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  • Say Goodbye to the HatWalt Disney World will remove Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat from Hollywood Studios
  • When Should You Buy a Universal Annual Pass?When does it make sense to upgrade from daily tickets?
  • When Was Disney's 'Golden Age'?Which decade was the best decade for Disney's theme parks?
  • Our Wizarding World of Harry Potter GuidebookOur in-depth guidebook to Universal's Harry Potter lands is now on sale!
Say Goodbye to the Hat When Should You Buy a Universal Annual Pass? When Was Disney's 'Golden Age'? Our Wizarding World of Harry Potter Guidebook
Robert Niles

Let's Give Away Some Stuff!

Published: October 25, 2014 at 8:11 AM

It's my birthday today, and to celebrate, I'll be the one giving away the presents! Here is a look at some of the stuff I will be giving away to Theme Park Insider readers this week:

Birthday giveaway

The haul will include:

  • An interactive magic wand from Ollivander's in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
  • A commemorative wand from the opening of the original Wizarding World at Universal's Islands of Adventure in 2010
  • A Harry Potter gift pack, with a Fanged Flyer, Pygmy Puff, and Hogwarts Express hat
  • A Gringotts prize pack, with commemorative vault key, "gold" bar, and a $20 Gringotts bank note
  • A limited-edition Disney Oswald the Lucky Rabbit watch
  • A pair of "Glow with the Show" "Made with Magic" mouseketeer ears
  • A Dooney & Bourke Mickey Mouse handbag

Prize packs also will include a signed copy of our new Theme Park Insider Visits the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or upcoming Theme Park Insider Visits Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando: 2015 guidebooks.

If you haven't registered to become a member of Theme Park Insider yet, please do so right now, as we will be giving away these prizes on our Discussion Board next week, and you will need to be a registered member of the site and logged into your account to enter to win.

We will put one prize pack up for giveaway each day, starting Monday and continuing through a week from tomorrow (Sunday). But there will be a task that you (collectively) will need to accomplish before we give away each prize. That's all I am saying about that for now. ;^)

This is good stuff, everyone! So register now, log in, and start following our Discussion Board to be ready to enter when the giveaway starts on Monday.

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Robert Niles

Say Goodbye to the Sorcerer's Hat at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Published: October 24, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Walt Disney World confirmed this afternoon that it will remove the Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat from Disney's Hollywood Studios. The removal is expected to begin soon and to be completed by early 2015.

The Hat
No more pictures like this.

The fate of the stage that has blocked this view of the hat in recent years is unknown, but many cast members expect it to be removed along with the stage. The removal of both would allow an unobstructed view of the Chinese theater from Hollywood Boulevard, the visual "weenie" from the park's first decade, when the park was known as the Disney-MGM Studios.

However, don't count on seeing that view forever, going forward. Disney's making changes to Hollywood Studios at a brisk pace, with the Backlot Tour closing earlier this month. And today, Disney also confirmed that the Legend of Jack Sparrow walk-through attraction will close permanently at the end of the day Thursday, Nov. 6.

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Robert Niles

Vote of the Week: When Was the 'Golden Age' for Disney Theme Parks?

Published: October 24, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Perhaps the only thing that some Disney fans love more than the parks themselves are their memories of the way the parks used to be.

Nostalgia fuels big business at the Disney theme parks, from sales of throwback T-shirts to various collectibles from long-closed attractions. Even more than the merchandise sales, though, Disney cultivates nostalgia as a way to entice people to book future visits to its theme parks. How better to relive a golden memory from your past than by coming back and visiting again?

Magic Kingdom in 1990
Remember the old hub at the Magic Kingdom?

But too much idealizing of the past creates a risk that people will decide that today's parks aren't as good as what they remember. When nostalgia stops motivating people to visit and begins discouraging them instead, well, that's a problem for any destination. Disney loves for its fans to buy retro Epcot T-shirts and Horizons posters. But Disney doesn't want potential visitors to stay home because all they hear online is "the parks just aren't as good as they used to be."

So let's test that statement. Are Disney's theme parks the best they've ever been, right now? Or is there some decade in the past when they were better? If so, when was that? It's one thing to have this warm, fuzzy ideal of a better past — but it's something else to assign that ideal to a specific date.

We will start with the 1970s, when Disney went from having a single theme park to begin building a chain. The '70s saw the opening of Walt Disney World and the introduction of iconic new rides such as Space Mountain ad Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The 1980s brought the opening of Epcot Center, Tokyo Disneyland and the Disney-MGM Studios, as well as the New Fantasyland expansion in Disneyland and the debut of Splash Mountain.

Disney World's Frontierland
Disney World's Frontierland in 1990.

In the 1990s, Disneyland Paris opened, as well as Disney's Animal Kingdom. Fantasmic! debuted, and Disney expanded the Studios park in Florida, adding Sunset Boulevard and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as well as multiple hotels. In the 2000s, Disney added four theme parks: Tokyo DisneySea, California Adventure, the Walt Disney Studios Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Disneyland celebrated its 50th birthday and Disney World kept building hotels.

In this decade, Disneyland rebuilt much of California Adventure, adding Cars Land, while Hong Kong built Grizzly Mountain and Mystic Manor. Disney World introduced its New Fantasyland and by the end of the decade, Animal Kingdom will have added Avatar while Downtown Disney becomes Disney Springs.

And yet, each decade had negatives, too. The biggest development in theme parks in the 2010s hasn't been anything Disney has built — it's been the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal, which is taking market share from Disney in Orlando. Three of the parks Disney built in the 2000s were the weakest theme park developments in the company's history, requiring multi-billion dollar investments to fix in the 2010s. The 1990s saw a dramatic decline in quality at Disneyland, with the nadir being the accidental killing of a park guest on the Sailing Ship Columbia dock. For much of the early 1980s, Disney's future as a company was in doubt, with corporate raiders ready to buy and carve up the business. And those of us who were around in the 1970s remember that Disney was hardly the premier theme park brand in the country then. Believe it or not, the Six Flags brand was as, if not more, respected among theme park fans back then.

So there's much to debate here. Let's start that debate with a vote:

Tell us in the comments which era you consider the best for Disney's theme parks, and why.

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Robert Niles

Insider's Update: Fix 'er Up and Let 'er Fly

Published: October 23, 2014 at 2:12 PM

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Robert Niles

When Should You Buy a Universal Studios Annual Pass?

Published: October 23, 2014 at 10:25 AM

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Anthony Murphy

Review: Six Flags Great America’s Fright Fest 2014

Published: October 22, 2014 at 12:50 PM

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Robert Niles

Disney California Adventure reportedly set to close Luigi's Flying Tires in January

Published: October 21, 2014 at 2:59 PM

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Robert Niles

Monday Top 10: The World's Best Theme Park Castles

Published: October 20, 2014 at 3:19 PM

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Robert Niles

Disney Rebrands 'Glow with the Show' and Introduces Its Own Interactive Magic Wands

Published: October 20, 2014 at 10:13 AM

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James Koehl

Review: Midnight Syndicate Live! Legacy of Shadows, at Cedar Point

Published: October 20, 2014 at 9:46 AM

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Russell Meyer

How to Plan an Orlando Vacation: Part Two

Published: October 18, 2014 at 4:49 PM

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