mmcirvin: (Default)
[personal profile] mmcirvin
I'm only now realizing just how many attractions of note we managed to hit on our trip.

Soarin', at Epcot, was a repeat ride, but I didn't write about it last time and am counting it as new because it got new visuals. This is a very gentle, and actually pretty simple, motion-simulator ride that is a huge draw anyway, because it's so beautiful and effective. You're basically watching a short Omnimax-style movie in imitation McGillivray-Freeman style on a gigantic curved screen, which would be the same kind of experience you could get at a million science museums--except that you're suspended in midair, in a rig that lifts all the theater seats off the ground after loading and arranges them in three diagonally staggered tiers, each hanging below a suggestion of a wing. The massive rig also provides a little bit of motion during the movie, which I think is all really just in the vertical plane--all the banking and turning motions are provided by the film. The film is laser-projected at a super-high frame rate, and there are some subtle Smell-O-Vision effects piped in to enhance some of the scenes. The effect is just that you're flying over gorgeous landscapes by some silent gliding means.

The original ride was designed as a centerpiece attraction of Disney's California Adventure, and the film was "Soarin' Over California", a fact downplayed at the Florida instance of the ride, but it became evident soon enough. Nobody cared much, because it was great and anyway California is lovely. It had a custom Jerry Goldsmith symphonic score.

The new film is called "Soarin' Around the World", probably motivated by the installation of a version of the ride at the new Shanghai Disneyland, and is pretty much what you'd expect from that title: you fly over many wonders of the world, to Goldsmith's music rearranged by Bruce Broughton. It's equally lovely; the main stylistic difference is that there are artful CGI transitions between the shots instead of the original's abrupt cuts. They work all right.

As the DIS Unplugged people said on YouTube, one drawback of the new film is that some of the new landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, don't work great with the curved screen; the stark verticals really bring out the spherical distortion, particularly if you're in the front row. It's not a deal-breaker. The ending is customized to the particular Disney park you're visiting; you glide to a landing at Epcot, California Adventure or Shanghai Disneyland, as the case may be. So there's no longer the sense that you're having an experience built for a different park.


Epcot's shiny front area, with most of its bigger rides (including Soarin'), is called "Future World"; the park was famously conceived as a permanent World's Fair, and this was where all the sedate corporate-sponsored attractions about the World of Tomorrow were supposed to go, sequels to the Carousel of Progress. A lot of those are either shut down, replaced or partially re-skinned now (the business model of hitting up sponsor companies for periodic refreshes only worked in a few instances, the most spectacular probably being World of Motion/Test Track, which is still GM-sponsored and now has Chevrolet branding). Between the few popular rides and the wider appeal of the country-themed World Showcase areas in the back, I still haven't gotten around to seeing most of what's left of it.

I had idle fantasies of sneaking over to Epcot for a solo "Boring Rides of Epcot" tour on Wednesday, but when the day rolled around I was feeling too worn-out to give up our mid-week recuperation day (see below).

One of the original attractions was The Living Seas, which incorporated a large, real aquarium with an Omnimover ride-through attraction themed like a futuristic undersea base. At some point it became The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and the ride-through part got re-themed to a short and inconsequential sequel to "Finding Nemo," with the movie characters as animations on screens. It's not that great but might entertain small children. At the end, there's a moderately clever musical bit in which the animated characters get superimposed over the actual aquarium behind them; I'm not entirely sure which method they use to do that. The wrap-around aquarium tank might have been impressive in 1982 but kind of pales in comparison to, say, the ones in Boston and Baltimore; the stocking with sea creatures seems kind of lackluster. The bigger draw at the Seas pavilion is Turtle Talk with Crush, a cute CGI puppet show for kids that we saw last time we were there.


The opening-day centerpiece of Hollywood Studios' front area was The Great Movie Ride, another aging slow ride with a classic-movies theme that is a weird mixture of impressive, OK and cringeworthy elements. The entrance and queue are themed like the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (which I guess fits with the park's current Star Wars obsession, since it premiered there in '77), and it looks really great; there's a random assortment of movie memorabilia on display in the queue. The last part of the queue takes place in a theater where the late Robert Osborne of TCM narrates over classic movie clips.

The ride itself has two duplicate halves, with gigantic ride vehicles bearing pew-like rows of seating, and these move through often huge sets with animatronic characters who reenact scenes from various classic movies, most of which aren't Disney properties: "Singin' in the Rain", "Alien", "Casablanca", "The Wizard of Oz", etc. Hollywood Studios was originally called "Disney/MGM Studios," and the MGM part was entirely referring to this one ride (though many of them aren't MGM movies either). Most of the animatronics seem creaky and stiff by 2017 standards, but near the end there's a Wicked Witch of the West automaton that is a more recent replacement, and she's really good.

In addition to narration mostly at the beginning and end by Osborne, there's a castmember standing on the ride vehicle giving you cornball live narration through the ride. About a third of the way in, depending on which half of the ride you're on, there's a shootout in either the gangster-flick scene or the Western scene, in which the tour guide gets "abducted" and a castmember playing either a Prohibition-era gangster or a Wild West bandit takes over on the tour vehicle. Eventually, after being confused by the science-fiction trappings and rather listless monsters in the "Alien" scene, the miscreant tries to steal something from an Egyptian pharaoh's tomb and is cursed by a hooded figure who turns out to be the original tour guide, and returns for the rest of the ride.

All this depends on acting to really work, and I'm afraid the acting is pretty bad, like sub-community-theater bad. But I didn't see it coming when I first rode it, and the surprise amused me anyway. Rumor has it that this ride is a bit too much for Disney's current level of control-freakery and will probably be replaced soon by something with all Disney-owned content.


What else? Our hotel was OK--Coronado Springs, a moderate-tier resort located somewhere between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. My daughter picked it because of the elaborately themed "Lost City of Cibola" pool with its fake Mesoamerican pyramid and long, twisty Jaguar Slide (it's quite a hike from most of the guest rooms, but there are three smaller, closer pools as well, keyed more to adult guests). The pool was pretty great; the grounds were lovely; the room was clean and of an OK size, but seemed like it hadn't been renovated in a long time. Paying for a "water view" doesn't get you much--there's a little window looking across the exterior walkway toward the resort's central lagoon. Restaurants on site ranged from a not-very-good budget cafeteria to a really quite good sit-down Mexican place and breakfast room. There are places at the hotel from which you can see most of Hollywood Studios' fireworks show, and, at a greater distance, Epcot's.

All in all, it wasn't a huge step up from the Pop Century budget resort where we stayed last time, except for the fancier pool and the presence of good restaurants on site. It was all right, but Universal's middle-tier Loews Royal Pacific is way better.

Other good food at Disney World: The Boma buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge is still incredible; Spice Road Table at the Epcot Morocco pavilion is pretty great (I've heard the other restaurants in that area are too--it's also the best-looking World Showcase pavilion at Epcot, probably because of the involvement of Moroccan artisans who gave it a real sense of place). The Portobello Italian restaurant at the Disney Springs shopping area is pretty good.


On the Wednesday, the middle day of our trip, we took a day off from the parks and spent it at the hotel pool and at Disney Springs, finishing with the Cirque du Soleil La Nouba show there, which we greatly enjoyed. The show is apparently shutting down at the end of the year--whether they'll be replacing it with another Cirque du Soleil show or with something else entirely, I have no idea. Disney Springs has gone by many names; it was originally Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, and was recently called Downtown Disney. Now it's been vastly expanded and has a fake history and an equally fake "springs" area by its open-air shopping mall, which is very pretty. My feet were really hurting by then, but by Thursday morning it felt like I'd gotten a second wind and was willing to march through the parks again.

All in all, good trip. The hugeness of Walt Disney World can make it overwhelming; this was the first time that Sam and I did most of the planning, and I think we pulled it off pretty well. I think it will be a few years before we go back. Maybe after Star Wars Land opens.

September 2017

S M T W T F S
     12
3 456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 04:33 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios