Much time has elapsed since I last wrote about my trip to Florida and already it has gained a surreal quality as if I was never really there.
I'm probably not the only one to say that; Kissimmee with its souvenir stores morphed into the heads of strange wizards, its crazy gold courses and chain restaurants oozes the hideousness of tourist strips the world over. Fun this forced leaves hollowness and emptiness in its wake and when every home has its identikit swimming pool, it no longer becomes a luxury to aspire to.
Still Disney's Hollywood Studios was a highlight. After some of the disappointments of the Magic Kingdom I decided to take the advice of the guide book that can be summarized as:
1 - Arrive Early
2 - Leave All Whiners Behind in the Pool
Minus a couple of family members we arrived just after the park opened and headed for Toy Story Midway Mania, one of the most popular rides at the whole of Disney World, to get fast passes. The previous night my brother-in-law has regaled us with terrible tales of how being tardy would mean not getting onto Toy Story Mania until 5 p.m. Not that I cared so much as Toy Story leaves me cold.
Star Wars is another story, although I tend not to tell people about that night on a press trip fighting with cloaks and light sabers in the Tunisian desert as you see that odd look come over people's faces as they back away quickly, their nerdometer buzzing wildly.
We wandered down a street with the faux New York skyline in the background and suddenly it felt great to be alive. Better still we waited less than 10 minutes to get on the Star Wars ride which was fun, even though I feared I would part company with my cookies half way through.
Things took a turn for the more hardcore after that as we headed for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in which you in a fall down the elevator from hell. The line here was already about 45 minutes but it was worth some arm pit time for this ride which is really atmospheric and replicates a haunted hotel perfectly, although I felt I was the only person admiring the faux columns in the court yard.
From here it was on to an overpriced cake and domestic between my sister and her husband, which we don't need to get into now; suffice to say looking on from the outside made me realize the pettiness of domestics the world over.
We headed for faux South of France to see a rather dramatic demonstration by stunt drivers which made me wonder how these guys ever get any insurance.
Finally the moment we had all been waiting for arrived when we got to ride Toy Story Midway Mania and shoot and virtual targets. The ride was stimulating but not really worth the hype that made it sound like the best thing since sliced bread, an expression I take issue with because it's more fun to cut your own. I emerged dazed into the daylight to find I had registered the highest score in the group that included small people who spend half their life shooting things in a virtual world.
Then finally we broke off from the others to go on The Great Movie Ride. I wanted to do this because it's so easy to lose sight of what it's all about. Yet when the sounds of the rides have died, the legends of Hollywood still endure, even when Bogart and Bergman looked like the Disney intern crafted their faces from bird crap.
Needless to say the Wizard of Oz display (see the video) was a highlight, but if we can learn one thing from the classics we should learn the witch is never dead. She reappeared in the tearoom in a frilly costume barking at us when we tried to buy a small bag of fries without the sandwich combo.
The magic of Disney has no end. Then another thunderstorm came along and wrecked our afternoon for a while.