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.”

lines_safety

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 disneyworld.com 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.

lines_securityguard

“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

 

 

50 Greatest Park Characters: The Final Chapter – Saving the Best For Last

Two months ago Parkeology unleashed what is indisputably the most popular series about possibly fictional 1980’s vintage theme park trading cards ever to appear on the Internet. In fact the response has been so overwhelming that it is perhaps only rivaled by our explosive expose on Martin Short. In case you somehow missed them you can start from the beginning by clicking here or catch up on Shane’s penultimate post last week by clicking here.

50 Greatest Park Characters- Welcome Letter

This welcome letter may in fact be even more rare then the cards themselves!

We have reviewed many original park characters, some famous, others infamous and a few pretty much unknown and now we have finally made it the end of the line. Much like the cards themselves it is extremely unlikely that a series two will ever be produced, in other words this is it!

Today’s group is a rag-tag band of misfits to say the least. They span four parks, two continents and decades of time. They share nothing in common other than being on this list and yet there is one very special surprise. You see the list is not actually 50 characters but 51. There is always that one ultra rare “bonus” or “chaser” card and I am proud to say that we have it and I think it is in fact the single greatest park contributor of all time… but more on that later.

The first card up is Lord Henry Mystic from Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland.

50 Greatest Park Characters_henry_mystic

A fellow member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers

Lord Mystic shares much in common with his fellow 50 Greatest list-mate Harrison Hightower but is much more benevolent and animated in his appearance. Mystic Manor can be thought of as the spiritual cousin to the Haunted Mansions found in other Disneyland parks and Lord Mystic is the final character from an overseas park to make the list.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mystic-Back

Coming back stateside our next character has had his role slightly truncated in recent years but is still a key player in the marquee attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

50 Greatest Park Characters_warden_wilson

Keeping an eye from above.

Warden Wilson Matua is always ready to greet guests to the Harambe Wildlife Reserve with a warm smile and a sincere message of conservation. He is our “eye in the sky” as he used to patrol the reserve via light aircraft.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Warden-Wilson-Matua-Back

Warden Matua used to have a guest on his plane; Miss Jobson. While she did not make our list Mr. Johnson did.

50 Greatest Park Characters_mr_johnson

Mr. Johnson never sent anynone to the moon but he sure looks like someone who may have.

Mr. Johnson was in charge of mission control for risky Missions to Mars. He worked parks on both coasts and was a cult fan favorite.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mr-Johnson-Back

Speaking of cult favorites our next character was my personal favorite from the long defunct Kitchen Kabaret from Epcot’s Land pavilion.

50 Greatest Park Characters_dairy_goods

They really don’t make them like they used to.

Mr. Dairy Goods did make the jump to the far inferior show that replaced the Kitchen Kabaret (Food Rocks) but if you wanted to see him at his peak you had to visit 80’s EPCOT Center in all it’s original glory.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mr-Dairy-Goods-Back

And now we hit the last entry on our list not including the special bonus card.

50 Greatest Park Characters_tiki_gods

A great 8 for 1 special is going on.

This card is another slight cheater in that it has not one but actually 8 characters! The Tiki Room Gods from the original Enchanted Tiki Room have withstood the test of time and are as beloved today as they were 50 years ago.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Tiki-Gods-Back

As I mentioned earlier the creators of these cards (whoever they may be) managed to really keep an ace up their sleeves. There was one major Disney park contributor who was conspicuously absent from the list. When these cards first came out I recall being very concerned about this obvious omission and then it was finally revealed that he was reserved for what must be considered the single most important card in the series.

50 Greatest Park Characters_uncle_theodore

Simply the best.

The unbelievably rare (there are only two known examples) bonus “chaser” card features a man who not only has the coolest name ever but also has made a massive impact on pop culture both inside Disney and out.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Uncle-Theodore-Back

While Thurl Ravenscroft is depicted here as only one of a multitude of impeccable, brilliant and memorable park characters (Uncle Theodore), if the truth is told Thurl had previously landed on our list. He gave such widely diverse performances as Tony the Tiger and is loved by all as the singing voice of the Grinch who Stole Christmas.  Throughout the   years Thurl contributed to the parks in immeasurable ways.

Buff from the Country Bear Jamboree, The Enchanted Tiki Room (Fritz), the classic Pirates of the Caribbean, The Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, Splash Mountain and the Sailing Ship Columbia. More than a mere song and dance man or some silly grimacing stage clown mugging for applause he was a quintessential entertainer.

Surely Thurl was a legend among Disney legends. He was in fact there on opening day ushering in the opening of Sleeping Beauty Castle. He lent his voice to a whose who of characters; everything from big classic movies like Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland to Kirby from The Brave Little Toaster.  It is abundantly clear to see that Thurl Ravenscroft is a spectacular finale to our list of the 50 greatest of all time.

And on that very appropriate note we will carefully file away our cards back into their protective archival sleeves, snap them into acid free binders and place them back on our temperature controlled shelves for another generation to discover one day. We love these cards, it is a real shame that they never found a wider audience and ended up lost in oblivion; there is just no accounting for taste I guess.

Thanks for hanging in there… all three of you who made it to the end!

Did we errrr I mean the original creators of these cards miss anyone?

 

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.

Jaws

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.