The Spencer Family's WDW Christmas

December 11th-16th, 1998

Part 2

Hi all. The cast of characters for this trip were Jeff (39), a NASA engineer, wife Susan (37), also an engineer with NASA, son Brian, (11) and daughter Katie (8). This was my sixth trip to WDW this year and the third for Susan, Brian and Katie. We are all annual passholders and all big time Disney fans.

This was our third trip in a row to WDW in December and I'm quite sure we'll do it again next year.  The holiday decorations in the parks and resorts are simply beautiful, the weather is typically wonderful, the crowds are very small and the special shows and events Disney puts on during the Christmas season are not to be missed.

Day 3, December 13th - Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios (RADP ToT Meet)

We had cereal for breakfast in the camper then caught the Chip bus to the Fort Wilderness marina.  The ride over to the MK on the boat is an attraction in itself to us, especially when the weather is nice so we can ride out on the open bow.  We always enjoy seeing the flock of flamingos on Discovery Island and occasionally catch the geyser erupting over at the Wilderness Lodge.  We swore we saw a pair of what appeared to be albino peacocks running across the beach on Discovery Island.

Cinderella's CastleWe arrived at 8:50 am to find the turnstiles largely empty and very few people queued up at the entrances to the various lands.  It was a beautiful sunny morning and the decorations in the park were beautiful.  As we walked down Main St. I took this picture of the Christmas tree and this picture of one of the lovely wreaths hanging overhead.  We turned right at the end of Main St., walked by the Plaza restaurant and queued up at the entrance to Tomorrowland.  While waiting I took this picture of Cinderella's's the best I think of all the Castle pictures I've taken.  The CMs there were very insistent about people walking which was no problem for us as we were headed to Buzz Lightyear and not Space Mountain.  It didn't really matter though because there couldn't have been more than 100 people there.  We were held up briefly at the entrance of Buzz as some ABC folks were setting up to do some more taping.  The wait was brief though and we were on the ride in no time.  It was a big hit with everyone except Katie who came off the ride with the meanest look on her face and her arms crossed.  All was clear when Susan whispered that Katie had gotten 0 points...d'oh!  I promised Katie as we walked to Space Mountain that we would go back and do Buzz again so she could get another chance to battle the evil Emperor Zurg.  That perked her up.

Katie surprisingly agreed to try Space Mountain with us this time.  Typically, she skips it, walks through to the area where we exit from the trains and meets us there.  Well she should have skipped it again.  She was crying when we got to the end...she says she doesn't like the turns and dips in the dark.  Sorry sweetie!  Since there was no line at all, Brian wanted to ride Space again.  Susan, another Space Mountain fan, quickly agreed to join him.  Katie and I were going back to Buzz to see if we could shoot some Zurg butt but as we came to Astro Orbiter, Katie decided she wanted to ride that instead.  Fine by me.  As Katie piloted us around Tomorrowland we secretly dive-bombed and shot to pieces the other Orbiters.  :-)

We met Susan back in the Space arcade.  She said they had finished so quickly that she told Brian he could go ride Astro Orbiter by himself while she waited for us.  We tried our hand at the cranes in the arcade...the kind where you try to pick up stuffed animals.  Nothing!  Stupid cranes...I never win!  When Brian returned we made our way back to Buzz.  We noticed Richard Kind and a ABC camera crew filming outside the ride as we walked by.  I rode with Katie this time to try to help her but guess what - zero!  This time I had my arms crossed!  ;-)
Well, if we had to we'd ride Buzz all day!  Thank goodness the third time around was a charm...she hit one target worth 25,000 points....take that Zurg!  By the time we left Tomorrowland the park had been open over an hour and there still was no wait for Space Mountain.  Life was good.  :-)

On to Fantasyland we went, first riding Teacups (no wait), then Snow White (2 minutes), then Peter Pan (5 minutes).  We stopped to ask about the Skyway but were told they weren't opening it due to the gusty winds.  No biggie.  We kept going and walked right into the Haunted Mansion..."step right in bodies"..."into the dead center of the room."  I love that.  If I could be a CM at the MK I think I'd choose to work at the HM.  We had time for just one more attraction before our character lunch at the Crystal Palace so we picked the Country Bear Christmas Jamboree.  This is a special show they only run during the Christmas season.  Don't miss it, it's a hoot!

PigletWe checked in a few minutes early for our 11:55 am priority seating at the Crystal Palace (CP) and were seated within a few minutes by a window.  It had been 14 years since Susan and I had eaten here so it was almost like our first time.  The meal is served buffet-style and there are two identical sides to the buffet.  There is a separate kid-sized buffet for children which includes macaroni and cheese,  hot dogs and pizza.  They also have dessert buffets which had some yummy stuff.  Just after we were seated we saw a fellow RADP'er, Susie Bennett, and her family.  Hey again Susie!  To make a long story short, we pigged out.  While pigging, we were visited by Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet.  Is that Piglet pink or what?  When Tigger came around we tried to talk him into bouncing for us but he declined.  He pointed to the ceiling and then to his head implying the ceiling was too low.  I'm not so sure it isn't already too late for him to be worrying about his head.  :-)  He liked Susan's shirt, which has him stealthily stalking through the grass...yeah right!  Anyway, we ate way too much food and too much dessert but this was our big meal of the day so what the heck.  Total, with tip, was $56.

Tiki PreshowSane people would probably have selected a nice sit-down attraction after eating so much but not us.  We went straight for the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.  We had not seen it since its refurbishment and were pleased to see it all spiffed up.  Next, we visited the Enchanted Tiki Room, Under New Management.  I like the new preshow spiel by the two birds from the William and Morris Agencies and prefer the new Tiki show to its predecessor.  It was now clouding up outside, which was kind of amazing considering how beautiful it had been all morning.  We walked over to the Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square to try to find a violin ornament for Katie (she's started taking violin this year) but we had no luck.  While we were inside it began to rain.  By the time we were ready to leave the rain changed to a downpour...yuck!  Luckily, it didn't last long though.  We stopped by the Camera Shop on our way out to buy the RADP meet photo ($8.48).  We then rode the boat back to Fort Wilderness.

From our campsite, we drove over to MGM Studios, planning to see the Mulan parade at 3 pm and the Hunchback of Notre Dame stage show before the 5 pm Tower of Terror RADP meet.  MGM parking really stinks!  Am I the only one that hates having to park on the "other" side of the MGM lot?  In the past, when driving to MGM in the afternoon you could pretty much count on finding a good parking spot near the front of the lot within easy walking distance of the entrance.  Now, there seems always to be a CM in the lot that makes you turn left and drive around to the other side of the lot and then they make you park back at the back of the lot instead of letting you drive up to the front and park in the many vacated spaces up there.  Personally, I think they need to use these CMs in the parks to man some of those empty cash registers.  Enough griping.

Mulan ParadeAfter entering the turnstiles we initially plopped down at the end of Hollywood Blvd to wait for the parade.  After looking at the park schedule, we decided we needed to move up to the start of the parade near Star Tours so we could make the next HoND show.  This was our first time seeing the Mulan parade at MGM.  Susan and I both have seen its counterpart at Disneyland and really enjoyed it there as a nighttime parade.  There were many common, if slightly different, elements between the two parades.  Both included the Matchmaker, Shan-Yu the Hun with the rocket strapped to his back, the Emperor, the soldiers and the last float with Shang and Mulan.  The big dragon didn't show up, but we suspected that was because of the threatening weather.  It was a good parade but I liked it better at Disneyland as an evening parade.

We made our way over to HoND and settled into seats next to the runway on the right side.  Matt the juggler provided the preshow, which was especially funny since he dropped so many times.  Most of the cast was the same as I'd seen during my one day trip back in November.  The current Quasimodo has a really powerful voice.  Susan and I both like him.  Brian, who played Clopin, does a good job as far as I'm concerned but Susan doesn't like him.  The other Clopin, Russell, is our favorite.  We haven't seen him since May...I hope he hasn't left.  By the time the show ended the rain outside was coming down in buckets!  They announced over the sound system that we could stay in the theatre as long as we wanted.  Nice of them not to toss us out into the flood.  :-)

ToT Group PhotoLuckily, it let up in time for us to make it over to the Tower of Terror by 5 pm for the RADP meet.  After all the rain, I wasn't sure who might show up but was pleased to see a group of yellow-poncho'ed folks clustered at the end of Sunset Blvd...woo hoo!   After chatting a while we lined up in front of the soon-to-be entrance to the Rock-N-Barf...err...Roll roller coaster for the meet photo.  I stole these pictures from Laura Gilbreath's page, by the way.  Counting heads in the picture, it looks like there were 34 of us there.  We were a soggy but happy bunch.  :-)  Our group was so big we had to split up into two elevators.  Here are links to the photos.  For names, visit Laura's web page.

I'm not sure what happened on the second elevator but we screamed "we're all gonna die!!!", hollered and laughed through the whole thing.  It was definitely fun!  Upon exiting the ride, we met up with Brian and Katie, who will have nothing to do with riding ToT.  They were waiting for us in the ToT gift shop.  As a present for waiting patiently, we bought them each a skull necklace.  It was now right at 6 pm so several in the group hot-footed it over to Fantasmic! for the first show.  We, along with Laura Gilbreath and her husband Lee, headed for the Osborne Lights first, planning to catch the second Fantasmic! show at 8 pm.  The Osborne Lights were great, especially with the new "angel" glasses.  The snow machines weren't going on New York St.  I'm not sure if that was because of the misty rain or if they were even doing that this year.  After the lights, we had a quick dinner at the Studio Catering Co. before walking back to Sunset Blvd to queue up for Fantasmic!  We had planned on being there by 7 pm but were about 10 minutes late.  I apologize to any RADP folks that might have been waiting for us there at 7.

It's obvious that Disney still has some work to do on handling the exiting crowds when they have two shows.  We felt like trout swimming upstream trying to make our way down Sunset and once we did get to the end, it wasn't clear where we needed to go.  After scouting around, I finally found where we needed to go, which amounted to us queuing up in the Beauty and the Beast theatre.  As it turned out, we didn't need to wait as long as we did because the Fantasmic theatre ended up being only about two thirds full.  There were two completely empty sections on each end of the theatre.  We had our pick of seats and we chose the lower half of the center section (Mickey?).  We all liked the show but the consensus was there was too much animation on the water screens.  Susan and I also miss the Peter Pan scene on the Columbia pirate ship that is part of the Disneyland Fantasmic! show.  Still, MGM's Fantasmic! is not be missed in our opinion.  We waited a few minutes after the show for the crowds to clear out before leaving.  We said our farewells to Laura and Lee after planning to meet up again on Tuesday morning at the Animal Kingdom.  We shopped along Sunset where we all bought Jelly Belly jelly beans at the Sweet Spells shop.  We shopped some more along Hollywood Blvd before heading back to Fort Wilderness.

At the beginning of the trip report I mentioned that our campsite was within rock throwing distance of the main swimming pool right?  Sunday night I was sorely tempted to throw some rocks.  I dozed off and on  for over an hour in our camper but was awakened time after time by kids screaming and hollering over at the pool.  Finally, at about 11:15 pm I'd had my fill of it and walked over to the pool.  10 is supposed to be the start of "quiet time" in the campground and that time had long since passed.  I found one family over there with four kids.  The parents were sitting by the pool.  I greeted them politely and informed them that I and my family were trying to sleep and would appreciate them quieting their kids.  On the way back, I stopped at a house phone and called the Front Desk to complain to them.  Sheesh...people can be so inconsiderate!

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