Three Things I’ve Learned from The Magic Kingdom


I went to Disney World! Woo!

And I’m home now! Double woo!

Yep. Disney will do that to you. A person can absorb only so much whimsy before he feels compelled to run screaming for the airport.

I’m kidding, of course. I didn’t run screaming for the airport. I was too tired to either run or scream; I crawled and groaned.

I also had fun. Lots of fun, really.

And I return to the blogging world bearing three pieces of wisdom! Take from these nuggets what you will:

Beware The Enchanted Tiki Room

Everyone knows that the way-too-catchy song “It’s a Small World” will adhere to your brain like a barnacle to a ship’s hull. Armed with this knowledge, each Disney vacationer is able to make an educated decision: If you want a song stuck in your head, go on the ride. If you don’t, then don’t.

The unassuming Enchanted Tiki Room, on the other hand, catches you off guard. Most people who sit down to watch this robotic bird show do so because it’s one of the few attractions where the lines don’t stretch back to Newark. Crowds aren’t expecting a way-too-catchy song, but, oh, baby, do they get one. They get one that even out-catchies “It’s a Small World.”

Don’t get me wrong, the Tiki Room is a fun little attraction. But if you don’t find yourself humming “it’s the tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki room” over and over again while showering, eating, driving, sleeping, and going potty for the next several weeks, then you, my friend, have dodged one lethal bullet.

Brawk! Polly wants to haunt your dreams. Brawk!
Brawk! Polly wants to haunt your dreams. Brawk!

There is No Such Thing as a Non-Awkward Conversation with a Disney Princess

The best meal I ate at Disney was in Cinderella’s Castle. Unfortunately, they serve up your meal with a side order of social awkwardness. During the lunch, I was interrupted by four – count ’em, four – different Disney princesses.

“Don’t worry,” our server told us at one point, “all four princesses will visit every table.”

“That’s why I’m worried,” I told Ellen.

I’ve discovered that talking to a stranger wearing a princess gown is weirder than talking to a stranger wearing a giant duck head. I’m not sure why this is, but if I was to guess, I think it’s because a duck head provides you with some psychological distance. When I don’t see a person’s face, it’s easier for me to play the game and act like I am in the presence of a cartoon celebrity. When I met the princesses (all four of them), however, I just saw 20-year-old girls playing pretend. It made me cringe a little.

Alex, on the other hand, was a fan.
Alex, on the other hand, loved every minute of it.

The Hall of Presidents May Prompt Emotional Outbursts

I have always loved the Hall of Presidents. Always. I saw it when I was 7, 11, and 17 and it got me every time. Seeing Robot Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address dazzled me. Seeing all the the Robot Presidents introduced at the show’s finale dazzled me even more.

I saw it again last week, and the show is still dazzling. In fact, I would argue that The Hall of Presidents is now better than it’s ever been.

Disney has made a few changes in recent years, and the attraction’s narrative arc is now pitch perfect. Lincoln gives his address and then, after the Presidential roll call, another Robot President faces the crowd and delivers a short, inspiring speech. I won’t say who this other Robot President is, but I will say that he is a fine representation of Lincoln’s dream of equality for all Americans.

I will also say that this particular Robot President tends to prompt certain people in this very partisan political climate to sigh with rigor and mutter with displeasure.

If you think you might be one of those folks who might be compelled to sigh and mutter at the sight of a Robot President, then, well, you gotta learn to cool it a little. Or, if I may put it another way, I didn’t hoof it all the way to Florida and spend all this money to listen to your mutterings. I did it to get whimsified. And the way I fill my whimsy tank is by oohing and aahing my Robots-In-Chief.

So, Mr. Disruptive Person, why don’t you run off to see something else out of my earshot, OK? Have you considered the Enchanted Tiki Room? It’s awesome. And look! The lines for it are really short! Go! Hurry!

47 Replies to “Three Things I’ve Learned from The Magic Kingdom”

  1. Great report on Disney. I didn’t realize you were so converse with it…four times…WOW!

    Yes, Alex does seem to be enjoying the princess…is he blushing?

    Thanks for the heads up on the Tiki Room.

    1. Yep, there is a certain happy flush in his cheeks.

      Alex turned out to be an even bigger fan of Snow White. He bent her ear for a while, talking to her about all sorts of things. When their chat finally wrapped up and she fluttered off, he turned to me with a nod and and a big smile and said, “Well! That went well!” It was like he was networking at a cocktail party.

  2. Sounds like a fabulous time! Going to Disney World is on my list of things to do (and hopefully things I’ll be able to afford at that point) when I’m a bestselling author. XD


    Glad you and your family had fun! Lucy the Rat didn’t wreak … too much havoc.

    1. Ah, Lucy the Rat will always be a handful. You will be pleased to know that she has since lost her blogging privileges.

      I think you would love Disney World, Rebekah. The key to having a good time there is to know and respect your limits. I saw waaaaay to many families run themselves around until they were exhausted and fed up with everything and everyone.

      Disney might have once been The Happiest Place On Earth, but with all the new parks and attractions to see these days, it has become for many families a test of endurance. That’s not going on vacation, that’s being a contestant on The Amazing Race.

      As for Ellen, Alex, and me, we went to the parks early, ate lunch there, and stuck around for perhaps another hour or two before heading back to the hotel to play in the pool. We were always tired at the end of the day, but we never ran ourselves ragged. That’s the way to go.

  3. Loved this Mike – sounds like you guys filled up your whimsy tanks to over flow, thanks for sharing some of it:-) My mind attracts catchy songs like a red rag to a bull, so I’ll be staying away from the singing parrot. I once wrote a column for our uni drama department mag, called simply the Disney column – and I’d write about Disney characters as a disguise for the people I was really talking about, but I wasn’t always subtle enough…one guy didn’t appreciate being compared to Colonel Hathi! Hup 2 3 – oh no, the song got me!!!

  4. I must not show Hannah this. I do hope we can go next year. Sounds like you had a great time. Love that picture of Alex and the Princess.

    1. You’ll have a great time, Catherine. But, as I told Rebekah in the comment above, Disney can either be the Happiest Place on Earth or The Most Frustrating and Exhausting Place on Earth, depending on your mindset.

  5. I don’t want to chat with a Disney princess, ever. So glad my daughter’s godmother took her to Disney on Ice because it seems ever weirder to talk to Cinderella on ice skates than to have her hover over your bacon and eggs.

  6. I’ve never been to either of the Houses of Mouse, but I have a feeling the Tiki earworm is lying in wait for me. And the princesses . . . though I think my kids would have more of a Ryan attitude about the whole thing—and a bunch of awkward questions for those young ladies, which I would sit back and enjoy as a kind of revenge in your honor, Mike.

    You mean the Hall of Presidents includes . . . presidents? Huh. What a rip-off.

    (tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki . . . )

      1. Yes. Yes I am. Dang it.

        Ryan is the very handsome nine-year old kid my older daughter spent all weekend telling me she was definitely not crushing on. I think I may have called my husband Ryan today . . .

        (Could be worse. I could’ve called him Billy)

  7. Although I have visited both ‘Houses of Mouse’ I have never taken tea with the princesses, so can’t say from experience how awkward those conversations must be, but I can imagine. Your young son didn’t seem to have too much trouble chatting up the princesses, though. I think he will be quite the ladies man in a few years!

    It’s been almost 40 years since I was in the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, so I think most of music has worn itself out. I can’t even remember the tune – but don’t bother reminding me! I do remember being enchanted by the animated birds, though. It was quite a feat of engineering, back then.

    Glad you and your family enjoyed your time there and I can agree that, if you don’t pace yourself, the experience can be quite exhausting! 🙂

    1. I can’t emphasize enough how excruciating the princess lunch was. But, hey, this was for Alex, not me. I soon learned to focus on my lunch when one of them happened by. I let the little guy do all the talking.

      The Tiki Room looks good even by today’s standards (birds have quick jerky movements and the 1960-something robots could pull off those kinds of moves quite well). The older robots did show their age elsewhere, however; the Jungle Cruise in particular was especially creaky.

      It was a great vacation, though. We are all so glad we went.

  8. I went to the Enchanted Tiki Room when I was a kid and thought it was boring even then. And don’t get me started on It’s a Small World. But there was a time when I was able to recite the narrative from the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

    1. The Haunted Mansion is every bit as amazing as I remembered it to be, which was a bit of a surprise, as a few of the other rides — the Jungle Cruise for example — really showed their age. As soon as we exited the Mansion, Alex begged to go right back in. I was happy to oblige.

      Pirates is still good, but the ride now suffers from a kind of bipolar disorder. The reason is because they added a Johnny Depp robot. This would be fine if the new robot’s movements (which are so beautifully complicated and fluid) didn’t call attention to the rigid jerkiness of all the other ones. But they do. And how.

      And fear not, I will not get your started on It’s a Small World. I understand completely.

  9. Sounds awkwardly nice. Oh, if you find anything weird in your yard, it wasn’t my fault. It was Lucy’s idea. And it only happened once. Okay it was twice. Why are you interrogating me?!

  10. I gotta have that fourth wall between me and the actors. Otherwise, I’ll pull their wigs off, and that never ends well. Your son, on the other hand, is going to be a PR man. :o)

    It’s been eons since I’ve been there, but I, too, was dazzled and filled with awe by the Hall of Presidents. To think that this fine land has managed to remain a democracy, with organized, hard-fought elections that end in civilized exchange of power and not anarchy, for over two centuries, thrills me to no end. And to watch these fine public servants talk about freedom and justice for all–well, I must say I cannot keep my tear ducts from responding.

    It’s a small world after all…it’s a small world after all…it’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world….

    Now, let’s talk about LegoLand….

    1. I do believe that if our sons worked together they could be co-emperors of the world — or at least run a mid-sized island nation with a solid GDP.

      So, wait. Did you go to LegoLand? Do tell!

      1. Yes, they’d make sure there was a whoopie cushion–er, chicken–in every pot.

        Let me tell you about Legoland! We visited between Christmas and New Year’s during the rainy season. Perfect timing. It rained just enough to keep the hordes away and for us to buy the Legoland sheer plastic trench coats, but not enough to close the park. Soooooo, we often didn’t need to stand in line or, in some cases, didn’t need to get off the ride. We just kept going around. Must have been what Michael Jackson felt like when he rented out Disneyland. It isn’t run by the Lego people, so you won’t get any Lego deals or VIP points if you buy anything in the gift shop. And there are fewer “building opportunities” than I expected, but overall it was a very pleasant surprise. The enormous Lego cities are amazing. Watching how Lego bricks are made is cool. There’s a wicked ride that flips you around, depending on your age and hurl tendency. And there’s a place where kids can drive Lego cars to get their driver licenses. Oh, and a place to build their own downhill race cars to see how different design features affect performance. There are other things like the Indiana Jones laser shoot ride and the Lego Technics car roller coaster. If your son loves Lego, it’s a worthwhile experience. You can also couple it with the free miniature train hobby museum and other sights in San Diego. We only went to the park for one day and spent several other days running around San Diego and the hills above the city. Lots to see and do.

      2. There is a LegoLand in Florida — and I was tempted to schedule a day there — but it would’ve made an already pretty jam-packed vacation much too jam-packed for my liking.


  11. So funny – I always want grown-up actors to “break character” and give me a wink to let me know that they know that what they’re doing is a little creepy, and it freaks me out when they don’t!

  12. Alex looks so sweet. The Princess, I agree, would make me a littles uncomfortable… a bit of an oversized Barbie doll thing going on there. I went to EuroDisney but don’t remember encountering any Princesses. Or perhaps I have blocked it out?

  13. You never fail to help me smile as I scroll down your blog post. While humming ‘it’s a small world.’ Which made me frown and miss your point about the whimsy. Which made me remember I want to thank you for the new word you made up: whimsify. Because, really, that SHOULD be a word and it’s a mark of a really good author – to whimsify your readers. I am often whimsified when I read your blog — except when you mention tunes like It’s A Small World. Fortunately, I’ve never been to the Tiki Room and I will make sure that I never do. I’m not a Disneyland kind of gal. My guy and I took our kids once to Disneyworld. I embarrassed them because I screamed so much in one of the ‘feel-like-you’re in Star Wars’ theater. Then I got claustrophobia in the submarine ‘ride,’ and they had to bring it up sooner than planned, all because of pathetic little me. Who, by that time, was singing It’s a Small World at the top of my voice. My kids asked me to never, ever, ever take them to Disneyworld again.

    I complied.

    1. You’re so sweet! And I am glad that my Whimisification Process has taken hold with you, Pam!

      Funny, for some reason you DID strike me a Disney kinda gal. If you do ever plan to give the place another try, do me a favor and send me a list of your ailments, phobias, I will be happy to create a Attraction Itinerary crafted especially for you!

      Consider it just one of the many Whimisification Services I provide.

      1. See? You think I’m a Disney kinda gal because my posts are too sweet. I swear, next blog will be sharp as a sword, or as edgy as a … the pointy end of a cliff. ???

        What a wonderful Whimisifcation Service – I’m impressed. Phobias? Similar to yours – NO princess in disguises while I’m eating (princes are okay). No BIG MICE with huge ears giving unearned hugs. No whirly twirly rides that invite people to give up their just digested lunch. (After all, lunch is not cheap in the Disney world.) No lines as long as a comet’s tail. In fact, no lines at all, including the frown lines on the parents who are waiting impatiently for the next ride for their kid. No rain. (I don’t have a phobia about rain, but I don’t like to sit in big teacups while my hair gets frizzy.)

        I’ll stop there. You’ll take away your service if I continue….

  14. Best line: “I’ve discovered that talking to a stranger wearing a princess gown is weirder than talking to a stranger wearing a giant duck head.” I don’t even need further explanation. That makes perfect sense to me.

  15. I love theme parks of all varieties, my kids haven’t been to Disney (I went pre-children) but we have a Legoland in the UK, so that was a favourite a few years ago, but at 14 and 11, my kids consider themselves too old for legoland now (shame), but we have other more grown up theme parks too! I can totally imagine the awkwardness of the princesses – I’m not particularly keen on interactions between characters and people in general, it’s fine with kids, but otherwise it’s just weird.

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