Disney World News! Good and Sad.

In recent days, tons of announcements have been pouring out from official Disney sites.  Rumors abound from unofficial sources.  Many of you, like me, have been on an emotional roller coaster.  Let’s discuss…

Disney World News!  Good and Sad.

Rivers of Light – Finally, it’s happening!  The ups and downs of this on-again, off-again nighttime spectacular have been uncharacteristically dramatic.  The attraction was part of this week’s Disney Social Media Moms conference events with pictures and video allowed (unlike previous previews).  Having watched this video (spoiler!), I’m probably not going to rush out and schedule FastPasses or a Dining Package for our next trip.  The show looks beautiful, but I’m okay with waiting until later in the year to see it.Disney World News - World of Pandora

World of Pandora – Officially opening on May 27th!  It’s been years (and years) in the making…I sure hope this controversial new Animal Kingdom land lives up to the hype.  While not overjoyed, I’m okay with the theme and think Pandora is in keeping with the park’s emphasis on the importance of conservation, but when “Avatarland” was first announced, it was hotly debated.  Many fans were angry and disappointed that a much-anticipated Animal Kingdom expansion would not be based on mystical/mythical creatures as had been originally intended for the park.  I’m hoping there’s something here for everyone/every age to enjoy.

Wishes – It’s been around for 15 years and has become a much-loved family vacation tradition for many fans.  While I will be sad to see it go simply because of the nostalgia, I’ve opted to watch it from afar for the past several Disney World visits.  I’m ready for a new show!  “Happily Ever After” will debut May 12, 2017.Starring Rolls Cafe / Disney's Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls – Okay, this one hurts.  Starring Rolls closed with virtually no notice on February 4th.  I’m sure the space is badly needed for a rumored expansion to the Brown Derby lounge, but this closure puts a big hole in the middle of our traditional Studios touring plan.  Yes, I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy about it.  I want breakfast at an umbrella table so I can people-watch and relax between rides on Tower of Terror and Star Tours.  I better still be able to find a Butterfinger cupcake when I want one.

Star Wars Land – Days ago Disney announced a projected 2019 opening for this large expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

From the Disney Parks Blog:  “As we’ve shared, the Star Wars-themed lands are the largest-ever, single-themed land expansions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. At each location, guests will be transported to a never-before-seen planet – a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space – where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.” 

I love Star Wars and have been a fan since the very beginning (I’m old, I know).  I’ve been impressed with the already existing Star Wars areas of the park and am 100% certain Disney Imagineering is up to the task of making the expansion every bit as great as fans of this franchise are expecting.

What bit of recent Disney news are you most exited about?  Are you unhappy with any of the upcoming changes?


Weighing in: Grand Floridian’s Renovation Rumor

Earlier this week, this rumor from WDW News Today was blowing up the social media feeds of many a Disney fan, myself included.  Could this story possibly be true?  Would Disney “ruin” one of its most popular and beautiful deluxe resorts?  I’ve gotta weigh in here.

Grand Floridian’s Renovation Rumor

The first time I stayed at Disney’s Grand Floridian was on my very first visit to Walt Disney World.  It was the winter of 1990, Raymond and I were newly weds, and he wanted to introduce me to his favorite vacation destination.  I remember a Cast Member at the Grand Floridian commenting that the resort was unexpectedly popular with families and had been exceeding occupancy expectations since it opened in June of 1988.  The grounds, the buildings, the rooms – all gorgeous.  We had those fancy robes in our closet.  The service was spectacular.Is the Grand Floridian in need of a renovation?

As frequent visitors to Disney World, we’ve remained fans of the Grand Floridian – it still has a lot going for it.  Fantastic restaurants, breathtaking lobby with its very own orchestra for entertainment.  Mizner’s Lounge is one of our beloved stops on the Resort Loop Pub Crawl.  How could anyone think gutting the place in favor of a more modern design would be a popular decision?  Unless…Would the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra disappear with a renovation?

What if modern doesn’t really mean “modern”…as reflected, for example, in the way Bay Lake Tower embraces clean lines and contemporary décor?  What if modern for the Grand Floridian means updated finishes, less busy pink carpeting, more natural stone, less classic Victorian, but still reflecting a Victorian influence?In need of renovation? Carpet Details in the Grand Floridian Weighing in:  Grand Floridian's Renovation Rumor

Have you had the opportunity to visit the Grand Floridian’s DVC section?  The décor and architecture are still in keeping with the overall theme of the resort as a whole, but are completely updated with popular current features like farmhouse sinks, oversized luxury showers, freestanding tubs, and high-end finishes.  The same whimsical and airy feel of the original resort are present, but the overall impression is of a much more modern and luxurious experience.

If that’s what Bob Chapek has in mind for the entire resort, I’m all for it!  I would love to see the main lobby, restaurants, guest rooms, and lounge get an update with a more modern interpretation of the resort’s Victorian theme.  If anyone thinks the intricately beautiful Victorian exterior of the Grand Floridian could contain an interior of truly modern design…well, that’s just crazy talk.

Are you a fan of the Grand Floridian?  What are your thoughts on this interesting rumor?

Disney’s Pandora – What I Want to See

Since the recent announcement about Pandora’s opening date in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I can’t stop thinking about this new land.  What will it really be like?  After all the doubt and speculation, will Disney and Avatar fans all be pleased?  Will that amazing Na’vi shaman animatronic figure be as cool in person as she seems on Facebook?  What would I like to see?  That last part, I’ve got figured out!

Disney’s Pandora – What I Want to See

Joseph came home to visit for a couple of nights while Raymond was out of town on business this week.  He knows I hate staying by myself (Junior’s not much of a watch dog).  He gets free food, I avoid loneliness – it’s a win-win for both of us.  For fun, I came up with my best idea for a Pandora attraction and ran it by Joseph to see what he thought.  He not only liked the idea, he immediately started building on it to make it better!  Armchair Imagineering is FUN!!!

I started with this idea:  Think about the experience of Turtle Talk With Crush (in Epcot’s The Seas With Nemo and Friends).  Imagine that same technology used in a classroom made of glass (instead of just one wall).  Guests would enter a special environmentally controlled room (to protect humans), reached via short tunnel extended from the main Pandora research facility.  The tunnel would take “students” partially into the wilderness of Pandora lessons on the planet’s flora, fauna, and culture.  As everyone takes their seats, Na’vi “instructors” would approach the enclosure, introduce themselves,  and talk about what it’s like to live on Pandora.  Visitors in the classroom would be able to see Pandora and the Na’vi people through all four walls and the ceiling.  The experience would be interactive exactly like Turtle Talk, but instead of being geared towards the pre-school set, this attraction would mainly engage tweens, teens, and adults.  Students would have an excellent view of the plants, animals and people of Pandora with the ability to ask (and answer) questions.

Joseph added his thoughts:  The experience would change along with the time of day – just like Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Early mornings would show the Pandora landscape during sunrise (or suns-rise?) and the Na’vi teachers would explain how the planet changes as night turns into day.  Midday would offer completely different “lessons” and then, as the sun(s) set, dusk and nighttime would transform the experience yet again with different animals in the wild among the glow of the bioluminescent plants.

The technology is already available for this attraction!  Think about the possibilities!!!

What would YOU most like to see in Pandora?




Don’t Take Your Kids to Disney World This Summer!

You may have seen this article out there in The Federalist (an online magazine) – Why I Won’t Take My Kids to Disney World This Summer, by Nicole Russell.  I respect the opinions of the young and idealistic Ms. Russell – and actually agree with her on a couple of points.  I even applaud her for taking a stand that will reduce the crowd my family has to contend with on our next trip to Walt Disney World.  There are, however, a couple of things she’s standing firm on that I absolutely do not agree with and isn’t that the beauty of this whole article-writing thing?  We can agree to disagree.RM-Sunrise-Magic-Kingdom

Don’t Take Your Kids to Disney World This Summer!

First of all, I’ll freely acknowledge that Disney is a for-profit company.  As a person who appreciates the free enterprise system and our ability to invest in big, for-profit businesses, I’m okay with corporate income.  My nest egg appreciates good business sense…even if I’ll miss Maelstrom.  Ms. Russell is correct in her comments about price:  It can be expensive to visit Disney World (though tons of folks with big families do manage to do it for less than $4,000) and, if you have the money, there’s no doubt Disney will be happy to have you open your wallet in their resorts and theme parks.  As Ms. Russell states, Disney World is manufactured fun.   And sometimes, fantastic, made-up fun is exactly what a family needs.  I know mine does – in regularly scheduled doses.RM-Epcot-Blue-Tang

At first, I have no problem with Ms. Russell’s opinions until she gets to the part that says, “Disney World is really narrow.” – Here’s where our opinions seriously diverge.  I do firmly believe that it is important to visit historical landmarks and learn about coastal life at the beach or wildlife at the local state park.  I’ve taken my children to musicals, art museums, aquariums, zoos, and even on a pilgrimage to the ancestral home of my many-times great grandfather Daniel Boone.  All time and money well-spent!  On the other hand, I find Disney World to be quite broad – SO broad, that if we want to, we can also learn about important historical landmarks (Hall of Presidents & The American Adventure), coastal life (The Seas in Epcot), wildlife (Animal Kingdom), musical performances (Festival of the Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, the Musical), foreign lands (World Showcase) and, by the way, artistic talent is on display literally everywhere.Italy Pavilion / Epcot's World Showcase

Ms. Russell insists, “If you spend $8,000 on a family vacation to eat dinner with Cinderella, those are your values, if by default. Those values communicate something, and just don’t reflect my family’s values.”  While I have never spent $8,000 to eat dinner with Cinderella (nor do I intend to), I’ve raised my children on Disney World vacations to teach them more than how to stand in line in the hot Florida sun – I’ve taught them that it’s okay to dream, good to imagine, important to pretend, and absolutely, perfectly fine to let go and relax, enjoy laughing and having manufactured fun in an incredible, magical, silly, interesting, and, yes, educational way – together as a family.  At Disney World we’ve learned much about other cultures by listening to a gentleman Cast Member from Botswana describe his homeland, having a Norwegian Cast Member explain the differences in what their lives are like after high school compared to Americans’, and chatting with a patient Italian server who was kind enough to help us practice our Italian.Epcot's World Showcase

Interestingly, Ms. Russell believes a family trip to Europe – home of her ancestral heritage – would better reflect her values and be a better way to spend money.  Having been fortunate enough to vacation with my offspring in Europe more than once, I do have to say, it’s an amazing place to visit.  On our most recent trip, we spent a brief time in Copenhagen, Denmark and what did we do?  You guessed it!  We had manufactured fun!!!  We visited Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks – home to manufactured fun since 1843!  So, I’m going to disagree with Ms. Russell’s statement about Disney World: “It’s so American. So first-world. So anti-cultural.” – Tell that to the Danes and see what they have to say about it.  Tivoli Gardens was an inspiration to Walt Disney for creating Disneyland.RM-Tivoli-Gardens-Arch

Let’s be honest.  I’m not really here to defend vacation choices.  I’m very secure in our decisions about how we spend our discretionary income.  I suppose I’m really feeling stung by this young woman’s assertion that my family is somehow flawed in the values department.  That by enjoying the incredible, gigantic playground that is Disney World, my family is somehow shallow, reflecting poor values and a lack of culture.  That’s the bottom line here.  Ms. Russell is free to raise her four children in any manner she sees fit as I was free to raise my two.  My parents chose not to take me to Disney World when I was growing up – and I turned out okay.  By contrast, my children have visited Disney World more than a dozen times and they’re pretty terrific, well-rounded, productive members of society…and their values aren’t too shabby either.  Much of their passion for history, travel and culture was born at Disney World.Waiting for Toy Story Midway Mania

Ms. Russell firmly states, “If I’m going to spend $5,000 to 10,000, I prefer to do something that engages my family’s minds and imaginations, broadens our horizons, and expands our cultural preferences.”  I agree with you on that point, Ms. Russell, 100%!  Vacation at Walt Disney World or not…I’m just going to say – don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Okay, readers, your turn!  What say you to Ms. Russell’s assessment of Walt Disney World and those who choose to visit?