Animal Kingdom and Epcot (10/26/03)

Associated parks:
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Monday, November 3, 2003 9:48 AM
After a good nights’ rest (thanks to the extra hour of sleep that resulted from turning back the clocks), we headed out to Disney for a few hours at both Animal Kingdom and Epcot. When we were in Florida in May, we passed on those parks for the Magic Kingdom and MGM. It would be the first trip to AK for both of us and Linette’s first trip to Epcot ever (I was last there in ’95).

After paying $7.00 to park in the AK parking lot, we took the shuttle to the front gate (which was closer than it appeared). After buying our admission tickets, we were in and on our way down a path rich with vegetation. That’s about all we could see until the Tree of Life appeared on the horizon. And what a piece of work it is! It is both realistic and exaggerated at the same time- it looks like it COULD be a real tree even though everything suggests that its not. But more on that later…

We immediately headed over to Dinoland U.S.A., with my reasoning being that it would be best to get the mechanical rides out of the way so we could use whatever left over time we had until we had to leave for Epcot around 3:30 to enjoy everything else that seemed interesting to us. We wandered our way down the path to Dinosaur and noted a 15 minute wait. No problem there.

I had heard a lot about the ride, about how it used to be incredible when it was called Countdown to Extinction but is now lackluster having since being “toned down” and renamed Dinosaur. I won’t go into the details of the ride… I don’t want to ruin the experience for those who are going to ride it at some point in the future and prefer to be a little surprised, and frankly, I’m not really in the mood to give a blow-by-blow of the whole thing. Besides, if you want to know about the ride, you can head over to thrillride.com and read Robert Coker’s blow-by-blow, which is a million times better than anything that I could conjure up here. All I have to say is that it was quite an impressive attraction- not Disney’s best effort, but definitely not the worst thing they have done (I’ve heard that all of DCA is the worst that they have done).

While in the area, we went over to Primeval Whirl which resides in an area of the park with which I have some very serious issues. Now, don’t get me wrong… I love Crazy Mouse coasters- they are the type of ride that just about every park needs to have simply because they are so damn fun. But Disney? At Animal Kingdom? That’s really pushing it. The ride actually consists of two coasters, placed side-by-side and face-to-face, and you enter the queuing area in between the two coasters where a cast member directs you to the coaster that has the shortest line. In this case, there was no line. As I expected, the ride was extremely fun- the brakes on the hairpins were on pretty hard, but we got some great spinning towards the end because of some “bad” weight distribution in the car (a good thing).

Now that I have gotten the good part out of the way, let me get to the bad. First of all, the ride looks like it belongs in a carnival. I’m sure that Disney will tell you that the flashing lights and the flat cut-outs are supposed to give the ride that appearance, but I think its because you can’t really disguise a Crazy Mouse without putting it inside of a building. But worse than the theming of the ride is what I saw on my way down from the exit ramp- this whole “new” section of Dinoland U.S.A. was built on a parking lot! The coaster was simply placed on top of cracked asphalt, and the midway still has parking lot lines painted on the tarmac! I’m surprised that no one has ever mentioned this before- enthusiasts look for someone to castrate when Six Flags pulls that kind of thing, so why has this gone unnoticed, at a Disney park of all places? Its really shameful, as it does so much to cheapen the look of the whole section of the park. Disney spent so much time and effort creating a beautiful theme park with AK, then they had to go for a cheap and easy fix and build a new section of park on a parking lot? What Disney should do is remove this section- this cancer- on Animal Kingdom, move the Crazy Mouse to Downtown Disney where they could probably sell tickets to the ride (that is where the “carnival” theme would be a better fit) and plant trees where this sorry excuse for a midway sits.

And with that being said, let me say that the rest of Animal Kingdom was pretty much flawless, as far as a “nature” park goes. The animal exhibits are all top-notch, and to say that the foliage is beyond impressive would be an understatement. The architecture is perfect for this type of atmosphere, everything from the buildings to the bridges to the exhibits. The Kilimanjaro Safaris was a welcome surprise- you ride in actual vehicles (not vehicles on an electric rail or some kind of monorail) and the mud puddles and narrow “trails” make the experience seem frighteningly realistic! The thing seems to get a long line, but it is worth the wait. Actually, Animal Kingdom is really a park that needs a whole day dedicated the exploration of it- while we blew through in a few hours (we had to hit Epcot before it closed at 7:00), we could have spent the entire day and still not seen everything. You could circle the park a dozen times and still not see everything, as there are paths that go all over the place, leading the guest to really “explore” the grounds instead of following a single path. No matter how much time you allot for AK, make sure that you walk the path that surrounds the Tree of Life. That thing is astonishing- a true thing of beauty. I couldn’t help but stare up at it with my mouth wide open, just thinking about how much thought and work went into its creation.

Leaving our car in the AK parking lot, we hopped a bus to Epcot and were inside the gates by 4:00. We made a beeline straight for Mission: Space, which looks even better in person that it does in pictures. Talk about an impressive-looking building! If Disney is now famous for cutting budgets for new attractions, they definitely didn’t do it with the building- it looks just as it did in the renderings that appeared when the ride was announced so long ago. Even more impressive was the standby waiting time- 10 minutes!

Mission: Space is an incredible experience. I have no idea how a machine that looks so simple (correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the machine really just spin around in circles while tilting?) can create so many varied forces! The g-forces I felt on this ride easily surpass any g-forces that I have experienced on a coaster, both positive and negative. And not only are they strong, but they are sustained. I don’t see how some people could get off this ride feeling sick, as I didn’t think that it was THAT severe, but then again, maybe I’m just “conditioned” after years of coastering. Regardless, this ride is worth checking out. Like Dinosaur, I don’t feel that it is Disney’s best thrill ride (I would have to say that Tower of Terror could possibly claim that title… either that or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster), but it is certainly a great experience. Its nice to see Disney taking the idea of thrill rides seriously, as they definitely know how to do them right!

With that out of the way (and time ticking by), we headed over to Test Track, which posted a 45 minute wait. Oh well. Its not like we were just itchin’ to check out Honey I Shrunk the Audience or the film about giving birth at the Wonders of Life pavilion. Well, as it turned out, Test Track proved to be as unreliable as I had heard it to be. The line absolutely crawled, part thanks to Disney giving out tons of FastPass tickets (and thus letting that line speed while everyone else was stuck in suicide-inducing traffic), and part thanks to the ride breaking down a few times. After, oh, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, we were finally seated in our car.

Despite the wait, Test Track is amazing… it was, without a doubt, a more “fun” experience than Mission: Space was. The indoors part of the building is a ton of fun, but things really get good when you get outside on the “track”. Talk about a rush! We would have gladly ridden again, but the line was even longer and we didn’t feel like wasting all that time, watching the FastPass people cruise along while the ride broke down on a regular basis. Instead, we headed over to Spaceship Earth, which was a nice surprise. I thought that it would be hideously outdated, being one of Epcot’s original rides, but it wasn’t. Still, it wasn’t exactly state-of-the-art, either. I had no idea that the ride weaved all the way to the top of that gigantic Geosphere! We hit the Living Seas, which is basically a glorified aquarium and then headed back to the other side of the park after hearing that Test Track and Mission: Space would be open until 9:00 (the rest of Future World was closing at 7:00). With hideous waits for both rides, we decided to pass on re-rides and call it a day. We did a lot of walking and had an afternoon at Universal Studios before heading home the next day.

I like Epcot. I know that most people seem to dismiss it as a boring “educational” experience, a sterile theme park experience that is short on actual rides. And I guess that those people wouldn’t be that far off base if they chose to be that blind. What I find Epcot to be is something different from every other theme park out there. It is stunningly beautiful- the lakes and the gardens are breathtaking, and the few rides that exist are extremely unique experiences. While we spent a few hours, Epcot is easily a one- or two-day park, depending on how much time you want to spend in the World Showcase (which we avoided altogether because of time constraints). With a copy of DCA’s Soarin’ Over California ride coming soon, Epcot is only going to get better. Don’t avoid it just because it doesn’t have a coaster!

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002
*** This post was edited by Rob Ascough 11/3/2003 2:49:42 PM ***

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Monday, November 3, 2003 10:07 AM
Sucker!
The section of AK that houses Primeval Whirl was never, ever a parking lot. It was THEMED to look like it was once a parking lot. It's the one thing they did in that area that could actually be considered 'clever'.

Although I can be a credit whore at times, I refuse to ride any lightly themed off-the-shelf coasters that Disney rams into their parks (Mulholland Madness, Primeval Whirl) as a matter of principle. They just don't belong there.


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What is the eleven letter word that all smart people spell incorrectly

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Monday, November 3, 2003 10:24 AM
I don't know if I'd refuse a ride on a coaster for those reasons. In defense of Primeval Whirl, I do like Crazy Mouse coasters... if I had the money, I'd stick one in my backyard (I think there's room for that and a Jet Star).

However, I do NOT agree with Disney for trying to pass it off as a major attraction. Like I said, it would go better at Downtown Disney or Pleasure Island (I believe PI in the movie Pinocchio had a roller coaster) where Disney could charge for a ride, much to the pleasure of their stockholders. At least it would feel somewhat normal there.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Tuesday, November 4, 2003 8:14 PM

(I’ve heard that all of DCA is the worst that they have done).

Most of the folks who say that don't usually appreciate a park as a whole, just the rides that are in the park.

DCA lacks in rides, but it's one of the most awesome parks I've ever been to. WDI did an amazing job making the most beautiful park I've ever been to.
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- John
Homepark: CP Home-away-from-homepark: PKI
My Campusfish Blog

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Wednesday, November 5, 2003 3:47 AM

Its not like we were just itchin’ to check out Honey I Shrunk the Audience

That's too bad. It's actually a very good show.

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Walt Schmidt - Virtual Midway

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Thursday, November 6, 2003 1:58 PM
Who is dumb enough to think that it was a parking lot under that coaster. I guess no one has ever been to a roadside America location. Crikey.
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"Step on that lapbar and make it nice and tight!"
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Thursday, November 6, 2003 2:30 PM
.....And , Michael Darling , with Tower of Terror it should have a pretty decent collection of rides.In the future , a Rock 'n Rollercoaster would make the park as a whole awesome.

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Gotta(heavy breath) get myself(breath)funnier for(breath) offseason.(breath)So unfunny(breath) must.....try....harder.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003 7:00 AM
Why would DCA need or even want Rock 'n Rollercoaster when they already have California Screamin which in and of itself is a very fun roller coaster? I dont think that it is needed. A new inovative ride like IOA's Spiderman or even Universal's (both Fl and Ca) Mummy sound like an extreme must ride that could definitely benefit DCA or even Epcot.

Glad though you all had a good time at AK and Epcot.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003 5:36 PM

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"Step on that lapbar and make it nice and tight!"

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