Friday, April 27, 2007
Being the Adventure of Jud as a seat filler...
for more photos see http://webshots.com/user/djh004
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail informing me of an upcoming opportunity to once again be rewarded for my mere presence. Those of you who have followed the Continuing Adventures of Jud may recall that back in April of 2006, I was one of hundreds of people making up the crowd for the filming of America's Funniest Home Videos at the Magic Kingdom. Same deal here, only this time the filming was for the Disney Channel Games, DC Games, at the Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. This would take place over three days, two shifts each day and I promptly responded and signed up for the morning shifts for all three days. The reward, as before, was a park ticket for each shift.
I passed on word to my fellow local fans and several of them also got in on it.
As I was trying to work out my plans to arrive on time for my morning shift, it suddenly dawned on me- d'oh- that I should have taken the afternoon shift on the first day! It was already 11:30 the night before, but I took a chance and e-mailed the person in charge and at first got an auto response stating it was all full- and then a while later got a personal mail saying I could switch! Halleluiah! This saved so much hassle!
So Tuesday morning, I calmly got up, packed and headed out with plenty of time to spare. I arrived on location at about 1:30, just in time for check in and got my wristband. Scooted on up and through security on my ECV and headed in.
The overall event was a lot of hurry up and wait. We, the crowd, were needed for background in shots that took time to set up. So we would often wait for two hours or so, and then be called to a certain section of the stands or area of the outfield when they were ready to shoot- and shoot and shoot. It might look live, but it is re-take after re-take after re-take! When I arrived, only five hours into the three-day shoot, they were already two hours behind schedule! But, sitting, shaded, outside, beautiful weather, and earning park tickets!
During the first day, I ran into fellow MFL members, Tammy and her daughter Britnee. Again, those who follow may remember they were part of "Jud's Harem" in a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom. We chatted a bit and they went off to find husband Duke, and I tracked them down later to show them the Wendy Poncho (see blog entry below) that I had brought hoping desperately for rain and a chance to show it off. We spent a lot of time together throughout the day off and on, one section or another. This actually helped me, because I had no idea who the players were! It turns out that the games were not for "kids" as I thought, but was actually a fun competition amongst the stars of the various Disney Channel TV shows. But, I knew none of them! Britnee and Tammy, and even Duke, filled me in. And the various outbursts of girlish screaming informed me as to when any of them appeared.
Though there were no formal autograph sessions, a lot of it did go on as the fans crowded the edges of the seating areas where the stars went in and out. There were a couple who really showed their understanding of the value of their fans as they directly ignored their "handlers" and stopped to sign what they could and even pose when they could. A couple played to the crowd between takes, which certainly upped their stock. Cory of “Cory in the House” stood out in that group. He was pretty much always willing to ham it up for the crowd and draw them into it. He well might have understood, for the “talent” had to do as much “hurry up and wait” as we did.
Every now and then I would scoot outside to have a cigarette, or to get some other view. Photography was prohibited, so that usual activity was curtailed- though I did see a lot of other cameras working- some covert, some not so much.
Near the end of the first day, the final set was the dunk tank. They were setting up to film the intro by the hosts, with them naturally playing on it. One was getting into position so they could set the lights and cameras, and suddenly the platform gave way and in he went! The other host turned to the crowd held up his arms with the ball still in his hand and exclaimed, "I'm that good!"
At 7, I headed out, though filming was still ongoing- or rather more set up for more filming. Tammy said later that they stayed until the end, which turned out to be about 8:30. Having quickly learned what "a few minutes" actually meant when the announcer used the phrase, I didn't bother to wait those "few minutes". I checked out at the seat-fillers tent and got my first park ticket.
I had decided I would take this opportunity of being at WDW to see Meet The Robinson’s in 3D, something that was available at the AMC 24 at DownTown Disney and hadn't been in my local theater. (You may remember my earlier review of the film.) I also decided to stop at McDonald’s at DTD and get the Grilled Chicken Salad, something I can eat safely, and enjoy. Well, when I got to DTD, it was absolutely mobbed! Wall-to-wall people- hard to even move through the crowd! Nevertheless, I hopefully headed to McD's only to see a line that looked like Splash Mountain at high noon! I passed on by.
I scooted over to West Side and checked the times at the AMC 24 for Robinson’s and having just missed a start (and not realizing that there was near half an hour of previews before the movie itself actually started) I noted the next showing was at 9:30. The price was a bit steep: the movie was $9, but the 3D movie was $11. So I moseyed around the area a bit and thought about it. I went down to the waterfront and enjoyed the calm and emptiness and the water and the view and then decided to go ahead and splurge on the movie- had to see this remarkable new 3D technology. I did have an AMC movie card and it turned out that that got me $2 off, so that was a happy surprise. I went in early, the show still an hour away, and scooted about checking out the movie posters for upcoming shows. Saw a couple of interest, including one big surprise, and shot pictures of them. Then back outside for a smoke and a few more shots, then back in and grabbed my special 3D glasses for the movie.
The glasses you get for this new 3D are a bit fancier than the usual and look like 50's type frames. Not good for anything other than viewing the 3D movie technology they are using here, but good for multiple viewings- I wonder if you save the $2 if you have your own pair? And I wonder how long before Disney marketeers decide to theme each pair to the movie they are for: the previews did announce the soon to be re-released Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D, so this is going to happen. Snow White in 3D? Hmmm…
But on to the show!
I am very happy to report that the second viewing of this movie did settle a couple of things for me. First, the animation truly does suck! It is not only not good, it is bad- bad enough that it is subtly distracting. They have not learned how to make people move yet. It is flat out wrong! But it is close enough that it is not readily apparent, so it is a hidden irritant that detracts from the experience. If Mickey Mouse had ever moved this badly, he would never have made a second film.
Now what was interesting, is that once I spotted and confirmed that flaw, I was able to let it go and just watch the movie- or the movie suddenly got better at that point- I suspect the former as the more likely scenario. In any case I must say that this movie is much better than I originally thought. And it is not the 3D: that is fine, but really does nothing for this movie- other than show that they can do it. But the movie is better on the second viewing and might even be good, maybe even real good. Parts that before had seemed needlessly additive, now at the very least, fit in better; and some scenes, like at the dinner table actually became quite interesting and entertaining. By the time it finished, I was even feeling a bit uplifted! Very glad I gave it a second viewing.
After the show, it was near midnight and I headed back to my van, loaded the scooter and headed over to Wal-Mart for the night. I went in and got a bag of ice for my cooler, a bag of salad for my tummy and a "bag" of tuna fish. I like those new packages that it comes in- just the right size! A Hershey bar for desert. A short time later I was laying down set to go to sleep when my tooth started aching. A piece had broken off a molar about two weeks ago and now it decided to start aching. It grew and spread and became intense enough to prevent my sleeping, so about two hours later I headed back into Wal-Mart for some Ora-gel. That took care of it enough to get to sleep.
Was up at 7, a bit more Ora-gel on the still hurting tooth and off down the road, Stopped at the McDonald's across from Old Town for a cuppa tea, and headed into the WWS complex for day two. The previous day someone had told me they had done both shifts, so I decided that a second shift- second ticket- was better than sitting who knows where all afternoon for nothing, so I asked if I could do the afternoon shift too. Alas, it was all booked up! So I headed in and prepared to wait through another day. A bit later, it dawned on me that there were bound to be some no-shows, so I went back to check in and asked if I could be on stand-by to replace a no-show if it happened. The lady manning the booth at the time agreed and made note, and a few hours later, I ran into the in-charge out in the field and she told me that she had put me down for the second shift. Yippee! Now I would be getting four park tickets! One for each park! Glorious!
Same thing day two as the first day, waiting for set-ups, moving from section to section to out in the outfield, wherever they needed people in the background. Boring! But again, boring with reward! I did learn that there was another group of extras there, yellow wristbands- as opposed to our purple- and they were being paid. They were also on the actual playing fields, surrounding the field. A bit of inquiry and it turned out these were "professionals", chosen for appearance and age, and some of them were sooo pretty- and the girls were nice too... and they were getting $100 bucks a day. Well, sounded good- but wait: I was getting a park ticket for half a day- that's a retail value of about $68... I like my deal better! They were putting in near 12 hours for $100, and I was getting a $68 ticket for 5? Ya. And actually, in less than one of their shifts, I was doing two and getting two tickets!
Again, the production crew ran late, events ran late, wait times elongated, and every now and then we clapped and screamed on cue. We could hear nothing of what was actually going on so were totally dependant on the stage manager to cue us as to when to react and how. It will be interesting to see how this all edits together. We could see ourselves- in general- on the big screens at the pitcher’s mound, and I can tell you that no one is going to be recognizable in any of those scenes. There was a second cameraman walking the crowd, so it is possible that some people will be identifiable in some of the cutaway shots.
During one segment when I was out in the outfield, one of the field managers told people not to take pictures during filming. Huh? My attention turned up: this was a change! I went down and asked him if I could shoot when they weren't filming and he said yes! Yippee! But later, another such person said no cameras at all- never mind the ones going off all around me- so this was clearly a gray area. So I did get a couple of shots, but was very limited in my shooting and didn't shoot anything that could be questionable- I think! Just tried to get the general overview of the event.
Again, filming continued past 7, but I was out of there, and decided to head up to Universal, hoping it was open still, and figuring on a movie at CityWalk if it wasn’t. It was closed when I got there, had closed at 7, so I checked the movie board and noticed much to my surprise that Fractured was playing- the new movie with Anthony Hopkins! I went in! It was very well done, though the story is not that original, and a few of us figured it out long before we were supposed to- but just watching this guy- and everyone else- was quite enjoyable. It is a very well made movie, just a bit predictable- but that is not really what it is all about: it is about the character and that was most excellently done!
After the movie, I cruised CityWalk for a bit, just to relax and enjoy the space, and down near the center, the water jets were still running. For those of you who don’t know, at CityWalk, as in many of the theme parks, there is an area set aside laced with small holes in the pavement, through which jets of water randomly spurt! It is a great attraction to the kids, especially the little ones, and though it was quite late, there was one adorable toddler, maybe 2, boldly exploring this great mystery! Though the crowd at this hour was sparse, there were maybe a dozen of us who had gathered around just to watch this little boy delight as he awkwardly ran in and out of the danger zone. At one point, as must be, he was standing directly over a spout when it went off. He seemed puzzled by it, and not to have any idea that it was related to the waterspouts he was so intent on trying to grab. And wet pants didn't seem to faze him in the least. After some considerable time, his parents recovered him, much to his protest and that was the end of the show. I headed out too and back to park for the night, tooth no longer a problem, and slept well.
Up at 8:30 and straight off to my third and final day at WWS. More of the same with a couple of notable exceptions. During the first segment, we were in the stands, section 114, and there was a pretty redheaded lady in front of me. It is quite common at these things to chat with others, and I got to chatting with her. She was here for this shift only, and asked me about some things, and also asked me a bit about the parks, trying to decide which park she would use her one ticket at. As we explored this a bit, it became apparent why this free ticket was so important to her and her kids- who were filling the row in front of her- all 10! Yes, 10! And all clearly hers! Redheads all, and beautiful all! Ranging obviously across the age spectrum- no twins- this was done the hard way- one at a time. So, you've got to figure, for her and her husband to take the kids to the park- that is about 780 bucks a shot! Whew!
Later I went to the info booth and got her a set of park maps and told her that if one had only one day, that the clear and only choice was the Magic Kingdom. I also gave her some advice on which rides, given the spectrum of ages she was dealing with, and advice on getting on them without waiting forever in line! (Timing is everything!)
Also on day three, at one point, for the first time, my group was addressed specifically (by wristband color) and called down to actually go out on the field! We were to be the "crowd" for the soccer tournament! Though it meant being on my feet, I decided to give it a shot, and fortunately, the games were very short- maybe ten minutes, if that? And I was positioned just off the "50" yard line, and a lot of play took place near me so I should be clearly visible in the show. Before the match, the production crew was checking the crowd for appearance. Ladies in low cut shirts were given a T-shirt to put on, as was anyone wearing a shirt with an unacceptable logo. Much to my surprise (and delight!) my Disney themed T was not okay- different divisions I was told humorously by a bystander- and I was given a T-shirt!
I was there for the two preliminary matches, but by that time, I had exceeded my "standing" time and headed back for my scooter. As I did, the in-charge of our group expressed delight seeing me come off saying now she could send in another to replace me and they could get a turn, so it worked out well. She also told me I could leave at that point, even though it was another hour to shift end. I did stay to watch the final match and then left.
With four tickets.