Disney World is Open

Disney World began the re-opening of its theme parks just over two weeks ago. The process has been a long one, with the original announcement taking place back in June. It involved many enhancements to the cleaning at the resorts and the parks, but—for least two weeks—Disney seems like it has succeeded. Disney World is open.

Disney World has been a significant part of Elyssa’s and my life. From our engagement, honeymoon, and, of course, the discovery of her brain tumor, quite a few of our major milestones have either involved or taken place at Disney World. After the parks were closed for four-months as a result of the pandemic, I had hoped that Disney World’s reopening would again be a milestone. Specifically, I hoped that the opening of Disney World would signify that things were a little more “normal.” After these two weeks, I am not yet sure if I feel that way.

With any luck, Elyssa and I will visit Disney World in the next month or so. I know there are differing opinions about whether or not the parks should have opened. I do not intend to get into that debate. Disney World is open, and we may visit in the semi-near future. To prepare for that visit, I have been reading a lot (all?) of the coverage of the reopening. Here are some highlights of that coverage, along with some of my thoughts about them and the reopening.

Safety Measures

Disney has been making a lot of posts about safety.  Both CEO Bob Chapek and Chairman of Disney Parks, Josh D’Amaro have given interviews explaining the safety-related changes and justifying Disney’s decision to reopen its largest and most important theme park resort. Even before people saw how these changes were implemented, the commentary about Disney’s steps was positive, including from the local hospital community.

The first set of announced changes addressed specific risks associated with COVID-19, such as allowing payment via Apple Pay and Disney Gift Cards when placing heavily encouraged mobile orders,  and adding plexiglass to cashier stations where mobile ordering is not possible. The next announcements were that certain seasonal entertainment would not take place, that there would be no character meet and greets or nighttime spectaculars,, and that certain attractions and restaurants would not be part of the initial reopening. Disney also eliminated Fastpass+ to permit ride queues to be re-configured to allow for social distancing between parties on all attractions.

The biggest change, however, was the announcement of the new Disney World Park Pass system. This system requires Disney World guests to pre-select a single park for each day of their visit (no park hopping is allowed during this phase of the reopening) in order to ensure that the parks do not exceed their limited capacity on a given day. Each park gets a limited number of Park Passes per day, and the passes are broken up between resort guests, regular guests, and AP holders.

Initial Reopening Reports

Originally, Elyssa and I had a trip booked that would have put us at Disney World for reopening weekend. After some discussion, we decided we were going to wait and watch how things played out from afar. Though we have only been following other people’s coverage, it looks like the reopening experience went pretty smoothly

Here is a sample of the reopening reports that I read and found interesting:

Guides for Planning a Trip this Summer

Planning a Disney World trip this year will be a very different process from the process that has evolved over the past few years. This new process involves planning a trip based on visiting only one park per day, with no Fastpass+, and with limited capacity at restaurants. After only a couple of weeks, the recommendations for putting together the best version of this type of plan appear to be still in flux. Thankfully, the usual suspects have been putting together resources to help figure things out, including Disney World itself:

After selecting your lodging, the first major step in planning your trip is to secure your Park Pass reservations. Josh over at easyWDW has a comprehensive guide on how to use the Park Pass system. You should pay attention to all the details in the guide, but the main thing to keep in mind is that reservations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios seem to go the quickest (in fact, AP holders cannot get a reservation through all of August). There are different theories about why this is true, but I believe it is likely a combination of The Studios having two of the newest, headliner attractions (Rise of the Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway), along with  The Studios having a limited possible capacity due to the inability to run live shows (Indiana Jones, Beauty and the Beast, etc…) that are normally places to “hold” people when they are not in line for other attractions. Whatever the reason, though, Hollywood Studios is the toughest park reservation to get and you should factor that into your planning.

If you are someone who wants to simply be at Disney World, and is less concerned about any particular attractions, Disney’s decision to—essentially—start Food & Wine now has made EPCOT a particularly interesting option. EPCOT gives guests a chance to walk around, in the open air, and enjoy something that is normally reserved for the fall season. Of course, being at EPCOT also does involve being outside in the Florida sun during July and August, but—if your main goal is to be in Disney World, while staying outside and generally away from people—Epcot might be worth a look.

The lack of any Fastpass+ system give the potential for spontaneity on the day you are actually visiting a park, especially with the overall lower wait times. Personally, I thought Disney would implement a broader virtual queue system, but—to date—the only virtual queue is for Rise of the Resistance. The lack of any virtual queuing allows you to roam the parks more freely and otherwise evaluate wait times dynamically throughout the day. One thing to keep in mind, Disney shuts down its attractions about every 2 hours to clean them thoroughly. This cleaning-related delay does cause a longer wait (and may result in a visibly longer line), but reports are that things move pretty quickly once the ride re-opens.

There is a lot new about planning a Disney World vacation during 2020, and I anticipate the advice will continue to evolve over the next couple of weeks. If you want singular resources right now about planning your trip, I suggest you check out these guides from easyWDW and Blog Mickey

Predictions for how the Summer will Play Out

Early predictions are that there might not be a lot of demand at Disney World this summer. I agree with these predictions. For me, the most significant indicator of continuing low crowds is that Disney is offering large merchandise and hotel discounts through at least Mid-August and sometimes into September. Discounts of this kind are an indicator that Disney has looked at its upcoming bookings and determined that it needs to do something to try and convince people to book a vacation. With the nature of this pandemic, however, I am not sure if there is any financial incentive that will persuade some people to travel to Central Florida in 2020.

Summary and Final Thoughts

A lot has changed since mid-March, when Elyssa and I sat in an auditorium with Bob Iger and Bob Chapek. Mr. Iger explained that Disney had weathered uncertainty before, but I am confident that he did not anticipate that Disney’s crown jewel theme park would be closed for four months (and that its original theme park would have no re-opening date even announced for that same period.) Now that the parks are open, I am starting to feel the pull to get back down there and visit. My expectations are tempered due to the necessary limitations that Disney has put on visits as a result of COVID-19. However, I am hopeful that there is still enough “Disney” left in the experience that I will be able to enjoy being back at Disney World, even while everything else goes on. Ultimately, I think I am just going to have to see for myself whether the Disney magic really is back.

Disney Parks Live Stream of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Tonight at 8:55PM Eastern

UPDATE: Disney Parks Blog Announced the Live Stream will now be Tuesday, November 19.

Tonight, Disney Parks will be Live Streaming the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! show from The Studios at 8:55PM Eastern. (At Least, that’s what the Twitter Post Says.)

As always, I recommend visiting the Disney Parks Blog about 10 minutes before the show to find a new post with the broadcast. I’ll also try to post the link here, if I am able.

Enjoy the show!

Disney has Issued a Metric Buttload of Press Releases about Galaxy’s Edge

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 Their Own Words” features quotes from Imagineers involved with the creation, including:

“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.”

and

“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.”

Iconic Ships and Other Vehicles Feel Right at Home in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lists the various vehicles in Galaxy’s Edge and where to find them, while Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Serves New and Exotic Flavors from a Galaxy Far, Far Away lists the various food items that are available in Galaxy’s Edge.

Creatures, Droids and Aliens – New and Familiar – Populate Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge features a rundown of some of the characters you’ll find in the land, including Dok-Ondar:

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.

The Gatherers:

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.

and Vi Moradi: (who I am just reading about in the new Galaxy’s Edge book)

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.

Other press releases: * Research and Inspiration for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge * Merchandise Extends Storytelling in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge * Hidden Gems and Attention to Detail Create Authenticity in Highly Anticipated New Land * 10 Must-Do Experiences Inside the New Land * Fun Facts * Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Makes Thrilling Debut at Walt Disney World Resort

Disney World to allow onsite guests to enter Galaxy’s Edge 3 hours before Park Open

In a post on the Disney Parks Blog this morning, Disney announced new “Extra, Extra Magic Hours” for September and October. This new benefit allows for the following early park entrance times for onsite guests:

  • 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.

Elyssa loves it when I don't agree with her opinions.
Elyssa loves it when I don’t agree with her opinions.

Disney Parks to Live Stream Hollywood Studio’s 30th Anniversary Moment at 9:55AM Eastern

Disney is going to live stream the 30th anniversary moment from The Studios this morning. As always, I recommend visiting the   about 20-30 minutes before the show to find the post with the livestream. I’ll always try to update this post with the link and video, if I’m able.

Happy 30th Birthday, Hollywood Studios!

 

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog Post – https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2019/04/disneyparkslive-watch-the-30th-anniversary-moment-of-disneys-hollywood-studios-on-may-1-at-955-a-m-est/

and here’s the video:

 

 

The Studios
The Studios

Save the Date! – Galaxy’s Edge (Phase 1) to open at Disney World on August 29, 2019

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.

We're so ready for Galaxy's Edge
We’re so ready for Galaxy’s Edge

Rumors of an Earlier (Than Originally Anticipated) Galaxy’s Edge Opening

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.

Things really started to change last week, however, when Robert Niles at *Theme Park Insider” predicted an October 1, 2019 opening for Galaxy’s Edge . At the time, I thought it was a bold prediction, but I didn’t put much stock into it. Yesterdat, WDW News Today joined the chorus predicting an earlier than originally anticipated opening date of “September / October” and claims the official opening date might be announced at Disney’s shareholder’s meeting on Thursday, March 7.

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.

Construction foreman at Galaxy's Edge are not to be messed with.
Construction foreman at Galaxy’s Edge are not to be messed with.

Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge – The First Tours

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.

Maybe I missed the reference to this particular character

Disney Parks Blog to Live Stream the Dedication of Toy Story Land at 10:55am Eastern Today

Wow. Is it really the opening of Toy Story Land, today? That kind of snuck up on everyone, huh? I would have thought Disney would promote something like this. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, Disney Parks blog has announced that they are going to live stream the dedication of Toy Story Land today at 10:55am Eastern today. As always, I recommend you go to the Disney Parks Blog about 15 minutes before the start of the event to find the post with the video embed. I’ll also try to update this post if I am able.

Good luck and godspeed to anyone trying to visit Toy Story Land on opening today. Maybe the lack of promotion will mean it’s not too crowded!

UPDATE: Here’s the post and here’s the video:

We've always been Pixar fans.
We’ve always been Pixar fans.

A Price Increase and D23 Expo Japan – A News Nuggets Special Edition

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.

As an added note, Disney also increased the price of parking $2 to $22 per day (and $5 to $45 a day for preferred parking), and increased the price of its Minnie Van Service to $25 per ride.

On a more “positive” note, Disney made a number of Disney World related announcements at its D23 Expo Japan. These include that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway railway will open next year (2019) and that the Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster will be one of the world’s longest enclosed coasters. Most interesting to me, though, were the announcements about the new Star Wars hotel that will be “seamlessly connected” Galaxy’s Edge at the Studios. Here is Disney’s blurb:

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!

Rendering of the Star Wars Hotel - Copyright Disney

Live Stream of Minnie’s “Rock the Dots” Send-Off on Sunday, January 21 at 12:55pm Eastern

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!

Disney Fashion

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

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:

Now, with that out of the way, it’s time for the rest of the News Nuggets:

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!

See you next time!

Christmas, christmas, come check out our wish list.

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!! Livestream Tonight (December 4) at 7:55pm Eastern

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.

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

Enjoy!

We’re big fans of Christmas at Disney World

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

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:

It’s about that time of year...

That said, there were still plently of other News Nuggets over the past few day, so let’s get to it:

That’s it for this helping of News Nuggets. It feels good to be back. Let’s end this with a little transformation into Christmas from the folks at Inside the Magic:

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.)

Disney to Live Stream “The Music of Pixar Live” Tonight at 7:55pm Eastern

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog link, and the video is embedded below.

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.

I wonder if my friend will make an appearance
I wonder if my friend will make an appearance

Initial Thoughts on New Things (and things that are new to Us)

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:

Small World Dress!
Small World Dress!

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
Rivers of Light

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.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time again for a hearty helping of Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! As you probably saw earlier this week, I have already posted about the Star War related news that came out of Celebration. Of course, the biggest news since the last post was that The Rock was on the Jungle Cruise!. Talk a “plus-ed” experience.

Nuggets!!
Nuggets!!

Now, on to the rest of the News Nuggets:

That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets! Let’s all celebrate by watching the Blue Angels fly over the Magic Kingdom:

News Nuggets Special Edition – Star Wars Celebration 2017

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:

Disney has since provided additional details about the setting of the new theme park land mentioned in the video:

[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.

One of the more intriguing features of this new Star Wars land is the “reputation system” that tracks your movements and actions throughout the park, including while on certain attractions. Inside the Magic explains how, for example, choices made while on the Millennium Falcon attraction might impact the experience you have in areas surrouding the ride. Inside the Magic also explains how Disney is claiming to have real lightsabers in the land.

That covers the major highlights for me, but If you want to watch the full panel, The DIS has posted a video.With Bob Iger’s contract set to end on July 2, 2019, there’s a lot to do if he’s going to have this all ready before he walks out the door.

On a shorter time table, Disney also announced that there would be a new scene added to Star Tours featuring one of the planets introduced in The Last Jedi. As you would expect, this will come in late 2017 (closer to the release of the movie.)

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:

Lastly, as you may have already heard, you can now meet BB-8 at The Studios.

Okay, I know I said I’d focus mostly on the Disney Parks news, but let’s end things with the trailer for Season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels:

I’m going to miss that show.

Target Openings for Pandora (Avatarland) and Star Wars Land Announced

 

UPDATE: For more information Pandora, check out the newly launched VisitPandora.com.

During Disney’s earning call today, CEO Bob Iger announced that Avatarland (i.e., Pandora – The World of Avatar) will open on May 27 of this year. This is (suprisingly?) in line with some of the rumors associated with the opening date, and, obviously, is just in time for the busy summer season. Disney’s press release on the opening again mentioned the major attractions coming to Pandora:

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.

*Not* Coming to Star Wars Land :-(
Not Coming to Star Wars Land 🙁

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom was similarily low on Disney After Hours:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney After Hours Magic
Disney After Hours Magic

It’s Rogue One Day!

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

Jyn FTW!
Jyn FTW!

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

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

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

Disney World – D23 – A News Nuggets Special Edition

This weekend was D23’s Destination D – Amazing Advenutres event. As you might expect, there was a decent amount of Disney World news that came during this. Here are the highlights:

Pandora – The World of Avatar

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).

Satu'li Canteen - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Satu’li Canteen – Artwork courtesy of Disney

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.”)

Windtraders - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Windtraders – Artwork courtesy of Disney

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.

Star Wars

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:

Star Wars Land at Night - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Star Wars Land at Night – Artwork courtesy of Disney
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.

Other Items

  • “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.

That covers the news from the weekend. If events like this are interesting to you, you might want to take a look at what D23 is offering in 2017. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pongu Pongu - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Pongu Pongu – Artwork courtesy of Disney

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

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)!

First, a quick link in case you pre-order this year’s Unofficial Guide and need to get ir replaced due to the defects: How to Get a Free Replacement 2017 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

And now, the actual nuggets:

How about we take before we look at more nuggets?

Fall at Disney World!
Fall at Disney World!

Okay…now back to the nuggets…

Here’s a different way to end the post, a video stroll around Castaway Cay from The DIS: