News and Views around Walt Disney World-last week of May, 2014
(SPOILER ALERT: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train report)
Since last week’s update many things have happened. “Rock Your Disney Side” 24-hour day was a great success and tons of fun! During this event Disney “soft-opened” Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride to eager guests. They carefully explained the ride is still in the testing phase and the ride could close at any time, but that did not stop guests from waiting in line for it for several hours. I watched the sun come up over Magic Kingdom while riding the Mine Train. That was magical!
Let’s start with the “Rock Your Disney Side” first. It was a great event and the crowds were handled pretty well. I could not get to the park before late evening and expected to run into a closed Magic Kingdom parking lot, but there were enough tired folks leaving that those of us arriving were still able to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Guests were handing large Maleficent buttons upon entering Magic Kingdom. Crowds who watched the first night time parade were being funneled out of the park via exits that were opened to take them back stage and helped them to exit the park quickly and orderly. This left Main Street free of throngs exiting the park. This worked really well for those of us coming into the park and looking for a space from which to watch the second set of parades. Even with the work being done on the Castle hub area Parade Cast Members did a great job dispersing the crowd. Thank you Disney for making this a much better experience than last year’s 24-hour event. While we waited for the next parade there were still some stragglers exiting via Main Street and many entering as well, which gave us a great costume parade as we were able to enjoy seeing hundreds of guest costumes. I can’t tell you which my favorite was because there were so many great costumes!
The Villain’s parade was great! It began with a dance number by Frolo (Hunchback), Big Bad Wolf, Stromboli (Pinocchio), the evil Step-sisters and step-mother (Cinderella). They were followed by a float with Hades and Meg (Hercules) on the front, Pain and Panic on the back. Another dance team of Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations), Dr.Facillier (Tiana), Bowler Hat Guy (Meet the Robinsons), Oogie Boogie (Nightmare Before Christmas) and Sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood) made their way down Main Street. They are followed by a Chernabog (Fantasia)-themed float with Jafar (Aladdin), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) and the Evil Queen (Snow White). I loved watching the Disney villains rocking their bad Disney Side.
Managers still seemed to be caught off guard in some areas concerning where the Villains were to be coming out for meet and greets. There was no announcement or map telling guests where, when, and which Villains would be. This is the biggest problem I had with the event, and it also existed during the Holiday parties, Monster Summer 24-hour kick-off last year and the very worst experience with this was at Villain’s night at Hollywood Studios. There were some missing Villains that we hoped to see there but did not. We had a hard time finding the information we were looking for to get in line for the right Villain. Following the Villain’s “It’s Good To Be Bad” pre-parade we made our way to Town Square since we were told some were to be there following the Electrical Light Parade. There was a line that formed in Town Square across and into the Train Station lower level. The characters did not come out right away and we were all wondering if there really was going to be any there. Finally, a CM came out and shouted that there would be a line to his right for Lotso and to his left for Big Bad Wolf.
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That led to people who had not even been standing in line to go to the front of his new lines and those of us in line to scramble into one of them. We did not want to meet either of these characters so we headed to Fantasyland to look for characters there. We found a line all the way around the Storybook Circus tent with one end at the entrance to the tent where the Great Goofini usually resides. There was a manager and several CM’s standing there discussing how they were going to handle this crowd. We waited to ask them who was going to be in there. Finally the manager asked us if we had a question and told us Hades was the character this line was for and that we shouldn’t even bother getting in it because it was already 5 hours long. He told us Bowler Hat Guy was in Tomorrowland so we opted to go there. When we arrived we saw the character out greeting guests and a reasonable line so we joined the line. The character did go in for a few minutes every 20 minutes but came back out quickly. The CM’s were good at managing the line and letting people know the character would be taking a quick break and be back out each time.
The Bowler Hat Guy himself was very entertaining in between guests and with guests. It was done very well and we met him and headed off looking for some more characters. We found Captain Hook with a reasonable line and met him. Stromboli, outside of Pinocchio House had a pretty long line for a few hours. The line to meet Maleficent and The Evil Queen in Princess Fairytale Hall grew to five hours very quickly. We decided to ride some rides since there was virtually no wait for many of them. Some rides have a hard time running for 24-hours and either required down time for maintenance, or they just broke down and got the maintenance break they needed even if it was not scheduled. For some reason Big Thunder Mountain did not even appear on the list on the Times Guide we received so instead of running back there for a last minute ride we wound up walking into Fantasyland just to see what the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride line was doing. Surprisingly we were able to walk right into the entrance a few minutes prior to 6AM and moved about ¼ of the way through the Stand By queue. By the time we made our way through the queue and actually boarded the Train, we were able to watch the sun come up and that was such a magical way to end our “Rock Your Disney Side” experience.
Ok, you have waited long enough; let’s talk about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. When you first see it I expect you will be pleased to see a large amount of natural plantings and trees. As you walk through the queue you will feel like you are walking through a little forest. The fans in this area really help to cool you off. As you move along you will come under a thatched roof structure that has an interactive game in a “water trough”. The instructions tell you to drag the gems that are washing in the water into a basket made to hold them. You can match up the jewel with the empty space of the same shape. Moving on you come to another interactive element again using water which has different color lights and you “play” the light/water stream to make a tune. Inside the door that has “Vault” spelled out overhead there is yet another interactive game that needs players from three sections of the lines to work together to spin large barrels of gems. It is dark in here and when each barrel is spun one of the Dwarfs appears in light on the ceiling above that barrel.
If all of the barrels are spun Snow White herself shows up to dance with the Dwarfs on the ceiling. Before you get to the merge area of the line you will be asked how many there are in your group. The Cast Members then sort you into one of two lines depending on your number being even or odd. It seems to be working pretty well as they are sending full trains most of the time. When you get to the merge point parties will be sorted into the train car load spaces. The cars are made to hold only one or two guests. They have sculpted bucket seats for two and the lap bars are pulled down individually, per each person. This makes it possible for guests of varying size who are riding in the same row can pull the bar down so it is comfortable to their size. I have ridden twice and have not had the bar pulled down against my legs yet. The seats are comfortable and there are net bags in front of you to put your belongings in if you want to.
Ok, so we are finally strapped in, our lap bars have been pulled down, and we are ready to be dispatched out of the station. The train moves surprisingly quickly out of the station and down a short drop then a sharp turn where you feel the rocking motion of the car begin. Next we have a hill and drop. There is no clickety clackety sounds from this Mine Train as it climbs a mountain, just a smooth and quiet lift. Look at the view from up here! You can see a lot of Fantasyland from here, whoops, down we go! We race down the hill and turn back toward the Dumbo side going around curvy corners and then several twists that has our cars rocking back and forth. (See the photos in sequence below that show the rocking motion pretty good). We see the mine shaft up ahead and just as we are entering our cars stop swaying and we hear the dwarfs singing. Just inside is a deer pulling a cart with Dopey sitting inside a full load of gems and two diamonds in his eyes. The Dwarfs are more enchanting then I thought they would be. Their faces are digital audio animatronics and times perfectly with the ride audio.
For those of you who like the song “In the Mines” that the Dwarfs sing in the Snow White movie you will be happy to hear they are singing it in here as they work. Doc leads us in “Heigh ho!” and we see the shadows of the dwarfs marching toward the other opening in the mind and our train climbs the hill to that opening. When we emerge the ride’s pace picks up again and we go down the big drop toward the water fall, and have a great view of the Beast’s castle and Story Time with Belle. We plunge down this big drop and then turn back sharply to the right and across the trestle bridge, running toward Fantasyland, and then turning and feeling our Mine Train car swaying loosely back and forth as we move along the track. Just before reentering the load/unload area we ride by the Seven Dwarfs’ cottage and can see them inside dancing with Snow White. As you pass by the front door of the cottage, we see the evil witch cackling at the door with a red, shiny, apple in her hand. We then pull into the station where we unload. As we walk out we pass the front of the Dwarf’s cottage, and just as shown in the movie of Snow White, there is a vine growing by the front door. I love this ride.
I know some people will say it is not worth waiting more than an hour for, but I will want to ride this whenever I am in the park. I like having a roller coaster that doesn’t make me sick, as I tend toward motion sickness on rides like Expedition Everest. I thought with the rocking and rolling track that I may only get to ride it once in order to review it. If you have motion sicknesses don’t assume you cannot ride this, it really isn’t bad. And don’t hang on, throw those arms up and have fun! I think Disney hit their mark in making a family coaster for members of all ages, 38” tall and up. If you are looking for a wild thrill ride, don’t look here. It has great moments but this is not a Cedar Point thrill coaster with Disney theming. This is a family coaster meant to be enjoyed by young ones perhaps on their first coaster ride ever (and to them it will feel like an E-ride) but also enjoyed by Grandma and Grandpa who wouldn’t take a seat on Expedition Everest. The Dwarfs are portrayed so well and the audio-animatronics are amazing with them, and they tell their story so well on this ride.
I think the Imagineers did a great job and I love this ride. FastPass+ times were available on the 25th for the first time. When you go through the FastPass+ line you do not have any interactive experiences or fans but you do have a quick route to the front of the line. I highly suggest you make your FastPass+ reservations as soon as possible. The clock above the FastPass+ return has a pick and shovel for the “hands” of the clock. Look at all the details in the story that this ride tells! It is amazing what has come out of the dirt pile that started here 2+ years ago. This is a great attraction and you won’t want to miss it. It is still not on the map of Magic Kingdom but it should be there since it is having its grand opening on May 28th. There must be brand new maps coming out on May 28th that will show it along with the description of it. Collectors you have a short time to get those maps that don’t show the ride yet. And a short time to wait to get the ones that do show it.
Star Wars Weekends continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and if you are a fan you don’t want to miss this annual event. This second weekend Disney hosted Warwick Davis, Jeremy Bulloch, and Tiya Sircar. May 30-June 1 we will see Ray Park, John Ratzenberger and Taylor Gray. Mark Hamill will mark his first visit to Star Wars Weekends during the fourth weekend June 6-8, along with Ray Park, Billy Dee Williams and Taylor Gray. The fifth and final weekend, June 13-15, will feature Dee Bradley Baker, Cat Taber, Tom Kane, Matt Lanter, and Steve Blum.
Animal Kingdom had a big addition in their dessert category this weekend by adding Dole Whip ice cream at TamuTamu Refreshments in the Harambe, Africa section of the park. There will not be any Dole Whip Floats made here with the pineapple juice you will still have to go to Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom for these. Rather, these are the ones previously served at the Promenade food booth in Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival. It is a smaller cup, just like the one served in Epcot, that is available as the Dole Whip alone, or you can choose to add dark rum or coconut rum to it. The Harambe Nights hard ticket event has already sold out of all of its premium seating for the event but you can still pick up tickets for the regular seating. The event begins June 7th and runs every Saturday through August 9, 2014. It begins at 7PM with a Welcome Reception, beer and wine included, then a special presentation of The Lion King with a celebrity narrator starting at 7:30PM. Following the show will be a meal and street party served in the village of Harambe in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. Regular tickets can be purchased by visiting Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call the reservation number 407-939-1319. Tickets are $119 for adults and $79 for children. It sounds like a magical night in Animal Kingdom and a great beginning to special nighttime events with more to come.
I hope that you enjoy the special buntings up in celebration of Memorial Day here at Magic Kingdom that I have below. I celebrated by having an “All American Sundae” at Plaza Ice Cream which is vanilla and chocolate ice cream topped with hot fudge and peanut butter, whipped cream, cherry, and chocolate and peanut butter chips sprinkled on top. Enjoy the picture! I also went to Columbia Harbor House because of its colonial architecture, and had a fish planks and French fries basket with lemonade slush. It was really good. The fish was fresh tasting and the fries crispy outside and served warm. The lemonade slush was delicious with the fish. I highly recommend it.