You can pull up the previous update here.
As far as repurposed oil rigs go, the Tree of Life looks better than most. I actually live inside of an oil rig myself, though I don’t think the operators are aware. The WiFi out here isn’t great, or the posts would come out on time a lot more often. Someone send 5G to the Baltic Sea, please.
ABC Commissary is set to reopen on October 8th. From our look at Park Pass availability, Hollywood Studios is the Park that’s most likely to fill to capacity, with eight or more days in October already taken for each of the ticket types. Any other Park on any other date in October is available for either Disney Resort Guests or Theme Park Tickets Guests. The opening of additional quick services and other offerings likely allows Disney to quietly continue to increase the Park’s attendance cap, even if none of the things that they’re adding are rides or attractions that will actually occupy people’s time. If anything, opening the Commissary just gives the extra people that will be let in another option for lunch that isn’t PizzeRizzo. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Commissary opens on the 8th, and then what is historically the busiest week in October, follows. If Disney wasn’t increasing the number of Park Passes that they’re distributing, and the number of people that they’re letting in, there wouldn’t be a reason to open additional dining venues when the ones that are already open have plenty of walk-up availability.
It doesn’t look like Disney has updated the Commissary’s menu with what will be available in a few weeks:
If they have, then it’s just about exactly what was available before. ABC Commissary is set to be open during lunch, from 10:30am through 4:30pm, and offers extensive indoor and outdoor seating. We’ll tackle any changes should they come in. As you can probably guess, I love going to ABC Commissary to try whatever Shrimp Surprise the quick service has ratcheted together with what has to be yesterday’s seafood. The fact that they’ve had an extra six months to come up with something may be cause for concern. You never want to give the villain more time to hatch their plans.
Half the time, the surprise that comes with the shrimp is that at least part of the meal is edible. The other half of the time, the surprise is that you’ll enjoy an unexpected opportunity to finish that book in the bathroom. No matter how many pages you have to go. Above is the Shrimp & Grits that ABC Commissary used to serve during the paid Early Morning Magic event. At 7:30am. I heard a funny joke last week. “If there was any more oil in that sauce, the United States would invade it.” That was my feeling too as I looked down at this dish, where the main ingredient appeared to be residue. Still better than anything from the Italy booth.
Anything that sounds good on the Commissary menu probably isn’t, like this $18.29 pile of fatty ribs that is just about anything but “dry-rubbed,” as the menu stipulates. Or if there is some dry rub in there, they forgot the second part of the description, which is, “drowned in a grotesquely sweet sauce vaguely reminiscent of barbecue,” and, “cooked to death.” Docking Bay 7 remains your best quick service choice, even if prices are a couple dollars higher than similar food would cost outside of Galaxy’s Edge.
I may be the world’s biggest proponent of lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby, which is a signature restaurant that serves this menu for reservations through 3:55pm:
Service is typically attentive, the restaurant is comfortable, and you’ll be able to enjoy some stress-free time sitting down in air-conditioning. The $19 price on that Chicken Sandwich, which destroys anything you’d find at a quick service, is within a dollar of the price of the ribs at ABC Commissary. The Cobb Salad is actually less expensive. Unless you’re in a big hurry to get back out there, and you probably won’t be because it’s Hollywood Studios, I’d take a good look at Brown Derby, though the menu is limited like most restaurants at the moment.
This picture from behind Flavors From Fire may or may not put its location at Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival into context. You’ll find it on the path around the hole that currently takes up the middle of the Park. If you were looking at Test Track’s entrance, it would be over on your right, past Cool Wash.
You might remember that last year, there was a College GameDay tie-in with plenty of interesting seating. You could set your food and drink down on a table that resembled the desk from the show. This area is now part of the hole, necessitating the Fire to migrate elsewhere. College GameDay has probably also migrated to the site of the Akron State versus Middle Tennessee game. Go Blue Raiders.
This year’s menu is as follows:
- The Corned Beef Corner Route: Smoked Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes, Cheese Curds, Pickled Onions, and Beer-Cheese Fondue – $5.25
- The Chimichurri-up Offense: Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aïoli – $7
- The S’mores Whoopie Pie-lon: Smoked Chocolate Cake, Graham Cracker, Marshmallow, Chocolate Ganache, and Candied Bacon – $4
- Bell’s Seasonal Beer– $4.50 for six ounces or $8.50 for twelve ounces.
- Edmeades Zinfandel, Mendocino County – $5
- Swine Brine featuring Jim Beam Bourbon – $9.50
Other than some unnecessary names for the food dishes, the only new item is, “The S’mores Whoopie Pie-lon.” I’m not sure if we should celebrate whoever came up with “Pie-lon,” or ring a bell and bring shame to their house. I’m leaning towards the latter. Imagine having to say, “Can I get one of The Chimichurri-up Offense and one of The Corned Beef Corner Route? Oh? Blair wants the cake? Let’s do one of The S’mores Whoopie Pie-lon too.”
Flavors From Fire was one of my favorite Festival Marketplaces, in part because it was close to three Marketplaces outside of the old Club Cool building, with several more of the better kiosks lining the walk up to World Showcase on the Imagination Pavilion side. There was also an air-conditioned building next door that had housed the Light Lab. “Location, location, location.” All of that is now gone or unavailable.
With few dining choices on the side of Future World where Flavors From Fire now sits, and with Space 220 set to open sometime after we actually colonize Mars, you may want to stop for some of the better values at the Festival. The booth may only open on weekends or busier days, like The Alps Marketplace. You can pull up my full review of last year’s offerings, which are 83.3% the same, here. We’ll get over there ourselves when the Pac-12 football season starts, or the day that the Festival ends, whichever comes first. You can pull up WDWNT’s review of the Whoopie Pie, which includes 15 pictures of the Chocolate Pie-lon, here. When it comes to cake, you don’t want to leave anything to the imagination.
Demolition has picked up on the east side of the hole, where Electric Umbrella and Original MouseGear once stood. It’s likely that the Starbucks will move over there, along with a new quick service concept, and the reopening of a large store. The name MouseGear might be played out, but MouseGrind has a ring to it. That may be how you describe your day at Hollywood Studios.
Whether or not work starts on that snazzy new Festival Center where Club Cool, Fountain View Starbucks, and Character Spot used to sit remains to be seen. Disney has removed a number of references to it, and also didn’t highlight the construction of the building as one of its priority projects during a recent round of interviews with investors. It’s also possible that like us, they simply forgot that Epcot existed while the interviews were underway. Epcot is sort of like most people’s attics. You don’t always remember that it’s up there because the ground won’t support your weight, but birds and rodents find it quite hospitable.
Dessert Parties would likely print money from the Festival Center’s planned rooftop terrace, but you would be a good distance away from the action on the lagoon. The building would go up behind the wall that says “imagination” in the distance. You may have to use exactly that if you ever want to see the proposed Festival Center. If you needed any help convincing investors that building a new dessert party venue would prove profitable, you could probably bring a $4 cupcake from Publix along, point at it, and tell the bankers that you’ll be able to charge $89.99 per person for the equivalent of half of that cupcake once the new space opens. They could always fly kites into the buffet to make you “feel” closer. “Yeah, we really felt like we were right on top of the show. Kites even knocked three straight glasses of wine out of my hand and my wife was run over by a jet ski. But to be fair, we weren’t paying much attention once that kid started singing Aladdin.”
The Swan & Dolphin Resorts will let 1,100+ people go in November as occupancy numbers remain too low to sustain the operation at previous levels. This is at the same time that construction continues on an expansion of the resort complex. Tens of thousands of theme park employees remain furloughed or have been permanently laid off in the past weeks and months.
While that’s going on, Disney continues to push its #DisneyCreators advertising campaign, where the company has now put the various “personalities” up at the Yacht Club and BoardWalk for free. For some reason, that part is omitted from their post. I would go out on a limb and guess that none of them have “created” any content about the current state of the hole at Epcot or the difficulty in securing a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. You can totally trust them to bring you a realistic view of the theme park experience, though. Maybe they will change the hashtag to #UnderDisneysThumb.
Perhaps because the various stalls in the Marketplace at Galaxy’s Edge are limited to about one person at a time, merchandise from the distant planet of Batuu will soon arrive at shopDisney.com (the ‘s’ is lowercase) and Star Wars Trading Post at Disney Springs. The Parks Blog has all the details, including an opportunity to vote on the next legacy lightsaber that will be available, here.
As a longtime Lord Corvax enthusiast, I think I would have to head in that direction. I’m actually writing this post as I drive to Wal-Mart to see if they have any of the Lord Corvax Black Series figurines that had a limited production run of just the one figure. As you may be aware, Lord Corvax had a pretty rough go of it. After dying in battle (spoiler), his wife tried to resurrect him, only to trap him between the living world and the after-life, in addition to destroying the lush landscape of the planet they inhabited and transforming it into a boiling, volcanic hellscape. I think we’ve all been in that relationship.
While each of the recent theme park lands has enjoyed thematic integrity for some time after opening, it has proven inevitable that the merchandise eventually leaks out. Harry Potter World over at Universal is famous for its tiny stores and lack of Coca-Cola. For what was probably years, Universal offered its Wizarding World merchandise exclusively inside Hogsmeade. Now, you’ll find plenty of Harry Potter stuff, including wands and chocolate frogs, everywhere from the store just inside the Park entrance, to the store outside on CityWalk, to the two stores at the airport. The same was true with Pandora, though it’s difficult to imagine that demand was high for any of that stuff. The shoulder banshees were popular for about two seconds. With Hollywood Studios limiting the number of guests who can enter each day, and with millions of people choosing to stick the rest of the year out at home, it makes sense that the merchandise will be more widely available (likely on eBay).
We’ve got another full week in the books. Let’s take a look at Animal Kingdom’s daily average waits since the Park reopened:
If you’ve been following these posts over the last couple of weeks, what you see shouldn’t come as a surprise. This past week, without any holidays or anything else to drive attendance higher, we saw the longest waits yet. The most recent week’s average is almost three times as long as the first full week, almost twice as long as the second full week, and a 40% increase over just two weeks ago. Waits are also higher than last week, and the week before, each of which included two days of the popular Labor Day Holiday weekend. This past Friday’s wait times were longer than any Friday yet. But, there is some good news. While Saturday’s waits were longer than the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, they did actually go down 1.7 minutes versus last Saturday. That’s something.
We’ll have to see how things look this week, but it appears like wait times have somewhat normalized. If we know what to expect, we’ll have a much better idea about what we’re able to do, and how we want to do it.
Here’s the most recent chart for Saturday, September 19th:
We’ll probably need two sets of touring plans. One for weekdays and one for weekends. Saturday’s 29.4-minute average is over twice as long as Tuesday and nearly twice as long as Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Longer waits on Friday likely point to local visitors making a long weekend out of a trip.
Looking over wait times, things remain relatively doable for the most part, but you’re inevitably going to wait in some lines if you visit on a weekend. By 10:15am, or just over an hour into the day, Flight of Passage is at 75 minutes, Expedition Everest is at 30 minutes, Kilimanjaro Safaris hits 60 minutes, and Na’vi River Journey comes in at 45 minutes. An hour later, waits have increased by another 20% or so. With the early 5pm close, there isn’t much of an opportunity for waits to drop off at the end of the day. That 30+ minute average that’s realized at 10am basically continues through 3:45pm, or a little over an hour before the Park closes at 5pm. In that last hour, most people probably want to return to Na’vi River Journey around 4pm, so you’re sure you have enough time to get over to Flight of Passage after.
It will be interesting to see how wait times look on the 20th, which is the first day that Disney extended the close to 6pm. If that comes with a bigger capacity increase, then it may be a wash. Last Sunday saw the longest waits yet, so it’s hard to imagine them getting much longer. But I also would have had Labor Day Weekend being less crowded and with lower wait times than the week after. That clearly isn’t what happened.
Here’s Epcot on Saturday:
Epcot’s average is virtually identical to last Saturday’s, which also rounded to 28 minutes. Even with the best possible operating day, with Test Track somehow running from Park open to close, we still see some startling peak waits. Frozen is at 80 minutes at 5pm. Journey into Imagination hits 35 minutes less than two hours after the Park opens. Soarin’, which is almost always posted at ten minutes on weekdays, sees a 65-minute wait just 45 minutes after Epcot opens at 11am, and would peak even higher. Test Track opens with 75 minutes and doesn’t go down much from there. Spaceship Earth posts 45 minutes at one point. Even The Seas with Nemo is 40 minutes before it drops to five minutes for most of the day. Those waits aren’t far off of what we used to see in the FastPass+ days before the March closures.
As a comparison, here’s Epcot on this past Thursday:
Like the other Parks, weekend wait times are virtually double that of weekdays. If you can avoid the weekends, you’ll obviously be in the best shape. You might also want to make a Saturday or Sunday a half-day, taking advantage of the relatively short waits to start or end the day. Epcot looks a lot better at 5pm than it does at 12:45pm.
Here’s the Studios with the week filled in:
The Studios easily saw its busiest week since the Parks reopened in the middle of July. The overall average for the week is more than double that of the first full week. They’re also 70% longer than two weeks ago and over 30% longer than just last week. A 70% increase turns a 20-minute wait into a 34-minute wait or a 50-minute wait into an 85-minute wait.
A little over a month ago, I wrote, “Worst Case Scenario Waits on a Capacity Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.” Above was the chart attached to that day, which was the first that the Studios had run out of Park Pass availability across all three ticket segments. That was a Saturday with a 28-minute average for the day. Fast forward about five weeks and we have a 43.2-minute average, an increase of 54.3%.
Here’s the chart from Saturday, September 19th:
That high average is with a pretty solid day of operations, at least as far as downtime is concerned. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster goes down for about 15 minutes twice over the course of the day, Star Tours opens a little late, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is down during the last hour. Outside of that, this is the best you could hope for under the current conditions.
We’ll be going over a rope drop arrival in detail over the coming days. With a 49-minute average wait across the rides and Muppet*Vision just 30 minutes into operation, we’re not going to have a whole lot of places to hide. Or, they’ll end up hiding us in the old FastPass+ return area for Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage because that’s where the end of the line for Tower of Terror starts.
Onto Magic Kingdom:
As expected, it was the busiest week yet at Magic Kingdom, too. Though it was close. This past Saturday’s average of 28.4 minutes was the highest that the Park has seen since reopening. The increases are incremental at least, with most within about a minute of the week before. Monday’s 18.2-minute average is lower than the week before because that was the Labor Day holiday.
Here’s the chart for Saturday the 19th:
Fortunately, we do still see the relatively slow rise in morning waits. People inevitably get delayed with the various modes of transportation running at limited capacities. By 10:45am, or less than two hours after the Park opens, things do begin to look rougher with a 50-minute wait at it’s a small world to start the chart out. Magic Kingdom is large enough and has enough attractions that you can still enjoy a pleasant day, but there aren’t going to be a lot of rides with short waits come 11:30am on a weekend. Waits do drop off in the final hour, but not nearly as much as we’d see with a later close. While Disney has extended the hours on certain dates at Animal Kingdom and Epcot, they’ve yet to make any changes at Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, despite the fact that those are the two most popular Disney World theme parks at the moment.
It will be interesting to see if these waits are sustained next week as we enter what could be the “newer normal” phase. Just about all of the national media reports came from that first week when wait times were half of what they are now. We’re talking about two very different experiences. I would guess that a lot of people are currently arriving with expectations that are quite different from the realities on the ground. You might pass along to someone visiting in the coming weeks that it isn’t July anymore. And that isn’t a good thing.
Current Disney Park Pass System Availability
Park Pass availability is tightening for Theme Park Tickets Guests and Disney Resort Guests. Next Saturday, Epcot is the only Park currently available for either ticket type. If the past is any indication, Disney will end up adding more spots for the other Parks later in the week. With demand apparently increasing, it’s no surprise that Disney is looking at opening additional venues, and increasing the number of Park Passes that it distributes each day.
October looks the same as last time with Hollywood Studios already filling to capacity from October 9th through the 16th.
The Sunday of Thanksgiving Week has also filled for Disney Resort Guests and Theme Park Tickets Guests as far as Hollywood Studios is concerned. Every day from December 1st on still shows availability for all Parks on all dates.
Here’s Passholders in September:
Passholders continue to have it worst on weekends.
As we look over October, more dates are yellow, indicating some Park Passes are unavailable:
If there’s any takeaway, it’s that a surprising number of locals are employed gainfully enough that they aren’t able to visit during the week.
You can pull up a live, but not entirely accurate, version of the Park Pass calendar here.
Operating Hour Changes
We’ve got three:
- Sunday, September 27th: Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am to 6pm from 9am to 5pm
- Saturday, October 3rd: Epcot hours extended to 11am to 8pm from 11am to 7pm
- Saturday, October 10th: Epcot hours extended to 11am to 8pm from 11am to 7pm
Disney also added the hours for November 29th through December 5th:
They’re the same as the other dates after Thanksgiving:
- Animal Kingdom: 9am to 5pm
- Epcot: 12pm to 8pm
- Hollywood Studios: 10am to 7pm
- Magic Kingdom: 9am to 7pm
As always, they’re subject to change, as we’ve already seen with a handful of extensions. You can pull up the official hours at DisneyWorld.com, currently through December 5th, here. They’ll likely add another week on Friday.
That should get you caught up.