Zamgwar’s Little Things 2005

by Zamgwar, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 6, 2005, Issue #324 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Most Mouse travelers who cross beneath the Disney World "Welcome" arches for the first time are taken in by the enormity of Disney World. The variety and vastness of the resorts, the number of parks and the number of attractions in each park, are truly almost too much to take in on one vacation. Newcomers can be easily identified, at two distinct times of the day.

The first is at park opening, where they can be found wide-eyed just past the turnstiles trying to get their bearings, while shifting their gaze from what lies before them, and what's printed upon the park map in their hands. They are clearly on a mission, to do every main attraction before the clock strikes "closed." They have a plan of attack. At rope drop they head off as if they are in Pamplona, and any minute the bulls are going to be released behind them.

"OK, kids — Here is what we're going to do. Head for the castle, Selma, don't stop to look at anything yet. Take a right at the castle and get one of those Fastpass things for Buzz Lightyear and then head straight for Space Mountain. After we're finished with those two, we'll head back to the castle and then find this road, and look for Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. Selma, don't stop to look at anything. Tommy, stop whining; you can see Goofy later."

The second time they are clearly visible is about 5:00 p.m. The exhilaration of their spirit and the crispness of their new shorts are gone. They often look dazed, as if they have been wandering in the desert for 40 years. Their maps are now barely legible and their T-shirts are sprinkled with churro dust and turkey leg remains. At least one person is announcing, "I don't care where we eat, as long as we can sit down!" Mickey is starting to look less like a mouse and more like a rat, with a big white gloved hand extended and asking for money.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to have been to Mousedom at some greater frequency can also be easily found. We're the ones with the refreshed look from our mid-afternoon breaks, observing with some amusement the newcomers, and remembering our first days in our favorite 40-plus square miles of Florida.

It's those with the more leisurely approach to Disney World that begin to discover there is a second level of attractions in Disney World that is often meant to be discovered by accident, rather than by commando plan. They are some of my favorite things. They are what I call Zamgwar's Little Things, and are a large part of what keeps this guest coming back.

Some of the great little things I found on my most recent trips are truly wonderful.

For those staying at the Yacht and Beach Club, take some time to look at the pattern the street lights throw on the ground as you exit or return to the hotel at night from the lake side. The shadows are clearly, and remarkably "ship's wheels." They form the textbook design of a ship's wheel, which often winds up under glass as a coffee table, in many a themed waterside home.

For those who wish to try a real "e-ticket ride" without the lines, I highly suggest signing up for Epcot's Segway tour. Segways are those neat two-wheeled things you see so many Cast Members scooting around on. One tour begins before park opening in Epcot's Future World with an orientation class where you learn to use your Segway. Navigating through cones, mounting and dismounting, and going up inclines are just a few of the skills which one quickly acquires. Once everyone in the class has "passed," you head out of the door and into Future World heading for World Showcase, your ultimate destination. Future World is open by the time of your departure and for a brief moment, YOU are one of Disney World's attractions as you become part of many a guest's home videos and photos. Upon entering the yet unopened World Showcase you navigate through each country as you make your way around the lagoon. The Segways are extremely easy to operate. How easy?

I, for one, have been known to actually trip over my shadow. I still haven't fully mastered walking and felt confident on a Segway after 45 minutes in training. There is no doubt, in my mind at least, they are indeed a harbinger of future human personal transport. "She Who Must Be Obeyed" proclaimed it was one of the coolest things she had ever done on all our trips to see the Mouse.

She IS "She Who Must Be Obeyed," so I must agree. I have even bid on one on eBay.

For the last two years the "vine lady" has also been appearing and disappearing back into the jungles of Animal Kingdom. I have no idea what her actual character name is, but every time I see her I have to stop and watch, because she is just so danged beautiful. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is DeVine — read more about her at "She Who Must Be Obeyed" often has to tug me away saying, "John, you can't have the grape woman. Let's go." The vine lady is an extremely graceful character on stilts. Her costume and make-up completely blend into the foliage around her making her all but invisible. In fact I found myself laughing as many (and I mean many) "commando guests" raced by me, obviously saying to their spouses, "That nut is videotaping the trees."

In my next life I want to come back as her foliage.

Similarly stilted "coral" characters have also appearing around the Living Seas, although they are much easier to spot than the "vine lady."

Little things can also be amazing little rest spots that have existed all along. While stopping for a snack at the Flame Tree Barbecue, I was amazed to find the wonderful little dining areas sprinkled along the paths behind the restaurant. Never once on my many trips have I ever followed these paths. On Fourth of July weekend, while all the obvious dining areas were packed at lunchtime, we meandered our way to an area right beside the river, where we were the only ones in the entire dining pavilion. We were even treated to, what was for all practical purposes, a personal greeting from Mickey as he floated by on a boat. That's the fun of this park. There is always something new to find.

Also new this year to Animal Kingdom was Lucky the Dinosaur. Lucky was best enjoyed the way we found him, by stumbling upon him as we passed through Chester and Hester's DinoRama. He was an amazing piece of technology. A self-contained, walking audio-animatronic dinosaur just cute as a button. As he made his way along with his handler, he batted his eyes at guests and occasionally paused to introduce himself to amazed children who just couldn't HELP petting him. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Lucky the Dinosaur was only temporarily visiting Animal Kingdom as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth. He is now at his new home overseas.)

Speaking of amazing little bits of technology, I "pity the fools" who bypassed the Living Seas altogether, or breezed through it and missed "Crush the Turtle." Crush is almost too difficult to explain. The "dude" from "Finding Nemo" is sort of a computer-animated character who lives in a computer-animated tank. What pushes Crush over the bar is his ability to interact with guests and answer their questions. The result is very entertaining for kids and is some of the best improvisational stand-up (or swim-up) comedy I have seen in a long time. "What do I eat? I eat the same thing every day, little dude. Sea grass, and it gives me the bubbles." Crush is a wonderfully enjoyable little thing, for much more than little guests. I actually saw two of his shows, I enjoyed it so much.

Sometimes little things are so large, you can miss them. For years I've passed under Spaceship Earth in Epcot and never noticed something that should be very obvious. The amount of rain this trip made it very clear. The big ball doesn't drip water when it rains, due to its ingenious design and guttering. Now I've read this fact, but never actually witnessed it in a bonafide deluge. If my poncho was designed like that I would have had drier sneakers. Next time the mid-afternoon thunderstorm rolls in, take a gander for yourself.

Some "little things" have long since become "big things" but are still gems worthy of not missing. Off Kilter, the bagpiping rock group in Canada now holds almost cult status. Yes, even I now own several of their CDs. American Vybe, which used to sing in the rotunda of the American Adventure has for two summers now been featured in the America Gardens Theatre and still is a wonderful, if less intimate performance. In the Disney-MGM Studios, interacting with the Streetmosphere characters is real fun, as is stopping in to hear the "Four for a Dollar" pre-show before Beauty and the Beast begins at its theater.

There are two other little things that I make an effort to never miss on my annual Pilgrimage to Disney World. You won't find them on any map or inside any guide book. They are really Disney treasures that Uncle Walt himself would say are at the core of the Magic that he began. They are the looks of joy and amazement on the faces of friends and family we bring with us, as the "world" unfolds before them, and the "little kid" inside my heart that wakes up, casts off his tie (even if it's a mental tie) and runs open-armed to hug a mouse in bright red pants. Sometimes the biggest of little things is just the way you feel when you're there.

So, regardless of if you've observed that the Haunted Mansion's chimneys are all chess pieces, and some water fountains and trash cans talk, or simply have just noticed each "land's" background music is different, there always seems to be something new and wonderful to discover. All you need to do is take a little time to stop and smell the roses on your way to your next big E-ticket ride.

The ones in front of the castle, by the way, smell simply scrumptious.

That's My2Cnts. What's yours?

Office of Little Things
The Zamgwar Institute


Read more of Zamgwar's "Little Things" observations in our Writer's Corner:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.