Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surviving Disney

In celebration of my return to my "Home Away from Home," I decided to write some helpful and common sense tips on how to survive Walt Disney World if you ever plan to go. I'll just go ahead and jump into it. Just remember...

Trust me, I'm a Disney Professional.

Don’t Beat Your Children…

Sometime’s the Magic Kingdom isn’t so magical. Before Walt Disney rises from his grave and slaps me down, please let me explain. Disney World really is The Happiest Place on Earth, but some really sour people are allowed through the gates. Through all the wishes to have a “magical day” and Barbie doll smiles, children can still throw fits in the Florida heat. Parents of these children are susceptible to cracking and start whooping butts before they have the chance to remind themselves where they are. It’s embarrassing to them, and even more awkward to shocked onlookers. If you don’t want CPS up in your face (it’s only a phone call away), then you better save yourself the trouble and put yourself in your child’s shoes. The parks are hot, crowded, and fairly large for such little legs and feet. So, when the kiddos are on the ground rolling in circles, screaming they hate you, and drawing unwanted attention you need to approach the situation calmly and sternly. Buy them a drink, invest in some ice cream, sit on a bench, and if all else fails, head back to the hotel to let the kids take a nap or swim.

Beware the Colored Shirts…
Some people like to travel in large packs inside the parks (church groups, family reunions, etc). These vicious packs are fairly easy to identify…just look for the sea of same colored shirts. When you see bright pinks, dark purples, or even flamboyant reds you have to get your “Disney Mode” on. This is a brisk walk (that isn’t yet a run) that will get you to the nearest attraction and in line before the sea of colored shirts get in front of you. Be advised that every second you waist killing time to get to the next ride, 50 people get in line ahead of you. Never actually measured that, but it sounds true enough.

Dance Naked in the Rain…
Okay, seriously don’t do that. It’s just another way to say “embrace the rain.” It rains in Florida almost every day almost always at the same time. Don’t run to your hotel room like some tourist amateur. Unlike Six Flags, Disney World doesn’t shut down all its rides when a single rain drop falls from the sky. The rides keep going! What a concept… So, invest in a Mickey Mouse poncho (like everyone else) and hit up those rides when it rains because the ride wait times are down and the crowds are gone.

Ignore the Fudge…
When observing the wait time for a ride keep in mind this one little fact…sometimes Disney fudges those times to drive people away and create shorter lines. The best example occurred on the Jungle Cruise. The sign said the wait time was 35-40 minutes when the wait time was actually 10-15 minutes. When Disney is feeling really devious, they also show a shorter wait time to create longer lines. The best example always occurs on Peter Pan’s Flight (it is always one of the longest wait times ever). Now keep in mind, most of the wait times can be accurate but they like to throw in a dirty curve every now and then. Don’t tell them I said that, because they’ll deny it.

This Isn’t QVC…
Souvenirs are going to be pricey pretty much wherever you go. Don’t buy any souvenirs during the middle of the day because you will have to carry them all day. Buy them when exiting the park. All the shops will still be open to take your money even after the rides are closed. Other than souvenirs, drinks and snacks are going to be expensive too. Last time I was there, a bottle of Dr Pepper out the drink machine was $2.50. There’s a simple solution to this dilemma. Buy all of your snacks and drinks in small packaging at home and ship them to your hotel (if your staying on Disney property).

Stay Delusional…
The world is a cruel, ugly, and un-magical place. All these nasty descriptions of the world seem to dissipate on Disney Resort property. So, in order to fully enjoy your vacation, stay inside the Disney Resort and revel in the joys of Disney’s Magical Express. A Disney bus picks you up at the airport in Orlando, Disney gets your luggage for you (and sends it to your room), and then you’re whisked away to a place where everything is simple and clean. You need to get a park? It’s easy! Just take a free bus provided by the Disney Resort. You want to sleep in? That’s okay! You can make up for lost time by taking advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours (see next tip). You need assistance? You’re in the right place! Every single Disney Cast Member is friendly and full of smiles. There’s nothing Disney can’t do for you (exceptions do apply).

Become a Night Owl...
If you’re staying on Disney property and you don’t take advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours…then you’re a complete fool! You get to sleep in with no regrets! Why? Because you have the special privilege to enter a select park and ride select rides. You have the option to go before the park opens, but that’s too early for me. I take advantage of the even longer Extra Magic Hours at night. First, you have to remember to get your colored wristband (unless you want to get kicked out). These wristbands are distributed inside the select park in certain areas. Secondly, go ride the rides with a minimum wait time. Is it really worth it? Heck yes! The park is quiet, nearly deserted, and you can ride a ride multiple times. I literally walked right onto Space Mountain. You can’t imagine how impossible that sounds, but it’s true! The biggest thing for me is that the Extra Magic Hours at night makes me feel like I snuck into the park after it closed. It adds a sexy “danger” factor.

Covet Thy Fast Pass…
I can be really patient most of the time. However, there is just something about walking by a long line of weary-looking people and laughing at them with a Fast Pass in hand. Fast Pass is a beautiful, free service offered by Disney. All you have to do is insert your card/park ticket in the kiosk of the select ride you want to Fast Pass, get a slip of paper that tells you to wait an hour, and come back to ride the ride. You have to remember to get your card/park ticket after you get the Fast Pass! I recommend getting your Fast Pass as soon as possible because they are not limitless. So, don’t waste your Fast Passes on stupid things like Winnie the Pooh. Get a Fast Pass for the extremely popular rides (Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania especially). Once you have a Fast Pass, I would recommend that you stay close to the ride. However, don’t worry if you get a Fast Pass and find yourself in a position to not get back to the ride in the time span you are given. The Fast Pass will still be valid even if you show up later in the day, but don’t expect the Cast Member to accept a Fast Pass you got for 9:45 am at 9:45 pm. That wouldn’t fly with me buster because you had plenty of time to get your butt back to that ride! Another word of advice is that there is no law against one person getting everyone’s tickets and getting all the Fast Passes for the whole group (don’t crowd the kiosk!). There also isn’t a law against an older kid using his card/park ticket and using a younger kid’s card/park ticket to get two Fast Passes for himself (especially on the rides the younger kid can’t ride). One last thing…if you lose your Fast Pass…boohoo for you.

Push the Kid on Someone Else…
In a more technical sense, the process is known as the “Baby Swap.” It’s simple as pie. First, tell a ride attendant that your child won’t be riding, but all adults want to ride. The attendant will walk you through the “Baby Swap” procedure and will direct the poor adult who doesn’t get to ride first and the hindering child to a secure location so the “swap” can occur. The whole procedure is a little more technical than it used to be compared to the early 90s (when I was the hindering child), but it’s the same idea. Also keep in mind that a child may want to ride Splash Mountain at first, but that child suddenly decide he/she doesn’t want to ride it anymore while standing in the middle of the line for the ride. Follow line etiquette (see next tip), and take the “chicken exits.” There are plenty of them to choose from.

Waiting in Line is an Experience…
Sure, waiting in line sounds mundane, but at Disney it really isn’t. You get to have quality family time, you can make several new friends with the people around you (you will at least have one thing in common), and Disney has ambiance everywhere to keep you entertained. You won’t just be watching Coke commercials over and over again like you do at Six Flags. Everything has a meaning at Disney. Everything has a story to tell. However, this experience can be ruined if line etiquette is not followed. It goes as thus:

1) Keep your love life in a hotel/motel room. No one wants to see you make out, rub each other, touch each other, etc.
2) Don’t cut in line even if it is “family line cutting.” I don’t care that your mother and father are waiting for you in line…they obviously didn’t care enough to wait for you.
3) Pay attention to the movement of the line. Even though it moved an inch, you better move an inch too.
4) Get off your cell phone.
5) Wear deodorant for the sake of others.
6) Wear clothes suitable for your body. No one wants to see your stretch marks, your rolls of fat, your hairy back, etc.
7) Don’t do “line backtracking.” If you’re child has a panic attack and you decide not to ride, please use the “chicken exit” and don’t walk backwards through a line of people.
8) Respect people’s space.
9) Don’t use foul language around children.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Popcorn Worthy? - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

READER BEWARE: Opinions Are Expressed Below

If you like mermaids like Ariel, then maybe this movie isn't for you. These mermaids (which don't make an appearancece until later in the movie) are beautiful and very, VERY deadly. I'll just say that they are a cannibalistic and make the zombies in the movie look like harmless fairies. Believe me, this isn't kid stuff. I needed to start off with that because the mermaids are the most amazing thing about this movie. Another thing that needs to be said is that even if you haven't seen the second or third movie, then you won't be completely lost. To be honest, this is the direction in which the series should have gone in the first place. It doesn't have a deep plot and is clearly not supposed to be taken seriously (pretty much everything in this movie is impossible to do).

Acting wise, Johnny Depp just plays his usual Sparrow gig (and makes fun of it), Geoffrey Rush doesn't have a sense of sinister left in him as Barbossa, Penelope Cruz is sultry (maybe a little too sultry for children), and Ian McShane plays a tiresome and somewhat menacing Blackbeard (with magical powers?). I was more than relieved this Pirates installment was sans Keira Knightley's and Orlando Bloom's boring story arc and infused with a small and more interesting love story between a mermaid and a missionary. Yeah, sounds dull...but missionary's need love too and can provide gratuitous shirtless scenes for the ladies with a butt-naked mermaid for the men.

Anyways, the music is provided once more by Hans Zimmer and is infused with former Pirate's excellence on top of new musical excellence. My favorite tune is played during the mermaid scene and is fittingly called "Mermaids" on iTunes (very original).

Overall, this movie is fun, silly, and chocked full of action throughout as the characters try to beat each other to the Fountain of Youth. Like I said before, it can't be taken seriously...just like all the James Bond movies that starred Roger Moore.

3.5 Popcorn Kernels Out Of 5 (deadly mermaids, filthy pirates, a timid bad guy, good music, plenty of action, fun, and excitement)

Photo courtesy of Google

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Popcorn Preview - Humans VS Zombies

This Popcorn Preview takes us on a walk down a road less traveled. On June 1st, a movie called Humans Vs Zombies will be released. Whether it will be in an actual theater that supports independent movies or in the $5 bin at a grocery store is up for you to decide. This latest zombie flick, filmed right down the road from Mount Vernon in Pittsburg, Texas, looks a little promising with the visuals and cheesy with the dialogue. If I can get my hands on it, I'll watch it just so I can see my marketing professor dressed up as a zombie (his name is Scott Sewell, and he is listed on IMDb).

Well anyways, I poked around for awhile to find an official Web site and this trailer. Look now kiddos, because you might just see yourself.