As you’ve probably already read on every other Disney blog on the Internet, a Disney-World-wide ban on “selfie sticks” went into effect on June 30th. Guests are greeted with these signs outside bag check. And every driver will be handed this pamphlet at the auto plaza/parking gate. There are some exceptions:
- Tripods that can be folded and stored in a reasonable size bag are allowed. Large tripods are not.
- Extendable camera monopods are allowed.
- GoPro brand name body and head harnesses are allowed.
- Short, brand name GoPro handles are allowed.
- Brand name or similar style GRIP & SHOOT handles are also allowed.
- GoPro 3-way or similar style extending handles are not allowed.
- Selfie sticks of any kind are not allowed.
There’s no difference in verbiage on the tripod thing, though there probably should be a ban on tripods that extend over a foot in length or something. Your GoPro is probably safe too, though I would remind you that nobody is ever going to watch your footage.
Like you, probably, I walk through the Parks basically wanting to murder everyone I see (“not really”), but selfie sticks have never been a problem for me. I don’t want to be in any pictures, so it’s never occurred to me to bring one, and I’ve never been touched by one or seen someone extend one out on a ride. But the ban is a general safety thing. Rides are designed so that nobody could possibly extend a limb and come into contact with any ride elements, including ceilings and animatronics. And that all goes out the window when someone is extending a rod several feet in length. Selfie sticks also become an issue in crowded areas, particularly during the nighttime spectaculars when it’s dark. They can also be dangerous when extended out during parades and other live shows.
The entire Internet is against these things, which probably has more to do with the “kinds of people” that carry them more than the act itself. And the ban probably has more to do with Disney trying to protect PhotoPass and MemoryMaker revenue than a concern that somebody is going to extend their selfie stick during the drop on Mine Train and it’s going to hit the ceiling, break, and the pieces are going to fall on the person in the row behind. Obviously Disney has done nothing to curtail the prevalent use of iPads and tablets to videotape shows and rides. The person holding up their iPad during one of the drop sequences on Expedition Everest worries me a lot more than someone with a firm grip on a selfie stick that’s being held much closer to the body. But it doesn’t matter what I think and it doesn’t matter what you think. Selfie Sticks are gone and they aren’t coming back.
Disney began testing a “new” rope drop procedure on June 29, 2015. I thought I would give them a day to see what worked and what didn’t and arrived at 8:18am the following morning to a small crowd of people at the tapstiles.
In an effort to curtail this, the recently installed leadership decided it would be wise to try to open The Oasis 30 minutes before regular Park open. Right at 8:30am, an announcement came over the PA system that while “the Park doesn’t open until 9am, The Oasis will open at 8:30am.” Only half of the statement is true as the Park will actually open much closer to 8:45am than 9am.
The thing about The Oasis is:
- Nobody cares about The Oasis.
- Nobody knows what The Oasis is.
It may or may not be in that order.
The idea isn’t necessarily a terrible one if you’ve never actually experienced theme park openings like the average guest or you weren’t around a couple of years ago when the Park followed a similar procedure. The idea is that people will leisurely stroll through the Oasis for 15 minutes or so and interact with one of an army of cast members holding an animal skull or pointing out ducks in one of the enclosures. These cast members in blue on the left are offering to explain and book FastPass+ reservations for those that haven’t. Nobody seemed particularly interested as the people that show up at 8:15am are also the ones that tend to have intelligent FP+ choices made well in advance. You also have the opportunity to rent strollers, wheelchairs, and ECVs.
You may or may not be able to make out DiVine greeting guests along with two more cast members guarding this pathway off to the right.
This picture is over three years old now, going all the way back to this post, when Disney opened the tapstiles early and held everyone at the Tree of Life for official opening. There’s a rope stopping us from going any further.
What that does is just create a huge mass of people extending back to the bridge waiting to go to Safaris or Everest. Back on August 8th 2013, Disney changed the rope drop procedure so that the tapstiles opened 15 minutes early and guests were free to head to the attraction of their choice instead of being held at the Tree.
Back on August 27th, 2013, I wrote the following:
I really can’t overemphasize how much more pleasant it is when the morning crowds are dispersed. The tapstiles/turnstiles create a kind of buffer where only a few people enter the Park every few seconds.
But like most bad habits, Animal Kingdom has relapsed and is again holding crowds at the Tree of Life, only now it’s worse. At 8:32am, we’re all held here.
Two minutes later, cast members start walking toward the Tree of Life and again stop about 15 feet later and we’re held here.
Then four minutes later, cast start walking another 15 feet and we’re held here, right before the path narrows.
Then three minutes later, cast is on the move again, walking us through the narrow passageway and stopping 15 feet further down the road. It’s now 8:40am, so we’ve moved about 100 feet in 10 or 15 foot increments over the course of about ten minutes as more and more people are backed up across the bridge.
Then at 8:44am we’re released in a massive clump of humanity in one of two directions. Left for Safaris and right for Everest. There is no other way to go.
It’s kind of awkward turning around and pointing a camera high above you as people march towards you, so I didn’t get a great shot of the crowd behind me. But you can see that the crowd stretches all the way back across the bridge and into The Oasis. The website will extend your subscription by one month for every verified smile you point out.
In a strange turn of events, cast yelled out that everyone headed to Expedition Everest should follow them through DinoLand past Flame Tree Barbecue.
“lol” I said to myself and walked toward Asia instead.
The cast members in the picture above this one asked the pair of girls where they were headed. I’m not sure what they said, but if you get harassed you can just say Kali River Rapids, which is where they’re headed.
If you do head up through Asia, you’ll take a right after you pass the Adventurers Outpost Mickey and Minnie Meet and Greet.
This is supposed to be construction on a new food and beverage area, probably to replace the cart that usually sets up shop across from Everest.
We ended up beating everybody that walked through DinoLand. This is the first of that group sprinting towards us.
And here we are at 8:50am.
I’m not sure if I’m making too big of a deal about the new rope drop procedure, but I really hate waiting in a large mass of humanity out in the sun, only to be released and have the clump jockey for position as a thousand or more people try to rush in one of only two directions through narrow walkways. And there’s a reason they stopped doing that about two years ago. The bridge over to Discovery Island is lit’rally right where the sun is beating down. And while standing there for 15 minutes isn’t the end of the world, it’s much more uncomfortable than it needs to be, particularly as cast members keep inching closer and closer to the Tree of Life as more and more people brush off The Oasis because nobody cares about The Oasis. It seems like it would be much more intelligent to start operating Everest and Safaris ten minutes earlier. Open the Park at 8:30am and be ready for people to arrive at the two rides at 8:40am instead of 8:50am. Of if getting Everest online really requires 14 hours instead of 13 hours 50 minutes, let us enter the Park and stand in the air-conditioned Everest queue in an orderly fashion. I think we all realize times are very rough at the Walt Disney Company as profits aren’t yet in the trillions of dollars, but they could probably afford to pay cast to work an extra ten minutes just off the extra Starbucks sales.
If you don’t want to deal with the Discovery Island crowd, it is viable to enjoy The Oasis area between 8:30am and 8:45am and wait for the hordes to be on their way. It probably means waiting 15 minutes instead of three minutes to board Safaris or one less ride on Everest before the actual wait hits 15 minutes, but it’s not the end of the world if you value your comfort a bit more than you value your time.
I got in line for my first ride on Everest at 8:50am and boarded at 8:54am.
Epcot in the distance from the second row.
My first ride took less than ten minutes and I got right back in line. If you were to hang back and avoid the current clustercuss that is rope drop, you’d arrive at Everest around now.
Since nobody was heading in behind me, I had an opportunity to snap a few pictures of one of the better queues.
From the second to last row, where the ride is considerably wilder than the front.
The second ride took a total of ten minutes from when I got in line to when I was back out front and I got in line again.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to capture the size of Avatar, but you can see it towering high over the treeline in the distance, along with Rivers of Light construction around the water.
My third ride took exactly nine minutes as well and I managed to ride three times in under 30 minutes.
I had posted what I expected to happen and what I was planning to do the night before in this forum post. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be held at the Tree until 9am, so I have the first ride starting at 9am instead of 8:50am and the second ride ending a little later with the expectation that more people would be in line if we were held longer.
The walk over to DinoLand will be about the chillest thing you do all day. You might run into ten people.
A portion of the walkway on the right is now walled off for Rivers of Light construction.
You can still get to the area where it leads near Trilo-Bites, you just have to walk through DinoLand and then take a right.
Maybe it’s Star Wars Land behind those walls.
This early, it probably doesn’t matter what order you do the DinoLand attractions, but later on in the morning it makes the most sense to do DINOSAUR -> Primeval Whirl -> TriceraTop Spin so that’s what we’re up to here. Before the joy that is FastPass+, it was smarter to do Primeval Whirl first because it’s a lower capacity ride. But now DINOSAUR sees significantly higher average and peak waits with near-maximum FP+ distribution most days. Putting off Primeval Whirl also means about 20 more minutes free of back pain.
TriceraTop Spin is flying mostly empty.
I arrived at 9:24am with the 10-minute posted wait.
But I and the seven other people in front of me marched right into the pre-show room.
Nobody waiting at load.
And I was back out front 13 minutes later.
Since I wasn’t planning to arrive here until 9:35am, I decided to ride again, this time with four people in front of me.
It seemed like the projector in the left pre-show room had been replaced and the footage was much clearer, while the projector in the pre-show room to the right had not.
Still nobody waiting to load.
A rough ISO 51,200 at f2.8.
This time I was out just 11 minutes later at 9:48am.
Primeval Whirl is up next, unfortunately, with a ten-minute posted wait.
I arrived at 9:51am to a line that stretched back to the entrance and thought that I had potentially made the wrong decision going to DINOSAUR first.
But it was a straight shot to the loading area.
And I was on my unfortunate journey just seven minutes later. They should really consider renaming this ride Unfortunate Whirl because that and “why” are the only two words that come to mind whenever I think about this thing.
I really hate this ride, though I would still go on it before Space Mountain. You want to skip it if you have any kind of back or neck problems. And even if you don’t, I’d still skip it if you don’t want to develop any.
I was on my way to TriceraTop Spin 13 minutes later at 10:04am as I speed dialed my chiropractor.
The scenery probably offers the least appeal of the spinners, but I was on my way just six minutes later, so it isn’t exactly a time suck.
Pluto and Goofy aren’t appearing until 11am, which seems a little late for the meet and greet that typically sees the longest lines.
I was able to accomplish, according to the times in my camera:
- Expedition Everest: 8:49am-8:59am
- Expedition Everest: 8:49am-9:08am
- Expedition Everest: 9:08am-9:17am
- DINOSAUR: 9:23am-9:36am
- DINOSAUR: 9:36am-9:48am
- Primeval Whirl: 9:51am-10:05am
- TriceraTop Spin: 10:05am-10:10am
Not bad, but that is about as far as the plan as written is going to go as I had to take a phone call and then had a friend join me for a couple hours before we headed off for Hollywood Studios. By 11:30am here, the posted wait for DINOSAUR is 40 minutes as the extended queue begins to fill. I rode twice in less time than it will take just to wait in line once.
Donald’s wait is about 15 minutes.
25ish for Goofy and Pluto.
20 posted at Primeval Whirl, which is probably accurate now that the rat maze is filling.
Probably about eight minutes at TriceraTop Spin.
The plan called for Flights of Wonder from about 10:30am to 11:15am and then It’s Tough To Be A Bug from 11:20am-11:40am. The posted wait is five minutes for Bug and it would take however long it takes for the next show to start plus the length of the show. Or 12 to 17 minutes.
We pick things up at the FastPass+ line for Kilimanjaro Safaris. FP+ lines have become so long that Disney actually moved the FP+ entrance down to the left where the old FASTPASS machines used to sit. I guess you could say we’ve come full circle. I got in line at 12:01pm for a FP+ that was good from 12:05pm to 1:05pm. Remember that you can arrive up to five minutes early and up to fifteen minutes after the window.
We departed 13 minutes later, which is a little better than average for an afternoon FP+. Expect the wait with FP+ to be about 15 minutes here, which is considerably longer than most other rides – even something like Mine Train or Space Mountain.
A lot of changes are coming or are already in progress.
Hyenas are expected here.
Make those Universal screen jokes ASAP as most of the nighttime safari tech will rely on projections and artificial lighting.
Big things coming, though it might not always look like it. So we got in line at 12:01pm and I was back out front around 12:42pm, for a total experience time north of 40 minutes. I’d pad that with another five minutes if you’re planning to use FP+ here during peak waits from 11am-3pm.
Flame Tree Barbecue reopening is the other big news of the day. The quick service closed all the way back on January 5th and didn’t reopen until June 30th.
Officially, the work was to extend the roof over the ordering area and build additional roofs and covers from the ordering area to the various seating areas. While it’s fun to give Disney a hard time about how long it takes them to complete what seems like six days of work, what was really going on was extensive electrical work in front of Rivers of Light. And as anyone that’s ever seen Property Brothers knows, there are always more problems than you expect inside the walls, which is why the reopening date kept getting pushed back.
The new menu:
First on the minor change front. Coleslaw is out in favor of jalapeno cornbread that always seems to be “delicious” regardless of which entree you order. The Pulled Pork Sandwich is up a dollar and now arrives with pickled slaw and a different bun that’s described as “soft” and “fresh.”
The Smoked Chicken Salad above is out in favor of a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad. The “Fruit Plate” is also out in favor of the Watermelon Salad. The Turkey Leg will set you back an additional 20 cents. I think it’s safe to say that it’s more like, “Jamaican me hungry,” am I right guys.
The Onion Rings are back as a snack credit, which is a major win considering you can now sub your non-alcoholic beverage or dessert for any item designated as a “snack” on the Disney Dining Plan. I wonder how many people other than me are going to rock the Chicken/Rib Combo with two orders of Onion Rings and four cups of water. Otherwise, the desserts are up 40 cents a pop and everything else is the same as before.
Some amount of additional work is still expected.
I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad, which is described as “A delightful Salad with Black Beans, Sweet Corn, mixed greens, Chipotle Yogurt Dressing, and Cornbread Crumbs” for $9.99.
It’s artsy because it’s tilted.
I need to start carrying a banana for scale. My mom used to volunteer to operate the swim club’s concession stand and I would occasionally offer to “help” by generally being in the way. Almost everything came from Costco, including the romaine lettuce and gigantic Chinet paper plates that we used for the Caesar Salads. You could put six pounds of salad on one of those plates and it still didn’t “feel” like a sizable portion. People would order a salad and when they received it, look down, and then look back up and give us the stink eye. It didn’t matter if the entire Fresh Express salad plant was sitting on that plate. We switched the plates out for much smaller cartons that held about a quarter of the previous portion. But it “looked” like a lot more and people would look down, look up, and I’m pretty sure they wanted to hug us they were so happy with their salad.
I bring this up only because Disney used to serve its salads in the plastic containers a few pictures above. It “looked” like a sizable salad in the plastic, while the thin layer on a large paper plate “looks” like much less, even if it’s the same amount of salad. Anyway, this salad wasn’t great. It had a mild, generic spiciness to it from the jalapeno cornbread and chipotle pepper in the dressing, but the chicken wasn’t overtly spiced and there was really nothing Jamaican Jerk about it. The beans were soft and had virtually no flavor to speak of and while the corn offered a little sweetness, the overwhelming flavor was just the generic peppery spice. It wasn’t “bad” by any stretch of the imagination and it’s still the best quick service salad in the Park, beating out Pizzafari’s Caesar, Restaurantosaurus’s BLT, and Yak & Yeti’s Ginger Chicken, but that isn’t a particularly high bar to reach. I personally preferred the previous iteration.
My friend, codename “Breet,” ordered the Pork Sandwich sans pickled slaw and beans. You can still order an entree without the side to save the $2. The pork here is still done better than anywhere else, more flavorful and more “real” than other quick services. You can add your own sauce from the condiment bar. The bun is an improvement, holding up well to the meat and the sauce, while increasing fluffiness. Very good.
The onion rings remain one of the best values for your money in the Parks and are a great use of a snack credit or substituted for a small, pre-made dessert. They’re a little thin on the onion part, probably, but they dip very nicely into barbecue sauce.
Flame Tree remains one of your best quick service bets at Animal Kingdom, though Harambe Market, which we’ll get back to in a minute, offers some stiff competition.
A poor panorama of Rivers of Light construction across the water.
Doubling down on HDR.
Disney ran a few nighttime tests a couple of weeks ago and the results weren’t necessarily good, potentially pushing the opening date back by six or more months. They’re going to have to build the seating areas higher than originally anticipated because the view from where the lower rows were going to be didn’t provide a view of many of the effects. On the plus side, the show is looking to be something special, marrying experienced performers with some dazzling effects. It was described to me as, “Fantasmic on crack only without Pocahontas.”
King Louie and I arguing over who the real MVP is. Behind him is Beastly Kiosk, which had been serving a portion of Flame Tree’s menu during the refurbishment.
Disney seems to be moving to Food-and-Wine-style pricing and portions in this corridor, offering small, pre-made portions of pasta at prices that are too high. I don’t think anybody is thinking lobster mac in this heat either.
Across the way, this is expected to be the new look of many of the Discovery Island kiosks.
It used to look like this.
Two new salads and three new unique-ish beverages.
It’s kind of hard to tell here, but Disney was going Full Costco, offering small samples of the beverages.
These are half-consumed because I’m really bad at this, but the $3.99 Chilled Green Tea Infused with Orange Blossom Honey is on the left and the $3.99 Cucumber-Mint Pomegranate Lemonade is on the right. Both were refreshing with a pleasant, natural sweetness and without any cloying syrupy-ness. Not a terrific value for the money, but you could do a lot worse.
They wouldn’t serve us the Raspberry Lemonade sweetened with Stevia without a sample first, which is indicative of how unpleasant the flavor is. It’s super tart, not unlike unsweetened cranberry juice, which nobody should ever consume. Definitely try it before you buy it. We nearly ran away from the kiosk after consuming a small sip each.
Trilo-Bites has changed its menu for the sixth or seventh time in the last year.
Now offering a “tasting portion” of their Buffalo Chicken Waffle, in addition to the sundae.
Not much food news otherwise. This is the current Restaurantosaurus menu:
It’s the same, minus the stupid headers. Why would you put the Black Bean Burger under the “Chicken Offerings.”
In the heat, it might make some sense to sub out a sub-par dessert for the lemonade or a bottle of water or something.
The Bugs Sundae remains at Dino-Bite Snacks to the right of Restaurantosaurus.
The Discovery Island popcorn kiosk. Note that the popcorn is actually virtually the same price at both kiosks – tax is just included at one and not the other.
Whatever they call the Allergy Dining Tips kiosk is still across from Creature Comforts. No changes on the snack credit front, which is kind of strange considering the cupcakes are included and the cookies aren’t, while $6.39 candy apples are included resort-wide. The $8.19 Funnel Cake at Oasis Canteen at Hollywood Studios is still the most expensive snack credit I’ve seen.
Nothing of interest at Pizzafari, which no longer serves breakfast. I reviewed the Baked Pasta Bolognese, Heart of Romaine Salad, and Tiramisu back in February in this post.
The walls have moved a bit further back closer to the old Camp Minnie-Mickey plot as the patio outside Pizzafari is gone.
A future main entrance?
Creature Comforts reopened a couple of weeks ago as the Park’s Starbucks location. The entrance to Africa is just a few steps ahead. It currently looks like it belongs in Africa much more than Discovery Island, but assuming more of the kiosks change from the colorful to the brown, it should fit in a lot better shortly.
The Park’s You Are Here mug. And a reminder that my significant other, Lisa, would be more than happy to ship you a set of one mug from each of the four Parks for $99 shipped. You should have them at your door three or four days after making payment. They are bigger and heavier than you might expect.
No trentas, but they do have green paper straws.
It’s neat that they added Harambe Market and Zuri’s Sweets to the sign.
Nothing to see at Harambe Popcorn.
Every parent’s dream. Nothing changed at Kusafiri:
The cupcakes are a little different than what was available a month or so ago though.
I covered Harambe Market in more depth a couple of weeks ago in this post, but Lisa and I returned about a week ago to try a couple more things. Check the previous post for menus etc. The Market otherwise operates from 11am to Park close daily.
Lisa tried the $8.99 Boerewors Sausage Fried in Corn Batter with Roasted Broccoli and Tomato Salad.
The batter is relatively thick and has a very mild curry flavor along with some sweetness from the corn, which complements the pepper, cloves, and other spices in the sausage well. In the last post, I mentioned that my salad was tomato-heavy. Lisa got just two tomatoes and a bunch of broccoli, along with a couple considerable pieces of onion. So there may not be a lot of consistency in what you receive side-wise.
I ordered the Spice-Rubbed Karubi Ribs with Green Papaya-Carrot Slaw and a Chickpea, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, which probably doesn’t look particularly appetizing from the picture. One other thing you probably can’t tell from the picture is how heavy it is – you get a ton of meat and don’t come away with a lot of bones. The meat is plenty tender to cut easily with a plastic fork and knife, but it tended to be dryer the further toward the middle you got. And while the spice-rub provided some flavor on the meat that touched it, further down you get virtually no spice and instead, just dry pork. Otherwise, I think this one is best shared as it’s a huge portion that all kind of tastes the same. The slaw on top didn’t add much to the dish and there isn’t much of it. I think most people are just going to brush it to the side.
The Chickpea, Cucumber and Tomato Salad didn’t boast as much flavor as you might expect, but it was a (literally) cool accompaniment to the meat and a fresh tasting couple of bites.
The African Milk Tart – Coconut Custard in a Chocolate Tart Shell dusted with Sugar and Five Spice Powder then drizzled with Dark Chocolate Ganache tasted just like the description.
I didn’t care for the texture of the custard. I’m not usually a texture person, but the kind of baby food mushiness gets me. It otherwise had a prominent, natural coconut flavor along with rich chocolate from the shell. It would not be my dessert choice at Animal Kingdom, though you obviously only have the one choice here at Harambe Market.
It’s neat that the Wildlife Express to Rafiki’s Planet Watch barrels right past the seating area every few minutes.
The Beef Kabob Flatbread is still my favorite item at the Market. Flame Tree is still my favorite quick service here, but you might consider Harambe if you don’t mind the outdoor seating and prefer something new-ish and a little different.
Zuri’s Sweets on the right opened about a week after the rest of Harambe Market.
There are a number of cutesy treats like the hippo pop and monkey caramel apple as this location is basically your Main Street Confectionery at AK. I’m not sure if it’s the humidity or what, but I’ve never seen the case when it wasn’t difficult to see what was inside.
If you scan the QR code, it says, “Yo. I’m a zebra. Deal with it.” This is the only appropriate use of a QR code.
A few more items:
Interestingly, this is basically just caramel corn.
A “spice spoon” that looks a little too much like something Tony Montana would be interested in.
At $17.95 a pound, it makes a lot more sense to load up on dried apricots than Hershey’s chocolate chips.
One last look. You can also get to Zuri’s from Mombasa Marketplace, which is the large store across from Tusker House and Kusafiri.
I picked up a bottle of the Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc and Rust En Vrede Cabernet, both of which are available by the glass at Harambe Market. The Mulderbosch was about $5 overpriced compared to Total Wine ($21.95), but the cabernet was a good value at $27.95 and isn’t going to be easy to find elsewhere.
Work continues on expanding Disney Outfitters on this side.
And this side.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever told you my third favorite joke:
Q: How do you know who’s vegan at a party?
A: They’ll tell you.
Still accurate to this day.
Walls up around Island Mercantile.
It wouldn’t be an Animal Kingdom post without this picture.
Or this one.
Avatar towers above.
Finally a suitable replacement for my Riedel.
That’s about it.