Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX – The 6 Highest-Rated Shows and Spectaculars at Walt Disney World

by on August 12, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six Highest-Rated Shows and Spectaculars at Walt Disney World! You may remember last week on the SATURDAY SIX where we took a look at the six highest-rated rides at WDW, as voted on by you. This week Len Testa, the grand poobah of TouringPlans, has sent down the  thousands-and-thousands of survey results for the highest-rated shows and spectaculars. We’re looking at pretty much anything that isn’t a ride outside of meet and greets. Next week we will finish with our look at the surveys by glancing at the lowest-rated attractions, but today we’re going to take a look at the shows which always bring a smile to our face, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

Epcot’s IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth can be a controversial subject within the Disney fan community. Here at the SATURDAY SIX we’ve had articles touting it as a one-of-a-kind experience that we’ll probably never see the likes of again, but have also made the case that the long running show could possibly use a little freshening up. One thing I personally love about IllumiNations, especially compared to just about everything else that made the list, is the fact that you don’t have to camp out an hour or more to get a good viewing location. There are so many places around World Showcase to get a good spot that lets you take everything in, including several places where you can enjoy a meal during the show. In an age of Disney where we are getting IPs shoved down our throats, it is refreshing to take in a show that isn’t trying to sell you a “brand” and is just there to deliver a powerful story (what that story exactly is, I can’t tell you, but it is powerful, or at least loud.) During the 4th of July week and around Christmas time, IllumiNations goes up another notch and becomes one of the most amazing fireworks displays you’ll see anywhere.

Overall Score: 4.4/5

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth seen exploding behind Spaceship Earth. (photo by Brian Carey)

IllumiNations as seen from the Japan Pavilion. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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SATURDAY SIX – The 6 Highest-Rated Rides at Walt Disney World

by on August 5, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six Highest-Rated Rides at Walt Disney World! A couple years ago the SATURDAY SIX commissioned a special blue-ribbon panel featuring some of the biggest names in the online Disney community to rank the best attractions at WDW. This year, we’re looking towards YOU, Dear Reader, to see what you think are the best. Len Testa himself sent the results of this year’s TouringPlans surveys – via an armored car – for us to evaluate. This week we are going to countdown the top six rides, next week the top six shows and non-rides, and after that the lowest-rated attractions (we’re looking in your direction Stitch’s Great Escape….) Enough with the pleasantries, today we’ll look at what WDW rides you like the most, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Splash Mountain

With the upcoming closures of The Great Movie Ride and Universe of Energy, we’re losing two of the longer rides at Disney World. There’s something to be said about intense 3 1/2 minute experiences, but we also like the laid back 10-20 minute epic adventures. Splash Mountain is long, and a lot of it is really peaceful (along with a couple great “fake outs.”) There are a ton of animatronics in the ride, including the show stopping Showboat scene at the end. The big drop gives you an incredible view of the park, and makes for a truly magical moment if you begin your descent while fireworks are going off in front of you. A wonderful family ride, Splash Mountain can also be a way to introduce younger riders to the type of sensations they will have on roller coasters. They may be hesitant to try rides like Big Thunder when seeing the trains speed by, but one ride on Splash Mountain will more than likely get them in the mood to experience even more.

Overall Score: 4.5/5

Splash Mountain. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

The calm stretches of Splash Mountain are my personal favorite. (photo by Brian Carey)

Get ready for the big drop at Splash Mountain! (photo by Brian Carey)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

by on July 29, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. With 26 on-site resorts at Walt Disney World, there is a wide variety of choices for families coming down. We’ve covered many here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts (Art of Animation and Pop Century), Moderates (Port Orleans Riverside and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge). We also can’t forget the Disney Vacation Club resorts such as Old Key West. Today we are going to take a look at one of WDW’s original resorts, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

Fort Wilderness. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Overlooked by many Disney guests because it is not a traditional hotel, Fort Wilderness is one of the oldest resorts at WDW opening about a month after the Magic Kingdom all the way back in 1971. Since that time, the entire area has gone through a lot of changes and is really one of the most special places on property. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of Fort Wilderness, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Tri-Circle-D Ranch

Talk about a “hidden gem” at Walt Disney World, and one that is hidden in plain sight. Located directly next to Pioneer Hall – and Disney’s legendary Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue (we’ll get to that later) – is Tri-Circle-D Ranch, home to all the horses at WDW. That’s right, from the horses you’ll see pulling the trolley on Main Street USA to the Headless Horseman’s steed at MNSSHP, they all spend their off time here at the Ranch. Aside from just walking around and admiring their beautiful animals, the Ranch also offers pony rides for children and horseback rides for those aged 9 and up (while walking around the Ranch is free, there is a charge for rides.)

At the back of the Ranch there is a giant barn, and inside you’ll find a wonderful tribute to the history of horses and the Walt Disney Company (including some fantastic pictures of Walt himself with horses.) Here you can also see many horses hanging out in their stalls, and outside of each there is a placard giving some information about each horse. I highly recommend taking a trip to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch on your next WDW visit. There are so many types of breeds that call the Ranch home including Arabian, Clydesdale, Belgian, and Shetland ponies.

Tri-Circle-D Ranch. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Tri-Circle-D Ranch. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Amazing Details in Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar

by on July 22, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Amazing Details in PANDORA: THE WORLD OF AVATAR!  A little while ago we looked at Disney’s incredible new land at the Animal Kingdom, Pandora: The World of Avatar. We gushed about the rides, and since that article was written Flight of Passage has become the #1- rated attraction at all Disney and Universal theme parks, per TouringPlans readers. Today we are going to take a deeper dive into Pandora, and check out some of the unbelievably cool details found throughout the land, and let’s kickoff the countdown with….

# 6 – The Handprints

The queue for Flight of Passage is hands-down the best ever done by Disney. The depth of detail and overall amount of unique elements is right up there with what Universal has accomplished with Forbidden Journey and Escape From Gringotts. Among these details are the cave drawings early in the queue, where on the rock work you’ll see Na’vi paintings of banshees, woodsprites, and even handprints of Na’vi, humans, and the human-made avatars. However, after you have finished riding Flight of Passage, on the ground floor of the exit corridor you will find three more handprints. These particular handprints are from James Cameron (the director of Avatar,) Jon Landau (the producer of Avatar,) and Disney Imagineer Joe Rhode.

James Cameron, Joe Rhode, and John Landau handprints. (photo by Brandon Glover)

(photo by Brandon Glover)

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The SATURDAY SIX Has an IN-DEPTH Look at the 2017 D23 Expo (So Far)

by on July 15, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the 2017 D23 Expo!  Coming along once every two years, the D23 Expo is not just a Disney Convention, it is THE Disney Convention. With blockbuster brands Marvel and Star Wars now in the Disney family, D23 Expo actually competes with the much larger San Diego Comic Con for pop culture attention. Already big news is coming out of the Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, including the public display of the incredible scale model of Star Wars Land, giving us a glimpse of what will soon be coming to Disney Hollywood Studios. It is here at the Expo where we will find out what is coming to the Disney parks across the world. We here at the SATURDAY SIX are going to cover what happened during the first two days of the Expo, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Star Wars Land

We’ve all been on pins and needles waiting for more details on the upcoming Star Wars Land (rumored to be called Star Wars: Galaxy Edge) and Disney blew our collective minds with a 1/2 inch-to-1 foot scale model that is so good that it makes the Pandora: World of Avatar model look like the Metal Earth thing I tried to put together. While we won’t get the full details on what is exactly is contained in this model until several hours after this posting, we here at the SATURDAY SIX have made our guesses as to what we’ll see when it finally debuts in DHS.

Star Wars Land model. (copyright Disney)

A more accurate representation of the crowds we’ll see at Star Wars Land. (photo by @AvoidTIMtation)

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SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: The WORST Places to Propose at Walt Disney World

by on July 8, 2017

We here at TouringPlans strive to constantly give our readers everything you need to know in order to save time and money on your Disney vacation. On the blog you will find pieces such as Steve Bloom’s fascinating look at Pandora’s Effect on Walt Disney World, James Romeregy showed the pros and cons of Renting a Car at WDW, and Brian McNichols helped guide people to the Least Crowded Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Nights.  Not to be outdone, the think tank over at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters have decided to finally take on the conundrum that faces all vacation planners: how exactly does one achieve the very best Disney vacation?  Now, many inside-the-box thinkers go with the obvious answer, “Do The Things That Are Great.” Ride the best attractions, see the best shows, and eat at the most unique dining experiences. But to that we say Nay, Nay. Instead we are going to reverse engineer the problem by looking at all the truly awful ideas and explain to you Dear Reader, why you should not do them.

That, in a nutshell, is the raison d’être behind the Worst Theme Park Idea Ever series.

# 6 –  The All- Star Resorts

There are a lot of romantic spots at various Disney resorts to pop the question, including at the top of Bay Lake Tower while watching fireworks at the Magic Kingdom or Kidani Village with the beautiful savannah as a back drop. But moments like that can be fleeting, and why start off a marriage in the hole? Show your would be bride that you are fiscally responsible by proposing marriage at one of the All-Star Resorts. Conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, the All-Stars provide many wonderful options to profess your undying – yet thrifty – love, including in front of the Herbie the Love Bug photo op at All-Star Movies.

Carrie gets proposed to by Dan at All-Star Movies while fellow guests try to warn her. (photo by Brandon Glover)

They say “Every kiss begins with Kay…” but no one says marriage begins with the All-Star Resorts. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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A SATURDAY SIX Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America)

by on July 4, 2017

In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books, pro wrestling, and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!

# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)

USA_Voices_of_Liberty_Sperduto

The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)

USA_Captain_America_Glover

Captain America. (photo by Brandon Glover)

America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in  red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.

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SATURDAY SIX: The 6 Best Gift Shops at Universal Orlando

by on July 1, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the 6 best gift shops at Universal Orlando! Until recently, gift shops were seen as a necessary evil at our favorite theme parks – annoyances that many guests either dreaded being herded through or mocked the existence of outright. One of the best gags in The Simpsons Ride involves the alien Kodos saying,

“Foolish Earthlings, don’t you know all rides must end near the gift shop?”

The Mission Statement of theme park gift shops. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Thankfully, over the past several years gift shops at both Universal and Disney have become better themed and well merchandised, and several have even started to incorporate interactive features for their guests. It’s almost unbelievable to say it, but just as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey became possibly the first attraction in the history of theme parks to have a queue guests wanted to spend more time in, gift stores themselves are becoming features of attractions that guests can actually look forward to experiencingToday we’re going to take a look at the best gift shops across Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Kwik E Mart

Despite the great joke mentioned above, the Simpsons Ride is one of the few attractions at USF that doesn’t exit into a gift shop. The Kwik-E-Mart, the ride’s merchandise location, is right next to the attraction and is filled with the high level of self-deprecating humor that is found throughout Springfield USA. Signs above the merchandise include sales pitches like, “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!,” “These items won’t buy themselves!” There’s even a sign at the registers that has a call back to an episode of the Simpsons television show as it warns the cashiers not to take checks from various people including Chief Wiggum, Homer J Simpson, and Homer J Fong.

Kwik E Mart. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The walls and outside windows of the Kwik-E-Mart are laden with ads for products including Farmer Billy’s Choco-Bacon-Bars (“It’s like chocolate and bacon had a baby in your mouth!”) while the variety of actual Simpsons related products found inside includes t-shirts, hats, plush, comic books and more.

Outside the store there is a photo-op available with Milhouse sitting on a bench and one of USF’s most hidden gems, the Simpsons pay phone. On the side of the Kwik-E-Mart closest to the Simpsons Ride, there is pay phone mounted on a wall with the character Nelson next to it.  Nelson has a word balloon saying, “Answer the phone dingus…it’s for you.” Walking by this phone will trigger it to ring, and picking up the receiver will treat you to a gag line by one of the various Simpsons characters including Chief Wiggum, Moe Szyslak, and Bart Simpson.

Millhouse photo op. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

(photo by Hunter Underwood)

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The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the (possible) future of Walt Disney World and Universal

by on June 24, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the (possible) future of Walt Disney World and Universal!  As they do several times each month, TouringPlans’ own Len Testa teamed up with industry icon Jim Hill to record an episode of the Disney Dish podcast. This particular episode was going to be answering a listener question of character meet-and-greets in the park, but before they got to that question the two men discussed several major stories affecting both Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. The two theme park titans discussed many rumored additions and changes to the two resorts, as well as giving reasons why they may – and may not – actually come to fruition. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the more important items, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – It’s GAME ON for Universal’s Super Nintendo World vs. Disney’s Star Wars Land

Universal vs. Disney. (art by Joel Carroll)

Many of us saw the recent groundbreaking of Super Nintendo World in Japan, and a lot of us have been waiting (not so) patiently for some news on what Universal and Nintendo have cooked up for Orlando. Universal waiting on announcing new projects is nothing new, in fact many insiders say the company got “burned” when announcing the original Wizarding World early, causing many guests to delay their Universal vacations until it was opened. Whatever the case, news on Nintendo attractions in America has been between slim and none until recently.

All of a sudden, the flood gates opened. Thanks to Twitter user Gary Snyder we got a look at the original pitch for a Nintendoland in Universal Studios Florida along with some pieces of concept art. In a word, these pictures were mind-blowing. Located in the area of USF that currently houses Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, the new Nintendo area would replace everything except the E.T. Adventure (the only opening day ride still in the park) and the ultra-themed gift store,Spongebob Storepants.

Early draft of what could possibly be coming to Universal Studios Florida and how it would fit into the park. (photo via Gary Snyder)

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SATURDAY SIX Father’s Day Special: Celebrating Dads at Walt Disney World and Universal

by on June 18, 2017

(Editor’s Note:  This article originally ran on Father’s Day in 2016 but we felt it was appropriate to run again today. Happy Father’s Day from all of us at TouringPlans.com ) This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL, paying tribute to all our favorite dads at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. After a challenging week in Orlando, we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters think it’s time for some lighthearted fun. With tomorrow being Father’s Day, it’s about time we gave a little attention to all the dads we see in Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. So sit back, put on your favorite pair of dad jeans, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – WALT DISNEY: The Father of All Theme Parks

What else can we say about Walter Elias Disney? Without him we wouldn’t have the glorious theme parks we enjoy today and instead would be suffering in the shoddily made and poorly themed rides that make up America’s amusement parks. Even worse, we may have been forced to go to places like museums and libraries to actually learn something. I think I speak for us all when I say UGH. However, thanks to a visionary genius like  Walt Disney creating Disneyland – and then improving upon with Walt Disney World – we all get to enjoy one of the most amazing pieces of entertainment in the entire world.

Unlike most of our hobbies and interests, theme parks are a place we can go with the whole family and enjoy our time together. The theme parks are one of the very few places you can go where no matter who you are, you are accepted. It just doesn’t matter what size you are, what race you belong to, what religion you pray to,  your sexual orientation, or handicap you have. If you’re in a theme park, you are in a safe place. We all owe an unpayable debt to Walt Disney, as his foresight led to us being able to enjoy places that completely transport us away from the real world – and all of its problems – into an alternative reality where everything is as we wish it would be. A world in which the good guys always win. A world where we can fly. A world where our wishes come true.

Walt was also the father to Diane and Sharon Disney. We all know the story that it was Walt watching his daughters play in shabby amusement parks that inspired him to create something better. Something the whole family could enjoy. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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