Monday Bloody Monday

Toilet Collage

Ah yes, but a better Monday than LAST Monday, because on this particular Monday Bloody Monday WE HAVE A TOILET!!!  I so jinxed myself last week talking about it, too, as I knew I would – sure enough, the plumbers went to install the thing, only to discover that the piece that connects the toilet to the pipe in the wall would not fit.  And this on a model whose specs were mandated, recommended AND approved by the condo board, individuals who presumably (?) have functioning eyes and brains, although you’d never know it.  Too busy giving me crap because the contractors left a bit of dust in the elevator to pay attention to critical matters of shared infrastructure, I guess (made all the more galling by the fact that they had the printed schematics from the manufacturer right in front of them, something we didn’t actually need to provide, but did so out of an act of woefully misguided kindness.)

Anyhow, we ran about the city sourcing a new toilet on our dime and time, returned the old guy and paid the supplier restocking fee, paid the plumbers for the first aborted install, wrote a furious e-mail to our property management company, Reid Property Management, which has gone completely ignored (edit: received a response today, one of those classic “Sorry you feel this way” non-apologies), wrote another furious letter to our condo board, put the wheels in motion to move out of this horribly mismanaged hole if this reno ever nears completion, and finally – finally! – had our new toilet installed on Friday afternoon.  The rest of our bathroom is within striking distance of being finished, but I’ve learned not to talk about this stuff too much, lest I absolutely jinx it.  So I’ll just be over here smooching my new toilet, as you do, because I’m just so happy that it’s here and it fits.

I also have a new Disney foodie video I published to our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, all about yummy grub to grab at the Animal Kingdom, a mostly reno-friendly activity I’ve been pinning my sanity to in the absence of nail art or reading or just having two seconds to myself where I’m not besieged by filth, grumpy contractors or my own dumbass neighbours.  I love putting together these little videos.  Love how righteously ravenous they make me ever so slightly less, particularly when our kitchen is also out of commission, but the memories are nearly enough!  Enjoy!

Literary Inspiration: The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World

Hidden Magic Collage

“Wait,” you may be saying to yourself, “you never shut up about Disney World, and I suspect from your last seven, long, incredibly detailed posts that you already know all of the out-in-the-open magic of Walt Disney World.  So what gives with the book?”  (As an aside, it’s amazing how much you sound like me when you’re calling me out!  You’re also a little rude, but I’m willing to overlook that.)

What gives with the book, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, is that in the lead-up to our last trip to Disney, I was looking for a fun trivia book that would point me in the direction of some heretofore undiscovered Disney delights.  Turns out I really do know, like, 90 percent of the magic of Disney World, and this spare little book didn’t illuminate too many things I was not already aware of (at the Magic Kingdom, a kid’s eye view of the Sleeping Beauty fountain in Fantasyland reveals a crown atop Aurora’s head; over in the Animal Kingdom, the red, yellow and white pipes that run along the ceiling in Dinosaur bear the chemical compositions for ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise in a nod to the ride’s original sponsor, McDonald’s; Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror bears an exterior Mediterranean aesthetic in order to blend in with Epcot’s Morocco pavilion next door, over which it – pun intended – towers.)

Things I should have noticed before I purchased the book?  That its information only went up to the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion in 2012, which means it was missing details on both 2017’s Pandora – the World of Avatar expansion at the Animal Kingdom and the opening of 2018’s Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios.  So it was really telling me nothing I didn’t already know.  It did not take me very long to blip through this wee book.

The most complete, detailed information came in the section on the Animal Kingdom, the park I am probably the least familiar with.  And I suspect that its completeness is owing to Veness securing a direct interview with Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering legend and lead designer of the Animal Kingdom.  Ultra engaged, ultra gregarious and ultra creative (you’ve seen him; he’s the very enthused, exceptionally earnest gentleman with giant, stretched out earlobes weighted down with intricate metal rings) Rohde strikes me as the kind of man who would grant a delightful interview to anyone, from a major news outlet, to an elementary school newspaper, to an author seeking information directly from the source.

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There is just a ton of detail here about the Animal Kingdom, in particular Dinoland USA, a day-one part of the park (an incongruous mix of the serious – paleontology – with the not-so-serious – a trashy side-of-the-highway amusement park) that has never quite felt like it fit with the rest of the park’s lush, natural aesthetic.  I love the crap out of the Dinosaur ride (it might be my third favourite ride behind the Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror) but I’ve just never understood the Dino-Rama midway part of Dinoland USA; why the too-bright, too-loud dino carnival in the midst of the Animal Kingdom’s otherwise peaceful oasis?

Dino-Rama Collage

Rohde, who oversaw the design and implementation of Dinoland USA, has always said there’s a method to his madness, and Dino-Rama isn’t just a weird jumble of carnival shys, body-punishing wild mouse coasters and hokey dinosaur puns (“This exstincts!” proclaims one sign bearing a dino staring up in dismay at a meteorite hurtling towards his head.)  But I’ve warmed to the place considerably since reading The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, because it finally explained that madness, and turns out, it’s really not so weird after all.

The story behind Dinoland USA is that the Dino Institute, a scientific operation where you can take tours into the past (AKA ride the Dinosaur ride, in which you travel back to the Cretaceous period to nab a dino for a morally conflicted researcher, Dr. Grant Seeker, heh), has funded a paleontology expedition in the area and sent a number of students and professors there to carry out the painstaking work of digging up old dino bones (AKA The Boneyard, a massive, incredibly fun-looking playground area for kids.)  The grad students and their professors live in the various trailers and RVs dotted throughout the area, with a number of these 1960s-style trailers converted into makeshift dining halls bearing names like Trilo Bites, the Dino Diner, Dino-Bite Snacks and Restaurantosaurus (actual dining spots you can visit and grab a – sigh – dino bite.)

Animal Kingdom Dino Diner

So the story goes, married couple Chester and Hester, carny opportunists to the core, came to the area and immediately noted the financial possibilities inherent in a place with a totally captive audience of stressed out, entertainment-starved academics.  So they moved in right next door and, cribbing off the Dino Institute’s goodwill and legitimacy, opened up Dino-Rama, a ramshackle midway competitor for the students’ attention, time and money.  This is a dig at the many, many fly-by-night attractions that sprang up directly outside Disneyland’s gates when that park opened in 1955, a “how did we not see this coming?” move that irked Walt to no end and prompted him to essentially buy up nearly all of central Florida in a move to head off a repeat performance when he opened his World of Disney in 1971.

Dino Collage

The big draw in Dino-Rama, aside from numerous looming dinosaurs and Chip and Dale strutting about in their finest dino costumes, is Primeval Whirl, a densely knitted wild mouse coaster in which your cart wildly spins, sending you plummeting downhill somehow both sideways and backwards.  It’s an incredibly rough ride – really never fails to break our old arses – and you swing about so much, you never really get a chance to appreciate the silly cartoon dinosaur artwork and sad trombone jokes that pepper the attraction in a budget imitation of the legit Dinosaur ride next door at the Dino Institute.  Here, behold!  Now with additional Triceratops Spin action!

It’s all so very petty and passive aggressive, and I really kind of love it now that I know the backstory.  The whole of Dinoland USA is actually blanketed with little bits of trivia about the two disparate groups – letters and photos and other mementos dotted about as reminders of this odd, competitive pairing.  I think it’s all quite charming!  And information I’m glad to have learned – it really made my experience that much richer this last visit to have the scoop on the funny little inside jokes and local colour of Dinoland USA.  Which is why I chose its colourful sign – at least the Dino part! – as the subject matter of this manicure, inspired by Hidden Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, which I read in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the eighteenth prompt, “a guide.”

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The Walkways of Pandora

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Still on about Avatar – The World of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, only this time I’m bringing you a couple of nail art looks inspired by the ground in what is colloquially known as Pandora.  Yup, the ground, the terrain, the surface on which you walk.  Whichever term you’d prefer, Pandora’s vibrantly spattered, glow-in-the-dark walkways are dope!

walkways of pandora collage 1

For this manicure, I used the plastic wrap technique, which I believe my blogging friend Altercontroldelight calls a “smoosh mani.”  Basically, you – or at least I – paint a bit of polish onto a wadded up ball of plastic wrap and then dab it onto your nails, creating a marbleized sort of look that’s much more natural and random than using a cosmetic sponge.  Easy peasy and simply perfect for the wild walkways of Pandora.  For these nails, I used A England’s turquoise Whispering Waves and Enchanted Polish’s grass green Lost Boy over A England’s steel grey Wuthering Heights.

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They also glow in the dark!  Or they should glow in the dark.  The polish, a jelly-based multi-coater I received in my stocking this year, couldn’t quite hold its own against these darker base colours, but damn if it’s not doing just fine on its glowy own.

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And then because I can’t ever leave well enough alone, and why am I just going to let an excellent base like this sit unadorned, I free-handed an assortment of flora onto my nails in the lush, almost alien colours that remind me of Pandora – The World of Avatar in the very first place.

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These tidy little flowers are perhaps a bit too done in comparison with Pandora’s wild, colourful riot of Imagineered blossoms, but the rave-after-dark spirit is still there. 😉

Enchanted Pandora Polish

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Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida is in-credible, an absolute marvel of set design, technology, engineering, horticulture, lighting and sound (and foooooooood; oh my gosh, our lunch at Satu’li Canteen, a choose your own adventure bowl-type affair, was one of the best meals of our recent Halloween trip and I’m SO looking forward to going back again.)  And this is coming from a person who’s on the record multiple times – and here in this blog, no less! – as absolutely loathing the Avatar…franchise of movies?  Are there really going to be multiples?  Please don’t let there be multiples.

Only let there be more of them if they inform and somehow better the overall aesthetic of the Avatar land within the Animal Kingdom.  And I don’t even know how that would be possible, because as Imagineered (the Disney word for that voodoo their engineers hoodoo) the place is utterly spectacular, particularly after dark when the bio-luminescent plants turn a stroll through the pathways of Pandora into a hippy, trippy rave.  When the sun goes down, I love drifting here, there and everywhere, just getting lost in the weird walkways of Pandora.

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I was also inspired – some months on, true, but inspiration doesn’t always strike immediately 😉 – to round up a handful of seldom-used Enchanted Polish lacquers that remind me of the vibrant neon hues of Pandora’s lush alien landscape – colour-shifting ultraviolet, electric turquoise and deeeeeeeeep sea green, with a tiny dash of purple-tinged Na’vi blue.

enchanted pandora collage 1

Also it was a big excuse to use a bunch of polishes I somehow always forget I actually own – the perils of keeping your stuff tucked away where it cannot get dusty and damaged, true, but also can’t be seen and is easily forgotten.

First we have Enchanted’s colour-shifting multi-chrome, Magical Mystery Tour.  Like the Pandoran inspiration for this manicure, this polish is incredible, morphing from a vibrant aqua, to a regal indigo, and finally, to a plush orchid purple.  This polish could practically be called “Pandora in a Bottle” (Pandora’s Bottle?)

magical mystery tour collage

Magical Mystery Tour is the biggest chameleon of this lacquered bunch, particularly in shaded lighting conditions where the linear colour shift is the most pronounced.

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Next up we have Entwined, another colour-shifter, although this time with both a slight holographic tinge, and a light dusting of holo micro-glitter.  Entwined is another one where what you see is definitely not all that you get; this polish morphs from a rich, plummy wine, to a queasy sort of purple shot through with iridescent green shimmer.  Here’s an alien colour if ever there was one – so fitting that much of Pandora’s flora blossoms in this unique purple hue.

entwined collage

In the penultimate Pandoran position we have the unimaginatively named March 2017, which bears the distinction of being the only polish in two years of mystery purchases that I would have purchased had it been offered a la carte.  What a unique stunner, and nearly the exact shade of the Na’vi (look how respectful I’ve gotten – I no longer refer to them solely as the 11-foot-tall blue kitty people!)

march 2017 collage

Finally, we have Neptune, the turquoise-to-evergreen-to-navy blue twin of Entwined (En-twinned, perhaps?)  This polish reminds me of the unnaturally hued waterways of Pandora (many of which contain bizarre little critters, if you look closely enough.  But don’t look too closely, because they’ve got tentacles!

neptune collage

Even if you’re not a fan of Avatar (and truly, I cannot stress enough how much I really dislike that movie) I think you will still fall utterly in love with the place, and I’d implore you to experience the alien world of Pandora at least once.  It’s a genuine marvel, and you never know what sort of odd inspirations the beauty of the place will spark in you.

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Pretty in Pandora

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Unlike virtually everything else in my life, I assure you that this manicure did not start out life in a Disney place.  I KNOW.  I didn’t know it was possible for me to not be yakking about Disney either, but — oh.

Pandora Collage 2

Anyhow, I was going for a neon-on-pastel-on-holo sort of floral look, which is definitely quite Pandoran in look, and I think I mostly (quite unintentionally) succeeded, although were I to attempt this design again, I’d do it over top of a dark purple or blue base polish, as opposed to this lovely, but detail-obscuring, lilac from Enchanted Polish.

And out in the sun, it looks like vintage wallpaper.  So very shiny and sheen-y.

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Life on Pandora: Exploring Disney’s World of Avatar

Pandora Collage 1

Kaltxi!  And welcome to what I’m sure you are hoping is going to be one of the final posts you have to endure on the subject of my Christmas trip to Disney World.  Except I still have so much to say!  Particularly on the subject of a very special (and very, very busy) place we visited at the Animal Kingdom on the final day of our holiday, Pandora – The World of Avatar (I’m sold already; gotta love a title that contains a hyphenate.)

The World of Avatar opened in June 2017, and just seven months on, it remains THE hottest ticket in the entire Walt Disney World Resort.  And I do mean that literally – FastPasses were not to be had for Flight of Passage, the most popular ride in any of the Disney parks, although I did manage to nab early evening FPs for Na’vi River Journey, a stunningly gorgeous dark boat ride, and my pick for the better of the two attractions anyways (hard not to go with the one that didn’t make me want to hurl all over the back of a banshee, but more on that in a second.)

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Right, so before I get to the breathtakingly beautiful landscape and design work (Disney calls this “Imagineering”) let’s get to what I know you’re really here for, TIPS AND TRICKS ON HOW TO TACKLE PANDORA – THE WORLD OF AVATAR WITHOUT LOSING THREE-QUARTERS OF YOUR DAY AND/OR YOUR SANITY.

First, stay on property at a Disney resort.  This gives you the ability to book FastPasses 60 days out from your vacation.  You may be able to get a FP for Flight of Passage this way.  I was not able to get any, but I was on the hunt “just” 30 days out.  You should be able to get a FP for Na’vi River Journey with little to no trouble 60 or 30 or even 10 days out.

Staying at a Disney resort also gives you access to Extra Magic Hours, extra in-park time extended to guests of Disney resorts either first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  Find out which day the Animal Kingdom is offering their Extra Magic Hours (owing to what I’m assuming are the actual animals’ nocturnal schedules, they tend to offer them first thing in the morning) and get there early with a mind to hitting Pandora.

No, really, get there EARLY.  Earlier than you think reasonable.  If you’re taking Disney transportation, you’ll find yourself sitting at a dark and foggy bus stop at 6 in the morning with 100 other stressed out people (and that’s just your resort!) also all fretting  about how quickly they can sprint through the Animal Kingdom and directly onto Flight of Passage.

I actually really wish that my fellow guests would not do this.  Moods at Disney are highly contagious, and listening to some teenager joke-mock his walker-enabled grandmother about the hustle she’s going to have to put on the second they step off the bus is dispiriting.  Listening in on other people’s neuroses leaves me feeling highly anxious and unnecessarily fretful.

So it turns out my very best tip is actually to calm the eff down.  Please.  With our ultra early start to the day, we were on and off Flight of Passage in a little under 45 minutes.  And our evening FP for Na’vi River Journey freed us up to then explore the rest of Pandora, and indeed the entirety of the Animal Kingdom.  So no need to go all wackadoo.

Having said all that, I am so freaking glad we got that jump start to the day, because by the time we exited the ride 45 minutes later, the wait time had climbed to three hours.  An hour later the estimated wait time had vaulted to five incomprehensible hours and the lineup stretched all the way to the front gates.  When we took this picture, roaring in front of the Tree of Life, we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves for having conquered at dawn what everybody else was now going to spend the entire day slogging to complete.  Mean?  Maybe!  But the early bird rides Flight of Passage with only a 25-minute lineup. 🙂

Morning Animal Kingdom

Less roar-worthy is the fact that Flight of Passage KICKED MY ASS.  It’s a motion simulator, and a deeply immersive one at that – the screen wraps from top to bottom and then side to side.  The story is that you’re riding on the back of a flying banshee through the alien landscapes of Pandora.  Sounds incredible, and I can confirm that the minute or so of ride I actually experienced was next level amazing.  But oh sweet Jebus, the plummeting dips and drops and that nauseating thrusting motion of takeoff and the gigantic, sloshing wall of water…oof, I may need to stop talking about this, right now. 😦

So yes, I closed my eyes through roughly 60 percent of an attraction that I waited half an hour to ride and that some people waited up to five hours to ride.  But I felt myself begin to break out into a cold sweat, my number one tell, and decided to instantly bow to the warning signs I was too daft to heed on Star Tours.  You’re welcome.

I actually have precious little footage from the exterior or interior of either ride; we really hustled through both lineups, and there was no time to stop and smell the alien roses.  But Na’vi River Journey was definitely the more palatable of the two rides for me, a return to those classic, ultra detailed dark rides that have always set my Disney-loving heart aflutter.  Plus, Na’vi River Journey just looks like the best rave you’ve never been to.  Kind of sounds like it, too.  Gosh, I wish I had pictures of this one – it is a boat ride through a black lit, neon alien jungle, and that’s just as pretty as you might imagine.

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We quite shamefully made incredibly poor use of Pandora’s other amenities.  We didn’t go to Pongu Pongu for refreshing Night Blossom slushies and we also didn’t get to Satu’li Canteen for what is some of the only vegetarian food in the Animal Kingdom (for a place devoted to caring for all manner of wildlife, I find their reliance on BBQ to be quite odd.)  I blame Flight of Passage – my best laid Pandoran food plans went out the window the moment I emerged from the ride whiter than a ghost and (as always) cursing James Cameron’s name.

This is the part where I should probably mention that I hated Avatar, the movie.  Like, LOATHED it.  And I will never not be boggled by its inexplicable (clearly just to me!) popularity.  I remember when I first heard about the blue kitty person movie that James Cameron was making, I said to Mr. Finger Candy, “Mark my words, this thing is going to make, like, $17.38 total.”  And I was wrong.  So very, very wrong!  Wrong to the tune of about $2 billion, but hey, you can’t have $2 billion without $17.38, right?  Anyhow, my seeming ineptitude at making box office projections aside, I really, really hated Avatar and I’ve watched maybe just 35 minutes of the stupid blue kitty people total (side note: Do you know how hard you have to work to get me to hate a cat?  Even an 11-foot tall blue cat with a pervo tail?  HARD!)

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But I was neither too nauseous nor so much of a hater that I couldn’t appreciate the outstanding Imagineering at work in Pandora – The World of Avatar.  Holy cats (11-foot blue cats?) this place is incredible!  And no matter your area or areas of interest (horticulture, set dressing and design, food, music, computer tech, storytelling and world-building, architecture and engineering or simply the films themselves) there’s a little something for everyone to be dazzled by in Pandora.  I was particularly taken with the floating mountains, which I know are no such thing – I watched enough videos of them going up to know they’re engineered marvels of rebar and concrete designed to look like a craggy, levitating precipice.  But when you’re standing beneath a giant, floating chunk of earth, out of the top of which is growing a massive alien tree, its gnarled roots draping down over the edges and bursting through the underside of the rock, it’s hard not to be impressed.

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I kept thinking how much my grandfather, a lifelong gardener, would have loved the seamless blending of our real world flora with Pandora’s Imagineered alien blooms.

Pandora Collage 2

Ah, yet another way to tell you’re getting on in years – when the behind-the-scenes, technical aspects of a theme park are more interesting to you than the actual attractions (see also the Seed Tour at Epcot’s The Land, where you take a mini class in Disney agriculture.)

Pandoran Pond

It’s really just the most stunningly gorgeous world, and so very beautifully executed.  I wish we had been able to stay into the evening when Pandora begins glowing under black lights, the “bioluminescent plants” throwing off alien neon light.  Even the splatter effect walkways (already super cool in the daylight) glow after dark!

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And the waterfalls!  Oh my gosh, so many waterfalls!  I feel like this entire post has been me excitedly pointing out yet another thing that blew my mind about Pandora, but that’s exactly what exploring the World of Avatar was like in the first place – what gorgeous, infinitely clever marvel will I find around this next corner?

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It seems the World of Avatar also brought out the Pepe Le Pew in Mr. Finger Candy, who laid a giant one on me as we stood in front of a lush Pandoran pond, prompting the cast member taking our photo to mock-admonish that “this is a family park!” and for a nearby group of Japanese tourists to spontaneously burst into delighted applause. 🙂 Apparently Pandora is for Lovers.

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So would I go back, even knowing what I know about my ability (or lack thereof) to handle Flight of Passage?  Yes, if only to cover myself with about two dozen anti-nausea patches to see if that makes a difference.  But also to check out some of the food and beverage offerings, and get a glimpse of Pandora after dark.  It’s also just a lovely and beautiful spot to chill out and people-watch for a bit; all those waterfalls make for a very relaxing place to wile away a bit of time.  Big recommendation on the World of Avatar; Disney, not too surprisingly, done good. 🙂