So, let's take a look back and see which category things fell into...Win, Fail, or Meh. (Totally stealing this ranking system from my buddies over at Betamouse, one of the best new podcasts that came out this year....hope you guys don't mind. You know I love you guys!)
- Via Napoli: this one is my big winner of the whole year. The pizza here is outstanding. It's seriously some of the best pizza I've had in a long time. And my suggestion is to get the Quatro Formaggi. It's this delectable four cheese party in your mouth. Now, yes, the pricing here is kind of costly, but in my eyes, if you can take in an experience, enjoy it immensely and think that it was totally worth the cost afterwards, it's worth it and that's how I feel about this restaurant. It's totally worth the experience and I am totally going back again. Via Napoli has become one of my top 3 restaurants in all of Epcot and dare I say, quite possibly one of my Top 5 over all of WDW. (If not Top 5, definitely it's in the Top 10!)
- Karamelle-Kuche: This one was also a HUGE win with me. I got to visit this new Germany Werther's caramel shop in October on the day it opened and let me tell you, the smell in here is intoxicating. My favorite thing they sell is just the plain and simple caramel corn. It's made there in the shop and it is outstanding. Taking the Glass and Porcelain shop (which while I'm sure was lovely) and replacing it with a delicious sweet shop that I'm sure WAY more people will experience, that is most definitely a win and I'm sure Disney is reaping the rewards. (They probably will just from me alone!)
- New Downtown Disney Shops and Restaurants: I know they new Hyperion Wharf area isn't set to be done for a few years, but that didn't stop Disney from starting the process of building Downtown Disney up a bit more. I'm sure many of you would think I would put this in the Fail category because I'm still bitter about what they did to Pleasure Island (which I am still bitter about....you give me back my Adventurer's Club in the Hyperion Wharf area and all will be forgiven...please....) But really, Downtown Disney overall needed a complete overhaul and this year really saw a lot of great changes. Things added this year included Pollo Campero, Fresh Appeal and Babycakes Bakery, which can only be a win over McDonalds, and the menu here sounds delicious. We saw the new addition of the new shop D-Street. Ridemakerz took over a section of the defunct Virgin Megastore and we saw a few additions to some existing stores, such as the Tea and Spice Shop and a new Video Game area. These are all things that are going to help Downtown Disney continue to grow in the future and make it a much more enjoyable experience all around, rather than just walking through empty building after empty building like it used to be.
- Best Friends Pet Care: I think this is such a plus. Sure Disney had Kennels before, but before you had to go to the specific kennel at a specific park. Now, with the "doggie daycare" facility being open in a single location, I really think that's a real positive. And this place is nice too! Almost too nice...I think they have better amenities here than they do at some of the Value hotels! But despite that, I think it's definitely a good thing to have on property because even our fur babies need a vacation too.
- Summer Nightastic: I think this is a fabulous event and I really hope they bring it back each year. So many people complain because WDW won't do things like holiday overlays on attractions...but this event right here is great because it changes things up just enough for those who get to come multiple times a year, but doesn't impact too terribly many attractions found in the parks to a large degree. So the way I see it, everyone wins! And I can only hope next year, we see even bigger enhancements for the summer months in all 4 parks!
- Captain EO: In sort of conjunction with Summer Nightastic, but also separate in it's own right was bringing back Captain EO. At first when I heard of this news, I thought it would be a fail. I had seen the video on YouTube and thought, you can't be serious! You want to bring this hot mess back?! But after finally getting to experience it in the actual theater, I have to say, I'm so glad they brought it back. Granted, I still want to see something new brought to that theater in a few years, but Disney took an EXTREMELY tired attraction in Honey I Shrunk The Audience and replaced it with something that was much more fun and something that had just the right amount of kitch and nostalgia to make it work. And boy did it ever work!
- Announcement of Art of Disney Animation: For so long, those of us in the Disney community have wondered, when are they going to do something with that eyesore known as Pop Century, Legendary Years. Well, this year, we got our answer with the announcement of the Art of Disney Animation Resort. From what I can tell from the concept art that was recently released, this place is going to look FABULOUS!! And add on top of that that they are making the resort mainly family suites, which is so great because it was a demographic the resort as a whole was severely missing...I think when this place opens in 2012, we're gonna wonder, what took them so long?!
- Muppet-Vision 3D enhancements: This year, the beloved Muppets got a good spit and polish and boy did it need it! You didn't realize it until you compared the film from before with the new enhance version of the film. Wow! I can see things so much clearer now! I can see things I didn't know even existed. And of course, they fixed up the theater too, so all effects are working at top notch quality. I love when things get spruced up in the parks and this looks amazing.
- La Cantina and La Hacienda de San Angel: Yes, this restaurant was a new addition too, but for some reason, it just doesn't do a whole lot for me personally. Which means that at this moment, I must place it in the Meh category. It's not a fail because I've heard the reviews are now coming back a little more glowing. And looking at the menu, I see some things on there that I would certainly like to try. But, the menu items are sort of high on the price side and intial reviews weren't great, so at this point in the game, I'm not ready to make a definitive win or fail decision yet.
- Give a Day, Get a Disney Day: To me, this campaign has multiple layers. At first, it's was a major win. I thought the idea was great...people get to volunteer and help their community and get to go the the parks too! That sounds like such a win for everyone involved! However, when the campaign ended just 3 months in, I was kind of disappointed, so it fell a bit more into meh category. To me, it seemed like there were so many people who were shut out of getting their chance to help others. Whether it was because they couldn't find a charity that appealed to them or they couldn't find something that they could do with their kids or they wanted to wait until later in the year when they would have had more personal time to complete the charity work or some of the various other problems that occurred with this being wrapped up so quickly. So, in my eyes, while it was a great idea in theory and it seemed quite successful because of the rapidness of it being ended, I'm gonna have to put it in the meh category. It just didn't have the punch like I had hoped. (Or maybe it had too much punch...I don't know.)
- A few new additions came in the way of updating attractions. The first was changing the Storytime With Belle area at the Magic Kingdom into a Tangled Greet and Play area. The second was taking the High School Musical 3 show out and replacing it with Disney Channel Rocks. I'm meh on this because neither one were really upgrades...they were like lateral moves. Take two shows and change them out for 2 new shows that are close to the same type of experience. Nothing really all that new to see. Meh.
- Duffy: Oh the bear that was conceived expressly for marketing purposes. This equals major fail for me. Yes, Duffy is cute and cuddly, but was it really necessary to create a whole brand new "fake" character just to sell plush that you can change the outfits on? Why couldn't we have introduced this changing outfits concept for Mickey or Figment or something if Disney wanted to have a "Build a Bear" type experience with their characters? That would have been something I could have gotten more behind. At least those are legitimate characters...created by actual Imagineers or Animators. I am not a big fan, and I know that many others in the Disney community are not big fans of this either.
For a year that was semi quiet with not a lot of MAJOR things going on, there was still quite a bit to talk about and quite a bit of it was super. I look forward to what next year is to bring us, including a new parade in Disney's Hollywood Studios called the Pixar Pals Parade, the new Wild Africa Trek experience, the Let the Memories Begin campaign, and of course, the thing that I'm looking forward to the most, Star Tours II. And while right now it seems that 2011 is going to be a quiet year too, I'm sure Disney has some stuff up their sleeves that they just haven't announced yet. And I look forward to all the changes coming for 2011!
And with that, I wish you all a Very Happy New Year!!!! See you all in 2011!