11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007

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Sunday, March 18 2007

Good morning and welcome to Day 2 of the 11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007!

It is a season of change, and none is more prevalent on the mind of Braves fans than the transfer of ownership from Time Warner to Liberty Media.  Except maybe where is Chipper Jones?   The ownership question will not be answered before the season opener, but the Chipper Jones question may be decided to day as the Braves take on the Tigers at Disney's Wide World of Sports.  After last night's St. Patty's festivities there was no rush this morning (that will come soon enough) so I was able to amble into the ballpark about 12:40pm for the 1:05pm game.  Lunch, not on my dining plan at the sports complex, was a pulled pork sandwich ($5.75) and a diet coke ($2).  I settled into to my seat in the upper level just inside first base in time to see Tim Hudson throw his first pitch.

A quick note: One of the highlights of the ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports when it debuted  in 1997 was a large (for the time) jumbo vision screen.  Apparently no one sponsored an upgrade and the video panel was removed.  Frankly, it's absence detracts from the ambiance where we have come to expect high tech stimulation.  However, everything else that Disney does is first class, as usual.

Hudson has needed a good outing, and he had one going 5 innings giving up no runs.  Oscar Villarreal went to the mound in relief and had a good first inning, staked to a 2 run lead in the 2nd inning, one coming from Brian McCann's solo home run.  But his wheels came off in the seventh inning as he struggled, giving back 2 runs.  The Braves got two more in the sixth on Brandon Jones' 2 run home run that capped a 3 hit day.  If Jones made it to Right Field, then the Braves would have 3 Jones in the starting lineup.  Andruw, Brandon and Chipper.  Talk about ABC Baseball.  Martin Prado continued to shine at the plate but dropped an easy pop-up near the camera well by the visiting dugout.  It was the third game with no Chipper Jones.  Because it was a split-squad afternoon, Andruw Jones played away and still has not made a Spring Training Trek appearance. 

Since the game ended about 20 minutes before 4pm, I decided to do a little Spring Training shopping in the Clubhouse Store, picking up a souvenir program a t-shirt and some surprises for a certain pair of you-know-who-you-are's.  I returned back to Port Orleans Riverside to drop off the items and pick up my tripod and jacket.  The temperatures have been nice but the wind chill (yes, the wind has been chilly) was likely to make shorts and a t-shirt a little too cool for the long night ahead. 

I caught the bus to the Magic Kingdom and entered the park, making for The Plaza Restaurant, the site of dinner for the evening.  This is an old fashioned eatery specializing in burgers and shakes.  I ordered a tomato bisque as a starter ($3.99), then a bacon cheeseburger with grilled mushrooms and onions ($11.49) and finally, the ultimate gorging extravagance, a banana split for desert ($5.69).  The total bill came to $28.71, covered under my Dining Plan.  The Dining Plan costs about $39 per day and covers one snack (up to $5), one counter service meal and one table service meal for each night, which in my case is 8 nights.

After dinner, there was just about enough time to head out to Main Street just before the hub in front of Cinderella's castle and stake my position for the 8pm run of Spectramagic.  This is a fun light parade, but I still miss the Main Street Electrical Parade.  You can read my recap of the last time I saw it, just 2 weeks before it ended it's run.  Before the parade there were 3 High School bands and some crowed entertainment activities as we waited for the sky to transition from day to night.  Finally, Mickey led off the illuminated extravaganza with rolling fish, dancing fairies, the three little pigs and finally Minnie Mouse getting the last word. 

There was not much time to reposition myself and reload my camera for Wishes, the biggest, most dazzling fireworks spectacular ever to grace the Magic Kingdom skies.  Those were Disney's words, not mine.  This was my first time seeing Wishes, which replaced the previous Fantasy In The Sky show.  Still narrated by Jiminy Cricket, the show starts with Tinkerbell flying out from Cinderella's Castle. The pyrotechnics were well coordinated with the music and it was a fun  show, although I was expecting a bigger finale.  Perhaps I have been coming here so long I just expect Disney to continually top themselves year after year.  However, as I was walking through the castle to Fantasyland as the final wisps of the fireworks faded away and the castle, bathed in light continued to change its hue, I came upon a young squire on bended knee who was making his own princess's dreams come true.

Now you may have noticed at this point in the 2007 Spring Training Trek that I have been in 3 theme parks and yet only been on one attraction.  Well buckle you seatbelts, because it is Extra Magic Hours night at the Magic Kingdom and at 9:30pm, the night is just getting started. 

It is a season of changes and one of the changes back in 2003 was the opening of Mickey's Philharmagic, after my last Spring Training Trek.  So I was excited to finally see the attraction I had heard so much about.  This 4D movie is a musical take-off on The Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia where Mickey plays the role of The Sorcerer and Donald Duck plays the role of The Apprentice.  Donald puts on the magic hat that Mickey told him not to touch and of course, madness ensues that includes the attack of the killer cello, a magic carpet ride, swimming under the sea and a race through the pride lands.  Finally, Mickey arrives to set everything straight and perform the theme song from The Mickey Mouse Club.  Of all the 4D movies here at Disney World, this is the best one I have seen, possibly due to it being the first digital 4D attraction.

Next up was a visit to It's A Small World, which underwent a much needed refurbishment a few years ago.  The ride is the same but it is much fresher and just as both fun and nerve racking as you year that song over and over and over.  From Fantasyland I made my way over to Tomorrowland where a treat was in store.  I had seen on the map that the Carousel of Progress was open, and in my past six Spring Training Treks to Disney World, this was a first.  Conceived by Walt Disney for the 1964 World's Fair, the Carousel of Progress was an animatronics presentation of how the more things change over time, the more they stay the same.  It follows a family from the turn of the century to present time to see how life has changed over the years.  The current Carousel has been refurbished and updated and it was a privilege to finally be able to experience this attraction that I had last seen as a kid when my parents brought me to the Magic Kingdom.

Next up on my Season of Change was a trip to Stitch's Great Escape, formerly the ExtraTERRORestrial Encounter.  The basic framework of the attraction remained the same, with a similar pre-show (although the cute critter is not torched in the teleporter), but the level 3 alien being transferred to the containment center is none other than Stitch himself.  Naturally, Stitch escapes and mayhem ensues before he winds up on planet Earth.  I enjoyed the ExtraTERRORestrial Encounter better, but perhaps the experience would have been enhanced had I actually seen the movie.  That is the danger of wrapping attractions around movies - if you haven't seen the movie you may not get the most out of the attraction.

Another attraction I had never been on was the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, an interactive ride where you are deputized by Buzz himself in a neat effect of animating the face of a physical oversized toy figure.  As you go through the ride, you can spin your vehicle around and shoot at Z targets.  I scored 119,600 which is a decent beginner result, qualifying me as a Galactic Space Pilot.  This was the first and only attraction based on a Pixar character, that being Toy Story and Toy Story II.  But that was about to change and you are in for a special treat.

So new it wasn't even on the park map yet, the Laugh Floor in Monstroplis is the latest brainchild of Monsters Inc.'s MIke Warkowsky to generate gillions of gigglewatts of power from human laughter.  Instead of coming into our world to make us laugh, Mike came up with the idea of bringing Humans to Monstroplis for a stand up comedy show.  This interactive attraction, originally scheduled to open in January, finally opened this weekend.  As you enter, you walk past various Monsters Inc. office doors, including one leading to Inhuman resources.  You are also enticed to text message your best stand-up jokes and maybe one will be used in the show.  The show itself, hosted by Mike, consists a few of the monster characters doing their stand-up routine.  The twist is that they are interacting with the live audience as would be the case with human comics.  Naturally, Roz is skeptical that this plan can max out the meter with gigglewatts, but we come through in the end.

From something new to something old, I made my way to to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe for a midnight counter service snack of chicken fingers, sugar free jello and a diet coke ($10.62).  As I ate, I was entertained by the spaced out sounds of Sonny Eclipse, proof positive that Simon Cowell's Idol rejects are still better than a piano bar performer.  I had never been to Cosmic Ray's before, so it was a surprise to discover this animatronics feature at the eatery.

It was way past the witching hour, so naturally the next stop on my Magic Kingdom tour was the Haunted Mansion.  This ride hasn't changed, but it is always fun searching for Hidden Mickey's and reading the tombstones.  The technology, advanced in its day, still impresses me as I float over the ballroom with the swirling ghosts having a grand old time. Next I made my way to Frontierland and took a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  This classic coaster is much fun at night when the tunnels are darkest and the cool air rushing past gets your blood pumping. 

Finally, I made my way to Adventureland and Pirates of the Caribbean, featuring Captain Jack Sparrow.  The music outside the attraction was adapted from the movie and as for the attraction, all I can say is that if Walt were alive today he would be cringing.  Pirates was the last attraction Disney oversaw before his death and it was recently refurbished and opened to coincide with the release of the Pirates sequel last summer.  The basic elements are the same but Jack Sparrow has been inserted into the story either in dialog or in admittedly advanced  Captain Jack animatronics figures. But I do not need to see Jack's face in every other scene.  This time, Disney disappoints.

Never-the-less, as I walk out of the park at 2:05am weary but well worn, it has been a great day.  The Braves won, the Thrashers won, and tomorrow looks to be a Fantasmic! day as well.

Who is in desperate search for some sleep...



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Copyright 2007 by Computer Connection. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/22/07.