Pandora: Oel Ngati Kameie (I See You)

My family and I were fortunate to be part of the first DVC preview of Pandora: The World of Avatar.  By now I’m sure you have seen anything and everything that you have wanted to about Pandora (please don’t call it Avatarland)…but here is some more.

DVC/AP Previews:

We arrived before EMH, rope dropped DAK, and promptly walked toward where the Pandora previews were being queued (across from Pizzafarri/Tiffins).  At 8:01 am we were about 5th deep for our 9-11am “reservation”, and they told us the plan was to let everyone in early (to get a jump on the whole day of previews ahead). We were let in at 8:30am and were handed a paper Fast Pass for our Flight of Passage time (the “E-ticket” headliner attraction for Pandora).

Remember paper Fast Passes?
Immerse Yourself

Now, with any land or attraction coming from Disney Imagineering, there is always a back-story to help develop the environment and give it meaning and depth.  For Pandora: The World of Avatar, the story flows that we are Eco-tourists on a trip with ACE (Alpha Centauri Expeditions).  When we are walking over the bridge, we are being teleported over 4 light years from Earth to the moon of Pandora…specifically, in the Valley of Mo’Ara.

Do not run from Large Animals!?
At this point, it’s important to know that Disney intends this area to take place 30 years after the movie Avatar. Being tied to the Avatar movie franchise is fraught with controversy…but the bottom line is…WHO CARES!  Once you step foot in this immersive world, the movie will be far from your thoughts. Just know that it is a foreign world where every sight and sound is unique…a similar feeling like entering any Disney immersive area (i.e. Carsland).

                Infamous Flaska Reclinata…”interactive” for an explosive good time.
Wind Traders (left) for merch and Pongu Pongu (right) for drinks and the soon to be famous snack (IMHO): Lumpia (pinapple cream cheese filled egg-rolls)
We searched and found LOTS of nice sitting areas that looked “built-in”
Rides for the History Books

There are two rides in this new land: Na’vi River Journey (slow boat ride), and Flight of Passage (headliner flight simulator).  I am not going to spoil the rides…but I will spout off technical details. For River Journey, Disney introduces some amazing detailed and layered storytelling.  They really display their technology advancements to date in one ride, including arguably the most advanced animatronic ever implemented.  The ride comes across to people as short and without a traditional narrative…hence people come away confused.  But I feel like this ride will grow in stature over the years as people understand the flow and story…and appreciate the vast detail. There was a story that came out a few years ago, people thought that Industrial Light and Magic (former Lucasfilm special effects group) was creating an advanced boat ride for StarWarsLand…but I think this is that ride! Don’t expect anything special from the queue on this one…plus it is primarily covered outdoors…but hey, so are Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids,  and Kilimanjaro Safari.

Shaman of Song, let’s hope she doesn’t become “Disco Shaman of Song”
Flight of Passage is…well it’s hard to put into words other than…ZOMG, THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE RIDE IN THE WHOLE WORLD! Yeah…that about sums it up. I went into this ride as skeptical as anyone…I am so over screens, I thought they were lazy design and merely cost cutting measures.  I still think that to a degree…but just like the 3D animation of the movie Avatar was groundbreaking in its depth and “immersive-ness”, so too is Flight of Passage.  I’ve heard: “Soarin’ on steroids”, “Soarin’ meets Star Tours”, etc…but it’s so much more than anything Disney has offered.  It starts with the highly detailed and deep Standby queue (and yes, you have to experience this at least once). Incidentally, I heard it was designed for a 5 hour queue…which tells two things: they really know they have something big on their hands, AND they themed 5 hours worth of queue line and it shows!  Once again, I won’t spoil the ride here…there’s plenty of places to go for that. But I will say that a person working on the animation said it has more pixels than the entire Avatar movie!  I did some rough math and I suspect that it is ~8K (8 times HD resolution).  That would allow them to have 4K per eye of a 3D projection (alternating each eye to achieve the 3D effect)…this makes this projection the first 8K public projected display on the planet!!  I am somewhat of a videophile…so I was ready to attack this assessment.  I can report back that it is indeed the best 3D projection I have experienced…full stop!  That is the secret sauce to immersion…the technology plays in concert with the graphics (which were fabulous).  There are lots of other little secrets that I won’t divulge…but WOW, they do impress.  There are some rumblings from journalists that put the ride around 3.5-4 stars (something akin to most average rides at WDW).  But I am here to tell you, it is on par with Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain (two of my favorite 5 star rides)…but quite honestly, with the queue it blows them out of the water.

We haven’t been the first to pass through here (fun fact: Na’vi have 4 fingers, human Avatars have 5)
Cave art adds to the mystique of the queue
You transition to a more mechanized area as you near your Avatar “synch” moment
And yes, you still exit through the gift shop (Wind Traders), but this mountainous exit offers amazing photo opportunities
I could go on and on about the detail and advanced interactive elements of Pandora (plus no signs of traditional Disney)…but this blog is running long. I will leave with a smattering of pictures (including some amazing food from fast casual Satu’li Canteen). We were not made to leave at our designated time…so we lingered in the area until nightfall.  The CM’s told us that the night features will not be activated yet for this preview (only some black lights for the pathways)…so we have a lot of more to look forward to in future visits.  For Flight of Passage, There is some controversy of minimal ADA compliance, and fears of slow rider rates…but as of right now it is the best attraction in Orlando in my opinion.

Besides Wind Traders, there is one subdued kiosk (yes, that’s THOSE tails)
Bowls featuring three steps: pick a protein (Mahi-Mahi shown), a secondary side (sweet potatoes shown), and a sauce (creamy herb shown)
The Cheeseburger Pods (aka Bao Bun) stole the show (kid’s meal shown)
Blueberry cheesecake with passion fruit curd…beautiful as is delicious
FREE REFILLS!!! (no RFID chips)
                Soon to be “The Snack”: Lumpia (pineapple cream cheese filled crepe egg-rolls)
You’ve heard of the Starbucks Unicorn…get ready for the Night Blossom.  This non-alcoholic drink’s sweetness just oozes out of the screen, doesn’t it?
Sunset shots from the Flight of Passage queue exit will be where the cool kids go.
“Bio-Illuminescent” plants were not activated…but the black-light effects are everywhere.
Enjoy the black-light effect on your clothes…an unintended consequence.

As the Na’vi say: kìyevame (See you soon)…until then, please visit our sponsors:

Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea

DVC Resale Market



Disney Imagineer George McGinnis Tribute

Yesterday, the Disney community lost a true legend. George McGinnis, the last Imagineer personally hired by Uncle Walt, has passed away at the age of 87.
McGuinnis was first hired by WED Enterprises to work on models for the Carousel of Progress, & went on to work on major projects such as Disneyland’s Space Mountain, WEDway Peoplemover, Horizons, & the Mark V & VI Monorails.  
We at the MickeyDudes Podcast wish to express our deepest sympathies for the McGinnis family & all those touched by George’s amazing creations. Because of him, we saw the possibility of a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. We thank him for all he gave & wish him eternal peace.

runDisney Rookie Year: Going All In


  1. (noun) the action or movement of a runner 
  2. (adj) Denoting something that runs
  3. (verb) movement of a speed faster than a walk

Any way you slice it, defining ‘running‘ is the perfect antithesis to me. I am 6’4″ and ALL of 250 lbs, but thought 2016 would be a great year to: 1. Get in shape, and 2. Try out this runDisney phenomenon. My family are all runners, and the kids have both been competitive at cross country…so I’ve always wanted to join in on their misery…sorry, “joy”. 

Full disclosure: I’ve played sports my whole life…so I’m not opposed to short bursts of running for a reason , but never was a fan of ‘jogging’ (I think it’s pronounced ‘yogging’ with a soft ‘j’). Being an avid Disney fan, I’m always looking for my next new experience…runDisney was always on my radar.

Testing the waters: Princess 5K

Rare characters like Tourist Genie from Aladdin make it special (I forgive him for stepping on my foot)
First up was the Disney Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (Feb.). I’ve run a few 5K’s, so this was a distance that wasn’t too intimidating (even though the feminine title was). Getting up early was a different story…here’s how the math plays out: 

  • 5K start time: 6 am
  • Walk to corrals: 5 am
  • Unload from buses (long, cold walk) and go through security: 4:30 am
  • Load bus at resort: 4:10 am 
  • Bus stop at resort: 3:50 am
  • Wake, getting ready and eat small breakfast: 2:30 am

That’s right…2:30 am!! Now this is just the 5K. Roll back all times for 10K and 1/2 marathon which start at 5:30 am. This is definitely a labor of love for runDisney fans. 

Running through EPCOT at dawn though was sublime

Turning to the Dark Side Challenge

When Disney announced the Star Wars runDisney events (Light Side in Disneyland, Dark Side at WDW), the little fanboy in me did something totally insane: I signed up for my first runDisney ‘Challenge’. A ‘Challenge’ is generally defined by Disney as 2-5 runs with special medals for each completion. For the Dark Side Challenge (April), the runs consisted of 10K and 1/2 marathon (Sat., Sun.). Keep in mind, I had never run more than a 5K and I was attempting successive runs of 10K  and 1/2 marathons! I was dealing with an injury on top of it all…but somehow I pulled it off!

For the inaugural 10K Star Wars run at WDW, I decided to cosplay. I was Boba Fett’s Waterboy (crossover from the Adam Sandler character). I even went as far as having a legit water back-pack with not one but two paper cup dispensers (I was proud of this costume).

Who designed a customized Boba Fett themed shoe from Adidas: THIS GUY!
 Sure, it was an amazing experience…one might even say “Once in a lifetime”, because I don’t ever plan to do another challenge again! I ended up losing 3 toenails, had swollen knees for a week, and had to get a steroid shot in my foot when it was all over. They can take my toenails…but they can’t take my memories.
Did this happen? It already feels like light years away

Superheroes are Superest at Disneyland

Finally, I was told by many runDisney enthusiasts that the coup de grâce of runDisney is at Disneyland…so that’s where we went for the Superheroes Weekend (Nov.). Word of caution: to be able to fully enjoy the advantages of running at Disneyland, it is to stay onsite and preferably at the Disneyland Hotel which is NOT cheap. The Disneyland Hotel not only hosts the Runners Expo (where you have to go for your bib, shirt, etc.), but also is about 300 yards from the start and finish of the races! Remember the times I quoted earlier from a typical WDW race…well, we strolled out of our hotel to walk over at 5:00 am for our 5:30 am race.  Plus, we were still on central time which felt like 7:00 am…not bad at all.

No time for characters, but plenty of time for selfies

The Disneyland runDisney event was everything positive we had heard and more. For the 10K we ran through both parks and Downtown Disney and it was full of amazing sights and sounds throughout. We had a later corral, so we weren’t able to do any meets with characters…but that’s OK, I’m not even a big Marvel fan…just running through these pinnacles of Disney theme park master work was reward enough. 

I have a tempered expectation with runDisney now. On one hand, it’s an exclusive Disney experience offering a rare glimpse inside the empty parks with often rare and exciting characters. On the other hand, they are VERY expensive, often held on off-peak times as a scheduling stop-gap (conflicting with school schedules), are mostly SUPER early morning events (not a morning person). The biggest complaint coming from a Disney theme park geek, the runs cut into my theme park touring energy budget. All this being true, we will eventually do another event…there’s a good chance it will be Disneyland, but don’t count out another Star Wars run from a Star Wars geek 😉

Bonus: all the free ice you want at the end of the races

Born on the 20th of July 

Today is my eldest daughter’s 18th birthday! It’s a special day for me and my family for obvious reasons, but it’s also a day that signifies the beginning of something much deeper: Our passion for Disney Parks!

It seems balloons are appropriate today!

See…my wife and I had a love and passion for Disney movies, songs, and legacy that was an early bond of our relationship. For years we would collect Disney animated movies on VHS, to others we would say, “they’re for a future child”, but in reality we personally wore those tapes out!

What Disney didn’t tell us was that the lifespan of these magnetic tapes are about 100 viewings or 10 years (whichever comes first)

Fast forward to when we graduated college, and we started to be financially stable. We began planning our first trip to WDW. As we still do to this day, we really enjoyed the planning part of the trip…and this was back in the day when most of the information was in the form of “books” from “stores”. We had a dramatic life affirmation and accelerated our goal for a child…then our daughter entered our lives. 

The significance of this miracle timed with the summer we were also planning on going to WDW for the first time…so that dream had to be put on pause. Eventually, that desire became amplified with our new child and we succumbed to those desires in 2000!

Carrying toddlers at WDW should be an Olympic endurance sport

So this day is a nice reminder for us…eventually we visited WDW again, and again, and again…often two or three times a year! This passion has even led to getting Annual  Passes, buying Disney Vacation Club (Disney’s “timeshare”), going to Disneyland, and becoming Charter members of the D23 fan club…heck, we even started doing runDisney events (and I’m absolutely NOT a runner).  Who knows what the future brings for us…but we know for certain that Disney will be a big part of it!

Recent trip to Disneyland: We’ve conquered Disney in the US, now we need to go International! #ThanksShanghai