You can pull up the previous day’s update here.
While we haven’t run into a lot of newsworthy happenings over the last week that we couldn’t immediately find some excuse to gloss over – other than the 40 points brought up by Disney’s fourth quarter and full year earnings report, today brought a host of fresh revelations that we have no choice but to consider. You would think that it would be easier to hype things one at a time, but every once in a while you just go for the Mickey Mouse equivalent of a haymaker punch. I realize that this has probably never crossed anyone else’s mind before, but I often wonder what Mickey Mouse would be like if he had a much deeper, sterner voice. No more, “Heya Pal, that Maleficent Lemonade sure does look tasty! You’re brave for even trying it! Now let’s all squeeze together. Say cheese!” Instead, you’d get, *in a very deep voice* “Hello brother. I tasted that insipid concoction during my previous, all-too-brief break. I can see why there’s so much left in the cup. Truly putrid and an embarrassment to the pristine legacy of Big Top Souvenirs. Let’s go through the motions of preparing for the photograph. Smile like you were able to get a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, even though we both know you failed in securing your entire family spots not once, but twice. QUICKLY NOW.” Maybe we’ll hope that Mickey doesn’t come of age in the immediate future.
Something tells me that Nihilist Minnie is not next in The Main Attraction collection, though I admit that I did not watch the “Galaxy’s Edge: Storytelling Through Merchandise” panel from D23. We will apparently be getting a red droid and a wooden Boba Fett doll. Potentially, how Disney goes about creating merchandise for a new land or property from scratch might be interesting, but they’ve been milking Star Wars for all it’s worth my entire life. If there’s junk out there to stick in a storage unit, unboxed, or display in a room that’s off-limits to guests because the sheer amount of it embarrasses your husband, chances are that we’ve seen some version of it already. Even the movies have come out nineteen different ways in 37 different formats. It’s probably not a coincidence that each merchandise iteration is more expensive than the last. “Build-A-Lightsaber” and “Build-A-Droid” have been around for years at a cost of $15-$50 or so. Savi’s Workshop and Droid Depot take these experiences to the next level, at a cost starting at $200 and $100, respectively. It’s possible that “Storytelling Through (More Expensive) Merchandise (That Already Existed in Some Capacity Before)” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Virtually all of today’s news comes from one of either two places. This Disney Parks Blog Post. And this IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) keynote speech by Josh D’Amaro, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products.
And then most of the images we see are from this unnarrated, minute-and-a-half long video. Considering I’ve received longer clips of my niece attempting to eat her first spoonful of Cheerios, you would think Disney could have expanded on the status of their own projects a bit more. But with most people’s attention spans coming in around 12 seconds these days, short and sweet is probably the way to go. I don’t know much about that myself. But then again, I’m not sure what the difference between one longer post and twelve three-sentence posts is. You can always come back later. The website doesn’t usually self-destruct. But it does sometimes so please keep scrolling.
EPCOT is where the majority of the projects currently underway continue. Disney shared an up-close picture of this barge, which is expected to erupt in fire during Harmonious, the new nighttime spectacular that will debut at the Park at some point.
Disney shared this video of what they’re calling a “Groundbreaking Ride System” at Guardians of the Galaxy. To me, it looks like somebody took Spaceship Earth, put it on the spinning mechanism from Primeval Whirl, and turned the speed dial up to about 3.5. But at some point, the hamburger was groundbreaking in its own right. Somebody had bread. And somebody had a meat patty. They came together and the hamburger revolution began. The video does look like a pleasant way to watch 3,712 different screens over four minutes.
Disney is referring to it as an “Omnicoaster,” despite “OmniWhirl” being available. I was under the impression that omnimover referred to the never-stopping part rather than the turning part. But maybe that is why Disney classifies Spaceship Earth as the longest roller coaster on earth. They’re also calling it a “family-friendly storytelling coaster,” which may eliminate any hope for a backwards launch similar in intensity to the one at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Expedition Everest. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it would have been something a little more intense than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before today.
It will be interesting to see what the capacity of this thing is with just four people per vehicle, or roughly the same number of people who would fit in a honey pot on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Omnimovers like Spaceship Earth(?), Haunted Mansion, and others typically don’t stop during load/unload, unless somebody needs more time to get adjusted in the seat. We’ve probably all been on one of those rides when it has come to a stop for that reason. Great for pictures. Those without cameras may be a little less enthusiastic. If you’re supposed to board Guardians while the vehicle is in motion, and it needs to slow down or stop, hopefully the ride continues as usual for everyone else currently experiencing it. Otherwise, you’d come to a complete, hard stop in the middle of the ride. If the vehicles stop to load so few people, it’s hard to imagine this thing moving through too many people per hour. Obviously, it’s possible that there will be a lot more vehicles than we see launching from several different tracks. Over at Universal, Rip Ride Rockit theoretically loads on a conveyer belt, but it always seems to have to stop so someone can climb over to the far seat anyway.
It looks pretty Space-Mountain-esque to me. At least if you added duct tape to the pillars in different colors to indicate the likelihood that they’ll imminently collapse. Disney didn’t offer any additional details on opening, so 2022 seems like a decent bet.
Disney confirmed what we probably already knew – Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot is opening sometime next year.
I was hoping we would learn something a little more specific, such as which half of the year, or a season, or a month, or an exact day, or something. I don’t need an hour. I’m not unreasonable.
getting this golden sign is going to be easier than i thought pic.twitter.com/E9j3CTEAn1
— josh (@easywdw) November 13, 2020
Disney supposedly wants to run it avec French cast members, which isn’t currently possible with the international college program paused. Disney would like to begin recruiting early next year, but that may or may not be tenable. The various Festivals have carried EPCOT for some time, but it needs these new rides to breathe some permanent life into it.
If we all pool our money together, they may only laugh at us for a few minutes when we turn up at the Stat Wars Hotel with $142.37 trying to reserve a cabin for the night:
Not that they would let us anywhere near check-in. I’m guessing that this is the one part of the galaxy where the Stormtroopers are effective in removing outlaws, as defined by not having enough credits to even see inside.
Some of us have criticized a number of Disney’s recent room renovations as being overly bland and not far off what you’d expect from the local Marriott. The rooms above look to be depressing for exactly the opposite reason – it almost looks like you’re staying in a space-age storage container with cubbies for your children and a single queen bed taking up the majority of the space. Granted, the idea is that you probably won’t be spending much time here as this is basically modeled around a two-day experience aboard a cruise ship with Hollywood Studios as your port. This might be the one time where I’d prefer Nassau. Otherwise, we’re going to need to fit 8-12 bloggers in each one of those bunk beds or we’re never going to be able to afford what I’m sure will be comp’d for the bloggers who spend the next two years falling in line. There is still no known opening date or price for the Starcruiser.
While a mention of its existence didn’t make the Parks Blog post, there is a snippet in the video about the Space 220 Restaurant coming to Epcot. It was originally supposed to open in December of last year. I thought at some point they would start counting down from 220 to indicate that we were closer to opening. Maybe by now, we’d be around Space 194 Restaurant.
This is apparently from inside the building. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the quality of the 250-foot projection screen that wraps around the restaurant. At this point in development, after a delay of about a year, you would think they could really wow us with a wide shot. This looks like it’s from Microsoft Flight Simulator ’98. During the boring part.
Somewhat surprisingly, Chef Morimoto will present the “12 Beers of Christmas” at his restaurant at Disney Springs on Sunday, December 6th. Tickets are available here. I have been to previous events and they are a lot of fun and a great value with unlimited access to some great food and beer. Things will likely be a little different this year with limited capacity and multiple seatings. Previously, it was a lot of fun to mingle with other guests while trying a diverse array of food and drink. I would imagine people will generally be seated and keep mostly to themselves this year. Note that the actual cost after tax and gratuity is about $93/person.
Disney’s Tilak Mandadi spoke about the “metaverse” a little earlier in the day than I was ready to have my head explode:
According to Wikipedia, “the Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet. The word “metaverse” is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning beyond) and “universe”; the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.
This is probably a bad time to bring up the fact that this is the same company that can’t figure out how to move your current online gift card information from the current system to the next. Or couldn’t find a Park Pass reservation on the day of reopening if it was made by someone else. Or couldn’t really figure out the whole MagicBand thing for two years. Something tells me they’re not ready to take on the metaverse. Figure out the first verse before you reprise it.
Mandadi mentions a “Windows to the Wild” program that should use similar virtual reality technology to what we recently saw at Circle of Life: Harambe at Night – an event that I just happened to link to a couple of days ago. It’s kind of neat in that you do really feel like you can walk around the environment while immersed in the headset. And you look pretty silly flailing about to everyone not wearing one.
Tilak also mentioned the Disney Genie app, which the company announced in August of last year, and I don’t think has acknowledged since:
The official blog post is available here.
Interestingly, Disney is promising to do exactly what a number of apps already try to accomplish – order your itinerary in a way that minimizes waits. I think the expectation is that the software would be bad, sending you where you don’t want to go in order to distribute crowds more evenly. For example, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start your day at DINOSAUR because wait times won’t even hit ten minutes for at least an hour. There are other priorities. But Disney Genie might send you there in order to reduce waits at attractions like Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey. If enough guests actually use it, then Disney may be able to distribute crowds better. It seems unlikely, particularly if we can take advantage of more people going to lesser attractions first, which would open up the priorities even more. For a time, Disney sold tickets with pre-booked FastPass+ experiences for “guest convenience.” These tickets would come with something like Dumbo, The Barnstormer, and Winnie the Pooh as your selections. Not exactly Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Splash Mountain. The tickets were merely a way for Disney to move less-popular FastPass+ out of the day’s inventory, while keeping more popular attractions available for more knowledgeable guests to book.
It will also be interesting to see if the app puts any pressure on Disney to actually be “right” about their wait times. After all, if they’re going to tell you straight up that Expedition Everest is going to have a 5-10 minute wait after lunch, they better be right. The app was supposed to be launched in “late 2020,” which would probably qualify for around now, but has been delayed indefinitely.
Mandadi went on to say:
Our guests truly embraced the digital conveniences. We saw food and beverage mobile order utilization skyrocket from 9% to 84% – and nearly 90% of all payments are now cashless. We further enhanced the virtual queues we introduced when we opened Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction. We leaned on work done with our friends at Hitachi to leverage predictive technology to keep our rides running with minimal disruptions. Direct-to-Room, at Walt Disney World Resort, now allows guests to bypass the front desk as our app handles check-in, room availability and can even be used as a room key.
He doesn’t mention the part where you either use mobile order or starve, and has probably never tried to join a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance, but it sounds positive nonetheless. His full statement is available here.
We begin with our usual chart of Animal Kingdom’s average daily wait since it reopened on July 11th:
Animal Kingdom returned to its usual weekday schedule of operating from 9am to 5pm, after being open from 7am to 7pm from Friday through Sunday. Nonetheless, the weekend crowds did dissipate, and the Park realized its lowest average wait since last Thursday, and one that’s well below-average compared to the last month.
Here’s the chart:
This is more of what we like to see, with wait times dropping off after 3:30pm, and short waits at most attractions to start the day. Last Friday, you may remember that we actually saw waits go up substantially as the 7pm closing time approached. That shouldn’t be true from Monday through Thursday as there’s little to keep people around without dinner, Rivers of Light, the Tree of Life Awakenings, etc. off the table with the 5pm end to the day.
Waits at Epcot were right around average for the month at 21.977 minutes. That’s about ten minutes lower than the weekend average. Test Track had a great day, operating without disruption and posting an average wait of just 42 minutes for the day. Frozen also sees a 58-minute average. We may see Frozen’s waits drop more and more as Disney installs plastic barriers in between the rows in order to seat each boat closer to full capacity. More people per boat means a lower wait. They’ve installed similar barriers at Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which should also help increase capacity and reduce waits moving forward.
The Studios returned to its usual operating schedule and actually posted an average wait that was longer than the days over the busier weekend with the longer operating hours. Not by a whole lot, though, at least in Saturday’s case. Monday’s average of 44.2 minutes is actually lower than each of the past eight Mondays. That’s likely in part with the quiet increase in capacity at the Railway. It’s all about the same at the Studios.
Here’s the chart anyway:
This is about the epitome of an average day. Over the last two months, the weekly average is 44.1 minutes, or within a few seconds of the day’s 44.2-minute average. Actual waits are typically 30% lower than what’s posted most of the day, and 50%-70% lower than what’s posted at the very end of the night. Keep that in mind as you look over the chart. Along the bottom, we only have an hour of “red” wait times, indicating an average of 50+ minutes for that time slot. A lot of those yellow numbers are still 47 or 48 minutes, though.
Magic Kingdom returned to its usual operating hours and came away with its longest average wait in about ten days. You’d have to go to the weekend before last to find a longer average. But we’ve seen averages this high on Monday before – on five of the last seven Mondays it looks like – so there isn’t necessarily a surprise there. Last Monday’s 21.1-minute average sure would have been nice. It remains strange to see Disney extend hours on the weekend, and in turn reduce waits, but then not do so on other days with similar attendance. Compared to Sunday, Monday’s waits were more than 27% higher. That’s not what you would intuitively expect moving from the weekend to the workweek. It’s also a good example of how a day with similar or lower attendance can actually have longer wait times than a day with higher attendance and longer operating hours/improved staffing. While our advice has typically been to avoid the weekends, in some circumstances, the longer hours actually help lower waits. That seems to be most true at Epcot, and to a lesser extent, Magic Kingdom.
Here’s the chart:
It’s a pretty rough looking day, likely in large part due to capacity/staffing cuts compared to the weekend operation. This week is significantly less crowded than last week based on Park Pass availability, so you’d think you would see lower wait times along with it. That’s obviously not the case so far. Outside of Mine Train posting unusually long waits out of the gate, these just look like your standard high wait times. I would expect waits to drop a bit over the next two days.
Current Disney Park Pass Availability
The Studios is now sold out for Disney Resort Guests and Theme Park Tickets Guests throughout November. Magic Kingdom is the second-likeliest Park to have no current availability.
The song remains the same in December:
Disney is yet to add more availability to the Studios after December 19th. After they do, it should turn some of those dates around Christmas green. Still, busy days closer to the holiday are filling. Currently, only Animal Kingdom is available on New Year’s Eve. It’s unlikely any of the Parks will do much to celebrate.
There’s actually an update for January, 2021:
The Studios is now unavailable on the 3rd of the month. It’s likely Disney will add more spots to that date along with the 1st and 2nd as the new approaches.
We trust Passholders can figure it out, but here’s November:
Some days are completely sold out.
December remains largely the same:
In January, Hollywood Studios is sold out on Saturday, January 9th, as it was the last time we checked. Magic Kingdom on October 1st is also showing no availability.
You can always pull up Disney’s “live” version of this calendar here.
Operating Schedule Changes:
We should see another round on Friday.
Interesting Menu Changes:
Satu’li Canteen added its Thanksgiving exclusives. A lot of quick services and restaurants have special offerings on Thanksgiving, so check over some menus if you’re looking for somewhere to eat that day.
Woody’s Lunch Box, which still hasn’t reopened and currently isn’t posting any operating hours, added a new Plant-based entrée to the menu. I would reiterate my hesitation with food that arrives in quotations. Yesterday, it was “Lobster” that was actually Hearts of Palm. “Cheddar” could “literally” be anything. There’s absolutely no telling what it’s going to be made out of, other than plants. In an even more conspicuous play, they also took “Cheese Sauce” off the menu. So you couldn’t even get some real fake cheese for your fake cheese sandwich if you wanted.
The 4 Rivers Truck is back with a new menu. It has moved to the same area as the other food trucks on the West Side of Disney Springs near Jaleo and House of Blues:
It may be worth seeking out if you don’t have a reservation elsewhere as the food is quite good. It’s not the most convenient place to eat it, though.
Regal Eagle has switched from Cheddar to American Cheese. I really don’t understand this war on Cheddar.
Anaheim Produce at Hollywood Studios, which is on the left side of Sunset Boulevard as you walk towards Tower of Terror, now serves Mickey Ice Cream Bars and Sandwiches.
That should get you caught up.