Do you crave Disney knowledge? Do you spend way too much time online scanning sites for Disney facts and secrets? Is your bookshelf crammed with Disney Imagineering books and guidebooks? If so, then we’re probably kindred spirits because I’m guilty of all the above! I absolutely love discovering new facts about my favorite place on earth that I can use or see for myself when planning my next Disney World trip. So indulge me, if you will, as I share with you some of my favorite fun facts for your next Disney World Vacation.
Did you know that…
12. Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean are Neighbors? Even though the Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean is in Adventureland and Splash Mountain is in Frontierland, things looks a little different backstage than they do when you’re in the park. When backstage, which means behind the scenes, these two water attractions are located next to each other! The layout of the park from inside is a little deceptive; but since both attractions require high volumes of water, it only makes sense to have them located next door. Pretty cool, right?
Look at the Golions!
11. There’s More Than One Beast at the Beast’s Castle? The Disney Animators used different animals to create the Beast we know from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast film. In fact, the Beast is a mixture of buffalo, lion, wolf, bear, and more! But outside of the Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland, there is another beast that’s also a combo of different animals. It’s a Golion! Guarding either side of the castle doors are two stone beasts that Disney invented just for this area; and as they are a combination of both goats and lions, Imagineers decided to name them Golions! Source: Fun Facts: New Fantasyland
10. The Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France Pavilion is Historically Accurate? Have you ever paid much attention to the Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France Pavilion? If so, you may have noticed that the tower looks a little different than those photos you see of the one in France and for a really cool reason. You see, the real Eiffel Tower has changed color since it was first constructed in 1887 due to aging and weathering; but since Epcot’s France Pavilion is meant to represent France as it was in the past, the Eiffel Tower we see is beige, just like how it would’ve been in its early years. Talk about attention to detail! Still not impressed? To be even more historically accurate, Imagineers used the blueprints of the original Eiffel Tower when constructing their own. Source: AllEars.net
The best place to start is where I’ve visited the most the past few weeks. Not once, not twice, but five times we’ve visited Disney’s Polynesian Resort trying to get into the newly opened Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. The wait has never been less than an hour and to be frank, I just don’t want to go to a bar that badly!
However, the time spent at the resort has led to some great photos of the new lobby and the tiki that has been recently added. For anyone not on Twitter, the Disney community has started calling this tiki by the name “Shruggie“. He was mainly given this name because his stance makes it look like he’s shrugging and declaring that the lobby renovation wasn’t his idea! It really finishes the lobby renovation now that he’s in place.
Confession time: Although I work as an editor for a major video game strategy guides publisher, I am terrible at video games. The last video game I remember beating was the 1991 release of Duke Nukem. As a result, things like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom don’t hold much attraction (pun intended) for me.
But like anyone with a competitive spirit, when I go on an attraction that has some sort of competitive slant to it, I want to do my best. After a little bit of Google-fu, I found many articles about Buzz Lightyear ride tips claiming to have the secrets to max out the ride score. But how would they work in reality? I compiled a team of non-experts, snagged a bunch of FastPass+ selections, and headed on in.
Meet your test team: Julia (hey, that’s me!). Age: “remembers the 1980s distinctly”. Video game experience: Mostly theoretical, but see also the bit about “remembers the 1980s”. No one can beat me at Pong, mainly because I can’t find anyone who still plays it.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World. Nobody enjoys eating at “The World” more than us. From outrageous snacks like the King Cupcake at Pop Century, to Disney food trucks, to table service restaurants like Bongo’s Cuban Cafe or ‘Ohana, food may have actually replaced attractions in what we look forward to the most on our Disney vacations. Can you blame us though? WDW has some of the greatest restaurants you will ever go to, with several one-of-a-kind experiences that you will never get back at home. So today we’re going to take a look the six most unique dining experiences on property, starting with…
# 6 – Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
The Animal Kingdom Lodge just may be our favorite resort at Disney, and one of the biggest reasons is how much we love Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village, this is the only restaurant at AKL that has a view looking out into the beautiful savanna and all the animals. The decor is fantastic, with the chairs having backs echoing tribal shields and lighting fixtures based on nests that Weaver birds would make in Africa. The dining room floor has beautiful representations of acacia trees while the entire room is filled with art, which is appropriate since Sanaa is the Swahili word for artwork. Sanaa is hands-down one of the most gorgeous restaurants in Orlando.
The famous Sanaa bread service while seated next to the Savanah. (photo by Brandon Glover)
There are plenty of places at Walt Disney World to get chicken fingers and hamburgers, but Sanaa (along with other AKL venues such as Jiko and Boma) is where you can expand your culinary palate and try dishes you normally wouldn’t. It is worth making an ADR for Sanaa based on their bread service alone. There are five different types of Naan and you can choose up to 9 accompaniments to go with the bread. From a gamut running sweet to spicy, there is a dip for everyone in your party.
Disclaimer: Somehow discussions on the Internet of taxes and refunds and who gets them will inevitably lead to talk about government policy. If you feel yourself hearing the siren call to post about politics on a travel planning blog, please ignore it and pretend we’re talking about any random cash windfall. You’ve been warned.
Happy April 15! Are your taxes filed? If so, you may be one of the 8 in 10 US taxpayers who are getting a refund on your 2014 taxes. According CNBC, as of last week, the average check the IRS is cutting to people who overpaid is $2815. A lot people choose to overpay and use this as a de facto savings account (and with interest rates as low as they are, who can blame them?).
So let’s say you’re getting a tax refund. What are you going to do now? If you’re reading this blog, your answer may be “I’m going to Disney World!” Or Disneyland. Or taking a Disney Cruise. What will $2815 get you?
I’m working on an update to the Magic Kingdom chapter of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. A lot of it is fact-checking, which, in a book like the Guide, is a pretty big task. But it’s also a chance to find new ways to explain how the park is changing.
We do a section in the chapter that describes how FastPass+ affects traffic in the park. I adapted the latest standby wait data from our statisticians, to a map of the park. Here’s the result:
Green attractions are those where standby waits are lower with FastPass+; orange attractions are those with higher average standby waits. So what FastPass+ is doing is moving people from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, to Adventureland and Liberty Square, maybe with a quick stop along the way.
If this was a map of migration patterns in the United States, we’d say people were leaving Newark and Philadelphia for Phoenix, Palm Springs, and Denver, by way of Louisville.
Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re visiting Epcot to check out the Egg-Stravaganza and meeting the Easter Bunny at Magic Kingdom. This is one of the busiest weeks of the year so just wait until you see these photos!
Despite plans of being at the park for rope drop, I somehow managed to just get there after lunch. (oops) However, parking and getting into the park was a breeze. Sometimes the busiest times are the best to visit because Disney is prepared for the crowds. As you can see from the photo below, boy were there crowds! At the time this photo was taken Spaceship Earth had a 60 minute wait. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d ever wait that long for this attraction.
Next we’re off for some egg hunting. Want to play along? Be sure to click to read more. You don’t want to miss the Easter Bunny, do you?
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 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.
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.
Prepare yourself for a trip to not just one, but BOTH Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando (physical addresses for both are located at the end of every edition of MM&M.) That’s right Dear Reader, I did the impossible and braved the I-4 traffic and horrendous parking situations at both outlets, for YOU.
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).
Our first stop is the Disney Outlet closer to Universal at the end of I-Drive and was surprised to see the first ever Tsum Tsums show up. I’ve seen them before at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney, but never felt compelled to buy one at $6 a pop. That said, unlike Vinylmation, I can definitely see the cuteness factor and why people would want to collect them. The only Tsum Tsums available were the seven dwarfs and only the ones pictured below. Of course I bought them all.
The turtles are popular now, but in the late ’80s and early ’90s they were a phenomenon. Cartoons, video games, movies, comic books, breakfast cereal, traveling stage shows, and enough merchandise that would make even Anna and Elsa jealous. Starting in 1990, TMNT performed a stage show in New York area of Disney-MGM, followed by a meet-and-greet. TMNT left Disney in ’96, but the Turtles have proven the test of time, connecting with each new generation of kids. While both Disney and Universal could score a coup by having the turtles in their parks, right now they can be seen at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando
The heroes in a half shell with April O’Neil in the Streets of America. (photo by PopRewind)