Thursday, December 27, 2012

Year In Review: The Good and The Bad at Walt Disney World 2012

What an entertaining 2012.  Disney certainly kept us on our toes with a lot of things that they brought to Walt Disney World.  In a way, it was one of the most changing years that we’ve had in a while.  Big things happened, more that have in recent memory. 
Today we are going to take a look at the big events for 2012 and rate them in a system that is lovingly borrowed from the former Betamouse crew…Win, Fail, Meh.

  • New Fantasyland:  So, this one is kind of a give in that it would be a win.  But for me, it’s not a win for why you’d think.  Yes, they brought in new attractions with Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales With Belle.  Plus, add in two great dining establishments with Be Our Guest Restaurant and Gaston’s Tavern.  What really does it for me though is the theming.  Disney hit a homerun here.  These two new areas (I include Storybook Circus too because it was part of the expansion) are so richly detailed.  This is really what wows me.  Disney is doing an amazing job with the details which is something that I’d felt had been lacking a bit in recent past.
  • Test Track: Ok…I’m going to admit.  I haven’t seen this yet.  I’ve been attempting to avoid spoilers because I want to see it and judge it in person.  However, from what I can tell from the brief glimpses I’ve gotten, the Imagineers did a great job updating a relatively tired attraction.
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort: This is another area where Disney did an amazing job with theming.  This resort is hands down the best Value resort I’ve visited.  It isn’t garish the way the other values are.  (Well, not quite as garish anyway).  I really enjoy what they’ve done with things like the food court, which serves unique food on real silverware.  I also appreciate the fact that they added family suites.  That is an area where Disney had been lacking.  Overall, this new addition to the Resort has been quite a welcome one.
  • WiFi:  Joining the 21st Century, Disney has officially added Free WiFi to the entire property.  Now you can access it in the parks, at the resorts, and at Downtown Disney.  This is huge because now, people have easier access in different places, plus, this means that hopefully my phone battery won’t drain so fast!  I know this is just a step so that Disney can implement NextGen stuff, which I’m not really thrilled with, but this is one change I can get behind. 
  •  Starbucks Announced:  Ok…people have been clamoring for good coffee at Walt Disney World for years.  Now we’re getting it.  This is a major win to me.  I know that many are scared that it is going to ruin the ambience of the Magic Kingdom, but honestly, I view this as a sponsorship (something that has been a staple of the Disney parks since they opened in 1955), and not a take-over of the areas the company will be located.  It will still look and feel like a Disney area.  Just have better coffee choices.   

  • Country Bear Jamboree:  This attraction went down for refurb this year, like many attractions before it.  But unlike other attractions which came out better, this one came out worse.  Much worse.  This show, whether you agree with it’s fun or not, is a classic attraction.  Unfortunately, Disney decided to butcher this classic attraction cutting about 5 minutes out of the show.  (The reason is to increase throughput, or so I’m told.  Really?  Were that many people clamoring to get into this show?)  While it may  not seem like a huge deal, to me, it changed the show enough that I am saddened by it.  Plush, while they did do a decent job on updating most of the bear’s furs, a few got quite questionable wardrobe and style updates that seemed quite unnecessary.
  • Evening Extra Magic Hours Shortened:  This is one of those where I understand why they did it, doesn’t mean I like it.  Disney announced in 2013 that it’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be shortened to two hours, from three.  While I understand that most people don’t get to take advantage of this third hour, I was one of the people who actually did.  It was so nice having the parks be MUCH less crowded.  (The first two hours were always slammed).  Plus, for those who did visit in the off season, these later hours added up to regular hours when Disney cut park hours drastically.  While this doesn’t affect a lot of people, it is just another instance where Disney is cutting something without offering an additional benefit.  (I mean, they don’t seem to be increasing park hours to make up for the times they are cutting.)

  • Legend of Jack Sparrow: This new attraction opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and while it is a welcome addition for the space and the visuals are incredible, the actual storyline of the attraction is a tiny bit lacking.  It would have been better if the story wasn’t just guests doing a different version of Simon Says basically.  But the video…spectacular. 
  • Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom: This game, which uses video screen technology hasn’t really ever taken off the way I’d expected.  It’s been plagued with issues, like not being able to make the game have harder levels and long lines, which  makes it so that you can see what is going to happen before you get your chance to play.  However, it seems semi-popular and the whole card thing has spurred quite the frenzy for a new collectable.  I guess this game is just proof that there is really something for everyone in the parks.  But it didn’t really ever seem to have the punch that Disney was looking for once the initial excitement died down.
  • Alcohol at the Magic Kingdom:  In a move that was a complete shock, Disney is now serving alcohol at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.  This is the first time that alcohol has ever been served in the park.  It is only being served at dinner and cannot be taken out of the restaurant.  I can understand why people are so upset.  Yes, this goes against Walt’s view of things.  However, part of me also realizes that Walt was a visionary and times do change and Walt has unfortunately passed.  Alcohol is allowed at all the other parks, and with the exception of Epcot, which boasts it’s own drink around the world game, the other parks seem to have no problem with alcohol in it’s gates. Because of that, maybe it isn’t the end of the world that it is being introduced into the Magic Kingdom now.
  • Fastpass Return Window Enforced:  While I understand that this was always something that was technically the rule, it was nice to know that if you wanted to ride an attraction later than when your Fastpass time was up, you could.  If I could make it when the window was up, great.  If I couldn’t that was fine too.  It made life less structured.  I mean, you are on vacation.  However, Disney seems to be moving away from the whole less structured vacation model it seems, what with Fastpass+ being tested now, so therefore, Fastpass return times had to be regulated again.  Stinks, but what are you gonna do?

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. 
And with that, I wish you all a Very Happy New Year!!!!  See you all in 2013!

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