Chillin’ Like a Villain: My, What a Guy!

Gaston Ears Collage 1

Psst!  Hey, you guys wanna hear something?  Supposedly, every last inch of this Gaston dude is covered with hair.  I know, right?!  Ever heard of manscaping, bro?  What am I saying?  Of course he hasn’t heard of manscaping!  Gaston is totally that guy who runs around with his furry man-cleave hanging out of his tunic, crispy shedded chest hairs building up in tiny drifts around his bootaloons.  To do anything more would be to show respect and consideration for others, and that totally ain’t Gaston’s bag.

I am, of course, intimately familiar with Gaston’s particular brand of whiffing it, on account of the fact that over four visits to his tavern in the last year alone (his tavern being in freaking Orlando, by the way) he has yet to show his chiseled jaw even once.  A kind friend suggested that he may be intimidated – after all, the last brainy beauty who bested his beastliness badly bruised his bravado, did she not?  Harumph, I thought he was made of tougher stuff than that.  Wussy.  But you didn’t hear it from me. 😉

I’m hoping, though, that when I wear these Gaston ears I nabbed from Etsy vendor Mouseket Ears Bowtique, he’ll show himself, if only to marvel at my amazing taste in hair accessories.  I’m so in love with the chest hair ear, it is stupendous!  And I very much appreciate the glittery stag rack mounted in the centre of the bow.  You know Gaston would love it, on account of the whole antlers in all of his DE-CO-RA-TING business.

Gaston Ears Collage 2

And as always, a bit of nail art.  Because if I’m rocking chest hair on my ears, I may as well sport it on my nails, too (better my nails than my knuckles, which I’m also assuming is Gaston’s thing.)

Gaston Ears 1

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Splashdown!

Splash Mountain

Brer Rabbit’s twitchy little bunny ears take centre stage in this manicure inspired by a beloved Disney ride, Splash Mountain.  Come on, who doesn’t love getting soaked straight through to the bone while animatronic stereotypes bellow Dixie at you from the prow of a riverboat?  Nobody I want to know. 🙂

But do you know who I would like to know?  The guy in the back row of this on-ride photo, taken during our Christmastime 2017 soaking.  I know it’s bad form to post a stranger’s photo on your personal blog, but the look of delight on this guy’s face never fails to put a smile on my face – dude is living his very best day, and glee like that is infectious.

Splash Mountain Collage

However.  Owing to perhaps the weight distribution in our boat (we still big folks) or maybe even a bit of reburb tinkering on the part of Disney, we got SOAKED.  There have always been these adorable “You may get wet!” signs posted all throughout the line, which over probably a dozen lifetime rides has proven to be more or less accurate – you may get wet.  This time it seemed to be a foregone conclusion from the moment we sat down into about an inch and a half of water left over from the previous occupants of what was naturally the very front row.  The 52-foot drop into a thorny tangle of briers also didn’t help.  Our boat basically entered the water like a shovel, and we got hosed.  And we paid money for this!  And it was THE MOST fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 😉

Team Turkey Leg!

Turkey Leg

I have a real love/hate relationship with Disney’s iconic smoked turkey legs.  On the one hand, turkey legs, much like hams, are just a hilariously-shaped food; they lend themselves quite well to interpretations via graphic design.  But then on the other hand, I think they’re utterly, utterly disgusting – a friend who’s had one described it as being “quite tendon-y.”  Ack!  And they’re so expensive!  $12.95 at the Animal Kingdom (please don’t even get me started on the moral incongruity of an animal-centered theme park offering animal on-the-bone as a smoked snack – I might have a lot to say on the subject.)

But mostly I just can’t hack the very common sight of a family of four sharing one massive turkey leg, dad holding on to what used to be, I dunno, the poor turkey’s femur while the kids dart forward to nab meat off the bone like little velociraptors.  It’s off-putting enough as a description – just imagine what it looks like in real life!

But turkey legs in theory?  Hilarious!  That’s just good comedy right there, something Disney is leaning into with its collection of turkey leg gear, like this fly tee I nabbed at Epcot.  I’ve hyped this awesome turkey leg t-shirt before – it’s my favourite thing to wear when I’m working out (shown here alongside some frozen treat socks, featuring that other bafflingly popular Disney snack, Dole Whip.)

Snack Merch Collage

I actually wore it during my workout this morning, along with this turkey leg mani – plump turkey legs as set against the colours of the four parks (or at least what I think are the colours associated with the parks, silver for Epcot, green for Animal Kingdom, coral for Hollywood Studios and baby blue for the Magic Kingdom.)  Because of course you can find turkey legs at all four parks (and probably a lot of other places I’m unaware of; I think turkey legs at Disney may be a bit like spiders – supposedly we’re all only feet away from one at all times!)

The Haunted Mansion’s Lost Soles

HM Shoes Nail Collage

Eh, I don’t know how lost they are – the Ghost Host himself, whilst casting about for new recruits, accounts for 999 of them.  Oh, wait, I said SOLES, not souls.  My bad!

And they’re not lost either, because I found them, the shoes to put all other shoes to shame, my Haunted Mansion New Balance running shoes.  Yeah, I’ll let that sink in for a second – Haunted Mansion running shoes.  That my head hasn’t simply blown up from delirium over their mere existence is nothing short of a miracle; it’s kind of amazing I’m still standing now that I actually possess them!

At the recommendation/enabling of a Disney-obsessed friend, I stopped by the Fit2Run store in Disney Springs during our Christmas trip and found these bad boys.  And at a whopping 75 percent off, no less, on account of the fact that they were a 2017 Run Disney release, and there was at that time just one week left in the year.

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I suppose the real question is will I ever be able to wear them?  After seeing what a beating my Asics took this year, I don’t relish the thought of subjecting them to my daily workout routine.  I actually suspect they will become a pair of my parkin’ shoes – when at the Magic Kingdom and all that. 🙂

And as always, a bit of matching or co-ordinated nail art, because how could I not?

HM Shoes Nails

Although I’ll take this moment to note that the mint green, orchid and royal purple hues on my fingertips are really more in keeping with the actual colours of the shoes.  Owing to that bizarre colour-match thing that tends to happen with greens, blues and purples, these shoes are registering as WAY more indigo blue than they actually are.  And, like, neon indigo blue, too.  In real life they’re much more in keeping with the actual purple hue of the Mansion’s iconic damask wallpaper, or these cool Mansion MagicBands we picked up during our Halloween trip.

Magic Band Collage

Right you are, off to stare at them for a bit while imagining the next time I’ll be able to take them out for a spin down Disney way. 🙂

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?

Pandora Collage 3

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. 🙂

Every Day I’m Hustlin’

Quick bit of shameless self-promotion here (although can it be shameless if it’s on your own blog?  Suppose that depends on the definition of “shameless” you’re working with!)  But we posted a new video to our vlog, a kind of introductory thing, and I’m really super proud of it.  I am notoriously TOTAL CRAP when it comes to audio-visual editing.  Like, if it even still exists, there is an editing booth at Carleton University where the tears I alone shed in 1999 probably kept the ancient wood of the desk hydrated for use by another two generations of frustrated J-schoolers.  May there be mercy on your souls if you know the particular analog hell of trying to physically – with tape and scissors! and blood and tears – edit an audio clip.  It’s soul-crushingly bleak.

So seriously, obnoxious self-horn tootage aside, yay for me!  Because I think this video turned out pretty well visually (and aurally) and I like that it explains where we’re coming from with this Disney thing we’re harping on about all the time (it’s okay, I’m not offended, I know it’s harping!)  So please do click on the above video and check it out; I’d love to hear any comments you might have or any feedback you’d like to give. 🙂