Tuesday, August 15, 2017

6 Ways We'll Remember Ellen's Energy Adventure & The Great Movie Ride

Two iconic and "old school" Walt Disney World attractions shut down over the weekend. Ellen's Energy Adventure played it's final Jeopardy at Epcot on Sunday while the Great Movie Ride took it's last curtain call over at Hollywood Studios. Here at WDWorld Traveler, we remember these two legendary attractions as only we can.

1. Stupid Judy
Ellen's Energy Adventure's absurd Jeopardy dream sequence and preposterous premise in general was a thing of beauty. Something that could have only been cooked up in the 90's, Ellen's neighbor Bill Nye the Science Guy chastises her for not caring about energy while watching her old rival Judy (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) appear on the Jeopardy game show. The wackiness of it all is encapsulated in the moment when Ellen declares her nickname for Judy: "Stupid Judy." You can relive this moment forever thanks to this TeePublic shirt.

2. Ellen's Epic Nap Adventure
Ellen's Energy Adventure clocked in at a remarkable 45 minutes. This fact alone makes it no shock that the ride is being replaced to suit our current low-attention-span society. What will be missed by many Walt Disney World faithful was the long nap afforded by 45 minutes of air conditioned darkness and, on particularly uncrowded days, long bench seating. (Appropriate for a ride that's entirely a dream sequence during a nap.) So yes, Epcot's most comfortable nap is now gone. It's probably all for the better as equally long naps can be had at the American Adventure and Mark Twain is less likely to cause mid-nap nightmares than an Allosaurus. Slightly less.

3. Wacky Celebrity Crossovers
If you are looking for a reason beyond shortening attention spans to blame for the closure of these two classic attractions, blame Disney's new love of profitable IP synergy. And I'm not talking about the simple Eisner-era synergy of opening an ABC Commissary restaurant. No, Disney's new mantra is to not invest any money in any kind of new rides, shows, or attractions without having an already-proven profitable piece of intellectual property behind it. It makes good business sense. Why have two attractions in prominent positions in your parks headlined by a bunch of properties that don't make your company any money? Bill Nye the Science Guy isn't starring in any action movies and the Wizard of Oz and most of the movies featured in the Great Movie Ride aren't even Disney pictures. And yes, I know Ellen stars in a very profitable Pixar franchise but this was ELLEN'S Energy Adventure, not DORY'S Energy Adventure. Putting Mickey and the Guardians of the Galaxy into their spots is a smart business move. All that having been said, I will certainly miss seeing audio-animatronics recreations of the likes of John Wayne and Alien. I will also greatly miss Alex Trebek, the unsung hero of Ellen's Energy Adventure, as long as the wild and wacky Willard Scott and Michael Richards cameos.

4. Gratuitous Movie Placement
You know that rant I just went on about Disney putting their own IP into attractions? It came off as just plain gratuitous in the Great Movie Ride and I love how everyone just kind of nods and goes along with it because "cool! Mary Poppins!" You've got scenes and references to the Wizard of Oz, The Godfather, Singing in the Rain, and Casablanca alongside...Mary Poppins and Fantasia. Because, of course you do. I also love when the narrator calls Mickey Mouse one of the greatest film stars of all time. Mickey. Big star of exactly zero actual films. Shorts, made for TV specials, and 1/6th of Fantasia don't count. It all just reeks of Disney refusing to make the ride without including two of its own movies. Not saying that I blame them either. It was just so glaringly and eyerollingly obvious.

5. The Fact That TCM Isn't Even Carried By Disney Resorts
The TCM sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride is one of the strangest things that Disney has done in recent years. Yes, it makes perfect sense. But it is also just strange since Disney is all about not promoting other companies' crap anymore. Yet here we had a non-Disney-owned cable network getting a prominent role in a headline attraction. Then the coup de grace comes when you get back to your Disney resort at night, turn on the TV, and find out TCM isn't even carried. It would be like walking out of Club Cool and finding out that they only sold Pepsi. Just for laughs, here's Disney photography aficionado Tom Bricker's overly optimistic view of the TCM sponsorship from 2015, complete with this sentence: "I’m really enthusiastic for the future of Great Movie Ride." Oh and speaking of ironies...

6. The Last Ever Ellen's Energy Adventure Ride Broke Down
I'm not making this up. On the last ever ride taken through Ellen's Energy Adventure, the ride system broke down and people had to be evacuated. The CM's, taking to heart the last day policy of "screw it," just let people wander around the dinosaur diorama for awhile taking videos and selfies with the animatronics. I'm not wholly convinced that this wasn't done on purpose (it's a little bit convenient that the ride happened to break down with all 6 cars in the dinosaur room) but I'm also not going to let some logic get in the way of a great story. It was a fitting ending to a ride that never really fit in. And speaking of breaking down, here's a video of some grown men breaking down (in tears) on their last ride ever on the Great Movie Ride.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Faith In Humanity Is Lost; Dumbest Animal Kingdom Review Ever


This entire Reddit thread will make your day.
- Brian

Yes, this is indeed epic. Of course the comments are even funnier than the actual review. "I definitely think this person needs to avoid the Great Movie Ride" and "we were promised tickets to an Aerosmith concert but all the limo took us to was a shop where they sell t-shirts" both made my day for sure.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Review - Happily Ever After

Backstory: Happily Ever After replaced the beloved Wishes, ending it's over-a-decade run in the spring of 2017. It is likely not the last new addition to Magic Kingdom's nighttime lineup as the park still remains without an evening parade.

Touring Strategy: This show makes ample use of projections onto Cinderella Castle and thus is best viewed with the entirety of the castle in sight. Makes way more sense now why they opened up all of that extra viewing space around the hub. You should probably watch it from somewhere facing the castle head-on. My old spot of watching from near the carrousel in Fantasyland will probably still be good for the fireworks views, but I have no idea how much, if any, of the projections are displayed on the back of the castle.

The Show: A rousing orchestral piece opens the show and the voice of a new fireworks show narrator (no more Jiminy Cricket) begins with the words that so often close fairy tales: "and they all lived happily ever after." This will be the theme of the show, that all of our dreams and all of our "hearts desires" can be realized, just like they always are for the heroes and heroines of our favorite Disney fantasies.

The castle begins to come alive with changing colors and some projections of fireworks until the fireworks appear to explode out of the castle and fill the sky around it. The castle turns blue as one final firework flies through the sky. Tiana appears in projection form on the base of the castle and sings leading to more fireworks among a blending melody of Disney classics including Part of Your World from Little Mermaid and Out There from Hunchback of Notre Dame (an unusual choice for a featured song, in a show filled with them.) Quasimodo disappears amongst a flurry of fireworks as we switch over to the next section of the show.

The castle appears covered in Polynesian jungle foliage as Moana joins us for a medly. Projections keep changing through a flurry of Disney characters and iconic moments including Lightening McQueen, the balloons from Up, and characters from Finding Nemo as the song changes to the now famous How Far I'll Go. Aladdin's lamp appears at the center of the castle, leading to a Friend In Me inspired medley of songs and projections from Aladdin, Tarzan, Lion King, Toy Story, Jungle Book, Wreck It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Inside Out, and Monsters Inc. It culminates in, of all things, the conclusion of That's What Friends Are For, the vultures' song from the Jungle Book, and particularly with a large mouth appearing out of the castle to sing the baritone Sher Khan's closing line.

The castle then turns to ice but we are redirected from the expected Let It Go scene with Olaf saying that "some people are worth melting for" and then a version of Love Is An Open Door. A large heart firework leads to more fireworks amongst scenes of tender loving Disney moments set to You'll Be In My Heart. Included are clips of the family from Inside Out, Simba and Nala from Lion King, baby Dory and her parents, and Dumbo and his mom. Next the castle is filled with the lanterns from Tangled, which take off into the night sky.

These tender moments are replaced with a medley of Disney's epic battle scenes from movies like Mulan, Little Mermaid, Lion King, and Sleeping Beauty, ending in an epic and awesome crescendo with music from the live-action Pirates of the Caribbean and including my all time favorite Disney fireworks show effect: a projection making it appear as if cannon fire has blown holes into Cinderella Castle (originally from the old Pirate and Princess Party.)

Things calm down and the castle is filled with rain, putting out the fires of battle, as Mufasa appears in the clouds to tell us to "remember who you are" and leads into a section featuring Go The Distance from Hercules, another great but relatively obscure Disney song. The castle is wiped to a more familiar state only with gold gilding on it's spires. The rest of the castle morphs into stained glass windows displaying a litany of Disney characters, including a few who hadn't appeared elsewhere in the show including Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Peter Pan. As the narrator tells us that the show has come to an end and reminds us that our story continues long after we leave the park, a final crescendo of the show's theme song, a full-sky explosion of colored fireworks, and Tinkerbell's famous fly from the castle makes for an epic conclusion to the show.

Thoughts: So this is an interesting show to review. Foremost, practically, it's really hard because there are all kinds of things happening at the same time. Fireworks going off, songs changing, things projected on both the castle and the walls to either side of it. And this is just what I could see from the YouTube video I used to write the recap. Being in the park live for this show has to be an absolutely breathtaking experience and one that you can have multiple times and see new things to appreciate each time. Hardcore Disney fans have to be thrilled with the music choices, which shy away from the commonplace stuff and opt for some rarities, all of which match the show so beautifully that if someone is unfamiliar with the songs and the movie they come from that they will likely just think the songs were written for the show itself. The projections look awesome. It is hard to believe that they are actually images projected on a real structure. The fireworks themselves are not much better than the ones that came along with Wishes but as a total package, the show is nearly perfect.

One thing I found off was the glaring omission of Beauty and the Beast in any form in the show. I could have missed them but I've watched a few times, especially looking out for it, and didn't see one. So if it is there, it is fleeting. My thinking is that perhaps there will be an inclusion of something from the live-action version since it is so recent and a huge commercial and critical hit. And you have to assume that Disney can change up the projections at will, like they do with scenes in California's World of Color. Frozen is also downplayed, which is fine since it is more than plentiful elsewhere in the resort. And I also noticed the lack of anything Star Wars related in the show. Star Wars scenes would have fit the story of the show so I'm thinking that it must be a conscious effort by Disney to keep Star Wars contained to Hollywood Studios, which might as well just go the whole nine yards and change it's name to Star Wars Kingdom once the new rides come out.

In closing, I was almost moved to tears multiple times by this show. It doesn't come out and tell you how to feel like Jiminy Cricket did as the voice of Wishes, and no show will ever hold a place in my heart the way Wishes did, but this show does a spectacular job pulling on the heartstrings. If you are even remotely predisposed to having strong personal feelings of love, sadness, loss, hope, or reminiscing, this show will bring out the emotions as none as done before.

Disney did a great job replacing an extremely beloved show. I don't know if the time was right to make the switch but the new show is an excellent addition to the Disney Parks nighttime entertainment lineup. I don't know if it quite has the story cohesion from beginning to end to beat out Fantasmic for best nighttime show at Walt Disney World but it is technically (the projections) superior and certainly superior in that it actually has fireworks throughout.

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Wednesday, April 19, 2017



In a story that I can't believe I am actually reporting as true, Walt Disney World is going ahead with the installation of a ski-resort style gondola system to transport guests around the area of Buena Vista Dr. and Victory Way. Namely between Epcot and Hollywood Studios with resort service to Caribbean Beach and Pop Century/Art of Animation.

Putting aside the fact that it sounds like complete and total fan wishful thinking and the absurdity therein, this makes sense in a number of ways. First it will go a long way in relieving congestion in this area of Walt Disney World property where it is not at all uncommon for cars and buses to collide with each other and traffic snarls to be maddening. Second and in more of a "big picture" sense, Disney World over the next decade is reportedly planning to rebrand many resorts and to shed the price-based value, moderate, and deluxe tags. The gondola system gives extra value for owners to buy into the reported DVC expansion at Caribbean Beach. It also provides a "deluxe" resort amenity to the Pop/AoA properties that could help justify an increased price for rooms at those resorts (that could hopefully, in turn, fund a renovation of rooms at the now slightly aging Pop.) If it proves successful and cost-effective, I could easily see construction eventually expanded to link Coronado Springs to the gondolas, as that resort is reportedly going to see the addition of a new "deluxe"-style section of rooms.

Friday, March 31, 2017

WrestleMania Weekend Overview


Now at Place to be Nation - all the information you need if you're traveling to Orlando this weekend for Wrestlemania 33!  Including park touring tips, dining suggestions, travel times, and more...all suggested by me.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gwen Stefani & Jimmy Fallon talk Blake Shelton and Disneyland


So Blake Shelton visited Disneyland for the first time recently. And Jimmy Fallon's favorite ride is It's A Small World. I'm sure the people at Universal are thrilled that their new Orlando ride frontman is expressing his love for a Disney classic on national television.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North Korea's Biggest Disney Fan Assasinated


It looks like North Korean despot Kim Jong-Un's half brother died under suspicious circumstances in Malasyia. Kim Jong-Nam, who once famously snuck out of North Korea to visit Tokyo Disneyland, was allegedly poisoned by operatives of his half-brother's clandestine state.

Dan Lewis of "Now I Know" did a short piece on the Tokyo Diseyland visit incident in the archives on his website. (Link here.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

First DuckTales Image Is Here


There it is, the first image for Disney's DuckTales reboot. I'm never fond of new style television animation but this is certainly better than stuff that's supposed to look like anime or South Park or bubbly computer generated stuff like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. So while I certainly wish it looked like the 80's-style of the original, this is better than it could have been.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rivers of Light Announced


Yes folks, it is officially coming! Appropriately enough on Earth Day, 18 years to the date that Animal Kingdom officially opened, the park finally has its own nighttime show. Rivers of Light will take place on the completely underutilized river that circles the Tree of Life. With amphitheater seating similar to Fantasmic, the show will combine elements of that show with part Illuminations, part World of Color, part Celebrate the Magic, part something new. It should be pretty great is all.

Perhaps most excitingly, Disney provided a super duper small preview of what we can all expect. For those of you too lazy to click the link above, I embedded the video below. Enjoy and extrapolate!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Ticket Price Increases and Structure for Disney Parks

Walt Disney World and Disneyland increased ticket prices over the weekend. I have full coverage of the increases up right now at P2B Nation: WDWorld Traveler: New Ticket Price Increases and Structure for Disney Parks.

Here is what the increase looks like for multiple day one-park admissions to Walt Disney World...

Disney also rolled out the rumored tiered pricing for one day admissions, breaking the calendar down into value/regular/peak seasons. It's all covered in the P2B Article.

Don't forget to also check out Touring Plans for full coverage of everything related to the price increase.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Let's Settle This Once and For All

Thanks to the new website What-Dog.net (powered by Microsoft's Fetch app) you can upload any photo and it will tell you what dog breed it is of. Ostensibly this is useful for pictures of, ya know, dogs. But I uploaded myself and it turns out I am a Brussels Griffon ("adorable, energetic, face of a werewolf"...OK then!)

I figured it was about time to find out what breed Disney's favorite pooch and Mickey's loyal companion Pluto is.

So I guess Pluto is a powerful, affectionate, masterful Great Dane. I could buy that.

Sadly it looks like one other Disney debate won't be getting settled anytime soon...

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"