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A night at MGM

Friday, January 5, 2007

Chris
Eliopoulos

My family and I had been at the Walt Disney Resort for almost 10 days and our vacation was coming to a close. It was our last day. I have twin 7 year-old boys and they wanted to go on Star Tours a last time, so we decided to do MGM iin the morning and finish our trip in the Magic Kingdom where we scheduled dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table. We had iit perfectly scheduled; that is until we got to Star Tours.

All week, we had heard about the Year of a Million Dreams, seen people walking by with Magical Fastpasses around their necks, but nothing really happened to us. Not that we minded, we were too busy enjoying the parks and having a good time. The closest we came was a "Magical Moment" at Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom. While on line, the castmembers sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and one castmember handed my two boys a Crackerjack bag each for free. Very sweet and unexpected. So, we walked into MGM that Saturday morning expecting nothing but enjoying the parks and each other.

We went straight to Star Tours and got on line. We got into the queue just before we entered the ride vehicle when castmembers started giving everyone in the group a button and a sky blue wristband. I asked what this was for and was told that we'd learn about it once we were inside the ride. Once in there, a Dream Maker (or whatever they're called) asked us if we ever wished we could have a Disney Park to ourselves. Everyone responded with a cheer. The castmember informed us that we were to come back to the Indiana Jones theatre at 8 o'clock and we would get the entire park to ourselves for an hour. Everyone cheered and we went on our ride and then, as we walked through the store on the way out, we realized we needed to do some planning.

We decided we needed to switch our day around. Spend the day at the Magic Kingdom and late afternoon and night at MGM, but we had 6 o'clock reservations at Cinderella's Castle. Could we make it back in time? My wife called and, even though we knew reservations could only be canceled 24 hours beforehand, we figured that this was extenuating circumstances and they would understand. Well, the folks at Disney Dining didn't understand. They told us that 2 hours was plenty of time to make it back to MGM. We tried to protest, but they had none of it. We thought that they should know best, so we thought we could make it.

Off to the Magic Kingdom we went wearing our buttons and wristbands. Many people asked us what they were for and we would explain what had happened and people would walk away impressed by the event. Gotta hand it to Disney, it was a great way to advertise what they were doing.

We made it to Cinderella's Castle for our seating and immediately got nervous. We didn't sit down until 6:20 and were not sure how long the dinner and show would take. Well, we rushed through dinner, kept checking our watches, raced through desert and ran out of the castle at 7:20 or so, made a mad dash to the buses, grabbed one to one of the Epcot hotels since the Monorail to the TTA was swamped. We then ran all the way to MGM and made it just in time. We were sweaty, our stomachs were a mess from eating and running and I was annoyed that I spent a lot of money on that dinner and did not enjoy it at all.

But, we had made it and we were going to have the park to ourselves...well, ourselves and four thousand other people it turned out. But still, four thousand people is NOTHING in MGM, right? Well, we settled into our seats, I pulled out the video camera and watched as a "Dream Captain" named Herbie once again asked us if we ever wanted a Disney Park to ourselves which resulted in more cheers. He told us that the park was closing and that the visitors were leaving. In the meantime, we got a great show by Mulch, Sweat and Shears for half an hour while they "cleared out the park". After the show, Herbie with Mickey and Minnie sent us out to the park for an hour.

We ran over to Star Tours, just as a way to start where we had left off that morning and we wound up waiting. Not long, but it was OUTSIDE the building with no one from that point forward. They were checking wristbands. I should have had an idea what was in store when a few of the people didn't have them; leftovers in the park who hadn't left yet. We got on quickly after they turned away the non-wristbanded and went over to the Osborne Family Light display. We thought it would be stunning to see with so few people. The lights were stunning, of course, but there were hundreds of people, more that should be there. We quickly realized that, as is normally the case, after closing a bunch of people didn't leave the park it was packed. I would say it was just as busy as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party. We were a bit disappointed by this. Not to seem ungrateful, but we were told, all 4 thousand of us, that we would have the park to ourselves, and that the other guests were going to be gone. They didn't leave and they were right there with us. I guess they couldn't just force them out.

We next made our way over to Rockin' Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror. We thought it'd be a blast to go on TOT at night, but the kids were scared, so we begged off. By now, it was 40 minutes into our hour, so we wanted to get in Rockin' Rollercoaster before the end of the night. The kids were excited. We had ridden it a number of times through the week and were happy to end our trip there. We got checked at the entrance‹a normal occurrence for us was to have one of the boys' height checked every time we rode. We passed. In we went through the preshow and all the way to the ride vehicle. The attendant asked to check my son again. This time this guy said he was too small. We explained that we had ridden this ride before along with every other one in the parks, but the castmember refused to let him on. My wife was disgusted after trying to explain that either we have been unsafe for the entire week or that my son should ride. The attendant dismissed us to the side and started taking other riders on and made it clear he was done with us. We left and discovered that by the time we had reached the open air, our son was crying pretty badly. He was embarrassed and sad that he couldn't go on the ride and that he had done something wrong--we felt awful. We stopped and got him fries to cheer him up and made our way through the crowd to the entrance. There a large crowd of castmembers including Captain Herbie said goodnight to the crowd. We just carried our sons out and avoided them.

The night ended badly for us, but these things happen. All in all, it was a nice surprise to get the special dream even though it could have been more special if it weren't for that one incident. The thing that surprised me most, though was that they allowed so many people to stay in the park after close knowing that they had a special event happening. That disappointed me after hearing all day that we would have the park to ourselves. But there were a LOT of people in the park that night. Was it better than a kick to the head? Sure. But, knowing what we know now, I would have stayed at MGM during the day and the Magic Kingdom at night. Relaxed at dinner and stayed at that park until midnight. Not exactly a dream night, but that's the way it goes.