A potpourri of smaller updates:
1. I had my first "no strings attached" moment in the parks, under the guise of a "magical moment." I'd ordered a regular popcorn from the new stand next to Epcot's Canada pavilion, but they upgraded me to the larger souvenir bucket and gave it to me for free, presumably because the four year old with me was acting cute. They called it a magical moment, but the form I had to fill out said No Strings Attached. As a former CM, I know full well about the form. It's been around for some time. Still, can't complain about free popcorn. Too bad they tried to play it off as part of the marketing celebration.
2. Speaking of cashiers, I saw my favorite international CM exchange. I went to buy a bottled water from a cart outside the dino playground, and this female Latino CM says in slightly accented English that she can take my money directly (there's a man working on the register, apparently trying to fix it) because "one of the dinos got loose and attacked the register." Nice bit of staying in theme. Most international CMs don't bother, so kudos to her.
3. At that same cart was a section of merchandise advertised as "Under $10." Those have been around for a while, but seemingly growing. At the Pirates shop in Adventureland, there are three (count 'em, three) areas that advertise a "Sale". I do not approve. This is not Wal-Mart and Disney parks should not have blue light specials. Someone high up needs to tackle this. It'll appear on my next Declining by Degrees article.
4. Here's an 'incline' by degrees: someone fixed the churro warmer by the Great Movie Ride! It used to have the original artwork on it from wherever they bought it (something about Pepe), and it looked very very tacky. Better now.
5. Osborne lights this year were good, as always, but I'm forever annoyed by the way they do crowd control here. One year they set up ropes and divided the street in half. This year thankfully they didn't do that. But after previews, they did start insisting on a defined 'entrance' and a defined 'exit.' The area you'd be tempted to enter, next to the Sci Fi Drive In restaurant, was in fact the 'exit.' You had to enter by Tattoine Traders. This is idiocy, and created a lot of backup on the street.
6. Is that slideshow at the very end of the Kali River Rapids new? Never noticed it before.
7. The Nemo musical is not very strict about not allowing food in the theater, and not allowing anyone to hold seats. Good for them. Even better, the preshow music is new. It's the songs from the musical, but done in an orchestral version (no voices) and in a lullabye style. I really like it. They ran six shows a day during Xmas season. Amazing. I wonder if they had two shifts of performers?
8. Have you seen the powered ODF carts? Those carts are heavy to push/pull, so some now have motors.
9. Have you seen the picnic tables inside the parks? There are some new ones by Germany in Epcot, and some on the walkway to Nemo Musical (near the Oldengate dino bridge). I disapprove. They look out of place.