We planned a trip to Walt Disney World with some friends back in 2007. In total it was 8 adults and 10 kids (with me and Krista in the “adult” category). I shared the list below in an e-mail to the group before that trip, but at least once a year since then I have occasion to share it with someone else. I’m posting it here to save the annual excavation of my e-mail archives to try to find it next time.
- Illuminations: Reflections of Earth @ EPCOT.
This is one of the most amazing works of art that I have ever seen. It tells the story of the creation of the earth and the history of human civilization using music, fireworks, a flaming gas barge, and a globe with the continents made from some kind of video screens. Every time I see it I’m taken aback by the beauty of it. Like all works of art, it works for some people and not others, so you might see it and think, “ho hum.” As for me, I’m trying to figure out how to sneak off to EPCOT every night we’re there to see it.
- MGM at night.
I love the architecture of Disney/MGM Studios and I love the film score music that’s playing everywhere. I especially love the combination of architecture and night lighting, so one of my favorite things to do is just hang around after dark and look and listen.
- Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream @ MGM.
This is a little museum and short film tucked back behind The Great Movie Ride. I have watched the film once each of my last few trips and always come away inspired. It is a documentary-style assembly of film, images, and sound clips about Walt Disney’s career, most of which are recordings of Walt himself. One of the things he talks about is the idea that was “plaguing his brain” that there ought to be some kind of place where parents and kids could have fun together. That brain-plaguing idea was the genesis of Disneyland and ultimately Walt Disney World. The thing that inspires me about that is how an idea that this one guy couldn’t stop thinking about turned into something that touches the lives of thousands of people every day with beauty and fun. I’d like to have an idea like that and have the dedication to make it happen. Another thing he says is something like, “it’s important to have a good, hard crash [failure] when you’re young.” I try to remember that to remind myself about the benefits, and ultimate inevitability, of failing and how it is the seed of growth and improvement. Walt’s willingness to risk everything to accomplish his goal, even with the likelihood of failure, inspires me as well. Younger kids might be bored, but I’ll make sure I see this at least once on this trip.
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
I doubt any of you (or I) will have time for this, but on many of our trips, I’ve set aside half a day to take a book and go sit in one of the 2nd or 3rd floor atrium reading areas in the Wilderness Lodge hotel lobby. Something about all the logs and the music (Aaron Copeland and others) makes me feel content, at home, and happy. I probably won’t make it over there this time (I don’t think I made it last time either), but it’s still one of my favorite things to do.
- Spaceship Earth @ EPCOT.
Like Illuminations, this attraction is a tour of human history. In the case of Spaceship Earth, it is the history of communication. It’s fascinating the way technology has evolved to meet our intrinsic need to not be alone in the world. The narrator toward the end poses a great question about whether all the technologically-facilitated communication to which we now have access will be nothing more than a “flood of electronic babel,” or if it might become something more than that. One of the amazing things this ride reminds me of is how we, as a race, continue to abate our isolation by trying to communicate and persist in that attempt because even the difficulty of trying to do it is better than being alone. There’s also the added fun of wagering where, in the ride, you might get stopped on any particular experience of it. Seems like I usually get stopped where the monks are copying the bible by hand.
- TomorrowLand Transit Authority @ Magic Kingdom.
This is a great chill-out ride during the day, but like MGM, TomorrowLand is even better at night because of the lighting design. A tour on the TTA after dark gives you a great view of TomorrowLand and other parts of the Magic Kingdom too. There are lots of great quotes on the “PA” system as well (“…your party from Saturn has arrived. Please give them a ring.” makes me laugh every time.).
- Carousel of Progress @ Magic Kingdom. You’ll probably see this and, as Krista described, think, “That’s cheesy.” Then, later when you’re standing in line for one of those ice cream bars, that little song will start rolling around in the back of your mind and you’ll start to wonder if it might be true … “there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day…” and it might be.
- Soarin’ Over California @ EPCOT. We’ll have to figure out some kind of FastPASS schedule for riding this, but it is definitely worth the trouble. It is an EyeMax-type screen with a three-story seating arrangement that simulates riding in a hang-glider over some of the most beautiful parts of California, complete with smells.
- The Lion King Show @ Animal Kingdom. Songs and pieces of the Lion King story. It’s a good show. Something about “Do You Feel the Love Tonight” affects me differently in this show than in the movie. I like it.
- Finding Nemo – The Musical @ Animal Kingdom / the Finding Nemo Ride @ EPCOT. Basically, I just like the Finding Nemo story. It inspires me to be more persistent and to persevere. “…The Musical,” in particular adds some songs about that component of the story. “Just keep swimming…” On the EPCOT ride, there’s a bubble section to simulate the EAC (is that what that’s called?) that is really disorienting (in a fun way). I like the bubbles.