Monday, September 26, 2016

Florida: July 14, 2004

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben during the summer of 2003....

Day 38--Monday, July 14, 2003

I was pleasantly surprised at the state of the KOA bathrooms.  They were clean and had individual shower rooms with plenty of room for all my stuff.  Best of all, they were free--as much hot water and as long of a shower as I wanted.  Of course, given the mid-July Florida heat and humidity, the hot water wasn't as valuable as usual!

Our destination of the day was Disney-MGM Studios, which Ben claimed he had never been to before--an impression which gradually changed as the day went on!  The dominant image as we walked through the gate was the huge Sorcerer Mickey hat in the center of the park.  We took pictures, studied our map, and set off for the back of the park, since we seemed to have luck with that yesterday.  We were immediately stopped by a cast member who was handing out FastPasses for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-Play It! This was perfect for us, since we had already decided that would be one of our first destinations.

We had enough time for one other attraction before Millionaire, so we decided to do The Great Movie Ride tour.  We got right on and were seated in the back row of a tour car, which took us through scenes from of famous movies over the years, complete with backdrops, music, and live actors.  It was a little hard to hear everything from the back of the car, but it was cute, and I really enjoyed some of the sets.

After that, we had just enough time to get to Millionaire and file in with everyone else who had been waiting in line.  I ended up in seat 110 and Ben was in seat 109.  The theater was identical to the one in which the real "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" is filmed, and apparently some episodes have actually been taped at this one.  The biggest difference is that the whole audience gets to play in this version.  We started out with a "fast finger" question which involved putting four Vice Presidents in chronological order.  The person who got the question right fastest got to go into the "hot seat."  Of the 400 participants, this person ended up being a 14-year-old boy who seemed pretty embarrassed to have achieved this feat.

He did fairly well at answering the questions, some of which were pretty hard.  He used up all three of his lifelines quickly, though.  Two of the lifelines were the same as the show (50/50 and Ask t he Audience), but the third was different.  Instead of Phoning a Friend, he had to Phone a Complete Stranger.  Apparently the studio phone rings out to one on the main street of MGM, where a cast member answers the phone and grabs a random person off the street to help answer the question.  This proved to be pretty amusing!

When the kid went out, a large screen came up, displaying who in the crowd had been getting the most answers right in the shortest amount of time.  Neither Ben or I was on it.  Ben attributes this to the fact that we didn't really figure out the answering system until pretty late in the game.  WE had been waiting until all four choices were read to vote, but we then learned that voting started as soon as the fourth choice appeared on the screen.  Once we figured that out, we started doing much better.

Anyway, the top audience member was the next in the hot seat.  He was a dad in the front row.  His wife beamed with excitement, and his two sons were hilarious to watch.  The little one, probably about seven years old, kept bouncing up and down in his seat and waving at the camera, while the other son, in his early teens, kept sinking lower and lower in his seat with embarrassment that his dad was up in front of all those people.  He eventually basically disappeared under the railing.  Ben and I were almost more amused with the kids' performance than we were with the dad's great enthusiasm for all things Millionaire and Disney!

This guy actually did a really good job, and it was obvious that he was quite familiar with how to play the game.  He really hammed it up for the cameras, giving the host a much easier job than the teenage boy had.  As the game went on, the host paused to show the scoreboard.  Ben and I were surprised to discover that we were both in the top 10 in the audience!

That was when I really got my edge because several English questions came up in a row.  One asked the real name of Dr. Seuss, and another asked who had written "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time."  I can't imagine that many people got those both right.  By the time the guy went out, I had moved up to the number one audience spot!

I was pretty much rooted to my chair with fear as Ben tried to yank me up and send me down to the hot seat.  All I could think about was how dirty and silly I must look with my wet hair, makeup-free face, and huge boy shorts, bulging at the pockets with postcards, the digital camera, and my latest Raymond Feist novel.  But for better or worse, that was when the clock went off to signal the end of the game, so I didn't have to go to the hot seat, although I did still get plenty of interested looks from the people around me.

As soon as we left the game, I had to call Dad to tell him that all of our hours of playing trivia board games, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire, had sort of paid off.  He got a kick out of that.  Then, on to the rest of MGM!

We got our picture taken with Sorcerer Mickey, who was posing for pictures, and then we set off for Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, an interesting film which told about his life and the origins of the Disney company.  Our next stop was the Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour.  This started with some volunteers showing us how action movies are made by having tons of water dumped on them.  Then we all loaded into a long train and drove past all the old props of various movies that have been dumped in various storage areas.  We also admired the huge mouse ears water tower.  The best part of the tour was Catastrophe Canyon, where we were faced with both raging hot flames and tons of water dumped in an avalanche of wetness in order to demonstrate special effects.

We then proceeded onward for a brief playtime in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure.  Each of us remembered doing that with our families when we were younger.  It was still neat to see the huge blades of grass and ride on the giant ant, but I must admit that it was cooler when I was younger and the movie was fresher in my mind.

We then decided to take another ride on Star Tours.  Ben liked it, but since I hadn't even enjoyed it at Disneyland, I was less than enthusiastic about being jerked back and forth from side to side.

Our next stop was interesting--a show called Sounds Dangerous - Starring Drew Carey.  Basically, the idea was that it was supposed to be a test show for a new television show about an undercover cop that applied to all of the senses and took you "inside" his experience.  What this meant was that early in the show, his "video camera shorted out," leaving the audience hearing the story and al the noises that went along with it, but sitting in complete darkness.  We heard him getting a haircut, traffic zooming by, bees buzzing, a circus taking place, and eventually, our detective apprehending the criminal.  The storyline left a bit to be desired, but the idea of telling a story with only sound instead of with sight was certainly interesting.

We then went to see Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D, which was great, especially because each of us has a deep childhood love of the Muppets.  The story was essentially that they were trying to put on a show, and they ran into all the usual Muppet difficulties.  Fozzie the Bear's slapstick humor showered the audience with jets of water and made us jump at worms exploding from cans.  One of my favorite parts of the show was when the huge brown shaggy monster came running out, and we realized that he was a real person a a costume, not on the screen, really enhancing the 3-D effect.  The two old heckler guys were in a balcony on our right, one of the characters escaped to the balcony on our left, and the Swedish Cook uttered nonsense from a gallery in the back wall of the theater, so we were really surrounded by characters and effects.  That was one of my favorite attractions of the day.

We then waited for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which was every bit as cool as I remembered.  I especially loved when they took volunteers, because I had utterly forgotten about the one guy who they plant in the audience and then beat up on stage before revealing that he's really one of their own cast members.  I was still impressed by all the feats of action and daring.  I just wish they had the Indiana Jones ride here too like they did at Disneyland!

This started our streak of shows, so we next attended Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage.  The costumes were fantastic, and the girl they cast as Belle was really good, even though I was pretty depressed to realize that everyone else was just lipsynching.  The choreography was great though, and I really do love the songs from that movie, so I greatly enjoyed it, although I'm sure Ben didn't have the same appreciation that I did.  But I mean, really, how could Belle not fall in love with someone that gave her her very own library???

Our last show of the day was the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  I didn't think this girl was nearly as good, but the part they did at the very beginning with the fish was great.  All of the fish were incandescent and glowing in the dark, the theater was dark, and all of the handlers of the puppets were clothed entirely in black, so it looked like these fish were just leaping around on their own in time to the music.  We were seated in the second row, and I'm convinced that if we had been any further back, we wouldn't have even realized there were people up there controlling them.

This left us with only two major attractions left.  Unfortunately, it had started raining again, so we got a little wet standing in line.  We got a FastPass for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and stood in line and waited to go on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith first.  This ride was loud and fast, jerking around turns and over in an unbelievably short amount of time.  Roller coasters are not really my thing, but my stomach was still intact at the end of it, so I figured it was okay.

While waiting in line for the Tower of Terror, we met two brothers of some kind of Asian descent, one probably in his early teens and the other probably around nine.  The older brother was very friendly and told us all about how the two of them had spent the entire day alternating between these two famous roller coasters.  He asked if he and his brother could sit with us on the ride so we could have a row to ourselves, and we said sure.

The Tower of Terror was really not for me.  The appeal of it is that it's never the same twice, so you never know when you can stop being scared.  They strap you into a huge elevator car, take you up to the top of a 13-story building, and drop you.  And then it takes you back up and drops you again.  But no matter how many times you do it, you don't know how many times it's going to drop you and from what height.  I was quite glad to get out of there!

We then sat in the car for a while, ate some bratwurst, and debated where we should go back to our campsite or stay for the Fantasmic lights show that night.  We decided to go and do our laundry instead.  We sat at the Laundromat and read our books while all our clothes got clean, and then we returned to our campsite to get ready for bed.  Kristin called and said that she and her best friend Matt want to come over to Indy and visit for two days in August as soon as I get back, so now I have that to look forward to.

18 / 40

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