It’s a Small World After All. And a Happy One.

"It's a small world after all. And a happy one."

That's the last line of that springy little song that played on the slow boat ride through the dancing dolls of the world at Disney World.

IMG_0073 Last week, we flew down to Florida to visit family in West Palm Beach for two days and to visit Mickey for another two days in Orlando.

The family visit was great. My aunt, uncle and cousins moved down to Florida a few years ago. We spent nearly every Sunday together for years and years, so it was marvelous to be together again. Our kids played together. My uncle made Indian food, and my aunt made baked ziti. It was like old times.

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Then we drove up North to Disney World. I never planned on going to Disney World. Dancing dolls and fake France and people dressed up as Cinderella just isn't my cup of tea. But I got talked into going and really had a blast.

Thanks to all for the tips on dealing with Disney. I copied down all the advice and followed much of it. We made dinner reservations ahead of time and stayed at one of the Disney hotels. We had a general plan of action before hand. The place is so big that it helps to have some semblance of a game plan before you get there. (And planning a vacation makes us happy, too.)

We had a rough start. Orlando was unusually cold and windy. We got off to a late start, because I was having a hard time leaving my cousin, Jennifer. When we got there, somebody's coat wasn't absolutely correct
and somebody was ticked off that we took the ferry instead of
the monorail. Then the place was extremely crowded with 70 minute waits for the rides. I sent out some grumbling tweets from the line for the railroad roller coaster.

One of the reasons that Disney is fantastic is that they offer a special pass for families with kids with special needs. With this pass, we were able to jump to the head of every line. At first I didn't want to get the card, because Ian isn't in a wheel chair or anything; he was far more patient than I was on the lines. But one 70 minute wait for a roller coaster helped cure me of my Catholic guilt. The Golden Ticket improved the trip greatly.

Another reason that Disney is great is that the whole place is set up for families. You can eat a halfway decent meal with spices and vegetables at a Moroccan or New Orleans themed restaurant, and the kids can eat mini-pizzas with carrot sticks and apple slices. The Moroccan restaurant has music and a belly dancer who pulls the kids onto the floor to teach them moves. While you're checking into the hotel, the kids sit on little chairs and watch old Mickey Mouse silent films in the corner. You can rent strollers everywhere that are big enough for weary seven year olds, who aren't used to walking for ten hours straight. The food isn't completely authentic and it weird to go out to a nice restaurant in sneakers and jeans, but Disney makes it just so damn easy. 

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You have to marvel at the operations of the place. They must have a huge staff that does everything from put on stage productions, runs rides, takes tickets, creates t-shirts, builds sets, removes trash, makes food, puts on parades, and transports people about. And it all runs smoothly. The staff was incredibly efficient. You got the impression that they were very satisfied with their jobs. What if Disney ran city government?

DSC_0200The sets were amazing. One section of Epcot is devoted to world cultures. It's like the Small World ride blown up. They have clusters of buildings and streets devoted to Norway, Morocco, Italy, England, China, and Japan. It's a very sanitized, cartoony version of these cultures, but it's fun just the same. Steve was amused that Russia wasn't represented, because Epcot was built during the Cold War. India was also missing. If you live in New York City, you have access to all the food and products that they had at Epcot, so we didn't buy anything, but it was fun just browsing.

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The rides were lots of fun. The kids loved Space Mountain and a Buzz Lightyear ride. Steve and I were amused at some of the old holdovers from our childhood trips to Disney. They still have The Hall of the Presidents.

DSC_0130Both Epcot and Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom have rides and displays with a futuristic theme. But it's a 70s version of the future with lots of shiny metal and space travel. There's nothing about the Internet or energy conservation or green living. "In the future, we'll all have portable communication devices." It's wonderfully campy. 

And it's just so much fun to see your kids having fun.

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We didn't get to do everything we wanted. Jonah is disappointed that we didn't get to go on the motorway, and Ian wants to do the Buzz Lightyear ride again. So, we're already planning next year's trip.

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15 thoughts on “It’s a Small World After All. And a Happy One.

  1. “You got the impression that they were very satisfied with their jobs.”
    One of my good college friends was a “cast member” at Disneyland. She said that the staff really dislikes annual pass holders, which the Disney crew had a rude name for. The old Peoplemover was dubbed the Peoplemaker because of hanky panky.
    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/10/12/bring-back-disneylan.html
    Speaking of hanky panky, there are cameras everywhere, including in the dark rides.

  2. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip — spending time with family one hasn’t seen in a while is great, although it always seems that we never have enough time.
    Very interesting commentary about Disney & Epcot. I had the same impressions of Epcot (plus some strong criticism) when I first visited back in 1993 with my then-boyfriend’s family (future in-laws).
    I don’t know when we’ll be taking the boys there (I have mixed feelings about that), We’ve only been to Sea World & Wet’n Wild (we love water parks).

  3. There’s an anti-Disney screed by Michael Harrington (I read it in high school, so it’s very old) and it’s skewed my opinion of the disney parks & the disney workers for every.
    I think the working world at Disneyland (in Anaheim) is different from the world in Disneyworld (Orlando), ’cause one is a destination resort, while the other isn’t.
    It is fun to see you kid’s having fun, though.

  4. Maybe I have a negative view of the parks because of the age at which I visited them. I was in my early teens the year I went to Disney World and Epcot. (I have younger siblings and that’s why we went.) I know I’m going to have to go back in the next couple of years, but I’m not looking forward to it.

  5. I worked at Disney World (in the German village) and I won’t tell you how long ago that was. But basically, the entire thing is run like the military – there are rules for every little thing, from which kind of watch you can wear to which haircut you can have. There are cameras everywhere to check on the staff. When you go “onstage”, i.e. out where the tourists can see you, you have to play a role. There are signs at every employee entry point saying, “SMILE! You’re onstage now!”
    Um. I should blog about this one day.

  6. PJ O’Rourke did not like Epcot back when it first opened.
    “If you have the right attitude, these [corporate sponsored, future oriented] exhibits are swell. They’re Tilt-O-Whirls for intellectuals. They excite all kinds of thrilling mental terror about the banality of American thought, electrify you with horror at the myopia of corporate perspective, and create marvelous suspense as you consider what’s in store for our society now that we’ve lost not only our visionary capacities but even our simple avarice … The nation that produced Mormon theology, Edgar Allan Poe and the Reagan administration’s economic policy deserves more.”
    “The other half of Epcot Center is called ‘World Showcase,’ and it consists of nine national pavilions arranged around a phony lake. An objective look at the world as presented here results in these conclusions: Earth is made of cement painted to look like different parts of Los Angelese, and its salient feature is overpriced gift shops.
    “‘Mexico’s’ gift shop is housed in a vividly bogus Mayan temple. The sales floor is supposed to represent a Mexican marketplace. Seeing a Mexican marketplace portrayed as clean, quiet, safe and expensive is, somehow, as alarming as seeing a pyramid of human skulls in downtown Kansas City.
    “A clean, quiet, safe and expensive ‘Germany’ is, on the other hand, soporiferously convincing. For a moment I thought I *was* in Germany. I left as quickly as I could.”
    Every now and then it’s fun to shoot fish in a barrel.

  7. Ooh, please blog about it, Claudia.
    Yes, Epcot and Disney world are all of those things, Doug. But that’s what makes it so fun. It’s kitsch and camp on HUGE scale. Once you get past all the scoffing, it’s really fun to appreciate how silly it all is. You go into a post-jaded mode and just revel in it. It’s fun.
    It’s also amusing to piss off all the Republicans there. At dinner, the neighboring tables were eavesdropping on our conversations. When we were laughing at all the lack of attention to greenliving at Epcot, people were shooting us really dirty looks. That was fun, too.

  8. “When we were laughing at all the lack of attention to greenliving at Epcot, people were shooting us really dirty looks. That was fun, too.”
    But you can do that anywhere in Florida. I live in a pretty politically protected corner of the universe for those of my ilk. Often about me there are political identifiers (on my clothing, purse, etc.). They’re background noise. So, I was pretty surprised when people (of all political persuasions) noticed them in San Diego.

  9. Often about me there are political identifiers (on my clothing, purse, etc.).
    Now I’m wondering what type of purse you have. And what does my 15 year-old book bag identify me as?

  10. “Yes, Epcot and Disney world are all of those things”
    I probably wouldn’t scoff at all, if I were to go now. (Shall I show y’all my 2008 season pass to Legoland?) And the whole idea of Rolling Stone sending someone to Epcot is pretty plainly an exercise in fish-shooting. Mostly I find it good to recall a time when O’Rourke would also mock Republicans.

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