Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

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Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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Hi all! I figured I would share my most recent WDW trip while it's still fresh in my memory!

Trip Dates: Arriving Nov. 7th, going home Nov. 16th.
Heading From: Alberta, Canada
Number of Trips: 3 (2014, 2019, and this one)
My Resort: Art of Animation (because it's cheaper and because I like the decor/crowds more than PoP)

So I'm a longtime parks-goer, but had decided to make WDW my regular haunt since I enjoyed my 2019 trip so much (you can still find it on this very forum). It was set for March 2020, but... you know. Since I'm from Canada, international travel was a no-go for ages (14-day quarantines in addition to weaker park experiences), so I FINALLY rapidly planned this trip a couple of months back.

Word is coming out that this November has been VERY busy for the parks- Cast Members have corroborated it and I definitely noticed an increase over my spring trips (which are usually planned around quieter times of year). building through my vacation. And yeah, the experience is a little bit different owing to Genie+, different kinds of meet & greets, shorter parades, etc. So I was somewhat hesitant, and prepared to downgrade my expectations over past trips. Also, travel is HORRIBLE right now and constant Covid testing caused repeated pains throughout... but thankfully everything worked out fine and I can compartmentalize stress while on vacation, so overall I'm glad I came at this point! That said, I'm not going back until they improve that aspect of things!
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Park Planning

Post by Jabroniville »

SO, my planning!:

The idea was to book a Disney trip for some time in late 2021, as restrictions were loosening up in Canada, specifically for international travel- this kind of thing adds a HUGE amount of hurdles to already-complicated Disney planning, but mostly got it together. This unfortunately made it a very quickly-planned vacation (less than 2 months notice instead of six) so I had to scramble.

One early issue was that November was SOLD OUT for hotels for the longest time! I actually couldn't book anything! I don't know if this was legit sellouts or just Disney withholding things, but I initially found nothing, and kept retrying each night until a 6-day trip popped up a few months ago. I snapped it up, but still found it fairly short... thankfully within a week or so more dates opened. But unfortunately while cancelling a reservation costs nothing and can be done online, CHANGING one means I have to phone internationally, sitting on hold for 60 minutes and spending 50 bucks or so on long-distance (I do not believe there's a workaround on this)- but thankfully this meant I got the longer vacation I'd wanted- eight days in the parks.

Now, having a short-notice vacation also meant scrambling for flights, and also missing the big dining reservations, meaning Cinderella's & Be Our Guest. However, someone on the Trip Planning forum here told me about the Touring Plans paid service to constantly look for openings, and I got that... only to always be too late. I mean, if you were a MINUTE late the option was gone. So I was kind of not expecting much, until I got a random opening for BOG very late one night while in a different park, and so the Touring Plans option worked out after all!

Since I'd worked right up until my trip, and had to take a COVID test to even fly, I hadn't packed until the day of- it mostly worked out, except I left out nailclippers, lol.

Another benefit: VERY shortly after I'd scheduled my trip, Disney announced the return of Meet & Greets! So I could actually see characters after all! And shortly before I got here, I saw on IG from some park CMs I followed that the underrated Elena of Avalor had joined them, and not been retired as many people had suspected!

The Park Plan:
* I had some stuff set up for the parks, but altered my plans the week prior when I saw which dates were open and for what- I think they either changed some park hours or I got them wrong the first time. I swapped things around so I didn't get caught doing a park on an "early closing" day. I also spread out stuff heavily to allow for things like getting a COVID test to return back home so I wouldn't miss as much.

I went with Day 1 (Epcot), Day 2 (Epcot), Day 3 (MK), Day 4 (HS), Day 5 (AK), Day 6-7 (MK), Day 8 (Epcot). Mostly because Epcot was a favorite on my last trip (I'm a huge Frozen nut, and Frozen Ever After was my happy place). Most of this worked well, though in retrospect I should have done MK even sooner and not put Epcot back-to-back like that. MK is just too important for "Classic Disney Feel" to me, so things didn't feel quite "right" until Day 3.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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MY POOR WALLETTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

DAY ONE (DISNEY SPRINGS):

Okay, so my usual plan with WDW is to get the WestJet red-eye from Edmonton to Toronto, then Toronto to Orlando on Sundays (the only direct flight to Orlando is I think on Tuesdays and pretty pricey), then to the hotel and then to Disney Springs. This means I get to skip the busy weekend in the parks and I like airports better at night- no line to check bags and none at security. It stinks having every shop closed, but whatever- Chili's is open! The only one left in Edmonton! Except for whatever reason it was so busy the two people working there had a lot of trouble managing all the tables, so my bill came SUPER late and I could barely pay in time- gates had been open for like ten minutes by the time I got to it! And then, even worse, the plane was JAM PACKED. On a flight that's done multiple times per day, for whatever reason the 12am flight to Toronto was absolutely stuffed to the gills with people, which was pretty shocking and annoying. Did EVERYONE have an early connecting flight?

I barely remember connecting at Pearson at all- it's a genuinely horrendous airport but I made it with a bit of time to spare (2:45:00- ALWAYS give yourself a ton of time at Pearson... this will be important in my final post, lol). But amazingly, NOBODY was going from Toronto to Florida! International travel is still a big pain, so there were plenty of empty rows- I even had a row all to myself! That's only ever happened ONCE before!

ORLANDO TO DISNEY:
* So thankfully they still have the Magical Express for now. I arrived at Orlando and this time didn't lollygag at the gift shops for Disney/Universal (last time, I did that and I was late picking up my back, so WestJet "Helpfully" loaded my bags onto a Disney coach and I was left with no luggage or change of shirt, and had to wore a long-sleeve button-up shirt in May weather)... and of course this time the carousel took forever to get started. But for whatever reason there was a MONSTER line for the DME- like it literally took 20-30 minutes just to get through it! I've never seen THAT before either. Yet another sign that the parks were going to be packed. And of course when I got up I told them I didn't have my DME tags (I booked this fairly quickly... and actually they never showed up in the mail at all anyhow). So she asked me my order code and I had to scramble like a doofus despite having had a half-hour to get ready for this moment- I think it'd just be my name that they needed! Took me half a minute to find it (while the CM didn't act impatient, which I'm sure took some doing, lol).

ANYWAYS, there was zero wait for the shuttle and I hit Art of Animation quickly. Took the standard wait for check-in since I had my Magic Band to pick up (I checked in the rest online at the airport), as AoA always has a bad line for concierges... and turns out my Magic Band wasn't there! The CM was confused, I thankfully had my order code at the ready (I KNEW something was going to go wrong, because my account said "there is no Magic Bands associated with this vacation" even though I knew I'd bought one), and my theory was correct- because I'd shifted my hotel dates around, they'd screwed up and the Band was only going to be there on the day I was INITIALLY supposed to have arrived. So I'd have to wait a day (two, as it turned out- the line was too long the morning of my second day so I went without, haha).

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I legit love this hideous place.

DISNEY SPRINGS:
* So my 2014 Disney Springs trip was awful (I was there late and there was massive construction everywhere- I couldn't get a restaurant and was too inexperienced a traveler to get a reservation), but 2019's was awesome, and set the stage for future trips- arrive in the afternoon and stay all day.

I do like what they've done with the place. Covid seems to have not hammered it too bad (some CMs told me some shops died, but every place here was fine). Everything was mostly as I'd remembered it- almost a theme park in and of itself, with some fantastic theming in T-Rex, The Rainforest Cafe and the like. I just love those two- I've never eaten there, but they're brilliantly garish, excessively noisy, full of animatronics and wild stuff- pure Disney magic. They had the giant water balloon running, I still saw that basement bar restaurant dug way into the ground, etc. I had a lunch-ish reservation later, so I just got ice cream from the one place close to the entrance (Sprinkles!). I forget what I had.

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My Paddelfish thing. I'm not normally a "take photos of my food" people.

I had booked a reservation at Paddlefish for 3:45pm ages ago (and couldn't find a single mealtime later, even after checking repeatedly!). Unfortunately, I'd found out weeks before that the dish I'd been thinking about weekly since 2019- the Crab Boil- was GONE. The restaurant manager/PR person had confirmed it when I'd asked via email. So I was "stuck" with the Alaskan King Crab for like some giant fee (I mean, I'd been looking forward to this for AGES, so I had to get SOMETHING). Interestingly, I was put at the exact same table I had been in 2019- is that the official "single person's table"? The crab was fine, though I find there's so much it and the butter inevitably get cold, haha. Are most people faster than me at busting these open? Or is this just a normal part of eating crab? I'm usually a fast enough eater that nothing ever gets cold on my plate!

The Stores: Looks like the one strip has a Marvel store (all Eternals stuff right now), a Star Wars store, etc. There's the Cuban-themed restaurant, Jock Lindsey's (which is super-well-themed- I kind of wish you could get in without a reservation just to check it out) which is where I've heard a lot of CMs hang out on days off, etc. That one bakery that's super-well-themed was there and has a line to get in. I think it's impossible to see ALL this stuff in one day; a lot of it must be for locals or longtime visitors.

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The Lego Store interestingly enough blocks off everyone and there was a HUGE line to get in- I waited almost all night to see the line finally shrink enough to get in. It's... fine. I dunno. I've never been as crazy into Lego, but it's a nice big store. The Frozen 2 Anna & Elsa are still out front, which is good.

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WOD and the Magic Kingdom's Emporium both had these MASSIVE Cinderella Castle displays up. Easily the highlight of both places.

The World of Disney store is the main event here (with the biggest nuisances of an entrance ever, now- they blocked off every single entrance but one, which required an almost 360-degree run around the building for me), and... it's fine. I guess. I REALLY wish I'd been more enamored of it, especially because all the Disney Stores in Canada closed a few months back. So I was expecting this big religious experience of finally being back in my beloved Disney Stores... except those Stores had gotten lamer and lamer post-Pandemic, with nothing really new coming in. And this WoD store had the same old stuff those Stores had, with walls of the same dolls (with the cardboard packaging so they looked extra-identical). There's some huge MK Castles on that some people were buying- those are neat. But mostly I saw the same kinds of things I'd seen elsewhere.

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This was the most tempting thing I didn't get.

The Art of Disney store felt like it'd seen better days, with a few statues/figurines and some nice-looking framed posters- someone on a (Eris) server had shared some INCREDIBLE art and I didn't see any. Thankfully I showed someone the pictures and they pointed me in the right direction- there's this store hidden wayyyyy in the back corner that's the most amazing EVER and has all the best stuff. It's the part by Trend-D where they sell all of the fantastic art prints. I immediately bought 4 Frozen-themed posters and some of the little postcards (the cards weren't as good as last time- in 2019 I easily picked up 10-14 of those!). Unfortunately two of the Anna ones only had large framed pics instead of postcards or I'd have gotten those, too. But this was BY FAR the biggest single hit to my wallet in terms of merch this time around. But this one store is always worth the trip to the Springs by itself- it's dangerous for my bank account but it's the one thing that never really disappoints.

Since I'd eaten around 4pm and it was nearing 11, I needed SOMETHING else, and thankfully I finally tried out Earl of Sandwich! Which apparently has two lines, because I ordered food from an annoyed clerk who was in the "buy off the counter stuff" line and not the sandwich line. But at least I got a beef dip! I can see why people go ga-ga over this place, though. And then I got a giant milkshake from Ghirardeli, because Disney is the place where I eat ice cream twice in a day like an insane person who isn't 40 years old.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Epcot (Day One)

Post by Jabroniville »

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DAY TWO (Monday- EPCOT):
* Okay, so I slept in, lol! Not exactly how I wanted to start my trip, but it happened. Thankfully the only thing this really cost me was a ride on Ratatouille today, and since I rode it twice in Disneyland Paris 5 years ago, that wasn't quite the make-or-break thing for me. So I had my regular phone alarm set for before 7am (to get a virtual queue boarding group), and a backup set for 8am via the hotel automated wake-up call thing. For whatever reason, my phone one either didn't go off or I shut it off without thinking so I missed the queue. Later, I tried for the second chance at 1pm, but I'm telling you, if you get a late group, you ain't getting on. Earliest one I could get was 6pm, and they just pushed it back and back all day long until nobody else was getting on. Okay I could have paid $15 for a guaranteed ride, but heck no- I've done in before, and we'd be getting into huge expenditures if I did this every time- to me, only Frozen is worth THAT.

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So getting up late, I kinda had to scramble, avoided getting my Magic Band (because of the HUGE line at the concierge- a constant AoA/Pop problem), grabbed carry-able breakfast stuff and hit the Skyliner... in time to see a MASSIVE lineup there, craning all the way back to Pop Century (it's at the midpoint between the two hotels). Literally with an "end of line" sign guy and everything. Took about 15 minutes to get through, but thankfully I was at Epcot in time for rope-drop. I was a ways back from the crowd, but this turned out to be the least busy day of my trip so I still walked on to Frozen Ever After right away. Because Skyliner guests hit the International Gateway entrance it's a pretty good way to hit Frozen (skipping the hub), but it was busy enough that my old standby- hitting Frozen and then getting right back in- did not work. I COULD have, but it was already at 40+ minutes immediately after I got off the ride.

So, as mentioned earlier, Frozen was my happy place. One of my favorite Disney movies with my favorite characters. So I go all-out in getting on this ride. Thankfully I kinda mastered riding multiple times- I did pay the$9 "Guaranteed Lightning Lane" thing for it, hitting it again around lunch. Then I managed a shorter line later, and another one near park closing (old school hint: they lie about wait times at night so people don't bother, but they have to let you in before closing). So I still managed a bunch of rides on it. With only two attractions with serious waits (and both being paid LL rides), there's no purpose for Genie+ in Epcot, I think.

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The "Frozen Pen"!

I even did the other classic thing: Meeting Anna & Elsa. I didn't know it'd be the only time I'd see them on my trip, but it's a bit of a different experience anyhow. I got on Soarin' with no wait, Test Track with no wait (Single Rider on TT is essentially a walk-on no matter what), Mission: SPACE with no wait (where it turns out that ride kinda sucks if you haven't eaten much- it'd be my only ride this trip, haha), and Spaceship Earth a couple of times. Overall, this was least busy any park would be for my entire vacation, so doing stuff was pretty simple. I talked with Belle (her: "Maybe we can sit and read a story some time!") and I think maybe Aurora as well, but didn't see the others on the first day.

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Oddly, and this would happen more than once, my Spaceship Earth "time machine" had almost zero sound at points- I had to lean in to hear ANYTHING the British lady said. Some vehicles are louder than others, so I'm not going deaf- this definitely needs a refurb (they had announced one a while back but scaled back after Covid hit). Haunted Mansion was the same way, oddly. Spaceship Earth is a legit fave of mine, though- I love dark rides and this one has a TON of stuff. Oddly for 2 days there was no movie on the movie-screern (I had forgotten there was supposed to be the Jesse Owens stuff there)- only on my final day did I see it.

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One of the weirdest cultural shifts from my 2019 trip is that the entirety of World Showcase is now staffed by regular ol' CMs- the College Program and international CMs are no longer there, which has definitely altered the place. Part of the fun of the Showcase was seeing people from all over the place in a section that represents them, but now it's people in the generic Epcot CM shirts. Walked into England's one time and the girls in the heraldry shop were talking about how neither can afford to live or get their lives in gear and they were clearly standard-issue penniless Florida CMs, lol. HOWEVER, the Japan Pavilion has numerous Japanese women, usually as cashiers- they must live here full-time. The one quick-service restaurant was all regular CMs (last time I saw a girl from Osaka and we were able to talk about Osaka and Wicked, since I'd seen both), as were most of the management of the Mitsukoshi store (I think this is almost always true- I saw them last time as well), but I saw a handful of actual Japanese folks, which goes a long way towards making the Showcase feel "real"! More on the Showcase later, as I was more about "doing stuff" on my first park day.

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Freeloading Ibises in their natural habitat.

The weird thing about this day and the next one was this since of... "hey, shouldn't this be BETTER?". I still don't quite know what it was, but I felt like it was diminished from the 2019 trip. I think it might just be familiarity- like very little was NEW, so I was just retreading past stuff- even Frozen Ever After I noticed just how short it really kinda was, and all the shops and the like were the same as always. It could have been Covid stuff or the altered way they do things now, or just the fact that the merch was pretty basic and it wasn't new stuff around every corner anymore. But this being my third trip, I was now a "pro" with everything already well-remembered so maybe that's it. In any case, this feeling thankfully wore off by my MK day (Day Four), and I think was helped partially by parades and meet & greets (some of the few "unique each time" attractions you can get). I wonder if this is common with repeat visitors?

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EPCOT- Construction Heck:
* HOLY BUCKETS- people who've complained about this know what they're talking about. Epcot is a NIGHTMARE to get around from the hub area- massive construction walls 10 feet high are alongside almost every single path up to the lagoon- they block your view of nearly everything. And so many older buildings are toast or so modified I don't even recognize them. The whole other building by Soarin' & Figment is being modified, Club Cool and the stuff by where MouseGear was is either gone or changed. However, most of the good stuff is still sorta around- Club Cool now has a line to get in and all the booths are alongside a wall instead of scattered around the room. And heaven help me... I swear I tried Beverly again and it WASN'T THAT BAD. Like it wasn't the worst of the lot! Have my tastes changed? Have I reached a Disney milestone?

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MouseGear has been replaced by "Creations" which is... just another Disney shop, really. As I said before, merch offerings were kind of weaksauce, so it's the same toys & puzzles & shirts as every place has. It's a GIGANTIC shop, though- it feels way bigger than MouseGear, and much more open. But most Disney clothes seem designed for women anyhow- at least ones based around specific characters I like. Most of my good Disney stuff comes from Hot Topic. Both Creations & Club Cool are close by.


Next up... Food & Wine! I finally ride Ratatouille! And more Epcot stuff in general.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Food & Shirts!

Post by Jabroniville »

Food & Wine:
* I think this is my first Food & Wine festival, and it was pretty good. I definitely tried a few of the booths, but I generally got big meals. I ate at the Mexican outdoor restaurant (tacos!) and for the first time in my three trips, tried the American restaurant... which turns out is right up my alley, as it had ribs and all sorts of actually filling foods. I also had the fish & chips one time (where those ibis freeloaders are CONSTANTLY waiting for people to drop things). I think I was mostly at the Australia thing for F&W stuff- the shrimp thing they had. Oh, also I went again to that neat little Japanese quick-service place around Japan! I think that was my second night there. There's some donut shop by Club Cool which sold a highly overpriced not-great donut.

I always skip out on Le Cellier because of my massive let-down in 2014... getting a reservation six months in advance, paying 60 bucks, sitting down and finally taking a single piece... and going "WAIT. This is ALBERTA beef. I'm FROM Alberta! This is what steak ALWAYS tastes like to me!". I paid 60 bucks for a $30 meal I could get at home! It's a nice-looking place but GEEZ. Sadly, Akershus is closed entirely save for people with a certain kind of medical insurance.

The Tale of the Wicked T-Shirt (and me being an attention hog):
I have a pair of Wicked t-shirts that I wore on my 2019 trip and let me tell you... there is a MASSIVE crossover fandom between Disney & Wicked. I would get stopped 5-6 times PER DAY by CMs and park-goers alike to talk about my shirts. That kind of attention is unusual if you're a guy, so I figured I'd wear 'em again this time, and sure enough- still true! None of the Princesses nerded out about it this time, though (Mary Poppins remarked upon me describing myself with such a term, though). I once attained "Maximum Nerdiness" by explaining to Belle the similarities between Wicked and her story ("It's about a person who nobody likes because of their appearance, and how they learn to open up through their relationship with a girl" "That's just like MY story!").

It got to the point where I'd be recognized in a store because "Were you the guy in the Wicked t-shirt?". People would ask me if I'd heard the casting news about the upcoming movie or had seen Kristin Chenoweth in the park the day before (she had performed a single song on the stage and I had no idea, lol).

My other shirts were typically A Goofy Movie-related, and even THOSE did pretty well! Though mostly with people my age who remembered the movie ("You can tell someone's an elder millennial when they know who POWERLINE is!": one guy). But Max Goof saw it from a parade float and totally freaked out, doing a little dance and pointing at me repeatedly when he saw it, so that makes it the best "t-shirt story" of my trip.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Epcot (Day Two)

Post by Jabroniville »

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DAY THREE (EPCOT):
* I got up on time! I never had an issue with my phone alarm again, but always set my wake-up call for the same time just in case, and made sure to not only get up early but to be ready for the Skyliner early to prevent an issue like the day before. And I got my Ratatouille boarding group! I finally got in... like at 7pm (from a 7am appointment, mind you). And when you get off the virtual queue you now go on an ACTUAL QUEUE, so I was in the attraction queue for like 30 minutes after I got in line! It's the same ride as Paris, but mind-blowing to people who haven't done a trackless ride before (*puts on Disney Snob glasses* as someone who's done Pooh's Hunny Hunt, it's PRETTY neat...)- you get on various "rat" vehicles and circle about a variety of large props and 3D viewscreens as the evil chef chases you around- you go under a hot oven, get sprayed by water a bunch, and more.

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I REALLY like this queue, though. You start off outside winding in the switchback queue, then go into the "restaurant" and what looks like a series of Parisian rooftops. Then you suddenly pop into room upon room, looking like various characters' apartments and all sorts of stuff. There has to be 7-8 distinct rooms in there, plus a series of hallways.

The first day I was in Epcot, they had an armada of CMs at the entrance to the "Ratatouille Area" (which is by where Aurora's meet & greet was pre-Covid)- because of that, I thought that was the start of the queue so I didn't go in until nightfall (when all the CMs were gone), where I realized it was set up like a Parisian street (with street names on the corners of buildings). Tiny windows, shops you can't actually enter (is this supposed to be stuff eventually? Or is it just the back of the actual shops France already had?), a creperie on one end, and more. But the centerpiece is the big Gusteau's building with sign off in the distance- a rat fountain out front, and more. It's set up kinda like a theater box office, and is easily the biggest and most detailed queue area any ride has in Epcot. Thankfully I came in the next day to see the details in the light, though like much of Epcot, the whole thing looks better at night time.

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I went to "Living With The Land", something I'd skipped on my last trip. It's better than I remember, but goes on a LONG while after the cool "Dark Ride" scenes (I forgot about the rainforest stuff entirely, as I was last on this around seven years ago). Some interesting information, though, and plenty of tanks of fish and weird plant-growing contraptions. I went on Soarin' another time this day, hitting the second row (single riders are usually stuck in the bottom, I've found). Three trips and I don't think I've ever managed the top row, and I always forget which one it is and don't feel like bugging CMs to put me in the "one without dangling feet".

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Whos' the Fairest of them All and doesn't skip arm day? Snow White!
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

World Showcase

Post by Jabroniville »

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World Showcase: I finally managed to trek through the rest of the Showcase on this day, since I had done most of the rides already. I'd gone through MOST of it, but now I was into all the various shops. There's the Heraldry one in the UK, the chocolate/caramel one in Germany, and more. What's kind of become my favorite stop, however, is the Mexico Pavilion, which has that FANTASTIC "inner pyramid", the distant "volcano" and more. The pyramid has some of the best backgrounds and immersion in all of Epcot (which has issues with that since it's mostly just shops and tiny imitations of big cities). Sadly I was only ever in here the second day, because usually there's not quite so much to really DO in it- though they have some booths selling merchandise, and this area has some of the most unique stuff in the parks, with those neat painted wooden animal figures.

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Hidden Remys are now found all over the Showcase to celebrate Food & Wine and the new ride.

Riding the Three Caballeros ride, I suddenly found myself FAR more impressed with it. Like... I remember this being a cheap "filler" boat ride on past trips and just kind of did it for "whatevers", and went in because it was a 5-minute queue... but it actually has really good backgrounds! The early part of the ride takes you past the volcano and some of the stone "heads" in the background, then you go through some Mayan-style ruins until the comedy stuff starts. Seriously, it kind of comes off as the start of an Indiana Jones ride!

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The famous "Club Cool" roster of drinks.

Morocco has an exhibit about a variety of races- one that's about women teaming up in a "the winner is the one who drives the least distance" race, and another about a long-distance marathon in the desert. It's... kind of unique, and the only real attempt at a proper museum in Epcot right now, but an odd fit in an area that's probably the least popular of the World Showcase. Canada probably has the best "outside" of the Showcase, which is kind of funny because I usually skip over most of it (there's no attractions and I LIVE in Canada!), but that big castle and the fake mountains are great.

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I find this little area (I think in Italy) interesting- it's a door to backstage, in the middle of this area between two buildings used for restaurants, but it's one of the more empty, quiet areas of the park because of its relative isolation.

Impressions de France (which I swear I've never seen despite three trips, lol) is only available at night, and instead we get a "singalong" of Beauty & The Beast... but some edited version where LeFou is the main hero and is shown being responsible for Belle & the Beast meeting, helping the Beast win her over, etc. This is... well, it's sacrilege, lol. Seriously! They even edit out the part in the main brawl where he's ripping Babette's feathers out to justify this! I mean, he was a dumpy loser character in the movie who barely even had his name mentioned one time, and they're fashioning him as the "secret good guy". Thankfully this never made DVD! But hey... it's Beauty and the Beast scenes! On the big screen! That's pretty cool!

The American Adventure is pretty great. I was kind of bummed I missed it on my second trip (for whatever reason, finding the precise time to watch a 10-30-minute thing always eludes me at Epcot- I didn't see the China show until my second trip, and have never seen Canada or France's), but I got to it again here.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Epcot Meet & Greets

Post by Jabroniville »

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Epcot Meet & Greets:
* So in my 2019 Trip Report, I mentioned that I actually did M&Gs for the first time and even learned they were a lot of fun. I used to think they frowned upon adults doing that, especially guys by themselves, but as long as you behave it's fine (character attendants in the Fairytale Hall confirmed this when I asked directly, though I guess they could have lied, haha). I've seen the movies enough to talk the lore so it's pretty fine. And M&Gs had JUST returned to the parks at this point! But they're a lot different- instead of a single line to meet the Princesses, with an attendant & PhotoPass guy there to snap pictures, you just kind of hang out in front of a thing, and the character stands behind it so you're all distanced. You pretty much take your own pictures, and instead of a queue, you just kinda run up and the character wanders back & forth talking to everyone. A dour-looking character attendant (this has to be the most miserable job in the parks, lol- people who've been characters AND attendants confirm guests just ignore the CAs hard).

This actually suits me fine, since it's easier to take pictures that way (ordinarily if you did that you'd be intruding on another family's pictures, but with the distance you can take pictures without them in it). Though sometimes it's trickier to talk because of the distance.

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The Meet & Greets they have are Snow White (Germany), Jasmine (Morocco), Belle/Aurora (France), Mulan (China) and Anna & Elsa (Norway). Interestingly (because this stuff fascinates me), Snow White was the same "friend" all three days, Elsa was the same, Belle was different, Aurora I think was different, Jasmine was different (one was clearly a white girl who just had "the nose" that's required for Jasmine), and I think Anna was different on one of the 3 days. What's funny is I would learn via Instagram right after I got home that the first Elsa I'd ever met in 2019 (and in my opinion the best one) finally got her job back and was now doing these (as the M&Gs mean they need more girls than the "walkarounds" they had before). Her glowing essay about it was somewhat inspiring and also a look at the sheer religious reverence these girls have for their characters. Like, it was a HUGE thing about how "I first met you seven years ago" and how they cried together and learned together and stuff. It sounds crazy to people outside the Disney bubble, haha.

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Overall I think Snow has the best set-up, since she has a large area to walk around and plenty of shade. And she did NOT skip arm day, holy cow. Belle & Aurora had to share a small alcove over in France, with iffy shade (she often had to shield her eyes or hide under a bit of shade so pictures were harder to get)- one day was JUST Belle, one was just Aurora, and on one day they alternated (an attendant was shocked when I told him Aurora wasn't on the schedule). Snow actually recognized me a week later! I wonder if that's a good thing, lol. CMs I talk to online say that's flattering and unusual, at least!

I met Anna & Elsa the first day only- it was around 11 or 12 and there was little line. We just had a quick chat about how I was glad the sisters could still hang out together (a BIG issue with Frozen fans is that F2 split them up so they have to live apart now- it was a very bittersweet ending). Elsa seemed to just be giving "filler" chatter, as I was like "Yeah, you can just ride on your water horse super quickly!" "Yes- that's the Water Spirit" and "I'm glad you can still hang out together" "Yes- in our Sommerhus"). Anna had a great nervous energy to her (you can tell they study body movements for the characters a LOT), constantly clasping her hands in front of her chest or at her waist like Anna did when she was crowned Queen. Elsa... had a really high-pitched "Betty Boop" voice- part of why I liked my fave is that she had the raspy voice down.

So my go-to with Belle is to mention I've met Paige O'Hara (Belle's VA)- that KILLED in 2019, with two girls nerding out and the Belle in the Akershus being so excited she clasped her hands over her mouth and JUMPED. This time it's a bit too hard to have a direct conversation so I kinda had to shout that and didn't get as much of a reaction, lol. Belle always strikes me as a more distinctive meet & greet- she gets so much time in her movie that the performers have a lot to go on, and her distinct mannerisms and walking style (all her movements were based off of a ballerina). I noticed every time I saw Belle she would do the "sideways hair-wipe", brushing her hair back with the back of her hand.

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Jasmine, Mulan & Winter Aurora!

The second time I met Aurora one day she'd changed into the "Winter Gear" because it was slightly breezy out (if you live in Florida it's probably cold). Jasmine had some talk about me going to the market with Abu- Belle and I once chatted about her going to the Beast's castle, at which point I talked about his restaurant (since I'd been there by that point on this trip). Also, Mary Poppins saw my "Wicked" shirt and was astonished I'd use such a word to describe myself! I can't remember if that was something from the show, but the second day I was in Epcot, she noticed my OTHER Wicked shirt and commented I was still going by that term! I actually spoke to Mulan for the first time ever (for whatever reason, probably because China is next to Norway and I spent more time doing "Frozen" stuff, I was never around China when she was there on past trips). It's kind of odd how she's in the dress she found so unnatural to her in the first movie.

The attendants were nearly always dour, particularly the men. CMs I talk to say they're ALWAYS like this. I try to be sympathetic since like I said, it's the butt-end job of the joint- you're the one who has to tell everyone they can't meet the Princess because it's too late, you're the one people shove their cameras at (I once got a disgusted grunt for asking one to take my picture and decided to just let PhotoPass do their thing from then on), and you're the one they ignore so they can gush over Ariel or whatever.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

The Anna & Elsa Line:
* Interestingly, this trip I mostly spent around the Showcase because of the construction everywhere else and I'd mostly done the other things. Plus it's easy for the meet & greets and there's NO line for anyone... except of course for Anna & Elsa. STILL those two manage to command a massive line. What's odd is back in 2019, every Princess had a pretty big line, but mostly nobody cared about them here, as there was usually 2-3 families around their "pens" watching them move about and talking to each family. But the Frozen sisters, who had commanded a pretty minor line on my first day, now had a HUGE line going the opposite direction (they'd shifted it to go down Norway to the stave church)! And they cut it off good and early to give the girls a break! So a couple times I cycled back to see if I could get in, but found the CM going "This is the last family" at the end of the line, and when I realized I'd have to get there 15 minutes early... I realized that this was actually the one with all the families and little girls wanting to meet the sisters, and I didn't want to be the reason some kid couldn't meet their heroes. Like, because they cut off the line, you WILL make some family unable to do it. Plus it was the same Elsa as the last time/s, lol- all three days I was in Epcot it was the same Elsa (but I think Anna switched once). And it's a pain to talk in that setting, too- there's distance AND two of them!

But this is a bit curious- not only a sign of how busy the parks were getting, but how Anna & Elsa are STILL the most popular characters around! And also that they need to bring back the Sommerhus setting- it's got a fun queue and they can sport two rooms to allow for more guests and performer breaks and the like, so this big outdoor line and families being turned away isn't so much of a thing.

The Shoes:
* I feel I should mention that a very rare thing happened- my feet weren't totally destroyed by my trip. Now, it's important that you all know that when I go to Disney, I become a crazy person. Despite all advice to the contrary, I go coast-to-coast every single day for as long as my trip lasts on every vacation, whether Disney or otherwise. That means I'm there at rope-drop and I stay until fireworks and stuff. In this case, for like 10 days in a row. So usually by day 3 my feet are DYING, and I usually need a tylenol or whatever in the morning or else I can barely walk all day. However, THIS TIME, my shoes actually seem far better for the task of walking, and so that was usually not necessary. I had the mandatory blister or two and needed a pain pill a couple of times, but for the most part I was fine. So Columbia hiking-style shoes are apparently where it's at if you're completely insane and do Disney for 14 hours a day.
Jabroniville
Posts: 19106
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Magic Kingdom (Day 4)

Post by Jabroniville »

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I have an unnecessarily large amount of pictures of the castle from every sort of angle and light level. Is this normal?

DAY FOUR (MAGIC KINGDOM):
* So today was my first day in the Magic Kingdom. It was kind of weird doing the "big park" after only 3 days, and I think I wouldn't do that again in retrospect, as I guess the trip just doesn't feel "real" until I hit the big one, you know? As the days were getting busier, it was even more important to hit the place early, and this was probably my most successful attempt at it- I was pretty near the front in Fantasyland for the Mine Train. I'd also gotten Genie+ for the first time on this day, realizing that it had an epic amount of rides that would necessitate it. And indeed it did!

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The "I Lava You" float, which is basically THE GREATEST THING EVER and I had like 4 days while I was here. How do I not have diabetes?

So I walked right on to Mine Train with zero wait, and it's fine as ever. Not QUITE as outstanding as it maybe should be given the waits it commands, though- I mean, it's not more thrilling than the 3 Mountains, though it does have better animatronics than anything else here. Though it's wild because this would turn out to be the only time I was able to ride it all vacation! Mostly because I refused to pay out the nose just to ride it one more time, and various things happened on my other three days at MK (once it broke; once I was just too late).

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Inevitably, at least one day of my vacation will see a butt-load of rain. Thankfully this one was a light one, but it turned the four parades into "people being driven in cars". As you can see, my ability to take pictures of moving things while also trying to look at them with my eyes to not spoil the moment is... hit or miss.

I'm pretty used to bad rain in Florida, but this trip was easily the most free of that- at no point was there ever a MAJOR thunderstorm... except that today, where there was only a small percentage of rain, it managed to rain literally from noon to about ten pm. I mean, the ENTIRE DAY had a light drizzle. Given it was like a 10-15% chance and so I skipped on bringing my jacket, that was kinda annoying (I pretty much walked around "damp" for ten hours), but at least it wasn't like the massive spring storms I've seen before (generally, at least one day will have BRUTAL rain when I come to Florida).

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The best thing about ride breakdowns: Simple pictures with no blur!

So on my first day, I largely got all my "Must Do" things down- all the big attractions, plus some things I think I skipped last time. All the big Mountains, Mine Train, etc. I rode Haunted Mansion early (early enough to get several uncrowded views of the building) and got a G+ for later as well. The lines were okay at first but got worse throughout the day, so my typical "Park Plan" definitely pays off- do stuff early, then just hang around and go to simpler stuff, then use FPs/G+ for stuff until the end of the night. I believe on this day I hit Splash Mountain very early, which was lucky because it broke down later- on a later day it was toast until the very late part of the day! From various Disney Parks sites I'm on, this is becoming very common. In any case, I've finally sorta got the map of New Fantasyland set in my head- for whatever reason, I always think the Beauty & the Beast portion is the end, and go the wrong way for The Little Mermaid. Thankfully now I figured it out after the first day. Though I find I only hit that area right at the end of the day anymore, as there's just not that much else out there.

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The "bookshelf" at the Jungle Skipper Canteen, which is actually one of the best restaurants on property in terms of design and menu.

I got reservations early (I think the night before, or the morning) for the Jungle Skipper Canteen, and MAN was I sleeping on this place! It's apparently a sleeper hit among park-goers and it's as good as the hype- some of the best theming (my dining room was behind a "fake bookcase" (the door doesn't move but it looks like it should) with all the book titles featuring animal themes, there was stuff in cabinets and all over the walls keyed around the Society of Explorers & Adventurers (a big nerdy "Imagineering Story Arc" threading through all the parks now), and more. I finally tried a medium-rare steak after a lifetime of medium or medium-well, and I now realize why people go on about it. GREAT WiFi in here, too, lol- I uploaded an entire gallery to my photo-site in minutes when it normally takes forever!
Jabroniville
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Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

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Elena of Avalor! Most adults don't know who she is, but they should because she'd rad! And she is SUPER-appreciative when adults can actually go along with the lore!

I also managed Meet & Greets since the Princess Fairytale Hall is back- this was something I had a lot of fun with on my last trip, so I was glad it was back weeks before I arrived. I met Rapunzel & Tiana once, and Cinderella & Elena twice- hilariously, the same "Friend" of Elena was there both times- she actually jumped up and recognized me "You came back! I'm so glad you did!" and we nerded out over Elena lore and we talked about her cool powers- she suggested "Snow!" instead of "Glow!" for her powers but when I brought up that was Elsa's schtick, she got competitive with her and we got talking about Spirits, since both "Frozen" & "Elena" detailed stuff about them. This is actually the first time I'd met someone twice- on my last trip I'd only gone once per day and it was always different "Friends" in there.

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Main Street at night remains one of my favorite "Disney Things" for ambiance.

I ended the day seeing their new Castle Show, and... it's fine. I dunno. Not as good as their last one (which people tout as the BEST EVER). I was disappointed that many songs were covers instead of the movie versions- especially "Into the Unknown". Impressive visuals and everything, though, as stuff that doesn't seem possible happens frequently, and even the little "Side Parapets" next to the castle show stuff! They are emphasizing Tiana's stuff and Soul a lot in all the shows I've seen, probably for "Diversity" reasons, but I dig Tiana so it's fine. Just somewhat notable that a Princess movie that was considered a big box office disappointment is being put out there like it's a huge deal and of vast importance. One thing that always irks me about MK's castle shows is that good positions are IMPOSSIBLE- there's always like one big tree perfectly in the way of something. People can't quite see, everyone's kinda jostling for position, etc.

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Thankfully I took pictures of the Main Street windows... because the next day I came here, they had all swapped over to the Christmas Carol ones!

So my MK days usually start off with the "Get stuff DONE" day, which this kind of was- I did all the big rides, plus the Castle Show, with expectations to do other things later. Typically this is the "can do any time" stuff like Tom Sawyer's Island, Tiki Room, Country Bears, Hall of Presidents & the Mark Twain. I'd actually not get three of those done on this trip (despite it being MASSIVE) for some complicated reasons, which I'll get into later (mostly Covid tests and waiting for the micro-parades, lol).
Shock
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Location: Connecticut USA

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Shock »

Jabroniville wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 9:40 am As you can see, my ability to take pictures of moving things while also trying to look at them with my eyes to not spoil the moment is... hit or miss.
This is something I struggle with anytime I go somewhere that has live action rather than static exhibits. Trying to take pictures or video really narrows your focus and I always feel like I saw less than when I'm just watching. Most of the time I end up siding with "enjoy the moment" and taking almost no pictures.
Jabroniville
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Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Jabroniville »

Shock wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 2:29 pm
Jabroniville wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 9:40 am As you can see, my ability to take pictures of moving things while also trying to look at them with my eyes to not spoil the moment is... hit or miss.
This is something I struggle with anytime I go somewhere that has live action rather than static exhibits. Trying to take pictures or video really narrows your focus and I always feel like I saw less than when I'm just watching. Most of the time I end up siding with "enjoy the moment" and taking almost no pictures.
Yeah, I think it was on a previous Disney trip where I sort of realized that focusing on taking pictures of parade floats or something was taking too much focus, and so I ended up not really paying attention to BEING there. I tried to be cognizant of that in many places, especially faraway ones like Japan, and I think I nipped that in the bud. I found just taking video to be preferable, since aiming wasn't quite such a big deal and you could watch with your eyes.

So in cases where I DID want pictures, like here, I sort of just hoped for the best while still trying to pay attention. There's a LOT of bad pictures in the Fairytale Hall, haha.
Shock
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Location: Connecticut USA

Re: Disney World Trip Report (Nov. 2021)

Post by Shock »

Jabroniville wrote: Thu Dec 23, 2021 9:43 am
So in cases where I DID want pictures, like here, I sort of just hoped for the best while still trying to pay attention. There's a LOT of bad pictures in the Fairytale Hall, haha.
Ah the wonders of digital photography. I can't imagine going back to film and not being able to take 1000 pictures of something knowing that one of them is going to turn out well.
Jabroniville
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Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:05 pm

Day 5 (Hollywood Studios)

Post by Jabroniville »

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DAY FIVE (HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS):
(Part One)


-So on my last trip, the Studios was the one where I was like "This sucks; I wanna go back to Epcot". Having been here in 2014 and almost nothing new since then (and stuff even CLOSING, like the tram thing and the Great Movie Ride), and Star Wars Land not being ready yet, I bailed on the park around 5pm as it was my last day in town and I wanted to revisit the Frozen stuff in Epcot instead. Unfortunately I failed to get a Slinky Dog FastPass that day (long story; I changed my day for HS and thus FPs were already taken) and when the line was short, it was MASSIVELY hot in an uncovered queue and so I left it entirely. So I figured "Hey I'm coming back next year!" and so that's not a big deal! Unfortunately, next trip was set for March 2020. So yeah. It's been a bit.

ANYWAYS, I arrived at HS somewhat early in my trip with a LOT of new stuff planned- I had to get on Slinky Dog for real this time, PLUS there was the Runaway Railway thing, AND "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge". So this would have to be a full day no matter what, and I made sure to get Genie+ this day because that was a TON of high-value stuff to see. But this might have been my earliest wakeup yet, hitting the park good and early and being led right into GE for "Rise of the Resistance", the legendary super-attraction everyone's been talking about! I'd already bought a "Guaranteed Lightning Lane" thing for it, but now I would ride it TWICE! And the plan worked perfectly- it's a huge jaunt to GE from the park entrance but I am a SERIOUSLY fast walker and can effortlessly outpace most tourists, so I was within like a complete walk-on for the attraction. Or I would have been, if it had been working! But it wasn't! Instead, it never even opened and was broken for three solid hours, lol! So never mind!

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So with my "Rise" double-riding plans dumped (thank goodness I paid for a spot and got on later), I went to Smuggler's Run instead. It promised a 15-20 minute lineup and was instead closer to 30+, which was weird. It's effectively a giant video game, with four people- two pilots, a gunner and an "engineer" to fix stuff. Does everyone like pilot? Because I was a pilot ("left to right" pilot, to be precise). I think I did pretty well... particularly since when I rode it later, some kid was a pilot and we smashed into EVERYTHING. The only issue is with a video game you have to pay attention to what you're doing and miss some cool stuff to look at, haha. But I did pretty well and it's a pretty immersive thing. The greedy "Con Man" guy isn't that funny but it's a very good animatronic, and the Millennium Falcon outside is an amazing prop. The big downside of that, though, is you can't get a good look from above! You can see it from one angle in the queue for "Smuggler's Run", but I'd have loved to be able to climb into these various buildings around GE to see the Falcon from all angles!

Once "SR" was done, I high-tailed it to ride "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror"- another ride I'd bailed on last trip because I was leaving before my FP came up. It's a really great attraction, of course- WAY more advanced than the ones in any of the other Disney parks I've ridden, and has the bit where you ride through the hotel itself, which is crazy. I wish I could check out this queue more often, but it's unfortunately every time I'm here I either miss it or get the FP or whatever and so I only barely looked at it! Some poor kid bailed on the ride right before we started, and I think his dad tried to shame him (all holding up his arms like "What?"). I honestly find the drops more mild every time I ride this, for some reason. Is that normal? So I'd managed some good stuff early on in the park... but realized I'd forgotten to get a reservation for Slinky Dog Dash, haha! The ONE THING I'd been forced to miss out on in 2019! I think it was my rush to get around and do all these other things I'd totally glossed it over, and eventually it had run out of LL spaces. So I would have to do the regular queue later.

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STAR WARS- GALAXY'S EDGE:
-Crazily enough, for all the talk I'd heard about the "Build-A-Droid" and Blue Milk and Oga's Cantina and the Lightsaber Ceremony... I never ONCE heard of the gigantic Ithorian Animatronic in the one shop! And this thing is AWESOME! Just this enormous, hyper-mobile animatronic Ithorian that takes naps, reads stuff, types things, gets up and swivels around, etc. This is the coolest thing in the whole area, to me! Probably the most "Take THAT, Harry Potter!" thing in here!

The land itself is very well-detailed, and definitely has that "lived-in/scratched-up stuff" vibe that Star Wars was always good at- nothing is glistening and perfect for the Rebels. But I would have MUCH prefered a real thing from the movies, like Jabba's Palace/Mos Eisley, etc. I mean, things fans have real emotional attachment to and would recognize. When Universal built Harry Potter lands, they didn't make it some random new Wizard town that's Hogwart's-like but isn't in any of the books or movies, y'know? The various domed round buildings are kinda featureless and generic as Star Wars buildings go, and all the walkways are things you can't even go on!

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The merchant shops in the one row are... fine. Very small shops and pretty basic toys, though you can't find them anywhere else so they are in fact some of the most "special" things in the area. This apparently gets ridiculously busy at points but I must have avoided the worst of it. The various robotic things hanging around are all great scenery, though. The Droid Shop is pretty full of people all the time, and I love the huge conveyor belt going around. Looks like there's tons of different droids you can make, with variations on BB-8 & R2-D2 especially.

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