Sunday, October 29, 2006

Disney Dreams officials rules

Federal law requires that games and lotteries (think McDonald's Monopoly game) must adhere to rigid rules, and those rules must be posted. I hadn't thought about where the rules would be, but if I'd given it any thought, I'd have probably guessed the exact place I accidently found them today anyway: Guest Relations. Here's where they're posted at Disney-MGM Studios:

Midway Madness Technology Sneak Peak

The upcoming ride in Disney-MGM Studios and DCA, Midway Madness, will be like "Men in Black" or Buzz Lightyear with interactivity, but fold in 3-D and some kind of reactivity from the screens. When your gun shoots something on the screen, it will become see-through and react.

For a preview of how this works, look no further than Innoventions' "Where's the Fire" exhibit, a more-primitive version of the same technology. (Thanks for the heads-up, Bill!)

Friday, October 27, 2006

PhotoPass at MouseFest

The upcoming MouseFest conglomeration of Disney fans, a kind of United Nations for Disney fan communities, will feature an official Disney presence in the form of PhotoPass this year. The fan community is really coming of age.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dick Nunis

Today I got to meet Dick Nunis, the onetime head of all Walt Disney parks and attractions. This is a man who once got chewed out by Walt when he was a Working Lead on Jungle Cruise, and later rose to command just about everything that mattered in the company (in the 80s). He was, and is, history incarnate.

He was nice, and pleasant, when I met with him. Others have claimed he can have a gruff demeanor, but I sure didn't see it today.

The Timeshare Explosion at WDW

Several folks in the Internet community are up in arms that DVC is expanding to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I think this is because AKL is seen as private and exclusive, while DVC is somewhat akin to the McDonald's and Wal-Marts of the world (and less expensive than AKL).

While that might be true, the company has been marching toward this goal for some time now. Saratoga Springs hasn't stopped construction yet, for instance. And a brand new tower will go up next to the Contemporary Resort (completely ruining line of sight from Tomorrowland, some say).

What's behind all of this? Extremely simple: money. Or more accurately, short-term money. DVC involves booking a ton of money at this exact moment (in the current quarter) and then reaping only a steady stream of money later on. It's like selling hotel rooms for a guaranteed price every year... only the price is quite a bit less than you would have gotten for "rack rate." The two upsides are a big addition to the bottom line in the current year, when the DVC membership is first purchased, and then a better occupancy rate in future years.

No doubt in my cynical mind that the motivation here is the short-term profit. It's how the publicly-traded Disney company works these days, alas.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Fantasmic poster

For the longest time, Guests who didn't know how to read the park maps had difficulty locating the Hollywood Hills theater. This billboard clearly points in the direction visitors have to go if they want to see Fantasmic.

DVC building spree

Saratoga Springs is convulsing with new building projects. Everywhere you look, new buildings are going up. You can see why Disney is pushing DVC in all the parks, and on the cruise line boats. That, plus it's a really high-margin business. My only question is, will these new developments really deliver value to the eventual customers? Some of these buildings are quite far from the central complex, and far from the only restaurants in the area. Yet one assumes they are paying the same thing.

DVC encourages skipping restaurants

When you visit most Disney World hotels, you'll see that the shops and stores offer some limited snacks, usually just enough to tide you over until the next full meal (at a Disney restaurant, of course). But if you step into a DVC resort, the entire nature of the choices changes. There are more snacks, more microwave foods, and decidedly more frozen foods.

The implication is that Disney deems it OK (or preferable even?) that DVC guests stay in their DVC rooms, not venturing out to spend money in the hotels. Interesting. Tells you where Disney places its priorities. The high-margin DVC business must look a lot better on paper than the low-margin restaurant business.

Minor loss of atmosphere adds up

There used to be a faux gas pump outside of the restrooms in Mickey's Toontown Fair. It contained just water, a goldfish, and heavy bubbles. Inside was also an oversized key - the key to the "restroom" supposedly, and part of the charm of the area. That gas pump has been unceremoniously ripped out in the past two weeks, apparently to make room for the toppings cart for the nearby hot dog ODF (outdoor food) cart.

Looking back at my pictures, I see this gas pump has disappeared at least once before, in 2004. Do they rip it out to clean it or something?

New menu prices sometimes mean improvements

Every year around this time, Walt Disney World raises the prices at its restaurants. Sometimes, though, the new menu boards come with improvements. In this case, Casey's Corner gets a new menu board, complete with minimal motion (the swinging bat). I like it!

HalloWishes from the Polynesian Resort

We'd always heard they pipe in the music to the Magic Kingdom's fireworks from the beach at the Polynesian, but it was not to be for this showing of HalloWishes. Possibly they just don't do it anymore, or maybe they don't do it for the private parties.

If nothing else, it was a chance to enjoy the "fireworks in the round" for free.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Alice Davis sighting

We saw Alice Davis at the watch shop on Main Street this weekend. She was not mobbed here at WDW, but had this been Disneyland, she would have been. Just one more perk of living on the coast with fewer fanatics who are local.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Additions to Uni and IOA

I'm hearing increased whispers that the replacement for Universal's Back to the Future Ride (Florida, not California) will be Simpsons after all, not Fast and the Furious. Makes sense, given the upcoming Simpsons movie.

And these whispers are also saying something about major changes coming to Islands of Adventure. Potentially one of the "islands" is getting a major facelift, but I haven't heard yet which one. Spider-Man and Hulk are such crowd pleasers, it can't be Marvel Island. The kids are happy with Seuss. Fire and Ice is such a draw, and the theming is so good in this corner. Likewise the theming in Jurassic Park seems so timeless, but Jurassic Park is a good contender. Either that, or the Toon area home to Ripsaw Falls.

I think the toons because:
1. it lacks much of an identity now (who knows all these characters?)
2. Ripsaw Falls has been neutered followed an accident on the final drop, so they tamed it
3. there just isn't a signiture ride here like there is in other places.

Still, I'm just speculating. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Welcome, Space Mountain fans

It occurs to me that a good number of people who stumble across this blog will actually be on this domain because you were visiting the Space Mountain Homepage and noticed the navigation to the rest of UltimateOrlando. If so, welcome. The website is in a growth phase right now, but over the coming months you can expect a lot of additions to the hotel info and other attractions around Orlando. Suggestions are also always welcome.

A blog is born

To all who come to this happy blog, welcome. Ultimate Orlando Blog is your blog (well, technically it's my blog, not yours, but you know what I mean). Here cranky theme park purists re-live fond memories, and youths may savor the challenge and promise of reading my ramblings. Ultimate Orlando Blog is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created the Disney theme park empire, with the hope that it will be a source of celebration and inspiration to all the theme park fans in the world.