Vacation Slides: Trip to Orlando

August 29th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , , ,

Recently, I took a splendid little trip to Orlando to partake in Disney World and the Universal parks. How can I sum up my trip in one image?


I guess I should go in this day-by-day.


We started off with Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Classic. Since the last time I’ve been to Disney, they had added some of the movie stuff to the Pirates ride. Davy Jones appears in the opening, “Dead men tell no tales!” part and Jack Sparrow shows up a couple times. I’m just glad that Haunted Mansion didn’t add anything with Eddie Murphy.

Next was the Jungle Cruise, which is also the same as it ever was, but now has more notoriety thanks to Weird Al Yankovic’s recent song about being the skipper on that ride. This is reflected as our skipper ended the ride with a depressing speech about how he’s going to stay on the ride again and again and that we should all stay in school. Love it.

Hall of Presidents is WAY better these days. While yes, they did include the Robama 3000 into the mix, they did a hell of a job punching up the intro movie. Back in the day, they would just talk about Washington and Lincoln, then get to the animatronic presidents. Now they have Morgan Freeman talking about Washington, Lincoln, Jackson, the Roosevelts and Kennedy. It’s actually an interesting watch now.

Big Thunder Railroad and Country Bear Jamboree remain the same. With the whole “toss a movie actor into the ride” bit they did in Pirates, I feel as if Country Bears could have used an appearance by Christopher Walken. Ah, well. I’d get my wish later in the week.

We had to hit It’s a Small World just because. No, I did not drink the water. Peter Pan had a ridiculously long line for such a short ride (we had a pass to get to the front of the line anyway), but isn’t a bad diversion. Mickey’s PhilharMagic is like a 3D musical version of Kingdom Hearts without the Square characters and shadow demons. Highly recommended.

There was Dumbo the Flying Elephant, but that ride’s stupid and for kids. No way would I ever…

…I don’t have to fucking explain myself to you.

Another classic we felt the need to go on was The Carousel of Progress, where an unaging family (possibly wholesome vampires?) lives throughout the last century and go on and on about the inventions of the different eras. Hey, remember when everyone thought virtual reality videogames was the way of the future? Yeah… they should probably update that vision. My friend Sean kept insisting that the futuristic part of the attraction should have dealt with the apocalypse. Whether it’s the biblical apocalypse or nuclear holocaust is up to the fine folks at Disney.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is far more fun than it sounds. In it, you and a friend spin around with a laser gun, trying to shoot at batteries in a weird toy-based Buzz Lightyear space adventure, trying to rack up the higher score. It’s great. Afterwards, we tried out the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. This one is impressive as hell.

While waiting on line, they ask you to text them a joke. The story of the attraction is that the Monsters Inc. guys need your laughter to power their city. On a large screen in front, you would see Mike Wazowski introduce various monster comics. Despite the Pixar CGI on screen, all the comics are actually live actors. Like, they’re wearing motion capture stuff on their bodies and faces while standing behind the screen, completely able to see and hear the audience. From there, they improvise jokes based on the people in the crowd, including a two-headed monster that wrote a song on the spot based on where two people in the crowd lived. It ends with Mike’s nephew doing an act where he uses the jokes texted in prior to the show. Really great stuff.

Lastly, we hit Stitch’s Great Escape. Man. This ride used to be amazing. It was called Extraterrorestrial and it was this scary-ass thing where you’re stuck in a room where a demonic alien is accidentally teleported in front of you, escapes captivity, cuts out the power and stalks around you. It was easily the best thing at Magic Kingdom. A couple years back, they decided to pussify it by replacing the alien with Stitch. Now it doesn’t know whether it’s supposed to be funny or scary and in the end it falls flat.


Although Disney burned me with Space Mountain, Tower of Terror was up and running and still holds up. There’s the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, but I’m always more distracted by Ken Marino from The State having a wordless role as a dude working at the band’s recording during the pre-ride video. Personally, I’d rather have the coaster play up Louie’s involvement, but that’s me.

Here’s how I looked after the ride.

There’s a High School the Musical parade that goes off every hour or so, which caused us all to run for shelter at The Great Movie Ride. Yeah… this is another one of those rides you go onto just because you feel it’s necessary. It’s like having a cheese steak because you’re visiting Philadelphia, even though you’re lactose intolerant. The Aliens sequence is still rad.

Sounds Dangerous, the Drew Carrey audio-based comedy attraction wasn’t working that day, which was annoying, since it’s really amusing.

Star Tours feels dated as hell, but in a good way. It’s really refreshing to watch the old style of Star Wars, as your ride takes you across a Death Star that’s really just a model with a space background. No super-clean CGI here.

Muppet Vision 3D is Muppets, so it’s automatically fantastic, but I am starting to see some wear and tear. The footage needs to be remastered and it is a little glaring how dated it is. While the Muppets are mostly timeless, this was made when they were trying to shove Beanie Bunny down our throats. Beanie, who is like the Poochie of the Muppets, gets a major role in the otherwise hilarious movie. If only they could have used Pepe the King Prawn instead. Now THAT guy knows funny!

On our way to Toy Story Midway Mania, we noticed a line for Journey into Narnia: Prince Caspian. Figuring we had the time, we were curious enough to check it out. Huge mistake. First they show you the preview video of the movie’s director talking about how great it was to work on the project. Then we’re led into a room with a broken slab in the center, presumably where Aslan used to hang. The monitors show us a summarized version of the movie’s events over about 10-15 minutes. The only thing it had going for it was a monitor in the front of the room where you can see the Ice Queen trying to break out at one point. After it gets to the end, we’re thanked for enjoying the show and we’re set free. Everyone in the room let out a reaction of, “Wait, what?” Absolutely horrible.

The Toy Story ride on the other hand, pure greatness. Best ride of the week. It’s like the Buzz Lightyear thing, where you ride around and have target practice, but there’s more to it. You get 3D glasses and you’re constantly bombarded with interactive screens hosted by various Toy Story characters. One stay has you playing ring toss with the green, 3-eyed aliens. One has you shooting darts at balloons while the green army men bark orders. This one had a 100 minute wait and it’s hard to say it isn’t worth it. So awesome.

I did notice something, though. The place had a bunch of giant toys all over the place, making it look like a little boy’s bedroom. This included building blocks that spelled out certain words. Like a G block, R block and 8 block near each other. I then noticed this grouping.


We moved onto Animal Kingdom. It was too hot for any of the safari stuff, so our trip was rather short. Luckily, the three attractions we did partake in made it worth it. Dinosaur is possibly the scariest ride at Disney. In it, you’re sent back in time to find a tagged herbivore specimen and bring it back. The problems are that it’s dark, it’s minutes before the fateful meteor impact that killed the dinos and you get lost. As you ride the bumpy vehicle, you’re constantly bombarded with animatronic dinosaurs that look frighteningly real. The one part that continues to freak me out is when the T-rex shows up. There’s a part of the ride where it doesn’t so much pop out at you as it appears running alongside your car, trying to catch up!

Animal Kingdom’s latest hit spot is Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. You’re drawn to it when you see this impressive mountain and realize that it’s a fake. After all, this is Florida in the summer.

The ride itself is a rollercoaster in the form of a search for the Yeti. The problem is that early in the ride, you find the train tracks torn apart and curled up. You then fall backwards into a cave, where you can see the shadow of the Yeti tearing apart more train tracks elsewhere. It gets crazy from there, ending with a quick ride past the Yeti himself, screaming and reaching at you. As you escape in the end, you can hear its howls in the distance.

Finally, we went to It’s Tough to Be a Bug, the Bug’s Life attraction. It’s another 3D movie that played tricks on the audience to go with what they were seeing. When a termite sprays acid at the viewer, everyone’s sprayed with water. When Hopper commands an army of hornets to sting everyone, a piece of the chair jabs you in the back.

Word of warning if you’re ever going to Animal Kingdom: make sure to take care of it in the beginning of the day. Turns out they close at 6pm. That would be a big deal if they had more than an hour and a half’s worth of rides to pay attention to.


Holy shit, Epcot! What the hell happened to you?! You used to be the boring younger brother of Magic Kingdom. Now you’ve dusted yourself off and come correct. Good for you!

Epcot is the edutainment area of Disney and it is split into two areas: Future World and World Showcase. We started off in Future World, where nearly everything has a nice coat of paint on it. I was going to see if this was the case for Ellen’s Energy Adventure (also featuring Bill Nye, Jamie Lee Curtis and two seconds of Michael Richards as a caveman, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they edited him out), but considering the ride is 45 minutes long… forget it.

Test Track is something that used to be blueballs personified for me. One time we went to Disney and we only got signs that it was in the making and that it would be around the next year. By the following visit, the ride was complete, only it kept breaking down due to its newness. Getting to enjoy it in all its speedy glory is an absolute blast. It’s like a lazy rollercoaster where instead of the loops and twists, it just wants to focus on going as fast as possible. God bless it.

Mission: Space is a space simulator hosted by Gary Sinise as you and three others take a trip to Mars. It comes in two different forms, as one simulator is milder than the other. We went on the more intense one and came out of it nearly vomiting. It’s cool, but not worth what it does to your body.

Spaceship Earth is a ride that for years you went on forgetting how boring it is because it looks so cool on the outside as the big Epcot golf ball. Now they’ve redesigned it and made it really interesting. Early in the ride, they take your picture. Towards the end, they ask several questions about you and give you an animation sequence on your monitor based on your answers. This is what came up for mine. Isn’t that adorable?

Back in the day, there was a ride at Epcot that was nothing more than touring an aquarium. They polished that off by turning it into The Seas with Nemo & Friends. As you go through the aquarium, CGI characters from Finding Nemo are imposed into the water, telling its own lazy sequel to the movie where Nemo is missing yet again. Following this, we decided to give a look at Turtle Talk with Crush. This is much like the Monsters Inc. attraction, in that it’s live-action CGI with motion capture, only this time it’s Crush the turtle on the screen, swimming around and talking to children in the audience. It’s really cute and impressive, especially once Dori shows up, considering the character’s size, speed and how although just about anyone can do an easy Crush impression, finding someone who talks like Ellen DeGeneres isn’t the easiest task in the world. Especially with how many actresses they must have ready for all the various showings.

Next up is Soarin’, a new and fantastic ride hosted by Patrick Warburton. This is another one of those long-lined rides that make having a Fast Pass totally worth it. In it, you are suspended in a chair and held in front of a HUGE IMAX screen with a camera swooping across various landscapes. The screen curves under you so that if you do happen to look underneath, you don’t see any of the floor to break the illusion. As you swing around to go with the visuals in front of you, they also blow wind in your face and give off certain smells to make it feel realistic.

Honey I Shrunk the Audience, the big 3D movie, still holds up, though it is obviously dated. Not only because it features Rick Moranis, who won’t even step out of acting retirement long enough to join his buddies on the Ghostbusters videogame, but because one of his great inventions is a telephone you wear on your head. In a world of blue tooths, it’s weird when this invention is depicted as a giant helmet with tons of wires sticking out. The host of the movie is played by Eric Idle, who reprises the role in the new Journey into Imagination.

Originally, Journey into Imagination (otherwise known as the Figment ride) was like the Epcot equivalent of It’s a Small World. Crappy, repetitive animatronics accompanied by a never-ending song of complete annoyance. Now they’ve made it a lot better. Idle’s scientist character tries to introduce us to the various senses, only for Figment the dragon to appear and inject his lessons with imagination. Eventually, Idle buys into Figment’s ideas and it ends with the ABSOLUTELY HORRIFYING image of Eric Idle’s face on the moon, singing down at us. Words can’t describe how creepy it is. Go find it on YouTube or something.

With that done, we moved onto the World Showcase. While Future World has been remodeled from the ground up over the years, World Showcase remains the same. Each area is based on a different country, funded by that specific country. That would explain the lack of progress there. Most of the areas are more restaurant-based, though Norway does have the neat, old school Maelstrom ride. After the ride itself, I had enough memory to know not to stick around for the boring 5-minute video finale and instead book it to the next country.

We finished our Disney adventure with The American Adventure. It is a very inspiring and beautiful 30-minute show told via animatronic actors and music videos. Hosted by anachronistic friends Ben Franklin and Mark Twain, it goes from the pilgrims hitting America to World War II before starting up a music video that sums us up from there to the present. The video itself – featuring a song that will be stuck in your head for days – has been redone lately to include 9/11 and other bells and whistles (I notice they added Run DMC in the montage). A really great way to end the Disney experience.

On the way back to the hotel, Sean and I discussed the Franklin/Twain team-up. We wondered, who else could have made for interesting hosts for the American Adventure? Some of our ideas included:

– Emeril Lagasse and John Madden.
– Michael Richards and Bill Pullman.
– The Undertaker (in his American Badass incarnation) and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee.
– Sylvester Stallone and George Wendt.
– The guy from Montgomery Flea Market and Robocop.


Hey, finally we’re getting on topic here! The two Universal parks are both way cheaper than Disney and give you more bang for your buck. There are very few disappointments here and most rides and attractions are very hard-hitting.

First, we went to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, widely beloved as one of the all-time best rides in park history. As the story goes, the Sinister Syndicate (Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, Electro, Hydro Man and Scream) have used a gravity gun to steal the Statue of Liberty, as shown via continuous animated updates on monitors. At the same time, J. Jonah Jameson has hired you to ride a little car called the Scoop and get some stories. You go from room-to-room, with props, your car’s movement, movie screens and 3D glasses merging together to draw you into an awesome little adventure. You get tangled up in the fight between Spider-Man vs. the Sinister Syndicate with the villains trying to murder you for seeing too much. I’ll talk a little more about this later. Really, it deserves the accolades it gets.

Next up was the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which shoots you upwards out of a cannon at 60 mph from the very beginning. That’s all you need to know in terms of how much it rocks. After that was Dr. Doom’s Fearfall, a ride where the entrance makes it look like Doom has giant nipples.

I can’t unsee it.

It works like the opposite of Tower of Terror. You sit in your seat, get strapped in and get propelled high into the sky like a rocket, before bouncing downward. It’s okay, but nothing you’d want to wait on an overly long line for.

We tended to stay away from the water-based rides over the week, but I still had to go on Jurassic Park River Adventure. As you sit in your raft, it begins with you on a tour of Jurassic Park, as you see animatronics of various “safe” dinosaurs. Then you get knocked off-course by a dinosaur and end up in a fenced-off area that has already been torn apart by velociraptors and other carnivores. You climb upwards with raptors and spitters popping out all over the place until reaching a super-freaky T-Rex head that snaps at you right before you make the big drop.

We skipped the Lost Continent area of the park, deciding that we’d try Dueling Dragons another time. We instead moved on to Universal Studios.

First up was Shrek 4D, a 3D movie with shaking chairs and all the other “4D” tricks they toss on these shows. Taking place between Shreks 1 and 2, it deals with the ghost of Lord Farquaad returning to haunt Shrek and Fiona on their honeymoon. Really good and reminds you of how the franchise used to be fun up until the third movie crapped things up. Then we went across the street to Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast, which had at some point replaced the old Hanna Barbera ride. This one isn’t as high-tech as the Shrek one, as you merely sit on a rocket that moves based on what’s going on the screen. What is neat is that you visit different Nicktoon worlds, such as Rugrats, Fairly Odd Parents and of course Spongebob. I even saw a cameo by Ren and Stimpy, which I thought was rather unexpected. It’s nothing too special, but it is amusing.

The Simpsons Ride is another new piece to the puzzle, replacing the much-loved-though-obsolete Back to the Future ride. As you ride through Krusty Land, Sideshow Bob tries to kill you and the Simpsons, which gets more complicated once an irradiated giant Maggie appears. It’s very fast-paced and very funny, filled with all the cameos you’d expect on something Simpsons.

Men in Black Alien Attack is another target practice ride like Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story, only it’s hurt by the lack of competent targeting. You’re supposed to shoot your laser guns at all the different aliens, but hell if I know what constitutes a hit. There’s no special area on the animatronic aliens that I saw, so you would just shoot randomly until your score increased and your gun flashed green.

We hit Disaster, which is a rather odd attraction, where Christopher Walken plays a crazed director out to create the greatest disaster movie of all time. Using volunteers from the audience, they film a handful of shots then put the rest of us on a fake subway car as the area around us succumbs to an earthquake, fire and flood. Once done, they show us a trailer for Mutha Earth, starring the Rock and those of us previously filmed.

Twister… Ride it Out is something you go to without really knowing what it’s about. You get a bunch of introductions by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, which is hilarious for Bill Paxton’s attempt to sound tough and manly. Really, he spends the whole thing walking forward slowly while doing his best Charlton Heston impression. Then we’re placed in a room with a fake drive-in theater before us. Without warning, a virtual tornado shows up, causing wind, water and other pieces of damage to nearly kill you. It’s one of the good rides that makes you forget you’re even on a ride, with the exception of the part where a cow flies by.

We finished the day with Revenge of the Mummy. I myself haven’t seen any of the Mummy movies, unless you count the Scorpion King. This ride was an absolute blast to the point that it may even trump Spider-Man. Half of it is a straight-up rollercoaster in the dark, with flashes of glowing mummy images. The other half is made up of animatronics and amazing special effects. At one point, as you slowly rise up the coaster’s hill, you make your way into the mummy’s opening mouth, shown via screens and projectors. It looks amazing. Halfway into the ride, it appears to be done, with you entering the post-ride station and the female employee in the window thanking you for enjoying the ride. Then all of the sudden, she’s eaten alive by scarabs, the mummy appears in her place and makes you ride some more! Loved this one.

Unfortunately, there were dinner reservations, so we had to take off.


Sean had a plane to catch, so we had only three hours to make our way through the parks. We hit Revenge of the Mummy a second time and were planning on another go on the Simpsons. Instead, we were stopped by a guy with a clipboard, who wanted us to view some NBC programming for about 25 minutes and get paid $10 for our troubles. Sure, why not?

We each thought we’d be watching a pilot, but instead we sat down and watched a bunch of promos for upcoming NBC shows. It was the kind of deal where we’d be holding a green button in one hand and a red button in the other and would have to respond based on how we felt. The first six commercials we watched were for a hospital show Mercy, with each commercial painting it in a different way. Drama, romance, black comedy, etc. Then we’d answer a bunch of questions and they moved on.

Strangely, all that was left after that was a single commercial spot for the Joel McHale show Community. Normally, I would have probably used the green button on that, since I love McHale, but the commercial focused on Dr. Ken Jeong, known for his roles in the Hangover and that Jeremy Piven car salesman movie that bombed. As many of you know, I’m a pretty big wrestling fan. A couple weeks before this, Jeremy Piven was the guest host of Monday Night Raw and he decided to bring Dr. Ken with him. To call Dr. Ken annoying is an understatement. Holy shit. Dare I say it, the guy ruined my day with his “hilarity”. So I had no choice but to jam the red button whenever he was on screen. Goddamn.

That ate up a half hour of our time, but we were $10 richer. We checked out Terminator 2 3D, which feels so wrong considering they’re already two movies past that and the cast has been whitewashed over. It’s a 3D movie (featuring the T2 cast) accompanied by actors on stage to represent Sara Conner, John Conner, the T-800 and the T-1000. There’s also a smiling Cyberdyne employee with an inner-bitch. You can always tell how well her performance is by whether or not the viewers applaud when the T-1000 murders her. The show leads up to a kickass finale of the T-800 fighting the T-1000000, which is like a giant spider version of the T-1000. The whole production is still top-notch and speaks for itself in terms of why they haven’t scrapped it for something a bit more modern.

We returned to Islands of Adventure, where I ran into 90’s style Cyclops.

Thankfully, he did not want me off his lawn.

Sean and I hit the Spider-Man ride again. This time it didn’t turn out so good. The climax of the ride has your buggy hit with a gravity gun that causes you to hover around the Spider-Man vs. Sinister Syndicate battle. Then Doc Ock turns the gravity back on and you fall to your death until Spider-Man webs you up at the last minute. Considering how they build the rooms, move you around and show the events on the screens, you really do feel like you’re spinning around weightless and then falling to the streets below. That is, until the ride stops in the middle of it.

I figure it was because someone in a wheelchair needed to get on or off the ride, but they had to put the breaks on it right while Spider-Man was saving us. Being stopped there with nothing on the screens and being able to look at what the rooms are like normally ruined the illusion. They offered to let us get on the ride again at the front of the line, but we had to get going.

They had a comic shop in the Marvel area of the park that boasted having the biggest comic collection ever. Bull. Shit. It’s just a bunch of recent Marvel issues, some Essentials and a load of hardcovers. Whoopie. But at least they did have one thing that kept my interest…

They already gave Anti-Venom his own figure? Sweet!

There were certain rides and attractions we didn’t have time for, but in the end, the week of Disney and Universal was time well spent. I’m sure I’ll make the visit again one day, hopefully in another couple years.

With that write-up done, it’s about time I got back to writing some stuff that people actually want to read.

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9 comments to “Vacation Slides: Trip to Orlando”


    I’ve been there and I feel your pain

  2. What is “Bull. Shit.” about this article is your description of the Men in Black Ride. That ride requires the skill of a marksman and that is why I legitimately defeated you by 150,000 points.

  3. Next time you find yourself in Orlando, give me a heads-up. I’ll buy you a drink or a meal.

  4. Were there any interesting Essentials there or was it all Spider-Man and X-Men?

  5. You didn’t go to a TNA taping? I’m disappointed.

  6. @Sean: Why, you son of a bitch!

    @Lugh: I’m sure there were more, but hell if I can remember them.

    @Rich: Because we wanted to have a good time.

  7. What’s more entertaining than watching a train wreck live?

  8. Look, even the Nature Boy needs time off.

  9. I remember how awesome Extraterrorestrial was.