• 10Dec
    Disneyland, News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Star Wars theme park presense to take from upcoming movies

    Disney has been rather tight-lipped on what their plans are for expanding the Star Wars franchise within its theme parks. And while we still don’t know what the exact plans are, we do know one thing – they were waiting for at least the first of the new movies to be in production so they could take elements from it.

    Speaking at a Q&A session at Variety‘s Dealmakers Breakfast earlier today, Disney chief Bob Iger said, “There will be a much larger Star Wars presence in our parks globally. But we want to do this big, which takes time, and to do it right.”

    And doing it right meant waiting until they could include elements from the newest installment of the franchise. “I didn’t want someone to say, ‘I just saw the movie and there’s nothing in that movie in this,” he elaborated. “We waited to see what this film would have in it.”

    So Iger put the brakes on all the Imagineering work being done to buy time for J.J. Abrams and his team to get through the development work and into production, so there would be designs that Imagineering could include.

    “I slowed it all down so what we come forward with will have a blend of the past, present and maybe the future,” he said. “Now we have a sense of what’s in Star Wars 8 and what some of the standalone films will have in them.”

    And just how much are they betting on the next movie? All in, baby. “I keep telling J.J. Abrams this is a $4 billion movie. We need to treat this very special. It’s an unbelievable privilege and unbelievable responsibility to take a jewel and treat it in a way that is respectful of its past but brings it into the future.”

    He’s got that right.

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  • 29Aug
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Off Kilter, Mo’Rockin’, World Showcase Players and others leaving Epcot

    Word spread like wildfire in the early morning yesterday, and unfortunately most of it is true…the Disney Parks blog announced that the following acts that appear around the World Showcase in Epcot will be ending their runs:

    • Mo’Rockin’, the live band in Morocco – last performance September 27th
    • Off Kilter, the live band in Canada – last performance September 27th
    • Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps, in the American Adventure – last performance September 27th
    • World Showcase Players, the comedy troupe that appeared in the U.K. and Italy and occasionally around the showcase – last performance September 25th

    It is a shame as these acts have been around for many, many years. The timing also points to this being a monetary decision – the fiscal year for Disney ends on September 28th, and the announcement yesterday likely satisfies a 30-day opt-out notice in the contracts.

    Replacement acts are on the way, however. Traditional Berber music will be introduced in Morocco, a flag troupe in Italy, a lumberjack show in Canada, and Celtic music in the U.K.

    For rumor control, the British Revolution, the British cover band in the U.K., is NOT leaving. They will continue on. Early reports listed them as possibly leaving, although I believe the confusion was over the Celtic group moving in to the U.K. – but I believe that is to replace the World Showcase Players, not the British Revolution. This has been confirmed, so no worries there.

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  • 23Jun
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Why FastPass+ has improved standby wait times at old FASTPASS attractions – and why others suffer for it

    Over a year ago, when FastPass+ just started to roll out with restrictions on what you could select, I posted the following on the DISboards, explaining why I predicted that standby wait times would actually go DOWN at the original FASTPASS attractions with FastPass+:

    It can be argued that those riding TSM more than once are likely doing so via Fastpass, at least once. Not all, but probably the majority. Some are very likely to be doing it using multiple Fastpasses.

    Now, if you can only get one FP+, what happens? Warning…assumptions ahead, but based on observation and logic!!! (No, Doc, don’t bring logic into this!!!)

    Assumption 1: Regardless if you can get more FP+ in the park, you can still only get one per attraction.

    Assumption 2: Those riding TSM with FP/FP+ will not be required to have to choose a FP+ for TSM or something else due to number of FP+ limitations or potential tiering of attractions.

    Let’s give names to different classes of TSM riders. And see if I can pull together a coherent argument despite interruptions.

    The “duplicates”. They get multiple FPs through the day for TSM, and ride 2+ times via FP, and potentially via standby as well, although if they do I expect it isn’t more than once.

    The “fast-and-slows”. They ride twice – once standby, once FP.

    The “one-and-dones”. They only ride once, either standby or FP, but are at least FP-savvy.

    The “don’t-get-its”, those who don’t understand FP, and probably still won’t understand FP+.

    Now, the “fast-and-slows” aren’t likely to change at all, since the changes don’t affect them as far as this argument goes (they may need to make a choice and give up their TSM FP+ for something else, but lets assume they don’t need to make that choice). So we can ignore them.

    The “don’t-get-its” also aren’t likely to change. They are still a constant in the standby lines with their glares.

    The duplicates are definitely affected, as they now can’t get more than one FP. So what do they do? They can still ride multiple times, but they have to do it via standby. Some will, but I have a feeling most likely only do so because of FP, and won’t. So while a few might go standby and increase the line there, others won’t. So less FP usage, with a lesser increase in standby usage. This alone would be a standby win as standby users will take the missing FP slots. Advantage: Standby.

    Now the “one-and-dones” are also affected. Those that end up in the standby line simply because there are no FPs available after noon, now have the potential to get a FP+ given up by the former duplicates. They likely will fill all those slots again – but then they are taking themselves out of the standby line on a 1-for-1 basis. So although the FP+ line goes back to before, the standby line decreases by the same degree, so it is shorter. Advantage: Standby.

    Now of course there could be outliers – former one-and-dones that become opportunistic fast-and-slows now that a FP+ is dangled in front of them, but in the same token some duplicates and fast-and-slows may opt all the way down to one-and-dones. And for each former duplicate that used to ride 3+ times and now drops to 1, there are that many more slots opened for others.

    That’s why I’m actually seeing this as a potential win for the standby line.

    Where this might not work as well where Assumption 2 breaks down more easily, like at MK, where there is a higher percentage of top-tier attractions. If you only have 3 FP+, and have to choose between the 3 (soon to be 4) mountains, Peter Pan, etc. Then you’ll have guests that may be forced into a fifth category, “I’d FP+ it but I’m out and forced to ride standby”, and this could see an increase in the standby line. This was worse when it seemed you’d only be able to get one top-tier FP+ – but this could also be a reason why they changed it.

    As it turns out, I was right…turning to the great folks at TouringPlans.com, who have been collecting wait time data for many years now, they’ve analyzed the difference in standby wait times, and it shows that it was in fact a win for the standby line – not much in some cases, but still a win. The most popular attractions – Toy Story Mania, Space Mountain, etc. – saw the best increases – as they were likely the attractions that guests would re-ride as much as possible in the old system.

    What I didn’t get in to was at the opposite end, although the results there should be somewhat self-evident…standby wait times at other attractions got longer.
    Continue reading »

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  • 10Jun
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on FastPass+ tier changes at Epcot and Hollywood Studios

    A few attractions will change their FastPass+ tiers at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, starting with FastPass+ selections for June 16th and later.

    According to WDW Magic, Epcot’s “Living With The Land” will move up to Tier 1, while “Maelstrom” and “Character Spot” will drop down to Tier 2. At Hollywood Studios, “The Great Movie Ride” will move up to Tier 1.

    This means that “Living With The Land” and “The Great Movie Ride” will be part of the tier where you can only choose one of the experiences in advance, while you can choose two from Tier 2.

    There is no tiering at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom.

    This only applies to new FastPass+ selections made for days on or after June 16th. Existing reservations are not affected, but if you cancel them and then make new ones you will be subject to the new tiers.

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  • 02May
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Big plans announced today for WDW

    Lots of other announcements coming out today…a quick roundup:

    The Polynesian Resort will revert back to the original name of “Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort”, and will get Trader Sam’s bar. DVC bungalows completed some time in 2015.

    Downtown Disney will become Disney Springs with the opening of the first section, The Landing, in early 2015. Other sections (Westside, Town Center, Marketplace) will be in 2016.

    New Details on ÒRivers of LightÓ Nighttime Spectacular Coming to DisneyÕs Animal KingdomRivers of Light nighttime show for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, to happen in the lagoon/river around Discovery Island

    Harambe Nights separate ticket event at Animal Kingdom will include special Lion King performances (which moves into the new theater in June), narrators every Saturday from June 7th-August 9th from 7:30-10:00pm. Tickets will be $119 adult, $79 child.

    World of Pandora (aka Avatarland) will open at the Animal Kingdom in 2017

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  • 02May
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens May 28th

    The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was finally unveiled to the press yesterday, and now WDW has announced the official opening date – May 28th. Fastpass+ is already available for it (hurry!)

    Here is a good video of the ride to give you an idea…it’s not a long roller coaster (in fact, I wouldn’t term it one – it’s a mine train), or a fast one…but it’s more about the special features. WDW has introduced very advanced animatronics for this one with the dwarfs. Not only do they move, but they move quite smoothly, and their faces are animated! They dig and sing as your car slows down and passes the scenes inside, before heading outside for another wild ride in the swinging cars. Then just before the end you slow down again for an outdoor scene of Snow White and the dwarfs dancing in the cottage…with a guest waiting outside…

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  • 24Apr
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Additional FastPass+ selections, limited park hopping available starting Monday April 28th

    It’s official…you will now be able to get more than three FastPass+ selections a day. But there is a catch…you can only make an additional selection after you have already used up your first three. That means if you are choosing late FastPass+ experiences, especially things like Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade, you won’t be able to get more until very late – and whenever you do use up your three, you will only be able to choose from what is still available at that point – so don’t plan on Soarin’ or Toy Story Mania for a fourth choice.

    After you’ve used your fourth choice, you can make a fifth, and so on, one at a time.

    You will also be able to park hop with those additional selections – but it seems that the first three must be in the same park still.

    Another point is that both prior rumors and the official news said that the additional choices are made at the FastPass+ kiosks around the parks – and don’t mention the web site or mobile app at all. I believe this is because neither currently have the flexibility to add that feature right now and it will take some development time – but I expect they will add it in the future as they really don’t need longer lines at some of those kiosks locations 🙂 Making additional selections for a particular park will appear to be limited to the kiosks at that park, it appears, so if you want to park hop you’ll have to wait until you get to the next park to make selections.

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  • 24Apr
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Guest slate for Star Wars Weekends finally announced

    We finally have details for the upcoming Star Wars Weekends!

    Aside from the previously announced returning host of all five weekends, James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Mark Hamill, Ashley Eckstein will return for all weekends to host “Behind The Force” show which provides a behind the scenes look, this year focusing on the upcoming Star Wars Rebels, and will feature a member of the voice cast each week.

    The guest stars include (subject to change):

    Weekend I: May 16-18

    Ahmed Best: Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace; Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones; Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Peter Mayhew: Chewbacca (Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi; Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Vanessa Marshall: Hera Syndulla (Star Wars Rebels)

    Weekend II: May 23-25

    Warwick Davis: Wicket W. Warrick (Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Wald (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)

    Jeremy Bulloch: Boba Fett (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Capt. Jeremoch Colton (Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith)

    Tiya Sircar: Sabine Wren (Star Wars Rebels)

    Weekend III: May 30-June 1

    Ray Park: Darth Maul (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)

    John Ratzenberger: Major Bren Derlin (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back)

    Taylor Gray: Ezra Bridger (Star Wars Rebels)

    Weekend IV: June 6-8

    Mark Hamill: Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Darth Bane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) (Note: Mark will apparently not be signing autographs)

    Ray Park: Darth Maul (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)

    Billy Dee Williams: Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi)

    Taylor Gray: Ezra Bridger (Star Wars Rebels)

    Weekend V: June 13-15

    Dee Bradley Baker: Captain Rex/the Clones, Bossk and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Cat Taber: Padmé Amidala and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Tom Kane: Yoda, the series’ narrator and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Matt Lanter: Anakin Skywalker and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Steve Blum: Zeb Orrelios (Star Wars Rebels)

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  • 26Mar
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on FastPass+ and MagicBands to be available to off-site guests starting March 31st

    The endgame of the MyMagic+ rollout is here…according to WDW Magic (and checked with a few of our own spies), off-site guests will get full access to MyMagic+ including advanced FastPass+ reservations starting March 31st, 2014.

    Guests who have created their My Disney Experience account and registered their tickets in the profile will be able to make up to seven days of advanced FastPass+ reservations within a 30 day period from the current date. They will no longer have to wait until they enter the park and use the kiosks, which have had long lines since off-site guests were given same-day access. The 7/30 day limit matches what Annual Passholders are able to do since they were all activated a couple weeks ago. Guests booked at a Walt Disney World resort will still have a 60 day window.

    A ticket MUST be registered in the guest’s profile to be able to book FastPass+ experiences. This means that tickets must be purchased in advance.

    Also, off-site guests will have the option to purchase a MagicBand to use in place of the regular ticket media. The price is not yet confirmed but we are hearing $12.95. It is also not certain what color choices will be available, as currently the resorts only stock “Iconic Gray” for guests who have not pre-customized their bands before arrival. To start with, guests with off-site bands will be able to use the bands for park entry and FastPass+ redemption, which can be done with their regular RFID-enabled tickets. But the bands will also allow some behind-the-scenes magic some of which is still being developed, but one current feature is being able to associate some ride photos automatically to your account by detecting the band when the photo is taken. More such magical features will be forthcoming.

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  • 20Mar
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Mark Hamill to appear at Star Wars Weekends

    Just announced today, and I believe the first celebrity announcement aside from James Arnold Taylor returning as host, is a big one…for the first time ever, Star Wars‘ own Luke Skywalker will appear at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends.

    He will be there for one particular weekend – Weekend IV, which is June 6-8. He will take part in the daily “Legends of the Force” motorcade and “talk show”, and presumably (but not confirmed) he will be signing autographs at a few points during the day. If you’re hoping to snag an autograph, though, beware – Disney uses it’s FASTPASS system for celebrity autographs, giving them out just before the park opens for the day – and the lines can form very, very early in the morning for top guests…people reportedly lined up close to midnight for the next day for Billy Dee Williams last year.

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