Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Drunk Man Scales Pyramid Outside Mexico Pavilion

For everyone asking, yes I have seen this video and no this wasn't me. I do have to compliment this guy's drunk imagination, the only thing I've ever tried to scale while drunk at the Food & Wine Festival was a small fountain. Though I'm also thinking he's likely banned from Walt Disney World at this point and will never get to achieve his true calling: scaling Mt. Everest at Animal Kingdom after a wild day at Dawa Bar.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Show Review: Hocus Pocus Villains Spooktacular

Background: For the last year rumors have circled on Facebook and throughout social media that a sequel to the early-90’s Disney flop Halloween film Hocus Pocus was in the works. The film, starring Bette Midler as one of the “famous” Sanderson Sisters of witches from Salem brought back to life and set to wreak havoc on the modern world only to be thwarted by some teenagers, has an avid cult following thanks to home video and incessant cable broadcasts during the Halloween season but no such sequel was or is actually in the works…save for this new show for the 2015 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Viewable only during event nights, the show replaces the Villains Mix and Mingle show from past years.

Show: The voice of Thackary Binx, the faithful black cat at the heart of the plot of the Hocus Pocus film, welcomes us to the night’s proceedings on the castle forecourt stage…adorned for the evening with a cemetery gate and a giant cauldron. Girls with candelabras begin to dance with some dudes wearing outfits that can only be described as a steampunk version of what the cast of a Tim Burton production of Shakespeare would look like while a Disney-fied version of “Season of the Witch” plays. Aaaand this show is already the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen.

The Sanderson Sisters appear and holy cow are they ever dead ringers for Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy at first glance. Mary stops the singing and dancing to note that she smells children in the crowd. Winnie realizes that it’s been twenty-two years since they last appeared while Sarah reminds everyone that the sisters turned to dust the last time they were in the human world. Winnie says that this time they are back to celebrate Halloween and throw the biggest Halloween party the “land” has ever seen. Well that differs from the movie.

Sarah breaks into a verse of her “come little children” song from the film as a lead in to Winnie beginning the party with a magic spell. The spell first calls for sinister shadows. No sooner do the sisters wonder where they will find a sinister shadow when Doctor Facilier, the shadow man from Princess & The Frog, appears. He lets the sisters know that they are in HIS world now and he has friends on the other side…he even has a song to sing about it! The sisters are very interested in making contact with these friends (“master!”) so they draw three of his cards and decide to join him in the end of his song and dance number.

Thankful for his help with the first part of their spell they move on to the next ingredients: “nefarious nightmares as terrifying as the shadows of the moon at night…” Yes, it’s the Ooogie Boogie Man from Nightmare Before Christmas! He sings his song and is a little too creepy even for the evil Sanderson Sisters but they let him stick around for the party anyway.

With two steps in their “awesome Halloween party” spell complete, they consult the potion for the next ingredient: frightful friends. You see, a party is only as good as those you invite. The sisters realize they have no friends. Without the ability to complete their plan to throw the Magic Kingdom’s best ever Halloween party, they will turn back into dust. It is never explained why this is nor does it need to be as this show is nothing but an excuse to have random Disney villains interact with the Hocus Pocus characters. And hey, on cue, speaking of random Disney villains: out comes Maleficent!

She is pissed that she wasn’t invited to the party. Winnie says she will be invited if she helps them complete their spell by inviting some of her friends to come over. Why they would assume she has friends, I don’t know, since she shows up complaining about how she is never invited to parties. But whatever…the cemetery gate opens and the Evil Queen shows up with her poison apple, Hades parades out with a giant eyeball, Cruella brings along a bone for the potion, and Captain Hook donates his compass. Jafar and Cinderella’s evil stepmother strut out to complete the parade of Maleficent’s friends as the sisters realize they only need one more ingredient: the hair of an innocent. Well this should be good.

Sarah does her singing spell on one of the steampunk girls from the beginning and they pluck out one of her hairs and toss it into the cauldron, sending a beam of light and, I dunno, magic I guess, out into the sky. It is only then that the sisters remember that there is a giant crowd of people watching them and they need to do something about it. What better to do than put a spell on them? You know what song that leads to (it’s I Put A Spell on You,) as all the villains and dancers join in the final show-capping number. (One of the dance moves involves synchronized clapping…Captain Hook goes along with it because he’s a trooper.)

Fireworks erupt from the castle as the sisters instruct all of their now spellbound onlookers to go into the party and run amok. They are about to fly away when they realize that they forgot their brooms and must simply walk away. Binx bids us farewell and happy All Hallows Eve. Apparently the crowd is now under their spell for eternity…or something.

Thoughts: This show is fine and dandy for what it is: an excuse to have Disney villains sing and dance during the Halloween party. But most of the Hocus Pocus jokes and self-references are going to be lost on a lot of people. The movie has a big cult following but I don’t think it is anywhere near as big as Disney thinks it is to devote this whole show to it. Nevertheless, for a one year event it is fine. And who knows, if it is popular enough, maybe that will convince Disney to actually make that sequel.

Rating: ***

Thursday, October 1, 2015

44 Things I Love About Walt Disney World

Happy 44th Birthday, Walt Disney World! You've given us so many great attractions, sensational shows, amazing adventures, and a few stinkers too...but most importantly, so very many lasting memories. In honor of your 44 years, I present a list (in no particular order) of 44 little things I love about the Walt Disney World Resort.
  1. The "Welcome to Walt Disney World" sign (and the fact that they had to put up a sign next to it instructing people not to stop and get out of the car to take pictures of it ON THE INTERSTATE.)
  2. The fact that you can't see the castle as you enter the Magic Kingdom until you come out of the train station at just the right moment.
  3. Dole Whips
  4. Laughing and singing along to "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah" at the end of Splash Mountain
  5. Hitchhiking ghosts
  6. When this happened at Be Our Guest...
  7. Everything about the TTA Peoplemover
  8. The music playing outside Epcot as you enter the park
  9. The perpetual twilight inside the Mexico pavilion
  10. Via Napoli
  11. Drinking enough German beers to seriously considering buying a $100+ stein
  12. Listening to the Candlelight Processional while walking on the promenade
  13. Shopping in Japan
  14. The fact that they painted the Tower of Terror to blend in behind the Morocco pavilion
  15. Impressions de France
  16. Drinking Boddingtons and listening to Hat Lady
  17. Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup
  18. "Anything can happen in the movies"
  19. Not knowing how many times you're going to drop on the Tower of Terror
  20. When the princess barges appear during Fantasmic
  21. Muppet Vision 3D
  22. The background music of Animal Kingdom
  23. Figuring out the backstory of the Kilimanjaro Safari queue
  24. Dawa Bar
  25. Eating in the farthest seats behind Flame Tree BBQ 
  26. Typhoon Lagoon's lazy river
  27. Marketplace Co-Op
  28. The fact that they now sell Starbucks in the parks
  29. When Mickey talks
  30. The fact that they pipe in the music if you happen to be on the Polynesian Beach during the fireworks
  31. Friendship Boats
  32. Renting a recliner at ESPN Club
  33. The big Mardi Gras masks in the PO:FQ food court
  34. The giant foosball players at Pop Century
  35. Plastic cheese (R.I.P.)
  36. The orange grove smell on Soarin
  37. Michael Eisner hitting the golf ball on Soarin
  38. When people tell you that the monorail is being built to go through the Dolphin
  39. The pool at Coronado Springs
  40. MagicBands (when they work)
  41. The distinctive trash cans
  42. Topiaries
  43. Giant Christmas trees
  44. "Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

D23 Expo Weekend Recap

Star Wars Launch Bay: Coming Soon to a Disney park near Orlando or Los Angeles.

Last weekend the Walt Disney Company held their biannual “D23 Expo” in Anaheim, CA featuring panels, presentations, and press events both looking back at the past and towards the future of Disney parks, films, television, and assorted properties.

The biggest news to come out of the weekend was the announcement that Star Wars “lands” were coming to both Disneyland in California and Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida. Details were sketchy (not even the location of the Florida land was confirmed outside of the assumption that it would be in the general vicinity of the already existing Star Tours attraction) and featuring only “blue sky” concept art and a few vague details of what guests can expect in the new land. Among the highlights will be a new e-ticket (big) attraction featuring a ride on the Millennium Falcon. A long-awaited Cantina inspired restaurant also seems to be a shoe in for the land. No opening date was announced but I would conservatively estimate that it will open in phases between 2017-19.

The other big Walt Disney World announcement came in the form of a new Toy Story inspired land also coming to Hollywood Studios. The land will be along the lines of the one in Hong Kong but seemingly bigger and better. It will include a Slinky Dog roller coaster and, most importantly, added capacity for the already existing Toy Story Midway Mania attraction. This announcement is a big disappointing as many had rumored that Hollywood Studios would get a more inclusive Pixar land to feature some version of California Adventure’s Radiator Springs Racers and perhaps even a stateside version of the Ratatouille ride from Disneyland Paris or an east coast version of California’s Monsters Inc. ride. The confirmation of these two lands coming to Hollywood Studios, and their size (14 and 11 acres respectively) all but assures the end of three more existing attractions: The Indiana Jones stunt show, Muppetvision 3D, and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground (and probably also Lights, Motors, Action, but that’s still up in the air…they might need to keep it open just for the sake of its large capacity.)

Other big announcements from around the expo:

  • Lots of other new Star Wars stuff is coming to Hollywood Studios in the interim including fireworks and Star Wars Launch Bay, a temporary exhibit looking at the new stuff coming to the parks as well as displays on the old and upcoming films.
  • Soarin is getting an upgrade at both Disney World and Disneyland and will finally feature a new ride film: Soarin over the World.
  • The new Avatar ride (coming soon to Animal Kingdom whether we like it or not) will be called Flight of Passage. Animal Kingdom will also be getting a nighttime show centered on the Tree of Life and Kilimanjaro Safari will get new animals and a nighttime version. Animal Kingdom will also begin to stay open every night, which I find way more exciting in and of itself than any of these other announcements.
  • Shanghai Disneyland is going to be amazing, featuring a layout similar to the existing Disneylands, but with everything plussed and updated for a new generation including a new Main Street theme, a new kind of castle, and an updated Pirates of the Caribbean among other things. Of course, it’s unlikely anyone reading this will ever go there, but it sounds cool!
  • Iron Man is coming to Hong Kong Disneyland. Once again, we’re probably all never going to see it.
  • The next big Disney film is Gigantic. It has the people who did the music for Frozen and will be a retelling of Jack & the Beanstalk. Expect it to get its own land at a Disney park in 2024. They are also working on two movies starring the Rock: the animated Moana and the live action theme park inspired Jungle Cruise. A live action Jungle Book starring Bill Murray is on the way, for reals, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean 5 starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, yawn.
  • Sequels are all the rage at Pixar with their upcoming slate to include Finding Dory, Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4 (a stand-alone love story to focus on Woody and Bo Peep…seriously.)
  • The Kingdom Hearts and Disney Infinity video games are doing a crossover. I haven’t played a video game not called Madden in twenty years so this announcement is lost on me but it seemed like kind of a big deal.

All told, the D23 Expo was a rousing success for Disney, garnering headlines, viral clips, and tons of social media activity all weekend long. Most assuredly the event will continue to be a bigger and bigger deals as years go on, likely approacing Comic Con levels, if it wasn’t already there yet.

This article originally appeared on Read more from me there or on

Monday, July 6, 2015

Disney Legend Blaine Gibson Dies

Sad news today as animator, sculptor, one of the earliest Imagineers, and Disney Legend Blaine Gibson passed away at the age of 97.

Gibson was an animator on many Disney classics of the 1940's through 60's. He was later recruited by Walt to join Imagineering where he worked on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean for Disneyland, as well as Mr. Lincoln for the 1964 New York World's Fair.

A company man to the end, a family friend was quoted on Facebook as saying that he watched 101 Dalmations - a movie he worked on - with his grandson shortly before passing.

Gibson is immortalized in a window on Main Street at Disneyland.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

DisneyQuest Finally Closing

Disney announced this week that they are finally pulling the plug on DisneyQuest, the "indoor interactive theme park" that was in theory the showpiece of the Downtown Disney West Side, when it opened with an allegedly separate identity from Pleasure Island and the Marketplace way back when those were, ya know, things.

I'm not especially surprised to see this relic go as I've yet to encounter any real live people who actually went there. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it has a cult following somewhere and a mere cursory glance at the Disney interwebs should yield a community of people who are mourning its demise but I'm not one of them. Was it a Dave & Busters, was it a park, was it an arcade? I was never really certain and Disney's marketing, somehow both vague and grandiose, never really explained it to me.

The Disney World completest in me is kind of bummed that I will never get to say I went there and get to review the various rides (rides? games? attractions? what were they?) inside. That having been said...ya know, whatever.

It kind of makes sense that places like these need to get bulldozed before Disney Springs really comes to life. (Did I ever mention how much I hate that name though? Disney Springs? What is that? Where they get all the water for the parks from?) Though rumor has it there is some kind of NBA Experience going in there which should be a success at least to the level of the All Star Cafe at the Wide World of Sports.

The Art of Disney Animation is closing at Hollywood Studios too. I will choose to either applaud or jeer this depending on whatever they announce to replace it. Like it could be a new ride or show (yay!) or it could be an empty building they only use on Star Wars Weekends (boo! hiss!)

Just don't try to take pictures of any of this stuff with your selfie stick, please.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ride Review - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train


Background: Built as the final piece of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train officially opened in 2014 after years of construction, basically in the center of the park. The family coaster is the Magic Kingdom’s fourth and is also the closest thing to a new “e-ticket” attraction in the park since the opening of Splash Mountain in 1992. (Although not really and I’ll have more on that later.)

Queue: The winding track is visible from various points in Fantasyland but the actual entrance is near Winnie the Pooh and the Teacups. The queue can sometimes back up into the walkways of Fantasyland (a nightmare on a hot summer day) but is for the most part a winding path through trees, past the dwarfs cottage, and then mercifully inside the mine itself. There are some of the now-standard time wasting games and diversions for the kiddos but by and large the queue is nothing all that inventive or spectacular. The story here is pretty simple: we are whistling off to work and joining the dwarfs in their mine.

Ride: We board a mine train car that is more akin to a one that would haul rocks and gems than people like its Frontierland counterpart. The cars do a little bit of free range rocking as we head out of the station, down a hill into a curve, and then up a lift hill. The dwarfs “Heigh Ho” working song can be heard in the distance as we reach the top of the hill and then twist and turn through “the countryside” and finally down into the mine. The dwarfs are down there, picking at rock, collecting gemstones, and singing their tune just like in the movie. Dopey is first to make an appearance, followed by some “blink and you’ll miss it” cameos from the others including Sleepy who is, naturally, asleep on the job. Finally Doc calls out to the others to head on home as our train heads up another lift hill. The dwarfs’ shadows are projected on the wall of the cave as we climb to the top and get a good but brief view of Fantasyland including Beast’s castle in the distance. 

The train heads down another hill, twists past a waterfall, and then winds back towards the station. We make one final stop in front of the dwarfs’ cottage. A quick glance inside reveals Snow White dancing with her friends while the Evil Queen, disguised as an old hag, lurks outside the door while carrying a basket of presumably poisoned apples. Then, in a moment completely unprecedented for Disney Parks, the ride does something that I am almost certain has never happened before. It ends on a cliffhanger. There is no resolution to the story. Our heroes are stalked by an evil villain who never gets any comeuppance…she just lurks. What a strange, strange ending.

Thoughts: So yeah…the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a short but fun little coaster that delivers exactly what it promises. It’s an enjoyable ride, perfect for whole families to go on together. It’s got thrills for kids who haven’t quite graduated to the “big” coasters and it’s tame enough for grandma. Its popularity successfully draws some FP+ reservations and riders away from the park’s other headliners but it is definitely not the big time “e-ticket” that some people had hoped for when it was announced. While not a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination, it is certainly not a second-coming of Toy Story Mania that people will wait hours to ride time and again.

One big selling point of the ride are the unique train cars that independently rock and back and forth. The effect is noticeable more if you know that it happens and try to feel for it. My wife, upon riding for the first time, had no idea that the cars moved until I told her and agreed on a second ride that she noticed it then. Overall I’d call it a unique but underwhelming feature.

I also just can’t get over that ending. Disney has been on a streak of delivering rides that break the cliché of “…then something goes terribly wrong” and serving up attractions that are heavy on pure grin-inducing fun (Toy Story Mania; California’s Radiator Springs Racers.) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train appears to be well on the way of doing the same until the final moments when, for no explainable reason, they throw a villain into the mix to do nothing but look menacing. Would anyone ride this thing without the witch and come off asking why she wasn’t in it? If someone went into the ride hoping to see the witch cause tension, would they be pleased by her randomly appearing in the ride’s final seconds to serve no purpose? It’s such a wacky final scene that also isn’t helped by the fact that you can’t even see into the windows of the cottage depending on where in the sky the sun happens to be when you ride. It just jars me every time and I can’t shake it. The ride ends…in a CLIFFHANGER. Why?

Rating: *** ¼ 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disneyland 60th Anniversary Kickoff Disaster

Disneyland kicked off their 60th Anniversary celebration in much the same way as the park's opening day: unmitigated disaster.

That might be too strong a term to describe both days but most certainly yesterday's 24-hour event had more negative than positive associated with it and will likely jeopardize the future of these events at Disney Parks.

What happened was that a massive crowd descended upon the park, many of whom were willing to camp out along Main Street from early in the day to wait for the evening's debuting parade. The park was completely inundated, closing to all guests in the afternoon resulting in a backlog of hopefuls crowing the esplanade between Disneyland and California Adventure, into California Adventure park, and up Harbour Blvd. Worse, the park never announced a closing for California Adventure despite it being impossible for guests to get in. The park never reopened until very late at night (we're talking 2am late) and social media was filled with guests furious with Disney.

I'll have more thoughts on this as the weekend progresses but for now it should go without saying that Disney needs to seriously reevaluate the way it handles these 24-hour events if they plan on having them again in the future. Which, after yesterday, is a definite "if."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Internet Wins Again

That right there is a link to a bunch of pictures of Disney princesses re-imagined as office supplies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

16 Disney Characters Who Were Probably Gay

This had me laughing a few times but I almost totally lost it at "Baloo also seems to enjoy having his prostate stimulated."

Well done, Buzzfeed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Polynesian DVC

These look so excellently kitchy yet modern at the same a room designed and built in 1965 and then remodeled in 2015, which is probably exactly what they were going for.

And the a private balcony with a pool with fireworks viewing with music pumped in to your own speaker system! Brilliant and amazing. Probably way out of  mine and most people's price range but awesome nonetheless and somewhere to dream of staying for certain.

Tipping my cap to Disney for this one...hopefully not prematurely and the execution really matches the imagination.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Disney Female Character Analysis

Results: much like their cartoon ducks, Disney's women rarely wear pants.

They're also white orphans with no discernable responsibilities outside of sewing, singing, and hanging out with their non-human sidekicks. But you already knew that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jurassic World Trailer

This movie is going to be awesome. Also there's a scene where rampaging dinosaurs chase guests past a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, so there's that.