Clear Skies Over Disney’s Theme Parks!

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Soon you may see more than bubbles and balloons over the Magic Kingdom!

The Orlando Sentinel occasionally has a very newsworthy article scattered amongst the standard press releases from the park operators in Orlando.
This one, really caught my eye this week; “No fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny“.

If you’ve ever wondered why the deep blue skies over the Magic Kingdom were free from helicopters, light aircraft and those comically stupid looking banner towing aircraft, you are now a little wiser after reading the article (or continuing here for an easier to read summary!).

Since 2003, Walt Disney World and Disneyland were granted no-fly zones above their property, much in the same way that certain special events such as air shows and other major events are granted clear skies.  Disney however appears to be rather unique in being granted the privilege on a permanent basis.

The official line from Disney is;

We believe the airspace restrictions over large gathering places like sports stadiums and our theme parks continue to make sense for enhancing public safety,” Cathi Killian – Disney

While that may be partly true, it is interesting that Universal, just a few miles north, is not granted the same privilege!  Or, to be more precise, the workers and guests who visit Universal aren’t protected by these self same security measures.
Some observers believe that the reason has much more to do with those pesky banner towing aircraft, of which over 100 went out of business since the restrictions were imposed.

Keep Disney’s No-Fly Zone Restrictions!

While Disney may have motives beyond public safety, I can’t thank them enough for tackling another form of SPAM!
Unwanted junk mail arrives via our internet connections, through our physical mailboxes, fax machines, and even under our wind shields in our grocery store parking lots.
If one organization has the power to give me and my family a SPAM free day at Walt Disney World, then I am all for that!

Long live common sense, no matter how much it is disguised under safety!

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Are Disney Scaling Back Animal Interactions?

WDWmagic.com mentioned yesterday that they ‘thought’ that Disney might not re-introduce the Shark Reef at their gorgeous Typhoon Lagoon water park when it re-opens after its current rehab in January.
WDW Theme parks went one step further and claimed that the sea water snorkelling section with sharks, would indeed be no more in 2015.  At the moment, it is however pure speculation, but I can’t help but think that such respectable publications wouldn’t go down this route without some belief in the rumour sources.

The question on my mind isn’t so much as why this is happening, but more along the lines of ‘when will it stop’.

After a truly dreadful few years for SeaWorld, attention hasn’t faded since the release of Blackfish.  Irrespective of my personal beliefs about animal captivity, or their value as a public awareness device etc, I can only describe Blackfish as a battle between two groups that are ‘managing the public’.
I don’t want SeaWorld to keep telling me how kind they are.  I can make my own mind up about that thanks.
I don’t want PETA to keep telling me about animal cruelty in the parks, I can make my own mind about that too.
What I, like most other civilized people want, is more transparency, more care and better education for our kids.  That, might mean compromizes, but not lies.

But what about Disney?  What about the Shark Reef?
Forgive me for revisiting Blackfish.  But the link is probably much deeper than any of us care to imagine!
PETA have already had a go at Disney about the Animal Kingdom Park and it’s probably safe to say that Disney Execs will not let the ‘Brand Assassination’ that SeaWorld have suffered, affect Walt Disney World and much more.
One of my favorite AK sites, also thinks along the same lines.  Disney are a much better target to go after, and no doubt, the plans are in place to pressurize Disney into realigning its business model.

I hope not.

I’d prefer for Disney to keep doing what they do well, which is entertain and educate.
I think they excel at that over in the Animal Kingdom, but I fear that no matter what they do, PETA will go for them, right down to the very last fish in the Seven Seas Lagoon that has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during the Wishes firework display.

So, removing fish from the Shark Reef pools, surrounding by excited kids snorkelling, might just be the very first step towards an ‘animal interaction’ free Walt Disney World.
Hmmm, this seems so wrong.  Good luck Disney.

Made With Magic – After Some Time

Made With Magic Merchandize

Glow With The Show ears promised lots, but barely glimmered this year at WDW.
Instead of showing a swathe of color, the few people in the night time viewing areas kind of stood out for all the wrong reasons.

Rather like those radio controlled buckets that Plankton used in SpongeBob Squarepants, the highly sophisticated mouse ears, light up at every wireless command that Disney sends your way.  The ears worked well whenever large groups assembled in shows like Fantasmic, but at 25 bucks a pop, you’d be surprised how many (or how very few) actually bought them.
In the end, Glow With The Show was for me, the biggest disappointment of 2014.
I wanted to see a sea of LED color whenever I watched Wishes, but instead, I saw a few hundred or so scattered around the park at best on most days.  That might sound like a lot x$25, but it’s definitely not enough to create the visual wow factor that Disney were looking for.

But now Disney have worked out a solution that just might work.
Sadly it does not include any free giveaways, which would really do the trick, but at least guests can now see the effects of what they are buying, instead of the LEDs being completely out of sight on top of their heads!  (Mickey LED Ears were a FAIL Disney!)

Wands, Minnie Headbands and Mickey Gloves join those cute Glow With The Show Mickey Ears, along with a rebranded name ‘Made With Magic’.

For more on this story, visit Touringplans article by Riikki Niblett

High Traffic Attractions at WDW Will Cause Frustration!

toy-story-mania-gallery00Totalorlando.com reported that Toy Story Midway Mania is already testing over October without the use of a regular Standby entrance.  It will join the ‘Be Our Guest Restaurant’ and Anna & Elsa character greet in effectively eliminating the opportunity to just breeze by and step inside.

When Magicbands first appeared, worried vacationers expressed concerns that the spontaneity of their time in WDW world would be spoiled by Magicbands etc.
Last year Bob Eiger promised that the ability for guests to be spontaneous would be unaffected.

I would like to invite Bob Eiger to arrive through the gates, and accompany any first time visitor, who’s never even heard of Fastpass+ to see their sheer disappointment after spending $100 for a day pass to access attractions and restaurants that are practically unavailable!

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!

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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!