NASCAR SPORTS GRILLE – End of the road

Wow, Universal aren’t taking their foot off the gas!

As they transform CityWalk into a much more polished dining and entertainment centre, they appear to be taking every necessary step to ensure that visitors check into the ever growing list of resort hotels in Orlando.

The new Sapphire Falls Resort is due to open in the Summer of 2016, and Universal want it’s guests to spend as much time as possible ‘on property’.
Although Walt Disney World has the space, the magic and a fabulous RFID Magicband system to help you spend spend spend, Universal have made the most of their ‘enabling constraint!’

Space, the final frontier for Universal Studios, is the thing that holds them back the most, but the clever people at Universal Boulevard, don’t let it hold them back.
Instead, Universal seems to be benefiting from its compact nature, meaning that the parks are easier to meander around and get between and the resort hotels are only a short stroll away from all of the fun.

CW_v_full_NASCAR_02_tcm13-6406We’ve seen the demise of awful places like Pastamore and an increase in better quality and better value restaurants during 2014.
The iconic NASCAR SPORTS GRILLE looks set to pull into the pit lane on November 1st.
Maybe, just like a NASCAR car, it’s just a bit too much over the top for the mainstream guests at Universal and no matter how impressive it all is, it’s time for something more practical.

It will be interesting to see what comes in its place, or indeed if more competitors will retire this next season!


The End Of Popular Acts – Just The Beginning For More!

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 17.56.42

On Sept 28th, Disney’s webpage for Epcot entertainment shows removed images and links for the recent cuts from their entertainment program.

This week saw the tearful goodbyes for some of Epcot’s most popular acts.
Mo’Rockin, Spirit Of America Fife & Drum Corps, Off Kilter and the Uk’s World Showcase Players.

Always sad to lose some old favorites, but generally speaking, as per my previous post, when it comes to nostalgia, I think we’ve got to learn to ‘Let it Go!’ more than ever before as WDW shows some major signs of a cultural change brewing ahead.

The loss of acts like this are a clue that the small things are changing, The Studio Backlot Tour and Maelstrom’s closure shows us that the medium things are changing, but let’s hope some of the big stuff like Avatar will bring a whole new dimension to WDW!

Goodbye to Traditional Walt Disney World?

1973 Cinderella CastleWalt was a great advocate of nostalgia.
Just do a little research on the sleepy railroad town of Marceline, Missouri and you no doubt recognise that the very essence of the town is what made Walt’s nostalgia a signature within his work.

Walt kindly appreciated that we all love, in fact; need nostalgia.

Over the years, as a Disney fan, Disney parent, and now a Disney blogger, I often wonder, what every true Disney fan wonders;

What would Walt make of Disney World right now?

The problem is of course, nobody could possibly answer that, but we are all too willing to second guess it, by saying that he would be disgusted!

Pricing is a huge contemporary topic and I’m sure that I read somewhere that Walt wanted every ordinary person to be able to afford to visit Disneyland.
Well the truth is, that back then in 1955, admission was a whopping $1 ($0.50 for kids), plus 10c to 35c per ride.
Let’s say the total per adult was $2.50 and a kid would be $1.50, and a family of four would be laying out a cool $8 per day, without food.
Back then, with an average household income of $4800 per year, that $8 was a hefty portion of weekly income.  (8.6%)

In 2013, the average household income was around $52k.
With 1 day tickets for a family of four rumbling in at around $400, the percentage of an average weekly wage bursts the dial at an eye watering 40%.
Sure, we can argue that people stay longer than a day and get more benefit from doing so, but the simple truth, is; for a long time now, WDW has been far from the grasp of the average American family.

Would Walt be disgusted?  Yes, he would, but he might also have recognised that the hi-tech entertainment industry was changing quickly and his ideologies would inevitably be compromised if Disney were to survive.

And what about those theme parks, that appear to be changing their identity?
The Magic Kingdom selling alcohol, Animal Kingdom taking on the non animal themed Avatar, and EPCOT seemingly turning its back on its cultural heritage in favor of a fictitious Arendelle setting for Frozen.
Would he have let the vikings of Norway’s Maelstrom be taken siege by two adorable princesses?
We do know that Walt was a big fan of appealing to the dreams and hopes of the younger Disney fans, and that of course is where Frozen ticks all of the boxes.  A great story of good over evil, magic, enchantment and a beautiful scoreline!
That is more like Walt Disney’s dream, than an air conditioned boat ride floating past oil rigs and animatronic trolls isn’t it?

There might not be enough going on in WDW to satisfy many nervous fans like me, and we may be losing some age old favorite attractions, but so far, despite my rantings and frustrations, Walt Disney World is still a pretty magical place to be.
The opposition is closing faster than Disney would like, but Universal’s challenge is a bit like riding Peter Pan’s galleon to the moon!

It’s a difficult journey and there’s a long long way to go!

Universal’s September Annual Pass Offer


Sometimes you just have to laugh out loud!
So, today, September 18th 2014, Universal Orlando’s official blog announces;

Throughout the entire month of September, Universal Orlando annual passholders will enjoy additional benefits

Why on earth would you wait until the month is almost 60% over before you announce a Month long offer on your official blog?  The answer I guess is, that business in September has been surprisingly slower than usual.

The summer rush for Diagon Alley is long gone, the US kids are back at school and the Brits are being fined £100 per child if they take term time for vacations.
What’s more, the uncertainty of the Diagon Alley opening date, will have forced a lot of potential guests to push back their travel arrangements towards the back end of 2014 and possibly into 2015.

Tricky thing running a theme park, but bad PR might have cost Universal some tickets in 2014.  It won’t hurt them in the long run though!

In case you were wondering, those September Annual Pass benefits include;

  • Early Park Admission to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, one hour before the theme park opens weekdays throughout September.
  • Stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort starting at just $69 per night.  These Passholder-only special rates offer savings of up to $85 per night.
  • Enjoy Wet ‘n Wild on weekdays from Wednesday, September 3 through Friday, September 26 for just $19.99 per day.
  • Experience the Blue Man Group for $49 for adults and $29 for children at 4:00 pm every Sunday in September.
  • Halloween Horror Nights 24 Passholder Nights: September 19, 20, 26 & 27 from 5:15 pm – 6:30 pm. Enjoy early access to Halloween Horror Nights plus exclusive access to three designated haunted houses as well as the first showing of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.
  • Save $6 on a refillable Souvenir Cup. Just ask for the Passholder special at Louie’s Italian Restaurant, Monsters Cafe, Mel’s Drive-in or Richter’s Burger Company.
  • Get a FREE CityWalk PartyPass for one Passholder and a guest throughout September.
  • AMC Universal Cineplex 20 with IMAX: Save $1.75 each on up to 5 matinee movie tickets.
  • Bob Marley–A Tribute to Freedom: Buy one adult entrée and get 50% off a second.
  • Pat O’Brien’s: Buy one adult entrée and get 50% off a second.
  • Red Coconut Club: Buy one, get one free martinis.
  • Dippin Dots carts: Receive 25% off at CityWalk locations.

Universal Going for a Top Spot in Orlando’s Attendances?

As Disney continue to sluggishly work ‘Frozen’ into its Orlando theme parks, Universal are already showing sign of leaping up from their corner for round 2.

Spirited by the hugely successful Diagon Alley attraction and ‘retail-tainment’ area, the CEO of Universal’s parent company is already hinting that there’s a lot more on its way as he addressed a room full of analysts last week.
With a new hotel just opened and another about to start construction, Universal can’t be accused of being lazy as it takes on Disney in the ‘Big Fight for Orlando’s top slot.

As I’ve written before, and other bloggers seem to agree, the chances of them doing just that might not be as far fetched as it seems!
King Kong will be here soon at Islands of Adventure, and rumours of more big developments over at Universal Studios makes even the most dedicated of Disney fans wondering if the WDW team needs a big shake up.

There’s plenty in the Disney pipeline, but the trouble is, that everything is still less than 50% complete and the projects are quite hefty to start with.  Nothing really new will appear inside the next 18 months.
Unless you of course count the Maelstrom makeover as a new attraction (I won’t be!).

The current Disney execs would do well to consider one of Walt’s famous quotes;

I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it!

Dead Bad Marketing Idea – Haunted Mansion Gift Shop

Memento Mori

Sounds good eh?  Kind of rolls off the tongue and has a lovely Italian feel to it.
Memento Mori even uses that age old charm of Alliteration (the use of the same letter in words of a phrase).
The word Memento is used in modern cultural terms as a reference towards gifts or souvenirs and Mori sounds quite like More.  Italianesque for more gifts, this is subliminal marketing at its very best!
The Disney retail and marketing people really did their homework on the new name for the new Haunted Mansion gift shop that will open in the New Year of 2015. Or did they?

Good old Google satisfied my fascination for the origins to the phrase Memento Mori.
I never did latin at school, but my paltry understanding was just enough to recognise that the new store’s name was hiding something.
Something really rather unDisney like!

Memento Mori translates effectively into: ‘remember (that you have) to die’

Has the Disney marketing team been hacked?
What on earth would possess people in the care of my Disney dreams to dream up such a fiendish nightmare?
Are they serious about this?  They want me to feel good about remembering that I, the father of three hopeful and innocent(ish) kids, will at some not too distant future be dead?


Sure, the Haunted Mansion is fun and creepy, but seriously WTF?
Why on earth is the idiot who agreed to this, working at the most Magical Place On Earth?

Apple Pay Keeps The Nervous Away!

downloadAs a dedicated early adopter of all things Apple, two adults and three kids have amassed a small heap of shiny Apple things over the past decade or more.
I had a Mac, before the arrival of iPods, I’ve made calendars for family and friends in iPhoto, and I work, edit and relax listening to music thanks to over 20 Airport Express devices scattered around the house.

This summer however, I announced to gasping friends, that this was indeed my last ever iPhone.

Sick and tired of replacing ridiculously vulnerable screens, not receiving calls that mysteriously switch to VM, even though I can see the phone, and it has 4 spots of reception out of a possible 5.

My next adventure with cellular technology will probably be the next version of the Nokia 1020 camera phone.  I want a great camera phone, and that is the way forward for my work blogging for another site.

The Apple Pay announcement this week is a little bit of a curve ball though. Dammit.
I hate handing my credit cards to people and I’ve thousands of good reasons why!
One nasty visit in Orlando left me a few grand down when I checked by statements.
It seems so normal to hand a waitress or waiter a credit card, then they disappear from view after doing ‘who knows’.

Apple Pay, is much more than a gimmick, and Disney are already in the game with Magicbands.  Believe me, Apple Pay is going to really cause some big changes to the way we spend, and that’s not just in the theme parks!

Apple have a battle though, convincing sceptics will be near impossible, and quite probably limited to the younger 50% of iPhone owners.  Concerns about privacy, security and account management are all valid.

Security and convenience are a big trade-off, but I will put my Near Field Communication transaction on them getting it right first time!