Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Major line cutting at Universal's Mummy

Ever been in the single-rider line at USF's Mummy? It can save a ton of time. But it's right next to the standby line, and this weekend I witnessed four complete sets of youngers (all of them 18 or older, really) jumping from the single rider line into the standby line. In one case, they just elbowed their way in, and in the other cases, the standby line was mostly on the other side, since the line had split into two. This is bad for the standby line, since these "single riders" get up to the front of the line with no wait, and then switch into the line that moves more slowly.

There are two fixes that need to be done immediately: first, install netting underneath the poles of the guiderail. All of the line jumpers I saw went UNDER the rail. If there was netting here, like there is on the other side of the same line to prevent people from falling into the queue theming, that would solve the problem mostly. Second, they should abandon the idea of splitting up the standby line. Just use the one which wraps around the idol in the queue (and away from the singles line) and leave the singles line alone on this side of the room. That way, there's nothing to jump into.

And my goodness was there a lot of trash on the ground in this queue. Disney has been slipping lately, but Universal is worse.

Epcot: info, concourse, and scooters

A few tidbits:

1. Ever wonder what happens when Epcot runs out of the scooters, the ECVs (electronic convenience vehicles)? Simple. They tell the guest to call an Orlando service (AA Tourist, for instance), who will bring it right to the park. And it costs less than Disney's.

2. The secondary digital info board by Mission Space and Energy has a cousin in front of the Land pavilion now. This is a very nice touch and good guest service.

3. The area south of Innoventions (on the Land side) has long been un-used. In my family, we call it the Concourse because it always looked like an airport concourse. Well, the area has been rehabbed and looks even more like a concourse. In fact, I suspect the theming is meant to match the Soarin' look, which is just right across the way. The new character meet area is fine and all, but I'm upset they changed the carpet. The old carpet here had the Communicore logo on them, in reference to this structure once being part of Communicore. No more!

Another hole in the wall

Walk past the Odyssey restaurant in Epcot right now, and you'll pass by a wooden wall next to the restrooms. This wall was the home to the giant FLOWER AND GARDEN sign here recently, and remnants are still visible in the form of giant bolt holes in the wood. It was quite noticeable and very bad show. Someone needs to cover this up, pronto.

Caffeine-free diet coke (aka Cantina de San Angel)

Since when has the Cantina de San Angel offered only caffeine-free diet? They have regular coke, but the only diet they have has no caffeine. Has this always been the case?

I ate there this weekend and they have REALLY turned around the food here. We swore off this place 3 years ago but finally tried it again, and man is it better. Rice and refried beans has given way to salsa and black beans, and the difference those make in the burritos, tacos, etc, is hard to overstate. I'd go so far as to call this food delicious, which is really amazing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fantasmic Techs help out at Give Kids the World Village

Do you know Give Kids the World Village? They have a "campus" near Disney World and house children with life-threatening illnesses (and their families) that have been sent here by wish-granting agencies. I've seen the campus, and it's amazing... themed... fun... like something designed by Willy Wonka. I've also started an online giving program to raise enough money to build a villa there to house families for a long time. See for more.

I came across this video today, showing Disney Cast Members, the technicians from Fantasmic, helping out at Give Kids Village in the theater they have there, which can show movies, do stage shows, have special effects, etc. It's great to see Disney and these CMs helping. It's heartwarming, as is everything about GKTW. Have a look at the ten-minute video:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A minor rant: no upstairs condiments at Pizza Planet

Here's a small detail in the grander scheme of things. At MGM's Toy Story Pizza Planet, the ordering is done downstairs. The rest of downstairs is an arcade, so patrons head upstairs to find tables. There are a lot of tables, so this is convenient. What's not convenient is that there is not a single condiment cart upstairs, where the tables and chairs are. There's a cart downstairs, by the ordering, and this may catch a good half of the patrons.

But simply watch the patrons sometime. Go upstairs, camp out, and watch people when they find a spot. A healthy chunk of them sit down and realize they didn't pick up napkins and forks and so on (and a smaller minority had done so, but realize they forgot an item). So they look around where they are, which is upstairs. There is no cart up here.

I have a theory that this has to do with the presence of Custodial. It seems to me that only Custodial workers are upstairs, which is a different department from foods. Does the foods department not want to let anyone go upstairs?

I don't care about the politics. Fix it so the customers are best served.

New French Fries at Disney World

Slammed by public advocates of health, Disney promised to adjust the recipe for French fries and the oil used. At MGM recently, I've seen the result. The fries have skin-on for one or both ends, and the fry itself is thinner, and obviously cooked with a different oil. Thing is, it's a lighter, crisper taste that surprised me. I'd expected "healthier" to mean "less tasty." Not at all. I actually prefer the new fries, and trust me when I say I was a fan of the old fries.

On an unrelated note: they now have kid sized chocolate milk. So your kid meals can come with chocolate milk and not face a surcharge of $.50 to get the larger size. Bravo!

Parking at Uni-Florida

OK, I'll skip over the lameness of premium parking (and how easy it would be to put on my flashers and just illegally join that lane).

What I want to focus on instead is just how poorly staffed, and poor run, the parking is for the everyday folks. On a good day, you are directed to a row correctly, and once you get there, folks routinely ignore the directive to drive to the END of the row, and just park wherever they feel like. More than once I've seen the attendants lose control of the situation, and drivers just parking wherever they bloody well felt like.

There's a part of me that thinks this may be related to the ultra-cheap price of annual passes ($200 for two years currently, with Coke coupon), which attracts an audience less used to acting with class.

But what I saw this weekend had nothin to do with visitor and everything to do with the stupidity of the attendants. We were waved into a row that was completely full, something we didn't discover until we got to the end of the row. At Uni, there's only the guy at the end of the row telling you which row to go into, not a guy directing you into a spot. Thus, there is no way the guy will know if the row is full. We were on our own to find a spot by circling the lot down to another row and hunting for a spot where someone had left.

This is highly inefficient, wastes tons of time, and aggravates the visitor to no end.

MGM lacks an onramp from Osceola Pkway

Have you ever come up Osceola parkway from the west, heading east? (You would if you took the back way on to property). Coming in that direction, there is no simple way to access MGM. You have to rejoin World Drive and then exit for the Epcot Hotels, and get in to the MGM back entrance.

That's fine as far as it goes, but in the process of all that, you do a flyover over the normal MGM entrance. It would be simplicity itself to add a second lane that joins this MGM entry area. Why isn't there one??

Universal's decline by degrees

It gets much less press, but Uni has its own set of problems from the operational standpoint. It's also less extreme than you see at WDW.

But for comparison, here's what I saw at IOA last weekend:

1. Half the torches at the entrance to Jurassic Park had no fire.
2. The Wassamotta U shop has been closed and abandoned for years on end now.
3. The Triceratops Encounter is closed, abandoned, and boarded over, with no replacement.
4. Most restaurants close at 5, despite the park being open til 8. This may be to force folks out to CityWalk, where food costs even more, but it's not friendly.
5. The lagoon taxi has been closed for years too. And without a hub, this lagoon gets in the way.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How do you compliment folks at Guest Relations?

I had courtesy and friendly service at the Magic Kingdom's Guest Relations last weekend by Jeff, and I walked away thinking that if he had been working at Space Mountain, I might have gone to Guest Relations to file a compliment. But I couldn't very well give Jeff a compliment by talking to Jeff. I suppose I could have gotten *back* in line, but that's kind of funky.

I wonder if this means that folks, once they transfer to GR, actually get fewer written compliments than they did in their previous careers at Disney, simply because of the nature of the job.

The way to fill up baseball games at Disney's Wide World of Sports

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays played at WDW recently, and the games were not well attended, despite many tickets being given out free. But there's a way to fill up those games, courtesy of an idea the Dodgers are doing: for $35, you get a field ticket and all you can eat (hot dogs, nachos, etc). The full details are here:

Disney should *totally* mimic this move. Tourists tend to like all-inclusive deals anyway, and the locals would probably like the economics of this plan.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Candy and Playsets

Not sure how long these have been around, but at Typhoon Lagoon this past weekend I ran into some Disney-branded candy, things like a lookalike for M&Ms or Nestle Crunch bars. They were branded with Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, or Chip and Dale. They also featured both "Disneyland" and "Walt Disney World" lettering on them.

I thought at first this was a good idea. People want candy in the parks, after all, so why not capitalize on that and earn every last cent, not just a tiny percentage of what the candy makers would earn?

But the more I dwelled on the bicoastal branding, the more I disliked it. They've long done branding for both sets of Disney theme parks at the same time, the obvious idea being to reduce costs. But the WHOLE POINT is to make the product unique, isn't it? "Look mom, I bought this because it's unusual. It's not M&Ms... It's Mickeys and Minnies!" Well, the very uniqueness is taken down a notch if the product is available on both coasts, don't you think? It would be a touch more magical still if you bought the candy from Disneyland and it said "Disneyland" on it, don't you imagine?

I used to resent the bicoastal branding because I was on the West Coast, and the bicoastal branding always favors the East Coast. But now as a right-coaster, I still don't like it. I found a set of new PVC figurine toys of the Fab Five this same weekend, and the box had the WDW park icons prominently in the background. Also in the background, off to the side, was the Matterhorn and Sleeping Beauty Castle.

It's just insulting what they think the public does or doesn't notice.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The one-hour FastPass window at DAK

Two weekends ago, when I visited DAK, I saw the new FastPass tickets in use there. Gone are the thin, square paper versions. Now there's a thick paper version, shaped like a longer rectangle, that closely resembles Disneyland's FP tickets. There's a barcode (no one knows what for, but the privacy implications are troubling), the date stamp is much more visible, and there's more information.

One bit of information is when you can get another one. In my case, I got an early morning Everest FP and saw that although my return time was 3pm, my next FP window would open in an hour. Pleased, I got one an hour later at Safari. Hm. Oddly, that one had a return time in 1.5 hours, but I could get ANOTHER FP in sixty minutes. So when that time arrived, I got a FP for Dinosaur, and suddenly I was the holder of three FastPasses, all of them still yet to mature.

Unless I'm missing something, this is new. It used to be you were capped at the two-hour window, not one hour, and you could only hold two at a time, not three. Disneyland has long had networked and unnetworked machines, meaning locals who knew the system could have an advantage.

At first, I was annoyed by this sudden new complexity. But I thought about it and now I'm not so sure. It could very well be that this new system ends up being tourist friendly, which is what I always advocate (I'm not really an advocate for the locals, despite being one myself). Just how could it be tourist friendly? Because the info on getting another one is clear, large, and well-explained, it's likely tourists will finally take advantage of that. And the one-hour policy means more FP tickets will be gone in the EARLY part of the day, not the later part, and this too is tourist-friendly.

The jury is still out, of course (when is the jury never "out" on the subject of FastPass?!) but this isn't an instant negative. If tourists win, the system could yet prevail. Of course, what tourists want is a central FP bank that you visit at the start of the day at the start of the park. That would mean completely mapping out the day, though, and I'm not in favor of that, even if the tourists want it. The tourists might like gambling and stripper halls too, but I think Disney should avoid giving them some things they might profess to want.