Welcome to Rope Drop [dot] Net

It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you today as we proudly present: Rope Drop [dot] net.

Getting pumped for the site launch
Getting pumped for the site launch

This site is something that Elyssa and I first started thinking about in 2014, before life got in the way. Though I have since started writing for TouringPlans, and though I have continued to post various Disney-related links on my personal website under the Disney category, the idea of creating a website to capture all of Elyssa’s and my Disney-related thoughts kept popping back up. During the drive back from one of our recent Disney trips, we decided it was time to get back to that idea.

There is no shortage of Disney-centric websites to follow. Some, like TouringPlans and easyWDW, provide high quality information that greatly helps people plan their Walt Disney World vacations, while others try to keep their super fan readers up to date with the latest Disney news and rumors. Unfortunately, these sites don’t always play nicely with one another. Sites may re-write each other’s articles, or take information without giving credit. Our goal is push back against that. Though we will, of course, post our own opinions and commentary, we also want to point you to the best of what is available at the other sites in the Disney fandom community. We won’t link to every bit of news, every rumor, or every walk-through video, but we’ll hopefully link to ones that you’ll find interesting (or, perhaps, important?).

As part of our efforts to shed light on some of great resources in the Disney fandom community, one of our recurring features on the site will be our Rope Drop [dot] Net Interviews. The goal of these interviews is to give you insight on and from the people who are behind some of the high quality Disney information that you find online. The first interview in our series is with one of the fabulous co-hosts of the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast, Dutch Lombrowski, and is available today.

On the above mentioned opinion front, Elyssa and I will have the John and Elyssa’s Favorites series. As you have probably guessed, this series will be our opportunity to play the “rankings game” with various categories of Disney topics, as well as our chance to dive deeper into some of our individual favorite items. The first entry in this series, Favorite Breakfast at Disney World, is also Favorite Breakfast at Disney World. (Also available today: Elyssa’s Definitive WDW Land Rankings, in response to Mighty Men of Mouse Ep. 226.)

Over the past couple of years, Elyssa and I have made some great friends as a result of our love for Disney. When we were creating this site, we wanted to make something that these friends of ours would enjoy reading. We hope we succeeded in that goal.

All you need is faith and trust... and a little bit of pixie dust!
All you need is faith and trust… and a little bit of pixie dust!

Rope Drop [dot] Net Interview – Dutch Lombrowski

One of the things Elyssa and I want to emphasize with this site is the great Disney fandom community that we feel fortunate to be a part of. This Interview Series is part of that effort.

A Dutch selfie in his natural environment: The Cali Grill
A Dutch selfie in his natural environment: The Cali Grill

Dutch Lombrowski is one of the co-hosts of the award winning Mighty Men of Mouse podcast. Fans of that podcast know him for his humor, analytical thinking, and love of the L’Artisan des Glaces “Croque Glacé” brioche ice cream sandwich. Elyssa and I know him as a friend, and one of the people we are most looking forward to sharing a drink at Trader Sam’s with some day. In other words, he is the perfect person for the first entry in the Rope Drop [dot] net interview series.

NOTE: My questions are in bold, and Dutch’s responses follow. The questions have been cut down from what I originally asked and responses have been lightly edited to make the interview easier to read, but all efforts have been made to preserve their original meaning and substance. All links were added by me.

On Mighty Men of Mouse, you talk about going to Disney World when you were younger. What are some of your earliest memories from Disney World?

My family’s first trip to Disney World was in August 1987 when I was five.  My dad had just been hired for a new job and my parents made the decision to head down before his start date.  We stayed at either a Quality Inn or Comfort Inn.  I can’t remember and I’ve even tried to find the hotel on Google, but I’ve come up empty so far.  The hotel was no great shakes either way, but it did have an okay arcade.

I don’t remember much about the trip.  I have a dim memory of eating in Cinderella’s Castle on my parents’ anniversary.  It was King Stefon’s Banquet Hall then.  There’s a foggy recollection of eating at Liberty Tree Tavern and watching the Main Street Electrical Parade.  My strongest memory is from our last day.  We were sitting at the little table in our hotel room and my mom was trying to hide her tears behind oversized sunglasses.  I was so happy when she said, “I think we’re going to come back.”

After that we went every year through the early nineties. From then on and through college, it was two, three or even four times a year.  We stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort a few times after it opened.  When we received a phone offer to stay at the Beach Club the year it opened, we gave it a try.  From then on, it the was the Yacht or Beach every trip.

Have your trips always had such a strong family component?

A Dutch family selfie
A Dutch family selfie

Trips have always been about family.  I took a four year layoff from Disney between 2006 and 2010. That timeframe pretty much accounts for my graduation from law school, getting married, establishing my career and the birth of my daughter.  Millie joining our little family is the spark that reignited my Disney passion.

I never took a guy weekend or trip like that down.  That’s not because I haven’t desperately desired to.  Sometimes the real world can get in the way of our hobby.

The one time I was down there with a friend was a little bit of serendipity.  When I was 13 or so, I bumped into my best friend from elementary school and junior high.  I was in the big store on Hollywood Boulevard when I saw his grandma.  After I picked my jaw up off the floor, she told me their whole family was waiting for a table to 50’s Prime Time.  I snuck over there and sat down next to Chris on the couch in the waiting area.  He noticed me after 15 long seconds.  We all ate lunch and then I got to spend the rest of the day with him.  The highlight of the day was heading over to Magic Kingdom during a huge afternoon storm and riding Dreamflight six or seven times in a row.  That will probably go down as one of the favorite days of my life.

One of the things that really makes Mighty Men of Mouse stand out is the analytical approach that you guys take to things. How did you start looking at Disney World in this way?

My first few jobs were working on political campaigns and in state government.  At a very young age, I learned to take hard looks at things and figure out what worked and why.  From there, my biggest epiphany came 2003 with the release of Moneyball by Michael LewisMoneyball is about how a small market baseball team was able to succeed on limited resources. At its heart, Moneyball is about the process of valuing things and exploiting market inefficiencies.

It was an easy transition to bring these principles to discussions about our hobby because that’s the way we think about the world.  It makes for fun discussions too.  It’s easy to just say that something isn’t worth doing because of what Disney charges.  It’s much more rewarding and fun to figure out what breakfast at Be Our Guest is actually worth.

Someone comes to you and says “I’m taking a trip to Walt Disney World next year. I’ve got the Unofficial Guide and I’ve started going through it. Anything else I should know?” What do you tell her?

Be at the turnstiles 45 minutes before the park opens and see the most popular stuff right away. If she seems open to the advice, a couple restaurant suggestions tailored to her family situation might be helpful too.

As people who love the parks, we can sometimes really overwhelm “normies” with information and that clutter doesn’t serve them well. Most people care about avoiding lines and seeing “the big stuff.” Getting to the parks early does 95% of the work. TouringPlans is a great service and optimizes at the edges, but it won’t make your day easy if you show up at 2pm.

If the person I’m giving advice is really Type A, I’d also point her to easyWDW. If there’s a review of her hotel or a restaurant she’s seeing, I’d her send the link to those reviews.

Wrap-up

First, a huge thank you to Dutch for being our first interview subject. When I thought about doing this, I was kind of nervous if (1) anyone would say yes and (2) if I would be able to ask good enough questions to let my subjects shine. Thankfully, Dutch’s answers were (unsurprisingly) stellar from the get-go, regardless of the quality of my questions.

If you want to hear more from Dutch (and why wouldn’t you?), you can listen to him on the Mighty Men of Mouse and Earvengers podcasts. You can also follow him on Twitter at @dutchlombrowski.

John and Elyssa’s Favorites – Breakfast at Walt Disney World

This is the first post in the Rope Drop [dot] Net John & Elyssa’s Favorites series. As you can probably guess, this series is our take on the always popular “rankings” game.

Elyssa and Tigger Selfie
Elyssa and Tigger Selfie

For the first entry in this series, we have put together our favorite places to have breakfast at Disney World. We based the rankings mainly on “in restaurant” factors (such as quality of food, and restaurant theming and ambiance), but external factors (such as location of the restaurant) did play some role in our rankings. Our rankings include all Disney World table service restaurants where we have ever enjoyed breakfast (and one “quick service” place that you can probably guess).

Favorite Breakfast Restaurants at Disney World

 11. Captain’s Grille: Every so often, you might hear about the “improvements” at the Captain’s Grille. I guess I understand that, but the restaurant still comes in the bottom of our favorites list. The major reason for its position is the generic theming and forgettable meals. If you’re staying at the Yacht or Beach Clubs, it’s not the worst option, but it’s nothing particularly special.

10, Cape May Cafe: This ranking may surprise someone people , who view it as a cheaper breakfast buffet that features characters like Minnie, Goofy, and Donald in their swim gear. For Elyssa and I, however, we cannot handle how loud the restaurant is. The buffet is fine, but we would rather enjoy our breakfast at one of the other breakfast buffets higher on the list.

Star Wars Breakfast at Sci-Fi Dine-In
Star Wars Breakfast at Sci-Fi Dine-In

9. Sci-Fi Dine-In: Though the Sci-Fi Dine-In recently announced it would offer breakfast starting in November, Elyssa and I had breakfast there during a previous Star Wars weekend. Much like the newly announced breakfast, the meal we had consisted of pastries, an appetizer, an entrée, and a beverage. Though we enjoyed the presence of Star Wars characters, we found the food underwhelming, the restaurant too dark, and the “cars” that you dine in rather small and uncomfortable. Since it is actually in The Studios, it jumps ahead of the out of park options mentioned above, but not by a large margin.

8. Trattoria al Forno: With Trattoria al Forno, we enter the section of the list that features restaurants that we consider going to on just about each trip. Though the theming is a bit bland, Trattoria al Forno’s food is top notch (I have enjoyed both the waffle and the apple-cinnamon pancakes). Its location near Epcot’s International Gateway also makes this a great way to start a late morning visit to World Showcase.

7. ‘Ohana: ‘Ohana delivers some of the best character interactions we have had at a character meal. Unfortunately, some of the food delivered was not quite as good as that at other locations (for example, we found the bacon to be soggy instead of crisp and the biscuits kind of disappointing). That said, the baskets of welcome bread were delicious (and they’ll give you more if you ask.)

Elyssa is a Princess at Cinderella's Royal Table
Elyssa is a Princess at Cinderella’s Royal Table

6. Cinderella’s Royal Table: You might expect that a restaurant with pretty good food, inside of Cinderella’s castle, would rank higher on the list, but extremely high cost and the clear pressure that they put on you to finish quickly knock it down our rankings. The interactions with the Disney Princesses, however, are top notch.

5. Be Our Guest: The one “quick service” location in our rankings (I add the quotation marks since the meal is actually delivered to your table after you order at an interactive kiosk), Be Our Guest, combines the excellent theming of Beast’s Castle with the ability to be done with breakfast and roaming the Magic Kingdom thirty-plus minutes before park opening. The mildly-high cost considering the quality and amount of the food you receive is all that keeps Be Our Guest from being ranked even higher.

4. 1900 Park Fare: Located in the Grand Floridian, 1900 Park Fare offers a good quality breakfast buffet and unique character meet-and-greet opportunities, for a lower price than a similar experience actually inside a one of the theme parks. Enjoy a quality breakfast here and then ride the monorail one stop to the Magic Kingdom.

3. Whispering Canyon Cafe: It probably won’t surprise anyone to see one of Elyssa’s and my overall favorite restaurants on this list. Whether you’re having an all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast skillet, or a full-sized Mickey-waffle (though listed as “Jeffro Bodeen’s Belgian Waffle”, it’s a giant, Mickey-shaped waffle), you’re going to end up with a high-quality meal featuring all the Cast Member interaction that makes Whispering Canyon Cafe such a special place to eat. As an added bonus, you’re just a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom when you’re done.

2. Crystal Palace: “Poof’s Puffed (Not Stuffed) French Toast.” Need I say more? Seriously, though, Crystal Palace features the gang from Winnie the Pooh and a top-notch breakfast buffet (including an omelet station) inside the Magic Kingdom. It would take some place really, really special to top that….

So onto our favorite spot for “brekkies” as Elyssa likes to say:

1. Tusker House: Tusker House is Disney at its best. Impeccable theming, magical character interactions, and a buffet that serves a bunch of tasty breakfast food. Some of Elyssa’s and my best days have started off with breakfast at Tusker House, and I would imagine that we’ll try to visit it during our Disney trips for years to come. Last but not least, its location near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris provides a great benefit now (see the animals first), and might provide even more of a benefit when an entrance to Avatarland opens nearby as well.

Meeting Mickey at Tusker HouseMeeting Mickey at Tusker House

There you have it: our favorite breakfast joints at the World. What did we miss? Has anyone tried the new character breakfast at the Four Seasons?

Disney to live stream Boo to You Parade and HalloWishes Fireworks Tonight

Disney has announced that it will be live streaming the Boo to You Parade and HalloWishes fireworks from tonight’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Even thought you can find various videos of these events online, I always think it’s kind of special to see it when Disney broadcasts something live.

If you’re on non-computer device that has Youtube access (i.e., an Xbox 360 or Roku), you can usually search for the “Disney Parks Live” channel to find the video. It will normally have a “Stream Coming Soon” placeholder about 20 minutes or so before an event is supposed to take place (so, approximately 8:00PM Eastern for this one.)

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)

Construction on Star Wars Land at The Studios to Start in 2016

Daniel Miller reported in the Los Angeles Times that Disney COO Tom Staggs recently said that Disney will break ground on the new Star Wars Lands in 2016. This seems to make sense with the recent announcement that this will be the last year of the Osborne lights at The Studios.

Personally, I think the only thing surprising about this announcement is that construction on Star Wars Land is starting so soon. I figured it would be 2017 or 2018 before they “started pushing dirt around” (as Mighty Men of Mouse host Dutch Lombrowski likes to say.)

The Last Year of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Late last week, Disney announced that this year would be the last year of the Osborne lights at The Studios. I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say that I’m majorly bummed out by this announcement (even if I expected it for the past couple of years.) When Elyssa and I have taken Disney World trips during the holidays, we would stop by the Osborne lights 2 or 3 times (maybe more). This year, we’ll be running through them as part of Wine & Dine half-marathon weekend. It is going to be pretty sad to see them go.

In the end, I understand the Osborne lights were a casualty of the new construction (and, yes, I’ve heard the rumors related to dealing with the family, how they might simply be re-branded to work with ABC’s christmas lights television show, etc…), but that doesn’t make their departure any less hard. I hope that Disney does a similar kind of action in a year or two (location TBD), but I am not going to hold my breath.

An old cellphone picture of the Osborne Lights from a couple of years ago
An old cellphone picture of the Osborne Lights from a couple of years ago

Rumors that Star Wars Weekends are Going Away

Boba, Darth, and Elyssa
Boba, Darth, and Elyssa

WDW News Today published a story about the rumor that we’ve seen the last of Star Wars Weekends at The Studios. I don’t find this really surprising with the large amounts of construction coming to the studios, as well as the new Season of the Force event that’s scheduled for early next year. I would assume that some of the events that used to be a part of Star Wars Weekends will be moved to the new Season of the Force event.

What does surprise me, though, is the additional rumor that Disney is going to stop dressing up traditional “Disney” characters (Mickey Mouse, Goofy, etc…) in Star Wars gear. Personally, I think using the Disney characters as a gateway into the larger Star Wars universe is a great way to get younger people interested in Star Wars. I really hope this rumor is false (and, if I had to bet on it, I would bet that it is. I mean, it’s tough to say that Disney is trying to go for a “more serious tone” with the brand when they just put out an ad for dancing wookies).

John and Mickey use the Force
John and Mickey use the Force
Elyssa as Minnie and Minnie as Leia
Elyssa as Minnie and Minnie as Leia

Soft Opening for Rope Drop [dot] Net

Yacht Club Lighthouse in the Morning
Yacht Club Lighthouse in the Morning

I am taking a page out of Disney’s playbook and doing a “soft open” of RopeDrop.net before really starting to talk about the site. During that time, I’ll be posting and operating the site as I intend to going forward, but please understand if I still have to make some changes to ensure that everything is working correctly.

Plan for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 with this Year’s Brochure

Tom Corless at WDW News Today has a copy of this year’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party brochure, if you want to start planning your visit to the party.

Tom also breaks down some of the entertainment schedule changes:

Fireworks are now 30 minutes later than in previous years, while the first parade is 20 minutes later and the second a full 45 minutes later than last year. There are 4 castle stage shows compared to the usual 3, likely because it is a new show for this year.

Personally, I’m fine with this new schedule.

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.