Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Amazing Details in Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar

by on July 22, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Amazing Details in PANDORA: THE WORLD OF AVATAR!  A little while ago we looked at Disney’s incredible new land at the Animal Kingdom, Pandora: The World of Avatar. We gushed about the rides, and since that article was written Flight of Passage has become the #1- rated attraction at all Disney and Universal theme parks, per TouringPlans readers. Today we are going to take a deeper dive into Pandora, and check out some of the unbelievably cool details found throughout the land, and let’s kickoff the countdown with….

# 6 – The Handprints

The queue for Flight of Passage is hands-down the best ever done by Disney. The depth of detail and overall amount of unique elements is right up there with what Universal has accomplished with Forbidden Journey and Escape From Gringotts. Among these details are the cave drawings early in the queue, where on the rock work you’ll see Na’vi paintings of banshees, woodsprites, and even handprints of Na’vi, humans, and the human-made avatars. However, after you have finished riding Flight of Passage, on the ground floor of the exit corridor you will find three more handprints. These particular handprints are from James Cameron (the director of Avatar,) Jon Landau (the producer of Avatar,) and Disney Imagineer Joe Rhode.

James Cameron, Joe Rhode, and John Landau handprints. (photo by Brandon Glover)

(photo by Brandon Glover)

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The SATURDAY SIX Has an IN-DEPTH Look at the 2017 D23 Expo (So Far)

by on July 15, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the 2017 D23 Expo!  Coming along once every two years, the D23 Expo is not just a Disney Convention, it is THE Disney Convention. With blockbuster brands Marvel and Star Wars now in the Disney family, D23 Expo actually competes with the much larger San Diego Comic Con for pop culture attention. Already big news is coming out of the Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, including the public display of the incredible scale model of Star Wars Land, giving us a glimpse of what will soon be coming to Disney Hollywood Studios. It is here at the Expo where we will find out what is coming to the Disney parks across the world. We here at the SATURDAY SIX are going to cover what happened during the first two days of the Expo, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Star Wars Land

We’ve all been on pins and needles waiting for more details on the upcoming Star Wars Land (rumored to be called Star Wars: Galaxy Edge) and Disney blew our collective minds with a 1/2 inch-to-1 foot scale model that is so good that it makes the Pandora: World of Avatar model look like the Metal Earth thing I tried to put together. While we won’t get the full details on what is exactly is contained in this model until several hours after this posting, we here at the SATURDAY SIX have made our guesses as to what we’ll see when it finally debuts in DHS.

Star Wars Land model. (copyright Disney)

A more accurate representation of the crowds we’ll see at Star Wars Land. (photo by @AvoidTIMtation)

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SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: The WORST Places to Propose at Walt Disney World

by on July 8, 2017

We here at TouringPlans strive to constantly give our readers everything you need to know in order to save time and money on your Disney vacation. On the blog you will find pieces such as Steve Bloom’s fascinating look at Pandora’s Effect on Walt Disney World, James Romeregy showed the pros and cons of Renting a Car at WDW, and Brian McNichols helped guide people to the Least Crowded Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Nights.  Not to be outdone, the think tank over at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters have decided to finally take on the conundrum that faces all vacation planners: how exactly does one achieve the very best Disney vacation?  Now, many inside-the-box thinkers go with the obvious answer, “Do The Things That Are Great.” Ride the best attractions, see the best shows, and eat at the most unique dining experiences. But to that we say Nay, Nay. Instead we are going to reverse engineer the problem by looking at all the truly awful ideas and explain to you Dear Reader, why you should not do them.

That, in a nutshell, is the raison d’être behind the Worst Theme Park Idea Ever series.

# 6 –  The All- Star Resorts

There are a lot of romantic spots at various Disney resorts to pop the question, including at the top of Bay Lake Tower while watching fireworks at the Magic Kingdom or Kidani Village with the beautiful savannah as a back drop. But moments like that can be fleeting, and why start off a marriage in the hole? Show your would be bride that you are fiscally responsible by proposing marriage at one of the All-Star Resorts. Conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, the All-Stars provide many wonderful options to profess your undying – yet thrifty – love, including in front of the Herbie the Love Bug photo op at All-Star Movies.

Carrie gets proposed to by Dan at All-Star Movies while fellow guests try to warn her. (photo by Brandon Glover)

They say “Every kiss begins with Kay…” but no one says marriage begins with the All-Star Resorts. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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A SATURDAY SIX Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America)

by on July 4, 2017

In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books, pro wrestling, and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!

# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)

USA_Voices_of_Liberty_Sperduto

The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)

USA_Captain_America_Glover

Captain America. (photo by Brandon Glover)

America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in  red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.

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SATURDAY SIX: The 6 Best Gift Shops at Universal Orlando

by on July 1, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the 6 best gift shops at Universal Orlando! Until recently, gift shops were seen as a necessary evil at our favorite theme parks – annoyances that many guests either dreaded being herded through or mocked the existence of outright. One of the best gags in The Simpsons Ride involves the alien Kodos saying,

“Foolish Earthlings, don’t you know all rides must end near the gift shop?”

The Mission Statement of theme park gift shops. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Thankfully, over the past several years gift shops at both Universal and Disney have become better themed and well merchandised, and several have even started to incorporate interactive features for their guests. It’s almost unbelievable to say it, but just as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey became possibly the first attraction in the history of theme parks to have a queue guests wanted to spend more time in, gift stores themselves are becoming features of attractions that guests can actually look forward to experiencingToday we’re going to take a look at the best gift shops across Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Kwik E Mart

Despite the great joke mentioned above, the Simpsons Ride is one of the few attractions at USF that doesn’t exit into a gift shop. The Kwik-E-Mart, the ride’s merchandise location, is right next to the attraction and is filled with the high level of self-deprecating humor that is found throughout Springfield USA. Signs above the merchandise include sales pitches like, “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!,” “These items won’t buy themselves!” There’s even a sign at the registers that has a call back to an episode of the Simpsons television show as it warns the cashiers not to take checks from various people including Chief Wiggum, Homer J Simpson, and Homer J Fong.

Kwik E Mart. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The walls and outside windows of the Kwik-E-Mart are laden with ads for products including Farmer Billy’s Choco-Bacon-Bars (“It’s like chocolate and bacon had a baby in your mouth!”) while the variety of actual Simpsons related products found inside includes t-shirts, hats, plush, comic books and more.

Outside the store there is a photo-op available with Milhouse sitting on a bench and one of USF’s most hidden gems, the Simpsons pay phone. On the side of the Kwik-E-Mart closest to the Simpsons Ride, there is pay phone mounted on a wall with the character Nelson next to it.  Nelson has a word balloon saying, “Answer the phone dingus…it’s for you.” Walking by this phone will trigger it to ring, and picking up the receiver will treat you to a gag line by one of the various Simpsons characters including Chief Wiggum, Moe Szyslak, and Bart Simpson.

Millhouse photo op. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

(photo by Hunter Underwood)

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

by on June 24, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the (possible) future of Walt Disney World and Universal!  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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