Day 2: Sunday, Dec. 13
After getting a wake-up call from Mickey, we headed to the MGM early morning. Once at the park, we headed straight for the tower of terror. I love that ride. Next, we did the Great Movie Ride, and Muppet Vision 3-D, and then we went to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. At the beginning of the show, when they pick extras to take part, my dad was picked! It was slightly embarassing, although really funny to see him out there; especially when they put him in costume. They dress as an Egyptian with a turban and such, but my dad kept his sunglasses! Afterwards, we headed for the radp meet and greet on Hollywood Boulevard. This was my first radp meet ever, so it was really exciting to meet Beth Eloheimo, Czar Jim, Bill and Diane Abrams, Bruce Metcalf, John and Charlotte Johnson, fuxi, and others who I can't remember (I'm sorry). Around 12:00, we all headed to the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant for lunch, where we met Gardenia, Alicia Calsyn, Judylew and others. Again, I'm sorry if I forgot your name. The meal was very good, accompanied by some interesting conversation. After lunch, we saw the Beauty and the Beast show, and then did "The Making of Armageddon". It was pouring rain when we came out. We were worried that the 6:30 showing of Fantasmic! would be cancelled, but it slowed by 5:00 when we headed for the radp tower of terror meet. We met a ton of people inlcuding Laura (tigger), Jeff Spence, and Deb Wills. After taking numerous group pictures, we (about 34 people) all got in line for the ride. As always the drop was thrilling. When we exited the tower, it had stopped raining, so we ran for Fantasmic!, doubtful that we could get a good seat only a half hour before the start of the show. Amazingly, we did get a pretty good seat; although it wasn't in the centre, we still had a great view. Soon the show started and it was phenomenal! The best show I've ever seen at Walt Disney World! Definatley not to be missed! I'd like to see the Disneyland version of this show, since many people say it's even better! After the amazing show, we followed the crowd to the Osborne Spectacle of Lights. The display was awe-inspiring, but it was also a little gaudy or tacky. Cast Members gave out glasses which made angels appear around many of the lights, but we liked the display better without the glasses. The park then closed and we went back to our resort for a short rest; after which, my dad and I, headed for the Adventurer's Club at Pleasure Island, where we caught up with Beth Eloheimo and fuxi. The show was hilarious, and my favourite character (no big surprise here) was the maid. After a great evening, we went back to our resort to get some sleep.
Day 3: Monday, Dec. 14
We woke up to a really cold morning, and went to the Magic Kingdom early morning. We first tried out Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, twice. It was really fun, but very challenging to score well. The second time we went on it, the ride stopped in the room with the twirling laser from the old Take Flight ride, which was really annoying and hard on our eyes. Too bad we didn't stop in front of a target. Next, my mom and I went on the Astro Orbiter for the first time. You get a great view when you go right to the top, not just of the Magic Kingdom, but also of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Next, I rode on Space Mountain for my first time. I am now a huge fan of it. We then passed through Fantasyland walking right onto Snow White's Adventure, and Peter Pan's Flight, followed by a trip through The Haunted Mansion. I'll always love that ride. Next, we went on Big Thunder Mountain, and then walked right on to the best Magic Kingdom ride of all, Splash Mountain. Afterwards, when we were still wet from the big drop, we went to see the new tiki room show. I did think it was better than the original. Then, after eating some delicious strawberry bars and hot dogs, we headed back to our resort for some warmer clothes and a break. After a short rest, we returned to The Magic Kingdom for a scream in the Alien Encounter. Then, we hopped on a boat to the Wilderness Lodge for the radp dinner at the Artist Point restaurant. I think the Wilderness Lodge is the most stunningly beautiful resort at Walt Disney World. We spent alot of time just starring up at the monstrously awesome lobby. At dinner, we got seated with Jen & James from Australia, Bill Nance, and Jay Delgado and his wife Kathy. My meal, rainbow trout in a lentil sauce, was very tasty, although I found the fish unusually bony. The best part of the night was talking to Bill Nance, who is a Cast Member in information services, and is the first person I've met, that actually lives in Celebration! To top off the night, all three of us won something in the draw that Deb Wills had. My mom won a nice diary, and my Dad and I each won a colour edition of "Eyes & Ears", the Cast Member newspaper. They're really neat. After dinner, we walked out onto the Wilderness Lodge beach. It was really peaceful, and a few minutes later the Electrical Water Pageant started. The technology of this show is old, but it's still a nice show. On the way back to our resort, we dropped into the Adventurer's Club for a few laughs.
Day 4: Tuesday, Dec. 15
In the morning, we headed to Epcot's early morning. We did Spaceship Earth and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience first, followed by The Land. Next, at the Living Seas, we got to see the huge Manatees feeding and some of the dolphin experiments, which were really neat. Then, we headed over to Test Track to see what was going on. We heard a few cars zoom around the track, but nobody was in them. We asked the Cast Member at the cart outside about it, and he said that it might be open to guests on Saturday, so I knew where I was going to be on that day. We then headed for World Showcase and rode the Mexico and Norway rides. Continuing around World Showcase, browsing and eating, we reached the American Adventure. There we listened to the wonderful Voices of Liberty, before seeing the main show. Next, we looked through Morroco and Japan, and took a Freedom ship across the lagoon. Once on the other side, we did a little shopping and bought the figment beanie baby. Afterwards, we took in my home country of Canada, talking to the Cast Members and watching the beautiful circle vision film. Next, we went and had a delicious dinner of Fish & Chips at the Rose & Crown Pub. Eating at the table beside us, we met a Cast Member who worked as a lifeguard at the Yacht & Beach Club Resort. It was quite interesting listening to her talk about her job. After dinner, we went to see the humorous Universe of Energy, beofer lining up for the Candlelight Processional. Even though the line was humongous, we still got a pretty good seat. After an awesome show, we got a yummy, but messy, funnel cake, looked through France, and found a spot for IllumiNations. When you pick a viewing spot for this show, be sure that when your facing the lagoon, the wind isn't blowing into your face, because it will soon carry a lot of awful smoke with it. After seeing the excellent Fantasmic! show, I was dissapointed by IllumiNations. Following the show, we slowly meandered out of the park and spent a lot of time watching the beautiful archway of lights and the amazing fountain, which are synchronized to music.
Day 5: Wednesday, Dec. 16
Getting up really early, we headed for our first time at Animal Kingdom. On arrival, we rushed through the Oasis and got our first glimpse of the unbelievable Tree of Life; though I thought it seemed smaller than in pictures I had seen of it. As fast as we could, we made our way to the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Unfortunatley, the ride wasn't going to open until 7:30. So, while we waited, we chatted with a Cast Member named Fred and learned that there are only two Fred's working at Animal Kingdom. We loved the safari once we got on it, and got a great view of the lions. Afterwards we walked through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and got a super view of the gorillas and the hippos. Next, we headed to Dinoland, U.S.A., and walked right onto Countdown to Extinction - twice! It's a really neat ride. Afterwards, we looked at the Dinosaur Jubilee and the Fossil Preparation Lab, which were interesting. We also spent some time exploring the pathways around the Tree of Life (it's much larger close up!) and gazing at the interesting animals living there. Next, we saw It's Tough to be a Bug, which was really neat. While waiting in line for the show, we spent alot of time just looking up at the Tree of Life with it's wondrous carvings. After the show, we went to see the Festival of the Lion King show - the best live stage show I've ever seen at Walt Disney World. Afterwards, I got my picture taken with Dale (one of two of my favourite characters, the other one being Chip, of course!) We then went on the safari once again. Some parts of the safari were better than the morning one. We got to see the giraffes close up, and all the alligators were on the beach with their mouths wide open. Next, we walked to the Rainforest Café, but it had a 45-minute wait to get seated! So instead, we ate at Flametree Barbecue, which was tasty. After lunch, we got a great view of the March of the Artimals, a surprisingly good parade. It was the holiday version and used Christmas music. We then went to see the Flights of Wonder bird show. It was really good and unexpectedly funny. We had just had time for a 2nd trip to It's Tough to be a Bug, before the radp meet at Countdown to Extinction. Beth Eloheimo was first to show up, followed by fuxi and another Disney fan named Dave. After some talking, we decided nobody else was coming and got in line for the ride. Again, the ride was great, and this time I managed to wave to the camera. I also realized that the track layout for this ride is exactly the same as the layout for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. After the ride, the park was closed, so we slowly meandered out.
Day 6: Thursday, Dec. 17
After getting to sleep an hour longer for once, we headed to Epcot for the Backstage Magic Tour, one of many behind-the-scenes tours that Disney offers. We met our tour group at Guest Relations just outside the gates. Our guide, Susan, introduced herself and handed out beautiful nametags (a picture of Mickey going through the looking glass). Our transportation was a beautiful Disney Cruise Line bus complete with a full cooler of pop and water, and a washroom. Our first stop was the American Adventure. Getting there was one of the best parts, becuase we travelled backstage, behind all the Epcot attractions, and got to see many interesting things such as a huge building-sized poster that said "381 days till Year 2000"! At the American Adventure, we went behind the stage, where all the Audio-Animatronics and sets are stored. The figures were amazing close up, and very detailed. Susan told us that every morning, people check these attractions, and if one little thing isn't working, the show won't go on until it's fixed. Our next stop was the Living Seas, where we went backstage; it wasn't very pretty, but still very clean. In fact, at the kitchen where they prepare the food for the fish, workers must step through a box of lysol before entering. On the way to our next stop, Susan told us that since landscaping is such a big part of Disney, every major tree at the resort has a replacement in case something happens, such as a lightning strike. They even have a replacement for the ancient Liberty Tree in Liberty Square! Driving along, my dad also insisted that the mountains at the Canada pavilion (we're from Canada) are not the Rockies as Disney says, but the Gatineau Hills (a small mountain range next to Ottawa), because of how they look and their lithology. Our last stop at Epcot was Body Wars. We got to go right under one of the huge simulators and watch it shake, rattle, and roll. It moved alot more than I expected. Next, the bus took us to MGM for the hands-on part of the tour in the large animation studio. Unlike the other offstage areas, this place was beautiful, it's walls covered with wondrous artwork. Each of us was given paper and a pencil, and an animator told us that we were going to draw Goofy, which turned out to be not too hard. In the end, all of our drawings were recognizable, in fact, some were pretty good. We would draw a portion of Goofy's face and then pass it to the left; so each drawing of Goofy is the work of three people. A tip for drawing a better-looking Goofy is not to start too small, since your only drawing his face, there's a lot of room on the paper. The animator then took some questions before we entered another room where an artist was going to teach us the age-old art of hand-painting cells. I found this a lot harder than drawing, and it wasn't until the end that we found out we could take the paint home, instead of rushing to get it done in the short time allowed. The next hands-on activity was lunch! The bus took us to Mama Melroses Ristorante Italiano where we met one of the Streetmosphere characters named Helen. She was supposed to be our tour guide's Aunt and she was hilarious. Using a strong New York accent, bad taste in clothing and too much make-up, she was outrageous. She sat directly across the table from us, making it hard to eat, because we couldn't stop laughing. The food was great. They brought three kinds of pasta and pizza and we were able to try them all. For dessert, they brought a tray full of tempting treats. Unfortunatley, lunch was very rushed. When we got back on the bus "Aunt Helen" broke character, although it was noticeably difficult for her, because she was laughing so much. She revealed that her real name was Donna Charles and that she got her start with Disney in 1989 at Pleasure Island's Adventurer's Club, where she played the maid. She also said that she modeled her "Aunt Helen" character after her ex-mother-in-law! We took the bus with "Aunt Helen" to Creative Costuming, but it was locked because all the Cast Members were at a christmas party. So, since we were running behind a little, we got back on the bus, said goodbye to "Aunt Helen" and went to our next stop - the parade warehouse, at The Magic Kingdom. Walking inside, we passed the floats for the Christmas parade and Disney's Magical Moments parade. Our tour guide told us that Disney never throws out floats, they're always recycled and changed to be used in a new parade. Inside the warehouse, we got to see the floats for Spectromagic. They weren't very pretty during the day without their lights on. We even got to see inside one of the floats where the driver would sit. We then entered the area where they store the parade costumes. She let us hold one of Minnie's costumes for Spectromagic, and it was dreadfully heavy, because it had a battery pack to light up the costume. Next, we walked outside to a little canal where we saw a marching band practising. In the canal, were the barges for the Electrical Water Pageant. Our next stop was the Production Center where they build and work on everything from garbage cans to Audio-Animatronics. Susan said that one of their current projects was a character head that could talk. Inside the Production Center, we saw many of the floats they were fixing up for the Main Street Electrical Parade, which is starting again in Summer 1999. Soon, we got to an area called Alligator Alley where they work on the Audio-Animatronic figures. They were working on many figures from It's a Small World and Splash Mountain. We even saw the little devils from the now-closed Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which a worker said were being shipped to Disneyland. Next, we walked through an area where they were working on hundreds of character heads, and then into an area where there were several carousel horses. Susan told us how one amazing lady hand-paints each horse. Then, it was back onto the bus. Our last stop was the best - the Utilidors. These are the tunnels underneath The Magic Kingdom. They were extremely neat - busy with bustling Cast Members and bristling with tons of pipes. We first headed to a department which holds all the Cast Member's costumes and uniforms - several thousand in all! After that, we entered the computer control room. This place had so much security, that to get in you have to punch in a code and get your hand scanned. Or, you could do like our tour guide and bang on the door until someone opens it. Inside, were several huge computers which controlled all the Magic Kingdoms's attractions and shows. It was amazing! In a far corner of the room, in a small dark office, was the parade control room. Inside were many computer and TV screens displaying Disney's Magical Moments parade that had just started. A computer guy working there explained how little pucks embedded in the parade route would sense when a float passed over it and send info back to his computer. This is vital to synchronize each float with it's music. He could even tell which float was going too fast or slow. Next, we walked to the wig department. Some of the wigs require hours to prepare. Walking through the Utilidors was very confusing. Unlike the Magic Kingdom, which I know like the back of my hand, I had no idea where we were or where we were going in the utilidors. When we emerged into the sunlight, we found ourselves beside Tony's Town Square Restaurant on Main Street, just as the parade arrived. The tour showed us all the toil and technology behind a Disney attraction, and now we were seeing the finished product. When finally back on our bus, we headed back to Epcot, picked up the animation cel we had painted, and said goodbye. In the end, I thought it was an excellent tour and we got some great souvenirs. Even my parents, who were wary about the high cost of the tour, loved it and thought that it was well worth the price. After a short rest at our resort, we headed to The Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Arriving there at 7:00 pm, we were surprised by the long lines already forming since the party was supposed to start at 8:00. We then found out that it often opens earlier, and low and behold, it opened at 7:20, 40 minutes early, WOOHOO! As we streamed into the park, we got our family photo taken first, and then I headed for Space Mountain, while my parents rode Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin. With me being a brand new Space Mountain fan, I rode three times with hardly any wait. I noted that when they're running both tracks, the cars on the left track seem to go faster. My parents saved a seat for me at the Night Before Christmas show which was pretty good, especially when followed by complimentary hot chocolate and cookies. Yumm!! Next, we rode on some of the Fantasyland attractions, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain catching the tail end of the firworks as we exited our log. We then took a couple of rides on the Jungle Cruise. Many of jokes were the same, but each guide's delivery was different and unique. Soon after, we got a spot to watch the 2nd showing of the christmas parade, while my mom got more hot chocolate and cookies. It was really cold by this time, about 40°F. The parade was good, and afterwards, we warmed up in the Country Bear Jamboree. It's a Small World was our last ride of the night, and we had it all to ourselves.