Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RV’ing the Magic Kingdom

Walt and Mickey.
We recently spent a week at the magical world of Walt Disney World, a place I first visited as a young child and have returned many times since. Most kids today probably have no idea that Disney is the last name of a real person with the first name of Walt.

Walter Elias Disney was born in 1901 and came from humble beginnings. With the help of his brother, Roy, they built an entertainment empire around a loveable mouse. The iconic Mickey Mouse is one of the most recognizable cartoon characters in history. How ironic that one of the most feared and hated home invaders are mice, yet Mickey is so endearing that parents buy their kids stuffed mice to cuddle up with at bedtime! The company formed by the two brothers (known officially as Walt Disney Productions) became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world and boasts the highest number of nominations for the Academy Awards (59) and Oscar Awards (22). Walt has been labeled a film producer, director, screenwriter, animator, entertainer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. With all those talents and the heart of a young child, it is easy to see why his company grew and developed into a major international entertainment corporation reporting an annual revenue of $36 billion in the 2010 financial year. But not all of Walt’s business ventures ended in success and on more than one occasion they landed in bankruptcy.

Spirit and I with Mickey in the campground.
Walt’s inspiration came at an early age when he was exposed to the world of Vaudeville and motion pictures. Later as a young teenager Walt attended classes on the weekend at the Kansas City Art Institute and later at the Chicago Art Institute after his family relocated. He became a cartoonist for the school newspaper where he continued to develop his talents. After a brief stint with the Red Cross in France, Walt returned to the states and found work at an art studio where he created advertisements for magazines, newspapers, and movie theaters. An early attempt to start his own company proved tough and Walt soon abandoned that idea and landed a job at a Kansas City Film Ad Company where he discovered animation.

Walt’s first animated series was not based around the famous mouse named Mickey, but instead a rabbit named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt lost the rights to Oswald a year after creating the character when contract loopholes forced him to relinquish Oswald to Universal Studios whom he was  working for at the time. It wasn’t until 78 years later that the Disney corporation reacquired the rights to the Oswald character through a trade deal with NBC Universal. In the deal, Disney got Oswald and NBC got sports commentator Al Michaels. I wonder how Michaels felt about being traded for a rabbit?

After losing Oswald, Disney focused his attention on creating a new character based on a mouse he adopted as a pet while in living in Kansas City. The mouse’s name was Mortimer. But Walt’s wife Lillian did not think the name fit and suggested the name “Mickey.” The first animated Mickey cartoon with sound was entitled Steamboat Willie and a was a great success. Walt himself provided the voice for Mickey and, it's been said, gave him his “soul.”
"Steamboat Willie" - the cartoon that launched Mickey's career.
It was Disney’s quest to find a place to take his young daughters and their friends to be entertained that led to the development of Disneyland in California in 1955. But the park proved too small to include all of Walt’s new ideas. So in early 1964, Walt announced plans to develop a more elaborate theme park on a large parcel of land near Orlando, Florida. The new park was to be named Disney World. Included in the park would be a “Magic Kingdom” and the "Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow," known as EPCOT. Disney World would also include resorts, golf courses, restaurants, and other entertainment venues.
One of Disney's newest resort at the Animal Kingdom.  The resort is designed such that guest rooms
an open "savannah" with animals roaming free.
The Grand Floridian Resort.
One of the original resorts is the Contemporary.  This unique resort has the monorail transportation system running right through the resort.
Tragically, Walt’s life would end abruptly before the amusement park opened and just ten days after his 65th birthday. While preparing for neck surgery to fix an old injury, doctors found a tumor in one of his lungs. One and a half months after his diagnosis, Walt Disney died. Roy Disney returned from retirement to continue oversight of the project in Florida.  Upon completion, Roy insisted that the name be officially changed to Walt Disney World in honor of his brother.
"Cinderella's Castle" the centerpiece of Magic Kingdom.
Entrance of the Magic Kingdom where upon entering you are instructed to "have a magical day!"
"Tower of Terror" thrill ride at Hollywood Studios.

Since I am not a fan of thrill rides and roller coasters, I opted to ride the speed cars that go 10 mph.
Street performers at Magic Kingdom.

This scene usually flips us out, but we mentally prepared ourselves for tackling Magic Kingdoms ciaos.
Plus, they sell beer at the park!
While at Walt Disney World, we stayed at the Ft. Wilderness campground. A mecca of all campgrounds and a true “must visit” for RV enthusiasts (especially if you have kids). The campground is huge with nearly 800 RV sites and 400 cabins. Transportation is a breeze as Disney provides free shuttles (via buses, monorail, and boat) to all their theme parks, restaurants, and resorts. If you want to shell out $63 a day, you can rent a golf cart to tote your family and friends around the campground. There are plenty of things to do even if you never leave the campground. There are two swimming pools, multiple playgrounds, hiking/biking trails, basketball/tennis courts, and fishing ponds. Outdoor enthusiasts can rent bikes, kayaks, and fishing poles, go on a Segway adventure ride, rent a pontoon boat, ride a horse, practice archery, and so on and so on. For those with kids, there is a nightly Chip ‘n’ Dale campfire sing along and marshmallow roast that is followed by a Disney movie (a kids movie, of course). Or, you can head to Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue or the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue to have a barbeque dinner with Mickey and all his friends.

This picture is of a campsite - you just can't see the motorhome behind the 342 inflatable Disney
Characters and other Christmas decorations.  (If you look closely you can see the white roof and light
blue awning of the motorhome).
I assume they remove the stuffed animals before driving.
Serious Disney fans.  This is just one side of their rv.
The other side.  I personally like the inflatables on the roof.
We bought a three-day park pass and visited Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Our days flew by and we were in sensory overload from the sound of rides, smells of food, and spectacle that is Disney. I was sorry to see the “Mr. Toads Wild Ride” was no longer in existence. I remember the ride as a child and rode it every time I came to the park as an adult. And Betsy was asked to consult on Animal Kingdom when it was being developed so she had been there several times and watched its evolution. While at Disney we enjoyed connecting with our friends Don and Karen, a couple from southwest Louisiana that we met last summer in Maine that were staying at the campground (and who make excellent crawfish etouffee and gumbo). We spent a great day at Animal Kingdom with them and enjoyed catching up.
The "Tree of Life" at Animal Kingdom.  The tree was designed to look like a African baobab tree and
with hundreds of animals carved in it. 
Our safari ride through Animal Kingdom was not as much fun as our last Kenyan safari but
was fun none the less.
White rhinos.
The Animal Kingdom Resort has a great restaurant named Saana.  This is the view from our table.
In the background are hotel rooms that overlook the "savanna" where the animals roam free during the day.
What is called Downtown Disney is free and we spent a day there eating and watching a movie. We realized our time at Walt Disney World was too short so we extended our 4-day reservation to 7 days. And yes, even Spirit had fun. Her favorite Disney attraction was the dog park … which provided amusement for all of us (and it was free). It seemed as if she would wake us earlier in the morning so we would get up and take her to play and wrestle with all of her “Disney dogs!” A fun time was had by all of us and Spirit even saw her first fireworks over Fort Wilderness campground not to mention the marsh mellows at the campfire sing along.

Spirit and her new friend Shiloh.

3 comments:

  1. Sounds like you guys are having a great time at Disney World.

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  2. I LOVE Disney World. I didn't get to go until I was in my 30's and I was probably the biggest kid there!

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  3. That does look like a fantastic place to visit with the RV. It doesn't matter how old you are - Disney World makes you feel like a kid again once you step foot in there. Heh, what's even better is, when you're older, you become capable of traveling to that place as soon as you get a driver's license.

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