Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review: The Good and The Bad of Walt Disney World 2014

It's that time again.  The time for a brand new year to swoop down upon us is here.  When the clock strikes midnight, we all say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015.

Again at Walt Disney World this year, we saw a lot of change, but most of this change was done to make way for future change, it would seem.  We saw so many things ending their run, as well as a few nice new full scale additions.  So, without further adieu, here is a look at some of the things that I think we’ll all remember this past year for.  As always,I thought I'd  rate them in a system that is lovingly borrowed from the former Betamouse crew…Win, Fail, Meh. (We miss you Betamouse!)


  •  Festival of Fantasy Parade:  Wow!  This parade is fantastic!  (And this is coming from someone who hates parades.)  The new parade, themed after New Fantasyland was a fantastic new addition and a well needed upgrade from the previous parade.  It's kinetic, colorful, got tons of characters, and has a fire-breathing dragon.  That's cool.  While it isn't my favorite parade (that goes to Boo to You) it is up there and something that I'd actually stop and watch, as opposed to seeing it as I'm walking past.  

  • Rivers of Light Announced:  While it won't officially open until 2016, the announcement that Disney's Animal Kingdom is finally getting its very own nighttime spectacular is a big deal.  The show will include water screens, lighting, and more!  It's surely gonna be gorgeous.  Now we just have to wait.   

  • Harambe Nights:  While I'm pretty harsh on these extra cost events that Disney seemed to roll out for every stupid thing this year, this one was actually a win for me.  I liked the vibe that it had and it seemed like a no-brainer experience for Disney's Animal Kingdom.  I'm hopeful that they do something similar to this next year, because I think it could potentially be a great annual event. 
  • Marketplace Co-Op:  Oh my gosh...this store!  I could really spend a ton of money here, if I didn't watch it.  The store is 6 separate boutique stores all under one roof and it features some great merchandise with something for everyone.  

  • Memento Mori:  Another great merchandise shop, this time especially for The Haunted Mansion.  (It feels weird to praise places designed to make me part with my money.)  This shop again features creative and unique merchandise that I would like to spend all my money in.  Plus there are some fantastic special effects that happen periodically that make it even better.  Take a gander around...I promise you'll find something awesome.

  • Frozen Summer Fun Live:  So yes, I know it was a rush job to get this event into Disney's Hollywood Studios; the fact is that it was a pretty darn cool event.  I mean how can you go wrong with the ability to ice skate, build a snowman, see Anna and Elsa in a special parade, sing with the Arendelle Historians, see a kick-butt fireworks show, and more?  Kudos to Disney on this one.  No matter whether or not you have Frozen Fatigue, this event was more or less a home run. (I mean some parts of the event have stuck around even after it disappeared.  That's impressive.)  

  • Changes at Disney's Hollywood Studios:  We lost a lot of attractions here.  Bye bye American Idol Experience, AFI, Backlot Tour, and Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.  It's clear there are big changes in store for all of us here and while the rumors are flying, we don't know exactly what they are just yet.  Also, it's pretty cool that the Sorcerer's Hat will be going away and The Great Movie Ride will get a sponsorship, featuring updates, thanks to Turner Classic Movies. 


  • Spice Road Table:  Wow did this one not go as planned.  The restaurant, which served tapas sized portions had exceedingly high hopes when it opened.  It was supposed to be another great new place to watch Illuminations from and the cuisine from Morocco has always been regarded highly by many, so how could this one not be a hit too?  Well, it wasn't a hit.  It was a big dull dud.  The food was expensive for the sizes that you received and the view for IllumiNations, to me, was not the greatest.  Even offering deep discounts for Passholders did nothing to entice people to dine here.  Disney is attempting to hopefully fix this dud, having recently added it to the Advanced Dining Reservation System and adding a few dishes that have more substances. (The tapas are actually appetizers now.)  Maybe this will make a difference in the fledgling restaurant, but truth be told, I actually doubt it. 
  • PUSH:  This one goes in the fail category not because the talking trash can was removed from the parks, but actually because of the way the whole thing went down.  You see, it was all because of contract negotiations.  One minute we get word that PUSH will be removed, the next Disney is claiming that everything is fine, and then two days later, PUSH goes bye bye.  Whether you think that it was appropriate that the information that the contract negotiations weren't going well (rumored to have been leaked by the creator of PUSH in hopes that Disney would give them what they were asking thanks to outcry), what really was the fail was the way Disney handled it.  They should have never gone on record to say that PUSH was staying to have that not being true two days later.  That was a mistake on their part, which made them seem like, well, liars.  

  • Villains Unleashed:  This was just a terrible event that had so much potential.  It was so bad that Disney actually gave refunds....something they never do.  There were too many people, not enough to do, terrible shows, a too late fireworks show, and it seemed very understaffed.  If Disney tweaks this one, it has the potential of being a huge success, but in it's current form, it failed miserably.

  • Maelstrom:  Ok, so this was the major fail for many this year by Disney.  Maelstrom was dated and extremely odd, don't get me wrong, but it was also a classic Epcot attraction that was one of the few attractions left within the park that upheld the original intent of Epcot.  With the addition of a Frozen attraction, many felt the icy stab that yet another classic part of what made the park they fell in love with would be Disneyfied.  (Which if you remember, the park didn't have characters in it begin with and was mostly about the edu-tainment.)  Maelstrom, while you were a strange and dated attraction, you will certainly be missed. 


  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train:  After all the hype, the attraction opened, and the hype quickly died down.  While the roller coaster does have some fantastic aspects--such as the AudioAnamatronics and the intense attention to detail, the ride could have used at least one more show scene and really just seems to end rather abruptly.  While people are still talking about the other big attraction that opened this year (Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts), I hardly hear anyone talking about Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  

  • Festival of the Lion King:  Ok, so the new Harambe Theater is gorgeous.  And the fact that the attraction is now located in the Africa section of the park is fitting, but I do kind of wish they would have updated the show, even a little bit. Instead, it's the same it's always been.  That's not necessarily bad, but they had the opportunity to make changes and they didn't take it.  Not even a little bit. 

  • Changes in World Showcase:  This year we said good-bye to many entertainment acts, including the Ziti Sisters,World Showcase Players, the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps, Mo’Rockin, and Off Kilter.  With those being removed we got new acts by way of The Paul McKenna Band in the UK, B’net al Houwariyate in Morocco, the flag-twirling Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro  in the Italy Pavilion, and The Canadian Lumberjack Show in Canada. Most acts are pretty decent switches, however, the removal of Off Kilter for The Canadian Lumberjacks clearly didn't go well.  And those of us who love improv lament the loss of The World Showcase Players. Overall though, most changes weren't too bad.
  • Every other "special hard-ticket add on":  This was the year of the add-on.  If Disney could find a way to milk money from people, boy did they!  It's not necessarily a problem when done right (ie: Harambe Nights) and of course, people have the right to choose to spend the money if they would like on these types of things.  The thing that was a bit annoying was that it was literally done for every single special event.  How many premium packages can be offered?  Disney tested it and found out that people caught on really quickly.  Matter of fact some of the events, like one for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival got cancelled due to lack of interest. 
  • Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade:  Due to construction, the parade ended this year after more than 10 years of rolling down the streets of Disney's Animal Kingdom.  It was an ok parade, but it's still sad to see a parade go when it's one of the few offerings the park has for guests to experience.    

  • Disney's Polynesian Resort:  This one had many pluses this year, but one big minus.  On the plus side, it was announced that the resort would be called Disney's Polynesian Village Resort once again, Captain Cooks got a refurb, they added the Pineapple Lanai which is where you can get Dole Whips (though they are no longer all you can fill in a cup), the pool is being upgraded with a hot tub, and Trader Sam's is on its way.  The minus--the removal of the large fountain that made the Poly, the Poly.  While the new lobby is beautiful, the fountain is what made the resort special for many. It will be missed.

  • Trattoria al Forno:  Earlier this year, we saw the closure of Kouzzina at Disney's BoardWalk.  In it's place is the recently opened Trattoria al Forno.  While I haven't heard anything bad about the new restaurant, one does wonder if it's too much Italian within the Resort overall.  I plan to dine here at some point in 2015, so hopefully it won't disappoint. 
  Ok! That's gonna do it for this year, but I'm sure I missed something or you disagree with where I put something.  So don't be shy, let me know!  You can do so via Facebook or the comments section. 

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