This week’s SATURDAY SIX is one of our favorites as we present the Third Annual “Turkeys” of the Year. For Thanksgiving this week we took a look back at things both Disney and Universal fans should be thankful for, but today we are going to go the other way. Gather ’round as we continue the fine tradition of awarding six Theme Park “Turkeys” to the craziest, most outrageous, or just downright weird stories of the year, concluding with the coveted Golden Turkey award. Let’s kick off the ceremony with a food situation that blew us away….
# 6 – That Time Disney Charged $12.99 For a “Hurricane Box”
In early October, the state of Florida had its biggest weather scare in almost a decade with the oncoming Hurricane Matthew. Most of the models used by meteorologists had Matthew slamming into the East Coast, and then continuing straight up through the center of the state hitting Orlando. Seemingly playing a weird game of chicken, Disney and Universal both waited until just about the last possible moment to announce their hard ticket events of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Halloween Horror Nights would be cancelled for Thursday, October 6th, and all the Orlando theme parks would be closed on Friday, October 7th.
With the storm bearing down on Florida, food everywhere was being cleared off the shelves at Walt Disney World. Lines appeared at the hotel food courts that seemed impossible to believe were true (but they absolutely were.) The food court at Port Orleans French Quarter was in the process of being refurbished, and there WDW was offering a $12.99 boxed meal that included a sandwich, an apple, a bag of chips, and a cookie. Pictures of the paltry boxed lunch hit social media and news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, with most of the reaction being very unfavorable to Disney.
There are some people who believe that guests had several days to prepare themselves for the likelihood of a major storm, and deserve what they get. Others saw this as Disney price gouging, taking advantage of a situation where the guests had pretty much nowhere else to go at the time. I can tell you that on my vacations, both at Disney and Universal, I am pretty much inside “the bubble” with very little interaction with the outside world. So I can understand how many guests would be caught completely unaware of any possible danger, even the day before. I don’t watch the news in my hotel room, I watch Stacey J and the “Must Dos.” I don’t read the newspaper at Disney, in fact I don’t even know where you would buy one.
Thankfully, especially to those of us Floridians such as Your Humble Author who live on the coast, Hurricane Matthew veered to the East before striking land. This meant that the effect on central Florida ended up being minimal compared to what people had feared.
# 5 – That Time Universal Asked Itself Permission To Use a Picture
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… so starts Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, but it also describes Universal’s social media over the last couple years. The UOR twitter account is hands down the most fun to interact with of any theme park in Florida (second place would actually be the UOR Halloween Horror Nights account.) However, they are not perfect. This year, they had couple more instances that just make you smile, including one tweet which gave the hours the two theme parks were open about an hour after they closed. The best moment though, was during January’s A Celebration of Harry Potter when the UOR twitter account asked the UOR twitter account if it could use a photo. This was a level of Inception that would make Leonardo Dicaprio’s head spin. We’ve seen the UOR account interact with the Disney World account, but interact with itself? That’s a first…and hopefully a last.
# 4 – That Time Shanghai Disneyland Put Out an Etiquette Guide to Tell Guests to Stop Pooping in the Bushes
We here in the United States think we have our theme park pet peeves. Seeing a guest wear pajamas to a hotel food court may cause you to roll your eyes. Having a family stop directly in front of you in the middle of Main Street could cause you to mumble under your breath. You may even want to secretly strangle That Guy who decides he needs to recite the Haunted Mansion spiel while everyone is in the stretching room. One look over at Shanghai Disneyland though, and maybe you’ll soon be laughing at that idiot taking flash photos in Pirates of the Caribbean rather than throwing them overboard.
A month before Shanghai Disneyland’s June 16th Grand Opening, the park went into “softs,” allowing locals to visit the park. Within days of the trial opening, the park noticed several “uncivilized behaviors” and issued an etiquette guide. This guide listed out several rules to help stem the amount of littering, cutting in line, and guests using the landscaping to relieve themselves rather than bathrooms. This video, on the culture of Shanghai Disneyland, is worth a watch if only to see the challenges of a guest in another part of the world compared to the things that drive us crazy over here.
# 3 – That Time It Felt Like Disney Was Nickel and Diming Us to Death
“Sweetie, they won’t kill you at an amusement park, as long as you’ve got a dime in your pocket.” – Homer Simpson, The Simpsons Ride
If you were a fan of paying more for your Walt Disney World vacation, then 2016 was a great year for you. It seemed as if there was a segment of the company whose sole job was to figure out ways to squeeze money out of us. What started with the announcement of tiered ticket pricing in February went into full blown up-charge mode throughout the rest of the year. In April, Disney tried After Hours at the Magic Kingdom, where for $150 guests would get 3 hours of exclusive access to 24 attractions in MK, including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, starting at 11PM. Free beverages and ice cream were included. The Good News: everyone who attended said the After Hours event was an incredible experience. The Bad News: No one went, and first hand reports stated that Disney was giving away tickets to Cast Members and guests at Deluxe Resorts just to get bodies into the park.
Everywhere you looked at WDW it seemed as if a dessert party was being invented, new ways were created to get guests to pay for early access into the parks, and maybe most incredibly, we recently saw the debut of $649 Kingdom Cabanas in Tomorrowland. My personal opinion? If you can afford these luxuries, more power to you. I can understand the viewpoint of some guests, who see the loss of prime parade/fireworks spots going to people who bought and paid for them, but on the other hand I can appreciate a system where I can get a good parade/fireworks spot without having to camp out three hours for it.
# 2 – That Time Disney Springs and Sapphire Falls Opened But Maybe Weren’t Quite Ready to Open
We live in truly great times as both Disney and Universal are announcing major projects left and right, but a relatively new phenomenon is how many of those projects are delayed or open with major work still needing to be done. Of course Rivers of Light is going to take the prize for premature announcement of the century, but this year also had Disney Springs phase 2 and Universal’s Sapphire Falls Resort open with guests seeing parts of “show” that weren’t quite ready yet. In the Summer of 2014, both Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Universal’s Escape From Gringotts seemed to be down more than they were up after they opened to the public, and we saw something similar this year when Frozen Ever After made its debut in EPCOT. It would appear the theme parks are in a Catch-22. They need to get a hard date out there as soon as possible so that guests can plan and prepare for a trip to experience the new offerings, but once you have that date locked in there is almost no wiggle room.
# 1 – That Time Someone Photoshopped Themselves into a TouringPlans Blog to Prove to The Court That They Were at Walt Disney World
This story does not just win the Golden Turkey award for 2016, it is the first ever inductee into the Theme Park Turkey Hall of Fame.
Earlier this year, Seth Kubersky (my co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando) was contacted by a concerned reader. This man was going through a legal battle with his ex-wife, and during the case she had submitted a photo of herself at Walt Disney World to prove that she was there.
However, in a shocking turn of events that even Perry Mason wouldn’t see coming, it turns out that she had just photoshopped herself into a picture from one of Seth Kubersky’s blogs.
Now THAT takes chutzpah. Even more ballsy is the complete utter lack of even trying to get the photoshop to look good. Heck, we here at the SATURDAY SIX are personally insulted that we weren’t asked to participate in these shenanigans. Clearly, if this woman would have been a reader of the SATURDAY SIX News Desk instead of Seth’s Best Week Ever, she may have ended up on the winning side. In a related note, I also volunteer to be a professional expert in any court case if only so I can finally give the big “YOU’RE OUT OF ORDER!” speech.
So there you have it: the Third Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, Logan’s Run biggest fan ever Brian Carey, the incredibly talented Juliette Elton, #blocked and reported for spam Michael Sheehy, hands down the BEST theme park related magazine – Attractions Magazine, the beloved Banks Lee, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie along with Meg’s work with the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now and support SIX NATION (boy do we need a better name than that.)