Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

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The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

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The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

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“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

by on February 14, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Each of Walt Disney World’s onsite hotels have their own unique feel, and that rings true from the value end (such as Art of Animation) through the moderates (including Port Orleans French Quarter) and all the way up to the deluxe resorts like The Contemporary. That said, no hotel in Orlando stands more by itself as a one-of-a-kind original experience than Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Located directly next to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park (and absolutely nothing else,) many guests consider Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) too far out of the way to consider staying at. While the wait for the Disney buses may be a little bit longer than other resorts on property, today’s edition of the SATURDAY SIX is going to count down six reasons we feel everyone should consider staying at AKL as part of their next vacation, starting with…

# 6 – Indian-style Bread Service at Sanaa

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Sanaa bread service. A first ballot hall of famer for Disney food. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Animal Kingdom Lodge is broken up into two parts, the main hotel (Jambo House) and the Disney Vacation Club wing (Kidani Village.) In these two areas there are three of Disney’s best restaurants including Boma and Jiko at Jambo House, and Sanaa at Kidani Village. Unlike many restaurants at WDW that have dumbed themselves down in order to maximize profits as part of Disney’s Dining Plan, AKL’s restaurants deliver an experience that is true destination dining. The standout of these three venues is Sanaa’s bread service. With five different types of Naan bread available and up to nine different accompaniments to go with it, this is a bread service like no other.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things Disney Can Take To the Dump Along With the Sorcerer’s Hat

by on February 7, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things Disney Can Take To the Dump Along With the Sorcerer’s Hat. With Disney now finishing up dismantling the Sorcerer’s Hat and taking it to the landfill, we here at the SATURDAY SIX offices figured it was a great opportunity to get rid of some other things we want to see removed from WDW. Since the jackhammers and dump trucks are already out, why not take advantage of them and get rid of some other unwanted items?

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The Disney Landfill. It’s kinda like the Disney Vault except when things get put in here they never come back out. (Picture taken by Matt Cleary using an ESPN phone.

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So we put on our thinking caps, looked around the entire resort, and are here to present to you the six things we think Disney should just wash their hands of, starting with….

# 6 – Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama (Animal Kingdom)

If you have 30 minutes, a Disney Imagineer will explain to you the elaborate backstory to Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama and why its gaudy and obnoxious appearance works wonderful within the otherwise gorgeous Animal Kingdom park. But just like a joke that you have to explain probably isn’t funny, a land that you have to jump through hoops to explain probably doesn’t work either.

Let’s face it, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama looks cheap. Anyone who has worked in Hollywood will tell you it takes a lot of money to look cheap, and while Disney spent a lot of time and money developing Dino-Rama, it comes across like they just threw it in the park with no thought whatsoever. It doesn’t matter whether it is true or not, perception often becomes reality. Where Disney triumphs above all else is drawing guests into a land, whether it’s walking down Main Street or the subtle transitions from Frontierland to Liberty Square, guests feel completely immersed and everything just feels right. Dino-Rama is like someone dropped an anvil on your head.

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Travel back through time? Please take me back to the moment right before I decided to ride Primeval Whirl. (photo by Tim Grassey)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six of our Favorite WDW Snacks Outside of the Theme Parks

by on January 31, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six of our Favorite WDW Snacks Outside of the Theme Parks. Let’s get this out of the way: we love theme park snacks. We think you know we love theme park snacks, but did you know that there are just as many great treats – if not more – outside of the parks? Today, in part one of planned 27 part series, we’re looking at six of our favorite WDW treats available at the Disney resorts, water parks, and Downtown Disney, starting with…

# 6 – Zebra Domes (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

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Zebra Domes from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Zebra Domes are synonymous with the Animal Kingdom Lodge and one of its signature restaurants, Boma. Thankfully, these tasty treats are also available elsewhere at AKL including The Mara and Johari Treasures at Kidani Village. The base of a Zebra Dome is a small layer of cake with a dollop of Amarula liqueur mousse on top of it. The Dome is then coated with white chocolate, while dark chocolate is used to create the zebra stripes. Run, don’t walk. to try this one on your next WDW vacation.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort According to Our All-Star Panel

by on January 24, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. We invited distinguished theme park experts from all over the world to come together and decide – once and for all – what the six best attractions are at the Universal Orlando Resort. Unfortunately, they were all busy. So instead we would like to introduce to you an all star, blue ribbon panel, made up of Universal experts. These include members of some of the greatest Universal websites (including Orlando United and Orlando Informer), the best Universal podcasts (including Parkscope and the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast), the most amazing Uni photogs (including Mike Sperduto and Brandon Glover), high ranking officials of the Theme Park Illuminati (such as Len Testa and Jim Hill), fan favorite park icons (including Scarlett Litton and Mark Diba), and the man who literally wrote the book on Universal, Seth Kubersky. We used a total of 25 individuals, in honor of Universal’s upcoming 25th Anniversary.

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SATURDAY SIX staff crunching numbers.

The Criteria: Each of the 25 experts voted on what they consider to be the six best attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. These attractions could be any ride or show currently in Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Special event shows – such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure or the Blues Brothers Christmas Show – were not eligible. Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. The votes were then sent to a top secret location in Florida and counted no less than 22 times (we’ve had some problems in the past. Sorry, Mr. Gore). The results are in, and we now proudly present….

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX BEST ATTRACTIONS at the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.

# 6 – MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack (14 Points)

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MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Jim Hill, JimHillMedia.com – Steven Spielberg was supposedly the guy who came up with Universal Studios Florida’s original catch phrase (“Ride the Movies”). But MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack was the first theme park attraction that really did allow guests to ride a movie. To immerse theme park visitors in this hyper-detailed environment that then tried to replicate the specific look & feel of a particular motion picture. So much of what Universal Creative has since been celebrated for when it comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it first did with the April 2000 opening of this 70,000 square foot attraction. From the exterior to this enormous show building (which replicates the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion that played such an important part in the finale of the original Men in Black movie) to the insane level of detail found in this attraction’s queue (e.g., being able to listen in on the “worm guys” as they take their coffee break) to how interactive the actual “Alien Attack” ride is all by itself… The sheer ambition of MIB:AA is still kind of mind-blowing. And then when you factor in that upwards of 2200 Guests are able to experience this USF attraction every hour … Well, is it any wonder that the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) decided to give Universal Creative an Outstanding Achievement award in 2001 for all the great work that it did on this interactive, genuinely immersive attraction?

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter

by on January 17, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. Regular readers of the Saturday Six know how much we enjoy staying onsite at the Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, and while Disney is challenged to compete with some the amenities that Universal can offer its guests, where it does shine is the overall amount and unique hotels on property. Universal has a total of four onsite hotels (soon to be five with the opening of Sapphire Falls in 2016) while Disney has five value resorts alone, not to mention all the moderate, deluxe, and DVC resorts on property. Today we are going to look at our absolute favorite moderate: Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

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Port Orleans French Quarter.

 

Disney’s Port Orleans is broken up into two sections: French Quarter, and Riverside, the latter of which is the much larger of the two resorts. While Riverside certainly has its fans (in fact we’d probably consider it our extremely close second favorite moderate,) we prefer Port Orleans (POFQ) and here are six reason why, starting with…

# 6 - Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory

French Quarter doesn’t have a table service restaurant (although Riverside’s Boatwright’s Dining Hall is a short walk away,) but it does have a fantastic counter service with the Sassagoula Float Works. Set up like a mall food court, there are several different stations offering Louisiana-inspired dishes such as Po’Boys, Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Beignets. For lunch you can not go wrong with one of the various Po’Boys (our favorites were the pork and beef versions) along with a side of bean salad or house-made chips. As we wrote about in our review of the Fantasy Fare food truck, Disney makes surprisingly good chips. For dinner you gotta go with the Jambalaya or Pot Roast, and any time of the day is good for an order of beignets. Made fresh-to-order and covered in powdered sugar, these beignets are one of the best treats at WDW.

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Pork Po’Boy with bean salad from Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks

by on January 10, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks. No one loves the Disney theme parks more than us, but sometimes you just can’t get to them no matter how much you want to be there. So today we are going to look at various ways you can get a taste of WDW, without paying the $90-$95 ticket cost to enter the turnstiles. Be forewarned, the more you quench your Disney thirst, the more you are going to want to book your next trip into the parks.

We are going to start off taking the 30,000 foot view (© Jim Hill) and look at things that anyone can enjoy anywhere in the world, while eventually making our way down to things available closer to the actual theme parks in Florida. With that out of the way, let’s being our countdown, starting with…

# 6 – Disney Related Books

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Selection of theme park books. (photo by Tim Grassey)

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to build your Disney library. Reading about Walt Disney World (as well as Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line) is a great way to stay connected with the theme parks, no matter where you are. Anyone reading the SATURDAY SIX should be well versed on travel planning books, such as the Unofficial Guide to WDW 2015, but that theme park bible is just the tip of the iceberg. There are books on finding Hidden Mickeys, books on Disney Imagineers, and books on Disney attractions. I personally love the Imagineering Field Guides (such as the ones for Animal Kingdom and Epcot) because of their small size, allowing me to take them with me on the go without a hassle.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015

by on January 3, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015. It’s going to be impossible to forget the year that was 2014 (no matter how hard we try), but there are many things to look forward to in the coming twelve months. Today we are going to focus on the theme park resorts, but keep in mind that a lot is happening in general around Orlando, including the massive I-Drive 360 project finally opening. There’s never been a better time to plan your next Florida vacation, but let’s look at six reasons you should be double checking those airline ticket prices more closely, starting with…

# 6 – The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

I’ve got to hand it to Disney, the work they have done expanding DVC into the monorail resorts has been exceptional. The Villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at The Contemporary are great accommodations, but the upcoming waterside Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort Village could be the new jewel of the DVC crown. Granted, it’s going to take us forever to save up in order to afford just one night at these Bungalows, but this was a brilliant idea.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2014 (No Matter How Hard We Try)

by on December 27, 2014

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2014 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With this being the last edition of the SATURDAY SIX for 2014 we thought that we would spend a little time looking back at some of the most memorable moments of the year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the year, 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 – The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rap video

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There is no truth the rumor that the dwarfs are wearing sunglasses because of the glare coming off the Mine Train’s final show scene. (photo via Disney Parks

 

There are music videos, and there are music videos. This is the latter. Coming off one of the strangest commercials of all time for FastPass+, Walt Disney World outdid themselves with a commercial for the soon-to-open Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction. We admit to watching this commercial on a non-stop loop after we first saw it, laughing harder each time. I mean, let’s be honest, when you think of the Seven Dwarfs, who doesn’t think of rap music?!

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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 2014)

by on December 20, 2014

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 2014). Some readers of this weekly column may not know that we also have The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! where every single month we brave the insanity of the Orlando Premium Outlet parking lots to cover the two Disney outlet stores (more info on them – including addresses – 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 – Luigi’s Flying Tires: The Toy

My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree seeing this toy hit the Outlet shelves. In theory, Luigi’s Flying Tires should have been one of the coolest rides at any Disney park. It used popular characters from the Cars franchise in what amounts to a hovercraft ride mixed with bumper cars. How great is that? Turns out, not that great. For many guests, the degree of difficulty in learning how to control the tires was too much within the short ride span, and that combined with the long wait time (due to the limited capacity) resulted in some very unfavorable reviews. The one part of the attraction that did receive positive reaction – the humongous beach balls on the course which provided a striking visual and the ability to knock them into other guests – was taken away mere weeks after Luigi’s debut. It is rumored that once Flying Tires goes down for refurbishment in early 2015, it will never come back as the ride it currently is and instead will be changed into something different. But, at least we’ll have our Luigi’s Flying Tires toy to remember it by (batteries, and joy, not included.)

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Next year we want to see Stitch’s Great Escape: The Board Game.

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