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DISNEY OPENINGS 1999
Alese & Morton Pechter

Bona Fide Teenagers.One of our favorite get-a-ways, Walt Disney World in Orlando, continues to amaze us. Each time we go we think we have seen it all and there is absolutely nothing more that Disney can dazzle us with. How wrong we are! This last visit we saw the opening of Test Track at Epcot; the opening of Asia, part of Animal Kingdom; the brand new show Fantasmic, and the opening of Cirque du Soleil, at Downtown Disney.





LA NOUBA ... CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ... DOWNTOWN DISNEY:

High on our list of "must see" shows is La Nouba, the new Cirque du Soleil presentation at Walt Disney that is spectacular. Just think of opulent sets, wild, outrageous costumes, brilliant staging, razzle-dazzle lighting, special effects, space-age music and 60 phenomenal performers. They all add up to one of the most unusual circus performances we have ever seen. There are clowns and daredevil acrobats and tumblers but no sawdust, performing elephants or dancing bears.

Instead we are treated to humans who seem to be made of elastic with rubber bones. They contort themselves into impossible poses always appearing limber and graceful. Simply amazing! There are gymnasts who fly around with split-second timing, bouncing off walls, each other and several trampolines. There are trapeze artists flying on four intersecting swings and an aerial dance that uses super-long flowing ribbons as swings. Four young Chinese girls do somersaults and leap while using ropes to catch large wooden spools tossed among them.

Our Guide.La Nouba means "to party" and this is a party to see. Housed in a new permanent 30 million dollar home that Disney built for the troupe, the building resembles a futuristic tent. The circular theater encompasses 73,800 square feet and seats over 1600 in a horseshoe, around the thrust stage, with 75 feet of clear air above that allows performers to spend much of the show floating high over the audience.

This is a show that rates seeing and well worth the drive to Orlando. It is a great family entertainment afternoon or evening, but let the little ones know beforehand that they will not see any live animals at this circus.

FANTASMIC ... MGM STUDIOS:

The new 25 minute Fantasmic show pits Mickey Mouse in a dream-world battle to overcome villainous adversaries. It is presented nightly at the new, outdoor 6500 seat Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Disney-MGM Studios. Mickey's world of magic creates dancing waters, dazzling lasers, shooting comets, animated fountains, swirling stars, balls of fire and other wonders ... all choreographed to the melodies of favorite Disney classics. A truly fantastic evening of entertainment.

TEST TRACK ... EPCOT:

Are you one who likes those daredevil rides? Well, there is a brand new one for you at Epcot ... Test Track. It is the longest and fastest ride ... nearly a mile long ... and gives you a taste of how GM cars are tested before being brought to market.

You climb hills, experience hairpin turns, bounce down bumpy roadways and zip along straight-aways at speeds pushing 65 mph. The Disney Imagineers have emulated the rigors of vehicle testing that all GM brands go through. Test Track climbs, spirals and snakes through the 150,000-square-foot pavilion, including areas simulating arctic cold and desert heat. About half the track loops outside the pavilion where maximum speeds are obtained.

There are three onboard computers which together have more processing power than the Space Shuttle. Just to write about it makes our stomachs flip. There is more than five minutes of tire-squealing road tests, including an engine-roaring, three story ascent; a wildly out of control skid and a 50 degree banked curve at 65mph. Whew! You may want to close your eyes for the high-speed crash test. The usual Disney pre and post-shows are there also. Entering, you see in display models and videos the safety testing that goes into each production car. As you exit, the post-show highlights the latest GM models along with an automobile specialty shop that offers collectibles and mementoes for sale.

ASIA ... ANIMAL KINGDOM:

The Living SeasAnimal Kingdom now has the long awaited area, Asia, ready for us to enjoy. Walking along the paths we are greeted by storytellers and beautiful young ladies performing native dances in dress appropriate for the area. The highlight for us was the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Set in the mythical village of Anandapur, we walked through a rainforest environment to see the lush home of many different animal and bird species. Gibbons, tree dwelling apes, swing from a Nepalese-style monument tower to the ruins of a temple with Thai design. Tigers roam and play and deer graze near the crumbling walls of a maharajah's palace. We saw giant fruit bats, some with wing spans of more than six feet and the largest monitor lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon, which can grow up to 12 feet long. There is a lotus pool and animals we never heard of like the Malayan Tapir. The exotic feel of Nepal, India, Thailand and Indonesia are represented in the architecture, animal carvings and ruins scattered throughout the village.

The new spectacular ride in Asia is the Kali River Rapids. Climbing aboard 12-person round rafts (be sure to cover up as this is a wet ride) we went for an exhilarating journey down the rushing Chakranadi River. There is spraying mist, fiery brush, falling logs and speeding turns as we raced through swirling waters and an unexpected, abrupt drop into churning rapids. Even the viewing guests can have their fun. From a bridge overlooking the end of this ride there is a button that allows viewers to activate sprinklers, hidden in beautiful ceramic elephant trunks along the water's edge, that spray streams of water onto the unsuspecting rafters below.

When next you visit Animal Kingdom you will want to cross that Asia Bridge and enter the fabulous, wonderful mythical Kingdom of Anandapur ... place of delight. As with the rest of Animal Kingdom, the music and dancing and special story telling along the streets reflects the life and lifestyles of these Asian communities.

DISNEY INFORMATION:

General Information:
Phone: 407-824-4321
Internet: www.disneyworld.com

La Nouba ...Cirque du Soleil:
Downtown Disney West Side
Phone for tickets: 407-939-7600
        Or .. purchase from any Disney Resort, most area hotels or theater box office
Showtimes: Wednesdays-Saturdays ... 5:30pm & 8:30pm Sunday ... 2:30pm & 5:30pm Tickets: $56.50 plus tax for adults $45.20 plus tax for children ages 3-9 Valet parking is available

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© 1999 Alese & Morton Pechter
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