Archive for January, 2016

The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! January 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on January 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. The new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this real Jungle Cruise Skipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.

Now while all of you were off taking your kids to see Donald Trump, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!

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After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol.  (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).

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Ugly Duckling Tsum.

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Ugly Duckling sequence from Lilo & Stitch.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on January 30, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a truly special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been deluged with #Blizzard2016 pictures, the Oscars dealing with a diversity problem, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world recently. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Pizza Planet Under Major Refurbishment. Coming Back With a New Theme?

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Could Pizza Planet actually come back with a Muppets theme? (photo by Matt Cleary)

First, some backstory. For years Jim Hill, an icon of theme park media, has been telling the story of how the Muppets were originally going to be used in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the things that never ended up coming to fruition was The Great Gonzo’s Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. Can you imagine a Muppet’s themed restaurant, with a kitchen run by the Swedish Chef, where Mama Melrose’s Restorante Italiano now sits?  Dare to dream.

Now it’s time to put on the detective hat. Recently Pizza Planet at DHS closed down for a long refurbishment. What should have been a wonderfully themed venue themed to the world of Toy Story was instead one of WDW’s most bland restaurants/arcade. Back at the D23 Expo, Disney unveiled details of the upcoming Toy Story Land expansion. This new land is going to built on the other side of the park, so it would be strange to have a Pixar related restaurant (no matter how poorly themed) so far away from everything else. After the construction walls went up around Pizza Planet, WDW uncharacteristically put up a lot of humorous signs on the walls. Gags that are much more in line with the type of jokes  you see in the building of say… Muppet*Vison 3D. In a recent edition of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill said that instead of a Gonzo themed restaurant, we may actually see The Swedish Chef’s Cooking School.

Will Pizza Planet return from it’s refurbishment as a Muppets themed restaurant? Time will tell, but it is almost assuredly not coming back as Pizza Planet and for that we can all be thankful. To stay up to date on this story follow the boys over at WDWThemeParks.com.

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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of January 29, 2016

by on January 29, 2016

ICYMIThis week was a week that included a great national holiday — National Chocolate Cake Day! I celebrated with a delightful piece of delicious chocolate goodness. If you didn’t…it’s never too late to celebrate! Enjoy a piece right now.

If you missed the news this week, I have it for you. You can catch up on a great interview with Disney Legend X Atencio, learn about a new shop slated for Disney Springs, and more.

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

 

You may remember the story of Walt Disney Company employees who had to train their replacements from about a year ago. Well, a couple of the former tech workers are filing a lawsuit accusing the company and two outsourcing firms of conspiring to replace workers with less costly foreign ones using H-1B visas.

This is a fantastic interview! D23 recently interviewed Disney Legend X Atencio about his days as a Disney storyteller.

Could a new Hawaiian retailer be coming to Disney Springs? According to the Orlando Business Journal, that would be a yes.

A new venue is on tap to be built for the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. What would you like to see?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If you are not reading Floyd Norman’s blog, you need to be! This week he talks about the Walt Disney that he knew.

Star Wars and Marvel…looks like they are continuing forever.

Disney Historian David Gerstein shares his thoughts about the recently rediscovered Oswald Short that will be able to be found as part of an exclusive digital bonus on the Disney Movies Anywhere app.

To make way for the refreshed The Muppets which comes back from its winter hiatus next week, a fun video was released that flashes back, in a good way.

In Case We Missed It

What did we miss? Attach your ideas to an Cupid Mickey and send it to blog@touringplans.com with the words “In Case You Missed It” in the subject line.

The Decision Process: What Type of Disney Cruise Line Stateroom Do I Need?

by on January 29, 2016

There are more than two dozen stateroom classifications on the Disney Cruise Line ships (and a variety of floor plan arrangements within some of those classifications), but overall there are just three main types of rooms on the Disney ships:

  • Inside staterooms: Those with no window to the outside world – though some do have a simulated “virtual porthole”
  • Oceanview staterooms: Those with one or more porthole windows
  • Staterooms with verandahs: Those with a “porch” outside the room.

Ask around and you’ll find that some guests will only travel in a verandah room, avowing that they MUST have an outdoor place of their own, while others prefer an inside room because they enjoy the cocoon-like darkness for sleeping. The truth is that the right stateroom type is the one that meets your individual needs. Here are some things to think about as you make your decision.

The ships have many public places to view the water.

The ships have many public places to view the water.

What is your budget?

Your overall budget will obviously be your guide in all your travel decisions. If the sky’s the limit, then all other things being equal, a verandah room will likely be appealing for most folks, if only to have the extra square footage. However, if you’re watching your pennies, then getting an inside room may be an easy way to economize. You’ll also want to think about how your stateroom selection will impact your ability to enjoy other aspects of the trip. Will you have more funds available for excursions or fine dining if you opt for a different type of stateroom?

What is the price difference between the category types?

On some sailings, the price differential between the basic stateroom classifications can be many, many thousands of dollars, making the decision quite impactful to your trip. However, on other sailings, the cost variance between stateroom types is minimal. For example, on one 3-night May 2016 sailing on the Disney Dream, the least expensive room available is 204 square foot standard inside stateroom. The price for two guests is $1,464. On the same sailing, they could also get a 241 square foot oceanview (porthole) stateroom for $1,506 (a difference of just $42), or a 246 square foot verandah stateroom for $1,584 (a difference of $120 over the inside room, or $78 over the oceanview room). Given the macro cost of a vacation, these modest price differences may be small enough for you to be able enjoy whichever stateroom type suits your fancy.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016

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Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

 

I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.

 

Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.

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Guests Can Modify Disney Dining Reservations Online

by on January 27, 2016

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Have you ever made an Advance Dining Reservation and then realized that you needed to make an adjustment because you had a conflict that popped up or because the number of Guests you were bringing to the dining experience changed? It’s happened to me multiple times, however, in the past, I was unable to change my reservation, so I had to either cancel the reservation and start over or beg and be at the mercy of the Cast Member upon arrival at the restaurant.

Well no more! Now, Guests are able to easily modify their Advance Dining Reservations online, right from their computer. No more calling reservations to change seating time or number of Guests in the party!

Guests can make these modifications up to 20 minutes prior to their reserved seating time, however, keep in mind that this option is only available to be able to do through the website, not through a smart phone app, such as My Disney Experience or the Disneyland app. Guests looking to modify reservations can do so by visiting http://www.disneyworld.com/dining or www.disneyland.com/dining

Guests will still have the option to call can also call (714) 781-DINE for Disneyland or 407-WDW-DINE for Walt Disney World to speak with a Dining Reservation agent.

The lesser known rides at Universal Orlando

by on January 27, 2016

It’s clear that Universal Orlando has cornered the market on thrilling, exhilarating rides. When you want exciting experiences, Universal Orlando is the clear choice. But there is more to Universal than thrill rides, and we often overlook the smaller, more minor attractions here. Especially with the closure of two of Universal Studio’s minor attractions: Disaster! and Twister Ride It Out! (both names ending in exclamation points I might add), it can be easy to forget the small collection of less thrilling rides.

Kang and Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

It seems that the spinner style ride is a must-have when building a theme park. It all started with the iconic Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland in 1955. Ever since that time it has become a staple of theme parks to have at least one of this type of ride in its line-up.

At Universal Orlando two spinner rides are offered, both with a little added touch. Twirl and Hurl came onto the scene when the World Expo area received a makeover courtesy of The Simpsons. After The Simpsons Ride took over for Back to the Future, the turf of the Simpsons was expanded to include multiple eateries, midway games, and this spinner ride.

Pay close attention to the signage throughout the ride’s queue and exit, as well as the audio messaging. I love the names of the ride vehicles, each flying saucer has a unique, pun laden name such as Mai Tai Fighter or Ronald Ray-gun. Additionally, the extra touch here are the targets around the circumference of the ride. As you spin through the air aim, your vehicle up or down to line up with the targets of varying heights. If you line it up just right you’ll cause the targets to spin accompanied by silly sound effects.

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 1/26/16

by on January 26, 2016

I’m back again! Looks like we have quite a few small nuggets for you all today that can help you with you next trip. These nuggets range from all four parks, as well as a few of the resorts too.

  • Habit Heroes at Epcot’s Innoventions has officially closed.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom will be closed for a lengthy refurbishment, from April 4 through sometime in July 2016.
  • The Writer’s Stop is officially on the chopping block for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Flights of Wonder at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is closed for two months, until March 17. The attraction will be gaining the addition of a permanent roof over the seating area.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – January 17 to 23, 2016

by on January 26, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Cool weather on Thursday and Friday kept the Universal Orlando parks at near-empty levels. Otherwise, the Universal Crowd Calendar did a great job predicting the flow of crowds last week from day to day. If anything, crowds were slightly higher than expected in the early part of the week and slightly less crowded than normal for the second part. Late January is off-season for Universal Orlando so we can expect crowds to be in the lower half of the crowd scale for most days as we saw last week.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Rating Disney Vacation Club’s 25th anniversary offers

by on January 26, 2016

As a fairly new owner of Disney Vacation Club, I’ve heard the trope that nothing is promised to owners except access to resort rooms that would otherwise cost far more on a cash basis. At its core, DVC is a timeshare program, though one that has its own cachet and has, so far, retained a good bit of value on the resale market.

DVC members will be able to relax upstairs in Epcot's Imagination Pavilion.

DVC members will be able to relax upstairs in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion.

But as DVC owners will tell you, it can be much more thanks to the extras that are provided. There are small bonuses, like the Disney Files magazine that comes in the mail every three months or the DVC magnets for the back of your car. Then there are larger bonuses, like the dining and merchandise discounts and special offers on annual passes or park tickets.

With 2016 being the 25th year of DVC’s existence (yes, those original purchasers at Old Key West will be halfway through their contracts at the end of this year), DVC is rolling out a host of special offers to celebrate. We’ll run through and classify the offers.

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about

One of my favorite perks of membership is access to The Top Of The World Lounge at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower. It’s a great place for drinks and snacks, and the exclusive access means you don’t have to fight the crowds for this great viewing spot of the Wishes fireworks show. So I’m really happy that another exclusive member area will be created within a theme park. The upper floor of Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion (the old ImageWorks) is being taken out of mothballs to be transformed into a DVC member lounge with seating, complimentary soft drinks, wi-fi, charging stations, computers with printers and member services advisors. In the heat of the summer, sounds like a great way to get some rest and refreshment before trekking into World Showcase. Plus, it’s something that every DVC member can take advantage of, unlike our next offering.

Amazing if you can make it

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