Saturday Six

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

by on June 24, 2017

  1. This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the (possible) future of Walt Disney World and Univeral!  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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SATURDAY SIX: Six Amazing CARS Details at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

by on June 17, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Amazing CARS Details at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort!  This weekend the third installment of the Cars franchise hits the theaters and we thought of no better time to head into one of our favorite resorts on property, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The original Cars is one of our favorite Pixar films and is right up there with Ratatouille, Up, and The Incredibles. When Disney California Adventure opened up Cars Land, we were more than a bit jealous, but one thing we did get in Florida is the incredible Cars wing at AOA. The rooms, the buildings, and even the hotel’s lobby is filled with great details, many of which might go unnoticed by the average guest. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite details, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Pixar Autographs on Cars Storyboards in the Chandelier

The lobby of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is one of the most unique on property, and is a downright must see for animation fans. The highlight of the entire area is the stunning Storyboard Chandelier. The star burst-like chandelier is made up of hand drawn storyboards from the four films that make up the sections of AOA (The Little Mermaid,  The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars.) If you look closely at some of the storyboards, you’ll see that several of them are signed by people involved in the films.  For example, Jodie Benson and Pat Carroll – the voice actresses for Ariel and Ursula in The Little Mermaid – both have autographed storyboards featuring their characters from the film.

For the Cars storyboards, some of the biggest names from Pixar can be found in the Chandelier. There is no name bigger than John Lasseter, the director of Cars and current Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. Lasseter has signed a storyboard featuring Lightning McQueen.

John Lasseter. (photo by Daisy Lauren who also helps run the TouringPlans Instagrampage)

Jerome Ranft is a character sculptor for Pixar and brother of the late Joe Ranft (screenwriter with credits that include some of our favorite animated films including Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King) and Jerome signed a drawing featuring Mater cow tipping. Jerome and Joe also worked on some of the larger than life sculptures we see in the Big Blue Pool area in the Finding Nemo section of AOA.

Jerome Ranft. In a great touch, Jerome’s brother Joe Ranft drew Mater in this storyboard.

Artist Josh Cooley worked on Cars and even hand colored the storyboard that he autographed back when they original had it made for the film. The storyboard features Lightning McQueen chasing down Chick Hicks and The King.

Josh Cooley. Note that in this drawing, which was made early in the development of the film, Lightning McQueen was numbered 57 instead of the number 95 we know him as today (but we’ll get to that later.)

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The SATURDAY SIX Goes “Drinking Around The World” at Epcot

by on June 10, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX Goes “Drinking Around The World” at Epcot! Longtime SATURDAY SIX readers know we enjoy an adult drink or two on our theme park vacations. We’ve done articles on the best bars and lounges at the WDW resorts, the best theme park bars, and even Must Try individual drinks such as the Lapu Lapu, Swedish Fish, and the Nautilus. We’ve talked about popular bar crawls among property; in fact we created the worst one of all time with the Disney Value Resorts Bar Crawl. Today we are going to look at what is probably the most popular drinking “game” across all property, Drinking Around The World. It takes place in Epcot’s World Showcase, and features some of the greatest – and most unique – drinks you can get at The World. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite stops while we drink around the world, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Japan

One of our favorites stops for a cool down in Epcot is over at Kabuki Cafe in Japan. Their signature Kakigori can be a lifesaver during a Florida summer. However last year the Kabuki Cafe started offering alcoholic versions of these shaved ice treats with the Sake Mists. Available in blood orange, pineapple coconut, and blackberry flavors, the drinks are served in pretty large cups (by Disney standards) so it’s not only a refreshing drink, but one you can share.

When it comes to sake at WDW, you also have to make a trip into Teppan Edo. Come for the entertaining chefs slicing and dicing your meal in front of you, stay for the sake flights, and swordfish. Pace yourself though, because a couple too many drinks in Japan may lead you to buying some rather strange items at the Mitsukoshi Department Store (in our defense, you can never have too many personal massagers.)

Blood Orange Sake Mist. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Sake flight at Teppan Edo. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love DCA’s Summer of Heroes

by on June 3, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love DCA’s Summer of Heroes!  When Disney announced that it would be transforming Hollywood Tower of Terror in DCA into a brand new attraction featuring the wildly popular Guardians of the Galaxy characters, the response was – at best – mixed. While no one is going to argue that DCA’s Tower of Terror could hold a candle compared to the version in Florida, it still had the iconic Hollywood Hotel facade, and was the perfect fit for the newly rebranded DCA and the park’s emphasis on Walt coming to Hollywood in the early 20th Century. The new ride would be called Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! and the facade now looked like the old hotel got into a head on collision with a Crayola factory.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! (photo by Brian Pinsky)

The debate on the new Guardians attraction raged on while it was being built (with even the SATURDAY SIX getting in on the fun.) On May 27th, the very same day Disney World opened Pandora – The World of Avatar – Mission: Breakout! was unveiled to the masses. However, unlike Animal Kingdom with Pandora, DCA also introduced a whole bunch of other Marvel related activities into the park to enhance the superhero experience. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of DCA’s Summer of Heroes, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Marvel Super Hero Food and Drinks

Down here in Florida we may have more Disney hotels and overall theme parks than out in California, but one area they blow us away is with themed snacks. Believe it or not they are still making new and unique snacks just for the Main Street Electrical Parade. For the Summer of Heroes promotion DCA has introduced 30 new snacks and drinks themed towards superheroes. As a WDW Annual Passholder, this number is almost incomprehensible. Our favorite of the new food options is a piece of sourdough bread made in the shape of Groot.

I Am Bread. (photo by Guy Selga)

The Most Dangerous Tacos In The Galaxy. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We LOVE Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on May 27, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Pandora: The World of Avatar!  It seemed like just yesterday that Disney announced it was going to make a land based around James Cameron’s Avatar (it was actually 2,078 days ago, but who’s counting.) The new area would be replacing Camp Minnie-Mickey, a cute stop during a day at Animal Kingdom, but certainly not a land anyone is going to chain themselves to in protest of its leaving. Now, on the day of it’s official grand opening,  we ask, was it worth the wait? In a word: YES.

A look into Pandora: The World of Avatar. (photo by Michael Carelli)

For many Animal Kingdom fans, talk of the unbuilt Beastly Kingdom brings the same gritted teeth reactions that you’ll see when someone brings up the broken Yeti. However, with Pandora – The World of Avatar, we have our Beastly Kingdom.  Today we’re going to take a look at some of the greatest parts of this new land, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Connect With a Banshee

Before the details of Pandora were released many people – including Your Humble Author  – wondered what the area would do in terms of merchandise. While the film it is based on is the biggest grossing movie in the history of cinema, ancillary sales were almost non-existent. There were plenty of Avatar t-shirts, books, and even a full action figure line to buy, but most went unsold. Would Disney, quite possibly the worldwide leader in merchandise sales, be able to develop Avatar-related items that would get guests to open up their wallet like Universal did with Harry Potter?

Time will tell on the bigger picture, but one thing we already know for sure is that Disney created a huge hit with the Connect With a Banshee toy available in Pandora’s only gift shop, Windtraders. Sharing many similarities with the Wizarding World’s the wand chooses you gimmick, the cute Banshee toys are scoring high with both kids and adults. Guests can make their Banshee move their mouth, head, and wings, not to mention roar, while perched on their shoulder. It is a great souvenir that ties into the film, delivers a personal experience, and even allows “the opportunity” to buy a stand for your Banshee to sit on when not on your shoulder. In the marketing world we call that a home run.

A Banshee at The Rookery. (photo by Michael Carelli) – If you get a Banshee, be sure to follow @DisneyBanshees on Twitter and post pictures of your own Banshee.

Banshees await to bond with their human at The Rookery. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Attractions We Miss At Universal Studios Florida

by on May 20, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Attractions We Miss at Universal Studios Florida!  We are about to enter the part of the theme park calendar when both Universal and Disney like to unveil new attractions and experiences for the busy summer crowds. However, in most cases, whenever we get something new it means we also have to say goodbye to something it replaced. For example, for guests to be able to enjoy the Valley of Mo’ara in Pandora: The World of Avatar, Disney removed Camp Minnie Mickey. Universal Studios Florida has gone through more turnover than most theme parks. In fact, of the park’s opening day attraction lineup, only E.T. Adventure and the Horror Make-Up Show remain. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite USF attractions that have been replaced over the years, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Kongfrontation

Amazingly enough, despited be based around one of the worst filmed versions of King Kong in history (the 1976 remake) Kongfrontation remains an attraction that many Universal fans wish was still in the park. Even though it was replaced by the incredibly popular Revenge of the Mummy indoor coaster, the nostalgia for Kongfrontation is strong. The attraction had many signature moments, including interactions with various super-sized Kong audio-animatronics, and a very memorable end-of-ride photo opportunity where guests could be photographed in Kong’s hand. The Universal mantra of “Ride the Movies”  was exactly what Kongfrontation was all about. It may have been a bad movie, but you were in it and the experience was awesome. There are still references to Kong in Revenge of the Mummy, and Universal finally brought the great ape back into the parks with Skull Island: Reign of Kong, but man we still miss Kongfrontation.

Kongfrontation. (photo credit Universal Orlando Resort)

Kongfrontation. (photo credit Universal Orlando Resort)

Kongfrontation. (photo credit Universal Orlando Resort)

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SATURDAY SIX: The 6 Best Meet and Greets at Universal Studios Florida

by on May 13, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Meet and Greets at Universal Studios Florida! About this time last year, Universal bought DreamWorks Animation for $3.8Billion. However, we haven’t see much of that deal reflected in the theme park world until this past week when a new meet and greet with Kung Fu Panda’s Po was announced for Orlando. In theme park fandom, many have speculated on what incredible attractions that DreamWorks characters could be a part of (who wouldn’t want a How To Train Your Dragon ride?!) but the “meet and greet factor” was mostly overlooked. Meet and greets are now a huge part of the Disney experience, and only getting bigger. In fact, even runDisney races have become so heavily integrated with characters that the surprise removal of them this week caused a  near meltdown on social media.

Now Po the panda is going to be meeting guests in Islands of Adventure, so we’re going to look at some of the fun meet greets located right across the way in Universal Studios Florida, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The Scooby Gang

Having your picture taken with Scooby Doo is almost a rite of passage for any Universal guest. On any average day at the park you’re almost assuredly going to run into the canine sleuth along with Shaggy. Some days, you may find them posing with pics with Velma or Daphne. But on great days, you are able to find the entire Scooby Gang together and that can make for some really fun photos and interactions. You also have to get a shot of the Mystery Machine, which along with K.I.T.T., the General Lee, and the Batmobile is one of the most iconic vehicles in TV history.

The Scooby Gang. (photo by @hedgehogscorner)

The Mystery Machine. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 5 – Knight Bus

The opening of Diagon Alley brought with it a lot of surprises in the form of character entertainment. We all swooned for the soothing voice of Celestina Warbeck and marveled at the creativity of the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts in their Tales of Beedle the Bard shows, but two characters who always bring smiles to Muggle faces are the Knight Bus conductor and his shrunken head sidekick. Both are quick on their feet (not literally in the case of one of them) and the meet and greet starts the guest’s “Diagon Alley experience” in the best way possible.

(photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Disneyland Rides BETTER Than Their Disney World Counterparts

by on May 6, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Disneyland Rides That Are BETTER Than Their Disney World Counterparts! In previous editions of the SATURDAY SIX we have reached out to our all-star blue ribbon panel made up of theme park experts to vote on their favorite attractions at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. This week we reached out again – while also including the unwashed masses of DisTwitter – to give their thoughts on which rides at Disneyland are better than their Disney World counterparts. 

it’s a small world in Disneyland is a completely different experience than the one in Walt Disney World. (photo by Brandon Glover)

One interesting thing about the voting process is that there was a clear favorite after the first day of voting, but spots two through six were close enough that they were all up for grabs. However, when all the votes were counted, the rides ranked 1-6 after the first day each held their position, so it seems clear there is a pretty strong consensus among people who have been to both Orlando and Anaheim. Today we’re going to take a look at six rides which were voted as being BETTER than their Disney World counterparts, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder makes the list in part because of a fantastic refurb the ride went through a couple years ago which added a thrilling finale sequence as well as recontructing the ramshackle Rainbow Ridge mining town. Rainbow Ridge doesn’t exist in Walt Disney World, but has been in Disneyland since 1956 as part of the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction. The finale now includes an amazing lift hill experience where guests are surrounded by projection map technology and real props to give the sensation of the mine about to explode (with a blast of smoke amping up the sensory level.)

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

Rainbow Ridge. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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SATURDAY SIX: Wizarding World Merchandise Straight Out of the Harry Potter Movies

by on April 29, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Wizarding World Merchandise Straight Out of the Harry Potter Movies! We all have our favorite parts of Universal’s Wizarding World. Some love the world class attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Others love the incredible shows like Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. Of course, pretty much everyone loves BUTTERBEER. However, one aspect of the Wizarding World’s immersive theming isn’t discussed as much as everything else, but it is just as important to the overall experience. Merchandise. Now, that may sound crazy at first. In fact, it’s something that both Spaceballs and The Simpsons have made fun of, but in the case of the Wizarding World it’s something real. Muggles walking out of Diagon Alley are loaded down with bags because Universal has delivered on items straight out of the films. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite pieces of merchandise and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Ron and Harry Sweaters (Madame Malkin’s)

Our first piece of merchandise comes from, appropriately enough, the first Harry Potter film. In Sorcerer’s Stone, Mrs. Weasley sends sweaters to Ron and Harry for Christmas. It is a nice moment in the movie because Harry has unbridled glee just when he discovers he is actually getting presents. In Diagon Alley, you can get your own Ron or Harry sweater at Madame Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions.

Ron and Harry sweaters. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Ron wears his sweater from mum in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Harry is only seen wearing his sweater in this deleted scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

While in Madame Malkin’s, another piece of clothing to add to your wardrobe is the sweater Neville Longbottom wears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. This is the same sweater Neville wore while giving his heartfelt speech before drawing the Sword of Gryffindor on Lord Voldemort.

Wearing this Neville Longbottom sweater and you too may feel like you can “spit fire.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

Neville Longbottom in one of the most courageous moments of the entire series in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.

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