Insider's Update: Free dining, expensive parties, and a now-empty pipeline at Walt Disney World
In case you missed the announcement this morning, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
will open to the public on May 28. Fastpass+ reservations now are available via the My Disney Experience link on disneyworld.com
. Given that Disney allowed invited reporters and fans to ride this week, one wonders if Disney's really going to keep the ride closed to the public for the next four weeks, or if May 28 simply is the first day for which you can make Fastpass+ reservations. Either way, if you're visiting the Magic Kingdom this month, you might as well "swing" by and see if the dwarfs will let you in.
It's time again for what's turned out to be Walt Disney World's annual offering of free Disney Dining plans with Walt Disney World on-site hotel vacations. This year's offer is available to Disney Visa cardholders now, and will open to the rest of the public on May 7. It's a free quick service dining plan for 3- to 14-day vacations at Value Resorts, and a free standard dining plan for vacations of the same length at the Moderate and Deluxe resorts, for the following arrival dates:
August 31 - October 3
October 26 - November 1
November 9 - November 20
December 12 - December 23
Port Orleans, All-Star Movies, Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, Grand Floridian villas, and Fort Wilderness campsites are not included in the offer.
Disney announced today that the Festival of the Lion King show, which was kicked out of its theater at Disney's Animal Kingdom for Avatar - World of Pandora construction, will return to the park this June in a new theater in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. In addition, Disney will offer a special, after-hours version of the Lion King story, "The Lion King Concert in the Wild," with a live orchestra and celebrity narrator, as part of a "Harambe Nights" hard-ticket event on Saturday nights from June 7 through August 9. Tickets start at $119 for ages 10 and up and $79 ages 9 and under, and include a street party and dinner buffet after the show, with beer, wine and drinks included.
Disney also revealed that the upcoming nighttime show at Animal Kingdom will be called Rivers of Light. No opening date yet.
Finally, Walt Disney World is bringing a version of Disneyland's popular Trader Sam's cocktail lounge to the Polynesian Resort, which will revert to its old Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort name next year as part of a major refurbishment of the resort. The Polynesian version will be called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, though no specific opening date has been announced yet.
With the Mine Train opening this month, neither Walt Disney World nor Disneyland will have any major new theme park attractions planned until Avatar opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2017, unless Rivers of Light opens before then. (We're not counting Festival of the Lion King as a new attraction — that's really more of a refurbishment.) The Disney Springs shopping and dining area that replaces Downtown Disney in Florida remains under construction for a 2016 completion, and renovation work continues at the Polynesian, but nothing's in the pipeline officially for the theme parks on either coast, save Avatar. We will see if Disney will continue to enjoy growing, record-breaking attendance at its theme parks by promoting itself as a lifestyle brand rather than offering new attractions for the next three years. If you forced me to guess, I'd bet that it will. What do you think?
Saturday update: I forgot to mention that Knott's Berry Farm has announced that it will reopen its refurbished Calico Mine Ride and Camp Snoopy kids' area on June 14, with a media preview on June 12.
Also, yesterday Universal Studios Hollywood raised its ticket prices to match Disneyland's one-day, one-park price of $92. Universal is offering a $5 discount when you buy online and continues to offer the "buy a day, get 2014 free" deal so locals effectively can get an annual pass for the $92 price. Prices for 12-month annual passes went up $10 each, though $20 discounts remain available online for the no-blockout day passes, which now cost $139 when bought online. (It's $179 for the Premium Star Pass, which includes free parking before 5pm and front-of-the-line access on the Studio Tour.) That's still quite a bit less than Disneyland's no-blockout Premium Annual Pass, which costs $669.
"We will see if Disney will continue to enjoy growing, record-breaking attendance at its theme parks by promoting itself as a lifestyle brand rather than offering new attractions for the next three years."
But it is broke. And it is called the Disco Yeti....
I will be at WDW on the 27th. Have been trying to change my Fastpass+ selections but the website is not working as usual. My family and I are doing the Keys to the Kingdom Tour that morning, so maybe we can get a ride on the 7 Dwarfs that way.
Robert, realistically, what do you think it would take for WDW to start aggressively planning and building new attractions? It seems it would require a radical change in mindset, but I'm not sure what could trigger that, short of a few years of flatlining or shrinking attendance.
Actually, I think that all it will take is Shanghai Disneyland opening and freeing up a lot of Imagineering time and the theme park capital budget.
It should be noted that while there may be no attractions in the pipeline (at least none that we know about) the company's investment in construction at its Florida property is enormous.
TH Creative's list points out what WDW's problem is. Every item is food or hotel. Imagineering seems unable to move any attractions along. (And no, I don't consider a few drawings and a promise of Avatar to be a "real" attraction.)
I have to say that after our spring break vacation which was three days at Universal followed by six days at Disney, we are changing our future plans. It will now be three to four days at Disney followed by four days at Universal. The new fast pass is not optimal, and the unlimited express pass at Universal with the new AAA attractions has us making the change. Certainly other people enjoy different things, but we are the type that uses the fireworks and parades as a way to experience rides more efficiently, and we never do any character meet and greet (although our boys would totally stop if a terminator walked by). I think that Disney is missing a massive opportunity with Star Wars, but maybe they have crunched the numbers and know that the infrastructure must improve in order to absorb the influx of people they would get.
So Mr.Ackerman's approach to quality embraces a model where the resorts should be ignored. Where guests should be expected to pay for hotel rooms that are neglected. That decades old HVAC, electrical, plumbing and finishes should be considered to be acceptable. That traffic systems and back-of-house operations should become lower priorities.
Avatar counts as an attraction. It's happening.
Looking at the artwork for Rivers of Light, it seems like that a stadium-like viewing area (whether it's standing or sitting is unclear, but I'd more likely guess it'll be the former) will be built. I know firsthand that the viewing area for World of Color can be a pain, so I appreciate Disney trying fix what needs to be improved and I know others will too.
For the occasional visitor like myself who visits once every 5 to 10 years, Disney World offers more enough attractions. Locals might not be satisfied. Currently here for vacation, I was quite impressed with what I've experienced especially with the rehabbed attractions like Test Track and Living Seas. The New Fantasyland is certainly a strange mix of offerings, but it is good enough. I spent nearly a full day there alone and I wasn't able to reach Dumbo. It is so large. The Dwarf's coaster is almost unnecessary and I won't bother without a Fastpass.
I think they should skip building new rides and spend billions of dollars on trackable wrist bracelet technology originally designed to track prisoners in jail...
Robert pointed out that the imagineering effort is 120% in Shanghai right now. I think it is unfair for everyone to say that Disney is losing the theme park wars when they are merely behind Universal in recent construction in Orlando. From a holistic Disney Parks perspective, they are building or have recently built: Huge and successful DCA expansion, two state-of-the-art theme-park-like cruise ships, a new gigantic resort in Shanghai, major new mini-land at Paris, major expansion in Hong Kong, biggest expansion ever of MK at WDW, and upcoming major expansion at DAK. Plus the mymagic+ stuff. It's not popular on sites like this, but it is state of the art, and once all the other players jump on board Disney will be executing more smoothly due to their head start. If we can all just take a step back and think the way that the executives that actually have to make these things work do for a sec: Universal had a spectacular success with Harry Potter and they are riding the wave as far as they can. They are increasing market share, but plowing profits back into growth. That is a smart model, because they have room to grow, but it is not long-term sustainable. Eventually, they will slow down and become more selective about how they invest, and the larger their Orlando resort becomes, the more money and time they will have to spend on maintaining and sustaining a resort of that size. In other words, they will start to have more DIsney-like problems. As their market share grows, they will also be expected to perform at Disney's level with regards to customer service, etc. (I am not trying to start a flame war, but Universal, which has very good customer service, is still no Disney. Disney gets a lot of flak because they market perfection in this area)
We will see if Disney will continue to enjoy growing, record-breaking attendance at its theme parks by promoting itself as a lifestyle brand rather than offering new attractions for the next three years.
You know, I would say that TH Creative's list of expansions and renovations is exactly why the theme parks themselves seem neglected.
As usual, with THC's comments, I find myself in mixed agreement.
Universal wants to spend millions to outdo Disney, and Disney can respond whenever it wants with it's own expansions? Who's complaining?
Maybe in Disney's for attractions they could go back and edit The American Adventure
It makes business sense to build the park surroundings. It is more profitable and does not seem to be hurting attendance in any way. Adding another couple hundred million in annual upkeep will hit hard in a major downturn in the economy. One of these happens every 7-10 years. For WDW, 2001 and 2008 were both very ugly. The more there, the uglier it gets.
Mr. Hillman writes: "The infrastructure improvements are necessary, and they eventually will enhance the guest experience..."
I think that Robert is much more even handed on TPI than on Fbook. I thought the facebook title was a bit more snarky, but I guess it got me to click :)
My curiosity tends to be aimed at whether Universal will be able to open a third gate in Orlando. I don't know the details of what land they own, but I'm pretty sure there are a lot of spots on I-Drive that they could buy as a warehouse/storage unit. Perhaps fronted by a museum/store. I also heard they were going to be building parking garages for their employees, which could free up space for a third gate.
I think the resorts renovations falls into a different bucket than the attractions. It is simply a matter of the resorts and DVC setting aside a portion of revenue for maintenance and expansion due to its success and increase in business. The resorts renovations are not as fast as assumed. They are long overdue. Resorts should be updated every ten years before customers begin to notice their rundown appearance.
Interesting comments: Universal has already cleared land in IOA for a King Kong attraction with a show building about the size of Forbidden Journey. A family friendly (think Big Thunder Mt.) will be added to the JP section. This themed coaster is rumored to have extensive rock work theming as if your are traveling through a dinosaur archaeology excavation site complete with dark caves and fossil's. I have a feeling that they will eventually re-purpose Toon Lagoon and hopefully they will build the rumored Mt. Crumpit ride in Seuss landing. That would pretty much complete IOA. Moving over to the Studios side. Shrek needs to go with either a complete overhaul or just level it. I predict that Fear Factor stadium will be demolished to make room for a Harry Potter Ministry of Magic ride. This may also put Men in Black on the chopping block. There is also a plot of land in between MIB and The Simpson's that is ripe for the picking. Kid Zone will most likely be leveled to create a "Fantasy Land" type experience. E.T. could very easily be converted to a Sponge Bob ride. (The bikes become boats-since the first part dips the ride down quite a bit.) Twister, T2, Disaster will either be re-themed, up-graded, or go bye-bye. If the rumor is true that a LARGE plot of land is available behind Lockheed Martin. (which Universal used to own) I predict that land will be bought and a 3rd gate will be created along with two more hotels. I'm sure a state of the art water park is already in development. It would be really funny for Universal to complete all theses things before Disney could even create concept art for a Star Wars land or even open Avatar Land. So the next 5 years should be quite interesting. I love DIsney and am a pass holder (for a few more months anyway) but Disney World is just a real mess. I don't see things turning around at the house of mouse for a very long time.
My January trip to Orlando was for a Disney race. Stayed at Contemporary resort on-site. I hadn't been to Disney since I was a child.
I think there is about to be an earthquake in the theme park world.
Note to Anonymous: How long have you been working for Universal? I mean, "Had trouble finding pretty much everything in Epcot?"
"Outdated and dumpy", 2 words that I would never use to describe anything in Walt Disney World and I have been there 20 times or so. You must have been somewhere else and thought that you were in WDW.
to respond to someone's E ticket above -
Oh, and another thing to note..... sometimes just something new could be fine and it does not have to be an e-ticket....
Disney fans not so great at accepting criticism of their outdated park. My actual complaints about Disney were valid, I don't work for Universal (first visit to Orlando in a couple decades). Everything I saw was slow and outdated.
THC, I can only shake my head at you. Selectively parsing someone’s comments to make a point may seem clever, but it certainly won’t win many fans to your point of view.
Tim Hillman "-has been going to Disney parks with his family since the 1960s,"
Anonymous (or ... whomever) writes: "Yes, we couldn't find things in Epcot. The map for the front section didn't make much sense to us and we wandered around for 15 minutes until we found a staff member who pointed us to walk through one building to pop out where Nemo was."
THC, somehow my debates with you always seem to evolve into an Abbott and Costello conversation type of scenario. Like I said in my original post, I find myself in mixed agreement with you. We just view the relative importance of the investment in the parks and the investment in the rest of the resorts differently.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.