Today we offer part 3 of 4 in our Leap Day recap series with Tom Bricker, who was in Disneyland, and Brian McNichols, who was in Walt Disney World. Tom and Brian have been trading stories, experiences, and good-natured barbs through all 24 hours. For the start of this miraculous and incredible journey on “One More Disney Day,” see Part 1 and Part 2.
Walt Disney World
When I last left you I mentioned the third wave of crowds to hit the Magic Kingdom, the first being at park opening and the second being around 10 or 11am. Well the third one was the killer, the last straw, the Ric Flair figure four leglock (Wooo!)…well, it was big. If I were guessing (and I am), I would say there were a lot of people who came late in order to stay all night in addition to many people who came after finishing work or after the other parks closed. What this all meant was that between about 4 and 9pm the park was packed with people in a way that is rarely seen outside of New Year’s Eve.
I had to leave the park for a little while in the afternoon (I’m not hardcore like Tom…go ahead Tom, say it), so I was returning at around 9pm, shortly after Wishes. What I saw was a huge crush of people on Main Street, some leaving, some entering, and some just going somewhere else after the fireworks. It ended up in this strange, undulating mass that had no rules, no direction, and very little guidance. The backstage area to the east of Main Street was opened to allow those leaving easier access to the exit, but that didn’t make it easier for me to get to the hub. Even with all of these people, the Magic Kingdom never reached capacity mostly because no one had to try to keep Tom Bricker out of the park like the poor Disneyland staff did.
Luckily, as the night went on, people did end up leaving, although the park was still reasonably crowded into the night. The wait times were equally strange with attractions such as The Haunted Mansion, Carousel of Progress, and the PeopleMover building up 30-40 minute waits. I believe this to be a product of the dominant age range in the park of 25-40 and the abundance of park regulars.
During the early overnight hours there was a lot of general strangeness with a TouringPlans.com meet and event, as well as a multi-hour surreal dance party that went on in the hub. I saw people who were either heavily intoxicated or very tired (hard to tell which, really), people who were asleep on benches, and people who were borderline delirious. All in all, there were a lot of people having a great time, and I have yet to talk to someone who regrets spending the night at the Magic Kingdom. Although that would have changed if Tom had shown up (had to get a last one in, take that sucka!).
Out on the left coast, our evening was just beginning as the chaos out at Walt Disney World was reaching its climax. As we sat up at the Train Station waiting for the first showing of Soundsational to start just before 7 pm, I remarked to those around us that the park was still not too busy. I expected a mad rush of people right around 6 pm after they left work (actually, isn’t the typical work day from 11 am until 2 pm in California?), but that didn’t seem to happen. More people showed up, but it was more a slow trickle than a mass of people. In fact, there was plenty of available seating up at the Train Station even after the parade started. On even a moderately busy day at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, these spots fill quickly.
After Soundsational (it was our first time seeing this parade; all I can say is this…Team Disney Orlando, PLEASE have Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily design a parade for Walt Disney World!) it became clear that the crowds were really picking up. It was really a sea of humanity; it was as if everyone waited until that first showing of Soundsational ended to show up to the park. At one point, as we slowly shuffled among the crowd up Main Street, I caught the distinct smell of body odor and chili dog breath right behind me, so I turned and said, “Brian!” I was pleasantly surprised when it was just the much more visually pleasing mug of meet and greet Stitch. Stitch, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry to have ever mistaken you for Brian McNichols. I know that is greatly offensive.
We had met up with the world famous Mr. and Mrs. Selga during the parade, and they joined us on our adventures thereafter. We tried to meet up with some other folks who were in the park, but cell phone service was non-existent, so that didn’t happen. Almost every attraction had a long wait by this point, but Buzz Lightyear still had a manageable standby line. I think we ended up doing this several times in the early evening and overnight hours for lack of better options. While I like competitive game-based attractions like this, and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters is much better than its Walt Disney World counterpart, over the years, I’ve come to learn where the high point targets are located in the Walt Disney World version. I don’t have the same knowledge at Disneyland, so it’s a bit frustrating when my score is only around 100,000 as compared to the 700,000 to 999,999 I score at Walt Disney World. People like Brian are used to losing, so they don’t mind it as much, but I enjoy winning!
Not being able to do many attractions wasn’t a big deal, because I could always have plenty of fun taking photos in less-crowded areas. Or so I thought. Most of my favorite less-crowded and tucked away areas of Disneyland were strewn with bodies of sleeping (or perhaps undead?) guests. It really felt like the zombie-apocalypse episode of WDW Today come to life.
By about 10pm, the crowds had peaked. The roads outside Disneyland were gridlocked, and the park was at capacity. Lines of guests (or random masses) trying to enter the park overflowed the Esplanade. We happened to be in New Orleans Square around this time, and there was already a packed house for the 1am showing of Fantasmic!, which was roughly three hours away.
Thanks to the Fantasmic! crowds, New Orleans Square was pure chaos. Main Street, USA, where another Soundsational parade was being run, was similarly wall-to-wall people after the parade concluded. I have never seen a park as busy as Disneyland was around this time (but this would make sense, as reports have indicated that the parks have never been busier), but through it all, we were still having a blast.
The late night hours stayed incredibly busy as the park didn’t back down from capacity. As some guests left, others in the hours long line to enter the park took their place. We enjoyed Disneyland at a leisurely pace, eating more special menu items (here’s hoping French Market brings back that delicious French Dip Sandwich we tried that night!) and wandering around enjoying the ambiance. The park wasn’t just full of crazy fans like us; over the course of the night we spotted Shaun White, a carefully cloaked Leonardo DiCaprio accompanied by a blonde woman and a VIP tour guide, and several members of the Modern Family cast. We also spotted an abundance of teens who were dancing the night away in Tomorrowland, where a DJ was set-up. People don’t dance quite like that in Indiana!
Although it sounds like Disneyland might have been unbearable, it was far from it! (After all, Brian wasn’t there.) Those we talked to were having an excellent time, as they reminisced of similar events, like Grad Nights and the original Star Tours‘ opening. Those expecting light crowds and those waiting outside the gates to enter the park for hours might have had different impressions, but during those late night hours, we and those around us had a blast. It was such a unique experience with a great energy to it that we couldn’t help but have fun as we just walked around, soaking it all up.
Would the crowds finally let up in the waning hours of One More Disney Day? Would zombie-guests consume Tom? Would Brian manage to accomplish his goal of experiencing Magic Carpets of Aladdin 24 times in one day? Find out in the final installment!
Were you in Walt Disney World or Disneyland for One More Disney Day? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!