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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of May 19, 2017

by on May 19, 2017
Filed under: In Case You Missed It

In Case You Missed ItThis week, I am riding the Disney and Universal hype train? Why? Because this time next week, I will be soaking in all the fun at both Volcano Bay and Pandora – The World of Avatar! I don’t think my excitement can get any greater.

But, that’s next weekend and we still have this weekend, which is thankfully upon us! So, this week, learn more about Volcano Bay, see what’s the most important thing for Pandora, and more.

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

 

This week, the Wall Street Journal ran a very intriguing article about the future of the Walt Disney Company and Mr. Iger’s successor or lack there of.  What are your thoughts?

Are “pirates” holding Pirates of the Caribbean ransom?  Hackers may have their hands on the film and are threatening to release it, according to rumorsRead the rest of this entry »

Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 18, 2017: A Mother of a Weekend

by on May 18, 2017
Filed under: Animal Kingdom, Best Week Ever, Pandora, Walt Disney World (FL) 10 Comments

You know that whole “need a vacation to recover from a vacation”? I think I’m there after this week. It isn’t often that a new section of a theme park opens, so we decided to make the most of it. As locals, we don’t spend as many DVC points, so when we heard that there was a DVC preview in Pandora for Mother’s Day weekend, we booked a room at the Beach Club and signed up. (And consider this the spoiler alert–there will be some mild spoiler pictures later on in the article.) Our time slot was for 9 AM on Saturday morning, so in theory we needed to get an early night’s sleep. But Friday night was also the first night of Happily Ever After. My husband and I had seen some of it when it was in testing at 1 AM, but our daughter slept through it. We let her stay up to watch, and she had fun making “water effects” for it in the pool.

Thankfully, even with all that excitement, she was able to get some sleep. The next morning we got up and arrived at Animal Kingdom around 8:30. We walked over to the Annual Passholder line and there was a crowd just hanging out. The Cast Member there asked if we were Passholders, and we said yes. She asked if we were staying on property, and we said yes, but were a little confused how she knew. She scanned our Magic Bands and it occurred to us–everyone else was standing around because they couldn’t go in yet. It was a morning Extra Magic Hour for resort guests. Yay! In we went. Getting in early meant we could say hi to the animals on our way to Pandora. Specifically, an anteater came to say good morning. He certainly looks like he would belong on Pandora, doesn’t he?

It was about quarter of nine, but they let us walk right in. We got a FastPass return slip for Flight of Passage and admired the landscape as we walked over to the Na’vi River Journey.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ask It: Are Preferred Rooms Worth It?

by on May 17, 2017
Filed under: Just For Fun, Resorts, Walt Disney World (FL) 15 Comments

Is a preferred room at Disney World worth the cost

There’s no question that staying on property at Walt Disney World is an added luxury to your vacation. But even with the extra cost of staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, there are options for “preferred rooms” and room upgrades. These rooms may have a more desirable location (near bus transportation, near the pool, near the food court/lobby), better views (of ponds/lakes, pools, or animals on the savannah), special theming (Pirate or “Royal” rooms) or ground floor locations.  Of course, there’s an added cost for anything above a “standard” room. So this week’s question is:

What features are worth paying extra for a preferred room at Walt Disney World?

  • Location (49%, 427 Votes)
  • Never Worth It (21%, 185 Votes)
  • View (20%, 172 Votes)
  • Special Features (9%, 79 Votes)

Total Voters: 863

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Voting is open here and on Twitter and we’ll have your results next week. Feel free to share your reasons for your choice in the comments.

 

Ask It Results: Land and Sea or Sea and Land

by on May 17, 2017
Filed under: Disney Cruise Line, Just For Fun, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World (FL)

There’s the old saying about a vacation that sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. When you do a Walt Disney World vacation in conjunction with a Disney Cruise Line cruise, you truly do get that vacation to recover from your vacation. But what’s the best order to do them in? Last week we asked you:

When doing a Disney Cruise/Walt Disney World combination vacation, do you prefer to do Land then Sea or Sea then Land?

The results are in, and there was a very clear favorite.

Read the rest of this entry »

Satu’li Canteen And Mobile Ordering Rejuvenate Quick Service Disney Dining

by on May 17, 2017
Filed under: Animal Kingdom, Dining, MyDisneyExperience, Pandora 12 Comments

Pandora - The World of AvatarRecently, I was lucky enough to attend an Annual Passholder Preview for Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and of course, as your resident dining reviewer, my first priority was trying out all the new food options available at the land’s quick service restaurant, Satu’li Canteen. I was also excited to try out the new mobile ordering option from the My Disney Experience app, currently exclusively used at Satu’li Canteen. I’ll run through the process of how to use mobile ordering (it’s super easy!), and give a few first impressions of the food I sampled in this Satu’li Canteen review.

Mobile Ordering Basics

First things first, you have to have the My Disney Experience app installed on your mobile device, and for optimal use, you’ve got to have location services and notifications enabled for app use. Currently, mobile ordering does not support the use of the Disney Dining Plan for payment, either – only credit cards, so keep in mind if you want to make use of your plan credits, you’ll need to order at the counter as you would normally at a quick service location. Also keep in mind, mobile ordering is only available for guests taking part in a preview of Pandora at this time, as the land is not yet open to everyone (May 27th is almost here, though!)

Mobile ordering is a pretty straightforward process (if you’ve ever used UberEats, you’ll be an expert already) – essentially, you order your food on the app, then once you arrive at the restaurant, you click “I’m here!”, at which point they’ll make your order. They’ll notify you once it’s ready, and since you’ve already paid through the app, you simple pick up your food and you’re on your way. Think of mobile ordering as a FastPass+ to skip the sometimes-lengthy ordering lines at every quick service restaurant.

The app will remind you what menu you’re ordering from (breakfast vs lunch/dinner), and will tell you the cut-off time for picking up your mobile order from Satu’li Canteen. At the top of several pages in the process, I saw a warning saying I had to pick up my order before 8:00 PM (when the restaurant closes). Basically, once a meal period starts for that day, you can order anytime between opening and close, and just show up when you’re ready. Simple, right? Very… I was really impressed that I didn’t have to pick a time to return, but I’d also warn to keep in mind that the food isn’t made until you arrive (more on that shortly), so if you pick a busy time of day to return, you’ll still wait a little for your food. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to the Basics: Making a Room Request at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel + Video

by on May 16, 2017
Filed under: Trip Planning, Video, Walt Disney World (FL)

Photo - Angela DahlgrenDesire a room close to the lobby? Looking for a quiet place to rest your head? Prefer a King over a Queen size bed?

Make a room request!

In this video, I’ll show you all the ways you can make a room request at a Walt Disney World resort hotel.

Enjoy!

Review: Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on May 15, 2017
Filed under: Animal Kingdom, Pandora, Walt Disney World (FL) 47 Comments

How We Got to Pandora

The success of Universal’s Harry Potter lands – Hogsmeade Village at Islands of Aventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios – put the fear of God into Disney’s theme park management. The idea that their closest competitor could turn a worldwide film franchise into an immersive, immense tourist draw probably caused more sleepless nights than a warehouse full of wool pajamas. What Disney wanted desperately was to make sure they got the next big franchise for their own parks.

Valley of Mo'ara in Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The problem that Disney faced was that only a handful of writers like J.K. Rowling can produce globally beloved stories worth billions of dollars: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron are on the short list. With Spielberg and Lucas nearing retirement, however, and Peter Jackson reportedly non-committal, Disney signed Cameron to a theme park development deal for his Avatar film franchise in September 2011.

That Avatar deal puzzled many Disney theme park fans, including us. Yes, Avatar is the second-highest grossing film of all time (Gone with the Wind is #1), earning more than $3 billion in inflation-adjusted ticket sales since its release in 2009. But it did so because of its then-revolutionary 3-D digital effects, not its writing. Avatar, we joked, was the film everyone saw about characters nobody liked. For Disney, whose motto had always been “It all begins with a story,” building rides based on Avatar was going to be its own kind of alien experience.

Disney tapped Joe Rohde, now an industry legend, to bring Avatar to life at the Animal Kingdom. Camp Minnie-Mickey was demolished to make way, its Festival of the Lion King stage show moved to the park’s Africa section. Five years of construction ensued – long enough for Universal to build a couple more hotels, several new rides, and an entire water park. Disney’s gamble on the Avatar franchise seemed riskier by the day.

Is Pandora Better than Diagon Alley?

Read the rest of this entry »

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

by on May 13, 2017
Filed under: Saturday Six, Universal Orlando Resort 3 Comments

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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Review: The Magic Kingdom’s fantastic new Happily Ever After show

by on May 13, 2017
Filed under: Magic Kingdom 45 Comments

About ten minutes into the Magic Kingdom’s new Happily Ever After nighttime fireworks show, my friend Steve turned and said “I almost don’t need to see the fireworks.Happily Ever After - Pink Castle” And that’s true because the visual effects being projecting on to and around Cinderella Castle for Happily are so incredibly vibrant and rich, with so much detail, that you can’t take your eyes off them. When combined with the new fireworks, lasers, and area lighting, the whole show is so good that I’d recommend a special trip to the Magic Kingdom just to see it.

New Projection Technology Makes a Huge Difference

Happily is one giant leap ahead of previous projection shows because of how the film clips are displayed on the castle. In previous projection shows, the film clips were played directly on to the castle, essentially using it as a giant movie screen. In Happily, however, it looks like Disney edited the film scenes so they fit into architecturally correct parts of the castle.

Along with that, Disney seems to have added firefly-like laser light effects to the trees around the Magic Kingdom central hub, plus landscape lighting surrounding the castle that’s color-matched to the  show scenes. It’s far more ambitious that anything Disney’s done at the park, and it all seems to work, both technically and artistically.

Happily Ever After - Scroll DetailThere’s a scene in Happily, for example, from Hunchback of Notre Dame, where a circular stained glass window is projected on the front center of the castle, while a perfectly scaled image of Quasimodo climbs one of the towers to the right. The stained glass window projection is so clear, so realistic that I had to stare at it for a few second to remember that there isn’t a real stained-glass window there.

Besides Hunchback, characters from every major new Disney film make an appearance in the show. The scene from Moana seemed to get a lot of cheers from the audience, as did the one from Brave, and, of course, Frozen. Speaking of Frozen, Disney deserves credit for not using Let it Go in the Happily soundtrack. It’s not needed here – the visual elements do all the work – and including that overplayed song would have just meant that the show writers had a checklist to go through. I don’t think the Happily soundtrack is quite as memorable as Wishes, a classic, but Happily is good enough.

Because there’s so much detail, I think it’ll be possible to watch Happily several times without seeing everything. I’m looking forward to going back. Read the rest of this entry »

In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of May 12, 2017

by on May 12, 2017
Filed under: In Case You Missed It 5 Comments

In Case You Missed ItIt’s certainly been a week of crazy. I know that I cried my eyes out watching live videos of Wishes last night, what about you? What are some of your favorite memories of Wishes? With all that said, I think it’s time to get to the crazy that is Disney and Universal news for this week, right?

This week, see which resort is most popular on Instagram, learn about a TV show that’s coming back, and more.

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

This week, Disney released their quarterly earnings. They did exceeded expectations with film, TV, and theme parks, but faltered in one big area. Bob Iger shared his thoughts on Bloomberg too.

#Disneyland. It’s the most popular location according to Instagram. Do you like to share your photos of Disneyland (or Walt Disney World) via the social network? I certainly do!  Read the rest of this entry »