Face Forward

The wife and I were at a Jersey Mike’s down in Tennessee when the alert came across that the CDC declared fully vaccinated people could remove their masks. It was more or less echoed by President Biden and Dr. Fauci, with some caveats. I showed my in-laws the tweets before timidly pulling my mask off as my wife laughed at my tiny act of liberation. The super strange feeling of not wearing a mask in front of other people after a year was only slightly overridden by the satisfyingly normal sensation of just, ya know, going about my business.

I’m looking forward to not having to deal with masks as often. It has benefits, especially in cold weather and flu season, but I personally could use a break from the constant taking off/putting on. My fingers are crossed in hopes that mask requirements rescinds into a mostly-optional thing before the year’s end, and this is for entirely selfish reasons, namely a return to Walt Disney World this Fall.

Details are still being hammered out, but it looks like my wife and in-laws will be headed to the Magic Kingdom after our trip last year became COVID collateral. My last visit to Orlando was 7 or 8 years ago, and while it was one of the more fun experiences I’ve ever had, I personally am quite ready to step foot back into the park.

There will be some differences I’m looking forward to checking out. Maelstrom, an EPCOT ride, is now themed around the Frozen movies. That felt pretty inevitable, as back in 2014 with Frozen at its peak, Disney World hadn’t integrated that franchise into the attractions beyond superficial measures. Maelstrom was fairly interesting, and totally had the feeling of a 90s EPCOT “cultures of the world” type experience. I anticipate being whelmed by the Frozen singalong within.

What used to be Pleasure Island is now Disney Springs, and from what I’m seeing it is just a giant outdoor mall. Which is fine. It was all under construction during my last visit, and while that’s an inevitability at Disney World, I am hoping against hope that the immersion-breaking and ugliness of construction work around the parks is at a minimum.

It sounds like this also will be our last opportunity to ride Splash Mountain before it becomes re-themed by Princess & The Frog. The reaction to the change has obviously been met with a lot of “mah heritage” and “why you hidin’ our history” outrage from people who I’m sure are also battling daily fury diarrhea over the outcome of the 2020 election. If the ride is open at the time, which is in question, I’ll try to take a vivid mental snapshot of the experience.

The thing about Splash Mountain is that it’s not a terribly interesting experience. Removing all the controversy from the equation, Song of the South’s voice actors are more annoying than endearing, the characters are fairly forgettable by Disney standards, and the music is just OK. I think the tales and imagery of Br’er Rabbit and the rest should of course be archived and presented in some measure where there’s appropriate context, but having a featured ride in this age about the stories of Uncle Remus presented in the lens of Disney isn’t necessary.

Finally, I would really hope the crowd present during our visit will behave. I’ve read many horror stories of entitled visitors berating and belittling the Cast Members (WDW employees) for enforcing COVID measures, and that’s on top of the already disappointing percentage of park-goers who feel they are above interacting with who they consider “the help,” with no regard for children who observe and replicate their actions. The staff at Walt Disney World was one of the most impressive parts of my experience years back, and I have immense respect for their daily toil to make each visitor, particularly children, feel like their time in Walt Disney World is magical.

Anyway, I’m looking over foodstuffs for the park and now I’m dying for a giant turkey leg and a frozen banana.

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