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Saturday, March 31, 2007

WDW hotel expansion

It's been a few weeks since Disney announced to the "real" media that they will expand WDW offerings with a luxury (Four Seasons) hotel and a budget section out on Western Beltway (hotels, shops, dining).

The former is likely a play by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the major DLP investors who is probably demanding reciprocation for him propping Disney up (you see, he's part owner of Four Seasons). And yes, there probably is room on property for ultra luxury. Those customers would come to Disney too.

The budget stuff seems to me a blantant attempt to get people paying Disney and not some unnamed hotel for the budget experience. I said as much when I broke the news about Western Way expansion (and this is one of only two things I can really say I beat every single media outlet on). Disney sees the 192 corridor full of cheap hotels and thinks: "gee, how can we get *their* money too". The problem is, the "cheap" experience is NOT the Disney experience. On the whole, this one is probably bad news. As always, I withhold full judgment until I actually see it, but that doesn't prevent me from guessing. Let's just say my guesses are not as yet very positive.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Year of a Million Video Games

While at DisneyQuest on Saturday with my wife, four year old, and five month old, we were approached by a happy CM wearing the usual DQ outfit. He asked how we were and if we'd been on any rides yet. (They have "rides" in the form of VR simulators, raft simulators, a pirate boat video game in a whole room, etc). We said no, not yet. He offered to backdoor us on every single ride, one after the other, as we took part in a quest for Jack Sparrow's treasure. He'd accompany us on this journey, and at each ride, we'd search for clues for which ride to go on next. At the end there would be booty - I think meaning treats and chocolates and such.

My wife didn't want to - she had the baby strapped on her belly in a "snugli" sling. So we took a pass. It didn't occur to me until later that this may be DQ's version of the Year of a Million Dreams... this is how they make a family's dream come true. Had the kids both been older, we would have jumped at the chance.

Gators at the Park

You may see deer around Walt Disney World. We did, even as tourists. There was a mating pair hanging out in the parking lot for the Ticket and Transportation Center, where there are mild woods around. I also almost ran over a buck more recently on the more-heavily-wooded Western Beltway exit to Disney World, where they are going to build the new value-version of Downtown Disney.

Over in the TTC, I've also seen wild turkeys in the central patch of swamp. That was neat.

But then a couple of weeks ago, I finally saw a live, wild alligator at WDW. You'd think I would see it in the canals that run alongside (and across) the roads. But nope, I saw it within the confines of a theme park. It was just swimming around, loose and carefree, in the central lagoon of DAK (you know, the one between Expedition Everest and Dinoland). It was small - maybe a four footer - but still really neat to see. We were at the Flame Tree BBQ and it was right below us, about ten feet down, and sitting lazily in the water. Cool. I wonder if anyone's ever been bitten by a gator at the parks? Access to that body of water is by and large restricted, but the fences are pretty low-key. If he wanted to, the gator could have found his way to people.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A CGI Dark ride

Tonny S. pointed me toward the new video of "Invincible" by the band Muse. It's a long dark ride in the vein of It's a Small World, though decidedly more violent than the usual Disney ride.

Tonny points out, and I agree, that it's sad Disney can't make dark rides any more, or at least not as often as movie rides.

Here's the video: http://bookish85.vox.com/library/video/6a00cd9700115b4cd500d09e5cad12be2b.html

or try www.muse.mu

Monday, March 19, 2007

T-Rex Cafe photos

Landry's, the restaurant chain behind Rainforest Cafe, is building a T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney next. Here are some photos of the kinds of props they are building for the inside: http://www.theeffectslab.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=353&highlight=dinosaur

Friday, March 16, 2007

Another Disney death

A visitor to Walt Disney World's Blizzard Beach water park collapsed of an apparent heart attack Thursday afternoon and later died at a hospital, theme-park officials said.

[snip]

The death is the 10th involving Disney World rides and water-park attractions since late 2004.

The full story here: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/custom/tourism/orl-disneydeath16x07mar16,0,1626148.story?track=rss

That really gave me pause. Ten deaths in a year and a half?! The vast majority, if not the complete totality, have been due to natural causes and pre-existing conditions. So it's not like Disney safety is to blame.

But look where these people are dying: climbing steps for water parks or after riding roller coasters. These people are NOT dying while riding any "Walt" rides (that is, rides the whole family can go on together). Something I hope they remember. Thrill rides do cause deaths.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Michael Eisner's newest venture

Whatever you do, don't compare Michael Eisner's latest project to Lonelygirl15. Yes, Prom Queen, a web-based serialized soap opera made up of three months' worth of 90-second shorts launching April 2, is aimed at the same tech-toting, YouTube-watching, advertiser-tempting teens. But Eisner insists he's offering viewers far more than a pretty face talking into a camera.

With Vuguru, the new standalone production studio behind Prom Queen, Eisner -- best known for his 20 years at Disney -- hopes to own the realm of made-for-web original programming. He'll do it, he says, by offering what he calls far better storytelling and quality than what's currently found on the likes of YouTube. Oh, and instead of one pretty face, you'll get five, all with scripted lines and post-production cleanup.

The full story on Wired here: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,72976-0.html?tw=rss.index

National Geographic's take on Orlando and sprawl

Thanks to Chris P. who pointed out to me, by email, a National Geographic article that takes on Orlando's sprawl and how the city really has turned into Disney (and the author doesn't mean that in a good way).

"All over Orlando you see forces at work that are changing America from Fairbanks to Little Rock. This, truly, is a 21st-century paradigm: It is growth built on consumption, not production; a society founded not on natural resources, but upon the dissipation of capital accumulated elsewhere; a place of infinite possibilities, somehow held together, to the extent it is held together at all, by a shared recognition of highway signs, brand names, TV shows, and personalities, rather than any shared history. Nowhere else is the juxtaposition of what America actually is and the conventional idea of what America should be more vivid and revealing. Welcome to the theme-park nation. "

The full article here: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0703/feature4/

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Orlando housing alternative: rent a house instead?

If you are coming to Orlando, or Disney World in particular, you may want to stay on property at one of the Disney World hotels (though I never did this as a tourist myself). However, if you have a large family or if you desire more space than a cramped 400 square foot hotel room, there are other options.

You may know that I write occasional travel articles for OrlandoVacation.com. These folks connect renters and vacationers in the Orlando vacation home business. Such vacation homes have popped up all around Disney World’s main entrance, and there are almost as many vacation homes in Orlando than there are hotel rooms. If you are looking to rent a vacation home or condo near Disney World, you should check out Affordable Travel of Orlando, the parent company of OrlandoVacation.com. They specialize in vacation homes and condos in the Disney World area, and have over 400 vacation homes, condos, and town homes to choose from. Presumably, for any budget too, but check on that to be sure. Their phone number is 1-800-633-7108.

Looking back at my experiences now, I would definitely give the vacation home experience a shot. If you’re going with a group and can use multiple rooms, you’d be surprised by how much money you can save using a house instead of a hotel room.