Today’s Theme of the Day was Frozen… quite literally… But I’m getting ahead of myself. The day started much the same as every other day of our trip. By now our morning routine of who uses what mirror when was almost like a choreographed dance, each of us knowing our part. Then it was coffee and baked goods, which we enjoyed on our shuttle to Hollywood Studios. It was odd that on Day 7 of our trip there were still sights unseen & parks unvisited.
We got our first thrill of recognition of the day at security. The lovely, elderly bag-search man told Kris she looked like a princess. She took it as a compliment, not just as him recognizing her daily Disneybound. Today Kris was a Princess, and KG a Queen… and Justine a Prince… We were in our Frozen best as Anna, Elsa, and Hans (respectively).
Our first stop in the park was the Tower of Terror. It’s always a smart idea to ride the most popular attractions early in the morning, before the park gets too cramped and the wait times add up. Our strategy worked and we were able to walk through the majority of the zig-zagging line. While we waited for our elevator (of doom! Duh Duh Duh!) Kris practiced all of her creepiest mannerisms, so that if she ever needed a job she could be one of the dead-eyed attendants who worked this ride. And then we loaded up, bucketed in, and prepared for the drop. The Tower of Terror is soooooooo fun. We all came to agreement that this has to be one of our top 3 favorite rides of all of the theme parks we’ve been frequenting. The storyline is simple yet intricate, and has a way of psyching you up while also lulling you into a false sense of security before you are shot up into the sky and dropped towards the ground…repeatedly.
Wandering down Sunset Boulevard (much like Universal Studios, Hollywood Studios has multiple cities reproduced throughout the park) we couldn’t help but note how cold it was out. Sure it’s February, but we’re in Orlando! It’s supposed to be warm, or at least warmer than home! Consulting our Weather App we found out that it was not, in fact, warmer than home (aka snowy Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) and was only a balmy 6 C outside! Brrrrrr!
The cold started to get to us while in line for the Great Movie Ride. It wasn’t so bad when you were in the sun or if you were situated out of the breeze, but as the line wound around the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater we found ourselves in a long, shady stretch that also left you exposed to the elements. We had not been prepared for such weather & our outfits were not currently cutting it with the wind chill. Justine, who was shivering, tucked her face down into her blazer in silence, conserving her energy. At this point we all got a bit grumpy. KG joked that she might be dressed as Elsa, but the cold definitely bothered her! Next time we go to Orlando in February, we’re definitely going to bring some mittens!
Eventually we got inside and were rewarded with a better-than-expected ride! The Great Movie Ride wasn’t something we thought we’d enjoy much, but it ended up being quite entertaining with live actors, scenes out of many of your favorite movie-troupes, and a thrilling death scene! We were also pleasantly surprised by our next ride: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. We had gotten quite used to Universal making us stow our backpacks any time there would be a slightly thrilling ride so when our coaster took off at break-neck speed and proceeded to barrel roll upside-down then loop-de-loop it took us very much off guard. It turned out that this start was the best part of the ride (perhaps because it was so unexpected?) but we continued to have fun screaming through all of the twists and turns that followed. Though we’re still a little confused as to why Disney doesn’t have you check your bags when they’re planning on taking you upside down.
Next was lunch, an important part of every day (unless it’s our Europe trip!). We found a counter to order pizza and sandwiches from and munched them down happily. It was slightly warmer out and we managed to find a table with direct sunlight so our moods had improved dramatically. Kris (aka Anna) annoyed her companions by repeatedly asking Justine (aka Hans) if they could “finish each other sandwiches”.
After lunch we found seats for the Beauty & the Beast stage show. It was very well done with all of our favorite songs. But Beauty & the Beast leaves us with so many unanswered questions at the best of times, this condensed stage version left our head spinning! Is there no furniture in the castle after the servants are human again? What about the broken chairs in the West Wing? Are they now corpses? Anyways, we tried to enjoy the show despite our curiosity. Our favorite parts? (1) Any time Gaston was on stage. (2) When the Beast hulked to screaming in rage. (3) When Justine made the woman in front of us jump before the show by suddenly popping her head into her conversation. In a very un-Justine-like act, she had interrupted to find out where to find the best characters in Hollywood Studios. From eavesdropping she’d heard the woman had taken her daughter to meet Baymax but Big Hero 6 characters were nowhere to be seen on our App!
On the recommendation of the mother in front of us we made our way to the Art of Animation building next. It contained multiple rooms full of movie & theme park concept art and a whole wall devoted to movie posters for upcoming Disney films (some of which we knew next-to-nothing about until now). As we explored we kept our eyes peeled for character locations. It wasn’t hard to find the Big Hero 6 themed spot where we’d be able to meet Baymax in about an hour. And right beside it was the line for the classic Disney hero himself: Mickey Mouse. But before we could get into line we noticed another sign: “Meet Oscar”. But who was Oscar? Not a character any of us could remember…and we know our Disney. Then we spotted another poster, this time with graphics…graphics of Academy Awards.
To understand the excitement of this visit you must first understand Justine. Justine loves the Oscars. She loves all movie award shows actually, but none so much as the Academy Awards. It possibly all started when she repeatedly watched (over a period of several months) the year that Titanic took home a boat load (see what I did there?) of trophies (Note from Justine: Titanic won 11 Oscars in 1998!). No matter how it started, the idea of seeing a real statue in person had Justine giddy with excitement. When we entered the room where it stood, on a pedestal holding it at shoulder height (ideal of photos) the security guard explained that this was a real Oscar trophy that would almost definitely be handed out at the upcoming award show (that was actually only days away!). We snapped a few photos of Justine beaming in Oscar’s presence, and then KG & Kris stepped up for their turn. “I wanna kiss it!” “I wanna lick it!” they expressed in unison. The security guard gave them concerned looks, but no statues were harmed in the process of their picture.
After making Justine’s dream come true, we continued by helping KG get an exciting first: meeting Mickey. Despite having been to Disneyland before, KG had never met the main mouse. She went first, hugging him and posing for multiple photos. Kris & Justine followed, each getting a “kiss” as the plastic head was bopped against their cheeks.
Leaving the Mickey line, we immediately hopped into the newly forming Big Hero 6 line. Sitting on the floor between the painted lines, we found ways to pass the time until Baymax arrived. We munched on princess jelly beans (they were such pretty colours…and sparkly!), played our typical “Guess the Disney Character” line game, and observed our fellow line mates. One young boy was entertaining himself with a set of Big Hero 6 ‘guys’. “What are ‘guys’?” you ask. They are small plastic figurines shaped like characters; they are also Kris’ favourite childhood toy (obviously she coined the oh-so-creative name). As a five year old on her first trip to Disneyland she spent all of her spending money on guys (well, guys & stickers). Now she enjoyed seeing another child sharing her fave pastime… although the little boy just kept setting the Tadashi guy off to the side. Um kid, don’t you realize what a dreamboat Tadashi is? He is literally the most desirable Disney character ever, including princes. Kris wanted to steal the little Tadashi to add to her personal collection, where he would be fully appreciated, but that wasn’t really in the Disney World spirit so she restrained herself.
Then Baymax & Hiro arrived! We took turns bounding up to see them, each making sure to go in for a hug (Kris at the beginning and the end) because Baymax was so super squishy and loveable. The personality on this pair almost put the princesses to shame. Somehow, even though he couldn’t talk or make facial expression, Baymax managed to convey the proper amount of innocence & ridiculousness, while Hiro talked basically nonstop. “Of course you can hug him; I do it all the time.” “While they’re doing that I’ll just be over here.” “Oh hey! I think she’s filming this!” “Make sure you look good!”
We were reluctant to leave the Art of Animation building but were pleasantly surprised by the weather when we did. Could it have warmed up a bit more while we were inside? The higher temperatures meant that we were comfortable to start wandering the park, checking out each city that had been recreated. Somewhere west of San Francisco and south of Muppetville we wandered into Danville, home of Phineas & Ferb. If you are an adult without young children you probably don’t know who Phineas and Ferb are, but they are basically Kris’ heroes. KG & Justine reluctantly joined her in line with a bunch of young children to meet the pair of stepbrothers who spend each episode of their cartoon inventing & basically being badass engineers. The costumes were admittedly a bit creepy.
We stopped in “San Francisco” to watch a street band. We were really only half paying attention. We’d gotten popcorn and if there is one thing that will hold Justine’s attention it is popcorn (or the Titanic or Tudor-era English History). As distracted audience members it served us right when the lead singer yelled out “Everyone look at the Disneybounders!” and every person on the block turned to stare at us. KG froze. Kris waved. Justine continued to eat her popcorn. The singer quickly named Kris & KG as Anna & Elsa but took his time identifying Justine. She was the tricky one today. Eventually she had to yell out she was Hans (not ‘another Anna?’). The band laughed and their leader expressed his apologies, adding a quick “At least I didn’t guess Sven?!”. After a lap through more streets (and cities) we happened upon the same bands next set. This time Kris was filming and the each member of the group made an effort to play right to the camera.
Two of the best areas of the park were Toy Story Mania and Star Tours. The first was decorated with giant toys, like you’d been shrunk down to the size of a dolls. The Toy Story Mania ride was a mock carnival. You sit in a little cart and shoot rings at stands or balls at targets, trying to get points. Just like with the Buzz Lightyear ride and the Men in Black ride Justine won. Apparently she’s the sharp-shooter in the group. The Star Wars area is punctuated with a large AT-AT traversing the woods. Below it is a stage where children train to be Jedi and a building housing Star Tours. This 3D ride has definitely gotten an upgrade since any of us had last been to a Disney park.
We knew there had to be a Frozen themed attraction somewhere at Disney World (it’s only the biggest thing right now…and for the last 2 years) and we finally found it hidden away behind the streets of New York. A Sing-a-long Show? Yes please! Throughout the show we belted out our favorite songs at the top of our lungs… while the little boy next to us looked on like we were ruining his life (and couldn’t sing at all… which none of us can). The songs played as videos from the film, rather than being performed live by the actors, and we are certain this is because no one can sing “Let It Go” like Queen Idina Menzel. What really got us about this show though was how crazy everyone was. We have a joke amongst our trio that Anna is literally insane. She has been negatively affected by her sheltered life and it pushed her a bit off the deep end. But after watching the sing-a-long we have realized that this is apparently a common trait among residents of Arendelle. The two original characters (created to progress the plot of our little live show) gave Anna a run for her money when it came to looniness. Luckily out came Elsa and Kristoff (A Prince! – sort of – Let out of his cage!) emerged partway in to bring a bit of grounded normalcy to the show.
The natural next place for us to go was back to the Tower of Terror! It is our favourite ride after all. While in line we bonded with a cute mother & daughter pair. It was their first time to Disney World and their first ride on the Tower of Terror. The mother was worried it would be too scary, except not for her daughter’s sake but for her own. We chatted about our favorite parts of the park and the best rides we’d experienced (warning her that DINOSAUR is terrifying); we wanted to pass on our newly acquired knowledge to new friends who were just starting their trip. We also taught them our line game, so they’d also have a way to pass the time when in lengthy queues. This is where things got a bit weird. As the pair in front of us started their own game with basic characters (one we didn’t want to join because we are pros and it wouldn’t have been fun for them to have us blowing them out of the water), we stepped up our game to a whole new level of difficulty. No Words. I challenge you to try to play a game that literally only involves asking questions and getting back a yes or no answer using no words. We mimed out characters and found charade like ways to convey simple queries like “Is the character a girl?” “Does it talk?” “Do you walk on two legs?” We probably looked like total weirdos but had a blast.
After another treacherous ride in a haunted elevator it was time to depart from Hollywood Studios and park hop over to Epcot. We had a special dinner to get to! On the convenient shuttle bus KG pumped Justine full of drugs (again). Her weird foot pain was back and our day full of wandering was getting to her. Hopped up on Tylenol and Advil she was ready to walk through a few souvenir shops in search of mementos to remember this awesome trip. The main thing we all wanted was Starbucks mugs. We know you’ve seen the “You Are Here” collection, but did you know they have one for each Disney World park? Unfortunately they were sold out almost everywhere so there would be no Epcot mug for us.
With a few new things (mainly gifts for our friends back home) loaded into our backpacks we embarked on a trek to Norway. Destination: Royal Akershus Banquet Hall. Reason: Attending a Princess Storybook Dinner. That’s right; we were headed to a character dinner featuring an assortment of Princesses. Kris had made the reservation as a birthday present for KG & Justine (having told them about it around KG’s birthday and going for the actual dinner around Justine’s). We were so excited that we ended up being a bit keen on getting there. We had to fall back in line 3 times before it was our reservation time period. After checking in we were sent to another line up, waiting for the maître de to call our names.
“Now announcing the Royal Padget Family.” “Oooo! That’s us!” 👸🏼👸🏻🐙
When we entered we barely had time to get our first glimpse of the elegant yet rustic interior before being ushered into a curtained off area where Belle awaited us. In her iconic yellow ball gown Belle looked like exactly the person to welcome you to a Fairytale dinner party. When she noticed our outfits she let out a delighted squeak, “You’re dressed like some of our favorite friends here. You fit right in in Norway!”
After photos we were taken to our table, and we took in the grandeur of the exposed wood beams and bright, Nordic décor. Our waitress, a native Norwegian, came for our drink orders and to explain that we could help ourselves to the appetizer buffet. We chatted her up a bit, because (a) she was adorable and (b) we always have so many questions about how things work that we knew she could answer. She explained that everyone working in the Norwegian pavilion was from Norway, just as everyone (from cooks to characters to shop staff) in the Canadian pavilion would be from our home & native land. Satisfied with her answers and our frozen cocktails (which we ordered despite still being a bit frozen ourselves) we checked out the buffet. So many yummy things to eat! Salads, veggies, cheeses, meats… and a lot of smoked & salted fish. How very Scandinavian!
While we ate we enjoyed the Princess Procession. We had been trying to catch a glimpse of all of the princesses in attendance, but with them moving around to tables throughout the restaurant it was hard to do a full roll call. Now the Princesses each gathered a group of children from throughout the building and took them on a royal procession, weaving in and out of the tables. It was so cute, with Aurora getting them to twirl and Snow White instructing the little girls to curtsey at the end, plus we noticed that basically all of the princesses were in attendance!
Then we got to meet some more princesses ourselves! Snow White came first. She was absolutely perfect. You could believe that this princess had just stepped right out of the tv screen. She looked just like Snow White. She sounded just like Snow White. She acted just as the original princess would. She also gets bonus points for recognizing all of our outfits, even Hans. Aurora, our next princess visitor, was almost as perfect (but not quite). Her facial structure was identical to the cartoon Sleeping Beauty so we deemed her a better fit for her role that the Aurora we’d met in the France pavilion a few days before.
While we enjoyed our main course – we all ordered the meatballs with lingonberry sauce – we watched the princesses interact with each other. It’s a different dynamic than we’d been able to observe before, and utterly adorable. A highlight was Ariel, Aurora, and Snow asking a couple on a special date for their 42nd Wedding Anniversary for tips on how to make their marriages with their princes last that long.
When Ariel arrived at our table we were a tad bit skeptical. She definitely bared the least physical resemblance to her animated counterpart… and then she opened her mouth. My goodness she was hilarious. She chattered and cooed and jumped up & down in excitement. First she told KG how much Flounder hated when Elsa froze her bubbles. Then she told Justine that she was “much nicer than that meanie Hans.” Then she squealed in delight her how she & Kris were hair twins. Did Kris use a dinglehopper to brush hers too? Did we know that Rapunzel once lost 7 dinglehoppers while trying to brush all of her hair?! This is when Cinderella joined the conversation to tell us about how birds braid her hair every night for her, but it would take too many for Rapunzel to do that. Man, princesses are the cutest. How do we get one in our everyday friends circle?
Our dinner was capped off with a trio of desserts. They were an extremely delicious, with a nice mix of chocolate, apple, and pudding. And then we had to leave. We had made one of the latest reservations so we almost closed the restaurant down. All of the princesses even left before us. Wandering back out of the park we realized it had already closed. We entertained ourselves with discussions of what we could do if we just didn’t leave. Spending the night in Epcot after closing would be a great time, right? But in the end we decided to leave… not because we’d get in trouble but in fear of freezing to death during the night.
Love & Luck!
Kris … & Justine … & KG!
(February 19, 2015)