As problematic as some of the maintenance issues at Walt Disney World have been lately, the place still has a bazillion things going right here on a daily basis. Fifty million tourists can’t be wrong, right?
I’m especially delighted that we just had one of the last truly “low season” weeks. The weekend after Labor Day is often uncrowded, and this year was no exception. Grab a FastPass for Soarin’ at 4:00 and have it come due before an entire hour goes by? Unheard of! And yet it happened both Saturday and Sunday. It’s a marvelous time to visit.
Adding to the joy is the fact that, like always, Walt Disney World is in a constant state of refurbishment and reinvention. It was hard to cram all the various updates into a video short enough to feel like it was still succinct! See below for that litany of updates.
The Florida Project
The big Disney Pins trading event was this past weekend. I didn’t pay the $100+ to get access on the first two days; I gather you can score good items here? I’m not that kind of collector, though, so I’m always content to wander by on the last day, which has public hours in the afternoon. This year there was a Vinylmation component, too.
World Showplace: always great to visit, if only because it’s so seldom open.
In case you thought maybe the Disney Pin Trading phenomenon was dying down (I was kind of wondering that myself), let me assure you that things were hopping at the event when we dropped by! The vendor booths had healthy interest, the trading tables were jam-packed, and the Disney-organized pin boards had (small) lines in them.
These are some of the most dedicated fans in the Disney universe.
Mostly I was gawking at the temporary displays they had up. There was a mockup of a 20,000 Leagues submarine (well, most of one) near the beginning.
Looks good in this low lighting.
Fake (and custom-build) facades dotted one wall behind the trading posts, taking the form of the Haunted Mansion, Toad Hall, Dwarves’ Mine, Contemporary, Polynesian, and Fort Wilderness (the original hotel options).
Mr. Toad vehicles!
But forget the facades – there were a few actual attraction vehicles. The Snow White cars were angled as though about to enter the mine… and they had the same thing set up at Toad Hall! That’s right, they dragged out old Toad cars. In the center of the showroom, not really attached to a larger display, was an old Skyway bucket as well. I really wish they’d use old attraction vehicles. That was easily the best part of the Rocket Rods at Disneyland: it used old attraction vehicles in the queue. Couldn’t they deposit some of these vehicles in a display somewhere? How about that recently-closed Narnia exhibit at DHS?
Facades all along the side wall.
There was merchandise for sale, too, in the form of lots and lots of pins. I’m not really a collector (I think I said that already) so I wasn’t that interested in the limited edition merchandise (though I probably would have been if this were Disneyland merchandise).
The icon that interests me the most at WDW is the Orange Bird, and they traded heavily on his recognizable form for this event. There was an Orange Bird statue for photo ops, and the faux attraction facades had hidden Orange Birds on them. It was the right touch for the history-minded visitors, and a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary in some fashion.
They should have more and more Orange Bird merchandise.
I desperately hope the actual 40th birthday (Saturday Oct 1) will have more to it than this. I will be very disheartened if this pin event, as nice as it was, is all there is going to be for the 40th anniversary.
Monorails After Hours
I was curious to see what would happen with the private party Night of Joy event this past Saturday. It was the first “hard ticket” event to occur after the new policy of not running monorails deep into the evening. One hour after park closing and that was it!
My curiosity mounted as I watched busload after busload, tramful after tramful, and monorail after monorail of people poured into the park starting at 4pm. It was going to be CROWDED that night! Would there be a revolt?
Turns out they ran the monorails deep into the night. Translation: the new “stated” policy of not running monorails is the official policy, but they currently have an unspoken (unwritten) intention to run the monorails after all when the park is busy.
Further translation: the upcoming Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween parties will have monorail service on Friday and Saturday nights, but not Tuesday or other midweek --probably. They can change their mind whenever they want. The official policy is “no monorail.” Anything else is gravy. That way, the only surprise is on the upside. (Well, for those who knew to expect the new policy, anyway).
The Final Frontier
A traveling exhibit of Star Trek props and replica sets has just ended a run at Kennedy Space Center. What better marriage of attractions is there? Real space and space fiction. It’s no coincidence that the real astronauts drew inspiration from the TV show and named the first prototype space shuttle the Enterprise. This traveling exhibit may show up in your neighborhood eventually, so I thought to include a review.
Kennedy Space Center: in need of a boost, lacking any shuttle launches.
There’s basically two exhibits: one dedicated to The Original Series, the other to Next Generation. The Original Series one has a replica Guardian gateway and several costumes, plus a few artifacts, but I had eyes for only one thing: the replica bridge of the Enterprise.
All it needed was sound effects.
The set photographs extremely well, and you can sit in the captain’s chair! (that’s not a prop used by Shatner—I saw the real one two decades ago at a comic book store in Irvine, and it had signatures all over it).
I wonder if we can borrow this set to film some YouTube masterpieces?
It was a real treat. This was housed in a side wing of the Imax building.
The Next Gen exhibit was in a building near the bus tour departure (I think it’s typically used for short-term exhibits). Here you’ll find a moderately-interesting Engineering set, a not-convincing Klingon commander’s chair, and a very odd Sickbay set. The supposed Worf figure here looked like all the Gelfling essence had been sucked out of him.
Only part of Engineering is accessible – you can see the low glass railing.
There are more props and costumes, and I realized here that most of these must have been replicas, since only a few were labeled as production items. I also really liked the timeline along one wall, putting all of the various Star Trek series and movies into one cohesive, and picture-laden, narrative.
Set course for the other exhibit. Engage!
The “Star Trek Live” show was at Kennedy before the traveling exhibit. It pretends the audience is the first-ever class of Starfleet cadets, and a time traveling Vulcan steps in to stop a Romulan threat. The show is, uh, not very good. The actors try hard, but it’s cheese of the first order, and it doesn’t help that everyone’s character acts in ways that don’t really capture how they should. Poor writing, most likely.
Vulcans aren’t supposed to so obviously strike a pose.
Weekly Walt Disney World
All are welcome to join our Facebook group dedicated to meetups every weekend in Walt Disney World. If you’re local, or even if you are willing to take a brief break in your upcoming vacation, plan to hook up with us! Newcomers are very welcome!
Slideshow Update #10
The slideshow below is longer than usual – it’s been three crazy weeks since I’ve had time to assemble this – but I’ve done the customary step of adding descriptions below the video, for those of you who can’t see YouTube updates. (For those of you about to watch the video, don’t peek at the bullet points! They would be “spoilers”.)
New shade structures for the tram lines have been added to TTC.
Torch-holding statue atop tiki bar is missing. No fires here either.
Much of the overgrowth near BTMRR is cleared; you can see the totem poles again
Pumpkins and Halloween decorations dominate Main Street
Mansion's bypass queue has a NEW sign explaining the options
Fantasyland has little visible progress
Lunching Pad, Swiss Family Tree House are on refurbishment
BTMRR has a new misting effect at the top of the first upramp that replaces the cascading water -- the mist effect is AWESOME and makes the ride very mysterious
BTMRR missing the spinning possums atop the branch at the town
BTMRR geysers in exit walkways still are turned off
Keyboxes appeared in Adventureland for the upcoming Sorcerers game (similar to Epcot's Kim Possible)
Innoventions: Don't Waste It exhibit behind walls, new show to focus on diet and called Habit Heroes.
Food and Wine construction now visible
Kim Possible Experience has new signs
Kabuki Café replaces Kaki Gori in Japan (same menu, essentially). Yakitori House at the top of the hill closed for rehab; food and wine booth for Japan is out early as a result, selling sushi.
Test Track has a new car paint job on one vehicle; it's blue and includes a Chevy logo.
"Assembly line" video behind Test Track robots in post-show is still turned off. It's been years now!
Main Epcot info board (which has had bad lights out) is now behind walls
Innoventions West has lost the open seating area that was once Rockin Robots -- now the whole thing is backstage (there's a permanent wall there).
The kids crawl house in Where's the Fire is behind walls
The free ride your own Segway experience is no more, but the structure remains as a home base for their tours they sell
No more mention of NASA on the final plants in Living with the Land. End of sponsorship?
New Legacy Award recipients (400 in this first year) wear a special blue nametag. This replaces the annual Spirit Award.
The Narnia walkthrough at DSH was scheduled to close this weekend
Signs on Osceola Blvd near All Stars are still a mess a week later.
New menu items at Electric Umbrella (spicy bean flatbread), Cosmic Ray's (pizzaburger), Pecos Bill (Angus Cheeseburger), FairFax Fare near Fantasmic (gourmet hot dogs with weird flavors)
Leu Gardens photo tour
Polynesian resort has many branded items!
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.