Thursday, December 29, 2016

Changes To Rope Drop At The Magic Kingdom

Beginning Jan 9, 2016, there is a new "rope drop" procedure at the Magic Kingdom.

The new format will allow guests to enter Main Street before the park officially opens, the post says. The show, the name of which has not been announced, will begin at the designated park opening time. "A Royal Herald will appear to deliver a proclamation and welcome a few familiar characters to the stage, officially opening the park so 'the magic can begin!'" the post says.

Supposedly, the train station at the entrance to MK will be undergoing a refurbishment. There is no word if this new rope drop format will be permanent, or if the old rope drop show at the train station will come back after the station's refurbishment.

Still, with this new format of letting guests all the way to the Hub, if Disney is smart, they'll open all the shops along Main Street. Just think about it. Captive audience, waiting for the opening of MK, and you have the Emporium, you have Starbucks, you have Jewelry store... what better way to get people to browse through the store and entice them to buy something!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

WDW Opens Passholder Entrance Line

All I can say is: Well it's about Freaking Time, Disney!

We have reports this morning that all 4 theme parks at WDW have separate park entry lines for Passholders.

The benefit begins Wednesday, Dec. 21, and is scheduled to run into sometime in January, a Disney spokeswoman said Tuesday. She said the option was designed as a thank you for folks who had purchased an annual pass.

The designated entrances will be at all four Walt Disney World parks, including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom. Passholders should look for signage after going through each park's security checkpoint, the spokeswoman said.

This should be a win-win for many guests. Passholders tend to know what they're doing and can get through a ticket line quickly, unlike infrequent guests. Other guests will have lines hopefully will be shorter since the passholders are in line elsewhere.

This is going to be instituted for the peak busy season right now, but I hope they make this permanent. And how about extending this also to DVC members who do not have annual passes? Again, these are people who are familiar with the theme park and, presumably, know pretty well how to get through the theme park entrances.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Crossroads Plaza Faces Possible Demolition

The Crossroads shopping plaza just outside of WDW (corner of Hotel Plaza Blvd and SR535) faces the possibility of demolition as part of the expansion of the interchange between SR535 and I4.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans to eventually reconfigure an Interstate 4 interchange at State Road 535 with a design that would require demolition of the shopping center.

Right of way acquisition for the project is scheduled from 2018 to 2022. So far, no construction date is scheduled.

We used to shop at Goodings regularly when we were there many years ago before we found a Winn-Dixie further down the street. Now, the only time we go there for is to dine at this wonderful South Indian restaurant called Dakshin. Not only is that restaurant conveniently located, but the food is good as well.

I hope they manage to do something to at least save part of the plaza and get this restaurant to stay. Otherwise, we will miss it and will have to hunt for a good Indian restaurant near WDW, which isn't an easy thing to do.


Monday, December 05, 2016

The Death Star unveiled

Due to lucky timing at an EPCOT bus stop, I got this photo of the dome transformed into the Death Star. This was part of a special late night Star Wars event that reportedly sold out in 38 minutes.

M & M Shanghai style

Maquette of the real pair at the entrance to Disney Shanghai

EPCOT at night

Walked into a power outage and found the Rogue One sign. The dome will turn into the Death Star later, but we don't have tickets.

Morimoto dessert

The Cream Caramel with sesame air cake and Yuzu sauce.


Inside Morimoto at Disney Springs.

Here's looking at you kid

The Branzini sea bass at Morimoto. This fish was definitely food not a friend.

Not your ordinary beef

An appetizer of Waygu A5 beef at Morimoto. Reputed to be the best beef in the world.

Christmas tree at the Polynesian

Don and the Caballeros

Donald thinks they got his likeness right, and the two other guys are ok too.

Donald's Christmas stocking

Don has found the perfect stocking to hang by the fireplace, or somewhere in his Duckberg residence.

Gingerbread gelato

Christmas treat from the Contemporary

Contemporary Castle

Made out of confectionary products, part of a Frozen themed exhibit for Christmas.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Tree of Life show

A series of 4 projected stories are shown on the Tree of Life at DAK. The 4 stories are separated by a couple minutes, then the series repeats after a little longer break.

Festive attire

Christmas tire seen at DAK.

DVC Wilderness Tree

The Christmas tree in the DVC lobby at Wilderness Lodge.

Wilderness Lodge DVC

Another view of the new DVC waterfront villas.

New Wilderness Lodge villas

These are new DVC cabins on the water at Wilderness Lodge. They will be similar to the villas at Polynesian, and probably will have high points.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Starbright Holidays Show At Disney Springs

Looks like the Starbright Holidays has started at Disney Springs. This is the show that is done with drones.

Obviously, this can also be seen from Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort across the lagoon from Disney Springs. I wonder if they'll pipe in the music over there as well? Anyone staying there during the holidays can report on this?


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Disney's Latest "Drones" Show

Having received clearance from the FAA to fly drones over WDW, and to do it at night, it looks like the latest nighttime show at WDW will take off soon. This appears to be a preview of the "Starbright" holiday light show scheduled to start this holiday season.

The fact that this will be shown at Disney Springs, for free, is a bonus. But I suspect that if this goes well, more drones participation might be in store at the parks. I can see this at the still-yet-to-open Rivers of Light at DAK.


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Review of Soarin' Over The World

This news report indicates the changes and advances done for the new Soarin' attractions. The one new thing I learned from it is that each of the Soarin' attraction will have different endings, depending on where it is shown.

“Each of the venues that we created for we a custom ending so you end up where you start. In Shanghai, you end up in Shanghai. In Epcot you end at Epcot. At Disneyland, you end up over Disneyland. It’s interesting that someone commented after the Epcot ride: ‘Does everybody else around the world end at Epcot?” I don’t think they had thought that we could have the ability to alter the endings for each site. It was not difficult to do but I think it just personalizes it for the audience and says: ‘This was designed for you and it was designed for this location.’”

That's a nice touch. But how does it compare with the old film?

First of all, let's get this out of the way. The images are spectacular. Certainly, there is no doubt that the footage they got were astounding. Secondly, the image and movie quality were jaw-dropping. It is undoubtedly way better than the old film. The clarity and resolution of the images is one of the best that I've seen, especially considering that in this attraction, the audience is still quite close to the screen.

But in the end, it is the content that dictates how successful it is. Is it better than the old Soarin' Over California? In my opinion, NO.

There are a few problems with this. Let's start first of all with the technical aspect.

When we saw Soarin' on our trip last week, we saw it three times on the same day (in fact, twice within half hour, and a total of 3 times by lunch time). We sat at three very different locations. The first one was the prime location, center aisle, center seat, Row 1. The second time, far left in Row 2. Final time, far right in Row 1. We notice SEVERE DISTORTION in both the the far right and far left seats, due to the curvature of the screen. Both the Taj Mahal's towers, and the Eiffel Tower, had an unnatural bent to them that were quite disconcerting and distracting. There were other instances where this distortion became distracting.

I'm sure this type of distortion were there in the old Soarin' movie, but they were less noticeable. The new movie had a lot of "straight, vertical structures", and when these are seen to curve, they become quite noticeable. I think that I was a bit disappointed at how bad the distortion was. I didn't realize it was this severe for someone in those seats. My guess is that this distortion will probably be less obvious for those in the middle area, and for anyone beyond the center seat on the left and right seating section. If you are unlucky enough to get these extreme seats, you might just to see some familiar landmarks doing some unnatural bending.

I am extremely disappointed by the digital enhancement and addition they added to the movie. I'm not talking about superimposing or creating those fireworks and stuff at the end. Those we all know are "not real". I'm talking about the digital enhancement that you can't tell, but suspected. I mean, the whale just happened to be jumping out of the water at that exact moment? Really? And the elephant throwing dirt right over as we flew by?

The problem with this is that, it made me suspect and questioned everything that I saw in the movie, and made me wondered if these are real. Are those people  walking along the Great Wall of China real, or were they added digitally? Are those ships and  boats in Sydney Harbor real? etc.. etc.

Again, I know that these were done in the old film (eg. the golf ball coming at you), but in the old film, this were done judiciously, and also, they were not that obvious. In this new film, they were done enough that it made you questioned on the authenticity of the scenery that you are seeing. This takes away from the "awe" of what you are seeing, because in the back of your mind, you wondered if it is real, or is it Memorex? I certainly did.

The "get in your face" transition from one scene to the next got very tiring after the 2nd one. I don't know if the Imagineers got too enamored by the audience reaction to the "golf ball coming at you" in the old film, but they are overdoing it in this new film. The transition from one scene to the next is just not as smooth and seamless as the old film.

But in the end, the overall effect for me is quite obvious. I had goosebumps the first time I saw Soarin' Over California. The images and music worked very well together. After seeing Soarin' Over The World, I was left with a bit of a disappointment. No goosebumps, no "Wow!". Maybe I was expecting way too much, but I found that I was being distracted by things that I shouldn't be paying attention to in the first place.

It affected the overall experience, and the disappointment at what has happened to one of my most favorite attraction just couldn't be ignored.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Review of Star Wars Fireworks at Hollywood Studios

We first saw the Star Wars fireworks event at DHS as part of the dessert party in January 2016 when the event was fairly new.  We saw the event again in October 2016, again as part of the dessert party.  So, we can compare the two events and offer some comments.  The desserts were just as good in October as January, although the current venue in the Star Wars Launch Pad is a bit cramped.

In January, the fireworks were closely synced to the Star Wars music.  The dramatic themes of the music were well matched to equally dramatic fireworks.  There was very little projection of movie clips, so the event was definitely a fireworks event.  The fireworks were centered behind the Great Movie Ride which made for nice framing.  That fireworks event was arguably as good or better than Wishes at MK.

Fast forward to October and things have changed.  Disney has gone crazy with projecting Star Wars film clips on the buildings around the Great Movie Ride.  Clips of the early movies and the newest ones were projected onto the buildings.  Sounds good except for some problems.  First the clarity of the images was less than ideal- projecting on buildings doesn't always work very well.  Second, there were trees and light posts in the way even when standing in a preferred viewing area.  Third, it was difficult to focus on the movie clips because of the very wide viewing angle and the fast changes.  It was difficult to take in the whole scene.  There were fewer fireworks compared to January and, strangely, they were off to the side of the Great Movie Ride.  Remember, our viewing area was directly in line with the center of the movie ride.  This really reduced the effect and was actually somewhat annoying.  The fireworks no longer seemed tightly synced to the music and the whole presentation seemed poorly integrated and somewhat cluttered.

So, we'll see if Disney is happy with this event or will make some changes to tighten it up and improve the dramatic effects.