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September 2002 Trip Report -- Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando

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This is a trip report from September 2002, back when I was a drive-by poster. I spent a week in Orlando, then a week in New Orleans. The New Orleans page is a Road Trip page, and still hasn't been completely finished, but the pictures are there... :-) As I update the formatting for this page, it dates me a bit. Ah, well, it was 10 years ago. On with the show!


This would be my sixth trip to Walt Disney World, but the first time staying on-site, using Disney Transportation, and even making a PS...

It would also mark the trip where I completely abandoned film and my photography went completely digital.

I also stray off into Universal Orlandoland, where everything was a comparison to Disney.

Every word and typo (except the pictures and their captions) is from that 2002 post. I could have made it a picture report, but I decided to keep it original...

Caribbean Beach Resort
Caribbean Beach Resort -- My first time on-site...
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 1 (of 8)
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:15:24 -0500

I usually don't do trip reports, since my video and now digital camera pretty much tells the story for me in picture, sound and motion; all time stamped and documented. But this was probably one of my more unusual trips, not only at Disney, but I really explored Universal, too. I thought I'd share... :-)

The report is wordy, but accurate. I've tried to keep all the tenses consistent, but I've probably failed miserably. Oh, and if it sounds like sarcasm, it probably is. :-)


Start Keane's Sept 2002 Trip Report Part 1

It's late July 2002. Fall vacation time is creeping up.

What to do? Someplace I hadn't been before. Death Valley immediately sprang to mind (yes, I'm going to make it there someday (and I did in 2005.)) but it's a three-day drive. Six long days on the road there and back. Not appealing.

See, I don't fly if I don't have too. I haven't flown in 15 years. I don't mind the flying; it's the airports I hate. Ever since a snowstorm in Chicago screwed up my flight between New Jersey and Dallas. Now, I *live* in Chicago, thought I'd avoided the mess, and it affects me 800 miles away. I could have gotten $500 if I gave up my seat, but I had to catch a connecting flight to another client in the morning. What a wonderful... But I digress, and to conclude, I think the drive *is* part of my vacation. There's a lot to see out there that you can't from 30,000 feet.

New Orleans sprang to mind. I haven't been there. I should go there before a hurricane takes out the seedier side of town. A friend of mine wants to go, but can only go for a week.

I wanna get out of town for at least two weeks. What to do? Well, let's see, I have this brand new digital camera I want to try out. (A Canon G2, if you're curious.) Where can I use it where people won't call the FBI on me? Disney World! My annual pass is still good, so let's do a cheap vacation.

Call an old friend of mine who used to live in Chicago, Bruce, who now lives near Tampa. I'm comin' down. Will the wife let you free for a few days? Yes. (Y'all have to understand, he's got a two and a three year old...) I'll let him know the schedule. General time frame, the week after Labor Day.

Get on Disney's site. What's this? Spectromagic on Sat, Aug. 31 but not on Sunday? Fantasy in the Sky on Sunday, but not Saturday? And Magic Kingdom closes at 6:00pm the rest of the week? Okay, just obstacles to plan around. So, I need to get there Saturday afternoon, get into Magic Kingdom and tape Spectromagic, then in Magic Kingdom again Sunday night to tape Fantasy In The Sky. Everything else is flexible.

Where to stay? I've never stayed on-site. Current annual pass rates are higher than the place I usually stay, but not higher than peak season rates I've paid. Stay on-site? What the heck. $115 a night. More than I wanted to spend, but it'll be a new experience. Universal? I've never been to IOA (neither had Bruce), and I've wanted to waste more aliens at MIB... Wow. On-site hotels are EXPENSIVE. Expedia can get me two nights at the Royal Pacific Resort for $150 a night. What a deal. Booked it anyway. The front-of-the-line passes just seem too good to pass up for the limited time I'd be there.

Call Bruce back. I'll be there Aug 31 through Sep 5. On the road Sep 6 to New Orleans, be back home by Sep 13. He can join me Sep2 through Sep4. Can also probably stop by the afternoon of Sep5 after work. Locals...

July 31: Receive confirmation from Caribbean Beach Resort, for the times I want and the price I expected.

Week of August 18th. Get a slick letter from Disney. It's assuming that it's the first time I'm going to Disney World. Incorrect, this would be number six, but the first time I'll be staying on-site. But it does seem to be a personalized letter. Things are on it that I vaguely remember talking about with the Cast Member when I made my reservation. I suppose it's not hard with a color laser writer, some good stock paper, and a good Disney profiling system that gets fed from the Cast Member during the reservation conversation.


Day 0 - Almost ready!
Aug 29: Edouard? What the heck is an Edouard?


Day 1 - On the Road
Aug 30, 2002: Some rain around Nashville, otherwise a pretty good travel day. It's almost Labor Day, and most of the construction has been put aside. At some McDonalds in Tennessee, there's a guarantee of getting you your food in 30 seconds. I go through the drive through. I know how they meet the 30-second deadline. They don't give you the right order. I'm already 10 miles down I-24 before I find out. (Sorry, had to vent.) This happens to me again at a different brand in a different place. I learn to go inside and place my order to go, and check it before I leave. Made it to Cartersville, GA, about 685 miles. I don't need to push it. I'm not in a hurry. Besides, why would I want to suffer through Atlanta's Friday afternoon traffic jams? (At least I assume Atlanta has the same afternoon traffic jams that Chicago does.)


End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 1
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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Once Upon a Toy
Once Upon a Toy was brand new...
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 2 (of 8)
Lines: 147
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:17:45 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 2

Day 2 - Walt Disney World - On the Road / Caribbean Beach Resort / Downtown Disney
Aug 31, 2002: Rained like heck (I'd substitute a better word than 'heck' if this wasn't a Disney newsgroup) as soon as I crossed the Florida border. I got video of the rain falling around the sign that says "Welcome to the Sunshine State!"

I really don't get psyched about a Disney World trip until I turn onto the Florida Turnpike from I-75. The little boy in me keeps asking if we're there yet and keeps pushing the gas pedal down. No important news, like the warning of a road crew working on a sinkhole, like the last time I was through here. About 40 miles into the turnpike, my radar detector explodes in sound, and some poor guy in a Honda on the other side of the road gets pulled over. I hate speeding taxes.

I negotiated all the exits correctly this time, and arrived on-property about Noon. I blindly follow the "Epcot Resort Area" signs, until I come across the Caribbean Beach Resort. Said hello to the guard, found the Custom House and checked in, three hours before check-in. Had a room, no problem. I was on the second floor in Jamaica 42. Darn. (Again, I'd substitute a better word...) Quite a hike from the parking lot and the bus stop. I even paid extra for the lake view room, which added to the distance. Figures. The view *was* better than the parking lot.

Got everything into the room. A sheet of paper awaits me on the table:

Dear Guest,

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has issued a medical alert concerning a mosquito-borne virus called West Nile virus...

I laugh. Florida ain't got nothin' on Illinois. (I stole the letter. I figured they were closing the place down soon after I left.) I also saw the vaunted soap and shampoo that everyone talks about. "Everybody neat and pretty?" I wonder how many towels would be stolen if they had a Mickey on it...

Go through the stuff I got from the front desk. Where to find everything around the resort, and condensed Times Guides of all the parks and events. They're for 9/1 to 9/15, and it's 8/31. Well, I'm going to Downtown Disney anyway, I'll ask there.

A fridge would be nice, so I called housekeeping and asked for one. No problem. I had things to do, so I left a tip for housekeeping, and left.
Went to Downtown Disney. Stopped in at Guest Relations. It's August 31st and all the Times Guides are for 9/1-9/7. Hmmm. I've been here before. Have to ask the Cast Member what time Spectromagic is on tonight, and Spectromagic *will* be on tomorrow night. Disney's web site lied...

Did some requisite shopping at the stores in Marketplace (not a whole lot new since I was there in, uh, March 2002), except for Once Upon A Toy. It was under construction the last time I was down here. Seriously considered buying a monorail and track, and put together a circuit that hangs from the ceiling in my computer room. Decided against it, but I'm still thinking about it... :-) I did buy the Walt Disney World Monopoly set and a travel scrabble set. I have a travel scrabble game someplace, but it's awkward to play on, and it's not very compact. This one is even supposed to allow you to fold a game in progress up and continue it later.

The big open-air kiosk that used to be the toy store is now a pin store. Whoa. Lots of pins, lots of people collecting (read 'buying') 'em too. Brings to mind trading cards and beanie babies.

I went into Ghirardelli's, inhaled deeply and gained three pounds. (Really, I swear.) I decided I'd be consuming enough calories in the next couple of weeks, and reluctantly left. (As my swamp tour guide in Louisiana said, "If it ain't fried, it ain't Cajun.")

Stopped in at the Days of Christmas, hoping they might have the 2003 Christmas mugs. Nope. Oh well. What? Christmas 2002 hasn't happened yet?

The Art of Disney had a new Villains poster, and a SpectroMagic CD. Well, they got me for the Main Street Electrical Parade CD, why not the SpectroMagic CD? Another $20 changes hands.

After figuring I'd done enough to enrich Disney's stock, I returned back to my room. Yep, fridge was there, on and already cold. Stocked it with the pop and water I had in my cooler, as well as the case of assorted drinks I packed with me. A perk when you drive. You can bring lots more stuff. :-)

Time for a late lunch. Take a walk over to the food court. Checked out the quiet pool. Nice, but who has time to lounge by the pool?

There's an island I have to cross, Parrot Cay. As I cross the first bridge, I look into the water. You can see small minnows near the shore. If there's small fish, there's bigger ones. Don't see any though.

There's one part of the path that leads under a canopy of bamboo. The path is covered with bird droppings, pretty disgusting. I can't see or hear any birds above me, but it does remind me I need to buy a hat. My other one was getting pretty ragged.

The path finally opens up to another bridge that takes you from the island to the main pool next to the food/store building. Halfway over the bridge is a couple of gumball type machines that spew out a handful of feed for a quarter. I looked over the edge of the bridge, and not to my surprise, were literally dozens of largemouth bass. Most were fun size, maybe 8 inches, but I did see a couple of really large (15-17"?) fish. I'd bet I could take a lure, throw it in the water, and catch two bass at the same time on each set of hooks on the lure. (The fish are pretty much trained to eat whatever's thrown into the water.) Yes, I do carry rod, reel and tackle with me. Why do you ask?

Is it humid? All the windows in Center Towne (the store/restaurant/food court/arcade building, which is spelled "Centertown" on the building, but Center Towne on all the literature) have condensation on 'em. Air conditioning actually feels cold on entering. I went to the food court, and looked at the selections. Hmmm... Pizza...

Ordered a pizza, and checked the place out while it was baking. Found a "Racin' Stripes" Tigger hat. One of those infinitely adjustable ball cap hats that takes you 20 minutes to finally get to fit right. Another $20 handed over. Okay, 'cheap trip' is a relative thing.

Got the pizza to go, so I could go back do my room and dump the pictures I took to my laptop, and burn it to CD. What? You don't take a laptop and CD burner? (It also functions as my picture previewer (I capture in raw, so I need to convert the images to check 'em out,) my communications device if the hotel I'm at has high speed access and my GPS navigation system when I travel. It pulls its weight.) I'll take a Miller Lite with that. That's one thing I'll have to remember to bring sometime. Nothing like an ice-cold beer when the heat index is higher than your stock portfolio...

Fully satiated, and confident that the pictures I took were okay and burned to cd-r, I reformatted the memory card, and assessed the situation as I watched some distant lightning out the window.

Now, you have to understand I work mostly a third shift. That means I got to bed at around 4:00pm, Central time. (3:00pm Eastern time.) It's 4:00, and I'm trying to decide if I should go into Magic Kingdom and tape SpectroMagic, or hope Edouard doesn't screw me up and tape it tomorrow along with Fantasy In The Sky? It's been a long day. I was North of Atlanta this morning. Bed looks too inviting. I stay up until around 8:00, attempting to alter my schedule/body clock and succumb to sleep.

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 2
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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Mickey's Philharmagic
Nothing about an opening, but Kodak's name is on the announcement! :-)
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 3 (of 8)
Lines: 238
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:19:43 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 3

Day 3 - Walt Disney World - Epcot / Magic Kingdom
Sep 1, 2002: Slept until 5:00am, pretty good for the third day of my vacation. Make some coffee. I like the fact that almost every place I stay these days have coffee makers. 'Course, the hotel coffees are usually pretty bad. I bring my own. I'm tempted to bring my own water, too. Orlando water sucks.

I drive over to Center Towne for breakfast. Scrambled eggs with sausage, hash browns and French toast. Well, I've had better; it was about par with the buffets on 192. Nothing to write home about. Leisurely finish my coffee and people watch, one of my favorite hobbies. You can tell the ones that have been here a few days. They're the ones who look exhausted.

Quarter to nine. Epcot! I had two goals for Epcot. One was to tape Spaceship Earth (again, only this time have enough tape so I won't have to fumble around in the dark,) the other to tape Journey into Imagination with Figment.

I actually get parked near the tram for once, instead of the far side of the parking area. Security is present, but really non-intrusive. Don't they know that there's a sharp pointy thing at the end of my monopod? It could he a weapon. I decide not to demonstrate. My annual pass, though in my wallet since March, works fine. I guess my bones are still in the same places, and the gate announces I may pass.

Journey's not even on the Epcot Map yet. You can bet it would have been if they still printed weekly maps. I wonder how long it'll be before it makes it on?

It's 9:00am, and I head straight onto Spaceship Earth. Crowds aren't bad, but I've been at some pretty dead Epcot openings, only to have the park fill later in the day.

I can see Spaceship Earth being rehabbed soon. The ride mechanism is getting noisy, and the sound could be improved. A whole lot improved.

Wandered over to the Imagination pavilion. I was the lone guest in the attraction. Had a train all to myself. Sat and talked to a Cast Member 'bout my camcorder for a minute before he sent the train off. Here's a hint. The best seat for the ride is in the middle of the train. Actually, the best seat for the ride might be in Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. For all the people who claimed the Eric Idle rehab was lame, I'm not sure the new one is much better. (I never saw the original. No further opinions offered.)

Wandered over and got a FastPass for Test Track. On the way, I see a Reedy Creek emergency vehicle heading toward World Showcase *through* future world, right around the fountain. That can't be good.

Got my Test Track FastPass, and went to Universe of Energy, 'cause it's air conditioned, and you get to sit down. Big attraction plusses for me, air conditioning and getting to sit down. (It helps if the ride is neat too.)

As I approach Universe of Energy, a voice comes on the PA and asks for someone to call a number. If I didn't browse this newsgroup, I wouldn't know the significance. I thought back to the emergency vehicle and frowned. I've been in Disney-MGM Studios before when it happened too.

I catch Universe of Energy from the start of the pre-show. Stupid Judy, middle-aged or not, is still pretty hot. Get into the ride itself, and think this is how they should update Carousel of Progress. Same basic idea, taking the audience to the stages... Somehow, my camcorder gets turned on when I was in the animatronic dinosaur section. Sometimes that happens. Like in Carousel of Progress, a month or so before it became semi-dormant. Something must be broken for the 'corder to just start recording like that.

Mission Space is more complete every time I'm here. A big void in Future World will be filled when it opens. I think 2003 still might be a bit optimistic. Nobody makes deadlines these days.

Test Track was, well, Test Track. I think there should be a test dummy you can punch halfway through the queue line to lower the volume of that music. I always Fast Pass Test Track, 'cause it's the only way you can see the entire queue line. The ride broke on me in the dark tunnel where you avoid the semi-truck, just before you go outside this time. I think I'm running a 50% failure rate on Test Track. Oh well, at least I've never broken down in the Cold/Hot/Acid rooms...

Wasted my time standing in line for Dreamchasers, a new attraction in Test Track's post-show. Supposedly a VR experience, it's pretty lame. If you have to wait more than a couple of minutes for this, give it a pass. If you do wait for it, don't expect much. I notice Dreamchasers isn't on the Epcot map either. Well, no loss there.

Went through Mouse Gear, found a pretty cool Epcot tee shirt. $28.00. Just pay the lady. It's noon. Went over to the Electric Umbrella for a burger, and plan the rest of the day. My fanny pack makes a noise. My cell phone... Voice mail. My mother called me while I was on Test Track. My Uncle's in Chicago from Sacramento, and they need directions on how to get someplace. So here I am in the Electric Umbrella in Epcot, giving someone in Chicago directions on how to get to a nearby suburb. Isn't technology great? (That was a sarcastic, rhetorical question...)

So here's the plan. Go to Magic Kingdom and tape a couple of attractions, then the mid-day parade. Go back to Caribbean Beach Resort and rest a couple of hours, then get back to Magic Kingdom and tape Spectromagic and Fantasy In The Sky.

Get on the monorail and head for the Ticket and Transportation Center. Cross the platform and get on the Magic Kingdom monorail. Maybe 25 years ago, I stayed in the Contemporary. It was so cool to open your hotel door, and have a monorail pulling in across the lobby from you. I love these things. They're such a novel form of transportation. One of these days, I'm gonna plead my way into the front of the monorail. Just exactly how much track would I need for my computer room??? Maybe I'll have to take some measurements for the next time I come back down here...

Well look. There's a fourth mountain in Magic Kingdom. Sort of looks like a construction crane. It is a crane! Well, if you move to the right of Main Street, you can sorta block the crane out for a picture. 'Course you can remove the crane in Photoshop just as well, I guess. Got my annual pass trivia contest. Gee, let's be a little obscure. Scanning through the questions, I figure, off the cuff, I know the answers to exactly none of them. No, one of them. The last question. And the statue is on Main Street, not Adventureland. It gets folded up and put in the Magic Kingdom map.

I get on the Tommorowland Transportation Authority. I have snippets of this ride on tape, but not the entire thing. One of my rules now, is to tape an attraction from start to finish, no matter what. You never know what you can use when you're editing the video. Go up the walkways, onto the moving loading platform and sit myself down. The magnetic induction system whisks me around tomorrowland.

I look around from my vantage point. Crowds are reasonable, considering it's the Labor Day weekend. My hope was that everyone would be going home tomorrow, giving me reasonably empty parks. Bad for Disney, but great for me! After making sure I have all my personal belongings, I exit the ride.

Wander through the park and as I pass through Fantasyland, there are the signs announcing Mickey's Philharmagic. No opening date. No other real information, either. Kodak made its way onto the sign, though. Can't forget those sponsors! :-)

I eventually end up in Hall of Presidents. After waiting 10 minutes, I realize that I won't be able to get to the parade in time to get to my favorite spot. At least it was air-conditioned. I leave Hall of Presidents, and get a bottle of water. The Florida sun is brutal again. Edouard is still throwing rain systems this way, but they're going mainly to the North or South.

My favorite spot to tape parades in Magic Kingdom is in Frontierland, right next to the Frontier Trading Post, right by the breezeway between Frontierland and Adventureland. You know, where the bathrooms are. It's right at a bend in the parade route, so you get a very good view of the parade both coming and going, no matter which direction the parade travels. It also gives you a better sun direction for the afternoon parade, and the sound is pretty good. You have to claim your spot early. The spot goes quick.

I was people watching again. I think it's funny that fashion goes out the window in favor of cooler clothing. No clouds, and the sun was beating the sweat out of me. I turned to the Cast Member (I forgot her name. I'm ashamed.) and asked if you ever get used to the heat, or do you just sweat? She's from Alaska, of all places. You just sweat. I thought so.

Continuing the conversation, I found out that on really hot days, the parade becomes a bit abbreviated, and if it rains, the little intermissions are cancelled altogether, and the parade just marches through. If the pavement gets wet, the really long princess float (the three car one) has a hard time getting up that little hill in Frontierland. If it stops, it sometimes gets stuck. That'd make good video. Almost worth hoping for rain.

Don't get rain, and the parade marches through. 12 minutes 30 seconds, start to finish. Time to go back to Caribbean Beach Resort. I cut through the breezeway into Adventureland, and get to Main Street. The crowds on Main Street are smaller than the crowds in Frontierland. Go figure. I get to Entrance of the park, actually ahead of the parade and darned if there isn't a spot right up in front on the street. I set up my camcorder on my monopod again, and tape the parade again, start to finish. Two parades for one. The first, the Cast Member's are pretty fresh, the second, they're drooping from exhaustion from the heat and dancing around. The guys in the globes must get cooled though. We'd have roast mouse by the end if they weren't.

Back to the Ticket and Transportation Center via monorail, then back to my car via tram. Stop in at the Food Court, got some pasta, and headed back to my room to rest up. Still a lot of cars at the Jamaica parking lot. Oh well.

6:40pm. Time to try the bus system. Sure is a long walk to the bus stop. First bus that comes is going to Magic Kingdom. Is this is great country, or what?

Go through security, and into the park. Lots of people. More than I expected, actually. I walk the parade route, looking for a new place to shoot from. I'm in Liberty Square, and FastPass Haunted Mansion. It's good for 7:45 to 8:45. Spectromagic is at 8:15. So right after the parade, I can go do Haunted Mansion before it goes down for rehab, and still find a decent place to tape Fantasy In The Sky.

I don't find a better place to tape, and end up in Frontierland again. And I wait. The parade doesn't start until 8:30. Well, I didn't want to do Haunted Mansion anyway.

It might just be me, but I'd like the Main Street Electrical Parade back. When I first saw Spectromagic, the surrealness of the starting floats, right down to the ever smiling and giggling characters whose face turns from magenta to blue, made me think that this must be what it's like to be on a bad drug trip. "On this magic nighhhiit..."

Jiminy waves goodbye, the Cast Member's pick up all the rope barriers, and me and a thousand other people head toward the castle for the fireworks.

The Crystal Palace may be closed for rehab, but the walkway in front of the restaurant is still there. With my camcorder on wide, I can keep the castle in the lower right part of the frame and still get all the fireworks. It's a great angle, but there are only a couple of places you can see well through the trees. The sound could be better, but it's not terrible.

Fantasy In The Sky's is a good show, and this one was no different. The wind isn't that bad, so there isn't a lot of drift. The starting and ending shells are spectacular. Finally, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy say goodbye, and the mass of people slowly move down Main Street toward the exit. I hold back for a while, taking video of the masses, and Main Street all lit up at night. You can see almost everyone's exhausted, except for the occasional kid that was pushed around in a stroller all day, has taken his/her nap during the parade, and is now running around with total abandon. Youth, I'm convinced, is wasted on the young.

On my way out, I steal a park map in Japanese. I've always wanted one.

As I exit the gates, I notice the lines just jamming the monorail and boat transport. Well, I don't go that way this time. I find my bus stop, and actually have to wait for another bus as the first one fills up.

On the way out, you can see the Ticket and Transportation Center to the right, with the masses jamming the tramlines this time to get to their car. A few minutes later, I'm back in the Caribbean Beach Resort at my bus stop. If I drove, I'd still be waiting for a monorail or boat. There might be something to these buses.

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 3
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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Caribbean Beach Resort
Can't take him anywhere...
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 4 (of 8)
Lines: 151
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:21:39 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 4

Day 4 - Walt Disney World - Disney-MGM Studios
Sep 2, 2002: Bruce is going to show up this morning, so I waste time around the resort. No point in going into the parks if I have to be back here by 11:00am. I sit by the quiet pool for a while, and read a few pages out of the book I'm currently reading. By 10:30, it's humid/hot already. Well, by Chicago standards, it really never got cool. Go back to my room and hide out in the A/C for a while.

Bruce shows up around 11:30. Make sure his card isn't a chargeable card. (Room is on *my* credit card. :-) Go over plans for the week. He looks at the Digicam for a while and decides he can handle the Camcorder better. He's even used it before.

Off to Disney-MGM Studios. As we approach the bus stop, two busses pull up. It's not worth running in this heat. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. Not our busses anyway. The next bus to pull up is for Disney-MGM Studios. A little pixie dust and... Oh sorry, wrong park.

The nice thing about being in Jamaica in the Caribbean Beach Resort is the bus stops there first. The bad thing about Jamaica is you have to go to all the other stops when you get on. The buses were already bypassing Trinidad South. That part of the resort was already closed down.


A 15' inflatable Stitch awaits us at the entrance of Disney-MGM Studios. Well, they always have some movie tie in at the entrance here. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, but the thing's enormous. I wonder what they'll do with it when the promotion is done. Sell it on eBay?

Bruce has never done Rock 'n Roll Roller Coaster, and I don't do Coasters. Wander over to get a FastPass, but Rock 'n' Roller Coaster has a 5-minute standby time. He goes right on.

I take exterior pictures while waiting, and notice the crowds are really down. Last day of a three day weekend, traditionally just before the kiddies go back to school. My favorite time of the year to vacation. Not just to Disney World, either. Anywhere.

Waiting for him to come out the exit, I note the sun really *is* brutal today. Oh boy, I can't wait to stand in the heat for the parade. He arrives, and we wander over the parade route. Best place I know to tape it is right by Star Tours, on the outside of the right turn after coming from backstage. Don't be on the inside of that turn. Sun will be in front of you, and ruin most of your pictures and video. A narrator is right there and the sound is good. I'm not sure how many or where the other narrators are.

There's still 90 minutes until the parade, so we wander around the park. I have to take some pictures of Pizza Planet and the Toy Story crew. I suppose Pizza Planet could be a franchise, but it doesn't look anything like the one in the movie. The building used to be the Metropolitan Department of Water and Power building, fer chrissake.

He's never seen the Honey I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set Adventure playground. (He's got two kids. By the time they're old enough to come here, I'm going to have their dad a Disney world expert.) He decides it's a good place to bring the kids to have some energy taken out of 'em. Right outside, is a fiberglass statue of Flick. Bruce poses with it, and does something obscene with my monopod that he's holding. You can wash their face, you can dress them up, but you can't take 'em anywhere. Wait. He's not dressed up, and he's not shaven. Well, I wouldn't take him anywhere, anyway.

Look, there's another Stitch on the empire state building. (I should note that around a week later, in a motel room in Ruston, LA, I saw an *excellent* print of the original King Kong. All I could picture was Stitch swatting away some biplanes.)

On Mickey Avenue, I catch Bruce in a moment of weakness, and he agrees to pose with a character. Almost get him with Minnie, but he sees Pluto at the other trailer. I take the monopod away from him first. No one in line, no waiting.

There's another Stitch sitting on the Disney-MGM wall by animation courtyard. How many of these things do they have around here?

We go back and start to wait for the parade, but there's no one else waiting for the parade. Bruce smokes. Luckily, there's a smoking area nearby. Still no one waiting for the parade. Star Tours has a 5-minute stand-by time. What the heck. We go on Star Tours. At least Start Tours doesn't beat you up like Back to the Future, but now that I know the pilot is Peewee, it's just not the same.

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade is probably my favorite daytime parade. (The Animal Kingdom Parade is like a jazzed up Tapestry of Nations, with sturdier puppets that the wind doesn't affect as badly. The Magic Kingdom's parade's flow is interrupted too often with those picture-taking opportunities for parents of 5 year olds. Disney ruined Tapestry of Nations by turning it into Tapestry of Dreams, but I'll rant on that later... :-)

Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy (Would you really want Goofy driving if you were in that car?) drive by, and we decide we're hungry. Where and what to eat? Turkey Leg? No, no Air Conditioning. Let's attempt a table service restaurant. What the heck. The Brown Derby. Looking around as we walk, we catch back up with the parade. There are actually a *lot* of people here. I guess there aren't a lot of attractions here, but most of them do hold a lot of people. My hopes for a table are drying up.

Arrive at the Brown Derby. I smile at the pretty blonde and ask, "What's the change of getting a table?"

"Mmmm, pretty good."

We were seated 5 minutes later. The Filet, was delicious. So were the garlic mashed potatoes, even hours after the meal. The after dinner coffee was served in a cup the size even a caffeine addict would be satisfied by. Best of all, it was air-conditioned and you got to sit down.

After paying the bill and waddling out of the restaurant, we needed something to do before Fantasmic! Walking around, we walked into Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. Very cool exhibit. Watching the multi-plane animation was fascinating.

For laughs, we went into Voyage of the Little Mermaid. The first (and only) time I saw this attraction, I didn't think the camcorder was picking up anything, and only sporadically taped. After reviewing the tape, I found it actually did a pretty good job, and wanted to tape it again. A perfect opportunity. Ariel gets her legs, the show ends and we all leave the theater.

Time to wander back to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. We're a little too late to get my favorite spot, near the top in the Mickey Section. While waiting, I wasted about 10 minutes of tape hoping for a cloud to ground lightning strike that was giving us a pre-show to the Southeast. I'd have to change tapes before Fantasmic!, anyway. The wind was picking up, and I was worried about Edouard doing some mischief. No good lightning strikes, and the show started on time. Amazing how fast it gets dark around here.

Okay, there's a problem. The wind. It's blowing in right toward the audience. Not only does it bring the smoke from the fireworks in to obscure the stage, but it's strong enough to distort the water screens. You can sometimes hardly make out what's being projected. The end of the show is just as predictable. You can barely see the stage after the smoke from the fireworks drifts toward the stands. Doesn't do the show justice. Got some decent footage of the live stuff, though. I'll probably end up editing the three shows I have together.

The stadium wasn't full, much less the SRO, so exiting wasn't the total pain it usually was. Hop the bus, and back to the Caribbean Beach Resort. Did a walk over to the Food Court and had a Beer. Nothing better after a long, hot, humid day.

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 4
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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Magic Kingdom...
Magic Kingdom...Empty...
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 5 (of 8)
Lines: 273
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:23:23 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 5

Day 5 - Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom / Animal Kingdom / Epcot

Sep 3, 2002: What? You're still here? Get lost. Reading these things only serves to make you want to go back more than ever. Admit it.


This was one of the oddest days I've ever had at Disney. Got up about 7:00, made some coffee, and planned the day. I wanted to tape the afternoon parade at Animal Kingdom, then to Epcot for Tapestry of Dreams and Illuminations. I've always wanted to eat at the Coral Reef, so I pushed the right buttons on the phone and got a PS for 5:10 this evening. Geez, they give me an 8-digit confirmation number.

Well, the afternoon parade at Animal Kingdom is at 4:00pm, Figure 10-15 minutes for the parade. Gives us an hour to get to the Coral Reef. I don't want to get to Animal Kingdom before 1:00pm; otherwise we'll just sit around and bake waiting for the parade.

Where to do 'till then? Magic Kingdom! Off we go. Only taking the camera, leaving the video equipment hidden in the room. Get in the car, go to Center Towne for breakfast. Ham and Cheese omelet. Not bad, nothing that a little butter in the darn frying pan wouldn't fix...

Goofy walks past the window I'm sitting next to. Oh, the character caravan. Go out, and they're gone. Wow. There's a real perk. Drive out to the Ticket and Transportation Center, catch the monorail to Magic Kingdom. It's 9:15 or so. The place is *empty*.

Bruce wants to go on Buzz Lightyear. No problem, no line.

Started to head toward the Big Thunder and Splash Mountains. On the way, we rode:

Pooh. No line.

Snow White's Scary Adventures. No line.

Peter Pan's Flight. Small line, but it goes fast.

(No wait for small world, either, but it was bad enough I still had Spectromagic dancing around in my head. But get this: There were NO STROLLERS next to small world.)

Haunted Mansion was down for rehab. Haunted Mansion Cast Member's still around though. Frontierland was empty too.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. No line. First time I've been on it. Three lift hills, no big drops. Lots of short drops and sharp curves, though.

Splash Mountain. No line. First time on this, too. I took a bunch of flash pictures. (No sign or announcement prohibiting it, but I'm still concerned about ticking someone off.) Might have ruined the experience for someone, but I figured on a day like today, they could get back on in less than a couple of minutes for a less disturbing experience. :-)

I was so busy putting the camera away before the drop that I forgot to take my hat off. My brand new Racin' Stripes hat is someplace in the briar patch. Nuts. Wait for the picture to come up. If the picture had caught it coming off, I'd have bought it. Hats still on my head. Nuts again. Must be karma for using the flash.

Stopped in at the Pirate's Bazaar for a new hat. Got me a Mickey/Goofy "Yo, ho! Yo, ho! A pirate's life for me." ball cap. I remarked that a Cap'n Hook/Jessica Rabbit "We want the redhead" cap would have been better. But they didn't have one of those. Yet another $20 changes hands, not to mention trying to get another hat to fit juuust right... :-)

The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management). The line was going in just as we got there. Hey, it's air conditioned, and... Well, you know. I make sure my hat fits before I have to pass under that loudmouth, dirty bird.

We then vacated Magic Kingdom. We were there for just over two hours. Took the monorail back to the Ticket and Transportation Center and tram to my car. Back to the Caribbean Beach Resort, where the cars have cleared out nicely, and got a very goodly parking space. Sat around the room for an hour or so bullsh... uh... talking, before going to Animal Kingdom. (Watched the weather channel a lot too. Edouard could still do some damage to my vacation. And what's this thing South of Louisiana? I'm going to be there in 3 days...)


12:30. Time to go to Animal Kingdom. Nahtazu? Yesazu. Okay, maybe it's halfazooandhalfathemepark. We actually have to wait about 5 minutes for an Animal Kingdom bus. I'm just short of outraged.

I still have mixed feelings about Animal Kingdom. It's my least favorite Disney Park, but I'm willing to let them have a few more years developing it before I pass final judgment.

It's just about as empty as Magic Kingdom. I'm sure days like today just kill Disney, but I find 'em to be a refreshing change. I was in Walt Disney World on July 4, 2000. Magic Kingdom was at capacity and they closed the gates, so I was at Epcot. The first Tapestry of Nations goes by, and after that, it's gridlock around World Showcase, with people still coming in. It took me around 30-40 minutes to get from Canada to Mexico, before I gave up. I left before the fireworks that night. (July 5th, however, was an *excellent* day to be in the parks.)

First place to stop is Dinoland USA. Wanted to ride Primeval Whirl. When I was there in March, only the right half of the ride was open, and there was a 30-minute wait. The entire place wasn't finished yet.

Now that I've seen it, I think all of you who think Chester and Hester's Dino-rama is out of place are wrong. It's in a parking lot, fer chrissake. It *is* supposed to be one of those cheesy, fly-by-night neighborhood carnivals, except maybe a little better maintained and better rides. :-)

There's even a hidden Mickey in the cracks near the Corvair. Dino-rama looks that way because it was designed to look that way.

Oh, let me get off my soapbox to say that Primeval Whirl was cool. It's like combining a small roller coaster with a tilt-a-whirl. If up and down doesn't get you sick, then spinning around has a shot at you. (It's not that bad. Unless you don't like heights... Like me...) Oh, we had to wait a whole two or three minutes in line...

We still have time. Dinosaur is right over there. Preshow starts within a couple of minutes of getting there. Someone should shut Felicia up. The ride wouldn't be half as exciting if we did it her way. After having been on this ride, maybe a half-dozen times, I'm ready to start making faces at the camera when they take your picture, but there are other riders on our car that might actually buy one. (Then that person would actually get killed, or go missing, and they'd use that as the last picture taken of him/her on national TV, and *then* where would I be? Three scared people, one who couldn't care less (Bruce) and an idiot...)

Well, that killed about a half-hour. What to do now? On the way out of Dinoland is It's Tough To Be A Bug. Well, it's air conditioned, but the seats are a little hard. Well, so what. It's air-conditioned. The 3-D technology continues to *amaze* me, even though it's sometimes more fun to watch the audience reactions than the movie... :-) If Flick really supposed to be that shiny?

After the bugs leave, and I deposit my glasses in the garb... Well, the place where you deposit those glasses, I hit the hot, humid air, and as usual had to get my bearings, 'cause you're dumped out in a completely different area than where you went in. Wandered through Asia, and stopped at the smoking area between Asia and Africa. Shaded, with seats, the smoking areas are really nice places to stop and rest, if you don't mind the smokers. If there's a breeze, you'll hardly notice.

Went to Kilimanjaro Safaris, and got on the first truck that took passengers. No line. FastPass what? There were actually animals out at 2:45pm, but not near the number that there are early in the morning. The female lion was right where she was supposed to be. Cast Member speech about it being 'very lucky to see her, since she very rarely moves this time of day' is spoiled when the lion gets up and walks around for a while. That's why Walt's animals were always machines. On cue, all the time.

Bruce wants to go on Kali River Rapids. It's hot. Natives down here aren't used to hot. Air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned work (or grocery store, or mall or whatever,) and back. I hold all the equipment while he goes to get soaked. I have to delete some pictures on the digicam anyway. I only have 560MB of storage with me, and I still have Tapestry of Dreams to do this evening. He's back in 10 minutes, soaked and smiling.

It's about 3:00pm, so we go and investigate the parade route. We need to find a place close to the exit, with a bend to get the parade coming and going and the sun to our backs. We find one near the entrance to Camp Minnie-Mickey, but there's very little shade. Do we stay here? I stand here while Bruce goes for a smoke (I used to smoke, I understand,) and a calypso band sets up in back of me. Well, that seals the deal, we'll stay here, lack of shade or not.

I had twenty minutes of tape left on the cassette and let it roll. They end their gig at 4:00, just in time for the parade. Change tapes, make sure equipment is working and lenses are clean. Of course we're a-ways down the parade route, so it doesn't get to us by 4:10.

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, to me, is Tapestry of Nations with an animal theme, the sound recorded at 33 but played at 78. (Am I dating myself here?) The drummers are on their own special vehicles, separated by large, more wind-friendly and back-friendly puppets (at least they look that way to me), but this one has character floats and lots of real people. (Well, at least they look like real people. Who are these guys? Big VIP's at Animal Kingdom Lodge? Picked randomly off the street 'cause they dress well? Do they have to pay park admission?) It would probably be very cool taping a parade from the float right in front of Mickey with something stuffed in my ears so they aren't bleeding by the time we get backstage again. I'd probably be pleading in this newsgroup for someone who may have taped the parade or taken a picture...

Parade lasts around 15 minutes. We have 45 minutes to get to the Coral Reef. No hurry. Exit the park. Have my picture taken with Baloo. I'd sworn the only picture I'd ever have taken with a Disney character would be Cap'n Hook. Life's hell sometimes...

Take the bus to Epcot. I'm beginning to like this bus thing. Don't dawdle a lot, and we're at the Living Seas at 5:10pm. Things are just going our way today. We get into the restaurant. After a short discussion about Moose Drool Ale (my t-shirt dejour) with the staff up front, we go into the main restaurant and...

Maybe one in 10 tables have guests. Isn't 5:00 one of the main dinner hours? If you've never been there, picture one wall of the Living Seas, appropriately darkened, with rows of tables parallel to the wall, each row raised a few inches as you get further from the wall, so even the ones furthest from the Reef/Wall still has a good view. It's very impressive. I had the scallops for appetizers, and the Mahi-Mahi for the main. I tried one of those non-alcoholic beers, and while it wasn't bad, it wasn't beer.

As we finish our appetizers, divers suddenly appear in the water. Now there's something you don't see every day. While most of them paddled off into one of the far reaches of the tank, one stuck around the windows and waved at the kids. Must be one of those special packages Disney offers. I can see the marketing angle now. Come be the fish and watch the humans eat. Almost lifelike.

Bellies full, and ready to tackle the long trek from the Living Seas to Germany, we leave only to find it's still pretty warm outside. Well, the trek to the boat to Germany sounds much better. We arrive at Germany at 6:10pm, just in time...

To hear that the parade has been cancelled due to high winds. Damn. This parade gets cancelled more than Test Track breaks down.

I need to vent a little here. I mean vent about the Tapestry of Dreams score. I think Disney's attempt to update the music/soundtrack of Tapestry of Nations for Walt's 100th was a mistake. They ruin the flow and the majesty of the piece, and the subtle rhythms and passages that pulled the whole thing together were gone, the new pieces not fitting in well with the old. They should have kept the old piece intact, or throw it out and start over. The mixing of the puppets was an improvement, but I did miss the Sage of Time. They need a more imposing leading figure. It's not like the characters change, they could have done a Tapestry of Dreams early evening, and a Tapestry of Nations in the late evening. Whew. Thanks, I needed that.

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, Tapestry of Dreams was canceled. Wasting time deciding what to do, it starts to drizzle. Then rain. Hard. Edouard saying hello, or just your typical Florida afternoon thunderstorm? It lets up a little and we start walking back to future world. My personal opinion is, it's already been a long day; let's go back to the resort, have a few drinks, and call it a night. Tomorrow's going to be another long day. I have this theory that not standing in line is more fatiguing that standing in line. After all, standing in line is a way of resting. We were on the go almost all the time. I'm beat. I'd really like to see Illuminations, but it's two and a half hours away.

At the bridge between China and Norway, there was a double rainbow. If I'm right, the end of the rainbow came down someplace in Downtown Disney. Sounds like a typical Disney promotional stunt to me.

We stop at Ice Station Cool for a few drinks. I pretty much like everything except Beverly. Bruce hasn't been on Imagination. Okay, it's on the way. Sort of. Close enough, anyway. Ride it again. My opinion doesn't change. Look at Honey I Shrunk the Audience standby time on the way out. Even with the parade cancelled, and the rain, there's no wait. Epcot's pretty much dead too. Get on a Caribbean Beach Resort bus and stop at Port Royal, and go to the Banana Cabana bar by the pool. I usually don't do foo-foo drinks, but I wanted something cold and sweet, and the bar's specialty (some banana something-or-the-other) sounded too good to pass up. It's very good, but next time I'd have another jigger of run thrown in. On the way back to the room, the path under the bamboo is wet, and the smell is pretty ripe. Luckily, you can't see what you're walking on.

It's almost spooky how deserted the resort is. Almost every room is vacant. (You can tell the inhabited rooms are the ones with condensation on the windows... :-) Caribbean Beach Resort is going to close in a couple of days for rehab (which might explain the lack of Caribbean Beach Resort stuff in the store) and the lack of people on the walkways around the lake give the place a twilight zone feel. Oh well, at least it won't be noise that keeps me up tonight.

End Disney Trip report

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 5
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head
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The Enchanted Oak Tavern (and Alchemy Bar)
The Enchanted Oak Tavern (and Alchemy Bar). It's no longer there, a victim to the Harry Potter expansion.
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 6 (of 8)
Lines: 451
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:25:27 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 6

Day 6 - Universal - Islands of Adventure, Studios
Sep 4, 2002: And you're *still* here? You realize I'm leaving Disney, right? Okay, just so you know...

Plan is to blow out of Caribbean Beach Resort by 8:00am. Go and at least park the cars and get the front-of-line key/passes at the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal. If you're not aware of the deal, here it is. If you stay at any of the three Universal hotels, your room key doubles as a front-of-line pass, for every ride that has a Universal Express option. In both parks, without limits. Think unlimited FastPass.

Get out and go east on I-4, get off at Universal. Blindly follow the signs around until one points to the Royal Pacific. I go to check-in to see if they have a room available. Yes, 700 of them. Since they already have my money, the check-in process is fast and easy.

Geez, this really is a four star hotel. How to tell? The liter bottle of Evian in your room for your convenience is only $7.00. What a deal. They must bribe the Orlando Department of Water to keep the tap water tasting like... Of course it's warm, with no fridge, so you have to drink it warm, or go get some ice made from... uh... tap water?

Maybe I'll go drink the pool water.

We have breakfast in the hotel, 'cause it's convenient. Looking around, they have this frog motif that just escapes me. Days later, I see the same frog statues on sale in New Orleans. Must be some Cajun or Creole thing. There must be a convention or something here, 'cause there are some suits eating breakfast, among the theme park clad folk in shorts and t-shirts. We pay the bill and leave, walking toward the boat dock to get to city walk. We pass some large rooms, still under construction. Stores or convention areas? Hard to tell. A reminder that this hotel only opened in June.

We get to the boat dock, and spend a few minutes trying to determine if the boats are even running. We decide not to be idiots standing around and walk. Halfway to the parks, the boat passes us, going to the Royal Pacific. Oh well, I haven't walked enough this week anyway.

Neither one of us has been to Islands of Adventure. A new experience. Via a variety of errors, I ended up wearing a Disney shirt. Don't do this. You become the target of a lot of the Cast Members, not unexpectedly. Oh well, I can deal with it. Who cares if Sheik doesn't like my shirt?

I'd only been to Universal once, and that was to Studios, and even then, every square inch of the parks were a comparison to Disney. It that fair? Considering Universal is a competitor to Disney, probably.

While Disney relies on mostly, well, Disney as their themeing, Universal has a wide range of movies to theme their parks. Picture a central lake surrounded by six 'islands'. Each island has its own theme. The Port of Entry consists of the entry area, with shops, stalls and eateries lining the way. Think Main Street in Persian duds. (Well, remember what I said, everything was compared to Disney... :-)

The rest of Islands of Adventure is split into 5 other themed islands: Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent and Seuss Landing.

Each is well themed. Five stars well themed. Even so, the park feels smaller than say, Magic Kingdom. Where the closest thing to a water ride in Studios is Jaws, this park has an abundance of 'em. Thrill rides abound.

We enter the park, and get maps and a Times Guide. Interesting. When I was at Disney in June 2001, they had weekly maps. When I was here in March 2002, Disney had a generic map and Times Guides; Universal still had a weekly map. Universal now has a generic map, and a Times Guide.

We bypass the stores and shops. Maybe later. Cat in the Hat and a couple of Who's are posing for pictures. The guys at Universal use a Canon G2 for photos, same camera I brought with me. I find this somehow ironic.

As you approach the lake, you can see Jurassic Park across the water, but you're drawn to the left by the roar of Hulk, the "Best roller coaster" Bruce has been on. It does some very impressive acrobatics before it disappears toward the back of the park, where it finishes its ride.

We're on the Marvel Super Hero Island. Everything around you has a comic book feel and color to it. Stan Lee would be proud.

The first attraction we actually go on is Spider-Man. Give my room key to the Cast Member, and go through the Universal Express (think FastPass) line. Yowza. Disney has *nothing* like this. If Mission Space is anything like this, Disney will have a mega-hit on their hands. I rode it three times while I was at Universal. The first time you're on it, you're overwhelmed with the experience. Even though most of the scenes you're watching is a cartoon, it's in 3-D, filling most of your vision. The vehicles have an amazing range of motion. The second time I rode it, I started noticing all sorts of details missed the first time. The ride has this fine line on being able to tell what's real and what's not. When Spider-Man jumps on your car, he jumps *on* your car. When a bad guy throws something at you and misses, real flame comes out of the wall where the 3D image appears to have gone. The third time I rode it, I just had fun. I saw a program on Extreme Rides, where some guy said, "Spider-Man is so much more than I expected at this time." I agree. Think Star Tours with a wider range of motion, huge 3D screens, and cars that actually follow a track to different sets.

Doctor Doom's Fearfall is another ride that like Hulk, draws attention to itself. It's twin towers dominate the skyline, making a roaring sound that comes from the compressed air system the ride uses to propel the cars. It not only does it shoot a car up 150 feet up a tower, but it propels you downward faster than gravity. Think Tower of Terror on Steroids. Did I go on it? Hell no. Are you nuts?

Continuing around the lake, we cross the bridge to the next island, Toon Lagoon. Wow. This-a-here's the Sunday Funnies come to life. Betty Boop's still around, still a babe, but I wonder if today's kids remember who she was? And Dudley Do-Right? Popeye? Just who was the intended target audience of this area anyway? Bruce goes on the Bilge-Rat Barges (think Kali River Rapids with a Popeye theme), I protect the video camera.

While I'm taking some pans of the colorful surroundings, two guys from an unknown (Slavic, if I had to guess) wants their picture taken in front of Popeye, in the universal language of "Take picture?"

"Sure how do you want it framed?" They can't understand a word I'm saying. I'm a pretty good photographer, I frame it all in and take the picture. If they don't like it, they can come looking for me. Boy, stand around for a while and they put you to work. (I actually give those people who come here from foreign countries credit. I wonder how I'd fare in say, Norway or Russia...)

Further down is Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, a log flume ride. Disney World doesn't really have a flume ride. An incredibly themed ride, right down to a Mount Rushmore with Dudley's, Nell's, Nell's Dad (what's his name) and the Horse's head on it. Kodak could probably add a line item on its income sheet for this ride alone. I don't think I saw a person with a camera not take a picture.

A short walk away is Jurassic Park. You enter through a pretty imposing gateway, just like in the movie, complete with the fire pots, but without the doors. You notice everything turns from bright and colorful in Toon Lagoon to a jungle like appearance, lush in ferns and foliage. All earth-type tones and colors. The first thing you come upon is a stand that sells drinks and ice cream called the 'Food Chain'. I gave Islands of Adventure points just for the name of the stand.

Pteranodon Flyers was closed for 'Seasonal Maintenance'. That might mean closed for the off-season. It has an interesting restriction: 'This attraction is designed for children 36 to 56 inches tall. Guests over 56 inches tall must be accompanied by a child meeting this requirement.'

Jurassic Park River Adventure is a water ride. Think Splash Mountain and substitute you for Brer Rabbit, and a T-Rex for Brer Fox. You start off on the Jurassic Park tour, just like in the movie, but in boats. Audio animatronics weren't bad, but the brachiosaurus was dead in the water. (I guess they spared some expense.) I'm sure it was supposed to move. But I digress.

Of course, something goes wrong during the tour, something escapes, and you, instead of taking the safe route out, go the wrong way. Lawsuit material if I ever heard it. You enter this *huge* building that's nothing but a climb, turn around and drop. *Much* higher, I think, than Splash Mountain. I gotta stop Bruce from talking me into going on these things. (I later find it's a 85 foot vertical drop, the longest fastest, steepest water decent ever built. It reaches 50mph.)

If I were five and thought the movie was real, I might be frightened. Otherwise, it's just fun. They keep you occupied as you do the climb, with things almost falling on you, and things ripping through the walls. You can see the result of the drop from the path next to the entrance, complete with an area that will get the guests soaked. The people on the boat don't get a choice. They just get wet.

On the way out, I see a medallion on a chain for sale. It has the Jurassic Park logo on one side, and on the other, the phrase "If you are consumed by a dinosaur this will not disintegrate." How useful. I buy one.

There are other places in this area that let you do Jurassic Park stuff, like watching velociraptors hatch, or seeing lifelike triceratops. The Jurassic Park Discovery Center is set up like the interior of the Visitor's Center in the movie, down to the spiral staircase around the skeletons of a t-rex. Very Well Done.

Passing from Jurassic Park, we enter The Lost Continent, guarded by a large stone griffin. The themeing changes from jungle (sorry, rain forest) to Stone Ruins. Bruce went on the Dueling Dragons, a pair of dueling inverted coasters. While each has a unique layout and track, they meet and loop in several areas. I wonder how many shoes are lost each year on this ride?

On the other side of the square from Dueling Dragons is a restaurant named The Enchanted Oak Tavern (and Alchemy Bar). It has a *wonderful* exterior. Think Tree of Life with only a face on it. (Oh, no leaves, either, and a lot smaller.)

We continued around the central lake, and came across The Mystic Fountain. It takes Disney's talking water fountains a step further. Hidden cameras, microphones and speakers allow an operator or two to interact with victims in front of the fountain, squirt water in different directions, along with some other effects. Kids love it, and it's fun just to stand around and listen to the corny jokes and puns.

Behind the fountain, is the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. It was highly recommended I see this show, but it never worked out. It was only being shown twice a day, in the afternoon, and I always seemed to be in the Studios at that time.

Another attraction in this area was Poseidon's Fury. First show is at 11:00am. It's 10:57. Okay, we'll wait. A line has already formed. Who cares? Give the room key to the Cast Member, travel down the Express Pass line, and we're third and fourth in line, at the front. The Lowes hotels here might be expensive, but if you're only going to be here for a couple of days, it definitely has a perk. More than can be said about Disney, if fact.

(Note: This was before Disney reinstituted Early Entry. In fact, I got a little white card in the mail from Caribbean Beach Resort to take a survey. They asked how I'd rate the Character Caravan, and I rated it 'poor'. Survey then asked why I rated it poor, and my response was that I'd prefer Early Entry, and that I understood the reason why it was discontinued, but it'd be the only perk that'd get me to stay at a Disney resort again (without really good rates, anyway) and the NEXT DAY they announced Early Entry again. Y'all can thank me anytime. :-)

Back to Poseidon's Fury. The basic premise is you're being guided through ruins by an apprentice archeologist, and we're trapped inside of Poseidon's temple. We have to make our way deeper into the temple to return Poseidon's Trident back to him in order to get out. It has some *very* impressive effects, many of which might be too intense for small children. The last room, combines back projected water screen technology (like Fantasmic!) with lasers, fire and other animated effects. Your guide keeps the narration light-hearted enough that the ride never becomes too frightening, but much of it does take place in dark places, and the end scenes are definitely intense. A definite must see.

Next (and last) island is Seuss Landing. The first thing you notice are the bright colors and organic shapes. No straight lines here. While I originally thought about this place as another extension of Toon Lagoon, I realized that Dr. Seuss never did do comic books. He did children's books, and this really is the Children's area of Islands of Adventure. A carousel (or should I say Caro-Seuss-el), a Dumbo type ride (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) and a ride that takes you through Cat In The Hat. It's a very colorful area; all dressed up in the abstract that is Dr. Seuss's world...

It's noon. Three hours and out. The front-of-line pass really works out well. I wonder if Universal isn't shooting themselves and Lowes in the foot, however, since having a front-of-line pass might reduce your trip to Universal by a day or two. Walk over to Studios. The best deal I could find for entry into both parks for two days was a five-consecutive day pass, over the Internet for $89. You have to sign your name every time you enter a park. They really don't look, so I wonder why they bother.

I've been to Universal Studios once before, back in March. Bruce has been here too (there wasn't an Islands of Adventure at the time) but his wife was pregnant, and they didn't go on any of the motion rides, and had to sit in special sections, like a section in T23D that has non-moving chairs.

So this means I had to do the lame rides again. Kong, Earthquake, Jaws... He'd done Back to the Future. Good. That means I don't have to get beat up again. If you like pain, sit in the back row on a Back to the Future simulator. 'Nuff said.

We enter the park. Run into Shrek and Farquaad. I've seen both here before, but never Donkey. Where's Donkey?

Turn right on Rodeo Drive. There are the Flintstones, without Barney. Maybe I'll hit on Betty while he's not there. Looks like she's gained a little weight though.

T2-3D. Why not? Give the Cast Member my room card, and he says not to bother. Preshow is about to start and there's no line. He's not lying. Go right into the pre-show area, but have to wait a few minutes before it begins. Perky lady comes out. If I knew someone that perky, I'm not sure I'd have the will power to not smack her one. But that's okay. Her day's about to get ruined in the *real* show by the T-1000.

On the T2 DVD, there's a 23-minute feature on how they made this attraction. The feature is longer than the attraction itself, but it did make me want to see this again. Though they don't show credits, James Cameron was responsible for this production of Terminator as well. The ruined city is a *real* place. The motorcycle that rides into the time ball is on a rail.

I'm still awed when the side screens are revealed in the T-1,000,000/CPU room. If you think the Honey I Shrunk the Audience/It's Tough To Be A Bug/Muppets 3D movies are must sees, you have got to see this attraction.

We next stopped in at Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone, just to check out E.T. Adventure. Upon entering the attraction, your name is taken and you're given a card with a bar-code on it. As you get on the ride, the card is taken, so the system then knows who's on which particular car... er... bicycle. As the ride ends, E.T. thanks you by name. Interesting concept, but I've got a non-standard name, and E.T. had a little trouble. Oh well. Definitely a kiddy ride, but so are all the attractions in Magic Kingdom's fantasyland, aren't they? (Admit it...) Interesting to see, if only to see Universal's version of an audio animatronic ride.

Next stop, Men In Black Alien Attack. We went on this ride seven times in the two days we were here, a record for me, I think. Highest score was 275,000. Went from Cosmically Average to Defenders of the Galaxy. Think a waaaaaaaaaaay better Buzz Lightyear, in almost every respect. In any event we only did it once this pass. Still had lots to see.

We pass the Wild West Stunt Show. Performances are at 1:30pm and 3:30pm. Why do they do these things during the heat of the afternoon?

Turn the corner and see the shark. Jaws. Hand my room key over, and bypass the line. We're on the next boat. Maybe I'd enjoy this ride more if I didn't know it was on a track. Think Jungle Cruise, and substitute just about everything with a shark, without the corny jokes, but keep the bad acting.

Next around the main lake in this park is Earthquake. Based on the movie, you're first shown a movie (starring Chuck Heston) about the making of the special effects. Of course, most of the special effects shown aren't done anymore with companies such as ILM around. There's also a portion of the show where you're shown blue screen technology and a live stunt. The main event is on a subway car, in San Francisco. Think Backlot Tours, including Catastrophe Canyon, but substitute a subway for the tour tram.

Kongfrontation. A poor imitation of the original. As I said, I saw a cleaned up print of King Kong in a motel a week or so later, and enjoyed that a lot more than the ride. If you haven't seen it this ride, don't worry about it, it's gone. Closed. Deceased. Kaput. We saw it only a couple of days before it closed. There were supposed to be something given away to the riders on the last day. I'll bet it was stuff out of the souvenir shop that constitutes the post show... :-)

On the way to Twister, we catch part of the Ghostbusters show. I make a mental note to tape it tomorrow.

Twister is pretty lame, although I laughed when the cow went by. It starts with video that's way too preachy, and the attraction itself is too predictable. You know darn well the truck's going into the whirlwind, the sign is going to come down and as I mentioned, the cow. I'm not sure if there's a comparison to Disney. How's this. Think Pooh, but substitute a cow for Tigger. Oh, and you don't ride Twister, you stand there like the water show in Backlot Tours.

We pass by the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. What the heck is it? Dunno. The Universal Express line ends in a wooden door, with a high wooden fence on one side and the wall of the building on the other. If this is themeing, it's for a mugging theme. No one around.

The door finally opens and we're ushered in. We stand in front of a door. Still don't know what it's about. Turns out its sort of a simulator ride. Instead of a single vehicle in front of a screen, however, there are a dozen vehicles, out in the open, in front of a large screen. You ride a Hanna-Barbara cartoon, with Yogi as your pilot! It's interesting to watch how the simulators move in relation to the cartoon. If you like the Hanna-Barbara Characters, this is an okay ride. (Some seats don't move for the kids who don't reach a certain height, and the pregnant among the guests.)

Skies are beginning to look threatening. Well, we knew parts of Edouard would be coming through today. What to do?

The Universal Horror Make-Up Show doesn't start until 3:45. MIB! We head over to Men In Black, and get to the front of the line. Kill lots of stuff, ride ends, we ride again. By this time I realize that I'm passing the same people again in line. The third time we do it, I start to feel a little guilty, but quickly get over it. I paid for it, and it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do. If I was in the regular line, waiting, I might have a different opinion. :-)

Trigger fingers are slowing down, time to leave. Ran into the MIB Agents, a new streetshow. Lame. Move on. It starts to drizzle as we pass Animal Planet. Walk a little faster. Get to the Universal Horror Make-Up Show about 15 minutes early. It begins to rain. The Queue is getting packed. It's now pouring outside. Good time to take an indoor show.

The Universal Horror Make-Up Show, used to be called The Gory, Gruesome & Grotesque Horror Make-Up Show. Why would you change a name like that? The last time I was here, they got halfway through the show, the computers crashed, and they had to terminate the show. Honest. I have it on tape.

Now, not only have they altered the name of the show, but the show itself, even though a lot of the corny jokes are the same. For instance, the guns are gone. Sure the Stunt Guy is introduced, and comes screaming onstage with a big spike in his chest, but they take out the guns. (No, they no longer shoot Chucky.) I don't think it's as good, but it's still worth a laugh or two. Probably too scary for kids, but worth your time. Besides, it's air conditioned, and you get to sit down. Comfy seats, too. I don't think there's a Disney translation to this show. It's too gory (though they explain how they do it) and too tasteless.

Time for the All-New Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue. Featuring your favorite totally tasteless, borderline obscene dead guy, Beetlejuice. Starting Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein and two new female corpses, Hip and Hop. The Phantom is gone.

I have to say that I don't care for the selection of music as much as the old show, but it's still loud, live and full of energy. I think they've also reigned in Beetlejuice a bit (but not much, and it depends on the actor doing the bit), and they've increased the use of pyrotechnics. I don't think there's a Disney translation to this show, either. It's really the difference between Disney and Universal. I suppose I could say, think Beauty and the Beast and substitute dead guys for Disney Characters, but that wouldn't exactly fit.

Show ends, we're tired and hungry. On the way out, there's a Blues Brother's show in progress that we stop and watch. These guys are pretty good.

Since we didn't take the boat in, we walk on the wrong side of the lake in Citywalk. That's okay, since we decide to eat at NBA City. If you're into basketball at all, this is a cool place to eat. (If you don't like basketball, stay away. Even the garbage can in the guy's john has a hoop and net over it.)

Inside the restaurant are TV screens, from giant to small inside individual booths. They all play the same thing. Basketball highlights and features. This is a very cool place. Oh, the food is good too.

Finished with Dinner, Edouard is doing its thing out there, and it's raining pretty hard. Find a NBA City Orlando coffee mug that has a little basketball where your thumb goes, so you can twirl the ball as you drink your coffee... Yeah, cheap thrills, but I collect coffee cups. The rain dies down a little, see the dock, but no boat, so we walk back to the resort.

Bruce rests up for a while in the air-conditioned room, looking at the current radar plots on the Weather Channel, and sees all sorts of rain on the way home. He leaves, I walk him to the door. That's it though. Spend the rest of the evening backing all of my picture data onto CD, and plan the next day. The rain is getting pretty intense, with lightning in the distance. The wind is really picking up. I'm on the 6th floor of the resort, with a great view of the pool. There's also this newly planted palm tree, that's just outside my window. As I watch it sway, I realize that the only thing holding this 6 story high tree up is probably the 2x4 braces they use until the tree takes root. This is nice.

I'm taking video of the general area of the lightning, but there's no ground strikes, only cloud-to-cloud lightning. Zoom in on the water of the pool to show how hard it's raining. Video fodder for when I edit this altogether.

I turn on the Weather Channel, and watch Tropical Storm Fay develop and head toward Louisiana. I'll be driving there the day after tomorrow, and I'm getting concerned. I drove through the remnants of Tropical Storm Alison last year. That was intense. I'd rather not repeat the experience. But that's a day and a half from now. I still have another day here.

Wow. That was long. Sorry 'bout that.

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 6
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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Men in Black
Men in Black, possibly the best shooter in Orlando...
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 7 (of 8)
Lines: 167
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:26:55 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 7

Day 7 - Universal - Islands of Adventure, Studios
Sep 5, 2002: Woke up, made some coffee, and watched it rain. This is definitely Edouard knocking on the door. Hmmm... Don't tell me I'm going to have to do MIB all day. Turn on the Weather Channel. It's my most watched TV Channel on the trip. Edouard's losing strength, Fay's gaining strength. Wonderful.

9:00am rolls around. The hell with it, I'm going into the parks. I take the digicam and make sure I have everything I need before I go.

I step out the hotel's back door, and... It's not raining. Go to the dock, and wait for a boat. We're on a different mission in Islands of Adventure this morning. Yesterday, I explored the park; today I'm going to photograph the park.

Get to Citywalk. Everything is wet. Except, amazingly enough, me. The sun starts to come out as I approach Islands of Adventure. Sign my name, enter the park. I'm stopped by a survey taker. Sure I'll answer some questions. Where am I from? Chicago. Where am I staying? The Royal Pacific. Have you been or will you go to Disney? Yes. Did you stay on site? Yes. What sort of media did you have? Annual Pass. Which parks did you visit? All four.

I'd say a third of the questions were basic profiling... er... demographic orientated, a sixth about Universal Orlando, and fully half of the questions were about Disney. I actually found it sort of funny that they wanted to know what I did at Disney more than what I did here at Universal

Hulk is running despite the recent rains. Nothing like photographing a roller coaster without cars on the track... I have to wait for four passes of the train before I can get the shots I want.

Turn the corner, and there's Spider-Man. Well, heck. I go on it for the second time. I'm sure if I read a comic book in the past 20 years, I'd have a better idea who the villains are, but hey, I saw It's Tough to be a Bug before I saw Bug's Life. I decide the best seats are the ones in the middle of the car, and it doesn't really matter that I don't know who most of the bad guys are. They're just the bad guys.

I'm over in Toon Lagoon, trying to get a picture of Mount Do-Right, even though the lighting is bad, when Betty Boop shows up. She poses for a picture. I also run into Boris and Natasha, but have a hard time figuring out who they are. Boris is kinda tall, and Natasha is kinda short. Relatively speaking, of course.

I basically make my way through the park in the same way as yesterday, but instead of looking at Maps and seeing the attractions, I'm looking at the themeing, trying to figure out the best way to photograph it. Ending up in Seuss Landing. It's 11:20. I've got 70 minutes to get back to the hotel, pick up the video camera, and get to the Studios to start taping the streetshows.

I arrive at Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue at 12:10, and go right in. Now that I know the program, I know how to tape it. This Beetlejuice is better than the one performing yesterday too. He even uses some of the older jokes from the old show.

Fifteen minutes after Beetlejuice ends, there's supposed to be a Blues Brother's performance. It's right around the corner. So is a hot dog stand. I haven't eaten yet, so I get one. "Who makes your hot dogs?" I ask. He doesn't know. He doesn't have any buns either, which makes for a pretty poor hot dog. That's okay, he comes back with some buns, and the hot dog is pretty mediocre anyway.

So where's a good hot dog in Orlando? The hot dogs at Disney World aren't very good either. Does Nathan's in the Orlando Airport serve natural casting hot dogs? Anyone know? (Oh, though I'll stop for a couple of dogs at the Oscar Meyer place in the rest areas on the turnpike, Oscar Meyer doesn't have a really good dog...)

I get the show from the sax guy walking down the street to the Bluesmobile driving away. It's a little loud, and the cast that performed yesterday afternoon was better, and did different songs. I wonder how many sets there are. I tape until the Bluesmobile turns the corner. Next on the schedule is a Ghostbusters meets Beetlejuice streetshow, around the corner from here. By now, the day has turned from rain to bright sun, and it's hot and humid again. Welcome to Florida.

Okay, the show is lame. Beetlejuice saves some of it, his character is too, uh, outspoken for there not to be some laughs. It's probably okay if you just happen on it, but don't go out of your way. The show ends, and the characters hang around for a while, talking and posing with the guests hanging around. I've got five minutes of tape to kill, so I keep taping 'em. Beetlejuice stays in character, posing in semi-obscene poses with guests, and obscuring the faces of the others in the picture.

Well, I'm tired. I walk around and get more video footage to stick into my video if I need it. I pass by Back to the Future, and Doc Brown goes riding by on a bicycle. I wonder if he has the keys to that riced-out Celica they have in front of Back to the Future?

Pass by Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone, and there's the man... uh, the bird himself. Sonic is out too, playing with a hoola-hoop around his nose. The sun starts to go away.

I decide to park my butt on a bench and people watch for a while. I buy a diet coke first, and the Mystery Machine goes by, with Scooby out the sunroof, and Shaggy's driving. I start to make my way toward the Horror Make-Up show, and take a seat outside of the square. I find I'm right by a backstage entrance. Doc Brown is coming back, and poses for a few pictures and autographs.

Then this oddly dressed nutball comes on over and tries to start a conversation. Problem is, I can't tell if he's really a nutball, or some Cast Member in character that I don't know. Skies look pretty crappy. My phone beeps. Bruce called. He's off work and coming down. Okay, that seals it for me. It also explains why the weather is turning crappy. I head back to the resort. As I reach the canopies that cover the boat docks at citywalk, it begins to rain. It continues to rain as I board the boat, and it rains pretty hard and pretty steadily until I'm almost at the resort. Then it slackens off, and stops. No rain as I go from the boat to the resort. Weird.

I'm in the room, enjoying the air conditioning in the room, and what do I turn on? The Weather Channel. Tropical Storm Edouard is breaking up as it's passing over Florida, but it might gain strength if it crosses over into the gulf. Great. Tropical Storm Fay is heading west toward Texas, but it's projected throw up all sorts of rain into Mississippi and Louisiana. Great. That's where I'm going tomorrow.

The door opens. Well, he still has a room key. He has to change out of a suit into shorts. Well, I wouldn't go into the parks with him if he was wearing a suit. (Might make a good picture to buy at MIB, though.)

And that's exactly what he wants to do. Go kill stuff at MIB. No problem. We get to MIB, and find they have some lockers there. If you only keep stuff in there less than an hour, it's free. All run by a computer. Get our receipt and instructions; stuff all our stuff (which includes a bottle of water and a frozen lemonade) into the locker. We end up saving the galaxy three times. We get our MIB suit every time. They need to raise their standards. We get our stuff from the locker.

Bruce really wants to ride Hulk. Walk over to Islands of Adventure. It starts to rain. Coaster's still running, so as he rides, I call the person I'm meeting in New Orleans the day after tomorrow. He comes back with a grin on his face. What to do now? Park will only be open for another 20 minutes. Spider-Man is right there. There's the answer to that question.

This is the third time I'm riding this attraction, and you can see some differences. The Spidey Signal doesn't work, for instance. The guy in front of us is trying to tape the ride. He's soon hanging on for dear life with one hand, and the camcorder with the other, taking some fine footage of the floor of the car. I chuckle.

Well, Spidey saves New York again, and we head out toward the exit. It's still raining. We dodge in and out of stores and overhangs, and the rain beings to let up as we exit the park. Not as good as Main Street, since all the stores aren't connected. We head over to the boat docks, wondering where to eat. We try Nascar. Not as well themed as NBA, but the burger's good and the beer's cold. What more can you ask for?

I waddle down to the dock, and eventually the boat. Since Bruce has stuff in the room, he comes up, and I have him help me take a few of my things down, so I won't have to call for bell service tomorrow. Since one of the things taken to the car was the cooler, I stop in at the bar on the way back in and get a beer to go, in case I get thirsty.

I back up my picture data, and quickly scan my route tomorrow on my laptop's GPS/Atlas. It's going to be a long day, and I'm going to need my beauty rest...

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 7
===
"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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Rainbow in Epcot
A little magic after a storm in Epcot...
From: Keane
Newsgroups: rec.arts.disney.parks
Subject: Keane's September 2002 Trip Report Part 8 (of 8)
Lines: 278
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 05:29:16 -0500

Start Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 8 (of 8)

Afterword: Miscellaneous Comments...

I'm going to stop my report here, unless someone really wants to know what I did in New Orleans or the drive home, but it's not relevant to this newsgroup. (Technically, neither is the Universal report, but it did relate back to Disney World... :-)

Okay, time for an admission. The first time I was at Walt Disney World, was in August, 1977 or '78. The *next* time I was at Walt Disney World, was March, 2000 (3 days), but since then, have been there July 2000 (8 days), June 2001 (5 days), March 2002 (3 days), and finally, September 2002 (4 days). I've seen just about every square foot of every park (well, not the roller coasters or Tower of Terror), but only from a 'modern' perspective. (Remember, in '78, Magic Kingdom *was* Walt Disney World.)

I've videotaped most of it; I've photographed a lot of it. I've done the parks alone; I've done the parks in groups. I've done the parks in peak season; I've done the parks in the off-season. Now, I've stayed on-site and off-site. Here are a few opinions. IMHO.

====
On or Off site?

I've stayed on both the I-Drive and 192, and if you've read the trip report, at the Caribbean Beach Resort. Both have their advantages and disadvantages:

Food. At Disney, you're stuck with Disney, unless you have a car and want to drive off-site, then the selections are endless. The food at Disney is good if you want to pay for it, mediocre if you don't. You don't *need* a car to survive. Food in the parks is a whole different discussion.

On 192, I had a Red Lobster, Pizza Hut, KFC, McD, Ponderosa, Checkers, BK, and other restaurants good and bad (Jeff Foxworthy's BBQ on 192 closed, *sniff*,) all within a short distance. (1/4 mile.) Almost endless possibilities if you had a car. You can consciously choose a hotel that's in the middle of the tourist district, and be within walking distance of a dozen of food outlets.

On the other hand, if you're in your room at the right time, you can watch up to a half-dozen flyers from places that deliver appear from under the door. You have to be careful when you get back at night from the parks, that you don't slip on the menus.

When I was on the I-Drive, I was at the Omni Rosen. (On business. Cheapest way to visit Orlando, on business...) I (of course) had my car, so anything in the surrounding area was available. Similar to 192. I've even gone to the largest McDonalds up on Sands. Just because. Even if you didn't have a car, the restaurants in the hotel were very good, and there were several eateries within walking distance.

Cost.

Definite plus to off-site hotels, even ones better than Disney's. The Comfort Inn Suites I usually stay at has a 'fridge, microwave, coffee maker and a separate living area from the beds (the sofa in the living area is a sleeper) at a cheaper price than a moderate at Disney. You also got a free breakfast, if all you wanted was a bagel or bowl of cereal and juice. Rooms with double beds are almost twice the size of the one I had at Caribbean Beach Resort.

Amenities:

Disney's resorts are, well, resorts. They are, in themselves, a complete, self-contained living community. There's no need to leave the property. If you wanted to just stay at the resort, and not even visit the parks, you could. They have amusements (video game arcades, water and self propelled ground vehicles, etc.), souvenirs, food, even places that serve alcohol, all within walking distance from your room, or you can take Disney's transportation to places like Downtown Disney for a wider selection of things to do.

You now have early entry, and then there's the bus system. I've read horror stories of peak season problems, but during the off-season, they were great.

If you're off-site, and have a car, the possibilities are endless. If you can't find it on 192, then you can probably find it at one of the other Disney "Gates", or on the I-Drive. Old Towne Amusement park on 192 has a show car night on Saturday nights. If you like old muscle cars and ever get the chance, so take a look. It's free. The I-Drive has its own set of attractions, such as an upside-down house (Wonderworks, if I remember right,) a Ripley's, and just about any other type of 'family' entertainment you can think of.

Transportation:

I have to give a big thumbs up to Disney's transportation, but I've only used it during the extreme off-season. If you read the trip report, you'll notice I took the bus if I eventually closed out a park. I don't mind driving during the day since you never have to fight a crowd getting out, but when the parks are closing, it can be a bummer.

Now that I've stayed both on and off-site, which would I do? Even with Early entry back, it'd depend on the rate I can get at Disney.

===
Doing the parks alone or in a group.

I've done both. Which is better? It depends on what you want to do. If you're there to seriously videotape or photograph Disney World, you might be better off alone. No matter how patient the people in your party, patience can wear thin after the long hours and sore feet... ("Wait, wait, I just want to get a zoom out from the Epcot sign and have the monorail just coming around...")

If you're there just to enjoy the parks, it might be better with more than one to share the experience, but I've had fun in the parks alone. I usually get the best of both worlds. I'll drive down, get a day or two to myself in the parks, go pick up a friend from the airport for the next couple of days, and I always have the option to back into the parks alone again if I want after they're gone.

I've found two in a group is fine (it's easy to compromise, and many of the attractions are set up for two people,) but sometimes even three can be a bother. I don't know how groups of 5 or more deal with it. I'd still pair off, meet for lunch and compare notes, then pair off again, then stay together for the evening activities.

Here's some advantages of being in the parks alone:

The number one advantage of being in the parks by yourself, you do what you want to do. A majority of one works for me every time! Want to see Country Bear Jamboree again? Go ahead! Want to purposely miss MuppetVision-3D so you can see the pre-show video from the start? Go ahead! Want to get on Small World? Wait, we have to draw the line somewhere. You're alone, not insane.

Unless there's a specific reason you want to stand in line, single rider lines are the way to go. No need to split your party, you *are* the party.

Some of the most interesting conversations I've had with other guests I've had when I was alone in the parks. You're more apt to start such a conversation if you're alone, than if you have others in your group. People from other countries and other cultures are truly fascinating to talk to. Sometimes, even other Americans are interesting.

And the disadvantages:

If you're waiting for a parade or the fireworks, there's no one to hold your 'place' to go to the bathroom, get water, whatever. Plan ahead!

I admit, I still hate to eat alone. That's okay though, I've been on enough business trips to know how to deal with it. I also tend not to go to a really nice place while alone.

I also tend to do things like souvenir shop more. You don't have to keep the corner of your eye out for your party, so you wander around more. At Disney, that usually means looking at more things to buy. Disney is nothing more than a bunch of huge shopping malls with a theme parks built around 'em. Go ahead and try to argue that one.

For some reason, you're asked to take more people's pictures if you're alone. Really. I've easily taken 10 times the number of photographs for complete strangers when I'm alone. Go figure.

When you pack, there's your personal stuff, and a certain amount of 'overhead' that you need to pack. Well, you have to carry it *all* if you're alone. (Or pay for bell service, something not available at all hotels.)

===
Taping and photographing the parks.

This is a whole subject in itself. Here's some things to keep in mind.

Learn how to use the camera/camcorder before you leave home. You're not going to be digging though an operator's manual in battle conditions. Nothing worse than seeing a symbol show up on the LCD screen that you haven't seen before, and have no idea as to its function.

Most TV's in most hotels are pretty modern, and have RCA inputs available. So bring your patch cords that you plug your camcorder (or digital camera) into the TV with, and you can review your tape/pictures on a real TV instead of a dinky LCD screen. You'll have to search around the channels for the aux input, but they're there.

Keep the lens CLEAN! I have a UV filter on my camcorder, and you can see every piece of lint and every dried water drop if the camcorder is pointed toward the sun at the right angle. Ugh. I admit, there are times that the only dry cleaning device I could get was a theme park napkin. Eventually replacing the filter is much cheaper than having to come back down to Walt Disney World to retape something.

Tape the attraction from beginning to end, regardless if you screw up some portion of the video. If you really want, you can go and do the attraction again, and edit in the scenes that you screwed up in the first taping. You generally want the audio intact. I think there's less tolerance to an audio glitch than a video glitch.

Remember that a camcorder is not only taping video, but audio, too. The closer to the microphones, the better the sound will be. Generally, *you* are the thing closest to the mics. You'll be amazed at the sounds that you mentally block out, but are painfully apparent on the tape. The annoying dinging of the car, when the keys are in the ignition but the door is open. Your jacket flapping in the breeze. That conversation with your friend. Your cough. Your laugh. Your singing along with the show. You have to be sort of aware of all of this, and NOT do it.

Sitting in the back is better than sitting in the front. If possible, you want to at *least* get the entire stage/attraction in the frame. You can always zoom in, but if you're too close, you won't be able to tape the entire show.

Also remember that you can lose maybe 10% of the video at the edges when showing it on TV. (But not on a computer. A computer will generally show the entire picture.) Leave a 'safe' border around the subject of the video. You can practice this with your own TV, but each set will be different.

Find out how long the attraction is before starting. (If you can.) For instance, Spaceship Earth is about 24 minutes start to finish. If you only have 15 minutes of tape left, do you really think you can open a tape cart and eject and replace the tape in almost total darkness without missing anything? (Uh, been there, done that.)

I use a 3 section monopod with a ball head attached to it. Much lighter than a tripod. While it will keep the picture steadier, I find its main attraction is that I don't have to hold up the camera. (A TRV-900 with an NP-F950 battery get's really heavy after a few minutes.)

If there's a demand, I could probably put together a document on where the best place is (imho) to tape the attractions, and maybe give you an idea of how to tape something if you can only see it once...

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Disney vs. Universal.

This is an interesting question.

Disney is by far, a more class act than Universal. Universal, however, has a wider latitude in what they can present and how they can present it. For instance? Disney has Mickey Mouse, Universal has Beetlejuice. Disney has the Seven Dwarves, Universal has Bullwinkle and Rocky. Disney has Chip and Dale, Universal has Jake and Elwood. Universal can present a raunchier, more diverse face than Disney, and you accept it as a matter of fact, and at times, makes it more fun. One of Universal's Imagineers, if you want to think of it that way, is Steven Spielberg. 'Nuff, said.

If you're a thrill ride enthusiast, Universal does have it all over Disney. On the other hand, there's a reason Universal copies a lot of what Disney does. All of Universal's latest attractions (and that includes *all* of Islands of Adventure) are extremely well themed, each emptying out into a souvenir store. Characters are pervasive throughout the parks, and there are suggested picture points to capture the moment.

There's also the sheer size Disney has over Universal. While I think it takes 5 or 6 days to cover all four Disney parks, you'll only need two do a pretty decent job of covering both Islands of Adventure and Studios, if the crowds are low.

All in all, I'd venture that the majority of the people coming to Orlando (that does not include the locals) do Universal as a side trip to Disney. (Seaworld is probably the same.) Is it worth doing? Yes. While you can compare a lot of it to Disney, it's not Disney.

End of Report

Well, that's it. Send or post any comments, questions or criticisms. The address I posted this from should be valid.

Thanks for reading!
Keane

End Keane's Sept. 2002 Trip Report Part 8 (of 8)
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"You uncultured swine!" -- Mr. Potato Head

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