Animal Kingdom Summer Crowds, Draft Beer Advice, Souvenir Popcorn Buckets, and A FuelRod Review

After spending some time considering the sad state of “American Kobe Beef” hot dogs at Yak & Yeti along with a lunch review of Tiffins and a return to Nomad Lounge, we’ll take a walk around the Park to see what souvenir popcorn buckets are available. If you’re looking for new cheat sheet touring plans, FastPass+ priority, maps etc. then you might check out this forum post as well.

And perhaps the sun will set.

Wait times from (what is no longer) yesterday, Friday July 29th.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/ak072916.jpg

Summer crowds have trended downward for the last two years in particular, perhaps culminating in June of this year when it “felt” less crowded than perhaps any other time since mid-September 2011 or 2012. That is probably some amount of hyperbole, but with some of the longest operating hours of the year, plentiful nighttime entertainment, and I guess what you would now call “generous” staffing, the Parks have been surprisingly enjoyable if you can look past the RealFeel temperatures that waver between 3,900 and 4,000 degrees.

Those of you that have the misfortune of following me on Twitter suffered through several weeks of in-park pictures accompanied by no text other than “there’s nobody here.” The above is a picture of the standby and FastPass+ queues at DINOSAUR at 4:30pm on the Saturday of July 4th week. There are six people in line and the park is open for another six and a half hours. It’s sunny out. But the website had discussed the likelihood of a daily lull in crowds all way back in late May after Jungle Book finally arrived with the 11pm closes that accompanied it.

Looking over posted waits at DINOSAUR over the last few weeks:

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/dakdinojuly.jpg

That lull is somewhat evident in waits that drop between 1:45pm and 2:30pm. The overall average wait at 2pm is less than half of what is was at 1pm and then it’s more than 50% higher again an hour later at 3pm. But that could be attributed to a number of factors – people could be busy with shows or already on their way to Rafiki’s Planet Watch or in the complaint line at Guest Services with their “American Kobe Beef” hot dogs in hand.

But one thing that does seem to be evident is that 11am-4pm is still far and away the busiest time of day at the Park even with the 11pm closes that will continue every night through (at least) September 5th. And that is perhaps Animal Kingdom’s biggest obstacle in making the nighttime enhancements “work.” While Disney hired hundreds of cast members and added nearly a dozen new nighttime shows/acts, the overwhelming majority of casual vacationers are still going to arrive at 10am and leave at 3pm because they think that they’ve run out of things to do. It doesn’t really matter that there’s 25 new things to do from 8pm to 11pm when there’s no new things to do from 9am-8pm and the kids have to be in bed by 7pm anyway. Pandora is the answer of course, but until that comes online, I don’t think there’s anything Disney can do to keep Joe and Jane Ride-Goer in the Park for more than five or six hours. Poor reviews of The Jungle Book: Rivers of Bore don’t help, of course, but I’m not sure that the promise of blossoming lotus flowers and shadow puppetry would have gone over all that much better.

Here’s a look at wait times over the same dates last year:

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/dinojuly15.jpg

Comparing Animal Kingdom waits from one year to another does not provide a lot of insight into crowds as the Park is open four more hours every day this summer, but it is kind of interesting to see that peak waits last year were lower while the average wait time is a full 6-minutes higher. The lower peak waits in 2015 are somewhat curious as you would expect a similar number of people cramming into shorter hours to push waits higher. But while we don’t see any 40+ minute overall averages in 2015, the 20+ minute averages do extend all the way until 6:15pm in 2015, compared to 5pm in 2016. We can perhaps blame 2016’s higher peaks on more FastPass+ experiences being distributed during that time frame.

Remember that standby wait times don’t really tell us anything about how many people are in line with so much capacity given to FastPass+. And with capacity cuts, there could be half as many people in line at Primeval Whirl this year with the same posted wait as last year with both sides operating.

This is of course a concept that flies over the heads of our friends at TouringPlans:

Of course waits are down year over year when Animal Kingdom is open 40% longer this year. Even if you were to send the exact same number of people into the Park and only compare wait times from 10am to 5pm, it seems logical that they would be distributed over the course of the day differently, particularly when you have Jungle Book pulling in four or five thousand people a night. So while we might be talking about wait times from 10am-5pm both years, it seems reasonable to assume that at a minimum, people are choosing to ride certain attractions after that this year.

But it is sort of amusing that they noted just how few actual wait times they collect there on the bottom. You’ve got 102,091 posted wait times over the course of 61 days, which is an admirable 1,674 per day. Spread out over eight attractions, that’s about 209 wait times per attraction per day. Certainly enough to work with. But on the other hand, they’ve only collected 898 actual wait times over that same period of time. That’s less than 15 actual wait times per day over the same number of rides or fewer than two actual wait times per attraction per day. One wonders how you ground yourself in mathematics and at the same time come to any sort of scientific conclusion based on one actual wait time at Kilimanjaro Safaris at some random point during the day. If last year’s single actual wait time was from 12:08pm and this year’s single actual wait time was from 10:01am then this year’s actual wait time would be lower, even if there were 700 million people inside the Park at noon.

Anyway, the website is going to disembowel TouringPlans shortly. You are going to cringe. I am going to cringe. The Internet is going to cringe. Kim will film the screen with her phone (vertically) while Kanye names his next album after me.

And as much as I make fun of it, Jungle Book actually polls relatively well with guests.

Anyway, that is enough words for now. I don’t like to type them any more than you like to scroll past them.

Construction continues on awnings and roofs over the seating next to Flame Tree Barbecue as Disney actually embarks on the work that they were supposed to complete during the lengthy refurbishment last year. That time was instead spent working on electrical for a…well I guess a show that also hasn’t debuted. So perhaps we are right on schedule.

As always.

80% of photography is Lightroom/Photoshop while 18% is equipment and 2% is skill.

Anybody can spend $15,000 on non-Nikon camera equipment and watch some tutorial videos.

But this sort of Ken-Griffey-Jr.-esque tilt is something that can’t be taught.

Facade work continues on Flights of Wonder after that roof installation that I’m not sure anybody asked for was completed. One assumes that it will end up looking as stunning as the rest of the Park, but it has been covered by brown tarps for months after reopening.

That’s more like it.

The same picture as a raw file straight out of the camera.

Photography is a scam.

Speaking of beer, one tip is to check out the drink window to the right of Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes.

The Funky Buddha isn’t available on draft elsewhere and $7.50 for a 16-ounce cup is a pretty good value in the grand scheme of things.

Down at Thirsty River Bar near Expedition Everest, a 12-ounce bottle of the same beer will run you $8 and there’s a gratuity line.

While crowds and waits throughout most of June and into early July were surprisingly light, things did pick up during the third week of what is now last month. This is a 60-minute wait just before 2:30pm on Sunday July 17th.

Looking over Everest waits for the last few weeks:

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/everest_waits_july_2016.jpg

A 25-minute average for Everest, one of Disney’s best roller coasters and arguably(?) one of Animal Kingdom’s two best rides, seems more than reasonable. But the overall average wait does take off relatively quickly, hitting 30 minutes by 10:30am and peaking at 40 minutes just after noon after nearly hitting that mark with the 39-minute wait at 11:15am. Waits return to around 20 minutes or fewer by 6pm. There’s a baby bump after the first Jungle Book show gets out at 9:30pm, but even then, you’re looking at actual waits that should be under 15 minutes.

In the last hour, you should be able to walk right on. This is me as literally the only person on the entire vehicle after getting in line at 10:40pm.

Disney does let people get in line for Everest until just after 11pm, which gives you enough time to enjoy the second Jungle Book show and get over to Everest to ride one last time in case that’s the way you want to go with it.

Here’s a comparison of Everest waits during similar dates last month.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/everest_waits_june2016.jpg

What’s “important” here is that the overall average wait is two minutes shorter. Two minutes might not seem very significant. After all, if you are going to wait 23 minutes then you would probably wait 25, but it takes a lot of wait times under 25 minutes to pull down the average that much with so many 30, 40, and 50+ minute waits.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/everest_waits_july_2015.jpg

While we’re here, these are posted wait times for the same days in July of 2015 as the July 2016 example above – the 4th through the 29th. While average wait times were higher last year, whether you want to talk about the 10am-5pm hours or the entire day, it isn’t at all indicative of attendance being down this year. If you’ve got eight ounces of gummy bears and try to fit them in a bag that holds eight ounces, then it’s going to be a tight fit. But if you’ve got nine ounces of gummy bears and try to fit them in a bag that holds 14 ounces, then you’ll probably have a better time. And that jam-packed eight-ounce bag is probably going to look like more gummy bears unless it’s an SAT question or something and you’re already suspicious about which bag you want to take.

It’s worth taking a moment to look away from the various squirrels dotting the sidewalks to enjoy a look at the siamang(s) sort of visible off to the left there.

Strike a pose.

Disney is again actively testing elements of Rivers of Light during the daytime hours. As you are probably aware, Disney hasn’t extended Animal Kingdom’s hours in September after the 5th of the month when Jungle Book: Dead with Boredom’s run is slated to end.

There are basically two possible scenarios: Jungle Book ends on September 5th and Animal Kingdom goes back to early closes until Rivers of Light is “ready” or at least until it gets dark in Orlando early enough that Disney can comfortably run two or three shows and still close the Park at 9pm. Or Disney will plow ahead with Rivers of Light and the 11pm closes that would have to accompany from September 6th onward.

It seems unlikely that Disney would continue offering two Jungle Book shows every night in September considering those show times would have to be 9pm and 10:30pm or 8:30pm and 10pm. But we’ll see.

While we saw just six people in line at DINOSAUR in the afternoon on July 9th, it was a much different story just over a week later on the 16th. DINO here has a 45-minute posted wait with a standby queue that stretches outside. The ride is otherwise down for refurbishment for a couple of months for what should be some serious work.

In related DinoLand news certain to change your life, the cash registers at Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures have moved over here now.

I think we all heard that at least once in college.

In related drink news, Disney has finally done away with the ridiculous pricing on its frozen margaritas here and on the drinks at Dawa Bar, where they posted the price including the souvenir vessel on the menu. This may be the first time ever that bars have tried to attract people with prices higher than they actually have to pay for a drink. On the other hand, tourists aren’t necessarily known for their discretion.

In related souvie news, Animal Kingdom has a great variety of options, almost exclusively related to Rivers of Light. The Glowing Stein collapses in addition to lighting up, which is kind of cool.

The Lotus Flower Popcorn Bucket is also intermittently available.

You might check Corn-Ivores in DinoLand.

It holds a ton of popcorn and also has a hilarious-considering-the-circumstances sticker that says, “do not submerge in water.” You might take your own advice, Disney.

Work is concluding on what is just a path behind the Tree of Life.

The same view as above only during the day.

“FuelRods” seem to be all the rage these days. For $30, you have the opportunity to purchase one of these portable phone/tablet chargers from a variety of kiosks found around the Parks and Disney Springs. Each FuelRod arrives with the charger itself along with “a 6” USB Type-A to Micro-USB adapter cable (most Android devices), along with an Apple 30-pin (iPod, iPhone Gen 1-4) and Apple Lightning (Apple Gen 5+) adapters. It’s worth noting that the kiosks themselves are kind of fun. Placing the FuelRod in the slot and then getting a fresh one is like an arcade game that you always win.

Or always lose because you paid $30 for a $3 charger.

Value here is perhaps in the eye of the beholder. The amount of power each one of these provides is conspicuously absent on the company’s website and it isn’t listed on the signage or on the device, which seems strange. That’s probably because the capacity is so small – around 1,200 mAh. That’s about as much juice as it would take to power an iPhone 6s from 0% battery to 70% battery. Or a Samsung Galaxy S7 from 0% to 33%.

An exchange is somewhat convenient inside the Parks. Here’s a list:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

  • Island Mercantile

Epcot

  • Disney Traders

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Celebrity 5 & 10

Magic Kingdom

  • Curtain Call Collectibles
  • Tomorrowland Light & Power Co.
  • Big Top Souvenirs
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe

Disney Springs

  • Marketplace Disney Photo Imaging
  • DisneyQuest

But I’m not sure most people are going to find much use for them once they arrive home considering the paltry capacity and a sudden lack of return stations around town. You could buy an Anker (the best) charger in a similar size with 3x as much power from Amazon for half as much money. And if you don’t mind a charger that’s a bit larger, you could get 8x the amount of power as a FuelRod for around $15. There are reportedly ways to spend less as FuelRods are $20 at most locations outside of Disney World (think airports) and you can also purchase one for $20 + $5 shipping directly from their website. But my advice would be to purchase something with more power at a lower price and just charge it every couple of days. This 10,000 mAh charger would be a good bet or you could keep an eye on slickdeals.net until there’s something more deeply discounted.

This post from last week covered Avatar construction, which of course remains the big project moving forward.

We’ll take a look at Animal Kingdom’s nighttime offerings separately.

I should be done editing the guidebook tomorrow, which means the amount of content that this website produces will increase to meager from nonexistent.

Comments

  1. Chuck says

    I also noticed the sample size that TouringPlans was using for their actual wait times. Seemed off to me.

    Really looking forward to this: “Anyway, the website is going to disembowel TouringPlans shortly.”

  2. says

    Formerly a proponent of TouringPlans, I was soured on them after a particularly horrendous trip in December 2010, when every single day seemed wildly inaccurate. But until today, I hadn’t taken the time to stop and actually think through exactly why the concept of “wait times = crowd levels” is so flawed. With just a few paragraphs, you explained it masterfully. And for a company that has based its entire reputation/brand on the fact that it’s driven by sound mathematical/statistical analysis, that’s a shockingly low number of actual data points. I can’t wait for your full dissertation.

  3. Steve B says

    I realise I should be asking this on TP’s site and not here… but what’s the difference between “posted wait times” and “actual wait times”? Are the posted wait times the ones Disney posts whereas the actual wait times are the ones “actually” experienced by TP members?

    TP do seem to like to throw meaningless numbers around (“7% decline”, “71%”, “458 people”). It’s like they’re trying to prove that because they’ve done some maths it makes it all accurate. Why not just say that average wait times are down slightly this year? That’s all we need to know.

    Also, great photoshopping… I mean “camera work”. :)

    • Wendy says

      Yup, you summed it up. Posted wait times are what we see on the Disney App/signboard, whereas actual wait times are collected through TPs app, where members can basically push a button when they enter a line and push it again when they board the ride to track how long the wait was. I tried it last year and often forgot to start or stop the timer a few minutes late, so the times are debatable.

  4. MaryHelen says

    So what changes did you make in Lightroom to that picture? It looks awesome after the changes and gives me hope that my photos can look better! Thanks!

  5. Jill says

    Great night picture on Everest. I thought I could see the stars out, but then realized it was the dust on my computer screen.

  6. Linkura says

    Hope that critique of Touring Plans comes soon… don’t tease us like this! The “preview” was great.

  7. Dana says

    Does the ocarina separate from the mug? If so, we may need to purchase this. And don’t worry, I scrolled over your “scroll” remark.

  8. gwarren25 says

    Has anyone discovered what “Wildberry” actual is? I can’t find wildberries at my grocery store!

  9. Heather says

    Thank you for the Cheat Sheet Update. Perfect timing 😀 … just started fine tuning the details for our trip in 4 wks.

    Maps are so easy to comprehend at a glance; the best! We always refer to them for planning our day.

  10. Lynn Groom says

    Subscribed to Touring Plans for a trip we did in 2010, and they had this thingy where you could plug in what you wanted to do and get an “automated” plan. MK day had us starting with Swiss Family Treehouse. We stood in line ALL the time. I was 7 months pregnant had a 2 1/2-year-old. We followed this site’s plan in 2013 and just skipped what we didn’t want to do, and never waited in line more than 10 min. I wish a thousand blessings on you, your children, and your children’s children. This is almost missionary work.

  11. Dis8 says

    I recently used Touring Plans wait times for lack of any reliable sources and to get a feel for how long it was gonna be. It was laughable. They predicted 40 minutes for California screamin at 7 .pm. My mom and I waited 15. So darn inaccurate, it’s sad. Josh, PLLEASSE take me back.

  12. Perelandra says

    They have extended park hours until 8 PM some time ago for the rest of September and I think part of October, but they have not decided if Rivers of Light or Jungle Book will be the show at that time yet . However, a CM did assure me over the phone that one of the two would be offered. Fast passes were not available, and it definitely makes it a bit tricky to plan.
    Really enjoy your work by the way.

  13. Dawn says

    okay stupid question, what is a gratuity line? obviously I know what gratuity is, but do you mean because there is a ‘bar tender’ rather than a walk up window you need to tip? …

  14. Jess says

    Dinosaur was closed for refurbishment the entire week we were there. 7/25-7/31. We missed it!

    Josh took a much needed hiatus too. I was checking daily and felt a little lonely without his snarky commentary. My family just doesn’t understand like Josh does!!!

    We did not stumble upon FuelRods until the last day. And I for one would have loved it. Our 15 yr old son was Pokémon hunting the entire time (which was fun) and to be able to pay $30 and go exchange the rod at any time for the whole week would have been a great feature.

    Thanks for feeding our Disney need, Josh! We couldn’t do it without you!!

  15. Rob says

    You mentioned something about gummy bears. Those are delicious, where can I find these gummy bears at? I’m sure the rest of the article was good too.

  16. Beth says

    Bring on the October daily calendar!! 20th Anniversary Trip coming on the 21st! Thank you, Josh, for making our trips much less stressful with the great tips and plans!

  17. Matthew DeStefano says

    Your photos are always so amazing. I love that you included the original RAW photo with the edited version. You need to do a photoshop/lightroom tutorial and explain what filters, lens, camera, etc, you use to take such wonderful pictures.

    Thanks for an always entertaining site.

    Matt

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