June 2021 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 2

For Part 2 of this trip report, we head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the day with a surprise appearance at Hollywood Studios in the afternoon! We also check in to All Star Movies for the rest of the trip.

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June 5, 2021 – Animal Kingdom / Hollywood Studios

Before setting out to explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we had one quick matter to take care of at our resort. We were switching resorts to All Star Movies, and it was my first time ever switching resorts in the middle of a Disney trip. Not that I was expecting it to be difficult, but the process of switching resorts was extremely easy, especially with online check-in.

We simply went to Bell Services at Wilderness Lodge the morning we checked out of our room at Copper Creek, and let them know that we were changing resorts. They took our luggage and arranged for the transfer so we could head right to the parks. We did not go to All Star Movies until we were turning in for the night, and thanks to online check-in we were able to go right to our room, where our luggage was there waiting for us!

After dropping off our luggage, we hopped on a bus to Animal Kingdom, this time trailing a bit behind Josh’s family who were already there. We staggered behind them for a bit in the morning, telling them to get in line for the safari when they made it into the park while we were making the necessary stop at Joffrey’s outside the park for some coffee.

When we got into the park, we strolled through some of the animal trails in the Oasis and Discovery Island (how cool are the Galapagos Tortoises and how have I not seen them before?!) After checking out some of the other animals nearby (we missed the kangaroos though, guess we need to book another trip!) we took some quick photos in front of the Tree of Life and made our way toward Africa.

We got in line for Kilimanjaro Safaris and after about 20 minutes were on our way to seeing some of my favorite animals in the park. We had a really great safari, with most of the animals being out except for the lions. The cheetah was even walking around, which is something I feel like I never see on the safari. Plus we got pretty close views of some more unique animals like the White Rhinos and an Ostrich.

Admittedly, I probably don’t normally do the safari first thing in the morning enough, because of course that’s when the animals tend to be the most active. (I’ve had really good luck on the safari after it rains too, regardless of the time of day. I’m assuming more animals come out when things have cooled down a bit.)

We also saw the new-to-me Nigerian Dwarf Goats that hang out by the end of the safari now. Their habitat has some added theming as a camp for safari guides, and I thought that little bit of added detail before you pull back into the station was a really cool thought.

After our safari, we walked through Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail to see of course gorillas, plus zebras, meerkats, and a few other animals. I always think the gorilla habitat here is really impressive, the way the trail winds through different areas where on a good day gorillas are hanging out on either side of you. Once we walked through the entire trail, we decided to make our way back to Discovery Island to meet up with some of Josh’s family as they were finishing up seeing It’s Tough to Be a Bug.

With everyone else in tow, we set off toward Dino-Land U.S.A. primarily in search of ice cream from Dino-Bite Snacks, but since they didn’t open for about another 20 minutes or so we decided to ride Triceratop Spin instead. Like I said in my last post, I don’t love the addition of random spinner rides, but Triceratop Spin is cute and I don’t mind it, especially now where Primeval Whirl is closed. (I think that looks kind of terrible, by the way. As much as I disliked riding Primeval Whirl, I think it added a little bit to the ambiance of Chester & Hester’s DinoRama and it looks totally weird with it just sitting there all closed up.)

While one of the kids had ice cream from Dino-Bite, Josh and I ran into Restaurantosaurus to pick a couple of Safari Ambers….(Yes, we might have had beer at 10:30 in the morning…We were on vacation….) Josh was immediately interested in Restaurantosaurus because of the airstream trailer built into the front of the building, so I really wanted to show him around the inside and point out some of the fun details I remembered from when I worked in DinoLand, but a lot of the restaurant was blocked off so we couldn’t even get over to the side where the trailer was. Something to do next time I guess!

With our spin around Chester & Hester’s behind us, we walked by the Fossil Fun Games and under the Cementosaurus toward Asia to meet up with everyone else who had split off from Discovery Island earlier to ride Expedition Everest. A couple of us re-rode it, while everyone else met us after the fact at Kali River Rapids.

Josh and I didn’t get in line for Kali for fear of getting too soaked. I know you’d dry off quick in the heat, but you just get totally drenched on Kali River Rapids and we didn’t feel like wandering around in wet clothes after the fact. Instead, we stayed nearby and watched the Gibbons swing around their structure. They were super active that day, climbing back and forth between islands and going through lots of bananas and probably treats.

After a few minutes, everyone who was in line for Kali met back up with us and I noticed they were totally dry. There was no way they got on the ride. They told us the ride was down, and while some guests decided to wait it out in line to see if it came back up, they just decided to come back and meet us. That’s when things started to get weird….We went to order lunch (I don’t remember if I said this but you pretty much had to mobile order during this trip. I’m sure they in theory would have let you order inside a restaurant if you needed to but it was definitely discouraged).

We tried to order from Restaurantosaurus, thinking that’d be an easy pick that everyone would like, but when we went to place the order the My Disney Experience app came back with a message that nothing was available. Weird. We tried again, same thing. Then we started walking back toward Discovery Island thinking maybe we could make something work at Flame Tree Barbecue, or worst case (given the walk and the fact that Pandora would surely be crowded, Satu’li Canteen.) Both of those didn’t work on mobile order either, though.

It didn’t take long for news to reach us that whole sections of the park had actually lost power. (Is it crazy my first thought was what if dangerous animals escaped like in Jurassic Park?! I know that’s not realistic, but c’mon!) I’ve seen parts of the Magic Kingdom lose power when a thunderstorm takes out a generator, but I’ve never seen anything like this in Animal Kingdom, especially in the middle of a sunny day.

The power being out effectively meant that nearly everything outside of Pandora wasn’t functional, including shops and restaurants. We definitely needed to get something to eat soon though, so waiting around for everything to come back up wasn’t going to happen. We thought about going to Disney Springs, but that seemed like more of a headache. In the end, Josh’s family took the kids back to their hotel for a break, while Josh took a break on a bench near DinoLand, and I made my way to the long line for Guest Relations.

Not going to lie, I felt like such a Karen going to Guest Relations. I’m sure tons of people were (sort of understandably) upset, but sometimes things happen that are out of anyone’s control and you just have to go with it. If we had more time in the parks, I probably would have just waited it out in Animal Kingdom or gone back to the resort to spend some time at the pool, but with the way our park reservations were set up for the rest of the week, and the fact that we only had base tickets for one park per day, it seemed like a better idea to see what Guest Relations could do for us.

The line at Guest Relations was just about an hour long. The Cast Members did everything they could though. They were taking down information from guests before we got anywhere close to the end of the line, and really doing everything they could to help everyone as quickly as possible. When I got inside Guest Relations and explained that we didn’t really feel the need to wait it out at Animal Kingdom since we had a reservation for the park already made for the following day, the Cast Members offered to make our tickets into Park Hoppers. They even updated Josh’s family’s tickets from email address even though they weren’t in the park with me anymore.

So it was definitely a totally random inconvenience, but in reality we only lost an hour of the day and the Cast Members really fixed the situation I think because I couldn’t get reservations to Hollywood Studios when we booked our trip, but being able to Park Hop that day meant that Josh would be able to at least see most of that park and still spend more time in Animal Kingdom as we were returning tomorrow.

***

I could tell Josh loved Hollywood Studios as soon as we made our way through the entrance. He quickly became very interested in the park’s decor and general aesthetic, and even without experiencing a lot of attractions he decided this was his favorite park on ambiance alone. It was really cool to experience the park through the eyes of someone who had never been before like that. I think there are parts of Hollywood Studios that we sort of forget about today, but the whole park really is very details and well-designed, it was nice to see someone just getting into it and appreciating it for what it was.

The first order of business at Hollywood Studios was food! We were definitely still hungry where we basically skipped lunch to wait on Guest Relations, so we mobile ordered from ABC Commissary to fix that. I know ABC Commissary has held a longstanding reputation of a kind of boring quick service spot, but I was actually shocked at how good the food was!

(Again I was terrible at pictures this trip…) but Josh got a chicken sandwich that was delicious and came with what appeared to be fresh cut steak fries. I ordered shrimp tacos, that came with rice and beans, and I’m so surprised at how good they are. So there’s thing I definitely did not have on my 2021 bingo card- I never thought I’d be raving about the quick service shrimp from ABC Commissary, but here we are!

With a late lunch/early dinner taken care of, we still had a little while before Josh’s family would meet us at the park, so we went off to ride Star Tours. I know the wait times were almost meaningless because the limited capacity made everything a little different, (and I know this is a thing in normal times anyway in certain instances, but still…) walking right onto Star Tours was so nice!

It was also really cool just seeing Josh take everything in. Since I’ve experienced more of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge than he has, and since this wasn’t my first time in the park, I feel like I and probably other Disney fans sort of take Star Tours for granted, but it was fun seeing how excited Josh was by the AT-AT outside the ride and seeing C-3PO in the queue.

By the time we were off Star Tours, everyone else had arrived in the park and they were on their way to Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. Josh still hasn’t seen Cars, and while I think the Racing Academy is a fun show, it’s not a must-do in my opinion if we only had a few hours in the park. Instead of rushing over there, we planned to meet them after the show, and we spent some time looking at the handprints outside of the Chinese Theatre. It seems like almost every time I stop to look at the prints, I’m the only one over there- I’m not sure if it’s just a hidden enough detail that people don’t notice, or if everyone is too busy rushing to the next ride (probably the case with Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land still being very new to a lot of guests), but I think they’re really fun to stop and see.

Once we had the whole group together, we made our way back toward Hollywood Boulevard to ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. I’ve never ridden it wasn’t open yet on my last trip, so it was fun for me to do something new! I really, really, really miss The Great Movie Ride, so I was a little sad going into the new attraction. I’m glad they kept most of the queue the same as far as I can tell, though the exhibit cases that had costumes and props from movies are taken out. I think the wallpaper and carpeting inside the queue in the Chinese Theatre are really impressive though, so I was happy to see that all of that remained intact.

I ended up loving the new ride. I haven’t watched a ton of the new Mickey Mouse shorts, but having a ride created in that style has made me want to go home and watch more of them. I remember when Imagineers were talking about the new ride, and they were saying how the projections would essentially give off the look of a 3-D attraction without guests having to wear glasses, and I really worried that it just meant there would be screens everywhere. I guess to be technical there are a lot of screens, but the design of the ride is so well done they just work in a way that I don’t think they have for other attractions in the past.

We didn’t get to see the preshow because Disney still wasn’t running them during this trip, but even without that setup for the story, the ride was super immersive. Every scene really felt like we were in the middle of a Mickey cartoon, and it was awesome! I also love how they included a tornado scene in the spot where the tornado existed in The Great Movie Ride prior to the Wizard of Oz scene. (I haven’t looked into it yet, but it’s such a long ride I wonder if there are more Easter Eggs to be found…)

When we stepped out from the ride we caught one of the character cavalcades! I really hope that after things are fully returned to normal they find some way to sort of blend these with the regular streetmosphere entertainment. I really want regular meet and greets back of course, but I did think these were really fun to just stumble upon randomly in the parks.

With Runaway Railway behind us, we split up again with some of the group going to Galaxy’s Edge to get on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and the rest of us setting off for Muppet*Vision 3-D. I love Muppet*Vision, it’s easily my favorite 3-D show at Walt Disney World (and Josh loves The Muppets so it was fun to see it with him!) He picked up as soon as we sat down that the balcony off to the right had to be for Statler and Waldorf, but he was not expecting Sweetums to come out during the show!

After Muppet*Vision we walked over to Walt Disney Presents. We were just watching Peter Pan at home before we left for this trip, and geeking out about how some of the animation in earlier Disney movies was done, which led to us looking into the multi-plane camera. It was nice being able to go to Park Hop unexpectedly because I actually told him before we left that they had a multi-plane camera in the exhibit there and that I’d show him on our next Disney trip since Hollywood Studios wasn’t happening this time. It was nice that that changed and he got to see it, and he really enjoyed the rest of Walt Disney Presents. We didn’t stick around for the film at the end because we were getting a little short on time at that point and wanted to meet back up with the rest of the group, so I’m excited to spend more time there with him next time.

We ended our park day at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where we just hung out and took in some of the atmosphere while we waited for everyone else to ride Smugglers Run. At this point we were feeling a little burnt out, so it was nice just relaxing outside Ronto Roasters and having a low key night in the park.

I haven’t been to Disney with a group of eight since I was a kid, and I actually remember it being so much more exhausting than it was during this trip. I’m guessing cell phones had a lot to do with it because we really didn’t have those when I was a kid, and it’s really hard to keep a big group together the whole day. You’re definitely better off splitting up to do the things that not everyone wants to do. When I was a kid, I remember it being all eight of us sticking together the whole day. As a result, it felt like half of our trips were bathroom breaks and rides I was afraid to go on. We did try to remedy the inability to split up and meet back up with walkie talkies once in the 90s, but from what I recall they were unreliable and we spent a good chunk of the day searching for each other in Animal Kingdom.

This trip, I think we were just tired from doing full days in the park. I would normally take a break in the middle of the day at the resort for the pool, but with only one day in the Magic Kingdom and an unplanned couple of hours in Hollywood Studios, that just didn’t seem like the best use of our time, so we mostly did full days in the parks.

Once the whole group was back together we all decided to head out, just about a half hour before the park closed at that point. Josh’s family was only in Disney for the first two days of our trip, so after saying goodbye to them we hopped on a bus to All Star Movies to head “home” to our second resort. Like Wilderness Lodge, we had to use online check-in (and again I would recommend doing that anyway, at least if you’ve been to Disney before and have an idea of what you’re doing) so we were able to go right to our room.

I’ve stayed at All Star Movies a bunch, but the 101 Dalmatians section was a first for me! It was so nice being that close to the lobby and food court. Not that any of the walks to a room at the All Stars are that far in the grand scheme of how much you walk in Disney, but it was so nice to just take a right out of the lobby and be the first building after a long day in the parks.

Our luggage was in our room when we arrived, and it was my first time seeing the rooms in person at one of the All Stars since they’ve been renovated. The new rooms are a huge improvement! The murphy bed allows for more space around the table and storage space so it really opened up the whole room. And the hardwood floors and renovated bathrooms gave the room a much fresher more modern look, plus the thing everyone wants in hotels these days…USB outlets on the nightstands! I know even the cheapest Disney hotels are still expensive, but the improvements to these rooms really helped them out a lot so I think it does make them feel like a little bit of a better value.

At this point we were hungry and probably would have had a pizza delivered, but the resorts weren’t offering in-room delivery yet. (If you’re reading this trip report and have a trip booked for this week or sometime soon though double check that, I think at least some of the deluxe resorts have room service back.) So instead, I mobile ordered a pizza and ran down to the food court to pick it up. In all honesty our room was so close to the food court I’m sure this made more sense anyway and paying a delivery fee would have been silly.

In my continued theme of being terrible with pictures, I didn’t get any shots of the pizza but that was also an improvement over the old standard quick service resort pizzas. It was a square pizza this time, and kind of felt like a better quality version of Elio’s. They also had a deal to feed a family of four for $29.99 with a large pizza, breadsticks, and Caeser Salad. I’m not sure if that’s a temporary menu thing or if it will be around for some time, but something to look out for if you’re looking for a cheap dinner at the All Stars.

We went right to sleep after dinner that night to get up early for another day in Animal Kingdom the next morning, plus dinner at Chef Mickey’s! Check back for Part 3 soon! 🙂

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