Who Would Love Disney’s Festival of the Lion King?

One person in our family considers Festival of the Lion King a must-do Animal Kingdom attraction and insists on trying (usually unsuccessfully) to include it on every visit. Poor Megan!  The rest of us are kind of meh about the Lion King show and it’s probably due to getting burned out in the early years when she’d beg to see it twice a day.  (She has powerful persuasion skills and was the sweetest child!)

Who Would Love Disney’s Festival of the Lion King?

Having pretty much shunned the Festival of the Lion King for the past couple-few years (as we say in these parts), I promised Megan when we took our Mother/Daughter Disney trip back in June we could see her favorite show. I was so excited we were going to see Pandora, I think I was unusually agreeable.

So, once we’d ridden Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage (twice), it was time to make good on my promise. We were off to the Harambe Theater, which is conveniently located just past the Dawa Bar (had to stop, Pandora made us thirsty). We didn’t have to wait long outside the theater before we headed in to find a seat (Tip: don’t use a FastPass for this attraction).  It was wonderfully cool and dark as we made our way up the aisle in the closest section to perch on the bleachers.  I’d forgotten about those seats.  Luckily, the women in our family come “standard equipped” with good seat cushions.  Still pretty uncomfortable.  So much for trying to squeeze in a nap.

When the show started, I quickly realized it was much better than I remembered. The Tumble Monkeys had a much smaller role than they’d had in the past and didn’t perform the acrobatics I’d seen them do before, but the singing and dancing was fantastic!  Who Would Love Disney's Festival of the Lion King?This show does an amazing job of including the audience throughout its entire 30 minute duration.  I’d forgotten how great the costumes are and how talented the performers…I owed Megan an apology for a few (slightly) negative comments I’d jokingly made pre-show.

I asked Megan to share her thoughts on why she loves Festival of the Lion King so much and here’s what she had to say…

“I love the stunts like the fire twirler and the monkeys. The dancing is fun to watch and I enjoy the choreography (mainly when the two birds dance).  I love the singing and I think Disney does a really good job of finding people who will sing the songs really well live (like “Be Prepared”) and I’ve always thought the floats with the giant moving and talking animals were a pretty cool touch.”Who Would Love Disney's Festival of the Lion King?

We noticed families with children of all ages enjoying Festival of the Lion King’s clever mix of circus-style performance, musical numbers, characters and audience participation. It’s a winning combination!

Have you seen Festival of the Lion King? How do you feel about it?  Who in your family loves this show?

Magical Memories – When Expedition Everest Opened

Sometimes we need the kind of getaway that only a Disney vacation can provide.  While I treasure the memories from all our family vacations, one trip in particular stands out in my mind as being especially cherished for several reasons.

When Expedition Everest Opened

Spring Break, 2006.  This vacation was unusually important to our family.  In December, 2005, we’d been terrified by a potentially serious health scare.  After a series of tests followed by a lymph node biopsy and a seemingly interminable wait for lab results, we found out that Raymond did not have cancer and was, in fact, perfectly fine.  Weeks of worry through the holiday season had taken a toll on all of us.  By mid-January, I knew we needed a Disney vacation as soon as possible.  The Disney Bubble beckoned.  As a family, we needed to regroup, recharge, and regain our equilibrium.  December had been incredibly stressful and we badly needed to shake off the lingering aftereffects.  The fastest I could manage to get us to Disney World was by Spring Break.

Megan was 15, Joseph 10 and they got along exceptionally well (and still do). While he’s a thrill ride junkie and she’s in love with all of Disney’s live shows, they compromised well enough that year for each to do and see everything they wanted.  We were completely blown away by Animal Kingdom and could not believe our good fortune when we found out that Expedition Everest was in soft-opening status.  We snagged FastPasses and also used the standby line which seemed to us an Imagineering marvel – such detail!  So incredibly entertaining and is still today my favorite queue at Disney World.  I remember when we boarded the tea train for the first time how tiny all the plants were on that first segment of the ride.  All in neat rows, we could tell they’d just been planted.

As we climbed the Forbidden Mountain and took in the view, we had no idea what to expect.  When we came to the broken tracks, flew backwards, saw the Yeti’s shadow and heard the Yeti’s “voice”, we were completely and utterly amazed by the perfect combination of thrilling ride and amazing details.  Then we saw the actual Yeti in all its glory!  Huge, entirely covered with brown dreadlocks and with an enormous simian arm that reached right out and took a swipe at us…we were in awe!  The experience was unforgettable – we’d found the YETI and we wanted to get back up that mountain immediately to see it all again!Expedition Everest Queue Yeti Museum Expedition Everest Train Platform Gear Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest

We rode multiple times that day and again later in the week.  Thanks to some kind strangers who gave us four FastPasses for Everest on their way out of the park, Megan and Joseph used all four to ride twice more.  They ended up riding this newest, most wonderful ride a total of seven times before we went home.

Disney magic has always worked wonders for our family, but Spring Break, 2006 is a particularly remarkable example.  Never had we needed a vacation more and our favorite vacation destination did not let us down.  As the week ended, we found ourselves soothed and tired (in a good way).  We were ready to get back on track with our busy lives when we got home.

Is Disney World your happy place?  What Disney vacation stands out most in your memory?

 

In Magic Kingdom? Avoid the PeopleMover!

There’s been much too much love shared among Disney fans on social media, in blog posts, and on podcasts  for Tomorrowland’s PeopleMover attraction.  Way too much effusive praise.  I feel the need to warn you away.  Don’t listen to the hype, I say!  Why?  Well, if you’ve never ridden the PeopleMover, now’s not the time to try it.

In Magic Kingdom? Avoid the PeopleMover!

Let me give you the five best reasons to mark this attraction off your to-do list…

  1.  You’re afraid of heights.  You’re pretty high up on this ride – at times, on the very edge of the track even.  It’s straight down if something goes wrong.  Better not chance it.
  2. You like clean air.  You’d think that a birds-eye view of Magic Kingdom would be refreshing, right?  Nope!  The exhaust fumes from the Tomorrowland Speedway are toxic!  You’ll have a difficult time breathing, trust me.
  3. You’re a thrill ride junkie!  No thrills here.  PeopleMover is a total snooze-fest.  A boring, narrated, slow-moving tour of Tomorrowland’s sights and attractions.  You want thrills in this section of the park?  You’ll want Space Mountain or Stitch’s Great Escape, for sure.
  4. You (or any member of your party) are afraid of the dark.  Your ride vehicle will enter tunnels of complete and total darkness.  Like can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face pitch blackness.  And not in a thrilling way.  It’s boring and uneventful…unless it’s your biggest fear, then it will be horrible.
  5. You want to be cool.  This ride is for dorks and geeks.  Cool kids do not ride the PeopleMover.  It’s the last place you’d ever want to be caught if you want people to think you’re worldly and hip.

So, if you’ve been here before you know that I’m always completely honest, right?  I give you my opinions in a straight forward, no-nonsense way and I can’t lie to you now.  I love the PeopleMover!  It’s the only must-do Tomorrowland attraction for me on every visit.  I’ve taught my entire family to appreciate and adore this wonderful ride as much as I do, but too many people have started to notice its awesomeness!

It’s getting too popular.  Where we used to walk on no matter the season or time of year, we’ve recently started to have to wait in line.  Sometimes for as long as 20 minutes!  I don’t like this development and want you to pass up PeopleMover so those of us who love it the most can have it to ourselves.  Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so.  Re-read the list of reasons to avoid the PeopleMover, take them to heart, and keep on walking, okay?  Please?

Holler if you love PeopleMover!!!!

Disney’s Pandora – Thoughts on Na’vi River Journey

When I’m at Walt Disney World, I talk to strangers.  Lots of times, strangers talk to me.  It’s kind of a joke in our family and after all these years, is rather expected.  I think conversations strike up easily in queues and shops and on Disney transportation because I look happy all the time when I’m at Disney World.  (In real life I’m pretty sure my usual RBF is a bit off-putting.)  No matter the reason for all the chitchat, on our last visit I asked a bunch of people what their thoughts were about Pandora and the two attractions there.  Let’s talk about Disney’s newest boat ride!

Disney’s Pandora – Thoughts on Na’vi River Journey

Pandora’s boat ride encompasses most of what you’d expect – dark, cool, bunch of clever details, animatronic figure, interesting sounds/background noises.  What it lacks is a story.  The ride is a tour of Pandora at night.  And that’s pretty much it.

When Megan and I took our one and only Na’vi River Journey, I kept pointing to all the things I recognized from Avatar (the movie).  Used to my tendencies, Meg did not complain, but politely indulged in my need to redirect her attention by back-handing her in the arm and whispering “look!” every few seconds about something I found super interesting.  She’d smile and nod.  She loves her mom a lot, I can tell.

Anyway, after the ride was over, I had the opportunity later to ask a few people here and there if they’d ridden Na’vi River Journey and what they thought about it.  I asked people in line for Festival of the Lion King, in the loooooong queue for Flight of Passage, and anyplace else I could start a friendly conversation without seeming creepy. The results of my casual poll were this:  Those who’d seen Avatar tended to like the new boat ride well enough.  Those who’d never seen Avatar mostly thought the River Journey was meh.  Here’s where the lack of a story hurts this attraction, I think.

All that being said…if you want to maximize your enjoyment of Pandora, and Na’vi River Journey in particular, try to catch Avatar before you go.  Even if you don’t care for the movie, you’ll at least be able to recognize and hopefully appreciate all the work the Imagineers put in to recreating Pandora.

Have you been to Pandora?  Did you see Avatar before you went?  Did you think being familiar with Pandora helped you enjoy it more?