The website would take a moment to introduce two very important additions to the easywdw.com syndicate.
The first is Steven Miller, a master’s graduate in Data Science, and someone who is far too intelligent to have had to work with me over the last six months. Steven is the brains behind the backend portion of the wait times charts and set up the mechanisms, databases, scripts, and more that allow us to store and access the data so easily. I can grab one of those wait times charts for any day of the week and for any attractions I want in about 30 seconds. Once we finish up with one project, I send him out on what I’m certain is another boondoggle, and he always comes through with a solution. Should you be looking for someone with a background in Data Science and Analytics, I would not hesitate to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s a really great guy and will work with you to get your project completed.
The website has also hired Alex Westcott as its first correspondent. You’ll know it’s him in the Parks because he will introduce himself with, “Hi, I’m Alex Westcott,” in Michael Eisner’s voice, whereas I always deny who I am, despite it being very obvious that it’s me. As an experienced photographer, former cast member, and actual Disney expert, he’ll be taking over for some of the picture-taking that I don’t have the time for, particularly with the whole one-park-per-day thing. There’s also the fact that I would much rather be at home. When they’re Alex’s pictures, I’ll make a note at the top and bottom of the posts. Alex is also a designer, and you can check out his work, most of which is theme-park-related, on RedBubble here.
The pictures in the following post are mostly Alex’s with one of mine occasionally thrown in from the vault to add a little past context.
I am perpetually behind where I want to be as just about everything you see on this site takes much longer to prepare than you might imagine. For example, on my recent Epcot visit, I left my apartment at 10am. I then toured through Park close, ending with Test Track at about 7:20pm, which put me home around 8pm. So that’s ten hours invested. I came home with 756 pictures. At 20 seconds of editing per picture, that’s over four hours of editing, and it probably comes in closer to five or six hours with a few longer edits. Then each 3,000+ word post takes six or seven hours to write and another hour to edit because I am slow. And with that much to cover at Epcot, it’s likely a four or five part series. So just one visit to Epcot is ten hours at the park, five hours of picture editing, and 30 to 35 hours of writing and chart-preparing, etc., for a total of about 50 hours. Just for one rope drop series at one park. There’s then all the news and wait times stuff and whatever else is going on to keep up with at the same time.
The website may hire an additional writer. It’s been something that I’ve considered for years. When you visit easywdw.com, you probably have some expectation as to what will be in front of you, since it’s been my one, singular, sarcastic, long-winded voice for over ten years. You probably don’t always agree with me, but there is likely enough detail in whatever I’m talking about for you to come away with a pretty good understanding of where I’m coming from, and how your situation may be different, causing you to come to a different, informed conclusion. You don’t have to try to keep track of the preferences of eight or nine different writers, none of which ever seem to bring much personality with them.
I was thinking that it might be invigorating to go in exactly the opposite direction with a second writer, with someone who is actually excited about things, but doesn’t need to randomly bold words and add eight exclamation points to the end of every dull sentence. Personally, I don’t think adding Josh 2.0 would be wise for me or for you. But it may be interesting to add another perspective that focuses on some of the more magical elements of the Parks rather than fountain beverage price hikes and increasing wait times. We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go.
The good news for you is that it would also mean faster, more relevant content. Even if you hate the new Josh-Not-2.0, and in a strange turn of events that almost never happens, don’t actually hate-read the content, I will still be here to fulfill your needs one to four weeks late. With so many sites now with eight, ten, twelve, or more writers, I simply can’t keep up, and haven’t been able to for some time. That leaves us with a few options: hire help, reduce the detail/quality of the posts on the site, or stick to being farther behind the times than either of us would probably like.
I’ll still be doing the touring and news content, and at the moment, writing all the words. So the commentary you see will still emanate from my brain, which may or may not be a bad thing. We have big Magic Kingdom and Epcot rope drops to cover this week. So far, I am two for two on hires. Both Alex and Steven have gone well above what was expected and have been incredibly easy to work with. Hopefully a funny, energetic writer will also fall from the sky and into easydubz HQ.
Plus, what I’m sure will be an upcoming coup, where I am removed from my own website and forced to live in exile with Len Testa and his harvest of heuristics, will make for quality television coverage. I can’t imagine anything far more tortuous than having to agree that a correlation coefficient of .000 is mathematically significant. But I would for just one glass of Canadian Club. I don’t think Disney bloggers are known for being difficult to break.
But that’s the update on where we’re at before we take a ride around on the monorail. The website will still largely function as it has. I am still the maniacal head of the operation, while Steven does whatever database people do behind the scenes and Alex is out taking pictures to report on. I’m just hoping we can get more relevant, quality content out sooner in a way that makes sense.
All photos are by Alex Westcott with a couple from Josh just so you remember I still know how to take them
Our tour starts out on the monorail before we’ll head inside Magic Kingdom. We begin with the backside of the Tron building, which reminded me of the Guardians of the Galaxy box over at Epcot. It may just be due to the fact that both buildings are blue.
This picture is about a year old, but it shows the launch construction from the old Universe of Energy building on the right into that building on the left, which may also just be a large blue box like Tron. They just “felt” architecturally similar maybe because I don’t have a lot of experience with boxes. It will certainly be interesting to see what they have in store for us inside when both Tron and Guardians open, likely now in 2022.
We’ll have a better look once we get in the Park, but that’s the canopy structure currently being built around Tron’s track. You can see its proximity to the classic Space Mountain structure next door. At least with Space Mountain concealed indoors, you won’t know that you’re about to come away with permanent back issues as people zip around much more happily outside. I’m not sure what the Daft Punk beat situation will be, but, “The Grid” would fit with The Barnstormer well, though with the song at 96 seconds in length, it’s about twice as long as the ride. At least on Rip, Ride, Rockit, you can get through 5% of Free Bird. The Tron Legacy soundtrack is available here should you wish to bump along to some construction photos. You know I am.
Work seems to have slowed at Tron, though the cranes and a limited number of people are still working from time to time. Whether or not it will open in time for Magic Kingdom’s 50th anniversary in a little less than a year remains to be seen, but with the recent layoffs, and Disney continuing to cut capital expenditure, we may not see Disney invest enough money in the upcoming quarters to get the job done.
Even with negative carpentry skills under my belt and what basically amounts to the dexterity and coordination of a small child with two small left hands, I feel like I could have paved the walkway from the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom faster than what Disney currently has going on. We’ve been following the construction of this path on the left for what “feels” like a couple of years. It’s a sidewalk. Not Galaxy’s Edge. We’ve been building them ever since we got tired of people getting run over in the middle of the street. Or at least we wanted to see a reduction in that probably a few hundred years too late.
I think many people assumed the path would open when the Grand Floridian reopened to the public last month, but we obviously have some time to go with so much of the area still unpaved. The lampposts along the walkway have been installed, which will help illuminate the dirt on the path that is still closed at night. I guess that’s something.
Ostensibly, this waterway on the bottom left is what caused Disney to keep the Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom separated, at least so far as walkability goes. The Electrical Water Pageant is housed behind there, and under normal conditions, it would putz out gloriously each evening all lit up with that delightful beepity boop soundtrack. While I have never built a bridge without the help of the Property Brothers and what ends up being unexpected water damage, it seems like there would be some number of ways to let the Pageant out at night and the people cross the water at other times. First, you could just build a pretty basic bridge that would only have to go up and down about twice per day. The Pageant goes out once and then comes back. That’s the entire operation. I would even offer to hold that bridge up so the Pageant could go through.
It also looked like there was a new problem with the bridge, which looks like it will swing out instead of going up and down. That makes sense since the floats are tall, but that’s probably a lot of weight to swing in one direction or another.
Disney had installed what would be a temporary walkway from the ~half-completed pathway from the Grand Floridian up through the resort monorail station. The temporary walkway would have bypassed all of the boat dock work, which we’ll see momentarily. It even looks like temperature and/or bag check is set up and ready to go. Disney has since removed the tents and the walkway, potentially because they didn’t want more people walking up through the resort monorail area, particularly in the evening when things are busier. It’s also possible that the project simply wasn’t far enough along that it made sense to open a temporary walkway for a short time. And of course, you’re looking at paying a minimum of five or six more cast members to run it. That last part is something Disney is very not into right now.
One other potential question is just how far the walk from the Grand Floridian is over to Magic Kingdom, and when it would make more sense to take advantage of it over the single monorail stop or watercraft, when they’re available. This probably isn’t even two-thirds of the walk and Magic Kingdom’s entrance isn’t in view. That’s the monorail station on the far right. The DVC Tower at the Grand Floridian is also the farthest from the beginning of that walkway over. It certainly would be a pretty walk on cooler days, but you may want to save those legs for touring. At the end of the day, the walk will also feel about 3.7 times longer and is unprotected from the elements. It does get a little windy out there even when it isn’t raining. With the monorail backups, taking your destiny into your own hands by walking is a powerful tool and may be the smarter choice. You don’t have to wait on any transportation. You can just leave when you like.
I almost always walk back to my penthouse at Bay Lake Tower, so I don’t have to try to figure out how to follow Disney’s zany arrows pointing me to where I’m supposed to wait in line for the monorail. I’d probably still be standing here trying to figure this out since the Park reopened in July. This system was so convoluted that they changed it to be more clear. Whether or not that’s clear enough for me to understand remains to be seen. I’m actually still standing here.
The walk from Magic Kingdom to Bay Lake Tower or the Contemporary is about ten minutes. But it’s also just one monorail stop away from Magic Kingdom. Just eyeballing it, the walkway to the Grand Floridian looks longer, but it’s also several more monorail stops away on the way back to the hotel. You’ll be stopping at the Contemporary, Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian (until the station closes on November 2nd), and then the Grand. That trip at the end of the night can take an hour. Bricker says he thinks he can walk from the Grand’s main building to the MK entrance in seven minutes, which probably means 15 minutes for the rest of us. I think there is less wind velocity lower to the ground, which is why he is able to move so quickly. Up where I am, I run into more resistance, slowing me down.
We’ll stop by Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. You’ll remember that the resort is not officially open, but the DVC buildings and Bungalows are, which means a number of amenities around the resort are open, while many others remain shuttered.
Outside, the main work is taking down the wooden-looking beams from above the Great Ceremonial House, which is the resort’s main building. The long pieces of wood and metal look like they would provide a good way for the various bloggers to joust, Highlander style. That may be wishful thinking, but I do have the reach on just about anyone, wind velocity or not.
Disney has installed some protection up top to protect the sun roofs, and also block much of the natural light coming in. A planned medieval joust, done right with plenty of grog ,and without any bathing for several days, would be a nice event. That’s actually not too far off from my regular week. Metal crashing through your sunroof while you’re just trying to take a selfie with your Lapu Lapu may be less ideal. But, if you’re not completely impaled, you could look forward to several hundred thousand views on the Gram if you time the video right and probably come away with a coupon for 15% off the All-Star Sports that will expire before it reopens.
Here we are looking up. Nothing crashing down, unfortunately. I’m sure we were close.
There’s another outdoor view with the crane sticking its nose out in the center. That’s how they get to the roofing adornment.
The semi-strange thing is that according to the concept art, we see similar wood accents up there, though they are spaced further apart. The removal may just be refurbishment time.
I spoke a bit about the strangeness of the timing with the Polynesian work, which is going on at the same that 28,000+ cast members are being laid off. If they had started the project in March, when everything closed, they’d also be about done. It’s possible that internal numbers are showing the Polynesian as being a considerably less desirable resort to stay at than it once was. Based on nostalgia alone, it seems unlikely that one of Disney’s original hotels, and one with some of the best views across the water of Magic Kingdom, would be the resort that I targeted for an overhaul. If money were no object, the Polynesian is where I would stay, in large part to my own nostalgia from a particularly pleasant trip about 18 years ago now. The Polynesian, as it stands, could be in my budget, but I don’t let it be. You can always visit and do just about anything that a regular guests can do other than swim or sleep in your designated room.
While a couple of pylons removed from the top of the Ceremonial House probably isn’t getting too many people to inch forward in their chairs out of excitement, Disney has shared more details: “A Pacific Ocean-inspired color palette, as well as details, patterns, and textures from Disney’s Moana, an animated film that takes place on the Polynesian island of Motunui.”
Disney also said, “One of the biggest changes will greet you right up front – a new porte cochere will showcase the iconic mid-20th century architecture the Polynesian is famous for. Our team from Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney World have crafted a design inspired by colors, patterns and textures found throughout the resort. This new entry features a high-pitched, open-truss roof covered in a thatch style. There’s also a bold façade that features pops of color complementing the Longhouses found throughout the resort. Along the Monorail station, bold new wooden screens will be covered with geometric patterns in bright, tropical colors that complete an exciting new composition that will greet you when you arrive.”
Personally, I think I would have taken whatever they had going before without the big price increases that will likely start in 2022. Already, the absolute cheapest room at the Resort on the absolute cheapest night of the year is $618. A Theme Park View room on a Saturday in the middle of April would set you back $1,252 a night. Just four nights would cost over five grand. That sounds like a lot. And I don’t think it will sound any less expensive with the promise of “textures from Disney’s Moana.”
Disney continues to provide updates in a much more timely manner than they ever have before. You can pull a list of what’s currently available at each resort on DisneyWorld.com here.
This is what they’ve got at the Polynesian:
Disney has so many different divisions, with so many different budgets, with so many different people doing different things, that there may have been money in the budget to go to town on the Poly, at the same time projects that are a lot more visible in the Parks languish. Even so, this is probably the time for someone to realize that, and figure out how to better manage the funds. We’ve already seen a shakeup at Disney+, and I would expect Parks and Resorts to follow.
While I have never had a job before, I have heard of some frivolous spending at the end of the year so that the division’s budget doesn’t go down the following year. If you don’t spend your money, they give you less next year. The project may also be Disney trying to give some key Imagineers a project to work on so they’re not part of the 400+ layoffs in that department. They say an Imagineer without a project is an Imagineer without a job. Take my blog away and I’m not sure where I stand. Probably still out in front of that MK monorail station.
The current setup, with DVC wings open at resorts that aren’t offering regular cash rooms, continues to ring bizarre to me. At Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge, only the 5th floor is open, as that’s where the DVC rooms are located. But the front desk is open, some amount of housekeeping is there, the lights are obviously on, the lobby is kept cool at great expense, the pool is open, but that’s about it. The Mara, the resort’s quick service, is closed, since occupancy is so low. Boma, Jiko, and Victoria Falls Lounge are closed. You won’t really see the cultural representatives or too many activities available either. If you cook or bring most of your meals with you, you’re likely set, particularly if you’re trying to stay away from as many people as possible. I would never fault you for that. But definitely check out what’s available at the resorts as you make a selection. Also consider renting points as you may be able to score a room at a big discount. You just don’t want to show up to Jambo House expecting to grab a quick service dinner at The Mara an hour after everyone has already hit peak hangry.
I did write a post a few months ago titled, “The Bizarre Landscape of Visiting Disney World Resorts,” which highlighted what things were like at the DVCs back in June without the main resorts “open.” It’s not nearly as strange with the theme parks open, but it can be a little Twilight Zone being in the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby with literally nobody else in sight in the middle of the afternoon. Even here at Wilderness Lodge, this cast member is wiping down this table that nobody has touched. Hence, massive layoffs. The work isn’t there.
Back to the Polynesian, check-in has moved to the Pago Pago building, where most of the DVC units are contained. There should always be someone here to check you in and answer questions around the clock.
The main entryway into the resort is blocked off, as almost all of the external work is out front. You’ll need to use a side door to get in the main building. Again, from the Pago DVC, you’re probably already coming in from the side.
Guest Services is sill available in the usual location in the lobby.
There is an A-Frame sign for just about everything other than a link to this website. The Great Ceremonial House, with Guest Services, Shopping, and Dining, will close at 10pm nightly, probably for the next eight or nine months. As far as I know, there is no end date to the construction and permits currently filed extend into August, though that could be conservative. If you are a late snacker, you’ll want to keep that in mind.
Since you can’t go through the front door, signs invite you to continue to the back.
That arrow looks to be a little too easy to turn in another direction.
But with the work Disney is about to embark on, the various walkways may change directions fairly common. On our next stop, we may be headed right for the Great Ceremonial House. Somehow to the right instead.
The monorail station at the Polynesian is currently scheduled to close on November 2nd. According to Disney, “Along the Monorail station, bold new wooden screens will be covered with geometric patterns in bright, tropical colors that complete an exciting new composition that will greet you when you arrive.” That’s the one part of the project that I’m least excited about. The Polynesian Resort is probably understated in its bright, tropical, breeziness. But it’s tasteful and often understated. Bright colors, along with anything from the Italy booth at Epcot, are things that I don’t need shoved down my throat. Of course, we’ll see what the final product looks like and then condemn it at that time.
Guests staying at the Polynesian DVC while the monorail station at the resort is closed can walk over to the Transportation and Ticket Center to take the Resort or Express Monorails to Magic Kingdom, in addition to the ferryboat there. Watercraft transportation from the Polynesian isn’t currently offered as we’ll see the state of the docks on the Magic Kingdom side shortly. The Epcot monorail has not opened because there is little reason for it to operate without park hopping. If you want to go to Epcot, you park at Epcot. The Magic Kingdom area resorts also offer buses with the Resort Monorail down. Bus service is typically a faster process, while the monorail is obviously a lot more novel.
Another Polynesian overhaul is going to be a substantial project lasting several months. We’re only a couple of days into the work, so I’m not sure what too many guests currently on the ground are thinking with little currently underway, but I’d probably elect to stay at a different resort rather late summer 20201, and not have to deal with the construction noise, the shortened lobby hours, the fact that you can’t even enter or exit through the main doors because the whole front of the resort is chained, no monorail service upcoming to Magic Kingdom or Epcot, ‘Ohana remaining closed, and probably a lot more as the next several months bring out more cranes and heavy construction equipment.
Trader Sam’s is also closed, inside and out. The capacity in there might not be that much lower considering the tables are somewhat spread out. When you are in the $70 souvenir tiki mug business, I would probably just go for it. Interest may be lower, but the DVC folks love that stuff and Sam’s is a destination for guests staying elsewhere in its own right. The patio is also incredibly pleasant. I would drink my “Dark and Tropical Stormy” out there any day of the week.
We’ll check back in periodically to see how things are going. Probably not every time they take down one of those accents on the roof.
I do have a thorough review of the Polynesian’s Studio rooms under normal conditions in this post, should you like to take a look inside. These rooms should remain largely or entirely untouched since they will remain open during the refurbishment.
Potentially, the good news is that the Pago Pago rooms are off to the right side of the resort and have their own parking lot. They’re also the closest rooms to the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the walk to the monorails or ferry may even be shorter than going all the way over to the Great Ceremonial House. With most people cozied up in their rooms by 10pm, the main building closure may not come into play that often. Typically, Disney will always take care of you if you start out nice, before making unreasonable demands like a 20% coupon for the All-Star Sports that doesn’t have an expiration date attached.
If you are looking at the Polynesian over the next ~9 months, you’ll definitely want to take the impact of the construction into consideration. Disney typically does a good job of hiding most of what they have going on construction-wise. You may be able to rent points at more affordable rates if demand is down as well. The Vacation Club already has too many points out there, particularly at the Polynesian with those Bungalows, which is why DVC is up and running. Even if it was raining hellfire, and I was screaming random Tomorrowland Speedway wait times from 2006 over a loudspeaker that is just one decibel away from being illegal, DVC would get those points off the books.
During Premier Season, a week in a Bungalow will run you 1,449 points. That’s compared to 239 points in a Studio for the same dates. Disney released the points, with enough to cover all of those bungalows just about 365 days a year, only to find that people weren’t spending their points on the Bungalows very often. Because the Studio is six times less expensive and with significantly less ferryboat honking.
Now outside and disembarking the monorail, you can sort of make out where the path coming in from the Grand Floridian will likely wind around the resort launches.
Those are also under construction in a big way. We’re probably making a lot of modifications so security can set up without it all “feeling” shoehorned in.
There’s a lot going on down here as Disney continues to try to streamline guest flow.
Potentially, this assortment of projects, including the walkway and the boat dock stuff, have been put on the backburner.
We’re going on month 18 or so of this work.
But we’ll see what happens. You would think Disney would want the walkway project done by the time the monorail station at the Polynesian goes down. It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney halts the resort monorail in its entirety in early November, should at least the walkway be done. It would be an even longer walk, but guests staying at the Polynesian can also walk to the Grand Floridian and then continue on to Magic Kingdom once the walkway becomes an option.
When the Resort Monorail is down, planned or otherwise, Disney runs a bus in a loop from the Contemporary to the Grand Floridian to the Polynesian. You’ll see that in the evening now with the Resort Monorail closes earlier than most restaurants and lounges. They could run that bus all day should the resort monorail go down. On the other hand, Disney needs the capacity to transfer guests to and from Magic Kingdom. We may end up with two Express Monorails come November 2nd.
As always, we’ll see what happens. It does look like a long walk out to the Grand Floridian, but at least you won’t have to smell whatever waste is going on in that water hole over on the Contemporary walkway.
Thanks again to Alex for providing 40 photos for this post. I’d say its an auspicious beginning.