April 2001 Trip Report

April 2001 Trip Report: Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire--Play It!"

Dates: April 16-23, 2001


  • Jennifer Watson: 32, Disney veteran and co-author of PassPorter Walt Disney World, on her umpteenth trip to Disney (from Ann Arbor, MI)
  • Dave Marx, 46, Disney veteran and co-author of PassPorter (from Ann Arbor, MI)

Transportation: Southwest Airlines (from Detroit Metro Airport) and Tiffany Town Car

Resort: Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Parks: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom, Pleasure Island

Restaurants/Eateries: Jiko, Boma, more to come later

Other: This is a research trip to check out the new resort and new attraction. Most of our time will be spent researching in great detail and thus will go outside the realm of the typical vacationer experience. Thus, this resort may not make for scintillating reading, but it should be full of great observations, facts, and information.

Updated 04/18/01

Copyright 1999-2001
PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.
Questions? Problems? E-Mail Us!

  Day Two: April 17, 2001

The Day Two sun rose a bit too brightly over the savanna, but it was just as well -- we were due at Disney-MGM Studios at 9:00 AM for the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire--Play It!" Meet. Shower time, then Dave headed down to The Mara, Animal Kingdom Lodge's food court (Disney doesn't call it a food court, but it sure looks like one to us). A few minutes later he was back in the room bearing a large waffle with diced fresh fruit (his pick) and a gargantuan breakfast croissant (egg, bacon, cheese) for Jennifer.

By 8:27 am we were on the bus to the Studios, and by 8:37 we had been gently deposited at the park. Whoosh! We were through the turnstiles and on towards the head of Hollywood Boulevard in search of Deb Wills, our co-host for the Millionaire Meet. We met Deb and Linda about halfway down the boulevard. Deb greeted us and said, "See that Cast Member in the turquoise shirt? Tell her you're going to the 9:15 am Millionaire show and she'll give you a FASTPASS for Rock 'n Roller Coaster that'll be good right after the show." We said the magic words and, FASTPASS in hand, we joined the small throng lined up behind the rope near Hollywood Brown Derby.

Near the rope we spotted Jim P., sporting a bright yellow PassPorter pin. We made introductions all around (Deb and Linda had caught up with us, as had Bruce "Zazu" Metcalf and his SWMBO (aka She Who Must Be Obeyed, aka wife) Marta.The park-opening music split the morning air, the rope dropped, and the crowd dashed off towards their choice attractions: The Great Movie Ride, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and in our case, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire--Play It!"

Before we hopped in the Millionaire queue we all got FASTPASSes for the next available show (11:15 AM) and headed into the studio. Wow! The place looks great! Dave has been monitoring progress on set construction during his December and February visits to Studios (you can see the set as part of the Backstage Pass attraction), but this is the first time either of us had seen the completed set. It sure does look like the real thing, from the overhead lighting to the glass floor. It truly feels like walking onto a TV set.

We made our way up the stadium seating and found seats about halfway up. Was that LauraBelle (one of our crack PassPorter message board Moderators) waving to us from the stands? Yeppers! So we all trooped over and sat together -- all told, a rooting section of about a dozen people.

Oooh, this was so exciting! Our first "real" round of Millionaire. Jennifer has been grooming Dave for this moment for quite some time, since she's been certain he can win the Fastest Finger round and sweep to victory in the Hot Seat. All 650 members of the audience get to play Fast Finger, and when the dust settled the fastest contestent was sitting in seat number 237.....


Can you even believe it? Oh, it was just so cool! There was Jennifer, with a big smile, cracking jokes with the Regis substitute, and answering question after question with grace and style. 100 points, 500 points, 1000 points! Now she was guaranteed a prize! We were all cheering our heads off as her score climbed. 2000 points, 4000 points, 8000, 16000! And now, for the 32000 point question...

Alas, her lifelines were already gone, but she took her best shot and...

Wah, wha! Those awful chords sounded. Jennifer just wasn't going to make it to the 32000 point plateau! We roared our appreciation, and it was well-placed: nobody else matched her performance for the rest of that show or the 11:15 show. Jennifer went backstage to receive her prize -- a grey Millionaire baseball cap with "1000 Points" embroidered in gold on the purple visor, five enameled pins (with 100 to 1000 points printed upon them), and a Millionaire pin lanyard.

Still glowing with excitement at the end of the game, most of us headed over to Rock 'n Roller Coaster. LauraBelle and her companions stayed behind to play Millionaire again (they had fallen in love with the game). We returned to Millionaire for the 11:15 show and had a great time (Bruce, Jim, and Dave all reached the top ten at one time or another, but we never did manage to put another member of the group in the Hot Seat. Ah, well. By then hunger was more important than another shot at the Hot Seat, so we all went our separate ways.

We headed back to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a bit of lunch at The Mara (savory Sugar Cane Chicken for Dave, disappointing Pasta Primavera for Jennifer). Then it was nap time for Jennifer -- she needs a full eight hours daily, and we've been coming up a bit short of that lately. Dave headed off for a very thorough exploration of the Lodge.

Six o'clock rolled around, and we headed back to the Lodge's Victoria Falls Lounge for the second Meet of the day. We hooked up with Deb and Linda, Evan H. and Kimberly W. (from RADP) and Peter (Fudgie), the PassPorter team's ace researcher. Then we all headed to Boma, the lodge's African-flavored buffet. The preliminary verdict? Pretty good, but not great (but this is only the second day of official operation, and all new restaurants deserve some time to polish their act before the critics go to work). There were many unusual, tasty, and intriguing items on the menu. We hope the Lodge's guests take a liking to it, because it'd be a shame to see it turn into just another typically-Disney buffet.

Well, despite the late hour, we chouldn't help but show Peter some of the sites he hadn't seen around the lodge (it's absolutely gorgeous after dark!). And we couldn't help but head to Pleasure Island for a couple of hours of Adventurers Club hijinks...

Will Jennifer and Dave ever get a full night's sleep? How's the breakfast buffet at Boma? And what's the best time to view the animals at Arusha Rock? Tune in again tomorrow for the latest installment of, "Animal Kingdom Lodge or Bust!"


Next Report: Day Three

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