• 09Nov
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Disney scuttles Star Wars Weekends while construction begins for new Star Wars area

    [From our sister site, Sci-Fi Storm]

    Star Wars Weekends, a multi-weekend event that Disney has hosted for annually for the last 13 years and occasionally before that, is over.

    It was announced on the official Disney Parks Blog today, although we believed it already to be the case.

    Construction will begin next year in Disney’s Hollywood Studios park, where the Weekends were held, in order to provide a whole new “land” dedicated to Star Wars. Previously, the Star Wars presence was limited to the Star Tours attraction, the Tatooine Traders shop, and more recently the Jedi Training Academy (where children get trained by a Jedi and then face Darth Vader!) With Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 everyone expected a bigger park presence and it’s on the way. A few details were released about that expansion:

    • On December 1st, “Star Wars: Launch Bay” opens, giving fans a look at the franchise and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, special merchandise and opportunities to encounter Chewbacca and Darth Vader.
    • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues will feature a new scene inspired by Star Wars: The Force Awakens: a chase following the Millenium Falcon through the ship wreckage on the desert planet of Jakku. Those familiar with the random scenes in the attraction might be glad to know that for a few months, the Jakku scene will be in every ride, and then it “will be up to the will of the Force”.
    • Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (opening early December) is a re-imagining of the Jedi Training Academy which will take younglings to the secret site of an ancient Jedi temple where they will face Darth Vader along with the Seventh Sister – a new villain from the Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels
    • Star Wars: Path of the Jedi will feature scenes from the complete Star Wars saga, also giving anyone new to the Star Wars galaxy an opportunity to get acquainted with the films.

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  • 19Oct
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on WDW plans Opening Night event for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Disney Springs and Hollywood Studios

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens posterOn the opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 17th, Walt Disney World Resort will host a special ticketed event at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios park for fans who want to be among the first viewers of the movie and celebrate with other fans.

    Guests will have a confirmed seat at the AMC Disney Springs 24 theater for a showing between 7pm-8pm, and then celebrate over at Hollywood Studios at a private party afterwards until 2am. The party will include special access to the new Star Wars: Launch Bay exhibit, the Star Tours: The Adventures Continue attraction, a DJ dance party, and a preview of the all new fireworks display set to Star Wars music. Costumes are encouraged! But follow standard Disney guest costume guidelines – if you dress like a Disney character, for instance, you may not pose for pictures with other guests or sign autographs, etc.

    Characters will also appear at Launch Bay – it is sounding like a private mini-Star Wars Weekends!

    Tickets will go on sale immediately after the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens airs tonight during Monday Night Football. And in fact, tickets for showings at theaters around the country will go on sale at the same time!

    Ticket prices will depend on which format you see the movie in: 2D ($94.99), 3D ($98.99) and 3D ETX ($99.99).

    Note: Direct transportation between Disney Springs and Hollywood Studios will NOT be provided. Parking is free at Disney Springs, and parking at Hollywood Studios is included in the price of the ticket. Guests staying at a WDW Resort will be able to take transportation from Disney Springs to their resort, and then on to Hollywood Studios.

    More FAQs can be found here.

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  • 04Oct
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on WDW completely restructures Annual Passes

    Surprise! It seemed to be a well-kept secret, but WDW today restructured the whole Annual Pass ticket system. Gone are the Premium, Standard and Seasonal passes. In their place are Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum Plus – along with a new feature and, of course, higher prices.

    All passes (unless otherwise specified) now include free Photopass downloads. Prices unless otherwise stated do not include the 6.5% tax.

    For the general public, there are the Premium ($749 new, $635 renewal) and Premium Plus ($829 new, $705 renewal). They are the equivalent of the Standard and Premium APs in general.

    For Disney Vacation Club members and Florida Residents, Those passes are now $649 and $729 for new passes and $549/$619 for renewals respectively. In addition, a new pass called the Gold Pass is being offered for $549 new, $466 renewal. This is the same as the Platinum pass, but it has blockout dates when it cannot be used: December 17, 2015 ‒ January 1, 2016, March 19, 2016 ‒ April 1, 2016 and December 16, 2016 – January 1, 2017…basically the busy Christmas season and Spring Break.

    For Florida Residents only, the Silver Pass replaces the Seasonal Pass, and is $414.29 after tax (I don’t have the pre-tax price handy yet.), and does NOT include the free Photopass downloads. The Weekday Select and Epcot After 4 passes are still available, and likewise do not include Photopass. However, all passes now include freek parking! Which, by the way, was increased to $20 as well today, and valet is now $25.

    Information is still fluid, but we expect current AP holders to maintain their existing benefits, and at renewal time will need to choose from one of the new options. Mid-use upgrades would also likely be available to get the Photopass option if desired, but the prices, like always, would not be pro-rated.

    It also appears that the Premier Passport, which acts as a Platinum Plus Pass at WDW and a Premium AP in Disneyland, went up significantly as well, from $1099 to $1439.

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  • 15Aug
    Disneyland, News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Disney confirms Star Wars land expansions for Hollywood Studios and Disneyland

    At the D23 Expo today, Disney confirmed the long expected expansion of Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a land based on Star Wars – and another one at Disneyland Park as well! They report that both are receiving a 14-acre expansion, although the details of how (especially at Disneyland which has limited space available – but recent acquisitions of nearby parcels might be related) and when we’ll see it are still under wraps.

    I also wonder whether the 14 acres include reclaimed areas, as was expected in Hollywood Studios.

    The land will be based on a remote outpost on a new planet which has not yet been named, but presumably based on the upcoming The Force Awakens movie, but things will be drawn from the original saga as well. A Cantina is expected that will feature the variety of aliens and creatures you’d expect. And two new signature rides will be added, including one featuring the Millennium Falcon nd allow guests to take the controls in a climatic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.

    “I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and Star Wars,” said Bob Iger, Disney’s Chairman and CEO. “We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever. These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”

    And for the purists, everything done will be officially canon.

    Stay tuned for more details, and follow along with The DIS as they provide live coverage from D23!

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  • 12Mar
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Name change coming for Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

    It’s been rumored for a while, but Disney CEO Bob Iger let slip during today’s shareholder’s meeting that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will receive yet another name change, to further reflect that it is not an actual functioning studio any longer but rather an immersive, glamorized version of Hollywood and the land of film making. He caught himself after he said it before revealing a new name, not understanding that they had not yet released the info.

    Not sure what the final name will actually be yet, but the top two leaders in my head are currently Disney’s Hollywoodland (a reference to the original full Hollywood sign) or Disney’s Hollywood Adventure, compared to Disney’s California Adventure out west.

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  • 24Feb
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on WDW raises ticket prices – pages updated to reflect new prices

    We’ve updated the prices and calculations mentioned on our Tickets page as well as the Magic Your Way ticket price calculator to reflect this weekend’s price changes.

    Most notably, Walt Disney World has eliminated all sales of tickets with the No Expiration option, which follows last year when they removed the them from online sales and all signage. Some third party resellers like Undercover Tourist may still have stock for a short time if you are still interested in getting a No Expiration ticket.

    The No Expiration ticket was good for those who knew ho to use it effectively, but it also caused a lot of confusion with guests as to how it worked and the fact that it could not be added on to later on. This was one contributing factor to WDW phasing them out.

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  • 02Feb
    News, Walt Disney World Comments Off on Be Our Guest lunch to start accepting advanced dining reservations

    The Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, which acts as a counter service for lunch but transforms into a table service for dinner, has been testing a “Be Our Guest Fastpass” system for lunch for quite some time. It was called a “Fastpass” but it had no real relation to the new Fastpass+ system or its predecessor, instead it was essentially an invitation-only advanced dining reservation (sent to on-site resort guests via email – which not everyone seemed to receive) with a option to pre-order your food so it could be ready quickly on your arrival. Recently it was reported that they were trying “Fastpass only”, which meant that walk-ups were turned away, which meant that off-site guests were shut out completely.

    That is all changing.

    WDW News Today reports that starting February 25th WDW Dining will begin accepting standard Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) both online and via phone for lunch at the location. They have not stated whether it will have the standard 180 day window, but we are expecting it will.

    No change in service is expected – it will remain a counter service-style menu selection and service, but with Be Our Guest’s unique handling – after providing your order, you will sit down, and your meal will magically be brought to your table when it is ready. No more standing in the corrals waiting for that one last item for your tray that keeps getting snatched away by someone else…pre-ordering will still be an option, where you can place your order up to 30 days in advance – and as little as 5 minutes using the My Disney Experience application.

    Be Our Guest is expected to begin a counter service breakfast offering this year, but no other details are known yet.

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  • 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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