The last thing we did before leaving Epcot was check out the new version of Test Track. I’ve never been able to work myself up to hate this ride like a lot of my fellow Disney tweeters, I’m just sort of ambivalent. I like the part where you get to go 65 mph in an open car enough that I’ll endure all the boring stuff before it, but I’d never wait in a long line for it. So I was hopeful that the reimagined Test Track might hold my interest, yet skeptical about some of the “interactive” silliness they added in the queue (I mean, it’s not like you’re actually getting to ride in this vehicle you design while you’re waiting in line—the ride’s never going to change).
I miss the cheesy pre-show video from old Test Track, but only because I adore John Michael Higgins thanks to Best In Show. Too bad the Imagineers didn’t create a tribute to him in the queue like Paul Reubens gets in the new Star Tours! (Like maybe an airbag made out of kimonos?)
The overall theme of the renovation seems to have been to add lights to everything, and it starts in the boarding area…
The interior portion of the ride is now so TRON-like, you wonder why they didn’t just go full-on TRON.
The outdoor part is as awesome as ever…
We decided to stick to the plan and head over to Hollywood studios to check out the Muppet merchandise and get photos of the new Jack Sparrow attraction—which, like its Prince Caspian predecessor, is a place you can hold private events and must therefore be documented on my wedding venues page. As usual, I got very excited when I spotted the Friendship boat we rode to our wedding reception and made Patrick shoot it.
What a bust! The line for this dumb-old extended movie trailer of an “attraction” was 35 MINUTES! We ditched it and headed over to the Muppet gift shop. But that turned out to have only 2 new shirts since our visit last year, and they were both ugly.
I thought maybe I could redeem the trip with an over-the-top cupcake at Starring Rolls, but it had just closed for the day (at, like, 4pm???). And on top of that, we just missed the boat back to Epcot, our car, and the rapidly closing window on our Little Mermaid FASTPASSES!
We decided to walk.
We were trudging by the BoardWalk Inn’s Croquet Lawn when I spotted a cast member in a golf cart offering some walkers ahead of us a ride. So I began frantically waving like a castaway who’s just spotted a ship, and soon we were being whisked off to the Beach Club! I guess Disney was shuttling BoardWalk Inn guests over to Stormalong Bay this way during the Luna Park pool’s closure, and we lucked out.
FASTPASSES burning a hole in our pockets, we raced to our car, stopping only to take a dozen photos of this lizard…
… and this squirrel!
We drove hell-for-leather along the WDW’s wide boulevards, screeching into a spot back at the Contemporary and then dashing down the footpath to the Magic Kingdom. When we finally staggered up to the entrance of Under the Sea: Ariel’s Undersea Journey to a Voyage of Adventure just 5 minutes after our FASTPASS return window expired, the cast members rolled their eyes and only grudgingly let us through, muttering, “You just HAD to shoot the lizard, didn’t you…?”
Now I know I should never believe anything they say at D23 Expo, but I really did think that Walt Disney World’s version of this ride was going to be at least slightly different than ours. The Imagineer we’d talked to made it sound like they were learning from the DCA version’s mistakes and plussing the experience somehow. Nope! Same ride, right down to the cheesy cardboard cut-out climax! The only differences were a much better themed queue and show building at WDW (ours looks like a suburban AMC theater).
I do enjoy the Little Mermaid ride but, like Soarin’, it will be easy to skip when I’m in Florida cuz I can ride it anytime I want in California. If it’s a walk-on, it’s a pleasant way to pass a few minutes though.
At that point we were super-bored, so we went over to Be Our Guest to see if we could get in for our reservation early. As expected, we could not.
With nothing else to do, we attempted to re-stage some of the “angular kids” concept art for New Fantasyland…
So…. we were still super-bored, which means you get these 13 shots of architectural elements of New Fantasyland. Enjoy!
A particularly like this trio of images, which I call “Pointy Things: A Montage”:
The new Rapunzel restrooms were not ready yet, so we shot what we could.
Finally we gave in and wandered back to Enchanted Tales With Belle, willingly standing in line for 50—FIFTY!—minutes because we seriously could not think of anything better to do. I’m pretty sure I’ve never waited in a 50-minute line for ANYTHING at Walt Disney World, even an E-ticket. That’s how bored we were with New Fantasyland.
Patrick was drawn to the lights like the shutterbug he is…
It took forEVER to get into this show, but at least we weren’t waiting in the blazing sun. When we did finally get into the first room, we shot like a million photos because we were so excited to be looking at something new for the first time in almost an hour.
The magic mirror’s transformation into a doorway is pretty dang awesome! Maybe not 50-minutes-in-line awesome, but still…I haven’t gotten that “how did they DO that?” feeling since we saw Shiriki Utundu at Tower of Terror in Tokyo Disney Sea. Little did I know, however, those 30 seconds were the highlight of Enchanted Tales With Belle.
OK, to be fair, the animatronic Madame Wardrobe and Lumiere are both really, really well done. But they are wasted in a show that’s basically just storytime at your local library. This guy leads the group in “auditions” for the roughly 200 audience-participant roles in the story Belle tells. If you roar or squeak or sing loud enough, you too get a flimsy cardboard prop to wave around when you get your cue during the story.
I landed the coveted role of Madame Wardrobe herself by belting out a few notes in my best faux operatic warble.
After basically everyone in the room has a role in the show, Lumiere makes his entrance to announce Belle.
At the end, everyone who was in the show/room gets a photo with Belle and Lumiere. They also hand out PhotoPass cards with the dozens of images shot during the show, in case you prefer to have strangers in your vacation photos.
I also scored a bookmark that guarantees I will always be part of Belle’s favorite story.
Amazingly, it was STILL not time for our Be Our Guest reservation, but we checked to see if we could get in early anyway, and this time we could! We still had to wait about 10 more minutes for them to come and get us, but at least they let me use the restroom inside while we waited (just don’t try peeking into the dining room… they get cranky!).
We were seated right smack in the middle of the ballroom. Maybe it feels different if you’re up near the windows, but with that many tables, that close, and no tablecloths or much of anything soft to dampen the din, it feels like you’re eating in a tarted-up cafeteria.
I think I would’ve gotten a better first impression if we’d been seated in the West Wing. At least you can hear yourself think in there… until the thunderstorm happens, anyway!
The snow effect is very cool but not that easy to see even up close. The glass is kinda rippled or something.
We went halvsies on the Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops and Thyme-scented Pork Rack Chop.
The food was not bad, it just wasn’t great either. It’s better than at Cinderella’s Royal Table, so I guess I can’t complain about the high prices. I was surprised that the sauteed shrimp and scallops weren’t fishy and the pork was actually moist. But it wasn’t as good as the pork at Biergarten, and the macaroni and cheese was pretty much identical. I think I could have made both better at home, and I’m not exactly Julia Child. Oh, and everything had way too much pepper in it.
The Beast marches through the middle of the room at regular intervals so that diners can take blurry iPhone shots with one hand while shoveling down grub with the other.
For dessert we tried a triple chocolate cupcake that was just kinda blah and a dreadful “cream puff” with a bare, doughy shell and bland chocolate mousse inside. Putting a waxy chocolate square on top does not make it a chocolate cream puff. Where’s the glaze?
We’d paid the bill and were standing up to leave before I realized that no one had asked us to try The Grey Stuff, despite our pins and numerous mentions of our anniversary. Much to her annoyance, I hunted down our server and requested it. It was super awkward, but who knew when we’d ever be back?
The Grey Stuff turned out to be about 1 1/2 tablespoons of mousse that tasted like some kind of artificial flavoring. I’ve heard it might be cookies ‘n’ cream? Hard to tell….
At dinner, Beast hangs out in the lunchtime ordering area so you can get a photo with him on the way out.
When we got out of the restaurant, it was cold! So everything we did after that was at a run. First we dashed over to the Little Mermaid standby line so Patrick could see it.
There are some nifty little film tricks in the queue that help entertain you while you wait, mostly these crab guys who scamper around.
Then we dashed over to Storybook Circus to see if we could get some good nighttime shots of the place.
We always find at least one “big fig” we like when we check Main Street, but who has the room…?
We finally packed it in and went back to the Contemporary for…. surprise cake! I always love working with Chef Brian there because he’s really good at translating the very specific ideas I usually have. Of course I couldn’t have known that our Aulani cake would be so dreadful, but it was great to have this one make up for it.
I emailed the chef about a month or so out and sent pictures of a vaguely Moroccan-looking cake I liked that captured the feel of our wedding but was different from any of our previous anniversary cakes.
He determined that the pattern of fondant cutouts was too intricate to be achieved on a standard mini cake, so I splurged on a sort of maxi-mini cake—a 3-inch layer atop a 5-inch layer. After we worked out the details, I called Private Dining at the Contemporary to place my order. Two days before we arrived, I called back to confirm it, and they had all the details exactly right.
The cake was waiting for us when we got back to the room that night (we’d asked for a 10pm delivery time), and it was GORGEOUS! Not only that, it tasted fantastic! I love how WDW cakes have real old-fashioned buttercream under the fondant, not that whipped Chantilly nonsense they use at Disneyland and Aulani.
For flavors, I went with Patrick’s favorite tier of our wedding cake, red velvet with cream cheese buttercream frosting (not cream cheese mousse, which is too cheesy for me). We ate it on the balcony while watching the Electrical Water Pageant again.
I love that they covered the standard cake board with matching blue fondant for better presentation of the cake.