This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2016 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With the new year upon us, it is time for another SATURDAY SIX annual tradition of looking back at some of the most “memorable moments” of the previous year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the past 365 days, and some of the worst as well, so today let’s look at six theme park stories that fall into a different area. Events that are almost hard to believe actually happened, but we promise they did, and we’re here with the proof. So let’s kick it off with…
# 6 – Disney Puts a Paper Bag Over the Tower of Terror
Disney has some truly incredible projects opening over the next couple years including Pandora: The World of Avatar in Florida and a huge Star Wars Land on both coasts. These projects look to give guests the same level of immersion – if not more – than the critically acclaimed Cars Land and Diagon Alley. For their first ever Marvel attraction in America, Disney went in a different direction. In a shocking announcement at last year’s San Diego Comic Con, it was revealed that the Hollywood Tower of Terror in DCA would be converted over to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! While Pandora will have guests dropping their jaws while looking up at the “flying mountains” and Star Wars Land will fulfill many a fanboy dream of walking onto the Millenium Falcon, the Marvel attraction is going to look just like the iconic Hollywood Tower of Terror with a bunch of pipes on it.
Here’s the thing: say what you will about California’s Tower of Terror versus Florida’s version (it stinks), the ride still has the memorable Tower of Terror hotel facade. This is one of the all time most iconic ride facades in Disney history. In fact, with the Sorcerer’s Hat now gone from DHS, it has become one of the four WDW park icons along with Spaceship Earth, the Tree of Life, and Cinderella Castle. Disney has owned Marvel now for almost a decade, and as they saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. No matter how good the actual Guardians of the Galaxy ride is or isn’t, being shoehorned into one of the most recognizable facades in any theme park is going to make the attraction look and feel out of place.
The most unbelievable part of this entire story is the fact that Disney started converting the Tower of Terror over to Mission: BREAKOUT! while guests were still enjoying the Terror of Terror. Large parts of the Tower were covered, and the attraction started to look like a sports fan wearing a paper bag over their head because they were ashamed of their team.
Despite the Tower of Terror not being in anyone’s top ten ride list in DCA, the reaction to the hotel being changed was not received well on social media (to be fair, not much is anyway). Even crazier, DCA is just coming off a Billion dollar makeover that included making a large part of the park themed to early 20th century California, the exact same theme which Tower of Terror already had. Many have voiced their displeasure, but a few have also had a little fun with the idea of the hotel soon to be under new management….
ALL THAT SAID, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission BREAKOUT is being spearheaded by Imagineer Joe Rohde, one of the all time WDI greats. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming out this summer, and if it is even half as good as its trailer, we are all going to be in full blown GOTG fever soon after. It is also going to be truly fun to finally experience a Marvel attraction in a stateside Disney park (as we’ll possibly never see one down here in Florida thanks to Universal’s preexisting contract with Marvel).
# 5 – Disney Changes Steven Tyler’s Hand Gesture in Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Steven Tyler Takes News Gracefully
If we thought the GOTG news coming out of San Diego Comic Con was a surprise, Disney changing the pre-show video of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster after 17 years really came out of nowhere.
For those who don’t know, this past August Disney quietly made an adjustment to the attraction’s pre-show in which guests see the band Aerosmith. During the segment, Steven Tyler made a hand gesture using three fingers. The video was changed to Tyler holding up four fingers. Believe it or not, this news went viral pretty fast. Not only were the usual suspects like Orlando Weekly and the Orlando Sentinel covering the story, but mainstream places such as Billboard and Eonline jumped on the story for clicks as well.
It did not take long before the news of the change reached Steven Tyler himself, who proceeded to share his displeasure with a next level bonkers tweet (warning, NSFW). We never got an answer for why Disney made this change. There have been management shake-ups all year long and maybe a new VP went to the parks with a #millenial in tow to explain the “crude hand gesture.” Who knows, but the biggest shocker of all for Your Humble Author was finding out Ken Marino – of Party Down and Children’s Hospital fame – plays the music producer in the pre-show video. He’s been there the whole time and I never noticed!! CRAZY!
# 4 – Sassy Universal Social Media Takes It Up A Notch
It was a wild and crazy year for the Universal Orlando Resort on both Facebook and Twitter. Now, many people on social media think Universal has the best Twitter skills of any theme park company, while others aren’t that impressed at all. In one memorable interaction in 2016, Universal had fun with the fact that the Yeti in Expedition Everest hasn’t moved in years. In another tweet, Universal referred to the upcoming Star Wars Land as “Pew Pew Land,” which actually caused some Disney fans to go berserk. Emotions run high in the online theme park community, and for many it is a You’re With Us Or You’re Against Us mentality. The people who enjoy Universal parks seem to love the playful Universal twitter account, while the ones who do not enjoy Universal parks seem to despise the company’s online presence with the fiery hate of a thousand suns. It is clear that Universal is trying to appeal to a different demographic than Disney, especially with their latest ad basically subtweeting the Mouse, so we can probably expect more shenanigans – in a good way – in 2017 and beyond.
# 3 – $45 Pizza at Disneyland
2016 was the year we finally reached the bottom of the barrel for Disney pizza, and that’s actually saying something because that barrel has the BoardWalk Pizza Window in it. In November, Walt Disney World pulled an ace out of its sleeve (or maybe it was The Joker) when it debuted a pizza kiosk at the All-Star Resorts bus stops. Its as if someone in Disney Food and Beverage realized the one thing that was missing from awful Disney pizza: diesel fumes.
Meanwhile, Disneyland took a look at the bus stop pizza and told Walt Disney World: “Hold my beer.”
In December, along the Disneyland parade route, a rolling pizza cart offered $9 pizza slices and $45 whole pies. Yes, the price is absolutely bananas – costing more than the most expensive pizza at Via Napoli – but what is really striking is the pizza appears to have the same look, consistency, and taste as a dart board. We’re not sure why Disney hasn’t realized this yet, but it costs almost as much to make a good pizza as it does a bad one. Blaze Pizza uses fresh ingredients and a reasonable price to draw a daily huge crowd in the ultra competitive Disney Springs. Meanwhile PizzeRizzo is serving the same YECH pizzas that Pizza Planet used to serve in DHS, and is having a much harder time than it should bringing it guests.
Make Pizza Great Again.
All of us.
# 2 – People Waiting For Main Street Electrical Parade AFTER It Left the Magic Kingdom
On October 9th, we here in Florida said goodbye to the Main Street Electrical Parade (one of Your Humble Author’s favorite things to experience in WDW).
October 10th started the most fascinating ritual we have seen in Walt Disney World: guests camping out and waiting along the parade route for a parade that wasn’t coming. This was not a one day thing, or even a one week thing. We saw people camped out waiting for the MSEP this past week!
I personally feel bad for these people, and I’m not sure how WDW can even fix the problem. No one wants to see gaudy “THERE IS NO NIGHTTIME PARADE” signs all over the Magic Kingdom like the “NO FIREWORKS” signs that littered Disney Springs on New Years Eve. It doesn’t seem to make practical sense to have a fleet of Cast Members walking around to remind people because of the various languages with so many International guests along with the good possibility that people won’t believe the CMs. I’ve been to many attractions during technical rehearsals where CMs and Universal Team Members would say with a stone cold face that there was no chance of the attraction opening that day, and then the attraction would open within the next hour.
Well, I guess I should say there is one way WDW can fix the problem: give us a nighttime parade.
# 1 – Disney Misquotes Walt Disney
There is probably not a person in the known world who has been misquoted more times than The One Who Started It All, Walter Elias Disney. This is most likely because Walt himself has so many memorable quotes. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them ” “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” and “I only hope we never lose sight of one thing – that it was started by a mouse” are quotes many Disney fans have memorized by heart.
However there is one quote that is constantly attributed to Walt Disney, but he didn’t actually say it. “If you can dream it, you can do it” was coined by Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald and it was written specifically for the fabled Horizons attraction in EPCOT. Disney archivist Dave Smith has debunked this “Walt quote” many times, both in his Disney Trivia From The Vault book and on the d23 website. Even the Disney Parks Blog mentioned this quote constantly being misattributed to Walt when it launched the Horizons retro t-shirt.
Now if your Aunt Heather makes this mistake on Facebook, you should probably let it slide as 99.44% of the non-Disney hardcore fans “know” Walt said this quote. However, when Disney World attributes this quote to Walt Disney on its paper plates? Well, that’s another story.
HONORABLE MENTION – Blue Wall? Purple Wall? What the heck is going on here?!!
Readers of this fine blog series should know that our sanity is already on the precipice. We are this close to absolutely losing it and the last thing we need is things like “blue wall pics” and “purple wall pics.” Oh, you haven’t heard about this one? Well have a sit under the learning tree as we teach you a spell.
At some point in 2016, probably after the five minutes they spent obsessing over Pokemon Go in the parks, #millenials decided to fill up our social media feeds with pictures of themselves in front of a blue wall out in DCA, and a purple wall over here in Walt Disney World. We here at SATURDAY SIX headquarters commissioned an all-star blue ribbon panel who worked exhaustively to find out the answer to one simple question…
The answer? Inconclusive. There is no reason, other than the fact that youth of America – and possibly The World – just may be 100% certifiably nuts.
So next time you’re scrolling through pictures on Instagram or Twitter and wonder why seemingly sane people are taking pictures in front of a blue wall or a purple wall, you now have the answer (actually you don’t, but if you do find the answer let us know.)
So there you have it: Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2016 (No Matter How Hard We Try) 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 E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, master photo manipulator Matt Cleary, Disneyland Guru Guy Selga, Volcano Bae’s own Justin Martin, the man who MADE Dateline Disneyland Andy Castro, human tweetbot Adam Britten, #blocked and reported for spam Michael Sheehy, 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-host Aengus Mackenzie and fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.