Day 3: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The plan for the day is simple. Rest in the morning at the resort and then dress for our trip headliner event tonight: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The family can't get into the park until 4pm so no need to get up early and rush about anywhere. Oh wait, there is that little prank the kids have planned.

Promptly at 6:30am, Giggles & Stitch get out of their beds and wake me and GM up. Can they borrow my video camera? Oh and can GM hold the door? Off they go, down the hall to Uncle Bro1's room. Leave the tray of mugs on the floor, knock really loud and run behind the corner so they can capture his expression on film. When he doesn't hear that first knock it's time to do it again, even louder.

He pokes his head out the door, sees his present and goes back inside like the groundhog who sees his shadow. So knock again and run all the way back to our room.

Bro1 was a good sport about it. Now he did return the favor and drag the boys along to help. And we all got morning coffee and hot chocolate deliveries.

Good thing too because the cold I came down with two days ago has turned into a full blown thing. My voice is nearly shot. Hot chocolate is just the thing.

The rest of the morning is spent lounging by the pool. Or for us adults bundled up in three layers of clothes while we watch the silly kids jump half naked into the pool. It's damn cold this morning. Even the lifeguards are wearing their heavy winter gear, but the kids tell us the pool is "scathing hot". And lets face it, when you offer a pool to kids, any kids, they're gonna jump in it.

GM and Red take the time to do their laundry. Red has brought along a purse full of change. She forgot that I'd told her it didn't cost anything. GM is happy to stay in the laundry room at the Grandstand and watch morning news shows.

My bros and I hang at the pool talking cell phones and smartphones. I'm falling in love with Bro1's Android. Teen K just salivates over any and all cell phones. I make the mistake of showing her how to text message on my phone. When I'm not looking it ends up in her hand again. Must remember to frisk her when we leave.

Lollipop and Minime have renewed their "BFF cousin" relationship and are spending their morning on silly pool games. They run over to Donald Duck getting as wet and cold as they can then make a dive bomb into the "scathing hot pool" to warm up.

The lifeguards turn on the pool slide and Stitch gets a medal for being the first kid to go down it that day.

Now while our plan is to get to Magic Kingdom at 4pm, GM still needs his haircut. He never usually bothers with the spikey doo in December. It's far too cold and doesn't fair well under ski caps. But this is a special occasion I tell him. The family has never ever been to Disney as part of his posse. Grandpa Mohawk needs his doo. So we head over to the park a few hours ahead of schedule.

The weather was crappy all Friday and Saturday so they've pushed the Christmas Parade taping until today. I have a desire to see what it's like. We could kill two birds with one stone.

Hop a bus at 1pm and we're at the gates by 1:30pm. I stop off at Guest Relations to pick up our party tickets. That means tickets for each of the 4 groups, which the CM helpfully sticks in individual envelopes for the handout. Then we head inside the park to find the doors to the Barber Shop are closed. "Maybe it's closed," GM says. Oh don't scare me like that. Look there are people inside. They must be keeping the cold out and heat in.

I see GM inside then head out for some reconnaisance. The lighting gear is still up at the head of Main Street and a small crowd gathers on the sidewalks outside the Emporium and Confectionary. In the middle of the street young dancers are lined up in formation. This looks promising. Of course, CMs are directing guests as far away from the street as possible. To get to the rides, you need to walk through the stores. But a glance upstairs to the train station shows a random crowd gathering with cameras.

I head up the ramp and find a nice spot right in the center by the rail. Pull out my new HD FlipCam and wait for the parade taping to begin. Right now they're filming some show at the Castle stage, but any minute now they'll start with the parade. Someone in the crowd around me, someone with a telephoto lens, points out Kelly Rippa is there at the head of the street. Oooh, a celebrity. And up there on the balcony above the Confectionary is a man wearing a white tux and carrying a guitar. Oh who is that guy, someone asks? Oh I know him, he's the one from Disney. A new star. One who sings that song from Santa Buddies. Next we glimpse a sleigh and several cast members carrying puppies. Yellow labrador puppies.

I can't really see this well. The tall Christmas tree is down but there's a huge camera and sound contraption in its place. But the people with the telephoto lenses detail what's happening. They're putting santa hats on the puppies. Oh, Kelly Rippa is getting in the sleigh with them. Ok she's talking. The puppy with the pink Santa hat is trying to break free. That one's a trouble maker. Uh oh, she's loose! Oh good they caught her. Back in the sleigh she goes.

So um, when do the dancers dance, the singer sing and the parade start? And boy am I glad I wore my heavy winter sweatshirt. Can you imagine being one of those dancers standing out there in such skimpy clothes?

The filming process takes over an hour. Most of it spent lining up another shot. Kelly Rippa finishes her intro. They move the sleigh and puppies out. Then another 15 minutes goes by until they line up the next shot. This one with the dancers dancing and our singer singing. The director comes across on the loud speaker telling us that we're just a minute from starting. He says this ever couple minutes for 15 minutes. Finally we're ready for our first take. The Director warns the parade crowd to be cheerful. X sings Santa Claus is Comin' To Town. The dancers dance. The crowd goes wild when a set of dlamation-dressed dancers join the girls in their hip hop style. Cut and print!

Well no, not quite. Director says great shot now let's do it again.

And again.

And when the music starts but cuts suddenly, we have to do it a 4th time. X hams it up a bit playing another song for the patient crowd. They love him.

The last performance the Director calls for confetti. Ooh, now this is something interesting. Why didn't they do it before? Director calls for the FX guy to be at the ready. A few minutes later he calls again. Um, what happened to the FX guy? Out for a smoke break?

Finally they take that last performance. X is really rocking it. The dancers are pumped (or just trying to restore circulation in their frozen limbs). And at the end the FX guy fires off the confetti canons. Wow, cool. An hour worth of filming for a 45 second performance. Yup, this is show biz.

GM finds me after his haircut and we watch the rest of the taping that day. They do a fake march of the dancers off stage (really just around the corner) and then a fake crowd wave (two cast members marching down the street waving at the crowd as the cameras pan). The Director cheers the crowd on telling them this is their chance to be on camera Christmas Day.

GM and I watch it all and promptly decide being in the parade is not something for us. Too much standing in the same spot doing nothing all day, then the same thing 5 times over in an hour. And what's worse is what they've done to Main Street for the filming. The beautiful garland is missing. The Christmas tree is gone. The whole place is a barren mess. Fortunately they pick up most of the stuff quickly.

Just as they're filming the faux crowd shots my cell phone buzzes. It's a text from Bro1. They've all left the resort and are headed over on the bus. It's 3pm. Ok, I text back. Let me know when you're at the gates for your tickets.

GM tells me Mickey the barber said they may be performing the Christmas parade at 5pm instead of the regular parade. Less costume changing. He wants to stay in our prime viewing spot and watch.

3:15pm, cell phone buzzes. Another text from Bro2. They've arrived and are boarding the monorail for a ride and to kill time. 30 minutes later my cell phone buzzes again. They've exited the monorail and are headed to the gates. I'm really liking the text messaging thing.

A quick race down the ramp, out the tunnel and to the gates where everyone's stopping to take pictures. Bro2 calls. Where am I? CMs are herding people two directions: regular park guests to the left and party guests to the right. I'm by the fence right between the two. Here I'l wave. Oh that's right I'm really really short. Ok, I'll get the person next to me to wave. Oh I see you. Ok we're coming.

I hand off tickets through the gate. Bro1 first. MiniMe has a date with Bippidy Boppity in 15 minutes. Ok cool. Next comes Bro2 and Sis. They tell me they heard Disney was filming the parade today. Yeah, I knew that, taped it too. Here let me take you to Grandpa so you can get the full presentation.

We meet at the train station where everyone, especially the kids get a big kick out of the extra purply and sparkly mohawk Mickey has given him.

Train Station

By the time we finish talking and catching up it's near 4:30pm. The parade starts in half an hour. Ok, I elect to stay. If it is a Christmas parade I want to tape it for posterity sake. The rest of you can go ride rides. Bro2 and Blondie lead their posse on a trek to Frontiertown. Sis elects to stay behind. She helps GM and I decorate our chariots with these battery-powered microLEDs I bought. Now we'll be seen anywhere.

The parade is late. It stepped off at Frontiertown at 5pm but doesn't get to us until 5:30pm. And it is the regular afternoon parade. Pretty and all that but not worth the wait. I'm kicking myself for wasting time. I hope the bros did better. Turns out Bro1 spent the next hour in FantasyLand while Bro2 got stuck at the parade.

After this diversion, Footballer and Lil Spielberg are getting very antsy. The last thing they want to do is just sit and wait. So we elect to head off to Tomorrowland and ride Buzz. It means I miss the castle lighting ceremony but the boys have been so patient with me.

Buzz is a huge hit with these guys. Anything with a target is a winner for two boys who spend all their free time playing Wii. Just wait till they see Toy Story Mania, I think.

After Buzz, they want to ride the Peoplemover. Not something I can do so I elect to go shopping instead. I go in search of my Christmas Party memorabilia. A nice red hoodie. No hats this year. Check in with the brothers via text. Where are you now? Bro1 has lost Bro2. They are trying to meet in FantasyLand Bro2 tells me. But Blondie sees Haunted Mansion en route and they stop to ride. Bro1 has passed them by. Now they're headed in different directions of the park. Ok, Bro2, Sis is in Tomorrowland. Find her.

The first Christmas parade is at 8:15pm. I'm determined I'm gonna see it. So after a rest break, I text I'm headed over to our pre-scheduled viewing spot... Liberty Square by the Christmas Shoppe. By the time I arrive, there is only a few spots left. Now where did GM and the others go? Where are my bros? Is anyone gonna join me?

GM calls. They decided to get something to eat, in Tomorrowland. I joke with my neighbors that since my family has ditched me, I'll adopt them instead. Then I line up my HD cam and get ready to film.

GM calls and says he's coming. He sounds frustrated. He knows the time and wants to move my sis along but she's enjoying her restful dinner. Ok, I tell them. There's always the 10:30pm parade. Remember, we're all supposed to meet at our spot for fireworks. Maybe the family will join us then.

Ten minutes later I still haven't heard from anyone or seen GM. I figure he must have changed his mind. Then I hear the crowd behind me say "Wow look at that guy's hair!". Could it be?

Then I hear, "Yeah, a mohawk".

It is. "Dad?" I call out. He taps me on the shoulder. "I'm here. There's no room so I'm sitting back here." My smile broadens, well at least one member of my family made the plan. And I make a mental note. In future, don't look for the man, just listen for the comments. "Nice hair" and "mohawk" are buzzwords in our family now.

The parade steps off on time and I film it all. My favorite are the soldiers. The family is no show, but then I hold out hope for fireworks.

Speaking of, isn't it time we mosied over to our spot? We wanna be sure we get a good one.

So we sneak through the store, out the back and over to my Super Secret Spot. We get a perfect one just by the railing and I start texting family. Bro1, we're here. Bro2, this is where you find us. Sis, are you done eating?

Bro2 calls me right away and I give him turn-by-turn directions from Main Street. The twinkling lights on our chairs helps. No sooner does Bro2 find us from Main Street then Bro1 happens along from AdventureLand. Giggles and TeenK spot him wandering by and yell out. Sis turns up a few minutes later. Could it be? I have all 17 people together with me, in our primo Super Secret fireworks spot with a good 10 minutes to spare before the show? And look not 10 feet away is a PhotoPass gal all set up to take a shot of us in front of the ice castle. Wow, that is Disney magic.

We put the kids in front by the rail. The adults behind. GM and I in the middle soaking it all up. Red has the wits to snap as many group pictures as possible. Teen K volunteers to video the fireworks and I video her.

Teen K Filming

And though we wanted it but doubted it could happen, after the fireworks, I corral my entire 17 person group for that hallowed family photo in front of the castle. The Photopass gal doesn't think she can manage to fit us all in, but I think she did a fantastic job. What do you say?

Family Photo

(EDITOR'S NOTE: I've since spiffed up the blurry castle and made comemorative keychains for everyone with the date and family name. Now all we need due to remember is pull out our keys.)

After fireworks, the whole group headed to Tomorrowland. Red wants to ride Space Mountain, her favorite. Sis is keen to get on a thrill ride, especially since her boys are not thrill seekers. I take Footballer and Lil Spielberg on another round of Buzz Lightyear with their dad. Lil Spielberg rides with me. We don't do too badly but Footballer has our number. Still GM trumps us all and he rode solo.

From there, we find Sis waiting in line outside Stitch. Seems Stitch (the nephew not the ride) put his foot down and insisted he not go see the 10:30pm parade. His reason: "I don't want to watch other people walking." It's just too cute to argue with and Sis is looking to ride another dark and scary thing her boys won't touch. She directs us down the pathway where the Bros went.

We find them, just behind the crowd lining the castle circle. As far as accessible viewing spots go, it's lousy, but the Bros don't care. They got the kids up front and the adults are happily watching from behind. And I've seen it just fine already. I have the front row video to prove it. What interests Bro1 the most is the rumored appearance of Santa. Seems he and Red had a bet going into this trip. Red insisted there would be no Santa Claus. But a shout to my brother as soon as the soldiers marched toward us, pass the camera to Bro2 and Bro1 taps Red on the shoulder just as Santa appears overhead behind them. Snap!

Sorry Red. Next time you make a bet like that, check with the House first.

By the time the parade ended, my silly family wants to go on Space Mountain again. They've done all the other rides already. Ok, well I wanted to walk down Main Street anyway. Besides I never did go looking for those special party pins. We split up again.

And as predicted, we'll meet again an hour later as we all coincidentally wound up on the same bus.

I think I'm beginning to like this impromptu style of trips.

Onto Day 4: The Great Park Day