This is my first attempt at writing a blog with a clickbait title. I expect on that aspect it will fail to take me to the viral levels of most clickbait (I suppose I could have said “Why I am Glad a Disney World Attraction is ending” so you wouldn’t know what I meant until you clicked, but I am new at this. Keeping with the clickbait tradition, I will reveal my reasoning at the end of the blog, but I won’t make you read two pages of text explaining to you what Happily Ever After is, WaltDisneyWorld.Com will do that for you just nicely.
I read a lot of people who Happily Ever After for various reasons. The music, the magic, the wonderful fireworks, or even a personal attachment. A good friend was proposed to during this show. That is a strong attachment. It was one of my grandaugther’s favorite memories from her first trip to Walt Disney World (okay, it was second next to the dessert party we went to first.) There are tons of amazing memories of this show out there. I personally love the show very much, and largely use pictures from the show in my sorta weekly #FollowFriday posts.
On #Distwitter and various YouTube channels, back room Discords, and probably around the water cooler in the Utilidors (has anyone actually worked at a place that had a water cooler that you stood around talking?), comparing “Happily Ever After” to “Wishes” to “Fantasy in the Sky” and other nighttime spectaculars. If you want to listen to one such debate, check out episode 160 of our Monorail loving friends at the Morning Monorail.
On that episode of the Morning Monorail podcast, my answer was read and I liked Wishes better, but that is not why I am glad to see Happily Ever After ending, I don’t even want Wishes to come back. I clearly love the visuals because for something that you have to wait an hour or more for that only happens once a day, I have a lot of pictures of it (and have spent a decent amount of money on dessert parties and camera equipment to get better views and pictures of it too!)
I did slightly prefer when the projection show was distinct from the fireworks, but that is a minor quibble. No, the one reason I am happy it is going away is for the simple reason that I want more memories. I love the familiarity of going to a theme park and seeing the same sights, hearing the same sounds, smelling the same smells, riding the same rides… But it is nice to get new sights, smells, rides too.
When I am scrolling through my pictures preparing for FollowFriday, I often hear the crescendo of the songs from “Wishes” and “Happily Ever After” in particular. I don’t remember the words of the songs, but I do remember “Star light, star bright… Wishes” and “Happily Ever After” (made all the easier since it is right there in the title). I selfishly want more memories to squirrel away in my brain.
I can’t wait to see this. And after the 18 months they tell us that the 50th celebration will go on, I look forward to the next spectacular “Enchanted”. After all… the title of the current show is more typically heard in the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” … at the end of the story… The memories of seeing this the first and last time will still be there without seeing it again.
And while watching fireworks on TV can’t compare to the real thing, if you need your memory refreshed… Disney already has that for you.
Three months ago, we wrote a blog entited “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?” discussing the pros and cons of planning to go to a theme park like Disney World during the pandemic we are current in the midst of. It wasn’t an easy topic then, nor is it exactly an easy topic now. But for me, I have decided it is time to give it go, so Saturday, Septempber 20th, I will be on my way to Orlando for a week at Disney World and I am cautiously excited. Obviously there are reasons to be excited, I mean, it’s Disney Freaking World, right? I have a new camera, and I am truly excited to expand my picture inventory, especially catching some pictures of things that I don’t have nearly enough of (like my extreme lack of pictures of the teacups!)
I expect crowds to be rather low, especially since school is back in, and frankly the parks are only open 8 (AK and EP) or 9 (MK and HS) hours a day. It is rare that I spend that few hours in the parks in a day, unless something interesting is going on (like a certain meetup in January reduced one of our days, another trip it was illness, but usually I go at least 12 hours a day).
Obviously the title alludes to the saying “a tempest in a teacup” which means a small event blown way out of proportion. But this is clearly not that. It is a true tempest, something my wife and I take seriously. We canceled multiple trips before this because we were uncomfortable with the situation on our planet, most importantly Tennessee and Florida (and also somewhat Georgia, since I will drive through it from top to bottom getting to Florida.) This week felt like the best time to go, so we made our plans, and were both planning to get in the family truckster and head south before colder weather arrives and situations possibly change.
Unfortunately, I use the word I instead of we because non-Covid things have gotten in the way for one of us, in that Valerie’s brother had a cardiac event recently, and she doesn’t want to risk being away and out in the world so soon. He has progressed past the fragile state (or I would cancel my trip), but is still a long way from OK. So we are planning a trip together in November for Christmas décor.
As such, I will be lone wolfing it for the week. This is sad for us, but will also be a little fun too (and perhaps for any of you that want to help determine my fate.) The last time I went to Disney World without Val (she was furiously writing her dissertation for her doctorate!) she prepared missions for me. This week will be the same. The last time we did this (chronicled here: https://disneypicaday.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/my-husband-went-to-disney-world-alone-so-he-had-to-suffer-a-little/), the hardest missions for me were the meet and greets. It is a very dorky feeling as an lone adult standing in line waiting to meet Sofia! And the picture bears out that dorkiness as you can see:
Some of the ideas she has had so far include:
Standing in front of the fountain outside of Imagination and singing “One Little Spark”
Pictures of obscure things
Livestreaming walks around some areas
Asking our Twitter followers for ideas
Yeah, that last one is the most concerning of them all!
Of course, like last time I was there by myself, I won’t be going to the Halloween party. This time for much different reasons. My schedule for the week is as follows.
Sunday 20 – EPCOT
Monday 21 – Hollywood Studios
Tuesday 22 – Magic Kingdom
Wednesday 23 – Animal Kingdom
Thursday 24 – Hollywood Studios (Considering changing to Animal Kingdom, depending on how Monday and Wednesday go)
Friday 25 – Magic Kingdom
Saturday 26 – EPCOT
The whole thing has me a bit concerned about how it will go, but from my experiences at Dollywood over the past few months, plus knowing how strongly Disney has been enforcing their rules, I feel confident that if I keep mostly outdoors that things will be just fine. I also understand the people who say that it isn’t time for them to go, it is complicated. I know this won’t be a normal trip as I will be spending almost all of my time outdoors except when going on a ride. This can be an interesting proposition in mid September Orlando as if I recall correctly, it can be a bit warm, but keeping safe is still very important. According to weather.com:
During our visit to Batuu in January 2020, @disneypicaday surprised me with a special anniversary present – a visit to Droid Depot in the Black Spire Outpost. He had made a reservation in advance, but one very cold evening we were passing by the Depot and it wasn’t very busy so he stopped and asked if we could change our reservation. We were able to walk right in and get in line!
I was not expecting to take part in the experience – so I had not done any research at all – I was walking in with no expectations and no clue to what was about to happen. As we were waiting in line, I was thinking about what type of droid I would be creating. My initial idea was a droid like Chopper from Star Wars Rebels. We already have a BB-8 remote control droid and many versions of R2-D2 (although none that move), and Rebels is one of our favorite shows. Talking with the citizen of Batuu at the register, I was told that at this time there are only two options – a BB-series droid or an R2-series droid. Since we have a BB-8, I decided that I wanted to create an R2 series droid – but not make it exactly like R2-D2.
The Droid Depot is an eclectic building with a lot going on in a very small space. There is not a lot of room to move around and all of the noise echoes pretty well around you making it a little difficult to hear. The design matches the esthetic of Batuu – an industrial look with a lot of distressed accents. There are many droids and mechanical parts all around the room – on shelves, moving around the ceiling – every inch of the room is being used. The lines for each of the stations weave all around the space.
The first station is the register, where you decide which series of droid you will be building, pay, and receive initial instructions. The cost to build an astromech droid is (or at least was in January 2020) $99.99 plus tax. The price includes the droid, a cardboard carrying case, and remote control. The cast member gave me a basket with a copy of the blueprints for building. He directed me to the depot’s conveyor belt to begin choosing my parts.
The R2 series required four components. There was not a defined line to the conveyor belt, the second station, so you just make your way to any spot where there is room – sort of like picking up your luggage after a flight! There was another cast member standing near the conveyor belt to help with my questions. Random parts were coming by and the blueprints showed me what I needed – I wasn’t sure what all of my color options were – so I was afraid I would miss something I liked better or a matching piece. The cast member reviewed the blueprint with me and told me my color options. He explained that a lot of people like to mix and match their parts in different colors but that many people chose to go with one – either would be a great decision.
I decided to go with my favorite color – purple – and created my R2 unit as a, not so unique, tribute to R2-D2. I picked up the purple dome – but there was not an option for any other parts to be purple. I decided to go with basic white for the two side legs, body, and center leg. This station only took a couple of minutes, it actually felt a little too quick. After all four of the components had been collected, the next station is where the assembly takes place. This was the longest line and it moved very slowly.
Although, time seemed to move a little faster for us because we struck up a conversation with a couple from, I believe, Michigan who was trying to take a picture of one of the cast members at the assembly station – their daughter who was starting her first week in the college program. They could not be more excited – or nervous – about bringing her to Florida to participate in a program she had always wanted to be a part of and was so happy to begin. When it was our turn – their daughter was the first cast member helping me assemble our new R2 unit.
She reviewed the directions for assembly with us that were detailed on the station. There are several people building at a time with just a couple of cast members working at the station, so they are running around behind the station pretty busy.
We followed the steps outlined on the station: Initializing, Assigning, Formatting, Preparing, Priming. I was a little intimidated by the tools at first, but it was much easier than I expected and if I had any questions a cast member helped me when I could get their attention.
After R2-66 (my choice of name for the new droid) was activated, we paired it with the remote control and a cast member showed me how to help him come alive! I was given the cardboard carrying case and sent on my way.
There are a lot of accessories available for purchase in the Droid Depot. (One of which was a really cool sign I wish we had added to our collection.) But I only purchased one additional item – the accessory panels. Available in all of the matching colors, these panels can replace certain pieces on the white components so that the body and legs can match the color of the dome. These purple panels really brought R2-66 together visually – and makes him stand out so much more than having the purple dome and all white body. I believe they cost around $12.00 and I was very glad I added them to my R2 unit. I decided against getting a personality chip on this trip – but I have it added to my list as a possible souvenir for a future visit.
The most fun I have had with R2-66 has been with the app that I downloaded on my iPhone. The Droid Depot app is available from the App Store at no cost and will connect to your astromech droid. There are four activities that you can enjoy with the app. First, Piloting – it can serve as the basic remote control for your droid. It serves the same function as the remote that comes with purchase – the buttons are exactly the same. Another option is Droid Builder, a basic choose and build activity where you can create a very basic collection of images of droids you can put together in the app.
My favorite two functions are Maneuvering and Strategy. In Maneuvering, you have three choices of songs and can program your astromech droid to dance along with the music. It is just fun to watch!
Through the Strategy option, you can play tic-tac-toe with your droid. There is an easy selection or hard selection, and the noises my R2 unit would make when he loses (and when he wins, if I let him) are really cute. I am looking forward to my granddaughters’ next visit – they love to interact with R2-66 and they are going to have a lot of fun with the app!
All in all, it was a really fun experience. It did not take nearly as long to build a droid as I expected (and it would have been even quicker if that last line wasn’t so slow) so it did feel slightly too rushed for me. The crowd and noise made it feel a little more frenetic than I would have liked. But I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it. My R2 unit is a lot of fun and it was so awesome to be able to build one personally. It makes him more special that the BB-8 droid we purchased. (And R2-66 is larger and feels sturdier than our BB-8.) If you or someone in your family loves Star Wars, Droid Depot is an experience you do not want to miss. (Trust me, I am going to keep an eye out for when they have an option to build an astromech like Chopper…I will be back!!)
People often ask us why we go to Walt Disney World several times a year. (If you are reading this blog, you probably get asked the same thing on occasion!) I remember planning our first trip. I had been to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot several times before we were married, but Louis (@disneypicaday) and our daughter had never been. Frankly, we didn’t have the money to go on big family vacations in those early days. When we were finally ready to plan a big vacation in June of 2001, I knew it had to be WDW – even though Louis was not so sure. He found a package deal for a four-night stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort, I bought my first copy of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and he relented, but vowed this would be our one and only visit to the magic. Famous last words, right?
We were hooked. It had everything that two totally work obsessed adults could dream of – and more. We had tried beach and mountain vacations. It inevitably ended up with us sitting in chairs on a balcony with our laptops working. We went camping some, but there was this one night of 1000 frogs…that may be a blog for another time.
Disney provided an opportunity for a real vacation. We couldn’t work – it was all about the fun – no news, no contact with the outside world – just complete and utter focus on our family and obsessively experiencing as many attractions as possible in a day.
For us, visiting Disney provides that much needed disconnect that allows us to recharge, dream, be inspired, and return to work and our daily lives – ready to be our best. (After we get some sleep and recover from the muscle soreness acquired by walking 16 hours a day for a week!)
Fast forward to (hopefully) the strangest possible year – 2020. This year has presented everyone with unexpected challenges. We were able to visit Walt Disney World in January, before the virus began to close everything and it was one of the best visits ever. We were able to attend Jocelyn’s (@DisneyGratitud1) Meet Up and experienced Rise of the Resistance multiple times!
Our next visit was scheduled for April, and although we were disappointed, we completely supported the quarantine and the need for keeping everyone safe. In the big scheme of things, missing a vacation is not a big deal at all! I was incredibly sick for the month of March with the flu (according to the diagnosis – this was before Covid tests) and we have been trying to follow all of the quarantine guidelines pretty carefully. Not only do we not want to become sick, but I am doing everything possible to keep my 89-year-old mother healthy as well.
We rescheduled our April vacation for the end of July, hoping that by then there would be more clarity on the virus. Unfortunately, there seems to be more confusion than ever. The Florida numbers are rising steadily, and we have worked so hard to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Although – we also know that there are a lot of people relying on the parks to open back up and we definitely want to show our support for them as well. We are not exactly sure what to do.
Hence the reason that song by the Clash has been playing in my head for the last few days. I have a feeling we are not the only ones that are struggling with this decision – should we stay home? For now, we are still planning on making the visit to Walt Disney World in July – we made our park reservations on Monday. But the concerns are there…and we are debating it…every day.
But if we can’t go see it in person, we still have the pictures:
If you took the time to click on this blog, you know about the Great Movie Ride so I am not going to explain it to you. I was never a super fan of the ride, (Unlike my wife, @ValPalMickey, who thought of it as one of her very favorite rides!)
However, the Great Movie Ride holds one particular special spot in my heart as being one of the first dark rides I really tried taking decent pictures of. They made absolutely wonderful backgrounds for computer screens when they were clear enough. I was not terribly successful for many years (and not every picture in this blog is super perfect either!)
In this blog, I wanted to share a few of my favorite pictures from the ride that introduced me to more than a few great movies over the years.
Of course, you have to start with the marquee as we rode right into the movies!
Then past scenes of John Wayne, Aliens, Casablanca, Mary Poppins, to name a few (and not in any particular order).
The action scenes were fun, a bit hokey at times. but who didn’t like a scene with cowboys and fire?
And why did they always go for the goods? Did they not see what was coming next? Had these people never been to a movie?
But one of my favorite scenes is from a movie that traumatized me as a child… The Wizard of Oz. The witch and flying monkeys creeped me out!
The finale was awesome, in fact so awesome it would still make a great attraction without the ride. There are so many movies that people haven’t seen that are just spectacular and the ending of the ride reminded us of that.
But at the very least… we still have the glorious Grauman’s Chinese Theater!
Even if we no longer have these glorious signs:
As much as I will miss everything that the Great Movie Ride had to offer, I am looking forward to seeing the next chapter when we are there in just over a month!