Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Planning Your Next Trip to Disney?

Every time Disney holds a new celebration, I get antsy. Why? Because that means that Disney is going to be putting out their next planning video!!! I love the planning videos, as they give you that touch of Disney when you aren't really there.

However, if you're planning your next trip to Disney or are thinking about possibly asking for a new DVD to add to your collection, don't bother. If you already have the Year of a Million Dreams one, you've got the What Will You Celebrate version already. There's a few minor differences, of course...basically the fact that Disney's included those Mickey shaped balloons mixed in with the clouds and they have included some video of the new attractions that have opened recently...but otherwise, it is the EXACT same video they've had for the past two years.

So, why does this bum me out? Because, I think Disney can do much better with the planning videos than they have been lately. I have proof in my own Disney Planning Video DVD collection. All too often, Disney's Planning DVD's are simply obvious marketing ploys to convince people to come down to Disney. They try to entice people simply by showing them all the pretty rides. "Ooh...look pretty rides!!! You and your family must come down to ride them." And sure, that's all fine and dandy. But I want a little more substance...something that actually shares information that's worth knowing. Because everybody knows how cool Space Mountain is...but not everybody knows other aspects that are just as important in having a successful vacation.

So, which planning video am I talking about? Which one has the best information included in it's 60 minutes of footage? Ironically enough, it's the one that was the most debated (and often hated) on Disney forums and that's the Happiest Celebration on Earth video. This is the one with Erin, Dave (the bench guy) Stacey (the kid expert) and Luke (the thrill-seeker).

To me, this was the MOST comprehensive video Disney has every produced because it showed so much more than just the pretty popular rides. (Which sure, it did that too.) It showed what stuff would be good for families, what stuff would be good for those who were looking for the thrills, what stuff Disney had to offer for those looking to relax a bit, and the stuff that was brand new to the Disney property. Plus, it showed tons of other random things that many people (and by this I mean your average tourist) would miss because they had no idea that it even existed.

The biggest perk about that planning video was that they also offered up explanations of what things like Fastpass and Extra Magic Hours were and they talked about the Disney transportation. They also even mentioned Magical Express, which was a brand new service at the time.

But these are all things that constantly need to be explained to newbies and it just surprises me that Disney chooses only to market their rides, (albeit...I know this is is a big reason why people come to visit) when they should be marketing some of the services that are offered that also makes Disney, Disney.

Explanations of the stuff described above, explanations of the dining plans, what on earth ADRs are and that you NEED to have them, explanations of recreation stuff really is available, etc. There are tons of stuff that Disney could market that doesn't just include the rides. And yet, these things are consistently left off planning videos, time and time again.

This was simply the best video for the average tourist as it actually taught them something, instead of just pushed tons of rides at them...ooh...pretty. And, it was also enjoyable (for those who could get past the Luke character's exuberance for thrills) for the Disney geek too. Because it really felt as if you were going on vacation with these characters. You felt connected to them. You cared about what they did and where they went and were interested in learning more because you could possibly see yourself in one of the characters portrayed.

So, come on can do something way different than what you've been putting out there recently. I know because I've seen you do it. Don't just put out only fluff in your planning videos. Put in the meat and potatoes...because that stuff makes a huge difference in the experience that people walk away with, way more than you think it does. And because of that the average tourist should be just as aware of what the Haunted Mansion is as well as they should know how Fastpass works and that it is indeed payment necessary. All these aspects help to make up a vacation and they all should have equal bearing in a planning video.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

News & Rumors 1/19/09 - 1/25/09

News and Rumors are gathered from various different websites. One particular website is not favored over another. All rumors are rumors and are to be taken with a grain of salt.

  • The Concourse Sundries and Spirits in the Contemporary has closed and will be replaced by Fantasia Market. This new location will offer more food offerings, in preparation for the new Bay Lake Towers.
  • Tricaratop Spin is currently down for refurb and will be down through Feb. 6.
  • Restaurantosaurus will be down for refurb starting March 3 - March 12.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat will be refurbed from Feb. 19 - Feb. 28.
  • The feature pool at Port Orleans Riverside will be refurbed from Feb. 2 - Feb 28.
  • Disney's Online check-in service has been pushed back a little. Rumors are now reporting it to be starting Feb. 1. This new service will allow you to check in online up to 10 days before your check in date. A packet will be available and waiting for you when you get to the hotel.
  • The Walt Disney Company is apparently feeling some tough times too. Disney announced that they are offering a buyout to 600 executives in the theme park and resorts division. All have until Feb. 6 to decide. If not enough people take the buyout, there may be some additional layoffs.
  • The Golden Oaks Outpost is now open! Menu offerings include: Chicken Nuggets, Fried Chicken Breast sandwich, a Vegetarian Flat Bread Wrap, Fries, and bottled drinks.
  • The Outer Rim bar at the Contemporary has been reopened after a refurb, in the same place where it was located.
  • Chef Mickey's is currently being refurbed, however, it will remain open through the refurb, as it is being fixed up in sections.

  • It's been rumored that the Stitch in the Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration will be like the characters that are found in Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor or Turtle Talk. Stitch will be part of the living character initiative.
  • Apparently, work may not be as halted as we thought on the new Monster's Inc family coaster that is supposed to be built in Soundstage One at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Survey teams were spotted there within the past week.
  • The Buy 4 Get 7 offer which was supposed to expire on Jan 24 should be extended until March 2009.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No More 180 Days

If you're like most Disney fans, you knew before that you could call 180 days in advance to set up dining reservations for your upcoming trips. And you called at 7:00 am the morning of. Well, many of you now know this is no longer the case as Disney has been instituting some changes in this policy, now cutting it down from 180 days to 90 days once again.

It really shouldn't come as a surprise to people that Disney made this change. They had apparently been playing around with it while they are trying to iron out their new ADR reservations system, making the ADR time frame 90 days before. I guess it worked for them, because now, it would appear that it will be sticking.

To me, I love this idea. I'm a Disney planner, but I always had a lot of trouble with the idea of picking out where I want to eat six months from now. I have trouble knowing what I'm doing this weekend (honestly, I have virtually no plans and it's Thursday. I only have 2 days to go) on earth am I gonna know what I want to do six months from now.

Before, you always had to do such research, way in advance to figure out the park hours and extra magic hours and figure out what park you're going to be in, all six months ahead of time. And what if something changed from they ended up changing the park hours or canceling a performance of something that you really wanted to see for that night...because we were six months out, there was always that probability. Of course, I did it like everyone else though, I wanted to be able to get into the restaurants that I wanted to eat at while on vacation.

However, at 90 days out, at least Disney had a pretty good hold on what was going to be happening 3 months from then. They aren't going to be changing a whole lot on you with 3 months to go. Because of that, you can plan a lot easier.

And, what if you were planning a last minute trip. I know I've planned a trip 3 months out or less. If I wanted to eat at a sit down restaurant, it was all but impossible to actually get into a restaurant that late in the game before.

It also helps out those who live in the Orlando area. Sure, they still might not be able to plan where they're eating that far in advance, but at least it isn't pertinent for them to know 180 days that they want to eat somewhere on property now. 90 days at least seems more doable.

My biggest reason for liking this 90 day window idea is that it is now fair for everyone. It is fair for the townies, it is fair for the last minute traveller, it is fair for the super planner, and you know who else it is fair for? The non-Disney expert. Because trust me...they are out there. We all run into them all the time. The ones who thing that Disney World is the Magic Kingdom and that Spaceship Earth is a big golf ball. The ones who have no real experience with Disney, but have been planning this trip for their families.

Now, (if they've done some research...and usually these people research heavy in the beginning and then ease up a bit and then hit it a bit harder around 3 months before their trips) have a better shot of actually getting to eat at a restaurant, as the spots won't all be taken by those who've called 180 days and earlier ahead of time. Sure, there will still be those who have no idea that that's how the system works, but I think it will at least be a tiny bit fairer for all involved.

My last reason for really liking the 180 day window being cut down to 90 days is the fact that I think this will really cut down on the number of people (those uber planners again) who make a ressie at a bunch of places and then decide to just show up where they are on that day. At 180 days out, it was easier to do this, as usually the plans were a little more up in the air. But with the window being 90 days again now, I think this is a lot less of a possibility. (Although, it will always be something that happens. When talking with Pam from the show who was at Disney over the holidays, she heard that 50% of the ADRS that were scheduled on Christmas had been left empty. People just didn't show up and didn't cancel. This is a flaw I find inexcusable, but that's another topic for another time.)

I think that Disney made a very smart idea in changing the window time frame though. It allows them and us both less headaches and that's always a good thing. So get to dialing...but whatever you do...don't do it before 90 days. Oh...and try not to take up all the ressies...I want in on some too! :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

News & Rumors 1/12/09 - 1/18/09

News and Rumors are gathered from various different websites. One particular website is not favored over another. All rumors are rumors and are to be taken with a grain of salt.

  • The American Idol Experience is currently in soft openings.
  • Kim Possible has also been seeing some soft openings.
  • The Sonny Eclipse show at Cosmic Ray's is currently down. It will be refurbed until Jan. 31.
  • Most of the walls at the Golden Oaks Outpost are down. Signage is also now up, but the restaurant has not opened yet.


  • The show Dream Along with Mickey has been down for refurb this month and it appears that the reopen date may be pushed back to Jan. 25.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

AIE...Turns Out It May Be A OK

Cast member previews of Disney's newest attraction...the American Idol Experience have been taking place recently...and wouldn't you know it...some of that nay saying might have been premature.

From a good portion of the reviews I've heard, American Idol Experience has delightfully surprised quite a few CMs, including some who thought originally, it would be a complete train wreck.

They say the stage looks great, the theater is top notch, the lighting effects are incredible...and how could it not be? It was designed by the same guy who designed the actual set for American Idol.

A lot of them are also saying that it does have a repeatability factor, since you'll be seeing different performers each time. I have heard that the show is, of course, dependent on how good the actual singers are that have auditioned...much like the real American Idol. (Remember a few seasons ago with that who Sanjaya nonsense. I couldn't watch that season. Of course, you may get to see someone who's like Carrie Underwood or Chris Daughtry too...just never know.)

The other thing that I'm hearing the most about this new addition though, is that it really gives the whole Studio aspect back to Hollywood Studios. This show is put together as if you are watching a recording of the real American Idol TV show. And, well, anything that gives the feeling of the whole studios aspect back to this park is sorely needed.

And this is why I frown upon being a naysayer before people actually experience attractions. So often now, as soon as people hear about a new attraction or rehab the first thing they do is throw stones at it. Oh, it's going to be horrible...why on earth would they build that...that has nothing to do with the theme park it's going into...etc. I heard more people complaining about this sole attraction being built than I had in a long time. Usually there's one or two people who will post talking about how they like the concept, but for this one...all I heard was the negative.

As for me...I'm always the optimist. I will give an attraction their full justice and judge it based on my own opinions...not what others think about it. As for American Idol Experience, I've always thought it was a unique idea. It was an attraction that was being built for a park that sorely needed it and it fit the theme of the Studios relatively well. I guess it doesn't hurt that I'm a fan of American Idol. (I watched it tonight, in fact. Off topic: Wouldn't it be cool, next year to be watching Idol and seeing a person you saw singing in Disney World? Before they became famous!)

So, I'm looking forward to getting my first experience with AIE. And I'll be getting it sooner that not. I get to see the attraction during the Annual Passholder Previews...which I'm very excited about. It's my first time getting an AP preview, so it's very cool to me that I'll have some insider knowledge about this attraction before others do. And trust me. I plan on giving a full report of my experiences during an upcoming episode of the podcast, so be on a listen for that!

So, my advice, give the attraction a chance. You never may just end up surprising you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

News & Rumors 1/5/09 - 1/11/09

News and Rumors are gathered from various different websites. One particular website is not favored over another. All rumors are rumors and are to be taken with a grain of salt.


  • The dates for this year's Star Wars Weekends have been announced. This year, the Weekends will run from May 22 - June 14. '
  • Those who are in the military are getting a special perk from Disney. Active and retired Military personnel, including members of the U.S. Coast Guard and activated members of the National Guard or Reservists, may obtain a complimentary 5 Day Disney's Armed Force Salute Ticket (a 5 Day Base Ticket with Park Hopper and the Water Park & More options). Additional tickets (the same type) may be purchased for guests (up to 5) for $99 plus tax (Park Hopper and the Water Park & More Options will be an additional $25). These tickets will be valid through Dec. 23, 2009. Military personnel will be required to show ID and active duty National Guard members must show their active duty orders, in addition to their ID.
  • Aloha Isle has added a new flavor to their famous Dole Whips. Now you can purchase an orange flavored Dole Whip. They have removed the chocolate flavor from the offerings.
  • Space Mountain's refurb is official. It will go down April 19 with an expected opening of later this year. To find out more and to read my take on it, read my previous blog post. During the refurb, the TTA will occasionally go down, as work from Space Mountain might interfere with the TTA's operations.
  • The final scene has now been updated for the Living With the Land attraction. The new crop area shows a plant nutrient system being fed by fish waste.
  • Disney Passholders will be able to get a preview of the new Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. From Feb. 26 - March 1, 10 am - 8 pm, passholders may experience this new "mission". Reservations will begin being taken starting Feb. 5. For more info, visit the Passholder site.
  • Kim Possible will open to guests, however on January 28.
  • The Sorcerer's Hat at DHS is currently being repainted.
  • Pecos Bill's refurbishment dates have changed. It will now be closed Jan. 17 - Feb. 20. Extensive renovations will be made to the counter area. During this time El Pirata y el Perrico will be open, with a different menu than usual...burgers, bbq pork sandwich, caesar salad and pbj sandwich for kids. The dining area for Pecos Bill's will remain open, for guests to sit.
  • The Characters in Flight balloon is expected to hold up to 30 guests at a time.
  • Buzz Lightyear will be closed for refurb from March 2 - March 6.
  • Caribbean Beach's Trinidad South's pool will be closed Feb. 9 - Feb. 20.
  • The Contemporary's main feature pool will be closed from Jan 5 - March 15.
  • The Grand Floridian's main pool will be closed from Jan. 5 - Jan. 23.
  • Ft. Wilderness' main pool will be closed from Jan 12 - March 20.
  • The new Golden Oak Outpost quick service restaurant did not open as expected. It is expected to be open soon.


  • It's been rumored that when Ellen's Energy Adventure reopens, it will reopen with a major technical update. There will apparently be a new ride control and tracking system for track free vehicles.
  • It's expected that a meet & greet area is being built in front of the former Galaxy Palace Theater.
  • Philharmagic is expected to be getting new carpeting and and the floor deck itself will be redone as well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

They'll Be No Treks To Space This Year!

After like a year of rumors and talk, it's finally official! Space Mountain will be down for refurb starting in April!!!! (April 19th to be exact.) So, all the wondering if it was going down or not can now officially stop.

Now, from what I can gather...the extent of this refurb is really unknown, in more than one way. First is how long it will be down for. Disney says it will return for launches in late 2009. From the rumors I'm hearing though...this refurb will last at least 10 months and could last up to a year. It basically depends on how quickly Disney can get the work done.

The other unknown is what the scope of work is that is to be done. This is the biggest unknown of them all. I'm hearing it's not going to be the full megilla as was done over at Disneyland. Instead, I'm hearing the work will be somewhere between Disneyland's version and Disneyland Paris' version. However, with that being said, I'm also hearing that it could just be a fixing of major structural problems both with the building (no one wants messothelioma) and with the actual coaster, itself. So, I guess we'll have to wait for more information to leak out on that. Edit: a little more info has come out thanks to the Orlando Sentinal. They report that there will be some new track work put in, although the track layout will remain the same. The refurb will also include a new enclosure for the Queue area and a new ceiling.

This refurb makes me excited though. Even though Space is one of my favorites, it makes me happy to see it's finally getting the much deserved (and LONG overdue) love it desperately needs. It's been entirely too long since Space has had a quality refurb, so I can only hope they didn't decide to go for the cheap (something they seem to be doing a lot of recently) and really do this thing right.

My other fear is that I hope they don't decide to open it early because of the outcry of the public. I don't want them to do like they did with Spaceship Earth and open it during the holidays because of "the people". People survived 1994 without the whole land of Tomorrowland...they'll be able to survive the disappointment of just one ride, signature it might be, being down for a brief time period.

So, 2009 is starting out relatively promising...let's just hope Disney doesn't get even more terrified of the economic woes our country is facing, because now is the time to really invest in the company and especially the theme parks. They deserve a little love.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

News & Rumors 12/29/08 - 1/4/09

Welcome to a brand new year and a year hopefully filled with lots of exciting news and rumors!


  • The minimum height requirement to ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway has now changed. Now, children must be 32". The requirement to drive has not changed.
  • The dining reservations advanced window has now changed again. It has gone back to 90 days, replacing the 180 day window. Any existing reservations will be honored.
  • After the lawsuit involving Segways that happened in the last year or so, Disney has now decided to rent a modified 4 wheel version starting in April. These will be similar to Segways, but will have training wheels attached to prevent tipping.
  • In mid-February, the Magic Kingdom will have a new mini-parade. Disney's official press release on the matter: It’s party time beginning in mid-February when a cast of Disney characters, stilt walkers and other performers processes down Main Street, U.S.A. toward Cinderella Castle to high-energy tunes such as “Breakout” and “I Like To Move It.” Five floats decked out as gift-wrapped packages are part of the procession, and near the castle, Mad Hatter, Genie, Lumiere and Sebastian – the life and light of the party – pop out of four huge boxes. They join about a dozen other Disney characters headed by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse to mix and mingle and dance in the street with Magic Kingdom guests during a 12-15-minute party scheduled to take place three times daily.
  • Living With the Land's final greenhouse has been curtained off, with signs on the outside announcing something new.
  • Trilobites at Disney's Animal Kingdom (previously Petrifries) new menu is out...apparently they will now serve turkey legs and soft drinks. (Maybe they need to sell duck legs!)
  • Passholders can now sign up to get a preview of the new American Idol Experience. Previews will be held Feb. 5-8 and shows will last approximately 30 minutes. Passholders must sign up as space is limited.

  • The following pools will be closed for rehab: The Contemporary from 1/5 - 3/15, Fort Wilderness' Meadow Pool from 1/12 - 3/13, and Caribbean Beach's Trinidad Pool from 2/9 - 2/20.
  • People have been's the answer...the Castle Suite will remain open for stays by guests this year! The suite will be awarded on a much less frequent basis and the only confirmed stays are with giveaways that are in conjunction with business partners. As to how the suite's occupants for other nights will be determined, that hasn't been announced yet.
  • Disney will be launching a brand new website in the near future. Hopefully it will be more user friendly than previous versions.
  • The Liberty Belle Riverboat will be down for refurb from 2/19 - 2/28

  • Rumors
    • It's rumored that Space Mountain will be going down starting in April for it's refurb. No word yet on how long the refurb will actually be for.
    • Sounds Dangerous will apparently be going seasonal. This was supposed to have started today.
    • Soft openings of American Idol Experience could begin as early as the second week in January with play testings beginning as early as this week, however these are by invite only.
    • The new name of the former Frontierland Fry cart is rumored to be the Golden Oaks Outpost and is rumored to open on January 10th.