The plan for today was to do a 6am Magic Kingdom Portrait Session before the park opened and then run back to the park for rope-drop and spend the day there.
Just to give you a little background, the Magic Kingdom Portrait Session is a HUGE deal for Disney brides because it’s the only way you can get pictures in your wedding dress in the park, and at the time it was only available to people who got married at Disney. It’s not PhotoPass photography during park hours – you get picked up by a member of Disney’s professional photography department and driven inside the park before it opens for a photo shoot, usually at either 5am or 6am. Only one couple is allowed in the park at a time. And the price is ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS (this will be very important in a moment). Two weeks after the shoot they post all your photos online for you to see and they mail you one 4×6 print of each picture. Then you get an album with 12 pictures in it. And that’s all you get. If you want more pictures, prices range from $13 for a 4×6 print to $30 for an 8×10 to $85 for 16×20.
I got up at about 4am to do my hair and makeup for the Magic Kingdom photo shoot. Originally I was going to have Patricia Lejeune come back for this, but the more MK pix I saw, the more I realized that they are shot from so far away you can barely see anyone’s makeup (if I’d only known then just HOW far away, I might have slept in a little later…). The tricky part was styling my hair – I ended up with a low-rent version of Patricia’s fabulous updo featuring more bobby pins than hair.
It was fun to get back in our wedding clothes, and we got some congratulations as we walked to the front of the Beach Club to meet our Disney photographer at 6am. As we piled into his van and set off for the Magic Kingdom, I sensed that he was slightly threatened by the fact that we’d used a non-Disney photographer for our wedding. He wasn’t aggressive about it the way some Disney photogs reportedly are, but I wished I’d let Patrick in on how delicate the situation was. As he yammered on and on about how great the Roots are, I was trying every facial and hand signal I could think of to get him to cool it, all of which were lost in the pre-dawn blackness. When our van pulled up to the hub in front of Cinderella Castle, I finally had a chance to whisper under my breath, “Ixnay on the ootsRay!” when our photographer got out.
First up were the stock poses in front of the castle. WAAAAY in front of the castle…
We got to throw in a few of our own, though. You should have seen the photographer’s eyes bug out when I said I wanted to re-create Luke & Leia’s pose on the Star Wars poster. He sputtered, “You’re going to lie on the ground?!” I was totally over worrying about my dress – the thing is polyester! You can throw it in the washing machine! So Patrick raised his arms above his head, clasping my bouquet as a light saber, while I lay on my side and wrapped myself around his leg.
Unfortunately the paths up to the castle and through it were blocked off, so we didn’t get to do any of the close-up castle shots I like or this neat one looking through the castle and back down Main Street, U.S.A. that I’ve seen a lot. This was pretty disappointing – it’s not like we’re ever going to do this photo shoot again. So our next stop was Main Street, U.S.A. We got one or two good ones here, but again we were hampered by the awkward poses our photographer suggested. For some reason there are a bazillion shots of the ceiling of the movie theater with a tiny me in the background stiffly holding up the building with one arm…
There are also numerous bland shots of Patrick in front of the “puppets” sign above one of the Main Street shops because, you know, he’s a puppeteer. Eh? Eh? Anyone…? About the only action in these pictures is the truck driving through the back of some of them.
Off to Frontierland! This picture was the one we knew we had to have (and I think it’s OK to post here because the lovely bride has it in her signature on the DIS). I love the way the sun is just beginning to rise and the castle is glowing behind them. About the only thing glowing in our picture is a lamp that was either added to the bridge before we got there or Photoshopped out of the picture we liked….
Thank goodness for Photoshop – Disney eventually removed our lamp digitally, though I still think you need a magnifying glass to know who we are!
Next we walked around the side of the castle to take some shots of me on a bench looming over Patrick. Grrr… We thought he was gonna crop us from waist up, or something, but instead we got a pic of me standing on a bench…???
Off we went to take shots of us blocking the Cinderella fountain…
Then we got a few shots in front of the mosaics in the blocked-off passageway through the castle (complete with workers walking through the back!). I’m not sure why you would ever pose a tall bride in the foreground with a short groom in the background….
… and we posed for some pictures with an exit sign, er, I mean a suit of armor in the lobby of Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Now I have to say that the experience of taking pictures in the Magic Kingdom before it opened was great. We were a little nervous about how they were going to turn out even then, but we mostly just tried to enjoy that special opportunity in the park. I’m just not so sure the experience alone was worth the money for us, and the resulting photos certainly weren’t. This isn’t just a difference in taste or style – these photos looked like they were taken by someone without even basic photographic training: shots of us in front of the castle were framed to include lamps, trash cans, and expanses of sky and pavement, with a tiny bridal couple and tiny castle somewhere in the middle. In many shots the camera was slightly tilted so that the castle listed to the right or left behind us; blurry and closed-eye shots that never should have been included were; there were people walking through the backs of shots; glowing exit signs were not framed out of shots; and an extremely clumsy Photoshop job had left one picture with black lines and a burnout in the middle of it. Bad show!
When we were done with the Magic Kingdom photo shoot, our photographer drove us back to our resort, regaling us with tales of doing photography for multiple weddings of this one guy who keeps getting remarried at Walt Disney World – like, seven times! He dropped us at the Beach Club, where we quickly changed and then ran back out to the Magic Kingdom in time for rope drop!
The only problem was…. I sleepwalked through the rest of the day. I’d thought that giving us a day off between the wedding and our MK shoot would be enough time to recuperate for the 6am shoot. Plus, I usually have no trouble getting up early. But I guess the whirlwind of the previous few days finally caught up with me, because I could barely keep my eyes open on my first real trip to the Magic Kingdom in 15 years. I can’t even imagine taking our MK pix the day of our wedding like some couples do!
Even though I picked the absolute SLOWEST way to get to the MK (rental car to TTC, boat from TTC to MK), we still got there well before the little pre-show celebration at the train station, which we couldn’t see because we were lined up in front of one of the tunnels. As soon as the rope dropped, we did the Disney Speed Walk all the way to Space Mountain, eager to try the “classic” version since we love Disneyland’s so much. We ran through the queue (I wish I could remember which side, because apparently they are different experiences…?) and got to be some of the first people on it.
No offense, diehards, but it was LAME! No music? Rattly, jerky cars? Instead of screaming, we could be heard saying things like, “Oh.” and “Huh?” as our car bumped along. When we got off the ride, Patrick and I looked at each other and said, “Disneyland 1, Magic Kingdom ZERO!” Completely flouting any logical touring plans, we next rode Buzz Lightyear (much better theming than our Disneyland version) and the Astro Orbiter. We’re used to the Disneyland one, which is on the ground instead of on top of the Peoplemover track, and it made us kinda queasy. On the elevator ride up we got in line with a couple also wearing bride and groom ears and asked when they’d been married. They said they’d just become engaged at the Magic Kingdom a few nights before. Awwww…!
Off to Fantasyland! What a trip – it looks so much different than Disneyland’s Fantasyland, and I couldn’t find ANYTHING! I’ve never had to use a park map so much… We’d heard rave reviews of Mickey’s PhilharMagic, but I could barely keep my eyes open. (Also, I’m not terribly interested in films and shows even on a perky day.) Patrick said he thought we may have been sitting too close, so we’ll have to try it again in September. We also rode Small World and Winnie the Pooh, which is WAY better than ours.
Off to Frontierland! We were bowled over by its lush scenery and loved the river-front path. Score another one for Magic Kingdom! (We weren’t actually keeping score by this point – trying to account for all the variables made my brain hurt.) Also, tourists that we were, we couldn’t get over all the exotic-to-us birds just hanging out all over the parks, like this guy.
We were really impressed by the queue at Big Thunder Mountain, and after we got off the ride, we went back into the queue to make a wish at the fountain. My new husband brought a tear to my eye when he said, “Gee, I don’t know what to wish for anymore…!”
At lunch time we headed for Columbia Harbor House. I am a big food snob and never eat much counter service (all of which will change when we go for the free Disney Dining Plan in a few months!) but I had heard good things about CHH. For one thing, I loved the atmosphere! We sat upstairs in the room that bridges the walking path and watched people. I’m sorry, I forgot to take a picture of our meal—you’ll have to use your… imaginaTIONNNNNNNN! It was fish strips, clam chowder, BLT salad, and one piece of paid chocolate cake and one piece of FREE chocolate cake fer gettin’ married. Burp!
After lunch we rolled around Adventureland….
One thing we were really excited about was seeing Swiss Family Tree House. Tarzan’s Tree House just isn’t as cool. Patrick would live in the Swiss Family Tree House if he could.
We loved the what they’d done with the exterior of the Tiki Room. What they’d done on the interior, not so much…
I’d done my homework, so I was prepared for the mess that is “The Tiki Room… Under New Management.” Patrick, on the other hand, was appalled. When they got to the part where Iago quips, “Who turned out the lights?” I thought Patrick was going to get up and walk out (that phrase has always been our secret shorthand for any stale, tired joke).
Next we rode Pirates, which had another wonderfully themed queue for us to blaze through – no crowds! We thought they did a way better job of incorporating the new Jack Sparrow treasure room scene than at Disneyland, where they basically stuck a box at the end of the last room by the waterfall – lame! Other than that, the ride was kinda disappointing. When we came out, we snapped a few pictures, including this accidentally great one of Captain Hook under the Pirates sign.
Back to Liberty Square! I got a little unscheduled nap in during the Hall o’ Presidents, and then we hit Haunted Mansion. It really knocked our socks off! The new show scenes that we don’t have at Disneyland were great, and I loved how the whole thing felt more immersive – the high ceilings, large rooms, super-dark sets… (mind you, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is my all-time favorite ride, so this is a big stretch to admit!)
Patrick was very excited to see Country Bears, his all-time fave ride, since Disneyland has replaced it with that cheap-o version of the Winnie the Pooh ride. I was very excited to get in another nap.
Among my other “napportunities” were Carousel of Progress and the Peoplemover (I have a feeling it is called something different these days… Tomorrowland Transit Authority? Boooooring!!).
I was sad about this because they were also rides we no longer have at Disneyland that I remember fondly. And several years ago they were only operating CoP seasonally at WDW, scaring us into thinking it would be closed for good!
So here was my chance to finally see them again and….
Oh boy, was that an unflattering shot. Let’s all clear our minds of that image by looking at this for a moment instead:
So I was very sorry to be too tired to appreciate Carousel of Progress and the Peoplemo- er, uh, the TTA. Patrick tried to get a pic for me of Progress City, a.k.a. the Epcot That Could Have Been. We like to spend hours talking about what it would have been like to live in the city Walt wanted…
I managed to keep my eyes open for the Jungle Cruise, and then we checked out the rather underwhelming ToonTown. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer and fell asleep on a bench in an alley off Main Street like a Magical Disney Hobo™. Eventually a member of the Dream Squad who was off-duty (dang!) came by to make sure I wasn’t dead and ended up talking to Patrick for half an hour. It turned out he knew our MK Shoot photographer, and he even started telling us the same story about the guy who keeps having Disney weddings with new brides.
Eventually Patrick asked if I thought we could walk around a bit before dinner, and we took some pictures around the castle.
Finally it was time for our dinner reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, which I was really looking forward to. We checked in outside, said hi to our knight buddy in the lobby, and waited a few minutes to be called upstairs. Oh, and we got a deer-in-the-headlights-style photo taken with Cinderella, plus a plastic wand and sword. I wish I coulda had a sword too….
We mentioned our honeymoon on our reservation, and we got the best table in the house, right under the window over Fantasyland.
The prime rib wasn’t as bad as I’d heard, and we got the free toasting flutes for our honeymoon.
We also got a shoutout from the Fairy Godmother for being the only newlyweds in the place that night, and a large rodent (Suzy? Perla?) insisted on having her picture taken with us.
OK, so nobody on the DIS dining boards could understand why I was trying so hard to get a reservation at CRT during the fireworks, instead of working the reservation around a castle-front viewing of Wishes. Well when the music started and we were sitting in the window looking right out at the fireworks, Patrick went nuts! (But not so nuts that he couldn’t take these pictures…) He kept saying, “Wow! What a great idea! Thank you so much for arranging this. I can’t believe how close the fireworks are!”
It really was amazing and even, dare I say it, magical!
The park was closed when we got out, so we took the monorail to the tram to the rental car to the Beach Club to the shower to the bed. Good night!