SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About. It’s hard to believe that in a land full of fantastical theme parks, luxurious hotels, and wonderful memories filled with pixie dust that people could have anything to complain about. But they do. In fact, after a thorough investigation the Saturday Six staff has compiled a list of 548,321 complaints, and that’s just in the Florida parks. Today we’re going to look at the six of most prevalent complaints and say “STAHP!”

StarbucksMickey

If you thought Talking Mickey was a hit, wait till Barista Mickey makes his debut….

# 6 – “They are building too many Starbucks”

Out of nowhere, Starbucks has seemed to have taken over the theme park world in Florida. The first step in theme park world domination for the coffee brand? The beloved Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom. Starbucks then moved over to Epcot and replaced the Fountain View Cafe, complete with a hidden Communicore logo to appease the hardcore fans. Two more Starbucks are coming to Downtown Disney, and it is rumored that locations will be opening up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, as well. Not to be outdone, the Starbucks location over at Universal’s CityWalk is moving from its second floor No-Man’s-Land location down onto the ground level, and Island of Adventure’s Arctic Express has been converted into a Starbucks, as well.

What’s going here? The answer is simple. People love Starbucks. Period. The Starbucks brand is strong enough that it can charge a premium price for a drink you can get almost anywhere else cheaper, and have people lining up for it. While the Main Street Bakery certainly wasn’t hurting for business before, it’s easy to see how successful the ones at Downtown Disney and Universal will be compared to what they are replacing. The new Starbucks locations are in prime real estate and will be all but printing money.

If these Starbucks locations were McDonald’s, you could make a case that there are better restaurants all over either property. If the locations were Dunkin’ Donuts you could make a case that there are better bakeries around. But no one at Disney or Universal is doing a better job than Starbucks at making good coffee and, as far as we know, the world didn’t end when the first Grande Latte went out.

SS_Complaints_WildernessExplorers

Wilderness Explorers

# 5 – “Animal Kingdom is a half day park”

Poor Animal Kingdom. The biggest (by far) theme park in Florida is saddled with the complaint that it’s only a half day park. Disney chairman Tom Staggs recently said the upcoming Avatar expansion will make the park a “true full day, must-see experience.” Sorry, Tom, we disagree as we think Animal Kingdom is already a full day experience, and a great one at that.

Are there as many attractions as there are at the Magic Kingdom? No, but it offers an experience that no other Disney or Universal park can offer. It has one of the greatest E-Tickets of all in Expedition Everest. It has a park icon in the Tree of Life that has something new to notice each time you look at it. It has two of the best shows on Disney property with Finding Nemo – the Musical and Festival of the Lion King. It has more carnival games than all the other WDW parks put together. Okay, so maybe that last part isn’t so great, but one thing Animal Kingdom does has in spades is animals. Duh.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of our favorite rides in any park, and how can you not love the Flights of Wonder show? Both give guests a unique look at live animals, but nothing can compare to walking the actual trails in Africa and Asia. Some may enjoy going from attraction to attraction and standing in queues, but we enjoy the relaxing, set-our-own-pace treks throughout Animal Kingdom. The new Wilderness Explorers interactive experience is one of the best value-added additions we’ve seen at any park.

Next time you go to Animal Kingdom, leave your pre-conceived notions about a “half day park” at the front gates and enjoy a day at a theme park you can’t get anywhere else in Orlando.

 

HogsmeadeVillageTooSmall

Exhaustive research shows only 32% of readers will understand this reference.

# 4 – “The size of shops at Hogsmeade Village are too small”

People have complaining about the size of the stores in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade Village since the first day it was open. To those people we ask, have you seen the Potter movies? The former tagline for Universal Studios was “ride the movies,” and while these stores aren’t rides, they are delivering the goods on guests being able to experience exactly what they saw on film.

We get it, this is ‘Murica and are used to Walmart, Costco, and a bigger-is-better mentality. That isn’t Harry Potter. Authenticity is the number one goal at the WWOHP, and it nails it. Instead of focusing on the size of the shops, look around at all the insanely intricate details in the store windows. Look at the products at Dervish and Banges or Honeydukes and see how perfectly they tie in with the Potter books and films. Universal recreated Hogsmeade Village, it feels real, and they look to take it to the next level with the opening of Diagon Alley this summer. If you’re not a Potter fan, we can understand the frustration, but just know that Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions isn’t MouseGear at Epcot, Magical Menagerie isn’t Big Top Souvenirs at the Magic Kingdom, and Borgin and Burkes won’t be Villains in Vogue at Hollywood Studios. We’re all better off for it.

DSC_0647# 3 – “There’s nothing for kids to do at Universal”

We’re not sure if the belief that “Universal has nothing for kids” comes from Disney super-serving the young child demographic or how much Universal is associated with their non-kid friendly thrill rides such as the Revenge of the Mummy or Incredible Hulk coasters. Regardless, there is a lot of stuff for kids to do at both of Universal’s parks.

At Islands of Adventure kids have Seuss Landing, one of the most whimsical places in all of Orlando, that is completely immersive. Over in Marvel Superhero Island they will be able to meet Spider-Man, Captain America, and other Marvel Comics characters for photos and autographs. Meanwhile, Camp Jurassic in Jurassic Park is – for our money – the greatest play area in any theme park and has the only ride at Disney and Universal where you must have a youngster with you to get on (Pteranodon Flyers).

Over at Universal Studios Florida we can say just one word: Minions. Between the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction and the Despicable Me character party zone, kids are going to flip out seeing and interacting with Gru, his three daughters, and of course minions. There’s more Despicable Me in the Superstar Parade, as well (along with other characters, including those form Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer, and the movie Hop). Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone has several elaborately themed attractions and play areas for the kids, including a Curious George “ball room” that you’ll have to drag your kids out of. One area that many guests don’t know about is the play area inside A Day in the Park with Barney, and it has several amazing interactive elements for the younger set. Depending on your child’s height, thee are attractions such as E.T. Adventure and MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack to enjoy.

 

YetiSign# 2 – “The Yeti is broke”

Who cares? Seriously. Who cares? The Yeti is a victim of the Disney Hype Machine. Well before Expedition Everest opened we were all inundated with reports of how amazing the Yeti animatronic was going to be. The Travel Channel still plays the Animal Kingdom video from before Everest opens, and the hype for the Yeti dwarfs even what Universal is doing for the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction. Positioned under a tarp, viewers aren’t even shown the Yeti, only given promises about how ming-blowing it would be.

Not long after its debut, the Yeti stopped working, and the whining began. Never has so much been made out of so little. Guests only see the Yeti for a second during a very thrilling ride. Because of the obsession with the malfunctioning Yeti, the jaw-dropping theming of the Everest attraction is almost never brought up. The Everest coaster is a crowning achievement in Disney rides. It is one of the – if not THE – most picturesque attractions in WDW. You can take amazing shots from all over Animal Kingdom. The queue is among the best on Disney property. The ride itself is one of the most thrilling you can have in a Disney park and shows what Walt Disney Imagineering is capable of when they are let loose. But all anyone talks about is “the broken Yeti.”

Stop it.

Illuminations_Bricker

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

# 1 – “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth needs to be changed”

We know what you are thinking. Faithful readers of the Saturday Six will remember that the staleness of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is one of our very own complaints. However, the readers have spoken, and to quote the great Joe Perry in the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster pre-show, “C’mon, you know how we feel about our fans.” So now we are going to flip-flop play Devil’s Advocate and make the case for keeping this iconic nighttime spectacular just the way it is.

Let’s face it, if IllumiNations ever changes we’ll never get anything like it again. We’re not overwhelmed with characters or forced-in product placements (we’re looking in your direction World of Color). It is the very definition of a spectacle using over the top fireworks, lasers, neon lights, and a stirring musical soundtrack to deliver its story. Yes, the story may actually be more incomprehensible than the plots for The Matrix sequels, but along with the pyrotechnic ballyhoo there is the large globe doing whatever it is that it does. We don’t know exactly why the glove unfolds like a flower, but that flower brings with it one of the most show stopping finales we know of. IllumiNations is not by any means perfect, but you just know if Disney changed this show, the globe would be replaced by a giant Duffy the Disney Bear head, the music would be the Frozen soundtrack as sung by Demi Lovato, and the narration would be done by Whoopi Goldberg.

Don’t you dare change a thing Disney. Don’t you dare.

So there you have it: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we’ll be looking at six “secrets” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade Village. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.

Special thanks to Disney Blogger Morgan Crutchfield, Master of Photography Tom Bricker, Photoshop Wizard Matthew Cleary, and Universal NOW!’s Brandon Glover for their assistance with this article.

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Posted on February 1, 2014

38 Responses to “SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About”

  • EE Is my favorite ride EVEN with the Yeti in B mode. But the Disco Yeti is a big deal to those of us who’ve ridden it since it’s opening. You obviously hadn’t experienced it before it went down otherwise you wouldn’t have said “who cares”. Now I totally agree that the queue is authentic and the outside is picturesque. But the terror at the end when the Yeti USED to swipes it’s huge arm down towards your car as your rushing towards it is something that everyone needs to experience to gain the full INTENDED effect of Expedition Everest.

    • Hear hear.

    • If we’re going to take Disney seriously when they say it’s “all about storytelling”, then the Yeti needs to return. Everything is leading up to an encounter with the Yeti, but as it is, that never happens – just a distant shot of his shadow.

      Not letting go of this one just because someone tells me to.

  • From what I’ve seen anyone who considers Animal Kingdom a half day park either A. goes there just for the rides and not the actual animals or B. goes without a child and isn’t a child at heart. To me either of these groups is missing a ton. Our daughter will be 4 on our next trip and can’t wait for Affection Section, Kilimanjaro Safari and the Discovery Trails, much less everything else. I’m looking forward to these too, as well as everything else the park has to offer. As for Starbucks- even as a non coffee drinker I was tired of the bad Disney coffee, namely how much people complained about it. I can’t say I’m thrilled by Starbucks coming in but that’s because I will miss the look and feel of the establishments they’re taking over.

    • I agree with you when it comes to Animal Kingdom being more than a half day park. When we go, (I get to go with my daughter’s family every couple of years), we take the time to enjoy all of the walking paths, every animal encounter there is, and the amazing shows. We talk to the animal experts at most every place we can to learn all about them. My grandson especially loves the bats!! My young grandkids love to just dig over at “The Dig Site” in Dinoland. This is the one park that running from ride to ride isn’t necessary to enjoy your day. It’s okay to slow down.

  • I don’t go to Starbucks (CC’s and PJ’s for me!), but I agree completely about Starbucks. Disney has always had sponsors… and Starbucks is a good one to have (in general, they have very reasonable corporate practices). Get over it, folks.

    OTH, Fix the darn YETI! Yeah, I care.

  • We are huge Disney fans that went to the parks every year but haven’t gone in two years due to low funds so we are a bit out of the loop these days, but let me just say this …. STARBUCKS?! YES! After years of getting up early and touring all day on that weak sauce Disney thought was coffee I say thank heavens they wised up. Now, I’m not a Starbucks fan at all, but you bet I was driving out of the parks to find some serious caffeine to fuel my tank for all that a day in the parks require :)

  • I complained about Starbucks before my recent visit. I’m not a coffee drinker and thought putting a non Disney something in Disney would cheapen it. Then I had a frozen chocowotsit with no coffee from the Main Street Bakery. Oh my goodness that was tasty. I will be back!

    I’ve always loved Animal Kingdom and it has plenty to fill a day. Our favourite attractions include visiting the Anteater, Okapi and Gorillas. I’ve seen the yeti once and that was cool but the multiple times I’ve done EE sans yeti was still totally awesome.

    The shops in Harry Potter ARE too small. That does add to authenticity which is a plus, but they are completely impossible to navigate with a wheelchair which is a bit pants.

  • I agree with #6. I don’t drink coffee but they need to stop advertisements in Disney. I usually go to AK for 1/2 day but that may change once the Avatar changes take affect.

    • There is a long history of corporate sponsorship and advertisement at Disney. Kodak, Nestle, and Delta to name a few. 35 years ago, the Main Street Bakery was sponsored by Sara Lee, with a prominent advertising sign out front.

  • by Laurel Stewart on February 1, 2014, at 10:18 am EST

    I have ridden EE pre- and post-functional Yeti, and it hasn’t affected my enjoyment of the attraction at all. The only thing that would improve EE is to replace the Yeti with an animatronic Joe Perry handing me a Starbucks soy chai during the ride. Oh, and making the track longer, because EE always leaves me wanting more. Much like a soy chai.

  • I never really got the impression Staggs meant it wasn’t a nice 9-5 park. He meant “Now you can stay into the evening.” That’s what I thought, and I NEVER stay 9-5 at DAK.

    As for the Yeti, if they WERE to fix that arm I would never, ever ride it. The damn thing is scary enough as it is. And call me a wuss (because I am a wuss) but feeling utter terror was never really something I considered part of the Disney experience. I’ve walked up close to that Yeti and even in stationary mode, he’s pretty alarming to be in the same room with.

    You’re spot-on about Illuminations. It’s perfect, a piece of pre-synergy Disney.

  • by Laurel Stewart on February 1, 2014, at 10:22 am EST

    PS – Derek, AK also has the best afternoon parade – Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. Some people would say there’s no such thing as a “best” afternoon parade, but those people are dead on the inside.

  • wow, I didn’t realize that the yeti was ‘broken’. I was completely content before. Now I feel like complaining…

  • Great article, but as someone who rode EE with the Yeti in A-mode many times before he went John Travolta on it, I have to say the ride is not the same without him. It’s as if you watched A New Hope and shut off the movie just as the the Death Star explodes — sure, everything up to that was great, but without the intended finale everything just feels anticlimactic. EE has always had an abrupt, unsatifying ending that screams of value engineering, and without a moving Yeti to distract from this fundamental dramatic flaw it’s tragically catharsis-free.

    • Amen, Seth.

      The Yeti was one of the incredible accomplishments I’ve seen in a theme park – it was beyond any animatronic Disney has ever done.

      Now ExE is just a pretty coaster with a weird part in the middle.

    • I agree with Seth…EE was incredible with the Yeti in A mode. At least then you knew he was there, you clearly saw him. Now, even though I know he’s there, I sometimes have trouble seeing him in B mode…so I can imagine how many people miss him. Yes, the attraction is a good and fun attraction, but a working yeti that you could clearly see is what made the attraction incredible. I know you only see him for a second or two, but it’s a big looming second. Seeing the yeti is the reason for your expedition in the first place. he’s the whole reason why you’re there. (Well, that and to ride a roller coaster.) It’s why they still use that version in all their advertisements. Cause the B version just pales in comparison.

      I agree with Brian below though…we likely won’t see it fixed.

  • I just read 6 more reasons why this is my favorite Disney-related web site. Thank you. I cannot explain what IllumiNations does, either, but it always, ALWAYS touches my soul and restores my faith in humanity. Plus, loud fireworks. :-D

  • Hey! A giant Duffy the Disney Bear head! You’re Brilliant! hehehehe – Actually, even I would think that was creepy!

    I love Illuminations just the way it is! Yet, maybe they could sneak in a Duffy in the picture on the globe?…..????

    Great article – Yet, I will still complain about Starbucks. Not that guest can get Starbucks beverages, I miss the Bakery & the Ice Cream Shop. I also miss the old Character Spot in Epcot where you could see all the characters through the big glass windows.

    Totally agree that Animal Kingdom is a full day park! I’ve yet to get around the whole park yet in a day. There are places that I still haven’t even discovered!

  • by Brian McNichols on February 1, 2014, at 10:46 am EST

    I have never ridden EE in A-mode but, in my opinion, placing a giant, experimental AA in a spot that give you 0.25 seconds of visibility was a bad decision to start with. Sinking more money into that thing is doubling down on that decision and I don’t think they’ll ever do it.

    Whether we want the Yeti to move or not, I think we need to prepare for the inevitability that it probably never will.

    Now someone do that “lick the thumb and make sizzling noise” salute with me and Steven Tyler…

  • The problem with Harry Potter shops is they too crowded you can’t see the cool stuff in them. Also illuminations is only good if you have a view of the globe if you don’t have a view there is a lot of downtime

    • We just left the world yesterday and I have to agree with you about the globe thing. We were in France, and only had a marginal view of the globe. IT was good but any further toward America and you couldn’t see a thing. I wondered what was the point of having the islands in the lake to block the view of the show. They serve no other purpose except maybe as a home to the popcorn eating ducks. They either need to change the show or remove the islands.

  • I don’t think I rode EE when the yeti was working. The first time I rode it, I remember having heard so much about the yeti and I never even saw him! I don’t think I would have noticed him on the second ride either if I hadn’t been concentrating on looking for him.

    I’m not going to complain much about it. EE is a fun ride on its own and an animatronic monkey isn’t going to add much to my enjoyment of a rollercoaster. :)

  • The only time I was ever afraid for my children’s safety at an Orlando theme park was when my daughter was nearly trampled to death in a shop in the Wizarding World. The themeing is indeed incredible, but there’s just not enough space to accommodate people in a reasonable manner. They either need bigger shops or waaaaay better crowd control.

    Starbucks coming to WDW has made my world an exponentially better place to be. I can’t tell you how many times I bought the old MSB coffee, thinking “THIS will be the time it doesn’t taste like poison,” only to be disappointed and throw it out after two sips. Now if only they’d put an Apple store over in Tomorrowland, I’d know I’d died and gone to heaven.

  • You are absolutely wrong about the Yeti. Broken show is about the most un-Disney thing you can experience in a Disney park, and the broken Yeti is among the biggest examples of broken show. Telling people to stop complaining about it just normalizes Disney’s ongoing pattern of value-engineering the quality of the guest experience out of WDW. Would the Yeti be expensive to fix? Yes. But if they weren’t going to stand behind the product or maintain the show, they shouldn’t have built Everest in the first place. I don’t get why WDW fans constantly make excuses for the problems of the Orlando parks.

  • I think it is just another one of the many complaints that people have about how Disney has “let itself go”. From Magical Express buses that do not have working televisions to the Buzz Ride’s red light that hasn’t worked for years, there are just so many flaws that need attention. It is a shame.

  • I can say if you have a school aged child who loves animals that AK is definitely a full day park. On our last trip we spent 1 whole day and then another half day at AK. We did most of the rides, explored the animal exhibits and watched the parade BUT my 7 yr old LOVED collecting the Wilderness Explorer “badges”. Since she had not collected them all the the first day, my husband took her back another day to finish! She still proudly shows off this book of “badges”!

  • I may be late to the party on this one, but what is an E-ticket? Thanks for the info!

    • “E-ticket” is theme park slang for the most elaborate headliner attractions, typically high-tech thrill rides like Tower of Terror or Test Track. It dates to the early days before Disney parks were pay-one-price; you used to have coupon books with alphabetical tiers of tickets to enter individual attractions, and the most expensive type of ride cost an “E-ticket” to enter. The tickets are long gone but the term stuck!

  • If we stop complaining about the Yeti can we start complaining about the broke/missing audio-animatronic bird? EE is 0/2

  • I’m glad you didn’t list FastPass+ on here. That would have made me really irritated.

    In terms of the list, I don’t have any big issues with Starbucks, the Hogsmeade shops, and Illuminations, RoE.

    I think the Yeti issue is more of a symptom of a larger problem. They won’t fix it because it requires a huge investment in the parks that will deliver limited return. It also connects to the half-day park idea of the Animal Kingdom in that the park has only one headliner if they remove it.

    Speaking of the half-day label, I agree that there is plenty to do at the Animal Kingdom. That said, for frequent visitors, it could really use more attractions. It’s well-themed and has great animal viewing areas, but it’s still a bit slight. It is no worse than the Hollywood Studios in that regard, though.

  • The Starbucks one made me laugh.. you hit it on the head. As we penny pinch towards Disney, I need to cut out a few coffee shop runs but knowing that I can visit that special place in one of my favorite places is nirvana. I can’t wait to be holding my branded coffee cup at WDW.. sigh.

  • When Disney announced that the clubs in Pleasure Island would be closing years ago, I remember seeing this type of public outcry. Unfortunately, the company ignored what was the real “guest demand.” Subsequently, the pessimist in me sees the same scenario playing out with this recent announcement. Fans will write. Petitions will be signed. Complaints will be made. Disney will ignore the true fan base who frequents its parks. Still, I encourage anyone who is unhappy with this announcement to voice your concerns to Disney directly either in person or through mail. Perhaps there is a chance we could make a difference.

  • We love animal kingdom and actually visited twice last week. It takes us more than one day to do it. We even went once when there were evening extra magic hours and didn’t do everything.

    Also, I love the Rent is to damn high guy (I am assuming that is who the picture is in the Hogsmeade one). My husband voted for him one year b/c why not?

  • The fundamental issue with the Yeti is what many have already voiced. Disney Imagineers are a unique group of individuals selected to create unique and magical experiences for guests. After all, Disney is a magical place of fantasy. Telling people (via tv specials etc.) that the Yeti is an animatronic masterpiece, with a level of detail and storytelling never seen before in Disney Parks only to have him just flashing with strobe lights undermines everything “Disney” IMO. It’s Bait and switch. Whether its a crack in the structure etc. Disney needs to repair it or replace it. Its equal would be if the splash at the end of splash mountain was replaced with sprays from a squirt gun. You expect to get soaked, but instead leave barely damp.