Monday, April 22, 2013

4/15/13 The end of Monday & Animal Kingdom

A week ago, last Monday, I'd laid down for a nap around 2:30, and when Bob got back we headed to the Animal Kingdom. I did not look at my phone or the computer or the TV, so I went on completely unaware of the bombing in Boston.

Instead, we hit the bus for Animal Kingdom, (which is celebrating its 15th birthday today, fittingly on Earth Day.)

It's a beautiful park, but not one we find we want to spend an entire day at. It holds heat better than a lot of the parks, although the shady walking areas are a nice respite. And there's just not a full day of attractions to hold our interest.

We keep hoping to hear plans of finally expanding the park to include the Fantasy section of the Kingdom planned long ago, which is why you see dragons in their logos and around the park. They put the Yeti in Expedition Everest, so let's get going on those dragons!

The Tree of Life, the icon and centerpiece of the park, is 14 stories tall and sports an oil rig as its base to sustain any hurricane that might blow through. There are more than 300 animals carned into the trunk and over 100,000 hand placed "leaves" that blow and move with the wind.

 The only coaster in the park is the massive Expedition Everest, announced in 2003 at the AK's 5th birthday, but not complete until 2006, at a cost of over $100,000,000. Over the six years of planning and building, more than 8000 artifacts returned from Nepal to decorate the queue and ride areas.

This is tied with Rock'n Roller Coaster for my favorite. The trains are even equipped with steam vents to complete the illusion of a battered steam powered train on a ride through Mt. Everest, where the Yeti awaits. It's a 112 foot ascent.

At this point, the train stops at the end of torn up tracks (by the angry Yeti, natch) and then (as you hear the tracks switching) pulls you backwards through spiral and you see the Yeti shadow on the wall coming toward you. You are then launched down the 80 foot cave into a 360° helix and past the giant animatronic Yeti that almost never moves (poor Imagineers have been fighting with him since it opened.) He's still very cool looking.

You can spot him appearing to move here at 2:40 on this video we shot back in 2006, although this is only "B mode" movement. His A game disappeared only months after the ride opened,when this 22 foot tall guy cracked his frame. The only way to fix him is to basically take the mountain apart (not the greatest planning there), so they installed a strobe light that makes him appear to move, giving rise to the name Disco Yeti among Disney aficionados. 

After that, we decided to go see the tigers on the Marharajah Jungle Trek. See that tongue? That's what we both thing of this heat.

And we took in some of the exotic birds along the trail, too.

This guy throws his head back and makes an awesome call.

We discovered Doug and Russell from Up doing a meet and greet on our way out. 

See? Dragon, front and center of the logo. 

As we got into the line for the bus back to the Contempoary, the Wilderness Lodge bus pulled up in the next spot. I suggested we hop on it and then take the ferry over to the Contemporary rather than stand around. It gave us a chance to look around the first hotel we stayed at, and the only one we've stayed at twice. 

When we got on the ferry, we encountered four early 20s cast members on their day off and struck up a conversation with them about crazy guests that lasted until we were back at the Contemporary. At that point, we decided to walk over to the MK to grab a bite and just take in the park after dark again.

We hit up Carousel of Progress before heading back. Carousel was the only thing in all of Walt Disney World that Walt the man actually oversaw. This was his pet project that debuted at the New York World's Fair in 1964 in the GE Pavilion. GE continued to underwrite the attraction for many years, and their appliance name can still be spotted in the kitchen of the 1940s. It holds the record for longest running stage show, with the greatest number of performances, in the history of American theater. The four stages are set up in the center of the circle, and the seats/audience rotate around each decade, the turn of the century (1898 by most accounts), the 1920s, the 1940s, and originally the 1960s This last set, the largest of the four, is the one that has been updated multiple times to keep up with "today's" family, first in 1967, then again in 1975, 1981, 1985, and 1993. Sadly, it's been 20 years since the "today" has been updated, with just a couple of minor tweaks. 

Turn of the century (the calendar says 1898)


One puzzle is how the window outside goes from trees to a Chinese Restaurant and block, then back to trees.


The tomorrow of 1993...


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