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Hey! I'm still here. Let's talk about fairytale re-tellings. The stories we know as fairytales and folk tales have been a part ...

15 October 2015


Hey! I'm still here. Let's talk about fairytale re-tellings.

The stories we know as fairytales and folk tales have been a part of human history for longer than we will ever know. They existed first as stories passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation, and though we can find the first times these stories were written down, we can't say for sure what they were before that. It's like a big long game of Telephone; what we got written down in the 9th century is likely a garbled version of whatever our 4th century ancestors were telling each other. And ever since they were written down, they have continued to evolve and change with each generation that tells them. The basic stories - the rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella, the cruel queen persecuting the innocent princess in Snow White, the beautiful maiden falling in love with a gruesome suitor in Beauty and the Beast - are a template that each generation uses to tell stories that tell us a lot about who they are, what is important to them, and what their priorities are.

I saw the sentiment a lot around the time that the new Cinderella came out (yes this post has been rattling around in my head that long, look at me and how I am on top of current things) that the story of Cinderella was "always" about Cinderella being an abuse survivor, that it was "always" meant to inspire other abuse survivors to be strong and endure, to be kind and patient and not let the evils of the world break you. And while that is a valid reading of Branagh's interpretation and certainly a great way to read the Cinderella story in the modern day, it's simply not true that this was "always" the case.

One of the purposes of fairytales and folk tales is to illustrate and encourage the desired behaviour for whichever culture and time in which it was written or told. This is perhaps most evident in my mortal enemy Charles Perrault's versions, which almost always include a stated moral at the end. Perrault was writing for an upper-class audience, and his tales are meant to shape the behaviour of upper-class women. His version of "Little Red Riding Hood" is a vast departure from earlier versions (which were very crude and sexual and meant for adult entertainment rather than moral lessons), ending with the lesson that women must never be led astray by men who would ruin their virtue. His "Cendrillon" is meant to be a role model, to be sure, but for the ladies of the 17th century royal French court, not women of today. What Perrault wanted women to take from "Cendrillon" was that they should be meek and mild, suffer in silence, and eventually good things would just happen to them. They were not to seek better things, they were not to complain about being mistreated. The spirit in which his lessons were meant is not at all in line with today's views.

This is precisely why these stories live through every generation; we disagree with the views of a previous generation and we rewrite these stories to fit our own views. It's one of my very favourite things about fairytales: that they are living, evolving things that change with every person who tells them even as their core remains the same. And it is important that we keep re-telling these stories, that we keep them updated with us - it is a story in itself that Cinderella goes from Perrault's whipping post to Branagh's strong, radiant heroine, not forgetting that there were many, many stops along the way in other stories, other Cinderellas. But I think it is equally important that we don't forget where these stories were before. It is not helpful to claim that Cinderella was "always" the way she is now; it detracts from how far we've come and how much progress we've made. Forgetting what these stories were before we re-imagined them is how people end up talking about what a great feminist noted misogynist Charles Perrault was (I am not joking, I have literally read this argument).

I love fairytale re-tellings. I love that throughout history, even to this very day we are taking these same stories we've been telling forever and bringing them with us into every new century and every new day. But it is vital that we don't forget where we've been, or we're in danger of slipping back. Every new "Cinderella" re-telling could not have existed without Perrault, without the Grimms, without "Rhodopis," without "Ye Xian." I don't think it's fair to Cinderella to say she's always been who she is now. Her journey is part of her story - the journey of her story is part of her story. She and every other fairytale and folk tale hero and heroine have become who they are because of the journey they've taken with the rest of humanity, and hopefully will continue to grow and change until the end of time. Please, keep re-telling fairytales, keep finding strength in their stories and keep finding yourself in their lives, but don't forget that we have come so far and we still have so far to go.

03 August 2015

Beauty in Fairytales and #GrowingUpUgly

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

Beauty as a motivating factor for fairytale villains is often laughed at. Why would someone be driven to such extreme ends simply wanting to be pretty? There's a lot to unpack about beauty in fairytales - it's never only about beauty in and of itself. And though it is very much indicative of the times in which these stories were written down, that's not to say things have changed terribly much since then.

In a time when death in childbirth was common, so was re-marriage; step-mothers and step-siblings are so present in so many fairytales because these stories reflect the realities of life at the time. The conflict between children of the dead mother and the new step-mother arose largely over money and inheritance issues; step-mothers feared their own children would be looked over in favour of the father's children and it was easier to just hate the dead woman's children rather than try to tackle a society that didn't give women a way to support themselves without a husband. Fear for their own and their children's futures motivated step-mothers to ingratiate themselves as best they could to their new husbands, and being beautiful was considered an important piece of that puzzle. Beautiful women are loved, beautiful women get what they want, so these fairytale step-mothers attempted to make themselves as beautiful as possible to secure their own and their children's futures. And, as you may have read, often led them to abuse their step-daughters, which is not excusable, but you see where they're coming from now.

Not all step-mothers were so family-minded, though. Ravenna from the criminally overlooked Snow White and the Huntsman was an excellent example of fairytale villains who seek beauty for power. Ravenna grew up in poverty and used her beauty (along with a healthy dose of dark magic) to secure a position of power. Of course many fairytales are inspired by poor people dreaming of wealth and security, but generally you're supposed to reach that through being good and beautiful. Ravenna and villains like her are evil partly because they use their beauty for evil rather than good. But beauty is powerful, whether used for good or evil in fairytales; is the beautiful Cinderella raising herself from poverty by marrying the prince so very different from the beautiful Ravenna raising herself from poverty by marrying the king?

The difference there, of course, is in "good" and "evil." Cinderella, we know, is good, and the evil queen is - well, she's what it says on the tin. Cinderella's beauty is not her defining quality: she is kind, she is gracious, she is brave, she is patient. But on top of all of this, she is beautiful, as is every fairytale princess and heroine. Their goodness is only multiplied by their beauty. While their beauty might be what first intrigues their prince or whoever, it's their goodness that secures their happy ending, but it's still important that she be beautiful. Compare Cinderella to her tellingly-named Ugly Step-sisters, who are in fact ugly inside and out in Perrault's story and even more so in adaptations based thereupon, but don't actually do anything in the Grimms' version other than do what their evil mother tells them to do and are ugly. Their mother's desperation to secure their futures and her vile bitterness toward Cinderella has much to do with the fact that Cinderella is beautiful while her daughters are ugly. It would be much, much more difficult for her daughters than Cinderella just based on their looks, not even beginning to factor in personality.

We all know Maleficent has always been my favourite Disney villainess, but I've always held a soft spot for Grimhilde as well. A little girl growing up loving fairytales who's dark-haired & goofy-looking who has a beautiful blonde porcelain doll sister gets attached to the villains. Because as much as I loved the princesses and the heroines, as much as I admired them, I knew that I could never be like them because I wasn't beautiful. And what is the point, I thought, of being good and noble and what have you if you're not beautiful? There are no ugly princesses. The ugly stepsister doesn't get the prince. The goose girl is executed. The evil queen dances to her death in iron shoes. Boys dare their friends to ask you out or tell you they like you. The cute guy you've been smiling at all night asks you for your beautiful friend's number, telling you things about her eyes no one's ever said to you about yours. Is wanting to be beautiful so unthinkable? Do we not still stress to our daughters that sure, all your intelligence and kindness and such is great, but you're not going to get anywhere in life without a full face of makeup and at least the illusion of beauty? I grew up thinking none of my accomplishments would ever mean anything unless I was beautiful. I still put on makeup that I don't actually care for when I'm going to interviews because I have to attempt to look beautiful if I want a shot at a job.

It would be nice to move beyond that. I hope it's possible. I don't think it is for me, it's so ingrained in my head, but I think as a society moving beyond beauty as the most important attribute a woman can have would be nice. And I do think we're getting there; things like A Mighty Girl are promoting stories and media featuring heroines whose most important attributes are courage, kindness, intelligence, etc. But there's still so much of the world rooted in this idea that beauty is what makes or breaks you. Beauty, if you have it, is all you need, and if you have anything or even everything else, it only matters if you're beautiful. It drives entire industries, it keeps prejudice and discrimination alive and kicking, and it still makes certain grown-up women cry themselves to sleep because they are only, at their very best, "cute." Am I expecting a non-conventionally-attractive Disney princess any time soon? Not even slightly. I'm sure we all remember that Frozen animator saying it's too hard to draw women because you have to make them attractive. But I'm glad the stories we're writing now, the retold tales we're crafting for our children are focusing less and less on beauty.

30 July 2015

WDW Trip Report: June 11 - 12

The morning of the 11th the monorail was running for the first time during our trip, so we took that over to the Magic Kingdom. We were early enough to catch the welcome ceremony again; though Tiana wasn't in it this time, Lady Tremaine and her daughters were, and they were hilarious. Once we made it in to Main Street, we almost literally ran into Mary Poppins and Stitch exiting Main Street Train Station. We rode Space Mountain first, followed by Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, then headed for Adventureland for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Dole Whip floats for breakfast.

After an immensely healthy and well-rounded breakfast, we rode Mad Tea Party and the Barnstormer, the latter at my brothers' insistence, followed by immense disappointment upon realising the ride is a grand total of 17 seconds long. While in line we got to see the steam train refilling its water, though, so it wasn't a total loss. And Storybook Circus is actually a pretty cute little corner.

Next was Jungle Cruise, followed by Haunted Mansion. We went by Memento Mori where I did not buy everything, which, had I more money, I might've been in real danger of doing, but settled for a Madame Leota shirt and a pair of bat stanchion earrings, both of which I practically live in now, so souvenir money well-spent.

We had lunch reservations at Be Our Guest so that was the next stop. You may recall from my last trip, Ben and I had our anniversary dinner at Be Our Guest, and I had only positive things to say about it. Lunch at Be Our Guest was new for me this time, and again I really only have positive things to say. I'm sure someone out there wants to hear that Be Our Guest is totally overrated and people are losing their minds over it for nothing, but it really is so wonderful. Every detail in the theming is perfect, walking into the Beast's ballroom continues to be so magical, and the food is so, SO good. And at lunch it's even almost reasonably priced by Disney standards. My croque monsieur was perfect, so creamy and fresh, much better than the France pavilion's that sat under a heat lamp for hours. Of course I got my beloved and much-missed Grey Stuff, this time in cupcake form. Those new cupcake wrappers they're using are pretty but such a pain to get off. The Grey Stuff remains incredible and I must figure out how to make it. But like I said, Be Our Guest is perfect. It's so worth the hassle of getting a reservation, whether lunch or dinner. It's just so wonderful. I can't recommend it highly enough.

After lunch we did Carousel of Progress, then Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We walked back through Adventureland and caught up with the end of Festival of Fantasy on Main Street. It trapped us for a bit, but that was okay since I got to see my girl dragon!Maleficent again before we left. We hopped on the monorail over to the Polynesian, got a pager for Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, and waited on the Tiki Terrace for a bit.

The Tiki Terrace is truly delightful. I loved seeing the Disneyland tiki deities from their Enchanted Tiki Room scattered around. The view of Bay Lake is lovely, and the live music was wonderful. I'd honestly like to spend a less oppressively hot afternoon there even if we didn't end up inside Trader Sam's. It's really nice.

Our first experience with Trader Sam's was a little rocky, to be honest, but I would like to give it another shot in the future. When we walked in, there was a hand-written sign on a piece of cardboard stating, "NO KUNGALOOSH ALLOWED," which was immediately off-putting to us Adventurers Club fans. Considering how much it's been embraced at the Disneyland Hotel's Trader Sam's, it's not outlandish to expect to at least be able to order a Kungaloosh, even if it isn't on the menu. I've heard the argument that they're set in different time periods, but if your excuse is "they lost the recipe in the 30-odd years difference," that's honestly just flimsy. This comes off very mean-spirited and cold-hearted. Just let me overpay for the cocktail I want, Disney.

When our buzzer went off, we came in, but there were no seats available. We were told we would be able to stand inside and wait for seats to open up. I'd have preferred to stay seated on the Tiki Terrace and just be buzzed when there was actually space for us. The first seats that opened up were at the bar, but my brothers are under 21 and are not even allowed to sit at the bar, so we continued to stand. There isn't really standing room, so we were constantly dodging servers carrying full trays of drinks. We felt really in the way and uncomfortable. My mom was about to call it and leave, but finally a table opened up.

The food and drinks were pretty great, although I really wish I'd ordered the drink Mom got, the Dark and Tropical Stormy, instead of my Tahitian Torch, which was pretty but not nearly as tasty. Once we were seated and eating and drinking, I really enjoyed the antics every time a specialty drink was ordered, particularly the ones for the HILARIOUSLY expensive Nautilus drink:

I feel like I was probably a bit cranky about being pulled off the Tiki Terrace before a space was even available and being forced to sit next to an empty chair waiting for a non-bar chair to be available. I think in the future I'd like to arrive earlier, wait less, and have an all 21+ group, honestly. Alternately, just spend all my time on the Tiki Terrace. But I'm not entirely disenchanted with Grog Grotto. I am a huge fan of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea theme, and I loved the Easter eggs for Maelstrom, the 20k Leagues ride, and Rosita from the Enchanted Tiki Room. Hopefully next time someone will get that stick out of their butt about Kungalooshes, though.

The next morning we packed up the car and left Old Key West. Before we left WDW altogether, we stopped at Port Orleans French Quarter for Mickey waffles and beignets. We haven't stayed there in ages since there isn't a DVC thing, but it's so gorgeous and charming. Scat Cat's Lounge was empty so we ate in there and it was delightful. After breakfast we hit the road and headed back home.

And that's it! If you'd like to see all the pictures, they're on my Flickr, though I have it locked so just let me know who you are and I'll add you. Alternately, they'll all eventually be up at my Tumblr, though I'm still working through the January 2014 trip photos in the queue there. Next I have a few fairytale and Disney related posts in my head, so I'll probably be posting those soon.

25 July 2015

WDW Trip Report: June 10

Mom wanted to let the boys sleep in but I was up early and bored so I went back to my favourite park solo. Taking the bus instead of our rental car was a nightmare, though, and it took me a full hour to get to Animal Kingdom. Thankfully the crowds still weren't too bad when I got there, and I didn't have a terribly long wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris. I saw a whole family of four bongos right next to the vehicle, which I'd never seen before, so that was really exciting. I also got a good look at the baby giraffe, but sadly the baby rhino wasn't out yet.

Pretty much the minute I got off Kilimanjaro Safaris, my mom called and said they were on their way to Hollywood Studios, so I hopped on a bus and met them there just as they got off Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Star Tours had posted a 15-minute wait, so we got in line, but then we saw the line wrapping all the way back and through the ewok village and we went, "...that's not gonna be 15 minutes," so we bailed and went to get pictures at the Cinderella coach instead.

We went to Mama Melrose's for lunch which was actually better than I remembered it being. After lunch it started to rain, so we managed a shorter wait for a ride on Star Tours, and then Tower of Terror and The Great Movie Ride. At this point the boys were fading fast, so we headed back to the hotel, stopping at Pop Century for tie dye cheesecake on the way.

I ended up not combining this post with the next day because though this one was short, the next one is long. So next time: our last park day in the Magic Kingdom.

WDW Trip Report: June 9

We got to Epcot so early we were actually the second people in line waiting for bag check to open. We weren't even hours early or anything! So that was kind of bizarre, but cool. We got to be at the beginning of the rope drop crowd for the first time ever.

We decided to head for Test Track at rope drop and Liam and I took on Mom and Jackson. Our car design, which Liam named The Motorizer, beat Mom and Jackson's Glam Factor by 5 whole points! We were going to ride again but the line had already grown to 50 minutes so we decided we didn't need a rematch that badly. After Test Track we headed to Spaceship Earth, which is always a delight.

Jackson and Liam wanted to ride Mission: Space but Mom and I opted to sit out. I found an outlet by the play area by the exit and watched that competitive game I can't remember the name of while my phone charged. It's rigged, incidentally. Team Orion always wins. We briefly headed to The Seas with Nemo and Friends and rode the ride, but we were starving so exploring the aquariums had to wait until after breakfast. We went over to The Land and ate at Sunshine Seasons, then headed back to The Seas.

That wait turned out to be very fortunate because we got back to The Seas at feeding time! All my little merfriends were so excited and active, it was really fun to watch. The dolphins' keepers did a show where they had the dolphin look at a screen and pick the matching screen along the aquarium window. He was only wrong once that I saw, and I was suitably impressed. The point remains that dolphins are jerkfaces and the only sea creatures that are not actually my friends.

My brothers were truly annoyed at me for making us spend an hour looking at my merfriends in The Seas so I suppose it was only fair that they forced me onto Journey Into Imagination. Liam was especially disappointed that I know when to hold my nose and breath so that I don't inhale any of that wretched skunk smell. Ha.

After that we headed to World Showcase. Our first stop was Gran Fiesta Tour, which I actually rather enjoy, though Maelstrom's absence was deeply felt. I got my traditional morning margarita from the kiosk before we strolled by Norway and China on our way to Germany. My brothers have been cast in the Texas Renaissance Festival cast, so we stopped at Germany since Jackson's on the German court. Lots of silly pictures were taken. Liam is on the Italian court, so he was up next for silly pictures in his pavilion.

We walked by Japan and stopped for lunch at Spice Road Table in Morocco. I know this restaurant is pretty widely panned but I truly can't say enough good things about it. We arrived a bit early for our reservation but the restaurant was empty so we were seated at one of the window tables which looks like it has a spectacular view of Illuminations at night. Our server, Amin, was absolutely wonderful, so sweet and attentive and understanding of my brothers being difficult. The food was fantastic; Moroccan mint tea is one of my favourite drinks and the restaurant I used to go to for it at home closed a few months ago, so it was really nice to have it again, and my lamb sliders were so delicious. The decor was absolutely stunning. It really isn't set up for tapas the way Disney had marketed it, so I see where people were frustrated with it on that count, but honestly if you just go in for a normal entree experience and you love Mediterranean food, you won't be disappointed. It was truly fantastic and I can't wait to go back.

We spent some time looking around the United Kingdom pavilion's shops, and my mom, who's on the English court at TRF, got some pictures of her own (not very silly though). After that we headed back to Future World for Spaceship Earth, then a cup of Beverly at Club Cool for Liam, and then back to World Showcase for The American Adventure. Which, full disclosure, I literally slept through.

The weather turned very suddenly as we walked back to the Norway pavilion to grab school bread and rice cream. We had FastPasses for Soarin' so we had our snack and then headed back to Future World once again, rode Soarin', and then started to camp out for Illuminations. Unfortunately the storm pushed back the fireworks three times, and we decided we didn't want to wait any longer to find out whether or not they were going to be on, since the storm didn't appear to be letting up. So back to the hotel we went.

Up next: I may combine the next two days but I'm not sure yet, but at the very least there will be a blitzkrieg run to Animal Kingdom and an afternoon at Hollywood Studios.

10 July 2015

WDW Trip Report: June 8

We went to Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning on the 8th. I hadn't been back to Animal Kingdom since the massive construction started so the lines of construction walls down the length of Discovery Island were new to me. I like that Animal Kingdom has the most interesting construction walls covered in animal and park facts. It's almost not even an eyesore to have them blocking off so much just because they're actually decorated.

Walking down Discovery Island, my mom had us stop twice for PhotoPass pictures. Our first PhotoPass CM was perfectly lovely, but the second told me my "belly" was "inappropriate" and I spent the whole time we were having pictures taken burning up with anger as she kept moving my arm and giving us a prop to cover me up. If crop tops are against the dress code, there are at least 100 people I saw at Magic Kingdom the previous day who should've been ejected. If it's against dress code they could enforce it by either not allowing me in the park or throwing me out. My mom looked up the dress code later and found nothing against them. So it isn't that crop tops are inappropriate. In that case, I took it to mean that she found my body inappropriate. I'm not very big, but I don't have a flat stomach, and sure, most if not all the other people I saw wearing crop tops had flat stomachs. Body confidence isn't something that comes naturally to me, and I've struggled a lot in finding the confidence to wear the clothes I want and believe I look fantastic in them. I really did think I looked awesome that day and being told first thing in the morning that I didn't by a cast member was pretty awful! I felt pretty awful for most of the day. So shout-out to PhotoPass CM Sue for making me feel like crap.

This was my first look at the new theatre district of Harambe and it looks so fantastic. Just like the rest of Harambe, the attention to detail is stunning. For the moment we walked past it, though, and headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris. We had a really good safari, saw the hippos being active, the birds near the beginning being fed, the young elephants playing and gently headbutting each other and entwining their trunks, the rhinos taking mud baths, and the brand new baby rhino snuggling on her mom's face!

We passed by Harambe Market, where we unfortunately didn't get a chance to eat, nor was it open when we passed by. But the details, of course, are perfect - I'm beginning to sound like a broken record but really, Disney generally does a great job on details but Animal Kingdom in general and Harambe in particular are just outstanding. So after a run through Harambe Market and a ride on Expedition Everest, we went back to Harambe to catch the Festival of the Lion King in its gorgeous new theatre.

The show remains as spectacular as ever, and the larger theatre is definitely good for the show. Everyone in the show is so talented, the music is so great, and it's just such a great show, you really shouldn't miss it. After the show we went to Yak & Yeti for lunch and then headed back to Expedition Everest for another trip up the mountain. After Everest, my brothers went to Kali River Rapids, and no matter how hot it is I hate water rides, so Mom and I went to see Flights of Wonder instead.

I actually hadn't seen Flights of Wonder since I was maybe 8 or 9. I don't know if it was the owl's fault or not, but when I last saw the show, my favourite beaded Piglet bracelet broke just as the owl swooped over my head, and the association in my head kept me away from the show for a while. That's very silly, but that's what it was. So it was fun to see the show since I hardly remembered any of it. After the show, my mom waited for the boys while I started for Maharajah Jungle Trek. The new Sumatran tiger was technically out, which was exciting because I hadn't heard of him being out before, but unfortunately it was impossible to see him or any of the other tigers because the heat had made them retreat to shade far back from the viewing windows. I was glad to know he was out, though! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for baby tigers in the near future.

In the heat, the boys were fading fast, so Mom took them to find food and A/C and I continued on to Pangani Forest. I had much better luck with the main attraction here, as both baby gorillas were taking naps with their moms right next to the viewing windows. So tiny!! After Pangani I slowly made my way over to Dinoland to meet Mom and the boys, taking a detour to look around the Tree of Life's old and new root carvings. Walking around the Tree of Life is so nice, it was mostly empty and everything was so beautiful. I love finding mostly or completely deserted back pathways all over Animal Kingdom, it's part of what makes it my favourite park. You just get lost in these beautiful hidden pathways. I met up with my family and we rode Dinosaur before leaving for Hollywood Studios to catch our Rebel Hangar reservation.

I've heard speculation that Rebel Hangar was perhaps a test-run for a permanent Mos Eisley Cantina sort of restaurant, and while I can't say Rebel Hangar was the best dress run for that, I do think it's a fantastic idea and with some polishing this concept could really work. It is way overpriced for lounge food, but it is good. The character interaction was alright, but Chewbacca walked straight past our table three times and never stopped, and when we inquired when he would be back, we were informed there was no guarantee of character interaction. He went to all the tables around us but...skipped us...every time...so that was weird and unpleasant. But otherwise it was great, and I really hope those persistent Cantina rumours turn out to be true!

Unfortunately I had a migraine and everyone else was fading fast so we headed back to the hotel after dinner instead of staying for more rides. We saw a lovely rainbow on the way home, though. :D

Up next: a stormy day at Epcot.

07 July 2015

WDW Trip Report: June 7

So after I closed the Magic Kingdom the previous night, I arrived bright and early with my mom and brothers to open the Magic Kingdom in the morning. I was excited to see Tiana on the train at the welcome ceremony but unfortunately wasn't in a position to get pictures. Rope-dropping Mine Train is serious business. Though I made it through Mine Train without stopping for coffee, we were going to be approaching an Unpleasant Ria if I didn't get coffee immediately thereafter, so we stopped at Gaston's Tavern for a truly enormous cinnamon roll and caffeine.

Now properly caffeinated, we rode Winnie the Pooh where I saw an actual bumblebee in line, which I thought was adorable, and then went to see Enchanted Tales with Belle. I mostly wanted to see Belle and Maurice's house, but I thought the show was really cute, too. Almost every role in the show was played by a girl, which was fun, and the little girl picked to play the Beast had the greatest roar. I think she came prepared. The magic mirror mechanic is really cool, and the Lumiere animatronic in particular looks great. The library is small but it's lovely and there's lots of little details. I wish I had gotten up in time to get a picture with Belle, but I did get a few bookmarks, which I'm very pleased about.

After that we rode Jungle Cruise and then headed to Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch. After lunch we went to the Enchanted Tiki Room. My brothers had never seen the original show, having grown up with the Under New Management debacle. It was a bit difficult to enjoy the show with the screaming baby behind us that someone refused to take out, but Jackson told me he really liked the show, so I'm glad he enjoyed it. We wasted a lot of time on an attempt to play the stupid Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game I talked about before but on the bright side, during all that time running around Main Street we saw the Main Street Band and part of the Festival of Fantasy parade. The steampunk dragon!Maleficent looks amazing. I really love the spinning wheel detail.

We grabbed Dole Whips on our way to Big Thunder Mountain, then rode Space Mountain before leaving. Later we went out to Downtown Disney for dinner and stopped by Earl of Sandwich, where they had temporarily brought back my very favourite sandwich, the Caribbean jerk chicken. After dinner I walked through Marketplace Co-Op, where I would spend all my money in Centerpiece if I had any. We looked around World of Disney and the Lego Store as well before calling it a night.

A fairly low-key day but coming up next is my favourite park, Animal Kingdom, and one more Star Wars-related event at the Studios! It's Star Wars Weekends on a Monday. Somewhat less thrilling.

02 July 2015

WDW Trip Report: June 6

This was my first trip to Hollywood Studios since the hat came down, and I was so excited to look down Hollywood Boulevard and see the Chinese Theatre just like I did when I was younger. Unfortunately, since we were visiting during Star Wars Weekends, there was still a giant stage blocking the view, but hey, close enough. We arrived pretty early in the morning, but as you might be able to tell from that picture, it was still outrageously crowded, being a Saturday during Star Wars Weekends. There was some entertaining banter from a duo of Stormtroopers before the rope was officially dropped, and then off we went to Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Neither was terribly crowded since most people were rope-dropping Star Tours, but we had a FastPass+ for later so we weren't terribly concerned about it.

After the Sunset Boulevard run, we went to Starring Rolls for breakfast. After a delicious chocolate croissant, we walked over to The Great Movie Ride, briefly stopping by the SWW stage on our way. I'm not fully sure what was going on, but Han Solo in carbonite was being guarded by two Stormtroopers, one of whom pointed at me and told me they were keeping an eye on me (I was in a Han Solo dress, so I guess I stood out a bit). The Great Movie Ride itself hasn't changed much with the TCM refresh, but the changes that have been made are stellar. The changing movie posters in the queue are pretty cute, and I was thrilled to see a few of my favourites, both well-known and more obscure. What I thought was the highlight of the entire thing, though, was walking into the theatre to see Robert Osborne discussing one of my all-time favourite movies, Singin' in the Rain.

I love this whole informative reel and I wish I'd gotten to see more of it, honestly. It seems long enough that you won't always be walking in at the same point and it was all so fascinating. I loved learning things about movies I love and movies I didn't know much about before. It's really, really stellar. I had been so worried because watching those old trailers was always one of my favourite parts of the Great Movie Ride experience, but this is even better than that. And often includes trailers or scenes from the movies! So I'm totally in favour of it. The changes to the ride spiel are not terribly different but they're nice. The ride itself probably needs a refresh, too, but considering it's one of, like, two things that are still open at Hollywood Studios, that could probably wait a bit.

We stopped by Star Tours just to see what the line was like, and it turned out it had just opened after being down all morning, so we only waited about 10 minutes. I was the rebel spy! It turns out I am in this for your revolution. (Han Solo jokes.) After that we headed to my favourite Studios show, Muppet Vision 3D. I hadn't heard that they changed the pre-show film to add in Constantine, and it's not a huge change but it is very funny and a great addition. I love Muppet Vision, it makes me laugh every time, and I really, really hope they never change it or take it away. It's such a gift to have the last thing Jim Henson worked on at the Studios and I will actually be heartbroken if it goes away. On another note, I'm still so bummed I can't buy a Bean Bunny plush! I just want one thing! Why won't you let me give you my money??

Knowing it would likely be the last time we'd be able to see it, we also watched Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. It was fun, as always, but it does seem kind of dated. I'll miss it, but I'm hoping something great takes its place. After that it was finally time for lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby! Though I love it aesthetically it's never really wowed me with its food, which continues to be the case. The kids menu was Guardians of the Galaxy themed and had Gamora on it, though, so that made me happy.

After lunch, my mom and brothers went back to the hotel for a nap and I stayed at the park to do some things I figured they wouldn't have any interest in. First I grabbed one of the SWW cocktails, the Endor, so I could get myself a nice Millenium Falcon glow cube. The drink was tasty, too, but I am all about those glow cubes. After that I went to the Little Mermaid show, which is cute but SUPER dated. The performers are fantastic, though!

Being solo at the parks is often one of my favourite things; I like to go at my own pace and do the things I want to do. People don't always try to talk to me, which I'm mostly grateful for since I'm both introverted and shy and don't really like to deal with strangers if I don't have to, but on this particular day I got lots of talkative people. I'm always happy to talk to kids, and there was a little girl in line for the Little Mermaid show who was wearing a Darth Vader and Princess Leia skirt her mom made, so she talked to me about my Han Solo dress. She was flabbergasted to learn I'm not a teenager though! Oops. Then once I sat down at the show, the guys on either side of me talked to me, and generally I'm less comfortable with strange men talking to me for what are probably obvious reasons. The older guy to my left was making me a bit uncomfortable but the younger guys to my right jumped in and steered the conversation away from him, for which I was grateful. They asked why I was by myself and I explained, saying my brothers didn't want to see the show, to which they responded, "Oh, their loss. The Little Mermaid is the shit!" The Little Mermaid is indeed the shit. Other than that I was mostly left alone for the rest of the day, so that was very enjoyable.

After the show I stopped in at Watto's Grotto, but didn't find anything I couldn't live without. After that I went to the Magic of Animation building (R.I.P.) to meet Hiro and Baymax. They had just left for a break, and the cast member told me it would be about 50 minutes until they were back. I was near the front of the line and in air conditioning (and I had just about been DYING running around outside in the heat) so I was completely happy to just sit and wait. It was a really nice and much-needed cooldown time. Interestingly, the line was full of groups of teenagers and young adults, but not very many small children. Most of the merchandise I've seen for Big Hero 6 seemed to be marketed to younger kids, but the line makes me think that's not the demographic that enjoyed it the most. Anyway, Hiro was really nice! I was super anxious and awkward and didn't know what to say to any of his questions, I was just there to hug Baymax. I love Baymax hugs. Alert me when I can get a Baymax of my own. I'm sorry I was weird, Hiro.

I thought about waiting for some of the Star Wars characters but those lines were outside and incredibly long. Waiting outside in the heat was just not gonna happen. My phone was dying and I needed it to stay functional so my mom could contact me when she and my brothers came back, so I camped out at the ABC Commissary at an outlet until I heard from them. We rode Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster again a few times before grabbing dinner at the Commissary and then camping out for the Symphony in the Stars fireworks. We grabbed a bench on Sunset Boulevard so we couldn't see what was going on on-stage, but I honestly didn't care that much. We could see the fireworks fine and we weren't in a crush of people. The fireworks were really great, I thought it was really well-done. I honestly don't care much for Fantasmic so this was a delightful change of pace for the end-of-night show.

...except it wasn't the end of the night for me, because I got straight on a bus to the Magic Kingdom while my mom and brothers went back to the hotel. I had thought the extra magic hours that night were until 2 AM, but I didn't double-check and everything was closed by 12:30, but I still got a few good Magic Kingdom hours in there. My first stop was Astro Orbiter, which it turns out is a much scarier ride when you are a tiny person riding by yourself. I was thrown around quite a bit, but it was so much fun! I love Astro Orbiter so much but no one else I go with does. Before I've usually been able to rope a sibling into it but this time it was just me. Oh, did I slide. But it was fun! I would probably do it by myself again. I'll just...anchor myself better...somehow...

After that I walked behind the castle (completely deserted, so eerie and lovely) to get over to Liberty Square and ride the Haunted Mansion. I love Haunted Mansion all the time but especially at night, so that was really fun. I was stopped for a few minutes and saw a CM with a flashlight walk by twice, so I was thinking I was going to get evac'd (which I've never done, even though I've been to WDW half a billion times) but all I got was stuck in the attic listening to Constance chatter for 10 minutes. Ah well. Still fun!

I stopped by Peter Pan's Flight next to check out the new queue. I think it's lovely, and the increased A/C space is certainly nice. The Tinkerbell effect in the nursery is so cool, and the shadow play is really fun, and the pixie dust hallway is so charming. It makes the wait just a bit more bearable, but it's still not worth the 50+ minute wait it often gets. I only waited about 15 minutes, so that wasn't bad. I was sitting in my own pirate ship and the CM at the end of the moving walkway sprinkled pixie dust on my ship before it flew away. I was so tickled, that was such a cute thing to do. Thanks, CM whose name I forgot.

After a charming night-time ride on the carousel, I thought I'd go over to Jungle Cruise, but that's when I realised everything was closed and they were gently herding us out. So I stopped to take a couple of pictures of the new hub area, which is just gorgeous and so pleasant, before heading back to the hotel. It was a jam-packed day but quite a good one.

Up next: clopening the Magic Kingdom! It's better with coffee.

22 June 2015

WDW Trip Report: June 3 - 5

I recently went with my mom and two younger brothers to Walt Disney World! These trip report posts may be slow in coming, since I've barely scratched the surface of editing the 2000+ pictures I took, but I have edited enough to at least put up the very first one, so here we go!

On the 3rd, my mom and Jackson, the elder of my brothers, came to pick me up. Neither of the boys knew what was happening at this point - I'm not actually sure what excuse my mom told the boys to explain my presence - but Mom decided we should tell Jackson before we left my apartment to head to their home. Jackson was surprised but low-key about it. Mom was filming and got the split-second of actual surprise on his face before he said, "Oh, that's- that's great, yeah." Jackson is 13 and too cool for emotions.

So we drove the 2 and a half hours from my apartment to my mom's house, where we told Liam, the 12 year-old. Liam's reaction was more what you'd expect from being surprised with a trip to WDW; he was so excited he fell on the floor. Unfortunately, Liam had one more half-day of school to get through before we left. I spent the night there, and we spent the morning of the 4th getting ready to go. When Liam got out of school, we drove straight through the night to Orlando, arriving at our hotel, Old Key West, super early in the morning. Of course, our room wasn't ready yet (check-in isn't until 4 PM), so we decided to go to the Ticket and Transportation Center to get things sorted out.

I'm sure you've all heard my MagicBand griping before so I won't rehash the issues I had before. This time we did have some new issues, however. For one, two of our tickets were actually in the form of vouchers, which they have no way of linking to a MagicBand until you get them converted to actual tickets, which you cannot do anywhere but the TTC. So we couldn't pre-reserve FastPass+ because only two of us had our tickets linked. Super annoying. At the TTC, we were initially told that even once converted we wouldn't be able to link the tickets to the MagicBand, but eventually got that straightened out. And while we were sorting that out, the lovely Cast Member told us that for $10 extra per ticket we could add another day to our passes, so even though we hadn't initially intended to, we immediately got on the ferry to Magic Kingdom.

We arrived not very long before opening, so we decided to go directly to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at rope-drop. None of us had yet ridden it; on my last visit, I saw them over the construction walls running empty trains, but no soft-openings then. It was really great, but certainly not worth upwards of a 20-minute wait, which, as I'm sure everyone knows, is not something that happens. I'd say either rope-drop it or FastPass+ it, but certainly don't get in that 90+ minute line that seems to happen within the first 20 minutes of the park opening. Anyway, the queue is nice - the mine is so nice and cool, which is definitely a bonus in Florida in June. I loved the mechanic of the swinging mine cars. I didn't think it would be terribly noticeable but it is and it's great. The main show scene is really spectacular. In every YouTube video I'd watched beforehand, at least one of the animatronics was non-functional, but every time we rode it, all of them were working and the effect was fantastic. The timing of the scene coming up to Doc as he signals them to go home is really cool. And of course, the end scene with the witch looking through the window was a nice nod to Snow White's Scary Adventures. I never managed to get a non-blurry picture of the witch, sadly, but she is my favourite part of the ride.

After Mine Train we stopped by Sleepy Hollow for breakfast. Traditionally we always get funnel cake for breakfast, which the boys got, but I wanted to try one of the waffle sandwiches. My mom and I split the waffle sandwich with fruit and Nutella, and it was delicious. After breakfast we stopped into Memento Mori, which was also new to all of us. I am proud of myself for only buying two things because I easily could've bought half the store if money were no object. I love the nods to Leota in the decor, too. And as soon as the Leota pins that are part of the CMs' costumes are up for sale, please alert me.

We went to Ariel's Undersea Adventure for everyone's first time but mine, and they were as underwhelmed as I was. The queue is beautiful, the ride is just a jumbled nonsensical mess. But I think I've gone over that before so I won't repeat it. After that, we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean to get a ride in before it closed for its lengthy rehab. Nothing looked immediately wrong with it so I'm worried that the rehab is to pre-emptively introduce elements of the upcoming Pirates movie(s). Please stop. :(

After that we took a ride on the Haunted Mansion, followed by the Peoplemover and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, on which I beat Jackson soundly, much to his displeasure. On our way out, we stopped by the fire station because my brothers wanted to start a Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game. Everything I had heard about the game beforehand led me to believe it was pretty casual and easy, but the process turned out to be pretty complicated. The game itself is easy, you just hold cards up to a portal, but the mechanics of getting the MagicBands linked (I still don't think I understand the whole "key holder" thing, can any of us play the game or do we always have to have the "key holder" with us? Don't even answer because I truly do not care) and running all over the place to every portal that you have to do in order is such a pain and a hassle, especially with all the summer crowds and summer heat. Not only that, but everyone I had heard talk about it said you can just drop in and pick up new cards. This is not the case. You have to unlock at least one portal a day before you can go pick up new cards, which means yet MORE running back and forth between the fire station and whichever portals you were at, and it's just so irritating. I'm sure with better weather and smaller crowds it's fine, but I would rather do pretty much everything else at the Magic Kingdom than run around holding cards in windows.

We headed back to Old Key West and went to Olivia's for lunch. The last time I went to Olivia's both the service and food were terrible, and I'm glad to say both were completely reversed this time. I had a delicious French dip sandwich and my mom had a gorgeous plate of mozzarella and tomatoes, and our waitress was so friendly and nice. Unfortunately, our room was still not ready, so we looked around the shop for a bit and then decided to take the boat over to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. We got a good look at a lot of the construction going on over there and even saw one of The Boathouse's Amphibicars out on the water. The moment we docked, we got the text that our room was ready, so we just stayed on the boat and went back. At this point we were all so exhausted that we just stayed in the room watching Mickey cartoons for the rest of the day.

Up next: Star Wars Weekends and a late night at the Magic Kingdom!