My Disney Top 5 - Things to Love about Magic Kingdom's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Poohby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. Something fairly momentous happened just the other day. After a long weekend enjoying the beaches of Cape Cod with my family, I woke up extra early on Monday morning, 6:30 a.m. to be precise; definitely not my usual wake-up time on any given summer day. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, sat myself down in front of the computer, and at 7:00 a.m. on the dot, logged onto My Disney Experience to make Fastpass reservations for our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World in September. Our school calendar has a four-day weekend built in for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, so I saw an opportunity to make a quick escape to Orlando. It turns out that Disney is offering a tasty fall discount—20% off room-only reservations. So my sons and I are heading back to Port Orleans Riverside after an 11 year absence from that resort. The plane tickets are booked. Some dining reservations have been made. All that was left was to secure some Fastpasses and start counting the days until I'm back in the magic. One of those Fastpasses is for the subject of today's Top 5.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was the first Disney ride that we went on as a family. All five of us in this family have soft spots for Pooh and his pals. My daughter was four years old on that trip and on our first day we essentially made a bee line to the Magic Kingdom, went straight back to Fantasyland towards the Hundred Acre Wood so she could see her favorite characters. An hour or so later we were in the Crystal Palace having breakfast with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore and that's pretty much been our MO ever since. We did the same on our twin son's first trip two years later and over the last 16 years every trip has pretty much started with Winnie the Pooh.
There had been some talk of a Pooh themed attraction at Disneyland since the 1970s but plans never materialized. In the 1990s Winnie the Pooh was proving to be a more popular franchise than the venerable Mr. Toad, much to the dismay of a large and vocal group of Disney purists. Despite protests, letter writing campaigns, and so called "Toad-ins," Mr. Toad's Wild Ride took its last trip to Hell in 1998 clearing the way for the Hundred Acre Wood to open in Fantasyland in 1999. The ride has spawned similar versions in Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland and a more high tech version, Pooh's Hunny Hunt, opened in Tokyo Disneyland in 2000. The Magic Kingdom's version received a significant improvement to its wait time experience when the queue went interactive in 2010. The attraction has always been popular and wait times reach 45 minutes to an hour pretty soon after rope drop on a busy day. Let's find out why with my Top 5 reasons to love The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at the Magic Kingdom.
5 – Nods to Mr. Toad
I'm sorry to say that I never got to experience Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at the Magic Kingdom. And as much as I hate to utter the following sentence, I still haven't made it out to Disneyland, so, obviously, I haven't been able to experience the attraction out there. I have always been a fan of The Wind in the Willows, the animated film upon which the attraction is based. That's why I always make sure to spot the references to Mr. Toad in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I always love when the Imagineers slip in nods to an attraction that used to occupy the ground of the attraction you're currently experiencing.
Mr. Toad handing Owl the deed to his attraction. Photo by Mark Goldhaber
Once you enter Owl's house in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh be sure to look immediately to your left to see a framed picture of Mr. Toad himself handing the deed over to Owl. Before you leave the room look to the right at a pile of framed photos that have fallen off the wall and you'll see a portrait of Pooh standing next to Mole, a friend of Mr. Toad and a featured character in both the film and original Mr. Toad attraction. I'm quite sure that thousands of guests ride right by these two photos daily and never get the connection.
4 – The Honey Wall
Given the popularity of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the long wait times it generates, the original queue to the attraction didn't offer much to hold a guest's attention as they wound their way through the line for 30 to 40 minutes. That all changed in 2010, as I mentioned above, when the Imagineers added a whole bunch of cool things to keep the kids, and the adults, busy as they waited their turn to join Pooh and his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood. The queue starts with a huge tree house that kids can actually walk into which I'll talk more about below. Then you can enjoy Eeyore's house, several interactive elements featuring Rabbit's garden, an appearance by Gopher, a whole slew of movable bees, and my favorite part of the whole interactive scene, the dripping honey wall.
The storybook caption reads: "Painting with dribbles that run down the wall is like doodling noodles that wiggle and crawl." Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Having walls full of dripping honey would have been pretty cool. Being able to place your hands on the honey and manipulate it was even cooler. Clearing away the honey to find some of Pooh's friends behind was even cooler than that! I challenge you to walk past the dripping walls without running your hands through the honey. It was a wonderful addition to the attraction and it's become the kind of thing that the Imagineers do more often in other attractions most notably, Peter Pan's Flight and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
3 – Pooh's Tree House
One of the more impressive sights in the Magic Kingdom is the massive 120 ton tree that lives out in front of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The tree marked Mr. Sanderz is Pooh's house and resides at the beginning of the attraction's queue. Kids, as well as some limber adults, can actually go into Pooh's house where you'll find several pots of honey, as well as a classic Hidden Mickey and yet another reference to an older attraction from this area.
The incredible tree in front of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh holds a few secrets and lots of treasures. Photo by Samantha Barry.
Be sure to look above one of the doors for a carving of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Some of us might remember the classic submarine attraction which existed just across the way from Winnie the Pooh. If you're relatively new to the Disney parks you might not know that once the 20,000 Leagues attraction was torn out, a Pooh themed playground, Pooh's Playful Spot was erected in its place and acted as kind of a placeholder until it was shuttered to make way for the Fantasyland expansion, more specifically the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The tree was the focal point of the play area and was picked up and moved across the way to become part of the new interactive queue. It's a beautiful structure with plenty of details and looks especially wonderful at night.
2 – Floating Pooh
This is one of those cool Disney effects that I've always loved. Pooh nods off and begins to dream about losing his precious honey to the thieving Heffalumps and Woozles. As the lights dim Pooh has an out of body experience and begins to float.
Pooh begins his nightmare with the Heffalumps and Woozles. Photo by Alan Dalinka
It's a simple but very cool effect that helps further the story along. If you've read about the Disney parks and the effects that the Imagineers use to create their illusions, you may have come across the term Pepper's Ghost. most famously used in the ballroom scene over in The Haunted Mansion. The same, age old special effect is used to make Pooh rise up and float away. It may be age-old but it's still a winner in Gracey Manor and here in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
1 – The Rain, Rain, Rain Room
This has always been my favorite moment in the Pooh ride. It's the second to last room and is based on the scene from the animated film where The Hundred Acre Wood lives through—you guessed it—a big rainstorm that floods everything in sight.
Tigger holds on in the rain room. Photo by Chris Barry.
I love the moment where the lightning effect happens and you cross the threshold into the room. The music changes. The lighting changes. The motion of your honeypot changes and you feel like you're floating through the room. The "rain" effects are wonderful. The song is infectious and there's so much to look at. It all combines and creates such a mood and ambience. It's classic Disney attraction design and storytelling and it's always been one of my top favorite attraction rooms anywhere in Walt Disney World.
So the question remains, is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh a kiddie ride? On the surface, the answer might be yes, but all you have to do is take a look at all of the grownups waiting in line for their honeypot to arrive to come to the conclusion that Pooh has a timeless appeal. Remember, Walt Disney designed Disneyland and subsequently Walt Disney World so that families of all ages could experience rides and attractions together. I think a lot of guests may dismiss rides like Pooh as kiddie rides. Granted, it's not as thrilling as Space Mountain, nor does it have the high tech of a newer attraction like Test Track or Toy Story Mania, but that also gives it its charm.
One thing I might add about our kids' experience with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I mentioned above that it was their first ride at Disney. We definitely had two different reactions at first. Our daughter was four when she first experienced the ride. Aside from a little trepidation heading into the Heffalumps and Woozles room, this ride had her at hello. We visited Pooh several times on that first trip with her and she couldn't get enough of it. Our twin boys had just turned four the week before their first ride and they had a bit of sensory overload. Actually, that's putting it mildly. They were terrified! We thought our trip was over right there on the first attraction and we were booked for eight days!
What we came to realize was that when they thought of rides, they thought of little airplanes or fire engines that go around in a circle at the local fair. They were fine in the first room of the Pooh ride, but when all heck broke loose in Owl's house and the vehicle was shaking, things were popping out at them, and Owl's house was "falling apart" they didn't know what to think. We immediately took them over to "it's a small world" and Peter Pan's Flight, which don't feature anywhere near the movement of the ride vehicle as Pooh. Once they realized that it was all just a show and that things weren't really going to fall apart all around them, they were fine. We went right back to Pooh and they've loved it ever since. But it was interesting to witness their terror at Winnie the Pooh and realize that they just didn't grasp what a Disney attraction actually was. Food for thought for any parents out there bringing their little ones on Pooh for the first time. Explain some things first or watch a YouTube video and you'll be fine.
And I'll be more than fine in a month or so when I'm headed back to Fantasyland and revisiting with our favorite silly old bear and his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood. Sure, I'll be screaming on Space Mountain and Everest and Avatar over the course of that weekend. But I'll also be grinning ear to ear as I enter the rain room on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Fantasyland and I have to say, I'm kind of proud of that fact.
That's all for this Top 5. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below and tell me your thoughts on my list and about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.
First the rain. And now this.