Friday, June 10, 2011

Disney Related Review: The AMC Dine-In Theaters

Today I shall talk about something only slightly related to Disney: The AMC Dine-In Theaters located in the Downtown Disney District at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, United States, Planet Earth, Milky Way Galaxy (just to clear up any confusion).

What welcomes you
I came upon this experience in a most unconventional way: I was forced into it. I wanted to see the 6:30 Kung Fu Panda (yes, a Dreamworks film, sacrilege, I know), and it turns out that the 6:30 was in the Dine-In Theater. I was not going to change the time, so I bit the bullet and paid the extra $2 for the Dine-In experience, and then the extra $2 for the 3D experience, and then the extra money for the food and tip. So because of my stubbornness, I spent an extra $15ish more than I wanted to. But I got a blog post out of it, so, priceless? For you, at least.

After walking from the normal ticket booth to the entrance of the Dine-In Theaters at the other end of the 24-screen theater, I hurried in, got my ticket torn, received a weird look from the ticket taker (it wasn’t because my fly was down: I’d pulled it up at that point), walked in, sat in my assigned seat, and took in my setting.

The seats were much larger than your typical theater recliner, accompanied by a small, bar-esque table in front of you that is just far enough away from your seat to make eating a dish a comfortable activity, all of it lit with some classic movie theater rope-light .

After sitting for about 10 minutes, I pressed my waiter button (which all restaurants should have. I’m a guy who needs around 8 refills a meal, and I’m too passive to just ask, so a “waiter, come hither!” button would be perfect for me), and eventually the waiter came hither, sat next to me in the empty seat, and took my small order of a popcorn and a Diet Coke.

A couple minutes later, he delivered, and I started eating at an extremely rapid pace so I could take advantage of having the waiter refill my popcorn. I didn’t need to try to inhale my drink because that’s a natural thing for me (technically so is eating a lot, but an entire large popcorn, that took some Kung Fu Panda-like concentration.)
My "meal" a Diet and popcorn

Overall, the waiters walking through the theater, taking and delivering orders, was not as distracting as it could be. Neither was the brighter-than-usual area lighting, and the air must have been circulated in the theater better than the non-dine in theaters, because unlike when the person behind me orders a hot dog with everything, and the person in front of me orders nachos con jalapeƱo, thus making the theater stink like a flamingo corral, the other-people’s-food-always-smells-like-a-garbage-can problem was not a factor.

What was a problem was going through the menu, getting an order, getting a bill, paying it and the distraction all of that caused. I’m a guy who likes to be completely immersed in a film at the theaters, and generally am. That’s why I’m willing to drop so much dough at the box office every month. The things that should have been the obvious distractions were no problem, but the Dine-In experience still has its flaws. If you’re serious about your movies, then skip it.  Dining in at a movie is a novelty, and like all novelties that have to do with the film going experience (3D, Drive Ins, Sing-alongs), it’s more distracting than anything. If you want to see a movie, than do that and only that.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Going Behind the Scenes at Expedition Everest

While here on the College Program, many opportunities have been presented to me. The Spring formal, trips to Tampa Bay Rays games, speaker session with Meg Crofton, networking opportunities. They do a pretty OK job when it comes to leading us CP horses to water when it comes to activities and networking opportunities. I’m a horse that likes drinking too, so for me, I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me.

Unfortunately, if the event doesn’t happen on a Wednesday or Thursday, I’m out of luck, because the first priority assigned to me as a CP is to work. Work I do, all day for five days a week. I’ve been able to squeeze a few CP Alumni speaker series events into the mix, and I went Busch Gardens Thursday, but generally, I see an event that interests me, I look at my schedule and go “Oh well, can’t do it, I work that day.”

Not this week! As aforementioned, I went on a the Bush Gardens CP housing event and experienced Cheetah Hunt (and it’s 90 minute queue), then the following day, I was lucky enough to go on a backstage tour of Expedition Everest. Backstage tours: this is why I did the College Program, people!

It was awesome. Totally worth waking up at 5:30 in the AM after a day of Busch Gardens excitement, and before a 5:15 PM-3:15 AM shift.

A small group of us was vanned over to Animal Kingdom, and we drove around the massive outer circumference of the Walt Disney World Resort’s largest theme park, square footage wise. It smelled terrible, like there was a bunch of animals back there or something...

We then parked behind the Everest peak, and were taken to meet our tour guides in front of the ride. They introduced themselves, and then started the tour. We first walked into the mountain range, and it was spectacular. Well, to me at least. To anyone else, it was a bunch of steel beams, cement blocks, and a cement slab floor. I was fascinated by the intertwining steel tubes and bars, holding up the mountain range itself, the coaster’s track, and the walkways around the track. The three never touch, and are all separate structures. They informed us the mountain was built around the track. Then there was a fourth structure: one specifically to hold up the massive Yeti.

The ghastly Himalayan primate was the next stop on our tour, and seeing the beast up close with the lights on was worth the price of admission (the price was $0.00, not to demean to tour, just to be funny). The thing was massive, its face horrifying, even in a well lit environment. They explained to us how the fur weighs a ton, is made of up actual animal fur, and can be completely removed to expose the audioanimatronic skeleton. We also learned that the attraction itself cost $90 million, and the Yeti alone was $20 million. And it hasn’t been fully operational since 2009. The sweeping motion it executed every time a train went by was too much for its foundation, causing so much force it was tearing its roots out of the ground. To fix the beast, they would have to shut down the attraction. To shut down to attraction would mean a loss of five to eight thousand guests in the park a day, and they do not want that. A complete ride rehab is rumored to be happening next year, but as of now, it’s just a rumor.

We then left the good old Yeti behind to walk to 14 flights of stairs to the ride-switch, where the train stops and then proceeds to go backwards. This provided a beautiful vista of all three of the parks, as Expedition Everest is the tallest structure at the Walt Disney World resort, just a wee bit taller than the Tower of Terror, and just a wee bit shorter than what would lawfully require it to have a blinking light at the top to warn planes, and ruin the show.

The detail of the surrounding area of the ride switch, with Yeti foot prints, the broken track, and the prayer flags was a sight to see up close.

After all this, we walked over to the lift, which was an even more fantastic sight. Not only was there a great view of the other Disney World resorts, theme parks and surrounding area, the entire Animal Kingdom park was right there, under my stuffy nose (I think Busch Gardens got me sick). I’ve always enjoyed looking around when I rode the train up the lift as a guest, but getting to stand up there and take it all in: it was one of the greatest and most unique experiences I may ever have.

Everything that happened after that was much more informative, much less breathtaking, and not really worth mentioning. They showed us the hidden Mickey’s in the queue, talked about all the inside jokes and references in Asia and in the queue, and gave us a ton of other insider information that I’m sure i’ll bore whoever’s in line with me the next time I partake in Expedition Everest. I’ll spare you, no worries. Especially since you’ve read 900 words deep into this post. Good job.