By and large, things are looking up at Walt Disney World. Prices may continue rising every year, but the crowds keep coming back. Disney COULD look at the crowd levels and decide to leave well enough alone (it’s what they get accused of often, anyway), but there are still a number of initiatives floating around. They are spending some money.

Certainly there’s AVATAR–The World of Pandora coming. I expect a Star Wars announcement too, though who knows when that will happen. Maybe in 2016 as Iger leaves? It’s the smaller stuff I was thinking of today.

Disney Springs is real and has real progress to show (unlike the Hyperion Wharf concept that preceded it). The shuffle of stores continues in DtD – CoOp is coming to the former Team Mickey store – and the parking garage has gone vertical. The crowds in this place after dark always stun me. I guess there really is a market for shopping and dining here, more than what I’d expect normally.


Although many major attractions haven’t been updated in a long time – victim of budgets with no wiggle room – the parks themselves keep adding stuff:

  • In DHS, a new preshow element includes a character from the new Muppet movie
  • In Epcot, Flower and Garden rolls out the usual topiaries and literally millions of dollars of fresh flowers and plants, plus the odd new (minor) exhibit or two this time.
  • In DAK, the Dug and Russell meet and greet received a new interactive kiosk (a high tech dog collar will translate your barks into English)
  • In MK, oodles of refurbishments means cleaner facilities – a good thing – and the new parade is dynamite.


If you think about it, the item in the above list that is hardest to get cynical about is the DAK addition. You COULD say that the Muppets one was done to increase movie sales, so the company has a vested interest. Ditto the fresh flowers; they have to do this to realize the bump in attendance and spending they get during the festival. Even the parade is possible to get cynical about, as Disney World should be debuting new parades like this every year, as Japan does, not even ten years.

But the dog collar serves no purposes beyond “plussing” an area. It doesn’t make money, it won’t get enough attention to be part of the marketing, but it adds some small, hard-to-measure value to the area. This is the sort of thing that makes Disney famous and I think it’s a good sign that the budget allowed for this. I could easily imagine WDW executives cutting this from the budget as it produces no revenue, yet here it is. Bravo.

And bravo to the parade, Festival of Fantasy. Despite continuing the tradition of names that are hollow of any real meaning, this parade is a good one. It’s a breath of fresh air in the daytime parade concept at the Magic Kingdom, as it doesn’t use any of the floats they’ve been relying on for a decade. These floats are new to the park!

Festival of Fantasy Parade 2014-03-10-6455

Not all of them are brand new, though. The princess float and Monstro float come from Jubilation, a parade in Japan. A couple of the props are recycled, too, such as Sebastian from SpectroMagic and Figaro/Cleo from Celebrate a Dream Come True.

But that’s of little consequence to the “larger” issues of the parade, all of which are positive. It’s got a catchy song. It’s high energy. There are a lot of moving parts and kinetics. The performers are clearly really excited to be there. The floats are immense and eye-catching, inventive and breathtaking. The colors of everything, from the floats to the memorable costumes, are vivid to the point of brilliance.

And did we mention the enormous steampunk fire-breathing dragon float? Every adjective in that description is needed to give you a true picture of its impressiveness. It’s big. It’s decorated in a highly stylized and fun (somehow retro-future looking) steampunk style. It breathes fire (wind permitting). And it’s a dragon! What’s not to love?

So yes, while WDW continues to have its challenges, it also takes strides in the right direction frequently, and it DOES freshen itself. A true picture of the resort requires an understanding of BOTH of these realities. Many of the rides are stale, most of the prices are too high, and some of the upkeep falls short of previous Disney standards. But there is frequently change afoot, and much of the change is positive, even if they don’t yet overshadow the shortcomings.

Ultimate Orlando Clicks

The I-Drive Live construction zone (including the Orlando Eye Ferris Wheel) is zipping along, then we stop at CityWalk to see the new Starbucks and Coldstone Creamery shops. At the Magic Kingdom, the new dock for the ferry is nearing completion, and walls have gone up around the moats. In Downtown Disney, the old piers are gone and a new walkway is being built, as are several buildings and a new Food Truck court. We also look at the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at DtD.

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Re-Launching Ultimate Orlando

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