Disney Changes…Even Mickey Mouse

Of all of the 2017 D23 Expo announcements, there were a couple that stood out as causing the most mixed feelings among my fellow Disney fans.  One is the upcoming addition of an E-ticket Guardians of the Galaxy attraction to Epcot (replacing Ellen’s Energy Adventure) and the other is the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction replacing The Great Movie Ride.  Today let’s talk about Mickey and Minnie and the demise of the last original attraction from Disney’s MGM Studios.The Great Movie Ride

Disney Changes…Even Mickey Mouse

The uproar, it seems, is less about losing The Great Movie Ride and more about its replacement.  In the majority of social media posts and comments I’ve seen, everyone seems very excited that Mickey and Minnie will finally be getting their very own, much-deserved attraction.  The problem with many folks lies with which version of the iconic Disney couple will be featured in the ride.  Have you seen the newest Mickey (and the gang) cartoons on the Disney Channel?  In 2013, these shorts first appeared (excellent article here) and we think they’re hilarious!  (My favorite episode is the Potatoland one.)  Why the use of this version of Mickey is troublesome, I can’t explain.  Mickey Mouse (and his friends) have a long history that definitely involves changing with the times.Mickey Mouse Club artifacts in One Man's Dream

Consider for a minute Mickey’s age…he’ll be 100 in 2028.  It’s an amazing achievement for a cartoon character to remain so beloved for so long.  Sure, Felix the Cat is older than Mickey, but his popularity has waned.  Mickey has maintained his appeal, generation after generation, by changing and staying relevant.  His personality has been rock steady:  Happy, easy-going, loyal mischief-maker with a heart of gold.  He’s been devoted to Minnie since day one and his friends can count on him through thick and thin.  His appearance has changed many times – doesn’t everyone’s?

If the new Mickey/Minnie attraction won’t be taking us through the characters’ history, but rather allow us to be a part of a cartoon adventure as featured in the Disney Channel shorts, I can’t see a downside.  Yes, it’s a modern take on our favorite original Disney characters, but they’re still 100% lovable.

Kimberly Nordike in The Hollywood Reporter described these latest Mickey cartoons this way:

“The shorts, which are geared toward kids age 6 to 14 and families, feature an aesthetic that goes back to Mickey’s roots and borrows from the style of his 1930s design while adding a few modern touches. Designs for other characters have a similar approach, favoring a “rubber-hose” cartoon style for more exaggerated animation. Background designs closely reflect the graphic design sense of 1950s and ’60s Disney cartoons. The production team has also included homages to other icons from Disney’s history.”

If you haven’t seen any of these cartoons, I encourage you to check them out.  We enjoyed them while on our last family Disney Cruise and thought they were highly entertaining – packed with fun for the entire family.  And that’s exactly the way we feel about Walt Disney World.  I’m especially excited about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and can’t wait to see what it’ll be like.

Disney’s Quick Service Dining Plan Review

When Megan and I were planning our recent trip to Walt Disney World, I mentioned our interest in trying the Quick Service Dining Plan.  With two snack and two counter service meal credits per day, we believed we’d have much more flexibility in our park touring versus our typical vacation habit of booking one or more sit down meals per day.  What we were hoping for:  Delicious food, tasty snacks, and a good value.

Disney’s Quick Service Dining Plan Review

What we spent – Regular price for this plan is $48.19 per person per night of stay.  We got a small Disney Vacation Club discount, which brought our price down to $46.34 per person per day for a total of $278.04.Disney Quick Service Dining at Pecos Bill's

Where we ate – First, let me say that we enjoyed the meal choices we made very much!  We arrived on Sunday and had lunch at Pecos Bill’s (Magic Kingdom) then dinner at Wilderness Lodge’s new Geyser Point Bar and Grill. The next day (Monday), we enjoyed lunch at Harambe Market and dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue.  On Tuesday we had lunch in the Mexico Pavilion (Epcot) at La Cantina de San Angel.Tuesday night we didn’t use a credit and enjoyed our one-and-only table service meal at Paddlefish in Disney Springs.  That left one credit for the following day when we had lunch in the Morocco Pavilion at Tangierine Café.  This picture does not do it justice.  Our first time there and boy, was it delish!

What snacks we chose – We had to have Mickey ice cream bars in Magic Kingdom, but after that we got as creative as possible.  Mickey Premium Ice Cream BarWe enjoyed chocolate filled beignets from the Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in the France Pavilion (oh, wow!).  Stopped in Karamell-Kuche in the Germany Pavilion for a salted caramel cupcake, caramel corn, and a hunk of caramel (my absolute fave).  With one last snack credit, we grabbed some bagged pretzels at Saratoga Springs to eat on the way home.

The verdict –  We did not go hungry, that’s for sure, and were happy we purchased the plan.  Out of pocket, our meals would have cost about $210.68 with tax.  That left about $67.36 of the meal plan price for snacks.  Between us we got 12 snacks and I know most of them were over $5.  So we broke even.  We didn’t try to order the most expensive options on every menu and ate where we wanted to with no consideration for which restaurants would be the best value on the plan.  We also ordered bottled water (relatively cheap compared to soft drinks) with every meal in order to stay hydrated.  The ease of pre-paying for most of our meals was super convenient and budget-friendly.  Using our Magic Bands to access our meal and snack credits was great too.

What we’d recommend:  Don’t skimp on snacks because you think you’ll want to use them for something better later.  Use the two each day as you go or you’ll be like us and have to snack like crazy (or stock up for later) on the last day.

Have you tried the Quick Service Dining Plan?  What did you think about it?

 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Caring for Giants Tour

We were looking for a special little something extra to add to our Walt Disney World vacation.  And we found the perfect thing!  For $30 per person ($25.50 with a DVC discount), guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can spend an hour backstage learning about Disney’s herd of perfect pachyderms and much, much more.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Caring for Giants Tour

Megan and I knew we’d have an entire day, open to close, to spend in Animal Kingdom.  For a relatively small investment of time and money, we scheduled the Caring for Giants Tour at 3:00 pm on June 26th.

Due to a summer thunder shower that moved through right at our scheduled tour time, we were delayed 30 minutes and joined the next tour group.  Had it not been for the storm, the two of us would have been the only ones on our original tour.  As it was, we were with just one other family, so our group was small and we could hear and see everything very well.

The tour begins near Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We were given name tags in a lanyard before being led backstage to a tour vehicle (a van).  After a short drive during which some of the areas like barns and fences were discussed, we arrived at a backstage area behind the savannah where elephants can usually be seen on the safari.

We climbed a flight of stairs onto a viewing platform and met our guides.  One an animal care expert and the other a cultural representative from Africa.  From the animal care specialist, we learned a bit about the elephant herd in Animal Kingdom and some general elephant facts.  The African cultural representative taught us about elephant conservation and how Disney helps with efforts to reduce conflict between farmers and elephants in Africa.Caring for Giants Caring for Giants

As we were listening to the guides, the herd’s matriarch, Rafiki (Swahili for Friend), made a loud, deep rumbling noise.  Apparently this was Elephant for “come to me now!”  What an amazing thing to see!  Elephants running from every direction to surround Rafiki.  One trumpeted loudly and the “event” was over as suddenly as it began.  Shortly afterwards, a beautiful elephant with very long legs caught our eye and we asked about her.  Her name is Kianga which is Swahili for Sunshine. Caring for Giants Caring for Giants

The tour was fun, informative, and an excellent way to break up our Animal Kingdom day.  Megan and I both highly recommend this experience!

I’m full of questions!  Do you love elephants?  Does Caring for Giants sound like something you would enjoy?  Have you already taken this tour?  What did you think about it?

 

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

Let’s talk (more) Pandora, okay?  I recently shared an overview of Megan’s and my experience in Animal Kingdom’s newest land.  Now it’s time to get to the very best part – Flight of Passage!  With a height requirement of 44-inches, this ride is intended for everyone in the family from about age six.  Is it a perfect attraction for everyone?  Just about!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

We rode Flight of Passage using the standby queue and also rode with a FastPass.  The standby line weaves through several different rooms, gradually becoming more heavily themed as guests make their way to the heart of the ride.  Unlike some of Disney’s newest queue innovations, this one has no interactive elements (that we noticed).  While I didn’t enjoy the queue nearly as much as I do the one for Expedition Everest, the final area of the line is VERY cool and worth waiting for…if the wait isn’t longer than about an hour.  We waited 90+ minutes and were pretty bored most of the time.  FastPass holders skip all of the standby – including the super interesting, well-themed parts.  Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage? Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?My suggestion:  If the line’s not too long, the lead up to the actual attraction adds certain immersive details that enhance the experience…if you like that sort of thing.

The “pre-ride show” is very detailed and includes instructions for actually experiencing the attraction.  During our first ride, I missed some of the finer details.  Don’t be like me!  Pay close attention to things like the particular avatar you are linked to and you’ll be even more amazed.Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Riding a Banshee

When you finally take your place on the ride vehicle (think motorbike or jet ski) and are secured in place (not nearly as restrictive as Rock’n’ Roller Coaster), you’ll be facing an industrial-looking wall.  As you wait for the final link to your avatar to be complete (you can see this happening on a screen on your vehicle), you may wonder (like we did), “What the heck?  What kinda good attraction has you staring at this wall?  Why do I even need these 3D glasses?” and then prepared to be delighted and amazed!  The wall simply vanishes and you arrive on Pandora.

I can’t describe it to you, but will tell you my impression.  Flight of Passage involves all of your senses.  You can feel the banshee breathing, beating its wings, jumping into the air.  You can see, feel and smell the Pandoran environment as you explore the planet with your leader.  Megan and I both exited the ride in complete amazement!  She wore a huge, unending grin – punctuated with an occasional delighted laugh.  I know I was walking along in jaw-dropped awe.  At one point, Megan took my hand and let me along…I was that stunned!

After that first ride, I could remember so clearly the sights, aromas, and feelings I experienced.  I could not remember a single sound…not one!  After that one time, I recalled the experience as being completely silent, yet I knew it couldn’t have been!  And I believe that’s a testament to this attraction’s outstanding design!  Sensory overload in the very best way!!!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

As with most of Disney World’s magic, I don’t care to know anything about the technology involved in allowing me to visit another planet and ride on the back of a flying animal there.  I just want to do it again!  More immersive than Soarin’, less motion-sickness-inducing jerkiness than Star Tours, no unexpectedly scary elements like Tower of Terror…yet much, much more thrilling than any of them, in its own unique way.  Unless your little one is easily scared by new experiences, I can’t imagine anyone not loving Flight of Passage.

If you’re headed to Walt Disney World to experience Pandora for the first time, I recommend Flight of Passage as the top must-do experience in this land.  While we were waiting in the standby line, Megan and I chatted up the folks around us…those who’d ridden Flight of Passage already were unanimous in their feelings about this attraction and overwhelmingly said, “Best ride EVER!”  As much as I love my favorite Disney World attractions, I’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Go! Ride! And let me know what you thought of Flight of Passage when you get back.