Ask Jim Hill

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?


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.)


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 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?!


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


(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.


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).


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….


# 6 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (12 points)


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


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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SATURDAY SIX: Six of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Plans for the Next 5 Years

by on August 16, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Plans for the Next 5 Years. This past week The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill podcast went over a lot of exciting possibilities for Walt Disney World’s near future.  The show was the talk of the theme park world, and while it was loaded with a metric ton of information, scintillating rumors, and insider scoops, we’re going to count down the six biggest takeaways of this audio starting with…

# 6 – The Sorcerer’s Hat ain’t going anywhere…


Haters gonna hate. (photo by Matt Cleary and Brandon Glover)


The era of nightmares doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Jim Hill says that despite the fact that many guests see the giant Sorcerer’s hat sitting in the middle of the park as the biggest eyesore since Cinderella Castle was turned into a giant pink birthday cake, it serves an important purpose to the park. More to the point, the stage below the ugly hat plays a vital roll in allowing DHS to hold various live shows and draw the crowds away from popular attractions such as Tower of Terror and Toy Story Midway Mania.

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New York Disney Walk-and-Talk Events with Jim Hill Announced

by on March 27, 2014

You live somewhere up north. You listen to our Unofficial Guide Disney Dish podcast with Jim Hill during your daily commute. And sometimes while you’re listening, on the subway, the bus, or all alone in your car, you find yourself talking back to Jim, as if he were there, while everyone around slowly inches away from you. Who hasn’t done that?

Now’s your chance to talk back in person, because our friend Jim Hill is doing two small-group, walk-and-talk events in and around New York City starting next month.

On Saturday, April 26, Jim will be talking about Disney at the 1964 World’s Fair. You’ll head out to Flushing Meadows the site of the fair, and hear Jim recount how Disney conceived, built, and delivered 4 attractions to the fair, including prototypes of “it’s a small world,” Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, and the PeopleMover, among other topics. Start time is 11:30 AM, and the rain date is Sunday, April 27.

On Saturday, May 17, Jim takes to Manhattan to recount the history of Disney on Broadway and Disney in Times Square. The event starts in Times Square and ends at the Disney Store for some shopping, where Jim will also be talking about the store’s creation and design. Start time is still TBD, but will most likely be around 11:30 AM. Rain date is May 18.

The folks at ETC Custom Events are running these programs. Cost is around $50 per person for one, $95 for both. That covers subway transportation, specially-designed snacks, a small souvenir, and all-out access to Jim. So everyone has enough time to talk to Jim, tour space is extremely limited. Email ETC Custom Events for more information.


New Disney Dish Podcast: Hogwarts Express Details

by on March 14, 2014

t_logo_fbEarlier this week, Jim Hill got a sneak peek at the film that’ll play when guests board Universal’s Hogwarts Express later this year, and other exclusive details on the train’s construction..

Listen to Jim talk about the film, the effects, and how much detail is going into building the train and King’s Cross station.

Download: MP3 / iTunes (coming soon)

Ask Jim Hill Ep 25 – How Profitable Are Disney Princesses?

by on March 4, 2014

In this episode of Ask Jim Hill, Len and Jim talk about Disney Princesses. Which one is the most profitable? Can the Princess franchise get any bigger?

New episodes are posted every Tuesday, so be sure to subscribe on YouTube!

If you have a question about Disney or Universal history, you can submit it to, and he may answer it on the air!

Ask Jim Hill Ep 24 – Who Besides Eisner Could Have Become Disney CEO In 1984?

by on February 11, 2014

Michael Eisner became CEO of The Walt Disney Company in 1984, but who else was in the running for the position? Find out some of the other names in this week’s Ask Jim Hill.

New episodes are posted every Tuesday, so be sure to subscribe on YouTube!

If you have a question about Disney or Universal history, you can submit it to, and he may answer it on the air!

Ask Jim Hill Ep 23 – How Does Disney Measure An Attraction’s Popularity?

by on January 28, 2014

In this episode of Ask Jim Hill, Len Testa and Jim Hill answer a viewer question about how Disney measures the popularity of attractions in its parks.

New episodes are posted every Tuesday, so be sure to subscribe on YouTube!

If you have a question about Disney or Universal history, you can submit it to, and he may answer it on the air!