Roundtable Contributors: Elizabeth Caran (Outlander Travel), Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place), Alan Mize, Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind), Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), Andrew (Disney Hipsters Blog), and yours truly.
Andrew (Disney Hipsters Blog)
The announcement of this year’s special promotion Limited Time Magic a few months ago was met with a general and contagious apathy. The idea of there being something unique and special in the parks for each week of 2013 seemed promising enough, but Disney only released a few of the ideas that were in the works...most of which were for much later in the year. July fourth fireworks all week? blah.
So what kind of "magic" is taking place this first week of the new year? A Tomorrowland dance party. No, I'm not joking. Taking place on the old "Stitch Stage" the new show is called Bling In The New Year...and yes, the name just made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Disney dancers and various characters will countdown the new year every evening this week...ala Pleasure Island. Though the characters aren't listed, I'll just assume they're Stitch, Buzz Lightyear, and Mike Wazowski, because whoever writes these shows has virtually no creativity. Let’s hope they pull out something better for the following weeks. Happy New Year! :/
Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com)
The Disney Time sweepstakes is underway, allowing anyone to register once a day, every day, all January long for a chance to win a Disney vacation. Users select which vacation prize best fits their interests, whether they enjoy thrills, romance, or something in between. What's curious, however, is that two of the packages include Adventures by Disney's one-day "Lights, Camera, Magic" experience in Hollywood and the Walt Disney Studios, though the tour was planned to be cancelled after its January 18 date.
According to Guests who were signed up for the tour throughout 2013, Disney called all participants and informed them the experience was shuttered. I asked these same people if they had heard anything different, and so far the consensus is nothing but more questions. Why would Disney Time publicly offer a tour that's being discontinued as a prize? Did Adventures by Disney change their mind and decide to keep it going, is someone at Disney Time unaware of its discontinuation, or will the sweepstakes winner simply be treated to a private, exclusive experience unavailable to others? I went on Lights, Camera, Magic this past summer and was shocked when I learned it was being cancelled. It is THE tour to take for the Disneyland Guest who also wants to see a bit of Hollywood during their vacation. In fact, my family was so impressed with it that we scrapped our planned second Hollywood day and spent an extra day in Disneyland instead. I hope the tour continues, because in my mind Disney had a real winner on their hands.
Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place)
Some people like to kick off the new year with champagne or a gym membership. But me? Well, I like to commemorate the occasion with new Disney art. And this year those clever Disney artists have managed to turn the "unlucky 13" superstition on its head with some snazzy art featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and even Oswald. (My personal fave is the vintage circus poster with the sorcerer hat taking centerstage.) The folks at the Disney Parks blog informed us that these images will also be translated into Vinylmations (eh), coasters (yes!), dishes (woo hoo), and iPhone covers (yippee!). I don't know about you but I'm more likely to splurge on some retro-stylized merchandise than anything with bright colors and a big 2013 on it.
Elizabeth Caran (Outlander Travel)
Normally at the holiday season, the biggest topic of conversation among my Disney geek friends is nothing worse than how crowded the parks are and whether or not the Christmas Parade was better than last year's. But this year, Disney put out a little bit of news just before Christmas that had many of us scratching our heads a little and fuming a bit as well. The merchandise discount for Premier and Premium Annual Passholders has been reduced from 20% to 10% as of January 1, 2013.
As a member of DVC, I was lured into upgrading to PAPs for my entire family back in October because of the incredible discount on the pass offered to us. I've often eyed the pass, but since I have young kids, water parks are only just becoming a viable option for us and the same goes for DisneyQuest. (Call me crazy, but I wanted my kids to at least be tall enough to see the screen on an arcade game before I'd pay admission to get them in.) However, this deal, almost too good to be true, it seemed, was enough to say, "Sure! Let's add a water park and a trip to DisneyQuest next time and do it! Maybe I can finally use that discount to buy one of the higher end watches or figurines or something as well!"
Too good to be true, indeed.
Disney prints on all their materials that they have a right to change the terms and conditions of tickets and annual passes at any time. So for those who feel you are entitled to the discount just because they said that it would be 20% when you purchased... I think we are out of luck. We never think Disney will make those changes because we know it's kind of tacky to do. But yet, they did.
It is hard to believe that with the markup on Disney merchandise that profit is the only factor in this decision. I know cast members felt it was a huge impact on service when they had to scrutinize every pass and remember which one gets which discount. I know... sounds simple... but every time I use my pass to get a discount, I get the same request for pass, ID, and then some explanation of why I get 10% instead of 20% (presumably in an effort to get me to buy up next time). Regardless, I am very glad I didn't pay full price for my PAP. I'll use it this year and then I can't imagine (unless the prices stays so low) that I will want a PAP again. It simply doesn't make financial sense unless you are completely addicted to the water parks and DisneyQuest. And although I enjoy those attractions, I can't see going more than once per trip. I'm sure Disney had good reasons for making the change, but as a fan and a passholder, I see this as a big fail on corporate's part. Very disappointing.
First off, I'd like to wish all of you a Happy New Year! I trust that you had a safe and enjoyable New Year's Eve. Hopefully, you weren't in the five hour queue for Test Track!
This time of year is generally slow in terms of news and announcements from Walt Disney World, but as the holiday season comes to a close and the crowds thin out in the parks, the annual closings will start to take place. It's pretty common for January to feature several attractions that are closed for refurbishment. Perhaps it's just my imagination, but this year the list seems to be longer than usual. Attractions that will be closed in early 2013 include Splash Mountain, Mad Tea Party, Liberty Square Riverboat and Kali River Rapids. Both Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage and Disney Junior: Live on Stage will be closing over at Hollywood Studios and Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach will be getting their annual refurbishments as well. It's not just attractions that will be getting some TLC this winter. A few dining establishments will be closing as well. Fountain View, Main Street Bakery, Boardwalk Bakery and California Grill are all scheduled to close during the winter months. Even with all of those closings, there will still be plenty of things to entertain guests this winter and we all know that attractions and restaurants need some down time occasionally. Hopefully, the down time will give the Imagineers a chance to show these attractions and restaurants the love they deserve and the love that they need, especially Splash Mountain!
Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind)
According to WDW Magic, BoardWalk's main quick service spot will be closed for a full refurbishment from January 6 through April 27, 2013. In addition to a new entrance, a new queue and an expanded menu, the newly renovated space will include a proper refillable mug station!! That last bit is key for me--yes, the Bakery can be extremely crowded, but that's always bothered me less than the inability to get my refillable mug filled at the grab-and-go spot. You'd walk out with an empty refillable mug in one hand and a disposable cup in the other ... infuriating and not too eco-friendly. For those of you wondering, you'll still be able to get your morning joe and baked goods at a temporary kiosk on the BoardWalk.
Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)
My good friend Jeff Heimbuch wrote a stellar piece detailing many of the disappointing sights around Walt Disney World that could be straightened up with a bit of spit and polish, or maybe some paint and ceiling tiles. It’s true that things age in Walt Disney World just as they do anywhere else in the outside world, but given the premium price guests pay for admission, food, and merchandise, is it any wonder that we expect a bit more from the Vacation Kingdom?
My case in point, IllumiNations. When I was in Epcot back in September, IllumiNations was delayed. Then it was delayed again and some guests began to make their way towards the gates. A third delay. Then finally that evenings performance was cancelled, almost an hour after it had been slated to start. It happens, I know that. However, I’ve heard of it happening all too frequently this fall, and then came New Year’s Eve and a six minute delay on the countdown to 2013. Unacceptable.
Now, I am all for safety. The safety of the guests and Cast Members surrounding and operating the IllumiNations production must be first and foremost, but the show must go on without delays going forward. I’m not sure if these are technical delays or human delays, but whatever the cause, perhaps it is time to start the new year off on the right foot and give IllumiNations the upgrades it deserves.