SpectroMagic Destroyed and Other Disney World News

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on July 02, 2013 at 3:00 am with 45 Comments

Kevin Yee brings another update from Walt Disney World, where there’s good news and shocking news to share.

First Test of FASTPASS+ Successful

Last weekend, Disney World conducted a test of the MagicBands, that crucial piece of jewelry in the MyMagic+ system which enables FASTPASS+. For these 5,000 test users, the first ones to actually see and use the system who weren’t Disney CMs, the chance to try out the technology was a thrill. Users from the Contemporary Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge were invited up to a month ago to select their rides in advance and participate in the test.

FASTPASS+ gives users the ability to make ride reservations before the vacation even begins; even weeks or months before. For this test, the users were given only THREE reservations per day, and if they accepted the MagicBands, they did not have an option to also obtain regular (“day of”) FASTPASS tickets. They were stuck with just three reservations per day.

They were interviewed and focus-grouped intently… and I’m a bit surprised that the majority of them were happy with the results. Many were extremely happy. Three was apparently enough for these paying visitors from afar; something Disney has obviously known about via their heavy use of surveys tracking of Big Data the past several years. I would have expected more people to demand five or even ten FASTPASS reservations per day, but this is a good reminder that not everyone uses the parks the way we weekly visitors do.

There were some technology glitches, and those made people upset, but the key takeaway for me was that they liked making reservations in advance and didn’t demand spontaneity beyond what they could do in Standby lines. And this is the key feature of FASTPASS+ (perhaps even in the larger MyMagic+ system), so in that sense, this test revealed that Disney has what they must perceive to be a winner on their hands.

Some of the implementation team are saying the “magic number” of reservations will stay at three for everyone: resort visitors, annual passholders, and ticket holders staying off property. But others seem unsure what will be decided eventually, and it’s hard to tell if they are hedging their bets because they know something or if it’s because they just know Disney often changes its mind. I’d be surprised if they don’t find a way to reward people staying in their own hotels via extra reservations – that seems a no-brainer to me, but for now we just don’t know.

We also don’t know from this limited test what the effect on the parks of wide scale adoption would be. There is still not enough information to figure out if standby lines for things like Pirates of the Caribbean would go up, or go down (or be unaffected) if the whole park was full of people visiting with FASTPASS+ reservations made weeks ago. The info most needed is how many reservations will be issued per day. Take Space Mountain. If they used to issue 20,000 tickets in a day (to make up a number), that led to a certain length of wait for Standby. If they move it to be only 10,000 tickets per day, that would make the Standby line much faster, since the ride is able to load the same number of people per hour under both systems. And if they issued 30,000 tickets per day, that would make the standby line slower.

Now take that thought experiment and magnify it to the level of the whole park, adding in the additional wrinkle that now you’ve got rides (Small World, American Idol Experience, a ton more) that are part of the advanced FASTPASS+ reservation system which previously were standby only. That MIGHT make the E-ticket rides have quicker standby lines, if some visiting tourists opt for Small World instead. But I think the number with bigger importance is how many reservations are allowed for the E-ticket ride itself. Regardless of what’s happening elsewhere in the park, if Space Mountain has more reservations pre-assigned for the day than it did in the paper FP world, that will make for slower standby lines.

Those paper FASTPASS machines will stick around for the transition, but by sometime in 2014 when the parks fully transition to MagicBands and FASTPASS+, the paper machines will go away entirely. Any day-of reservations, changes, or cancellations will be handled digitally at the less-frequent screen kiosks already in the parks.

Feel free to chime in about FASTPASS+, the magic number of three, or the entire “reserve in advance” concept in the comments section below!

SpectroMagic Destroyed

It’s sometimes said that the best way to remove a band-aid is to rip it off quickly rather than drawing out the process, so here goes: the floats from SpectroMagic have been demolished, cut up, and put into dumpsters. A few remaining ones (and possibly the source of some conflicting reports) will be used to train future float drivers for other parades, but this parade is not coming back.

Disney insisted when the Main Street Electrical Parade arrived at the Magic Kingdom that SpectroMagic would return; that the Main Street Electrical Parade was a temporary replacement. Well, the SpectroMagic floats were stored in a way that exposed them partly to the Florida elements, and the floats could not be salvaged. I first reported on April 30 that the floats were damaged and likely to never return, and now it seems the demolition took place. (Addendum to that April 30 piece: they *did* reopen the fort escape tunnel apparently, which is great news!)

Disney has not officially confirmed the demolition via press release, but there have been multiple credible eyewitness reports of the parade units in dumpsters behind Central Shops backstage, in the white tents the units had been stored in for some time, and they appear to be confirming it privately to some individuals.

Farewell, SpectroMagic! I will honor the parade by giving you this photo retrospective (obviously taken over many nights before 2010). In the comments field below, feel free to chime in on your thoughts about this development. Are you a bigger fan of MSEP than SpectroMagic?

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Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

I recently was invited to stay at this hotel near WDW that I’ve seen a million times but never gone to. Upshot: it’s a bargain 4-star hotel. The list of things to do here that are free (well, you paid for them with the required $22 resort fee) are staggering and I’ll be back just to do these all day:

  • multiple pools with waterfalls
  • bike and family surrey rentals
  • rock climbing walls
  • nine holes of “pitch and putt” golf – something bigger than mini golf, smaller than real golf. “Junior golf”?
  • golf driving range
  • tennis courts
  • canoes
  • paddle boats
  • kayaks
  • aquacycles
  • sailboat
  • fitness center (double the size you’re expecting)
  • 4.7 mile (!) jogging trail

My full review can be seen here.

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The Original Grimms

Do you love the Disney movies? Then you’re going to love finding out where those stories came from and how they evolved… and it will surprise you greatly! I’ve got a new book out this year, and it’s something I’ve been working on for ten years. It’s a collection of the Grimms fairy tales, but it’s guaranteed to be like nothing you’ve ever read before. This is the first-ever translation in English of the Grimms fairy tales as they appeared in the Grimms’ working manuscript. These were the stories as told to the Grimms directly; these are the tales, in other words, that truly capture the spirit and intended messages of these peasant stories.

The version of Grimms fairy tales that you’ve read before (if you’ve read them at all) is actually a translation of the seventh edition published by the Grimms. They changed the stories constantly, and it’s a revelation to view them in their original, unexpurged state.

Ever wonder why Cinderella’s prince can’t just recognize his dancing partner by face? You’ll learn the answer by reading the original and comparing it to the final version in Grimms. The Disney movie was not based on Grimms so much as another fairy tale author named Perrault, but our comparison of the Grimms versions reveals the underlying moral message which explains the princes actions in all versions, including the Disney movie.

To give you just a taste of what this book holds, consider the case of Snow White. You may think of this at the moment as a story about true love, probably due to the influence of the Disney movie. The fairy tale in the published Grimms collection is gruesome by comparison, with the evil stepmother punished for her sins with torture and death. But this was not the original Grimms story. My book will let you see the story as it appeared in the manuscript, which is different still. Gone is the stepmother, and gone is the prince as rescuer. Serving those same functions in the original story are the girl’s mother and father. If you consider that for a moment, you’ll recognize that this changes the story dramatically. It’s now a family drama, and the queen is jealous of her own daughter’s beauty. The implication is that she is worried about losing her man to the more beautiful girl. Yes, there’s a minor implication of incest in the original story, made stronger by the fact that the father does rescue the girl at the end and puts his own wife to death. Squeamish about all of these messages, the Grimms hastily replace the mother with a stepmother, and the father with a prince from the outside.

That’s not all. The Grimms kept tinkering with the story. When it was first published in the 1812 edition, the father is absent from the story, and a prince rescues Little Snow White. However, in this early version, the girl is not jolted awake when taken from the dwarfs. Rather, her coffin is carted about the prince’s castle so he can look upon her whenever he wished, and abusive servants, irritated that they had to shoulder her weight constantly, smacked her corpse in anger and accidentally dislodged the magical bit of apple.

Now that you know the true origins of Snow White, won’t it be hard to view the story the same way in the future?

This book will hopefully have an effect on readers just like that for all the stories discussed. It looks at the original and final versions of several popular tales, including Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, and the Frog King, which was the source material for Disney’s movie the Princess and the Frog.

An essay accompanies each translation to put the different versions into context, provide some cultural analysis, and also compare both text versions to more popular modern retellings, including Disney animated features, if there is one for that tale. We even look at other Disney fairy tale movies, even if they don’t originate from the Grimms. Accordingly, you’ll find a discussion of Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid. The little mermaid interpretation in particular may surprise and even shock readers.

The book is 114 pages long and can be purchased at Amazon.com and several international Amazon websites. It retails for $6.99. You will also find the book available as an e-book for Kindle devices, or the free Kindle-for-PC software. The Kindle version costs $5.99.

More information and updates

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida.

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  • Malin

    You read Eric’s article today with huge excitement and happiness for the future at Universal. While Kevin’s article on Disney is full of sad news (Spectromagic) and concern for the future (FastPass +) Its alright testing it out on 5000 Guests but the main concern will be when its tried out for a park full of people. Also each park works differently and Animal Kingdom does not have the same capacity that we have at the Magic Kingdom.

    Sad to see Spectromagic being dismantled. Its another sad reminder of when Walt Disney World Parade’s use to be interesting and innovative. I suspect the Electrical Parade will stick around until its ready to fall apart and then be replaced with nothing. Enjoy the night-time parade while you can!!! It will be interesting to see if the new Steve Davison Parade will feature night-time lighting. I can quite easily see them offer this Parade during the day and night-time in the years to come.

    • Kidgenie

      I didn’t find concern in the fastpass plus news. Obviously that was very good news to the WDC. The first test to real guests of a very expensive new product was seemingly very well received by its guests.

      You mention you work at MK but the test was at AK. This is grossly inaccurate. The test was conducted at two hotels and for guests of those hotels, the test was property wide, all parks, all water parks, DTD and all resorts.

      But…. I do think 3 fast passes will be too limiting. I would guess if you specifically asked the guests, would you like more fast passes per day…. well why would they say no? And as supply of available fast pass times deplete faster with larger test groups, my hunch is eventually you will cross a line and Disney won’t have to ask, as guest will start asking. And there will be the challenge.

      How will they meet that demand when the demand itself will be cause by a limited supply. But that is what testing is for. I am interested to see the results of future tests. But I think its both exciting yet surprising that the first real wave of guests, as Kevin reports, are happy about the experience. That is good news not concerning news or bad news.

    • Susan Hughes

      Well, I guess that puts to rest the rumors that the Main Street Electrical Parade would be coming back home to Disneyland. A demolished SpectroMagic pretty much keeps Main Street Electrical Parade in Florida.

  • PeaJay18

    Shame about Spectro – I much prefer it to MSEP.

  • 3rdshiftCM

    Only at WDW would they replace a 22 year old parade with a 41 year old parade!

    I love going to WDW, but it’s decisions like this that drive me crazy and make me question spending the $$$$$ to vacation there.

    • Eric Davis

      HA HA! That comment made me laugh out loud! It breaks my heart that Spectro-Magic is gone. I really felt that it was uniquely “ours” here in Florida. While the Main Street Electrical Parade will always be Disneylands.

      I loved the music, I loved the characters, and it was so whimsical, and fun. I really miss that.

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    I loved Spectro. It was built for the Magic Kingdom and worked well. While the Electrical parade is technically a better show, it is on too small a scale for Magic Kingdom. Just like how it never really looked right at DCA.

    When the Electrical Parade moved over for the short term Nightastic promotion, they promised that Spectro would return. It’s sad commentary that we are no longer shocked when Disney lies to us. Or even surprised that that their own negligence led to the demise of a multi million dollar parade.

    Is this what we should come to expect from the Magic Kingdom? That they are neither able to keep their word nor maintain their expensive assets? What does park VP, Phil Holmes, have to say for himself? Ultimately, he must take the blame for allowing the parade to rot while it was in his care.

    • SpectroMan

      You said this so perfectly, I have nothing to add. As soon as DCA released the MSEP to Florida, I knew there was little chance of us getting it back in Anaheim. The merciless, almost purposeful mistreatment of Spectro’s floats seems so blatantly deliberate that none of us should be surprised anymore at the lies. I’ll miss Spectro dearly, and will never forget the first time I saw it in 1996 and how completely blown away I was.

      Having never seen Dreamlights or Fantillusion, I can honestly say Spectro was the most amazing nighttime “spectacle” Disney ever created.

    • yellowrocket

      The people at WDW aren’t the only ones that lie. Where is your nightly, year-round, swing dancing in Disneyland? Say, when *is* Rocket Rods coming back from refurbishment? And, as far as parades go, I’m eagerly waiting for Light Magic’s return, too.

      I’m not a Magic Kingdom defender, but I wouldn’t put all the blame on them either. Disneyland management didn’t want the MSEP back (and still doesn’t) so TDO had no reason to upkeep Spectro, a far superior parade in my opinion. But, it’s all about the numbers. Spectromagic was in storage and the MSEP was already functioning with a day/night parade in development.

      …that’s all she (MC) wrote.

    • Kidgenie

      awww. WDW didn’t lie. I don’t understand why we fans have to take it so personally. I believe they had every intent of just Borrowing MSEP. They didn’t lie when they Announce they were building Russia at Epcot. But clearly after that announcement plans changed. Ditto for David Copper Fields Magic Underground. And Hyperion Wharf. And now, for Spectro Magic. The factors changed since the announcement was made. DLR didn’t want it back, Spectro was in an neglected condition and perhaps they have the data, and I suspect/hear that they do, that MSEP is just more popular then SM. Even if it is older and so with all that, they changed their mind.

      I do think they need to address the neglect of the Spectro Floats though. That really should not have been a factor in their change of plans, but from everything I have read and heard, it was THE factor. :(

  • Disneykin Kid

    I prefer MSEP because of the music, and because it was created by the formation of the individual lights. SM had different lighting techniques, objects lit from within, etc. which to me was ‘lazy’. Also some of the SM floats weren’t very interesting designs.

  • dazyhill

    Nice review on the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress,but I was so
    bummed to see they no longer offered horseback riding as one of the activities. This hotel used to have a full-service riding stable. I had hoped to stay here someday just for that. I guess I just have to settle for the trail ride at Fort Wilderness.

  • Disneykin Kid

    I never understood why they didn’t just do MSEP ’2′? The could have the same intertwining music, just update it to the newer movies. Instead they try to do new technology like Light Magic. You could do LED lights, but use the same technique of individual lights forming the objects.

  • daliseurat

    I prefer MSEP, but I prefer that there would be a different parade on each coast. I enjoyed Spectromagic, but would be happy to see a new parade with the same sort of lighting and a better soundtrack. Not like LIGHTMAGIC which was so unbelievably bad. Technology has progressed to a degree that we should be getting an astonishing new nighttime parade. Let’s hope so. And I will miss Spectromagic.

  • Skimbob

    I am grateful that we are at least not getting MSEP back anytime soon in California. I only got to see SM once and really liked it. I have the music which is cool. It’s a shame they just let the parade go into disrepair. MK needs to step up their game and start doing something new for it’s parades. Disneyland has two new ones so there is no reason why MK can’t make a new one.

  • bhb007

    FastPass+ will be monetized. Please don’t be naive and think otherwise. We just returned from a trip to WDW and stayed off property (for the first time ever, btw). The savings were huge and drawbacks of doing so were negligible. I suspect we’re not alone in this assessment.

    My hunch is that the reservation limit for those not staying on property will be tiny (2 or 3 per day is my guess). Disney value resorts will get likely get about 4. Moderates get 5-6. It’s my strong suspicion luxury resorts will have unlimited FP+ reservations.

    Kevin Yee has been a frequent defender of monetizing the system (his standard line is that the big spenders from out of town subsidize attraction development). Increasingly, though, this sounds like the rationalizations given for trickle down economics… which led to the wealthy hoarding what we have rather than the development of anything new.

    • katmcw

      I agree that they will monetize the FP+. They have been unable to sell people on staying “on property” to get the meal plan, which, BTW, is not really that great a deal. We found that we over-ate just because we had paid for it. Then, our favorite restaurants started counting as “2″ meals, instead of one. When I put a pencil to it, we were waaaay overpaying for those meals by overpaying for a small motel room with no extras (not even a mini-fridge!). We were piled practically on top of each other–even in the “moderate” resorts. We began staying off property several years ago when we found we could rent a 2 or 3-bedroom condo with full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and washer-dryer for far less than the Disney “value” resorts!

      Anyway, if Disney starts monetizing the FP, we will start to re-think our vacations. We spend $4-5K (total) to go to Disney almost every year. If I am going to spend that much, I don’t want to be treated as a 2nd-class citizen–regardless of how much the 1st-class citizens are paying!

  • Lord Alfred

    I grew up with the MSEP and prefer it to Spectromagic so this news doesn’t upset me as much as some of you. Spectro had a few good floats and a good theme song, but overall the floats are better in MSEP. Spectro featured a lot more characters and performers which I simply don’t care about. For me, parades could be reduced to a string of impressive floats and I’d be happier.

    • TodAZ1

      Whether you liked MSEP or SM better isn’t the point. The point is the negligence exhibited by TDO.

      One has no choice but to wonder if that negligence only applies to out dated parade floats and not to the rest of the parks as well??

      • mikedoyleblogger

        What’s to wonder? Father’s condition on Carousel of Progress? The overall condition inside iasw? (Especially the Hawaii room looking like it was touched up with black finger paint?) Orange cones and ripped seats all over the People Mover? Splash still breaking down all the time even after a major refurb? The cobblestone-bumpy ride and repeated breakdowns on the entire monorail system? Ellen’s Energy Adventure *as a whole*? A Great Movie Ride that hasn’t been updated *ever* except to remove broken show elements? Filth–literal filth–inside the tanks at the Seas. Repainting all the trash cans brown because actually *cleaning* them would cost too much money?

        I think people who go to WDW often don’t really get how awful and widespread this stuff as because the negative changes are so incremental. But from the perspective of someone who visited twice in 36 years (I’m a DLR vet instead), when I visited WDW in May I was shocked and kind of sickened by the way the park has obviously been managed for a long time. Things like this don’t happen overnight, and totally turned my partner and I off returning anytime soon.

  • Illusion0fLife

    Granted, this is completely anecdotal, but when I was there recently they were doing FastPass+ testing on Haunted Mansion and, as a standby guest, it was absolutely broken. We’re talking maybe a half hour after the park had opened, there was a posted wait time of 20 minutes and it took us roughly 35 to get onto the ride. The line barely moved as the Cast Members took extra time helping FastPass+ testers, all but neglecting the standby guests.

    Again, this isn’t conclusive, but I’ve heard similar stories from other non-FastPass attractions like The Great Movie ride. From these experiences/stories, I’m anything but optimistic for FP+.

  • sjdimon

    The 2 things that I never liked about Spectromagic were:

    o The “Spectromen” (or whatever those creepy faced things were called)
    o I never really liked that the music for a parade was a waltz (I prefer the ELP March)

    That aside, I did think that it fit well at the MK, and was a worthy successor to the ELP (which several other attempts have not been).

    I only hope that DIsney realizes that the parks are not “complete’ without a nighttime LIGHT parade (and frankly – the ELP is just about a “perfect” parade (IMO – please don’t start!) for the MK Parks)

    How do you keep it new? Update 2 or 3 float units every year – rotate some in/out – adding new ones (can you imagine how COOL the music from BRAVE would be in “Electro-Syntho-Magnetic- Musical-Sound”?) Merida could shoot lighted arrows. Or what about Tangled? Light up hair?? COME ON! Perfect for an Electrical Light Parade (during the “Flowers Gleam and Glow” song, the hair could light up, and older things could be younger again (dead flowers, Mother Gothel’s, etc (bvbg!))

    A lot of attractions have been in the parks for a lot of years – but you neither destroy them nor neglect them — you constantly update/upgrade them and they are made new again. THAT is what needs to happen with the ELP – keep certain key elements (Blue Fairy/Tinker Belle could trade off at the beginning; have 8 to 10 float units that rotate in and out, and ALWAYS end with the tribute to America). That (IMO) is how you keep a 40 year old parade up-to-date and out of the scrap heap.

    • SpectroMan

      Very well said. And, they used to update EP all the time – there have been several floats added/removed representing the current movie or park event, yet they abandoned that after the 35th anniversary and the Hercules special NYC float. So shortsighted.

      A “Tangled” float with lit hair would be SPECTACULAR.

    • katmcw

      You are so right!!! Let’s hope some WDW minions are reading this thread and taking notes! Maybe they should hire you!

      The Spectro guys were very creepy, and I did not like them at all! Other than that, I like both parades just fine. But they definitely need to update as you suggested! If they would quit focusing on the marketing, and keep CREATING, the crowds would continue to grow.

  • StevenW

    The only way for MyMagic+ and FASTPASS+ to work is having more E Ticket attractions for guests to make reservations. People will quickly catch on to the deception when Small World or the American Idol Experience are available when everything good is taken up. When they spent the money devising this system, have they considered ride capacity? It seems so short sighted to not see the elephant in the room. WDW always had a ride capacity problem.

  • danyoung

    >While the Electrical parade is technically a better show, it is on too small a scale for Magic Kingdom.<

    Sorry, Dusty, but I just don't agree with this at all. I think Spectro is far superior in its use of technology, its use of fog and lighting and special effects. I grew up in SoCal with the MSEP, but I think Spectro is the better of the two. And I think the original MSEP sound track is much better than the one they're using now!