Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter

by on February 6, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter. Universal has several great events during the year, including Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights, but one that doesn’t get as much attention celebrates a character who completely changed the fortunes of the Universal Orlando Resort: Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Jam packed into this annual three day event are Q&As with celebrities, wand dueling classes for kids, and a whole bunch of cool stuff inside the Harry Potter Expo. Today we are going to look at our favorite parts of the event, so sit back, take a shot of firewhisky, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – The Sorting Hat Experience

With the Harry Potter books, author JK Rowling created a world that feels as real as our own. It is rich with depth and includes many concepts that readers can instantly identify with. The first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – finds Harry going to Hogwarts, a magical school for gifted wizards and witches. Each student at Hogwarts is then sorted into one of four houses. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. The way the students are chosen for the houses is through the Sorting Hat. The first Harry Potter film brought this hat to life in an unforgettable scene, and Universal does its best to recreate that moment at A Celebration of Harry Potter.

Guests are brought up to the Sorting Hat and asked several questions from the robed Team Member (including where they were from, what they did for a living, if there’s a house they feel they might fit well in, etc). The Sorting Hat then announces which house it has sorted them in. It sounds crazy, but it’s fun and it’s popular. In fact the Sorting Hat experience gets some of the longest lines of the entire celebration, and why shouldn’t it? Getting sorted is something many Potter fans dream of, and although filling out a questionnaire on Pottermore is one way to get sorted, getting sorted by the Sorting Hat feels real.

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SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump moments before being sorted into Gryffindor. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

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“Hmm, difficult. VERY difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh yes. And a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you? ” – The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (photo by Hunter Underwood – @elvenage)

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on January 30, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a truly special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been deluged with #Blizzard2016 pictures, the Oscars dealing with a diversity problem, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world recently. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Pizza Planet Under Major Refurbishment. Coming Back With a New Theme?

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Could Pizza Planet actually come back with a Muppets theme? (photo by Matt Cleary)

First, some backstory. For years Jim Hill, an icon of theme park media, has been telling the story of how the Muppets were originally going to be used in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the things that never ended up coming to fruition was The Great Gonzo’s Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. Can you imagine a Muppet’s themed restaurant, with a kitchen run by the Swedish Chef, where Mama Melrose’s Restorante Italiano now sits?  Dare to dream.

Now it’s time to put on the detective hat. Recently Pizza Planet at DHS closed down for a long refurbishment. What should have been a wonderfully themed venue themed to the world of Toy Story was instead one of WDW’s most bland restaurants/arcade. Back at the D23 Expo, Disney unveiled details of the upcoming Toy Story Land expansion. This new land is going to built on the other side of the park, so it would be strange to have a Pixar related restaurant (no matter how poorly themed) so far away from everything else. After the construction walls went up around Pizza Planet, WDW uncharacteristically put up a lot of humorous signs on the walls. Gags that are much more in line with the type of jokes  you see in the building of say… Muppet*Vison 3D. In a recent edition of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill said that instead of a Gonzo themed restaurant, we may actually see The Swedish Chef’s Cooking School.

Will Pizza Planet return from it’s refurbishment as a Muppets themed restaurant? Time will tell, but it is almost assuredly not coming back as Pizza Planet and for that we can all be thankful. To stay up to date on this story follow the boys over at WDWThemeParks.com.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Pressed Pennies at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on January 23, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Pressed Pennies at the Universal Orlando Resort. Regular readers of this fine blog know that we have extolled the virtue of pressed pennies in our article on The Best Souvenirs at Walt Disney World and anyone who follows Your Humble Author on social media knows I am pretty much obsessed with them. Today we are going to head over to the Universal Orlando Resort and check out the best pressed coin designs they have to offer. So sit back, drive yourself crazy looking through all your change to find two quarters and a penny, and let’s start off with…

# 6 – Jurassic Park

The Jurassic Park logo is just as awesome today as it was when it made its debut over twenty years ago, and in the gift shop of the Jurassic Park River Adventure (way in the back) you can find a pressed penny design with this very image.

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Iconic Jurassic Park logo.

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# 5 – The Simpsons

There are a good amount of Simpsons pressed penny designs found throughout the entire Universal resort (not just in Springfield USA), and in fact our favorite design is located over at Islands of Adventure in front of the Islands Trading Post. One of the biggest strength of the Simpsons TV show is its huge cast of characters, however almost all of the pressed penny designs at Universal feature the actual Simpson family of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. One design features Homer, Moe, and Barney Gumble at Moe’s Tavern. Until we can get a pressed penny featuring Comic Book Guy (Worst. Penny. Ever.), Cletus the slack jawed yokel, Duffman, or even Poochie, the Moe’s Tavern penny is going to be  #1 in our book.

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Moe’s Tavern.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Top Six Vegan & Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants in Walt Disney World

by on January 16, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Vegan & Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants at WDW. When readers come to the SATURDAY SIX for food they are generally looking for the most unhealthy (Pop-Tart Sandwich), most outrageous (Beaches & Cream’s Kitchen Sink sundae), or most likely to have been created out of a fever dream (Animal Kingdom poop snacks). But there’s actually another side to theme park dining: a healthy side. Today we are going to look the top six vegan & vegetarian friendly restaurants at WDW. Some people choose to eat vegan because of dietary restriction or allergies, some due to animal welfare concerns, and others for their health, but whatever the reason Walt Disney World is a great place to accommodate their needs. Today we reached out to an expert in this area, Emily Woesthoff, former general manager of Erin Mckenna’s Bakery NYC in Disney Springs (a vegan bakery). Emily is a lifelong Disney fan and just celebrated her 11th year of losing her mind eating vegan. There is no better person to guide us on this journey, so take it away Emily!

If I was given the good fortune to have a limitless supply of cash, and the superpower to make an ADR wherever I please, the following six-ish restaurants would be my go-to table service locations for vegan dining at Walt Disney World! While I haven’t yet managed to eat at every restaurant on property, I’ve dined at quite a few. The list below features my favorites, please keep in mind they are in no particular order. 

6 – ‘Ohana (Polynesian Village Resort)

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‘Ohana.

Yup. The infamous meat-fest that is ‘Ohana made the list. Crazy, right? I waited a really long time to eat here for a few reasons. First, all anyone ever talks about when they mention ‘Ohana is that it’s very meat-heavy. I had only assumed that they basically sat you in front of a roasted pig with an apple in his mouth and said, “have at it!” Second, I’m not a huge fan of the stuff-your-face-as-much-as-you-can-we-are-not-going-to-stop-bringing-you-food restaurants. It’s just too much pressure! And finally, I had accidentally been reading the restaurant’s name as O’Hana for quite a number of years, and I just didn’t think Polynesian-Irish fusion food would work. 

Much to my surprise, the vegan options at ‘Ohana are outstanding! The same lettuce wraps that meat-eaters rave about can be made vegan! There was also a considerable portion of stir fried noodles, vegetables, and tofu from which to choose, along with a starter of crispy pita chips and hummus, too! Vegan ice cream was available for dessert, if one can manage to save room for dessert at ‘Ohana. There’s also a bit of during meal entertainment, which definitely enhanced the experience. Since this restaurant is “all you care to enjoy,” the price can be a little steep. I recommend coming here with a big appetite!

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Vegan dessert at ‘Ohana.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things in the Orlando Theme Parks We Can’t Wait to Experience in 2016!

by on January 9, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things in Orlando We Can’t Wait to Experience in 2016. What a year 2015 was in the Orlando theme parks. We had The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly but 2016 looks to be even better. We have brand new looks coming to some our favorite rides, several completely new attractions, and even a brand new onsite resort. If you’re not excited about what’s coming in the next twelve months you want to check your pulse, as you may possibly be dead. For the rest of us, let’s kick off the countdown with…

# 6 – Frozen Ever After (EPCOT)

The biggest change in the history of World Showcase is about to happen when the Norway pavilion transforms into the land of a fictional country. That’s right, while last year we wrote about the heroic efforts of the #SaveMaelstrom campaign – which unfortunately worked about as well as the Save Mr. Toad protests – this year we are hailing our new theme park overlords Frozen. The old Maelstrom attraction is being converted over to Frozen Ever After, a boat ride that will have guests sailing past audio-animantronics and everyone’s favorite: screens. Frozen Ever After will feature the rear projection technology that we all love in the dwarf animatronics at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, along with the rare opportunity to hear the song Let It Go.

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A show scene from Frozen Ever After. (concept art ©Disney)

 

But that’s not all! A Frozen meet and greet is coming to World Showcase, and you remember that a similar meet and greet forever changed how guests enter the Magic Kingdom every morning, Guests meeting Elsa and Anna wll do so at the new Royal Summerhaus. The theming of the Summerhaus will be based on an actual log cabin from Norway, and will also feature some of the tricks used in the Talking Mickey meet and greet on Main Street USA, which should help increase capacity. 

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Royal Sommerhaus in the Norway Pavilion, or whatever it’s going to be called. (concept art ©Disney)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2015 (No Matter How Hard We Try)

by on January 2, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2015 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With this being the first edition of the SATURDAY SIX for 2016 it is time for our annual tradition of looking back at some of the most memorable moments of the past 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 – Universal Bans Water Bottles

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Bringing a Dasani into the park? You just may be doing some hard time! (photo by Matt Cleary)

Monday, February 16th. A day that will live in (theme park) infamy. This was the day when the Universal Orlando Resort mysteriously banned guests from bringing water bottles into the resort. No official reason was given as to why the new procedure was put into place, and after a huge social media outcry, the ban was lifted by Thursday. No advanced warning was given, so guests showing up to the parks found out at the security bag check at the parking garages that bringing bottled water onto property was not allowed. This caused lines at bag check to grow frustratingly large (which – as it turns out – was just foreshadowing for events later in year, but we’ll get to that later).

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2015)

by on December 26, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (A/K/A The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2015). 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 two 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.) 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, others 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 – Olaf Rain Gauge

What’s always fascinating when you come across a particularly awful piece of merchandise is taking a minute and realize how many people must have said “yes” for this product to actually exist. To imagine that no one up and down the line from concept, to drawings, to prototypes, to production, to anywhere in-between said “have you lost your minds?!” I for one want to bFe in the meeting where this Olaf Ran Gauge was pitched. Who was the intended audience for it? What planet exists in the multiverse where an adult who cares about a rain gauge would want one Frozen based or a kid who loves Frozen so much needs a rain gauge. This item joins Mickey’s Personal Disney Assistant and goes directly in the Outlet Hall of Fame.

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(Photo by Mark Diba.)

Olaf had a heck of a year at the Outlets, including this “media case.” I promise you, Dear Reader, that if I ever decide to leave this mortal coil I will write a note explaining my reasons and leave it tucked away in this case.

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Olaf media case.

# 5 – Mickey and Minnie “Chestburster” Shirts

Can someone explain to me why anyone would wear this type of shirt? I don’t understand because I love the classic look on the front of the shirts. In fact, back in April I almost bought what I though was a great Chip and Dale shirt, only to discover the next-level bananas backside.I guess we are supposed to believe the characters are gripping your back and sticking their head through your body like a Xenomorph from the Alien movies. That mistake did teach me a valuable lesson: no matter how good the front of a Disney t-shirt looks, always check out the back. Always.

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This shirts look great, right?

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Whaaaaaat?!!!!

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SATURDAY SIX: In Memoriam – Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2015

by on December 19, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2015. As theme park fans, we’ve had a lot to be thankful for this year. However, as much as we are looking forward to the upcoming Star Wars Land at Disney and Universal teaming up with Nintendo, it wasn’t all good news. This year we had to say goodbye to some old friends. In the case of Captain EO, we had to say goodbye again.Today we pay our respects to some of those that we lost in the past year, starting with….

 # 6 – Twister… Ride It Out!

Alas poor Paxton, I knew him well Horatio…

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“I will remember you…” – Sarah McLachlan (photo by @DrewOfOU)

Friends, Brazilians, Annual Passholders, lend me your ears. I come to bury Twister…Ride It Out! not to praise it. The evil that C Ticket attractions do, lives after them. The good is oft interred with their flying cows. So let it be with Twister. The noble Jimmy Fallon hath told you Twister was ambitious. If it were so, it was a grievous fault. And grievously hath Twister answer’d it. Here, under leave of Jimmy Fallon and the rest, — For Jimmy Fallon is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men, — Come I to speak in Twister‘s funeral. Twister was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Jimmy Fallon says Twister was ambitious. And Jimmy Fallon is an honorable man.

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Twister…Ride It Out! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Another attraction joins the great big theme park in the sky. (photo by @DrewOfOU)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Indiana Jones References in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

by on December 12, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six Best Indiana Jones References in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. 2015 has been a big year for Disney Springs. The BOATHOUSE and Morimoto Asia have elevated Disney Springs dining to the point where it competes with Epcot’s World Showcase as the best place for Disney foodies to go on property, but one of the the biggest surprises of the area has been the new Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.

A bar themed to the world of Indiana Jones that is filled with references to our favorite movies? We haven’t been this excited since finding out about that Jaws themed restaurant at Universal Studios Japan. Today we are going to look at our six favorite references, and the film scenes where they came from. So sit back, grab a bowl of dates, and prepare yourself as we start off with…

# 6 – Voodoo Doll From Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is by far and away the darkest of all of the Indy films, including two scenes in which the Maharajah uses a voodoo doll to cripple Indy. Keep in mind the Maharajah is a child. Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar not only features a voodoo doll of Indiana, but also ones for Short Round and Willie Scott, the other main characters in the movie.

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Voodoo dolls of Indiana Jones, Short Round, and Willie Scott. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Indiana Jones being shown his voodoo doll as he is being attacked in Temple of Doom.

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Who among us hasn’t wanted to do this a Duffy the Disney Bear? (photo from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Souvenir Cups at Walt Disney World

by on December 5, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Souvenir Cups at Walt Disney World. Regular readers of the SATURDAY SIX already know we consider souvenir cups one of the best souvenirs at Walt Disney World. They are relatively inexpensive, and something practical that you can use back at home (which serves double duty as it mentally can bring you back to The World). In the last several years Disney has made some exceptional souvenir cups, and today we are going to look at the best of the best. So sit back, grab a a straw, and prepare yourself as we start off with…

# 6 – WDW Resort Refillable Mug

One thing that has driven us absolutely crazy over the past few years is Disney going to a standard cup for all of it’s onsite resorts. Gone are the days of cups unique to each hotel and instead we’ve received a rarely-changed design that is ubiquitous across property. Compare this to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort,which just opened last year and already has had four different designs for its refillable mugs including  TWO Christmas-themed designs.

Recently Disney introduced a new refillable cup for its onsite hotels, and while we still wish each resort had its own, this is a humongous step in the right direction.

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Walt Disney World refillable mugs.

What makes this cup so great is all the little details throughout. First it has Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto driving through a stylized version of the iconic Walt Disney World sign. Who doesn’t get a smile on their face when driving past this sign? The cup even has Donald taking a picture of it with his phone, something all of us have done as well. The road ahead of Mickey and the gang features Disney’s Value Resorts including Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the All-Stars.

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Value resorts.

This section of the cup features a look at a purple Disney road sign (featuring shout outs to Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, and Old Key West) as well as representations of Disney’s monorail resorts (The Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian).

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Deluxe resorts.

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