Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Listicles · Science of Disney · Uncategorized

Top 5 Educational Experiences at Epcot

Although Walt Disney’s original vision for Epcot is far from realized, the spirit of showcasing technological innovations and providing memorable and educational experiences for guests lives on!

  1. Living with the Land – This ride is very long but really interesting. I never thought I would care about agriculture but finding out that Disney produces as much of its produce on-site as possible was really impressive! Seeing real scientists at work monitoring the plants and animals and their growing conditions in the most magical place on earth is bound to be inspiring for aspiring scientists, young and old. They offer a Behind the Seeds tour as well if you want more information about the work going on behind the scenes to feed hundreds of thousands of guests each day.
  2. The Seas Pavilion – Despite growing up a short drive from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (one of the main inspirations for Finding Dory’s Marine Life Institute), I had never seen manatees before and they are equally adorable and imposing due to their size and agility in the water. The large aquariums are full of several creatures and have TV screens that flash their names which makes this a great spot to cool off from the Florida heat by playing a game of I Spy with the kiddos. The sea turtles are usually pretty hard to spot because they like to hide! Each smaller aquarium also has short and sweet descriptions about the unique behaviors of the sea life within.
  3. Stave Church Replica and Museum in  Norway – Because the Norway pavilion has been overtaken by Frozen to a great extent, this museum is a nice way of tying together the movie and actual Norwegian culture. You can learn about all the inspiration for the film from the Norwegian landscape and traditional outfits, to how the instruments and vehicles are typically made and used.
  4. Oh Canada! – Even though I have been to Vancouver once before, this film taught me so much about Canada and made me want to visit again as soon as possible. The range of lifestyles represented – from small fishing villages to bustling, artistic city centers – and the sheer wonder of the various natural landscapes were absolutely fascinating, especially when presented in 360 degrees accompanied by Martin Short’s humor.
  5. Venetian Mask Shop – Besides showcasing the beauty and craftsmanship of what must be hundreds of masks, this little shop attached to the perfumery could have entertained me for hours due to what can be learned about Italian folklore. Ask the shopkeeper questions about your favorite masks and about the variety of designs; each one has its own meaning and story about the process of creating it. I may be biased because I read as many fictional books set in Venice as I could when I was in middle school but this really is a gem worth perusing when you’re still full on pizza and wine from Via Napoli.

Honorable Mention

Exhibits in Mexico

When I was last in Epcot in September, they were preparing for the promotional but potentially educational exhibit on Coco and Día de Muertos. I will have to check out the newly decorated area on my next trip to see if it is faithful to the culture, whether it teaches me anything different from my Spanish classes in school, and how it integrates aspects of the film. If it is anything close to the museum in Norway, it could be promising but perhaps difficult for kids who can’t read yet to be thoroughly entertained.

SpectacuLAB!

To replace Innoventions, the Imagineers decided an interactive science show would do the trick while also probably being less expensive to maintain and easier to potentially overhaul for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. One of my top priorities for my next trip is checking out how engaging (and hopefully not cringe-worthy) this show is; maybe what some people see as cringe-worth is really just a good use of Jungle Cruise style humor to demonstrate cool science phenomena. I’m hopeful that this will be a memorable experience because it is co-sponsored by Science from Scientists which is a non-profit organization working to improve STEM literacy in schools.

What is your favorite educational experience at Epcot?

Listicles · PhD Life · Princess Life · Uncategorized

If Princesses were PhD Students Part 2

Some of the best and most interesting Disney characters to me are the unofficial Disney princesses. What would these nine fearless females choose to study in graduate school?

Megara – Media and Communication.

She seemed to be quite confident in giving Hercules advice about how to adjust his public image. Becoming an expert in how rhetoric manifests in various mediums both ancient and modern would be quite lucrative for this dame; she could use these skills to develop her own media consulting company for all of the big stars or start her own magazine that would rival Cosmo with bitingly witty pieces on sandals, weak ankles, togas and how to become equals with any man despite how godly they might seem to the general populace.

Jane – Evolutionary Anthropology.

This likely descendant of Belle shares the bookworm’s affinity for beastly creatures as demonstrated by her fondness for gorillas, chimpanzees and of course Tarzan. Living in the jungle for so many years would make her one of the most qualified candidates to be a leading researcher of apes, so I expect that she would apply to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. I’m sure she’d leverage her strong bonds with the bands of gorillas to study their behavior and communication very intimately and become a well-published expert as long as the animals don’t trash her camp repeatedly.

Anna – Art History.

During the time that Anna spent in the halls of Arendelle’s castle growing up, she seemed to deeply appreciate (and talk extensively to) the paintings lining the walls. Studying art history would give Anna the skills to preserve the works of art as well as learn more about the customs of Arendelle that she can no longer remember. As a result of her studies, she likely would not stop talking about the rich artistic traditions of Scandinavia, which Kristoff would happily endure and perhaps even contribute to himself.

Elsa (yes, she’s technically a queen) – Civil Engineering.

She already seems to know a lot about building with ice so she’d probably revolutionize the field of civil engineering by using her expertise of ice’s properties as well its advantages and disadvantages to design structures in regions other than Arendelle. Elsa would also shatter some glass ceilings as she rise in the ranks of the male-dominated field. I would just feel really sorry for Elsa networking at conferences because everyone would come up to her “wanting to break the ice” which would probably get old very quickly. On a positive note, her several years in solitude have prepared her well for hours writing papers alone.

Nala – Marriage and Family Therapy.

Where would the animal kingdom be if not for Nala’s amazing skills at helping Simba confront his past and his own greatest fears? Once the famine of Scar’s years as king subsides, Nala would be better able to serve the kingdom if she could receive additional training to hone her skills at negotiation. I’m sure there’s way more drama in the pride than is shown in the movie and she would be just the lion to help resolve any conflicts.

Kida – Religious Studies.

Like Moana, the mythology of her people would spark a need to know more about why people believe what they believe. Learning about Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian religious practices would only be the launching point for writing a thesis on Atlantean beliefs and customs. Several of her people would follow in her footsteps to share and develop more expertise about the unique Atlantean architectural styles and functioning of crystals.

Vanellope von Schweetz – Computer Science.

Having been erased from the code of her own game, this spunky gal would go to school to ensure that none of the citizens of Sugar Rush face the same fate as she did. Understanding the intricacies of several programming languages and how videogames store their data could make her the heroine of the whole arcade if it were ever in danger again as well as make her much more adept at navigating the Internet (Wreck-It Ralph 2 *hint hint*). Furthermore, gaining expertise in computer science could also help her make faster and more environmentally friendly electric racing cars; who’s to say that even a gingerbread car couldn’t run on electricity?

Atta – Biology.

As such a broad field, biology would be best suited for Atta’s need to know about ecosystems, agriculture, animal (or insect) behavior as well as environmental policy in order to be an informed leader of her colony. Knowing more about photosynthesis and the nutrients and farming practices that would best support high, continuous crop yield would ensure that she would rarely have difficulty feeding all of her “subjects” and maybe even feed some grasshoppers in the mean time. She might have to improve upon her skills at standing up for herself in the field but standing up to Hopper would definitely make for a good personal statement.

Dot – Mechanical Engineering.

With Flik and Atta as role models, Dot will have witnessed dramatic revolutions in how her colony harvests food by the time she would be prepared for a PhD program. Her experiences with birds (both real and constructed) would likely have piqued her fascination with machines, especially flying ones. Thus, studying how things move would enable this princess to improve the harvesting machines and potentially lead the growing colony off the island either by riding the streams from rainstorms or via air travel.

Read Part 1 here!

Which characters would you like me to do next?

 

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Uncategorized

Trip Review: Hong Kong Disneyland Part 2

If you’ve read Part 1, you’ll know that I did not get to do everything I had planned at Hong Kong Disneyland due to a typhoon warning. But several magical details made my time outside of the park just as enjoyable!

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Transportion to Hong Kong Disneyland

Getting to the resort was slightly more complicated than I expected because I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to take a cab or have the entire experience of riding the Disneyland train. Cabs were taking too long so I figured out how to get to Sunny Bay station.

After asking a very helpful transportation employee how to get to the right point to transfer to the train going the right direction, a train with Mickey Mouse-shaped windows pulled into the station. And it was glorious! There were bronze statues of the Fab Five, Mickey handholds and lots of Hong Kong parents and children dressed in Disney gear head to toe. The metalwork at the final stop at the park was full of hidden Mickeys and sorcerer hat shapes. I took a quick bus to the hotel to drop off my luggage and took another back to start the adventure.

Checking In

As a birthday present to myself, I got myself a room in the Hollywood Hotel which is the cheapest option but beautifully decorated in an Art Deco style reminiscent of Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and Hollywood Studios. Each floor has classic Disney movie posters and my floor had my favorite, The Lion King! The elevator has the voices of the Fab Five announce the floors, too!

When I checked in, the restaurants were almost closed so I dashed to Hollywood & Dine, the quick service café. Most of the options that looked delicious were unavailable so I had a very mediocre plate of spaghetti. Then I stopped in to the Studio Lounge and had a mango daiquiri before heading up to bed were I found a card and crafted birthday cake awaiting me.

Morning

I’m a sucker for character breakfasts so I made it a point to go to the Explorer’s Lodge’s Dragon Wind café to meet Mickey and Minnie. Everything was delicious; I had been eating a mix of traditional Chinese breakfast food and whatever I could find in Singapore the few weeks before my Hong Kong stay so I was very happy to find congee, fresh fruit, and classic Mickey waffles. Unlike American character breakfasts where the characters walk around to the various tables, I received a card that told me I had a specific time slot to go get my picture taken. It was not too awkward eating alone because I made friends with the couple sitting next to me who were elementary school teachers and gave me several adorable presents after I took a picture with them. While I was meeting Mickey and Minnie, the cast members took lots of great pictures for me but there was also an option to purchase photos with PhotoPass.

Once I was finished with breakfast, I took a lovely stroll along the path between the resorts and the park with hopes that the typhoon warning that I had heard rumblings about would not be real. People were standing in large confused clumps but eventually cast members came out to inform us that the park would be closed until the typhoon warning de-escalated to a lower level.

After appreciating the beauty and quirkiness of the fountain in front of the parks as potentially my last glimpse of the park itself, I walked back along the path from where I had come. The flags along the path showcased a myriad of characters, even Aurora in her blue dress, and there was still theme music pumping through speakers. After looking out at as much of the bay as I could see in the mist, I turned towards the path back to the resorts.

Resort Exploring

First stop was the Disneyland Hotel. This was not particularly memorable because there was not much to explore besides well manicured lawns and a hedge maze. The Victorian theming is similar to that of the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World.

Next, I went back to the Explorer’s Lodge and walked around the four parts of the Explorer’s Lodge – Oceania, Asia, South America, and Africa. Each had its own garden with figurines of characters like Rafiki and Kevin, theme music, and details like animal footprints or shells in the pavement as the gardens transitioned from one to another. Good thing I took this time to walk around outside when it was only grey and barely sprinkling.

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The Explorer’s Lodge is now my absolute favorite hotel; it’s a combination of Animal Kingdom Lodge (theming wise, without any real animals), Art of Animation, and Coronado Springs. The lobby had large windows overlooking the gardens and travel trunks filled with trinkets and clothing for Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Daisy, and Donald to use for their various adventurous hobbies like aviation and bird-watching. Downstairs there was a quick-service stop with beautiful pastries but I got some basic ice cream instead. It was good but I regret not getting a pastry. The gift shop had some unique memorabilia but the most tempting was 12″ plush versions of explorer Mickey and Minnie, complete with Minnie’s adorable wilderness heels; she is so fashionable that she has a totally different outfit than the safari outfit she wears at Tusker House or at the meet and greet in Animal Kingdom. The other restaurants seemed exquisite as well but I did not feel like spending a lot more money. I would highly recommend staying at Explorers Lodge of three hotel options currently available in Hong Kong!

 

Back to Hollywood Hotel

Lastly I walked the last bit back to the Hollywood Hotel. Since I had already checked out, I had to find ways to kill time with the hope that the park would still open before my flight. I explored the grounds of the Hollywood Hotel. The piano pool – one of the main reasons I chose to stay at this hotel – was closed but pretty large. The miniature Hollywood sign on a grassy knoll was a nice touch but not nearly as impressive as the real sign in Los Angeles.

 

I headed back indoors and grabbed a seat at a table in the Studio Lounge so I could take advantage of the dessert spread. Behind the bar, they were projecting Disney movies; Monsters, Inc. was just finishing up so I settled in and enjoyed the complimentary bar nuts. I believe I ordered an eggs benedict with salmon for my afternoon meal and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. But that might have been because I also started drinking wine before 2 pm. Right after Monsters, Inc. they showed Tangled so I was really living my best life drinking wine and watching my favorite princess movie.

The deadline for the park to re-open was drawing near; if the typhoon warning did not de-escalate by 4 pm, then the park would not open at all for the day. At some point during Tangled, they had prohibited guests from going outside because of the rain and wind so I was very thankful to have my comfortable little spot inside.

Once I heard rumblings that the typhoon warning was going to be lifted, I extensively perused the gift shop and gathered a few pressed pennies for myself and for my brother. After the warning is lifted, it still takes about an hour and a half until the park can open again.

I walked back to the front of the park where two long queues had formed. I thankfully got to use a special entrance for resort guests and dashed into the park to attempt to ride things I hadn’t ridden before. With just over an hour and a half spent in the park, I bid adieu to the park and shed a few tears as I exited to the tune of “Circle of Life.”

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Other Tips for the Park

  1. If you can, get a button! Every cast member seems to be on the lookout for these buttons because while wearing my birthday button, I got stickers and smiles from all of the cast members!
  2. Take the stroll between the hotels and the park at least once during your stay if you can handle a little bit more walking! The humid summer air was comforting and the path was well-lit.
  3. Some of the information in the Hong Kong Disneyland  app is incorrect. They no longer sell chocolate covered bananas or mango dole whip which are the two snacks I was looking forward to most because I did not have a partner with whom to share the adorable dim sum that is all over Instagram.
  4. If you are staying at one of the resorts, stay until after park close to see the most empty Main Street ever! Most of the guests leave soon after park closing so they can take the train back but sitting in front of the castle or just inside the entrance is a perfect end to enjoying a day in the park.
  5. Look out for the trash cans! I thought the decor was absolutely adorable and I want wearable merchandise with the patterns!

Which international park do you want to go to most?

Princess Life · Uncategorized

Sisters of Disney

In honor of December 6th being the anniversary of the birthday of Walt Disney’s sister Ruth and the two having a particularly strong relationship, I thought I would write a post dedicated to the sisters of Disney.

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Alliances of women, whether related by blood or not, are more important now than any other time period besides perhaps when women were campaigning for the right to vote. Not having a sister myself, I find Disney films particularly interesting as examples of female relationships. Unfortunately, Disney films portray women working alone or in conflict with other women (Snow White may be the epitome of this) more often than they portray women working with others, male or female so the few times that women are seen as having female counterparts deserve celebrating. Rather than doing a ranking of characters for their goodness as sisters which would further pit women against each other, I wanted to just touch on what they can each teach us about sisterhood.

Sister, Sister

Anna & Elsa

The most well-known Disney sisters of the modern age (although some might think that Elsa and Rapunzel should be sisters instead) demonstrate a very strong bond despite lost memories and scheming princes. Although there is debate about whether the act of true love that saved Anna was Anna herself or Elsa, no one can deny that these two will be inseparable until the end of their days. Their mutual love of chocolate and snow unites them like wine and the Bachelor unites me with my sorority sisters.

Atta & Dot

Some of the first female Pixar characters (besides Bo Peep and Mrs. Potato Head who only served as love interests in Toy Story) were a pair of sisters. Atta (voiced by the amazingly talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a worry-wart and rule-follower. Dot is a bit of a brat but optimistic and sees the best in everyone. Over the course of the movie, these sisters’ animosity towards each other turns into appreciation. With Dot’s help, Atta comes to believe in herself and value doing things differently; Atta also recognizes Dot’s maturity and capability of being a leader in her own right. And for a movie that most people probably associate with having a male lead, it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors: The queen, Atta, and Dot talk with each other about saving the colony among other things.

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Nani & Lilo

Nani may be more motherly than sisterly towards Lilo but the message of “Ohana means family and family never gets left behind” is a message that all siblings, regardless of gender, could benefit from being reminded of. Lilo making fun of and interfering with Nani’s crush on David makes me think fondly of all the times that my younger brothers would tease me about the boys that I liked. But Nani showers Lilo with love and builds up her confidence when no one else will. After working together to protect Stitch, nothing can separate these two loyal sisters, not even an intergalactic space agency.

 

Sister, Sisters

Cinderella & her step-sisters, Anastasia and Drizella

Deep down, all three sisters have more in common than meets the eye: they were all raised by Lady Tremaine, they appreciate beautiful dresses, and it seems like they all have the same short-term goal of attending the ball and potentially long-term goal of getting married to a handsome prince. Despite these similarities, the sisters turned out very differently. Nevertheless, I think if something terrible were to happen to Anastasia or Drizella the other two sisters would forget their jealousies and be there to provide a helping hand, shoulder to cry on, or ear for bending. It’s possible that after many years pass, the three sisters could be each other’s bridesmaids and doting aunts to each other’s children.

Ariel & all her sisters (Can you remember all of their names? Answers below!)

Although the sisters do not get a lot of screentime, I believe the song at the beginning of the movie helps this film (almost) pass the Bechdel test. During the song, the sisters, who are all named, are singing about presenting Ariel to the audience. Whether they’re technically talking to each other or to other female characters is up for debate. Even though the lyrics in this brief segment mention both King Triton and Sebastian, the important thing to consider is that the sisters sang about something other than a man – which is the usual topic of conversation between most Disney princesses and their co-stars. As portrayed in the film, Ariel is not so attached to her sisters that giving them up is something that weighs heavily on her mind in her decision to become human but they still support her for her wedding day at the end of the film. I wonder what the sisters were thinking the whole time she was gone.

 

Friends as Close as Sisters

Tiana & Charlotte La Bouff

Having spent countless hours together as young girls, these two function like sisters despite being from very separate social spheres. If their nicknames for each other (Tia and Lottie) aren’t enough to convince you of their close relationship, then consider how much they are willing to sacrifice for each other. In addition to giving Tiana the last amount of money she needs to purchase the old mill, Lottie is willing to kiss a frog and give up marrying a prince so that Tiana can marry the love of her life. Tiana changed all of her plans to make the extra beignets for Lottie’s party at the drop of a hat and put up with how spoiled Lottie is for years. Lottie never really realizes the importance of hard work but Lottie’s belief in magic rubbed off on Tiana just enough to help her reach her dream. Most importantly, they are one of the very few examples of inter-racial friendship in Disney films (I’m not going into inter-species friendships, okay? Because then Dori and Destiny are definitely #goals) so while not perfect example of intersectional feminism, these girls’ friendship is nevertheless valuable.

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From Disney’s The Princess and the Frog

Pocahontas & Nakoma

Friends from childhood, these two powerful young women definitely talk about men a lot (as I’m sure most women would if a huge group of eligible bachelors showed up out of the blue). But these two also push each other to be better versions of themselves and are each other’s confidantes. Their voyage down the river is like the colonial times version of a roadtrip and I’m sure they went on several other adventures together and have regaled each other with their stories around the fire night after night (which is almost as good as catching up over weekend brunch).

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From Disney’s Pocahontas

Which female friendship resonates most with you? Share this with a Disney-loving female companion and tell her how much you appreciate her!

Ariel’s sisters’ names are Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella, Alana. Did you get them all right?

 

 

 

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Uncategorized

Trip Review: Hong Kong Disneyland Part 1

In July 2017, I turned a layover in Hong Kong into about 30 hours at Hong Kong Disneyland as a birthday present to myself. Although a typhoon warning put a serious damper on how much I was able to do in my short time there, I greatly enjoyed the experience. In this post, I give my thoughts on the attractions and entertainment in the park.

Hong Kong Unique Attractions

Mystic Point 7/10

Mystic Manor 9/10 After arriving at the park around noon, Mystic Manor was my first stop and number one priority. The queue was about 10 minutes long and full of gorgeous details from the Society for Explorers and Adventures, complete with a miniature of the Mystic Manor property; Walt would’ve been proud. Watching ride-throughs definitely lessened the coolness of the experience a bit because I knew what to expect. The soundtrack to the ride was very enjoyable and the music room was my favorite because of all the dancing instruments. As far as dark rides go, this one is amazing because all of the tech and animatronics are relatively new. Albert the monkey is adorable and at the end of the ride, I was very tempted to buy lots of Mystic Manor merchandise.

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Garden of Wonders 3/10 This was just a photo op spot with structures meant to be optical illusions. There were not any cast members hanging around the area to help you get a photo with the illusion itself..

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Mystic Point Freight Depot 2/10 Another photo op with even less charm than the Garden of Wonders.

Toy Story Land 6/10

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Toy Story Land was beautiful with the light of the golden hour at sunset over Lantau Island. Although I did not ride anything in this land (I was in search of Mango Dole Whip which tragically is not sold anymore) it made me very excited for the Toy Story Land coming to Walt Disney World. The details of all of the childhood toys scaled up for architectural purposes- from Lincoln Logs to Tinker Toys to the giant letter puzzle and K’nex fences – gave me all the nostalgic vibes. The meet and greet for Woody, Jessie, and Buzz was well-themed.

Grizzly Gulch 5/10

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I walked through this area several times to get to and from the Mystic Point area but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. A combination of Frontierland and Disneyland’s Critter Country, the theme of bears living in an old Western town is a little strange but the visibility of bears themselves was minor. The Grizzly Gulch Welcome Show a stage act of three women singing in English that was pretty good and drew a small crowd. The rest of the area has a jail photo op and water cannons to cool down.

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Train ?/10 During the timeslot in which I had planned to ride this, the ride was broken and did not open for the rest of the night. With the typhoon warning the next day, the outdoor rides were slower to open so I did not have a chance to ride this before I had to leave for the airport. When I walked past it, it seemed like a Seven Dwarves Mine Train type ride – not too thrilling of a coaster – but I heard it goes backwards! This is a must-do if I ever get back to Hong Kong!

Marvel

Iron Man Experience 6/10 I am not the biggest Marvel fan and I get nauseous on simulator rides but the line was really short and I was in the area so I rode it. This is essentially Star Tours but with a plot of Iron Man saving Hong Kong but I found the humor in English to be surprisingly clever.

The SHIELD Experience 8/10 This is one of the most unique attractions I’ve seen in the three Disney parks I’ve been to. I had no idea what it was going in so was definitely peeved at the extremely long queue but once I understood what the attraction was, it made sense. Small groups at a time become SHIELD agents and are led through a maze of well-decorated warehouse scenes by cast members acting as SHIELD agents in a quest to retrieve orbs of some sort before HYDRA finds them. In two of the scenes, you meet Thor and Starlord and one person gets selected each time to help them. Because I was wearing my birthday button, I got to help Starlord close a glass door but totally misunderstood the directions with all the pressure to perform and thought I had to reach into the case with a scary looking animatronic. Most of the instructions were in English so some members of our large group were a bit confused, but it was fast-paced and the acting was believable so it made for an overall very enjoyable experience.

There was also a Spiderman meet and greet but I did not wait in the queue for him (it was shorter than the SHIELD experience).

Fantasyland

Fairy Tale Forest 8/10 I loved this area because it felt like the Storybook Canals but up close and personal. There are miniatures with moving elements for several Disney movies including Tangled, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid. The details hidden in the bushes and on the paths were especially charming. Know that the Tinker Bell meet-and-greet inside this area is optional; you can bypass it by taking a separate path.

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Fantasy Gardens 4/10 This is a character meet and greet space. There weren’t any characters present as I walked through, so I just appreciated the theming of each gazebo and some pretty topiaries. Skip this if you don’t want to or don’t have time to met characters.

 

Hong Kong Versions of US Attractions

Railroad ?/10 I did not ride this but wanted to. It seemed like it had a convenient drop-off point near the back of the park that could save me a walk but I ended up just walking because I wanted to see as much of the castle as I could.

Adventureland

Jungle Cruise 6/10 This may be an unfair rating because Jungle Cruise is one of my favorite rides. Despite being “the chosen one” to carry the queue timing card to the front of the English queue, this special treatment was not enough to overcome my disappointment that my skipper was not able to communicate the dry humor effectively and instead just pointed at lots of things and described them. It was interesting to go around the island instead of a separate tucked-away track and the different ending was almost exciting enough to redeem the ride.

Tarzan’s Tree House 4/10 Taking the raft over took longer than it took me to walk through the entire treehouse which was all of the same scenes as the Disneyland version, so it was not worth my time. As you’re exiting the treehouse, keep your eyes trained towards the ground to notice footprints of some of the inhabitants.

Fantasyland

Philharmagic 6/10 This was my first time ever seeing Philharmagic (I hadn’t seen it in WDW) so I really enjoyed it but it is exactly the same as the version in Florida with a less interesting queue. I believe I saw the show in English.

It’s a Small World 7/10 – The layout of this ride was different than in the US and seemed to have a bigger presence for the Western section and an Americas section. But it was a walk-on and lets out next to an ice cream stand instead of a gift shop. The details of the giant compass on the ground in front of the attraction made the area into one of the few spots that I thought was worth taking pictures.

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Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Winnie the Pooh are the same as they are at other parks so I did not ride them. I remember expecting that the Winnie the Pooh ride would have a long wait and it seemed to be about the same as at other parks but long compared to the other rides at Hong Kong Disneyland. The Mad Hatter Tea Cups were also identical to the Disney World version, complete with a tent covering in case of rain.

Tomorrow Land

Space Mountain 7/10 I literally cannot remember anything about this ride from my trip besides that I used a Fastpass for it so I don’t think the queue or the ride itself was anything special or unique from the version in either US park.

I did not ride Orbitron or Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. I wish I got to ride Orbitron because it was a different ride vehicle than Astro Orbiters but the line was always pretty long. I don’t think there was anything unique about Astro Blasters so you can skip it if you’ve ridden Disneyland’s (the better) version.

Shows

Festival of the Lion King 10/10 This show made me cry from its beauty; the singers were excellent and the flying bird scenes were incredibly graceful. There weren’t any tumbling monkeys and instead they seemed to serve as comedic relief in Mandarin but I haven’t seen the tumbling monkeys in WDW either so I couldn’t compare on that aspect. The stage itself was way cooler than the WDW version with multiple levels rising and lowering at different points during the show. The fire dancing scene was comparable. One of my favorite touches was that the floats with Simba and the other animals on them move into the center of the auditorium at the end of the show so you can get close-up pictures as you walk out.

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Wondrous Book ?/10 I didn’t get to see this show because I ran out of time on my first day and the typhoon warning delayed its opening on my second day. It is supposed to be similar to Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland and is offered in English and Mandarin (and maybe also Cantonese)

Flights of Fantasy Parade 7/10  The floats and costumes were cute but the song was not memorable. The performers were sweating bullets in the sun and heat but their make-up still looked flawless.

Paint the Night Parade 9/10 I sat the closest I have ever been to this parade because the streets are narrower than in Disneyland and every float was that much more stunning. After having just watched Wreck-it Ralph on the plane to China, the song was that much more catchy now that I knew what it was from. Definitely do not miss this parade!

Disney in the Stars Fireworks 9/10 – I cried so much but I think it was partly due to the sweat and sunscreen getting into my eyes because it was still very warm after the sun had gone down. Right after the end of the Paint the Night Parade, I just turned around and got a spot a few rows back from the castle. We were packed in like sardines but we were sitting. There were extensive Mulan scenes which I was SO happy to see and the musical arrangement throughout was very nostalgic. The castle is not extremely large so the projections aren’t as impressive but the fireworks were still plentiful.

Of the attractions that I got to do, I did most of them on my first day between noon and park closing at 8 pm. Let me know if you have any questions about my trip in the comments below!

Check out Part 2 of my review in which I talk more about my general impressions of the park and how I occupied my time during the typhoon warning.

 

Disney Tips · Uncategorized

Coco Review (Spoiler-Free)

After seeing Coco twice (once in 2D and once in 3D), I wholeheartedly endorse that everyone shell out the $15 to see this movie that will likely shift the representations of minorities in the film industry and make you want to hug your family more than any of its Disney predecessors.

Going into the movie, I had watched videos of other people’s reviews that said 1) they cried a lot, 2) it was a beautiful movie with some really interesting and impressive animation, and 3) there was a really good twist. Thankfully, I avoided any spoilers and still had no idea what the main plot of the movie would be. I also did not know how the film would tie in Día de Muertos (which I recently learned is the correct name, not the anglicized Día de los Muertos), a holiday which I knew a little bit about from my Spanish classes in K-12. I do think having some prior knowledge of the holiday helped me enjoy the movie more but there are several moments that explain the context for viewers who have never heard of it.

Animation

Regarding the animation, I’m no expert but I tried to soak in as many Pixar details as I could. I absolutely loved the opening scene and how they told the story using papel picado, which is a Mexican decorative art made by cutting patterns and images into brightly colored tissue paper similar to cutting snowflakes around Christmastime, but much more intricate and meaningful. The personalities of each ancestor were intricately exhibited via variations in skeletal shape, size and ornamentation; characters that were better-remembered were more pure white whereas those who were at risk of being forgotten appeared more worn or had broken bones. Thus, the skeletons – complete with eyes – achieved a communicative power beyond their traditional Halloween spookiness and macabre association with death.

The bright colors of the marigolds and alebrijes (animal spirit guides based in Mexican folklore and wood-carving tradition) were stunning. Pepita, the large jaguar-eagle-like creature from the previews, was even more so impressive in 3D than in 2D. Although I would love a copy of the concept art of the city of the dead due to its colorful architecture and over 6 million animated lights, the panoramic shot was not as impressive or as long as I wanted it to be – it was scarcely longer than what was seen in the previews so I did not have as much time to soak it in as I would’ve liked. However, there were some shots later in the movie in which the camera travels through the streets and skies of the land of the dead that were more striking and made me wish that they would bring this land to life in the theme parks so I could get physically lost in the details – a maze like the Alice in Wonderland one in Shanghai Disney perhaps?

The hallmark of Pixar animated movies – the hidden Easter eggs – were not as hidden as they’ve been in previous movies. The Luxo ball is more difficult to find than the Pizza Planet truck or piñatas of Mike and Sully so keep your eyes peeled. Additionally, I think I spotted forms of Mike and Sully in appropriately blue and green colored papel picado in the courtyard of the Rivera home near the beginning of the movie but I need someone to confirm that I wasn’t just seeing things.

Pixar movies are usually years in the making due to the technological challenges that animators face in creating more realistic details and Coco was no exception. Simulating how cloth would behave on skeletal frames and synchronizing the music of a guitar to accurate animations of strumming fingers and vibrating strings led to Pixar’s most recent technical advancements in CGI animation and the most visually stunning Pixar film yet.

Music

Although this has been lauded as Pixar’s first musical, it is not a musical in the classic Disney sense with characters bursting into song for no real reason. Songs are only sung in purposeful moments in which singing songs makes sense such as a performance or a lullaby. And these songs are lovely but not as catchy as Frozen’s, which is good and bad – I was slightly disappointed at the lack of catchiness. There’s no “I want” song like a Broadway musical but there are several reprises of “Remember Me” that changes drastically in meaning depending on who is singing it which adds a deeper level of meaning to the soundtrack. I could not tell whether the other main songs during the performance scenes were well-known Spanish songs or if they were entirely invented for the movie; I believe they were the latter but with a great deal of influence from the former.

As a proud fan of classical Spanish guitar, I was not overly impressed by the guitar playing on the soundtrack, but perhaps Disney did not want to revisit their tactic on Pirates of the Caribbean 4 of recruiting famous guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela (my favorite musicians) due to the movie’s limited success. Having Miguel not be a guitar savant also made more sense for his character. Michael Giacchino’s score was not anything memorable but it also was not intrusive; listening to the score alone is pleasant and is capable of transporting me back into the world of Miguel’s hometown of Santa Cecilia.

Plot & Characters

The movie was well-paced with purposeful scenes and moments of extremely high tension that had me on the edge of my seat. I did not predict the twist like I had hoped despite many hints throughout the movie that I was only able to catch the second time around. I did not cry as much as I expected to but the morals of the story made me miss and value my family nonetheless.

The main characters of Miguel, Ernesto and Hector were all fleshed out well and I could see them each becoming fan favorites for years to come. I also great admiration for Mama Imelda and thought that her character development was almost as great as Miguel’s in her change of heart and remembering who she used to be; I also loved how she had an incredibly intimidating alebrije in Pepita that just screamed female empowerment to me.

My one gripe is that the alebrijes served a little bit too important a purpose in the movie: like the eagles in Lord of the Rings, if the alebrijes, Pepita in particular, hadn’t existed, then the plot definitely would have had to be reworked and the resolution wouldn’t have been possible. While the rest of the story and the messages about the importance of family are universal enough that the film could have been set in several other cultures, that culture would need to have some sort of spiritual creatures to function. I also wonder whether the purpose of alebrijes was tweaked from their original significance in Mexican culture.

Cultural Significance

While I cannot speak to how important this movie is to the Latinx community, I will give my two cents but strongly encourage you to read the opinions of Latinx film critics because their voices matter much more than mine. In addition to these opinions, there has been an outpouring of support on Twitter with stories of Mexican families going to see this film and finally feeling like their culture wasn’t being stereotyped or the butt of a joke. Besides Disney’s early misstep of trying to trademark “Día de Los Muertos” as the title of the film so they could make merchandise and placing a Frozen short in front of the movie with the goal of luring more people to the theater because they thought it might be successful, the other ways that the company has advertised the film have been respectful and educational. The film was first premiered at a Mexican film festival, the credits have extensive mentions of the towns and people that helped in the research of the movie as well as a sentence to encourage viewers to learn more about Día de Muertos by visiting a local library. The advertising in the theme parks such as mariachi bands, food, and story-telling (which I did not personally experience) seemed to be educational and draw a lot of people into the parks.

Coco had similar themes as 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings but is leaps and bounds better in its cultural representation; all of the voice actors were of Latin descent and many more people of the represented culture were involved in the making of the movie. I can only imagine how impactful this movie will be for Hispanic, and especially Mexican, children to see characters that look like them and sound like them and their families. The usage of the Spanish language throughout the movie struck me as extremely significant because of all of the families in the US in particular that have both Spanish and English spoken in the home. Viewers without a knowledge of Spanish will not miss much but there are definitely some jokes left in for Spanish speakers. I learned new words (chamaco means kid) after looking up the translations of the Spanish songs and I am very excited that the movie is offered dubbed or subtitled in Spanish in select theaters.

I very much look forward to reading the scholarly articles about the effect that this movie has on the movie industry going forward.

Overall

I loved this movie for its messages about the importance of your family and of following your dreams as well as its visually stunning and respectful depiction of Mexican culture. It serves as a launching point for educating children about death as well as for encouraging further explorations and appreciation of the customs of different countries. Listening to the soundtrack will forever make my cry, miss my grandparents, and be thankful for my early exposure to the Spanish language. I hope to see this movie continue to have a large presence in all Disney parks to help create lasting memories for children and parents in generations to come.