Beware the Duffy Bear…

In lieu of a “Sundays are for Book Reviews” post, I thought I’d answer the burning question from yesterday’s post. (I know some of you were waiting on pins and needles for the answer!) Did we actually miss the Extra Magic Hours at Epcot?

Yes. Yes, we did.

As if our exhaustion and Ana’s “need to die” comments weren’t enough incentive to sleep in, we woke up to a whole lot of rain and decided that we would get there just a little later than planned. The Gains went on without us, with plans to meet up for lunch. By the time we took off with Gram and Gramps, the rain was coming in spurts and stops, and we spent the worst of it riding Soarin’ and enjoying a little breakfast. Ana and Emma tried to walk on to the former and were turned away for being too short, which is why they got the latter. (A cinnamon roll and chocolate milk will console even the most distraught “I too LITTLE for that ride!” Emmy.) The adults took turns riding, then Gramps and Wes headed to Test Track while Gram and I took the girls to the Nemo ride and Turtle Talk with Crush. I’m not sure what the thrill is with that turtle saying “dude” a million times in five minutes, but the girls really ate it up this year. To each his own, I guess.

When we came back out, the clouds were gone, and it was warming up. Hooray! We met up with the guys, then made our way to the World Showcase, where we rode the Three Caballero ride in the Mexico pavilion. THIS, friends, is Ana’s ride. She and Emma both love Panchito, Jose, and Donald, but Ana goes to Walt Disney World just to see Mexico Donald.

In the slightly altered words of an old country song, he is her only need. Oh, yes, he is.

From there, we moved to an entirely different continent (hello!), where we came face to face with this frightening character…

Norway has never been quite so terrifying!

The Gains were there to meet us for our lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, a first for the Faulk family. Akershus is a princess dinner, where a whole slew of princesses will come by and meet you at your table. (Is “slew of princesses” a good description?) I’m not sure how much eating our girls did as they spent the majority of their time getting autographs and parading around the restaurant with Snow White. So much fun!

As it turns out, the Gains had finished up at the World Showcase and were heading to Future World, and we had finished up Future World and were heading to the World Showcase. So, after a group picture…

…we went on our way, with Gram and Gramps going back with the Gains. Ana and Emma quickly fell asleep in their strollers (meeting princesses is EXHAUSTING), so we enjoyed a slow stroll through the countries and were planning an exit out of the park when we ran into HIM.

Be afraid, y’all. Be very, very afraid.

You may remember that our girls were having a hard time meeting big fur characters on this trip. Even beloved Mexico Donald and Chef Mickey were a stretch for Ana (and Emma just dismissed them entirely), so we were breezing on by this giant bear when Ana woke up and WANTED TO SEE DUFFY BEAR.

Who is Duffy Bear? He is Disney’s most brilliant marketing plan yet. (And they’ve had a few!) Duffy Bear is the official Ambassador of the World Showcase at Epcot, and as such, children visiting the different countries are given free Duffy Bear signs to color, are given the opportunity to get their picture taken with Duffy Bear, and (you guessed it!) are given incentive to drag naive parents into one of hundreds of shops where Duffy Bears of all sizes can be purchased, along with entire wardrobes of Duffy Bear clothing. Did such blatant marketing work on the Faulkettes?

You bet it did.

(To be fair, when Ana ran up to Duffy Bear after running away from so many other fur characters at WDW, Wes was prepared to buy the entire Duffy Bear line of products. So, I guess it’s safer to say that the marketing worked on US.)

After meeting Duffy, Ana wanted to get a Duffy Bear sign, so we asked at one of the shops, and the very friendly cast member told us that we could find them back at the World Showcase. We trekked back up there, expecting to just pick up a Duffy sign and go on our merry way, but when Ana went in the Mexico pavilion to get one, they stamped the stick handle for her. This inspired her to get “ALL the stamps, Papi!” so we were off to see the World Showcase… again.

Emma woke up somewhere around Japan and was surprised to find that she also had a Duffy Bear sign, full of stamps from places she can’t remember. That’s okay, though, because she was born in the real Japan and can’t remember that either. (One of the cast members told us that Okinawa is “the basement” of Japan. I sadly remembered this yesterday, when it seems the distance from the mainland kept Okinawa from feeling the catastrophic effects of the earthquake and tsunami that were experienced farther north. Japan is far larger than most people think.)

Here’s Emma, paying tribute to the Land of the Rising Sun by waving her Duffy Bear sign around…

Before we left, Ana managed to convince us to ride the Three Caballeros one more time, then we were on the monorail headed towards Magic Kingdom. We rode Peter Pan, Philharmagic (a major Emmy favorite this year), and (yes) Small World before it was time for the fireworks and our dinner reservations at the Plaza restaurant.

The Plaza is one of those restaurants that was never high on our list. They serve mainly sandwiches and lighter foods, and we never thought the restaurant had an interesting theme like so many of the others. Because our reservation in Downtown Disney the previous night had been cancelled due to Wes not feeling well, we had an extra table service credit left on our dining plan, and the Plaza was one of the few places in all of WDW that could still fit us in. So, we decided to give it a try. And I’m SO glad we did! We checked in right as this amazing laser light show was starting at the castle, so while we waited to be called in, we were able to stand in a great viewing location to watch it. Then, as soon as we were inside the restaurant, the fireworks started, and we had a perfect spot for viewing them. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, and even the “lighter” food variety was still way too much to eat. We will definitely be visiting the Plaza restaurant in the future! I finished off dinner with the best chocolate milkshake I think I’ve ever had (the Plaza shares space with an ice cream shop), Emma enjoyed milk and cookies, and Ana had the Mickeylodeon. The Mickeylodeon turned out to be a big ice cream cone decorated like Mickey Mouse, and five minutes into it, Ana started yelling, “OWWW!!! MY BRAIN!!!” There you have it — our first brain freeze happened at the most magical place on Earth. Ahh, memories…

We posed for one last picture on Main Street then headed back to the hotel…

At this point, while laying out clothes for the next day, I realized that I hadn’t packed enough shirts for the girls. Oops! Oh, well, I was just one shirt short for each of them, sooo… you’ll see the same Mickey Mouse shirts in tomorrow’s pictures, too! (We can’t get it right all the time, y’all.)

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