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SATURDAY SIX: Walt Disney World locations in Hulk Hogan’s THUNDER IN PARADISE

by on April 30, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise. We’re getting into the DeLorean today with Marty McFly and Doc Brown to head back to the year 1994. It was a simpler time back then. A time when Walt Disney World only had three theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywall’d Studios and soon to be renamed as Disney Studios Escape, Disney’s CineMagic Kingdom, or A Salute to All Movies But Mostly Star Wars).

1994 was also a time where there was not one but TWO successful professional wrestling companies in America. One was WWE (who is still thriving today) and the other was World Championship Wrestling (WCW). In a controversial move at the time, WCW started taping blocks of wrestling shows at Disney-MGM Studios. Because the park was still trying to be a working production facility for movies and TV, an action-adventure television show featuring Hulk Hogan was also filmed on location. That show: Thunder in Paradise.

How to describe Thunder in Paradise? Take Baywatch, strip away all the nuanced storylines and good actors, throw in a high tech speedboat in the vein of Knight Rider/Air Wolf and you pretty much have it. However, Thunder in Paradise does have one thing going for it that will appeal to readers of this fine article series: it shot almost all of its scenes at The World. Who among us doesn’t fondly remember Full House going to WDW? More recently Modern Family shot an entire episode at Disneyland, and it was great! It is awesome seeing the theme parks we know and love in a whole new context. So today we are going to look at some of our favorite WDW locations used in Thunder in Paradise. So sit back, tie that do-rag tight brother, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT

The pilot of Thunder in Paradise actually used the Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete, Florida as the base camp for Hulk Hogan and crew, but when the show was picked up for a series the following twenty episodes used Disney’s Grand Florida Resort. Fans of the Grand Flo are going to LOVE Thunder in Paradise as at least 25% of the entire series takes place inside or on the grounds of the resort. It’s incredible! You’ll see the lobby, the hallways, the rooms, and the Hulkster even has a dinner in Victoria & Alberts! A lot of scenes are filmed directly in front of the Grand Floridian, with the Scuttlebutt Bar N’ Grill being a major location for the show. The Scuttlebutt is where the Grand Flo’s Beaches pool bar now sits.

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Hulk Hogan and WWE Hall of Famer Sting square off in front of the Grand Floridian.

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A group of muscleheads (including Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake” playing tug of war in front of the Grand Flo. Should surprise no one who has read the Death of WCW book that the only person on the other side of this rope was Hulk Hogan.

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The Grand Flo lobby. We’re this close to Mizners!

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Hulk Hogan sitting at Victoria & Alberts. As he always said, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, and get up at 6AM 180+10 days out for your ADRs. Brother.

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SATURDAY SIX: Looking at ways Disney can introduce MARVEL characters into the theme parks

by on April 2, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Ways Disney Can Introduce MARVEL Characters into the Theme Parks. Yes, April Fool’s Day was yesterday, but believe it or not the this-can’t-possibly-be-real news stories started earlier last week when word started getting out that Disney was considering a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay to the Hollywood Tower of Terror attractions in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. You may be thinking, “No way! That’s insane!” but on the latest episode of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill and Len Testa lay out exactly why Bob Chapek (chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts) at least wanted to explore this very idea.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Hotel. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Bellhop Groot. (photo by Matt Cleary and Mike Sperduto)

Public reaction to the Guardians of the Galaxy overlay was – to put it politely – overwhelmingly negative. In fact, because of the virulent reaction there is almost no chance this overlay makes it to Florida, but never say never when it comes to the Tower of Terror in Disney’s California Adventure. We here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters were at first taken aback by this idea, in part because the Tower of Terror took first place in our poll on The Greatest Attractions at Walt Disney World. But then we got to thinking. What if Disney did try to think “outside the box” when it came to introducing Marvel characters in the theme parks? More importantly, how could they do it in the cheapest way possible? We think we have some ideas. As luck would have it, six ideas. So sit back, put down your copy of the Spider-Man Clone Saga, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Howard the Duck takes over Stitch’s Great Escape

Remember how we mentioned that Tower of Terror came in first in our expert’s list of Best WDW Attractions? Well, guess which attraction took first place in our poll on Worst WDW Attractions? You guessed it: Stitch’s Great Escape. What do you get to overlay one of the all time worst reviewed theme park attractions? Why one of the all time worst reviewed comic book movies. Please welcome Howard the Duck. To put into scale how poorly received Howard the Duck’s movie was, consider that the recent Batman V Superman film took a beating by the critics, scoring a miserable 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Howard the Duck sits at 14% fresh.

We have to hurry on this one though. Howard the Duck had a cameo in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy movie. When the Guardians team up with the Avengers in the Infinity War (which is expected in either part 1 in May 2018 or part 2 in May 2019), he may be considered part of the Avengers extended family. If that happens, he could become off limits to the Orlando parks thanks to Universal’s contract with Marvel.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: A Look at Recent Stories From Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld

by on March 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is undoubtedly a special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. It has been a whirlwind of theme park related news lately. Our long national nightmare is over as purple MagicBands are available for your WDW resort stay, Disney started a new subscription service themed to the Haunted Mansion for the low low price of just $200 (oh, and it has already sold out), the Orlando Eye did its first baby reveal, and a worker at Art of Animation was caught on video using a dirty mop to clean a table. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our tiny 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 – That sound you hear? KONG IS COMING.

As Donald Trump would say, it was a yuge week of King Kong news over at the Universal Orlando Resort. As theme park merchandise fanatics, we loved that a whole bunch of new merch arrived for the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. Then, Universal dropped a bombshell with their reveal of the incredible ride vehicles along with a couple other tasty tidbits: This would be Universal’s first trackless ride system, and the vehicles would be “driven” by one of five characters. While Universal hasn’t released an official opening of the attraction yet, we have a sneaking suspicion we may hear something around the time the Syfy show Face Off features an entire episode (the season finale no less) dedicated to creating characters for the attraction. Stay tuned Wednesday, March 30th at 9PM EST on Syfy.

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Universal’s Kong is almost here, but Disney has Avatar and Star Wars in the near future…. (photo by Matt Cleary)

# 5 – SeaWorld Admits to Ordering Employees to Spy on Animal Rights Groups

Readers of the SATURDAY SIX may remember one of  last year’s annual Turkeys of the Year awards went to a SeaWorld employee who was caught spying on the animal rights group PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). At the time, SeaWorld management was shocked, SHOCKED at this behavior and put out the story that the employee had gone rogue. Fast forward to this month and during another disastrous investor’s conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby admitted that employees did go undercover in animal rights groups and, more importantly, did so per order of the company.

Believe it or not this was the most “wow” SeaWorld story of the week until the atomic bomb the company dropped Thursday morning announcing they were ending the breeding of Killer Whales and will also be ending all the theatrical shows featuring orcas (to be replaced by exhibits).

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Disguised as famous YouTube personality Tim Tracker, Shamu himself was able to go completely unnoticed within the PeTA ranks. (photo by Michael Sheehy)

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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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SATURDAY SIX: Six Hidden Mickeys at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on November 14, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Hidden Mickeys at the Universal Orlando Resort. Most of us who have traveled to “The World” have become well versed in the concept of Hidden Mickeys: three circles placed together to resemble the iconic silhouette of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney Imagineers have placed them all across the WDW parks and resorts (including some of our favorites at Art of Animation). The term itself has expanded to include hidden references beyond the classic Mickey head, such as the Nautilus from the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction hidden in the rock work of Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, the ride which replaced it. Believe it or not, there are references to Disney all over the Universal Orlando Resort as well. Today we are going to look at six of our favorite “Hidden Mickeys” at Universal, starting off with…

# 6 – The Simpsons Ride Pre-Show

Like the TV show it is based on, The Simpsons Ride pulls no punches in mocking the world of theme parks throughout the attraction. Disney, Universal and SeaWorld take a lot of playful jabs from the attraction’s queue all the way to the gift shop. Some of our favorites are seen during the the first pre-show, in which guests watch a video that sets up the storyline of the ride. In between the video, fake ads for attractions at Krustyland (itself a parody of Disneyland) air including ones making fun of The Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even Epcot’s defunct Kitchen Kaberet.

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Reference to The Haunted Mansion. (photo by Amusement Buzz)

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Reference to The Hall of Presidents. (photo by @AmusementBuzz)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six GREAT Easter Eggs in Disney Animated Movies

by on September 26, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six GREAT Easter Eggs in Disney Animated Movies. We here at the SATURDAY SIX offices listen to a lot of theme park podcasts, but one that caught our ears recently was Episode 87 of The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill. The show is focused on Disney villains, and over the course of the discussion Jim Hill and host Len Testa cover a variety of topics including the disastrous Villains Unleashed hard ticket party at DHS last year. Always filled with interesting tidbits, one thing that was new to us was the reveal that the character Ratigan in the Great Mouse Detective was based off the former Disney President and CEO Ron W. Miller. Most of you reading this are probably like us and LOVE watching Disney animated films, and it’s always fun to find out new information or see an Easter Egg hidden in the movie that you never caught before, even after watching films 20 times. Today we are going to look at six of our favorites that we noticed over the years. So sit back, be sure to have a quick finger on that DVD pause button, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 –  Goofy, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse in Little Mermaid

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, kids today have it too good. The overall quality of animated films today is higher that it has ever been, many of which (Up, Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon) are as good as any live action film. But believe it or not there was a time when animated films weren’t doing all that well at the box office, including the ones made by Disney. In the mid ’80s we were at the nadir of the animated film industry, but that all changed in 1989 with the debut of The Little Mermaid. A smash success with a crowd pleasing soundtrack, Mermaid was so popular that fans wanted an attraction based on the ride 20 years after the movie came out. No offense to Big Hero 6 or Wreck It Ralph – both of which were awesome movies – but do you really see fans in a fever pitch to get attractions based on them 20 years from now?

After watching Mermaid approximately 1,000,000 times on VHS (and DVD, and blu ray, and now digitally on our iPhone) you start to catch every little detail in the film, such as the Big Three of Goofy, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck among the crowd that King Triton glides by near the beginning of the film. There also looks to be a mermaid wearing a pair of Mickey Ears in the bottom right of the screen.

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King Triton glides by the Big Three.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer

by on July 4, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer. We are little over a month away from the ultimate Disney fan event – the D23 Expo – where we will gain some insight into the future of the Walt Disney World parks. While the California parks have been blessed in recent years with a $1 Billion renovation to Disney California Adventure (bringing Cars Land, World of Color, and a new park entrance) along with upgrades to Disneyland for the park’s upcoming 60th anniversary (including the critically praised Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever, a new nighttime spectacular,) the Florida parks have been recipient of things less noticeable by your average guest like MagicBands, My Disney Experience, and Downtown Disney’s transition to Disney Springs. While additions like Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers and Winged Encounters have drawn rave reviews, they don’t have the pick-your-jaw-off-the-ground moment like seeing Radiator Springs Racer’s Cadillac Range mountains or walking into Universal’s Diagon Alley. 

Many expect us all to be wowed by what will be announced at the D23 Expo, some even speculating a $3 Billion overhaul to DHS (for the record, we here at the SATURDAY SIX don’t expect anything approaching that number, but even “just” a Billion dollars goes a long way baby.) One thing is for certain, whatever is coming isn’t coming soon, and today we’re going to look at how Disney is all but taunting guests to open their wallets starting with….

# 6 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios outright dares guests to go to the park

What a year for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, DHS has removed so many things without replacement that Matt Hochberg – the park’s biggest defender – is rumored to be hiding in the same bunker Saddam Hussein was found in. The Sorcerer’s Hat, gone. Studio Backlot Tour, gone. American Idol Experience and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, gone. Recently it was announced that the Magic of Disney Animation will be closing on July 12th and those in the know report that One Man’s Dream is also on the chopping block. Every park loses stuff as its part of normal theme park operations, but the difference here is nothing has come in to replace anything. Well, to be fair, a recent Soundstage Lounge was installed at the Jack Sparrow location. Unfortunately it looks more like the filming location for a sequel in the Saw series of films than your usual WDI made ultra-detailed area. The park has a shrinking amount of attractions, and while Frozen Summer Fun will get us through the next couple months, then what?

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Need an attraction? Make us an offer! (photo by Michael Sheehy and Matt Cleary)

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The Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World According to Our All-Star Panel

by on April 1, 2015

This week’s special April 1st edition of the SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World. Our All-Star Panel was exhausted after voting for the best attractions at Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, but we weren’t done with them yet. No, now it was time to look at the other side of the coin. What are the worst attractions at Walt Disney World? This exercise was a lot tougher than you think, because certain attractions jump to mind, but the more you think about it, the more others start to emerge. Did you know that the Leave a Legacy monuments are considered an attraction at WDW? Ellen’s Energy Adventure takes a lot of heat, but what about the #INCREDIBLESSuperDanceParty in Tomorrowland (and yes, that’s it’s actual name. It should get a vote just based on that.) This was going to be a true challenge so our all star, blue ribbon panel  was made up of  40 members comprised of some of the most exceptional people in the theme park community (a full list is available at the end of the article.)

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The numbers were crunched, and then re-crunched by the Saturday Six computers.

The Criteria: Each of the 40 experts voted on what they consider to be the six worst attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. These attractions could be any ride, show, nighttime spectacular, or parade currently in Walt Disney World (including the water parks.) Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. 

When the results were tabulated we then reached out to the great wise man of the theme parks, Jim Hill.

Jim Hill – When Derek invited me to take part in this particular Touringplans.com story, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic. Mostly because — after over three decades of interviewing the people who actually build & design the rides, shows and attractions for the Disney theme parks — I know for a fact that there isn’t an Imagineer on this planet who gets up in the morning and says “I want to create something crummy today. I want to do something that disappoints people.” Every ride, show and attractions starts out with the best possible intentions. It’s just that — between the “Blue Sky” phase and Opening Day — somehow that ride winds up going off the rails for reasons that are completely beyond WDI’s control. So to counter all of the snark found in today’s article, I thought I might try and give you a bit of background on each of the attractions that wound up on the “Worst” list:

We got 40 Disney experts. We got Jim Hill. We got the a list of the worst attractions at WDW. Who’s ready?!

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX WORST ATTRACTIONS at Walt Disney World.

# 6 – Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (13 votes)

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(photo by Brandon Glover)

 

Len Testa (Co-Author to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and owns a Space Mountain Themed Kitchen) –  Let’s start this off by saying that despite having absolutely no driving or mechanical talent of any kind, I can watch car shows like Lionel Richie: all night long. I’ve seen every episode of Top Gear, including the rare pre-James May Series 1. And I’ll watch Two Guys Garage for hours, even though there’s a better chance of a Chevy small block v8 falling on me than me rebuilding one.

So you’d think I’d love the extreme driving of the Lights, Motors, Action! show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, right? Well, no. To quote Mr. May, it’s rubbish. Why? How? Let me count the ways.

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To be fair, it could be worse…

First, there’s the opening. It’s the best part of the entire show, and it’s two and a half minutes of excellent stunt driving, drifting, and automotive choreography. The problem is that this 150-second snippet shows virtually every key element of the production, which somehow continues for another half an hour. If LMA was CSI:Miami, you’d know in the opening credits that the butler did it, see how it was done, and then spend the next half hour watching everyone talk about the crime. Which you saw. In the credits. At the beginning.

Next, there’s the super-in-depth discussion of how each movie scene is set up, including multiple camera angles, cinematography, editing and special effects techniques. This may have been mildly interesting a decade ago, before every 8-year old in the audience had a GoPro, and a YouTube account. But today? Dear Lord, half the audience can edit videos on their cellphones. We get it. As philosopher S. Roy Hagar said in Das Beste aus zwei Welten: “That which is understood need not be discussed.”

And that leads into the third big problem with the show: the pace is slower than 60-weight motor oil in a Boston snowstorm. For every minute of action, there’s something like 3 or 4 minutes of talking. It’s like watching C-SPAN debate fuel economy regulations, without the tin-foil hat voicemails for entertainment.

But the show manages to get even worse by pandering to small boys via the Lightning McQueen segment. It’s obvious, dull, and vapid. You know what would be better? Putting cameras in the cars and letting the drivers talk while doing some stunts. Sure, you’d have to get drivers with personality, but I happen to know of a foursome that is seeking gainful employment. Might be worth a phone call.

JIM HILL (Jim Hill Media) – It’s important to understand that when the Imagineers originally proposed this outdoor arena show for the Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Resort Paris, it was supposed to celebrate the James Bond films. EX: The pre-show area was to have taken Guests through Q’s Lab. More to the point, this stunt show was to have featured Bond doing battle with some of the more memorable villains from this film franchise (i.e., Jaws, Oddjob). But when the Broccoli  family wanted The Walt Disney Company to pay a ridiculous high fee in order to use the James Bond characters in a theme park setting, the Imagineers were forced to drop all of the hi-tech spy stuff that would have actually made this arena show entertaining and then go instead with a generic stunt driving show that wasn’t tied to any film franchise. So no Bond equals bland.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Attractions at Walt Disney World According to Our All-Star Panel

by on February 28, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Attractions at Walt Disney World. Hot off the heels of our All Star Panel getting together and voting for the Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort, it was only natural to take a look across the street and get to the bottom, once and for all, of what the six best attractions at Walt Disney World were. But this is The World after all. The Vacation Kingdom. The most popular theme park resort on Earth. So naturally we had to go big. We contacted 25 experts for Universal? Well we’re getting 50 for Disney! And after negotiations that took so long that Disney could have taken down two Sorcerer’s Hats in the same time, we finally heard back from some of the most well known names in the Disney Universe. An all star, blue ribbon panel made up of members from some of the best Disney podcasts (Disney Hipsters, WDW Today, Radio Harambe, and the Mighty Men of Mouse), the most amazing Disney photographers (including Tom Bricker, Morgan Crutchfield, Brandon Glover, and Dirk Wallen), the greatest Disney bloggers/authors (Epcot Explorer, Sam Gennaway, FoxxFur, and Jim Hill), the nicest Disney fans we know (Scarlett Litton, Daisy Lauren, and Drunk At Disney), the meanest Disney fans we know (Tom Corless and Josh Humphrey), legitimate members of the Theme Park Media Elite (Orlando Sentinel’s Dewayne Bevil, Attraction Magazine‘s Banks Lee and Matt Roseboom), and the only guy in the entire world who admits to liking Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Matt Hochberg).

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SATURDAY SIX staff tabulating votes.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maureen Deal of Autism at the Parks? Here. Gary Bruckner, creator of the Frost Bitten Rum Cider at the Dolphin’s Todd English bluezoo? Here. Fan Favorite Disney Twitter accounts? How about Mearn, Mark Diba, and Adam Roth. Not to mention both Jenn and Tim Tracker! They’re ALL HERE, and many more.

The Criteria: Each of the 50 experts voted on what they consider to be the six best attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. These attractions could be any ride, show, nighttime spectacular, or parade currently in Walt Disney World (including the water parks.) Anything that was holiday exclusive – such as the Boo to You! parade, Happy HalloWishes, or the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – were not eligible. Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. The votes were then sent to a top secret location in Florida and counted no less than 22 times. (We’ve had some problems in the past. We can’t apologize enough, Mr. Gore.) The results are in, and we now proudly present….

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX BEST ATTRACTIONS at Walt Disney World.

# 6 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (12 points)

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (photo by Tom Bricker)

Laurel Stewart (TouringPlans Disney Cruise Queen) – Opening Date – 1980: Big Thunder has it all – story, visual puns, theming, great effects… a bluegrass soundtrack. It’s not as great a coaster from a technical standpoint as Expedition Everest (Yeti aside, which it turns out, was a mechanical overreach on Disney’s part) or Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster. And it’s not a thrill ride by any means – there are more intense coasters all over Orlando. But this one is Disney at its best. It anchors Frontierland in a way that I don’t think Disney has come close to in years with the exception of Everest in Animal Kingdom’s Asia, which I think is its successor (and my would-have-been number one pick except that the ride is way too short). Because it opened in 1980, I never had to worry about the height requirement and was able to ride it from the start. Which I did, because I LOVE ROLLER COASTERS. On the other hand, my younger brother may have been tricked onto it when I told him it was “just a train ride, like the one at Main Street.” Suffice it to say, I have plenty of nostalgia for Big Thunder and love it just as much today as 35 years ago. And if you don’t take my word for it, take it from the French. Big Thunder Mountain is by far the most popular attraction at Disneyland Paris. And the French are never wrong. Just ask Jerry Lewis.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks

by on January 10, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks. No one loves the Disney theme parks more than us, but sometimes you just can’t get to them no matter how much you want to be there. So today we are going to look at various ways you can get a taste of WDW, without paying the $90-$95 ticket cost to enter the turnstiles. Be forewarned, the more you quench your Disney thirst, the more you are going to want to book your next trip into the parks.

We are going to start off taking the 30,000 foot view (© Jim Hill) and look at things that anyone can enjoy anywhere in the world, while eventually making our way down to things available closer to the actual theme parks in Florida. With that out of the way, let’s being our countdown, starting with…

# 6 – Disney Related Books

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Selection of theme park books. (photo by Tim Grassey)

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to build your Disney library. Reading about Walt Disney World (as well as Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line) is a great way to stay connected with the theme parks, no matter where you are. Anyone reading the SATURDAY SIX should be well versed on travel planning books, such as the Unofficial Guide to WDW 2015, but that theme park bible is just the tip of the iceberg. There are books on finding Hidden Mickeys, books on Disney Imagineers, and books on Disney attractions. I personally love the Imagineering Field Guides (such as the ones for Animal Kingdom and Epcot) because of their small size, allowing me to take them with me on the go without a hassle.

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