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.

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.

Disney adds Star Wars Day At Sea on select cruise sailings

It isn’t the long-awaited details of a Star Wars expansion at the parks, or more Star Wars Weekends, but it has me trying to plan another cruise…Disney Cruise Line announced “Star Wars Day At Sea”, on select sailings of the Disney Fantasy from January to April 2016.

All cruises are 7-day Western Caribbean itineraries, during which one day will specifically be a “Star Wars Day”, similar to the Pirate Night. The entire day will include a deck party, meet-and-greet with characters, celebrations, youth activities, exclusive food and beverage options and merchandise, and exclusive screenings of the Star Wars films and Star Wars Rebels.

The specific sailings are (all in 2016):

January 9
January 23
February 6
February 20
March 5
March 19
April 2
April 16

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.

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.

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.

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, 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 Why FastPass+ has improved standby wait times at old FASTPASS attractions – and why others suffer for it

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.

Restored version of Walt Disney’s “Florida Project” film

This is cool – RetroWDW posted a restored version of the original “Florida Project” film Walt Disney made for the Disneyland TV show explaining the original plans for Disney World, including the theme park, industrial areas, and – most of all – the actual EPCOT, including the drawings that were then re-created in 3D in a giant model that you can still see today…at the Magic Kingdom, while riding in the Tomorrowland Peoplemover, what they now call “Progress City”, a planned city that utilized the many technologies that Disney had showcased in Disneyland and the New York World’s Fair, dubbed the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow – EPCOT. A far cry from the theme park of today…

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