Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Surprise at Animal Kingdom

Feb 10, 2017

Today we will meet my daughter, Iris and granddaughter, Brooke to spend the day at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Iris wanted to take Brooke on the safari. We tried to make a lunch reservation at Tusker House (she loves seeing the characters!) but none were available. We did get Fastpasses for the safari, Festival of the Lion King and a Mickey/Minnie meet and greet! We drive to Iris's house to pick them up and then head to Animal Kingdom. Sadly, I had decided not to take my camera today, but make it a relaxing walking day with nothing to carry. I would come to regret that decision very soon! Well, at least my phone has a camera.

As we first get into the park, we notice a Cast Member in front of the entrance to the Rainforest Café holding two signs ... one says "Passholders" and the other says "DVC". There are no other indications of what is being given out - though I do have an idea - so I go over to ask. As I thought, they were giving out wristbands to this evening's preview of Rivers of Light, the long delayed nighttime show. This would be the first public preview. The problem arises that Iris isn't a passholder! We decide to get wristbands anyway and Iris plans to speak with the CM - explaining that she is a Cast Member herself - and hope for the best. As it turns out, after I showed my annual pass, the CM giving them out was not really paying attention, and Iris got her band without an issue.

My wristband (and my magic band)

That accomplished, we walk into the park itself and over to the meet and greet building. Brooke seems to know something is up and notices the picture of Mickey and Minnie on the wall while we were in the queue and before we got into the room where she would see them both. As we walk in, the room is empty except for the photographer, and we are told to sit down and someone would be coming over to see us shortly. Of course! It was Mickey himself!!

Soon he is joined by Minnie who peeks around the corner until Brooke spots her. 

It's now coming up on lunch time and we decide to see if we can get walk-up seating at Tusker House. Turns out we can ... and with no wait at all we get to go right in! Once we get seated, Brooke spots Goofy walking around and gets appropriately excited! As in the Garden Grill a week ago, once she knows characters are around, she keeps looking for them and waiting for them to come see her. It doesn't affect her appetite, however, as she has a very good meal as usual! 

Next up is our safari, which Brooke enjoys as much for the bumpy ride as for all the animals that she gets to see. And speaking of seeing animals, next on our agenda is a train ride back to Conservation Station at Rafiki's Planet Watch. This is a location that Iris hadn't been to in quite a while, though there was a time she would be there almost every day!

Way back in the year 2000

After some time inside - during which Brooke got to pet a huge rabbit and have her picture taken with Rafiki - we go outside to Affection Section for some up close and personal time with the animals. 

Brooke decides this goat - named Kit - needed a good brushing back there

After spending time with all of the animals in Affection Section - we take the train back to Harambe where we still have some time to kill before it is our time for Festival of the Lion King, so we decide to head to Nomad Lounge where we have drinks and share a cheese platter. Right now this gem of a place to relax (attached to Tiffins) is off the beaten path on the road to where Camp Minnie Mickey used to be - and is nearly empty and quite quiet. I am guessing that when Pandora opens in a few months, that might very well change. 

Don't worry - I promise it's non-alcoholic

Next up is Festival of the Lion King, which Brooke absolutely adored the last time we took her. And while we don't get front row seats this time, sitting on Mommy's lap always gives a good view. As was the case the last time - she was fascinated by it all ... but especially the stilt-walkers!


Who doesn't love Timon and  the Tumble Monkeys?

When we leave the show, it's getting close to the time we need to get to the seating area for the Rivers of Light. As we pass in front of the Tree of Life, Iris and Brooke have their photo taken by a Photopass photographer. When the photographer goes to scan Iris's magic band, Brooke sticks her arm out for him to scan. (While she does have her own magic bands, she was not wearing one this day.) This was something she just started doing today. Whenever we needed to scan our bands - such as to get into the park or use our Fastpass - she had to have her wrist scanned as well. The photographer got a big kick out of it!

Iris picks up some snacks for Brooke and I buy her a lighted wand all designed to keep her occupied during the time between when we first sit down and when the show is scheduled to start - 45 minutes later! 
Once the show starts, however, she is  totally entranced! The music, the lights, the visuals ... she loved it all!

I thought the show was visually stunning and enjoyed the music. It could have been longer (it was originally but things had to be cut for technical issues which caused the long delay in its debut at the park). Also, the use of the story tellers could have been more defined and more highlighted. However, I did very much enjoy it, and even Brooke stood up and applauded with everyone else at its conclusion.

It officially opened on February 17.

By now it is past the park's closing time, so we head back to the car - drop Iris and Brooke back home and then drive back home ourselves.

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