I basically have been limiting myself to reading press releases instead of more in-depth coverage of Galaxy’s Edge, since I’ll be at the land next week and I want to go in kind of fresh. Thankfully, Disney has issued a bunch of press releases in advance of the opening. If you want Disney’s official take on the new land, there are thousands of words about it in these listings. Some of the highlights include:
“In designing the Star Wars universe, we don’t consider it science fiction or fantasy – we think of it more as a period piece, and we look at it almost from a documentary point of view. Star Wars design is grounded in reality, and we’re creating a place that is believable, authentic and real. Then we exaggerate that reality and add in a distinct visual vocabulary to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. For this land, we wanted to create something fresh and also timeless – just like our films.”
“The A1000 Audio-Animatronics figures inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge were asked to do more lifelike movements than we’ve ever done before – sensing your presence, stepping and turning around. How do we make a figure look like he’s actually walking? We were so used to the feet being permanently bolted to the ground. These new figures provide incredible performance and repeatability – you’re getting a figure that looks the same on day one as it does in year five or year 20.”
A larger-than-life collector of all things odd and hard to find, Dok-Ondar buys, sells and trades valuable items in his intergalactic antiquities shop. The Ithorian is a proud curator, amassing a collection unrivaled in the galaxy. He is also known as the “gatekeeper” of the black market in Black Spire Outpost, so locals know not to cross him. Guests can see him working at his desk, taking inventory and barking the occasional order at his assistants between incoming calls.
As believers in the ways of the Force, the Gatherers are a group of men and women dedicated to restoring balance in the galaxy by passing on ancient knowledge. Part of their mission is guiding the next generation of Jedi-hopefuls in building their own unique lightsabers.
Vi Moradi is a spy and intelligence officer for the Resistance who traveled to Batuu to scout the planet for its viability as a potential Resistance recruiting station. This strong-willed, hot-tempered, quick-witted woman is trying to stay one step ahead of the First Order while recruiting for the Resistance as she traverses the twisting pathways of Black Spire Outpost.
The Studios: 6:00am to 9:00am – featuring Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and “select other attractions”;
Animal Kingdom: 7:00am to 8:00am – Pandora and other attractions (same as current EMH)
Magic Kingdom: 7:00am to 8:00am – attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (same as the current morning EMH)
These EEMHs will go from August 29 through November 2 (though, for August 29, 30, and 31 only, Galaxy’s Edge will be open for all guests at 6:00pm).
Though I figured that Disney would offer some extra magic hours for Galaxy’s Edge, I never expected it would be for 3 hours before park open. Also, I didn’t think Disney would extend the offering to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom as well.
Overall, I’m quite please with this plan. Elyssa and I have an early September trip planned and we’ll definitely be taking advantage of these early park entry times.
They did. I didn’t believe they would, but Disney made announcement about Galaxy’s Edge opening date at Disney World, AND IT’S OPENING ON AUGUT 29, 2019 !?!?! The “catch” with the opening is that the Millennium Falcon attraction (known as “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run”) will be running at that time, but that the Rise of the Resitence attraction will not open until “later this year”.
Part of why I didn’t think Disney would open Galaxy’s Edge as early as October, was I didn’t think that the attractions would be ready in that time frame. In hind sight, the phased opening approach Disney is doing makes total sense, as it addresses the issue of attraction completion, while also letting people experience (and test for Disney) the new immersive land prior to the holiday season. Disney will be able to track and tweak the immersion aspects of the land and (to a lesser degree) the crowd flow, without having to also support (what people have been saying) is one of Disney’s most ambitious attractions ever created. Again, once I read the announcement, it made total sense that Disney would do things this way.
Disney has also made the decision to not offer Fastpass+ for the Galaxy’s Edge attractions (even Rise of the Resistance when it initially opens.) Again, in hindsight, this makes some sense. Instead of rewarding people who are able to quickly make a time selection 60 days out, it will reward people who are willing to make the time investment to enter the land (either in early arrival or waiting in the queue). This also alleviates the need to manage the crowd in a way that accounts for Fastpass+ reservations on the attractions (e.g., someone who has a 2:00pm Fastpass+ reservation would need to be able to end the land with enough time to make it to the attraction, possibly requiring them to skip the overall entrance queue to the land). Universal handles that kind of “entry” queueing on busy days by giving people a reservation time to return and enter Harry Potter-land (i.e., a Fastpass for entry to the whole land). I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney uses the initial opening phase of Galaxy’s Edge to determine if the better approach for Fastpass+ is actually a Fastpass+ for entrance to Galaxy’s Edge instead of Fastpass+ for one of the attractions. (And, of course, I am sure there will be plenty of hard-ticket / add-on options available for people who are willing to pay to experience Galaxy’s Edge without as much waiting.)
Overall, I’m glad to see Disney in a place where they can open Galaxy’s Edge as early as they are, and I hope this extra time can be used to make sure Galaxy’s Edge is running smoothly by the holidays. Regardless, it should be pretty interesting to watch.
From the earliest Galaxy’s Edge announcement of a “late Fall” opening at Disney World, everyone seemed to assume that the actually opening date would be in late December 2019. Then, about a month or two ago, Disney changed the opening date to “Fall” of 2019. Still, I think most people still assumed this meant November.
Personally, I still think September seems too early for an actual opening, but maybe late October is workable. Of course, hurricane season is still months away from hitting Florida and that always has potential to cause some constructions delays. I guess we’ll know more (maybe?) on Thursday.
There’s a ton of Galaxy’s Edge news out today, but I want to focus on this article from Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch that is one of the most comprehensive pieces I have seen. On some level, it’s the type of analysis that I would think friend of the site Wes would give if he was given access to land while it’s under construction (and, honestly, that’s about the highest compliment I can give.)
If just the concept of Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t get you excited, maybe this information will:
At risk of being too susceptible to marketing speak, I’d have to agree with this particular statement. What is being built here has little parallel in terms of immersion and ambition in an amusement park or out. And it’s going to blow Star Wars fans, casual and involved, away.
Though all of Panzarino’s article is worth a read, here are some standout parts for me. First, why Disney elected to set the land on a “new” planet:
“Why not make a place that is very familiar from the classic Star Wars films, a Tatooine, a Hoth, or one of those places? The answer really is we know those places, we know those stories that happen there, and we know that we’re not in them,” said [Disney Portfolio Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Scott] Trowbridge. “This place, Black Spire Outpost, is an opportunity. It’s designed from the very get‑go to be a place that invites exploration and discovery, a place that invites us to become a character in the world of Star Wars, and, to the extent that we want to, to participate in the stories of Star Wars.”
“I want to walk into this land and be in the same level as everyone else, from the really hardcore Star Wars fan to someone who knows nothing about Star Wars,” Managing Story Editor at WDI Margaret Kerrison recalls saying in the first pitch meeting she attended for Star Wars land. “I want to have that urgency to explore, to discover, to run around every corner, and to meet every single droid and alien in this land. I want to not feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t know all the nitty‑gritty details as a hardcore Star Wars fan would know.”
Next, is the explanation of how involved people from all part of Disney and LucasFilm were in creating the land:
People from props, set dressing, construction, merchandising, food, ride systems and technical departments all worked together from ideation onwards. On a normal production, they are typically brought in at various phases — but for Batuu, everyone had to be on the same page from the very beginning
and how the land will work to feel alive while you’re there:
“Our world, where guests are this close to something, it’s got to be that next level. A good example of that is, droids move through our land. That’s part of the story that we’re trying to tell. We got access to one of the original Kenny Baker, New Hope, 1976‑1977 era droids. We took rubbings of the bottom of the droid feet. We turned that into a set of three files, which then, we turned into a set of 3D wheels. We built a little droid trolley, which Kirstin [Makela, Art Director] and team used.”
“I’ll set the scene for you,” says Makela. “You’re on a busy construction site, there’s lots of people around. There’s some people pouring hardscape concrete, all dirty and all their tools and their stamping. Then all of a sudden, one of them just jumps on this little trolley and someone else pulls them through the concrete, leaves a little trail of droid tracks.”
On that front, I can’t even fathom this description of the animatronic Hondo Ohnaka:
The animatronic figure itself is around 7 feet tall and uses the latest in electric motors instead of hydraulics. Hondo’s figure includes around 50 functions (movement points) total and is the second most complicated animatronic in Disney parks. The most complicated, for the record, is the Na’vi Shaman … which has 40 functions in its face alone, not to mention the rest of the body. We had the Shaman at our robotics event a couple of years ago, it’s incredible to watch. Hondo isn’t far behind, with fluid movements, smooth facial contortions and believable interactions between himself and his R5 droid.
(Though the biggest selling point will obviously be the Nien Nunb animatronic.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be a theme park without stellar attractions. Based on Panzarino’s description, Disney seems well aware of that as well. I only skimmed over the description of the Rise of the Resistance ride to avoid “ride through” style spoilers, but I had to read the description of the Falcon:
Approaching the Falcon from one of the entrances to Batuu for the first time is a surreal experience. This is a full-size 110-foot version of the ship as you’ve seen it in the movies. It’s meticulously detailed and acts as a center-piece for the area. The ship will periodically vent out gas and Hondo’s tinkerers are constantly working on its engines. It’s a living thing inside the land, a character.
Entering the cockpit was an out-of-body situation for me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s wild how right it feels. The six seats all feature belts and the familiar weathered look. More importantly, each of them has a wide array of buttons either to the side or in front of them if you’re one of the pilots. Every square or rectangular button has a light up ring around it which will indicate which of them you need to press for the best result during your moments to act during the ride. The toggles have small LED indicators built into one end that do the same indicating job. I am happy to report that the large, satisfyingly chunky toggle switches and satisfyingly clicks buttons have been very well chosen and require enough force to push without stress but with satisfaction. They’re the right switches.
I cannot be more ready to give that a shot.
Overall, Panzarino’s observation that–in hindsight–Pandora seems like it was a test run for Galaxy’s Edge is something that I have felt since we started hearing about the immersive aspects that are now currently found in the Valley of Mo’ara. If Disney can accomplish that level of immersion in a universe that people have a much stronger connection to, than Galaxy’s Edge is going to be really, really special.
This weekend was a big weekend for Disney World news, since Disney decided to drop its latest prices increase on the same day as its parks presentation at D23 in Japan.
Starting first with the price increase, Disney has increased prices by around $4 a day (depending on the type and length of ticket you are buying). This is generally in line with previous price increases, and probably doesn’t change many people’s calculatioons as to whether or not they will actually visit Disney World, but—that said—having to spend an extra $100 in tickets for a 5-day trip for a family of four is not insubstantial. What could really impact people’s travel behavior, though, is if the rumors of seasonal pricing for multii-day tickets come true.
This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Wars story. Guests’ journey through space will start when everyone departs together for a multiday Stars Wars adventure by boarding a starship alive with characters and stories that unfold all around them during a voyage through the galaxy.
At the resort, guests immediately become active citizens of the galaxy and can dress up in the proper attire. Every resort window will also have a view into space. The opportunity for immersion at this resort will also stand out among all Disney resorts around the globe, as it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests a total Star Wars experience.
I know I’m biased, but it sounds pretty awesome (even if there aren’t a lot of details in that blurb).
Well, that covers a big weekend of Disney World related news. I hope you enjoyed this extra helping of News Nuggets!
Disney is doing a special spend off for Minnie has she heads to Hollywood to get her star on the Walk of Fame. It’s take place at Hollywood Studios on January 21, so you can either join in person or via the livestream that Disney is going to do of the event (the special buttons are only available if show up in person, obviously.) Congratulations to Minnie!
The Christmas season is in full swing at Disney World, and at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ. The Magic Kingdom has it’s Christmas decorations up (and is having it’s “Very Merry” Christmas Parties), The Studios has its ‘Flurry of Fun”, and Epcot has it’s “International Festival of the Holidays.”
If you’re going to Epcot’s “International Festival of the Holidays” and thinking about trying out some of the food items available at the holiday kitchens, you can find the full menus here. Josh over at easyWDW also has a post with his favorite items, as well as reviews of the individual kitchens:
easyWDW Review of Refurbished Room at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – Josh takes a detailed look at the new Yacht Club rooms. They seem to follow the refurbishment trends of Pop and Coronado (which mirror the wider hotel trend of more minimalist design, with lots of “multi-use” space.) I like the room in the abstract, but I wish they could add a few more “theming” touches (like how the headboard used to look like it had a porthole in it.)
That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets. Elyssa and I recently spent a day at Disney World and tried out Ale & Compass and a few other quick things. Hopefully, we’ll have those thoughts up shortly!
It’s time for one of the Disney Parks Blog’s livestreams, and this time it’s Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! (the holiday projection and fireworks show from The Studios.) The stream is scheduled to start at 7:55pm Eastern, so I would recommend going to the Disney Parks Blog at about 7:40pm to find the new post that has the video link. I’ll also try to update this post with the information if I’m able to catch it.
If we’re doing our non-comeback, comeback, we have got to post a new edition of News Nuggets. As I mentioned before, there’s a an “in progress” set of News Nuggets that will be lost to the Patreon-only support realm forever (posting news from early September doesn’t seem particularly helpful now.) That means, these News Nugget are much more cutting edge, including: Dates from next year’s Flower and Garden Festival (scheduled to run Feb. 28 – May 28)..
I kid (mostly), the biggest news relates to some of the upcoming changes to The Studios, including learning that Galaxy Edge is located on the planet Batuu and bunch of news / rumors concerning Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, including:
Photos of the 2017 Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail – WDW News Today gives a photo walk through of this year’s Christmas Tree Trail (I haven’t look through the photos, since I want to see them in person without being “spoiled.”) I’m not sure you need to go to Disney Springs specifically to see this, but it’s a nice thing to look at if you’re there.
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Disney is doing another live stream tonight, and this time it’s The Music of Pixar Live. My recommendation for these live streams is to go to the Disney Parks Blog around 10 minutes before the stream starts to find a new post that includes the video embed. I’ll also try to do my best to update this post with the information.
John and I are done with our trip down to WDW for the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon weekend, and I am the one putting together this Quick Hits post because John is driving (and blogging while driving is probably not that safe).
Here are some of the “new to us” items:
The Dress Shoppe @ Cherry Tree Lane. IT IS THE BEST AND I WANT ALL THE DRESSES! They aren’t free though, so I only bought one. I got the Small World pattern and love it. I tried a bunch of them on and they’re all really cute. I wish they’d had the Orange Bird one in stock. Cast Members said they’d been told much more stock would be coming in summer. Hopefully Disney recognizes the demand and we get even more patterns and styles.
BB-8 Meet & Greet. Droid please. He’s really cute and we thought this was a positive experience. One thing that’s different about the BB meet is you’re the only ones in the room with him; at most character meets, there’s a family or two behind you watching/waiting their turn. They brought us in to him alone. He’s a nicely attentive droid too – even though he doesn’t roll around, his head swivels and you can see him looking around based on where voices are coming from. The chirps are the cutest.
The Polite Pig. MEH. As North Carolinians, we have pretty high expectations for BBQ/southern food, so it’s a bit of a tough sell. The fast casual concept of ordering and then sitting down might be nice if they figure it out. When we went, they had clearly not ironed out the wrinkles in that system. When we initially got in the main line, which was pretty long and didn’t seem to be moving quickly, the CM handing out menus told us we could sit/order at the bar if we didn’t want to stand in line. So we went to the bar, where the lone bartender was clearly overwhelmed (both sides of the bar were almost at capacity). It took almost 10 minutes for us to even get water, but we stuck it out and ordered. I got mac & cheese and John got the brisket sandwich. John liked his sandwich okay. My mac & cheese just made me wish we’d gone to Homecomin. We both agreed that if we’d just gone to the bar at Homecomin, we could’ve gotten a better tasting meal in about the same amount of time though at a slightly higher cost. I don’t think we’ll really need to go here again, but it would be okay if sitting at the Homecomin bar is not an option for you.
Geyser Point. Beautiful views, not so beautiful food/service. When we sat, it took a while for a waitress to even acknowledge us. She gave us drink menus and seemed mad when we asked about food. Apparently, you are supposed to go over to the quick service counter (not clearly visible from the Geyser Point entrance) to get anything aside from 3-4 appetizer type things. Given that there’s a giant menu at the Geyser Point entrance showing all the options from the quick service counter, I’m sure lots of people walk in expecting those options. Yet, when we asked about them she huffed and acted like it was a giant hassle, so we just ordered drinks. John ended up just going over to the quick service counter to order some food. The food you get is definitely Disney quick service. That doesn’t mean it’s gross, but it’s replacement level. The food from Territory Lounge is much better. The views at Geyser Point are really pretty though, so I can see us getting some stuff from Territory to go and posting up at Geyser Point to eat it and enjoy their drink menu. *Note that you can only get food discounts (like AP) if you order directly from the quick service counter.
Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. What we had of the new menu was good – John had the King Triton breakfast calzone and enjoyed it. I had the Tower of Pancakes, which were thick and fluffy. Each table gets a skillet of breakfast pastries when they sit, and the pastries are themed to Rapunzel & Ariel (the two princesses you meet). Character interactions were solid. Flynn Ryder comes out first, then Rapunzel, Eric, and finally Ariel. While each character meets tables individually, the two couples do dance around the restaurant a little together, so if you’re in a good position, you could get a photo of Rapunzel with Flynn and Ariel with Eric, they just don’t come to your table together. Overall, the breakfast was fun, but it was a little bit of a bummer, because we really liked the old Trattoria breakfast. It was a great option to fuel before heading into International Gateway at World Showcase opening. Now, the breakfast is more expensive (because of the characters) and some of our favorite menu options are gone. We may end up at the Bon Voyage breakfast again, but not as often as we went to the old Trattoria breakfast.
Il Mulino. This restaurant is by no means new, but we’ve never been so this is new to us. The disclaimer is that the purpose of this dinner was to have a mild, carb-y dinner before Saturday’s 10k. If it were a normal meal, we may have ordered different things. The atmosphere was nothing to write home about. It was pretty enough, but there certainly aren’t any exciting views. The wine list looked nice, but we stuck to water like good little runners. We both ordered pasta dishes – I got a linguine in a “spicy” red sauce. It was not spicy, and I probably wouldn’t order it again. John got the pappardelle dish and really liked it. I can’t see us choosing this over Tutto Italia unless we’re staying in the Swan or Dolphin and simply don’t feel like going into Epcot.
Paddlefish. Food was pretty good and a decent value. We had the lobster corn dogs from the appetizer section and those were quite tasty. Everything else was fine too, but not significantly memorable. You won’t have any trouble getting a table and it’s certainly not the type of restaurant to rush you through your meal, so I think Paddlefish is a good option if you want a longer/lazier meal at Disney Springs. If you get a window seat you can wave to the Amphicars.
Tiffins. OMNOMNOMNOMNOM. Seriously lives up to the rave reviews we’ve seen elsewhere. We were there on the Rivers of Light dining package, which means we got more food than we probably would have otherwise. The package includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert for each person. To start, I got the octopus and John got the lobster soup. John’s summation of the soup is that it was good, but he prefers traditional lobster bisque. We both really liked the octopus. I could’ve eaten 3 or 4 of those. For entrees, I had the Waygu pasta dish, which was delicious, and John got the Waygu beef and short ribs. This is one place where you don’t have to worry so much about Disney overcooking – the beef was insanely tender and tasty. We both got the chocolate dessert because chocolate. It was so good and now I’m seriously craving another one. After dinner, the waiter brought our Rivers of Light tickets along with a GLOWING LOTUS FLOWER POPCORN BUCKET. It didn’t have any popcorn in it, but it only cost $1.50 to fill it at any of the popcorn stands. The only negative from Tiffins was that our waiter told us they were out of Kungaloosh. We were both shocked since they only have 3 beers on the menu, but John audibled and got the Tempting Tigress instead. When we went to Nomad almost immediately after Tiffins, John tried ordering the Kungaloosh again and it was available. Not sure if they got a new keg in or if our waiter was misinformed/playing a cruel joke.
Rivers of Light. I tweeted this, but I seriously don’t understand how people are unimpressed with this show. It was beautiful. Even though it was kind of windy and you could see where the water screens were rippling, it was delightful. The shadows during the preshow were entrancing and the glowing animals during the show itself made me so happy. The synchronized water effects were incredible. I also really liked the cast members on the boats dancing and contributing through the shadow puppets. I do think they need to make the narration louder or put in more speakers, because there were definitely parts that were difficult to hear, but overall I really enjoyed it. John definitely will not go this far, but now that Celebrate the Magic is gone, this is my favorite nighttime show. I’m not really a fireworks fan though, so you can take that with several salt grains.
Additional thoughts from the trip:
We watched our last Wishes. Here’s hoping that Happily Ever After is a suitable replacement.
Ample Hills being open to 11:00pm is a good thing. Frankly, it should be 24 hours, because duh.
Uniqlo has awesome deals and is a great option if you forgot to pack some essential piece of clothing.
The race expo was a little underwhelming compared to prior expos, and we may post more about the race stuff.
Territory Lounge has a new spicy watermelon margarita that I loved.
There is a dumb waitress at Sanaa who kept insisting she was bringing me the bread service sauce I was requesting, even though it was clearly the Tomato-Date Jam instead of the Red Chili Sambal. So I sat there with four of the WRONG sauce until another table’s waitress noticed and brought me the RIGHT sauce, explaining that they had been mislabeled, but she could tell the difference by looking at the sauces instead of the label (AS COULD ANYONE WITH EYES). Our waitress never apologized. She’s the worst. I was right. I’m not still bitter about this or anything.
Bob Iger’s Contract Extended to July 2, 2019 – These kind of corporate maneuverings are not usually something I write about, but Iger has had an “interesting” relationship with the parks. To date, I would argue there have been some negatives (e.g., the trend of “up charge events”, lower staffing during certain periods), but we’re about to start on some big changes (e.g. Avatar, Star Wars, Toy Story), so it should be interesting.
If you weren’t one of the people waiting 24+ hours in various lines at Star Wars: Celebration, you might have missed some of the news that came out this weekend. As a Disney World focused site (and someone who still hasn’t decided if he’s going to even watch any of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailers before seeing the movie), the coverage here is going to focus on news related to Disney theme parks. That said, let’s start with the preview video Disney put together to discuss the new “total immersion” experience:
[T]his mysterious destination somewhere on the Outer Rim — lying on the edge of the Unknown Regions. The remote village was once a busy crossroads along the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but the prominence of the outpost has been bypassed with the rise of hyperspace travel. Now home to those who prefer less attention, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe-haven for others intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order.
Attractions Magazine has a rundown of the Star Wars: Galactic Nights event that took place this weekend (and is almost assuredly going to be offered as a hard ticket event on an ongoing basis before too long.) For me, the highlight was the debut of a Rey face character during the A Galaxy Far, Far Away show:
First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.
Actually surprising, however, was Iger’s announcement that Star Wars Land would open in 2019. Most people (either joking or otherwise) seemed to think that Star Wars Land would open in 2020, so this the actual 2019 opening is ahead of that “schedule.” More surprising, however, is that Iger made an announcement at all. Clearly, Disney is confident (or willing to spend extra to ensure–if necessary) that Star Wars Land will be completed in 2019. I’m sure there are people out there waiting to come down hard on Disney if it doesn’t make this date.
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.
I would classify the news concerning Avatarland coming out of D23–especially the announcement of a “Summer 2017” opening–as the most “important” item from the event. Now, obviously “summer” could mean anything from late April through early September, but I’m going to try to be optimistic (remember, Animal Kingdom first opened on April 22).
Bolstering the opening date announcement, Disney also revealed additional details about the new land, including (i) Satu’li Cantenn (the major restaurant in the land), (ii) Pongu Pongu (a “special drink location”), and (iii) Windtraders (the merchandise location.) What seems pretty clear from the concept art Disney released is that this land–much like the upcoming Star Wars land–is going to maintain its theming throughout the entire land, from the food offerings, to the merchandise offerings, to (I bet) even the way cast members interact with guests (I believe the buzzword is “immersive.”)
Robert Niles over at Theme Park Insider also had a write-up of the actual D23 presentation, that included confirmation from James Camerson himself that Na’vi will not be walking around Avatarland, instead limiting their appearances to attractions.
Maybe the most interesting release from the event was this video of a Na’vi animatronic–the “Shaman of Songs”, a key figure in the Na’vi River Journey BOATRIDE:
If the actual animatronics are going to look that good, Avatarland really could be something.
Though the news coming of Avatarland might have more immediate impact on Disney World, Star Wars land also got a minor highlight, including a mention of the attraction that will allow guests to “take controls of the Millennium Falcon” and the release of new piece of artwork showing what the new land will look like at night:
Windtraders – Artwork courtesy of Disney
Similar to what happened when Disney released Episode VII, it was also announced that there would be a new Episode VIII theme mission that will be added to Star Tours along with the release of the movie.
“Major Changes” coming to Epcot – Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek said that Epcot would be going through a “major transformation” in the next couple of years (WDW News Today classified it as “an overhaul“.). Write-ups of the speech all reference his use of the phrases “dream big” and “more Disney, timeless, [and] relevant”, while staying true to Epcot’s “original vision”. At this point, those phrases are more a Disney fan Rorschach test (“relevant means it’s going to be all current IPs!”, “timeless means they’ll be thinking outside of what’s hot now, and doing something that will last”, etc…), than actually revealing about what might happen at Epcot. With so much else going on around Disney World, I’m going to take more of a wait-and-see approach on this one.
MagicBand 2 coming to Disney World – This new magic band has been rumored for a few weeks, and involves a removable disc that you can take out of the band and insert in other items (e.g., a necklace.) Ultimately, I’m glad I’ll now have an easy, visual way to know which of my Magic Bands is older, but I don’t really have a lot of excitement (or disappointment) about this. (Check out WDW News Today’s Magic Band 2 gallery if you want to see a metric buttload more photos of the new style of Magic Band.)
In-Park Cabanas coming to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. – This news item was not part of the official D23 announcements, but, instead, quickly spread on Twitter. Details are still a little hazy, but it seems like the “cabanas” are $650ish a day “tents” (see here and here) that have AC, seating, television, and the ability to order “room services” (at an additional cost.) As you might imagine, that initial pictures look ridiculous. However, if Disney can somehow offset additional prices increases or staff reductions on the backs of people who want to hang out in a tent and watch tv in the Magic Kingdom, I’m fine with it.
If you’ve been following us on Twitter (including at Elyssa’s new handle!), then you know that the last few weeks have been crazy at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ. Weddings in foreign lands (well, Maine), J O B job stuff getting in the way of site updates, etc…all have conspired to make this a HUGE helping of News Nuggets. I hope you’re hungry (for news)!
Sanaa now offering Quick Service Breakfast – Interesting. It makes sense to provide a quick service option for guests staying at Kidani. That said, it doesn’t look like something that requires a special trip to experience.
It’s time for everyone’s favorite serving of Disney World, the Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! There isn’t a lot of particularly juicy news this time, but a few things that I would classify as “transitional” (like the closing of Sum of All Thrills or–essentially–moving all convention space to the Yacht Club.) That said, let’s get to it!
Celebrate Disney PhotoPass Day on August 19 – This strikes me as a weird promotion. Disney does seem to run things during this period in August, though (remember that Studios Villains event they did for a couple of years?)