LEGO has posted about a new, almost 1800 piece LEGO set that has both Mickey & Minnie. It looks fantastic.
Since Disney World’s closure, I have been trying to figure out what I think about…well…all of it. Honestly, though, I still have not been able to figure it out. At some point, I will probably finish that post. Until then, here is something about a few hours I spent at Disney Springs last week.
I never had any intention of going to Disney Springs before the re-opening of the Disney World parks. Some family health issues force Elyssa and I to Florida, however, and—after a lot of driving, and a lot of work—I wanted to take just a few hours and be at Disney World.
I had a general idea of what to expect when I pulled into the Orange Garage (though I was not prepared to have the entrance I usually use for said garage be blocked off.) I put on my mask, got my temperature taken, and then took the escalator down to Disney Springs itself.
It felt weird.
I expected things to feel different or somewhat off, but it felt much weirder than I anticipated. Maybe it was the people in masks; perhaps it was all the sandwich board signs reminding everyone about everything going on, but—whatever it was—it was weird.
BOATHOUSE was quite pleasant. I sat out on the dock that houses the bar (which had no bar stools.) I was the only one out there. (I was the only person eating outside at all.) I had a beer, rolls, and a steak. Sitting there, enjoying my wheels, waiving to people in the amphicars, I could almost forget (if just for a moment) that things are not normal.
I walked the Westside (the lack of Bongo’s gives a clear view of Jaleo now that wasn’t there before). I walked by Homecomin’ (there might have been some people inside, but I could not tell if it was anyone I know from through the tinted windows.) I went to BOATHOUSE.
After my meal, I walked through the rest of Disney Springs. There was no queue for World of Disney, and I walked around with the 15 other people in the store. Maybe one other person was in the Marketplace Co-Op (The Dress Shop and Art Gallery have switched places.) Once Upon a Toy and the Lego Store had one other person each while I was there. Nothing else that I was interested in was open. (No Elyssa meant Uniqlo didn’t make the cut.)
I continued to just walk around for another hour before I picked up an ice cream sundae from Ghirardelli and sat by the water and ate it. Again, I could always forget (ignore?) everything as I enjoyed my Sunday.
About three hours after I got there, I ended up taking the escalator back up to my car. More people were coming in, but it was not “crowded” in any sense of the word. Before heading back to Elyssa’s home town, I drove by the Riveria and Boardwalk. I drove up by the Beach Club and Yacht Club. I thought about driving out past the Magic Kingdom, but decided I had seen enough for the day. I was already feeling a little twinge of pain I get whenever one of my Disney trips ends, and I decided I did not need anymore.
I had my little taste of the Springs in this strange, strange summer.
Update: I am taking the “developing” tag of this because Variety has not confirmed it.
This would be amazing news if true.
This is such great news. I was watching the newest episode of Clone Wars this morning and seeing Ahsoka back on the screen felt so great. It brought a smile to my face in these troubling times.
I know some people think it it’s a “slap in the face” to Ashley Eckstein, but I hope she doesn’t see it that way. I also hope that there was some discussion with Ashley about who she thought would be good for the role. Related to that, Rosario has been campaigning to play the live action Ahsoka for years:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 21, 2017
I think she’s going to be great.
With Clone Wars Season 7 set to release this Friday (February 21, 2020), Disney has released the following timeline graphic to show where Clone Wars fits into the Star Wars storyline:
As you can see from the timeline (and what you would probably expect from the title), Clone Wars falls between Episode 2, Attack of the Clones and Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.
I’m really excited to see what they do with Season 7, especially because Season 6 was kind of a monkey’s paw revival of the series that lacked my favorite character.
If, for some reason, you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is:
In a (semi-rare?) intersection of my interests, it is being widely reported that Sasha Banks will be in Season 2 of the Mandalorian. Currently, there is no information as to what character she will play (I love Sasha, and I love Sabine, but probably not the right fit), but I can’t wait to see how this turns out.
As we’ve talked about on the site before, Elyssa’s “real” job is as a wedding and portrait photographer over at Kivus and Camera. Well, during our most recent trip to Disney World, Elyssa spent some time with her sister and her sister’s fiancé taking pictures. A couple of images are included below, but, if you want to see the whole set (and there about 35 more), you can head over to the Kivus and Camera blog and see the post.
After a rather lengthy Twitter discussion with some friends of the site about how much Elyssa and I like Tiffins and Jiko, Elyssa and I…well…decided to go to Jiko for dinner on Sunday night.
I intend to write-up (or at least show some pictures) of our entire meal, but what I really want to share is: JIKO HAS “NEW” BREAD:
Previously, as you might remember, Jiko had sweet potato rolls. Now, they have an almost fluffy focaccia-like bread that they serve with olive oil infused with parsley and chives. It was a big hit for us (especially Elyssa, who doesn’t like sweet potato.) I was completely surprised to be served the new bread since I do not remember reading about the bread change at any of the normal spots for this kind of news, despite our waitress saying it had been out for 4-5 months. (I did a “site:easwydw.com” to see if Josh had written about it and I couldn’t find anything. I also did something similar for some other Disney news sites with no results.)
Anyway, Jiko was amazing (as always) and the “new” bread might give you another reason to give it a shot if you haven’t been in awhile.
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!
UPDATE: Video Embedded Below!
Tonight, we gather round the fire as the Disney Parks Blog live streams the new nighttime show at Epcot, “Epcot Forever.”
When I was done at Disney World in early September, I said my goodbye to Illuminations, but I’m not sure I really appreciate that it’s “gone.” Tonight, we’ll get our first look at the replacement.
As always, I recommend checking the Disney Parks Blog about 15 minutes before the start of the show to see if there’s an updated post with the video. I’ll also try to post the video in this post if I’m able.
Enjoy the show!
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.”
“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.
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
The Disney Parks Blog will be live streaming the opening ceremony from Galaxy’s Edge today at 9:55AM. You can watch the video here:
I really cannot explain how excited I am to visit Galaxy’s Edge next week.
I’m currently on a Lego buying “freeze” as Elyssa and I evaluate where we’re going to (eventually) buy our next house. That said, my self control is being severely tested with this amazing new set of the Main Street Train Station. It looks fantastic.
You’ll be able to buy the set from the Lego website starting September 1, 2019. Blog Mickey also has more of the promotional images.
The Disney Parks will be live-streaming the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom tonight at 9;10pm Eastern. You can see the post here.
Here’s the video feed:
A little over 3 years ago, I wrote a post about a podcast to keep an eye on. In that post I talked about how Backside of Magic hosts Ryan and Jeremy were discussing techniques to enhance people’s enjoyment of Disney vacations, and how—as early as episode 3–they really seemed to be hitting their stride in that space.
Since that post, and for the past 3 years, Ryan and Jeremy have continued their exploration of time saving and trip planning. As they mentioned in their last episode today, techniques and terms they coined such as “bump and run” are now regularly used in Disney (DisTwitter?) discourse. Also, whether or not you had issues with the appropriateness of some of their more “aggressive” techniques, information like Flight of Passage Fastpass+ drops is invaluable for people planning Disney vacations and Ryan and Jeremy were always at the forefront of providing that. When I had a trip to Disney World coming up, I always made sure I had listened to—at least—the last 3 episodes of Backside of Magic (if I hadn’t already listened to them the morning they came out) to make sure that there were no new bits of information I needed to be aware of.
Saldly, for us Disney fans, Ryan and Jeremy are hanging up their microphones today. It’s been a fun ride for the past few years, and I’m glad I kept my eye on the show. From the various other feedback I see in the Disney community, it sounds like a lot of other people kept their eyes on it, too.
Enjoy podcast retirement, y’all. Pop a Jai Alai. You’ve earned it.
Big day tomorrow for Disney podcast fans…
????One last time…
Going to teach them how to say goodbye…???? pic.twitter.com/jvAXScDsum
— John Kivus (@kivus) May 21, 2019
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.
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:
Avengers: Endgame was released this weekend, and, like expected, it marks the end of an era in Marvel’s “Cinematic Universe.” It’s the end of a nearly 10 year run of movies, and it culminated with an epic battle and a series of codas that leave us saying goodbye to this particular iteration of some of our favorite characters. For me specifically, it’s me saying goodbye to Chris Evans’ Captain America.
It’s was about 9 years ago that Marvel announced that Chris Evans had been cast as Captain America. I was unsure of how to react at the time, given that I really only knew Chris Evans from the Fantastic Four movies and The Losers (don’t get me wrong, I really like The Losers), and—though I saw similarities in between those two characters—neither one seemed to be anything like the Steve Rogers that I knew and loved from years of reading Marvel comics.
I waited another year-and-a-half to see how Captain America would be portrayed on the big screen, and it only took about 25 minutes of that movie (when Steve Rogers jumps on a grenade) that I realized that I actually was going to see my Captain America brought to life, and that Chris Evans was the right person to do it.
Since that first movie, Steve Rogers, through Chris Evans, has grown as a character, while still continuing to embody the characteristics that I love about Captain America from the comic books. From his fight against corrupt power on Earth in Winter Solider, to him standing against against an otherworldly superpower in Endgame, he simply was the the Sentinel of Liberty that I had been reading stories about for all those years.
One of MCU Steve Roger’s iconic lines is “I can do this all day.” (which gets a nice shout-out in Endgame), but it is unrealistic to expect Chris Evans to play this role (or any role) forever. Not that he needs me (or anyone else) to give “approval” on how he portrayed a character, but, as he leaves his time as Captain America behind, I cannot thank him enough for how well he portrayed one of my favorite characters in any media. He didn’t sign on to be a steward of a chararacter with such a history when he signed on to be an actor in a movie, but, through this past decade, he has done this just that.
Thank you, Chris. Because of your hard work this past decade, I have a whole “universe” of movies that include one of my favorite comic book characters brought to life. Thank you (and go Red Sox.)
UPDATE 2: 1:25PM, Monday, April 22, 2019 – I’ve updated the below post to more accurately reflect that Jim Hill and WDW NT disagree over whether or not there will be a new nighttime parade at the Magic Kingdom for the 50th anniversary.
On this morning’s edition of the Disney Dish with Jim Hill, Jim shared the rumor that Disney is holding back an announcement of a new nighttime parade for the Magic Kingdom until D23 Expo in August. Jim also said the goal is to have the new parade up and running prior to the 50th Anniversary in 2021. Later this morning, WDW NT made a post saying there will be NO PARADE in advance of the 50th. At this point, it appears we officially have a battle of the rumors.
Readers of the site will know that Elyssa and I are huge fans of nighttime parades and we have been bummed that the Magic Kingdom has gone so long without one. Personally, I hope that Jim Hill is right and that the new parade is something that will be coming next Spring / Summer, and not in 2021. (Given that Disney has so many hard ticket events in the fall and winter now, I imagine there is zero chance it would be ready for this year.) I will be really bummed if it turns out that WDW NT is right and there is no new parade at all.
Also on the nighttime entertainment front, Disney announced today that they are giving a revamp to Rivers of Light (including changing the name to Rivers of Light: We Are One) this summer. I wonder if this will give some renewed interest in that show.
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.
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.
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.
Though not 100% on point for this site, the various discussions I’m seeing this morning related to flights, flight boarding, etc.. remind me of this CGP Grey video:
Part of me wonders what it would be like to have a much more “efficient” boarding process (though, after flying Southwest with their “groups”, I wonder how the “plane’s here, go ahead” method would really work for today’s travelers.)
If what you really want to watch ist just 20 minutes of the loading and unloading animations, though, then here’s that:
No hard news or anything on this. The guys at Backside of Magic mentioned in their episode this morning that it’s about the time Disney World raises its ticket prices, so it might be worth buying tickets for your upcoming trips. I agree Ryan and Jeremy on that.
For context, here are the dates of Disney’s last few matches of February prices increases:
- February 11, 2018
- February 12, 2017
- February 28, 2016
- February 22, 2015
- February 23, 2014
Sometimes there is a 1 or 2 day “rumor” that can give you notice, but who knows if that will happen this time.
NOTE: You can view the transcript from a number of places online, but this is the one I used: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4238411-walt-disney-company-dis-ceo-robert-iger-q1-2019-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single. Also, the quotes below are from Bob Iger.
The first quote will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following Disney Parks, Disney has tried to get more money from each of their guests (and, apparently, it has):
Growth in operating income at our domestic parks business was driven by higher guest spending at the park and higher occupied room nights at the hotels. Attendance at our domestic parks was comparable to the first quarter last year. However, per capita spending was up 7% on higher admissions, food and beverage and merchandise spending. Per room spending at our domestic hotels was up 5%, and occupancy was up 3 percentage points to 94%.
Again, no surprise to anyone that follows this stuff.
This next quote talks about how Disney feels that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is, essentially, going to market itself:
And I would say, by the way, on the marketing expense side, don’t expect much. I’m thinking that maybe I should just tweet, “It’s opening,” and that will be enough. I think we’re going to end up with incredibly popular and in-demand product with these two new lands.
They’re large. They’re beautiful, and they’re extremely innovative. And they obviously leverage the popularity of the Star Wars brand. And I think that we’re going to have absolutely no problem gaining attention for them or to them, and it’s not going to take much marketing to do that. That’s a signal that I just sent to our parks and resorts people to keep that budget really low.
Iger says that now, but I can’t imagine we’re not going to see a decent amount of advertising as the opening of the land gets closer. Maybe not for the holiday season (which would be popular anyway), but leading into 2020 and the “slower” periods of January and February.
This next quote combines pricing with everyone’s (no one’s?) favorite topic: IP in the theme parks. For better or worse, Disney seems to be saying that part of the reason for the increased popularity in the parks is the additional IP that Disney has been adding to them. Relatedly, Disney is using this increased popularity to raise prices:
Steve, on the first part, we’ve been witnessing, over the last few years, a substantial increase in the popularity of our parks. A lot of that has to do with how well they’ve managed and the kind of investments that we’ve made not just operationally but in expansion and the use of IP that’s extremely popular.
In doing so, what we’re also trying to do is to use that popularity to manage guest experience a little bit better in the sense that – and we know that crowding can be an issue, and that when our parks are the most crowded, the guest experience is not what we would like it to be.
And so we’re leveraging the popularity to obviously increase pricing and to spread demand, to get much more strategic about how we’re pricing. So the parks are still accessible, but in the highest peak periods, we’re trying basically to manage the attendance so that the guest experience isn’t diminished by the popularity.
And I think, because of the nature of the investments we’re making, we’ve been fairly vocal and transparent about those investments, the two big Star Wars, Toy Story Land that just opened up in Florida, the work that’s going on in Hong Kong and in Paris and Shanghai and in Tokyo and all the great expansion and IP that we’re putting in. That popularity is going to continue, and with that’s going to come the, I guess, enviable task of balancing that popularity with guest experience and price elasticity.>
Again, for better or worse, new attractions at Disney parks are going to based on popular IP while the current crew is running things. That seems pretty clear.
As to using pricing to “manage attendance”, I think the unique nature of Disney parks, specifically destination parks like Disney World, undercuts that argument. As I’ve said (and heard others say) since Disney went to seasonal / surge pricing, some people can only take vacations during “peak” Disney times. For those people, the pricing isn’t a discouragement, it’s just an increased cost for their trip that they have no choice but to pay. People with the flexibility to travel when they want were alredady factoring in the crowd levels when making their travel decisions, but people who are constrained in their travel choices by their kids’ school or their jobs may not have those options. Though I doubt Disney would ever admit it, I bet the increased pricing over peak periods has done nothing to crowd levels, but has simply increased Disney’s profits for those periods. That’s “fine” if that’s Disney’s goal, but to say the goal is to “managed attendance” seems disingenuous.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I added in the two sentences above that are in italics to help clarify my original point, namely: some people are constrained by their life circumstances into when they can travel, and, frequently, those constraints force people to travel in Disney’s “peak” periods. For those people, they are forced into paying the extra cost of a trip, without any real option to travel at a “less expensive” time.
This last quote comes from earlier in the call, but ties the theme parks into Disney’s upcoming streaming service:
As I mentioned earlier in my prepared remarks, we have an event on April 11 when we’re not only going to demonstrate the app, but we’re going to talk in great detail about our strategy, the impact of our current businesses and the impact on our bottom line. And so I think we’ll answer a lot of the questions then.
But what we’re basically trying to do here is invest in our future. And the investments that we’re making in both the technology side and in creating incremental content are all designed so that long-term this business will become an important part of Disney’s bottom line and long-term strategy So I think you have to look at this.
It’s almost the equivalent of deploying capital to build out our theme parks when we could have deployed the capital in a variety of other directions. This is a bet on the future of this business. And we are deploying our capital basically so that long term, the growth of this company is stronger than it would have been without these investments.
It seems like Iger is saying that the build out on theme parks was a bet on the future (which seems to have paid off so far) and the build out on the streaming service will be much the same. Personally, I’m interested to see what the whole Disney+ experience will be like, especially initially when Disney still has content deals keeping some of its in-house content on other services. Of course, if Disney’s original content is ready then the service might really hit the ground running.
With all that money, can we get a night time parade back?
No (As of February 3, 2019.)
They accept DVC and Annual Pass discounts (10%, not applicable to alcohol), but not Tables.
If you learn something different on one of your visits, please feel free to let us know!