There have been lots of looky-loos lately over that
Fantasyland Forest construction fence. Which has resulted in an equally large
number of theories floating around online about what's currently going on with
this $300 million project.
Take - for example - all that soil that's been piled up
towards the very back of this construction site. There are those who will tell
you that this dirt was deliberately moved there so that the Imagineers could
then sculpt the Fantasyland Forest hills. Or - better yet - build a brand-new
berm for the Magic Kingdom.
Truth be told, the real reason that all this soil is being
temporarily heaped in one place is because the construction crew is now trying
to excavate what's left of the old "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" lagoon. All
of that concrete & rebar has to be removed before Disney can then get started
with pouring foundations as well as installing the footings necessary to
support Fantasyland Forest's new show buildings.
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Mind you, all of the rain that Central Florida has been
experiencing lately hasn't made this excavation any easier to
accomplish. But there is one foundation that should be poured fairly soon. Which
will be out of the general public's sightlines, down at ground level for
Gaston's Tavern. And the reason that Cast Members are really looking forward to
this part of the project being completed is that they'll then once again have
easy access to the Men's & Women's locker rooms down in the Utilidors.
But that's the sort of stuff you always have to keep in mind
while discussing a construction project that's going on inside of a theme park.
Especially one that's as busy as the Magic Kingdom is. Which is why - in situations
like this - the Mouse tries to be like a Grandmaster playing Chess (i.e. always
thinking a few moves ahead). Making sure that they're doing things in just the
right order so that whatever moves that they're making will then have the
smallest possible impact on the overall Guest experience as well as not cause
too many Operational headaches for that Park.
And speaking of Operational headaches ... There's been a lot
of chatter lately about what's going on with WDW's version of "it's a small
world." Why this Fantasyland Favorite was closed for refurbishment on August 1st
and now won't re-open to the public 'til October 22nd.
Given that WDW's "it's a small world" underwent a pretty
extensive / lengthy overhaul in the not-so-distant past (This Magic Kingdom
classic was closed from May 2, 2004 through March 18, 2005), Disneyana fans are
wondering what's going on here. Whether those 29 Disney characters that were
added to Disneyland's version of "it's a small world" back in 2008 will soon be
popping up in Orlando. But this refurbishment isn't so much about new Show elements as it is about dealing with long term Operational issues that are associated with the WDW version of "it's a small world."
back during the 2004 / 2005 rehab of this Fantasyland favorite, the Imagineers
- with the hope that they'd then be able to improve Guest-flow through / ease
congestion in this historically crowded corner of the Magic Kingdom - had wanted to
swap the entrance and exit of this Fantasyland attraction. So that Guests would
then be able to park their strollers right near the entrance of this
super-popular attraction. More to the point, so that WDW visitors in
wheelchairs / riding on ECVs wouldn't have to enter through the exit any
longer. That they could gain access to WDW's "it's a small world" just by
entering the queue along with all of the regular Guests.
But there wasn't enough time / sufficient money in the budget to deal with this issue back in 2004 / 2005. Which is why this work is being done right now on WDW's "it's a
small world." All with the hope that
this entrance / exit switch will then clear up a decades-old congestion problem
at the Magic Kingdom.
And this isn't the only Guest-flow issue at that theme park
that the Imagineers have been looking into recently. Do you know that walkway
between Fantasyland and Liberty Square? The
one between the Columbia Harbor House quick service restaurant and the Yankee
Trader shop? Given that tens of
thousands of Guests pass through this relatively narrow passage each day as
they move from "The Haunted Mansion" to "Peter Pan's Flight" & "it's a small
world," things can get pretty grim, crowded and tight back there. Especially
during the Holiday season and/or right after a parade dumps.
And while Disney has experimented with two-way traffic in
this part of the theme park in the past (i.e. having Guests who are entering
from the Liberty Square side of the Park walk up the left side of the street
while people who are exiting Fantasyland are forced to walk down the right side
of the street), it's become apparent that a more permanent solution to this problem is now necessary. Especially given the huge influx of Guests that are expected to come
flooding into the Magic Kingdom once construction of Fantasyland Forest is
completed in 2012 or thereabouts.
So what is Disney going to do back in this part of the Park?
Again, you have to think like a Chess
Grandmaster here (i.e. a few moves ahead). Especially since the Imagineers have wanted to do something significant with that primo piece of real estate that the old
Fantasyland Skyway station occupies.
Which is why it might be wise - after "it's a small world" 's
entrance & exit get swapped around and the Liberty Square / Fantasyland
entrance congestion issue gets dealt with - to keep your eye on the Sky ... way
What's that you say? I've made predictions on this website before
that haven't panned out. Like - for example
-- Disney's Night Kingdom / Jungle Trek.
Well, that project was legit. Just ask all of the British
tourists who were surveyed about Disney's proposed answer to SeaWorld's
Discovery Cove. The only reason that WDI didn't move forward with development
of this niche park for Orlando is because the economy tanked back in the Fall
But let's remember that good ideas never die at Disney.
Which is why it was interesting to hear all about those information sessions
that were held on property last week. As the WDW Resort began looking for Cast
Members who might be interested in hosting that new tour that's now in the
works for Disney's Animal Kingdom. You see, many of the Guest experiences that were originally
proposed for Disney's Night Kingdom / Jungle Trek (i.e. rock climbing, ziplines,
etc.) have since been resurrected as elements for this new DAK tour.
And if this Animal Kingdom version of "Keys to the Kingdom"
proves to be extremely popular with WDW visitors ... Well, who knows? Maybe once
the economy finally turns around, Disney might then take another look at possibly
building a niche park in Central Florida.
But - for now, anyway - the Company's taking the emphasis
off of plans for the WDW Resort that can then be implemented in the far-off
distant future and instead exploring new revenue
sources that can possibly be implemented at Disney World in the somewhat immediate future. Which
is why (again borrowing a page from SeaWorld Orlando & the Universal
Orlando Resort. Who have offered valet parking to their Guests for quite a
while now) the Mouse is now reportedly toying with the idea of setting up a professional
parking service (for an extra fee, of course) at its Central Florida theme
"Wait a minute," you say."Valet parking at WDW's theme
parks? I can see how that might work at Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal
Kingdom? But how could Disney ever offer valet parking to those Guests who were
visiting the Magic Kingdom?"
Again, in a situation like this, it's best if you embrace
that Chess Grandmaster analogy. And then wonder what changes The Walt Disney
Company would first have to make to the physical set-up of that theme park before
valet parking could then become a reality at the Magic Kingdom.
Anyone have any thoughts as to how that might happen?
Why not make the TTC the enterance to the Magic Kingdom; forcing people who drive to the park to enter via boat or monorail? You could offer valet service if the TTC were the front door.
As far as the old Fantasyland Skyway is concerned... there have been too many rumors about the future of that particular piece of property to count. I wonder which one Jim is alluding to - or is he possibly creating a new rumor?
They would valet the cars at the regular magic kingdom parking lot. Then guests would get on the Monorail or the ferry and go to the Magic Kingdom.
Valet parking will only work with premium priced admission tickets when the parking is thrown in. It will not work when offered to the general public. The demand is much too big to handle. Only with scarcity of demand from extreme high prices (which is the intent anyways) will make this work. The margins will more than pay for itself. How about a premium package of park hopping admission, front of line dining, unlimited fast pass, and car delivery valet (at a central parking lot with personal van service)? Throw in the whole package for $300 per person per day.
Not sure why Jim singles out the Magic Kingdom as not being a worthy candidate for valet parking. It is not explained. It can certainly work.
Disney will never make "Disney's Night Kingdom / Jungle Trek" or anything similar a reality. Disney vaulted customer service is always spotty. On one hand, they provide the whole package with lots of benefits. Before long, they see the success. After the debut, demand wanes. Then Disney tries to compensate by cutting benefits to still enjoy the profit margins. Suddenly, a year later, a repeat customer had a bad experience. Before long, the whole thing implodes. I've seen this happen all the time at Disney.
This spotty customer service might even happen with valet service. Good service is had to maintain. Disney is notoriously bad. They lose interest quickly. The corporate mentality is quite trendy. Here today, gone tomorrow. Just stick with what they do now.... the bare minimum, which is much better than the competition, but will never be mistaken for 4 or 5 Star luxury.
I understand a big complaint is the amount of time it takes to get to MK once you park your car in the parking lot, so I presume the valet parking idea srouted from that. They could expand the Pluto parking lot (just past the Contemporary, currently used by CMs who work in the Magic Kingdom's offices) into the old boneyard and have a HUGE parking lot for valet parking (though I could see it being more of a self-park area to save on labor, and just bus them over to the main entrance.)
Exactly, Ximagineer. If the only advantage to having valet parking at the MK's going to be that someone's going to park you car for you, most people probably wouldn't shell out the extra money; there'd have to be some incentive to get people from the valet drop-off to the gate more quickly than taking the same Disney transportation everyone else takes to the main gate.
I can't say I'm thrilled with the idea that Disney's giving extra goodies to people who are willing to pay for it, but that's they way they're going, as is everyone else in the industry. As for us mere mortals who can just afford the standard package, we're gettin' bupkis.
I think I'm about the only person who likes the whole concept of that separation of the MK from the parking lots. I think Walt had the right idea - the whole idea of the parks was to take you away from the everyday world, and by forcing you out of your car and having you take a boat or monorail to the entrance, that reinforces that you're leaving "the world of today", as the plaques over the entrance so beautifully state. I wasn't even all that thrilled when they put in the bus stops right next to the entrance.
Alas, that's not what the averge parkgoer wants - screw this "multliple steps to get you away from the outside world" business, they say, I want my gratification as close to instant as possible. Hence, that's why Disney never did it again at the other parks. Too bad.
As a former Tomorrowland CM, I know exactly where a valet parking section could go...and they wouldn't even have to build much to do it.
In the "negative space" between Main Street and Tomorrowland (the 4 o'clock position) where the map shows only trees is actually a decent sized parking lot for MK managers. To get to it, when you pass through the Magic Kingdom gate instead of going left to the MK parking lot you go right as if you were driving to the Contemporary Resort. Keep going past the entrance to the Contemporary and you'll see a little road that splits off to the left going underneath the monorail that ends with a boom barrier (gate). Beyond that gate is the aforementioned parking lot. If instead you keep going down the main road past Space Mountain on your right is an even larger gravel parking lot used for overflow and CMs/managers who aren't quite important enough to get to park in the closer lot.
So how would all that be valet parking? At the MK gate, you would pay for valet, and the CM would tell you to go to the right and watch for the Valet Parking Signs between the Contemporary Resort and Space Mountain. They would probably give you some sort of special ticket to confirm you're valet, which you'd show to the CM at the boom barrier. Disney would probably construct some sort of wall so you wouldn't see the backside of Main Street (Tomorrowland isn't that exposed). You'd give your car to the waiting valet, who would park it either in the parking lot you just drove into or the overflow lot across the street. Then you'd be funneled to what is currently a backstage entrance to Main Street which is located between the Chapeau (the hat shop where you get the ears) and Tony's Town Square Restaurant. And voila! Disney only needs to throw a few well-placed walls up, and you still get the same experience as every other guest by entering the MK on Main Street instead of in a congested area way in the back of the park by Peter Pan and the Haunted Mansion. Of course the managers who currently park in the close parking lot would have to instead park in the gravel lot (there's enough room there for both them and valet), but hey, it's all about the almighty dollar right?
Going back to the bit about the bit of land where the Fantasyland Skyway station is: correct me if I'm wrong, but that's right up against the show buildings for the Haunted Mansion and it's a small world. I don't see how they'd bring guests in that way without ruining some of the mystery.