This week’s SATURDAY SIX is one of our favorites as we present the Third Annual “Turkeys” of the Year. For Thanksgiving this week we took a look back at things both Disney and Universal fans should be thankful for, but today we are going to go the other way. Gather ’round as we continue the fine tradition of awarding six Theme Park “Turkeys” to the craziest, most outrageous, or just downright weird stories of the year, concluding with the coveted Golden Turkey award. Let’s kick off the ceremony with a food situation that blew us away….
# 6 – That Time Disney Charged $12.99 For a “Hurricane Box”
Art by Juliette Elton (@JulietteElton)
In early October, the state of Florida had its biggest weather scare in almost a decade with the oncoming Hurricane Matthew. Most of the models used by meteorologists had Matthew slamming into the East Coast, and then continuing straight up through the center of the state hitting Orlando. Seemingly playing a weird game of chicken, Disney and Universal both waited until just about the last possible moment to announce their hard ticket events of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Halloween Horror Nights would be cancelled for Thursday, October 6th, and all the Orlando theme parks would be closed on Friday, October 7th.
With the storm bearing down on Florida, food everywhere was being cleared off the shelves at Walt Disney World. Lines appeared at the hotel food courts that seemed impossible to believe were true (but they absolutely were.) The food court at Port Orleans French Quarter was in the process of being refurbished, and there WDW was offering a $12.99 boxed meal that included a sandwich, an apple, a bag of chips, and a cookie. Pictures of the paltry boxed lunch hit social media and news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, with most of the reaction being very unfavorable to Disney.
Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to the continuation of TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. This wonderful entry from 2015 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.
Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…
The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.
Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. Starting us off is this gem from 2014 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.
Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2014 was a great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning, to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, I ask that Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…
# 6 – Disney and Universal Merchandise is Better than Ever
It wasn’t long ago, that the only merchandise people were buying at Universal were Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts. Over at Disney, almost every single store, whether in the parks, hotels, or Downtown Disney, was selling the same generic”Disney Parks”stuff. A seismic shift started to occur in 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and blew the doors off everyone’s projections in the area of merchandise and Butterbeer. Guests were now walking out of Universal with house robes, wands and chocolate frogs in hand. This success was then repeated throughout both of their theme parks, with unique and exclusive items found everywhere you looked, from the EVAC action figure at Transformers gift shop, to the faux girl scout cookies in Despicable Me’s Super Silly Store, to my personal favorite – The Film Vault – a whole new store focusing on retro merchandise.
Jungle Cruise merchandise found at the Marketplace Co-op in Downtown Disney. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (The Poly and The Contemporary). Three of the Deluxe resorts are not run by Disney, these include Shades of Green (owned and operated by the US Armed Forces) and the Swan and Dolphin. For over 25 years the Swan and Dolphin has been a part of the Starwood chain of resorts. While Starwood was bought by Marriott in September of this year, the hotels continue to be run under their respective brands (Swan being part of Westin, while the Dolphin part of Sheraton.)
Walt Disney World Swan.
Both the Swan and Dolphin are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts. While neither hotel offers the Disney Magical Express to and from the airport, or participates in the Disney Dining Plan, guests do get the normal WDW on-site ammenities including Extra Magic Hours, Disney transportation, and early access to Fast Pass+. How do the Swan and Dolphin stack up compared to the other on-site resorts? Well, today we are going to check out our favorite parts of these two incredible hotels, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Todd English’s bluezoo
One of the most underrated restaurants on Disney property is Todd English’s bluezoo located on the ground floor of the Dolphin. The bar area is visually stunning, and sets up the unique food and drink menu perfectly. Recently we did a tongue in cheek look at a Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, but one thing that stood out at those bars – along with many others on Disney property – is a reliance on the standard Disney bar menu. Todd English’s bluezoo is the complete opposite of that. Whether you get a Burnt Orange that arrives on fire or a Swedish Fish with its infused foam, the drinks served at bluezoo are served with creativity and flair.
The dining room of bluezoo is deceptively large. While the menu is filled with some great items (especially if you’re a seafood fan,) what shocked us was the crispy Asian pork ribs. I didn’t think anyone would come close to touching the quality of Morimoto Asia’s Hoisin sticky spare ribs, but bluezoo’s are somehow better. While many probably wouldn’t think of bluezoo as the first choice to bring your kids, there is actually a part of the menu for kid’s appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The whimsicly named “desserted island” is among the most fun at WDW.
Smoking Red Sangria. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Burnt Orange – “herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange.” (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things Your Family Needs To Pack For Your Disney Vacation! Getting ready for a Disney vacation is one of the things we love to do the most. It means your trip is almost here! Once you’ve gotten together your clothes, ponchos, and medicine, what else do you need to bring on your trip to The World? Good news, that’s why we’re here. After pestering an exhaustive investigation with many vacationing families, the SATURDAY SIX is ready to give you a list of things to bring to Disney that you didn’t know you needed to bring. These items are designed to make your life easier, or to make your trip more memorable. The only “rule” we had was that every item had to cost less than $20 (and believe it or not, almost all of these items can be found in some fashion at your local Dollar Tree.) The first ever SATURDAY SIX informercial is ready to go, so sit back, make sure you remembered to pack your reading glasses, and let’s begin our list with….
# 6 – A Pop-Up Hamper
Everyone loves to pack for a Disney vacation, but rarely do we consider what we are going to do once we are done wearing our special outfits. There are almost no rooms at Disney hotels that have a hamper, and the ones that do only have them for towels. If your family is like ours, you generally pick an area in the room (usually a closet) and just start throwing your dirty clothes on it until the pile almost becomes sentient like the talking Trash Heap in Fraggle Rock. In the past, we would go to the resort’s gift shop and ask for an extra large bag to try and stuff all the clothes in, but this was as about as fun and useful as it sounds. We finally realized it was a much better idea to bring a pop-up hamper with us.
Mesh pop-up hampers are affordable, compact, and will allow you to stay organized while keeping all of your family’s dirty clothes in an area that doesn’t make you want to apologize to MouseKeeping if you run into them in the hallway.
Pop-up Hamper from the Dollar General. Kids love the cute animal designs which makes it easier to get them to actually put their clothes into it.
It doesn’t take long for dirty clothes to pile up while on vacation.
Would you like paper or plastic?
# 5 – Mini M&Ms Container For Pressed Penny Change
Weekly readers of this fine blog know how much we love pressed pennies. They are an extremely affordable souvenir, and one that is easy to collect and carry with you. What’s not as fun or easy, is having to carry around the actual change to get the pressed pennies. Pockets full of change are noisy and annoying, while having to dig through a change purse can also be frustrating. An easy solution to this problem is buying a tube of Mini M&Ms and storing your change in there. The tube is the perfect size for quarters, and your life will be much easier if you load your change in to the tube in a two quarter/one penny stack. This is going to allow you to pop out the required 51 cents for a pressed penny as easy as a Pez dispenser.
Getting change ready for a vacation.
Two quarter: one penny ratio is crucial in time management.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MORE Theme Park Related Comic Books. Last year the SATURDAY SIX had an in-depth investigative report on the Six BEST Theme Park Related Comic Books. This is an issue – pardon the pun – that is near and dear to our hearts as it combines two of our favorite hobbies: theme parks and comic books. The Walt Disney characters we know and love have been in comic books going back all the way to 1940, and currently there are three different publishers putting out Disney comic books. The first is Disney itself, through the the Marvel Comics brand. With the Disney Kingdoms imprint, Marvel is releasing stories inspired by Disney Parks and Resorts characters and attractions such as Figment and Seekers of the Weird. The second is Joe Books, who have the license for movie adaptations such as Zootopia, along with new books featuring the characters of Frozen, Finding Dory, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The third is IDW Publishing, who have the license for the Disney comic book titles – like Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics – that have gone back for decades.
Grizzly River Run themed covers.
In the past year IDW has released variant covers that have put a spotlight on several of our favorite theme park attractions such as The Haunted Mansion, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Dumbo. These covers are absolutely amazing and done by artists such as Andrea Freccero, Derek Charm, John Loter, and James Silvani. We are going to spotlight these variant covers throughout the article because we love them so much, but the SATURDAY SIX itself is going to look at comic books – some over twenty years old, some not even twenty days old – whose stories have dealt with theme parks directly. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – The Enchanted Tiki Room
Disney announced the Enchanted Tiki Room comic book earlier this summer during the San Diego Comic Con. This came as a shocker to me personally, but I couldn’t have been happier hearing the news. A comic book based on one of my favorite attractions at the Magic Kingdom, and I only could have been more surprised if it was a series about the Peoplemover.
The first issue just hit the stands in early October, and it shows that the world famous macaws and other birds that make up the Enchanted Tiki Room are just one part of a large story. Set on a mysterious island in the Pacific, we are told that each week a group of humans are flown to the island and end up having their lives changed forever by what they experience. If that sounds like the plot to a certain ’80s TV show, you’re not wrong (the issue even has a reference to it.)
For theme park fans, the star of the show is of course the Enchanted Tiki Room itself along with the talkative macaws José, Fritz, Pierre, and Michael. We do get to see the Tiki Room in all its glory, and some fun interactions with the birds, but for the most part the issue is centered around the characters visiting the island (including a mysterious one at the very end.) There are several “Easter Eggs” throughout the issue for Tiki Room fanatics like myself, and even an appearance by a certain Little Orange Bird from the nearby Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland.
Our favorite macaws backstage. Note the reference to Fantasy Island.
Next we are going to step into the Way Back machine and head on over to 1987, when the comic book adaptation of Captain EO was released. Readers of this fine blog know that Captain EO is another one of all our time favorite attractions, however despite the STUNNING art by Tom Yeates, this is not one of our favorite theme park related comic books? Why, because – like the attraction itself – it’s in 3-D. The comic book industry has been trying to do 3-D comic books for who knows how long and, with rare exceptions, it just doesn’t work. Or maybe a better description is that it just doesn’t work as well as you’d want it to. You have to read the comics with those goofy cardboard glasses with each eye looking at a slightly different picture through either the red or blue lens. Because of the constraints the artists have to work in, you’re generally not getting a true comic book experience with detailed backgrounds, etc.
Outside of the 3-D, the Captain EO comic book is great. A lot of the times comic book adaptations of live action films can fall flat because the artist can’t nail down the likenesses of the actors or actresses, but Yeates kills it here. His Michael Jackson is perfect and is just as good with every other character. It is a straight up adaptation of the film, but of course you are missing one of the actual biggest strengths of the movie, the songs. Turns out there’s a big difference between hearing the king of pop Michael Jackson singing We Are Here To Save The World or It’s Just Another Part of Me and just seeing the words printed on a page. Who knew?
If you thought 3-D in movies was insufferable, it ain’t got nothing on the comics version.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Family Friendly Desserts at Walt Disney World Your Kids Won’t Forget! Recent SATURDAY SIX articles have had us looking at some of the great drinks you can get at the WDW hotel lounges (such as the Northwest Exposure at Wilderness Lodge’s Territory Lounge or the Abita Flight at Port Orleans Riverside’s River Roost Lounge) along with some unique burger offerings on property including ESPN Club’s Old World Bavarian Burger or The Mad King at Splitsville. Today we are going to go straight to the end of the menu and look at some of the most unique, outrageous, and – at times – next level bonkers desserts on Disney property. So sit back, loosen up that belt on your pants, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – “DESSERT”ED ISLAND (Todd English’s bluezoo)
One of the most underrated dining experiences in all of “The World” is at Todd English’s bluezoo in the Dolphin at Walt Disney World. bluezoo is known for its world class bar that has one amazing cocktail after another (we recommend to start with the Burnt Orange or the Swedish Fish) but the restaurant’s dinner menu may be the true “best kept secret” at Disney. The Crispy Asian Pork Ribs appetizer is somehow better than the mouth-watering ribs at Morimoto Asia. On the way to the dining room, guests will also pass by a unique circular rotisserie that makes the fish being grilled on it seem to dance on the coals. On the menu, this is presented as “this evening’s dancing fish.” So with a sense of style, originality, and wit you don’t often see in restaurants, it is no surprise that bluezoo also features a Must Try dessert.
The “Dessert”ed Island follows the grand tradition of Disney as it actually is based on story. This story features “a chocolate boat filled with vanilla ice cream sailing the Jell-O seas to explore chocolate island.” If more stories were like that I bet Millenials would read more. All of the chocolate pieces, including the ship and sails, along with the palm tree, are actually made in-house at the Swan and Dolphin. Just a spectacularly fun way to end a meal. ($9.00)
“Dessert” ed Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)
One of the “dancing” fish.
# 5 – Everything Pop Sundae (Disney’s Pop Century)
No one believes this when I tell them, but the Everything Pop food court at Disney’s Pop Century is hands-down the “restaurant” at Walt Disney World I visit the most. Why? Because it’s the one place at WDW where you can get a Sloppy Joe. We all have that favorite Disney food or snack. Some guests love their Mickey Waffles, some prefer the cheddar cheese soup at Le Cellier, and others keep coming back for the bread pudding at ‘Ohana, but for me it’s the Sloppy Joe at Everything Pop.
Many SATURDAY SIX readers know of the Everything Pop food court because of the infamous Pop-Tart Sandwich. An inaugural theme park Turkey of the Year nominee, the Pop-Tart sandwich uses Pop-Tarts as the “bread” for a sandwich that has egg in the form of a hockey puck along with cheese and bacon melded together in a twisted form straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. But believe it or not, the sandwich is not the only item at the Everything Pop food court which uses Pop-Tarts. The Everything Pop Sundae features six flavors of ice cream, brownies, bananas, M&Ms, gummy worms, marshmallows, rainbow jimmies, chocolate fudge, caramel sauce, whipped cream, Maraschino cherries and Pop-Tarts sticking out of the top like monoliths. You may ask yourself “why, gummy worms?” That’s a very good question. ($10.99)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s BoardWalk Resort. While we have done articles on several of our favorite Walt Disney World resorts, including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Art of Animation, and Coronado Springs, it was the BoardWalk Inn & Villas which was the hardest to cut down to just our six favorite things. The overall depth of theming and amount of details throughout the resort is second to none.
The BoardWalk was the second of Disney Vacation Club properties to be built (following Old Key West) and its “story” revolves around the great East Coast boardwalk areas of the 1920s and 30s. In the early part of the 20th century, places like Coney Island in New York and Atlantic City in New Jersey were the Walt Disney World of their day. Attractions, restaurants, hotels… they were the place to be. Disney Imagineers and architect Robert A.M. Stern pulled from this incredible era of history of America to create Disney’s BoardWalk and left tons of wonderful details for guests to appreciate. The details are just one of the many reasons we think this resort is the bee’s knees, so let’s begin counting down our top six reasons starting with…
# 6 – The Lobby
There are some lobbies at Walt Disney World which will have you picking your jaw off the floor (most notably the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge) but what the BoardWalk lacks in expansiveness it makes up for in fantastic show elements, such as the gorgeous Hippocampus Electrolier hanging above. A hippocampus is a creature from Greek mythology that is part horse, part fish, while electrolier is a name for a ceiling fixture holding electric lamps (a name which never took hold and is just referred to as a chandelier today.) Weighing in at 3,000 pounds and intricately detailed, this may very well be the most impressive chandelier on Disney property, and imagine what that is saying.
The BoardWalk’s stunning hippocampus electrolier. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Hanging above the check-in desks are three paintings of Disney castles. There is one each for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris. The reason for this is that in the 1920s/30s, cameras were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are today. Much of what people saw, even in advertisements, were paintings. These castle paintings, and the gold carousel rounding boards that frame them, help make the BoardWalk’s registration area one of the best at WDW.
A majestic painting of the castle at Disneyland Paris. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Walking through the BoardWalk’s lobby you will be drawn to the glass display cases featuring a miniature carousel and a reproduction of the Flip Flap Railway roller coaster. The closer you get to the carousel the bigger your eyes open as you take in the details. This is a to-scale model created by Marcus Charles Illions (the developer of the “Coney Island Style” of carousel wood carving) and bought by Disney from Illions’ granddaughter. Imagineers restored the carousel to its original grandeur, and even added a little Disney magic.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Queues at the Universal Orlando Resort. If there is one thing all theme park fans can agree with, it’s that we hate lines. Even people who aren’t theme park fans often return from an Orlando vacation with a similar thought: theme park lines are the worst. Thankfully our Disney and Universal overlords have spent the last decade completely transforming the queue experience. Disney, putting Billions into MyDisneyExperience and FastPass+, are attempting to get guests to spend less time in lines (in hopes that we have more time in places where we spend money.) Universal has gone in a slightly different direction, creating queues that guests actually want to spend more time in. The concept of “feeling rushed” in a theme park line may seem incomprehensible to anyone who has waited an hour in the Florida humidity for it’s a small world or suffered through the mind-numbing banality of the Soarin’ queue, but believe it or not, it’s true.
The queue for Men In Black: Alien Attack checks off several items we consider crucial to having a good queue, not the least of which is that you are in air conditioning for a long time. That may seem like a minor thing until you’ve almost experienced the sensation of melting while waiting outside for The Simpsons Ride or Rip, Ride, Rockit. It also recreates several areas that many guests will fondly remember from the first Men in Black film. But one of our favorite parts of this queue is that you can actually experience it hands on with a tour of the Immigration Room. Guests aren’t guaranteed this opportunity, but after riding you can ask a Team Member if you can take a tour. This will allow you some unbelievably great photo opportunities, along with a chance to see so many incredible details that Universal Creative has put into this room that the average guest will never see.
Immigration room at Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Travis Terrell)
Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Men in Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. 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 French Quarter and Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (Contemporary andAnimal 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 most underrated resorts, Disney’s Coronado Springs.
Disney’s Coronado Springs, a member of the Moderate Resorts.
There are several reasons Coronado Springs doesn’t get the love and attention the other Disney resorts do. The biggest factor is that caters heavily towards the business convention crowd as opposed to primarily vacationing families. Ironically, this feature actually provides some of the biggest benefits for families, but we’ll get to that later. Because Coronado Springs is relatively off the beaten path at WDW (it sits close to Blizzard Beach, Winter Summerland mini-golf, but little else,) it’s not a place you generally run into while enjoying something else at The World. We’re here to let you know that you should go out of your way to check out Coronado Springs, and we have our six best reasons at the ready. So sit back, remember to practice your piñata swings, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – The Dig Site: Home of The Lost City of Cibola
For many families, including ours, a resort’s pool area plays a major factor when it comes to deciding where to stay. When thinking of Disney’s best pools, places like Yacht & Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay and Caribbean Beach’s Fuentes del Morro pool come immediately to mind. The Dig Site at Coronado Springs is right up there with the best pool areas on property as it is jam packed with great things to do for every family member, big or small.
The headliner is The Lost City of Cibola pool. With a jaw dropping 50 foot tall pyramid and 123 foot long Jaguar waterslide, this is a main pool that has both the “wow factor” and is incredibly fun. Surrounding the main pool is the largest hot tub at WDW, an incredible children’s play area themed to Mayan ruins, the awesome Siestas pool bar, and the best themed volleyball court we’ve ever seen. Siestas has a To-Go food window that is actually open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while the actual bar features several signature cocktails including the Coronado Crush. This is the absolute perfect pool area for those who want to take a midday break away from the parks, or just spend an “off day” totally on-site at the resort. As a bonus, because the resort is often filled with conventioneers and couples without kids, those with children have much less congestion while enjoying the amenities.
The Dig Site.
The Lost City of Cibola pool. The Jaguar Slide is on the right, while the elaborate children’s play area is on the left.
Now that’s a pool!
The #story of the waterslide is that it features a “spitting Jaguar spirit animal.”