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My Disney Experience delays are having a domino effect on several Magic Kingdom projects

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My Disney Experience delays are having a domino effect on several Magic Kingdom projects

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"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray." This oft-quoted line from Robert Burns' 1785 poem applies to an awful lot of aspects of modern day life. But none more so than the work that's recently been done in & around WDW's Magic Kingdom Park.

Take -- for example -- that "Tangled" -themed rest area that recently came online in Fantasyland. Even before this elaborately themed set of bathrooms was officially opened to the public, some of the Mouse's more vocal online critics were using this pair of potties as an excuse to once again go after Team Disney Orlando. Complaining about how ridiculous / wasteful it was for The Walt Disney Company to devote this much time, money and effort to theming a set of restrooms.

But here's the thing: You know that area off to the left of the Rapunzel restrooms? Just past the "D-Zone" with its 6 charging stations where WDW Guests can now recharge their Droids, iPhones and other electronic devices for free? Did you notice that walkway alongside the garden that kind of leads to nowhere? Which features this beauty spot where Rapunzel's tower is in the background and a small waterfall is in the foreground?


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Doesn't it strike you odd that the Imagineers would go to all that trouble of creating such a  pleasing visual in a part of the Magic Kingdom where few Guests would ever venture? If you spent all of this time & money creating such a beautiful "Tangled" -themed backdrop, wouldn't you then at some point actually want to use it?

Well, that was the original plan, folks. This exact spot was where WDW visitors were supposed to go if they wanted to have their pictures taken with Rapunzel & Flynn Rider. Until Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom became too popular and then the My Disney Experience program fell behind schedule. Which is what causes the Imagineers to deviate from their original plans for this portion of that theme park.

Because -- make no mistake, people -- The Walt Disney Company knows all too well how popular the "Tangled" characters are with the public these days. Going strictly by retail sales, Rapunzel is the most popular Disney Princess to be introduced in decades (She's right up there -- from a merch point of view -- with The Little Mermaid . And Ariel dolls have been consistent sellers with little girls for almost a quarter of a century now). Which is why -- in the late Summer / early Fall of 2011 -- when word came down from Disney's corporate headquarters that Rapunzel & Flynn Rider were going to have to vacate Fairytale Garden (You know? That elaborately themed character meet-and-greet area located just to the right of Cinderella Castle) so that Princess Merida of Pixar's "Brave " could then move in in the Spring of 2012 ... Well, that caused some real consternation both at WDI as well as inside of WDW's  Character Department.


Photo by Gene Duncan. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Interesting side note: That whole Scottish Highlands-retheming of the Fairytale Garden area (along with those three Audio Animatronic bear cubs) was paid for by Walt Disney Studios as part of the Company's worldwide effort to promote the June 2012 theatrical release of Pixar's "Brave."

Anyway ... Getting back to today's story  ... Given how popular Rapunzel & Flynn Rider were with Disney World visitors (More importantly, given that a family bathroom was already in the works for that quiet corner of the Magic Kingdom which the long defunct Fantasyland Skyway Station had been previously operated out of), a plan was put in motion to create WDW's first-ever character-based restroom with an appropriately themed meet-and-greet area just off to the side. Blueprints were drawn up. Budgets were approved. Contracts were signed. Everything was good to go ...

Meanwhile, the people who were prepping the My Disney Experience / MagicBands program for the theme parks realized that there were going to be a certain number of Guests every day in the Parks who weren't going to have their Smart Phones or Droids with them OR were going to leave these electronic devices at home or back in their hotel rooms. Which meant that if these WDW visitors were looking to modify any of the ride times and/or dining reservations that they'd previously made, these people were then going to have to have access to some sort of My Disney Experience kiosk which would allow them to make modifications to these reservations.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So the plan (at least as far as the Magic Kingdom was concerned) was that there'd initially be two sets of these kiosks built. One would be located towards the front of that theme park in the Town Square area of Main Street, U.S.A. While the other would be built deep inside of that theme park. To be specific, inside of the then-vacant Crow's Nest storefront that Kodak used to operate in Adventureland just past Pirates of the Caribbean.

But then Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom debuted in February of 2012. And given how wildly popular this new interactive role-playing game quickly proved to be with WDW visitors, the managers of that theme park immediately decided that they needed a second interactive role-playing game to take some of the heat off of Sorcerers (More to the point, cut down on the number of  5-and-10-person-deep lines which were popping up all around the Park. Where Guests were patiently standing with their Sorcerer Key Card & Spell Cards in hand, waiting for their chance to do battle with various Disney Villains).

Which is why the "A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas" interactive role-playing game was brought online. The only problem with this MK-based project was ... Well, just as Disney World Guests needed a specific place inside of that theme park to go in order to sign up to play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and get issued their first set of Spell Cards and their Sorcerer Key (which -- in this case -- was inside of the Old Firehouse on Main Street, U.S.A. as well as behind the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square), "A Pirate's Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas" was also going to need a headquarters / base-of-operations. Which Magic Kingdom managers eventually decided would be built inside of the Crow's Nest.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And once that decision was made, the dominos began to fall all over that theme park. Since the Crow's Nest was no longer available to house those My Disney Experience  kiosks that WDW felt had to be located deep inside of that theme park ... Given that an area where people could line up had already been designed into the site plan for the "Tangled" rest area, Magic Kingdom managers decided to move the location of those deep-in-the-park My Disney Experience kiosks over to this corner of Fantasyland. So they ordered that the necessary electrical & interactive terminal changes be made to the Rapunzel restrooms construction plans.

The only problem with doing that was now Magic Kingdom managers were concerned that if they had two lines going back in this corner of that theme park (i.e. one for Guests looking to change ride times & dinner reservations, while the other line was for people looking to get their photographs taken with Rapunzel & Flynn Rider), someone might then get confused and accidentally get on the wrong line. Which might then lead to a bad Guest experience. Which is something that Disney World always tries to avoid at all costs.

So -- to prevent this from happening -- Magic Kingdom managers decided to put the idea of having a Rapunzel & Flynn Rider meet-n-greet as part of this theme park's "Tangled" -themed rest area on hold for a while. At least until the My Disney Experience program was up & running and WDW Officials could then gauge how many Guests were actually going to need access to interactive kiosks in order to make changes to their previously booked ride times and/or dining reservations.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now never mind that the Imagineers had already planned to plant a colorful garden alongside the area where WDW Guests were supposed to stand & wait for their chance to meet-n-greet with Rapunzel & Flynn Rider. Or that -- in order to help people pass the time as they stood in line -- WDI had plans to hide Pascal statues all over that garden so these Disney World visitors could then search for this tiny chameleon while they waited.

Mind you, even though the Rapunzel & Flynn Rider meet-n-greet was now on hold, the Imagineers still went ahead with the construction of that garden and its "Hidden Pascal" decorative program. All with the hope that Magic Kingdom managers might eventually change their minds about this planned character greeting area for Fantasyland. And if they did, then all of the necessary supporting elements for a successful queue area for the Rapunzel & Flynn Rider meet-n-greet would already be in place.

Confused yet? Wait. It gets better. Because the in-park launch of My Disney Experience is now running months behind schedule, Magic Kingdom managers have now decided to put off their plans to install any of those interactive kiosks where Guests could then go to change their ride times and/or dinner reservations. But since this corner of Fantasyland is now wired to support computers and other electrical devices ... Well, they didn't want all of that wiring to go to waste. Which is why WDW officials turned this portion of the "Tangled" rest area into  a "D-Zone." Where -- thanks to the 6 charging stations -- Disney World visitors can now recharge their electronic devices for free.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now please keep in mind that this "D-Zone" will only remain in place until the My Disney Experience program finally gets in gear again. And once that happens, these free charging stations will then be replaced by those now-delayed interactive kiosks.

And speaking of delays ... Since My Disney Experience / MagicBands is now running behind schedule, WDW officials have now decided to push back the construction of some of those new Scene Ones which were supposed to be installed around the Magic Kingdom to help handle all of the Guests who will now be waiting in longer lines for their chance to experience these newly enhanced Fast Pass Plus attractions. Which is why those bathrooms next to Peter Pan's Flight (which were supposed to be demolished just as soon as the Rapunzel rest area opened to then make room for a newly expanded  queue for this super-popular Fantasyland dark ride) are still standing. Mouse House managers just don't want to proceed with this particular construction project until My Disney Experience / MagicBands is officially up and running.

Which -- given that " ... the best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men gang aft agley" (FYI: That's the way Burns -- the proud Scot -- originally wrote this line in his poem. The "often go astray" translation only came about when this poem was eventually Anglicized) -- could be a while yet.


Image courtesy of WDWLive

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  • Hard to believe . . . no, impossible to believe!—that they couldn't find somewhere else to put in a My Disney Experience kiosk, like the old keel boat dock perhaps, or maybe just inside of a counter service restaurant like the Tortuga Tavern.  Kiosks don't cost much to run, but a Rapunzel meet and greet costs much more money, and I think TDO just found a way to save some money.  ;-)

    Seriously Jim, I know you always want to look at WDW from the angle that TDO isn't constantly trying to penny pinch, but this seems like a prime example to me.  Now the 'New' Fantasyland has two structures that look like they house full-fledged attractions, (or even just a meet and greet), Be Our Guest Restaurant and the Tangled restrooms which amazingly are just restrooms.  The Magic Kingdom lacks attractions, they took out Snow White's Scary Adventures and are replacing it with a Frankenstein ride of a coaster crossed with 1/5th of a dark ride (a couple Dwarf Mine scenes and Snow White in her cottage).  The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train should have just as many dark ride scenes as the old Snow White attraction, if not more.  Yes, that is what fans want, storytelling, when it comes to Fantasyland, not a Snow White cameo.

    It is very telling that the ads that TDO is running for the New Fantasyland show just the Be Our Guest Restaurant and the Tangled bathrooms . . . Mermaid isn't shown as the exterior looks like a bizarro Pirate ride exterior imported from Paris and the ride isn't very popular in DCA.

    Personally, I think they should have demolished the Small World showbuilding and moved the whole ride back north into the expansion pad, and given it a proper entrance of similar quality to the one in Disneyland and they'd have enough room to add another dark ride if the demolished Village Haus . . . like maybe a Ratatouille dark ride and counter service restaurant?

    Eventually fans are going to notice that the Magic Kingdom doesn't come close to the amazing rides put into other castle parks, like Pooh's Huny Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland, Ratatouille coming to Paris, Mystic Manor . . . the Magic Kingdom hasn't had a great ride open since Splash Mountain premiered.  A clone of a cheap ride like DCA's Mermaid doesn't count.  It's amazing that Magic Kingdom is so much bigger than Disneyland in size, yet only has about 2/3rds of the rides . . . even the Pirate ride is just a cheap Cliff Notes version of the ride in Disneyland.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Look, let's be realistic here. You talk about Disney doing things like tearing down "it's a small world" and then moving that entire attraction to a different expansion pad so that it can then finally have an exterior like the Disneyland version. That ain't gonna happen, friend. You're overlooking the three most obvious reasons why WDW's version of "iasw" had to be built the way it is: 1) Central Florida's high water table,  2) the Ultilidors and 3) the people who've been going to Walt Disney World for 41+ years at this point who've never been to Disneyland and now have fond memories of this version of "small world." Who -- if WDW officials were to ever shut this Fantasyland attraction down to move it -- would then whine about how the Company was ruining their favorite part of the Magic Kingdom.

    To be blunt here, it kind of depresses me to have Disney superfans like yourself (who can name attractions at Disney theme parks around the world like WDS's Ratatouille ride or HKDL's Mystic Manor that are still under construction and/or haven't even opened yet) be so blithe about New Fantasyland. The Company spent $350 million plus expanding the Magic Kingdom. There are two key components of this project that haven't even opened yet. And yet here you are, already trashing a ride like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, an attraction that hasn't even started its water dummy safety tests yet. How can you pretend to be an authority on how terrible this new attraction is going to be when Mine Train opens to the public in December when no one on this planet -- not even the Imagineers who actually designed the thing -- have ridden it yet?

    This is why the folks inside of the Team Disney Orlando building (who are human. Who do make mistakes from time to time) have now pretty much stopped listening to the Disney super fans. No matter what these WDW officials seem to do, no matter how much money or how much time they devote to a particular project, there's just no pleasing certain vocal segments of the Disney fan community. They always seem to zero in on the one aspect of a new project that's kind of flukey, that comes up short. Completely overlooking all of the other elements of that project that actually does work, that actually do delight all of the other Guests when they bring their friends & family out to the Parks ...

    This constant carping about how terrible things are supposed to be at the Parks just get tiresome after a while. All of this talk of how the (Disney) world is about to come to an end because every new ride that's built these days isn't something like Pooh's Hunny Hunt from Tokyo Disneyland. You do understand that -- even back in Walt's day, people had to make creative compromises and/or had to work in inadequate budgets. There were attractions that were opened at the Parks with little or no theming (EX: The Canal Boats of the World ride. Which -- when it originally opened in July of 1955 -- floated Guests past empty dirt banks covered with weeds). There were shops & shows that didn't actually fit the theming of the part of the Parks they were placed in (EX: The Timex Watch shop and the Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Company that used to part of Main Street, U.S.A.'s line-up). It happened then and it's still happening now.

    Long story short, Anonymouse: The Disney theme parks have never, ever been perfect. To listen to the fan boys carp today, you'd think that there used to be this golden era where everything was wonderful & innovative and everything worked properly. And that never happened. Seriously. Just ask the poor slob whose job it was back in the 1960s to repair Tomorrowland's constantly-breaking-down Flying Saucer attraction.

    So what's different about now and then? The Internet. Social media. Trust me on this one, anonymouse. Given the way human nature works, how some people can find fault with anything ... If there had been iPhones and Droids back in the 1950s & 1960s, there would have been alleged theme park fans who would have been Twittering about how terrible the Mickey Mouse Circus was. Or what bad show it was that Walt has just walked away from the "Rogues Gallery" / "Pirates of the Caribbean" project. Leaving that huge cellar hole open to the sky, with all of those exposed steel beams just sitting there in the middle of Frontierland for three years, while he then went off to build rides, shows & attractions for the 1964-1965 New York Worlds Fair.

    You get what I'm saying yet? When it comes to the Disney theme parks, there never was a golden  era.  A time when everything was perfect. So if you really want to have a serious conversation about what's going with The Walt Disney Company these days, you should probably stop pretending that things are really so god awful these days. Because you & I both know that they're not.

    Are there things that could be fixed? Sure. There are also things that could be plussed or improved. But when you do things like posting in the above comment that "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Adventure" is " ... a clone of a cheap ride," that's just crazy talk, anonymouse. I mean, you do realize that the DCA version of "Mermaid" costs $80 million to build, right? That's more than 5 times what it cost to build the original Disneyland back in 1954/1955. So when exactly did $80 million become "cheap" ?

    This is why I often have trouble talking with Disney super fans. They don't like it when you try to bring reality into the conversation. In their minds, whenever the Imagineers start to design and/or build a new attraction for the Parks, they have an infinite amount of money in their construction budgets, there's no such thing as a deadline, and there are never any officials in upper management who are then telling WDI employees that "Surveys suggest that this character / franchise is very popular with the public. Could you maybe theme this new ride, show or attraction around them?"  And that's just not how things work out here in the real world.

  • Just wanted to say "Thank You" for for editor's note, Jim.  I get so, so tired of all the arm-chair quarterbacks with electronics who think that they know better than anyone else how things should be, and can't wait to broadcast that to the world.  I can't even read the message boards and comments at some websites because they seem to be dominated by shallow, spoiled brats with no real-life experience in how to get a major task accomplished in a complex environment.  Your comments were a breath of fresh air!

  • Yeah - what Jim said! Maybe it is because I am not a super fan, but I am someone who has been going to Disney parks for 35+ years. Disney is the master of taking the mundane (waiting in line) and necessary (bathrooms and eating) so exciting and enjoyable that you include them in your stories to your friends. And as a business professional - things at Disney historically do not go as planned, but they did them and IF they didn't work, they changed them. Very inspirational.

  • Well, thanks for replying to my post Jim, you made some valid comments.  Yes, us "super fans" do have high standards, ironically because Disney put great attractions like Splash Mountain on the map in the first place.  We expected to be amazed and astounded.  My rebuttal would include the following points:

    1.  WDW attendance is down in 2012.  Al Lutz reported that TDO is freaked out New Fantasyland isn't, in surveys, getting the sort of response they hoped and that it won't be driving attendance nearly as much as they hoped.  Maybe the "sky is falling" attitude isn't fair, but it seems that something is broken.

    2.  Irregardless of what Mermaid's budget was (I believe less than $80 million for the DCA version as the total cost for both coast attractions is in the $100 million dollar range.  Toy Story Mania had new ride vehicles and new technology and a Potato Head and its costed less than Mermaid which recycles the omnimovers and even clam shells from Nemo in Epcot?), studios can and do waste hundreds of millions on movies that flop.  There are design issues with Mermaid that mean it can't reach its potential as an attraction, and some Imagineers I have talked to describe the attraction as lacking magic.

    3.  Seven Dwarf Mine Train hasn't opened yet, true.  But when I first saw that model of Splash on Main Street in Disneyland . . . I knew we were going to get something special.  With the internet we have pre-vis CGI ride-thrus of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and I've seen pretty detailed models, I can sort of ride this attraction in my head.  The swinging mine cars looks great, I just that some fans, not just me, already lament the loss of "story" as Snow White's Scary Adventures were closed and they didn't go the next step up in terms of story and build, basically, a Snow White Mountain.

    4.  I don't find fault with everything.  I love Carsland and the new Fantasy Faire in Disneyland has *awesome* theming given that it is on par with Tony Baxter's Fantasyland.  The New Fantasyland made a lot of really important 'house keeping' improvements such as an indoor queue for Dumbo, parents with little kids will love this.  But then you see that they simply put some lipstick on the Barnstormer, instead of building a new attraction, and its kinda disheartening.  Be Our Guest is a great restaurant . . . but the Magic Kingdom sort of has this lack of attractions.  For a Disneyland fan, the Magic Kingdom feels like a half-day park.  I love the PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress and Country Bears, but overall there aren't enough rides.

    EDITORS NOTE: " ... the Magic Kingdom sort of has this lack of attractions. For a Disneyland fan, the Magic Kingdom feels like a half-day park."

    Okay. Let's start with the obvious: That the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World ISN'T Disneyland Park. Right back from when Walt initially greenlit development of the Disney World Resort, that theme park was always supposed to be the carrot on the stick. The excuse that people on the East Coast would then use to travel down to what used to be swampland in Central Florida. The theme park -- Disney parlance - was supposed to be the weenie. That thing which was supposed to convince tourists to spend the money necessary to get down to Orlando. Where they'd then find "The Vacation Kingdom of the World" (Let's remember that that was WDW's original slogan. You'll find it on Disney World postcards & pennants that were sold in the early 1970s) and -- eventually -- Epcot the City.

    So for you to use Disneyland Park as your yard stick of comparison for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, when Walt Disney himself never intended the Florida theme park to be an exact clone of the one that he built in Anaheim in 1955 ... is just silly.

    And then when you talk about the Imagineers just putting " ... some lipstick on the Barnstormer" ... You do understand that -- for a lot of people who have vacationed at WDW since October of 1996 (which is Goofy's Barnstormer first came online) that this was their very first roller coaster. These folks have a sentimental attachment to this old Mickey's Toontown Fair attraction and they look forward to taking their own kids on this ride. Making the Barnstormer the ride that introduces their children to the fun of roller coasters as well. Which is why (after checking Guest surveys and then discovering that Goofy's Barnstormer was a popular attraction with a large segment of WDW visitors) the Imagineers then knew that they couldn't remove this coaster as part of the New Fantasyland project. And thus had to find a way to make this coaster fit in with the area's new theming.

    This is -- again -- what I think super fans like yourself just don't understand about the Disney theme parks. You seem to want everything to be new & amazing. Another "Splash Mountain" type mega attraction with AA figures & an unique ride system. And yet -- when people come to the Disney parks -- they want to revisit fun times that they had during previous vacations.

    And you're no exception to the rule, anonymouse. Look at the WDW attractions that you cite as your favorites: The Carousel of Progress (originally built for the 1964-1965 New York Worlds Fair), the PeopleMover (originally built for the 1967 version of Disneyland's New Tomorrowland) and the Country Bear Jamboree (premiered as WDW's Magic Kingdom as one of that theme park's opening day attractions back in October of 1971).

    You get what I'm saying, anonymouse? You're kind of talking out of both sides of your mouth here. You want the Imagineers to always produce new & innovative stuff. Yet the WDW attractions that you cite as your favorites were built 40 - 50 years ago. You can't have all-new things AND celebrate nostalgia at the exact same time. Those two concepts (at least as far as theme parks are concerned) are kind of mutually exclusive.

    And then to dismiss "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure" as being just this attraction that " ... recycles the omnimovers." You talk as if the Disney Company just happened to have two old omnimovers lying around out back that they could then drop into DCA and New Fantasyland at WDW's Magic Kingdom. Those are two brand-new omnimovers, anonymouse, with custom-built "Little Mermaid" -themed shells that were built in Japan and then had to shipped over to the States.

    And then when you factor in the cost of tearing down the old "Golden Dreams" theater and then building the new "Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure" show building right up against the Grand California Hotel, plus installing all of the sets that were built up in Vancouver and the AA figures that Garner Holt built out in San Bernadino ... I don't know who told you that combined costs of these two "Little Mermaid" dark rides was just $100 million. Because according to the people I've talk with, the DCA version all by itself was $80 million. And the New Fantasyland version, with all of that elaborate rockwork in its queue area, the cost of developing that interactive blue crab game as well as the Scuttle AA figure ... Well, I've heard that the Disney World version of "Ariel's Undersea Adventure" cost (all by itself) $110 - $120 million.

    Again, I don't mean to be mean here. Especially when talking with someone who obviously seems to love the Disney theme parks. But you always have to keep in mind here that this is a business. And The Walt Disney Company makes the decisions that it does in regards to its theme parks always with an eye towards whether they'll then actually get a decent return on their investment. Whether they'll see more people buy tickets to the Parks. Whether they'll then see more heads in beds at the various WDW resorts. And when it comes to New Fantasyland at WDW's Magic Kingdom, the jury's still out on this project mostly because the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Princess Fairytale Hall hasn't actually opened yet. So could the super fans (a lot of whom obviously aren't parents with small kids. The demographic that this particular $350 million plus expansion was primarily aimed at) all maybe refrain from calling New Fantasyland a failure until these final pieces of the puzzle come online? And then we can see what these attractions do for Guest flow in this corner of that theme park, see how they impact the overall hourly ride capacity for WDW's Magic Kingdom.

  • Hey Jim... while you are looking into the park side issues with My Disney Experience, you need to do some research and maybe an article on the web side issues.  I'm planning my trip for October, and there are a multitude of issues with the online tool, ranging from account management to dining reservations.

    The most frustrating thing is there is also zero customer support.  I've emailed them twice, over the past three weeks, about the fact that I have someone in my group with two accounts, one he created and one that was created, unbeknownst to him, when he booked our hotel, and I can't merge the two or delete either one.  I haven't even received a courtesy email to tell me they are working on the issue.

    There is also a huge problem with dining reservations.  Though the system knows when your trip is and how long it will be, and even shows that in the initial booking page for dining, when you get into the booking system, it won't even search past 180 days.  I booked all of my dining, over the phone, yesterday, but I still can't book for 90% of my trip online, today.  And, of course, I mention this to the dining rep on the phone and she can't do a thing about it other than apologize, because she has no contact with support.  Oh, and the reservations I booked over the phone... not a one is showing up in the online tool.

  • I think the point Anonymouse is making is still valid.  As fans, we want to be excited about going to the WDW. We want to go.  New restrooms, a restaurant, some re-themed rides and a DCA clone - no matter how elaborately themed or how much they cost - just don't cut it.  New original attractions are what count. They don't all have to be E-tickets. Universal gets this.  Sea World gets this. Why doesn't TDO?  My kids have little desire to go to WDW. We've had too many poor experiences and New Fantasyland doesn't attract them enough to make up for that. They'd much rather go to DLR, of if in Orlando then IOA and USF. Eventually TDO will get that it's new attractions that count, when enough bad experiences and WOM eventually translate into years of shrinking revenue.  Your article and your editor comments just don't suggest that TDO, or you for that matter, are there yet. And that's what is so frustrating to us superfans.

  • Thanks Jim.  I think we Disney Superfans sometimes need a scolding like this.  It's VERY easy to jump on the "cynical and skeptical" bandwagon with all of the critics out there.  Even if we've been burned before, we need to recognize these enhancements for what they are.  A big investment, and an attempt to take a step in the right direction.  I, for one, have been stunned at the criticism of what appears to many to be a "lavish" "over-the-top" treatment of "just a set of restrooms."  Isn't this sort of themed treatment of even the most banal and functional aspects of the experience something that we all LOVE about Disney theme parks?  That they can even make going to the bathroom, for lack of a better phrase, a part of the magic?  Even if the Rapunzel area  WAS planned just as a bathroom, I would have thought we'd all be championing its design as a sign of an extreme shift in thinking.  Does anyone remember the area it replaced? OR how about the original entrance to California adventure? Restrooms, shops, and guest services with about as much themeing as a shopping mall from the 80's? To read what some of these people say, you'd think they would be in favor of THAT as their model for the themed experience at the Magic Kingdom.  I'll take an over-priced restroom any day.

    Don't get me wrong.  I'm not a fan of the bean-counting that goes on in favor of doing things right.  I like to hear what people have to say about WDW--good or bad, whether I agree or not.  But I have sensed a serious lack of understanding of the financial risk and investment that Disney has put forth lately.  Whether or not we agree with the details, you can't say that WDW has been building things "on the cheap".  Especially when you consider that the economy has been sputtering with very little growth for the past 5 years.  I want a lot to change at WDW--and I want it NOW, but things just don't work that way, and we need to remind ourselves of that from time to time.  I appreciate that the new things, even though they might be too few for some, are being done RIGHT.

  • You make very good point Jim, and I am a big Disney fan and wouldn't want to insult anybody's "home park" when it comes to the Magic Kingdom.  But to explain myself:

    Barnstormer

    I did make a mistake by thinking that the Barnstormer wasn't really anybody's special ride.  I frequently visited WDW when I lived in Florida, and I walked by this attraction dozens of time and never rode it, and given that Mickey's Birthday land was always meant to be temporary, the Circusland makeover seemed a prime opportunity to use this real estate to put in something that looks a bit more permanent.  Having roller coaster tracks and support pylons visible to guests is a tad below Disney standards in my book, but I guess I'm wrong in terms of guest appeal if people have special memories associated with this attraction, and having the track visible lets little kids see what will happen on the ride and possibly decreases the scare factor.  Is it wrong to want to see more than a couple of props on such a coaster?  I would have changed the attract so it still had similar thrills, but perhaps add a 1/3rd scale model of a circus and small midwestern town for the coaster to soar over, and would have extended the foot print of the ride to do so.

    New Attractions Vs. Quality Attractions

    I love the Magic Kingdom's PeopleMover as there is so much nice green space in the park, and it is a nice way to relax and soak in the sights of Tomorrowland.  Sure, it could be plussed, but I think the People Mover has stood the test of time as a quality attraction.  As had Carousel of Progress, though I guess I have nostalgia for these two attractions.  I guess I was really disappointed with DCA 1.0 as for years I watched the construction with anticipation, and was really surprised when I saw the outlines of rides that looked like they belonged down the road at Knotts.  So, I don't automatically laud new Disney attractions, though I always hope I'll see something special.  There are high quality attractions in WDW, and sometimes guests get disappointed when a new attraction isn't very high quality, or doesn't connect with guests on an emotional level.  I think one of the biggest surprises I had at WDW was riding the boat around the tree of life in Animal Kingdom the first time and thinking, "this isn't up to Disney standards", and then figured they would use the waterway for something and then nothing has happened.

    I don't demand that everything be new, but when something is new I expect it to be on the level of prior great attractions, and perhaps a bit more evolved.

    Epcot

    I've read a lot about Epcot, (I guess being a "super fan" ;-)), and Walt wasn't overly interested in making another clone of Disneyland, yet he did make some changes with regards to the original, such as a bigger castle.  I'm sure he wanted the Magic Kingdom to be a worthy sister park to Disneyland, and yes, this theme park was meant to be both a "weenie" and also a recreational area for the folks who were to live in Epcot.  Magic Kingdom cost a lot more to build than anticipated, due to various issues, and when it opened some rides such as the Swan boats were kinda meant to be temporary.  And yes, when Disneyland opened Storybook Land Canal boats was a tour of weeds and mud hills and the boats broke down a lot . . . but the Disney company isn't scrapping by like in the old days, they have the cash available to do quality work.

    Mermaid's Omnimover System

    My point with Mermaid using the Omnimover system is that WDI didn't need to design an all new ride system from the ground up, or even have to extensively modify one.  Omnimover worked great for Adventures Thru Inner Space and works great with the Haunted Mansion, but I don't think it fits with a ride like Mermaid that uses "white light" to illuminate the majority of ride scenes as other guests/clamshells are plainly visible, and it is kinda claustrophobic.  I know it is supposed to cram guests through quickly, but there are other ways this could have been done.  Its great that Mermaid's clamshells were made in Japan, but they are also very similar to Nemo & Friends at Epcot.

    Princess Fantasy Faire & New Fantasyland Success

    I do have a princess-age child, and she'll love the new offerings in Disneyland and WDW, got no complaints from me there.  Enchanted Tales with Belle looks wonderful, Be Our Guest looks great, so I'm not at all negative on everything or a princess hater like some superfans.  I feel confident that this part of the New Fantasyland will be a hit give that the princess audience is built in and will gravitate to this area of the park.

    I guess I'm mostly peeved that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train does have dark ride scenes like Splash, and I think it is because maintaining Splash's animatronics is a pain for TDO and they want low maintenance attractions, and that I'm peeved that Mermaid isn't more magical given that the second half of the ride looks unfinished and uses flat screens and a little Ursula cut-out.  Yeah, the big Ursula animatronic is nice, but I expect a grand finale with a gigantic Ursula in the ocean and sets with more details and not to feel like I'm just watching a window display on Main Street with a couple dozen other people.  There's a reason why Peter Pan dispatched the pirate boats with space between them, it comes down to having a personalized experience.  In my eyes, Mermaid doesn't approach the "art" of classic Disney attractions.  Oh, and our kid doesn't like Mermaid even though she has singing Ariel dolls and an Ariel shower curtain.

    You do great articles Jim on Imagineering, maybe one day you'll write a book, not sure who is right regarding New Fantasyland's survey ratings, you or Al Lutz  Time will tell.

  • And I forgot to mention that while Orlando has water table issues, the Magic Kingdom is the "second floor" above the Utilidoors, and that Small World in Disneyland is built above grade, even the outside part.  As you walk up Small World Promenade in Disneyland you are actually "walking-up" to get to the height of the boats, an elevation gain of maybe six feet.  The canals for the boats are obviously elevated above grade in the Disneyland Small World showbuilding, and dirt was moved to make them more or less ground level with the outside queue.  So even if Anaheim had a high water table, this wouldn't impact this attraction as water doesn't seep upwards into artificial elevations above grade.

    You walk back down to grade when you enter Toontown under the train tracks.

  • Speaking of progress or possibly lack thereof, any word on the status of the Princess Fairytale Hall?  Do you know of a projected opening timeframe.  With the mine train we can see progress, but for the Hall everything is inside so it is hard to know what is going on and WDW seems very quiet on giving many details out on this part of the project.  Thank you and I loved your Editor's Note.

  • Thank you Anonymouse AND Jim. 'Though I have to say...I'd prefer reading articles about Disney making improvements to things us so called "superfans" have whined about for years.

    Money saving tactics, two-demensional upgrades, shoehorned planning and unattractive attractions or non-attractions are NOT acceptable upgrades for a park trailing behind Universal IOA in attendance. Heck, they're downgrades! Attendance is low!  Interest in low. Let be honest; "Be our Guest" is DOA. Restrooms regardless of themeing are still "crappy". Guests expect MORE from the Mouse! Armbands are not the answer. Charge stations are not what guests come for.

    My post devolved into a rant, but I stand by my comments. Disney needs to step up and reset the dominos!

  • Hey, Jim, how about posting som new Editor's Notes?

  • I have gone through everything New Fantasyland Has to offer "So Far", and out of everything so far I find the Little Mermaid Ride to be the most disappointing. It really feels cheaply done. With all of the technology they have they could have made these Scenes come to life. I think Anamatronics would have been a great addition, instead of non lifelike solid pieces. Make them move make them COME TO LIFE!! I mean really if you can make the Hall of Presidents, Presidents Breath. talk, move, and stand then you can make Ariel do SOMETHING!!! And I read in here about the elaborate rocks outside the ride  YES that is the most appealing innovative part of the whole ride!! Have you seen the Hidden Mickey (steamboat willy) on the rocks?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't understand your note, Jenn. I mean, when I went through "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid," I saw some amazing small AA figures (i.e. the tiny Sebastian who directs that fishy orchestra in the "Under the Sea" room) as well as some hugely impressive animatronics (i.e. that fleshy & fluid-moving Ursula in the "Poor Unfortunate Souls" room). Yes, there were some static figures. But when I ride other Disney theme park classics like "Pirates of the Caribbean" & "The Haunted Mansion," I also see lots of static figures. Skeletons & ghosts who don't move (or don't move all that much) but still greatly enhance the over-all theming of those attractions and their in-depth storytelling.

    This is what kind of makes me crazy about some Disney theme park fans. Their selective memories. By that I mean, Jenngoofys: In order to get on the New Fantasyland version of "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid," you had to have walked right by that amazing NextGen version of Scuttle that you see in the queue. You know? The one who leads the folks who are standing in that room through the conclusion of that Blue-Crabs-collect-human-stuff game? That's one of the best AA figures to be added to a Disney theme park in the past 10 years. Yet you didn't mention Scuttle at all in today's note. You just talked about how all the AA figures in the Hall of Presidents "move, breath and stand" and how all the figures in WDW's new Little Mermaid ride should do the same.

    But here's the thing: Only three of the AA figures in the Hall of Presidents actually stand, breath and talk (George Washington -- though it's been a while since George talked, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama). The rest ... Well, it's more the suggestion of movement. I remember talking with Marc Davis about this Walt Disney World show and how it was programmed. And in order to make sure that your attention is primarily focus center stage on Lincoln & the AA version of the current US president, the animation on all of the other AA figures is dialed way, way down. An eye blink here, a head nod there. A figure who slowly shifts his weight from one side to the other.

    In other words, we're talking bare bones Audio Animatronic figures. Most of the robotic presidents onstage in HOP are capable of only one or two movements. Which is far fewer functions than the robotic rogues that are looking on in "Pirates of the Caribbean" auction scene have. Yet when you have 30+ Chief Executives each slowly doing their own or two individual movements behind Lincoln and Obama, they then give the audience the impression that the stage at the Hall of Presidents is filled of all of these (as you said) moving, breathing, standing AA figures. And that's really not what's going on up there. It's your mind that -- taking in those few, carefully timed & planned AA figure moves which is then making you think that you're seeing a stage full of moving presidents.

    Sometime I wish that Disney theme park fans would see the attractions for what they actually are (EX: "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid" is a dark ride done in the style of "Peter Pan Flight" or "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" that makes use of an omnimover ride system rather than the old buzz bar style ride vehicles) rather than for what they think they should be seeing (i.e. "Why didn't they build that version of the Little Mermaid ride that I saw Tony Baxter talking about on the Mermaid DVD a few years ago?"). But since there are those who seem to insist that every single thing that gets built for the Disney theme parks must be "Haunted Mansion" revisited and/or a "Pirates of the Caribbean" scale float-thru extravaganza, these people are doomed to perpetually be disappointed. Not enjoying the ride that's right there in front of them. But -- rather -- to constantly be measuring the attraction they're in against the make-believe, fantasy version that's in their head.

    I mean, is that how you really want to spend your Disneyland or Walt Disney World vacation? Constantly looking for things that could possibly be improved upon? Wouldn't it make more sense to appreciate what's actually already there and then try to enjoy this special time together with your friends & your family? That's what I try and do when I'm out in the Parks. I don't always succeed. But -- hey -- I give it  a try.

  • I am going to Disney World for the first time in June with my wife for a week and I can hardly wait.  I am a former Disneyland employee, and very frequent visitor to that park, very excited to finally go to Disney World.  I appreciate your notes, Jim, because as both a former employee and fan, it takes away from the magic of the experience when superfans knitpick and complain about what Disney SHOULD do based on their "expertise".   I am curious if you can at least tell me from what you know of the situation, if hoping for Fastpass PLUS to be active during my stay is likely, or if I should not get my hopes up.  I enjoy the My Disney Experience as it stands today (already have our dinner reservations planned out) and think that once fully executed, the program will have lots of promise.

  • I don't know what the complaints are about the Under the Sea ride.  The animatronics on this ride are great.  For example, the movements when Ariel is dancing, etc.  The effect of the "cold" as you are turned backwards to simulate going underwater was very creative.

    I don't know why these "superfans" can't just go and have a good time at Disney and appreciate what's there, instead of spending so much time complaining about what isn't.  Armchair quarterbacks always have all the answers.

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