A few things have changed at the Kingdom since my last visit in October '98. First, the new Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland is open. While I miss Mr. Toad (my favorite Fantasyland ride), Pooh finally gives Walt Disney World a modern dark ride. There are many uses of fiber optics and other effects simulating rain/water droplets, and the ride vehicle wobbles to simulate floating as well as "bounces" to simulate riding along with Tigger. Very well done! The story line follows Pooh as he dreams of getting his honey, and takes riders through a dream sequence with alot of bright colors -- the closest thing to Alice in Wonderland you'll find in Florida.
Over at the Haunted Mansion, the horse hearse out front was missing. Rehab?
Sadly, the Skyway closed during my visit and was not running the first weekend I was there. Bad timing, since this was my first trip with my new digital camcorder and I had hoped to take some nice shots from the cable cars.
An old-time favorite, The Main Street Electrical Parade, was back. Using floats from the Disneyland parade (which, if you recall, ended a few years ago and the bulbs were all sold off), the only changes that stood out was the lack of a sponsor on the main train. Even during off peak season, crowds lines up a few hours ahead of schedule to see this parade. Gotta love it! A MSELP soundtrack CD was also available, which seemed to be the same track from the Fantasmic CD available at Disneyland.
The Exposition Hall was open (formerly the location of the Walt Disney Story). The main area was a camera shop with various exhibits and "put yourself in the cartoon" photo booths, and the former theater now takes the place of the Main Street Cinema running various classic Disney cartoons such as Steamboat Willy. There were standouts to take photos in from various Disney features, as well.
The new fireworks show features music from Pirates and the Haunted Mansion. The Mansion track seemed to be from Disneyland Paris' Phantom Manor. During that sequence, ghosts are projected onto the castle and fly around -- very nice. It was shocking to notice (and video tape) during one fireworks performance that many pieces of flaming fireworks were falling onto the crowd in Fantasyland. Ouch. Bad winds.
Disney's FastPass was installed and working at Space Mountain, and booths were being set up around Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, and the Jungle Cruise. The system worked great allowing one to step up, put in their admission ticket and receive a coupon with a time printed on it -- usually about an hour from the time you do this. You are given an hour window to come back and walk onto the ride. In the case of Space Mountain, the larger right hand walkway was now for FastPass, while the stand-by line was the thinner (former cast member) line to the left. The inside queue area is not used other than one row, and a cast member takes FastPass coupons right at the left/right split. It worked great, giving one a chance to grab a reservation then go see a few other Tomorrowland attractions.
A note about FastPass: They only have so many to give out, so on a busy day you may find them no longer issuing passes in the late afternoon. This may become an issue during the summer months and causes tempers to flair. Regardless, the worst thing that happens is you have to wait in a line, just like always. Several ways to "cheat" the system have already been pointed out (and possibly exploited) but I am certain Disney will crack down on this during the summer months.
The Magic Shop on main street is now back as an expanded candy shop with all kinds of devices carrying baskets of candy around the ceiling, such as the baskets at Star Tours. Very nicely themed.
The McDonald's fry cart outside of Frontierland seems to be falling apart at the wagon wheels have been broken. Pity.
That's all for now --- more later! Be sure to check the new pictures!