Thursday, August 30, 2012

Art of Animation or the Polynesian?

I always like reading Kevin Yee's articles on his own blog or on MiceAge, and his latest, titled Roar or Bore?, was interesting.  It is a review of the new Art of Animation resort, which is a value resort themed to various classic Disney animated features.  So far there is a Nemo section, a Cars section, and now, newly opened, a Lion King section. 

Kevin doesn't give the Lion King section very high marks, unlike those other two sections, which he feels are really well done and really immerse the guests in the world of Disney characters and stories. 

I don't have any opinions about this resort.  I've never stayed in any of the value resorts, and as a DVC member, will likely never do so in the future.  What I found interesting (besides the info on the resort in a general sense) was that Kevin says he sort of prefers this sort of a resort, themed to Disney stories, to something like the Polynesian.  His argument is that the point of a Disney vacation would be to immerse one's self in all things Disney, and the Polynesian is something that could be experienced elsewhere, as there are other, "real" Polynesian type resorts out there.

There are other resorts like the Polynesian, probably.  Most of them are probably actually in Hawaii, though I'm sure there are some on the mainland as well.  I know of a resort in the Wisconsin Dells called the Polynesian, which is a hotel and water park.  It's on the lower to middle end of the resorts there, I think, though I've not stayed there.  Still, I suppose the point is valid.  Anyone can open a Polynesian themed resort. 

But which of the Disney resorts are fully immersive in the sense that they are themed to Disney movies and characters and such?  I don't think ANY of them are, not fully.  Animal Kingdom Lodge has some Lion King stuff around, but it's really not immersive in the sense that you're living in the movie or anything.  The Polynesian, actually, has a few Lilo-and-Stitch moments around, I think, though I really don't pay much attention to them. 

I suppose that if I was really THAT Disney crazy, I wouldn't mind staying in such a resort.  But people already say I'm Disney-crazy enough.  And I don't have any issue with staying in a unique, comfortable resort, especially one where you can look out and see the castle rising over the Magic Kingdom, you can watch the fireworks over the park from a beach, you can hop on a futuristic (I know it's not, but it still sort of looks the part) monorail and ride over to the park.  I like the people there.  I like the decor, the rooms, the grounds.  To me, the Polynesian says "Disney". 

The Contemporary also says "Disney" to me, even though I've never stayed there.  Where else can you see a monorail running through the lobby?  The Animal Kingdom Lodge says "Disney" to me.  Where else can you go out and watch animals roaming a savannah from your balcony?  The Port Orleans says "Disney" to me, too.  It has a very "New Orleans" feel to me, but with the proximity to all that Disney immersiveness. 

I feel that resorts like these give me an experience that I can't get elsewhere.  That says
"Disney" to me as much as seeing Cars or Lion King characters around.  I'm looking for comfort and relaxation, least as much as I can get when we're not attacking the parks, commando-style.  I get enough of the crowds at the parks.  It's not about "escaping" the characters, it's about being on vacation.  To me, "vacation" means getting as much comfort as I can afford. 

I'll take the Polynesian, every time.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Personal thing...Tribune Article

Back in 1986, I was a senior in dental school.  Something bad happened in January of that year - something that has impacted our nation's space program, echoing even to today.  The space shuttle Challenger exploded on launch, killing all seven astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe.  (Did I spell that wrong?)

Neal Armstrong died a few days ago.  Most of you will remember that he was the first man to step onto the surface of the moon.  Well, I was reading science fiction author Steven M. Moore's blog entry on the subject, where he discussed his own feelings about Armstrong's legacy and what has happened to our space program, and I recalled in the comments there that I wrote an op-ed piece shortly after the disaster and submitted it to the Chicago Tribune. 

I never was contacted by the Trib to let me know the fate of the article, but a couple weeks later, my friend called me and told me that his mom had seen the article in that Sunday's Tribune.  I went out and bought some copies, of course, and I was always proud that they thought enough of the article to put it in there. 

Steve asked if I could maybe repost it as a guest entry on his blog, and I said okay, assuming I can locate my copies.  I immediately googled it and, lo and behold, there it is! 

Man's Destiny Is In Space

I wrote this as an idealistic, enthusiastic young man who was inspired by the future promised by continued exploration of space.  Have a read if you would like.  I think it holds up pretty good.


Monday, August 27, 2012

What is that...??? Joe Rohde's left ear?

Yesterday we were flipping channels and I came across a History Channel showing Modern Marvels:  Walt Disney World.  I have the DVD of this one, but it's hidden aways somewhere and so my son and I watched just about the whole thing. 

When we got to the part on the Animal Kingdom, they show a lot of Imagineer Joe Rohde discussing the construction of that park.  At first I didn't think much about it, but my son asked me, "What's that thing hanging from his ear?"  I told him it was an earring or something, but thought that it was awful big! 

A bit later, they showed him a bit more from the left side, and it looks like his ear lobe is grossly stretched out. 

Anyone know what it's supposed to be, and what is the point of doing that?

I guess I'm just getting old...but Joe doesn't look like a spring chicken (as they say)...


Friday, August 17, 2012

Six Flags Great America Gurnee Visit

We visited Six Flags' Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, on Wednesday.  It was our first visit to that park in two years.  We planned on going earlier this summer, but with 100 degree heat much of the season, it just wasn't happening.  As it worked out, going in mid-August was a good experience.  Not too hot and not overly crowded, right before school starts. 

Great America started its existence as "Marriot's Great America".  I know this because I was a teenager when it opened.  Back then it attempted to be a bit more of a theme park with a handful of thrill rides.  The log flume and the boat flume rides that were there at opening are still there.  They actually sort of fit the theming.  The Whizzer "Family" coaster was there back then, too.  Then it was called "Willard's Whizzer".  It's the same coaster, though. 

Now it's a thrill ride park with a nod to the themes of each land.  And not much of a nod.  The log ride was and is in a part of the park called "Yukon Territory", and the boat flume ride, called "Yankee Clipper" was and is still in a part of the park called "Yankee Harbor".  Aside from those two rides, however, rides don't have much relation to the part of the park where they're located.  For example, the "Southwest Territory" area contains coasters called the Viper (a wooden coaster) and the Raging Bull (a big steel coaster).  The Southwest Territory has nice theming in the buildings, but really, that's about it. 

Orleans Place and Mardi Gras sections (separate sections according to the park guide map) are both themed like New Orleans.  What rides might you expect to find in New Orleans?  A swamp tour, maybe?  A riverboat?  A streetcar?  These sections house The Dark Knight indoor dark coaster, Superman: Ultimate Flight (a flying coaster), the Condor (a spinning ride that raises you 112 feet in the air) and Roaring Rapids (a whitewater raft ride).  There are bumper cars called Rue Le Dodge and a spinning coaster (think Primeval Whirl) called the Ragin' Cajun.  Again, the buildings are nicely themed, but that's pretty much it. 

Other sections of the park include the County Fair, Hometown Square, and Carousel Plaza.  The park features a waterpark called Hurricane Harbor. 

None of this affected my sons' enjoyment of the 7 coasters they rode.  (I myself only rode one - the new X-Flight wing coaster - and my neck told me that no more coasters would be ridden that day.)  It's a thrill park.  I guess those "lands" are convenient markers for the map, but not much else today.

I'm still trying to figure out what Batman: The Ride has to do with Yankee Harbor, however.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Disney's X-Pass (Virtual Queues...)

I don't regularly read Jim Hill Media but I find his articles interesting usually.  I was perusing his site and came across this article which discusses rumors and inside info about the X-pass virtual queuing system that will allow WDW guests to reserve up to 4 attraction/experience times depending on how far in advance they are making their reservations.  It sounds like a super-Fastpass thing except that according to the article it will extend to things like shows and spots for fireworks and parades and such. 

Reaction in the two pages of comments I read was mixed.  Either people hated it or they thought it was a great idea.

I know that studies show the number one thing that bothers/irritates theme park guests is waiting in long lines.  I hate it myself; we use Fastpass to bypass lines at most of the popular attractions.  It means only experiencing those attractions one time (via Fastpass), but really, so does standing in a 60 minute standby line.  There are only so many hours available for attractions in a day as it is.  Fastpasses make it possible for us to relax a bit more at lunch, or do a little shopping, or maybe see that movie in Canada or China that we'd never seen before. 

So the search for a solution for long queues predictably passes from theming to make those queues more interesting and entertaining while in them to figuring out a way for more guests to line up "virtually", through a reservation system of sorts.  I just don't know if this is a good move. 

As many Disney bloggers and cast members have pointed out, Fastpass works by allowing people to "stand in two lines at the same time", be it a line for food or for a less popular, low-wait time attraction.  This in turn increases wait times for those who don't have Fastpass.  A cast member in Disneyland commented on how long the lines for the Nemo Subs would be if they had Fastpass at that attraction.  I see the logic in this assessment.  Yet I use it to my advantage when we go to WDW or Disneyland. 

It seems the best way to reduce wait times would be to have more attractions.  And by that I mean they should have more "popular" attractions.  Carousel of Progress and the People Mover have short waits most of the time, and their presence does not seem to affect the wait times for Buzz or for Space Mountain.  What if there was another "Buzz" or "Space" type ride that was as popular as those two?  Wouldn't it follow that there will be less people in the other lines? 

More capacity would seem to be a better answer than virtual queues.  After all, those people in the "virtual queue" are still in line, and still making the lines and wait times longer; you just can't see them from the standby line...


Friday, August 3, 2012

Disney Books: The Dark Side of Disney

Ok, I finally read this book.  Hadn't heard anything good or bad about it, really, before buying it, but I was intrigued by the description and read a bit of the first review.  Heck, it was only $2.99 on my Kindle, so it wasn't like I was paying a lot.  Plus, with that cover, I thought that it might be a book better confined to my Kindle in our house.  In any case, here's my Amazon Review:

I love most things Disney, and this book kept popping up on my "recommendations" (since I have a "list" here on Amazon of the books on my Disney Bookshelf, I guess). The cover was intriguing - so un-Disney! So I finally bought it, and read it very quickly.

What I found were a lot of fun stories and 'tips' that really are of no use to me. But so what? It was well written enough, and interesting enough, that I don't really care that I'll never do the things that the author or some of his subjects do at Disney. The irreverence comes through loud and clear in the sometimes 'R' rated language and depictions of occurrences. I find that refreshing in a way. It's sort of a way of experiencing some things at Disney vicariously, things I'll never experience in person. There's no way I'm jumping off a ride vehicle to explore the sets in a particular ride. I'm not going to crash the Utilidors, or look for a place to have sex or score drugs. I'm not all that concerned about saving money while I'm there; I'm on vacation and it's all about convenience for me. The most useful information I got was about the DVC point rentals and about the scams for discounted tickets that are so prevalent just off-property. I'd wondered about both of those things. This book talks in a general way about these and other issues.

If you're easily offended, or if you hold your Disney experiences to an almost-religious standard, this book might not be for you. But if you just like reliving your own Disney experiences and maybe getting some of those questions you might have answered, this is a fun fast read!
I wrote the review without reading too many of the other reviews, just the first couple, which were positive.  But after my review went live, I read a sampling of the other 81 reviews, and was amazed to see how differently people see things. 

First, it is definitely NOT for kids, or for those who are easily offended.  I'm not offended by "bad" words in a book, and I thought that this author's use of them fit his irreverent tone perfectly.  He uses them almost conversationally.  I actually know a few people who talk like that.  The words have lost their shock factor for them; they're just a handful of extra words that help convey meaning.  I'm always amused by people who say that using "swear words" shows a lack of intelligence; why would that be true?  We could say that people who used "hot" and "cold" and "straight" and "curved" have a low intellect just as easily, since there are plenty of words that are more colorful and nuanced that convey the meaning.  Neither is accurate.  There is a time and place for those words; this book uses appropriate words for its tone.  If "swear words" offend you, don't buy this book.

Second, why does telling a story about something that happened, whether perpetrated by the author (Leonard Kinsey) or someone he interviewed, and whether legal, illegal, or borderline, make it a bad book?  I for one will never use 99% of the "tips" offered in this book, but it was still sort of fun to read about them.  I thought the stories were interesting and made for a good read.  If you don't want to read about drug use, or people having sex on Disney property, or tresspassing backstage at the parks, this is not the book for you.

Personally, I thought it was pretty fun to read, and that was a tribute to the author's style, because there was plenty in there that I wouldn't really care about otherwise.  He made reading about bedbugs and fireants sort of fun! 

I'll probably try his fictional work, Kingdom of Dust, because if he can make bedbugs entertaining, he might do even better with a made-up story!