be available for a meet-and-greet and autographs, but the lady we met in the Monorail on the way in (she was dressed like a wench from Tortuga...and she happened to work at Disney) told us that we had best go straight to see Jack as soon as we got off the train and expect to wait a minimum of 2 hours! We made a beeline for the Jack Sparrow line as soon as we got there and to our amazement we were the first ones there! We were told to wait a minute, and the guy working the door went in to check to see if Jack was ready. He came back out and motioned for us to follow him inside. We shuffled into a dark hallway and I felt like I was being led in to meet Colonel Kurtz. We all filed into the room and there was Jack. Drew was so star-struck that he just stood there staring at Jack and never said a word. Pictures were taken - like this one:

...and we were eventually led back out, at which point Drew was so excited he immediately said to the guy working the door (who happened to be dressed like a pirate and wearing a plastic sword), "FIGHT ME!", and started swinging at him wildly. The guy pulled out his sword and started to defend himself and we pretty much had to pull Drew off of him a few minutes later after he had backed the guy into a corner. Here is a video of the event:

Immediately after that Drew was asking to see Jack again so he could talk to him. He obviously regretted not speaking to him when he met him in person, but it was too late to go back as there was undoubtedly a huge line at that point. We decided to hit the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as an alternative where we saw animatronic Jack no less than three times. We then hit a bunch of different rides and Rhiannon, Simon and I went down Splash Mountain. We ended up getting stuck inside the middle of that ride for about 20 minutes with a stupid Disney tune playing incessantly in our ears, over and over and over. It reminded me of my first EclipseCON at Disney Land in California... But the ride was soon fixed and we finished and moved on. I was surprised at how many rides the kids went on with me - the last time we went to a theme park they wouldn't go an anything! Around about this time the fireworks started. It was a really good fireworks show, although not very long, and the fireworks were coming from every angle. There were also quite a few fireworks that lit up the entire Magic Kingdom as they went up. It was pretty neat.

The only issue we had was Drew constantly attacking complete strangers with his sword. If there was a Disney worker with a sword that showed any hint of play-fighting, Drew was in there whacking away. But the worst was when a father and son were in the midst of a very tame, mock swordfight and Drew just ran over and started wailing on the dad. Sharon was trying in vain to pull him off and I came over just in time to grab his sword arm as he was about to decapitate the poor fellow.

At this point it was getting extremely late into a very long day and we decided to head home. Unfortunately we could not find our way to the exit. After we did manage to get our bearings, we were completely blocked from leaving the park by a parade. I have to give it to the Disney people - they definitely know how to overwhelm you with constant stimulus. The parade was just over the top, and every float had a flawlessly choreographed dance number preceding it. And of course, who was near the end of the parade on top of a huge pirate ship? Jack Sparrow of course. We spent the entire trip to the exit chasing the Jack Sparrow section of the float, with Drew yelling at Jack trying to talk to him. Unfortunately, Drew went mostly unnoticed but I think he felt like he made contact. We finally managed to get around the end of the parade, and make it to the monorail and later the tram to our car, and we arrived home just before midnight.

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