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PassPorter News Brought to you by PassPorter Guidebooks
  August 21, 2003 * Issue 3.14

In This Newsletter

From the Authors:Our Week at Walt Disney World

Disney Feature: Our Scope on Mission:SPACE

Dining Review: Lunch with a Disney Artist

Updates: What's New and Changed

Tips: Waterproof Wallets, Dry Shoes, Sticky Numbers

Q&A: Waist Packs vs. Backpacks, WDW + Cruise Guide Deals
 
 
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Updates:
What's New and Changed

Mission: SPACE went into a "soft opening" on August 15, which essentially means guests are very likely to find the ride operating if they visit now. The official opening will be in October 2003.

Disney Vacation Club memberships for the new Saratoga Springs Resort went on sale on August 4.

While at Disney-MGM Studios, we noticed that parts of New York Street set were under construction. It seems they are replacing parts of the old set with new forced perspective façades -- a San Francisco-style façade to the section near the old Backlot (Hunchback) Theatre and a Chicago-style façade to the section closest to Sci Fi Drive-In Theater.

As has been widely reported, the Residential Street set at Disney-MGM Studios (part of the Studios Backlot Tour and home to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights) has been demolished to make room for a new attraction due to open in 2005. When we took the Backlot Tour during our research trip we noticed that structural steel work has already begun. Everyone expects this will be an automobile stunt show similar to the one at Disneyland Paris Resort, but Disney hasn’t made an official announcement.

On our visit to Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks, we noticed new Automated Ticketing machines at the front of the park. While they weren’t operational on our visit (and we have annual passes anyway), the word is that these ATM-like machines allow guests to purchase tickets and avoid any queues.

We noticed a new Reedy Creek Improvement District firehouse across the street from Saratoga Springs Resort, near Downtown Disney. Let’s hope you have no need of their services, though.

Playhouse Disney at Disney-MGM Studios will get FASTPASS in October.

Sets from the upcoming movie, "Haunted Mansion," will go on display in Disney-MGM Studios on October 6. Look for them near Mickey Avenue.

The new fireworks show at Magic Kingdom -- debuting in October -- will be called "Wishes." Jiminy Cricket narrates the new show, which tells a touching story about making wishes come true. Disney claims the new 12-minute show will be the "biggest, boldest pyrotechnic display ever staged in the theme park." More than just a cool fireworks show, "Wishes" will highlight tales from classic Disney films and demonstrate the power of believing in a wish. The display will be centered around and above Cinderella Castle, but they’ll be adding a few new launch sites elsewhere in the park. "Wishes" will replace "Fantasy in the Sky," which premiered way back in 1976.

>Things To Do: Hear some news? Send it to us at
news@passporter.com .
 
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Disney  Tips:
From Fellow Readers

WATERPROOF YOUR WALLET
"This one is for the guys. The water rides can be a blast, like Splash Mountain and more. So you come out and you have to buy a drink or a meal or t-shirt, and you wallet is soaked. This can mess up your credit cards and money and even irreplaceable photos. Simple and cheap solution: Bring a plastic sandwich bag and put your wallet in there!! It's easy and waterproof. You may think it's silly but look at what you are going to prevent; ruined photos and credit cards and wet money. Now tell me which one looks silly.-- contributed by Erin F.

KEEP YOUR SHOES DRY
"We just went on the Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and found out that you know have to wear shoes on the ride due to health concerns. So I recommend bringing beach shoes to wear in your backpack or ride this ride at the end of the day, because your feet will get wet." -- contributed by Dianne Cook (dianne1116572@aol.com)

STICK THOSE NUMBERS
"When I make my priority seating arrangements for meals, I write each confirmation number on a sticky note. I then place the sticky note on my corresponding PassPocket in my PassPorter. When I am looking at my itinerary for the day, I simply remove the sticky note and place it in my fanny pouch to take to the restaurant with me. With a common last name, it sometimes helps to have the priority seating number handy (especially if you are entering a park before opening time)." -- contributed by Ann Smith (momyvile@aol.com)
 

>Notes: Send us your tips ! You may see them in this newsletter and win a copy of PassPorter!
 
 
 
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Q & A:
With Jennifer and Dave

In this column we answer your frequently asked PassPorter and Disney questions.

Kel&2Boys asks:
"I've looked through the older posts and couldn't find anything on this... which do you'all prefer? I like the idea of a backpack, in order to carry all the necessities, but I don't know how it would work with the rides. But then again, a fanny pack sounds so much more convenient, but will it fit everything I need?"

Jennifer replies:
"I've toured with both waist (fanny) packs and backpacks, and occasionally both at the same time. Here are my thoughts:

Waist packs are best when you don't have much to carry and want to keep your hands as free as possible. The downside to waist packs are that you often have to take them off (or slide them around) to sit down, and if you put a lot of weight in them they can give you a sore lower back. Also, while Dave and I are comfortable with waist packs, some people aren't -- we've heard them complain that they just don't feel right on them.

Backpacks carry a lot more, including jackets, food, and camcorders, which you can't generally fit in a waist pack. Of course, this means they're almost always heavier than waist packs, and they can seem WAY too heavy by the end of the day, resulting in sore shoulders and more fatigue. So they way I look at it is I take the backpack if I absolutely must to carry certain things.

The best thing to do is go as light as possible. If you can get away with the waist pack, I recommend it. Either way, I also wear the PassHolder Pouch because then I don't have to fish in my pack for passes, pens, and money.

You may also find this article (written by yours truly) at WDWIG.com to be helpful:
http://www.wdwig.com/tote.htm

alaskantwinks asks:
"Hi I'd like to know if there is a discount if I buy both the deluxe versions of the Walt Disney World guide and Disney Cruise guide?? Another question is, I saw them both on Amazon.com (the cruise wasn't the deluxe version though) for less expensive price than on here. Is there shipping costs involved if I order from this site? Are the deluxe versions worth the price difference? Thanks for your help!!"

Dave replies:
"Our standard discount on books is 15%. We also offer a variety of add-on offers (such as WDW and DCL guides together) that offer better-than-standard pricing on the added item (approx. 30% discount on the second PassPorter book). You can check those offers at our online store at http://www.passporterstore.com/store

If you already own a PassPorter you can register that edition at and get a 30% discount on PassPorter books (and the add-on pricing makes the second book even cheaper than that).

Unfortunately, we can't match Amazon's deals. They're a mass-market retailer, and we're one of those little shops on Main St. We can't possibly achieve the kind of economies of scale that they can, and we can't generate the massive number of transactions that a deep discounter needs to make that business model work. Further, Amazon offers millions of products, including high-priced electronics, appliances, etc. When they draw in a customer with a deeply discounted book they can hope to forge a customer relationship worth many thousands of dollars. We can hope to sell a few books per customer in a year.
We do offer free shipping for orders over $100, but for reasons similar to those I've already described, we can't match Amazon's shipping offer. Our standard shipping charge is the exact cost of postage/UPS plus $1.50 per order for handling.

Please feel free to buy your PassPorter from whichever vendor you prefer. We’re happy either way. The important thing is that you're happy with your PassPorter.

As to whether the deluxe edition is worthwhile, that will depend on your personal preferences. Jennifer loves her deluxe, while I prefer the spiral. Either way, the information and PassPockets are identical. Folks who love the deluxe like to be able to remove and add pages and PassPockets, reorganize the chapters, buy annual updates and extra PassPockets for long/multiple trips, and take advantage of the extra storage slots found on the inside of the front and back covers. The spiral is a bit more compact, and (usually) lighter. Either way, we think it's a great book."


Have a question? Post it at http://www.passporterboards.com  -- and if you're lucky, you may find that folks have already asked and answered the same question that's on your mind!
 
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From the Authors:Our Week at Walt Disney World

Hi, friends!

We’re home after a very productive week at Walt Disney World, gathering information and photos for our 2004 Edition of PassPorter Walt Disney World. Yes, we experienced Mission:SPACE, the new thrill ride at Epcot. And as promised, we’re including our review in this issue for those of you who just can’t wait to try it yourselves, or aren’t sure if you have the stomach to do it. We also had the pleasure of Lunch with a Disney Artist, a special dining experience at Brown Derby (Disney-MGM Studios), and Dave offers his review in this newsletter.

While we’re too busy for a full-blown trip report, here are some highlights: we dined at Shutters at Caribbean Beach Resort ("a big improvement over Captain’s Tavern"); we enjoyed a meal at sunset at the California Grill ("our best yet"); we got "leied" at the new Spirit of Aloha dinner show ("slightly better food, updated show – if you liked the old show, you’ll probably like this one too"); we tried out the Radisson Resort Parkway ("excellent value, great pool!"); we stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort ("it’s looking much, much better these days!"); we stayed in a Garden Wing room at the Contemporary Resort ("as always, very convenient to Magic Kingdom"); and we almost got into the hot seat at Millionaire in Disney-MGM Studios ("Jennifer was in the #1 spot when our first show ended, and Dave in the #1 spot when our second show ended... so close!"). Watch for more in-depth reports of our experiences in future newsletters!

In the meantime, we’re putting a call out for contributors to our 2004 edition of PassPorter Walt Disney World! We need folks to send in their magical memories and stories –- we look for magic you make yourself, rather than that granted by a cast member. Send your memories to memories@passporter.com. If your memory or story is chosen, we’ll notify you by e-mail and send you a free copy of the book after it is published.

Have you been to Walt Disney World recently? We’re looking for folks to rate the new attractions, shows, and eateries for our 2004 edition. Please take a few moments to fill out our survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=66193261336  

Jennifer and Dave
PassPorter Travel Press

 


 
 
 
 

Did You Know?We Have a New Limited Edition Cloisonne Pin

Our first cloisonne pin sold out quickly, but we’re happy to announce the release of our second cloisonne pin for 2004! This new pin is even bigger (1.5" diameter) and of the highest quality. The pin depicts our colorful PassPorter emblem and the words "1999 * 2004 * 5 Years of Magic." You can get the pins separately for 6.00, as part of our popular Goodie Bag, or as an add-on to some of our books. Our 2004 cloisonne pin is also a limited edition, and we predict they’ll go fast -- they are really gorgeous pins!

To see our cloisonne pin upclose, visit:
http://www.passporterstore.com/store/0966899456.aspx

Also, we’re still offering our FREE copy of an earlier edition of PassPorter – get one for yourself or give to a friend. Visit:
http://www.passporterstore.com/store/freepassporter.aspx

 

Disney Feature:
Our Scope on Mission:SPACE

by Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx

The long wait and hoopla were finally over. It was time for us to ride Epcot’s newest headline attraction, Mission: SPACE. We had scheduled our August research trip so we’d be on hand August 15 for the attraction’s "soft" opening (the official opening date is October 9, but that’s just a ribbon cutting ceremony for the media’s benefit). Then, a few weeks ago, Disney added a five-day preview period to the soft opening, complete with "countdown to opening" cloisonné pins. That still fit our original plans fairly well. We arrived in Orlando the afternoon of August 11, and were at Epcot the next morning, ready to brave long lines and queasy stomachs, and to pick up a Day 3 limited edition countdown pin.

Mission: SPACE is Disney’s latest entry in the high tech thrill ride category. Riders are strapped into a space program-inspired centrifuge/simulator to train for a flight to Mars. With Disney Imagineering’s legendary attention to story line and authentic detail, this promised to be a fantastic ride!

The ride’s richly-detailed queue area includes a full-size mock-up of the Mars spacecraft’s living quarters, a historic lunar rover vehicle, plaques commemorating important milestones in manned space flight, and many video displays and warning signs describing just what will take place in the simulator.


Dave snaps photos in the entry plaza

We arrived in the colorful entrance plaza to Mission: SPACE at around 11:00 am, just an hour after the park opened. Already, the FASTPASS Return time was 4:30pm, the Standby queue was 90 minutes long, and even the Single Rider queue was pegged at 55 minutes! As planned, we skipped FASTPASS to sample the complete Standby experience. Considering the return time, FASTPASS would have to wait for another day.

This was Jennifer’s first time through the attraction, but Dave was present for the media preview back in April. Only then he wasn’t allowed to ride, or even see the ride vehicle! Now we were in for the full treatment, and the anticipation mounted as we crept through the queue. As we’re both space geeks, we had a great time gawking at all the details in the queue. Before we knew it, cast members were dividing us into teams of 40, and then again into ten crews of four. We received our mission briefing, then headed into the ride staging area, where two crews stood flanking each of five entrances to the ride area. Another quick briefing, the doors opened, and we boarded our four-person simulator. OK, now, place any loose articles into the storage compartment, and pull down the shoulder restraints. Then, the final safety check, and our capsule closed around us. Now here we were navigator, pilot, commander and engineer, each with our own viewing screen, arrays of working pushbuttons, and a flight control joystick.

Dave’s Experience: "Ride startup was nearly imperceptible--just a little shudder, than absolute stillness. I knew the centrifuge was beginning to spin, but I couldn’t feel a thing. Until the launch sequence began. It felt (and looked) like the spacecraft was being raised from horizontal to a vertical position alongside the launch tower. Then the rockets roared, and I was pressed back into my seat. My cheeks were pushed back to my ears by the g-forces, and I felt totally new sensations as the spacecraft rose through the atmosphere and spun slowly. I was queasy and exhilarated at the same time. Then the atmosphere thinned, the g-forces eased, and I felt like I was floating out of my seat, all previous sensations erased from my gut. Next, we accelerated into a high-speed lunar fly-by, perhaps 50 miles above the moon’s surface. More g-forces, more queasiness, and relief again, as we were placed into "hypersleep" for the long trip to Mars. We "awoke" in a meteor field just above the Martian surface, pulling gees and dodging house-sized boulders on our approach to the Red Planet. I didn’t know how much more of that my stomach could take, but then the sensations eased a moment, just long enough to begin our descent and landing at the Mars base. My body felt heavy (and queasy) again as we roared towards the landing zone. I couldn’t wait until touchdown! By now my face was drenched in a cold sweat, and I was happy for the stiff breeze that blasted from the ventilators to clear my senses. Land! Please, land! Whew, we’re down! Relief seemed seconds away, but the Imagineers weren’t quite done with us. My stomach lurched once more during the surprise ending, but finally, all was well! Our simulator came to a full stop, the hatch opened, and we all made our way out of the vehicle. While I was disoriented by all these new sensations, I wasn’t dizzy, and the queasiness disappeared almost immediately. We walked down a long, curving hallway into the post-show area, and collected our wits."

"OK, so what do I think? This is an awesome attraction! I’ve never experience anything like it. Even though I knew it was a simulator from the get-go (in the story line we’re trainees at the International Space Training Center, after all) the sensations of liftoff, weightlessness and landing were completely convincing. I never once felt like I was spinning."


Jennifer’s Experience: "I have to start with a confession. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. I know just about everyone else did, too, but I was really into it. I remember drawing a fake keyboard and instrument panel on a piece of cardboard, going to my closet, closing the door, and pretending to orbit in my little pod. So when I saw the Mission: SPACE pods for the first time, I was in heaven. It was just what I’d imagined as a kid. Even the confined space of my closet was mimicked by the slightly claustrophobic pod as it closed around us. I eagerly began playing with all the switches and buttons, and was delighted to discover most of them made little beeps. All I could think was, "COOL." So I was thoroughly distracted from any fear of the ride, and I was all ready to love this to death. Alas, that feeling ended the moment the ride began. Unlike Dave, the spinning of the pod was immediately detectable – I could even tell that we were going in a clockwise direction and I had a general sense of acceleration and deceleration. I was no longer in my fantasy world, but stuck in some mad, spinning contraption. The launch sequence was almost nightmarish in recollection. While I never felt like I’d lose my breakfast, I did feel wildly out of control. It just spun way too much for me. And yes, I kept my eyes straight forward the entire time. But during the most intense parts, my screen blurred. Was it my screen or me? I’m still not sure. I ended up breathing deeply and visualizing the end of the ride, and that got me through. I was surprised by the ending – it seemed abrupt, and even though I was more than ready to leave, I found myself thinking, "is this really the end?" The doors to the pod opened and I got out the opposite side from everyone else, and found myself alone, confused, and disoriented. People were walking towards me, presumably to board, and I worried I’d really goofed. Eventually I followed the voices and found the rest of the exiting riders. In the pre-show, I felt dazed and nauseous. We sat down for a bit, and ended up staying at least 30 minutes until I felt more like myself."

"So what did I think? Once I the nausea wore off, I felt disappointed. I was really prepared to embrace this particular thrill ride. But in the end, it was just too much for me – I’m apparently too sensitive to the spinning motion. I know many other folks will love it, but it isn’t for me… and I would not recommend it to anyone else who gets dizzy easily."


In some ways this whole thing is nothing more than a multi-million dollar Tilt-a-Whirl, with theming and some story elements recycled from other great Disney attractions of the past. But this is no cheap carnival ride or a tired re-hash, but a trip for the body and imagination. Still, for many folks, you’ll probably want to ride this only once, or once per visit. While Dave felt like he’d get sick several times during his first ride, he got relief whenever the mission went into a new phase. You can’t say that for most thrill rides, which never give you a break. Let’s face it, the ride portion of the attraction lasts over four minutes (talk about value!) and you’re under the sustained forces of liftoff for more than 30 seconds. Try getting that out of a coaster! Still, when it was all over Dave wasn’t exhilarated by the experience, and neither was anyone else nearby. Quiet awe may be a better way to look at it.  After a coaster ride there are always a few people shouting triumphantly. We watched the riders exit while we were sitting down (just inside the post show area), and we saw very few smiling faces.

Another emotion missing from our experience was fear. Of course, few Disney attractions trade on fear, but most thrill rides do. That’s supposed to be part of the thrill—anticipatory fear, extreme motion, and release. Here, we never encountered the illusion of risk. Oh, there were a few half-hearted attempts (meteor field, landing "surprise"), but nothing convincing enough to matter. Disney wants us to feel confident and secure as we train for our mission, and we thank them for it. As we discovered, the sensations of space flight are thrilling enough without feeling endangered by the experience.

Now, the experts tell us that the simulator never spins faster than 15 rpm, slower than a playground merry-go-round when the kids get it spinning (the force on Mission: SPACE is stronger because its diameter is much greater than the playground ride). Still, the g-forces never exceed 2.5 to 3 gees, which is matched or exceeded by many thrill rides. The difference on Mission: SPACE is that you feel those gees (and weightlessness) for an extended period, while on coasters and elevators they last just a few seconds at a time.

We knew we couldn’t just go around and ride it again immediately, but Dave had to do it again for research purposes. He made a point of returning on a later visit to Epcot. He breezed through the FASTPASS queue and soon was lifting off again. Second time around was more exciting and less nauseating, and he has a feeling it will continue to grow on him as time goes by. We have a feeling Dave wasn’t the only person with this reaction. This time as Dave monitored the exit, far more people were leaving excited and smiling.

Itís kind of odd. Usually you love or hate something like this immediately. If you love it, you come to love it even more with time, and if you hate it, you avoid it completely. Mission: SPACE is somewhere in the middle. At the moment it may not be getting the kind of rave reviews that an attraction with this kind of build-up requires, but we have a feeling itíll gather a very large and loyal following as the months and years go by.


Have you been on Misson:SPACE? Please take a few moments to give us your rating at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=66193261336  
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Dining Review:
Lunch With a Disney Artist

by Dave Marx

Guidebook authors have a special duty to experience everything 'The World' has to offer. We make this sacrifice for the sake of our readers, no matter how daring we may have to be to endure terrifying towers and hazardous space missions. Naturally, a chance to enjoy Disney Dining’s Lunch With a Disney Artist at Disney-MGM Studios is a lot easier to stomach. A whole lot easier! As a fan of Disney animation, this was one special Disney experience I wasn't going to pass up.

We reported to the Hollywood Brown Derby promptly at 11.30 am and were introduced to Philip Boyd, animation clean-up supervisor at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Florida. Within moments we were ushered into the Bamboo Room, an attractive private dining area that seats about 14. We received VIP treatment, with visits by the restaurant's chef and manager, and our places at table were graced by personalized menus. We learned that there might have been up to ten guests and two animators in attendance (one animator and five guests per table), but fewer participants is common (in our case, just the artist, Jennifer, and me).

Clearly, lunch at Disney-MGM Studios’ finest restaurant was part of the attraction. Our four-course lunch included an excellent lobster bisque, a mini-version of the Brown Derby's signature Cobb salad, and one of three entrees: filet mignon, Thai noodle bowl with grilled chicken, or our pick, a perfectly delectable pan-roasted grouper served over crisp asparagus and a citrus cream. Dessert was Bananas Foster cheese cake -- a round, individual vanilla cheese cake topped with caramelized banana, decorated with lacy, chocolate butterfly wings, with a dollop of tart, preserved cherries on the side. Jennifer and I both agreed it was our best meal yet at the Brown Derby, and that’s saying quite a bit.

"Our" artist didn't arrive with a prepared presentation -- he finds an informal discussion to be far more effective. So we enjoyed a wide-ranging chat about all things animation, and even a few things PassPorter. Philip Boyd has been at Disney's Orlando studios for 15 years, having worked on the Lion King, Mulan, and Lilo and Stitch, among other projects, but he came to Disney with a background in fine art/illustration, rather than animation. One might think he would have gravitated towards creating backgrounds, but he’s found his home in clean-up. Naturally, we emerged with a far greater respect for clean-up artists, who take the animators' rough pencil sketches and turn them into inked line drawings, ready for scanning into the computer ("paint" is done afterwards, in the computer). Along the way the clean-up artists harmonize the personal styles of the many animators working on a film into a consistent whole, and fill in any missing details. And we thought they simply erased stray pencil marks. Our bad!

And we were so bad! We spent nearly two hours dining and chatting, a half-hour longer than scheduled. We hope we didn't bore our host, or get him into trouble. When it was time to go he autographed the (included) souvenirs of our experience – an etched-glass dinner plate for each of us, marked "Lunch With an Artist - Walt Disney Feature Animation - Disney-MGM Studios" (complete with display easel). We returned the compliment by presenting him with an autographed copy of PassPorter's Field Guide to the Disney Cruise Line (he and his family will soon be cruising). Altogether, we had a very satisfying lunch and a most enjoyable conclusion to our research trip.


Dave, Jennifer (holding her signed plate), and Phil

Tips: Come with a few prepared questions to help get the conversation rolling, and bring a big appetite - it's a huge, wonderful meal. The Hollywood Brown Derby staff clearly wants to put its best food forward.

Lunch With a Disney Artist is usually offered weekly. With tax and included 15% gratuity it costs 74.10 per adult (beverages optional). Reservation can be made up to 30 days in advance by phoning 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). As far as I'm concerned the meal and souvenir are worth the price of admission, and the chance to chat with one of Disney's creative team is very rich gravy.











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