After dicking around on the ground for awhile, the ride climbs the lift and starts racing around the mountain. The section off the lift is really cool as is the reversing section but I think the thing that really surprised me the most was the backward section of the ride. It's REALLY disorienting and intense for a Disney ride. For a second there I had a serious case of vertigo. Eventually though, we dipped into the scene where the mummy rips up the track and you drop into what's actually a really solid coaster (Disney or otherwise) and end by flying past a Yeti that (let's be honest) is super cool and I don't give a single sh*t if it doesn't move. THAT's what people have been bitching about for a decade? You're moving so fast it hardly matters anyway. Come on...
I totally agree that the backward section of this ride is pushing the envelope of Disney ride intensity - it's extremely disorienting, to the point that many people think it goes upside-down.
I will say though that if you'd experienced the ride prior to Disco Yeti you would be sad he's not animated any longer, seriously, that huge arm swooping down on you and a blast of air feeling like his fingers were just inches away from the top of your head, it was amazeballs.
Your take on WDW parks is totally spot on and I'm very impressed how much of the theming you were able to take in on such a quick trip, especially AK which has so many layers it's taken me years to actually notice a great majority of it. I've spent afternoons there just looking for weird out-of-the-way cool stuff that didn't have to be there and is nowhere near a path or anywhere most guests travel and yet Disney throws a ton of money and time just to add to the atmosphere. I even love Chester and Hester's area, but can totally understand why most people have no clue why Disney plopped some cheap-o amusement attractions in the middle of an old parking lot.
Oh, and you were smart to skip Figment. Better to remember him as he was rather than the seriously unfunny and un-entertaining shell he has become.