My Growing Concern about the Future of Disney World


Some of you may have noticed that I have not posted anything recently. I wanted to, I really did, but I was having a hard time with trying to find something that really excited me about the goings on with the domestic Disney parks. Quite frankly, I’m a little worried.

Now, this is not to say that I have completely given up on them, or have no desire to go back to them at all. In fact, we (my family) are in the process of planning our next trip for about a year from now, give or take, and are looking forward to possibly incorporate a Disney Cruise for the first time.

I go back to my point, that I am getting worried. I do have some level of trust in Disney, or I would not spend as much time and energy as I do thinking, reading, and researching them. However, with some of the announcements and changes of the last couple of months, I believe that we are at a crossroads as Disney fans. I can either see this thing going really well, really tanking, or most likely, ending up somewhere in-between where the good changes are outweighed by the bad changes and we end up with a mediocre mix of new attractions that won’t see the light of day for 2-5 years or more.


What am I talking about? Well – Let’s start with the Frozen overlay of Maelstrom. There are so many articles from both sides about this, but it really seems to be a good example of “Modern Disney Management” thinking. There’s the mommy blogger pixie dusters who love it, and can’t get enough, and hated Maelstrom from the start. Then there are the 80’s kids whose nostalgia for the past won’t let them see that the ride was in desperate need of changes. I do tend to fall in the second half though. I am not excited by this kind of change. If Frozen needed an attraction (and you can easily argue that it does) can’t we just build something new? Why do we have to take away things that were already there to replace it with another character tie-in. (For example, see “The Seas with Nemo and Friends”)


Not only Maelstrom at EPCOT, but the Frozen changes are everywhere; from its events and stores at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Magic Kingdom with lines for Anna and Elsa dominating the mommy blogger discussion boards; the anticipation having for an Olaf walk around character in general; Frozen now being incorporated into “Once Upon A Time” on ABC, etc. We get it. Frozen is a big deal, you make lots and lots of money from it, you want us to know you think it’s a big deal, and I am sure you are hoping the sequel does half the gross profit of the original. That doesn’t mean that I constantly need it in my face.

To continue with EPCOT, now we have the removal of Off Kilter, Mo’rockin’ and other entertainment that has been there for some time. The two big replacements being a lumberjack show, and traditional Berber music and dance act? I know that those two are just the most well-known acts that are getting replaced. It sounds like some countries that did not have established entertainment may be getting some, but that does not mean it’s a good thing. However, there’s no announcement about any plans to do anything with the dying and forsaken pavilions that sit lifeless? (for example, the top floor of the Imagination Pavilion) Are you really telling me that you don’t/can’t/won’t do something with that space already? Turn it into a corporate lounge or something, (not that I want that specifically) but to leave it sit empty is a shame.


Over at DHS, the Back Lot tour is closed, and that’s probably a good thing. It made a lot more sense when the studios was an actual working film and television studio, but for a long time now, it’s been reduced to a shell of what that tour once was. American Idol is gone (thank goodness) even that attraction closed earlier than expected. Over the years, and coming up quickly, other attractions have disappeared without replacement (like the terrible Sounds Dangerous, and the Little Mermaid is scheduled to close in January). They (Disney) intentionally have not given us details about Star Wars, or any other changes, so we can just speculate on what’s coming, if anything. We have  been given information that they are adding a track to Toy Story Midway Mania, so hopefully that reduces demand on one of the only family friendly attractions in the park, until whatever they are building actually gets built. Also, the speculation for Pixar Place is stronger than ever, and that could incorporate a Radiator Springs Racer ride, but who knows. Regardless of what actually shows up at DHS, that park is in desperate need for renewal, so I just hope that it changes for the better, and they look at the success of Disney’s California Adventure, and what renewal/renovation did for that park as a whole.


Now to Animal Kingdom where apparently construction walls are everywhere. We have been told that about what’s going on there with the expected night time offerings and entertainment that they are planning, and we know that Pandora is coming, but no one really seems to care. The best comments I have heard about it, (and tend to agree with) are basically, “No, I didn’t like the movie, but knowing Disney, I want to see what they come up with before I pass judgment. It could be cool.” At least we’re seeing some progress and changes to that park, however, those changes have been being discussed for years, literally. It’s about time that we see some movement on something, and hopefully the rumors that the yeti is really getting fixed, for real, are actually true this time.


Disney continues to add Hard Ticket events. Not only that, but the Run Disney crowd has started to take over almost any weekend they can. Disney seems to be adding additional fees and parties whenever they can now. Look at the “Villains Unleashed” event that they had this year. After running some tests and seeing just how popular the villains were with the general public, did they simply give the people more of what they were looking for? No. They decided to charge people $65 for a couple of shows, and the opportunity to meet a couple of characters out of the 50 advertised (because the lines were hours long, literally, to meet the most popular characters). Also, they are up to 9 separate Run Disney events between the two coasts now, and each event has multiple sub categories. Registration for these events can cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention any special parties or events that you have to buy extra tickets to if you want to participate in those. However, they sell out super-fast, all the time. Run Disney, and Hard Ticket Parties are just the beginning, look at all the new fireworks/dessert parties, and EPCOT wind down events, and Harambe Nights, and now things like VIP Passes with special seating and privileges for free events. Also, the events like Flower and Garden, and Food and Wine that are really just special events designed to get you to come and spend more money in the parks.


Disney is been constantly finding ways to get more money out of the guests who are already spending hundreds (or more realistically thousands) to go on vacation. You can’t really blame them. If people are willing to pay for it, why should Disney stop them? They are a business, and there to make money after all. I just don’t want executives focused solely on profit generation by creating events, and not by creating more attractions to drive park attendance. You can increase your profit in many ways, but basically you either get more money per guest, or you get more guest in the parks. You drive park attendance by creating attractions and experiences. You get more money per by increasing prices, and finding ways to charge for things that people once expected as part of the experience of going to the park. Right now, Disney seems to be focused on the latter, but the opportunity for exciting new attractions is definitely there.

Disney SDP

IF Disney gives the designers that are currently working on these upcoming projects the budget and the freedom they need, I believe that something really great can come out of all this change. Not just in one specific park, but for the “world” overall. I am not saying that I am going to like every piece of it. I don’t have to. Disney World, or any Disney park for that matter is not just for me. It needs to be for everyone, and that is the key here. If I can enjoy the park, and my kid can enjoy the park, even if we are enjoying the park in different ways, that’s what counts. If I wanted to go somewhere that just had a bunch of kiddie carnival spinners, I can go up the street for that. I expect a lot more out of Disney, and I want to be immersed in environments, and taken on adventurous attractions that suspend my disbelief, even if it is just for a few brief seconds.

That’s my real concern here. Bean Counters vs. Imagineering. There are a lot of projects and potential on the table right now in lots of areas of “The World”. Pencil Pushers continue to spread their influence as evidenced by things like expansion of DVC and the added hard ticket and extra “pay to play” events that are continually thrown together. I am worried that budget overlaps between projects will cause unnecessary cuts that will make the difference between mediocre space-wasters, and truly “Disney Quality” attractions. I can’t decide if I’m excited for the possibilities, or concerned that Disney World will lose a lot of what makes it special. It’s truly some of both, hope and anticipation while at the same time being pessimistic and assuming the worst. What doesn’t help me is seeing the example of Frozen take over Maelstrom, and this master entertainment plan of putting flag dancers in Italy and lumberjacks in Canada as a solution to improving Epcot. Meanwhile, future world rots away quietly and no new nation pavilions are on the horizon, (Except maybe Puerto Rico, but that’s a real blue sky rumor).

Thanks again for reading, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined. Also, please feel free to share with your friends who may be interested in the topic.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at


Dinoland U.S.A. – Badly Themed or Themed to be Bad?

Does Dinoland U.S.A in Disney’s Animal Kingdom get a bad rap for being a poorly themed area of the park, or are most guests overlooking the deeper story and detailed theming that exists here.


I have to admit that at first, I was quite surprised that Disney seemingly put such little effort and time into an area of such a generally highly themed park. I was taken aback at the cheap looking rollercoaster and somewhat bothered by the use of another “off the shelf spinner” attraction that existed here. Not to mention the typical carnival games that suck even more money from my wallet. However, that was before I started to learn more about the story and started to look at the details that exist here. After gathering information from a number of sources, the story generally goes like this.

Diggs County (the official name of Dinoland U.S.A.) was nothing more than a speck on a map, allegedly along Florida’s Route 498 (Numbered for the opening date of Animal Kingdom, April 1998). Nothing significant existed on the property except an old gas station and fishing lodge.

One day, a few amateur fossil hunters were wandering through and discovered fossils in the area. After contacting their scientist friends and investors, they pooled their money to purchase as much of the land as possible, with the exception of one hold out, the young couple that ran the gas station, Chester and Hester. As the findings were found to be fairly significant they formed the Dino Institute and took over the fishing lodge for their headquarters. They gained popularity and notoriety in the scientific community, acquired additional funding, and added on to the lodge as much as possible until they finally out grew it.

Chester and Hester Actual Characters

The new Dino Institute was built providing a brand new building that was a significant upgrade from the fishing lodge. Now able to hold new equipment and techniques, they were able to develop Time Travel. For a fee, tourists were able to travel back in time at the Dino Institute and this fee would continue to fund the Institute’s research. (This is the attraction is now known as “Dinosaur”, but when it originally opened was “Count Down to Extinction”, and that helps it better tie into the story later on.)

Over time, Chester and Hester saw the influx of tourism to their small town. Not wanting to miss out on the flow of tourism dollars, they started by turning their gas station into a souvenir store, and put up signs along the highway to welcome and draw in visitors. (for those of you who know what I am talking about, think of Wall Drug in South Dakota.)


As the area continued to grow, the tourism dollars continued to come in. The old fishing lodge was first turned into a cafeteria and lounge for the interns of the Dino Institute when the new building was built. Ultimately, the fishing lodge because a restaurant for tourists, and the intern’s influence on the now “Restaurantosaurus” can easily be seen in the theming and decoration on the walls.



Eventually, in addition to the converted gas station/souvenir tourist trap, Chester and Hester decided to create their own ride, “Countdown to Extinction” calling it “Primeval Whirl”. (and this is where the old name of “Dinosaur” actually ties the two together. The theming of “Primeval Whirl” is also traveling back in time and counting down to the dinos’ impending doom.) Additionally, they added TriceraTop Spin as well as several carnival games, all Dinosaur themed of course.

Once we understand the backstory, we can start to see how the details of the land add to the story. You can see why they used old tires as planters. You can tell that the shop is supposed to look tacky and themed to be like one of the old roadside stands you see all over the country. Even the pavement is themed for the land. The “highway” runs from where the area starts, and down in front of the souvenir shop, and is intentionally themed to look like a rundown highway. The “parking lot” that the attractions sit on is actually not a parking lot at all. It is in fact stamped and dyed concrete that has been carefully cracked and painted, including the parking lot striping, to look like an old run down parking lot.


Even the carnival games themselves have that “kitschy” feel to them. However, you’ll notice that none of the prizes you win are Disney related. They are all things like Dinosaurs and snakes, etc. as Disney would not let their own images be associated with the land. That’s all part of the theming as well.

Even the Restaurantosaurus makes a lot more sense once you understand that it was a converted fishing lodge that was used by interns and students as a lounge. It helps tie the lodge theming with all the tacky knick knacks and demonstrates the intern’s love of tacking “osaurus” onto anything they could.

I think that most people can agree that the theming does match the story well. It would be difficult to argue otherwise. However, now that we can agree on general acceptance that the land is intentionally themed to be cheap and tacky because that is the backstory, the point is easily argued that even with the understanding of the backstory, the theme is not something that should be in a Disney park, let alone Animal Kingdom.


If we look at Animal Kingdom as a whole, it seems to be very focused on environmentalism, conservation, and education. To go from hyper-realistic African and Asian environments, with wildlife, to a replica of a roadside tourist trap does not really seem to fit in. At the same time, they are building Pandora, a completely imagined environment, but at least it fits into the themes or environmentalism and conservation, if it relates to broad themes of the movie.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do like the area, and I appreciate it even more now that I understand the story better. There are lots of small touches that you don’t notice, or understand, until you know the story behind the area. It also reminds me of many road trips that I have taken, and actually seen places that are almost exactly the same as what’s in Animal Kingdom. On the other hand, I know a lot of people don’t like it or think it’s actually cheap, not themed to be that way. Sure, it’s no Expedition Everest, but it’s not supposed to be. That area was a lot more expensive to build than it looks, and that means that Imagineering did their job.


So in summary, it is a well themed area that is themed to look bad. That may not come across right away to the average guest who is just passing through, wondering why Disney would have place these tacky rides in a parking lot in the corner of Animal Kingdom. However, just because it’s supposed to be that way, and fits the story, does not necessarily mean that the area fits in the park as a whole. I also find it interesting that I hear two very distinct sides of this argument. I have heard some “insiders” say that this is one of their favorite lands in all of Disney World. I have also hear from people, that do understand the backstory, that they think it’s an eyesore that needs to be replaced.

Also, as a point of reference, here’s a few pictures I found of actual roadside attractions that are similar to what Disney is going for:

Dino World Cave City KY

Dino World Plant City FL



What do you think? Do you love it or hate it? Should it be there or not? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks again for reading, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined. Also, please feel free to share with your friends who may be interested in the topic.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at

Mommy – Why does that goat have 5 legs?

Now famous intentional flaw in a mural created by Mary Blair at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort continues to evolve in meaning and influence.


Mary Blair

Mary Blair (October 21st, 1911 to July 26th 1978) was quite an influential member of the Disney team for many years. Blair did work in animation and design, but was most widely acclaimed for her revolutionary use of color, and her specific character styling. These can most prominently be seen in “It’s a Small World” where her techniques are clearly demonstrated, however, she also did work on such films as Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp and Fantasia.


Concept Art for Alice in Wonderland

Blair was also part of the “El Groupo” trip to South America, and as a result of that trip was the art supervisor on Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Upon her return from that trip she worked on several other films including Song of the South and was credited with the color styling on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.


Concept Art from her South American Visit

Blair has created several murals for the Disney Company, including ones that were formerly in Tomorrowland. However, when Star Tours was added, one was covered and the other was covered when Rocket Rods came to Disneyland as part of the updated theming. Rumors exist, and are hopefully true, that the murals were covered, not removed or completely destroyed. However, even if it is true, I doubt that today’s executives would revert to the use of the murals as they were originally created.

One of Blair’s murals still exists. This one is located in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary Hotel in Disney World. Featuring “stylized birds, animals, flowers, and American Indian children” this mural has been in place since the opening day of the hotel. Created with 1,800 hand-painted, 1 foot square tiles and stands 90 feet tall. The mural alone took 18 months to construct.


Wide shot of the lobby to show the scale of the mural.


Close up of the section with the goat. The goat is located in the top right hand corner.


Close up of the actual goat.

Near the top of the mural is a stylized goat. If you look closely, the goat actually has 5 legs. When asked about this, Blair indicated that no piece of artwork should be perfect because only God was perfect, so she purposely created the mistake. This theory is not new. The Islamic culture believes this as well, and the same, yet different, application of the theory can be seen in the Morocco pavilion at EPCOT. If you look closely at the mosaics there, you can also find one small, sometimes hard to locate, flaw in the art work. It will either be something like a discolored tile, a tile out of place, or even an intentionally cracked tile.

In the “Disney Community” the five legged goat has come to represent more than just an intentional error by a famous Disney artist. It has grown in meaning, and is now a term used to represent those small Disney touches, or tributes that exist when you take the time to stop and look at things at Disney parks. Tributes to former rides (like the picture of Mr. Toad in the Winnie the Pooh Ride, or the Nautilus embedded in the rockwork of the Little Mermaid). Window displays with hidden tributes or meanings, decorations in some stores, or in some of the queues, any thing that’s a small detail with some hidden meaning that not everyone will notice….all of these things can be considered “five legged goats”.


5 Legged Goat Vinylmation

The goat has recently become more well-known than ever. Disney has produced Vinylmations, food, such as Rice Krispy treats, and even a pin, all with representations of the now famous goat. Even people who know very little about Disney Trivia, or consider themselves to be “experts” on Disney, love to use the goat as an example of their knowledge of Disney parks when pointing it out to others. However, I believe that the mural needs to represent more than just a space to find another “Hidden Mickey”, or in this case, “Hidden Goat”. I would hope that people would take the time to find out more about why the goat has 5 legs, this history and importance of the mural, and the extremely talented woman behind the mural where the goat exists.


Rice Krispy Treats


5 Legged Goat Pin

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined. Also, please feel free to share with your friends who may be interested in the topic.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at


Mary Blair presenting more concept art.


Disney Parks – News and Updates for July 16th, 2014


There have been several things that I thought about covering recently, but none of them really seemed to be enough to dedicate a whole article to, so therefore we have the News and Updates for July! Here’s a few things that have happened recently in the U. S. Parks.


Club 33

The exclusive club in New Orleans Square has started it’s re-opening after several months of construction. Official opening is July 18th. Apparently when they opened up the walls to start the expansion, they did find some mold, so the work load increased, but they were still able to stick very close to the construction schedule. The complaining has already started about the lack of access and views to the “Court of Angels” with a large stained glass window covering the gate that used to allow any visitor into the area. Discussion about the loss of that area can be found in an article that I published earlier here.

The "Old" view

The “Old” view into Court of Angels

The "New" view into Court of Angels

The “New” view into Court of Angels

News is that the interior is very nice, and the food has been updated and is also significantly better. Andrew Stanton has taken over as head chef, and is also the head chef at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Napa Rose, some of the nicest, if not the nicest restaurants on Disneyland property.  Also, there have been changes to the reservation system so that the member themselves must be present for the reservation, and for now, they are limited to only one guest. That will change over time, but they are doing it to limit the number of people that can actually get in. Previously, the member could make reservations for whomever they wanted, and would not have to be present for the reservation, so it would allow many friends, and friends of friends, to access the club. There will be new rules for the reservation process, but those details will come over time, and frankly, I am not worried about it. I’m pretty sure I’ll never get in.


Legends of Frontierland – Gold Rush!

A new interactive experience has started in Frontierland. Some bloggers were part of a play testing that was very, very, similar to this earlier in the year, so no one is really surprised by this addition to the area. Guests will become part of an ongoing story based around rumors of gold found in the area. Guests are able to create a character, including a choice of several occupations and names, then have to decide what side they want to be on. They can choose to be one of the “Peaceful citizens of Frontierland” or one of the “Opportunistic Rainbow Ridge Townsfolk.”

Map with locations for the interactions in the game.

Map with locations for the interactions in the game.

Areas have been set up as a Trading Post, Hideout, Telegraph Station, Sheriff’s Office and Jail, Talent Agency and Card Table. You earn “Bits”, the currency of the game, but performing tasks, and can spend them on land purchases, and to get information for missions within the game.

I am hearing that the game needs some refining, and hopefully it will get better and missions become clearer over time. I also hear that there is room to expand the game further out into the land. As an infrequent guest to Disneyland, I don’t see myself having the time needed to get fully immersed in the game itself. I would not want to spend several hours playing at the expense of seeing other attractions in the park on my relatively short trips. However, I realize that much of Disneyland’s crowd base is annual pass holders, so I can see the value in the experience for those who are looking for something new or different, and don’t necessarily care if they ride any attractions or not as they are in the parks on a regular basis. You can see the official park blog post about it here.


Alice in Wonderland Dark Ride Re-Opening

One of the most beloved dark rides in Disneyland is finally open again after a refurbishment. Safety concerns were brought to the attention of Disney when a worker slipped on the tracks in 2010. California OSHA required Disney to install rails on the 2nd level outdoor tracks. There were temporary rails in place for quite some time, but Disney took the opportunity recently to re-theme the rails to match the exterior of the ride.

Photo courtesy of Inside the Magic; You can see the new railing on the exterior of the track.

Photo courtesy of Inside the Magic; You can see the new railing on the exterior of the track.

Not only did Disney do the needed work to comply with the safety requirements, but with the ride down, they also added effects and figures to the attraction. Several new Alice figures were placed in the ride along with several spots that now have upgraded effects including several new projections that are placed thorough the attraction.  Feedback has been very positive. The exterior looks great, and the additions of the new effects really seem to enhance the experience without taking away from the attractions original look at feel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ride, it is truly one of the most unique dark ride experiences on either coast. The reason being that the ride is set on two levels, an upper and lower level, and goes in and out of the show building during the second half of the ride. Ricky Brigante has complete coverage of the makeover with a full ride through video, and his article can be found here.


Walt Disney World:

Monorail Loses Power – Causes Train Evacuation

On Sunday, July 13th, there was a possible lighting strike somewhere on or near a Monorail train or track. Reports now indicate that lighting did not hit the train itself, although some riders are claiming it did. Disney is not confirming either way, simply saying that it was a weather related incident.

Photo courtesy of WDWNT via Twitter

Photo courtesy of WDWNT via Twitter

Regardless if it was caused by the lighting or not, somehow the weather caused Monorail to lose power completely forcing the Reedy Creek Fire department to assist with the evacuation of over 120 passengers. The cars were apparently getting hot and sticky, with the lack of power to run the air conditioner. Some guests were reported to have been evacuated by using the safety hatch in the top of the train, and walking across the tops of the cars while connected to a safety line.

No injuries were reported, and the evacuation was complete by about 8pm. (Less than 2 hours from when the incident occurred). They did try to re-start the train for about 30 minutes before evacuating it, but were not successful. The train was stranded between the Wilderness Lodge area and the Transpiration and Ticket center.  Guests were compensated with a free Mickey Ice Cream, 2 Mine Tran fastpasses, and one other open fastpass for any other attraction.


Man loses two finger tips on Pirates of the Caribbean

When I originally heard about this report, on Thursday the 10th of July, it was reported that it was a child. Many were outraged immediately without knowing the full situation, just based on the premise that no child should never be able to be injured on any Disney ride.


Well, it was not a child, but a British man who lost the tips of his ring and pinky fingers and was taken to the hospital. The ride was shut down for at least 5 hours while the incident was investigated, ride deemed safe, and attraction re-opened on the same day. Disney officials are not commenting on what happened, but apparently, at least from unofficial Disney World Sources, the man had his hand outside the boat during the drop on the ride. Clearly, we all wish this man the best, and we know that it could have been a lot worse. However, when people are injured on attractions because they refuse to follow the safety instructions that are overly clear, I somehow don’t feel as bad for them.

Obviously this reminds us all of two things – A. – Always follow the safety instructions to keep your hands, arms, and legs, and anything else inside the boat or vehicle or whatever at all times; and B. – Avoid contact with ride water at all costs! You really think they shut that thing down and drained it? Not to mention all the other things that end up in there like hydraulic fluid, garbage, now bodily fluid and who knows what else.


Frozen Summer at DHS; will they build an attraction?


Promoted as “Visiting Royalty”, Disney Hollywood Studios has a special Frozen event running through the very beginning of September. “Frozen Summer Fun Live! At Disney’s Hollywood Studios” is drawing huge crowds. Anna and Elsa are there daily now with events going on all day long. Starting at 11am with a parade down Hollywood Boulevard. The parade includes several of your favorite characters from the movie, including the first look at the Kristoff face character, and groups of skiers, skaters, and ice cutters. Tons of excellent photos from the event are available (again) on Ricky Brigante’s site here.

Other special events include a Frozen sing-a-long – a 20 minute storytelling and sing along celebration inside the Premier Theatre. “Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Frozen Funland” at Soundstage 1 where guests can purchase merchandise as well as have the opportunity to build a snowman, view ice sculptures or even skate on an ice rink. Professional skaters are also on hand demonstrating their moves daily. Later in the evening, you have the obligatory dance party in front of the giant hat culminating in the Frozen Fireworks Spectacular with songs from the film and projections on the hat all a part of the evening show.


Special food and beverages are also available during the event, from new drinks with frozen themes, special cookies, snow ball inspired cake pops, and as always cupcakes. The events are mostly free, however, you can purchase special VIP passes to the events. VIP Passes allow for refreshements and reserved viewing at the morning parade, reserved seating for the sing along show, and an “exlusive” dessert party during the dance party with reserved viewing for the fireworks. VIP Prices are $59 for adults and $34 for children.


Frozen’s Impact on the Parks

While there is a lot of additional offerings at DHS regarding Frozen, there is no actual character meet and greet. For that you will still have to brave the crowds over at the Magic Kingdom. However, the last I heard was that Anna and Elsa are greeting separately now. They are still in the same room, just on opposite sides of the room. This has allowed for increased guest flow, and has cut down the long waits from their incredibly ridiculous times, to just ridiculous times.

Initially, there was a lot of talk about converting the Maelstrom in Epcot to a Frozen ride. A lot of that chatter has started to subside, but the possibility is still there. Word now is that executives (read: bean counters) want to make sure that the film is going to maintain its popularity in the long term. Disney is walking a fine line between trying to make sure that attractions take advantage of current intellectual properties popularity, while at the same time making sure they don’t rush to build a ride based on a property that will no longer be relevant 5-10 years from now. For example: 1. The Little Mermaid ride was built almost 20 years after the film, and some may argue that it was too long to wait. 2 Gadget’s Go Coaster is still in Toontown in Disneyland, but I will guarantee you that most children (and for that matter, most adults) that ride that attraction have no idea who Gadget Hackwrench is.


Another thing that the Disney organization has to take into consideration is the money generated by a new Frozen attraction. If the movie is going to maintain popularity, and continue to generate profits for the company, would they be better off doing a quick and cheap overlay of an existing attraction such as Maelstrom or should they go ahead and shell out the money to build an all new, and innovative, attraction somewhere else in some other park where it may fit in better? It’s a hard decision to make, luckily my job is not based on making that decision correctly.

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined. Also, please feel free to share with your friends who may be interested in the topic.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at


Both Sides Agree on Hidden Agenda in Disney’s Frozen


How is it that two such opposite sides can finally agree on one movie’s alleged hidden agenda?


Being part of the “Disney Online Community”, and I use that term loosely, I obviously come across many links and articles about all kinds of subjects related to Disney. Obviously, they are not always positive and/or pro-Disney. Lately, for some reason, a whole new set of articles has come to my attention, specifically regarding the movie Frozen. I know that some of these articles have been out for a while, so I am not sure why they are surfacing now, but it has made me start thinking of the movie in a whole new way.

The articles all relate to Disney’s promotion of a pro-homosexual agenda by the use of the storyline in Frozen. Usually I write these things off to some kind of activist who has too much time on their hands, and is simply looking for reason to bash one company or another because of their belief of a company’s contradiction to their values or religion. However, in this case, the activists seem to be coming from both sides, both pro-homosexual and anti-homosexual.


Caitlin Dickson in her article for the Daily Beast writes “Disney has a long history of fielding accusations of using its children’s movies to advance one liberal agenda or another —whether it’s gay rights, environmentalism or socialism. However, there seems to be something about Frozen that has attracted more than the usual amount of controversy for a kids’ cartoon.”

I am attempting to write this article in an unbiased and impartial manner. I have no intention of taking one side of this argument or the other. My personal feelings don’t matter here at all. I don’t even necessarily agree that the movie is trying to promote an agenda. My point here is that “journalists” and bloggers from both sides seem to agree that the movie is promoting an agenda, and twisting certain aspects of Frozen to fit their beliefs. I am in no way supporting or endorsing any of the quotes, or sources listed within my post. I am simply quoting them, and citing them, as to provide credible information for my own article.

It certainly strikes me odd that on such a divisive subject, you can actually get both sides to agree on their perceived notions of an alleged subplot. For example, Justin Lee, Executive Director of The Gay Christian Network, in his article “Want to understand you gay family member? Go see Frozen” analyzes one of the common points of agreement on the subject. That being the point of Elsa’s parents telling her “Conceal; don’t feel,”:

“After an accident, though, Elsa’s parents come to view her power as a curse, and they encourage her to keep her difference hidden from the rest of the world. “Conceal; don’t feel,” they tell her, and she attempts to do just that, withdrawing from the world to wrestle alone—with her secrets, with a powerful sense of guilt, and with this part of herself she doesn’t fully understand.

All of this happens very quickly in the early part of the film, but as a gay man, I found these brief scenes resonating with me in a powerful way. I know that feeling: The sense that not only what you’ve done, but what you are, is something terrible, shameful, and abhorrent to your own parents—but you have no idea how to change it, and you don’t know if you can hide it forever.”


At the same time, Kathryn Skaggs in her article on her Well Behaved Mormon Woman blog, “Frozen: Not Gonna “Let It Go” When Movie Advocates Gay Agenda” touches on the subject in a similar way:

“Elsa has a great power that she has been taught by her parents from the time she was a child, is not publicly acceptable and that she must fear its expression, at all cost, thus hide it from people, even her own sister who could be hurt by it – even killed. Shame is at the core of Elsa’s feelings about her magical powers: same-sex attraction.

As Elsa’s power increases, her parents’ urge her to learn how to control it, as it would be perceived as evil to others, but Elsa can’t; it’s impossible. Her parents’ make the decision to close the castle to the public, and lock Elsa in her room so that her power won’t be discovered. Not even her sister is allowed to see and play with Elsa: demonetization of homosexuals by society.

Elsa is devastatingly lonely and depressed being forced to live a life of isolation, believing her powers to be evil. Her sister, kept from the truth, and affected by the inflicted secrecy also becomes victim to the dysfunction of her family and experiences equal isolation and confusion: not “coming out” and being who you are meant to be (acting on the power) is harmful to the person, family and society.”


Another point of agreement has to do with the hit song from the movie, “Let it go”. Surprisingly, I have now seen this song being referred to in several places as a new “Anthem” for the gay community. Steven Greydanus in his article for the National Catholic Register, “So, How Gay IS Disney’s Frozen?” comments:

“Regarded with fear and revulsion by others, Elsa defies the society that has rejected her as well as the unjust strictures placed on her by her parents, celebrating her acceptance of her true identity in the power ballad “Let it Go.” No more “Be the good girl you always have to be” for her; now her mantra is: “Let the storm rage on / The cold never bothered me anyway.”

At the same time, Chrislove for the Daily KOS website in an article titled, “Top Comments: A Queer Perspective on Disney’s Frozen” writes:

“Watching and listening to this song, I couldn’t help but think of the way I “fled” my small town and moved to the nearest large city for college, where my world just completely opened up and I realized that there was nothing wrong with me. Much like Elsa, I burst out of my bubble and embraced my new identity with open arms, and while I didn’t build my own castle, perhaps I did go a bit overboard. I think it was at this point in the movie that I leaned over to my boyfriend and said, “This is totally about coming out, isn’t it?” If I was a young LGBT kid watching Frozen, “Let It Go” would definitely be my anthem.”


At this point in time, I am not concerned about spoiler alerts, but if for some reason you haven’t seen the movie, you have been warned. Elsa returns to Arendelle. Elsa resumes her role as Queen and is accepted and welcomed by the kingdom. Regarding the finale of the movie, Skaggs, who has gotten much attention, positive and negative, when writing on her Well Behaved Mormon Woman blog refers to the final scenes summarizing the events of the movie as follows:

“…love, becomes the healing factor and without false judgment, ignorance and fear, by society, having been made to see themselves as Elsa’s problem (and not Elsa), she is now able to suddenly control the negative use of her power. In fact, she is actually able to now use it to benefit society – the power of unconditional love.”

Skaggs goes on to express her feelings on the symbolism of the final scenes:

“For me, this is probably one of the most disturbing messages of the movie, Frozen, and of course, the bottom line in the twisted marketing to normalize homosexual behavior and legitimize same-sex marriage in society: the opposition to it is the problem – you.”


So, oddly enough, there seems to be agreement from both sides on several points of the movie:

  1. Elsa’s ice powers represent her sexual preference, and the movie references this directly when the Troll King is asking her parents if she was born that way, or if she was cursed. The parents do indicate that she was born that way.
  2. Elsa’s differences from “normal” society cause fear and confusion among her family, causing them to lock her up and hide her away. Telling her that she should “conceal it, don’t’ feel it” representing “normal” society’s views on her differences.
  3. The repression of her true self causes problems during her coronation, where she lets her true self show, revealing her “powers” as she cannot control them.
  4. Due to the fear and misunderstanding by society, she is rejected, forcing her to flee the castle where she can learn to celebrate her differences and accept her true self as represented by the “Let it Go” song.
  5. Elsa shows no interest in traditional romance, especially regarding Anna’s engagement. Hans also has a line in where he indicates that Elsa would have been preferable to carry out his evil plan but, “no one was getting anywhere with her” and “her” in this case was obviously Elsa.
  6. Elsa’s ultimate acceptance by the kingdom (society) allows her to control her powers, and eventually use them for good, or the benefit of society. This has also been used as a metaphor (but not very convincingly in my opinion) for the legalization of gay marriage, but that really seems to be a stretch.


Possibly my favorite discussion point causing disagreement on from both sides is the character Oaken (Yoo-Hoo!), the shop keeper up in the mountains, and if he is actually gay or not. Oaken refers to his “Family” and they cut to a scene of a group of people in a sauna. There is a female in the picture, but she appears to be closer to the age of the younger children. Then there is a larger, older male. Some people assume that’s Oaken’s oldest son, some say that it’s Oaken’s husband; Others say the use of the word “family” does not mean immediate family, and could easily be an extended family member. There is so much debate on both sides that most of the time it’s dropped. However, this seems like a good example of how you can take 5 seconds of a movie, and twist it to fit your own personal agenda. You can decide for yourself what you think.


So many claims of subliminal messages have been brought up before regarding Disney movies. Having this kind of controversy is nothing new. However, the difference this time seems to be that it’s not subliminal, it’s an intentional underlying storyline. Whether is it intentional, or if there are a few outliers that are reading too much into a cartoon is up to you to decide.

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined. Also, please feel free to share with your friends who may be interested in the topic.

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Diagon Alley Construction Complete at Universal Orlando; Does Disney Need a “Potter Swatter”?

With the introduction of the new Diagon Alley area, and the Harry Potter based construction currently taking place in Universal Studios Hollywood, do Disney Parks really need to be concerned about attendance numbers and the overall effects of these new Universal lands?


Haven’t You Heard of Universal Studios?

Unless you live under the preverbal rock, you are aware that Universal Studios, both Orlando and Hollywood, have been doing some big things lately. For purposes of this article, we will be focusing primarily on Universal Studios Orlando as they have the most recently completed areas of construction, specifically related to the Harry Potter franchise.

As a disclaimer, I have obviously not been to Diagon Alley, I was not fortunate enough to be invited to the big press events that were happening over the course of this last week or so. (I’m ready for press invites Universal – So whenever you’re ready, send me an email and I’ll be glad to come.)

What’s “New” at Universal Orlando?

Over the past couple of years, Universal Studios Orlando (USO) has added several new attractions and areas to their lineup. These include:


The New Simpson Area – new Springfield themed construction around the Simpsons ride that was there. This construction includes a Moe’s Tavern, Duff Brewery, Kwik-E-Mart, and Krusty Burger. Also there are many iconic characters, and statues/structures that relate directly to the cartoon town.


Minion Mayhem – A conversion of Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast. This attraction is one of those where you sit in a moving theatre seats and watch a high definition 3-D movie. As an aside, Jimmy Neutron replaced The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera that was first built in 1990, so this is the 3rd overhaul of the same ride. However, they did re-build the queue and exterior to look like Gru’s house.


Transformers The Ride 3-D – Vehicle mounted moving platforms follow a track through the ride, and put you in front of huge 3-D screens, along with physical props and effects. For those of you who know what I am talking about, it’s very similar to the Spiderman Ride, but obviously themed to Transformers.


Updates and Changes to City Walk – The addition of stores and restaurants including Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Antojitos, Cold Stone, Starbucks, Menchies, Cowfish, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, and Bread Box handcrafted sandwiches.

Diagon Alley -It’s obvious that the “Crown Jewel”, so to say, is the New Diagon Alley area. From the Universal Orlando Website:

“All-new thrills and magical experiences await with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Diagon Alley™, Summer 2014 at Universal Studios Florida®.

Visit the shops and establishments of Diagon Alley™. Experience the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley. Then get ready for an adventure on the multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™.

Plus, guests with a Park-to-Park admission ticket can board the Hogwarts™ Express* and travel from London in Universal Studios® to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™ in Universal’s Islands of Adventure®. Guests can also travel the other way from Hogsmeade™ to London for a completely different experience.”

The official opening date has been announced as July the 8th. Many, many pictures have been released of what the public could see, and with the conclusion of the press event, there are also now videos, and even more pictures from places where the public has not been able to see before. A great site to read more about Diagon Alley, and see lots of pictures and video is Ricky Brigante’s preview article found here.


Harry Potter Land and My Experience

So, that being said, I am not here to give some kind of detailed review or rate the new area of the park. I have been to the Hogsmeade area before. I ate at Three Broomsticks, I had Butterbeer, I paid for wands (not for me personally, but I have Potterheads in the family). I got the full experience. It was fine, and that’s exactaly what I mean. It was just…..fine. I am not really a Harry Potter fan, but living in a household that has one, and one that is growing up to be one, I am familiar with the franchise. I thought the theming was great, but overall, I was not really overwhelmed like a lot of people are.


Seeing the video and the pictures of what’s coming up, I am feeling the same way about Diagon Alley. It looks cool, I am definitely going to go. I want to have the overall experience and ride the attractions, but it’s just not some kind of Mecca for me that I have to visit. Keep in mind that I have never read any of the books, and have only seen about half the movies. Honestly, I could drive right by it, and not go, and not feel any worse for the wear. Again, that’s me personally, but if my wife and kid were with me, there is no way I could get away with that.

Diagon Alley looks like some typical Universal construction, based on what they have learned recently. To me, that means that they are building some fantastic sets, immersing you in the environment, making you feel like you are really there, but then cheeping out on certain aspects. For example, why can’t the fire breathing dragon on the roof be animated? (Not like I am a pixie duster, but Disney has had a moving, fire breathing dragon for years in Fantasmic!) Why does every new Universal ride seem to rely so heavily on screens and projections?

Fantasmic! Dragon from Disney

Fantasmic! Dragon from Disney

Again, this is unfair judgment based on very little information. Sure, the goblins in the lobby of Gringott’s are animatronics, but from what I understand, there are no actual animatronics in the ride itself. (To be fair, Disney does not actually build their own animatronics any more anyway. They haven’t for years now. Garner Holt does them all.)


However, I don’t mean to downplay the ride without riding it. I have heard that it is fantastic, and one of the best attractions there is, so don’t misread my comments as putting down an attraction I have not ridden. Same with the Hogwarts Express, all screen based technology. Sure, it’s cool, and I want to ride it, but again, my point is that Universal seems to be heavily reliant on the use of projection and screens for all their latest attractions. I know that there are also some physical effects in the area, based on the videos I have seen. The interactive wand spots are not all screens, many of them are physical effects. I have also seen the Knight Bus head interacting with the driver, so I know everything is not screen based. Diagon Alley also has several shows and performances that go on during the day, similar to Hogsmead, so the environment seems really immersive, and special; especially for those who know the books and/or movies a lot better than I do.


So…..What’s a Potter Swatter?

Now back to my original question, “Do Disney Parks need a “Potter Swatter”?” First, in case you don’t know, I am using the term “Potter Swatter” (no, I did not make it up) in reference to an area of some park that can directly compete with either, or both, of the Harry Potter themed areas in Universal.

Comparison of Target Demographics between USO and Disney

I guess one of the first things to think about is the target demographic of the respective parks. Disney is known for attracting guests from a very young age to a very old age. Arguably, Universal focuses on a much smaller segment of that market. They seem to be focused on a group that tends to run more like 12-45. Now, I obviously just made up that number, but if you think about the majority of the attractions and rides at universal, there are few rides that the younger, shorter kids can experience, and few rides that older people want to ride. However at Disney, everyone can ride almost every ride, with the exception of some of the big E-Tickets.


Some people tried to argue that Disney World’s Fantasy Land expansion was their direct response to Harry Potter. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think that Disney is working on expanding their offerings, but they are not generally interested in trying to compete with Potter head to head. Meaning, that they have no intention of building some kind of themed area that attempts to lure people in that specific target market, who would normally go to Universal specifically for Harry Potter, back to a Disney Park. They do not need to focus on that limited of a demographic as described above.


Attendance Numbers – Should Disney Worry?

Next, let’s take a look at the most recent attendance numbers for last year. These numbers were recently (like a couple of weeks ago from the time this article was written) released in the TEA Global Attractions Attendance Report; TEA standing for “Themed Entertainment Association” and covers numbers from Theme Parks, Water Parks, Museums and similar attractions from all over the world.

Here’s the numbers for Disney Parks in Orlando from last year:

MAGIC KINGDOM – 18,588,000
EPCOT – 11,229,000
Total – 50,125,000

Here’s the numbers for Universal Parks in Orlando from last year:

Total – 15,203,000

So, Universal’s best park attendance in Florida, Islands of Adventure, is still almost 2,000,000 less than Disney’s worst attendance park in Florida, Hollywood Studios. Islands of Adventure has Hogsmead, and I am sure that there will be a huge spike in attendance at Universal Studios itself in 2014 and on due to the addition of Diagon Alley, however, at this time, Universal Florida has about 30% of the attendance that Disney World does, and that is just comparison of the Florida parks.

If we start to look at the Global numbers, the report is showing huge growth in Asia for all themed parks, Universal included, but they are still not even coming close to Disney.

Global Attendance:

Walt Disney Company:  132,549,000
Universal Parks and Resorts:  36,360,000

Showing that Universal has about 27% of the attendance numbers that Disney does. If we look at global competition, Merlin Entertainment (Legoland, Alton Towers, Sea Life Aquariums, and Madame Tussauds, to name a few) is coming closer with global attendance numbers of almost 60,000,000. However, 9 of the top 10 parks in the world are Disney. The one exception is Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan at #9, came in ahead of Disney’s California Adventure that had the #10 spot. Islands of Adventure was #11, Universal Orlando was #16. Magic Kingdom was #1, with Tokyo Disneyland a very close #2. If the trend of increase remains consistent, we should see Tokyo Disneyland take over the #1 spot by next year.

There are lots of details and analysis in the report, and a link to that report can be found here if you are interested.


So, Universal Studios, especially globally, is doing nothing near what Disney is doing numbers wise, but Universal is on the rise. The addition of the new attractions is going to help their numbers, and may take away some from Disney, but I don’t think that Disney is required to try to build something to directly “steal” people back from Universal who want to see Harry Potter Land. The addition of these Universal attractions has not made me reduce the amount of time that I spend at Disney, instead it has made me add in a day, or now two, to see Universal. I know that I am not speaking for everyone in every situation, but I do think that a lot of people are now just making extra time to go over to Universal, and that indirectly impacts Disney, but not really enough to make them suffer, or justify trying to build something that will keep people away from Potter. There are too many kids, and many of those kids are now parents, who grew up with Potter, and will do whatever it takes to go see these immersive worlds.

Disney Can Not Be Stagnant or Sit Back and Watch

Disney has many things on the horizon, and even without knowing what they are actually going to follow through with, as long as their parks do not become stagnant, I believe that Universal will never come close. Disney has so many opportunities and rumors flying around right now, it’s hard to know what we will get. Things like what we will get in Pandora (not if we will get it, but what will be there). Star Wars Land in DHS, Cars Land in DHS, or any of the other Lucas properties they now own. What’s going to happen with the area where the American Idol Experience was? What’s going to happen with Tomorrowland, and what could be added if they took out the Autotopia, especially out in California where they can use Marvel in the parks? Renewal of the old Epcot pavilions, specifically Journey to the Imagination, and its possible tie in to the new Pixar movie about the thoughts and feelings in your head. What about the removal of Captain EO? What about Frozen and the Maelstrom, or adding new countries to the World Showcase, like Africa, or Brazil, or any of the others that have been rumored or originally planned? Of course, there’s always the mythical 5th gate theory, but I really don’t want that. I would rather see them improve what they have first.


So – Does Disney Need a Potter Swatter?

So, in summary, Does Disney need to build something that can directly compete for the same target market as Harry Potter in Universal does? In my opinion: No. Disney has little to no reason to attempt to compete directly with Universal for control of that specific target market. No one is going to have absolute control over that market anyway. Disney does not need to get into the business of building ultra-thrill rides like Universal has, just to try to compete. If Potter is the driving force between someone deciding to visit USO and Disney, then let them go to USO. It doesn’t mean they are not going to go to Disney ever, and if they have their heart set on being in the Potter-verse, nothing Disney can build will make them change their mind.

Universal is not even coming close to the numbers that Disney is doing, Potter or not. As long as Disney continues to keep innovating and updating outdated attractions (NOT removing classics); overhauling no longer used spaces like the buildings in Epcot; or using land that was originally intended for park use, but is not; then they will remain the top player in the market. If Disney does nothing, then they will slowly lose market share in all markets, but as long as they continue with new attractions and innovation, and do not become stagnant, there is no way they need to try to build one specific “Potter Swatter” attraction or Land.

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at


Club 33 – The Rich get Richer

Is the expansion of this exclusive club contributing to the overall detriment of Disneyland?

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News of the expansion of Club 33 and its subsequent, and “essential”, removal of access to the Court of Angles is not new, or breaking news, by any means. However, does the removal of public access contribute to the overall detriment of Disneyland in general?

Most of you have probably heard about Club 33. Many of you have probably even seen pictures of it. A few of you may have been inside it during one of the various tours that allow you to see it, but I would venture to guess that only a couple of you, if any at all, have ever actually eaten there; or are members.

New Orleans Square


One of most Disneyland Nerd’s favorite spots in the park is New Orleans Square. It did not open with the rest of the park, in fact, it opened over 10 years after Disneyland first opened its gates. It is such a small area, but the visual impact that it has is immense. There are a handful of shops that have changed dramatically over the years, not necessarily for the better, but that small area of the park is one of those highly themed areas where you really feel like you are in the city it is built to represent.

The decorations are wonderful, and of course change with the seasons. From beads “randomly” thrown about, and hanging on light posts during Mardi Gras time, to the southern style, and New Orleans themed decorations at Christmas time, you really feel like you are there. I especially love hearing the “Voodoo Priestess” doing a ceremony that you can hear coming out of one of the windows, just like the sounds and voices coming from the shops on Main Street.

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Club 33

The Old Logo

The Old Logo

In New Orleans Square, on the second level, above the streets, is Club 33. Walt Disney knew that he needed a place in the parks where he could entertain visiting dignitaries and celebrities in a quiet atmosphere, away from the busy park environment. He also knew from his experience from the ’64-’65 World’s Fair that many corporations had special lounges available for their executives and other important/VIP type people. Walt decided that not only did he want a secluded lounge, but he wanted to serve high level cuisine in a unique atmosphere. So he decided to build Club 33.

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The Original Lift

Club 33 was so named after its street address: 33 Royal Street. There are additional stories out there about the naming, but I think most people agree that the street address theory is probably the correct one. There were many original art pieces that were created by Disney artists, as well as genuine artifacts and trophies collected from, and given to Disney from around the world. There are many pictures of the inside available online, and it’s easy to see a lot of early 19th century influence.

One of the most interesting rooms was the Trophy room, where a large table was surrounded by wood lined walls, and studies done for the creation of the Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise. Walt actually imbedded microphones in the chandelier that linked back to a room where the controls for an animatronic vulture were located. The vulture sat up in the corner of the room and was intended to interact with guests directly, as the operator would be able to hear their conversations. I don’t believe that the vulture was ever activated, I think they learned that people would not like the idea of having their conversations monitored.

Animatronic Vulture

Animatronic Vulture

Club 33 is very exclusive. Membership costs have changed over the years. The waiting list to join used to be closed, but due to its expansion, and the addition of another exclusive club in California Adventure, they have started taking names again. They went through the closed list, and mailed out offers for those people to actually join. I am sure that some of them did, but most of them declined when the opportunity actually presented itself. Membership is $25,000 initially to join, then another $10,000 per year to remain an active member. Obviously, there are other benefits to joining as well, such as complimentary valet parking at the Grand Californian, access to the Lilly Belle (the presidential car on the Disneyland Rail Road) and the ability to join the skipper in the wheel house of the Mark Twain. Also, Club 33 is the only location in the Disneyland Park that serves beer, wine and liquor. They cleared out the list for the most part, so if you are interested in getting on the membership list, it is possible to apply again.

The New Logo

The New Logo

There are lots of great, historic, touches in the club itself, and you can read about that on your own. A great site for that is This is not an official Disney site, but it does a great job of describing the history and importance of the club in detail as well as give lots of additional Club 33 related information. The description of the artifacts alone is overwhelming. Way more than can be discussed in blog like this. The food also appears to be exceptional, but I would expect it to be if I was paying that much just for the privilege of eating there.

Court of Angels


Now to the Court of Angels. The court of angels was a small area located by the club that was seemingly built for theming or decorative purposes only. The court itself is quite small. There are two entrances, one on the side, and one that is a short passage way that leads you into the middle of the courtyard. There is a small fountain, but the most striking feature is a huge staircase that leads up to the balconies. You can’t actually go up to the balconies, but it provides a beautiful backdrop for pictures, and the courtyard itself is this quiet little spot where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds.

Many people walk right by it, and don’t even notice it was there. You can’t help but notice it now, deepening on what’s going on, it’s either covered with construction scrims, or the old iron gates have opaque material covering up the entrance so you can’t see in.

Entrance from One Side

Entrance from One Side

What’s happening, in a nutshell, is that due to the expansion of the interior of the club, and the addition of the new kitchen, which apparently was greatly needed, they are moving the entrance to the club itself. The new entrance will be through a tiny gift shop that leads into the Court of Angels. The court will now only be accessible to Club 33 members, and will also be changing as they will be installing an ADA complaint elevator. This is required as the old club had an original French Lift that did not meet ADA standards. They say that the design of the new elevator will coordinate with the architecture of the surrounding New Orleans theme, but the original lift will still remain in place, but will not be used, due to its historic significance.

Iron Gate Entrance, Now Blocked Off from View

Iron Gate Entrance, Now Blocked Off from View

I am sure that the new club will be a wonderful place to spend time, and have a relaxing meal with your family and/or business associates, as many of the memberships are corporate ones that are shared by companies. However, I am also sure that this is one thing that I will probably (and I say probably because you never know) never get to experience. To me, this is the equivalent of staying in the Dream Suite in Disney World. Can it happen? Yes. Will it happen? Probably not. So, this wonderful experience that most of us will never get to enjoy has now taken away the public’s access to this quiet little spot that contributes to Disneyland being one of the most unique and well themed places in the world.

It’s Removal in Relation to the Park

I have to keep in mind that I believe in the theory that “Disneyland is not a museum.” Walt wanted change, he wanted improvement. He wanted to use the technology that was out there to create the best experience for the guest as possible.

At the same time, there are all these tiny little corners of Disney Parks that are getting taken away to install other things. Court of Angels will be unavailable to the public for all intents and purposes. The Carnation Gardens Plaza was taken away to make Fantasy Faire. Main Street, which used to be a collection of small and unique stores, is turning into one large shop that runs the length of the block. The Arcade was converted to install another shop space with the same merchandise as everywhere else, and the classic arcade games were removed, or moved. Small stores that used to sell unique items specific to the area they are in are converted to sell the same merchandise as you can find everywhere else. Green space and water are being removed from the Hub in Disney World to make way for more walkways.

The Pop Corn Cart Measuring Stick

One measurement tool I use is the popcorn carts. It’s seems silly, but if you look at a popcorn cart, there is a little figure turning the wheel of each popcorn cart display, and that little character is different on each cart depending on where the cart is located. I think of this specific example when I think of small, minor touches, that don’t really bring in any extra money, and are not required for the operation of the cart. When these characters go away, or when they are all replaced by some generic one, that’s when I know that the end is really near. That’s when I know that Disney has officially stopped caring about doing the little things that some people never notice, just to save a couple of bucks.


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In Summary

Sure, there are large things we can all complain about as well, like the complete closure of buildings in Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios without replacement, but what I am talking about in reference to Club 33 and the Court of Angels is the removal of another small, quiet space, that generated no money, or had no purpose, other than to add to the theme and envrionment, and give visitors a spot that adds to their overall Disney experience. That is what sets Disney apart from other theme parks in the world. However, this area is now being removed from the view of the “public” and will only be available to those who are willing to shell out huge amounts of money to be part of an exclusive group that most of us will never be able to join. Hence – The Rich get Richer.

What’s your favorite spot that is gone now? What did you like best about the Court of Angels? Have you ever been to Club 33, and can you take me with you next time? Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at


What’s the Deal with MyMagic+, My Disney Experience, FastPass+ and MagicBands?

RFID Close

When Disney starts inventing words for things, and they do it all the time, sometimes it makes it a little bit more confusing. I know that I have seen lots of questions floating around the interwebs about things like Magic Bands, and Fast Pass Plus. Not to mention My Disney Experience and My Magic Plus. All of these things work together, in theory, to “help” you get the most out of your vacation. This article is going to briefly explain each of these things, and how they are connected, so you have a better idea of what all this is about.

 What is MyMagic+ (My Magic Plus)?


MyMagic+ is the name of the overall program Disney has rolled out. MyMagic+ is nothing more than a title for the new planning and reservation system that Disney has implemented. In its simplest form, you can think of MyMagic+ as having three parts.

  1. My Disney Experience
  2. FastPass+
  3. MagicBands

All of these items, and more will be discussed here, so don’t worry if you don’t know what I am talking about yet. The three parts listed above are what really make up the experience, so MyMagic+ is nothing but a name for the group of new services that Disney is offering to “help” customize your individual experience, and in theory, make it easier for you while on your trip.

What is My Disney Experience?

My Disney Experience is the computer interface that you use to tie things together on your account for your vacation. It is available online, or as a mobile app. If you don’t have, or don’t want to carry around a smart phone in the park, that is fine too. There are kiosks available in the park where you can modify your specific reservations, or information, on the My Disney Experience Site. You can also call Disney at any time to help with any of the reservations or features of the system, but Disney is trying to get you to do this on your own.

My Disney Experience Logo

My Disney Experience combines a lot of what the “old” Disney site would refer to as “My Vacation”. This is where you can view, and control, your reservations on your vacation. The system shows the packages you have booked including the park tickets and room reservations. The site will also help you reserve, and manage dining reservations. Also, your FastPass+ reservations. The site will also give you specific information for the parks about show times, parade and firework times as well as ride wait times character greeting locations. It also contains a GPS enabled map that will show you where you are in the park related to services and attractions that you are looking for and apparently will alert you to happenings that are very close to you. Obviously the maps and GPS are only going to work with a smart phone, but part of the large investment that Disney has made in their technology upgrades within the past few years is in park Wi-Fi, so in theory, you are using Disney’s Wi-Fi instead of your mobile data plan.


You can also link your My Disney Experience account to other people’s accounts. For example, if you are going with a large group or family reunion, it would allow you to coordinate your plans for things like advance dining reservations and FastPass+ times. My Disney Experience also lets you add in notes for your trip, so it is acting like more of a vacation planning tool than the website was in the past.

So you can think of My Disney Experience as the control panel for your reservations and vacation planning. It’s nothing more than that. Just a central place where your vacation information is stored, and accessed, and can be modified by you to help organize your trip.

What is FastPass+ (Fast Pass Plus) and how is FastPass+ different from the old Fast Pass system?

First, you should know what Fast Pass was, but I am betting that most of you do. Fast Pass was a system where you would take your park ticket, insert it into a “Fast Pass Machine” that was located by an attraction, and the machine would spit out a paper ticket that allowed you a return time frame so you could go through a shorter line to get to the attraction. There were lots of ways to “game” the system, but in theory, you could only get one fast pass per ticket until the return time on the fast pass, then you could get another, again, in theory, only having one at a time. However, the return time was more of a “suggestion” than a firm deadline, so some people would collect fast passes during the day, then use them all up, one after the other, at the end of the day to more or less “walk on” all the major attractions. Disney attempted to resolve some of the issues with the “old” Fast Passes by enforcing the return time, but it made some of the Disney nerds very upset because they could not abuse the system anymore, even though they did not consider it abuse. Disney held to it, and it was one of the first steps in moving to the new FastPass+ system.

Old Fastpasses

Old Fastpasses

FastPass+ is similar to the old system in that it allows you to book a time window where you can get into a shorter line, thus significantly reducing the wait time for an attraction. I would not say that any Fast Pass system ever allowed you to “walk on” any attraction really. Sure, it occasionally happens, but really, you are just reducing your wait time, however, it’s usually by quite a bit. The big difference in FastPass+ is that you are allowed to make 3 reservations per day at one park days or even months in advance of your visit. It’s very similar to dining reservations. You go on the My Disney Experience site, and choose the attraction and the time you want to go. If your first choice is not available, other options will be given to you. Instead of paper tickets with return times, the information is stored on your My Disney Experience account, and that’s linked to your MagicBand. Another new option is that they have added attractions and experiences to the FastPass+ system. You can now make FastPass+ reservations for attractions that did not have Fast Pass before, and also for things like parades, fireworks, and character interactions. A FastPass+ reservation for shows, parades, or fireworks would allow you guaranteed seating in a prime viewing area.

This is where one of the divides on Disney Vacation Planning theory occurs. There are going to be some people who don’t like the thought of having to plan out their day months in advance. (up to 180 days in advance for dining reservations, up to 60 days in advance for FastPass+, if you’re really on top of things) I hear things like….“How will I know where I will feel like eating lunch 6 months from now? How will I know that I want to ride Space Mountain in the Afternoon, not the morning?” I don’t know how you know, but a lot of us do. To me it’s not an issue to make those kinds of reservations in advance, but that’s because I am a planner. You do not have to make these decisions in advance. You can make them on the day of your visit, you just may not have as many options. You can still be a “seat of your pants” Disney tourist, but some of us don’t like going without some kind of plan in place.


FastPass+ is a good tool if you know how to use it. I use the word tool because it’s not going to do the work for you, you still have to make sure you’re using it correctly to maximize its benefit. For example, I would never book a FastPass+ reservation for Space Ship Earth. The wait is only going to be 15-20 minutes usually, at the most (of course there are exceptions). That ride is a people eater (meaning it has a high hourly guest capacity) and the line is going to move quickly. However, something like Seven Dwarves Mine Train (because it’s new, so it’s popular) or if I had a kid that wanted to meet the girls from Frozen (and I do) then that’s going to save me from standing for hours in a queue. I don’t think I would book one for a prime parade spot, the route is too long with too many options, but maybe for Fireworks, Fantasmic!, or Illuminations, I would consider it, but only if I had one left for the day.

Can I get an additional FastPass+ once I use my 3 reserved spots?

Yes, you can. Once you have used your 3 spots that you reserved in advance, you can get additional FastPass+ reservations, even in a different park, but only one at a time, and only after your initial 3 have expired. After you use the additional one, you can go back and get another, and on, and on. As long as the one you have has been used or expired.

What is a MagicBand?

Magic Band

So here’s where a lot of the additional questions come in. In its simplest form, a MagicBand is a bracelet. However, the bracelet contains an RFID chip. Some people may not be familiar with RFID, but basically, it’s a little chip that gets activated when it gets a signal from a “reader”. The reader then knows the number the chip contains, and ties that number back to a database. You access the information in this database by modifying and inputting information into the My Disney Experience interface.

I remember one of the first times I had direct knowledge and experience with one of these chips, and it was many, many years ago with a pet that we had. On its first vet visit, they implanted one of these chips into him. At that point, we the vet used a reader to scan the chip, and the reader spit out a number. We used that number to register on a website where we could continue to update our personal information when we moved or changed phone numbers. Should the pet ever be lost, as long as someone who found him brought him to a place with a chip reader, he could be scanned. The scanner would provide the number, and our personal information would come up in the system after the vet, or pound, looked up his chip number online.

So, instead of Disney implanting chips into all their guests, they put it into a bracelet. Disney has readers around the park, and when necessary, like at the park entrance, or for the new FastPass+ system, you simply hold up your band to the reader for the system to know who you are, and if you have a valid park ticket, or FastPass+ reservation for the attraction. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Your MagicBand will “help” you in many different ways, including but not limited to:


  1. The key to your room – Most Disney Resort rooms have been replaced with RFID locks now, so to get into your room, you simply tap your MagicBand by the door knob.
  2. Tickets to the Parks – All your park pass information is stored in the system accessed by the bands, so you simply tap your band to the reader to get in. The turnstiles are more or less gone.
  3. Dining Credits – If you are using the Disney Dining plan, your Dining Plan Credit information is stored there as well, so you will simply scan it at meals and for snacks to redeem credits from the plan. images6
  4. Disney Memory Maker – (Not called Photo Pass anymore) allows cast members to take your family photos and load the information into your account controlled by your MagicBand. Also, just announced is the use of long distance readers, so your ride photos will automatically be loaded to your account by the use of long distance RFID readers realizing that you are on the ride, and what specific photo you are in. These options are only available if you purchase the Disney Memory Maker add on to your vacation (about $150).images9
  5. Charge to your room – You can use your MagicBand to charge items directly to your room, just like you would using the old Key to the World card, you simply tap your MagicBand on the RFID reader when paying. A PIN number is required when making purchases with your MagicBand as an extra security step.

Why do I need to get a MagicBand?

You don’t. You don’t have to have one at all. If you don’t want one, or are staying offsite, and don’t want to pay for one, Disney will offer you a card in place of a paper park entrance ticket. The card contains the same type of chip, and can be used for almost the same things. The one thing it will not do is utilize the long distance RFID readers, but for now that’s not much of an issue. That technology is just starting to be utilized in the parks.

Using a Card at a MagicBand Reader

Using a Card at a MagicBand Reader

What if I don’t want to wear a bracelet?

Again, don’t. You don’t have to. You can get the card as described above, or you can just carry it with you. I have heard that the bands are fairly comfortable, and have a new and unique design that allows it to fit all sized, from very small children, to “full sized” adults without issue.

What information does the MagicBand Contain?

The band contains an RFID chip. This chip only contains a number. That number is linked to a database where all your personal information is stored, but if someone was to steal your bracelet, they would only be able to get a number from it. They would still have to hack the Disney database to get any personal information.

What if I lose my MagicBand?

Even though the MagicBands only contain a number, this is still a concern, and you should treat your MagicBand like you would any other credit card, or room key, etc. Limits can be set up on the MagicBands to prevent things like your child going on a spending spree without your knowledge, but if you do lose or have a MagicBand stolen, you should contact Disney Guest Services, or a Disney Cast Member for immediate assistance. A PIN number is required to make purchases and Disney has gone through extensive privacy procedures because they know that if there is a breech, it’s going to cause serious problems. That’s not to say that I blindly trust Disney. All corporations, large and small, are subject to security threats all the time, and putting your personal information anywhere online is always associated with some risk.


Are MagicBands Waterproof?

Yes, they are. This is for many reasons, including the water rides at several parks that will get you soaked. In addition, your MagicBand would get you entry into Disney’s official water parks, if that’s purchased as part of your package, and allow you the benefits there, such as using meal or snack credits, or charging to your room. Not only that, but if they have not already, they may soon use them as entry to pools that are gated off in resorts. “Is Pool Hopping Legal?” is a hotly debated, and entirely different discussion. The short answer is No, with a couple of exceptions. However, at some point, I would not be surprised to see all pools gated and require you to scan your MagicBand for entry, since it would contain information regarding what resort you are staying at.

Who needs a MagicBand?

Again, you don’t have to have one, you can use a card, but it’s not a terrible idea to have them for your children. This will be even more evident as the technology changes and improves. Basically, everyone who has a ticket needs either a magic band, or an actual ticket that contains the RFID chip. I have heard of people putting them on kids as anklets to prevent much of the fidgeting, or messing with the bands as kids are known to do. Also, if you become a “lost parent” as Disney says, in theory, they could scan your child’s bracelet and have immediate information about who you are, what resort you are at, what part of the park you were most recently in, and even your cell phone number, assuming you provided that in your account.

What are all these accessories I see available?

As with any Disney product, you can now buy accessories for your bands of course. I know why people do it, but at the same time, it’s like dressing up your park tickets. There are MagicBandits, the equivalent of Pins for your band, but not hard metal. MagicSliders that fit over your band, not locked into the holes like the MagicBandits. CoverBands cover your MagicBand with decorative images that relate to Disney of course. Accessories are coming out all the time with different characters, from the “Big 5” to Star Wars. They want something for everyone so everyone can spend money on accessorizing their accessory.


How do I get my Name on a MagicBand?

If you are staying at a Disney resort, or if you are an annual pass holder you can “customize” your band. This allows you to pick a color, and have your name printed on the inside. If you book a vacation, staying at a Disney Resort, you have until 10 days before your arrival to customize your MagicBand and have it shipped to you. If you do the customization between 9 and 5 days before your arrival you will receive it when you check in. If you don’t customize your band 5 days before your arrival, you will get the standard grey with no name.


Also, a note on bands being shipped to you – DO NOT pack them in your suit case. Carry them on the plane with you if you are flying. You will need the band to check into your room, and get started with your vacation. Now with Magical Express, you would not have access to your bag until AFTER you get into your room. (Think about it – Your band is your room key, your room key is in your luggage – Your luggage is now locked in your room – How do you open the door?) Obviously, if you are renting a car, or using some other form of transport from the airport, this does not apply, but I would still make sure you have them with you when you check in.

If I am staying off property, can I still get a MagicBand?

Yes, you can get one, but you will have to buy it. They’re about $13 right now. You would be given the RFID ticket when you enter the first time, but they buy a band, and have the information transferred to your My Disney Experience account so you can receive the benefits of the Magic Band. However, it would not let you charge anything to your band as you are not a Disney Resort Guest.

What else can MagicBands do for me?

I believe that now you should have a better understanding of the system, and have discovered ways to make it work for you. The technology is always changing and improving, so new features will continue to be added. I believe that the next steps, and we are already starting to see some, is long distance RFID reading. Disney references this as well without being specific as they will probably be adding experiences all the time. Stuff no one has even thought of yet. This is where people get really scared by new technology. Currently, and this was just announced and described before, your on ride photo can be instantly linked to your magic band by the use of long range readers. Think about some of the following (and this is just a few things that are possible, but may or may not happen as I am just speculating):

  1. You go into a character interaction, and up on the wall behind you, so only the character can see it, is your children’s name. This would allow the princess to call your child by name. What if it shows that they just had, or are celebrating a birthday? Can you imagine a face character, or now even the new “Talking Mickey” saying to your child (or you) without even missing a beat, “Hi Julie, it sure is great to see you today! How is your birthday going?”
  2. Your standing on the parade route, and a character looks directly at you, says your name, and wishes you a happy anniversary.
  3. You go through Small World, and a character that you designed online pops up on a screen as you exit, maybe even saying goodbye to you directly, in your own language, or referencing what part of the world/country you are from. (This is already happening at Test Track where you design your own vehicle. You can save it for your return visits on your MagicBand.)
  4. Little Leota says your name as she tells you to “Hurry Back” at the end of the Haunted Mansion.
  5. You register that you need to eat a gluten free diet, now with the new interactive menus, when you approach a menu board, or when the interactive Ipad type menu is brought to you, it instantly and automatically only shows you only gluten free choices.
  6. Based on your previous purchases, and interactive screen in a retail store changes to show you advertisements that fit your purchasing habits, and welcomes you as you walk in the door.
  7. The system knows that you have been on Haunted Mansion more than any other attraction, so the server brings you a Haunted Mansion themed dessert at Dinner as a surprise.
  8. A Disney “Memory Maker” photographer sees the opportunity to take a great candid shot of your family, and links it to your My Memory Maker photo account without you knowing.
  9. A designated cast member comes up to you specifically in the park, knowing it’s your first visit, greets you by name, asks how everything is going, and wants to know if there is any way they can help you.
  10. After you are home, you get personalized advertisements in email based on when you like to go to the parks, what you did last time, and predicts what you would like to do and see next time you are there.


Does MyMagic+ make my vacation any better?

Yes and No. It depends on how you define “better”. If you are a control freak, and like to plan out every minute of every day of your trip, you will probably enjoy the additional level of control that FastPass+ allows you to have in your day. There will be no more “Mad Dash for Fast Pass” at rope drop. Other people will think that they have to plan their days out months in advance, and that’s not entirely true either. However if you don’t want to do it, but think your vacation is suffering because you did not do it, does that make it worse? Do you want characters to know your child’s name? Do you want them to ask how Splash Mountain was because they knew you just rode it? Does that make your vacation better? It all depends on how you look at it.

Other people going to feel that they are being watched. They really already are, but now they are going to feel it even more. Personally, I don’t need the cashier at Starbucks knowing my name as I enter the store, suggesting to me my typical coffee drink, asking me how I like staying at the Contemporary, and offering to charge it directly to my room. (That could absolutely happen at Disney with MagicBands). Other people would think its “neat” and would like it. Keep in mind that Disney is only going to have as much information as you provide to them. Sure, some of its required, but additional information about special occasions is not, and they are not forcing you to use MagicBands. If you want, you can still have your “Key to the World” card like before, it will now just carry your photo pass and FastPass+ reservations on it.

So one more time, to summarize:

MyMagic+ – Just the name of the program.

My Disney Experience – The name of the interface you use to plan and control trip details.

FastPass+ – Early reservation system for attractions, tied to your My Disney Experience Account.

MagicBands – Bracelets you wear that link you to your account while you are in the resort.

Disney has a lot more information on this at their website. A good place to start is the MyMagic+ site. There are many features and benefits that you would want to learn about before you go. I just wanted to touch on a few points. Again, this is not meant to be an exhaustive information page to tell you everything you need to know. I just wanted to help clear up some of the confusion. With all the new words Disney is inventing for their systems, it makes it hard to keep up sometimes.

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at



What’s the First Thing You Do on your Disney Vacation?

Does your family have a tradition?


Most families that have traveled to Disney several times have some sort of tradition regarding the first thing you do. Mine does a well, and I have been doing it as long as I have been able to understand that a Disney Park is more than a bunch of rides.

To me, especially at Disneyland or at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Florida, the feeling you get when entering the parks is something special that deserves attention and appreciation. I think that this is what separates the casual Disney park goer, from the hard core Disney nerds. If you “get it” I don’t have to explain it to you. If you don’t “get it” I can’t explain it to you.

This is where the tradition comes in. After going through the bag check, and the turnstiles. We then take the obligatory photo pass photo in front of the Mickey flower bed. Then we start making our way under the tunnel, usually on our right hand side for some reason. I look at the posters for the attractions to remind myself of past visits and start the experience of being in the parks. I start to remember what I have read in various forms about the tunnel “revealing” the scene of Main Street, and the castle that sits just past the hub at the end of Main Street, so I pay special attention to how the park reveals itself as we walk through the end of the tunnel and out into Town Square.

Image 4

Once we are through the tunnel, we casually make our way around Town Square to the opposite side of the flag pole area. The side facing the castle. Then we stop, facing the castle and stand there. We stand by the curb, so we’re not blocking traffic, but we just stop. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or what else we have planned. The very first thing that we need to do every time is stand there for several minutes and just absorb the atmosphere and let all the problems, troubles, stress from traveling, and any family bickering go away. We can stand there and say that we made it. In my mind, you don’t officially make it until you are on Main Street, no matter what resort you are staying in.

Not only am I staring at the castle, the stores that line Main Street, and trying to take in as much visually as I can, but I try to use other senses too. I am listening and maybe hearing the vehicles are running on Main Street, or you can hear the hooves of the horse. The train whistle from the train station behind us. The buzz of the crowd, or snippets of conversations from families enjoying their day. Sometimes, it’s a band playing, or the Dapper Dan’s. I try to smell what I can, like the popcorn carts, or maybe if the wind is right, you can catch the fake bakery smell they pump into the street, or the blooming flowers. This is what I am talking about when I am saying that you absorb the atmosphere. It’s a lot more than just seeing that castle at the end of the hub. You really have to stop and force yourself to take it in.


Sure, on the following days of our vacation, we won’t take as much time to absorb the magic when we enter. We’ll move quickly to one attraction or another based on the “plan” for the day, or to make a dining reservation in time. However, on that first day, I know that the very first thing we need to do as a family is to spend time just standing there.

After that, the rest of the day does not really matter. We’re just so happy to be there. There have been days when we arrive later in the day, and don’t even go on any attractions. We’ll just wander around until the park closes. Other days, after our few minutes of quiet time in Town Square, I know we have full day of Disney laid out before us, and we get started on our day.

I also suggest that you take time to do this as well. You may choose a different spot, or not have a designated spot or time in mind, but as I get older, I realize the importance of taking time to stop and absorb at Disney. If it’s sitting at Jolly Holiday bakery, and having a cup cake, or at the Main Street Ice Cream Parlor. If it’s on a bench in Tomorrowland, listening for the pages for “Tom Morrow” or a spot by the Rivers of America watching the water traffic. (Another spot I love is the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland, and they have great bathrooms downstairs that most people don’t know about.) The point is to stop and absorb the environment. There is so much going on at any Disney park at any time, it’s important to appreciate the details.

The Hungry Bear

The Hungry Bear

However, our tradition of spending time when we enter is to help us mentally prepare for what’s going on. I don’t know how many times we have been crabby or tired, or having typical family arguments, but when we stand there and let Disney wash over us and change our mindset, all the cares and worries of the world seem to disappear. Now I know that sounds pretty cheesy, but if you are a “Disney Person” like a lot of you are, you know exactly what I am talking about.

It’s kind of funny, because we have the same tradition when we leave. We stop in about the same spot, and do the same thing. Stop and absorb. I try to remember as much as I can, knowing it will be the last time for quite some time. I want to burn that image into my head so I can keep it as long as possible, or at least until my next visit. Also, I have to admit that no matter if we are arriving or if we are on our last day leaving, both times generally involve a couple tears, only from my wife of course, I would never admit to tearing up over a trip to a theme park. 😉

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to comment below, and as always, you can follow me here on WordPress, or on Twitter @saddlesoreswnsn or on Facebook or all three, if you feel so inclined.

Also, if you ever have any questions that you want me to address specifically in an article, or article suggestions, please feel free to contact me directly at


Is It Worth Paying Extra for Mickey’s Special Holiday Parties?

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – “Hard Ticket” events, designed to add to the magic of the season, yet can be quite cost prohibitive.


If you are traveling to Disney Parks during the “Holiday” season, you may have the opportunity to attend one of these special events. There are good and bad points to them, and today we are going to look at these events, and give you some information to help you make a decision as to whether or not you, and your group, want to attend them. The events, though celebrating totally different holidays, are quite similar in their offerings, so for many of the points below, we will discuss them together.

When is the Holiday Season?

The first thing you need to remember is that Disney’s Holiday Season is substantially different than anyone else’s holiday season. I suppose they correlate best to the “Mall Decoration” schedule. The dates for the parties are as follows (for 2014):


Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP):

September: 1st, 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 26th, 28th

October 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, 26th, 28th, 30th, 31st


Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP):

November 7th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 30th

December 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 19th

So, in theory, you could be attending a Halloween party as early as September 1st, or attending a Christmas party as early as November 7th. This has you thinking about Christmas several weeks before Thanksgiving. Disney basically glosses over Thanksgiving. They don’t really do anything significant for it. I believe that some of the resorts will offer traditional Thanksgiving type meals, but Disney’s focus on the holidays are clearly Halloween and Christmas.

What’s a Hard Ticket Event?


A hard ticket event is something where Disney is putting on a special event where you have to purchase a separate ticket to attend. This applies to Annual Pass Holders as well. I do believe that AP’s, and DVC members can purchase these tickets at a discount, but a separate ticket is required.

The events generally run from about 7pm to Midnight, but those times will vary, so if you are interested make sure you know when your party starts. The ticket will get you a wristband. These wristbands will quickly allow cast members to know who is there for the party, and who has not purchased a special ticket. There will be several announcements during the day, and at 6:30ish, they start “sweeping” the parks to herd the people without wristbands towards the front, when I was there, they also closed the stores for a period of time. This was to encourage those without tickets to leave, but also to set up for special limited edition, party specific, merchandise to be put out. Merchandise from the party is also a hot commodity. Lines will form to buy event specific merchandise early in the party, as it is also limited, and only available during the party. By 7pm, you will have to show a wrist band to get on any attraction, or get into most stores.

Along with your separate ticket allowing you to stay for the party, your ticket to either one of the parties will also allow you to get into the park at around 4pm. This gives you several options if you are choosing to attend one of these events. This is especially true if you are on vacation, and have purchased a package that includes park tickets, and may require you to put some thought into your planning for that specific day.


Let’s say that you have a 5 day ticket, maybe you have park hopper, and maybe you don’t. You do not have to use your ticket on consecutive days. You just have to use the 5 days before the expiration date for the ticket. Right now, a “Magic Your Way” ticket expires 14 days after its first use. That means that you can go to the parks for any 5 days, anytime in the two weeks after the first day you go. If you have purchased hard tickets for either one of the parties, this would allow you to enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm. Depending on how many days you are staying in Orlando, and what you want to do, you may or may not choose to use one of your 5 days available on that day.


For example, you could spend the morning relaxing in the hotel, or by the pool, and call it a recovery morning. Spend the afternoon eating lunch somewhere outside of the parks, like at Downtown Disney, or at the Boardwalk area, then return to your hotel to get ready for the party, and be at the Magic Kingdom turnstile at 4pm to enter the park with your hard ticket, thus saving one day of your “Magic Your Way” ticket for use at the end of your trip to extend your vacation.

Say you’re staying off property – The same thing applies, or you could even go to Downtown Disney (Sorry – Disney Springs) for the afternoon, then using Disney’s transportation system make your way over to the party. Again, not using one of your days of the 5 day pass.


Other people think that some parks are half day parks (Like Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but I disagree) or maybe you want to spend the morning in Epcot doing some of the things you have not done; even without a Park Hopper, you can do those things in the morning, using one of your days on your 5 day pass, then transition over to the Magic Kingdom for the party in the evening any time after 4pm.

The other choice, obviously, is to go to the Magic Kingdom all day, use one day on your 5 day pass to get in whenever you want, and use your hard ticket to stay for the party, however, this makes for a very long day, especially with young kids, as the party runs later into the evening. If you are going to do this, especially if you have younger children, I highly recommend returning to your room for some kind of nap or rest time during the day so that everyone can get the most out of the party at night.


Prices of the Hard Tickets:

This is what causes people to question the value of the party. Ticket prices for MNSSHP range from $57 (Child – 3-9, September Dates, Advance Purchase Pricing) to $77 (Adult – 10+, Premium Night Pricing). MVMCP ranges from $62 (Child – 3-9, Advance Purchase) to $74 (Adult – 10+, Premium Night). Those prices listed are the most current available for 2014, not including taxes. There are also many restrictions on when you can buy tickets, and blackout dates for advance purchase prices, so it’s best to check with your travel agent, or with Disney directly to find out what the prices are going to be for the dates when you would be attending.


Generally, I am just telling you that your tickets are going to be $60-$80 per person. Disney pricing is usually based on a family of four, so that would be $250-$320 for your family of four to spend an extra 5 hours in the Magic Kingdom (you can also think of it as $12-$15 per person per hour of the party). Obviously you need to adjust your estimates accordingly depending on the specific pricing for that day’s tickets, and whether you purchase your tickets in advance. If you do want to attend, you should purchase them in advance. Many of the parties, especially as they get closer to the actual holiday, do sell out.


What’s in it for me?

Hard ticket events to allow for many special opportunities that are not available to regular guests. One thing, although not the main focus of the party, is reduced wait times for attractions. Not all attractions will be open, but the majority are. Since there will be fewer people in the park, it will give you the opportunity to ride the attractions with less wait time, however, this may be at the sacrifice of viewing or attending other special events. Disney does limit the number of tickets sold to these events.

You get to dress up (for Halloween) – For some people this is a benefit, and part of the fun. Others refuse to do it. You will see a lot of families dressed in group costumes, so that’s something to consider too. You are not required to dress up for the Halloween party by any means, but I will guarantee you that most people, adults included, will be dressed up. It seems to gain popularity every year, and the costumes are becoming more and more elaborate. Disney does have some restrictions on costumes, specifically for adults regarding character recreation and “appropriateness” so if you think your costume may be on the line of acceptability, I would choose something else.


Parades – In my opinion, the MNSSHP Boo to You parade is one of the best parades that I have ever seen at Disney World. This may be because of my personal preferences, but I know that there are floats that I have not seen at any other parade. For example, in past years, the Headless Horseman rides down Main Street with a “flaming” pumpkin in his hand to start off the parade. Also, I really enjoyed the Haunted Mansion themed units. They had a troupe of grave diggers with choreographed shovel routines, and a float with the three hitchhiking ghosts on it. Even the caretaker with his emaciated dog made an appearance, and it was one of the only times I can remember seeing any real dog in a Disney parade. Other floats featured various villains, and you get to see all of the regular Disney characters, many of them dressed up in their Halloween costumes.


The Christmas parade was similar in the fact that the floats were all themed to Christmas. Again, they had floats that I have only seen during the Christmas Party parade, and most of the characters were dressed up in their Christmas outfits. I think that the Halloween parade was better than the Christmas parade, but that’s simply my opinion, and probably relates to my enjoyment of the Villains and the Haunted Mansion.


Rare Characters If you are a “character hunter” this would be your opportunity to get your picture taken, or get some autographs from characters that normally are not available. In the past, at the Christmas Party there have been characters like Mary Poppins with Bert and Penguin, Captain Jack Sparrow, Snow White with all 7 Dwarves, Santa Claus, and many Princes and Princesses. A lot of them are in their Christmas outfits, so that makes some of the normal ones more unique as well.

Halloween is similar with Princes and Princesses, but also Villains that are almost never available, like Shadow Man. Snow White and the 7 Dwarves are usually there, but again this is very special to get them all at once. Also, there is usually some representation of the Haunted Mansion available, from either a ghost sitting and talking to guests on the front lawn, or special picture spots where hitchhiking ghosts magically appear in photos that you can get from Disney’s Photo Pass service.


Special Character Shows – For MNSSHP there is a special performance by many of the Disney Villains called the Disney Villain’s Mix and Mingle, usually right before the parade. This is a unique showing of about 10 Disney villains singing and dancing, and as the name implies, some of them come down to the crowd afterward to “mix and mingle” where you can get pictures with them. Similarly, for MVMCP there is Celebrate the Season where many of your favorite characters come out to perform to different Christmas themed songs. Shows may change from year to year, and they may or may not offer the same, or similar shows as time goes on, so if you feel that this would be a large part of your experience, I would check a schedule for the days you would attend before going.


Dance Parties – Disney does this a lot of times other than the special hard ticket events, but at these events they usually have several of them at the same time in different areas. The theme will depend on what part of the park you are in, but for example, I have seen futuristic ones in Tomorrow Land, and western ones in Frontier Land, all with appropriately dressed, and varied characters. Characters will also tend to switch out during the party, so there is almost always going to be some character there for your kids, or you, I guess, to dance with.

“Free” Treats – At the Christmas parties, they will hand out coco and cookies, and at Halloween, everyone can go trick or treating at the designated treat trails. Not only can you go to the designated spots, but I have also seen cast members just filling bags of candy as people are leaving. You are basically going to get as much as you want to carry around. However, it is pointless to spend a lot of your limited time getting $5 worth of candy, but if you want to, you can. However, I have to say that being allowed, and encouraged, to go trick or treating as an adult is fun.



Special Fireworks – Each respective party also has it’s own special fireworks show. Not only is the music themed to the season, but the fireworks change as well. Now days, the castle projections are also involved so it makes for a great show overall. The Castle Dream Lights are also part of the show, simulating the effect of snow covering the castle, and adding to the overall effect of the show.


“Snow” on Main Street – This is a neat effect, but for some of us, who actually have to live with snow for 5 months of the year, it’s not as exciting. However, during the Christmas party, they do have effects that re-create snow gently falling on Main Street. You can try to catch it on your tongue if you want, but I really don’t recommend it, I believe the “snow” is made from soap.

In Summary:

You have to realize that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. By this I mean imagine that you are in the hub area, you get to see a great villain show on the castle stage, a few minutes later the headless horseman rides by followed by a unique parade, then the fireworks start going off with a different soundtrack than usual, with a storyline of the villains dueling to see who has the most evil. Then you get to go trick or treating and get and walk on attractions. That’s quite a unique experience that you are not going to get in a lot of places. The same goes for Christmas – Decorations all over the park, the Christmas music in the air. Characters dressed up for the season, another unique show, parade and fireworks, while sipping your free hot chocolate and eating a cookie; snow falling on Main Street. Again, that’s quite a Christmas experience. It really puts you in the “Christmas Spirit” even if it is the middle of November, and 85 degrees outside.

Overall, if you are traveling on a budget, you can easily skip these events. They are nice, and fun, but certainly not something that you HAVE to do as they are quite expensive, especially for large families. I do like the Halloween one more than the Christmas one, but that’s just me. I am sure that plenty of people disagree. However, if you have the money, and the time, and enjoy the season, then you may want to seriously consider adding them to your trip.

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