This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s RIVERS OF LIGHT! On March 2nd, 2016 Disney whetted all of our appetites when it announced on the Parks Blog that Rivers of Light – the first ever nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, would debut on Earth Day (April 22nd). April came and went with no show, but we were told we would get an update “in May.” May came and went with no show and no update. It wasn’t until late November when – seemingly out of nowhere – there were cast member previews for Rivers of Light. While no official announcement was made, that’s a pretty good sign that the show would be opening soon for the general public.
Turns out that was also wishful thinking, as both December and January passed with no word on when we would finally see this highly anticipated show. Then in early February – again, almost out of nowhere – Disney announced that the debut performance for the public would take place on February 17th.
Disney’s Rivers of Light. (photo by Brandon Glover)
When February 17th arrived, anticipation was at an all time high. Standby guests were lined up all the way back to Flame Tree Barbecue, and even those with FP+ were getting into the theater over an hour early to secure a seat. The question on everyone’s mind was simply: was Rivers of Light worth the wait? SPOILER ALERT: Yes. Even better, just as the Main Street Electrical Parade’s return to Disneyland brought along a lot of other cool stuff for guests to enjoy, Animal Kingdom has gone all out for Rivers of Light as well. Today we’re going to look at the actual show along with awesome food and merchandise that supports it. Let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – Lotus Flower Popcorn Bucket
Walt Disney World has stepped up its popcorn bucket game in a major way in the past few years. We’ve seen neat buckets themed to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Cinderella’s carriage, and even Han Solo frozen in carbonite. But a true E-Ticket popcorn bucket arrived for Rivers of Light. Based on the show’s iconic lotus flower, the popcorn bucket not only looks visually stunning, but it also lights up. A game changer in the world of popcorn buckets and we love it.
Lotus Flower Popcorn Bucket. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The Rivers of Light lotus flowers. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Popcorn, a top six theme park snack if there ever was one.
# 5 – Lotus Flower Drink Topper
We’re not the biggest fans of glow cubes in drinks, but themed glow cubes? Now you’re talking. While Disneyland has the cute turtle drink topper, over in Walt Disney World we have an awesome glowing lotus flower. Once the sun goes down, this little flower looks wonderful in any drink, and even makes a beer look better! These toppers are available at Thirsty River Bar and Snacks, directly across from the Rivers of Light theater.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one as we use Disney Villains to Explain Theme Park Blogging! Now, many of you reading this know the online Disney blogging community is one filled with many unique and colorful characters. What kind of person would spend 10 minutes photographing a single piece of Frushi at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival from every possible angle? What kind of adult man has an awkward meet and greet with Elena of Avalor in order to be #First? With all the white noise, a hapless person at home trying to plan a vacation may be overwhelmed. Today, the SATURDAY SIX is here to help guide you through this wacky community – using some Disney Villains to put everything into context – and get you the info you need to achieve a great trip. Let’s kickoff the list with…
A recent trend in all of blogging – including our precious theme park world – is websites using the term “BREAKING!” to cover pretty much anything. For those of us who like movies, the Hollywood blogs have become inundated with BREAKING! and EXCLUSIVE! headlines only to reveal the casting of a minor character, played by someone you’ve never heard of, in a movie coming out in three years. For those of us inside the theme park bubble, we get subjected to BREAKING! reports of a new cupcake being offered in the Magic Kingdom or the EXCLUSIVE! news of merchandise coming out for Flower & Garden (the best part of all the EXCLUSIVE! reports is that every single one of them is just copying the exact pictures and verbiage from the Disney Parks Blog.)
Sometimes not all news needs to be BREAKING! (art by Kinny M Brown)
Some “news” probably shouldn’t be news at all…(art by Kinny M Brown)
The reason “Fake News” has run rampant is because so many websites are more interested in getting you to click on their links, rather than making sure what they are telling you is based in any sort of fact. The good news is that there are plenty of theme park news options available that avoid the sizzle when giving you the steak. Some of my favorites are TouringPlans’ own Rikki Niblett, theme park icon Jim Hill, Attractions Magazine, and the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen.
# 5 – GASTON – The Shameless Self Promoter
Ah, the most vain blogger of them all. This type of theme park blogger retweets themselves on Twitter, making sure to tag every single person they know in every single post. They watermark their pictures, as if there is some sort of black market offering big money for photos of theme park attractions. They even do podcasts talking endlessly about the parks because they are secretly in love with the sound of their own voice. Who are we kidding though? We love these devilishly handsome scallywags!
“You’re the most amazing thing in the entire world. No one deserves you.” (art by Kinny M Brown)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MUST TRY Drinks at Walt Disney World! Time to let the kiddos watch PJ Masks or the Lion Guard for a bit so us adults can have a brief moment to ourselves. Yes, we enjoy the great attractions, shows, and hotels at Walt Disney World but one thing we love are the drinks. To paraphrase Homer J Simpson, alcohol can (seemingly) make all the stress in the world disappear, and also make good times even better! While many WDW bars may have the “standard bar menu” with the same ol’ same ol’, there are a lot of truly fantastic drinks to be found. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite Must Try drinks at WDW, focusing on originality and creativity of the cocktails. Let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – Seven Seas Lagoon (The Wave)
You may want to pack an insulin pump if you plan on heading to The Wave… Of America Flavors for this behemoth, because it is SWEET. While this 24 ounce drink only contains about 4 ounces of alcohol (Skyy vodka and Parrot Bay coconut rum), its presentation is off the charts! The glow cube inside the drink really makes the blue “water” pop, and swimming on top are Swedish fish. The best little touch of all may be the fun candy “life preservers” put on each Mickey straw.
Seven Seas Lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Fish being added to the Seven Seas Lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)
# 5 – Nautilus (Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto)
Served in an amazing souvenir bowl with the form of the Nautilus from Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this is another drink meant to be shared, as you could possibly be seeing a giant squid outside in the Seven Seas Lagoon if you tried to go it alone. The entire room of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto transforms when a Nautilus is ordered and even the servers get in on the fun. Lighting effects make the room appear as if you are going under water, audio plays orders from the Nautilus captain, and there are several physical effects happening across the Grotto (keep your head on a swivel). The Nautilus is an E-Ticket drink in an E-Ticket bar.
Ingredients: Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Combier Crème de Pêche de Vigne Liqueur, Tropical Juices, and Falernum. Served in a souvenir Nautilus.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney’s new Star Wars Guided Tour! One of the most underrated attractions at Walt Disney World are the guided tours available across property. Behind the Seeds at EPCOT is a true gem, Magic Kingdom’s Keys to the Kingdom is a must-do for hardcore Disney fans, and the Sanaa Cultural Tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge is a fascinating look at all the details in one of Disney’s best restaurants. In late 2016, Disney announced that a new seven hour tour based around Star Wars would be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at a price of $121.12 per person, not including cost of admission to the park.
Star Wars Guided Tour check-in. (photo by Meg Stump)
Star Wars Guided Tour credentials, where guests are separated into different planets. All theme park bloggers hail from “Mustafar.” (photo by Meg Stump)
To put seven hours into perspective, if you were to watch A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi consecutively it would take less than six and a half hours (although watching the prequels back to back would probably seem like 100 hours). The price is also one of the highest of any tour that WDW offers, would there be value to be found? Thanks to an in-depth investigation by SATURDAY SIX editor in chief Megan Stump, we’re happy to report back the answer is a resounding YES. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of the new guided tour, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – March Behind the First Order
One common theme you see among many of our favorite shows that go to Walt Disney World – including Full House, Step By Step, and last year’s Blackish – is that characters from the show end up joining Disney parades or other shows in the parks. I think this because there is a subconscious, or maybe even conscious, feeling by many people that they want to be part of the show. Guests who take part in the Star Wars Guided Tour get to live out their theme park fantasy by being a part of Captain Phasma’s march of the First Order. Guests meet up up with Captain Phasma and the gang as soon as they come onstage and you travel directly behind the stormtroopers as they make their way down Hollywood Blvd.
Captain Phasma leads the First Order. (photo by Meg Stump)
Guests doing the Star Wars Guided Tour follow directly behind the First Order. (photo by Meg Stump)
Where else can you be this close to the action other than the Star Wars Guided Tour? (photo by Meg Stump)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love the Main Street Electrical Parade’s Return to Disneyland! Beginning its original run in Anaheim all the way back in 1972, the Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP) has entertained generations of guests on both coasts. Much like it’s a small world and the Electrical Water Pageant, the beloved MSEP has a nostalgic charm – along with a catchy soundtrack – that makes it special no matter how much technology has improved over the years. There have been variations of MSEP at Disney parks around the world, but Disneyland’s run ended in 1996. In the ensuing twenty years, that particular version of the show bounced around between Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney World. On October 9th, 2016, the MSEP turned off its last light in Orlando and began a cross country trip back home to Disneyland.
The Main Street Electrical Parade comes home. (photo by @hintofspy)
This past week the MSEP had its triumphant return in Disneyland and began a limited time engagement that is scheduled to end on June 18th. Now, we’re just glad the MSEP is back, but Disney also delivered a whole bunch of surprises that truly made our day. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of the MSEP’s return, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – The SNACKS!
Readers of this fine blog series know we like our snacks. No, we reallylikeoursnacks. So imagine our surprise when the MSEP’s return to Disneyland brought with it a whole slew of tasty treats! With designs based on some of the iconic MSEP floats, these snacks are some of the cutest we have ever seen. Ladybug macaroons, turtle creampuffs, cheshire cat cookies and more!
Where was this when the MSEP was in Walt Disney World?! BE FAIR TO FLORIDA!! (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Cute caterpillar snack. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Cheshire cat tails. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Electric Cotton Candy. We’re 90% sure this is safe to eat. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six Most Artistic Snacks at Epcot’s Festival of the Arts! When word came around that Epcot was adding another festival to its annual lineup, we were skeptical to say the least. Sure, we love the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine festivals, but did we need another one? Long story short: YES. Yes, we did.
The festival is filled with incredible art to see (and buy) along with an even better menu of unique food and drink options. From the Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts to the Wild Mushroom Risotto, the festival is filled with indulgent foods, but as always we here at the SATURDAY SIX were drawn to the more sugary based options. Today we’re going to look at the most artistic snacks at the festival, along with a whole bunch of non-food related reasons detailing why we really love the Festival of the Arts. It’s basically TWO editions of the SATURDAY SIX in ONE. You’re Welcome! Let’s start this party off right with…
# 6 – Mary Blair White Chocolate Art Painting
This may be the coolest looking chocolate in the history of chocolates at Walt Disney World, a miniature Mary Blair “painting” on a chocolate easel. This is such a fantastic idea executed so flawlessly that you don’t mind paying $7 for a pretty small piece of chocolate. The chocolate itself tasted really good, even though it is so pretty we didn’t even want to eat it (but c’mon, it’s chocolate, it was gonna be eaten sooner or later).
Served at The Painter’s Palette, ($7)
Mary Blair White Chocolate Art Painting. An E-Ticket snack. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Reason We Love the Festival of the Arts: Figment’s Brush with the Masters
Epcot continually has the best scavenger hunts in any Florida theme park, thanks in part to the great souvenirs you get when accomplishing your hunt. The Easter Egg hunts are always a blast during the spring, and we also enjoyed Remy’s “Hide and Squeak” hunt during Food & Wine. For Figment’s Brush with the Masters, guests are given a blank map along with a set of stickers featuring well known paintings. You then have to go from country to country in World Showcase to match the correct country with the painting it features. In a fun twist, each of the famous painting features our favorite Epcot character, Figment!
Blank map. (photo by Megan Stump)
Figment inserted into Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting. (photo by Megan Stump)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2016 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With the new year upon us, it is time for another SATURDAY SIX annual tradition of looking back at some of the most “memorable moments” of the previous year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the past 365 days, and some of the worst as well, so today let’s look at six theme park stories that fall into a different area. Events that are almost hard to believe actually happened, but we promise they did, and we’re here with the proof. So let’s kick it off with…
# 6 – Disney Puts a Paper Bag Over the Tower of Terror
Disney has some truly incredible projects opening over the next couple years including Pandora: The World of Avatar in Florida and a huge Star Wars Land on both coasts. These projects look to give guests the same level of immersion – if not more – than the critically acclaimed Cars Land and Diagon Alley. For their first ever Marvel attraction in America, Disney went in a different direction. In a shocking announcement at last year’s San Diego Comic Con, it was revealed that the Hollywood Tower of Terror in DCA would be converted over to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! While Pandora will have guests dropping their jaws while looking up at the “flying mountains” and Star Wars Land will fulfill many a fanboy dream of walking onto the Millenium Falcon, the Marvel attraction is going to look just like the iconic Hollywood Tower of Terror with a bunch of pipes on it.
The Tower of Terror prepares to undergo its transformation into the Collector’s Fortress. (photo by Guy Selga)
Here’s the thing: say what you will about California’s Tower of Terror versus Florida’s version (it stinks), the ride still has the memorable Tower of Terror hotel facade. This is one of the all time most iconic ride facades in Disney history. In fact, with the Sorcerer’s Hat now gone from DHS, it has become one of the four WDW park icons along with Spaceship Earth, the Tree of Life, and Cinderella Castle. Disney has owned Marvel now for almost a decade, and as they saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. No matter how good the actual Guardians of the Galaxy ride is or isn’t, being shoehorned into one of the most recognizable facades in any theme park is going to make the attraction look and feel out of place.
The most unbelievable part of this entire story is the fact that Disney started converting the Tower of Terror over to Mission: BREAKOUT! while guests were still enjoying the Terror of Terror. Large parts of the Tower were covered, and the attraction started to look like a sports fan wearing a paper bag over their head because they were ashamed of their team.
Paper of Plastic? (photo by Justin Martin)
Despite the Tower of Terror not being in anyone’s top ten ride list in DCA, the reaction to the hotel being changed was not received well on social media (to be fair, not much is anyway). Even crazier, DCA is just coming off a Billion dollar makeover that included making a large part of the park themed to early 20th century California, the exact same theme which Tower of Terror already had. Many have voiced their displeasure, but a few have also had a little fun with the idea of the hotel soon to be under new management….
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Best Resort Specific Merchandise at WDW! Longtime readers of this fine blog series will remember that we have looked at the Best Souvenirs at Disney, the Best at Universal, and even the Best Pieces of Disney Merchandise That Don’t Exist. Heck, we even risk our lives and sanity each and every month to deliver you the fabled Disney Outlet Store Photo Report. So it is safe to say, we like merch. Now, one of our favorite types of theme park resort merchandise is the stuff you can get at the onsite hotels. When looking at them back at home, they instantly remind us of the great times we had on vacation and the places we have stayed at. Disney has always been the industry leader at incredible resort specific merchandise, but several years ago the company switched to a more homogeneous look for much of its hotel merchandise. With a very similar style of logo for various resorts all on the same type of items (t-shirts, coffee cups, keychains, etc), it was like Disney was running a Zazzle account writ large. Thankfully, more original merchandise has started to make its way back to the resorts, along with some old favorites. Today we’re going to look at our favorite resort specific merchandise, starting with…
# 6 – Camper Keychain at Fort Wilderness
Believe it or not, Disney’s Fort Wilderness campgound has one of the highest amounts of great resort specific merchandise on property. From great looking pins and shirts to amazing prints, Fort Wilderness offers an array of unique items that most other WDW hotels can’t compete with. There’s even a Fort Wilderness air freshener! Our absolute favorite piece of merch is the Camper Keychain ($9.99). Not only is this an incredibly creative keychain compared to what you’ll find at other resorts, the headlight of the camper is a working flashlight! Talk about the Disney Difference, and be prepared to talk about your Disney vacation when your friends and family back home see your cute keychain.
Fort Wilderness Camper Keychain.
The camper’s headlight is an actual working flashlight!
Plastic Mason Jar Travel Mug.
Fort Wilderness Air Freshener with “Wild Woods Scent.” To be fair, while we say it is unique that Fort Wilderness has its own air freshener, we will stipulate to the fact that no one would want an All Star Music air freshener anyway. We do wonder what the scent of “Pop Century” would be though….
The SATURDAY SIX mobile sits outside Coronado Springs with the inside smelling like Fort Wilderness.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Can’t Wait To See In 2017! 2016 was another unbelievable year in the theme park world, containing a wide mix of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. 2017 is already shaping up to be even more amazing. We have a new immersive land that promises to eclipse what Disneyland has done with Cars Land and Universal with Diagon Alley, a new President being added to the Hall of Presidents, and the first of its kind “water theme park.” If that doesn’t get your blood pumping about the next 12 months you may actually be a Host from Westworld, but for the rest of you, here’s some of the things we can’t wait to see, starting with…
# 6 – Pandora: The World of Avatar (Animal Kingdom)
Our long national nightmare is almost over. First announced on September 20, 2011, Pandora: The World of Avatar is nearing completion. Disney is saying “Summer 2017” for this new land, and is going on record saying it is the most immersive area in any theme park. Just from what we can see from what rises over the construction walls and the Blogger-In-The-Sky helicopter camera shots, the land does look STUNNING. The info we’ve been given on the bioluminescent plants in the area along with the experience in the Na’vi River Journey make both seem like “wow” moments. Last year, this fine blog did question what Pandora will be doing in the areas of food and merchandise, two extremely important factors a theme park land needs to deliver on to satisfy its Return On Investment (ROI). These are also two areas that Disney has not released much info on for Pandora. We all know that Avatar the movie – by far and away the most financially successful film in the history of cinema – never really figured out a way to get its fans to buy merchandise the way that Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, and even Star Trek have.
Na’vi River Journey. (photo courtesy of Disney Parks and Resorts)
One of the most exciting things about Pandora is that it appears the land will be using projection mapping on its incredible rock work. This is something that has never been mentioned by Disney over the course of the Pandora project, but Johnny-on-the-spot bloggers have seen this technology being tested. Your Humble Author thinks projection mapping is one of the areas that Disney is heads and tails above anyone else in the industry right now. Whether on the castle in the Magic Kingdom, the Great Movie Ride facade in DHS, or the jaw dropping Tree of Life Awakens shows at Animal Kingdom, Disney’s use of projection mapping in the parks is amazing.
What looks to be testing for projecting mapping on the rock work in Pandora. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)
# 5 – Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (Universal Studios Florida)
Last year Universal fans lost Twister…Ride It Out! along with its Bill Paxton performance that was so mailed in he should have put a stamp on it. In Twister’s place will be the upcoming Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. One of the most underrated aspects of this change, is that the attraction takes place in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida, so it is a perfect fit. There are many who do not like Fallon’s broad sense of humor, but his Late Night TV dominance shows there is most likely a much larger group of people who love what he brings to the table (Your Humble Author included). While there have been some debates on how the “flying theater” ride mechanics will actually work, one thing we do know is that Universal is trying something truly different with how people experience the attraction’s queue.
Much like how Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom allows kids to play in a themed area until it is time to ride, Race Through New York looks to have things for adults to do while waiting. There will be a woman’s quartet singing songs, a chance to check out classic bits from from Fallon’s Tonight Show run (including Lip Sync Battle), write your own “Thank You Notes” at an interactive desk, and even get a meet and greet with the Tonight Show’s mascot, Hashtag the Panda.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon is designed to get guests to laugh, and comedy is one thing Universal is very good at delivering on. From the criminally underrated Horror Make-Up Show to the non-stop gags in Springfield USA, be prepared to bring your smile when stepping into Universal Studios Florida.
Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon concept art.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in Universal Studios Florida. (photo by @bioreconstruct).
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is an annual tradition. Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2016). Some readers of this weekly column may not know that we also have The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! where every single month for over three years we have braved the insanity of the Orlando Premium Outlet parking lots to cover the two Disney outlet stores (more info on them – including addresses – are at the end of the article.) In fact, we even had a very special Three Year Anniversary edition with some congratulatory notes from some very impressive names in the theme park community.
Now, while some Christmas dreams do come true, such as Ralphie Parker getting his official Red Ryder BB gun and Your Humble Author getting a Han Solo blaster back in the day, other Christmas gifts deserve to go straight to the Island of Misfit Toys. Today we will take a look at some of those very items, starting with…
# 6 – Glow With The Show Ears
Let it glow.
Our first item this week was the first ever Made With Magic piece of merchandise to hit the Outlets. These were the Mickey Ears that lit up with different colors to Glow With the Show during some of the nighttime spectaculars at the parks. I have no actual financial numbers to support my theory, but having been the parks many, many times and only seeing a handful of guests wearing these, I’m going to assume Disney took a complete bath on this idea. It’s an item that cost over $25, are heavier than a normal pair of Mickey Ears, and the person wearing it can’t even see it glow. They were reduced to $9.99. This pair of Ears is particularly garish in design.
# 5 – Hats that are “Big In Japan”
This next item I had been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores over two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head and 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 even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99.
Donald hat, as seen in the Art of Animation gift shop.