Saturday, April 30, 2011

August 2010 Walt Disney World Trip Report - Day 4

Day 4 – Reunited with Cousin Joey

The plan for the day was to do a three-quarters day at Hollywood Studios. Unlike the other three parks, it’s tricky to take a midday break at DHS. That’s because the various shows and performances are staggered in such a way that you can’t do more than one or two unless you stay a while. At the same time, because more of the in-park time at DHS is spent watching shows and performances, it’s not as draining a day as the other parks.

We started the morning off with breakfast on the balcony, overlooking a relatively vacant savanna.

We arrived pre-rope drop and found a turnstile all the way to the right that was uncovered with a green arrow – but it was not staffed by a cast member. This is usually the sign that the turnstile will, in fact, be operational once the park opens. Typically, no one lines up there, since it’s not readily apparent that the turnstile will be open. We are usually the first people to form that line, and we have never been left in the cold.

After we staked our claim, a woman and her two sons got in line behind us, a little sheepishly. We soon discovered that it was another member of TourGuideMike’s August Vacation Club. We chatted a little bit as our daughter contemplated trading pins with her sons. Soon enough, we were let into the park.

My task was to get up front and get to the Toy Story Fast Passes ASAP, while DW and DD would take a little less hectic route toward TSM standby, and we’d meet up at the queue and ride standby together. I positioned myself toward the center of the street, while DD and DW waited all the way to the right (that’s DW looking back toward the turnstiles).

DW told me later that while she was waiting, the same TGM family ended up behind her, and mentioned that they were going to redeem their Give a Day vouchers for Fast Passes, and offered to “add us to her family” (each voucher was good for up to 6 family members). It was a gracious offer – one that DW didn’t really understand at the time, and one that we probably would have declined anyway because it would have meant missing out on the first TSM ride of the day. Still, it was such a generous offer – thanks so much!

There was no pre-show on this day – not sure why – but once the rope dropped I jockeyed and defended my position, got jammed with several strollers, elbowed and pushed, but I made it out alive and quickly with a set of TSM Fast Passes. I met up with DW and DD at the standby queue and we made our way through.

The line was moving at a moderate pace, but began to slow down as we approached the Carnival Barker Mr. Potato Head.

We soon realized that the line was already backing up, and hardly moving. When we got to the bridge that overlooks the ride track, we realized why. A couple of weeks before, Disney had installed gates to control guest access to the ride vehicles. Apparently a cast member or guest had fallen onto the tracks at some point, and adding these gates would prevent that from happening. They also had the effect of preventing quick loading and unloading of the cars. Additional cast members were standing by to try to hurry guests onto and off of the ride when the gates opened, but the whole process took a lot longer than in the past.

As a result, by the time we got off the ride, our Fast Pass window was just about open again. We decided to wait in the area and grab another set. To pass the time we made pressed pennies at the gift shop across the street, and DW bought a Mr. Potato Head T-shirt that she regretted not buying on our last trip (the “Don’t make me get out my angry eyes” one). DD also spent a couple of minutes playing with CMs trying (and failing) to catch a bounced ball with Mickey hands…

With our second set of TSM Fast Passes in hand, we headed down Sunset Blvd. to Tower of Terror. This was another ride that DD informed us that she was old and brave enough to try again. DW and I were dubious but didn’t want to dissuade her courage, so with great trepidation, we got on board. I don’t have any pictures from the ride because most of it consisted of us telling DD that it was almost over. Turns out it was just a little too scary after all, so we won’t be riding that one with DD again anytime soon…

Back out on Sunset Blvd., a Streetmosphere show was about to begin, so we decided to use this as an opportunity to take turns riding Rock n Roller Coaster using the Single Rider Line. I can’t remember the details, but famous director Alberto Dante was holding a shareholder’s meeting with help from Paige Turner and Bucky Greenhorn. About halfway through, DW came back and I left to catch the super stretch limo to the Aerosmith concert.

While I was away, Alberto Dante complimented DD’s coordinated outfit.

He also gave her his business card and told her to call him the next time she’s in Hollywood.

DD also got a picture with Bucky Greenhorn (he is Hollywood’s next leading man, you know)…

We all met up again outside the Beauty and the Beast theater. We’ve seen that show a couple of times now, and it’s pretty well done. You can’t compare it to the BatB on Broadway, but they do a pretty good job of condensing the story down to 30 minutes and including the best songs.

After the show, we checked into the 50’s Prime Time Café for our lunch reservations. We were soon seated and met our long lost Cousin Joey.

Joey was great – super service, very friendly and full of energy.  DW and I both got the Fried Chicken, and it was great. Way too much food, but I managed to put it all away. And I earned one of these:

If we weren’t on the dining plan we wouldn’t have even considered dessert, but since it’s included, and since Brownie Sundaes are one of my most favorite desserts, we decided to give the menu a look. At 50’s Prime Time, the dessert menu comes on a ViewMaster.

Of course I ordered Dad’s Brownie Sundae, but hardly ate any of it. It’s probably enough for three.

After lunch we spotted a PhotoPass photographer and DW mentioned that we had never had a family picture in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat. So, with full bellies, we managed to scratch another item off her Bucket List.

We weren’t planning on staying too much longer, but had some time to kill since our second Toy Story Fast Passes weren’t good until 2:30. We wanted to end the park day with two TSMs via Fast Pass. So we headed over to meet the Monsters, Inc. guys. There was hardly any line for Sulley, and by the time it was our turn, we were the only ones in line! That meant DD got some alone time to spend dancing with Monstropolis’s Top Scarer.

Shortly after that, Mike came out, and we got a quick picture with him…

…before heading to one of DD’s favorite places in all of Walt Disney World, the Honey I Shrunk The Kids play area, or, as she calls it, the “Bug Playground.” She spent about 15 minutes running around, pretending to be an ant fleeing from the grasshoppers, and getting sprayed by the random squirts from the garden hose.

At this point it was close to 2:30, so we headed back to TSM to use our two sets of FastPasses. We should have known something wasn’t right when we saw the FastPass return line stretched outside the door. We got into the line and after about 10 minutes of waiting, we were still in sight of the door. We abandoned ship and gave up our FastPasses, since that wait, even in the FastPass line, was looking like it would be 45-60 minutes.

My theory was that the FastPass machines were still churning out the same number of FastPasses, even though hourly ride capacity was significantly lower than before the safety gates were installed. The statisticians at later confirmed this to be the case and soon noticed that Disney had reconfigured the FastPass system to bring the number of FastPasses issued more in line with the new ride capacity.

We went back to Kidani, swam for an hour or so, then got dressed for dinner. A lot more activity on the savanna in the early evening than there was in the morning:

I wanted to try the fish fry at Cooke’s of Dublin (or “Cookie’s of Bubblin’“ as DD misread the sign), so we headed to Downtown Disney. I really liked the fish and chips. I love that they had plenty of bottles of malt vinegar on the tables – I love that stuff. DD decided to go for battered mini sausages, and thought they were OK. DW chose the battered hamburger, and really didn’t like it. I mean, on paper, the concept of a battered and deep fried hamburger sounds so great! On second thought, even on paper it doesn’t sound so great. And on a bun, it was in fact, not great. So, if you’re keeping score at home, deep fried Snickers bars? Great. Deep fried hamburger? Not great.

After dinner we called it a night. We had to get to bed a little early, because we were planning on getting up extra early the next morning for our Family of the Day attempt at the Magic Kingdom.

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