Cast Member in Norway Pavilion

Walt Disney’s World Showcase – The Maelstrom Matter

Mural in Maelstrom / World Showcase / EpcotYesterday I wrote about why Walt Disney World must change.  I discussed the need for change in a broad, general scope.  Today, I feel the need to weigh in on the Maelstrom Matter.

I don’t feel the outrage I thought I would.  Initially, when the rumors were just a whisper, I was heard to say, “And so begins the utter ruination of the World Showcase.” but then I took some time to consider.  Does this really mean World Showcase is doomed?  It could certainly be the beginning of the end for the initial purpose of the World Showcase.  Conversely, it could be the start of a new era for Epcot.  Time will tell.

Before I go much further, let me add that I am what I would classify as extremely neutralEpcot's Norway Pavilion about Maelstrom at this particular moment in time – I am in no way going to attempt to sway your opinion about this issue one way or another.  It’s the duty of every Disney devotee to feel passionately about their most valued Walt Disney World parks, rides and attractions.  Maelstrom is, soon to be was, a ride I rode and enjoyed on nearly every visit to Walt Disney World.  I sincerely and deeply love the Norway pavilion (I professed my affection here and here).  At the same time, I also have wished for many years now that Disney (or Norway) would pour some much needed resources into updating this special little corner of the World (Showcase).  Alas (oh, yes, I did), beggars can’t be choosers.  Be careful what you wish for?

Buildings in Epcot's Norway PavilionSo, now we’re getting a major change.  While I liked the movie and found it entertaining, I’m not a huge Frozen fan (gasp!).  Here’s what I believe will be the best case scenario and what I’m strongly hoping for at this point –  Norway will continue to be all about Norway.  Frozen‘s characters will be integrated in a way that is strictly in keeping with the traditions, vision, and values of the original World Showcase concept.  It would be ideal if Hans-Kristoff-Anna-Sven (the movie’s nod to Hans Christian Anderson) and the other characters would guide guests through the history, folklore, culture, and customs of Norway.  Hey, a girls gotta have hopes, right?

I know what you’re thinking. This thing could go the other way completely – and you’d have a very valid point!  Disney could go all “Little Mermaid” on it and replace Maelstrom with nothing Norway Pavilion's Viking Statuebut a series of movie scenes, some big, in-your-face animatronics, music, and some colorful props.  The World Showcase will be packed with children and their parents willing to wait five hours for a trip through Arendelle.  Norway, the country, will be completely lost in the melee.  I know!

Naysayers will say nay.  Little Mary Sunshine types (like me, in this case) will hold on to our belief that the Disney Company will do the right thing for everyone in and amaze us with a new and improved Norway Pavilion.  Only time will tell.  Come 2016, we shall see.  I will be there, with an open mind.  I’ll be visiting the actual country of Norway on Disney Cruise Line in June (2015) and I’m pretty sure the experience will only make me wish for a happy ending all the more.

I’ll leave you with this:  “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained” – Walt Disney

Troll Topiary in Epcot's Norway PavilionWhat about you?  How do you feel about the matter of Maelstrom? 








Disney World Construction Wall Sign

Why Walt Disney World Must Change

Fantasyland / Rapunzel's TowerWhy Walt Disney World must change (and why I try to be understanding).

I’ve been reading the official announcements from Disney, listening to speculation, rumor, and predictions about the future of Disney parks, and watching the results of those announcements and prognostications explode on various social media platforms.  If it’s not anger and outrage over the replacement of Maelstrom with a Frozen attraction, it’s disappointment and heartbreak about the change in World Showcase entertainment, most notably the loss of Off Kilter (to be replaced by a lumberjack show of some sort).  It’s made me take a step back and wonder WHY are people so outraged by change? – Specifically, what would happen to our beloved Disney Parks if no changes ever occurred?  Let’s talk about that in a minute.

First, I want you to ask yourself this question:  Is there one specific ride or attraction in eachDisney's Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror park that, if it were closed forever, would keep you from returning to Walt Disney World?  As much as I love my top 5 or 6 favorites, the answer for me is no.  That wouldn’t keep me away.

So what has to stay constant?  What will keep me returning once or twice a year long into the future?  For me it’s these five things:

1. World Class Service – The Disney way of treating guests is still among the best on Earth.

Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life2. Choices – There’s a resort, recreation, restaurant, ride and attraction for every taste and style.  Where else in the world can you find so many options in one place?

3. Convenience – I get off the plane and onto the Magical Express.  Head straight to my resort then on to the park of my choice courtesy of Disney transportation.  There are dining, shopping, and entertainment choices virtually everywhere.  My Disney Experience, Magic Bands, Memory Maker, FastPass+, online check-in are, when working properly, all about added convenience.

4. Innovation – Disney’s Imagineers have brought us cutting edge theme park effects and technology since Disneyland opened in 1955.  Through the addition of interactive queues, the integration of modern updates to classic rides like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, and the continued introduction of new ride technology means that our children and grandchildren will be as captivated by Disney theme parks as we are.Sitting Area, Studio at Disney's Old Key West

5. Relative Value – I still feel like I get my money’s worth.  I do take advantage of money saving options when and where I can and overall, I feel like there’s no better place for a family vacation.  I can tell you this – no place else compares to the fun we’ve had at Walt Disney World.  We’re paying to be in the Disney Bubble and it’s worth it.

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” – Walt Disney

Back to the outrage.  Let’s imagine that everything stays as is.  Same technology, same resorts, Malestrom / Norway Pavilion / World Showcasesame entertainment, same rides and attractions.  Off Kilter gets to stay at Epcot indefinitely, Mr. Toad is still alive and well, interactive queues never get installed, Snow White still goes on her Scary Adventure, Spectro Magic rolls on night after night, and the Polynesian lobby maintains it’s original form.  I know, right?  Wouldn’t it be awesome to have some of our most-missed rides and attractions back where they belong?  For a minute, maybe, BUT – what keeps Walt Disney World the most beloved family vacation destination in the world is NOT through efforts by the Disney Company to to maintain things as they are.  Guests return for the familiar magic, but also for the new, different, and innovative entertainment Disney is known for.  To remain unchanged is to become vulnerable.  The competition among theme parks for our vacation dollars is fierce.  The “been there, done that” mentality is alive and well – maybe not among us, the Disney diehards, but the generalMagic Bands at Walt Disney World population is susceptible to the draw of the newest, greatest vacation entertainment.  If they can’t find it in a Disney park, they can and will look (and spend) elsewhere.

Change is difficult – never more so than when we have no say about what is being changed.  We’re not involved in the decision making process, we don’t know the motivation behind every change, we didn’t get a vote.  We know what changes we’d like to see, but when changes are announced, they’re not what we would have chosen.  I like to believe that it is not always 100% about stock prices and corporate profits.  I’m also keeping an open mind about things like Frozen in the Norway Pavilion and Pandora in Animal Kingdom.  Until I see what they’re actually like, I can’t make a decision on whether they’re good or bad for their particular locations.  I’m excited about new and different experiences for our future vacations at Disney World.  I’ll always be sad and a little broken hearted when a familiar attraction makes way for something different, but most of the time, especially with Disney, different actually turns out to be better.

Now, if they’d just do something for poor Future World!

Your turn – share your thoughts on the upcoming changes at Walt Disney World.





Souvenir Shopping / Walt Disney World

Five Ways to Justify a Walt Disney World Vacation

Walt Disney World Annual PassBy now you know me well enough to be certain that I never need a reason to visit Walt Disney World or sail on Disney Cruise Line or both!  I’ve heard though (sadly) that may not be the case for some people out there.  Some of my friends and acquaintences say, “I wish we could go to Disney World more often but my husband/wife/partner/mom/dad (insert applicable spoil-sport of your choice) doesn’t want to go.”  Personally, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping the look of horror off my face at these moments and I usually just try to nod sympathetically and choke out some form of, “I understand” – which of course is a small white lie.  I don’t understand.  Not even a little.

This post is for those of you who need a nudge or know someone who does – let me help you get the Disney Vacation planning process off the ground with…They're only little once.

Five Good Reasons To Take a Disney Vacation:

1. Children Grow up So Fast!  He/She/They will only be this age once.  There is an abundance of magical moments awaiting children of all ages at Walt Disney World, but you must admit – the age window for that total buy-in of all that is magical and wondrous and REAL about Princesses, Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald and ALL the characters is limited.  Please, don’t pass up the opportunity to make those lasting happy memories!  We want future Disney fans, right?  This is the way to start that process off right!  Trust me – when you see the face of a child as they watch Tinker Bell fly from Cinderella Castle, see a ghost in their Doombuggy, receive a waive and a blown kiss from their favorite Disney Princess during the Festival of Fantasy Parade…it’ll all be worth it.

Family Pic at Disney's Boardwalk2. We Will Only Be US Right NOW!  Whether you’re newlyweds, the parents of teens, or empty nesters, this is a great reason to take a Disney vacation.  It’s hard to imagine how fast life goes by!  We took one Disney World vacation before we started a family and have traveled there many times on family vacations as our children grew up.  Finally, after 25 years, we get to go back as a couple…and it’s a good thing we’re taking advantage of this opportunity.  Our daughter is getting married next year and who knows?  We may be grandparents in the not too distant future!  Bringing on a completely new and different way to vacation Disney style!

3. So Much to Celebrate!  Any excuse will do!  Birthday, Christmas, Halloween, anniversary, honeymoon, graduation, good grades, family reunion, Super Bowl win – use what works for your particular situation. Celebrating a Birthday on Disney Cruise Line There’s no better place to celebrate than on a Disney vacation.  There are a lot of ways to celebrate on a Disney vacation and those Disney Cast Members love to help make your celebration special.  For Raymond, this is his preferred choice for justifying a Disney trip and has managed to use this excuse to celebrate his own birthday at Walt Disney World at least three times that I can remember.

4. Research!  I numbers 1-3 don’t help push you (or your loved one) to choose a Disney vacation, us this excuse:  We need to get the lay of the land, know what it’s like, practice our touring plans, test the rides and attractions, sample the food before we come back with any/all of the following:  Children, grandchildren, parents, friends, extended family, cheerleaders, choir My Haunted Mansion-themed Running Shoesgroup, marching band – whatever!  Pick some excuse for research – that’s your story and you’re sticking to it!

5. Get In Shape!  If all else fails, run!  No, seriously.  If you’re not already a runner, get moving.  This year I’ve used reasons #2 and #3 then realized that I am already a runner so I quickly said HEY!  I must participate in a runDisney event!  Right now!  Before I get any older!!!  Before Raymond realized what was happening, we were booked for a February vacation.  Now, I will actually have to run the 5k, 10k, and half-marathon I’ve registered for, but still…a Disney vacation with a twist is still a Disney vacation.  Raymond likes doing things on his own, so while I’m running, he can have some alone time to enjoy Walt Disney World!  Plus, we get to eat in some excellent table service restaurants…I believe proper pre-race nutrition is critical!  Read about my personal road to runDisney here.

Hopefully, you are now fully armed with all the ammunition you need to convince your mom, dad, husband, wife, grandmother, brother, sister – whoever necessary – to take you on a Disney vacation!!!  Use it wisely, my friend.

What are YOUR favorite excuses, reasons, and justifications for planning a Disney vacation?




Entrance to DHS

The Rumors Swirling around Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Darth Vader on Star Wars Weekend PosterI love a good Disney rumor, don’t you?  Some juicy tidbit of really-true, might-happen, or totally-fabricated gossip is FUN to think about – imagine if it actually happened!  I love to mentally weigh in on the possibilities –  Am I okay with it?  Horrified by the very idea!  Or jumping up and down with anticipation.  One of my favorite places to hear about all the possible happenings at Walt Disney World is on a podcast called The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill“.  Unlike all the other Disney podcasts I’m addicted to, the Disney Dish with Jim Hill doesn’t come out on a regular schedule.  An episode might come out once or twice a month…then skip a month….then magically reappear.

While I’ve been hearing a LOT of bits and pieces of what may or may not happen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Star Wars, ride closures, attraction removals, updates, refurbs, and so on.  One of the last Disney Dish episodes really made me sit up and take notice – it was “Episode 62: Disney World’s Next Five Years”.  Keeping in mind that it’s all “unofficial” – there was a lot to chew on in that 73 minutes of commentary.  Basically, the discussion is basedSorcerer's Hat on what may potentially happen at Disney World now that Universal has really upped their game.  Much of the discussion focused on Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So – based on the information I gleaned from Mr. Hill’s revelations, there are some major changes headed to the studios while some long discussed rumors appear to be just that – rumors – and will not become reality.

Here are the one’s I was most interested in (listen to the show for all the rest of the details):

The Sorcerer’s Hat – Source of much debate between the hat lovers and haters, the big blue centerpiece of the Studios has long been rumored to be on the way out.  Seems like it’s actually staying.  I understand its purpose – a place to draw crowds away from other areas of the park, a centrally located performance venue, etc.  And if you believe the other rumors about the hat’s original purpose – it was put there to actually HIDE the Chinese Theater due to legal issues with Disney’s use of a replica of the California original.  I’m not necessarily offended by the hat – I would LOVE DHS Imperial Speeder, Jasonto see an updated version though.  It’s so 2001 – cartoonish and hardly designed to fit in with any of the existing park theme.  I imagine that its removal would be a bit of a headache considering it reportedly weighs 156 tons.

Star Wars Land is a GO – And I am ecstatic!  I’m not much of a Star Wars geek, but I appreciate the broad spectrum of potential, the plethora of possibilities, if you will.  Now, this exciting news means big changes to the landscape of Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Echo Lake will be no more allowing the new land to begin much closer to the park entrance than the Star Wars area is now.  Think about it though!  All those lands, worlds, creatures, vehicles, andWookie in Star Wars Parade characters that are wonderfully amazing and unique!  This is what Disney Imagineers do best and I can’t wait to see how they transform elements from the Force (and the Dark side) into rides, attractions, restaurants, and shops.  The epic battle between good and evil…in the Studios!  Wookies and Ewoks and Sand People, oh my!

Indiana Jones may STAY – Can you believe it?  I braced myself to tell Indy so long and I may not have to! (See that blog post here)  Personally, I’m confident that Indy’s presence in the Studios will be updated.  Disney’s ownership of the Indiana Jones franchise opens the door to a lot of possibility…it would be a shame to waste it.

The Great Movie Ride is on its way OUT – Take a deep breath and think about it for a minute.  The Great Movie RideIt’ll be okay!  Original to the park, this 25 year old tour through classic movie genres was fun and edgy in the beginning.  Over the years though, no updates were made, no new movies were added, no new scripting for those poor Cast Members was written, things that stopped working correctly weren’t repaired (just adjusted to try to hide the problems).  Have you been on this ride lately?  Tarzan makes me feel embarrassed – he’s just awful.  The good news, though, is that according to Mr. Hill, the ride won’t be leaving anytime soon, so you can go and say a proper farewell.  My favorite part has always been the final scene from Casablanca.  What’s yours?

Still hungry for more scoop?  Check out The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill!Star Wars Weeekend's Parade  Download from iTunes or Stitcher.  Every episode is interesting.  Most recently (#63), the discussion was based on the history and future of DVC with information about plans that never happened and what DVC options may be available in the years ahead.

How do you feel about the possible changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  What would you be most excited about?  Would you be disappointed by any of the proposed changes?