Gingerbread at WDW

December 10, 2009

One of my favorite things to do at WDW during the holidays is to go around to the different resorts and see the various gingerbread displays. From the actual gingerbread house inside the Grand Floridian to the smaller displays at the other resorts, it is always fun to see what the chefs at WDW come up with each year. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the gingerbread carousel at the Beach Club Resort. This kinetic display always it at the top of my list of “must sees” when we go at Christmas time. I love looking for the hidden Mickey’s and seeing the gallant horses as they rotate. This year there is the addition of Chip and Dale’s treehouse that also rotates.

This has given us a great idea for this year. Years ago we did a “Pool Hopping” tour and went around to all the pools to test them out. (It was a tie between Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian for best pool.) This year, since we are going to be there for New Year’s instead of Christmas and it is going to be crazy crowded, we are going to tour the different resorts again, but this time we are going to document the gingerbread displays. (As well as any other cool Christmas displays like the train layout at the Yacht Club Resort.)

The gingerbread at WDW is a great tradition and I hope that there is always gingerbread displays to see each year. One point though, I never buy the gingerbread – it just is not that tasty in my opinion. Of course I am used to eating my great-great grandmother’s gingerbread recipe, so I am a bit biased.

Sum of All Thrills

December 4, 2009

Sum of All Thrills is a new attraction/exhibit in Innoventions at EPCOT.   It appears to be very similar to Cyber Space Mountain at DisneyQuest, but it does have some different twists in that you can choose between a roller coaster, bobsled, or jet.

I am very excited to try this out when I journey to WDW in January.   I like the fact that there is now an attraction/exhibit in Innoventions that has repeat value.  I know that I will want to try out all three different “vehicles.”  I also like the fact that you will be able to see your riding partner in a small picture-in-picture in your video screen, that should add an interesting aspect to the ride.   Also the use of the KUKA arms has peaked my interest.  I think that Raytheon (the sponsor) will also get a lot of exposure since this will be a popular attraction if the lines at Cyber Space Mountain are any indication of the projected success of Sum of All Thrills.

My only concern is capacity.  Optimistically the ride can accommodate 190 guests an hour.  That is not very high.  I am hoping that the if the attraction is a huge success that additional arms (there are currently four) will be added.

But on the whole I am excited to see a very interesting and provocative attraction/exhibit going into the rather dull and sedate Innoventions.  Hopefully this will be the trend of the future for this area of EPCOT.

Space Mountain Rehab

November 28, 2009

So a major icon of the Magic Kingdom is going to go down for a really long 11 month, much needed rehab.  The public is given tantalizing details about adding the sound system similar to the  Space Mountain in Disneyland and the rebuilding of the tracks – maybe, just maybe making the two tracks into one really long ride.  Well worth the wait in my opinion – take all the time you need!  Space Mountain at WDW is WAY overdue for this rehab.

Then, we get the sad news, it was just a slight cosmetic rehab.  The mountain was down for all that time and all we got was a slightly darker ride, updated queue with some interactive games that are affecting loading, and an updated exit area.  Right.  And we all know that it is going to be at least 10 years before the next rehab.

I am so disappointed.  I would have gladly waited longer to ride Space Mountain with all the promised goodies (sound system and new track).  But I will have to settle for a cosmetic update that while it is “nice” is somehow not as satisfying after the let down of not getting what we were promised.

Lights of Winter at EPCOT

November 24, 2009

It is official, the Lights of Winter (LoW) will not be returning to EPCOT this year.  The company’s official line is that the technology is too old and that guests want something new. On the November 11th Orlando Sentinel’s website announcing the retirement of the LoW, 46 pages of complaints were generated – so many that the Sentinel “closed” the article to posters.

I think it is a shame that the Lights of Winter are being pulled. It is very difficult to decorate EPCOT for the holidays. When you look out over World Showcase – it is very difficult to tell the park is decorated – it is so huge that the park just swallows the decorations. The Lights of Winter (along with the tree) were the only two visual elements that actually let you know from a distance that it was holiday time at EPCOT, especially at night. Now there will just be the tree which will look lost.

I can understand wanting to do something different and I can understand wanting a “waiting period” before introducing a new show or attraction, to reduce the comparison factor, BUT, I do think that a new temporary holiday show/attraction could have been introduced somewhere else in the park to bridge the gap.

While I know that the “account-tineers” have taken over Disney as a rule, they need to realize that if their apparent greediness is so transparent to the public that eventually this will hurt the bottom line – oh wait – Disney bean counters are only interested in the here and now not the long term – WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Captain EO

November 21, 2009

So, evidently when Michael Jackson died, the Disney Company was going to bring back Captain EO “in tribute” to MJ.  It was all scheduled.  In fact in the lobby of the currently rehabilitating Mr. Lincoln attraction, there is a display all about Captain EO.  But guest do not get to see it, it is draped with a black velvet cloth.

Once the word got out that MJ died not due to natural causes but due to his doctor alledgedly injecting MJ with lethal cocktails, the Disney Company backed off.  The plans for the Captain EO revival are now on the shelf.  The lawyers are nervous!

You know, the Disney Company should not have tried to capitalize on MJ’s death in the first place, so now they wouldn’t be in the position of backpedaling when guests and reporters question when will we see Captain EO again.  Tacky tacky tacky!

Starbucks at Disneyland could be in the near future.  I think this is great and I don’t even drink coffee, actually I detest the stuff.

Since the beginning of Disneyland there have always been corporate sponsors, that is how Walt got his park built.  Over the last couple of decades though, the cachet of being a Disney corporate sponsor has waned and with marketing budgets tightening, there just have not been as many corporations chomping at the bit to be a sponsor at any of the Disney Parks.

Well, in the works right now is a deal that would bring Starbucks into Disneyland.  There would be a trimmed down menu Starbucks on Main Street and Starbucks coffee would become the “official” coffee of all the Disney restaurants and drink outlets.  I was not a a fan of the McDonald’s partnership and I was glad when that went away.  The whole fries cart idea was stupid and since Disney could not bring the fries into every restaurant, it was silly at best.  I do think this partnership will work.  Why? because Starbucks is concerned about the Disney cast members making the coffee to Starbuck standards.  Only if Starbucks can put in safeguards to ensure that Disney cast members are properly trained to be baristas, will the deal go through.  I think this is priceless.  I think this deal will raise the standards a bit at Disneyland and hopefully lead the way to further corporate sponsorships.  Also, it will improve the coffee at Disneyland, which I understand stinks.

I hope this deal will lead the way for Starbucks into all of the Disney parks, domestic and foreign.

The marketing department at Disneyland is out of control and is eventually going to cause the demise of the park.  Dire and drastic words, but I think that they could come true.

Disneyland park is unique in many ways, it was Walt’s park, it is small and intimate, and it has some of the best attractions and shows.  But the key word here is small.  It is also landlocked.  Unlike Walt Disney World (WDW), there is no where to go.

The marketing department, I am sure under orders to increase the bottom line by the bean counters that have taken over the company, have devised way after way to entice guest into the park.  What they don’t realize is that there is a maximum number.  The park can only handle so many people.  As indicated by the recent park closures during HalloweenTimes have shown, the park gets to capacity quickly.  And what is going to happen when DCA gets its rehab and the World of Color opens.  Now you have two SMALL parks that are drawing attendance instead of one.

First the parking situation is intolerable.  If the guest is already ticked off because it took forever to find a parking spot and then they had to pay an exorbitant fee for it. (Okay so it may not be high in California, but here in Texas that is extortion what they charge to park.) So now the guest is a bit irritated.  Then they get to to the gate and find out that the park is “closed” due to capacity.  How long is the wait?  Could be several hours.  Now the guest is really ticked off.

Meanwhile, back in the cast member parking lot, the number of spaces has been reduced.  Cast members are struggling to find a parking spot and then get on the overcrowded shuttles to get to their shift on time so they do not get written up.  The cast members are now stressed and irritated – yes that invites good guest service.

So now the really irritated guest finally gets into the park, finds out that the ride times are astronomical, the FastPasses are all gone, and you can barely move.  Now that guest meets up with cast members who are equally frazzled.  This is not a good combination.  I doubt there will be much Disney “magic” going on.  So is this guest going to return to the nightmare that is Disneyland?  Disneyland is not the only game in town, and at some point the guests are going to get fed up with it and either decide to spend their tourist dollars elsewhere (if Disney is lucky, they will go to WDW) or decide to skip Disney all together.  Either way, the critical mass point is coming – it is a matter of “when” not “if.”

And yet, the marketing department continues to create new and exciting events to draw more and more guest to their doors.  I for one am not “buying” it.  After reading and researching this, it will be a long time before I visit Disneyland again.  I don’t want the headaches when I am on vacation.  I have so many other vacationing options, why put myself in a stressful and crowded situation that makes it impossible to have a good time?

I hope the someone wakes up soon at the Disneyland and realizes that parking, traffic, crowding, and other issues need to be addressed before they try to attract yet more guests.  I’m not holding my breath.

Disneyland has created their own problem.  With all of the promotions going on, the crowds at Disneyland have created a huge parking problem.  First of all the now parking solution was based on a time when the number of Annual Passholders was under 100,000 and the majority of their attendance was based on non-local guests, who would park their car or come in by shuttle.  Now the number of Annual Passholders numbers over 850,000 and many of them just want to stop by for a few hours before going home.

Thinking that one parking structure would solve all of their parking needs for years to come was incredibly naive at best.  Plus how did they arrive at 4 people per vehicle.  At the most I would have predicted 2.5.

Thanks goodness Disney’s California Adventure (DCA) was a dog of a park.  If WestCOT had been built instead, the locals would have wanted to hang out there with all the restaurants and shopping and then the parking situation would have been much worse.  Now, even though the parking fiasco is bad, Disney has a little bit of time to rectify the problem.  But are they taking the necessary steps?  Yes they have bought some land north of the Pumbaa lot and plans are in the works for a larger parking structure to be built, but is this going to be too little too late?  I think with what the marketing department is doing and planning, it will be.

More on this in my next post.

Bay Lake Towers

November 4, 2009

The new Bay Lake Towers, the newest Disney Vacation Club Resort, has just recently opened its doors.  From the reviews I have been reading, the views are spectacular and the closeness to the Magic Kingdom is greatly enjoyed by those who stay there.  But I have to say, after going through the models of the rooms, I found the decor to be cold and clinical at best.  The whole concept of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) was to have a vacation HOME.  I really love the rooms at Old Key West, the Villas at Wilderness Lodge, and the Beach Club Villas.  When we first bought in 1992, the one bedroom at Old Key West was nicer than the apartment we lived in here in Dallas – certainly the neighborhood was nicer.  we always felt like we were coming home when we stayed there.  I was very excited when I heard the news that a new DVC property was being built adjacent to the Contemporary Resort.  A DVC property on the monorail, at last!!!  I carefully watched the news and while we were there last year, I couldn’t wait to view the models of the rooms.  We were all poised to purchase additional points.  Then we saw the models.  It was like modern decor hell.  the Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms were much more homey. Also the point chart for Bay Lake Towers was outrageous.

So, while I do plan on staying at the Bay Lake Towers (in the very lowest season) and I know I will enjoy the views and the monorail convenience, I will not be buying any points there anytime soon.  I would rather get my points at the Beach Club Villas.

Disney buys Marvel Comics

October 30, 2009

So, I know this is a bit of old news, but on August 31, 2009, it was announced that Disney would be buying Marvel Comics.  Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to digest the news, here is my take on it.

First of all, I think it will be a boon to Marvel Comics.  Disney has a lot of money and far-reaching platforms in which to promote the Marvel characters.  There also has been some talk of John Lasseter becoming involved with Marvel films – this could be really exciting.

I do not think that Universal Studios Florida will be affected much by Disney’s acquisition of Marvel.  Universal terminated their contract with marvel in 2007 and now just license a few of the characters for a few of their parks.  Plus Universal’s two new parks do not contain any Marvel Characters.  Eventually, just like Disney slowly has had to phase out the MGM characters out of the Studios Theme Park, Marvel will eventually phase out the few licensed characters they have attractions for and go with other characters.

My only concern is that Disney will make the fatal mistake of bringing the Marvel Characters into the existing Disney theme parks.  There had been talk at one time, many years ago, of creating a fifth park at WDW that would contain only thrill rides (this was appeal to teenagers and roller coaster enthusiasts.)  This fifth “gate” would be the perfect location for the Marvel Characters in my opinion.

Lastly, a lot of the negative response from Marvel fans is not entirely unwarranted.  Disney already ignores the Disney fan, seeing them as “nut cases.”  What will Disney make of marvel Comic fans who can be just as avid if not more so than Disney fans?  Will Disney be sensitive to Marvel fan’s opinions?  If Disney’s track record is any indication, I doubt it.