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Insider's Update: More Fastpass+, plus more Imagineering moves

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Published: April 26, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Happy Saturday, theme park fans! This week, Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Actually, we should say that the park now known as Disney's Hollywood Studios will be turning 25. Long-time theme park fans will remember that when the park opened, it was known as Disney-MGM Studios, but Disney and MGM didn't renew the license deal, so Leo the Lion's long gone from Lake Buena Vista. Disney's announced modest celebration plans for the the 25th birthday, on May 1, highlighted by a special fireworks show at 9:30pm.

Perhaps of bigger note at Disney World this week, Monday is the big day for those Fastpass+ changes we told you about earlier this month. Starting Monday, you'll be able to get additional Fastpass+ reservations in the park after using your initial three reservations. You'll also be able to "park hop" and get Fastpass+ reservations in more than one park. Once you've used your first three Fastpass+ reservations for the day, you can get additional reservations one at a time, and only from kiosks in the parks. So, it'll work much like the old Fastpass system from that point, but without the paper tickets.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train entrance
Photo courtesy Disney

All the construction walls are down around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and our Twitter followers say that operations cast members are training on running the ride, which suggests that it might be operational for the press event scheduled for later this week, and open to the public after that. When you get on, please submit a review and photos to our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train page.

Here's a couple of Imagineering changes for you: After wrapping up the Ratatouille attraction this summer, Walt Disney Imagineering reportedly is sending Tom Fitzgerald from leading the shop at Disneyland Paris to become the creative director at Epcot. (Haven't heard what's happening or has happened to Eric Jacobson, who used to have that role.) Also, Scott Trowbridge is moving from R&D at WDI to portfolio leader at the Disneyland Resort and being in charge of a new Star Wars studio within WDI. Would that suggest that Disneyland might now be the first destination for a Star Wars land? Insiders, you know where to get in touch with us.

A few weeks ago, we had a conversation on the Discussion Board asking why Disney didn't have its own airline. Readers noted that the airline business is very different from the cruise industry, where Disney's a major player. But in light of that conversation, you might find interesting this report that the Four Seasons hotel chain now has its own jet for high-end tours. Could this provide a model for Disney's eventual entry into the airline business? Surely Disney might find some demand for custom, first-class transportation to a luxury Disney theme park hotel stay, an Adventures by Disney vacation, or Disney cruise embarkation. Mickey knows how to make a buck, after all. Even from the one-tenth of the One Percent.

Over on the west coast, Disneyland buried the lead in the blog post about Eggs Benedict returning to the breakfast menu at the park's Carnation Cafe. Here's the bigger story: Say goodbye to the restaurant's peanut-butter-and-soda and chocolate-cherry sodas. They're going off the menu, to be replaced by Coke, Barq's Root Beer and Fanta Orange floats.

Extending the buzz over It's a Small World's 50th birthday, news leaked this week that Disney's planning a movie version of the classic attraction. It'll play well in a film festival with the Jungle Cruise movie, Haunted Mansion movie, Thunder Mountain TV show, and every other rumored and announced attraction-inspired production that never made it to market. What's next? How about a musical, mixing live action and animation, that features Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox and tells the story of Splash Mountain? Oh, wait a minute....

Finally, enjoy a look at Tokyo Disneyland's new castle projection show, "Once Upon a Time."

Readers' Opinions

From Rob Pastor on April 26, 2014 at 1:35 PM
The adjusted Fastpass + system will be a lot more workable. Probably best to schedule early fastpasses, so you can add on during the day once the first three are gone. This will now be closer to the legacy fast pass system with the added advantage of reserved bookings. Now I will return to WDW in Spring 2015. The system should be running fairly smooth by then.
From James Trexen on April 26, 2014 at 5:03 PM
After all the stress of buying expensive plane tickets, part of me suspects that no one wants to be on a plane full of squirming kids who are continuously kicking their seats while singing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"
From Brandon Townsend on April 26, 2014 at 9:33 PM
I am very happy about the update to in the Fastpass+ system. My family and I always park hop and this will (hopefully) enable us to get in some late afternoon/evening rides with Fastpasses.
As far as reserving Fastpasses, I've noticed it is hard to get them scheduled close together when you initially reserve them, but you can go back later and change the times to tweek them.
From Anon Mouse on April 26, 2014 at 9:44 PM
Considering how cutthroat the airline industry had become, maybe Disney doesn't want to end up this way. There is actually an existing model to emulate. The Hello Kitty charter as operated by EVA airlines is a very exclusive and higher priced option for Hello Kitty fans who travel to Asia destinations. It is quite difficult to buy a ticket since they are offered at select times and destinations. Disney can offer charters on their own schedules, but I don't think Disney wants to take the downsides of operating an airline.

Lets hope the Dwarf's coaster is open next week.

I wish them well with "It's A Small World", but I recalled that Disneyland closed Country Bear Jamboree soon after the movie opened. Quite a dumb move and very odd.

From TH Creative on April 27, 2014 at 9:28 AM
The news about Tom Fitzgerald and Scott Trowbridge is HUGE. Especially former Universal Creative ace Trowbridge. There should be little or no doubt that Disney will be expanding the Star Wars footprint in the parks.
From M. Ryan Traylor on April 27, 2014 at 5:49 PM
Curious to see if the MyDisneyExperience App will get intergrated into the additional FastPass+ system. I wonder if you will be able to use that app instead of finding a kiosk in the park.
From 98.127.126.139 on April 28, 2014 at 12:03 AM
Regarding the un-produced atrraction based movies- there's also the Jon Favreau directed "Magic Kingdom" that also seems to have disappeared.
From 109.221.102.30 on April 28, 2014 at 3:23 AM
"After wrapping up the Ratatouille attraction this summer, Walt Disney Imagineering reportedly is sending Tom Fitzgerald from leading the shop at Disneyland Paris to become the creative director at Epcot."

So who is going to take the job at Disneyland Paris ? Here in France, we hear more and more about big things coming just after Ratatouille (a DCA/HKDL-like plan to save our Resort with the financial help of TWDC).

Do you have any more informations ? Thanks

From TROY DAVIDSON on April 28, 2014 at 7:58 AM
My experience with Fast-Pass plus. I went to Magic Kingdom this past Wednesday. The park was open until 11 P.M. On the tram the driver announced some information about the program and said “if anyone needs help see any cast member holding an i-pad.” I arrived at the park around 4 PM and while the park was busy it was NO WHERE near the summer crowds. Main Street was very easy to move around in even though the hub was totally shut down for construction. Before I left my house I pulled up each park to look at the wait times and what fast-passes were available. Hollywood Studios was totally out of passes at 2 P.M. (Which I find hard to believe because I have never see Tower of Terror without fast pass availability) I looked for the fast pass machines by Space Mt. and there were no machines there. I finally found them hidden by Stitch’s Great Escape with not one cast member there to help. I could not find any cast members with i-pads. I tried the touch screen 10 times before it would respond. A list of all the attractions appears on the touch screen and at the bottom of the screen is an arrow sign to go to the next list of attractions. The arrow button is so close to the attraction above it that it kept selecting the attraction above it. (And it did so on the next screen as well) I gave up since the touch screens would not work. Big Thunder Mt. had no fast passes at 4 P.M. !!!!! (Again the park was open until 11 P.M.) Every single attraction seemed to have inflated stand-by wait times that historically would not have. Since I am a local I always go in the evening and I always could ride the mountains and most all the other rides. The arrow down software glitch is just not excusable! I ended up not riding anything and just went home (not too happy either) If Disney does not get these problems corrected there will be a ton of very unhappy guest this summer. My pass expires in about 4 months and I am a Disney fan who spends lots of $$ there. I have decided to drop Disney and just go to Universal from now on. I hope Disney can get their act together and start to give the Orlando (aka step child) parks some love.
From TROY DAVIDSON on April 28, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Also The Snow White coaster looks wonderful; but after 3 years they really have no excuse that it shouldn't.
From David Ackerman on April 28, 2014 at 4:12 PM
Gee, it is nice that they are adding attractions at the overseas parks. Now, Disney, we have enough hotels and restaurants at WDW. How about adding some attractions here? And no, promises of stuff in 4 or 5 years don't work. How about doing what Universal does and actually build? Remember when you actually used to build new attractions that mattered, not simply "plussed up" existing rides by adding a Disney character where they didn't really fit?

And, after all of the time it took to actually build (and seem to have trouble opening) the new Mine Ride, why do I have the sinking feeling that it will be the East Coast answer to Luigi's Tires? Why are they so afraid to actually let non-cast members on it? And why no AP previews?

The more I see of FP+, the more I am convinced that it is mostly an effort to keep folks waiting in lines in between feeding times at the restaurants. Gee, after using my first 3 fast passes, I can stand in a *long* line in the park to see if I can actually get another FP. Now that really excites me.

Bottom line is that we are spending more time (and money) at Universal and SeaWorld than at WDW.

From Brad Jashinsky on April 28, 2014 at 5:24 PM
According to WDWMagic.com report, Tom Fitzgerald will continue leading WDI at Disneyland Paris.
From 71.47.183.155 on April 28, 2014 at 7:02 PM
Was able to extra passes today...worked pretty well

The don't work on the app as of yet but they said it will be working soon

Nice upgrade

From Tim Hillman on April 29, 2014 at 8:24 AM
I've got to admit that my experience with FastPass+ has been very positive. The old FastPass system rarely if ever worked for me and my family. Being married to a night person meant that most FastPasses were gone by the time that we got to the parks. About the only time that we got FastPasses was when we stayed onsite in Disney World, and that usually meant an extra trip to the park for me to get FastPasses, and good luck trying to get a time that worked with our plans for the day.

The new FastPass+ brought out my inner Clark Griswold. I ordered my tickets online, set up my "My Disney Experience" account, linked my daughter's family tickets with ours, picked the three attractions that we were going to ride each day, and got everybody's FastPasses within a very reasonable period of time.

I really like it, and as someone who has been extremely critical of the cheapness of the Disney Corporation for well over a decade, this will probably mean more trips to Disney in the future than what we have been making which have been pretty much non-existent. As I look around my office, all of my recent family theme park pictures have been taken at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Disney still isn't off the hook for their glacial pace of ride and park development, but I have to give them kudos for enhancing my ability to enjoy their existing parks and attractions.

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