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Keane and Jenny's "D23's 2011 Magic and Merriment" Trip Report, Part 8

Day 6, D23's 2011 Magic and Merriment: Day 2 - Part 2

Index (M&M is D23's 2011 Magic and Merriment Event)

Event Planning
One of the two photos I was allowed backstage. :-)
Who: Me, Keane. Disney junkie, scribe of this report.
     BYPT Jenny. Enabler to said junkie.
     BYPT Cathy. Jenny's help this trip.
     Karen. My GPS. (A Garmin nuvi 1390)
     (BYPT. Big Yellow Penske Truck. In case you needed to know.)
What: Christmastime at Disney World. Again. But different.
Where: Walt Disney World, Port Orleans - Riverside.
Why: It's Christmas at Disney World, and D23's Magic & Merriment event.
When: December 4 to 14, 2011

All Disclaimers from Part 1 still apply.
Thank you.

Day 6b, Saturday, December 10.
D23 - Magic and Merriment, Day 2, Part 2

We have 90 minutes free, so we head on over to the Tiki Room. I think the crowds for the Tiki Room are about what they were pre-conversion. If they'd put backs on the seats, it's be good for a 10 minute nap. The glee club get's woken up, then the flowers, then the walls, then we leave.

Adventureland / The Enchanted Tiki Room
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We work our way toward the back of Adventureland again, and pick up a couple of Corn Dogs at the egg roll cart. They are very good, I think better than the corn dog nuggets at Casey's. Mmmm.... Meat in tube form. We have to stop and eat because Jenny has to adulterate her corn dog with catsup. Yes, catsup. It's a satisfying snack.

Pirates is broken. How can pirates be broken? Okay, if not Pirates, then we'll have to do Big Thunder again before it goes down for rehab. Supposedly they're replacing track, and doing things to the queue. For as wide as the paths are in this area, there always seems to be crowds. We get in standby, and the queue line is longer than I've ever seen it, but it moves quickly. While I've said the best time to ride BTM is at night, there are some unlit animatronics you can only see during the day. We exit the attraction with about 5 minutes to spare.

Aventureland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
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We arrive at the backstage gates at Frontierland, right next to Splash Mountain. It's here where it really becomes apparent that other guests will get in line, just because it's a line. How do I know? We were last in line. Well, last of one of three lines. It's here that we're segregated into three smaller groups, randomly selected by the color of the snowflake they pasted onto your credentials. One will go to the parade barn, another to Creative Services and another to Scenic Services. It is here I discover that when trapped between the lapbar and abdomen of a Big Thunder rider, the foam snowflake doesn't fare well. But it was still blue.

It is remarkable how many people want to know what the line is for. Many of them wanted to know if it was the line to splash mountain. Others, knowing it wasn't, wanted to know what the line was for.

One of the lines disappear backstage. After several minutes, another line disappears, and stragglers (and at least one couple who was waiting in Splash Mountain) are put into our line.

I am not allowed to take pictures backstage. I am heartbroken. As we walk toward another closed gate, the RXR gates light up and sounds, and the gates come down. I am trying to decide if it's okay to take a picture of the train, and decided if someone on the train can take a picture of me, I can take a picture of the train.

But I'm a good boy, and once beyond the second gate, don't take any pictures backstage unless given permission. sniff.

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Backstage tours: Parade Barn

Our first stop is at the Parade barn.

Take a look at this map. (click on the link, click on satellite in the upper right, and zoom in a little.)

It's just a short walk down a roadway which doubles as the parade staging area. It's the two large white buildings by the canal. (If you look at the canal, you can see the Electric Water Pageant parked there. You can also see it from the monorail if you're quick.) The roof on the South building that looks like corrugated steel, is corrugated steel. It's an open, roofed over structure to hold the larger/taller floats.

If you move down the map, you can see how Caribbean Way feeds directly into Main Street, so if you were curious how they got there, there you are.

Okay, let's see how many facts I remember. (Please see disclaimers at the start of this report.)

MSEP floats have lights in series of 7, overlapped by another series of 7. So the lights are grouped in 14 and if one light goes out, it only takes out every other light in that group of 14. All the floats are kept in the shade, because the lens they use over the lights fade in direct sunlight. Since there's a light and dark shade of very color (and this leads to 12 different colors), if left in the sun, the colors fade and look alike.

Almost all the floats run on batteries. Some smaller floats run on propane. No liquid fueled vehicles.

Here's one. Spectromagic is still at WDW, in storage. It never left, it's just in the corner someplace in the South building.

That tractor that leads the parade? It's there for a tow if needed. It drives out to the midpoint of the parade, so if a float breaks down, it's theoretically closer to the problem. It's not testing sensors, or any other nefarious task. That he would admit to, anyway. :-)

In the parade barn, they were prepping the Pirates float from the "Boo To You" Halloween Parade for use in ABC Christmas morning parade, because Capt'n Jack is so popular. "Nothing says Christmas like pirates, eh?"

Some big heavy floats do get stuck in Frontierland. Not the Castle float, but some heavy ones sometimes needs help.

And talking about the real long floats (the castle float in particular), there are two drivers, one at the front, and one at the rear, cause of that really tight turn around the hub and Town Square. All floats have a driver, and there are three levels of experience on which float they can drive. They are also only trained for one park, so the MK drivers can't work in DHS or AK.

Most floats are reused. We were given the history of one float. Some floats were inherited and reused from Disneyland.

Even though the larger floats are just kept under the overhang outside of the south building, all the floats can be squeezed indoors in case of a hurricane, for example. But it requires they dismantle some of the really tall floats (like Tink's MSEP float) to get it in the door.

If you look, there are kill switches in several places around each float. There are also tape switches along the sides of the float, and if anything comes in contact with it, the float will stop. (The music, lights and other show related things keep going, but the vehicle has to be reset before it will move again.)

The non-character CM's that travel with the parade are there just to monitor and make sure the characters/entertainers stay out of the floats way if they get too close.

Finally, he concluded (and sadly, I do not remember his name, but was a looooong time guy,) that everyone should work for Disney, at least once. He had come down there to work for a year, and ended up as one of the real long timers...

Our handler CM shuts down the tour (boooo), and we head out of the North Building and to a waiting Mears bus. We load, head out, stop, turn around (3-point turns in buses are exciting), go back and pick up a forgotten wheelchair, turn around again, then head out from the restricted area to a road that will take us to Facilities Way.

Backstage tours: Facilities Way

We were in Holiday Services, and Disney's Event and Decorating Support.

If you look at this map, we're right across the street was the train/monorail maintenance facility.

In Event support, we met Patrick, who gave us a summary of what they did here.

They do about 3500 events per year. They do things as small as a corporate events to events as large as Food and Wine. They process 40-50K permits through Reedy Creek per year. For instance, a booth at Food and Wine take 5 to 6 permits per booth. (Building, electric, occupancy, food service, sanitary, plumbing, etc.)

They do the characters you see in the hub and Town Square. For instance, they did the Toy Soldiers in Town Square, taking molds from the costumes in the parade to make perfect duplicates.

They did the Castle lights. The lights are panels of castle colored netting with LED lights woven into it. I forget the number of panels (over 30, if I remember right), but the range from 7 feet long to over 40. There are 200K lights and 200 strobes on the castle. Electricity used? About three home dryer cycles per night. And we got to take pictures of a display they set up for the Backstage tour guests. (We aren't the only tour to come through here.)

I could work there.

He also said (in response to a question) that if an item is a prized Disney trademark of some sort, the props must be destroyed. Lesser items can be turned over to property, some of which might be sold or auctioned. A lot of things are recycled. He pointed out that a lot of things covered and protected by blankets in the warehouse, are actually bedspreads from Disney Cruise...

Disney's Event and Decorating Support
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Holiday services:
In Holiday Services, we met CM Doug, who was covered with... pixie dust! Actually, it was glitter, and we'd find out why later.

It seems Disney has 7 warehouses full of decorations, plus another offsite. It's not only Christmas, but Halloween, the Fourth of July, etc.

The warehouse right now is mostly empty, with a majority of the inventory out in the parks and resorts. There is some things still here, like Coronado Spring's Christmas tree, which can't go up yet because of some construction walls that are in the way. So it still sits here until it can go in.

One of the first things we're shown, is literally hundreds of different types of silk flower/ornamental replacements. Then another wall full of Christmas ornament replacements. All of them rewired so the tops won't come off.

It's also about themeing and scale. Those 14" ornaments are huge, but look perfectly natural on one of the Park Trees. Hundreds of themed ornaments, from little surfing Goofys, to huge Mickey Ears.

We are taken to a room where they have gallon containers of glitter, and a couple dozen work benches where staff are usually working, but it's mostly empty right now. I wonder how busy this place is at night when they really work.

We walk back through the warehouse, and there are actually rows of shelving that belong to certain resorts or areas. For instance the Grand Floridian has several rows for storage. There are areas on the other side of a wall that we can't see. There are a lot of small trees back there, so maybe it's where they store things like the MK and Atrium trees.

We do find out why he's covered in glitter. He's working on a tree made completely from recycled pop/water bottles. It's not a Disney Tree, so we can take a picture of it. :-) But if you look closely, it's bottle bottoms, bottle caps, bottle bodies... Very inventive. A bit messy. There was talk of putting the info on how to make the decorations on a web site someplace. I don't know if they did. Oh, we were allowed to take pictures because the tree really wasn't a Disney tree. Of course, all the other trees in the photo were Disney's, but who's counting?

Holiday Services
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We board the bus, I take a picture of the transportation maintenance and holiday services signs. As we enter the restricted area behind Big Thunder and Splash, the guard actually comes into the bus and does a cursory bag check.

Facilities Way
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We are back in Frontierland by 2:30pm. Again, if D23 really liked us, they could have dropped us off by town square using the backstage road, since we need to get to Animal Kingdom by 4pm. Instead, we do the long walk back through Adventureland, Main Street, and to the POR bus stop. The bus takes a couple of minutes to come.

I get back to my room, and download and back up all the pictures taken today. Standard procedure is to transfer the data directly from my SD card to my laptop hard disk, and a second transfer from the SD card to a portable hard disk and then another copy from the SD card to a second portable hard disk. But it takes time.

I outfit from daytime to nighttime park paraphernalia, and grab a sweatshirt. It might get chilly tonight. I grab Karen and Jenny and we drive to Animal Kingdom. Since we could be in the park as late as 10:30pm, bus service to Animal Kingdom won't be running. There will be bus service provided to the TTC, but then we have to get to MK to get to our resort bus, and it'll be just more convenient to drive.

I hold my resort parking permit up to the window, and am allowed into the AK parking lot. Unfortunately, I miss the turn (actually you go straight through a mostly coned off road) and have to circle around the entire parking lot before I can re-enter and give the parking CM deja-vous.

We have a special parking area. Not because we're that special, but because the trams won't be operating when we get out, and will have to walk to our car.

We get to the gate late, at 4:15, and check in with D23. I use my AP to get into the park. Most other M&M guests are standing in line, and are let into the park in batches through the side gate.

We're gathered off to one side, corralled together by guys with red flashlights. One guest thinks it's the line for the stroller return. He's relived to find out it's not. But gather 200 people together in one place, and it is a crowd.

Animal Kingdom
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We finally get to Kilimanjaro Safaris 4:45pm, and we find ourselves right behind Ms. Beaumont, so I get a picture. We funnel down the fastpass lane, much to the dismay of all the guests still in the stand-by line, I'm sure. So it really wasn't the last ride of the day, but it was close.

The driver again stopped several times through the two week trip so we could take pictures. There seem to be a couple of those viewing platforms protruding out into the savanna. I'm sort of surprised Disney didn't do that in the first place.

Lots of animals around until 5:00 pm, then like they're under contract, they disappeared. Lots of antelope and other four legged things. The shaky bridge over the crocs has been fixed. Then at 5:05, the elephants are all walking toward their area backstage, in places you usually don't see the elephants. Cheetahs, wart hogs, lions,... Gone. Still there was that incredibly fake looking Lil' Red in the truck, though. I am convinced we were kidnapped by aliens. Those two weeks sure went by quick.

Kilimanjaro Safaris
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We've got 90 minutes to kill until we have to meet at ExE, so we're going to go kill it at Chester and Hester's.

Animal Kingdom
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One of the reasons we go there, is Primeval Whirl, aka Primeval Hurl. I'm not sure why, but it's one of Cathy's favorite rides, but Cathy's not here. Jenny only knows the ride by the Hurl name, and has to ask me what the real name is. sigh. Jenny has to text Cathy to let her know we're going to ride it. She once texted me that she was waiting for the MSEP. Mean. Women.

I go use the bathroom so nothing gets spun out of me, and we get into the queue. We're going to the right track. I've never been on this side. Always the other side. We get into the car, taking the middle two seats. The car barely spins. We're too balanced.

So we get on it again. Only this time we've got three in the vehicle. Jenny and I are on one side, and some scrawny kid is on the other. And yes, this time we spin. And people complain about the g-forces in Mission:Spew.

Jenny wants to go on Triceratops Spin, except first she has to stand next to the height check and send a picture to all her friends. I'm sure there was a reason she wants to do this. She give me her phone and sez "Take a picture." Sure. If I only knew the button to go into photo mode....

I've never been on Triceratops Spin. I've never been on the carpets in Adventureland, either, I suppose I should do that. So yes, every once in a while, my scorecard of things to complete at WDW gets filled in. Of course, one should have been left blank, but I've already discussed that. :-) And ride it we do, and after too short a ride, we head back toward Expedition Everest.

Chester and Hester's
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We cross the bridge from the Theater in the Wild side to the ExE side, and there are D23 members scattered here and there. We all just sit around until suddenly, we get sorta organized. Lisa Sanchez, our main D23 host, is losing her voice. She still has two more days of this.

They take the group picture, and I can hardly understand how they're going to get all of us in frame. When they finally publish the photo, I find they didn't, and we are cut off and not in the picture. sniff.

We do choose to take a ride on Everest, though. We get on the attraction a little past 7pm, which is park closing tonight, so it is one of the last rides on ExE tonight. ExE is a lot like the Peoplemover, in that at night, when your eyes are more accustomed to darkness, the insides of the ride is more apparent. It's much easier to see Betty in her state of...brokenness at night. It's more apparent what the Imagineers were trying to accomplish using the strobes, but she's still broken. It's also the first time I really saw the track in front of us rotate as we were reversing back to forward.

It's shortly after this that Jenny decides she needs another handhold, which happens to be my thigh. She left marks. Your typical scream of "AHHHHHHH" was followed by "My leg! My leg!" I'm sure I puzzled the other guests around me. I took a picture of the monitor as proof. She left marks. Does the TSA know she's carrying all these little weapons?

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We are gathered by CM's with red flashlights and herded over to Flame Tree. Just before we get there, we are stopped, and the first half is seated in one terrace, then we are lead to another. The drinks are free. Several types of beer, wine, and soft drinks. A couple of Scotch/rocks would be good right now. Of course, you tip the bartend... No, they're really not a bartender, they're more of a bottle opener and drink pourer. But, such as it is, they are tipped.

We do a stupid Photoshop trick, and Steve Vagnini is making the rounds, and sits at a neighboring table. He's here because Becky Kline couldn't make it. He brings out the latest Disney scam, a sortofa like a Vinylmation thing, except it's based on park attractions. The one he has (might have been a prototype, I don't know,) is based on Horizons. He also had a Figment. Of course, you don't know what's in the box until you open it. sigh. I've noticed Disney hasn't put out a trading card set in years. Maybe Vinylmation has replaced trading cards. And any other sort of quality merchandise. But I digress.

Flame Tree BBQ terraces
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The Hors d'oeuvres don't really make it to us until late, but when they do, I try the blue crab, veggie, pork, beef. Goodness they were good. No food porn, some were obtained on the way to Camp Minnie-Mickey.

I have to make the observation that many of these terraces at Flame Tree would make excellent viewing should they put a version of World of Color in the lagoon in front of ExE doing a pyro show. Just in case anyone reads these things. Heh.

We follow the guys with red flashlights over to Camp Minnie-Mickey. I'm sure they're more there to make sure no one sneaks off to other corners of the park. CMM is a convenient place for an event like this, it closed off (no other exits), there's a bathroom there, and it's close to the exit.

As we get there, the smell of fat dripping off meat and vaporizing on a grill fills the air. There are green salads (yes, I actually eat some), a pasta salad, a very well cooked salmon, BBQ chicken, creamed risotto, rolls, strip steak with a chocolate torte with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. All buffet style. It was all very good.

Except for these odd utensils we have to use. They're made of wood. Pretend you have a tongue depressor, and shape them into forks and knives. The knife actually cut the steak, but the fork came up a little short when trying to stab something, and failed miserably when trying to spoon something into your mouth. Did I mention there were no spoons?. One guy at our table was suddenly a tine short on his fork, and complained it was going to hurt coming out. D23 means class.

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For entertainment, Goofy in his Santa attire was out, and we had a clear view of some kid at the dessert table putting together the perfect cake, tastes the whipped cream, and meeting with his approval frosts the torte just so, and decorates with strawberries, just so on a plate. Now, there's an off chance that the kid was making a cake for Mom's birthday or something, so I'll cut him some slack. On the other hand, if he was just going to eat the thing, he was spending way too much time on presentation.

There was also a roaming guitarist. It was through him we found out some guy proposed to his girlfriend in the castle suite. Foolish mortal. Everything can only go downhill from there...

We consuming what could be considered a feast, and allowing time to digest and for conversation, we bid our goodbyes to our fellow dinner guests, and we head out to the parking lot. On our way out, there are guys with red flashlights making sure we don't veer off-course, and we exit the park. We get to the car, and drive back to POR. It's 10:30, and call it a night. We actually have another busy day tomorrow.

Holiday Feast at Camp Minnie-Mickey
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End December 2011 Trip Report - Part 8.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

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