Friday, December 30, 2011

The Good and the Bad at Walt Disney World 2011

It's been a crazy year again for Disney fans.  Lots of great things have happened.  A ton of new attractions opened on both coasts, some attractions reopened after lengthy refurbs, we lost Mickey's Toontown Fair, and Disney premiered a new cruise ship in the Disney Dream and the new DVC resort in Aulani in Hawaii.  Of course, this blog mostly features things that happen in Walt Disney World, so that's what we're going to take a look at today.

In honor of Betamouse's departure (one of the more sad things that happened in the Disney community this year) I am going to continue my Win, Fail, Meh ranking (lovingly borrowed from them) to see how 2011 really matched up. 

  • The Magic, The Memories, and You:  A show that I think many were skeptical about, but wow...did this one really win the majority of Disney fans over.  It really shows what technology can do.  I love how they can update it whenever they want (like they did around the Holidays).  If it doesn't leave you with a tear in your eye, I don't know what will.  I can't wait to see what Disney decides to do with this in the future.  
  • Star Tours II:  I really love the update that they did for this attraction.  I think it was absolutely necessary to update after all these years.  While I enjoyed the old version, the new version is certainly a lot fresher.  I do like that we can travel to different settings and see different characters each time. The only drawback (for me) with this attraction is that I am not a Star Wars fan and I don't know what everything I'm seeing is and who everyone is that pops up on the screen.  I feel as if the old version was accessible even for those who'd never seen the movies before.  Now, while I still get enjoyment out of the attraction, it doesn't feel as accessible to me.  
  • The Enchanted Tiki Room Refurb:  When the fire took place this year, speculation ran rampant, wondering if the attraction would return to it's New Management version with Zazu and Iago or if Disney would decide to re-do the attraction to a version that was similar to the original.  The new attraction thankfully returned to it's original version glory (with a few tweaks).  This was a welcome change as the old version was quite stale.  The new version is much more "evergreen" than the previous version and is certainly more likely to stay fresher longer. 
  • The Wild Africa Trek:  This new specialty tour premiered this year to large fanfare and I believe it was a winning idea.  Years ago, Disney toyed around with the idea of Night Kingdom, a specialty park where guests could do things like zip-lining and come in contact with animals.  That idea ended up dying, however, Disney did what they do best and took the pieces of that concept and include it in the Wild Africa Trek, a brilliant idea in my mind.  While there's no zip-lining, guests do get to learn a lot about the animals along the way and in addition get close to hippos and crocodiles in an experience like no other. 
  • New Unique Dining Choices:  This year, we saw Disney attempt to upgrade some of their quick service dining locations food offerings.  We saw things like the macaroni and cheese hot dog, the nutella and fruit waffle sanwich, the lobster roll, and specialty angus burgers.  It's really nice to have different offerings than just plan old regular versions of burgers, chicken fingers and hot dogs.  So, while most are still theme park food staples, Disney has really taken them to the next level by trying to make the options a little more unique and for that, I salute them. 
  • FASTPASS for Mickey:  This is something that I can't believe they didn't do years before.  It was a brilliant idea to include FASTPASS to meet Mickey! 

  • Pixar Pals Parade:  Does any even remember that this debuted this year?  I didn't until I looked back through the year.  While the parade included different characters that hadn't been seen in a parade before, this parade is a poor excuse for a parade.  The floats are cheesy and the music is grating.  
  • Let the Memories Begin Campaign:  It started out pretty decent with the introduction of the Magic, The Memories, and You and then it just DIED quickly into the year.  If you're going to have an ad campaign for the year, make it be something that will last a little longer than 3 months.  I want to be able to celebrate with you when I take my trips at the end of the year!  :) 

  • Mickey's Toontown Fair's Closure:  This year we said goodbye to Mickey's Toontown Fair.  We all knew it was coming, but early in the year, the temporary land finally was removed for good.  While I have good memories of Mickey's Birthdayland (the original version), this land and what it eventually became never really had it's hooks in me.  Couple that with the fact that it's going to make way for Circusland for the brand new Fantasyland, well, I am ok with it leaving.  It's not a big deal in my book.  
  • Avatarland Announcement:  This year, Disney announced that James Cameron would be teaming up with the Imagineers to build Avatarland at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  At first my initial thought was to put this in the Fail category.  It's not something that I'm looking forward to and I think it could be a mistake on Disney's part to build an entire land based off a movie franchise that certainly hasn't proven itself nor does it have rabid followers.  However, I decided to include this in the Meh category simply because I want to see what Disney decides to do.  There isn't any news that's come out about what's headed into this land, so I'm in the wait and see category on this one currently. 
  • The closure of Journey Into Narnia:  It's hard to believe this attraction was still open up until this year.  The movies didn't do as well as Disney had expected and the last movie wasn't even made by Disney.  This is one attraction where I think no one cared to see it go.  So goodbye Narnia...we won't be missing you.  
  • DVC at the Grand Floridian Announced:  I can't get excited about this new DVC announcement because I don't really enjoy the Grand Floridian.  I feel as if it is a stuffy-ish resort and one that I just don't belong in.  Therefore, DVC being built at the Grand Floridan, while it's a nice thing, it isn't going to make me buy into DVC.  
  • New Haunted Mansion Queue:  The Haunted Mansion debuted it's new NextGen Queue and in my was just ok.  It's got some neat elements to it, but overall, it just feels really kiddie, which to me, is the exact opposite of what the Haunted Mansion is trying to portray inside.  Yes, the Haunted Mansion isn't supposed to be super scary, it's lighthearted scary fun, but the queue, to me, doesn't portray that in the most effective way.  It feels way more dumbed down and cartoon-y than it should and I dislike that. 

So these are just some of the more major events that happened this year at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Of course, there are some that I'm sure I missed and that's where you come in, make sure to let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with where I've placed the year's happenings on my list and also if there's something that you think I should have added. 

As far as 2012 is concerened, it looks like it's going to be a really exciting year.  We've got the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom debuting, parts of the New Fantasyland opening, plus the new Disney's Art of Animation Resort will finally come to light after years of being shuttered as the second phase of the Pop Century Resort.  2012 looks to be a really exciting year to be a Disney fan for sure! 

And with that, I wish you all a Very Happy New Year!!!!  See you all in 2012!


Becca said...

From what I have seen and read from far, far away, I am in total agreement with these! Especially Avatar - I started with "Fail" and moved to "Meh". Even if it does turn out to be rubbish, I'll view it in the same way I do American Idol - it moves lots and lots of people away from the attractions *I* want to ride! :D

As for seeing you in 2012 - I will! You're doing the ToT 10 miler, right? ;)

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with you on the Haunted Mansion queue. I can't see it being "dumbed down", "cartoony" or "kiddie"--IMO, it's none of those.

It is well-done.

Unknown said...

Personally, I liked the new Haunted Mansion queue. It works for me, I guess.

I don't have very high hopes for Avatarland. I haven't seen the movie, and I don't know that I will. A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying Animal Kingdom, and wondering how the addition of Avatar might change it all. I try to keep a "wait and see" attitude about it, but it is hard.