Money Matters

The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! August 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on August 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

The Disney Outlets: the true final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Testa, beginning year four of our five-year mission: to explore strange old stores, to seek out weird merchandise and ugly vinylmation, to boldly buy what no MagicBand has bought before.

We actually have a big surprise this month at the end of this fine blog, but we do have to start off with a little theme park news. Universal soft opened an E-Ticket restaurant – the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (imagine a T-Rex Cafe for adults except the food is actually good) – and was promptly sued by someone claiming the restaurant was their idea. Some are claiming this is the most frivolous lawsuit against Universal since 2013, when the landmark case of Burgan vs. Comcast unjustly ruled that just because I said, “they should build more Harry Potter” after visiting Hogsmeade Village, I wasn’t responsible for the creation of Diagon Alley. I blame my lawyer.

Now while all of you were tweeting your thoughts on Disney changing the “obscene hand gesture” in Rock n Roller Coaster (warning, NSFW!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

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.)

Prices were SLASHED this month on Tsum Tsums, marking them down to an unheard of $0.99. This of course brought out the merch jerks in droves, filling up their baskets with Tsums to flip.

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The infamous Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum (I think.)

I honestly thought we had seen every single piece of merchandise made for the Disneyland 60th Anniversary and yet more and more just keep coming to Outlets. Here is a Dapper Mickey photo clip Frame. Originally $14.95, now $7.99.

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Thank you Disneyland annual passholders, for not buying a single piece of merchandise and making me go through it all. Yes, I’m looking in your direction Tom Bricker, Guy Selga, and Matt Gottula.

Disneyland 60th iPhone 6 case on left. Originally $39.95, now $14.99. On the right is a Minnie Mouse one where the character is stuck on the case. Has a lot of thickness. Originally $39.95, now just $7.99.

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iPhone cases.

Some houses have “fine china” but we theme park fans know what our favorite dinnerware is. The smaller Disneyland 60th plate was originally $17.95, now $7.99. The larger one was originally $21.95, now $9.99.

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If author extraordinaire Seth Kubersky ever gets married, I volunteer for the Ashkenazi tradition to break these plates (and as many more as they’ll let me.)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! July 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on July 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. How long? Today marks the THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! What started out as a simple $1 bet between Len Testa and Laurel Stewart to see if they could take a simple Florida blogger and turn him into a two time runDisney medal winner/PizzaMania champion, has transformed into what many would consider the 9th Wonder of the Modern World (in terms of “people wonder why we keep writing it.”) The best rags-to-riches story this side of Cinderella, our monthly treks into Orlando’s Disney Outlet Stores have provided highs and lows (and then even more lows) in order to deliver you, Dear Reader, a glimpse into a world which very few have lived long enough to tell about. A sincere thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to read this little article. Except Tom Bricker, of course.

Also, in an unbelievable gesture, we have been swamped with “congratulations” messages and telegrams from people around the globe and we’re going to print some of them here, so keep your eye out!

Now while all of you were saying goodbye to Dateline Disneyland (we’ll miss you Andy!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

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.)

As always we start off with any new Tsum Tsums and this month we only had one. I spent a couple seconds trying to figure out which Star Wars character it might be until realizing it was Black Widow from The Avengers. All Tsums have been reduced to $2.99.

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Black Widow Tsum Tsum, but doesn’t that look like a lightsaber on her side?!

This is interesting. Last month I made a slight “faux pas” and identified the Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum as MULAN. All of a sudden, for the first time ever, a TSUM TSUM GUIDE FOR DUMMIES appeared showing people who each Tsum Tsum was and what movie they were from. I’m not 100% sure you can all blame my accidental racism for this chart, but I’m also too old to believe in coincidences.

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Tsum Tsum For Dummies.

Speaking of things I don’t understand…

POKEMON AT THE DISNEY OUTLET STORE!

We wrote about Pokemon Go this week in the SATURDAY SIX (go ahead and read that masterpiece, don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back) and honestly, the game makes absolutely no sense to me. Then again neither did “on fleek,”  gluten free desserts, or Universal’s Straight Outta Food Truck. For those of you who do play Pokemon Go, you’ll be glad to know you can catch various Pokemon at the Disney Outlets!

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Pokemon Go! at the Disney Outlet Store. Reports are that people are going all around the globe to catch Pokemon but many are just catching the Zika virus. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Was a little surprised to see these Magic Kingdom salt and pepper trashcans make their way to the Outlets. Originally $9.99, now $3.99 and I picked up the Frontierland and Fantasyland ones. This is one of those 50% bonkers/50% absolutely awesome items. Going to try to slip these into the rotation for our next dinner party and wait for one of my non-Disney neighbors to ask which garbage can has the salt.

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Would have paid extra for the “Talking Push” variant.

Pretty sure this is the first appearance of a SHELLIE MAY item at the Outlets. This pillow pet was originally $29.95, now $9.99 and yes, I bought one. My secret shame.

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WE WANT GELATONI ITEMS!!

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! June 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on June 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. We’re now officially into the Summer season here in Orlando and that usually means a whole bunch of new stuff  is available to satisfy the hordes of families coming from around the world. Universal soft opened its Skull Island: Reign of Kong  attraction. How to describe Kong? Well, think of your favorite family friendly attraction. Now think of what the complete opposite of that would be. However Skull Island wasn’t the only queue that brought grown adults to tears as Frozen Ever After officially opened in Epcot and had 300 minute waits. Now, 300 minutes doesn’t sound that bad until you work out how many hours that actually is. Five hours. FIVE HOURS.  In five hours you could fly from Orlando to Anaheim, start and almost finish a runDisney marathon, or build two meth labs at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

The new Frozen attraction wasn’t the only thing new at Epcot as the Royal Sommerhus meet and greet with Anna and Elsa opened with a wonderful tribute to Maelstrom, and we also had the new Soarin’ Around the World to replace the old Soarin’ Around Scratch Marks and Dust Bunnies. Many guests are raving about the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show at DHS, and SeaWorld opened the first ever hyper coaster in Orlando with Mako. With a staggering height of 200 feet and speeds up to 73 mph, you could ride Mako approximately 32,000 times while waiting in line for Frozen Ever After.

Now while all of you were reading the Shanghai Disneyland etiquette guide – reminding guests, among other things, not to use the landscaping as an outhouse – Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

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 yo

It has been a long time but new Tsum Tsums finally showed up, including these three from the Tangled line. Here are Maximus, Pascal, and Rapunzel.  All Tsums are $2.99 and I always buy one of each.

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Tangled Tsums.

Also new was this Mulan Tsum Tsum. EDIT: The comments section suggests this is Mother Gothel from Tangled, which much more sense

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Got me.

I was this close to buying this really long gator plush. At least I think it’s a gator. Originally $26.95, now $14.99.

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Reptile 2695 1499

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The Ghost Post Box: Part III

by on June 8, 2016

Welcome to part three of the Ghost Post mystery box series, reviewing the contents of Disney Merchandise’s Haunted Mansion puzzle subscription. To catch up with where we are, you’ll want to take a quick peek at Ghost Post Part 1 and Part 2.

The third Ghost Post box retains the now-familiar format. The only differences to the external carton are that this box is labeled for “N.E. Plott,” while the others were addressed to “M.T. Graves” and “I.M. Mortal,” and the back of the box had, as I predicted, a drawing of the roofline of the mansion, thus completing the picture.

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Opening the box, we agin see a few displayed artifacts and an envelope.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! May 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on May 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. It was a pretty big month for the theme park world, especially for one of our favorite parks: Animal Kingdom. For AK it was the best of times and the worst of times as the new restaurant Tiffins opened, and has drawn rave reviews across the board. Meanwhile, Jungle Book: Alive with Magic – the quickly produced show which is replacing the delayed Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular – is getting reviews so bad that even the theme park media who won’t say anything negative are having a hard time coming up with qualifiers to avoid saying this show has major issues. Meanwhile over in Disney Springs; the Town Center opened with Sprinkles Bakery and the Disney run D-Luxe Burgers is getting a big thumbs up from us. Also open? The Lime parking garage, making the area –  which was once the absolute worst place on property to park at  – now the best. Let’s not forget the next time you are in the BoardWalk area to check out the incredible new ice cream shop Ample Hills Creamery. Not only is there an ice cream flavor exclusive to WDW with Sally Sells Sea Shells (orange marshmallow ice cream with chocolate sea shells mixed in) , but we can highly recommend the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Peppermint Pattie as well. 

Now while all of you were out at Disney World with Chewbacca Mom, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

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).

I’ve been searching a long time for the very worst example of Disney Vinlmation and this month I think I finally think I found my holy grail with this one featuring Mike Wazowski. Originally $12.95, now $3.99

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If he had two eye’s he’d probably poke one out so as not to see this.

Speaking of Vinylmations, here is a a two pack featuring Marvel characters. Each comes with Loki along with another character. There is no one in the theme park community who loves Marvel more than I (I’ve been a comic book collector for much longer than I have been going to theme parks) but because of the standard Mickey Mouse mold these look a little too goofy for me. Originally $24.95 EACH, these were marked down to $6.99. I just realized that if you were going to collect these, the best case scenario is that you’ll end up with 16 Lokis and that’s the one character you can’t trade because everyone else will have him too.

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Marvel.

Here are two of the characters from the Attractionistas line, which pretty much crosses Barbie with Monster High dolls. Each of the characters is based around an attraction and these two are for Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise. I think it’s a neat idea. I’d love to see GI Joe style action figures created for attractions. I’d be all over that. Originally $24.95, now $9.99.

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Attractionistas.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! April 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on April 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Because the last day of April this year ends on a Saturday, the rarest of all birds at the TouringPlans blog can be seen: a daily double of the SATURDAY SIX and the Outlet Report! This week’s SATURDAY SIX is on the Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise TV show is one Your Humble Author has wanted to write for a long, loooooong time, so I hope you enjoy it.

So what happened in the theme park world this past month? Disney started the After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom and sold so few tickets that the movie Mars Needs Moms was heard laughing. Disney has already cut the price of After Hours tickets in half for Annual Passholders and DVC members, and the party is a true value when compared to the $1700 photo shoot available out in Cars Land. Unfortunately The Earful Tower, one of my all time favorite WDW park icons, has made it’s way to the Disney Dump joining about out half of DHS. Goodbye Earful Tower, you will be missed, and we’ll see you later this year in our special In Memoriam article.

Now while all of you were out yelling at American Airlines’ gate agents about missing your Disney Cruise, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

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).

The first item I’ve been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores just about two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head are next level bananas. Apparently these bonkers hats are huge over at the Tokyo parks, but to be fair they also line up for hours just for popcorn. Popcorn!  To be be even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99 and you better believe I bought one.

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Goofy hat.

The next item also made my day. Disney has recently started putting out a line of t-shirts featuring these AMAZING Star Wars/Disney Attraction Poster mashups. They actually started selling these designs a while back on dog tags, but let’s get real, who buys dog tags? No offense to any weirdos out there, but that’s a weird thing to collect. A real dog tag for someone who served in the military? Couldn’t respect more. A dog tag featuring Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in a homage to the Haunted Mansion? That’s weird. However, now that the dog tags had their price in half I bought all three designs. There’s one more design featuring Luke’s Landspeeder in a mashup with an Autopia attraction poster, but that wasn’t available. Originally $19.95, reduced to $9.99.

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Given me a break, how FANTASTIC is that design using the space slug from Empire Strikes Back as MONSTRO?!

If you are dating a woman who doesn’t mind carrying around what looks like a decapitated head of an Ewok as her purse, PUT A RING ON THAT FINGER. Originally $60 (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!), reduced to “just” $29.99.

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Yub nub.

This is a first for me at the Outlets. One thing Disney sells in almost all of their resort gift shops are these large and colorful cookies featuring characters. They are cookies in only the most abstract version of the word. I actually use them as roof shingles. They are originally $5.95, but this one featuring Boba Fett was marked down to $1.99. I was there at almost 10 o’clock at night and the cashier said I was the first person who bought a cookie. Apparently word is out.

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“You want a cookie?!” – Chris Rock

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Disney After Hours – Is It Worth the Money?

by on April 25, 2016

Disney After Hours Event Guide

Disney After Hours Lanyard Front and Back

Update – April 27, 2016 – Disney has announced that Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members may now purchase Disney After Hours tickets for $75, half price.

Last month when Disney announced its late night event at Magic Kingdom, Disney After Hours, I was pretty happy. It coincided with a trip I’d already planned (thanks for nothing, Rivers of Light), so I figured – what the heck? If you haven’t heard about Disney After Hours, and given ticket sales, that may be a near certainty – more on that later, here’s the lowdown: Disney After Hours is a hard ticketed ($150 per person) event at Magic Kingdom in April and May. As of today, April 22, two of the parties have already happened with five yet to come. After Hours is three hours in Magic Kingdom for guests after park close with much shorter lines, most attractions open, and complimentary bottle drinks and ice cream novelties. Sound like Extra Magic Hours, but ticketed? Yeah, kinda.

Ticket purchased, I looked forward to a fun night at the park. Until reports of the first night started coming in with tales of tickets being given away, cast members outnumbering guests, and empty Main Street vehicles, that is. I was already doing this alone (solo trip) – was I going to be walking through a deserted park with desperate cast members forcing Mickey bars on me until I couldn’t eat any more? I tried bribing someone to come down to Florida just for the night to keep me company (thanks for nothing, Len). I watched social media to see if anyone I knew was going (or would admit to buying a ticket). No dice. News started coming in that Disney was giving away more tickets for that night too. I imagined myself in the narrative of Kingdom Keepers. Well, I’d be alone, but maybe I’ll save the park from Maleficent. But I’m a pro and wanted to see how the night unfolded.

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Disney World Ticket Price Increases: An In-Depth Analysis

by on April 6, 2016

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This is a guest post by the fabulous Jennifer Heymont.

The muttering has been going on for years. With every price increase, the rumbling was louder.  In 2015, when news that tiered pricing might be coming to Disney World, it got louder still. Blog posts (like this one from Frommers) and newspaper articles (such as this one in the Washington Post) led with references to $115 steaks and $50 a plate dessert parties, claiming that a Disney World vacation was now only affordable for the top 10% — and worse, that this was a conscious decision on the part of Disney management to aim at that target market. People posted their indignation on Disney forums, expressing their outrage that Walt’s dream of a place that all could enjoy was being so casually ignored.  In the spirit of Touring Plans, let’s take a data-driven look at some of the assumptions that underlie all this indignation:

  1. Disney is outrageously priced for what it is selling.
  2. Disney World has recently become inaccessible to the poor and the middle class.
  3. The Disney World of today does not fulfill “Walt’s Dream”.

Assumption 1: Disney is outrageously priced for what it is selling

Although this sentiment is as commonly associated with an entire Disney vacation as it is with just the ticket prices, I’m going to limit myself to the tickets for this analysis.  Here’s my reasoning: aspects of a Disney vacation such as transportation, lodging and food costs are as highly variable as any other vacation, with many adjustments that can be made to suit the desired budget and vacation experience.  However, if we consider that the focus of a Disney World vacation is to spend time in the parks, then the cost of getting through the tapstiles is inescapable.  

The price Disney is charging for a day in the parks is only excessive if it is significantly more than the price of a comparable product.  Since the per-day price of Disney’s tickets varies depending on how many days you buy, there is a bit of a problem deciding what the price you’re going to compare actually is, especially since many of the competitor tickets also have a sliding scale.  I’ll use two methods to compare the prices.  The first approach is to use the number of days necessary to visit each park in a complex once – for a standalone park that would be one day, for Disney World that would be four days – and use the ticket price associated with that number of days.  Using the website prices available for adult tickets for a sampling of amusement and theme park attractions we get the following table.  

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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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Testing Budget Hotels Near Walt Disney World

by on February 5, 2016

We’re often asked to recommend an inexpensive hotel room for one night near Walt Disney World. If your family is staying at at Disney resort for most of your visit, for example, and you need a place to crash on your arrival night before their vacation begins, you may not want to spent hundreds of dollars on a Disney hotel for just a few hours of sleep. Or if you’ve just finished your Disney vacation and need a bed for the night before your early-morning flight, you could save a lot of money by moving to a budget hotel.

Finding cheap, clean, safe hotel rooms is part of the basic research we do for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. There’s even a section titled “Top 30 Hotel Deals” that takes price, amenities, and location into account. It’s one of my favorite research projects, and I’ve stayed at more than 100 Disney-area hotels over the years. Only once did I wake up covered in bugs.

My “Holy Grail” of hotels is one that’s $50 or less per night (with tax), clean, safe, and where everything in the room works. From what I’ve seen over the past week, though, that room might not exist. Here’s a summary of the 6 hotels I checked over the past 5 nights, along with their pros and cons.

Laurel says: I’ll be adding my own asides in this article. You should read them in your head in the voice of your significant other. For perspective, I was perfectly happy with a room I stayed in in New York City once where the sink was IN the shower. 

Hotel #1: Motel 6 at 5909 American Way, just off International Drive

Pros: Very clean. Great layout. Best night’s sleep I had the entire trip. $49.49 with taxes. Feels safe.

Cons: Sink and toilet didn’t drain properly. Wi-fi didn’t work. Low water pressure in shower.

I’ve wanted to stay at this Motel 6 for a long time (“Dream big, Len”, I know). It was one of the first to introduce a new room design across Motel 6’s properties, with triangular bathrooms, hardwood floors, and vertical storage cubbies. Plus it’s really close to Universal Orlando.  I was ready to like this hotel.

Then I saw this sign at the check-in desk:hotels-motel6-1

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