We ventured into our first Disney Park the following morning – Animal Kingdom
. It is a park filled with a fantastic collection of exotic animals, Broadway-caliber shows and an array of rides and experiences.
We really loved the Wild Safari ride – it was like we were in Animal Planet! We were lucky enough to get the truck that got stuck behind a giraffe and then a kudu fighting an ostrich.
I knew we weren’t on an true African safari – but I was eager to employ the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
At the beginning of the day, Gavin ran into Molay, an artisan in the African section of the park. Disney prides itself on the authenticity of their craftsmen. Gavin peppered him with questions about the tool he was using, what other tools he uses, where he gets them, how he sharpens them, who taught him to use them and does he know when he sees a piece of wood what it will be. He was a talented artist with the patience of a saint.
He told Gavin how he sees animals in the wood before he starts – this wood was clearly a crocodile. He told us how he came to work at Disney. Gavin insisted on coming back to his stand every time we were in the vicinity, which did get a little frustrating, because really what he wanted to do was stay there, in front of Molay, until the crocodile was done. But there was other stuff to be done.
We saw two shows that were really amazing. One was an abbreviated version of Nemo that the family enjoyed immensely. The scale and detail Disney employs is spectacular.
The Lion King Show was a great production. We were seated front row, center and Mikey was chosen to participate. I wish I got better pictures, but to see Mikey shaking his little instrument and just loving it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been told that is a ‘Disney Moment’!
Disney treats Guests with Disabilities extraordinarily well. Guest Services issued us an assistance card at the beginning of our stay that allowed our family certain accommodations. One of the benefits was not waiting in lines. We were ushered to the front of each and every line. On some of the longer lines, we were brought through the ‘FastPass’ gate which usually meant we waited a total of 5-10 minutes. For our family, this makes an unbelievable difference. We simply would have missed most of the park if not for this generous benefit. Due to Ethan’s autism, he is unpredictable and easily overwhelmed. If things don’t go his way, his coping mechanisms are not good (have you seen Rain Man?) If we were required to wait in a line for 60 minutes, it would be completely plausible to have waited for 45 minutes only to have him freak out and demand to be taken out of the line – I know, we’ve had very hard things happen in other venues. He would have missed everything and his brothers certainly would have paid the price.
Knowing that Disney would extend us such courtesies to us helped make the decision to go and spend the kind of money that we did. Believe me when I say it would have been an impossible trip without the extra help. We were even given priority viewing areas for the parades – I felt like a movie star.
At the end of the day, with not a moment to spare, Gavin ran through the park to meet up with Molay – he found him locking up and leaving. He told Gavin that he was worried that he was not coming back. But in the end, Gavin was the proud owner of a beautifully carved crocodile and had a wonderful experience with the artist – I really think it is a souvenir that will remain dear to him.
It was exciting, fun and a bit stressful. I have heard from people that you have to ‘learn’ to ‘do Disney’! Yikes, this was probably the trip of a lifetime and we had to learn on the fly. A little bickering never hurt The Costellos.
“I don’t like formal gardens. I like wild nature. It’s just the wilderness instinct in me, I guess.”
In Case you missed Part 1