Since we’re all still getting to know each other, I figured now was the perfect time to drop some Rad Dad confessions on you. Some of these confessions might be conversation starters (let me know what you think in the comments) while others might be points of agreement that are generally accepted by the Disney community but not necessarily vocalized in civilized company. Fortunately for you, I am many things, but civilized is not one of them, so I will gladly call a spade a spade if it so deserves the moniker of a spade.
Confession: I desperately miss Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
There are very few rides that I can actually remember from when my parents took me and my sister to Walt Disney World as children, but Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is one of them. I can vividly recall the buggy cars, getting stuck on the train tracks, and the feeling of danger and elation from being sent to a fiery demise. It was different and amazing, a true classic that was born not from Disney’s most well-known films but rather a smaller, more intimate corner of the Disney universe. While Disney has continued to innovate and capture people’s imaginations with newer and more inventive rides, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride still stands out as a ride that isn’t afraid to be a bit cheeky, give guests a bit of a thrill, and not take itself too seriously in the process. In a world of overly sanitized experiences and sheltered children, that in itself is something worth celebrating. I guess I have a reason to visit Disneyland in the future.
Confession: I absolutely hated Stitch’s Great Escape!
In my opinion, Stitch’s Great Escape was one of the worst Magic Kingdom attractions of all time and an utterly shameful waste of such a prime location at the entrance to Tomorrowland. Stitch’s ride, based on the discontinued but far more interesting Alien Encounter, took the fascination and fear inherent in that ride (which was originally planned to be directly connected to the movie Alien) and replaced it with screwball humor and fart jokes. Instead of a thrill, all the audience got
was minutes of their lives wasted and the experience of knowing what Experiment 626’s gas smelled like. Hope may be on the horizon, however, as new rumors indicate that the budget originally slated for the recently cancelled Main Street theater might in fact be going towards a renovation of this space, perhaps even featuring a Wreck-It Ralph theme. While that sounds interesting (and I do enjoy Wreck-It Ralph), I’d personally rather see Wall-E finally get the attention he deserves. In any case, it looks as though any form of Alien Encounter will be gone for good, which is fine by me.
Confession: I strongly dislike It’s a Small World
I imagine that this one isn’t going to go over too well with about half of you, but I really don’t care for It’s a Small World. I know it’s a Disney original, and I’m aware that the message is really quite beautiful. I understand that it was innovative in its time and that some people prefer the version in Disneyland and maintain that it’s superior to the one in Walt Disney
World. However, I find the repetitive song to be a bit grating on the nerves, like listening to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” on repeat while riding in an exceedingly slow boat surrounded by creepy puppets. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing It’s a Small World disappear in favor of an underused IP such as Tangled. (And on that note, I don’t mind the abundance of IP-based attractions in the parks as much as most people; I’m more interested in the ride experience itself and how that integrates with the IP.) Before you think I’m against the longstanding, more traditional rides, I would love to see Peter Pan stick around forever. Don’t ever touch Haunted Mansion. And the PeopleMover shall endure until the end of time.
Confession: I think Big Thunder is better than Space Mountain
Yeah. For serious. I don’t know why, but there’s just something I really enjoy about being out in the sun, zipping around the canyons next to the Rivers of America. Though the coaster itself isn’t quite as thrilling as the one inside Space Mountain, it still moves at a more than decent speed and features enough drops and turns to keep me entertained. I also
think that it hasn’t aged quite as poorly as Space Mountain, something I noticed on our last visit. Tomorrowland in general has had trouble finding its happy place between the vision of the future (circa 1955) and retro kitsch (present day), and this has made the technology and theming of Tomorrowland difficult to consistently maintain. On the other hand, Frontierland has been more stable over the years, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has benefitted from that stability. It’s a highly enjoyable ride that has become absolutely timeless and inseparable from the Disney experience. (I realize that such sentiments more or less directly contradict what I just said about It’s a Small World, but it’s my blog and I’ll do as I please. Plus, coasters rule.)
Confession: I could just hang out at Epcot all day and not do anything.
Couldn’t you? Epcot is wonderful, and in some ways, I think Epcot gets better and better as the years go by. I know we have enjoyed Epcot more with each visit to the parks, and on our last trip, we spent most of the day just strolling around the World Showcase. Because Epcot only has a few E ticket attractions, you can finish your ride experiences relatively early and have the rest of the day to enjoy all the World Showcase has to offer. Many people use Park Hopper to jump over to
Epcot, hit the highlights, and then head somewhere else, but I feel that this is a mistake. Many of the pavilions around the World Showcase have activities and shows for the younger kids (as well as a few character meets), and there are so many nooks and crannies to explore and unparalleled photo opportunities to be had. If you haven’t taken the time to walk the World Showcase, do yourself a favor and set aside some time for it on your next trip. You won’t be disappointed.
Confession: I hate Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom
Dinosaur is the kind of ride that’s fun once. But on the second visit, you realize that the animatronics and effects aren’t all that great, the ride vehicle pummels you like an angry Conor McGregor, and it may or may not scar some children for life.
Though it loosely ties in with the mediocre (but beautiful, especially at the time) movie Dinosaur, the connection doesn’t really provide any real value to Dinoland — or Animal Kingdom as a whole, for that matter. The possible Indiana Jones retheming of the ride sounds intriguing and could be exactly the kind of change needed to enliven that side of the park.
But I love Expedition Everest
And how could you not? The coaster itself is a solid thrill, boasts an interesting dead-end trick with a backwards segment that then plummets you forward again down the main drop (after the Yeti rips up the track, of course), and has the distinction of being the most expensive roller coaster in the world housed in the world’s largest artificial mountain. When combined with the generally excellent theming in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom, a queue that moves through a Himalayan Yeti museum, and a picturesque geographic orientation that means it always looks amazing at sunrise, Expedition Everest is one of Walt Disney World’s biggest hits and an absolute must-ride attraction.
Confession: I’m not a fan of the Value resorts but I love the Moderates
Before you call me a snob, let me explain. (Then you can call me a snob.) It’s really not that I have anything against the rooms themselves (although the queen beds in the Moderates are nice when you’re nearly 6’6”), and I don’t mind the dining halls, either. For me, it boils down to that undefinable ambience that seems to permeate the Moderates but, in my opinion, is lacking at the Value resorts. The theming and decorations at the Value resorts are what I would expect if you let a child design a Disney hotel (harsh, but true), and though the pools and guest areas are clean and tidy in the typical Disney fashion, they lack the stylized wow factor that you find at the Moderates. The landscaping is also nice but in that generic way you see around many well maintained tourist areas; it doesn’t have a theme or an immersive feel to it the way the Port Orleans resorts do. On our last trip, we stayed in the Art of Animation resort and had an absolutely fine time, but even that relatively popular Value resort
pales in comparison to my least favorite Moderate, Carribean Beach. People argue that since you don’t spend much time in your room why should you care about the accommodations — especially when it could cost you a few hundred dollars more. I completely understand that train of thought, but for me, Disney is a lifestyle experience, and I like being immersed in that world from when I wake up until when I go to sleep. Also, if you’re planning on spending a day at the resort to let the little ones recharge their batteries, I strongly recommend the Moderates. You won’t regret it.
Confession: I’ll literally bankrupt myself to stay at the Star Wars resort
I don’t really have anything else to say about that. I just thought you should know.
Confession: My favorite place to eat is Tusker House (although Crystal Palace is up there now)
It’s hard for me to put a finger on why we love Tusker House so much, but there are a few qualities that stand out. First, the theming of Tusker House is fun, both outside the restaurant and within. Located in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom, which is one of the most immersive sections of the park, Tusker House simultaneously blends in to the overall aesthetic while still feeling special and decidedly upscale. Next, the food at Tusker House is fantastic, and there are plenty of choices
for adults and kids alike along its sizable buffet. There are simple options for even the pickiest of young diners, and the large dessert area will certainly catch their attention. Finally, it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck character dining experiences in any of the parks. Mickey Mouse and his pals make their way through the restaurant at least once during your visit (or twice, depending on how long you stay and eat), and they are all dressed in their safari outfits, which we find to be quite fun. Typically, you’ll have the opportunity to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy, which for most young guests is the core lineup that really matters. (Pro Tip: character dining can save you a ton of time in meet and greets around the parks if you’re looking to maximize signatures in autograph books.) For all these reasons, Tusker House is currently our favorite character dining experience in Walt Disney World.
Oh, and what about Crystal Palace? Well, on our last trip we finally made time to have lunch at Crystal Palace and had an absolute blast. Many of the same positives I mentioned in regards to Tusker House hold true for Crystal Palace, especially the friendly menu, but the ambience within and the views of the castle might be superior to every other restaurant in Walt Disney World. If you have young fans of Winnie the Pooh, Crystal Palace is an absolute must. It’s gorgeous, vibrant, and fun, and you still feel connected to all that’s going on in the park. Seriously, where else can you stuff your face with delicious food in air-conditioned comfort while watching the Festival of Fantasy parade?
Confession: Toy Story Midway Mania is superior to Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
Come on. Deep down, you know this to be true. As much fun as it is to aim for Galactic Hero status with every visit to Space Ranger Spin, the 3D slingshot mechanics of Midway Mania are far cooler and, I feel, more rewarding. The ever-changing backdrop of Midway Mania and the interactivity between your shots and what is happening on the screen is
immersive and makes you feel as though you have a greater effect on the game — not to mention your own score. On our last visit, when Rad Mom inexplicably landed some deft shots on Space Ranger Spin, she almost hit Galactic Hero status and completely destroyed my high score, but on Midway Mania, where accuracy and speed are more highly coveted, no one in the Rad Fam was even close to me. (I only mention that because I’m still stewing about it. Ha!) Also, because you can more or less just spam fire your slingshot at the screen, little ones have a blast watching their various projectiles smash into the different targets on screen, so they couldn’t care less what their actual scores are. For family fun, Midway Mania can’t be beat. Hopefully, the addition of a third track and a renovated queue will help to alleviate some of the crowds, and with the clever use of Fast Passes, it will be possible to ride Midway Mania more than once a day.
Confession: I think the Hall of Presidents is fantastic
In my opinion, the Hall of Presidents is up there with the Carousel of Progress in terms of shows you absolutely must see when you’re in the Magic Kingdom, especially if your kids are older than eight or nine. Your opinion of current and/or recent presidents notwithstanding, Hall of Presidents is an amazing show, a Disney original, and deeply inspiring to put it mildly. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the importance and magnitude of the Hall of Presidents, and you will leave feeling even more patriotic than you were before.
Confession: I kind of don’t like Jungle Cruise anymore
This was a thought I had on our most recent trip. We’ve been enjoying the Jungle Cruise since Rad Ella’s very first trip to the Magic Kingdom (when I carried her all the way through the line, and she fell asleep just before we boarded and missed the entire ride), but on our last trip, neither of the Rad girls were particularly impressed. We went on the ride more out of tradition than anything, and I couldn’t help but notice that Rad Ella recognized a number of the recycled jokes and Rad
Hallie declared the ride to be rather pointless when you could just go on Kilimanjaro Safaris and see real animals instead. She’s not wrong. While the experience of the Jungle Cruise is more than the sum of its parts, I think those parts are beginning to feel increasingly dated — hence the addition of the “Jingle” Cruise makeover during the holidays to keep the ride lively and fresh. It helps some, but as your kids get older (and depending on their preferences), I would suggest that your time is better spent elsewhere because Jungle Cruise might no longer be inseparable from the Magic Kingdom experience.
Confession: Haunted Mansion is a must for me
But this ride is inseparable for us. It is a must, a non-negotiable, a multiple-rides-are-happening-no-matter-what experience. Why is it that Haunted Mansion is so beloved? It’s hard to say, really, but it might have something to do with the overall experience. We absolutely love the aesthetic, the interactive ride queue, and the experience of being shuttled along in your doom buggy. I think the main reason Haunted Mansion succeeds where Jungle Cruise fails is because it’s an entertaining experience from start to finish, one that’s atmospherically immersive, and it never requires more than a half hour wait, even during peak park hours. I also think there’s something to be said for the good-natured scare. When Rad
Hallie first rode Haunted Mansion at the age of two, she hid her face through most of her first ride. By her second ride later that day, she was wide-eyed and smiling, taking in all of the sights and sounds around her and soaking up every minute of it. It’s this kind of fear conquering experience that gives Haunted Mansion such an endearing quality to kids — and of course their parents. It’s fun to watch your children overcome their fears and find new enjoyment in something, and it doesn’t hurt if it’s on an attraction that you don’t mind riding over and over again right along with them.
Confession: Happily Ever After is the best show. Not going to lie, it chokes me up a bit
I’m a sucker for Disney movies, especially ones with inspirational messages and strong father/daughter bonds. They reduce my eyes to quivering tear-filled pools every time, so it probably comes as no surprise that I was blown away by Happily Ever After the first time we got to experience it on Spring Break. As a nighttime spectacle, Happily Ever After is unmatched across the Disney parks within Walt Disney World (and perhaps the other Disney parks worldwide — though I can’t confirm that). The projection animation on the castle is stunningly realistic and bright, giving guests a gorgeous view from many different angles (provided that no one lifts his child to his shoulders or holds up an iPad in front of you). Happily Ever After boasts several familiar Disney anthems as well as some that maybe don’t get the love they deserve, and it contains action sequences featuring some of the most well-known heroes and villains. To top it off, I find the message to be more inspiring
than that of Wishes, and I mean that in a completely practical sense. While Wishes was a show about wonder and imagination, Happily Ever After feels more like a show about triumph and self-actualization. The first and last lines touch upon this theme, telling the audience that the key to their happiness is inside of them and that they have the power to achieve their own Happily Ever Afters. When you combine this encouragement and inspiration with scenes featuring beloved characters such as Mufasa (“Remember who you are”), Moana (“How far I’ll go”), and an entire sequence featuring the Genie and set to “Friend Like Me” (we miss you, Robin Williams!), it’s easy to understand how the tears can start flowing. Sorry, Wishes, you were exciting and magical, but Happily Ever After has you beat on every level. Never has there been a Disney night show of such scale and grandeur.
Blogs are more fun when they’re about discussion and debate, and I’m sure that you don’t agree with all of my points. Let us know what you think in the comments down below. We want the ZADD Crew blog to be a hub, a meeting place, and maybe even a refuge, so just imagine you’ve got your favorite Starbucks drink in one hand and that you’re sitting on the hub grass in the shadow of Cinderella’s Castle responding to the latest blog — even if you’re actually just sitting on the toilet to avoid making your children a second breakfast.
Thanks to @magicalshannonmarie, @mickeys_photographer, and @thezipadeedoocrew for the use of their photos in this post, especially because I asked for quite a few!