The 10 Lines You Wait In (Before Getting to the Rides)

Years ago, Disney embarked on a super secret project to re-invent the theme park experience. It came with an abbreviated nickname straight out of Silicon Valley.

They called it NextGen. How totes adorbs of them.

NextGen promised a turnstile-free park entrance, FastPasses without pesky paper slips, and a breezy vacation experience utterly devoid of hassle.

It was a meteor straight to the heart of the Primeval Age of the Wait Time. An extinction event for lines.

Well, here we are. Ready to start our day at the Magic Kingdom.

And what is the deal with all these lines???

Line 1 – The Parking Lot Toll Plaza

If you arrive by car, you must stop and pay for the privilege to turn your car into the world’s largest EasyBake Oven.

Forget the price to park, which is either 20% of your vehicle’s Kelley Blue Book Value, or the GDP of Trinidad, whichever is greater.

I don't care if you're just going to the Contemporary. You still gotta pay.

I don’t care if you’re just going to the Contemporary. You still gotta pay.

There is no FastPass for parking. When things stack up, progress is measured in inches. And no matter which line you choose, you’re still stuck behind the guy paying in quarters, who would also like directions to SeaWorld, if it’s not too much trouble.

You can put a box on your windshield and breeze through all 4,652 miles of Central Florida toll roads, but when it comes to parking at a theme park, the best we can manage is the miserable-cast-member-in-a-sweatbox system.

Line 2 – Parking Your Car

Once you’re through the toll plaza, enjoy about 30 seconds of brisk vehicular motion before you once again grind to a halt.

This is because all cars must be parked in an orderly fashion.

We all the know the rules. Park where the waving Cast Member tells you to park. But there is always that one guy who wants to sneak his minivan into the open space at the front of the row, and has to be scolded into backing up and driving where he’s supposed to.

Either he thinks we are all too stupid to have noticed the vast array of empty spaces that are much closer to the tram, or he’s like the Great Dane who thinks somehow he will not be noticed when he sneaks onto the kitchen counter to swipe a piece of pizza.

Or maybe — just maybe — he’s a total jerk.

Line 3 – Wait for the Tram

Because the average guest has no real conception of just how far away the park is, they are always inclined to wait for the tram, even when it’s clear that another tram will not be arriving until after the congressional midterm elections.

So everyone dutifully lines up at the orange poles and waits patiently for the tram to snake its way through the entire Villain lot before it finally stops at Cruella 83 — only to find out that the wait has just begun.

The tram drivers will make the minimum fourteen “last call” announcements. And just when you think that there is “no further boarding,” you are forced to listen to a legally-mandated recorded safety spiel in two languages that gives you complex rules like “do not jump from a moving tram.”


At this point, the minivan guy from before will now attempt to sneak aboard the tram, halting everything and forcing them to replay the safety spiel.

Line 4 – Wait in Line to Buy Tickets

It’s possible that you took one look at the load speeds of and decided that purchasing your park tickets at the main gate would be faster.

You’re not wrong, but get ready to wait again. There are more combinations of ticket packages than there are solutions to the Rubik’s cube. And you must decipher all of them.

Approximately 99% of these will involve “not going to the Magic Kingdom,” so if you can figure that out, you will have a leg up on everyone.

It still won’t help your wait time though, since the foreign family ahead of you has never heard of park hopping and their only cash is $14.63 in small change.

Line 5 – Wait for the Monorail

Your tickets are in hand! It’s now time to sample some of that Disney magic by… waiting for a monorail.

The fact that it’s a monorail does take the sting out of waiting, but you’ll quickly get back all that sting and then some when people inevitably crowd the first gate they come to, blocking the way to the cabins at either end of the train, which are only half full.

And count on at least one unscheduled “waiting for further traffic clearance” stop. No matter how slow your monorail is, the one in front of you is even slower, like an old married couple who wants to hold hands the entire trip around the beam.

Cast Members will often implore you to try the Ferry Boat instead, with claims that it takes the same amount of time. Do not believe them. The actual travel time may be the same, but the load time is approximately the duration of The Godfather Part II.

Just because the turtle won, doesn't mean it was a fast race.

Just because the turtle won, doesn’t mean it was fast.

Line 6 – The Bag Check Line

Congratulations! You have actually arrived at the Magic Kingdom! Now it’s time to line up yet again for a pointless search through your diaper bag.

Security guards plucked from the finest nursing home facilities are on hand to perform full cavity searches of every pocket, slot, pouch, and crevasse to make sure you are not carrying any explosives, weapons, or — God help us — selfie sticks.

Even the TSA lets you sign up for a pre-screened option, but not at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. In the interest of safety, there will be no bypassing this line at all.

… Unless you’re wearing hammer pants with cargo pockets under your voluminous hooded sweatshirt instead of carrying bags.

In which case you’re obviously not a threat. Just go through the middle.


“I’m possibly not even awake. Now open up that zippered coin purse, lady.”

Line 7 – The Randomized Metal Detector

New in 2016! It’s another line!

Select guests will experience the magical moment of having their body scanned for dangerous materials through the wonders of modern metal detection!

As near as I can tell, this involves security guards trying to make eye contact with anyone non-threatening enough to smile back. Preferably toddlers.

Drop your keys and your cell phone in the little plastic hat, step through, and watch in amazement as the machine fails to recognize your ginormous belt buckle, much less your ankle holster.

Line 8 – Getting into the Park

This is it! Just on the other side of these glowing Mickey Mouse touchpoints lies the official start of the Magic Kingdom.

Disney’s MagicBand system has helpfully eliminated those time-consuming turnstiles with an open configuration that lets you simply stroll right on in.

So easy a person with double-jointed wrists could do it!

So easy a person with double-jointed wrists could do it!

All you have to do is simply touch your band to the Mickey and — no, no, you have to touch it right against the touchpoint! The whole band must be touching. Turn your wrist the other– wait, now it’s blue, I have to reset it.

Okay, try it now. Hold on, put your finger on the scanner. Wait! Just hold it on there like — It’s blue again, one second. Nope, still blue. Is that the same finger you used last time?

Are you sure it’s the same finger? Really truly sure? I don’t believe you. You probably used your left pinkie finger when you went to Epcot, and now you’re trying to use your right index finger like a total moron.

Please just listen to me and try a different finger!

Okay, sir, not that finger. There’s no need to be rude.

Line 9 – The iPad Survey Taker

“Hi Ma’am. Welcome to the Magic Kingdom. If I could just have a few seconds of your time to get your zip code– uh, never mind.”

I knew that ankle holster would come in handy.

Line 10 – Rent a Stroller

Little Johnny is still in the ninth grade, so there’s no way he can survive a day of hard touring at the Magic Kingdom without a stroller.

Fortunately, Disney rents them out under the train station, and all you have to do is wait in one more line, shell out eleven-hundred more dollars, and a day of blissful fantasy is yours!

Fortunately, getting the stroller is a breeze because everyone else with you in this tenth line of the day is extremely happy about how everything is going so far.

So write your name proudly with that sharpie, Mom! Wedge yourself into that stroller, Johnny! Tough out that full bladder from the hotel breakfast juice bar, Dad!

It’s time to ride some rides!

… What do you mean my FastPass expired ten minutes ago?

Photo courtesy of HarshLight

Photo courtesy of HarshLight



Ship of Theseus Paradox Endangers Universal Studios

In the first century A.D., noted Greek philosopher and one-time Hunger Games architect Plutarch proposed a thought experiment called the Ship of Theseus.

In this puzzle, the Athenians carefully preserved the favorite vessel of hilarious jungle skipper Theseus, setting it up in a permanent museum called One Greek’s Dream, where they charged admission to school children and generally turned him into a demigod.

The ship stayed there for many years. As it fell into disrepair, the planks of its deck and hull were replaced one at a time, until not a single original piece remained, much like Michael Eisner’s soul.

And so Plutarch posed the question: If not a single element was part of the ship when Theseus was its pilot, is it still the Ship of Theseus?

Last Ride Standing

I read an article last week that the last Back to the Future the Ride would be closing for good next month. It’s the one at Universal Studios Japan. The ride transitioned to the Simpsons years ago in the States, but Japan held on.

I had not thought about Back to the Future the Ride in many years, but this news made me take notice.

Parkeology typically stays focused on Disney parks because that’s what we love, but Disney and Universal have a symbiotic relationship. What happens to one affects the other. They are much like the Gungans and the Naboo in this regard.

Jar Jar Binks

We’ll let you decide which one is Jar Jar.

I remember having endless debates with Universal fans back in the 1990s over which one was better. And while humanity has long ago put aside such petty internet disputes, I have to wonder…

If you were a fan of Universal in the 1990s, does your park still exist?

The Paradox Takes Hold

When Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990, it was an epic disaster. Its highly touted E-ticket rides were so prone to break down, the park frequently issued return vouchers for a different day, so that guests could experience an entirely different set of epic breakdowns.

Kong became the first disco yeti, his complex movements severely curtailed in order to keep the ride operational.

Jaws was notoriously closed within months of opening, its makers sued into oblivion by an irate Universal leadership team. It wouldn’t reopen for another two years.


The ill-conceived “Jaws Sings Your Favorite Broadway Tunes” exhibit was likewise shuttered.

E.T. routinely flipped off customers with his glowing middle finger and spouted profanities that would make a sailor blush. He only survived because no one could understand a word the little potato creature was saying.

In 1991, Back to the Future the Ride opened, ushering in a new age of nausea. And then things really began to change.

The Ghostbusters Spooktacular special effects show was closed to make room for a demonstration based on 8-time Academy Award Winner Twister.

The Mummy replaced King Kong.

Christopher Walken replaced Earthquake.

Even the Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show was replaced by 8-time Emmy Award Winner Fear Factor.

Jaws, of course, got eaten by Harry Potter.

Of Universal Studios Florida’s original opening day attractions, only E.T. and the Horror Make-Up Show remain, with both of those clearly on their last legs.

It’s the Ship of Theseus paradox on a massive scale. If the Universal Studios that opened in 1990 has no original attractions left, is it still Universal Studios?

The Ship of Theseus Remains … Or Does It?

What about Universal’s evil twin, the Disney-MGM Studios? What (if anything) remains of the park that beat Universal to market by one year?

The Great Movie Ride. That’s it.

Of course, the Disney park has been trying to re-invent itself for awhile now. It has conceded the destruction of its old way of life. When Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land open, there’s a good chance that the park will change its name entirely, something it has already done once. It no longer calls itself the Ship of MGM. It’s the Ship of Hollywood now.

Universal Studios Florida is trapped by the paradox. On the one hand, it presents the face of its original self, the same park that has been thrilling guests for 25 years.

But all the thrills have changed. The park has turned the corner towards something completely different. And, most would argue, much better.

Earthquake the Big One

Remember the days when every theme park stimulated the destruction of civilization for your vacation pleasure?

It’s a testament to Walt’s influence that Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and Epcot have not fallen into the paradox (though Epcot has teetered very close to it). Heck, most of Disneyland’s opening day attractions are still around, 60 years later.

Could this be one of the reasons why we used to have those Disney vs. Universal arguments back in the days of primitive internet tribes, before online discussions became civil disagreements?

I suppose that is the point of any thought experiment. To make us stop and think. And while I enjoyed mocking Universal’s original attractions for their failings all those years ago, there’s a part of me that’s sad that none of them made it.

We’ll get Kong again this summer, but it’s not the same Kong. We’ll have to wait for the inevitable inferior Hollywood reboot of Jaws for that one to make a comeback. Speaking of which, there’s hope for you yet, Ghostbusters Spooktacular!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ride E.T. again to remind myself how bad it is.

50 Greatest Park Characters: The Oddballs

If you missed Ted’s cards from last week, click here!

I hold in my hand the last five cards. Well, not the last last five. Ted will reveal those next week.

But this is my last chance to talk about the super cool deck of vintage trading cards from the 80s, a deck that dared to declare itself the authoritative source on the 50 greatest theme park characters of all time.

As I look back on this series, I think the creators of the deck got it right. There are fan favorites that would make everyone’s list.

And then there are the oddballs.

The five cards in today’s post definitely fall into the oddball category. Only one of them is still with us today. The rest have sailed into Yesterland.

Let’s start with the surviving member of today’s class.


Sonny is a fantastic animatronic that has seen only a few changes over the years (including a regrettable combover look). And he is virtually unheard of outside of the super fans. But he’s been performing his act at Cosmic Ray’s for a couple of decades now.


The same cannot be said for the next card on this list, a fellow Tomorrowland animatronic who debuted about the same time as Sonny.


Technically the Timekeeper originated in Paris, but he made his way to the States only a short time later, voiced by the inimitable Robin Williams. Who knew we needed a backstory for Circle-Vision?


Timekeeper might be Robin Williams’ most prominent theme park gig, but it’s not his best. That honor goes to an animated version of himself, as a fictional lost boy in the original Magic of Disney Animation tour.


I’ve spoken before about how much I love this film. To me, it is the perfect theme park movie–hilarious, informative, and with an indescribable magic. The call of Peter Pan’s pipes as Robin follows Wendy and the gang back to Neverland is a special moment.


Speaking of lost filmed characters, here’s a true blast from Epcot’s past that even most super fans have never heard of:


Julie and I/O teamed up to present Backstage Magic in Communicore. I/O was the wordless dancing sprite to Julie’s proper Disney tour guide persona, and was fully lovable in his own right.

But it was Julie who got to shrink down to the size of Little Leota and walk across Epcot Computer Central before our very eyes, thanks to the magic of Pepper’s Ghost.


Julie and I/O left in 1993, only a few short years after the debut of another Epcot character, the last entry in today’s pack of cards.


The three-headed troll of Norway made riders “Disappear! Disappear!” for many decades before Maelstrom closed to make way for the Frozen ride.


It seems fitting that they should wind up today’s episode since recent rumors have the Frozen ride opening by Memorial Day. It’s doubtful the trolls will remain. If anything, they have probably been replaced by lovable, matchmaking, projection-mapped play-doh creatures telling us that we’re a bit of a Fixer-Upper.

These scary guys might be gone for good, but we’ll remember them forever.

Tune in next week when Ted brings us the final 5 cards!