Some Disagreements About Which Disney World “Enchanting Extras” Are Worth It

Over at Disney Tourist Blog, Tom Bricker recently wrote a post giving his opinion on which of Disney World’s “Enchanting Extras” (the new branding of Disney’s various tours, parties, etc…) are worth it. When reviewing his ratings, I was struck by a couple of his items (which I’ll examine more in-depth below). It was even more interesting when I read his explanation of his biases regarding his evaluation:

In terms of our bias, we are generally frugal travelers who are willing to splurge on luxury experiences that ostensibly offer value commensurate with cost. Still, we are pretty conservative when it comes to spending, so our threshold for ‘appropriate’ value for money is likely higher than most.

This, on its face, seems to align with Elyssa’s and my point of few on those items, but–despite that apparent similarity–we evaluate some of the items quite differently. For example, Tom evaluates Early Morning Magic as follows:

Early Morning Magic – No – I’ve seen a lot of people do logical contortions trying to justify the value in these, but it just isn’t there unless you approach the parks as being E-Ticket checklists, with each ride on Toy Story Mania being worth $X. In which case, you should probably just buy a used Wii and a copy of [Toy Story Mania for Wii]. What? Not the same experience as being at Walt Disney World? Exactly. There are easy ways to enjoy these attractions during a normal, leisurely day in the parks without paying a surcharge.

I can see someone not seeing a high level of value from getting to ride Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train a few times before part opening, but to just dismiss this off hand by only citing 1 attraction from the Hollywood Studios version of this experience seems disingenuous. (Also, it would be a stretch to say it is “easy” to get multiple rides on Mine Train on a given day outside of an event like this.) As friends of the site, Wes and Howie will tell you, Early Morning Magic can be a great time to ride high demand attractions with the people you love.

Tom was similarily low on Disney After Hours:

Disney After Hours – No – After an initial flop that no doubt lost Disney money, this is returning for 2017 with a lower price tag. It’s still not worth it. What makes the seasonal hard ticket parties worth the money is the ambiance and special entertainment, Disney going the extra mile for a special event. There’s nothing special about this–it’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance.

“[I]t’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance.” Ah, yeah? That’s exactly the point. With the caveat that maybe Disney raises that cap for this year’s version, the cap makes the experience entirely different from the experience you have in a normal day. You can walk from attraction to attraction (frequently without seeing anyone else), and walk on pretty much any attraction as well. The longest wait we had was about 5 minutes to see Mickey at Town Square just as the event was ending. The whole experience was fantastic. (And that’s not even considering the complimentary ice cream sandwiches and drinks.)

Looking back at those two events, it seems like big difference between Tom’s position and mine, is that I feel there is a lot of value in getting to ride attractions without waiting (especially high demand ones.) It also seems like I enjoy the experience of being in an “empty” (partially empty? not as heavily populated?) park more than Tom does. Yes, Disney After Hours doesn’t have the special entertainment that a holiday party might, but being able to stroll through an empty Magic Kingdom does have a distinct ambiance that I really enjoy.

I don’t always disagree with Tom’s ratings, however. For example:

Wild Africa Trek – Yes – I’ve heard nothing but unanimous praise about Wild Africa Trek from those who have done it. While the price tag has kept us from doing it, when I think about how much an experience like this would cost elsewhere (even at the the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, special experiences are pricey) it seems fair. I wouldn’t hesitate to splurge on this if it’s something that appeals to your family.

Elyssa and I have done the Wild Africa Trek, and it’s fantastic. (Here’s my old TouringPlans article on it.) I agree with Tom, and say that it’s worth trying (if you and your family are interested in at all, obviously.)

I also agree with Tom’s take on Backstage Tours:

Backstage Tours – Maybe – I think these will appeal most to those who have ‘been there, done that’ and are looking for a new perspective from which to enjoy Walt Disney World. While being backstage could ruin the illusion for some, I think seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, can give others a greater appreciation for what takes place on stage. We’ve done a number of backstage events over the years, and have found them to be hit or miss in terms of value, but the totality of those experiences has been a deeper interest in how the parks and attractions operate.

If you’re interested in digging deeper into the history and operations of Disney World, these can be fantastic options. Of course, if someone is going on his or her first trip to Disney World (or is someone who doesn’t care about history of the parks, etc…), then these might not make as much sense.

Ultimately, the main thing to keep in mind when evaluating these types of offerings is what you value in your vacation. If you don’t particularly care about riding attractions multiple times as a result of lower crowds, maybe those “enhancements” aren’t for you. If you are more of a “foodie” and want to experience (and learn about) higher end cuisine, maybe take a look at that category of offernings. Depending on what you feel is important, you might end up with a wholly different result from Tom or me.

Disney After Hours Magic
Disney After Hours Magic

It’s Rogue One Day!

Today is a day that Elyssa and I have been eagerly anticipating since we saw that first trailer: Rogue One release day!.

Jyn FTW!
Jyn FTW!

In advance of the movie’s release, we were lucky enough to join the Mighty Men of Mouse and friend of the site Wes James for a special Rogue One preview segment on this week’s episode of Mighty Men of Mouse.

As you might expect, Disney has put its marketing muscle behind the film, including at Disney World. This includes a bunch of new Rogue One merchandise that is now available, updates to the Star Wars Launch Bay (Corey Disbrow has a bunch of pictures of the new exhibits and WDW News Today has video of the new Rogue One preview film being shown there), and a special event where they turned Spaceship Earth into the Death Star (which admittedly sounds cooler than it looked during the live stream.)

I’ll end this post with the best promotional item related to Rogue One. Enjoy:

Looking at What Is Coming to Disney World in 2017

Disney recently issued a press release entitled A Breathtaking New Land of Fantasy Highlights A New Year Full of Magical Additions, Openings at Walt Disney World Resort in which it listed the various “additions” that are coming to Disney World in 2017. Here are some of the highlights and my thoughts:

Pandora – The World of Avatar – A transformational experience unlike any other, Pandora – The World of Avatar, opens in summer 2017. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR, in a breathtaking new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage will send guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee. Bioluminescent rainforests dramatically wrap around Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride. Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders.

None of this will come as a surprise to readers of the site, but it’s nice to have everything summarized so neatly. A Soarin’-like adventure and a BOATRIDE are fantastic anchors to this land. Also, it will give a preview of the new immersive theming that (I believe) will also be present in Star Wars land. (By immersive theming, I mean a little less pushing of the overall Disney brand in the land, with cast members acting more like you are really on Pandora.

More Additions to Disney Springs in 2017
Paddlefish – Sleek and modern after a bow-to-stern transformation from the former Fulton’s Crab House, Paddlefish will serve fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Unique menu choices for seafood lovers include a build-your-own boil. A new rooftop lounge will serve up a late-night menu and shipshape views of the water and Disney Springs. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

The standard of quality at Disney Springs ended up making Fulton’s obsolete. With the BOATHOUE already offerring a combination of seafood and steak, it’ll be interesting ot see what Paddlefish does to set itself apart.

The Polite Pig – A sister restaurant to the Ravenous Pig, a favorite with Orlando locals, The Polite Pig will bring the same focus on genuine Florida cuisine to a broader global audience at Disney Springs. Lunch and dinner menus will feature a variety of wood-fired smoked and grilled items as well as an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including beer, wine and cocktails.

Though I’m not particularly excited about the Guy Fieri menu at the newly revamped Planet Hollywood Observatory, the Polite Pig seems like it might be a nice option. (Of course, I have never to the Ravenous Pig, so what do I know?)

Rivers of Light – Coming in 2017, this powerful theatrical production takes Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests on a magnificent emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light choreographed to an original musical score. Continuing the park’s transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience, the amazing after-dark show on the banks of Discovery River celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world. (emphasis added)

“Coming in 2017.” Sigh. That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least a trial or two during the holiday season (though, I’m not holding my breath.) Of course, if no one is at Animal Kingdom later in the evening but Elyssa & me over Christmas, I’m fine with it.

New Cabins and Deluxe Villas coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – In 2017, a proposed new Disney Vacation Club Resort, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, is scheduled to open, featuring new Resort accommodations that include plans for Deluxe Villas and unique waterfront cabins. Other enhancements coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge include a brand-new bar & grill, in addition to a quick-service restaurant. A sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool, part of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is also scheduled to open in summer 2017. Named Boulder Ridge Cove, this area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool.

If Elyssa and I were to buy DVC, this would be where we do it. We love Wilderness Lodge, and the information on these Deluxe Villas makes them seem like they’re going to be top notch. I am looking forward to seeing an actual demo.

Of course, there are a a bunch more announcements in the actual press release, but these were the ones I am most interested in. Regardless, 2017 seems like it could be a big year.

Star Wars Movies on sale on iTunes

As the release date for Rogue One quickly approaches, Star Wars seems to be on the forefront of everyone’s mind (as if it isn’t normally.)

As part of that hype, iTunes currently has the original trilogy and the prequels on sale for the nice price of $69.99.

The individual movies are also on sale for $15 a piece (so if you wanted just the original trilogy, you could get that for $45..):

(Sadly, The Force Awakens, is not part of the sale.)

Lastly, Disney has added a new exclusive Rogue One “sneak peak” to the extras associated with A New Hope. So, if you already own that (or just purchased it), you might want to give the sneak peak a look.

Enjoy the Star Wars universe! We should be getting a nice addition to it next week…

New Rogue One Sneak Peak added to A New Hope
New Rogue One Sneak Peak added to A New Hope

Disney Live Streaming the Spaceship Earth to Death Star Transformation Tonight at 10:25PM Eastern

Disney is live streaming the “Spaceship Earth becomes the Death Star” transformation tonight at 10:25 pm Eastern. As has become the norm for Disney live streams, they Disney Parks Blog will put a new post 10-15 minutes the event that contains a link to the stream. I’ll try to update this post with that information as well, but always check the Disney Parks Blog if you don’t find streaming link here.

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog page and here’s the video:

In other Rogue One News, there is now a Rogue One section in Star Wars Launch Bay. (See also, WDW News Today’s coverage.)

Speaking of Rogues...
Speaking of Rogues…

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Even the holidys don’t slow down the amount of news that comes out about Disney World, so it’s time for another edition of the Rope Drop [dot] News Nuggets!

Obviously, the biggest item of news is the upcoming transformation of Spaceship Earth into the frakin’ Death Star at the upcoming Rogue One premiere event (which, of course, is already at capacity.) I’m probably in the minority on this, but I wish they’d do this more than just the one night.

The other big items are related to various festivals that occur at Epcot over the course of the year:

Lotso is already a favorite
Lotso is already a favorite
Now, on to the rest of the Nuggets:

We’ll close this edition of the News Nuggets with this video walkthrough of the famous Royal Asanta Presdiental Suite at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This might be the closest I’ll ever get to actually being in that: