R.I.P. LEGENDARY YEARS
Pop Century Resort, as a concept, is officially dead. As if there was much hope over the last nine years that it would ever be complete, the final nail in the coffin came this week when Disney announced plans for the Art of Animation Resort, the first new non-Vacation Club hotel to be built on Disney property since 9/11. Plans call for the resort to be, as expected, all family suites. It will be located across Hourglass Lake from the current Pop Century Resort in the buildings once constructed to be themed after the years 1900-40.
Why do I treat this news with an air of disappointment instead of jubilation? For one thing, Pop Century holds a very special place in my heart. Sure, it's not the Polynesian or Wilderness Lodge or Beach Club or even my beloved Contemporary Resort but it's a wonderful little resort, perfect for those quick getaways or trips that I don't want to see break the bank. And these plans effectively kill it. Now, I know what you're thinking: gee, he's being awfully negative about this whole thing. But let's look at this logically. It makes positively no sense to keep these as seperate resorts seeing as they're all located on one property and share a lake (with a walking path around it and bridge across it.) So what we're looking at is another Port Orleans situation, where Disney is going to wind up operating two distinct resorts under one banner for simplicity's sake. The new resort will be themed after four films: Lion King, Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and Cars, and will feature the usual value resort motel buildings with big giant icons outside (the rooms are supposed to be deeply themed, probably along the lines of the pirate rooms at the Caribbean Beach.) It will be very easy for Disney to ditch the decades theme at the Pop, since the 50's already have a Lady & The Tramp theme, Jungle Book for the 60's, and Roger Rabbit for the 80's. It would take nothing to slap a Toy Story theme on the 90's and maybe come up with something else for the 70's. Of course, that's all just blue sky predicting on my part.
What IS for certain is that these two resorts will end up sharing buses, which is a big problem since value resort buses are already mad crowded. And the new resort name might be the worst name I've ever heard of for a Walt Disney World resort hotel. "Disney's Art of Animation Resort." WHO in their right mind is going to call it that?"
I'm probably being too hard on Disney on this one, as it's certainly great to see something being done with the eyesore of an abandoned property across Hourglass Lake and the family suites are a welcome addition. It's just that I've grown so fond of the current Pop Century that it's going to be hard for me to watch the poor girl try to reinvent herself.
THE LAST TOUR TO ENDORMark August 14 down on your calendars. That's the last day that we can say, with absolute certainty (or as certain as it gets in the theme park business,) that you can ride Star Tours in its current form. Disney announced a special hard ticket event for that night to coincide with an Orlando Star Wars convention. The event itself, billed as "The Last Tour to Endor," will be something of a one night Pirate & Princess, Very Merry Christmas, etc. type of party at the Studios. There will be special fireworks, "party zones," and all the usual stuff (including, I'm guessing, some soon to be VERY sought after special merchandise.) The park will close to the public at 8pm for the party with guests admitted, as usual, at 4. The price is set at a gargantuan $75. Those tickets will be gone in like a day so make sure to get them the moment they go on sale if this is something you're interested in. You can get tickets on their website here.
This brings up an interesting thought. I really wonder why Disney doesn't do more stuff like this on a regular basis. Do a couple of these types of things during slow times of year and you'll boost attendance in a heartbeat. I know Disney isn't exactly hurting for money, but this is one way to bring in a quick jolt of revenue for an older but beloved ride, since you know you're going to get lots of hardcore enthusiastic fans who will be willing to drop not only $50-75 on hard tickets but also probably the same amount or more on the limited edition t-shirt, CD, poster, and Vinylmation figurine. I can see "Big Thunder Mountain Appreciation Night" or "Muppetgala 2011" or any number of similar things popping up if this is successful. As long as they don't let it get out of hand, I think it could be a pretty cool idea.
One question I have about the particular event at hand, the Star Wars night, is what else is going to be open. I assume that this will be handled like a Magic Kingdom party and they're not going to just do the Star Wars stuff and nothing else, otherwise $75 is an absurd price (granted, not one that I don't think people will pay, but absurd nonetheless.) I'd bet on them keeping Sunset Blvd. open with Rockin Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, all of the Hollywood Blvd. shops (with Great Movie Ride likely included) and then the Echo Lake area around Star Tours, with one of the restaurants (Hollywood & Vine? Sci Fi?) open and a quick service spot or two (maybe the places around the lake and one of the food courts, the Commissary or more likely the remodeled Backlot Express.) Maybe throw in the Muppets for good measure, but definitely no Toy Story Mania or any of the live shows. Bear in mind that this is all conjecture at this point.
NEWS & NOTES
A very interesting tidbit from Disney's quarterly conference call this week. CEO Bob Iger says the company plans to stop offering theme park and hotel discounts in October to try and get people used to paying full price again. I wouldn't expect this to effect annual pass discounts to end (if it does, they can expect me buying annual passes to end) but it certainly seems like the days of free dining plans are numbered. This is assuming we believe Iger, which we probably shouldn't.
A car ran a red light near Typhoon Lagoon the other day, hitting a Disney bus in the process. It does not appear that the bus was at fault this time around.
A new TALKING Mickey Mouse character debuted recently in a test phase at Disneyland. Whenever they get the technology perfected, this will be a huge deal and change the game for the walk around Disney characters. There's video on the site.
Free dining plan is now available for packages booked 8/15 to 12/2.
Lots-o-Huggin Bear from Toy Story 3 is now greeting guests in Pixar Place at Hollywood Studios.
The Ogurkis family became the 10 millionth guests on Disney's Magical Express last week. They live about 35 minutes from me in Hazleton, PA. Cool for them.
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