Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Disney Extravaganza, 2014. Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

Monday was our visit to the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.  Sue Ellen, who is the bestest-estest friend EVER had done the research to discover that Mondays are the lightest-attended days at the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, and so our Monday Disney day would be spent there.  It was perfect, though, because the adult nature of the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow left it considerably less crowded and the fellow tourists more cheerful--no babies crying in strollers or toddlers melting down in front of the ice cream trolley.  Also?  The Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow serves alcohol.  At every turn.

And so, I shall tell you this tale for those like me who have not been to Disney in over 30 years: we walked up to the gate with the admission cards Sue Ellen had ordered for us.  Had it been up to me, I would have walked up to the gate with a credit card and gotten an entry card.  I would have been SO WRONG.  Sue Ellen had pre-ordered, and the cards, which had respectively, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy on them, were tagged for each of us.  (I was Donald.)  When we walked up to the gate, we stopped at a small post that was about waist-high, with a round top about the size of a very large grapefruit. The top of the post had a glowing shape of the classic Mickey ears with a circle around it.  We held our entry card up and watched as the glowy part spun around the circle and then glowed green.  Meanwhile, we put a thumb on the print-pad next to it, and watched as it also glowed green.  Now the card knew who I was, knew my thumb print, and knew I was in the park.  Ah yes, apparently the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow comes complete with electronic fingerprints of its  inhabitants.

And so we entered the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow under the iconic, dimpled sphere.  We had done a little homework in the hotel that morning.  Employees of the Disney community are called cast members.  (This I knew from way-back when my friends, fresh out of college, had applied to become Disney cast members.)  Whether you are serving fish and chips in the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow's England, or you are a battery-lit butterfly in the Electrical Light Parade at the Magic Kingdom at dusk, you are a cast member in the entire play that unfolds to make the Disney complex the happiest place on Earth.  Another thing we learned was that some cultures find it rude to point--even to point at other things.  The Disney complex could not be the happiest place on Earth if we were pointing near people who find it rude.  So cast members at the happiest place on Earth are taught not to point in the typical American way. If you ask for directions anywhere in the Disney complex, a cast member will use their entire hand to indicate direction, turns, and location.  If they must point to something specific they will use a two-fingered point, rather than the American-traditional, index-fingered point.  This applies to everyone, from cast members in the role of security personnel directing you through the line to the young French girl serving up the white wine and blueberry parfait.  

Cast members in service roles also wear name tags with their home city under their first name.  Surprisingly few (I saw only one) listed Orlando, FL.  In Norway, while boarding the Maelstrom experience (the happiest place on Earth doesn't have "rides"--it has "experiences"), a young, Asian-appearing man with a thick, incongruous accent directed us.  And sure enough, his name tag indicated he was from Norway.  

But let me take us back to that initial entry into the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, where we encountered the cement monorail structure, jutting stone sculptures honoring donors who made this place possible, and that well-known orb.  A large, three-quarter moon hung perfectly over the monorail track, making a great mental-photo of the orb, the curving track, and a gibbous moon.  Gorgeous and futuristic and geeky-sci-fi-ey.  

Sue Ellen (Have I mentioned how wonderful she is?  She knows me so well!!!) had hooked us up with an early-morning fast pass on the Mission: Space ride.  We attended the video "training" with Gary Sinise who taught us how to operate our space ships and warned us we would be in suspended animation for our trip to Mars.  We sorted ourselves into tech teams to operate our ships, and lined up accordingly.  Additional training took place at various points in line, and soon enough we were strapped into our rocket booster seats and staring at the computer screen in front of us.  Our seats turned so we were essentially lying on our backs, and once the countdown reached 1, we blasted off, with our seats vibrating and gravity pinning us down.  To Mars!!!  We broke away from the atmosphere, sling-shotted around the Moon, and floated freely in space. We entered the suspended animation phase of our journey, which we had been warned would feel like only a second, and then we started our landing on Mars.  Oh no!  Something has gone wrong!!  We had to each operate our station joy sticks and maneuver through the strange Martian landscape to come to a crash landing on a crater's edge.  Phew!!  We barely made it!!!  But we crawled safely out of our capsules and joined our friends in the Mission: Space gift shop.  It's the happiest place in the Solar System!

We enjoyed all the pleasures of Future World, including the Test Track experience, five-dollar bottled water, and many photo opportunities.  Soon it was time to enter the World Showcase, and we walked in that direction.  Cast members directed us, with a whole-hand gesture, over to the pond one crosses to get to the World Showcase.  And I stopped, dumb struck.  Let me tell you, everything Disney does, they do perfectly.  I am so glad to see an American company still taking pride in doing a perfect job.  

The pond is surrounded by elevated walkways and in the pond are large floating flower pots with geraniums blooming in many different colors.  The pots float gently on the water untethered, spinning slowly, drifting almost imperceptibly.  Only by coming back in the afternoon did we realize they were not anchored, as they had drifted quite willy-nilly in the pond.  The whole effect is a beautiful combination of modern, sci-fi, futuristic concrete, efficiency, with a gorgeous celebration of beautiful, colorful nature.  It was stunning.

We went then to the World Showcase, and we ate and drank our way through the countries represented there.  It may be a fake take on world travel, which is the main complaint about the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, but it is absolutely beautiful.  The food is delicious, the markets are fun, and there's beer!  And wine!!  

We made our way from foodstuff to foodstuff, and purchased souvenirs, and just as I was about to fall over, we arrived in Morocco, where -- sweet weepin' Allah -- they had COFFEE!!  And then we were in France, and there was a berry parfait (perfection!) and a glass of white wine.  

Mid-afternoon we went to check in to our resort hotel, and we returned in the evening, just in time for the IllumiNations fireworks show.  Everything Disney does, they do perfectly.  And if you think, like me, that you've seen enough fireworks in your life, you may still want to check out Disney fireworks because they are amazing.  The sound system with music and narration is perfect, the timing is perfect, the floating stylized globe sculpture is perfect, the ducks are perfectly trained to leave the lake at dusk before all hell breaks loose, and the whole thing is gorgeous.

Seriously, though, I was struck the whole time by how nice it is to see an enormous corporation and all things attached to it, taking pride in what they do, demanding perfection from employees, getting perfection, and still having a long waiting list of people who want to work there.  It's still possible in this country to do things right.  I would love to see us rise again to that level of pride in what we do all over this nation, rather than only at Disney.

Needless to say, after walking all over the world -- from Norway to China, people!! -- we hit the resort hot tub.  Oh yeah, baby.  Now we're talkin'.  Yowza!!  My muscles cried the entire night, but the hot tub helped a lot.  The next day was a rest day, and boy did we need it!

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