Walt Disney World News From D23 – A Recap

As readers of this site probably know, this past weekend was the 2017 D23 Expo out in California. Though, as a Disney fan, I was interested in a lot of the goings on from the weekend, I was most interested in seeing what Disney was going to announce related to Disney World.

Here’s what happened:

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Information about Star Wars Land starting coming out early at D23 when Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek unveiled a detailed model of the Disneyland version of the new land. TouringPlans has some more detailed pictures of the Star Wars Land model, as does WDW News Today, and Disney has posted a video “fly through” of the model:

The name of the new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, was actually discovered in Disney webpage source code a day before it’s official announcement during Saturday’s Disney Parks & Resorts panel. As part of that announcement, Disney gave more details on the two two attractions that will be part of the new land:

One attraction will make you feel like you’re on a Star Destroyer inside a hangar bay. It’s an attraction built on a scale we’ve never done before.

Here is a link to WDW News Today’s look at the ride vehicle for that attraction that is supposed to bring you in a close confrontation with the First Order.

First Order Attraction Concept Art - © Disney
First Order Attraction Concept Art – © Disney

Disney describes the second attraction as

giv[ing] guests the opportunity to fly the Millenium Falcon, piloting the ship, shooting blasters or preparing for hyperspace – all while completing a critical mission. But how you perform on the mission holds even bigger stakes: perform with skill and you may earn extra galactic credits, while bringing the ship back banged up could put you on the list of a bounty hunter. End up on Harkos’s list and you may face a problem if you show up at the local cantina!
Millennium Falcon Attraction Concept art - © Disney
Millennium Falcon Attraction Concept art – © Disney

Chapek also announced that Galaxy’s Edge will feature appearances from popular characters Chewbacca, BB-8, and everyone’s favorite Star Tours pilot, Rex (who will have a new role as the dj in the cantina.)

Overall, the presentation hinted on the new “reputation” features of the land that were previously announced (i.e., your flight on the Millawnium…err…Millenium Falcon having consequences), but did not give details as to how that will be implemented. Thanfully, Inside the Magic has a fantastic interview with Imagineer Scott Trowbridge that gives strong hints as to how that system will work:

“If you do a great job flying the Millennium Falcon, you might find a few more Galactic Credits coming your way. But if you bang the ship up and bring it back all damaged […] when you roll across the street to the local cantina, you might hear from someone in the cantina that there’s even a bounty on your head because you owe more money than you have.

That’s just one quote from the interview, and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in Star Wars Land, to head over to Inside the Magic and read the whole thing.

After discussing the land, Chapek confirmed earlier reports that both coasts will get their respective Star Wars lands in the first half of 2019, with the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge opening before the Disney World version (which isn’t surprising based on the reports of the construction progress in both lands.) That said, with Star Wars: Episode IX scheduled to open on May 24, 2019, I would imagine Disney will try to get Galaxy’s Edge open in time to capitalize on the film’s advertising, etc… (and, coincidentially, a few weeks before Bob Iger’s contract expires on July 2, 2019.)

In more Star Wars news, the rumored, immersive, Star Wars Hotel was also officially announced. Chapek described the new hotel as:

“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

If I heard things correctly, he also said that every room will have a window looking out into space. If the “virtual space” windows are half as good as everyone says the “virtual portholes” on Disney cruise ships, we could be in for a real treat. I’d imagine that Elyssa and I will be making reservations as close as possible to the hotel opening.

Star Wars Themed Hotel - © Disney
Star Wars Themed Hotel – © Disney

Hollywood Studios

In non-Star Wars news related to the Studios, it was confirmed that the previously announced Toy Story Land is scheduled to open in 2018.

In a more dramatic move, however, Disney also announced that The Great Movie Ride will become Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The first ever Mickey-themed ride is inspired by Mickey Mouse cartoons and Disney describes it as:

put[ting] you inside the wacky and unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short where you’re the star and anything can happen. This zany out-of-control adventure features surprising twists and turns, dazzling visual effects and mind-boggling transformations that happen before your very eyes.

More concretely, Disney says this attraction

will feature a new story and a new singable attraction theme song as well as a new experience we’re calling “2 1/2 D.” No glasses required. Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty said teams are inventing new technologies that turn the flat world of a colorful cartoon short into a “dimensional display of amazingness.”

In order to make way for this new attraction, The Great Movie Ride will be closed on August 13, 2017. Though I’ve not ridden The Great Movie Ride as much recently, I have fond memories of the attraction. Unfortunately, it was in dire need of an update and a refurb, and it looks like Disney couldn’t (or decided not to) bring all the necessary parties together to structure the licenses necessary to make that happen.

No targeted opening date was given for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Epcot

Many people went into this D23 thinking it was going to be a turning point for Epcot (though, there is a definite split on whether or not such massive changes is a positive development.) Regardless of your thoughts as to whether major changes should take place, however, Disney announced a ton of new changes for Epcot. It also indicated that this is just the beginning of a massive overhaul of the park.

Chapek described the Epcot reimagining as staying true to the “original vision” of Epcot, while also making it “more Disney, timeless, relevant, [and] family-friendly.” I’m sure a lot of ink will be spilled on think pieces over the next couple of days discussing how some of these announcements relate to Epcot’s “original vision”, but, for now, I’m going to focus on what’s upcoming.

To set the stage, new concept art for Future World was shown during the presentation that featured–what looked like–a complete reimagining of Future World. Since Disney did not release that image along with the rest of its media assets, however, I view those ideas as more in the “developing” stages than some of the other items. (A lot can change between initial reimagining and the final product.) If you’re interested, though, here’s a link to a photo someone took of the concept art

As far as actual new attractions, the first announcement was a new Guardians of the Galaxy-inspired attraction that will replace Universe of Energy.. There were not a lot of details given about this attraction, with Disney saying:

Epcot’s brand new E-ticket attraction will be based on the rockin’ and action-packed world of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and is the next step in how guests can encounter these characters at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Previously, rumors have suggested the ride will be some kind of new coaster, but none of that has been confirmed, yet. As with the Great Movie Ride, Universe of Energy will close on August 13, 2017 to begin construction of the new Guardians ride.

The second announced new attraction coming to Epcot is a Ratatouille ride similar to the one at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.. This ride will be part of new area in the France pavilion and Disney says that in this attraction:

guests will be able to shrink to Remy’s size and scurry to safety in a dazzling chase across a kitchen with the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s legendary Parisian restaurant.

Both of these attractions are targeted to open prior to Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021.

Other Epcot related changes include a new, updated Circle-Vision film being added to the China pavilion and updated films for Mission: SPACE, including “a brand new Green Mission that will take guests on a stunning tour around the Earth, with younger cadets joining the adventure for the very first time.” According to Disney, Mission: SPACE is scheduled to reopen this August.

Adjacent to Mission: SPACE will be a new “out of this world” restaurant. Though not many details were announced, it seems likely the restaurant will feature “windows” looking out into space (like the Star Wars Hotel will have.) The fact that it’s going to be run by the same group that runs Via Napoli and Morimoto Asia gives me high hopes.

Space Restaurant - © Disney
Space Restaurant – © Disney

Magic Kingdom

Recently, rumors had been quite strong that the TRON coaster from Shanghai Disneyland would be making its way to Disney World. Many of the rumors suggested this new experience would end up replacing the Tomorrowland Speedway. Well, the rumors saying that TRON is coming were right. It is slated to open in advance of Disney’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The interesting part of things, however, is that the attraction will “sit in an entirely new area right next Space Mountain.” This seems to suggest that the Speedway is sticking around (and, also, hopefully means that there won’t be any issues requiring changes or removal of the beloved People Mover in order to accommodate the new TRON attraction.)

Another Magic Kingdom item that had not been on anyone’s rumor radar is a new theater coming to Main Street U.S.A.. The “new entertainment venue will be based on the iconic Willis Wood Theater in 1920s Kansas City, where Walt lived after he left Marceline. ” Disney hasn’t yet announced what new entertainment will be coming to the theater, but it seems like this venue could be used to house the shows shown on Disney Cruise ships or similar like performances.

Unfortunately, there were no announcements about a new night time parade coming to Disney World. For months we’ve heard rumors about Disneyland’s Paint the Night parade coming to Disney World, but now it looks like that parade is simply moving to Disney’s California Adventure. (I’ve also heard rumors about Main Street Electrical Parade coming back to Disney World, but I’ll believe that when I see it.) Until then, it looks like Magic Kingdom will continue to operate without a night time parade (outside of the holiday parties) for the forseeable future.

Overall Resort Changes

The rumored gondola system that will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts with the Studios and the backside of Epcot was given the name Disney Skyliner. It’ll be interesting to see what an increased amount of people using the International Gateway might mean for that (significantly smaller) entrance. As it stands currently, a boat full of people arriving can clog things up for a few minutes. I wonder what a steady stream of people arriving on gondolas will do.

Also on the transportation front, Disney’s rumored “Uber-like” service was branded Minnie Vans. Details on this new transportation option (such as cost) are scarce at this time.

Finally, Disney announced the new Disney Riveria Resort. This resort seems to be what people previously thought of as the “moderate” Caribbean Beach DVC (in no small part as a result of its location adjacent to Caribbean Beach). With the rebranding and gondola system, however, it’ll be interesting to see if the cost of this resort ends up being more in line with the rest of DVC options.

Other Odds and Ends

In news that made Elyssa crack a smile, Disney announced that there will be new themed dresses coming to The Dress Shop. Hopefully, Disney will be able to actually keep these in stock.

Disney also announced that the various Disney Stores around the country will be redesigned. As someone who tries to get a little bit of a Disney-fix by wandering into my local Disney Store ever week or two, I’m interested in seeing what this new redesign looks like.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see from the length of this post, the 2017 iteration of D23 Expo had a lot of Disney World news. At this point, I’m still trying to process things, but my first impression from the new announcements is pretty positive. We are getting a number of interesting new attractions, without losing things like the People Mover or Impressions de France to make way for them (for now, anyway.)

Out of all the new attractions, I’m probably most exited about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and the TRON coaster. Finally having a ride dedicated to the mouse that started it all is awesome, and I have high hopes that the Imagineers are going to give the attraction a lot of love and care. Meanwhile, the Shanghai version of TRON is that park’s highest rated attraction (and have a soft spot in my heart for the concept of little “people programs” running around in my computer.) Can I make my reservations for Disney World’s 50th birthday now?

That’s it for my recap. Thanks for reading See you at the Galaxy’s Edge!

(NOTE: If you’ve made it this far, but you still want to read Disney PR’s take on all the Disney World news, they have a press release available that talks about everything.)

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s Easter Weekend and and that means (among other things, obviously) lots of visitors to Disney World, and a whole bunch of new Disney World News Nuggets.

The biggest news is probably the new “extra” hours opportunities at the Magic Kingdom:

  • Disney “After Hours” Event Announced. – 3 extra hours at the Magic Kingdom with a low attendance sounds pretty awesome, but $150 per person is a lot of money for it. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I have the option to go to this. (I’m not the first / only person to say this, but it seems like the DVC Fireworks we saw a couple of weeks ago might be a good fit for this party.)
  • Disney adds “Early Morning Magic” to the Magic Kingdom – Rumors are saying that $69 gets you rides on Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, as well as a “breakfast buffet” at Pinocchio Village Haus for 1.5 hours before the park opens to regular guests. I was hoping this would be $50 per person, not $70.

That wasn’t all the news from the past few days, though. Here are the rest of the News Nuggets:

We’ll end this edition of the News Nuggets with this look at what has become of Disney’s River Country “Watering Hole”. I used to love River Country, and I was sad when it was closed. It’s freaky to see what it looks like now that Disney has abandoned it. Hopefully, the rumors Jim Hill talks about (building a DVC resort in that area) turn out to be true.

See you next time!

What special entertainment will be part of After Hours at the Magic Kingdom?
What special entertainment will be part of After Hours at the Magic Kingdom?

Initial Thoughts from our February 2016 Trip to Disney World

The BOATHOUSE Sliders
The BOATHOUSE Sliders

Elyssa and I just got back from a recent trip to Disney World. Though we anticipate doing more in-depth posts about various parts of the trip, here are some initial thoughts:

  • The location for the new Flamingo Crossing hotels is pretty awesome. It’s too early to really review the hotels themselves (they had opened only a week before our 1 night stay there), but the concept seem promising. I wonder how different it’ll feel when there is more than just 15 people staying in them, though.
  • Breakfast at Kona is the real deal. Tonga Toast, the Big Kahuna platter, etc…are great. If there’s a day where you don’t want to be waiting at the turnstiles at rope drop, then definitely stop by. (Same goes for Whispering Canyon, where we ate breakfast twice on the trip. Skillets AND giant Mickey Waffles, baby.)
  • Speaking of “real deal” food options, both Sanaa and The BOATHOUSE are great places to have lunch. Sanaa’s bread service is always good (TIP: You can order more bread for it if you want (and we almost always do)), and the filet sliders are The BOATHOUSE are delicious (and a complete steal at only $12.)
  • Skipper Canteen was pretty good. We both really liked the theming of the place (but I would have been fine with a few more puns from our “Skipper”.) Once you get past the slightly flowery “garnishes” to the dishes, they really are serving steak, chicken, pork, and mac ‘n’ cheese with beef. My pork was fine. Elyssa enjoyed her mac ‘n’ cheese (but not as much as the mac ‘n’ cheese from the BOATHOUSE which is probably now her favorite thing in Orlando). In an interesting twist, the $1.75 “Kid’s Volcano” dessert tasted better than the $8 Kungaloosh (so we’ll probably just 4 kid’s desserts next time instead of getting “grown up” desserts.)
  • The construction around the Wilderness Lodge right now is kind of bummer. I knew to expect it, but seeing so much of the resort closed and the trees near Bay Lake being removed is a bummer. I’m sure the new DVC rooms will be nice, but I’m going to miss that little buffer between the lodge and rest of the World that the “Woods View” rooms used to have.
  • There’s a few running jokes about Elyssa’s and my visits with Tinker Bell, but the cast members who portray her are consistently some of the best we interact with. We had one who must have dropped 15 “leaf” puns in the span of 2 minutes, all while carrying on conversations with Elyssa and I about running, pixie dust, and various other things that she was “tinking” about.
Tink Mode!
Tink Mode!

I’ll end by saying that the logistics that must go on behind the scenes at a runDisney race have to be insane. So many people getting moved around, running down World Dr., through theme parks, etc… while being provided with various character meets, and other entertainment. It has to be a tremendous effort. Our local races might get choked up if we get 2,000, but Disney handles close to 20,000 really, really well.

As I said, there will be more coming from this trip (hopefully, at least 2 or 3 of the 3,000 pictures Elyssa and I took turn out to be worthy of being included in a few posts), but these are some of the major takeaways from our 5 days down there.

Oh, and one last thing: BOATRIDE CLUB, BABY!!

Boatride Club
Boatride Club

 

Why is there “Summer Free Dining” at Disney World?

Why is there a “Summer Free Dining”?

For dates from the end of May through mid-August (not including the 4th of July and surrounding days), Disney is offering a special “free dining” promotion that features one free quick service meal per person per night when you buy a “non-discounted 4-night / 5-day room and theme park ticket package at a Disney Value Resort.”

First, I don’t see this as impacting “traditional” free dining (the one where you actually get some variety of the Disney Dining Plan when you book a non-discounted stay at various resorts) at all. Here are the start dates for free dining in previous years:

  • 2012 – September 30
  • 2013 – September 29
  • 2014 – August 31
  • 2015 – August 28

As you can see, for the past 4 years, Disney has started its actual “Free Dining” promotion multiple weeks after this new “Summer” promotion is scheduled to end. I would imagine that if Disney does a free dining promotion this year, it will, as it has in the last several years, start in late August, after the traditional summer crowd (and this summer dining offer) has ended. I don’t think this summer free dining offer gives any real insight into Disney’s future “Free Dining” plans.

Secondly, I think this promotion is targeted at a very specific group of people, namely: Budget conscious travelers trying to decide between staying onsite or offsite for their summer visit. What leads me down this path is the offer’s limited applicability to only Value resorts. This suggests Disney World has a very specific market in mind.

In order to better evaluate this promotion, let’s look at a 4 night–5 day stay during the Summer Offer period for a family of 4 with two 5-year old children (specifically, staying Wednesday, June 15 through Sunday, June 19th). The non-discounted rate for a standard room during that time at Pop Century is $155 per night before tax (NOTE: Art of Animation Little Mermaid standard rooms are not an option for this Summer Offer). Comparatively, the same family could stay in the brand new SpringHill Suites at Flamingo Crossing for $99 per night before tax. Even if they rent a car for $20 a day plus pay parking for $20 a day (neither of which is absolutely necessary, depending on how they travel to Disney World and what their plans are while there) they have a comparable per night cost at the SpingHill Suites (and that’s before factoring in things like free in-hotel breakfast, money you could save by buying bottles of water at an off-site location, grabbing a lunch at Chick-Fil-A on your way back to the pool instead of at Casey’s Corner, etc…). They could also save over $180 on the price of 4 day Park Hopper tickets by buying from a reputable third party.

Even if it turns out that there is only $200 in monetary savings by staying offsite, that is $200 of real money the family is saving. When you’re talking about a total trip budget of around $2,000, that’s a pretty important amount of savings. I believe Disney’s “Summer Free Dining” is an attempt to eliminate some of that price difference between onsite and offsite stays for guests in an effort to appeal to extremely budget-conscious travelers. It’s Disney’s way of saying something like “if you stay with us, we’ll pick up your lunch bill.”

I understand all the arguments about why staying onsite is the only way to vacation at Disney World. I enjoy the “Disney Bubble” and I love being able to just walk out of my room and take a BOATRIDE, BAYBAY!! over to the Magic Kingdom. I like getting the extra 30 days to make my Fastpass+ selections and taking advantage of some night-time extra magic hours. 

But, if my budget for a Disney World trip for my family were $2,000, then those things might not be as important, and saving $100 here or $100 there could mean a lot. I think this Summer Offer is Disney’s attempt to close that off-site v on-site price gap in the budget-conscious market. I’m interested to see how it works.

Who doesn't love a boatride?
Who doesn’t love a boatride?

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

With 2015 coming to a close, I figured we could sneak in one last edition of Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggests. After the big edition last week, this will feel like a little bit of a down week:

Let’s end things with a link to a video of this year’s holiday Illuminations and a link to Corey Disbrow’s 2015 Disney World photo recap. (And don’t forget that Disney is live streaming it’s New Year’s Eve fireworks from the Magic Kingdom tonight!)

The original news nugget picture for the last nuggets of 2015
The original news nugget picture for the last nuggets of 2015

Reviewing Disney World Annual Pass Restaurant Discounts

Annual Passholder Discount Card
Annual Passholder Discount Card

With the recent increase in price for Tables in Wonderland, I bet I’m not the only one trying to figure out if it is going to be worth it to renew that card. One part of that cost-value analysis involves comparing the Tables in Wonderland discounts to those discounts that I already get as an annual pass holder. Though I am still working through my own analysis, here is a list of AP discounts compared to what you receive via Tables in Wonderland (“TiW”). These discounts appear to be good as of today (and, presumably, through the end of the 2015): NOTE: TiW Discounts do include alcoholic beverages

20% off Regularly Priced Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages During Lunch, and 10% off during Dinner:

15% off Regularly Priced Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages

10% off Any Purchase

10% off Lunch & Dinner Entrées:

10% off Regularly Priced Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (Blackout Days Apply):

10% off Regularly Priced Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages DURING LUNCH ONLY (Blackout Days Apply):

10% off Regularly Priced Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages DURING LUNCH MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY ONLY (Blackout Days Apply):

10% off Regularly Priced Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages DURING BREAKFAST ONLY (Blackout Days Apply):

The above mentioned blackout days are what you would probably expect: New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.

NOTE: The Annual Pass does offer a 20% discount off the House of Blues Gospel Brunch, but the discount not available on the following dates: April 5, May 10, June 21, December 20 and December 27, 2015.

Hopefully, this listing helps you a little as you try to decide if continuing with Tables in Wonderland is the right idea for you.

Disney’s Official Video on the Polynesian Village Resort

I understand it’s a marketing video, but sometimes these type of videos just make me smile:

Also, can you honestly tell me you are a Disney fan but that have absolutely no interest in ever staying at the Poly? Come on.

(If you want more Polynesian Village coverage, Josh at easyWDW just posted a nice little photo report of the resort, including a write up on Trader Sam’s Grotto, and, if you want more marketing videos, check out this video about the “fall decor” at the Magic Kingdom)