WDW46: The Video and the official Parkeology challenge

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

My how time flies. It’s been two months since Shane and I completed WDW46 and over a year and a half since we created the idea of riding every Walt Disney World ride in one day.

Since then we are happy to see others becoming excited about WDW46 and attempting it themselves. We have heard from readers from all over the country and even other parts of the world who have asked for advice and informed us that they were going to attempt similar challenges themselves. We are pleased to have inspired so many who now have a guide map to follow.

Shane and I were interviewed on national radio shows, featured in newspapers and on Podcasts and even turned up on both local and national news television programs. Perhaps strangest of all was being interviewed by the in-flight magazine of Norwegian Airlines! Who would have ever thought WDW46 would be so far spread? To say that was unexpected would be an understatement.

We created WDW46 not for notoriety but rather because it is crazy, silly, challenging and just plain fun. It represents everything we enjoy about the Disney parks and doing it with your friend makes it that much better.

Today we are proud to not only premiere the video of our WDW46 attempt but also to announce that we have started the official Parkeology WDW46 Challenge! You will see new links on the page (or click here) that will take you to the Parkeology WDW46 Challenge page. We will be keeping track of all the attempts and we may even be awarding prizes for successfully completing it.

To date several have tried and though most have met with failure remember that the real fun is in the attempt. Our first attempt at what was then WDW47 fell short because of the weather. Though we had proof of concept it has to be looked upon as a technical fail. Regardless we came back stronger than ever and I am sure many others will now follow in our footsteps and complete the challenge as well.

Get a team together, get in touch with us and get out into the parks. Good Luck!

Do us one favor; share the link to the video and get the word out!

If you are one of our many new readers who just discovered us recently make sure you watch our attempt at WDW47 last year:

Finally one last thank you to all the folks who cheered us on both on Twitter and especially to those who turned up in person and tracked us down. Thank you so, so much, it meant the world to us!

And now without further ado Parkeology presents WDW46: Redemption (make sure to watch to the very end):

All the best:

Ted and Shane

Animal Kingdom: We Got Next – The Quiet Transformation

In 2007, Disney announced a massive makeover of the ailing Disney’s California Adventure park, located on Disney property in California. The fan community rejoiced. We religiously followed every phase of the project, from the demolition of the Whoopie Goldberg theater, to the removal of the Hub Cap icon, to the eradication of the giant lines spelling California inside the California park located in California, to the tragic deconstruction of the much beloved Maliboomer. Basically, we celebrated the removal of all the crap, and the arrival of good things, such as Duffy the Disney Bear.

In 2009, Disney announced the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. The fan community — if not rejoiced — then at least spent the next five years bickering about its success. We religiously chronicled every aspect of the Fantasyland project, from the Tangled restrooms to the Belle’s Village restrooms to the Carolwood Station restrooms to the interactive Pooh queue. Basically we celebrated the removal of all vacant crap, and the arrival of new opportunities for poo jokes.

In 2011, Disney announced that Avatar Land would become Animal Kingdom’s largest expansion since Asia. The fan community revolted, called Bob Iger and James Cameron several vile names, then promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Inspirational proverbs on Animal Kingdom Refurbishment walls -- also the plot of Dumbo.

Inspirational proverbs on Animal Kingdom Refurbishment walls — also the plot of Dumbo.

As we close the book on a summer that contained the last little bit of the Fantasyland expansion, one would expect all eyes to turn to Animal Kingdom for the next massive Walt Disney World project. But nobody seems interested. Over in the Magic Kingdom, guests are packing the Mine Train queue to the brim, making a nicely themed kiddy coaster the hottest ticket around. In Hollywood Studios, executives are riding the success of last winter’s mega-hit to untouchable levels of merchandising opportunities, on a shoestring budget/promotion that must make them giggle whenever they look at Diagon Alley. Over in Epcot, more Frozen seems to be on the way, with everyone playing will-they-or-won’t-they at the Norway pavilion.

Meanwhile, walls have quietly gone up all over Animal Kingdom for what I feel is the most exciting Walt Disney World project since, well, Everest.

Nice panels with animal facts on some of the refurb walls -- but still not as good as the animal bathroom facts at Conservation Station.

Nice panels with animal facts on some of the refurb walls — but still not as good as the animal bathroom facts at Conservation Station.

The apathy probably stems from two things. First, people really seem to dislike Avatar and/or feel that Disney could have picked something more “Disney.” I myself agree that Avatar is not my first (or second or third) choice for a new themed land. But on the other hand, I think people may be acting a little too self-righteous about the Avatar thing, as if we all didn’t see the movie at least once in the theater. For whatever shortcomings the movie has, it is nowhere near as bad as the three Star Wars prequels, a franchise which everyone seems to think is a better choice for a Disney land. It also is lightyears ahead of other Disney sci-fi-with-alien-animals stories (John Carter Land). Nobody seems to be grumbling about how bad Transformers sucked when Universal put in an awesome ride. I think Avatar will ultimately end up being just a brand name, and the allure of the new land will be in the bioluminescence, the awesome creature designs, the alien flora and fauna which will be incredible even if you didn’t care about the weird story of a space marine who plays Cranium Command with a blue version of Dances With Wolves. It’s going to be the Alien Dinosaur Institute, sponsored by a generous grant from James Cameron Corporation. And what could be more Disney than an alien telling of Pocahontas?

Secondly, Avatar Land is still three years away from opening. It’s locked away behind trees and walls. We can’t even see it rising in the distance. So it’s hard to get really excited yet. But there is so much happening around the park — some of which will start opening next year — that I think it may catch some fans off guard.

I took a quick spin around Animal Kingdom this afternoon. There is literally something new happening every dozen yards or so.

It starts in the parking lot, where a new expanse of asphalt is beginning to spread over what was once a grass field. Call it the largest parking lot expansion in Disney history. As a fan, it will be fun to speculate what the new lot will be called, because obsessing over parking lot names is what fans do best. Personally, I’m rooting for Leonopteryx Rex, because I think that will be the hardest for tram drivers to pronounce.

The front of the Tree of Life is encircled with walls. It’s Tough To Be a Bug is actually under refurbishment while they work on the tree. Rumor says that some components of the nighttime makeover will be added, transforming the Tree of Life into the Mother Tree or whatever the heck that thing in Avatar was called. Or maybe just as background to the Rivers of Light nighttime water spectacular.

Welcome to Wall Land

Welcome to Wall Land

Here a crew is seen power washing a cement tree in full view of the public. Because magic.

Here a crew is seen power washing a cement tree in full view of the public. Because magic.

Speaking of that, walls are now up around the lagoon from Dinoland all the way around to the Gibbons viewing area in Asia. This is to install viewing zones for the Rivers of Light, which seems to me to be a massive amount of viewing. Not quite up to the sheer mileage of the Illuminations viewing spots, but on par with World of Color in DCA. Portable dams are also installed in the lagoon itself in preparation for the fountain installations.

Nice paneling on these refurb walls on the trail between Dinoland and Nemo.

Nice paneling on these refurb walls on the trail between Dinoland and Nemo.

At Everest, the walls take a decidedly Asian turn

At Everest, the walls take a decidedly Asian turn

Behold, the beauty of the portable dam

Behold, the beauty of the portable dam

There were some Imagineers toodling around in a speedboat. When they spotted me taking pictures of the portable dams, they zipped away!

There were some Imagineers toodling around in a speedboat. When they spotted me taking pictures of the portable dams, they zipped away!

Returning for just a moment to Discovery Island, the main shop on the right is being readied for a huge expansion. Ground has been cleared, and vertical construction should begin soon (or may have already begun behind the walls.

Why, it's some Disney construction workers, back from lunch!

Why, it’s some Disney construction workers, back from lunch!

Not pictured, a new animal exhibit is being readied on the path from Discovery Island back to Africa, rumored to be the new home of the Cottontop Tamarins.

In the back of Africa, more ground is being cleared next to Zawadi Traders/Mombosa, which is rumored to be another full-service restaurant.

Side note: Mombasa is my favorite Animal Kingdom shop. Sorry, Chester and Hester.

Side note: Mombasa is my favorite Animal Kingdom shop. Sorry, Chester and Hester.

Not pictured, infrastructure work has begun on the Safari itself, in preparation for the Nighttime version of the Safari.

The first phase of the massive expansion actually opened earlier this year, when the Lion King show moved to Africa. The pathway to Pandora is inaccessible, of course.

Beautiful panoramic vista of the pathway to Pandora, obscured by ugly green canvas screen.

Beautiful panoramic vista of the pathway to Pandora, obscured by ugly green canvas screen.

And at last we come to the walls of the main entrance to Pandora. The foliage is so thick that you literally can’t see anything behind it, just the top of a trailer of some kind. Disney has also turned this into a smoking section — probably to discourage anyone from trying to go back there.

Beyond these smokers lies a vast world of blue elves.

Beyond these smokers lies a vast world of blue elves.

All these various projects should open in phases over the next several years, which will make coming to Animal Kingdom a slightly different experience every time. So much of it is dedicated to turning this park into a nighttime destination as well, which I think will be a huge treat for guests, since Animal Kingdom is already an enchanting place after dark, and a pretty rare opportunity in its current state.

I guess the point of all this is: Even if you don’t care about Avatar the movie, I think Animal Kingdom is poised to become the most exciting park project in the last decade, and if you spend too much time scoffing at giant blue people, you’ll miss the fun watching the transformation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to stalking the new Starbucks location.

 

Bold New Worlds – Harambe Theater District

In 1998, I flew down for a long week at Walt Disney World. My third such long week trip in as many years. Only this time was different. This time, there was a whole new theme park waiting for me.

People say Animal Kingdom is a half day park. That trip, I spent half the week there. That sounds nuts to the average tourist, but I got lost in the details. We spent days just diving into everything. I rode Countdown to Extinction seven times on that trip. I can’t remember how many Safaris. For a Disney fan accustomed to soaking in the atmosphere, it was exhilarating to have that much new territory to explore. It didn’t matter that there were only three rides.

When Everest was being built, I haunted the construction site, celebrating each new bathroom as it opened, each cleared path, each planted rice field. It was an ancient kingdom being unveiled before my eyes. It’s a different sensation than when they simply refurbish an existing area. It’s a movement into the frontier, into virgin Walt Disney World territory, never before developed. When you practically live in the parks, it’s hard to describe how strange it feels to suddenly have a new place to go.

The Harambe Theater District (aka the new home of the Festival of the Lion King) opened a few weeks ago. I was there the day after the walls came down, and I am happy to say, it is a perfect, seamless addition to the original Harambe village. It feels like a part of Opening Day 1998–as rustic and timeworn and meticulously detailed a section as you will find.

Harambe Theater District

Favorite details include:

  • An operating license for the theater, issued by the fictional Harambe government and displayed on the wall near the Stand By queue for Lion King.
  • In the new gift shop, there’s an old tape deck on a top shelf, loaded with a cassette of the Lion King.
Were they even still making tapes in 1994?

Were they even still making tapes in 1994?

  • On the balcony overlooking a theater sits a large boombox, whose owner must have wandered away. And if you stop and listen, you realize that’s where the area music is coming from.
Apparently Harambe is able to get more radio stations than the Safari trucks

Apparently Harambe is able to get more radio stations than the Safari trucks

  • Then there’s this view of the old geyser field, not visible since the Discovery Riverboats made their final journey around Safari Village more than a decade ago. You can see the geysers here at about the 6:30 mark.
No longer spouting fire

No longer spouting geysers

  • And finally there’s this path, still off limits to the public, wrapping around behind the exquisitely themed restrooms.
Like the tunnel to Toontown, a world of blue cartoon figures awaits just beyond.

Like the tunnel to Toontown, a world of blue cartoon figures awaits just beyond.

You know where this path goes. To the next bold new world. Pandora in 2017.