Last week, some duck-lipped babe on Instagram who deems herself an “influencer” said Walt Disney World should change its Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith to something else because “that band isn’t relevant… I don’t even know who they are.”
I thought, "Well, darlin’, I don’t know who you are, and I’d like to hope that makes you irrelevant" – but unfortunately, too many people would rather hang on every word of a blogging bimbo than read good books or listen to decent music. On Facebook, I expressed the hope that those geezers – the Bad Boys from Boston – will get off their skinny butts and hobble onto the stage a few more times, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and then we’d see who’s relevant.
The problem is, I'm afraid Disney might be listening to these self-proclaimed influencers. When my husband and I were in Orlando week before last, we noticed the giant Stratocaster positioned in front of the entrance to the ride had been partly covered with a tarp. A day or two later when we returned to have another go at the coaster, the stylized painting of the band was also hidden. Usually when Disney or Universal puts up walls or tarps, that means change is about to occur – and not always for the better.
Disney has already rebranded similar coasters in Japan and China to showcase "The Avengers." I get the branding, but does it always have to be about a cartoon princes or hero, the heights of achievement to which no mortal could ever hope to ascend? And as far as the relevancy of Aerosmith, give me a break. My son turns 33 in December, and that's his favorite group, so I can't help but think anyone who doesn't know who they are is sheltered, stupid, or possibly hard of hearing. Aerosmith is, after all, the quintessential "hard rock" group, producing music at the volume our parents always said would render us deaf.
Some of my friends agreed with my assessment of the goofy girl with delusions of grandeur. Several of them – ranging in age from early 30s to mid-70s – touted the Toxic Twins and Co. as their favorite group, and added that the coaster was their favorite ride at WDW. Randy Gibson was among that group, saying the music was what made it so fun, and my sister-in-law, Cathy, agreed. Paul Stone – who was ad director at TDP in the mid-'80s – suffered a sore back to ride it with the kids, but the music made it bearable. Richard Allen provided a few YouTube videos for the unenlightened little lady.
What will be really sad is if the coaster goes the way of the dodo, like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride did at Magic Kingdom to make way for a silly-illy-old bear attraction. The one at Disneyland remains intact, and it – and the Jungle Cruise – are my husband's sentimental favorites. In fact, he refuses to do Pooh out of protest. Change happens, and Disney usually says it's responding to "customer demand." But I know several past and current Disney employees who beg to differ.
We went the week of our anniversary, Sept. 26, but probably should've waited until later. Tahlequah's own Josh and Michelle Newton – he of the Cherokee Nation communications team and formerly of TDP, and she of the Tahlequah library – happened to be there right after we had moved on to Universal; they got to check out the new Ratatouille ride, which hadn't opened while we were prowling Epcot. Michelle said the ride was fantastic. We did manage to luck out on a new restaurant, Space 220, and I highly recommend it.
For a few days after we arrived, this restaurant had just opened and was taking walk-ins, and when we arrived early one morning, we put our name on the list and got a 7:15 "showing." It was worth the effort. Prospective diners walk into what looks like the capsule of a rocket, and stand looking down through a portal. After a countdown, the rocket blasts off, and you see what is billed as a "space elevator that ascends to the stars."
Guests have the sensation of rising quickly in the rocket, as Epcot rapidly disappears into the distance, and they eventually see the entire Florida peninsula before the "elevator" comes to a halt and they are escorted out into a "space station," where potted plants are growing in "zero gravity." We wound up in a vast dining room, with a number of enormous windows overlooking the curved sphere of the planet Earth. There are three levels, and we had the best seats in the house – not so far away that we couldn't see the space action outside the station, but not so close that we couldn't enjoy the panorama. The timing was perfect: We were able to watch darkness roll over the globe as dusk settled in, rolling from east to west. There were space shuttles, other rockets, people in spacesuits – including an embracing couple.
The food was a three-course prix fixe, at $79, but we paid $20 extra for an upgrade that gave us sumptuous lobster tails drenched in clarified butter. The cocktails were superb as well. But the best part was the ambiance; we just couldn't take our eyes off what was happening outside the "station." The sensation that we were in a geocentric orbit several miles above Earth was palpable.
I could say a lot more about our experiences, but right now I'll mention that for those concerned with safety during COVID-19, Disney is serious about social distancing and masking. Last year, masks were required everywhere at WDW, and although the company now requires masking only indoors, every Disney veteran knows almost all attractions are indoors, which means a guest will spend probably 80 percent of the time masked, and that includes in the restrooms. Cast members aren't shy about reminding the forgetful to mask up.
As we were leaving Florida for home, the Newtons were making the jump to California and Disneyland, where they experienced a rather stressful episode. I've already told Josh I plan to share his story, but looks like I'll have to put myself in jeopardy, as they'll be back in town by next weekend.
As for the "influencer" – I wonder what she thinks of Beethoven.