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Disney’s Tower of Terror (movie review)

Disneys-Tower-of-Terror-movie-reviewI betcha didn’t know there was a Tower of Terror movie based off the Disney’s Hollywood Studios/California Adventure attraction of nearly the same name.  (That’s The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror for the uninitiated.)  The attraction itself takes a simple idea and makes it great, but basing a movie off a Disney Attraction has never worked out as far as I can recall.  (I mean artistically, not financially!)    The only thing more shocking than the fact that this movie stars Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst (other than it exists, I guess) is my overall impression of the movie.   Read the rest of this entry

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Ranking the Top 5 Thrill Rides at all Disney Parks

mickey-walk-disney-worldA long while ago, I ranked the thrill rides at Walt Disney World using a rather broad interpretation of the idea of a thrill ride. This time, I’m tightening up the definition to an attraction has some serious speed and pulls some Gs while at the same time broadening the scope to all of the Disney Parks here in the United States. Enough yammering! Here’s my ranking of the Top 5 Thrill Rides at all Disney Parks. Read the rest of this entry

Disney World vs Disneyland: Star Tours

The biggest difference between Star Tours at Disneyland and Star Tours at Walt Disney World is where the attraction is located.

That’s it.

You see, if you’re at Disneyland, you’ll need to head over to Tomorrowland (at light speed, I presume), where as if you’re at Walt Disney World, you’ll need to bypass the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and wander over to Star Tours. I should mention that the outside of the ride at DHS is superior – it looks like Endor out there – but that’s about it. Once you get inside, it’s the exact same thing. The waiting areas are identical. The scratched up 3D glasses are identical. (Maybe make these not so crappy and have them look like the podracer goggles, because, you know… you’re Disney.) The ride is identical. Read the rest of this entry

Disney World vs Disneyland: Fantasyland

It’s a Disney World vs Disneyland full on Fantasyland RUMBLE! Today on Disney Parks Versus, we’ll get to the bottom of who has the better Fantasyland!

This s a tough one.

Disneyland has the classics that have fallen by the wayside at Disney World, such as Mr Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and they’ve got the mainstays, like Peter Pan’s Flight, the Tea Cups, the carousel and it’s a small world. They also bring a full Alice in Wonderland ride to the table, which is a fascinating experience in itself. Meanwhile, Disney World is blowing up their Fantasyland with the new Snow White attraction, the Be Our Guest restaurant, not one but TWO Dumbo the Flying Elephant options and… that pointless Rapunzel tower that just kinda sits there and does nothing.

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Disney World vs Disneyland: Jungle Cruise

It’s that time again – time for more Disney Parks Versus: the only game on the internet where we make Disneyland and Disney World fight it out for supremacy. This time, it’s a straight up Jungle Cruise battle!

Oh, my believed Jungle Cruise: where puns and general stand up comedy goes to die. There’s nothing better than drifting down an artificial river with a bunch of strangers, starring at animatronic elephants, only to hear your guide remark, "There’s a site you don’t see every day: elephants bathing. I do, though. Everyday. About every twenty minutes." Read the rest of this entry

Disney Parks Versus: Space Mountain

It’s time for another installment of Disney Parks Versus – the only series of posts where it’s Walt Disney World versus Disneyland! Today, we’ll take a look at the roller coaster that nearly scared the Disney out of me as a kid: Space Mountain, located at Tomorrowland in each respective park.

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Disney Parks Versus: it’s a small world

It’s time for another installment of Disney Parks Versus – the only series of posts where it’s Walt Disney World versus Disneyland! Today, we’ll take a look at the classic boat ride featuring the song you’ll never be able to get out of your head, it’s a small world, found at Fantasyland in each respective park.

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Disney Parks Versus: Radiator Springs Racers vs. Test Track

It’s time for another installment of Disney Parks Versus – the only series of posts where attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland fight a grudge match to the death! Today, we’ll take a look at the slot car dark rides Radiator Springs Racers from Disneyland’s California Adventure at Cars Land and Test Track of Future World, found at EPCOT in Walt Disney World.

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Disney Parks Versus: DINOSAUR vs. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye

It’s time for another installment of Disney Parks Versus! It’s the only series of posts where attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland fight a grudge match to the death! Today, we’ll take a look at the Enhanced Motion Vehicle dark rides DINOSAUR (formerly Countdown to Extinction) and Indiana Jones Adventure: The Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
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Disney Parks Versus: Buzz Lightyear attractions

Welcome to our new Disney Parks Versus feature, where we’ll compare attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  Today, we’ll take a look at Buzz Lightyear attractions.

image

As far as I can tell, Walt Disney World’s Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is identical to Disneyland’s Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters in nearly every way except one: the Disney World version has the guns fixed to the car while the Disneyland ride allows the guns to be held in your hand like a proper pistol.  I thought this would improve my scores, but it did not – only my frustration increased. I cannot get my score any higher than level 3, but Dr. Girlfriend has now improved all the way up to level 5, so it might just be that I stink at this game in any incarnation.  We’re both using the same strategy of trying to hit the same target multiple times, but perhaps Dr Girlfriend’s nearly perfect vision gives her the upper hand. The bottom line is I can’t beat her or anyone else at this game, but it’s clear that it’s not unbeatable.  Also, at some point, the attraction mentions that the targets that are lit up are worth the most points, so keep that in mind when you’re going for glory.

But which game is better? I’m giving a minor edge to Disneyland for its improved game control.  I stink at this game in any state, but it certainly seems like Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters is the best version of the two. (It should be noted that this attraction opened at Disney World first, which explains why the Disneyland version features a slightly better system.  Both attractions are found at their respective Tomorrowland locations.)

Vegan at Animal Kingdom

animal-kingdom-logoI have a problem with Animal Kingdom in concept (which I’m sure I’ll address when I do my Things to Improve Animal Kingdom piece) as essentially, it’s a zoo, and I don’t care for zoos. On the other hand, I do like Thrill Rides, and as anyone whose been on it knows, Expedition Everest is a lot of fun, so I can’t bypass the park all together, and a brotha’s gotta eat. Let’s take a look at what a vegan can have at the Kingdom! Read the rest of this entry

Vegan at the Magic Kingdom

magic-kingdomOh Magic Kingdom, with your mountains and your spectacle and your castles… it doesn’t get much better than the Magic Kingdom, does it? And when it comes to being vegan, there are actually options! Nothing to get crazy over, but options!

Perhaps the fact that there are options at all is cause enough for celebration. Read the rest of this entry

Downtown Disney – a quick review

I’ve been to Downtown Disney maybe three or four times in its existence and I’m not sure if I’ve ever given it a fair shake and spent more than a few hours there, but, to be frank, I’m not sure it deserves one.

My biggest problem with Downtown Disney is the design: it’s a long strip rather than a location with a heart, which creates a lot of unnecessary walking on a vacation that is already walk heavy. For me, the stores are small and don’t feature many items and there is a serious lack of bars. The bars we found were small or outdoors, and when it’s a million degrees out in Orlando, you’ll find yourself making a deal with the devil for an air-conditioned bar. The restaurants are nothing special (mostly chain restaurants, if not entirely chains) and if you’re vegan, you’re pretty much screwed if you want an actual meal. We were lucky to stumble upon a falafel burger, which was available in the same building as Baby Cakes, the vegan bakery. (Like wanderers in the desert who’d come upon fresh water, we must have purchased a dozen or so assorted donuts, cakes and breads. It was glorious!) Even though there didn’t seem to be many people around, it always felt crowded – some of the walkways are very narrow. Read the rest of this entry

Vegan at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel

Our latest Walt Disney World vacation brought us to stay at the Contemporary Resort Hotel, which is my dream hotel from childhood – after all, a friggin monorail goes through the atrium! You can’t beat that, and, it turns out, this is my current favorite hotel on Walt Disney World’s property.

Food
We didn’t have a lot of time to check out the hotel’s food, but the Contempo Café did have a flat bread offering with hummus, chickpeas and cherries that was very tasty. They also have some fruit available, so you can certainly make due here – and I am fairly certain I saw soy milk in their fridge and they also had some dry cereal lying around, so there are certainly solid vegan options here that don’t require any fuss. My understanding is that some of the other eateries at the hotel do offer vegan options or they will modify the food for you, but I haven’t experienced them first hand…

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Disney World Versus: Wishes vs Illuminations

As we’re still plowing through Disney Week here at the site, today we thought we’d do something different and introduce a series of posts that pits one thing at Walt Disney World against another.  Our first Disney World Versus battle will feature the Wishes firework show at the Magic Kingdom against Illuminations:  Reflections of Earth at EPCOT Center.

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Disney's Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center: Two Parks, One Problem

We’ve been going to Walt Disney World on a nearly annual basis since 2008 and while some things get better, some things stay the same. One thing that desperately needs to change is the problem shared by Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center.

Both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center just don’t have enough attractions to support the parks. This is slightly elevated at EPCOT by 1) The Presence of Alcohol and 2) The sheer size of the park, but at DHS, the problem is out there for everyone to see. Essentially, each of the parks have three premium attractions that everyone wants to experience.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Toy Story Midway Mania!

EPCOT Center
Soarin
Mission Space
Test Track

It’s not entirely true that everyone wants to experience all three of the attractions at each park I’ve mentioned…

Aside: for the following reasons
Mission Space has two missions – an ‘more intense’ and a ‘less intense’ version, so that keeps the lines down there a bit, but either way, it’s a tightly enclosed space, and some folks just aren’t up for that.
The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith goes upside down and is a roller coaster, and some people don’t like one or both of those things.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror just looks scary from the outside – I’ve seen people look at it and shake their head while simultaneously saying "No Way."

…but there is one on the list for each park that seems to be a must see for all ages: Toy Story Midway Mania! and Soarin’. I, for one, am not wild about either attractions, but I am in the smallest of minorities on this issue. And, because of the mania (if you’ll forgive the pun), these two attractions can easily by missed by casual park goers. You literally need to plan your trip to these parks around these two attractions. As soon as you walk into DHS, you’ll need to get a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania! or you’re not going to get to visit that attraction without enduring a horrendous wait. The same goes for Soarin’ (although the refit on Test Track is taking some of the heat off Soarin’… for now, at least.), where they post a uniformed security guard at some point later in the day – probably after the fastpasses are gone.

Yeah, that’s another problem: there are only so many fastpasses they can give out in a day.

Aside: a fastpass is a ticket you pick up at the gate to the ride that instructs you at what time you can return and visit the attraction and therefore bypass nearly all of the standby line.

And because there are only so many fastpasses available per day, once they run out, you’re stuck with the standby line and a wait that can be anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, and we’re not doing that. If you don’t arrive at the park early, you’re not going to get a fastpass. For example, walking into DHS at 1 PM and trying to get a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania! has never been possible for us – and we’ve gone to the park in January. One thing you can do is wait until just before the park closes and hop on the standby line. It’s usually a bit shorter by then and once they let you online, they will not kick you off, even if the park is technically closed. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, take advantage of those extra magic hours, but don’t depend on them for these two attractions – unless they’re in the morning and you’re there when they open, that is. Then it’s not so bad.

This bottle neck of popular attractions is beneath Disney – they can do better. So what can they do? Well, for one, they can start by investing in their parks. They’ve already neck deep in the new version of Fantasy Land at the Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT and DHS both need new attractions. At some point, I imagine DHS will be ripe with Marvel characters and attractions, but that hasn’t happened yet – perhaps because Universal Studios still have a license agreement with Marvel? I don’t know why, but one would think that Disney didn’t buy Marvel just to let that potential sit on the shelf – surely, at some point, they’ll want to incorporate those films into the parks (and hence increase their credibility with boys and stop suggesting they all dress up like murderous pirates), but maybe they’ll get there eventually. I know one of the pavilions at EPCOT is going to become Stark Industries and will presumably feature some sort of Iron Man attraction, but we’ll have to wait and see exactly how that shakes out. And speaking of EPCOT, I think they need to dedicate an entire pavilion to their roller coast simulator, The Sum of all Thrills because it is AWESOME. Planning and then riding a roller coaster was even more fun than it sounds. I barely knew it existed and had no idea where it was until a week ago. They need to rename that pavilion the after SOAT. No one knows what Inovations or Inoventions means… or whatever the hell it’s called now. (Oh and there are two pavilions with that name – that always disorients me as to where I am physically located in the park.)

When you go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center, be ready with a plan, and make sure it starts out with you arriving at the entry gate 5 minutes before the park opens and then going directly to get those fastpasses I mentioned.

Good luck!

The Simpsons Monorail Song meets the Walt Disney World’s Monorail System [video]

If you like the CreativeJamie.com Facebook page, then you already know it’s Disney Week here at the site and you might have even already seen the video above, but it’s short, so… maybe give it another gander?

As soon as Dr. Girlfriend revealed that we were staying at the Contemporary Resort, I began hatching plans for this video.  “Marge vs the Monorail” is one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to bring two things I love together.

And seriously, how awesome is the Walt Disney World monorail?  40 MPH and no traffic lights – it’s a highway in the sky!  It’s one of the best things ever.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
This was filmed using a Samsung Infuse 4G and edited in Adobe Premiere CS 5.5.  Initially, I let YouTube do their anti shake/stabilize tool thing to the video, but it looked terrible, so I have hopefully disabled that now.

EPCOT’s attraction wait time sign is hilarious

EPCOT-journey-into-imagination-closed

That’s right, kids – the journey into the imagination is OVER!  Move along!  Nothing to see here!

EPCOT-the-circle-of-life-closedSorry, everybody:  The Circle of Life is closed.  This is the Apocalypse!  It’s all over!  Flee for your lives!

Vegan at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We recently visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios (aka The Artist Formerly Known as MGM) and perused the vegan dining options. Here’s what we found:

The Brown Derby
Though pricey, TheBrown Derby had an excellent vegan option in a noodle bowl that was topped with a piece of coconut incrusted tofu. I could have used a bigger piece of tofu (the tofu was really excellent, and I wouldn’t call myself a guy who loves tofu), but the noodles and the sauce that accompanied them were great, so I had no trouble eating that. Our waiter was knowledgeable and understood what we meant by ‘vegan’ to the point that he even brought us oil and balsamic vinegar rather than butter when the bread showed up. Again, two entrees and two beers cost us a small fortune, but the food was great. Read the rest of this entry

Ideas for Improving Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios Edition

Welcome to Part 3 of my on going series, Ideas to Improve Walt Disney World.

When it comes to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, I think I had some fairly constructive criticism for the folks at Walt Disney World to think over.  But now I’m writing about Disney’s Hollywood Studios and…  well, the center digit on either of my hands kinda sums up how I feel about the situation. Read the rest of this entry

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