Here is a summary of what was accomplished at each park:
Disney Hollywood Studios
1. Met Mickey Mouse (for the first time!)
2. Met Woody, Buzz Lightyear and a Green Army Man
3. Met Winnie the Pooh and Piglet
4. Watched the Beauty and the Beast stage performance
1. Rode the Finding Nemo ride
2. Met Chip and Dale
3. Met Mickey Mouse (again!), Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy
4. Met Sleeping Beauty
I think it was around 10:30 before we actually entered DHS. The girls, especially when tired and sickly, will sleep until 8:00 AM. We didn't want to wake them early because they really needed the sleep. The park was more crowded than I expected. Early/mid November is supposed to be slow so I was not expecting as many people as we encountered. It was also a Saturday, which I'm sure contributed to the number of visitors.
I should also mention that maneuvering two strollers, one being a double, together with three adults through crowded spaces takes FOREVER. Within the first hour, I pretty much gave up on seeing and doing everything that was appropriate for the girls and decided to concentrate on what they would really enjoy and remember.
Before we left on our trip, Auntie P gave the girls these Creative Memories autograph books that can also be turned into scrapbooks as well. I knew a lot of kids (and some adults) were into getting autographs from the characters and princesses but I honestly thought that it would be over the girls' heads. I thought that they would be petrified of the characters.
After our arrival at the hotel and the girls' curiosity (especially Emily) regarding the characters, we decided to find some upon entering DHS. I'll note this for those who know nothing about Disney - when you enter the parks, you will find maps. Along with the maps are a little flyer called the Times Guide. This gives times for that day of performances and shows. It also let's you know where to find some characters along with general times. Note that I said some characters. We quickly learned that not all of them are listed on that guide.
After a few wrong turns on crowded streets, we finally found Mickey Mouse. The line was somewhat long (maybe 20 minutes or so.) Now, I know that during busy times, people sometimes wait for an hour to see a character. After a few minutes of waiting in line, Allie announced that she had to go to the bathroom. Luckily for us, Mickey also needed a potty break so I swooped Allie up into my arms and jogged to the nearest bathroom and then jogged back. This would be the beginning of my Disney workout.
I'm going to start talking photography now. I really, really, really, really, really wanted my new camera and a few new lenses before this vacation. The camera is still hard to come by and I was still researching lenses so it didn't happen.
The Mickey meet and greet was inside. The lighting was horrible and the ceilings were high and black which meant that bouncing my flash off of it would have had the same effect as bouncing it off of outer space. I decided to go with my 35mm lens. I was afraid to shoot too wide (like f stop 1.8 or 2) because I knew that it would be impossible to keep the girls on the same plane as the characters. I bumped the ISO as high as it would go (a pathetic 1600) and I still couldn't get a fast enough shutter speed.
I hate direct flash. Hate it. It all ended up being a non-issue anyway when our turn came to meet Mickey because the girls would not go up to him without me so Grammy took the picture.
Now, because I know someone is going to bring it up, I'm going to talk about the photopass. We did not do the photopass thing because my mom and I are both photographers and that seemed like an additional unnecessary expense. Those photographers use a Nikon D90 with a diffused flash from a Speedlight. They are also not photographers. They obviously go through some training but the cameras are set in Program mode for them. I know all of this because I talked to some of them. One of them told me that she only has and uses a little point and shoot at home.
So here we are with Mickey. (Photo by Grammy.)
Here's my guide for telling the girls apart for this day:
Allie - Purple/blue book, purple sandals
Anna - Green book, sneakers
Emily - Pink book, white sandals
We then made our way over to meet the Toy Story characters, which were set up inside across the street from the Toy Story ride. The Toy Story ride was on our list of things to do but the wait time was 40 minutes so we passed.
The line for the Toy Story character meet and greet was long as well. At least 20 minutes. I call that long because there were several meet and greets where we only had to wait for 5 to 10 minutes. At least there was more natural light so I attempted to take pictures with my 35mm lens. I really needed more of a wide angle (I currently have a fast wide angle lens on my wish list.)
Loving the grain in these.
They had these props set up for people to use while waiting in line. Unfortunately, because I was using my 35mm lens, I was backed up against the wall and could not fit what I wanted to into the frame.
I used only natural light for these but didn't have a fast enough shutter speed for the one with Stinky Pete, which is a shame because it would have been a cute picture.
Thankfully, Woody and Buzz were next to windows but I was backed up against a wall, which is why a lot is cut out of these pictures.
From left to right - Emily, Allie and Anna. Let's do commentary.
Emily - Is that really Buzz?
Allie - Daddy, I'm afraid.
Anna - Um, why is Woody touching me?
Anna - No thanks, Woody. I don't want to hold hands.
The Green Army Men were the only characters I witnessed at any parks who were just walking around and didn't have an organized line. Allie did not want to be in the picture and the Green Army Man was not allowed to autograph her book.
At this point, Anna needed to be cathed so we headed back to the front of the park for the Baby Center. I'm jumping a bit ahead of myself but I have to say that I wish there were more of these scattered throughout the parks. They have comfortable, clean changing tables and it really made cathing Anna so much easier.
We also spoke to Guest Relations and picked up a pass allowing us to use one of the strollers as a wheelchair because Anna has spina bifida. Most of the lines don't allow strollers but we could have used the stroller in line with this pass. I should note that we didn't do this because we have triplets but because Anna tires much faster than her sisters and would be more comfortable sitting rather than standing in long lines.
The women working in Guest Relations just loved the girls and gave them each a ton of Princess stickers. That was a pleasant experience. I have to say that 99% of the people that work at Disney were extremely friendly and helpful.
Allow me to back track to what happened on our way to the Baby Center. We spotted Pooh and Piglet so we jumped into the fairly short line and met them. As we walked away, Allie said, "I didn't get to give Pooh a hug." On the other side of that little garden area was a meet and greet for Tigger and Eeyore. As we were walking over to join that line, the Disney employee monitoring the line told us that the line was closed. So naturally, I asked when Tigger and Eeyore would be back out. Her response was, "They won't. They've been out all morning."
Now, correct me if I am wrong but isn't this DISNEY? Aren't they supposed to be out meeting and greeting? AND this incident took place less than two hours after we entered the park and I sure as hay didn't see any of them out there when we entered the park. The girls didn't understand why they couldn't meet Tigger and Eeyore and then to make matters worse, they spotted Pluto. Rich rushed over by himself and was told by Pluto's bodyguard that the line was closed. My babies want to meet characters. I didn't pay cash money and drive 1,307 miles to be dissed.
It turns out that some loud, obnoxious Teen Rocks (I could be making that name up by the way) show was coming out so they wanted to clear the characters out of that plaza area. Just tell me that, lady. And tell me when or where we could met those characters again! Give me alternatives, not an attitude.
(By the way, LOVE how the people waiting in line are in this shot. For some of these, I had to stand in a certain spot so composition was blown. Boo.)
To placate the girls, we offered them ice cream. Which worked. But ended up being a complete mess.
That is chocolate on Em's forehead. And then she dropped a whole side of it on her dress and had to walk around all day with this huge chocolate mark on her.
As we were wrapping up lunch, I consulted the Times Guide and realized that the Beauty and the Beast show was starting in 30 minutes. We headed to the theater and found excellent seats up front. The girls LOVED that show. It was extremely entertaining and held their attention.
That show wrapped up around 2:30 and we decided to head over to Epcot at that point. The first thing we did was go on the Finding Nemo ride. The wait time was only 5-10 minutes. That ride did not go over well. The girls didn't cry or freak out but they were a tad bit scared. I had thought we could spend some time in the aquarium but it was getting late and the girls were more interested in characters than fish so we moved along.
As I was consulting the Times Guide, Emily yelled out, "Chimpmunks!" Sure enough, she had spotted Chip and Dale.
We then discovered that there was a big meet and greet with a ton of characters in the building right in front of us. That line was long - probably as long as the line for the Toy Story characters - but it was definitely worth waiting. We only had wait in one line and then we moved from character to character as opposed to waiting in a separate line for each one.
We met some super nice people in that line. There was a couple behind us from New Jersey with a son the same age as the girls and then there was a family behind them where the mom was a twin herself. Her mother was with them so we all talked about having multiples. And she said the most heartfelt thing to me. She told me that there was a special place in heaven for me.
Love Allie's eyes in the Mickey picture. And see how Anna is trying to hold Em's hand?
It was getting close to dinner time after that big meet and greet and we had yet to see any princesses aside from Belle in the stage show. The Times Guide listed Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) as holding a meet and greet in France. So off to France we went. Easier said than done.
We hit Epcot at the end of the Food and Wine Festival, which meant that dinner time in the countries was wall to wall people. It took FOREVER to walk over to France and then to walk back but the girls did get to meet Sleeping Beauty and because the line was so short, she spent a good amount of time talking to the girls. I didn't get any pictures of that but Grammy did (and she didn't email any to me so I don't have any to post.)
Major lessons learned on Day 1 - Don't underestimate how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B. A ton of time will be lost to bathroom and food breaks along with waiting in lines.