Then And Now – Part 2

Walt Disney World – Then And Now

Walt Disney has said that ‘Disneyland will never be complete’ as it is constantly going to evolve. This is the same as Walt Disney World. Since it opened, Walt Disney World has opened and closed several different attractions and shows. Some have progressed to being classics in their own time, while others have crashed and burnt into obscurity.

Everyone has their own opinion on the closing of attractions, from the departure of Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, to the scandalous re-theming of Alien Encounter. However, Disney was never one to listen to their customers and would push on with their decisions regardless of how unpopular these may have been.

The filling in of the lagoon, where the submarines of the 10,000 Leagues Under The Sea attraction was located, was an unpopular decision that Disney progressed with. This was a great attraction, which took a pretty obscure film and thrust it into the middle of the Magic Kingdom. The submarines took you into the depths of the waters where you looked out of the portholes into the open ocean and where you could view the bright coloured sea-creatures. As everything was going great you all of a sudden were attacked by a giant squid, which put the whole vessel into distress. New regulations from the US Government for access to disabled and wheelchair guests were passed, and this made this attraction unviable and would have been more hassle than it was worth to change the boats and access ramps to let this ride carry-on. Nevertheless, the filling in of the land and it changing to a play area based around Winnie The Pooh was just a cop-out. I can understand that Disney may have been looking at the bigger picture and was putting the plans for New Fantasy Land in place, but this attraction was unbelievably good and I have very fond memories. I for one was glad that I was able to ride this before it was removed.

Probably the biggest area that has been re-themed has been the strip between the hub in the Magic Kingdom heading towards Tomorrowland. Attractions such as The Timekeeper and The Extra TERRORestrial – Alien Encounter have been stripped and replaced by somewhat tamer attractions such as Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and Stitch’s Great escape. Again, this has been fitted into this land in order that popular characters are prominently placed in the Park. Calls for Stitch to be re-themed again has been widely discussed within the Disney community (one of which I totally agree with). Recent rumours are bound that Stitch shall be re-themed again to have a Virtual Reality ride featuring Wreck It Ralph, which shall tie into the release of the sequel feature film in March 2018.

If you think that the previous replacements were being crammed into the parks – the two biggest franchises of the last decade are about to come ‘over the hill’:

• Although there has been a presence of Star Wars in the Studios, with Star Tours and the Jedi Academy, tied in with the hugely successful Star Wars Weekends, the emergence of Star Wars Land shall shake the whole theme park community, much the same way that Universal Studios have done with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Star Wars Land has taken over a huge chunk of land at the Studios and has taken the whole area previously tenanted by Lights Motors Action. Lights Motors Action, was a crowd puller and took a large amount of people out of the park, letting the other attractions become less congested. But, while the new land is being built, the guests that would have been eaten up by this attraction would be spread throughout the rest of the Park. This may be an issue due to the depleted number of attractions currently running at Hollywood Studios.

• With the huge success of the James Cameron film ‘Avatar’ in 2009, the decision to put ‘Pandora’ into The Animal Kingdom Park may have again been a knee-jerk reaction to the Harry Potter phenomenon. Although this may bring further guests into the Park and elongate the hours of opening, would this ever had been considered knowing that George Lucas was selling the rights to Star Wars only a couple of years later?

As the Parks are constantly evolving there shall always be guests who are unhappy at the closure of classic (or not so classic) attractions, but on the other side, there shall be guests who are excited about newer rides and shows coming.

I for one am glad in the whole of newer attractions coming to the Parks, but only if these are of a higher standard of attraction than the one that was replaced. Disney have been guilt of this not following through on this concept, which they must be addressed especially with the competition coming from down I4 from Universal.

Twitter: @sjmdisney

Facebook: Steven James Maxwell

Walt Disney World – Then & Now

Walt Disney World Trip – Then And Now

Everyone knows the amount of planning that is needed to visit the World, especially from a British point of view. From organising your Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to obtaining entry into the United States…nevermind the booking of your Advance Dining Reservations (ADR’s) and Fastpass’s via your Magic Band at Disney! It’s no wonder people look at you open mouthed when you speak about your ‘relaxing holiday’.

The first time I visited Florida (or the US for that matter), life was a lot simpler. My first trip in July 1992 I travelled with two of my friends, leaving from Glasgow on my first real trip abroad. To book the holiday we used a one-stop shop travel agent. At the time it was great as we only had to pay the deposit when we booked and pay the final amount 6 weeks before we flew, giving us plenty of planning time.

To start, we organized a 5-day pass for WDW. This was before advanced technology so there was none of these ‘plastic cards’ or ‘Magic Bands’…just hard cardboard tickets that had to be guarded with your life, because if you lost these there was no going back. There were also no park hoppers, so once you got to your park of choice you were there all day.
The only good thing about this was that there was only three parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot & Disney / MGM Studios. You also got the opportunity to either spend the day at Discovery Island, which was a nature reserve on Bay Lake, or spend the night dancing at Pleasure Island (where every night was New Years Eve). This was complemented with Disney’s two water parks: River Country (now being found to have brain eating amoeba in the water), or the safer option Typhoon Lagoon, as long as you were able to ride the tidal wave.

Having booked a holiday for 14 days, we obviously had days to play with and these we filled by trips to Seaworld, Universal Studios (only one park at that time), Busch Gardens, Silver Springs and Kennedy Space Centre.

As there was no such thing as a fastpass in 1992, if you wanted to go on a ride or see an attraction you had to queue up, (imagine having to do that now) and this could mean standing in a line for well over an hour to get on a 4 minute ride. One of the worst (definitely not the longest) experience of this was waiting to get on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride at the Magic Kingdom- Due to crowd levels and the ride breaking down – this is 45 minutes of my life that I am NEVER getting back! This is a ride that is held highly in the heart of many a Disney fan – I just wonder how many have actually ridden it…because it is one of the worst rides that I have ever been on. Although, the most I have waited in line for a ride was Kong-Frontation at Universal Studios Florida. It was two hours in the blistering heat of July in a building with no windows, very claustrophobic, and was themed to a tight tram-station in New York. (Great Ride – Not Great Line Experience).

Visiting in July meant that from rope-drop to fireworks you were possibly in the parks for well over 14 hours. As there were fewer attractions back then, this meant that you were able to start at one side of the park and complete every single ride! Yes, it was tiring, but you felt a sense of achievement as you crossed off each ride. If you were to visit the World today, you would be lucky to get 13 to 14 attractions completed.

Since my first visit in ’92, the World has changed so much: new Parks opening and closing, removal of attractions and the installation of brand new lands coming from the minds of Disney Imagineers. However, I have to ask, “Has this been to the benefit or detriment of Walt Disney World?”

Everyone loves the original longstanding attractions and rides, but the difference between ‘Keep Moving Forward’ and keeping the legacy rides has had guests debating for years. For example, should a ride like “Carousel of Progress”, which is in a prime piece of real estate at Magic Kingdom, be closed due to the decreasing amount of traffic it gets? Or, is it so much of an iconic attraction that is should remain as an original feature? Since Walt himself had such an involvement with it, would it be inconceivable to close?

The most up to date re-boot has been at the Norway pavilion in EPCOT, where the ever popular Maelstrom water ride has been overhauled to shoe horn in a piece of Arendelle into the park. This is even more shocking due to the fact that other countries like Brazil, Australia or Puerto Rico have been trying to get in for years. This ride has been completely re-themed inside the pavilion to all things Frozen, including Elsa, Anna, Sven and even Olaf. But the structure of the ride system is completely the same, as are the gondolas that you ride.
On opening, the lines for “Frozen Ever After” had a waiting time of up to 300 minutes.  That’s 5 HOURS (and I was moaning about my waiting 45 minutes)!! There would be absolutely no way that I would wait for that long for a ride (except if they bring the new TRON ride from Shanghai to WDW).

Although Disney is playing to the masses by updating their existing equipment to a reflect the current popular animated Disney film, while elongating the life span of the ride without changing the transportation mechanism – only time will tell if it is effective. With Universal Studios Orlando consecutively running with the popular franchise of Harry Potter, which although has drawn crowds in to the Parks, Disney should be wary of putting all their eggs in one basket with Frozen, regardless of how popular this has become.

With the building of Cars Land in Disneyland and Pixar Place in Disneyland Paris, Disney have always driven forward with popular franchises that they have built off the back of blockbuster films. With the emergence of Star Wars Land being built at Walt Disney World, this may be the one that takes the mantle back from Universal and the Harry Potter phenomenon.  Many tourists go when visiting the Orlando area – but as we all know ‘They are tourists- What do they know’?

To be continued:

Twitter: @sjmdisney

Facebook: Steven James Maxwell