The operative phrase in Walt Disney World these days might as well be “good enough.” To judge by the ratio of working-to-broken effects on various attractions around the parks, “good enough” seems to sum up the attitude toward Show around here lately.
By no means is this list comprehensive, but here are a few observations from a very limited jog around the parks:
MuppetVision 3D (visited Friday evening)
Like last week, penguins still do not retract into the ground. This has a real effect on the 3D of the show; one gets dizzy easier with the penguins in the foreground. Also, the penguins are not programmed to move when they are supposed to be out of sight, so it’s distracting to see frozen penguins when the rest of the movie is blaring on
Has the Swedish Chef always appeared brandishing his large gun when Kermit first introduces him at the start of the movie? (if so, this isn’t a decline, but it seems weird)
The bubbles appear before Bean Bunny starts blowing bubbles (an admittedly small problem to have)
The “explosion” projections at the end of the show only show two panels instead of the whole theater – this is a weird decline but a real one. Also, the projections are crooked, and don’t really fit the real contours they are projected on to.
DCA also screens the Muppet film.
Fantasmic! (visited on Friday night, 10:30 show)
There were no fireworks in the first Mickey-controlling-falling-stars sequence
Mickey’s hand-held fireworks (end of the first sequence) did not ignite
No cannon fire – the big cannon did not fire to signal the start of the Pocahontas sequence
The four Indian canoes have two torches each, for a total of eight torches. Of those, only one was lit.
No Steamboat Willie pinwheels – the fireworks “aimed” downward.
Pirates of the Caribbean (visited Saturday afternoon)
No lightning flash on the skeleton-piloted boat (just before the drop) – one assumes they turned off the flash because the multiple holes in the ceiling showed through the flash in the prior scene – itself a bad problem
“Don’t be chicken!” girl’s broken arm – the animatronic’s arm and hand are supposed to be connected to the window shutter, but something was disconnected
Singing pirates (near the donkey) are BARELY moving their mouths
No disco ball lighting effects on final Jack in treasure room
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (visited Saturday night)
No waterfall at the top of the lifthill (the week before, the rainbow caverns lights were all off)
Still some missing railroad ties
Amazingly, some of the earthquake effects were working (one lamp shook, the shadow effects up ahead were working)
The Big Thunder experience in particular makes me wonder, tongue firmly in cheek, if THIS is what the future of “next gen” looks like – maybe they intentionally turn effects off and on so that every ride is different?!
Other stuff here and there contributed to the feeling that things were not really running at full capacity or with perfect upkeep. The Epcot monorail line was shut the night before (reportedly because Monorail Green was AGAIN having motor problems), but Green and the Epcot line were running the next day.
At It’s a Small World, I experienced an E-stop for the first time ever (they turn off the jets that propel everything forward), and the work lights came on. After the ride restarted, the work lights never turned off (we told the Coordinator at the exit, and he hastened to fix things). Only the Hall of Presidents, of all things, offered an unblemished attraction experience that day.
A missing rider in the finale scene carousel at Small World.
Put together, this list doesn’t call for anything extreme like a boycott. After all, effects will break—Disney parks have always offered technologically advanced things, and some times things won’t work. It’s hard to make thirteen clocks chime in unison, to quote Benjamin Franklin (or at least the American Adventure). I’m accustomed to that, and have been for more than twenty years. It’s to be expected that SOME things will be broken on every trip. But the number of broken effects seems larger now than I’ve been used to seeing, especially when compared to Disneyland. A great majority of the attractions I sampled on the weekend had at least some broken effects—this can’t be good news.
At what point does it cross the line? Surely there’s a camel somewhere, and a piece of straw that breaks his back. Hypothetically speaking, we all agree there IS a line—the only differences arise from locating exactly where that line is.
I’m not suggesting that the line has been crossed. I still enjoy going to Disney and visit every weekend not because I hate the place, but because it’s still good (and has potential to be even better). But when almost all of my attraction experiences in a weekend are below-par in one way or another (or three of four ways), I start to wonder.
The only unblemished attraction I saw in two half-days was the Hall of Presidents? Really?! On this weekend I also took in Muppets, Fantasmic, Presidents, Pirates, Small World, and Big Thunder, and they all had problems—that’s not a great batting average.
George Washington was “one of us.”
40x40 Meets – New Location (Again)
I’ve stopped promising that there won’t be more changes to this weekly celebration of MK’s 40th anniversary, because we keep changing our minds! The thirty or so regulars to this weekly meet clamored for roomier digs while we wait for our fellow Weekend Warriors to join us, so we’re moving yet again, this time to the indoor Train Station on Main Street. It’s air conditioned, out of the rain, roomy, and usually uncrowded. See you there on Saturdays at 2pm (at least until October 1). This next week is Space Mountain – join us if you can! (grab a FastPass in the morning, though, so we can ride at 3:00 or so). A note about scheduling: I can’t make the Aug 20 meet (Pirates of the Caribbean) but others will lead the meet in my absence!
Here’s this week’s slideshow of other WDW updates. As always, the bullet point list is below.
Even more A-frame signs warning about monorail closures one hour after park closing.
New signs on MK entry/exit tunnels, facing the exiting guests, with pointers to ferries, busses, monorails
Fantasyland construction chugging along
Small world dolls photograph well!
New sign up at Enchanted Tiki Room
Meet the Fairies are in Adventureland Verandah home (and out of Epcot)
Kaki-Gori stand has become Kabuki Café (same menu, with a few additions)
I was gone for a week to Brazil. What a fantastic country! I was particularly taken with Iguacu Falls (here’s a video I shot while on the catwalk at the base of the falls) and with the free-roaming capybaras (brief video) that you might remember from DAK as the world’s largest rodents. No real Disney connection here, but it’s hard not to gush.
Great Train Expo
Did you know there’s a traveling expo for model trains? The Great Train Expo (weblink) moves around the country, displaying model train setups large and small, and selling just about everything you can imagine associated with this activity. There’s an obvious Disney connection (it’s well established that without the model/home train hobby, Walt Disney would never have wanted a theme park), and in any event, model trains are just smaller versions of fully themed parks. There’s a pretty big overlap between Disney fans and railroad fans.
We visited the Central Florida location for this exhibit. It was $7/adult (kids under 12 are free). Verdict: this is mostly a vendor fair. They may advertise hundreds of model trains set up, but the reality is more like two dozen, most of them overlapping in a single display.
The big display – maybe a dozen interlocking courses? There’s a Disney monorail set nearby, too.
Meanwhile, there are a few dozen vendor booths, each selling train parts—it’s heaven for anyone actively building this stuff already (or is ready to start), but it’s over pretty quick for anyone who’s merely a lookie-loo.
One thing did catch my eye. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m at Disney too much. Is this coal tender not identical in shape to a Starspeeder? It’s so perfect, in fact, part of me wonders if they were inspired by such a model train car when they first dreamed up the Starspeeder.
The bump in the front middle even kind of looks like R2D2!
Here are some of the upcoming stops for the Great Train Expo (check their website for a complete list). Note the Tampa (8/13) and Anaheim (1/7) visits in particular:
Florida State Fairgrounds
San Jose, CA
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
Del Mar, CA
Del Mar Fairgrounds
Anaheim Convention Center
Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.
Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:
The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.
In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.
Also recently issued...
Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:
As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.
The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.
The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.
Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.
Also written by Kevin...
Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children's book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the
first authentic glimpse of what it's like to work at Disneyland.
The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their
menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo
Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free
for non-speakers of Japanese.
Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland
park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller
story on this place rich with details.
101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented
book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book,
namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides
101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World
follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages
in the four Disney World parks.
More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.