Star Wars Launch Bay to Open at The Studios in December

WDW Magic is reporting that artwork on the building that will be the future home of the Star Wars Launch Bay indicates that the new “attraction” will open in December of this year. Personally, I was hoping they would get it open by early November, but I really had no doubt that they’d have it ready before the Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in mid-December.

Rope Drop Changes Coming to Hollywood Studios

WDW Magic reports that changes are coming to the opening procedure at Hollywood Studios. The biggest change comes at 8:30am (for a 9:00am park opening):

Guests without breakfast reservations will be allowed through the touch points at 8:30am and onto Hollywood Blvd. Guests will be able to go as far at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Min and Bill’s Dockside, and to the Trolley Car Cafe, with ropes at each of those locations.

There will then be a “rope drop” at these locations at 8:45am. (As you might expect, some of the shopping and the Starbucks will be open at 8:30 when guests are let into the park.)

Personally, I prefer this opening procedure. It lets people spread out a little and then better position themselves for either heading to Toy Story Midway Mania or Rockin’ Rollercoaster.

Tom Bricker reviews the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

Tom Bricker recently posted a review he titled Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (though the review is actually of studio room in the Polynesian Villas, with mention of the Bungalows and how much they cost.) As you would expect, Tom’s review has excellent pictures showing the layout of the room and a good rundown about the various amenities the room provides. There is nothing particularly Earth-shattering in his write-up, but it’s definitely worth taking a look for the photography.

Cabana Bay to Add 400 Rooms Before 2017

Universal Studios announced a 400 room expansion to its Cabana Bay Resort that will open in 2017 along with the new Volcano Bay waterpark. This move will bump Cabana Bay up from 1,800 rooms (comparable in size to Disney’s All-Star Sports & Movies or Corando Springs) to 2,200 rooms (which puts it has larger, by room count, than any Disney resort except Pop Century.) Though I have heard really good things about this hotel, having that many rooms really makes me wonder how common areas (the pools, restaurants, etc…) will be impacted.

New Studios Breakfast Option at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Hollywood Studios will be serving breakfast between November 1 and January 23. The options are kind of interesting (“puff pastry filled with scrambled eggs, crab, asparagus and Gruyère cheese with roasted tomatoes and avocado” and “grilled beef tenderloin on baby spinach with bacon and Cheddar custard on a roasted tomato with cheesy horseradish potatoes”), but as someone who has had the Star Wars breakfast in that venue, I can’t imagine wanting to go for this more “generic” event. That said, Disney probably needed to do something to make sure that people had reasons to go to The Studios over the holiday season, and this move fits that bill.

Rumors of a newly configured Entryway to Allow Resort Guests to Bypass Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza

The rumors about a new entry to the Magic Kingdom resort area (I believe I first saw the rumor on WDW News Today are pretty interesting. As someone who enjoys both visiting and staying at these resorts, I would love an excuse to be able to skip the (minor) hassle of the toll plaza. That said, I don’t understand why articles like the WDW News Today one only mention “guests going to the Polynesian or Contemporary.” Why would this allow guests going to the Floridian and/or Wilderness Lodge to bypass the plaza too? That part just seems weird to me.

Some Craft Beer Ideas For Disney World

The guys at Disney Hipsters had an interesting list of ideas on how Disney World could integrate craft beer into the resort. They have a few different suggestions, but I especially like:

  • Brew attraction specific beers (A nice, dark, stout from Tower of Terror could really have potential); and
  • A craft beer bar at the American Adventure Pavillon in Epcot (this became a “no-brainer” idea the second I read it.)

This year will be my first year at the Food & Wine festival since I got more into craft beer, so I am really looking forward to trying a couple of the different beer options. Thankfully, Josh from easy WDW usually does a nice preview that tells you which beers are worth your time.

New Twitter Account, @WDWToday, Connects Guests With Disney Guest Relations During Trips

Earlier today, Disney announced a new Twitter account, @WDWToday, that will allow guests to connect with Disney Guest Relations during their trips. It’s kind of a neat idea–assuming that the account is actually responsive to the guest’s tweets–since so many people turn to social media these days to try and get their problems solved.

(For those of you visiting Disneyland, you can use @DisneylandToday instead.)

Elyssa hugging Baymax
We are satisfied with our care – © John Kivus, 2015

D23 Might Have Left Me a Little Excited

Approaching AT-AT
Approaching AT-AT

This weekend was Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. There was tons of Disney theme park related news at the event, but here is what has got me the most excited:

Star Wars Land at The Studios

The rumors are now a reality: Star Wars land is coming to The Studios. In what is being described as 14-acre, immersive experience, The Studios is getting a whole section dedicated to one of my favorite film franchises. I expected the land to have great theming, retail, and dining, but I didn’t expect these kinds of attractions:

These authentic lands will have two signature attractions, including the ability to take the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, on a customized secret mission, and an epic Star Wars adventure that puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle.

I get to fly a Millennium Falcon? Are you kidding me? That sounds amazing. With the level of detail expected in this area, it will come as no surprise that Jim Hill has recently said Joe Parinella, who was one of the keys to bringing Harry Potter to Universal Orlando, is the one leading this effort.

Relatedly, and in order to satisfy Star Wars fans while Star Wars land is being constructed, Disney also announced the Star Wars Launch Bay for later this year. The Launch Bar will feature “special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars character.” It also sounds like Star Wars Weekends will be upgraded to the new Season of the Force promotion in “early 2016”, and will include new fireworks show set to Star Wars music.

If you want to hear more about Star Wars land, here a

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbOgVOIBPD0)

Toy Story Land at The Studios

Though I heard rumors that there might be something Pixar-related coming to The Studios, I did not anticipate it would be an area completely focused on Toy Story. That said, I am pretty pleased with what it appears that we are getting. Yes, the green aliens attraction is only a spinner, but the Slinky Dog coaster looks pretty cool. Also, anything that increases capacity at Toy Story Midway Mania is a welcome addition.

Much like Star Wars land, what really impresses me here is how much detail is being paid to the theming. For example, the story being the coaster is that Andy used a roller coaster set in his back yard, but decided to use Slinky Dog instead of a regular coaster car to go around the track. I love it.

Also, Jim Hill has already said that Toy Story land is just the beginning for Pixar at The Studios. He is still hearing rumors about some kind of Cars Land being added, as well as one other Pixar section (which currently hasn’t been decided.)

If you want more details about Toy Story Land check out this

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3JA2NUN0Dg).

Jungle Cruise Restaurant at Magic Kingdom

The rumors about this were pretty spot on: [Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen] is coming to the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant is described as follows:

At the Jungle Skipper Canteen, guests will be able to experience “World Famous Jungle Cuisine” in one of several unique dining rooms – including a crew mess hall and a once-hidden secret meeting room of the famed Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant will also be staffed by Jungle Cruise Skippers.

I would assume that means we get the campy humor that the Jungle Cruise is known for, but the announcement is kind of light on details. For example, will this be a table service only restaurant? Or will it be similar to Be Our Guest, with quick service lunch (and breakfast?) and table service dinner? Personally, I’m kind of hoping they follow the Be Our Guest model.

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Disney announced the official name of Avatarland: Pandora – The World of Avatar. Until I have time to create an auto-replace (and to keep from confusing things with the jewelry brand of the same name), however, I’m going to just stick with Avatarland .

The model of Avatarland was spectacular. The idea of floating mountains, the special animatronic animals and Na’vi, and the change over from day to night make this place seem like it could be really special. Of course, the new land also includes a couple of new attractions: AVATAR: Flight of Passage that will “allow guests to experience what it’s like to fly with a banshee”, and a currently unnamed (??) boat ride.

Here’s a

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWivSgWdP0M) if you want to see more of the model and its exhibit.

Night Time Activities at the Animal Kingdom

In addition to Avatarland, Disney also provided more details on two new nighttime editions to Animal Kingdom. Rivers of Light “will combine live performers with floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery”, while Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris will be “a new nighttime adventure that will allow guests to travel through the African savanna amid the orange glow of the setting sun.” As someone who has enjoyed Animal Kingdom the first day I visited it, I cannot wait to have additional nighttime entertainment to keep me in the park longer. I am especially interested in seeing how they extend “the orange glow of the setting sun” into the night.

Soarin’ Around the World Coming to Epcot Next Year

The original rumors were that Disney’s new Soarin’ Around the World film would be exclusive to Shanghai for five years. Thankfully, those rumors turned out to be false and Epcot will see the new Soarin’ film and a digital projection upgrade “beginning next year.” I am, of course, excited to see this upgrade to Soarin’, but I am also excited to see this pattern of Disney updating or enhancing attractions at multiple parks at the same time. I understand the logic behind having certain parks be “the place you go to see Attraction X”, but I feel like this new approach of updating things everywhere is going to cause more overall excitement to Disney fans.

TouringPlans Examines Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ Priorities

Over at the TouringPlans Blog, Len testa breaks down how your should prioritize Fastpass+ options. Some quick take aways:

  • I’m not surprised at all the Peter Pan’s Flight is the number one priority (it is an insanely popular ride, that, despite being an omnimover, seems to have a little bit of a capacity issue)
  • I’m am surprised Enchanted Tales with Belle is still so high on the list (it’s ranked 5.) I haven’t seen lengthy waits at that in a long time.
  • It’s still a bummer that Fastpass+ has made it a lot harder to walk onto the Jungle Cruise at certain parts of the day.

If you have any interesting in Magic Kingdom touring and/or want some good insight into how you should make your Fastpass+ selections, I highly encourage you to check out Len’s full write up.

Mine Train Sign
Mine Train Sign -© John Kivus, 2015

Universal Studios Announces Enhancements to the The Incredible Hulk Coaster

On its Close Up blog, Universal Orlando announced that The Incredible Hulk coaster will be closed from September 8 of this year through the summer for some enhancements:

I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peek at plans for The Incredible Hulk Coaster, and I can tell you the overall experience is going to feel more immersive and high-tech.

As always, I prefer announcements that actually outline what “enhancements” an attraction is going to be getting. I guess we are going to have to wait for that, however.

Frozen Meet and Greet Now Opens at 9am

Now, instead of trying to line up at 10:30am for the 11:00m am entry, you can just go there directly at rope drop. Unfortunately, if you want to meet Anna and Elsa without having to wait 2 hours, you should plan on making them your first stop.

Magic Kingdom goes Fastpass+ Only

Len Testa at Touring Plans explains that, starting Tuesday, January 14th, the Magic Kingdom will be joining the Animal Kingdom in removing paper Fastpass machines and going Fastpass+ only.

I have to admit, I am surprised. I thought for sure that Magic Kingdom would be the last park to go through route.

The Top 5 Mistakes that Walt Disney World Guests Make

Over at MousePlante, Chris Barry has a list of the top 5 mistakes that guests make when visiting the World. The major take away from the list is how important it is to arrive at the park an hour to 45 minutes before the park opens. That early arrival time allows for a few hours of touring without any waits, as well making it much easier to take advantage of an afternoon break.

As Dutch Lomborowski of Mighty Men of Mouse says, “rope drop matters people!”

The Frozen Meet and Greet at the Norway Pavilion Extended until January 31st

The meet and greet was originally supposed to go through January 4th, but has now been extended to last until January 31st1.

For anyone who wants to meet Anna and Elsa, I highly recommend being in line at 10:30am (for the 11:00am meeting session.) The amount of people that can be admitted for a given session is very short, so if you miss this first session, it could be a very, very long wait.


  1. I would not be surprised if it was extended again, too. 

Inside the Magic’s 10 Most Popular Disney Videos from 2013

Inside the Magic has posted a listing of their 10 Most Popular Disney Videos from the past year. Some of my favorites include:

  • The Frozen World of Color segment from Disneyland;

  • The Transformers walking around during the Transformers ride opening; and

  • Merida officially becoming a Disney Princess.1

<

p>Take some time this New Year’s Eve to watch a couple of these videos remember all the cool things that happened the past year.


  1. Now all we need is for Princess Leia to be get her coronation.