The Contemporary Resort was one of the first hotels built for the opening of Walt Disney World back in 1971, offering a sleek futurist design and feel, greeting guests with a cutting edge environment of vacation living. And nothing signals the still-burning flame of ultramodern accommodations quite like hearing the synth-chirpy theme to “St. Elsewhere” upon entrance into the main lobby. The future! Now the Contemporary is more of a museum for Disney’s once incredible ambition for Florida, beautifully designed and brilliantly positioned on property -- the last of its kind. It’s a glorious behemoth of a hotel, with a mammoth sun-drenched atrium housing a collection of shops and restaurants, making it worth a visit just to bop around, staring at the cash-heavy opulence of it all. The occasional interior monorail appearance is a nice touch, as are the various birds that have slipped into the building, giving the day a suspenseful “will I or won’t I be crapped on” build.
Upon arrival, guests are pushed to line up in front of a Chef Mickey statue for a photograph, which seems like such a friendly, welcoming idea until it’s explained that, of course, the snapshot is available for purchase after the meal. I guess draining the piggy bank just to buy a plate here doesn’t entitle a guest to a free 4x6 glossy.
Disney: Checking Your Pockets for Loose Change Since 1923.
I’ve become fascinated with costumed characters in recent years, imagining what life must be like wrapped inside a sweltering cartoon exterior, bound by rigid Disney rules that require you to jettison every last human instinct to play make-believe for a pushy horde of demanding brutes. Also, it’s cheap thrill to speculate on the sex of the cast member inside the costumes. Traditionally, most of the male performers offer me a firm handshake or a pat on the back, while the females tend to innocently caress and hug. It’s lead to a few confusing moments, once where Chip blew a few kisses my way; another time had Lilo extending the glad hand to me. Don’t ask, don’t tell. These brightly colored, sweat-stained heroes don’t get paid nearly enough.
The jewel of the morning was the Mickey waffle, which to the common man might not seem like such a big deal. Obviously it’s just a scrumptious waffle, but it’s in the shape of Mickey’s head! Find that in Austin, Texas, you blasted hipsters. It’s a tasty treat, with added entertainment value emerging from the opportunity to chomp gleefully on mouse cranium, indulging the inner Lecter.
Between bites comes the big show, with numerous Disney characters (dressed in chef outfits) flooding the floor, basking in the glow of their fame. That’s the reason to seek out a character dining experience: the sense of surprise. Once the kids spot their favorites, it’s a whirlwind of excitement, infant terror, and hilarious conversation, nicely complimenting the dining event for those able to withstand periodic moments of excited squealing and the occasional birthday celebration, which brings out the wait staff and the characters to sing and whip around (used) napkins.
I enjoyed my time at Chef Mickey’s more than I was expecting. One doesn’t go for the culinary gymnastics, but more for the playful ambiance, and perhaps the chance to get a surprise picture with Mickey himself while rocking a mouthful of eggs.
More pictures (click to huge-o-size)...