Michael Karlo Lim says hello to child­hood idol Mickey

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Content - Text: Michael Karlo Lim

Dumbo was my in­tro­duc­tion to the world of Walt Dis­ney, and I re­mem­ber wear­ing out our video copy of that an­i­mated fea­ture as a tod­dler. I grew up on ev­ery­thing else Dis­ney and re­main hooked on the magic to date. It's al­ways a “Mag­i­cal Day” at any Dis­ney­land and the clos­est one to the Philip­pines, Hong Kong, only gets even bet­ter with new at­trac­tions, rides, up­com­ing theme sec­tions plus a mas­sive ex­pan­sion of the Sleep­ing Beauty Cas­tle.

Our pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ences left us in want with most of the day lost to queues and crowd­surf­ing. This time, we took a chance on in­re­sort ac­com­mo­da­tions for prox­im­ity to the park and two-day tick­ets to thor­oughly en­joy the at­trac­tions.

We were bil­leted at the third and new­est of Hong Kong Dis­ney­land’s ho­tels, the ex­plo­ration-themed Dis­ney Ex­plor­ers Lodge. The lodge’s motto of “ad ex­plorer et som­niare,” to ex­plore and dream, is very much in the painstak­ingly de­tailed re­sort the­mat­ics based on nat­u­ral won­ders and di­verse cul­tures of Asia, Ocea­nia, South Amer­ica, and Africa. There's the fun at the theme park, and then there are the lodge's own themed recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties. Hid­den Mickey's also fig­ured into the in­cred­i­ble dé­cor, among many other mag­i­cal fea­tures to dis­cover in the truly unique stay ex­pe­ri­ence.

We made most of our visit to with the Dis­ney Spec­tac­u­lar Tour, one of sev­eral

spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ences and pack­ages avail­able. We en­joyed di­rect en­trance to rides, re­served seat­ing for shows and many other perks on top of a well-co­or­di­nated itin­er­ary. Even then, two days were not enough to en­joy all the mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences at the park.

Af­ter Dis­ney’s ac­qui­si­tion of Marvel, 4D sim­u­la­tor ride The Iron Man Ex­pe­ri­ence — the first Marvel ride at any Dis­ney theme park, opened last year at HKD’s To­mor­row­land. Guests wear StarkVi­sion Glasses and “board” the Expo Edi­tion Iron Wing fly­ing pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle to join Iron Man in a heroic ad­ven­ture around Hong Kong. The Iron Man him­self gamely in­ter­acts with guests in sig­na­ture swag­ger in the nearby char­ac­ter at­trac­tion, the Iron Man Heroic En­counter.

Hav­ing also added the leg­endary Star Wars fran­chise to the Mouse’s House, yet an­other per­sis­tent theme from my child­hood added to its ap­peal to me. The clas­sic Space Moun­tain is reimag­ined as the Rebel Al­liance’s re­con­nais­sance ves­sel caught up in the heated cross­fire of an elite X-wing squadron and Im­pe­rial TIE Fight­ers. At the Star Wars Com­mand Post next door, the iconic Wookie war­rior Chew­bacca and droid R2D2 wel­comed guests for an­other char­ac­ter en­counter.

Hav­ing shaken some­one’s mouse ears in that ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, we slowed down to an­other old clas­sic, It's A Small World. This one is par­tic­u­larly spe­cial as I learned to read with an It's A Small World read-along sto­ry­book and au­dio set. The whim­si­cal boat ride along the Seven Se­aways canal still fea­tures an­i­ma­tronic dolls dressed in tra­di­tional garb of var­i­ous eth­nic­i­ties across the globe singing the time­less clas­sic, It’s A Small World song, in their na­tive lan­guages. Se­lect Dis­ney and Dis­neyPixar char­ac­ters fig­ure into the dio­ra­mas as in­ter­est­ing new tie-ins to the con­ti­nen­tal themes.

The con­densed and rather in­ti­mate mu­si­cal retelling of Simba’s story in The Fes­ti­val of The Lion King is worth the of­ten long lines. The show is pre­sented as a play within a play that brings the au­di­ence into the story with its round stage setup.

The old hut struc­tures out­side the The­atre in the Wild have been ac­ti­vated as the Kari­buni Mar­ket­place. It fea­tures re­fresh­ment kiosks and in­ter­ac­tive games of­fer­ing ex­clu­sive sou­venirs. Var­i­ous char­ac­ters also turn up for en­coun­ters with guests, and we chanced upon King Louie and Baloo from The Jun­gle Book.

Nearby, a Tiki Hut am­phithe­ater struc­ture rises to house the all-new at­mos­phere stage show, Moana: A Home­com­ing Cel­e­bra­tion. Char­ac­ters from one of Dis­ney’s lat­est orig­i­nal an­i­mated fea­tures en­gage the au­di­ence in yet an­other cre­ative retelling of Moana’s ad­ven­tures through sto­ry­telling, dance, and pup­petry.

The clas­sic, and world-ex­clu­sive, Flights of Fan­tasy Pa­rade still im­presses young and young-at-heart alike. Mickey leads in his “air­ship” fol­lowed by other beloved Dis­ney char­ac­ters in their re­spec­tive an­i­mated fea­turethemed floats. Our fa­vorite was Lilo & Stitch’s with the mas­sive on­board surf-sled swing.

From the heat and ex­cite­ment, we ducked into the cool in­te­ri­ors of the Mys­tic Manor, the first of its kind across all Dis­ney parks. There we boarded Lord Henry’s Mys­tic Mag­ne­toElec­tric Car­riage which toured us through his mag­i­cally an­i­mated col­lec­tion of an­tiq­ui­ties.

Din­ner time had us tuck­ing into the Fla­vors of Asia menu op­tions at the Main Street Cor­ner Café. I had the su­perb Ja­panese Chicken Curry set, and The PussyKat had the Laksa and Sa­tay set with a noo­dle bowl good for shar­ing. With those de­lights was a pre­view of the char­ac­terthemed Hal­loween set menu.

The dark­ness of night brought in more

de­lights as more Dis­ney char­ac­ters came be­daz­zled in mil­lions of flash­ing bulbs and neon lights, lit­er­ally paint­ing the night in the Paint the Night Pa­rade. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing cos­tumed dancers and themed floats com­pleted the megawatt pro­ces­sion. The light show doesn’t end there as to­wards the park’s clos­ing, pre­ci­sion pro­jec­tions trans­form the build­ings along Main Street, U.S.A. with vi­brant vi­su­als of Mickey’s sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones in We Love Mickey! Pro­jec­tion Show. The ul­ti­mate night­cap is the treat of an ap­pear­ance by Mickey Mouse him­self.

Mickey and Min­nie com­mand the most ex­tended lines at the park’s photo op points, and we took our chance at the in­clu­sive Char­ac­ter Break­fast at the Dragon Wind restau­rant of Dis­ney Ex­plor­ers Lodge. Kick­start­ing the day with Dis­ney Friends is a treat on top of the sig­na­ture dishes from ru­ral and clas­si­cal Pro­vin­cial China, char­ac­terthemed food items and the dé­cor in­clud­ing the name ref­er­ence of two gi­gan­tic dragon kites snaking above the din­ers in the high­ceilinged space.

Day two had us tick­ing off the rest of the rec­om­mended musts and our own. We pushed off a trop­i­cal jun­gle out­post on board a steamer on the Rivers of Ad­ven­ture. The route had us com­ing across jun­gle won­ders like ele­phants and hip­pos and other star­tling sur­prises. At one point, we had to “duck” a blow dart “at­tack” by head­hunters be­fore a fire and brim­stone end at the leg­endary Canyon of the Gods.

Af­ter all the ex­cite­ment, a more leisurely one fol­lowed at Tarzan Is­land up Tarzan’s jun­gle tree­house perched on the 19-me­ter Dis­ney­den­dron sem­per­flo­rens gran­dis or “large ever-bloom­ing Dis­ney tree.”. The clev­erly con­structed setup is an in­ter­ac­tive walk­through of Tarzan’s life. At the top, one could en­joy spec­tac­u­lar views of other themed sec­tions of the park, as well.

The slow­down con­tin­ued at the new Fairy Tale For­est as pre­sented by Pan­dora. Scenes from some of Dis­ney’s beloved princess fairy tales come to life in in­ter­ac­tive, minia­ture scale au­tom­ata in a whim­si­cal gar­den set­ting.

Hav­ing de­cided to pass on the Big Griz­zly Moun­tain Run­away Mine Car in con­sid­er­a­tion of my Min­nie, we hopped on the Hong Kong Dis­ney­land Rail­road, in­stead, for a full round­about of the pic­turesque scenery of Hong Kong Dis­ney­land Park. It was also a handy way to get around quickly and eas­ily while en­joy­ing the spec­tac­u­lar views of Ad­ven­ture­land, Fan­ta­sy­land, To­mor­row­land and Main Street, U.S.A.

De­cid­ing to call it a day, we chanced upon the last sched­uled show for Mickey and the Won­drous Book and popped in for one last hur­rah. The half an hour show lived up to its name with its ex­cit­ing mu­si­cal re­vue stage pro­duc­tion bring­ing new and clas­sic Dis­ney sto­ries to life.

A sud­den rain­storm had us duck­ing into To­mor­row­land’s in­ter­ga­lac­tic space­port, the Starlight Diner. Of the West­ern food served in the out-of-this-world set­ting, we tucked in the fla­vors the Amer­i­can-style fried chicken bas­ket and beef cheese­burg­ers, both of which came in Iron man-themed wraps and lin­ers.

Slow ren­di­tions of clas­sic Dis­ney themes played on the piped-ins as we slowly made our way out of the park as if to ease us back into the real world. The last of the pixie dust fiz­zled as the doors of the themed Dis­ney MRT car­riage closed at the trans­fer sta­tion back to cen­tral Hong Kong.

I left the re­sort hav­ing added more to Dis­ney Magic to what I have long held on to and know that I’ll be back for more. What made it even more mag­i­cal was hav­ing the PussyKat also be­liev­ing in it and that it was in­deed the “Hap­pi­est Place On Earth.”

Char­ac­ter Break­fast at Dragon Wind Restau­rant This Min­nie with her Mick­eys

Fairy­tale For­est by Pan­dora

The Mys­tic Manor

Mickey Donut

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