It was nice to get back to the Happiest Place in the World (?) during the final weeks of the 25th Anniversary celebration. For once I was able to see the cake castle without the crane parked behind it! And, for all those who hated the bright Pepto-pink monster, rest at ease since it will be returning to "normal" soon.
This was the first "vacation" I've taken to Disney World since 1995. Usually I'm there just in the evenings while working in town, and maybe getting to spend a Saturday. I got to do quite a bit this trip that I had never done before. Upon arrival Friday morning I got to do the "rope drop" as the park opened. It wasn't at the end of Main Street like I always see on TV (such as when Rosanne or other shows visit the parks), but rather at the entrance of each section. I headed into Tomorrowland to hit Alien Encounter, hoping to avoid massive lines later on (which never appeared). Tomorrowland has a few minor changes, such as a new soda place with a large open area featuring a Jetsons-ish space ship above it that spouts mist. It seems each park has a new cool off area such as this, so perhaps they are testing the idea. At least it was very well themed, unlike similar areas at Six Flags and other parks. Also, it looks like Take Flight, which was formerlly Delta Dream Flight (I guess up until they lost Delta as a sponsor?) was boarded up and being reworked, possibly to become the new Buzz Lightyear (Space Ranger) attraction I was told about by a cast member this past summer. I can't wait for that one - Buzz rules! :)
In Fantasyland several shops had been remodelled, including a Mickey and the Beanstalk themed place with massive vines growing out of it! Very nicely done. Nearby, Mickey's Toontown Fair was completely open and the crowds were massive to meet the characters in the big top. Just for fun, I checked out the former 20000 Leagues Under the Sea area which has been repainted and is now another character meet and greet area. Ariel's Grotto also had quite a long line, but once there you had a great view under a waterfall of the old lagoon. The neatest thing I did this trip was getting to have a character breakfast in Cinderella Castle. For about $15, an all-you-can eat meal was had featuring eggs, sausage, bacon, cheesy potatoes, fruit, juice, coffee, french toast, and other yummy items. Roaming around were: Peter Pan (complete with his crayon), Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the Fairy Godmother, Alice, Snow White, Belle, and others. It was a fantastic experience, and we just walked up and entered with no reservations that morning! Special hellos to Jana and Christa, and Chris who was our server. Don't miss this if you get a chance. The castle itself is very intereasting on the inside, as you dine on the second floor ("41 steps up" or use the circular wooded elevator) and look out into the back of Fantasyland. The restrooms here are also quite fancy, featuring "golden" plumbing (photos on my ftp site).
Roaming around Liberty Square was Ben Franklin, commenting on the weather and asking folks if they read his almanac. The Haunted Mansion has some new goodies as well! A ghost hearse similar to the one at Disneyland is now out in front surrounded by a gate. Their hears is black, and a concrete path leads from the center gates up to the hearse, complete with horse footprints and wheel tracks in it. Also, up on the hill to the right side of the mansion is a fenced in pet cemetery with statues similar to the ones (or maybe exactly the same as) the ones at Disneyland. Inside, the attic scene has some updates. The popping ghosts now wear top hats and tuxedos (but still scream instead of shouting "I DO!") and a new "floating" bride hovers where she used to just stand a wobble. Very nicely done! Unfortunately, the laserdisc singing busts soundtrack STILL does not sync with the music track in the graveyard, so I assume they may never fix this. Also, the raven over the arches right before the hitchhiking ghosts was missing.
Here's an interesting Haunted Mansion page which has some fun "history" of the spirits inhabiting it.
In Adventureland the Swiss Family Treehouse was fenced up with scaffolds and a crane around it while it's being restored. Also, the Tiki Room is closed while it's updated to feature the birds from Aladdin and Lion King, along with some/most of the old cast. This should be fun! (And don't even think of complaining --- for ages, folks seem to get up and just walk out of this attraction during the show, so this update might help bring back the crowds).
Frontierland seemed about the same, but a plague of seagulls and other birds was really annoying. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw one dive down and swipe a pastry that was just purchased out of someone's hands! The "Please Do Not Feed the Birds" sign (with several birds sitting around it) also made me laugh.
Tomorrowland Rollerblade Crew - John, Mike, and Oscar from May 97. If you know if any of the guys are still working for WDW, let me know.