The Magic Kingdom was as fun as always, with the extra benefits being the newly re-opened Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the temporary addition of Tiana's Steamboat Jubilee! show on the Rivers of America, seeing small parts of this year's Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and of course, being there for when the new version of Space Mountain was re-opened for the briefest of times.
As far as the crowds, the park really wasn't busy for the two times that we were there. Granted, those were both nights of the Christmas Party and the park was packed starting around 6 pm, but during the day it wasn't too bad. The line for Splash Mountain was extremely short, while the Fantasyland rides were still seeing a lot of attention.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had a long line at times.
But as busy as it was in some spots, Disney still roped off areas so they could film a new TV commercial for Verizon. We saw them filming the next day in Epcot, and one of the cast members said that this commercial involved over a dozen different locations from throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks. It'll be interesting to see the final version of the TV commercial when it aires.
"it's a small world" was Stroller Central. The normal stroller parking lot by the old Fantasyland Skyway station was being kept clear for an unknown reason.
Cinderella Castle was once again covered with thousands of lights to create the "ice castle" effect at night. The beauty with the Christmas version of the castle is that it still looks normal during the day. You have to stand close to it to see the strands of lights hanging from the turrets and windows. I like the ice castle at night, but seeing the castle look "normal" during the day is an extra bonus.
At around 6:30 pm on the nights of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Cinderella Castle was transformed from its normal night mode into the ice castle by the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella.
The start of the season for this year's running of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Take note that the normal versions of Wishes and SpectroMagic do not take place during the nights of the Christmas party. Instead, a different parade and fireworks show are used for the party guests.
The Magic Kingdom had most of its Christmas decorations in place except for the Christmas tree. The tree normally goes in the middle of town square right behind the Main Street train station, but as of last Friday it was still missing.
In the back of Fantasyland was the Christmas themed meet-and-greet area for Donald Duck. This spot looks pretty cool at night as the lights appear to dance to music, and as an added bonus, Uncle Scrooge was also seen in this spot. Now that's a classic character who needs more face time in the theme parks.
Tiana's Showboat Jubilee!
One of the newest (temporary) additions to the Magic Kingdom is the new Tiana's Showboat Jubilee! show that takes place on the Riverboat. This show is straight out of the newest Disney animated film to hit the theaters (The Princess and the Frog), and it features several musical numbers. The show takes place a few times each day, and each time the boat is closed to the normal park guests.
Personally, I like how this show uses an existing attraction as a stage. In a way, this is a nod to Disneyland and how that park uses its Riverboat as part of the original version of Fantasmic!, while the Florida version of the show uses an outdoor theater and much smaller riverboat for the finale. Tiana's Showboat Jubilee! is a great use for the Riverboat despite the fact that the theming in Liberty Square and Frontierland isn't quite the same as the swamps as New Orleans. It's close enough to work for the show. The height of the boat allows people on the opposite side of the pathway to easily see the show, and as a result, generates that much more interest. I don't know if the movie will be any good, but this show in the Magic Kingdom is pretty good.
Like Main Street and ToonTown Fair, part of Tomorrowland was also in the Christmas spirit. Nothing happened on the new Tomorrowland stage during the day, but a special show supposedly takes place at night during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
The new version of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) is certainly a blast to the past. The voice itself sounds like something similar we used to hear a long time ago on the ride, and the narrator even refers to the ride as the "peoplemover" several times. Is Disney looking to its past as inspiration towards future versions of attractions? The only issues with the new version of TTA are that A) at several points the volume of the voice is way too low and hard to hear, and B) there's almost nothing to see in the new version of Space Mountain. The inside of the mountain is very dark. Perhaps more special effects are still going to be added in the near future.
And last, but certainly not least, we have Space Mountain. For the first day and most of the second day in the Magic Kingdom, Space Mountain was still closed for its lengthy refurbishment. The cast members standing outside would not give any indication as to whether or not the mountain would open earlier than its November 22, 2009 grand re-opening date. We were told that there would be no soft opening period. We knew most of this information before the trip, so it wasn't a big deal that the ride still wasn't open. As long as it opened before our annual passes expired at the end of December, then everything would be fine.
The exterior of the ride itself looked like everything was ready to go. The old Tomorrowland Skyway station had been demolished, but the restrooms were still there and open again. A new spot with trees and benches now sits where the old waterfall and Skyway station used to sit. The new version of the Space Mountain sign is now green, and the exterior of the entrance also has a new green trim and color pattern. It looks like Disney is looking at an alien green color pattern for the mountain. To me, the green almost hints at something sinister inside of the building, much like the old attraction sign for Alien Encounter.
So I'm sure you could imagine the surprise I had when I was taking pictures over by Carousel of Progress, and a manager walked up to me and said, "They just opened Space Mountain." For about an hour on the afternoon of Friday, November 13, 2009, Space Mountain was once again accepting riders.
The actual line queue is a combination of new elements and a bunch of the old scenes. The entry way has a new sign welcoming us to Space Port Seven-Five (a reference to 1975 when Space Mountain first opened) with the logo for Space Mountain. The same music from before was also being played. The main part of the line queue is now a lot brighter than before, but unlike some rumors, there is not a partition blocking the view of the FastPass people from those waiting in the stand-by line. It's the same rail system as before. The big difference this time is that there are a bunch of new monitors, and the part of the line queue after crossing under the train tracks now has an interactive game. There were controls mounted on the railing, but it looked like the game itself wasn't quite operational yet. A bunch of professional Disney workers (most of them looked like managers or technicians) were standing in the FastPass line and chatting with the people, getting their opinions of the new additions.
As it was reported on other websites, the new version of the final part of the line queue and loading station is completely enclosed. It has a blue neon look to it, and overhead are pieces of scenery that look like windows to outer space. Air gates have been added to the loading platform. I'm surprised that it took this long to have them since the air gates were finally added to Thunder Mountain a few years ago. The biggest plus for the new version of the line queue is that it looks like there's more of a barrier between the two loading stations after exiting the tunnel, hopefully allowing for the entire stand-by line queue to be filled and to keep that many fewer people from having to stand in the slow moving tunnel or out under the hot Florida sun.
The actual ride is very similar to the previous version of Space Mountain. The trains appeared to have a slightly altered look to them, but unfortunately, there was no soundtrack added to the ride as many people were hoping. The final rumors said that there would be no soundtrack, and this experience confirmed it. The biggest difference between the old and new versions of the ride (apart from the technical stuff in the background) is the blue tunnel with flashing lights at the beginning of the ride. New lights and effects have been added to the end of the tunnel, and new sounds are played. The end of the tunnel with the sharp curve has a bright flash (on-ride photo?), and then we make the turn and go up the lift hill. The ride through the mountain is significantly darker and better because of the now enclosed loading station area, but I didn't notice a whole lot, if any, of new special effects. The re-entry through the atmosphere part was the same as before, and the what others call "boring" stretch of track to the unloading station is also the same as the old version.
The ride's unloading station has a new look and feel thanks to the new theming throughout the ride. It looks and feels fresh and futuristic. As far as the exit ramp, the new version is just plain awesome! The same general scenes are still there, but of course the theming has been changed. It's hard to describe the new scenes, but I was shooting video of them. I will say that I immediately thought of Horizons as were we presented visions of under the sea, in a city (complete with a robot waiter), and out in space. Perhaps Disney has got the message that enough of us loved the old versions of the rides from the 1980s and early 1990s. The new version of TTA has a similar retro feeling to it, complete with the narrator referring to the ride as the "peoplemover" a couple of times.
Perhaps we can look forward to more subtle references to the past in the future. Or as they say in the preshow for Dinosaur, "The future is truly in the past."
That's it for this trip report!
Thanks for reading it!
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