Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Disneyland Paris Christmas update

The Disneyandmore site posted this article about the DLP Christmas parade and the status of the new Ratatouille attraction. The theming is definitely Parisian.This site has a lot of information about Disney parks and others around the world.
There is also a link to purchase the Disneyland Paris book, which has been getting very good reviews.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New pins for 2014

Steven Miller posted this article at Disney Parks Blog about new pins expected in 2014.
The Piece of Disney History collection returns in 2014 as a monthly pin collection. Introduced in 2005, each limited edition pin in this collection contains small pieces of items from attractions or shows. For Walt Disney World Resort, the collection will contain items from the former SpectroMagic parade which originally debuted on October 1, 1991. For Disneyland Resort, the collection will contain items from various attractions such as a purple glove that Jessica Rabbit wore in Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin at Disneyland park.
There is also a jumbo pin commemorating the 25th anniversary of Hollywood Studios in May, 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

NextGen perspective

NextGen is sort of the umbrella over its components such as MyMagic+, My Disney Experience and Fastpass+.  This extensive article by Tim Grassey and related comments at MiceChat.com are an indicator of what people think about the new system. 
Without upgrades and additions, My Magic + is going to be largely perceived as a trip planning tool and scheduling assistant. This offers many benefits for Disney from scheduling staff, to offering discounts and setting park hours. More importantly, the perception is that if you have multiple items scheduled such as dining or attraction reservations, you will be less inclined to go elsewhere with your money. There is some logic to this belief, but it is not without flaws.
 Fastpass+ is similar in concept and motivation. It was not driven by guest demand – it was driven by the desire to keep people on property. The belief is that if a guest has multiple ride reservations scheduled, that has value to the guest. From Disney’s perspective, they believe the guest won’t want to concede their reservations in favor of visiting another Orlando theme park.
All of these concepts are logical from a business standpoint, however to the consumer they are nothing more than a repackaging of what is already there. The good news for Disney is that many consumers won’t recognize this as a repackaging. For me personally though, it’s getting increasingly difficult to defend marginal changes to attractions while the competition is making substantial changes.
Looking at many posts about the new system over the past few months, there seem to be several common threads.
  (1)  The system tries to force people to plan weeks or months in advance of their visit, but a significant number of guests prefer to keep things spontaneous. So the impression is that Disney is catering to first timers or people who need to have their "fun" planned out.
  (2)  A side effect of the new system is that restaurants are even more difficult to get into and even the 2nd tier attractions are becoming harder to get into.
  (3)  The Magic Bands are supposed to be more convenient and efficient, but this is not always the case.  There are still long lines at park entrances and a new phenomenon: long lines waiting to get into an attraction with a FastPass+. The bands can be awkward to use.
  (4)  Underneath all the hype and technology is the lack of major additions and improvements  to attractions in the parks.  Not only is it the same old-same old, but even the same old is harder to experience. 
  (5)  Technology-challenged people will find the new system confusing and annoying, so it seems that Disney does not care much about that group.  Without a smartphone and MDE app, a person is not going to be able to have much fun anymore.

The MiceChat article makes a good point, namely that NextGen is here to stay so we might as well make the best of it.  There are many interesting things that could be done with the system, so we can keep giving Disney feedback that they may or may not listen to.  But then there's that dark shadow hovering in the background, namely security.  Nobody seems to want to talk about that but, having created such a big, complicated system, Disney needs to be extremely aware of potential threats.  A successful exploit of NextGen could be incredibly damaging, and the news is full of stories about companies that never saw the problem coming.  Access to millions of accounts is going to keep the bad guys motivated to find or create the holes.

Will these apples fall far from the tree?

DIS News reports that the Disney Channel is going to produce a movie named "Descendants" about the children of Disney villains. Hmm, that title is pretty close to a recent George Clooney film. But, moving along, the movie is scheduled for release sometime in 2015. The basic premise is...
"Beast and Belle rule over an idyllic kingdom with their kind teenage son, who looks to be taking the throne, but his first proclamation involves a shot at redemption for the misbehaving kids of Cruella De Vil, Maleficent, the Evil Queen from Snow White, and Jafar (named Carlos, Mal, Evvie, and Jay, respectively).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review of "Frozen"

This is, I would say, the best Disney Animation Studios movie since "Tangled". The villains were not well-developed, and the motive was also rather thin. I also think that it seemed as if they rushed through the ending where the queen discovered how to make it all better. That was a bit lame.

But the story and visuals leading up to that were all spectacular. I certainly was engrossed in the movie.
BTW, please make sure you see this in 3D, because the short movie that precedes "Frozen" alone is worth paying for! "Get A Horse", in my humble opinion, has the BEST and most effective use of 3D effects that I've ever seen. Literally, my jaw dropped in amazement at what I was seeing on the screen, or was it on the stage? I wished it could have gone on and on, because I wanted to see a lot more.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts on The Magic Bands and My Disney Experience

On this trip, we got to test out the Magic Bands and tested the My Disney Experience extensively for the first time. So here are some thoughts on that process.

1. The Magic Bands are very convenient. No more fumbling with trying to get the key card out, or our admission tickets. I see people not understanding exactly what to do when they're about to enter the park with the Magic Bands, especially if they are using the finger for their biometric identifier on the same hand that has the Magic Band (i.e. when can you move your Magic Band away and then scan your finger. When that happens, the line can slow down.

2. The Magic Bands also made visiting other resorts a lot more convenient. It used to be that one has to show drivers license or some form of ID. Now, all they do is scan the Magic Band.

3. I am of two minds with regards to the FastPass Plus. On one hand, I can see how it is convenient to try and get fastpasses even before one gets to the park, sometime days ahead of time. On the other hand, if you hated the idea of fastpasses before, you'd hate fastpass plus even more. It certainly contributed to even longer/slower standby lines. And the fastpasses also seem to run out quicker for the most popular attractions, especially Toy Story Mania.

4. The fastpass system needs a bit more improvement. In my opinion, the use of the Magic Band actually slowed the fastpass line. I seldom see LINES trying to get into the fastpass line, but now, I'm seeing them rather frequently. At the Kilimanjaro Safari, for example, there is a roped queue line just to get into the fastpass line! Why is this happening? It used to be that it took very little time for a cast member to simply look at one's fastpass ticket to know if one has a valid time to get onto an attraction. Now, with the band, one actually has to stop and spend a few seconds getting the Mickey Symbol just right for the darn thing to turn green. I've seen way too many people who took a little bit longer to get this done, and that's enough to slow down the line and cause a backup when there's a lot of people trying to get on it.

5. There was also an inconsistency in who should get scanned. On some attractions, such as the Safari, only one person in the party needs to be scanned. On other rides, everyone going in must be scanned. We got confused on which attraction does what. They need to have just one, uniform policy on this and get it over with. We did mention this to a cast member who manned the My Disney Experience kiosk at downtown Disney, and she has never heard of having only one member of the party that needs to be scanned. She checked with the back office, and came back with news that this was done only for a small number of attractions on a temporary basis, and that soon, all the rides will require everyone to get scanned to get into the Fastpass line.

6. If you play Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom, you can transfer your keycard info to your Magic Band. However, take note that when you do that, your key card will no longer work. You can only use your Magic Band for all your Sorcerer games. This means that if you get another band on your next visit, you must still bring the old band unless you get it transffered to the new band. And if you lose your Magic Band, you lose info of your game and will have to start from scratch unless you still have your old, disabled key card. Presumably, we were told that your old key card can be used to transfer the info to your new band. It gets confusing. We decided that we will keep using the key card and not have it transferred to the Magic Band.

7. You must still bring your Annual Pass card with you if you want to get your Annual Pass discounts. Even though your Magic Band has your annual pass info for you to get into the parks, it doesn't show that information when you scan your band at the cash registers to pay for your merchandise. So you need the Annual Pass card to get your discounts. The same is true for DVC discounts.

8. The My Disney Experience app and interface still need some tweaking. There are things that are just not that easy to find or not very clear on what they meant. Adding "friends" and "family" is one such example. What distinguished between the two and what can and cannot be done between the two is still unclear. Trying to consolidate different accounts of the same person still requires assistance of a My Disney Experience cast member.

9. If Disney expects that people make use of the My Disney Experience app, then it is imperative that the wi-fi at the parks and at the resorts be reliable. This was not the case for us at Epcot and at MK on two different days. The wi-fi kept dropping off almost the entire time we were there. It was very frustrating. They need to be able to support the large bandwidth and the increasing number of users on their network if they continue to push this ahead.

10. There need to be an ability to have push notification for the app so that one can have a mobile device reminding us of an upcoming fastpass time. As it is now, the only way one can check one's fastpass time is by looking at one's "My Plan". There should be an option where the one can have the app send either a text message or a push notification indicating that one's fastpass time is 5 minutes away, or something like that.

11. Please, please, please consider implementing the Magic Band on the Disney Cruise very soon! It will fit exceedingly well in that situation considering that the darn thing is waterproof. So one doesn't need to have to carry a baggie to put one's key card in so as not to get wet when swimming, or have to give it to someone else to look after. It will certainly be a lot more convenient than having one's key card dangling from a lanyard.


Rumored Disney problems

Well, this article in the Orlando Informer is pretty much doom and gloom for Disney.  The premise of the article is that Disney has spent so much money on the MyMagic+ system, also called NextGen,  that it will have serious consequences down the road. The system has reportedly experienced many bugs and implementation problems, and the cost of fixing these problems is causing things like cancelling plans for Star Wars Land.
The amount of damage this is starting to inflict on the company cannot be overstated. The program has been in development for at least the past five years, with the last two years starting to incur real costs as it continues to tie up more and more R&D dollars and man-hours. Disney’s financial types were counting on the initial roll-out this year to start to boost Disney World’s revenues in 2014, as guests are expected to spend more time on property and more money on souvenirs once every minute detail of their vacations have been planned months in advance and with wallet-less transactions making money out of sight, out of mind. The loss of that revenue is damning; the fact that even more now has to be spent on further patches and upgrades is downright disastrous. (And this is just for Orlando – forget about shipping NextGen to all of the other resorts all across the globe, as was expected to be happening in the very near future.)
Several of us have just returned from WDW and used the My Disney Experience app with the Magic Bands.  Guest Relations seemed to be able to handle questions and problems related to the system pretty well.  The system seemed to be working ok and the Magic Band was convenient to use. You could put the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom key card and Disney Photopass info on the band, although the system is not 100% rolled out as yet.

The issue that the article is addressing is whether so much money has been spent on NextGen that important additions and upgrades to the parks aren't happening.  But, the money spent on NextGen isn't necessarily in the same budgeting category as capital spending on the parks, and there may be significant tax breaks for the r&d time spent.  As has been talked about since more became known about the NextGen system, the difference in approach between Universal and Disney is striking.  Universal is adding and upgrading attractions, and this could begin to seriously draw people away from WDW.  But, the WDW parks are very busy and, at least on the surface, there is no sign that this scenario is happening.

Disneyland submarine attraction to close

Theme Park Insider reports that the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland will close in early January for a long period of refurbishment. There is some speculation that the closure will be permanent, although Disney says the attraction will be back toward the end of 2014. The article states that the submarine ride is expensive to operate and has a low capacity.
...the attraction's location in Tomorrowland, have made it a focus of speculation that Disney will choose to replace it with the new Star Wars attractions that Disney's considering for Anaheim.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 DVC Members Merry Mixer Ornament

This year at the DVC Members Merry Mixer, the parting gift ornament is quite good. Sticking with their theme of toy soldier, this one is one of the better ones that we received..


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Magic Bands

As of this posting, you are able to use your Magic Band as the key card for the SOTMK game.  This needs to be setup at one of the Sorcerer stations, and the key card becomes inactive.  The card and MB will not both be active.  However, if you plan a return visit to WDW and get a new Magic Band, all your game information will be lost.  To make sure your information is there on the next visit, you will need to keep your key card so the game data can be transferred to the new MB if you wish.  If you linked your game to the MB, you would need to link it back to the key card before leaving WDW.  Passholders should be able to use the annual pass as a backup.

Beaches and Cream will take reservations

DIS News reports that Beaches and Cream restaurant will begin taking reservations starting December 18. This news may be met with mixed reactions depending on how you like to experience WDW.  As a small soda-fountain type restaurant, B & C is a fun place to eat and the food is good.  It was often a spur of the moment decision to eat there but, with this new policy, that might become difficult.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cat found

Spoiler alert .The purple cat at HS Spectacle of Lights.

Dinner at Turf Club

We are back at SSR and having dinner at the Turf Club

More lights

More Osborne lights

Osborne lights

At the Osborne lights

Disney visa photo

Standing in line for our Disney visa photo 


At figment


Waiting for crush

Turtle Talk

At crush's turtle talk


Having lunch at sunshine seasons


At Epcot in line for test track

Another perfect morning

Another perfect morning at WDW. Balloon is up. 

We will be at Epcot this morning and then do the Osborne lights tonight.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Fr Wilderness

Seeing the decorations at ft wilderness

Fort Wilderness

At fort wilderness camp grounds

Where in WDW is this?

Gingerbread House

The gingerbread house at grand Floridian.


The tree at Grand Floridian

GF villas

At the DVC villas at grand Floridian 


Afternoon at animal kingdom


At animal kingdom

Late start

After staying up past midnight last night, we are having a late start today. Planning on going to Animal Kingdom later in the morning and then off to Fort Wilderness late in the afternoon.