Archive for May, 2009

The Scare Factor At Walt Disney World

by on May 31, 2009

One of the reasons that I love Walt Disney World so much is the magical shift that is made from reality to fantasy.   While WDW is known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” it can also be a scary place.  The Scare Factor is often not considered when planning a trip to Walt Disney World.  Disney has the ability to scare the young and old.

I spent some time discussing this with a foremost Disney expert, Matt Hochberg.  Matt hosts the podcast WDW Today and runs a number of Walt Disney World web sites based upon Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Matt, like most of us, is a big kid at heart.  He’s a super nice guy with great insight on all things Disney.   He is willing to take the journey that the Walt Disney World imagineers created to the land of fantasy. 

Things are scary at Walt Disney World and most people don’t take that into consideration.  It  has always puzzled me why there is such a scare element.  Matt gives credit to the imagineers for selling the audience on the mood.  The scare factor is part of the transition from reality to fantasy. 

“Disney World is not so scary that you wouldn’t go,”  Matt said.  It is something to be so considered when following a touring plan.  Matt also makes a great point, “while an adult may be able to shake off being scared and then move to the next thing, it can set the tone for a child and it can also limit what the child is willing to ride or see in the future.”

Many an unknowing parent cues up for “Snow White’s Scary Adventure” — what looks to be a “rainbow and butterfly” experience, only to discover it’s dark and death themed.  When my son, Tyler, was 4 he rode “Snow White.”  He left so scared he wouldn’t go on any other attraction that looked or loaded the same way.  He missed out on “Peter Pan” one of the sweetest attractions in all of WDW.  The tone was set.  In his eyes “Peter Pan” looked suspiciously like “Snow White.”  Just because an attraction is in Fantasyland doesn’t guarantee it’s all sweetness and light.

Matt and I talked about what we thought were unexpectedly scary and just downright scary.  What is scary to one person may not be so scary to another.  The imagineers do such a great job of setting the mood that there are lots of attractions that scare teenagers and adults as well: It’s Tough To Be A Bug, Stitch’s Great Escape, Tower of Terror, The Great Movie Ride, Expedition Everest and the number one scary attraction to both Matt and me: Dinosaur.  We both ride with our eyes closed.

Because the imagineers do such a fabulous job separating you from reality, know that part of that may include some dark elements.  While Walt Disney World is “The Happiest Place on Earth” there is a scare factor that’s part of the world.  Consult the Unofficial Guide and review the “Special Comments” section listed under each attraction.  This may help you decide what attractions will appeal to your family.  Enjoy the ride from reality to fantasy.

WDW Today Episode 571 – Breakfasts, Brunches & Lunches

by on May 29, 2009

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Episode 571 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Teens n’ Tots Touring Tips: Part 1

by on May 28, 2009

Welcome to the first installment of my three-part series: Teens n’ Tots Touring! Nowadays, there are a lot of families with kids over age 10 and kids under age 5. Planning a Disney itinerary is hard enough without negotiating between these vastly-different ages, so I’m here to help. In this first installment, I’ll focus on families that have multiple teenagers.

Five years ago, I became a big sister. My little brother took his first Disney trip (not counting in-utero) when he was 11-weeks-old. Ever since then, my beloved parents have been coordinating the desires of two teens with a Buzz-Lightyear-loving-somewhat-bold-heat-hating tot. But until my big brother went to college, my parents had one thing on their side: there were two teens. How could this possibly be helpful? Simple: safety in numbers. It meant we could leave our parents without being alone. It’s hard to find danger in Disney, but it can happen. And in case of a medical emergency, having a brother or sister there is parentally reassuring. While my big brother and I were gallivanting through Tomorrowland or screaming on our fourth ride of Test Track, our parents could ride It’s a Small World with my little brother sixteen times in a row. In addition, separating the teens and tot meant that the youngster could go take a nap at the resort while the adolescents stayed in the parks. Mealtime is a great excuse to rendezvous. Just don’t forget to give teens their tickets so that they can FastPass attractions, and make sure they have a cell-phone or walkie-talkie.

However, it may be that you have younger teens or you can’t trust them to run off without you in an unfamiliar place. The answer to this dilemma is splitting up the parents. (This post assumes that there are at least two adults in the group; I’ll give advice to single parents next week.) Whichever adult – the mom, godfather, or grandpa – is most daring and, it should be said, has the best health, can accompany the teens through the parks. But let the kids lead itinerary-wise. If at all possible, send a willing non-parent with the teens; they’re far less likely to be accused of acting “embarrassing.”

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Updated Reader Report Card for Disney World Hotels

by on May 27, 2009

We’ve updated our Reader Report Card for WDW Resorts.  This revision covers all of the Disney-owned hotels plus the Swan, Dolphin and Shades of Green resorts, and includes ratings for room quality, check-in efficiency, room quietness, shuttle service, pool, hotel staff, food courts and an overall evaluation.  We also ask whether you’d recommend this hotel to a friend and whether you’d stay at this hotel again.

With one notable exception, the average Disney-owned hotel dropped about half a letter grade in this year’s survey, and the number of declining scores outnumbered rising scores by anywhere from around 2:1 to 16:1 depending on the category.  Vacation homes (but not vacation condos) did exceptionally well, and the advantage that Disney had in satisfaction over off-site hotels has essentially disappeared, meaning people are about as satisfied overall with the average Disney hotel as with the average off-site property.

Update: If you haven’t already done so, you can take the survey here.

Riptide Lounge to close

by on May 27, 2009

The Riptide Lounge at the Beach Club Resort is closing to make way for an expansion of the seating area of the Cape May cafe.

ESPN Innovation Lab coming to Wide World of Sports

by on May 27, 2009

With no official information released, we suspect the “ESPN Innovation Lab” will be replacing the defunct ‘sports experience’ at the Wide World of Sports complex.

Return of Epcot’s Research Center?

by on May 27, 2009

Recently filed permits cite an “Innoventions Research Center Kiosk” produced by Sparks Exhibits – the company which has overseen many recent additions to Innoventions. While we’re not sure if this will merely be a spot to fill out a survey or something more akin to Epcot’s old educational outreach, we’re excited by the prospect.

Treat your Pirate like a Princess!

by on May 27, 2009

The Pirates League opens at the Magic Kingdom on June 29th. It’s essentially a pirate-themed makeover akin to the current Bibbity-Bobbity-Boutique for Princess makeovers. Reservations are being accepted already and you can check out

The most interesting bit is the apparent “adventure” that is mentioned involving maps, searching for clues, and hoisted colors. We’re all for a good color hoisting, but we’re not sure it’s worth $50 for an eye patch to get in on the action.

Virgin Megastore now closed

by on May 27, 2009

While no one was paying attention (ok, we admit we were there buying discounted merchandise earlier in the month) the Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney’s West Side closed permanently mid-May. No word on a replacement – leaving yet another empty venue in Downtown Disney.

Spoodles becomes buffet

by on May 27, 2009

In order to transition to the upcoming Kouzzina restaurant concept headed by Iron Chef Cat Cora, Spoodles will become a buffet restaurant beginning in July. The restaurant will completely shut down for the final phase of the transition in early August.