Sensing the Five: Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth opened at Epcot (then EPCOT Center) in October 1982, and is sponsored by Siemens. It is a slow omni-mover attraction, themed to be a time machine carrying you throughout the events of human history, from prehistoric man to the modern era, and the progress of communication and human accomplishment throughout the ages. It is composed of a series of scenes of human evolution, made up of detailed sets and animatronics, a wave of sound effects, narration and a musical score playing all the while. The ride is about 15 minutes long, and takes patrons all the way up to the top of the geodesic sphere before turning the omni-mover cars backwards and returning patrons to the exit.

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Touch

While you can’t reach out of your Spaceship and touch the animatronics, there are opportunities for sense of touch to be tickled aboard Spaceship Earth. During the first scene, you ease past a video of a group of Neanderthal hunters trying to take down a Wooly Mammoth, and a breeze sweeps through, mimicking the wintery scene depicted in the video. At the end, as you descend back to Earth (backwards), your video screen comes to life and you are invited to answer a few questions using the touch-pad, your future soon to be depicted there based on your answers.

Smell

A few different smells are piped through this attraction, but none as prevalent as the one you’ll smell during the sacking of Rome – the smell of Rome burning is pretty strong and acrid. You’ll also recognize the scent of incense during the scene depicting Muslim and Jewish scholars, as well as that depicting Christian monks working on duplicating religious texts.

Taste

I know that this will be the most underutilized sense while on board a ride at Walt Disney World, but we’ll try anyway. When you’re done at Spaceship Earth, you may want to check out Electric Umbrella – decent as far as counter-service goes, and right around the corner.

Sound

The Spaceship Earth theme is absolutely fantastic, and one of my favourite ride themes in all the parks. The music changes based on the era you are visiting, and with the solemnity of the scene itself – the music is more subdued during scenes like the sack of Rome, and more upbeat during the invention of the printing press and the evolution of communication. The scene depicting the advent of the computer is alive with sound – a futuristic cacophony of the whirs and bleeps and bloops of machinery greet us in the most vibrantly lit scene of Spaceship Earth, seconds before we see a young Steve Jobs bent over a personal computer in his garage in California.

We can’t mention “sound” without a nod to the narration, performed by Dame Judi Dench. She’s the only narrator I’ve ever known on this attraction, but she is widely panned by those that remember past narrators like Walter Cronkite and Jeremy Irons with fondness. I like her narration, but could do with a more academic approach – the simplistic and somewhat inaccurate claim that the Phoenicians invented the alphabet (moreso that the narration says the Phoenicians invented the “A-B-Cs”), for example.

Sight

Spaceship Earth is a true feast for the eyes. The animatronics are great, and the sets depicting various feats of humanity throughout history are beautifully rendered with striking detail. One of my favourites is Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, as well as the scene showing an Egyptian at the water’s edge, pounding reeds flat into papyrus – paper. There are also the first scenes introducing us to modern communication – the telegraph, for example.

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Of course, there is also the visual beauty of the exterior of Spaceship Earth. It is an 18-storey geodesic sphere, greyish-beige in colour, composed of over 11,000 isosceles triangles and supported by 3 giant legs. It took over two years to build, and is a marvel to behold. Whether during the day or at night (and especially at dusk), the structure is a treat to photograph, and is second only to Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom in terms of most enduring theme park icons.

Here’s a POV ride-through video.

One Year Down…

It’s been a year since I launched WDW Storybook, the main purpose of which was for me to nerd out about Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in my own way. A writer with a passion for something that lends itself to storytelling is a dangerous/wonderful thing, and I’ve had a lot of fun bringing you stories and, well, let’s call them “artist’s renditions” about various facets of Disney World as I see them.

I’ve learned a lot since beginning this site a year ago. I’ve learned that fellow Disney geeks can get travel tips anywhere (and from more seasoned visitors than me!). They can get Disney history from Wikipedia. But, I’ve learned that a lot of people really like to see that they aren’t alone in having an obsession that they probably can’t explain easily to incredulous friends and family. That ineffable quality of Disney is paramount to these types of discussions; we can’t explain it, but sure love talking about it, and talking about it coaxes memories to the fore, and that makes us happy. My wife and I are good friends with another couple that have been to Disney World a handful of times over the last four years or so, and the excitement is palpable when you get four people in the same room chatting Disney World experiences and looking through vacation photos. Everyone gets a big smile. It’s fun to talk about.

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Take this quote from Lifehack in an article about loving a creative person: “They Will Never Grow Up: Creatives long to see through the eyes of a child and never lose a sense of wonder. For them, life is about mystery, adventure, and growing young. Everything else is simply existing, and not true living.” I think this sentence really perfectly elucidates the feelings that people like us – I may use the term “Disney nerd/geek” a lot today – get when we walk into the Magic Kingdom and see Cinderella’s Castle for the first time, or catch that first glimpse of Spaceship Earth beckoning from Future World. If we could step into the Darling’s nursery from Peter Pan, or have an adventure with Woody and Buzz, we probably would. I’ve enjoyed having a medium over the last year to openly talk about this, and to have people actually read it and agree with it. It’s been very heartwarming.

I’ve also learned a number of things about Walt Disney World itself – actual touring. When you wish to adequately maintain a Disney World website, you read a lot more material on touring and history, and you listen to podcasts and relevant music. You go through your vacation pictures numerous times to almost tattoo the park into your mind. It’s fun to do your own “virtual tour” in your mind whenever you like, whenever you close your eyes – whenever you feel the need to escape.

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The biggest thing that I learned, and that I hope to impart to you, is that a vacation can only turn into a bad vacation if you let it. Things will go wrong. You can do everything right, you can plan everything perfectly, but there are variants you will never be able to prepare for. Weather can throw a wrench into things, even if you’ve brought your Crocs and flip flops and ponchos and hoodies. 10,000 other families may decide to pull their kids out of school at the same time as you, turning a “2” crowd level into a “5”. The Canadian dollar may go for a swim in the deep end and never come back, as is happening right now, instantly adding 20-25% to your vacation budget. The key is to remember where you are. It’s to remember that you’re on a vacation and not a business trip. It’s to remember that while you aren’t looking forward to the Mastercard bill you’ll get when you’re back home, your daughter just met her idol at Princess Fairytale Hall. The elation you’ll feel at the little moments are fleeting and temporary and you’ll miss them if you don’t look for them. But, what would you rather remember and focus on – a snafu at the hotel or an overpriced dinner, or that quick view of the Castle just before you plummet into the Briar Patch on Splash Mountain, or that sensation of weightlessness as your feet come off the floor on Soarin’? Think less about being elbow to elbow with fellow guests during Wishes, and more about probably the best fireworks show you’ll ever see.

I think that a big part of the kinship I feel with Disney World comes from the man behind it all – Walt Disney. He was a guy with sometimes impossible dreams, but he even made those possible, through hard work and a determination to allow nothing to avert the materialization of those dreams. Sure, he figured you can’t actually time travel, but it didn’t mean you couldn’t virtually do it – and just like that, places like Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Spaceship Earth, Liberty Square and Carousel of Progress were born. The inability of regular joes to step onto a space shuttle didn’t stop him from dreaming of rides like Space Mountain. While he may not have lived to see many of his visions come to fruition, his fingerprints were all over them. Even today, we can see that consistent movement back to Walt’s original vision – rides like Carousel of Progress and Enchanted Tiki Room were rebranded to exemplify Walt’s dream, Walt’s ideas, Walt’s creativity. Haunted Mansion is his haunted house, not a cheap carnival walk-through. The Disney company could easily have gone cheap, or gone with easy after Walt died. His brother Roy, the man that helmed the Walt Disney World ship (Magic Kingdom opened 5 years after Walt’s death), was always the money guy. If anyone would have gone onto the cheap side, it would have been him. But, he realized that Walt’s dreams and vision were more important than money. He was right.

One more thing I’d like to say about my experience over the last year, and what is to come – progress was very important to Walt Disney, and it’s important to me. I can’t help it, I’m a creative type – I love to work on new projects. Over the next little while, I’m going to be working on a new layout and look to the site, and I am working on an e-book full of stories as well. I have a very big announcement coming soon as well, one that I’m extremely excited about.

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Thank you to all of you for reading and following the site thus far, and I hope you’ll tell your friends! Remember that you can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram and Pinterest. I also have a non-Disney website – www.businesshoursblog.com – where you’ll find a vast array of articles on a variety of topics – work culture, sports, pop culture, creativity and more.

Have a magical – and mouse-ical – day!

The Appeal of Disneyland

My wife and I were literally a few seconds and unabashed unpracticality away from booking a vacation to Disneyland for a few weeks from now. What stayed our hand was only the idea that while a theme-park view at Paradise Pier Hotel for a price of a standard room would have been amazing, a three-day trip doesn’t necessarily allow you to really appreciate that type of room, and it was still too much to spend. We wanted the standard room because it would have been much cheaper, but alas, they were all sold out. We made the right decision in the end, but the feeling still lingers – I want to go to Disneyland. I’ve never been, and I want to go.

Some people may be wondering why it is that I want to go further (about an extra three hours by plane), to a different time zone, to a smaller property, when I clearly love Disney World so much that I dedicated a website to it. There are several factors for me.

For one, there’s the Walt Disney factor. I’m a huge fan of Walt Disney. This was a man with boundless energy and ingenuity. He was filled with creativity and lived in his imagination on a daily basis. He dared not only to dream, but to dream big. I’ve always admired people like Walt Disney, so to see the pinnacle of his dream, to walk where he actually walked, and to experience the attractions that he actually experienced would be a big thrill for me.

Disneyland is full of “original attractions”. While Space Mountain is actually not one of them, I would really like to ride the original version of favourite attractions like Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Small World. I understand that there are some differences between the Walt Disney World and Disneyland versions of some of these original attractions, so that would be fun to see.

There are also a bunch of attractions that no longer exist at Disney World or have never existed there. The Matterhorn Bobsleds and the Indiana Jones Adventure aren’t at Disney World (though Dinosaur is apparently a reasonable facsimile); neither is Radiator Springs Racers, widely considered one of the best Disney rides anywhere in the world. The World of Color show looks amazing as well, as does California Screamin’, and I’m sure I’d get a kick out of other rides like Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Disneyland also boasts Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, a ride replaced at Disney World with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Snow White’s Scary Adventures is also still in existence at Disneyland, now defunct in Florida.

The hotel experience would be impressive at Disneyland too; step out of either Paradise Pier, the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian and step into one of the two theme parks or Downtown Disney. No long waits for buses or boats. Expensive, but seems worth it. If compared to a Disney World vacation, where a deluxe resort can be just as expensive per night, a Disneyland trip may prove cheaper, given that most experts deem 3-5 days in California to be sufficient while citing 5-10 days as the ideal for Florida.

On the subject of Fastpass, I’m okay with either system, but my wife and I pretty much used the old paper FP system to its utmost efficiency. I’ve also seen the way that the new FP+ system at Walt Disney World has elongated the standby queues on many rides, forcing many non-headliner or fast-load attractions to require FP+ reservations to board with any sense of efficiency – The Great Movie Ride, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean. This may not be an issue at Disneyland.

Of course, being in a Disney park that isn’t Disney World would inevitably lead to some sadness at not being able to have certain experiences. Disneyland doesn’t have Carousel of Progress, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Expedition Everest, Test Track, Great Movie Ride or Kilimanjaro Safaris. It doesn’t have Spaceship Earth or World Showcase or Animal Kingdom. No Le Cellier. It has Sleeping Beauty’s Castle but not Cinderella’s Castle. I would definitely have to come to terms with not being able to do certain things that I am used to doing and enjoy doing.

Overall though, I really like the idea of travelling not only to Disneyland, but to all the other Disney Parks as well. They all have something unique to offer, but I hope Disneyland is my next Disney Parks experience.

Have you been to both resorts? What are your thoughts?

Little Moments

Leading up to my wedding day, I remember one great piece of advice that I was given that I try to pass on to as many of my friends that get married now: the day is a whirlwind. Take a moment to stop, slow it down and let it all sink in. I think this advice can definitely apply to a Disney World vacation as well. Your days there can certainly be a whirlwind, but the memories you’ll take home are absolutely worth mentally cataloguing in as much detail as possible.

Here are a few moments that are some of my favourite that I have absorbed, and that take me back to Walt Disney World in an instant (mentally only, sadly!)

Sunset Boulevard (Hollywood Studios) – I love this moment: walking up Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios, the Hollywood Tower Hotel looming ominously in the background, palm trees standing sentinel around it. Along the way, shops hearkening back to the golden age of cinema line the street before signage for Fantasmic! greets the eye. To the left is the path to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster; to the right, Tower of Terror. It’s one of those moments where I know that no matter which path I take, thrills await, and I get a tingle of excitement that isn’t easily topped.

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Expedition Everest – There’s something uniquely inspiring about many of the moments leading up to and then aboard this roller coaster. Walking up to the Tibetan village-motif, and then through the winding queue where artifacts of Himalayan life are on display gets you into the right mood. For me, two of the best moments follow right after emerging from the queue; that first moment when you go out onto the platform where the coaster train arrives – you’ll encounter fresh air and the screams of the initiated. After boarding, your train rounds its first corner, and this is a cool moment too; the anticipation is building, and it’s one of the last moments of calm you’ll get before beginning your adventure. Two more moments are awe-inspiring too – the second climb into the top of Everest, where you can see landmarks like Tower of Terror off in the distance. Finally, there’s that moment at the end of the track, where you are staring off into the distance, wondering what could possibly come next.

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Dumbo at Night – It’s such a great moment to sit in your own little Dumbo, staring off into the night sky; it’ll make you really appreciate where you are, who you’re with, and what you are doing with your vacation time!

Carousel of Progress – Probably the best part of this show is that it makes you feel like you’re a part of the family on stage, despite the fact that Rover and Father are audio-animatronics. It’s worthwhile to look around the stage and see all the little details; the rotating partitions, the numerous Hidden Mickeys, the various appliances.

World Showcase Lagoon – It’s a great place to stand and take it all in. You can see all of World Showcase from there, you can hear the whoosh of Test Track, and you get a beautiful visual of Spaceship Earth behind you. It’s often an empty spot as well, meaning lots of photo ops (and the store there is replete with Duffy!)

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Cinderella Castle – Is there a better moment than when you first enter Magic Kingdom and see the Castle off in the distance? What about when you get around the Partners Statue and then walk through the Castle? To see the outside of the Castle up close, to see the water around its feet, to see the sun glinting off the spires and parapets – it’s what Disney World is all about.

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Haunted Mansion – if there is one place on property for countless Easter eggs, this is it. I love to slow it down; fixate on one thing per scene and really study it – the ballroom scene or the cemetery, for example. All of the detail that went into that attraction is something to behold, including the exterior of the mansion itself – the crow, the black wreath, the carefully unsculpted lawn – it’s all worth spending a moment (or several) on.

Pirates of the Caribbean – my favourite part of this ride is just after the drop near the beginning. You emerge slowly into a deceptively calm scene – the sky above you is a beautiful shade of dark-blue, stars aglow. Soon, you begin your journey between two warring ships, cannonballs splashing beside you. It’s a great moment.

Soarin’ – When your feet lift off the ground and that music begins, it’s pure bliss.

Take in every moment. They truly make a vacation great, and will give you memories for years to come. Photos are amazing of course, but nothing beats being able to close your eyes and seeing everything all over again!

What if Disney Bought Universal? (Saturday Morning Ridiculousness)

You may think it mad, but I live near a city where two media-rivals – Rogers and Bell – co-purchased Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and the Air Canada Centre. Crazy things can happen in the world of business, so let’s take a look into bizarro-world and see what would happen if Disney bought Universal Studios!

Harry Potter Cross-Promotion: It would certainly be funny to see Fozzy Bear navigating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as a Slytherin, his prefects being Statler and Waldorf, harassing him anytime he was trying to transmute a feather into a cup of tea. The Battle of Hogwarts may also have ended sooner if Phineas and Ferb were on the case. Headmaster Sorcerer Mickey would also have played a key role in keeping Voldemort, with Maleficent in tow, from taking over the school.

Men In Black: These guys would need to be shoe-horned in somewhere, seeing as their “Alien Attack” ride at Universal is lots of fun. Maybe the last scene of Small World gets replaced with a scene where all the kids, now dressed in white, are standing hand in hand with aliens and singing the titular song in various alien languages. At the end, you’ll get zapped with the neurolizer and won’t end up singing the song over and over and over again for the rest of your trip.

Combining Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with Revenge of the Mummy: It would be easy to do; just run the coaster backwards while the mine is engulfed in flames and a mummified Dopey emerges from a mine cart.

Other Exciting Fusions:

  • Add “Jaws” to the Great Movie Ride
  • Have King Kong climb Spaceship Earth
  • Replace all the animals on Kilimanjaro Safari with E.T.s brethren; this will also enable Animal Kingdom to give you cup lids and plastic straws
  • Swap out Disco Yeti on Expedition Everest with a Disco Hulk
  • Add Despicable Me minions to most rides featuring a villain, since they always follow history’s great villains – they can tag along with Captain Hook, Zerg, Captain Barbossa and Br’er Fox.
  • No day at the Magic Kingdom would be complete without the newest scene in Carousel of Progress: it’s the future, and Skynet has taken over. Only John Connor and the Terminator can help John, Sarah, Patricia, James, Rover and Uncle Orville.

Well, that’s enough ridiculousness for one Saturday morning. Join me tomorrow while I explore some integral “moments” on the Disney property!

The Things to Never Say to an Adult Disney Fan

A friend of mine recently shared an article with me on Facebook about the 9 Things to Never Say To An Adult Disney Fan. It’s a list full of nothing but truths about the assumptions that many people make of those above the age of training wheels and scraped knees that still love Disney World, as well as the wider world of Disney around it (because really, I think it’s difficult to separate Disney World fandom from fandom of say, the movies and songs). Here, I will provide my own opinions on each of those nine points!

“Aren’t You Too Old for Disney?”

No. No one is! For one thing, I wouldn’t really understand the appeal of spending thousands of dollars on a vacation to Disney World or Disneyland just so that my kids can have a good time. Besides, in a world of 9-5, rat races, unrest around the globe and dozens of little things to concern ourselves with, it’s important to set aside some time to just act like a kid again! You’re on vacation, not a business trip.

In any event, I’ve never been one to not act like a kid. My desk full of Legos should be an immediate tip-off.

When it comes to the movies, I don’t see a delineation at a certain age between “old enough” and “too old”. Are the movies entertaining? Yes. Are they good? Yes – consistently high grades are associated with Disney and Pixar films on the major movie websites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. Many of the films have great themes and morals that frankly, more adults can use refreshers on as well.

“Adults Who Like Disney Are Weird”

Well, I’m not going to sit here and argue that I’m not weird, but apparently this phrase has been searched enough to make it a Google search suggestion. It’s hard to ascertain what’s weird and what’s not. I think that debating the clothing choices of celebrities on the red carpet is just about one of the weirdest things people do; far weirder than being 30 with a job and responsibilities wearing Mickey ears and getting actively excited at the idea of riding a kiddie coaster with the Seven Dwarfs.

“Oh You’re Going To Disney? I Haven’t Been There in Years”

Please don’t do what the article suggests and get drunk at Epcot, but I do agree with the point that generally the tone of this statement is “I haven’t gone because I’m not a kid.” I have a co-worker that was beyond pleased that a recent trip to Orlando did not entice her children to want to go to either Disney World or Universal Studios. I think that one’s perception of Disney is directly tied to baseless assumptions and conjecture. If you have a friend that goes at a busy time like Christmas or New Year’s, I doubt their experience will be as great as if they had gone in September, so them telling you all the negatives isn’t bound to make you want to go as an adult when it means navigating those quagmires and paying the bills for your kids to have fun (and kids won’t always have fun the entire time they’re at Disney; they’ll get cranky and tired and difficult at times). The key is to do your research, find a great, non-busy time to go, and follow the advice of the countless people with blogs and podcasts that have done it before!

“It’s Just Too Crowded”

If you aren’t a teacher, there is really no excuse to go at a busy time like Christmas. Actually, that isn’t even entirely true – a teacher friend of mine and I were just speaking the other day about this, because he wants to go to Disney World and felt restricted by the school year. It depends on your school schedule of course, but schools in Ontario don’t start until September 8 this year. That means that even teachers have roughly two full weeks before that of Disney being very slow (and far cheaper to attend!) Go at a dead time of year and you can what we were able to do in our September 2013 trip – 5-10 minute waits for everything, Free Dining, and lots of time to slow down, smell the roses, shop and stroll.

“The Princesses Are Such Bad Role Models”

I agree that not all of them are great role models – women don’t need to wait for a prince in shining armor to rescue them – but things certainly evolve with time. There are many strong role model personalities in Disney films – both male and female. They all have their heroic moments, and they all have their failings – JUST LIKE REAL PEOPLE. Anna turned into a pretty strong woman, didn’t she, despite previous mistakes she made? I think that’s a pretty good lesson.

“You Know Animals Can’t Really Talk, Right?”

But wouldn’t it be cool if they did?

“Good Luck Finding a Boyfriend/Girlfriend Who’s Into Disney”

This is an interesting one, because I don’t see any validity to it. My wife loves Disney as much as I do, and a couple that we are great friends with both love it too. Podcast hosts that I listen to seem to have a shared love of Disney in their households. I think it’s one of those things that when one half of a couple loves something, the other eventually sees its appeal and gets into it too. Besides, any boyfriend/girlfriend that would judge you for appealing to the kid inside and letting your hair down for a couple hours with a movie or a few days at the theme parks probably isn’t worth your time anyway!

“I Did Enjoy Frozen”

It’s hard to not enjoy Frozen. It’s a fun movie with some good songs. Just like pretty much every other Disney and Pixar animated film! I figure, if Frozen is what gets people into Disney, and allows them to eventually experience the magic of the Disney Parks, that’s all that matters.

“You Need To Grow Up”

Nope! I am a somewhat responsible adult most of the time. Experiencing a little bit of Disney magic everyday – be it through writing this blog, listening to a podcast, or just seeing a picture of myself with Phineas and Ferb – makes me happy. There are so many layers to the Disney onion (the parks being my favourite) that it is so easy to lose yourself and be a kid. Deep inside, we all miss what it was like to be carefree, to indulge ourselves in the imaginary, to let ourselves slip into the fantastic. The magic of the Disney Parks is that they have the ability to transport you to a time when nothing else mattered in life – just that feeling of completion and happiness. Anyone that says “you need to grow up” just doesn’t get it, and they should envy us Disney fans for getting it! But, if they were to hop aboard a flying galleon to Neverland… now where can I find one of those?

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Disney World Confessions

On the many, many Disney World blogs that are out there, you’ll find a large swath of experiences and knowledge in regards to the myriad amazing things that can be done at the Disney Parks. You’ll also find a few blogs acknowledging the mistakes that many Disney die-hards and frequent travelers have made – and still make. It isn’t always easy to admit to potentially having done something in less-than-stellar fashion on a Disney World trip – these can be expensive lessons to learn! But, they happen. It also happens that experiences and opinions change over time.

I’m not going to really go much into logistical mistakes – many of the mistakes that Disney travelers tend to run into typically have to do with things like lack of planning, lack of knowledge and lack of preparation, and are easily corrected. But, I have my own “Disney Confessions” to make, and I hope that you will use them to explore more of the parks and formulate your own opinions on these topics.

One of My Least Favourite Rides is Mission: Space 

I love the exterior façade of this attraction, but have no love for the ride inside. I can appreciate that it fits into a grander Disney-esque theme about space travel, foreign worlds and the future and progress of man – themes championed by Walt Disney himself – but other than that, I don’t feel the same Disney-style immersion that I feel on other attractions. Additionally, this is one ride where the warnings actually do apply – it’s claustrophobic and will make you feel ill if you are susceptible to motion sickness (I’m not too susceptible to this in general, but had to sit down after this ride). Riding it on the lower-intensity green setting is something I will try eventually, but I wouldn’t wait in line for it. Also, this ride’s theme song, “Destiny” is awful.

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I Did Not Like Cosmic Ray’s 

Before you send me hate-mail, please note that I love Sonny Eclipse. However, the food I had there was just plain bad, and I wasn’t a big fan of the ambience of the restaurant either. Part of my discontent could be because we ate there during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, after Holiday Wishes, and it was literally one of maybe three restaurants that hadn’t closed already. Because of that, I’m willing to try it again, but only if I’ve exhausted all of the other quick-service restaurants I’d like to try.

There’s No Excuse for Having Unused Snack Credits 

The Disney Dining Plan gives you a lot of food. The Table Service and Quick Service credits each give you an entrée, a drink and a dessert, so you may not feel the need to use snack credits often. However, you can generally sacrifice the desserts you are entitled to with your counter-service meals and get a bottle of water instead (we did this a few times; not a great value, but if you aren’t craving a dessert for each member of your family, or they will barely be touched, a $2.75 bottle of cold water may be a better use of the dessert), meaning that you will free up your stomach for better snacks later on – some desserts at the quick service restaurants are uninspired at best. You can also use snack credits at the Starbuck’s locations that are now in every park – including on that $7 venti green tea latté, making them a great snack credit value. You can also use snack credits throughout World Showcase, including at the amazing Kringla Bakery in Norway (Schoolbread, FTW). And, if you can’t enjoy the snacks in the parks, cash them in for pre-packaged snacks at the hotel or on your way out of the park – you’ll end up buying something at the airport or on the road anyway, might as well get a snack with a credit rather than cash. So yes, you’re doing yourself a complete disservice if you leave Walt Disney World with snack credits left on your Dining Plan!

All You Have To Do Is Look Up (and around, and sometimes under!) 

Disney World is a treasure trove of hidden gems (and Hidden Mickeys!) This is a bit of a confession because the first time I went to Walt Disney World as an adult, I don’t think I even knew what a Hidden Mickey was. I didn’t know that there were entire back sections to most of the World Showcase pavilions – France, Japan, China, Britain and Canada, for example, that housed an astounding array of shops, restaurants and cultural treasures. I didn’t even notice the robotic metal palm trees in Tomorrowland! The point is, Walt Disney World is so much more than just Space Mountain and Small World. It’s a place to explore and feel. It’s an onion with a ridiculous number of layers. Even seasoned veterans will find something new! Oh, and in reference to the title of this paragraph – look under that mat in the Muppet Vision 3D queue!

20141119_112050I Will Probably Never See the New Queue at Peter Pan’s Flight (and it breaks my heart a little) 

I’ve never walked by Peter Pan’s Flight and seen a 5-minute wait. I’ve always had to use a Fastpass for it (old system or new). The new FP+ system seems to have actually extended the standby queue wait for this already busy attraction, in fact. So, it breaks my heart that unless I want to dedicate a solid 45 minutes or more to standing in the standby line and seeing the new interactive queue, I will probably never see it.

Where It Counts, Disney Isn’t a Cash-Grab 

Hard to say when Magic Kingdom one-day passes go for $105 now, but I stick by it. Hotel prices (at non-peak seasons) aren’t out of whack with expensive/luxury hotels in other places, and you usually wouldn’t buy a one-day ticket anyway (they get cheaper per day the longer you stay). Promotions like free dining are fantastic deals as well. As far as souvenirs go, I don’t think that items like t-shirts, hoodies and hats are any more expensive than at your local American Eagle or other retailer – in fact, my Disney World baseball cap was only $20 – probably two-thirds of what my Blue Jays cap cost. Purses and scarves are roughly on par with regular retailers too, and at $10-$15 for a mug, I’d rather get a Disney mug than a “World’s Worst Golfer” one from the mall.

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Now, you can definitely make arguments on the cash-grab side for hard-ticket events like Villain Dessert Parties or the Frozen Dessert Party. I would never waste my money on those. For those that have reservations about events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, keep in mind that for about $30 less than the cost of a one-day Magic Kingdom ticket, you get entry at 4pm (so about 8 hours in the park) where you can experience most of the rides, you get exclusive experiences like the parades (the Halloween parade alone is worth the price of admission) and special versions of Wishes, and you get neat perks like rare character meet-and-greets and trick or treat/cocoa stations. A good tip here is that the day for which you have the Party tickets, don’t buy a park ticket for the same day. Take the morning and early afternoon to check out Downtown Disney, or explore your resort, or lounge by the pool. If you have a car, you can check out the Orlando outlet malls too.

I Used To Be Indifferent Towards Soarin’ 

What has become one of my favourite attractions used to not be so. I saw the huge lines and wondered “why?” While I still prefer Test Track and even Spaceship Earth to Soarin’, it has grown on me significantly – the ride’s “take-off” – that feeling when your feet first lift of the ground, along with the music and that orange grove smell and mist and air on your face make for a sensory adventure that is not easily equaled, even at Disney World. It took me a couple times, but I do love that attraction now.

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Well, those are some of my “Disney Confessions” – how about yours?