Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Disney’s WILDERNESS LODGE

by on October 7, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s WILDERNESS LODGE. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside and Fort Wildnerness), and Deluxe (The Poly and BoardWalk). Today we are going to look at one of the Deluxe offerings with Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

 

Inspired national park lodges and inns of the early 20th century, Wilderness Lodge was designed by Peter Dominick, an architect who also was a major influence in Disney’s Grand Californian Lodge and Florida’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Sitting alongside Bay Lake, Wilderness Lodge is in between The Contemporary and the Fort Wilderness campground and offers relaxing boat rides to both locations as well as the Magic Kingdom. Like many other guests, we here at the SATURDAY SIX have fallen head over heels in love with Wilderness Lodge, and today we are going to count down our reasons why, starting with…

# 6 – Fire Rock Geyser

With the entire resort in effect a tribute to our great American national parks, the hourly eruption of Fire Rock Geyser gives guests a taste of what people experience when seeing Old Faithful at Yellowstone in Wyoming. Taking place at the top of every hour, Fire Rock Geyser’s explosion of water is a unique event at the Wilderness Lodge and a true piece of “Disney Magic” that separates the mouse house from its competitors.

Fire Rock Geyser.

Fire Rock Geyser erupting its plume of water at the top of every hour.

Fire Rock Geyser. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Things Disney Can Take to the Dump Along with The Great Movie Ride

by on September 30, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX makes its long awaited return to the Disney Dump! With Walt Disney World doing a little “Spring cleaning” this summer and deciding to get rid of even more attractions (Great Movie Ride, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and the Music of Pixar Live! among others) we here at the SATURDAY SIX have put our noggins together and figured out a couple more things they can take to the dump as well.

The world famous Disney Dump. (art by Matt Cleary)

We made our first trip to the Disney Dump a couple years ago, and anything that was asked for then would not be eligible for this article. This is why you won’t see Dinoland USA, Electric Umbrella, ABC Commissary, BoardWalk Pizza Window, Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Stitch’s Great Escape. Look at that list again and keep in mind Stitch’s Great Escape is still around while the Great Movie Ride – the heart and soul of DHS – is now gone. Today we’re going to take a look at things we’d all be better off without, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival

When Captain EO made its debut in 1986, it was the epitome of what made Disney Disney. Produced by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, score by James Horner, starring Michael Jackson, EO was an all star collaboration of the highest order. The movie itself was one of the first true “4D” films, in which the theater itself became part of the experience with seat movement, laser and smoke effects. There was absolutely nothing outside of Epcot Center that could be compared to Captain EO.

Now, if you have a DVD player in your house (or NETFLIX) you can have your very own replacement for Captain EO with the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. Unlike Captain EO, several of the short films used in the “festival” have been converted into 3D, despite the fact they weren’t made with 3D in mind. This is the difference between buying a beautiful bouquet of flowers for your significant other, and just grabbing something off your front lawn right before you get home. Captain EO represents a certain era of Disney, when only imagination was the limit to what could be achieved. In a way, the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival also represents an era of Disney; one in which intellectual property, branding, and corporate synergy supersedes “outdated” concepts like “theme.” Do yourself a favor, stream a Pixar short on your mobile device while waiting in line for a better attraction.

Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When “air conditioning” is your number one selling point. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 27

by on September 23, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Universal’s 27th Annual HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS! While Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is arguably Disney’s best hard ticket event, the premiere Halloween party in Florida takes place down the road at Universal Studios Florida. Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), transforms the entire park after day guests leave. When HHN begins, out come elaborate street experiences throughout the park, 9 insanely detailed haunted houses, and two great stage shows.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

A perennial Golden Ticket winner for Best Halloween Event, HHN 27 faced two rather large challenges in 2017. For the first time in four years. the blockbuster sensation AMC’s The Walking Dead IP would not be part of the event. More importantly, longtime HHN creative lead Michael Aiello moved up on the corporate ladder at Universal, leaving the event in the hands of show director Patrick Braillard. Today we’re going to look at our favorite parts of HHN, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The Scare Zones

During HHN, the streets of Universal that are normally lined with churro carts become home to elaborately designed set pieces filled with costumed characters. This year’s lineup includes The Altars of Horror as you walk into the park in Production Central, The Purge in New York, Invasion! in San Francisco, Trick ‘r Treat in Central Park, and Festival of the Deadliest in Hollywood. Each of these locations have unique characters, and there is also “roaming hordes” of clowns wielding the ubiquitous HHN chainsaw that you will see mostly in the Springfield USA area. Lots of great photo opportunities here.

The Purge. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Trick ‘r Treat. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: Walt Disney World Pet Peeves

by on September 16, 2017

On any given week here at the SATURDAY SIX you’ll find us looking at our favorite attractions, hotels, or food in the theme park world we all love so much. However, sometimes we have to go even deeper. This week we are going to look at a subject that many guests think about, but often keep to themselves: Walt Disney World Pet Peeves. Like you, Dear Reader, I consider myself a relatively patient man who just wants to enjoy his time at Disney. That said, on rare occasions, I witness actions by other guests that are completely insignificant in the Big Picture Of Life, but absolutely drive me bananas. Today we are going to look at some of the things in which I felt wronged – imagined or otherwise –  starting with…

# 6 – “Reserving” Lounge Chairs

For this one, I am going to have to begrudgingly give the offending perpetrators some credit. While most of us are relaxing and sleeping in on our vacation, there are a dedicated few who wake up at the crack of dawn just so they can go to a resort’s pool and put their stuff on lounge chairs. This is not just a WDW “thing” as I also witnessed it on the Disney Cruise Line (especially on sea days). Now, there are signs everywhere that specifically say you can’t do this, but finding a Cast Member who enforces this rule is rarer than seeing a working Yeti at Expedition Everest.

“Sorry Ma’am, these are all taken.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

A walk around any WDW pool will show a sea of reserved lounge chairs, many of which are being held for family members who don’t even end up going to the pool. How to solve this may be tricky, but as a Floridian I think I have the solution. Because the state of Florida doesn’t require cars to be inspected, you’ll never go a day on the highway (or I-4) without seeing a car just left on the side of the road. Generally speaking, if you leave your car on the side of the road you have about two hours before it is towed by the state (at your expense.) Disney could have Cast Members “patrol” the pool area, taking notes of chairs which have clean, folded towels reserving them. If a guest doesn’t come back to the chair within, say, 30 minutes, the towels are picked up and the chair goes back into rotation for guests who are actively looking for one.

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The SATURDAY SIX has some Magical Memories after a recent WDW vacation

by on September 9, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look back at its recent WDW vacation! We’re going to take a brief break from our normal routine here on this fine blog series, as we here in Florida are having to deal with Hurricane Irma. In fact, this past Thursday I cut my Walt Disney World stay short in order to drive back down towards the storm and experienced a moment straight out of The Walking Dead. So while we in the Sunshine State are in the process of hunkering down or escaping, we’ll do a quick look back at some things I experienced during my time at The Mouse. This includes my first ever dessert party, my first time riding an attraction that is actually older than me, and a ton of outrageous food. Speaking of which, let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The Rio Grande Nacho Challenge at Pecos Bills

For some reason known only to Disney themselves, in the past year or so a whole bunch of “secret” menu items have appeared at the parks and resorts. One of the newer items is the incredible Rio Grande Nacho Challenge at Pecos Bill’s in the Magic Kingdom.

The Rio Grande Nacho Challenge. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Fist let’s get to the particulars. The cost is $85. That may sound crazy, but I believe there is a lot of value here, and will explain along the way. Pecos Bill currently has an AP discount, so after discount and tax the total was $72.42. The Rio Grande is only served between 3-6PM, and Pecos Bills will only serve four groups per hour. So if you are interested in trying this out, be sure to get there as early as you can to check in and reserve a time.

The picture above shows how the Rio Grande is normally served, while the picture below is what you get if you ask for the toppings to be served on the side. There is a whole bunch of meat on these nachos, and everyone absolutely loved the chicken. The beef crumbles and pulled pork weren’t bad at all, but the chicken was really tasty.

The Rio Grande, served with toppings on the side. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Pecos Bills does the Rio Grande right in terms of presentation, as groups are brought back to a reserved section of the restaurant. There are fun, old timey tin plates and cups for everyone in the group. Two pitchers of whatever drinks you prefer are served with the Rio Grande, but you can ask for pitchers of any other type of beverage once those are gone. We originally started with lemonade and iced tea, but eventually also got pitchers of Coke, Diet Coke, and water.

Three new sheriffs have been deputized in Frontierland. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: The 6 Lowest-Rated Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on September 2, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Lowest-Rated Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort! That’s right, this week we finish off our month long look at some interesting survey results courtesy of TouringPlans readers. Previously we’ve checked out the highest-rated rides, shows and spectaculars at Walt Disney World, along with The Mouse House’s lowest-rated attractions. Last week we checked out the best of the best at Universal Orlando, and this week we’re going to look at the other side of the coin. One thing to note is that there are some attractions that probably should have made this list – such as the Flying Fish Market show at USF – but they did not receive enough survey results to qualify. I was really surprised by some of these results, so let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Poseidon’s Fury

The outdoor facade for Poseidon’s Fury single-handedly justifies the existence of the Lost Continent area at Islands of Adventure. Stunningly huge and elaborately detailed, this is an example of what Universal Creative can do when not tied to a specific Intellectual Property. Poseidon’s Fury is a walkthrough experience that contains several of Universal’s most incredible special effects, the best of which is an surreal walk through a tunnel in which jets of water form the walls around you.

Poseidon’s Fury. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Various elements of the show can be corny, no doubt, but the final battle is fun to watch play out in a larger than life setting. There is nothing like Poseidon’s Fury anywhere else in the theme park world, and it is just the type of show that could be used over in Diagon Alley for the long rumored Ministry of Magic attraction that would go where Fear Factor Live currently stands.

While I would consider Poseidon’s Fury at the top of my list of most underrated attractions at Universal, I can see why some would rate it poorly. It isn’t until the water tunnel reveal and the last act before the show gets really good. The whole experience is a relatively passive one, especially for modern audiences. As we mentioned, the camp factor is also very high. You’re watching an epic battle between good and evil in which one of the characters is named Lord Darkenon (apparently Taser Face was already taken.)

Overall Score: 3.3/5

Poseidon’s Fury. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Poseidon’s Fury. (photo byMike Sperduto)

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SATURDAY SIX: The 6 Highest-Rated Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 26, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Highest-Rated Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort! This month we’ve taken the data submitted by TouringPlans readers after they have returned from their Orlando vacations to get an idea of what they liked – and didn’t like – during their trip to the parks. We started with the highest-rated rides at Walt Disney World, followed by the highest-rated shows and spectaculars. Last week we looked at the lowest-rated attractions at WDW and today we are going down the street to the Mouse’s chief competition, the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, two years ago the SATURDAY SIX commissioned a blue-ribbon panel consisting of some of the biggest names in the theme park community to rate Their Favorite Attractions at Universal. It’s going to be interesting to see what the “experts” chose compared to the average family, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey made its debut over 7 years ago and is pretty much the ride which forever changed the fortunes of Universal. The attraction’s Hogwarts Castle facade is impressive enough, but what really blew everyone away was the attention to detail in the queue. In fact, the queue of Forbidden Journey is so incredible that for a while there was a “castle tour” option where guests could walk the queue without riding the attraction. Universal used elements both from the Potter books and film series throughout the queue to create an amazing experience like no other. Creative nailed the “living paintings” concept and even had the debut of the Four Founders of Hogwarts, with the four having a conversation about the guests through their paintings. Fans of the Potter series get to walk through places such as Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

The ride itself has guests going through the greatest hits of the first several Harry Potter films, including a stop into the Chamber of Secrets, a fly through of a game of Quidditch, and even a run-in with Dementors. This is all done spectacularly through the use of live-action sets and screens that work seamlessly together to provide an experience like no others. The cherry on top of the sundae is the use of all your favorite Harry Potter stars both in the queue and in the ride.

Overall Score 4.3/5

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey queue. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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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 spectaculars, 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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