We continue from Part One of this series, where we reacquainted ourselves with what to expect from Disney’s 50 Year Happiest Magical Legacy Celebration Brought to You By Lyft, or whatever they are calling the 50th Anniversary based on where the darts lodged into the board this time around. I’m partial to Disney’s 50-Year Marvel Pixar Star Wars Empty Your Wallet Live Action Remake Spectacular 2, but for some reason they voted me off the Board of Directors during the last fiscal year. But I’ll make my triumphant return, even if it is via hostile takeover that has absolutely nothing to do with stock options. This isn’t a threat of violence. I’m just going to ask nicely and flash my Pixie Dust Pass. “I’m an Annual Passholder!”
Fortunately, we’re afforded an opportunity to enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the same time, although perhaps less so here in Windtraders in Pandora, where you’ll only find about a third of the merchandise as you might have seen when the new Land opened. On the plus side, the pathway to the exit is far more open.
Shoulder Banshee adoptions are currently unavailable, which means you’ll have to go the old-fashioned way, and illegally strap them to your ankles on a flight back from Vietnam. Or I’m confusing animal trafficking stories again.
While there is a worldwide supply chain shortage of necessities like toilet paper and Mickey Ice Cream Bars (not really, there are plenty of those, much less of the former), it seems unlikely that Disney doesn’t have a warehouse full of the plastic dragons and is waiting with bated breath for that “pent up demand” that they keep expecting to spontaneously occur at Disney World…and Disneyland…and Avengers Campus…and just about everywhere else to actually materialize. Someone on furlough must have the combination to the warehouse full of these ~$80 abominations. Or know where the warehouse is located. Or have the banshee mold. Or whoever is hoarding them in their mother’s basement could return a few. You know, for the children.
The company wasn’t exactly giving the little buddies away before hundreds of banshees mysteriously went from donning the walls of the nursery to “happily rehomed,” but Disney did offer a promotion where your uncomfortable plastic creation would come with a free stand for you to display your figurine at home, just in case your friends had any question as to how dorky you are, or in the unlikely scenario where your wife still speaks to you. I may just be talking about myself during this opening. I assure you there is nothing currently strapped to my legs. I do wear nothing but cargo shorts after all, which makes the importation of illegal species a little more suspect, as customs can just see the rare birds duct taped to my ankles. Anything for a banshee, though.
But currently, there are no banshees to adopt, instead leaving this strange bust of a Na’vi on the left, some other kinds of toys strewn throughout, and then much cuddlier, softer banshee-type characters that should be just as perchable as the much harder, plastic, button-controlled banshee boxes that people used to proudly carry around all day. At least if one of us can figure out how magnets or the tides work to attach them to our shoulders. While there may be no button to make the banshee nod, we can keep things old school, and just give our new friend a little nose boop.
Satu’li Canteen probably remains the Park’s best overall quick service with its variety of fresh food, indoor seating, and refillable fountain beverages, on top of “real” cutlery and bowls/plates:
Who would have thought QR codes would become the real hero? I cycle between Satu’li and Flame Tree Barbecue as my destination of choice, depending on my mood and how close to the other people I want to be. Or in reality, I order whatever new abomination the Disney Flavor Bunker has developed for Pizzafari. You have a choice. I don’t.
Over at Flame Tree, there’s enough seating for an Oakland Athletics game, while Satu’li is usually much busier, particularly when they’ve roped off sections because c*vid doesn’t exist at the Emmy’s or in the Valley of Mo’ara. As if Eugene Levy could have any more luck. Who needs a combover when you can just use Dapper Dan Pomade to slick your eyebrows all the way back. There’s a merchandising crossover Disney is missing out on. The Pomade could even sing to you when you twist open the container. “I am a man, of constant Genie, I’ve been paying, all my day. I bid farewell, to free FastPass, the system where I, was born and raised.” It has a ring to it. These may be niche jokes. Even I don’t understand a third of them.
Pongu Pongu is available if you prefer to drink your calories or are somehow concerned that you’re not going to run into enough sugar over the course of the day. It will also save you a trip over to the Germany Pavilion for a Pretzel. Who needs the Park Hopper upgrade now? Checkmate, Pandora. Speaking of which, you’ve got to watch The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix if you haven’t.
There has to be some way to monetize these floating water leaf things, though I’m still working out how to attach the lilies to people’s shoulders given the fact that we used the world’s supply of magnets on those stupid shoulder banshees that we can’t find. Maybe we can locate some giant magnet that will attract all of the boxes of interplanetary, single-button plastic space dragons at once. Though whoever holds the giant magnet will be lost under a pile of about 700,000 “toys” that Disney may be keeping for Avatar 2, releasing in
2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2023, 2024, Christmas 2025.
Roaming Disney World for years now, I’ve heard some interesting perspectives to say the least. Many of which haunt my dreams or I’ve spent years in therapy desperate to forget. I should probably start a GoFundMe for my sanity. But I think we can agree that moment has passed.
I’ve heard everything from, “Man, these $9 chicken fingers from the Italy booth sure hit the spot,” to, “Wow, the Ratatouille ride really pushes the limits of what I thought was possible from themed entertainment in the 19th century.” But I’ve yet to hear anyone feign excitement for Avatar 4. It’s possible that the only people who will live long enough to see it are James Cameron, submerged with Tom Brady in their respective bariatric chambers, in the director’s submarine deep in the All-Star Sports quiet pool. Now there’s some footage you could put in a movie. But I doubt even Tom could get through a fourth Avatar sequel, and that guy has watched the second season of Ren & Stimpy with Gronk 37 times. Just in the past six months. “Just watching game film, coach.”
Ah yes, the quaint safety of the bushes, where we see that “A Celebration Of” is still added to Festival of the Lion King.
I guess that has a better ring to it than, “The Shortening of the Festival of the Lion King.” That has a bit of a horror-type feel, perhaps because it’s so close to The Shining. I hope there are no squids in Africa. Or ice mazes. Or typewriters.
As least we have confirmation that our $15 per day Genie+ add-on will get us into the Lightning Lane at “The Shortening.” The timing structure on that clock, where it looks to be both counting down to showtime with the little orange letters inside the larger black letters, and maybe displaying the current time, along with counting down to showtime, continues to have me a bit befuddled. But I’m sure the Genie will make all things clear. It’s definitely a clear-cut system. Today is Friday, which means it’s Disney PR bomb day. Check the Parks Blog around 5pm and the bad news may yet roll in.
On the plus side, Disney did add extra showtimes earlier this year, and with every seat now basically filled, the theater is back to full capacity even given the limited seating threat under the day’s times.
Shows, and what we might consider secondary attractions, are where Lightning Lane, Genie Plus, and Individual Attraction Lightning Lane choices most come into play. Potentially, you have two different strategies, much like with a 4th FastPass+ selection. You could book a high priority attraction with a return time farther in the future, or more easily book lower priority FastPass+ selections one after the other. We’ll have to see how Genie+, MaxPass, FastPass+, and the old FASTPASS system meld together into one glorious IT
system disaster. With FastPass+, once you tapped into that third FastPass+ attraction, you’d be eligible to book a 4th FastPass+ immediately. You could theoretically choose a lower-priority attraction, like Lion King, with a closer return time, or a higher priority, like Safaris or Expedition Everest, with a return time further out, depending on your lunch/break/TriceraTop Spin plans.
The regular Genie+ system is supposed to limit guests to just one selection at a time, with no limit on the number of regular selections a guest can make over the course of the day. That’s independent of those Individual Attraction selections that we’ve talked so much about, where guests can book a maximum of two per day. Because why should going to Disney World to go on rides be so complicated? Furthermore, it’s expected that Genie+ will only offer the next available booking window, instead of giving you the flexibility of choosing a return time that better fits your schedule. You wanted spontaneity, and they’re giving it to you, ten-fold.
There will be people entering the Park before it opens with Individual Lightning Lane passes for Flight of Passage, whatever the second Individual Attraction ends up being, and then a third regular Genie+ attraction, which will free them up considerably to accomplish the secondary attractions before paying their way onto the headliners with no hassle outside of being rich and/or majorly in debt. That goes back to our discussion of staying off-site, and using those savings towards paying for rides instead of trying to fight the crowds. Why pay to park at All-Star Sports, then try to jostle for position for a bus that never seems to arrive, only for some jerk from Bonnet Creek to waltz in a few minutes later with a digital handful of the best front-of-line passes, all for less money per day? I guess we’ll see.
Tusker House has reopened as a family-style meal for lunch and dinner:
With distanced meets still the norm, my usual recommendation remains to hold off on most character meals for a time where you can safely hug Mickey and get your t-shirt signed, potentially booking one or two character-sponsored meals depending on your specific situation and the ages of the kids/dad.
I like Topolino’s Breakfast at Riviera, where you can eat and then take the Skyliner to Epcot or Hollywood Studios for rope drop or a late arrival, in addition to seeing Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy in a beautiful atmosphere at the top of Disney’s newest resort.
Of course, you may prefer a theme park restaurant where you don’t have to make any additional travel accommodations. With more traditional Disney buffets moving away from the family-style offerings, it’s possible that others, like Tusker House, will follow in the near-term.
At Topolino’s, it’s always a plated entrée, which some guests may prefer. In my old age, I like to move as little as possible, while still consuming more calories in a single meal than the FDA probably recommends. But who can trust them, anyway? Why spend 15 years studying when a megaphone on Amazon is 30 bucks? And speaking of which, how much does the expiration date on iodine matter?
We’ll have plenty of time to try/suffer through these newish treats, entrees, and snacks over the coming weeks, as we spend a lot more time in the Park trying to nail down the best plan of attack. I’m also considering shutting down the whole operation with the website reading nothing but, “Just Pay.”
Kusafiri, on the left as you walk towards Kilimanjaro Safaris, and just past Dawa Bar/Tusker House, has moved to some newer entrée options. I’m glad they let us know that those are Hand Pies, or I might be liable to use utensils. And who knows what might happen then.
Dawa Bar is back open from 10:30am to 6:30pm most days. It’s not exactly the most inviting setup with the plastic cage and drawstring canvas ties, but I’ve bought plenty a beer from shadier locations.
You can pull up the specifics about hours, cost, and what’s available inside the cage at DisneyWorld.com, here.
When we arrived just after 10am, Safaris was posting 10 minutes. It then went up to 15 minutes closer to 10:30am. The line has currently swelled to 45 minutes at 10:45am, which is still relatively reasonable given peak waits in past years. Granted, it’s still the middle of September. Add Genie+ priority and that standby wait could easily double. “Pay Up” the website recommends.
The FastPass+ sign is covered underneath the Standby-By Entrance arrow as Disney tries to Photoshop Lightning Lane signs that roughly fit the theme of the attraction. As something of a font pro myself, I’d go with Comic Sans here. Sivako!
We wouldn’t ordinarily cheat the system with our Club 33 MagicBands, but when in
Rome Harambe, you have to flex from time to time.
If memory serves, and it may well not, Disney continues to update the video prior to guest boarding. We now see circles at our feet guiding us along. Pretty soon, someone may just pick us up and place us where we need to be at any given time. A blogger can dream, at least. This lens is heavy.
At least both sides of Safaris are operating, lowering waits by as much as half. Most of the slowdown here was caused by animals taking their merry time crossing the various pathways, probably refreshing and considering an early array of beta Genie+ options. Don’t be surprised if a giraffe is sitting next to you at Expedition Everest. They have to sell that PhotoPass add-on somehow.
As previously mentioned, you won’t find any plastic flaps separating the rows on-board the ride vehicles anymore, masks aren’t required, and you may end up boarding with another party if you’re rocking just one or two people in your own.
Protip for you couples/partners/friends/single bloggers: board slowly and let the gate close behind you for a lesser chance that another party will squeeze in with you. You know, blend in with the tourists.
We’ll enjoy a ride through the preserve:
The animals had evidently made their Genie+ bookings and were back to munching on lunch out of the way of the paths, bringing the wait down to 35 minutes. No more need for that extended queue.
Since we’re curious about which attraction Disney may select as its second Individual Attraction Lightning Lane selection, as well as figure out how we’ll want to prioritize our Genie+ selections on the day of, we’ll take a look at waits at Kilimanjaro Safaris:
We’re using the same dates here as we did for Flight of Passage and River Journey, capturing the summer peaks and the August drop-offs. Flight of Passage will no doubt be an Individual Selection, but the second option is less obvious. Na’vi River Journey came in at an average wait of 46 minutes, or less than half of the premier Avatar ride’s 104 minutes. Here, Safaris averages 42 minutes overall, as waits are slower to rise in the morning, and drop off more in the evening than the interplanetary tunnel of love in Pandora.
Here’s a quick refresher on River Journey:
At 10am, the average wait for Na’vi is 50 minutes, versus 51 for Safaris. At noon, Na’vi is 55 minutes, with Safaris coming in at exactly the same 55 minutes. At 3pm, you’re looking at 49 minutes for Na’vi…and 49 minutes for Safaris. Finally, at 5pm, it’s 46 minutes for Na’vi, and 36 minutes for Safaris. Posted waits for Safaris drop more significantly from there and the ride doesn’t operate after dark.
River Journey is obviously the newer ride and one that more people have yet to experience. It’s also more marketable and was a prime Tier 1 selection back in the FastPass+ days, though it played a clear second fiddle to the behemoth screen-based simulator of Soarin’ 2.0. It seems obvious that Disney would be able to justify making the Park’s second-newest ride in Pandora as an Individual Selection, but they also want to sell Genie+ to as many people as possible, and that may be less likely if both Pandora rides must be purchased separately.
At least currently, the expectation is that a guest won’t need to purchase Genie+ in order to buy their way onto the Individual Attraction Lightning Lanes. So there is some back and forth on what makes sense. But you do wonder how much people are willing to spend to experience Kilimanjaro Safaris outside of the $15/day Genie+ environment, versus skipping it, or returning later in the day. Safaris is among my favorite rides, but if the cost is an extra $10 per person, or $40 for a family of four, I may just scroll through old pictures instead.
River Journey is more or less a fixed-capacity attraction – they can load a couple more boats to the track, increasing the capacity by a dozen riders per minute, but it’s nothing like what Disney can do to throttle up Safaris with both loading docks open and all 30+ person trucks on the road. So River Journey’s waits really can’t change much, while there is considerable wiggle room with Safaris, its waits, and hourly capacity.
But with both Pandora rides off Genie+, guests may find less value in paying $15 for the service on top of paying individually for River Journey and Flight of Passage. And they may find more value if they can use their trusted blue ghoul add-on to secure a time for River Journey, and try to figure out some way to get around paying big bucks for Flight of Passage and what you would have to expect would be little bucks for Safaris. Our plan of attack, for those skipping the extra cost of Individual Lightning Lanes, should remain visiting them at the end of the night.
As mentioned before, there is some talk that Disney wants a thrill ride as an Individual Selection, even if it’s aging, older attraction. But Expedition Everest is slated for a lengthy refurbishment, from January 4th of 2022 through at least the middle of April. They could easily use that as an excuse to substitute River Journey or Safaris as an Individual Selection in the meantime. But the Genie+ lineup of attractions at Animal Kingdom is going to look rather paltry with Everest and Primeval Whirl closed for about four months early next year. That only leaves a handful of rides and approximately one shortened show. We’ll ultimately see what Disney decides to do as they remain as mum as possible on what the future holds.
We’ll enjoy a walk over to Asia for lunch at the Yak & Yeti Restaurant, followed by Maharajah Jungle Trek and DinoLand USA, in the next part, along with checking in on Kite Tails progress with just about a week until its official opening on October 1st. Epcot got the apocalypse on water…Magic Kingdom brings a new fireworks spectacular that literally caught the Park on fire during testing, and Animal Kingdom brings…the magic of wind*. We’ll see in about a week.