Chapter II - Skewered Banshee Wings
We woke up before dawn. I’m certain everyone hated me for this decision and I completely understand that. Normally, I am a heavy and late sleeper. I’d rather be asleep than awake in most moments. However, Disney days are not sleep-in days. You only have so much time to explore the parks and it’s a Pluto eat Goofy world out there.
Pluto eat Goofy… does that make sense? The point is, you gotta wake up on time to maximize your enjoyment.
Meg and I quietly came out that morning. We were among the first awake, but the rest joined us soon. We ate a small breakfast, greased our wheels, and we were out the door and on a bus just before sunrise.
Last night, Brian and Vanessa (on the left) had arrived. Brian is a very good friend of mine from all the way back in middle school. He would never meet me at Six Flags Great America growing up, but in the last few years I introduced him to Disneyland and has been a straight up convert ever since. Vanessa, his fiancée (they just got engaged when we went to Japan!), is originally from Orlando/Kissimmee and has a complicated view of the parks, understandably so. I can imagine the opinion of a local is far more nuanced on the subject than those of us who are only there for a few weeks every couple of years.
We were among the only ones on the bus. I think maybe one other small group.
Here I am trying to steal Mikey’s beard.
“Just one quick tug and it’s all mine!”
When we arrived at Animal Kingdom, there was already a line out the door. We went through security and those of us who were bagless went on ahead, leaving us baggers behind. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. I’m sure they still love us… right?
The line moved quickly and were suddenly in line for Flight of Passage.
DJ! DJ is our final member, he also arrived the night before. DJ we’ve known for a relatively short amount of time, but he is always an endless source of positive energy. The nicest guy ever to love heavy metal music. We chose DJ to be the guy officiate our wedding and he KILLED it. I’ve taken DJ to Six Flags Magic Mountain a few times and he loves the thrills. The previous March we announced our engagement at Disneyland and it happened to be DJ’s first time ever!
Pandora was pretty neat.
The attention to detail is very impressive. As much as many of us like to say that Avatar has very little lasting cultural impact, it remains true that a good product is a good product. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is evidence that IP is irrelevant. Imagineering was tasked to create something out of an IP no one has a significant attachment to and it still turned out to be an insane success; not because of the IP but despite it.
We were able to get on Flight of Passage in no time.
Actually, I found arriving early to be to our detriment! The whole immersive queue I had been hearing about was almost completely bypassed.
We were ushered passed all of the cool experiments and the big animatronic and put into the pre-show room. Normally I’d say this is a blessing, but we had never done any of it before. That was a small disappointment.
The pre-show was a big info dump. They had a lot to say to make sure you understood the premise of the ride. It was right in the middle of the part where they “scan your DNA” when a cast member came in and told us we had to move to a different pre-show room. Jackie promptly apologized for her “garbage DNA” gumming up the works.
The ride itself was pretty good, I gotta say. It’s definitely the best version of this type of simulator attraction. How far that will take you depends on your personal taste. My own tends to gravitate toward fully built out 3D environments with animatronics, but I can appreciate this ride for what it is. The motion base works very, very good and I remember so many smells and misty waterfalls that really added to the realism.
“I will fight you for pins.”
We wandered around Pandora for a spell, just taking it in. But it wasn’t long before we were off to Africa to see the savannah.
“Listen everyone, you can only ride the fictional
And there were lots of animals…
What more can be said really? It's exactly what you sign up to see. Nothing too exciting or out of the ordinaOH MY GOD A BABY HIPPO!!
After our safari, we took the path nearby that lets us see a bunch of apes.
I dig that this park has so many walking paths that you can have your own self guided tour and just explore.
It was then time for our own Himalayan escape.
Austin, with all of the wonderful things that surround him, still manages to find a way to look at his phone.
Expedition is as good as ever. Obviously, I wish the Yeti was working like it used to; the ride is missing a final climax, but I always leave it with a huge smile.
First roller coaster of the trip and I don’t get to ride with my new bride?!
Those who had never ridden were very impressed, especially those used to Matterhorn Bobsleds back west.
I think it kinda blew Austin’s mind a little.
The gang started to feel hungry, probably because I rushed them out the door so early. We filled our bellies and rested our feet at Flametree BBQ.
I think Animal Kingdom has become my second favorite park in Walt Disney World behind Epcot. That’s not something I would have said when I first visited in 2006. I feel like it’s grown and improved but I also feel like I’ve spent more time in the park and gotten to know what it’s all about. I love how big it feels; how wherever you are there’s always something hidden away waiting to be found. I think the park has the best fully built themed environments, even ones that don’t relate to any IP.
I still think it needs work. There are obvious sore spots like the Dinorama carnival area. The park definitely needs to be filled out more. But Disney definitely knows this and I think we are beginning to see these changes take shape.
It certainly helped to expand my enjoyment of the park by staying in the hotel, though! Living there and entering the park as an extension of that theme really put me in the mindset.
“Hey, Austin. We hid a used bandaid in your baked beans.”
When the food was over, we continued on to the rover, that shows the dinosau...ver.
We had an enjoyable journey through the dark.
Here we see the many reactions people had to watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Around midday we wandered back over to Pandora to get a better, less rushed lay of the land.
We had a FastPass for Na'vi River Journey. It was really nice, I think. If I had waited in line for more than 40 minutes I'd probably be pretty upset. It's kind of an incomplete experience. But, with the use of FastPass, I found it fairly enjoyable. The animatronic at the end blows me away, but the rest of the ride is mostly "cute".
Nick and Natalie I believe had a date planned in Magic Kingdom and they ran off for a while, knowing we would meet them in the MK area later. Brian & Vanessa went back to Jambo House for a little relaxation. The rest of us wandered around Animal Kingdom some more. We caught the Festival of the Lion King show which was pretty good, but probably on the list of I Don’t Have to Do That One Again. It’s a good show, but not worth my precious park time.
We found some drinks and did more wandering. But the day grew hotter and we grew more tired so we all ventured back to Jambo House for a refresh (and a nap).
The unsung benefit of staying on property is midday naps. How have I not been doing this before?!
And like that the sun was down and we were back out and on a bus...
...to Magic Kingdom!
And then back on a monorail....
...to my favorite place in The World.
You lucky people, you, it’s the ever amazing tropical hideaway Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto!
Yes, I love this bar. I love Disneyland’s and I love Walt Disney World’s. When I first walked in I said “Oh, look, a place built just for me”. Moody (almost spooky) atmosphere with colored lights, sweet drinks, interactive displays, and an intensive almost obsessive attention to detail that makes you wonder if maybe we should be spending our time and money on things that make the world better and not frivolous entertainment but who cares because I’m TTIIPPPSPSSYYYYYY.
Everyone else had a great time. We got the entire surfboard to ourselves, it was great.
And then the madness set in.
Natalie got the lowering seat!
Sam’s was a hit! We had a place to be so we vacated our surfboard to the next lucky folks and walked outside for a brief firework show…
...and back inside for…
...you guessed it, more booze!
We had a reservation at 'Ohana and waited it out by patronizing the bar.
These two on the right are clearly mid-”Jambo”.
It wasn’t long until we made our way to our table.
The food was very good. So good. I am a meat fan. I eat a lot of it. Almost exclusively meat, actually. ‘Ohana has some of the best, my god. I am such a fan of this place, it’s one of my top two restaurants in the resort.
But it’s not just the meat! We had three veggie-people on the trip with us and all three of them were so happy and stuffed by the end of this.
And I don’t know how we had no picture, but the BREAD PUDDING desert is fantastic. I have dreams about that thing. The kind of dreams that would be impolite to share on a family friendly forum. My god, it’s so tasty. When asked how good it was by our server, Natalie jokingly replied with “I think we’re gonna need five more of these”. And guys, they did it. They brought us five of those freaking things. Oh my god.
There I am at the end clearly in the middle of the remains of a meat skewer.
And of course, you can have drinks there.
No, Jen, we already did this bit.
‘Ohana was fantastic. We were all so full. It was time to throw in the towel.
Or hold up the white flag, either way we were done.
After that, we all piled into two separate Lyfts to get back to Jambo house. It was a successful day, indeed.
“You’re not gonna wake us up again early tomorrow, are you...?”