Category Archives: Travelogues

Alice In Wonderland

Alice may have avoided her unfortunate tumble down the rabbit hole had her mother not been such a bore. She’s reading to her in a tree from a book that doesn’t even have any pictures. Practically a textbook. No wonder Alice resoundly rejects it, and the boring, logical world that it espouses. She’s positively ripe for following a charismatic leader, or tardy hare, into a world of nonsense and nonconformity.

Alice, as it turns out, is a self-pitying, impetuous crybaby. She is such a little deviant, in fact, I wonder if 1951 audiences figured her for a commie. Now, as an adult, I can see her for the petulant spoiled brat that she is, but as I kid I was blinded by her pristine blue pinafore and her perfect blonde hair. I writhed with jealousy when my mother cast my youngest sister as Alice in our school’s entry in the Christmas parade one year. The theme was story books and our float was Wonderland-themed. My mother, god bless her overachieving soul, was determined to make a costume for each and every kid in the school who wanted to participate (not quite as terrible as it sounds: we had less than 100 students). There were caterpillars and psychedelic flowers, the white rabbit of course, and a mad hatter. And dozens of people trailed the float as either story books of a different ilk, or members of the Queen of Hearts’ playing card army. The Queen was played by the school’s tiniest, most taciturn teacher – a part she was born to play, but I don’t know how my mother proposed the idea without being threatened with her own beheading. Meanwhile, as the eldest daughter who routinely ‘took one for the team’, I walked in front of the float, just me and my childhood crush carrying our school’s banner. We were dressed as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I don’t remember which one I was, but pictures would prove clarifying as my little propeller hat identified me rather firmly. We lacked a proper costume from the neck down and were compelled to wear matching California Raisin costumes for uniformity, and perhaps just flat-out maximum humiliation. My mother must have WANTED me to hate my sister. She made it fairly impossible not to.

Anyway, if I sound bitter in this review, it’s because I am.

Drinking helps, which is fortunate, because Sean, Matt and I are in Disney World for the forseeable future, where we’ll have ample opportunity to meet Alice, should we want to. She hangs out by the teacups ride which is actually called the Mad Tea Party, and is often accompanied by a Mad Hatter at the very least. When I visited the park with my sister back in February (NOT the one who played Alice), she turned an alarming shade of green as her 4 year old son put an extra spin on our trip. But should we miss her in Magic Kingdom, she also hangs out in Epcot, in the U.K. pavilion, directly across from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in The Tea Caddy Gardens. Mary Poppins can often be seen strolling about with a parasol on her arm in the U.K. portion of the World Showcase. Other countries have their own princesses: Belle in France, Anna and Elsa in Norway, Mulan in China, Jasmine in Morocco. There are no princesses in the Canadian pavilion, just a bunch of poutine and some maple-flavoured popcorn (though I sort of think Duke Caboom should hang out there, revving his motorcycle).

The World Showcase is fun in many ways, not least of all because you can literally drink your way around it, with each country providing many samples of their finest hooch. There are margaritas in Mexico and prosecco in Italy and Oktoberfest beers in Germany. Because I’m ambitious, and mean, I intend to subject Sean to this booze tour, so I’ll take the opportunity to suggest you visit our Twitter feed at @AssholeMovies because there are 11 countries and countless opportunities to get your drink on, including an alcoholic popsicle stand, and a Frozen-themed blue lemonade spiked with moonshine. I predict Sean will need propping up by the time we hit Japan.

Anyway, please pardon my little digression. Back to the movie. I’m still rather astounded at how much they got away with, stuff that feels like pretty blatant drug references to me, counterculture stuff that seems out of place in a Disney movie, especially one with a little girl for a protagonist. I mean, she literally eats mushrooms.

The Cheshire Cat sounds awfully familiar – like Winnie The Pooh really, without much embellishment. I check IMDB and I’m right: Sterling Holloway voiced both. He was also Mr. Stork, in Dumbo, adult Flower in Bambi, Kaa the snake in Jungle Book, and Roquefort in The Aristocats. Disney’s casting certainly was incestuous. Sean and I ate at the Cheshire cafe last time we were in Disney, and we can certainly recommend the Cat Tail, and the Wonderland slushy. This time we’ll be dining WITH Winnie the Pooh (can you stand the excitement?) – and his pal Tigger too!

This movie actually takes from Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (fun fact: I once saw a Looking Glass play in Stratford starring a young Sarah Polley, then known as Canada’s sweetheart for roles in Ramona and Road to Avonlea). Alice is here voiced by Kathryn Beaumont, who also voiced Wendy in Peter Pan, and continued to do so until her retirement in 2005 (reminder: this movie came out in 1951!). You can still hear Beaumont narrating the Mad Tea Party ride to this day in Disneyland. That’s her here, providing a live action reference for Disney animators.

And somewhere in the Disney parks, I am currently the live action reference for a grown woman having far too much fun.

[In fact, I believe today we are attempting to ‘Drink Around the World’ in Epcot. Epcot’s World Showcase has 11 country pavillions and we’ll be grabbing a drink in each one. Sounds like potential disaster! Why not keep tabs on us via Twitter – @AssholeMovies, and be sure to play along on the Disney Bingo card.]

Update: Watch the Assholes accept the Drink Around the World Epcot challenge – and watch us demolish it???

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Jim Dear gives his wife Darling a hat box for Christmas, and inside she finds a beautiful golden cocker spaniel she names Lady. Better than a hat any day. This was taken from Walt Disney’s own life – having once forgotten a dinner date with his wife, he made it up to her with a puppy and was immediately forgiven. As you would be. Take note, Sean.

The story belongs to the dogs. We rarely seen the owners’ faces, and their home is mostly seen from a dog’s eye view. It is simply told and simply felt – simple, but awfully sweet.

Lady is a well cared for, sheltered dog who’s lived an indoor life having her coat brushed until it’s lustrous and shiny, her meals served on a china dish. When she meets the Tramp, he’s a street-wise mutt who’s seen some shit. They’re opposites, but after the obligatory initial turning up of the snouts, the two can’t help but sniff each other’s butts. Which in dog speak is hot hot heat. Instant dog lust.

Would I watch a reality-based dating show featuring dogs? I really might.

But I won’t have to, thanks to Disney+, a new streaming service to rival Netflix that will host movies but also lots of new episodic programming from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Aside from the movies you’d expect, there will be lots of new comic book content, including Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and shows that will get to know some of the lesser-known Avengers like WandaVision, which will star Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), plus Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and something or other about Loki (Tom Hiddleston). And Jon Favreau is overseeing an extremely big-budget Star Wars series called The Mandalorian, and you can expect a spin-off of Rogue One about Rebel Alliance freedom fighter Cassian Andor with Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprising their roles. And rather excitingly, Ewan McGregor will once again suit up as Obi-Wan Kenobi for a series that won’t begin shooting until next year.

You might also find yourself anticipating The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a reality show featuring you know who explaining different topics. Or maybe you’re more excited about the Toy Story 4 spin-off, Forky Asks a Question. Or the “short-form unscripted” (whatever that means) Muppets comedy series unimaginatively titled Muppets Now. Or the announced series remake of High Fidelity starring Zoe Kravitz.

Personally, though, I’m in it for the new movies. And just our luck, a Lady and The Tramp live-action remake is among the first, with voices by Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux (and Kiersey Clemons, Thomas Mann, Janelle Monae, and Sam Freaking Elliott) so you can fall in love with this movie all over again.

I’m talking about Lady and The Tramp today in particular because as you may have noticed, Matt, Sean and I are at Disney World and today we’re eating dinner at Tony’s, which just happens to be the restaurant where Lady and Tramp have their adorable spaghetti dinner date in the alley out back. As far as I know, we’ll get a table inside, but spaghetti IS on the menu, and if the three of us are feeling particularly romantic, we may just be nosing meat balls at each other and two-mouthing noodles to meet in the middle. Do tune in to Twitter @AssholeMovies to see the things you cannot unsee, and check out the new Lady and The Tramp on Disney+ November 12.

p.s. I hope you’re all playing along with our Disney Bingo card.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: Her Universe?

Yeah yeah, we’re in Disney World, no big deal, you’re tired of hearing it. But guys: we’re here for a LONG time. We’re seeing all the things! And we’re hanging out extra long time in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

Disney built an entire outpost in their Hollywood Studios park – that’s 14 whole acres devoted to recreating a slice of planet Batuu. The deal with building this place was that every single thing that happens inside it is official Star Wars canon. Matt, Sean and I are now officially part of the Star Wars universe. But so are a whole host of surprising things. Like Coke. There’s a lot of thirsty Earthlings visiting Batuu right now, and they like to drink familiar carbonated beverages, so Disney has had to import Coke to a galaxy far, far away, and now that’s canon too. The Coke bottles look like grenades, excuse me, thermal detonators and are labelled in an alien language (Aurebesh), as is nearly everything in Batuu. At $5.49 a bottle, they make for a fun souvenir and amongst the cheapest – as long as you don’t mind being strip-searched and detained for hours in the Orlando airport and missing your flight home. Cause yeah. They look like grenades. Even replica grenades are banned on airplanes and TSA has been very squeamish about these. They immediately called them a no-go but seem to have reversed their decisions, but whether the agents can tell the difference when your checked luggage is another matter. Are you willing to risk it? At any rate, these have proved popular enough that Disney is limited purchases to 3 per guest, to prevent hording.

Galaxy’s Edge will not only look canon, it will sound canon too. Composer John Williams composed a music theme for the park, and there are another 29 original compositions that make up the planet’s ambient music. Over in Oga’s Cantina R-3X the DJ is spinning tracks from his booth but you can check out his playlist on Spotify right now if you like – search for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Oga’s Cantina: R-3X’s Playlist #1. Here’s a little sample of what Disney is calling “A PULSATING GALACTIC-TECHNO REMIX OF A CANTINA CLASSIC.”

Disney is in the habit of being very meticulous about details, so you know even the bathrooms are themed to within an inch of their lives. In fact, they’re not even called bathrooms but ‘refreshers’ while you’re in Galaxy’s Edge. If you pee on Batuu, that’s canon too! I think I’m just going to spend like 80% of my time yelling that at people. Little girl crying over spilled ice cream: “That’s canon!” Matt reapplying sunscreen: “That’s canon!” It probably won’t get old. But if it does: “That’s canon!” The slightly weird thing is: every day at Galaxy’s Edge is the same day. It’s always repeating. So though everything is canon, it’s contained to just a single day in the universe, thus, probably not that consequential. I mean, I can’t say for sure. Introducing the likes of me might just have some monumental effects. If you hate The Rise of Skywalker, it’s probably due to some ripple effect I’ve had from walking around wearing a Millennium Falcon dress. Yeah that’s right: mama don’t mess around. I have a Little Bo Peep dress for Toy Story Land and an Alice In Wonderland dress for Magic Kingdom and an Up dress for Animal Kingdom (those of you with good memories will no doubt remember that I wore an Up dress to meet Dug and Russell when I visited them earlier this year; yes I bought a 2nd Up dress. Sue me! It was necessary!) – in fact I have a park-appropriate dress for all 9 days of our visit, just I did for all 6 days of our previous one. Yes that’s 15 Disney dresses. What, is that weird? It’s not weird. It’s canon!

Anyway, I bought my Star Wars dress from a site called Her Universe, which specializes in all things Fangirl. I have never ever used that word for myself and I never will again, but Ashley Eckstein brilliantly saw a hole in the market for geek stuff for women, and she created an online store to fulfill the need. A couple MORE cool things about Eckstein: 1. all year long, Disney has been releasing special, limited edition mouse ears designed by the likes of Coach, Heidi Klum, Betsey Johnson – and most recently, Eckstein, who put together a Princess Leia pair that I hope hope hope are still available when I get to the park, and 2. Eckstein was already canon because she voices Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars. This woman’s got Star Wars squirting out her wazoo and I didn’t even mention when she had her motherfucking wedding reception at Walt Disney World!

So yeah, Galaxy’s Edge is legit. Legitimately legit. You can visit Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities for Jedi or Sith Holocron artifacts should you want them. You can make your way to Mubo’s Droid Depot and assemble your own custom droid. You get to pilot the Millennium Falcon. You can eat fried Endorian Tip-Yip and wash it down with blue milk. A little Batuu lingo: “Bright suns” = hello; “Til the spire” = goodbye. Prices are listed in Galactic Credits, which seem to be roughly (totally) equivalent to USD, which is a shame for us Canadians and our currently underperforming dollar. And if you’ve got 200 spare Galactic Credits you might ask around for some scrap metal. What you are indeed wanting is Savi’s Workshop where you can put together your own freaking light saber, but since light sabers are contraband, let’s keep that on the down-low.

Today we’re building droids and visiting Oga’s Cantina, so hop on over to our Twitter feed (@AssholeMovies) and take a peek, see if anyone’s got a blue milk mustache or a thermal detonator in their handbag. Yeah, that’s right, I just made Twitter canon, bitches!

Don’t forget to play along with our Disney Bingo card!!



Update: Watch Sean build a light saber

Disney Bingo

Matt, Sean and I are on our way to Disney World where you can expect to see our goofy smiling faces from Toy Story Land, Pandora, Galaxy’s Edge, and more. There will be loads of Disney coverage here and on Twitter @AssholeMovies and just so you don’t miss us TOO much, you can play along with this Disney Bingo card. Once you score a Bingo, leave us a comment and you’ll be entered to win a prize pack.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Q: How many witches were hanged in Salem?

A: The official death count for the Salem Witch Trials is 20 people: 19 victims were hanged at Proctor’s Ledge, near Gallows hill, and one person was tortured to death. Four people also died in prison while awaiting trial. But ZERO of them were witches – they were just socially inconvenient women put to death for some man’s ulterior motive.

Except.

Except 300 years ago, the Sanderson sisters were hanged in Salem for practicing witchcraft, and they actually deserved it. Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) are a trio of old hags who kidnapped a little girl to suck the youth right out of her, and then turned her would-be hero older brother into a cat for daring to interrupt. And that’s just the stuff we know about. They were soon dangling from the gallows.

Alternate A: If you count the Sandersons, and we definitely do, Salem’s dead witch count is actually 3. And the townsfolk are definitely aware of their legend, even 3 centuries later. And it turns out those witches were never very far off: a group of kids including new-to-town Max (Omri Katz), his kid sister Dani (Thora Birch), and the girl he’s crushing on who’s “really into witches” Allison (Vinessa Shaw), accidentally call them back when a virgin lights a black flame candle (so don’t say I didn’t warn you). Anyway, the witches immediately want to eat Dani and it takes an immortal talking cat to offer up pro tips for defeating witches.

For some reason this movie has achieved cult Halloween status, and as one of the few films in the genre that isn’t horrifying, it makes for nice, family-friendly fare. I say this like I can’t understand the appeal when in fact as a kid, I loved it too. One year my cousin and I made our own Sanderson Sister costumes (and yeah, it’s problematic that there were only two of us, but since we both probably imagined ourselves to be the ‘sexy one’, it hardly mattered) and we were really proud to wear them, up until some well-meaning lady complimented my cousin’s teeth…who was not wearing prosthetics. It is hands-down the worst thing that ever happened to me on Halloween and I once had the candy ripped from my little hands by teenage bullies. And technically it didn’t even happen to me! But anyway, up to that point we were really smug and self-satisfied young witches with probably embarrassing handmade costumes.

Anyway, Disney World makes great use of Halloween time to break the Sanderson Sisters out of the vault. Not normally seen in the parks, they host the Villain Spectacular at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (other rarely-seen characters that also make an appearance for Halloween: Jack & Sally, Elvis Stitch, Cruella De Vil and more). We Assholes are actually headed for Disney on Saturday and November 2nd just happens to be the magical day when the parks erase Halloween and embrace Christmas, and yes, we’re going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Sandy Claws only knows who we’ll meet there.

Fun Facts about Hocus Pocus:

  1. Brother and sister Garry and Penny Marshall play husband and wife in the film. The dog held by Garry actually belongs to Kathy Najimy.
  2. The animatronic cat was used again on Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
  3. Rosie O’Donnell turned down the role of Mary. Jennifer Lopez auditioned for Sarah. Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Max and did What’s Eating Gilbert Grape instead.
  4. Doug Jones, as in Shape of Water Doug Jones, appears in this film as a zombie (see below).
  5. This movie came out in July of 1993 so that it would not compete with Disney’s other Halloween offering that year, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which got the coveted October slot.
  6. Real moths came out of Doug Jones’ mouth. Sarah Jessica Parker ate a real spider.
  7. While researching her family history for the show Who Do You Think You Are?, Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that her 10th great-grandmother, Esther Elwell, was arrested in Salem in the late 1600s for committing “sundry acts of witchcraft” and choking a neighbour to death. Esther’s case never went to court; she escaped with her life and the accusation ended the Salem Witch Trials.

Movies + Food

So you may have heard that I like to cook and I like to bake, and I often infuse one passion with another. A few years ago I replicated the Golden Globes menu for my own viewing party. One Oscars night I featured cocktails inspired by the best picture nominees. And I often decorate cakes on a movie theme. My favourite among them was probably the Up cake, where the cake itself was the house, and a mess of colourful cupcakes hovered over top like the most fluffy and delicious balloons ever. My sister only sorta kinda got the reference. But her son speaks my language. Last year he had two parties, one for his friends, which featured a Batman cake made by his bakiest aunt, and one for his family, where we ate a Mickey Mouse cake, it being his favourite character in the universe, really, and the celebrity he most looked forward to meeting when we were recently in Disney World.

As if missing a week of school for a dream vacation to Disney isn’t enough for a kid, we were there for Jack’s birthday, and I felt that this kid needed and deserved a Mickey cake like no other. Now, Disney is great at celebrating birthdays. We started the day at Chef Mickey’s, where the mouse himself brought Jack a cupcake with Mickey’s face right on it. Breakfast, mind you. And then we had dinner at the Beauty and the Beast restaurant, Be Our Guest, where the beast also offered up a birthday sweet treat. But the best was yet to come, because earlier Sean and I had snuck away to take a cake decorating class with Disney Spring’s most beloved patisserie, Amorette’s.

Sean was not much of a cook before he met me but I believe he genuinely loves being in the kitchen when I’m cooking, and he’s a pretty good sous-chef. He’s slow and self-doubting, but if my directions are good, so is his follow-through, and we love spending time together, and feeding people, and pouring our love into baked creations we’re happy to present our loved ones. When we were in Paris we took a couple of classes together, one to learn to make macarons, and another to make a 3-course meal that included potatoes that were legit more cream than potato. Anyway, all that to say that I count myself lucky that Sean was willing to lose a few hours at a theme park in order to don an apron and learn about glacage. Was there day drinking involved? Of course there was. We made a beautiful Mickey Mouse cake for our nephew and brought home some new skills and knowledge, which is an awesome kind of souvenir.

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Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Don’t worry. Were you worried? Probably you weren’t even worried, but no, we didn’t go all the way to buttfuck Orlando, Florida and NOT go to Magic Kingdom. We went. Twice. Three times, really, if you count having dinner at Cinderella’s Castle, and there’s no reason in the world you shouldn’t.

Magic Kingdom is the first among the foursome, first among its peers, first in our hearts and minds when it comes to Disney World. Walt had this amazing vision for it, so he built it to be weirdly inaccessible, meaning the nearly 53 THOUSAND people visiting it DAILY have to bottleneck through one teeny tiny, wholly inadequate entrance that can only be reached via ferry or monorail.

Once you’re in, though, you’re golden. Main Street welcomes you with its sparkling stores, its roaming barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans, the balloon vendors 20190203_111814and the cotton candy vendors, the random characters milling about (we ran into Abby Mallard from Chicken Little fame, who grabbed my hand and skipped off with me toward the castle like we were the best of friends). Mickey and Minnie are known to hang out in Time Square. The Plaza ice cream parlour sells a sundae called the Kitchen Sink and it’s a LOT of ice cream sold literally in a kitchen sink. There’s a crystal palace where Winnie the Pooh and friends are known to brunch, and a nice green space where Mary Poppins strolls about underneath her parasol. And right in front of the castle is a large roundabout where all the parades do their thing, and man oh man are there parades. If you wanted to, you could park yourself in a shady central location and just be entertained by parades all day long. There’s the Festival of Fantasy parade,  a lovely thing where all your favourite princesses meander by on themed floats and the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! parade where floats are parked for a good half hour and a high energy show is happening on each float – standard characters like Goofy, but also some fresh ones, like Zootopia‘s Judy Hopps. And then there’s Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire which happens 6 times a day right on the steps of the castle. Sir Mickey is joined by friends including Anna, Elsa, and Olaf in a musical spectacular. And those are just the ones we caught.

We rode Haunted Mansion, which the kids declared “not that scary” with some relief. Pirates of the Caribbean where we got a little wet. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which now has a component under the big top where kids can play in a little circus-themed 20190203_103939playground while you wait. We avoided the spitting camel in front of the The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. We climbed the Swiss Family Treehouse which was stupid given the enormity of my bad ankle. It hasn’t spoken to me since. Barnstormer, a roller coaster friendly enough for even our anxious kiddos. The People Mover, a couple of times, because it oddly became one of Brady’s favourite “rides” and I have no idea why but didn’t object because despite its surprisingly long line, it is a 16 minute sit that my throbbing ankle (I swear it had its own heart beat) was always grateful for. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which is a lot of good fun, even if my sister thought my steering was rubbish and took over half way through. Jungle Cruise, soon to be a Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt movie, a favourite of my brother-in-law who has a special appreciation for corny dad jokes.

And on our last day, when my ankle was a special shade of purple that communicates ENOUGH rather effectively, Sean and I did a secondary tour of the park called sit and eat (and drink). We went to Gaston’s pub and drank Lefou’s Brew. We went to the Cheshire Cat Cafe and had a cat tail pastry and a Wonderland slush, complete with candy-coated straw. That’s where I also enjoyed my favourite ride at Disney World: a clean women’s washroom with no line!

We were lucky enough to snag a reservation at the Beauty and the Beast castle restaurant, Be Our Guest. We ate in “Belle’s favourite room”, code for the paying guest’s least favourite, but it was still pretty cool, the walls crowded with majestic oil paintings featuring recognizable moments from the film, and a life-size music box feature of Belle and her Beast waltzing around. The main dining room is of course the ball room, where you could see it snowing outside despite the actual blistering Florida sun, and the last dining room is the forbidden west wing, very dark and atmospheric, with the enchanted rose under a glass dome and a portrait of the prince that morphs into the beast every 7 minutes. The menu has suitably french fare on hand (though accessible enough for all palates, gauging by my sister and her family who are very plain eaters) but the best part20190207_173826 is dessert, which proudly features the grey stuff (there’s a line in the song – “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious. Don’t believe us? Ask the dishes!”) No need, you can just ask me, and: yeah, it’s very good. It came in a white chocolate tea cup, betwixt a truffle and a macaron, on edible stained glass. The kids got a white chocolate tea cup too, but they got edible paints and set to work creating their masterpieces, which, honestly looked like trash to me, but they were proud enough to insist that photos be taken. Before we left we got to meet the Beast, though he’d been by to take a bow during our meal (which is quite presumptuous of a host, if you think about it). This restaurant may seem unassuming but for me it was also the biggest thrill ride in the park, because at the end of the meal, when presented with a bill for $400, my card was declined. Or rather, the last $17 of it was declined. I shame-facedly handed over a $20 bill and made eyes at Sean that communicated basic human emotions such as ohmygodwhatdidido and howdidispendallthatmoney and canweevengethomenow? Your heart really seizes when you hear the words visa and declined in the same sentence, so I didn’t stop to think that never in the history of declined, overtaxed credit cards, does the machine ever spit out “well, she’s good for $383 but not that last $17.” That’s not how credit cards work. Luckily, between Sean and my sister, whose hearts were working normally, and the waitress, who was very bad at her job, it was determined that she hadn’t put through my card at all, and the $383 was from another table, and the whole thing was a huge misunderstanding which only shaved about 90 days off my lifespan, probably. Anyway, don’t you worry about that waitress; her 18% tip was worked into the bill already, no hard feelings allowed.

Anyway. We had a super fun time at Magic Kingdom. We had a super fun week at Disney. We spent 6 days between 4 parks and did not see everything. Not even close.

…think we should go back?

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Disney’s Epcot

Epcot is probably the weirdest of the Disney parks. It’s home to the World Showcase – basically, 11 countries have pavilions dotted around a large lake. You can pick a pearl in Japan, drink tequila in Mexico (and seem some wonderful Coco-inspired folk art), ride Frozen Ever After in Norway, and eat poutine in Canada. Belle is seen in France, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China.

It also houses Future World, which will test your mettle with rides like Test Track (build a car for the future, and the whip around the track in it!), Soarin’ (actually feel like you’re flying – not for those with a fear of heights), and Mission: Space, which is a NASA shuttle simulator, and which once made me want to die.

But most of our time was spent in the other end of the park, home to Nemo and friends. The Seas with Nemo & Friends gives you a fun, musical recap of the movie and spits you 1615840530-100272980-20190206T153128-689587655-DSC_mediumout in real-life aquarium. Kids who have been kept within strict arm’s reach all week have a bit of room to run and explore as tunnels lead you through the waters of Disney’s many impressive tanks, filled with clown fish like Marlin and Nemo, and blue tangs like Dory, and an awful lot more. Brady loved to spot the turtles, and Jack was more entertained by the human diver who appeared to be doing some caulking. Their dad was happy to see some manatees while the rest of us played spot the shark and count the rays. There’s also Turtle Talk with Crush, which is a fun, interactive show, wherein the cool surfer dude talks directly to the kids in the audience. We had so much fun with the fish, we decided to go for lunch at the Coral Reef. That sounds a bit cruel, doesn’t it? Especially since Sean DID order the mahi mahi. Okay, and I had lobster mac and cheese. The restaurant features an entire glass wall that gives live views of a living coral reef. Each table gets a card (that looks suspiciously like a menu) so you can spot and identify the fish withing. I especially loved the unicorn fish, which are totally a thing!

Anyway, Epcot was fun and all, but we called it a day a bit early because Sean and I were taking the two boys to the Art of Animation hotel for a night, to give their parents a break and to have some extra special fun. The Art of Animation is a Disney hotel on the property that has themed rooms – The Little Mermaid for couples or small families, and suites in the style of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, or Cars. And the boys being Cars super fans, we of course chose that one. The room is extremely well-appointed; the couch looks like the backseat of a car, and it folds out into a bed (odd how much this impressed the kids); a table likewise hides a Murphy bed, and that was also so much fun they decided to sleep in BOTH – and did actually switch beds during the night. There’s a coffee table that looks like a map of Radiator Springs, and a chair made of tire rubber, with treads, and the lamps look like traffic cones, and the kitchenette looks like those heavy duty tool chests you’d normally see in a garage. But the real fun is outside: the property is dotted with friends: Mater, Doc, Sally, Luigi and Guido, Ramone, and of course Lightning McQueen. The pool is styled after the Cozy Cone Motel, and a giant orange pilon was our cabana. But further down, the Finding Nemo pool is even bigger, with a splash pad, and all the fish friends you’d expect to see. And even further are Timon & Pumba, Scar, Simba, and Rafiki, and an elephant graveyard to play in, and lastly, a whole bunch of Ariel’s collection, thingamabobs and dinglehoppers galore, plus Ursula, King Triton, and the Little Mermaid herself, all surrounding yet another pool. We swam, of course, in two of the pools and one of the splash pads. We even watched a bit of Up from the pool, which the boys thought was the bee’s knees.

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Oh and Sean and I went to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You know that big ole castle that’s the iconic backdrop to the Magic Kingdom itself? Yeah, we ate there, no big deal. And we met Cinderella! And her friends: Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, and Jasmine, who asked me if Sean was my “diamond in the rough.” I must have looked skeptical because she then offered “…in the scruff?” and she nailed it because Sean never fails to ‘forget’ his razor when we travel. Not only did we feast on The Clock Strikes Midnight chocolate mousse, and a white chocolate glass slipper, and some Francis Ford Coppola merlot, we had a window seat for Disney’s famous fireworks show. #Spoiled.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is a Disney park you used to be able to knock out in half a day. If you are a thrill seeker, you might have done the Aerosmith Rock’n’Roller Coaster (soon to be rebranded as something, anything more relevant), and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the one guaranteed to feed your nightmares about elevators for months. I am not that person.

If you’re a movie buff, Hollywood Studios is Disney’s attempt to compete with Universal’s backlot. Its main street, Sunset Boulevard, is meant to look like a movie set in Hollywood, California. And if it wasn’t for the throngs of tourists and the dozens of balloon vendors, and that pesky elevator that drops you to your death, it would. Fittingly, it has the Muppets (in 3D!) and Indiana Jones (live in person, and fleeing that damn boulder). Other than that, it was a bit of a dud. But no more!

Incredibles (3)About six months ago, they opened a brand new “wing” of Hollywood Studios, called Toy Story Land, and you’re not going to guess what’s there! Okay, you totally guessed, didn’t you? It’s part of the Pixar rebrand. Already there: Pixar Place, where you can dance with the Incredibles in Municiberg, and meet Edna Mode at her gallery, and see Sully and Mike Wazowski on the scare floor. If your little ones are more into Frozen, Elsa and Anna are there to lead a sing-a-long celebration, and Olaf is greeting guests at Echo Lake.

But Toy Story Land is where it’s at for Pixar fans. A giant Woody greets guests as they pass his threshold – literally. Many of the figures speak – Woody, Jessie, Rex, Slinky Dog, and Buzz even goes into Spanish mode occasionally. There are three Toy Story rides in this part of the park, but the whole thing is themed out the wazoo to make it feel like you’ve entered Andy’s backyard. Therefore, the toys are huge, and we humans are tiny. Benches are made out of popsicle sticks. Lightbulbs are hung from pencils. Tinker toys hold bits and bobs together. It’s a riot of primary colours, with Easter eggs galore. I never once tired of being there, crowded as it was, because there’s just so much to do and see. Souvenirs are sold out of a Fisher-Price camper van. Mr. Potato Head entertains youngins who are (im)patiently waiting in line. Green army men go marching by, practicing drills, and occasionally forming a drum line.

Toy Story Mania! was actually there last time, and it was an immediate favourite. You sit in a cart which shoots you around to different screened arcade games. You point and shoot shoot shoot. I am not bad at shooting but terrible at aiming so I am no good at these games but they are still terribly fun and exciting. Sitting beside Sean, I had less than a tenth of his score. Beside Brady, my 7 year old nephew, well, let’s just say I pulled back just enough to make sure that he won. He’s still boasting. Yes I’m proud. The ride’s lineup spits you out in Andy’s bedroom, with his door towering over you, a nearby dresser quite imposing, and even the socket of a plug is impressively large. The imagineers (what Disney calls their ride creators) have done it again: every detail immerses you in something that’s just a little more than a ride.

Alien Swirling Saucers was Jack’s favourite. He was days shy of 5 at Disney World, and he talked this ride up BIG time. Toy Story’s little three-eyed green aliens become chauffeurs in this one; their cart tenuously joined to ours as it whips us around at high speed while The Claw dangles threateningly between us all. Jack squealed in delight as his tiny body smashed around between the hard wall of the ride and the soft wall of his aunt.

Slinky Dog Dash is a roller coaster that talks to you as you ride. It’s a custom thing, meant to look like Andy might have built it himself in his backyard, though with higher safety standards of course. The little guys weren’t keen on riding this one so we let their dad and Sean ride it while we did another round of Mania! and Swirling Saucers (!). Sean is pretty sure we missed out, with theming even more impressive than the Everest roller coaster at Animal Kingdom where the mountain does look like its namesake, and a giant Yeti takes determined swipes at you. In this case, Jessie, Rex, and even Wheezy get in on the action, and some of it is as much fun for those watching on the ground as for those flying by withing the coils of Slink.

Sean and I managed to grab a quick lunch at Woody’s Lunch Box and hustled over to meet the rest of our crew to see the Beauty and the Beast spectacle. The little boys are way too young to know who in the heck Belle and the Beast are, but we were going to eat dinner at the Beast’s castle later in the week, and this was a great way to prepare them for it. It’s a condensed musical, with just the highlights of the story woven in (Belle’s father Maurice gets written out), and the boys sat stock still, enjoying every minute. Afterward, Jack worried that perhaps the Beast would not take kindly on dinner guests. “What if he scares us away?” he asked. “I think he’s a lot nicer now that he’s a married man,” I told him, but having not seen the sequels, I can’t guarantee this is true.

Hollywood Studios is vastly improved by the addition of Toy Story Land, but wait, there’s more. Coming March 31, 2019, is Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. The boys love love LOVE Cars. It’s their movie(s). So it’s tragic that we missed this new attraction by a matter of 6 piddly weeks. Disney Land, in California, does a better job of paying tribute to this popular movie, but there are no other traces of it in Florida, alas.

Also coming later this year: Star Wars. Goddammit. We really didn’t time this well, did we? Opening this fall: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Like Pandora in Animal Kingdom, it’s going to be a whole themed land, modeled on the planet Batuu. We could see some of the construction and it looks vast and really cool. You’ll be able to visit the Black Spire Outpost, pilot the Millennium Falcon, and get thrown into a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Unlike Cars, though, Disney seems to know that people simply cannot wait, and so there’s just enough to entertain you while leaving you wanting more. Nearly every half hour, there’s a show in the center of the park, either March of the First Order, or a Galactic Spectacular. There’s a Jedi training academy for little kids to wield their light sabers, and a ride called Star Tours: The Adventure Continues that’s a pretty intense jaunt with C3-PO through space, at hyper speed, of course. And then there are characters at the Launch Bay – we saw Chewie, BB-8, and potentially got drafted into the First Order by Kylo Ren, who was quite standoffish in the photos, as you’ll see.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I suppose it’s only fair to say we’ve had an absolute fantastic time in Florida. Except of course for the searing pain in my bad ankle, which was completely done being an ankle within approximately the first 10 minutes of the trip, and then screamed in bloody agony when I refused to sit the rest of the trip out. Eventually it was too swollen for shoes and so painful I couldn’t spell my own name and so stiff it lost the ability to ankle. On that day I waved the white flag – I still went to the park, but enjoyed the sit and drink part rather than the stand in line for hours on an ankle that looks less like a human lady ankle and more like a pregnant elephant’s cankle by the minute. And don’t think the hot Florida sun helped. It did not. It was blistering hot for parts of the trip, and we managed to complain not one single iota since reports from back home included ice rain, cancelled school buses, and a word being tossed around with alarming frequency this winter: snowmaggedon.

Anyway, Disney was fantastic, as you’d expect it to be. Thank you to everyone who read along with our adventures. I spent a lot of time in lines reading your posts, often out loud, which helped to pass the time quite nicely. Disney has changed a lot in the 6 years since I last visited, but the lines are still enormous. It’s possible that the tail of the line from 6 years ago was just getting toward the front this time.

‘Disney World’, as opposed to Disney Land, which is in California, is comprised of 4 parks in 2019: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. There were Animal Kingdom (4).jpgtwo notable additions since our last visit. Animal Kingdom has built a Pandora, from the movie Avatar. And even though I quite despise the movie, the park was breath taking. It’s not about the rides, which are excellent, or the food, which is deliciously on theme. It’s the attention to small but measurable detail throughout – every plant, every rock. It looks like the beautiful land of the Na’vi, but tainted by the human touch, but being slowly reclaimed by nature. You could spend several hours just drinking in the visuals, and drinking the Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu (limeade with apple and pear flavors topped with passion fruit boba balls). The rides include the Na’vi River Journey, which is a dark little boat ride featuring glowing, luminescent plant and animal life from Pandora, and Flight of Passage, which is the real doozie. It can have up to a four hour wait. You read that right: four hours! That’s even longer that the dang movie, which clocks in at nearly 3. Luckily, we got the elusive fast pass. Unluckily, it was for the evening of our last day – well past my ankle’s expiry date, as you can imagine. I would have gladly skipped the ride and spent the day by the pool, but Sean was anxious to ride it and had contemplated the 3+ hour wait just to ride it 3 days earlier. So we went. And even with a fast pass, expect to spend nearly 30 minutes before you get on the ride. It’s quite a trek up, up, up – and you’ll see why once you get in there. Then you watch videos from the scientists in the Avatar program, who first have to decontaminate you, and then find your DNA match so you can be matched with your Animal Kingdom (1)own Avatar (it sounds good, but it’s just a bit of busy work). Then you get shuttled into an ante-anteroom where there still more videos to watch. I’m positive that Jake Sully received less training than we do. Then, as you finally gain access to the ride, they warn you: the “banshee” you’re about to ride will dangle in mid-air as the floor drops away once you’re on, and the intense VR experience means that anyone with a fear of falling, or of great heights, or of dying due to either one, should not ride this ride. It would be kinder of them to warn you before your 4 hour wait, but alas, some of us found the description just a little too daunting and made a beeline for the exit, bypassing the ride completely. Luckily, there is a chicken bench meant for chicken shits outside the ride. I was not alone on that bench (okay, fine, it was me and two little girls). Sean, however, chose to ride, and though it rattled him, he declared it the best ride at Disney, period.

Animal Kingdom is also home to my favourite “ride,” the safari. A huge open-air jeep takes you bumpily along the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, a 110-acre savanna dedicated to the protection of African animals, and home to 34 species of animals, including wildebeest, rhinos, elephants, lions, okapis, giraffes, and zebras.

And it’s also the home base of my all-time favourite movie, Up! You can meet Dug and Russell, you can see their show, UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show. And if that’s not Upenough for you, they’ve got a Wilderness Explorers interactive thing for kids. I’d heard about it prior to going and brushed it off, assuming it was mostly for Florida residents who were maybe getting a bit bored and looking for something extra at the park. I was surprised to find my two nephews, Jack, now aged 5, and Brady, age 7, so into it. You may remember from the movie Up that Russell is a Wilderness Explorer, aiming to get his “helping the elderly” badge. Kids at Animal Kingdom can traverse the park with a little guidebook and earn their own badges. There are dozens of Wilderness troupe leaders identifiable by their authentic uniforms just waiting to be approached. You do a little quest, learn a little something, and receive a sticker to paste in your booklet. The boys learned about Africa, and birds of course, and a surprising bit more. I thought they’d be too shy, and too busy with the flashier attractions, but they loved doing this.

When we visited, Animal Kingdom was celebrating the 25th anniversary (!) of The Lion King. Animal Kingdom is always home to the Tree of Life, an enormous, impressive, Animal Kingdom (3)picturesque 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide sculpted tree featuring 300 meticulously detailed animal carvings throughout its massive trunk, all celebrating the place we all share in the Circle of Life (cue Elton John). Animal Kingdom has a wonderful Lion King show, you can meet Rafiki on Discovery Island and visit his Planet Watch to learn about animal conservation. And right now, there are special photo-ops around the park to celebrate this special anniversary on top of all the usual stuff, so if you love Lion King (and who doesn’t, you heartless bastards?), it’s a great time to go. Oh heck, it’s always a great time to go.

Pandora:

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Animal Kingdom:

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