Rainforest Cafe Review

Recommended:  YES – both locations are delicious!

I waited to post this review until I was able to eat at both Rainforest Cafes in the Disney zone.  There is one at Downtown Disney and one at Animal Kingdom as you come towards the main entrance.  Overall, there are a few differences in the decor, but the food is very consistent in both restaurants.

Welcome to the jungle!

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Now, Rainforest Cafe was created by the same company that runs T-Rex, so it is essentially the same design, except Rainforest uses exotic animals instead of prehistoric ones.  Noise-wise though, it is about the same, with a rain shower (in sound only!) instead of a meteor shower every thirty minutes or so.  So, be prepared to observe at this meal instead of have a detailed conversation with your dinner-mates.

If you try to talk, a gorilla may end up mean mugging you and demanding your attention, as the walls are filled with animatronic creatures.
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The menu is also similar in structure to T-Rex, which I said was reminiscent of a higher-quality Applebees.  There are a number of options to choose from, all typical meals that American families would be used to, like pastas and burgers.  What I like about the menu at Rainforest is that it is highly diverse in food types and prices, so you can pinch pennies and order a sandwich, or you can throw down some cash and get seafood or steak.  It’s not often that you find such a wide range of price options at a restaurant, and I appreciate that part of Rainforest Cafe very much.

Almost as much as I appreciate the fact that the bar is coming out of a giant mushroom.
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On my first trip to Rainforest Cafe, we were at the Animal Kingdom location and I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.  It was wonderful and huge, so I ended up being full quickly and taking talk my sandwich to the hotel.  When I wanted to polish that mighty sandwich off for dinner, I realized there was no microwave at Port Orleans.  So, not wanting to toss my lunch out, I tried to eat it cold.  I am usually on the snobbish side of eating hot food when it’s cold or vice versa, but the sandwich was still delicious.  Trying to back match it to the online menu, I believe that was the Blue Mountain Chicken Sandwich.

When we went to Rainforest again, months later and in Downtown Disney this time, I ordered the Rasta Pasta, which was another huge portion size, and so delicious!  I actually still have the photograph of that plate! 🙂
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The staff there is also wonderful, and at least as good to their costumers as the staff at T-Rex.  I also have to recommend again that joining the Landry Select Club BEFORE traveling to Orlando is a great idea, and you can see my thoughts on the club card here https://disneyfangirl.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/best-dining-secret-landrys-select-club/

I can’t really tell you enough good things about T-Rex or Rainforest Cafe, so I hope you’ll try them out and let me know about your awesome experience too!  I can’t wait to go back again myself! 🙂

Grab Bags at Downtown Disney

My kids tore into these too fast to get a picture before the goods were disbursed, but, there are some really cool grab bags that recently appeared at Downtown Disney in the shop Marketplace Fun Finds (near the train ride and Disney’s Pin Traders).

For $12 plus tax you get an assortment of Disney merchandise that “can be anything except breakables or consumables that’s valued at at least $30.”  So, you can pretty much get anything that isn’t glass or food.  Of course, we jumped on them!

My daughter’s bag had:
8″-ish Sally Plushie from the Nightmare Before Christmas (labeled as a Disney Parks product for $16.95),
Magic Band Cover,
Snow White Tsum Tsum (smallest size, $6 retail),
a plush written pen,
and a Vinylmation blind box for Indiana Jones (in that store at 4/$20).

My son’s bag contained:
8″-ish Perry Plushie from Phineas and Ferb (again $16.95 retail right there),
a big, 3D magnet shaped like the chocolate covered Mickey rice crispy treats,
a Dopey Tsum Tsum (smallest size),
a plush written pen,
and a Vinylmation blind box for Indiana Jones (in the store 4/$20).

So, it’s a pretty cool deal, and a fun little surprise buy of things you might not go after at full retail price.  These are a very nice deal, and I get the feeling that they’re new and won’t be on the shelves for long, because all the Disney group pages are raving about them right now.  If you have a chance to get one – go for it, but many of them seem to be the same items over and over again, so I wouldn’t recommend going after more than one per person. 🙂

Should You Go to Disney World During Spring Break?

NO!

No, no, no, no, no, no, and, again, NO!

So many people are already planning their vacations for 2016 or later, and Spring Break is always a week that most families consider.  I have to say, since April 2014, I have been on 10 Disney World trips of various lengths.  A few consistent truths that I have learned along the way are:

1)  Always asks for eggs “scrambled hard,” otherwise you risk getting a disgusting egg soup.

2)  Do not attend Magic Kingdom on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday because you’ll be miserable (when they say “plan 90 minutes for travel time, they really mean it there!).

3)  Spring Break is the worst time of year to go to Disney World.

My family and I just spent April 4th through the 10th in Disney World, and it was insane.  Basically, imagine trying to take a bath, but instead of water, more and more people just surrounded you in the tub.  That is Spring Break at Disney World in a nutshell.  You will crawl, climb, and lose your mind over being crammed into lines and not being able to move six inches in a park without tripping over a stroller.  Multiple Cast Members commented that there were over 80,000 people in the Disney Parks, and that, not only is it the start of the peak season, but that peak season is getting bigger and longer every year.

I actually didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was, mainly because school districts have a number of different weeks that they use for Spring Break.  Most use either the week before or the week after Easter Sunday, but many also choose a random week in March or April to have break too.  The crowds, though, apparently didn’t get that message…

Now, I’ve been during other peak times and not had anywhere near as crowded of an experience.  We went the last week of May and it was hot, but the crowds were manageable.  We were there again the second week of June, as well as the last week of July, and, again, it was hot, it was busy, but it wasn’t that bad.  We were even there over Thanksgiving break (which, unlike Easter, is the exact same week for the entire country) and, other than Magic Kingdom, it was lovely there.

If you are able, I would take your children out of school and go to Disney World either in September through October, or January through February (avoid Marathon weekends though!).  Those are the times when the weather is beautiful, the crowds are reasonable, and the frustrations are at a minimum (because you aren’t baking in the sunlight and drowning in people).

And, since people come to Disney World from all over the world, a lot of them don’t realize just how hot April already is in Florida.  Most days were in the 90s.  To the contrary, though, in October through February the temperatures tend to be in the 60s and 70s, which is a much better (in my opinion) temperature to be stuck outside in all day.

Now, I will backtrack a bit and say that we did have fun, we did enjoy our Spring Break in Disney, but I think we could have used our time better, and had a more enjoyable experience during the Fall/Winter “off” season.

The Huge Aladdin Plot Holes

Okay, everyone has been freaking out about the Little Mermaid recently.  The question was posed (the same thing I asked at age 6 when the movie was new, btw) – why doesn’t Ariel just write things down?  We clearly see Ariel sign her name on Ursula’s contract, and I used to ponder why she didn’t just grab a stick and write in the sand off the bat.  However, the most logical answer is usually the right one.  People, how do we know that Eric uses the same writing style as the mermen and women?  Think about it, even if they spoke the same exact language, the two cultures developed separately and would have created their own unique systems for writing.  TA-DA!  Internet solved!

However, I just watch Aladdin with my daughter, and there are a number of glaring plot hole that I think warrant far more intrigue then why Ariel didn’t pick up a pen in her film.  Lets dive in!

1) Why does the movie Aladdin start with the Genie’s lamp in the hands of a vender?
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There are lots of theories on this one.  The person who voiced the role is uncredited, but it’s clearly Robbin Williams (the person singing Arabian Nights, however, is not).  Sure, there’s a chance that the vender is actually the Genie in human disguise, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  It sort of implies that the lamp has no value now that the genie is free, yet, in all later incarnations of Aladdin (the TV show, Return of Jafar, Aladdin and the King of Thieves) we’re repeatedly shown that Genie still lives there.  So, what’s the deal?  Does Genie have to hawk cheap wares to make a living now that he’s not all powerful?  Well, no, because he could “poof” himself a house and food any time he wanted, as he retained all of his magical powers.  Was his lamp stolen?  Hard to say, but it’s definitely another story in and of itself.  Although, I do recall an episode of the series where Genie’s lamp was stolen, and he was in a huff to go find it, carrying on about how wrong it is to steal someone’s home.  So then, since the vender knows the whole story of Aladdin, is he, in fact, the Genie just wandering around, aimless and lonely now?  That might be the sad, simple reality of his life after Aladdin is long gone… T_T  All I know is that the vender does not reappear at the end, making him a very useless framing device for the film.

2) The Cave of Wonders declares that only “one may enter.”  Except for you Abu, you can come in too!
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Please tell me I’m not the only one that caught this?  Sure, perhaps Abu, being a monkey and all, doesn’t count – but then why could Abu, a simple-minded animal, likewise be able to violate the “touch nothing but the lamp” clause?

3) Speaking of the “touch nothing but the lamp” stipulation – we all saw them touching Carpet long before the cave has a meltdown, right?
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Abu steps right on him two seconds into the cave, then Carpet trolls Abu, then they’ll all buddies.  But, if the Carpet doesn’t count as a treasure that should not be touched, I think the cave is really underestimating the value of a flying rug.

4) What was the point of Jafar trying to kill Aladdin after he claimed the lamp?
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Sure, he’s pure evil and all, but what was the point of wasting that kind of effort?  What was Aladdin going to do, stop him?  He had the flipping lamp, he could have become Sultan, then a Sorcerer, then done whatever else and gone about his merry way before Aladdin even mentally caught up with the situation.  And, dude, the kid DID just give you all that power.  Since you’re dethrowning the Sultan and Princess anyways, maybe you could give Aladdin some rubies and let him have a shot with the now broke princess.  Just seems petty to kill him is all…

5) What was Price Ali the prince of?
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He had no title other than prince, he had no kingdom, he had no land.  How did the Sultan know that he was a real prince and not a street urchin pulling an elaborate con?  Or did the Sultan just not care at that point?  Lets face it, the Middle Eastern world was not THAT BIG, especially in the 500 AD era (when Aladdin is roughly set).  You ask a boy who his parents are, or where his kingdom is, and you are going to know who they’re talking about, because there’s only like five other kingdoms in the world at this stage in history!  Even back then, there were wealthy people who had a lot of belongings, and there was royalty, so who is not checking that this random kid is in compliance with the law?
And I get that Aladdin wouldn’t think twice about this, since he doesn’t know anything outside of Argrabah, but Genie (who exists outside of relative time and space – he’s essentially Dr. Who) was worldly enough to realized that you can’t just be the Prince of Thin Air!  Invent a back-story, man!  That should be part of the wish to be a certified prince!

6) Why in the world do the guards work for Jafar?
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“Hey, there’s a visiting prince in the castle, I want you to kill him,” said Jafar.
“Oh boy, oh boy, you betcha!” said the Captain of the Guard.
What?!  I get that guards are not supposed to question orders, and Jafar was in charge of peacekeeping, but when someone tells you to kill a prince, don’t you think someone might question that command and take that issue up the ladder to the Sultan?  And, look carefully, the guards are not enchanted with Jafar’s snake staff – they are totally into being jerks!  Alright, lets just start a war here by killing off a royal visitor…
Side note:  isn’t this the same jerk that didn’t recognize his princess in the Market Place and literally threw her to the floor?  How is his head not on a platter, or at the very least banished from the castle?  No one can trust a guard that doesn’t know who his chain of command is, and, last I checked, princess outranks adviser.

7) So Ali turns out to be merely Aladdin.
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And…?  Jasmine acts so shocked, but did he not just sort-of cover that he had an alter-ego that goes shopping in the market place?  Heck, that is the same outfit they met in! Even though the prince-hood was a lie, how does Jasmine have the mental context to know that Jafar isn’t messing with her more?  He did just put her father in his underwear and move the castle on top of a mountain, after all, why wouldn’t he lie about who Aladdin is?

8) Why does the endowment of “Prince” wear off?Screen shot 2015-04-03 at 6.12.17 PM
Really, it was Aladdin’s first wish, and I don’t see how Jafar changing his clothes back to normal erases that wish.  It’s like, if you download a game on the iPhone, and your phone crashes and wipes out all the data – you just go back into the App Store and redownload it for free.  How do wishes not work like that?  Aladdin never wishes Genie to un-make him a prince, and Jafar really did nothing by way of titles and possessions (although, Aladdin’s swag also mysteriously vanishes with no explanation – what new Sultan doesn’t need forty golden camels?).
So then, if Aladdin was outed as a pauper, then that was the extent of Jafar’s damage to that wish.  It was all verbal damage (minus the cost of the Ali duds). Genie tells Aladdin to use his third wish to make himself a prince again – but, unless Genie is peddling inferior wishes that can be undone by second-rate sorcerers, that shouldn’t be an issue. After all, if Jafar was THAT powerful at that point in the film, the “make me a genie” ending wouldn’t really have worked, would it?  And, either way, wouldn’t everyone just know he’s a fraud now, which would null and void his standing anyways?  So what good would re-wishing himself a prince do without a memory wipe to all of Agrabah?

9) Maybe Jasmine could rub the lamp?
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Okay, lets say Jafar was able to make Aladdin a Street Rat again, and a wish was the only fix to allow he and Jasmine to legally marry.  Uhh, obvious solution – let Jasmine rub the lamp!  Maybe she would have wished Aladdin back into Prince Ali and then ended poverty in her kingdom.  I mean, we see a LOT of homeless kids running around hungry in this film, and we don’t see the streets for very long.  What if Jasmine even used her third wish to make sure Agrabah could never be harmed by any supernatural or human forces again?  She could have come into power making her kingdom well fed, peaceful, happy, harmonious, plus get a prince to marry – and THEN Aladdin could have wished the Genie free (since Jafar used his wishes between Aladdin owning the lamp, this fits into the continuity that Jasmine could make wishes before Aladdin has to make his third wish) – but, nah, man, don’t let the girl touch the lamp, she got her a man, what else could she possibly need?  No, lets not think ten seconds past our personal feelings to help those that we struggled with our entire life!  Come on Aladdin!

10) The whole film highlights being trapped.
Think about it:  Jasmine is trapped by her royal obligations.  Aladdin is trapped by his poverty.  Genie is trapped by his servitude.  Jafar literally gets trapped by his greed.  But, is any of this internal unrest really addressed in the film?  Aladdin becomes rich, thus not being trapped in poverty any longer. Oh, but now he’s trapped with the burden of running a kingdom – something he knows nothing about and seemed to cripple him with fear in a number of scenes.  Yeah, I bet that stress will be great on a new marriage, too!
Genie gets freed, but, in the long-term (outside of this film) we find out that he still lives in the lamp, he still hangs around with Aladdin, and he’s still granting wishes unofficially.  So, even though he gains freedom and could go do other things, he’s still trapped by being alone in this world.  10,000 years in the lamp doesn’t offer a lot of surviving friends to go visit.
And Jasmine – does anything even change for her?  She still has to get married, and even though it’s three days until her next birthday, and her father only changed the stipulation of WHO she could marry, not WHEN (which ended up being a lengthy TV series and two films later until their wedding occurs – wowzers, that was a long three days!).  But, Jasmine is still confined by her obligations as a princess.  The only difference is that she found someone she’d like to marry (or so she thinks, they really know each other about as well as Anna and Hans), but her situation overall is the same.

Clearly, the crew of this film were fans of Swiss Cheese – because they left plot holes all over this story!

Princess Run Half Marathon – Kids Races Review

Back in February we participated in our 3rd, and possibly final, runDisney race.  My kids signed up for the Princes Run’s Kid Races, and they had a great time.

Not surprisingly, the race featured a Frozen theme for the 5k and Kids Races.  I expected that to happen, but, had I know that Anna and Elsa would have been on the 5K medals, I think I would have signed them up to run that over the Kids Runs.

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This is what the Kids Races medal looked like, and it’s cute, but Olaf is so cheesy to me.  I would have liked it better if the PRINCESS races had princess medals, not goofy sidekick medals.  But it’s still cute, and you can’t really plan ahead for these things, so…

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You have to go to ESPN to pick up your packet, which includes race info, shirt, bib, and ears, if you ordered them.  There’s usually an expo nearby selling all sorts of race goodies.  Unfortunately, I had my eye on a Dooney and Burke Princess Run bag, but every single one of them had sold out the day before we ever got to Orlando.  That didn’t seem to be an issue at the Marathon in January, but I guess those Princesses fly off the shelves!

There is also a meet and greet opportunity near the packet pickup where you can meet Cinderella and a specially dressed Minnie.  Because they were unannounced and at ESPN, it only took 20 minutes to get through both lines (yay!).

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On the day of the race I entered a Starlord (whom everyone swore was Captain Hook – come on guys, Guardians of the Galaxy should still be fresh in your minds!) into the Mickey Mile,

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and a Coronation Anna in the 800 meter.

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As with previous races, the bibs come with a tear away tab for the parents.  You need to save this so that you can safely claim your child after the race.  They have security keeping the kids in the finisher corrals so that they don’t disappear or get abducted, and people who are not running cannot enter the starting corrals, so your kids are more than reasonably safe during their time away from you.

However, unlike the other two races we participated in, this one took place in the EPCOT parking lot instead of the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I’m not really sure why they chose to do this, but I think I prefer the ESPN run area.  The EPCOT location was convenient for going to EPCOT after the race, but 1/4 of the parking lot was sectioned off for the event – just seems kind of odd to me overall.  Because of the way it was all set up, you really couldn’t see any vendors or giveaway booths until you were leaving the races.  Which, by the time the races were finishing up, the booths were all packing up, so that kind of killed part of the fun of the event.  I’m not sure who does the planning for these things, but when several hundred runners are still going through, you’d think vendors might stick around just a while longer.

They did keep the finisher photo zones in tact, though they were not well placed with the ever-rising sun.  Here’s a Starlord with his banana gun:

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Now, for those of you who are unaware, you CAN run with your children without having to buy an entry.  It’s a KIDS race, so you aren’t officially entered and you don’t earn medals or get shirts, but Disney respects that parents may want to run with/stay near their children.  In my case, I know I couldn’t keep up, so I send my oldest to run with my youngest.

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And, as always, anyone who finished the race earns their medal, which is a very colorful, rubber material.

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They also have the Marathon Foto people at these events.  The unfortunate part is that the photos are not complimentary and not part of your Memory Maker package.  They are actually quite expensive, as photos go, but you can still proof your images and decide for yourself if any are worth buying.  My memory may be fuzzy, but I believe they are $15 per digital image, or $80 for all images (per runner number).

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Overall, it was a cute event, but I hope to have the kids move up to 5Ks for the next time we runDisney.  My camera seems to have eaten my photos of the shirt and ears for the event, but if I find them I will edit this to post them later.  🙂

Where’s the Fire Review

Recommended:  YES!

I know so many people who will skip over a lot of EPCOT because they think their kids are too young to be amused, but you can really find cool stuff everywhere!  Case in point:  Where’s the Fire in the Innoventions building.

It’s hard to miss this game/exhibit, because it’s shaped like a huge house.  You enter, stand on your circle with your team members, take a flashlight/game remote, and GO!  You’ll move room to room working with your partner to deal with potential fire hazards before a fire breaks out.  Okay, that sounds like of lame, but it’s actually a lot of fun!

When the winning team is announced, you’re all done!  But, when you leave, you’ll be dumped out into a children’s interactive exhibit where they can practice a fire drill in a kid-sized home.  It shows the kids what a real fire truck looks like (since that’s where they meet up at – and it’s parked right there inside!) and it teaches them to go after the quickest, safest path out of their home in the event on a fire.

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Really, if you’re skipping this, you’re missing out!

San Angel Inn Restaurante Review

Recommended:  Toss up.

I came very, very close to cancelling our reservation at San Angel after hearing a number of bad reviews.  By a number, I mean that I posted a question about the restaurant and over a hundred people responded with their bad experiences, and only a few listed positive ones.  With that in mind, I had very low expectations when entering the restaurant.

Just to be clear, there are several restaurants named San Angel in the Mexico section of the World Showcase in EPCOT.  The one I am reviewing is the place inside the Mayan temple, the other two are La Hacienda de San Angel and La Cantina de San Angel.

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Like most other guests, I highly recommend sitting next to the water.  It’s very cool to watch the boats go by for the ride in Mexico.  Now, the place can be packed, so the only way to guarantee that you can sit by the water will be to book a reservation for as soon as the restaurant opens, and check in about 15 minutes early (as recommended).  We did that, we were the first ones to check in, and even though we didn’t get seated first, we did get an awesome table with a beautiful view of the water.

Now, there are three major complaints that I heard about San Angel Inn – it’s too dark, the tables are too small/tight, and the portion sizes are way too small for the price.  I tend to agree with all three of these points.  Most of my photos are blurry from a severe lack of light, and the small lanterns at the table just aren’t enough.

As is the case with most Mexican restaurants, you get complimentary chips at the table.  They come with an interesting green dip and a very, very watered down tomato based salsa.  I like my salsa chunky and fresh, and, in this area, I wasn’t too impressed.

I had the Pollo a las Rajas, which was grilled chicken breast served with red peppers & onion cream sauce, poblano rice, and queso fresco.  I didnt really stop and think that poblano rice was not the usual, brown/red rice that comes with most Mexican dishes, and it seemed like some of my rice was not fully cooked.  But, the meal got better with every bite, so I was not disappointed.  Although, considering how cheap foods like rice are, it would have been nice if they at least were overly-generous with that part.  There really wasn’t much side at all considering that it was $19.50 and a $9 plate at a local Mexican restaurant outside of the park would have been double the food.
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My husband asked the waiter for a recommendation, and ended up getting the Tacos de Carne – which he is still obsessively raving about to this day.  To quote the menu, it is grilled New York strip on flour tortillas, topped with chipotle pepper sauce, scallions and avocado.  He couldn’t get over how amazing the avocado made it.  Although, he was very sad that the three tacos are very, very small for the $21 price.  The photo below is not of a very large plate, and the tortillas were the smallest size I’ve ever seen (roughly half the size of Chipotle tortillas, if that helps as a sizing reference).  Just like with Be Our Guest, he left the meal still hungry.
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My daughter was very happy to find Cheese Quesadillas on the menu.  Those are her safety Mexican food that won’t “spice my tongue,” as she puts it.  Again, though, there wasn’t a lot on the plate for $8.50.

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Finally, my son had the kids Grilled Chicken with Rice.  Oddly enough, he got more rice than my husband and I combined.  His was probably the best value in terms of quality, price, and size of the meal at $9.50.
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So, I will say that it’s a toss up as to whether I would recommend San Angel Inn.  The food was definitely good, but there just wasn’t a lot of it offered, the prices are very high considering the amount of food you get, and it is dark with cramped tables.  Apologies again for the blurry images, that’s a side effect of the advance darkness.  But, overall, I’m glad to have went, but I don’t think that I’d book it a second time.

Art of Animation Review

Recommended:  SUPER YES!!!

As of posting this blog, I have been to the following Disney Resorts:  Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, All Stars Movies, and Pop Century.  I have to say that, while I really loved Caribbean Beach and Pop Century, nothing has blown me away as much as Art of Animation Resort!

I don’t know that I can do the venue justice with words, so I will try to just caption my photos.  I will say, if you need a family suite, Cars definitely looks like the coolest area.  And, if you need this knowledge for any reason, there is a bridge going from Art of Animation to Pop Century (50s/60s area), so it is a close walk away.

Please excuse my gushing, I went to school for an MFA in animation, so this was my personal paradise!  Alright, photo time!!!!

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Even driving by, the outside of Art of Animation is just fantastic to look at!

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All of the family suites have these beautiful sketches on the sides of the buildings.  You could drive around the main road and see a lot of these, even if you aren’t stopping or staying at the resort.

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If you do get the chance to stop and look around, every section has these giant statues based on the main characters/scenes from the movies they’re themed after.  This was the Little Mermaid section, which are all room for four or less occupants (the only non-family suite option).

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There are also smaller displays around each area to have photo-ops with.  Besides Price Eric’s birthday present, there was also a dinglehopper, a snarfblat, a treasure chest, and a big Sebastian conducting the orchestra.  The buildings themselves were lined with dancing fish from the movie too.  Unfortunately, I can put up a thousands photos in one post, or I will make my blog crash, but believe me when I say it is a visual marvel!

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The lobby has an amazing collection of storyboard sketches that run from wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor.

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At the check-in area, the wall is full of color and black-and-white character sketches.

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After we checked in, we saw our Little Mermaid room.  This was the table, and my daughter insisted I photograph it RIGHT AWAY!  That sheet music is actually a part of the table top!

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Next, the beds are adorable, with lights build into each headboard (on/off switches are on the wall between the two beds).  Even the bed skirt was themed!

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I honestly can’t say this room didn’t have enough of a Disney feel to it, because there was a beautiful painting of Prince Eric, Max, and Scuttle sailing on the open seas.  To the contrary, Pop Century only had a poster on the wall to be “themed,” and All Stars Movies only had a boarder of their movies on the wall.

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Here we have the privacy curtain for the sink area.

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I mean even the carpet is Little Mermaid themed!  Can you believe that?

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This was the shower tile!  I almost died when my daughter found it!  The shower curtain was already adorable, with Ariel looking at her neat stuff, but the whole flipping grotto is the shower interior!  This is the first time that a Disney Resort room has really impressed me.  I have never seen the interior be more spectacular than the exterior!

An interesting thing to notice about the Little Mermaid room is that is kind of tells a story.  The desk with the sheet music is right by the door.  This is the beginning of the movie where Ariel gets in trouble.  The bulk of the room is themed like the Under the Sea song, with all the colorful fish dancing and having a good time.  Then what happens in the film?  Ariel runs away during that song and ends up in her grotto, which is where you end up next as the bathroom.  So, from front to back, you have the first third of the story!

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After we saw our room, we went exploring around the other sections.  We found the main characters for every film represented at the Resort, except for Dori.  I didn’t look very hard, but she was the only character I would say is missing (maybe it’s a joke for the upcoming Finding Dori movie?).

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My daughter refused to pose nicely with Scar.

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But, the Elephant Graveyard mini-playground, complete with hyenas, was hard not to enjoy.

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More centrally located in the resort is The Big Blue – the largest pool of all the Disney Resorts.  In the back there is a small playground and splash park that is beautifully detailed with the schoolyard fish.  But, pool jumpers beware, you may be required to have a Magic Band or key card that is activated for Art of Animation to use this pool!

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Here’s why I think the Cars area was the best.  Every car from the first movie was present, and they turned the area into Radiator Springs, so they had the town shops all over the place.  Sarge’s Surplus was decorative, I don’t believe that guests could enter there, but Tow Mader and several other “businesses” were the entrances to the suites.

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I haven’t seen Car World in Disneyland yet, but I can’t imagine it being as wonderfully detailed as this section of Art of Animation.

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And I LOVED that the Cozy Cone Motel was here too, only it was a pool and the cones were little rooms to get out of the sun!

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Casa Della Tires, another suite entrance area!  If you’ll notice too, the family suites are all enclosed like hotel rooms, whereas the Little Mermaid area (for parties of 4 or less) had the motel-ish doors that opened to the outside areas.

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Finally, I want to touch on the dinning area.  Okay, the food isn’t to-die-for, it’s pretty standard “meh” quick service food.  But the dining area is gorgeous, offering tons of landscape concept art to match every themed area of the resort.  Here is the Lion King section, with a bit of the Cars art section in the right top corner.

I cannot recommend this resort enough, especially if you have younger children!  This is the only resort I’ve seen that is decked out in Disney to this level.  And, even the smaller rooms are new, modern, and roomy, whereas the rooms at Pop Century and All Stars feel more cramped, aren’t very detailed, and are really starting to show their age.  While this resort is hard to book if you want the cheaper Little Mermaid section, it is definitely worth staying here if you can manage to get a room! 🙂

Watch Out for that Neverbeast!

I feel like I need to offer a PSA for other, unsuspecting parents out there.  Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast came out this past Tuesday.  In the aftermath I have learned that this was a planned series finale – and the story line may leave your kid balled up and in a puddle on the floor.

***SPOILERS****

When I watched Neverbeast with my daughter, I really had done no prior research and had no clue what to expect.  My daughter, who is seven, was a wreck after seeing Toy Story 3 and Big Hero 6, but, having seen five other Disney Fairies movies, I did NOT expect Neverbeast to be an emotional film.  While Disney is getting more and more into the habit of ripping out children’s souls and stomping them into the ground with the heavy, emotional experiences happening in their films, most straight-to-video Disney movies are geared towards a younger audience.  Because of that, they are usually very kid friendly and have plots that wrap up in a nice little bow.  This was NOT the case with the Neverbeast film.

To put this in a nutshell, Fairies find Neverbeast, Fairies fear Neverbeast, Neverbeast saves the day, then Fairies love Neverbeast.  Yay, end of the film, right?  Wrong!

When the movie should have ended (if it had taken in any consideration for the general age of the audience at all), it decides to continue.  Instead of our stereotypical Happily Ever After, it turns out that the Neverbeast, now a treasured part of Pixie Hallow, is about to go back into hibernation for 972 years.  Now, out of the dozens of ways the filmmakers could have handled this issue, they chose the gut wrenching route.  Just as I complained about in Big Hero 6, it is a frivolous and cruel ending.  After all, the Neverbeast was just invented in a writers room, which means his hibernation schedule was also just invented on a whim.

So, the last portion of the film is dedicated to the Fairies essentially tucking the Neverbeast in for a huge hibernation period.  Is it a joyful or happy event?  Of course not!  It’s a somber, tear-jerking nightmare where the Fairies make sure to stress to the Neverbeast that they’ll never see him again.  The Neverbeast goes to sleep, and the series is over.  Good golly, you’d think we just watched the end of The Sopranos for all the closure that finale gives us!  What ever happened to ending on a high note?

Clearly, this was the creative team’s way of saying their personal goodbyes to their work in the Peter Pan universe, but I am so tired of writers using a genre that was previously deemed “safe” for kids and turning it into an emotional roller coaster.  Could these people possibly consider the fact that sometimes we want our kids to watch a film to escape the harsher realities of life, such a loss and death?  And we can’t even see the Fairies moving on and being happy again in the ending?  I admit, some of these emotions are justifiable for the plot line (such as the first ten minutes of Up showing you why Carl was such a sad, lonely old man now), but, in cases like Neverbeast, it is completely unnecessary and manufactured for no real benefit, other than to make sure that you have lots of feels.

Long story short, this is one of those Toy Story 3 type of endings, and if you don’t want your child thrown headfirst into a tough, emotional journey, I would completely skip the Legend of the Neverbeast.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes Restaurant Review

Recommended:  No.

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For my son’s 10th birthday he forgoed a party to do a weekend Disney World trip, and his two restaurant choices were Splitsville and Rainforest Cafe.  I have to admit, the latter restaurant was a LOT better.

Splitsville is easy enough to spot in Downtown Disney.  It’s not far from Disney Quest, and it has the distinction of being a restaurant AND a bowling alley.  So, of course, this place seemed pretty cool.  I have to admit that I had some high expectations of the place myself, and they were not fulfilled.

We had a reservation, so when we went in we were seated quickly enough.  I was going to bowl and eat, but then I was dumbfounded at the price gouging of their bowling fees.  It was roughly $15 per person to bowl one game – not even including shoe rentals!  Now, maybe that’s nothing to people in the big city, or people willing to throw money away like a maniac on vacation, but, for me, I can bowl for $4 per person back home – shoes included!  Even though it was a birthday trip, there was no way we were paying that much to bowl.

Maybe that soured my taste of the facility, but even after we got our food, I was not pleased.  It was cheap diner food, at best, and also way overpriced.  For me to get a Baja Chicken plate, and two kids pizza meals, I was almost at $40 once the recommended tip was calculated into the price.

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It was Steak and Shake quality food for a much higher price tag.  It wasn’t awful, no one got sick from eating there (which I haven’t been able to say about every Disney eatery), but it was way too much money for what it offered.

I will say, in favor of Splitsville, that they do have a highly diverse menu – at least for adults.  There are rice bowls, sushi, burger, salads, and pizzas.  If you have money to burn, this might be a fun place for you, and I think we would have liked it much more if we had the money to blow on bowling too, but this was a “meh” experience for me.  There are much better options out there for similar prices on better venues.