Thursday, December 13, 2018

Animal Kingdom

Because I taught a workshop at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, I was issued two free tickets to the Disney Theme parks as a thank you. Cleaning up around the house, Pam Schwartz and I found the tickets and realized that there was just one week left before the tickets expired. We decided to go the next day which was a Sunday. The Animal Kingdom was our destination which I had only been to once before. We watched the movie Avatar the night before, and made a commitment to go to the new Pandora Land in the Animal Kingdom.

As we drove south toward Disney it started to rain. We wanted to get some breakfast at Panera Bread, but when we got there the restaurant had evacuated the building. We got crummy overpriced breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks instead. I checked the radar and realized that it would be raining all morning. We put a positive spin on this by thinking the park might be empty when we arrived. We were dead wrong. Nothing stops the flow of humanity to the theme parks. Parking was $25. As I had my bag checked by security, a waterfall suddenly poured down on my shoulder from an umbrella that gave way its weight of water.

The first order of business was to get a plastic bag to protect my sketchbook. With that done, we wandered the park towards Pandora - The World of Avatar. The land is impressively designed and landscaped. The floating islands were amazing and I wanted to sketch, but not in the rain. The wait time for Avatar - Flight of Passage was like 190 minutes, How many hours is that? We skipped that ride and decided to find rides with shorter wait times. Every ride we tried was shut down. We also had fast passes to some rides. The fast passes kept getting canceled. As we got turned away from attraction after attraction we both got pretty grumpy. WTF.

Then we decided to get some food to get away from the rain. All the sit down restaurants we approached had insane wait times. Clearly every family in the park had the same idea of using the restaurant as a place to stay dry for a bit. The smaller food carts weren't much better, I couldn't stomach the idea of paying $15 for a hot dog. A majority of the "affordable" quick grab food stands were also closed. We would have to hide under a gutter overhang to try and stay dry as we ate. We finally did split a macaroni and cheese.

My sketch is of Up, a Great Bird Adventure in Asia. We went in simply because the audience had cover from the rain. The stage however was still getting soaked. The announcer wasn't sure the show would go on. The Disney cast did come out and performed at the front of the stage which was barely under the awning. Russel and Doug from the Pixar movie, Up were amongst the cast. A bird flew out and turned on the radio on stage. A green parrot did manage to belt out a tune. But the peacocks were divas and refused to go out on stage in the rain. The show was cut short and everyone was ushered back out into the rain. I kept working on the sketch until the cast practically had to drag me out.

Theme parks are a special kind of hell. Screaming children were having tantrums everywhere. You got to see the worst in parenting. We were on a theme park death march from land to land in the endless rain. My feet were soaked all day. We sought cover in every stage show we could find. In the afternoon the sun finally broke through. We waited for an eternity going through endless switchbacks to get on the back of a Banshee and fly. I have to admit that the all too brief ride was the best thing we did that day. It was a 3D motion simulation ride that really did an amazing job of making it feel like we were flying. I kind of wish there was truly some control so that each ride was unique, but it is what it is. We ended the day at Rivers of Light which was impressive, but could have used a story line to tie together the animal-themed projections. Would I return to Animal Kingdom any time soon? Hell no. Disney would have to pay me (again) to return.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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