This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2017 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With the new year upon us, it is time for another SATURDAY SIX annual tradition of looking back at some of the most “memorable moments” of the previous year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the past 365 days, 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 – That Time Disney Wanted To Change The Name of DHS
Believe it or not, a lot goes into the actual naming of our beloved theme parks. You may think, “it can’t be that big of a deal,” but in 1999 when Universal opened Islands of Adventure, it rebranded the entire resort as Universal Orlando Escape. Many potential guests were confused by the new name, not realizing Universal had opened a completely new park, and instead thought they had just added some new attractions to Universal Studios Florida. The mistake cost Universal dearly, and weren’t on solid footing again until a decade later with the opening of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is currently going through a massive changeover. Originally created in the late ’80s solely to cut the legs out from the coming Universal Studios Florida, the park has completely moved away from its opening day purpose of providing guests a behind-the-scenes look at how movies are made. The “new” DHS will a lot more like most other parks, just a collection of cool rides, all having absolutely nothing relating an overarching theme for the park. So late this summer a survey was conducted to gauge reaction on some possible new names for the park. Names such as Disney Kaleidoscope Park, Disney XL Park, and Disney Storyverse Park were offered as options. These names may seem odd to you, Dear Reader, but there is an actual industry term for them: next level bananas.
# 5 – That Time A Guest Got To Take A Piece Of The Monorail Home With Them
We’re all excited about the upcoming gondolas at WDW, but one story not being reported nearly as much is the fact that the monorails are literally falling apart. Those of us who go to the parks often have seen the monorail – one of the absolute coolest things at any theme park in the world – have seen this transportation system go from something to look forward to, and become something to avoid. On social media you will often find pictures from guests showing monorail cars to be in a dilapidated state, while others have horror stories of being stuck on the monorail tracks during a break down. In June of this year, a piece of monorail blue actually fell off and landed in the parking lot of the Polynesian Village Resort. Fixing the monorails isn’t going to bring new guests to the parks like an E-Ticket ride or be able to get more people to buy into 50 year DVC contracts like the upcoming Riveria Resort, but those monorails are often a guest’s first taste of “Disney magic,” and something they remember for the rest of their lives.
# 4 – That Time A Soccer Star Got Trespassed from Epcot
People get trespassed every day from both Disney and Universal, we just usually don’t hear about any of them. When guests behave poorly; whether it is starting a fight, shoplifting, or threatening to build a meth lab in their hotel room, they are more than likely going to be “trespassed.” For those who aren’t used to the term, trespassed is the police term for being banned from a property (which can be an entire theme park resort like Disney or even just a person’s house in your own neighborhood.) With millions of guests per year, along with plenty of alcohol available across the 26 square miles of Walt Disney World, many guests end up doing things they later regret.
In October, USA soccer star Alex Morgan was trespassed from Epcot along with two other players. Morgan, a star for the US women’s national team along with playing for the local Orlando Pride, made national news after allegedly arguing with other guests in World Showcase, and then verbally abusing police who had to escort her out of the park. Again, this is something that happens every single day at Disney, but this blew up because of Morgan’s stardom. TMZ, ESPN, and the Washington Post are just a few of the mainstream sources that rarely cover theme park news, but covered this story.
# 3 – A BLOGGER’S TALE: Both a tragedy and a comedy, this story is a gripping epic of overcoming adversity in four acts.
Many people put us theme park bloggers on a pedestal but I have to constantly remind them that we are just like everyone else. We put on our pants one leg at a time. Our pants are just made out incredible must-read blogs and unbelievably good photo reports.
This year Your Humble Author’s own personal protege, Hunter Underwood, proved that – above all – we theme park bloggers are human. Our story starts in the beginning of June. Universal had just opened Volcano Bay. Like every good blogger, Hunter was there #first and #often, always ready with a snarky reply just in case someone thought we actually liked something for real. On June 3rd, Hunter noticed a sign at Volcano Bay that warned guests about a “wet floor.”
What a great and astute observation! Imagine, putting a “wet floor” sign down in a park that has water everywhere you look. Unfortunately, today’s heroes can often be tomorrow’s goats, and just a week later Hunter Underwood took a fall at Volcano Bay.
You may be thinking, now that’s ironic. Except we haven’t given the capper yet. Hunter fell in the exact area where Universal put the “wet floor” sign. There hasn’t been a story this good since the time Kramer ruined the very pants that he was going to return. Thankfully the Team Members at Volcano Bay took good care of our young blogger.
And like all good stories, at the end there is a powerful lesson to be learned.
# 2 – The Time The Tree Of Life Became an Unofficial Disney “Mountain”
There are moments I think Disney guests do things just so they can say to their grandkids one day “about that time I made it into the SATURDAY SIX,” because there is really no other logical reason for their actions. Such as this story that happened earlier in December, when a guests decided they would try to climb the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom. In general, Disney makes it very hard to get places you shouldn’t be. Not only is their signage, but there is often barriers to prevent people from say, CLIMBING THE TREE OF LIFE. This was an act of stupidity so brazen it hasn’t been seen since that idiot who climbed the Mexico Pavilion.
# 1 – That Time A Guest Wasn’t Happy With Mousekeeping DURING AN ACTUAL HURRICANE
We all can be petty at times, but a new level was reached this year when a guest reached out to Walt Disney World to complain about Mousekeeping during the middle of Hurricane Irma. As a person who lives in Florida, and was enjoying a Disney vacation with the family until having to leave early because of the Hurricane, I remember everything about this period in specific detail. For those who only come to Florida on vacation and only know of Hurricanes by what they see on TV, there is a lot that goes into to not only preparing your house for a storm, but also in helping your friends, families, and neighbor’s houses. Stores immediately become packed, and a shopping/gas run that should take you a half hour suddenly takes you six hours. You need to remove everything that could become a projectile outside your house and find a way to cover every single window. There’s a good chance you are going to lose power, and have to consider not only how will that affect you, but any kids or pets that are in your care. It is a massive amount of stress added on top of our everyday lives (which don’t stop at all during any of this.)
So imagine you are a Disney Mousekeeper. You have all of the above going on. You probably aren’t making that much money in what can be a grueling and thankless job. You probably have to live quite a distance from work because everything close is too expensive. There’s a very good chance you had damage to your house and lost power, as Irma caused millions to lose power (some in Central Florida not getting it back on for a week.)
Now imagine you are a Walt Disney World guest during that same period. Yes, the parks were closed for an unprecedented two days (which, in theory, would set off a red flag in your head) but Disney brought in a ton of Cast Members for activities at every single resort, including family favorite meet and greets, and opened up free movie channels for your in-room TV. You didn’t lose power nor were deprived the amenities we are all accustomed to, such as air conditioning or running water, for a single second. With all that in mind, your first thought is to write the following…
There’s first world problems, and then there’s THAT. While in general we have become an entitled nation, it is good for all of us to take a few moments and put ourselves in the shoes of someone else who may not have it as good as us. Being nicer and more understanding is a way of life that – this I promise – will pay dividends for you in the long run.
Honorable Mention – That Time Four Disney Hotels Went “Pet Friendly” And The World DIDN’T End
Speaking of Hurricane Irma, one of the things that Disney did during this period was allow people to bring non-service pets to the resorts. As a pet owner, stories after major storms that center on the rescue of pets who were left behind fill my heart, but also drive me insane (I don’t understand how people can leave pets behind knowing a storm is coming. My girlfriend would leave ME behind before our dog.) Later in the year Disney announced that four resorts would become dog-friendly, causing the internet to completely melt down and it’s actually hard to believe there even is a Disney World with all the people who swore they would never come again.
The SATURDAY SIX had a special look at Disney’s Dog-Friendly Hotels using the theme of “Goofus and Gallant,” and on Monday, January 1st 2018 I will ring in the new year with an actual review of taking your dog to a Disney hotel. Here’s what we already know though. There has been almost no mention of the Dog-Friendly hotels since Disney allowed guests to bring them. I personally had to keep pushing the date of my stay back because there were no Dog-Friendly rooms available, which means guests are booking them. In a shocking twist of internet outrage, it was Much Ado About Nothing.
So there you have it: Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2017 (No Matter How Hard We Try)! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!