I’m pleased to report that Walt Disney World started, this past weekend, testing a new atmosphere entertainment show in Dinoland U.S.A., in the form of a human scientist interacting with a velociraptor. There were many reasons to be cheerful about this news, when I first heard it. First, one obviously wants more “streetmosphere” added when possible; it brightens the park. Second, this particular area of the park struggles anyway with theme, so anything they could do with the dinosaur theme would be helpful. Third, this very section of this very park was once home to the first test of Lucky the Dinosaur, a (sort of) self-standing Audio-Animatronics figure that was impressive way back in 2005. Maybe Lucky was coming back? Or if not, maybe this new offering would incorporate ten years’ worth of innovation and advanced technology added to the Lucky build, and thus be even more awesome?

I don’t want to leave you in suspense. Let’s look at some pictures.

Here was Lucky, more or less autonomously moving around Dinoland in 2005:

Lucky the dino 2005-04-24-5077

Lucky the dino 2005-04-24-5082

Lucky the dino 2005-04-24-5114

And here is “Val” (short for “velociraptor”), the new character from 2014 introduced in Dinoland this past weekend:





Val walks the land, never really stopping. Her tail swishes hard and fast, so attendants have to be there to stop it from hitting visitors. She does have a high-pitched squawk she can emit, and she moves much faster and more fluidly than Lucky ever did. But you can, um, see the performer pretty effectively from many angles.

It’s difficult to know how to start discussing this. Lucky was something no other park in the world had; this new dino is a lot less high tech. Disney hasn’t advanced in nine years, they’ve arguably gone backwards.

Initially, I was tempted – as perhaps some of you are – to bring out the “Declining by Degrees” concept. I coined this term in 2006 to explain why it felt like Disney was lowering standards here and there – always in small ways – while keeping prices constant or raising them. I think we can agree prices have gone up since 2006 – has the experience? Most of the rides are the same now as they were then, so maybe you have stagnation on quality but increased prices over the same stretch. But if the quality and upkeep are actually going DOWN while prices are going UP, you have two forces acting in concert to lower and water down the overall experience. As a weekly visitor, I saw it happening in tiny ways in 2006 and tried to sound an alarm.

If you’ve followed my writing and reader reaction over the years, you know the attempt to “sound an alarm” was met with decidedly mixed results. Some folks agreed with me. Others felt I had gotten jaded and expected too much.

Unrelated image: Cabana Bay at Universal has a bowling alley.
Unrelated image: Cabana Bay at Universal has a bowling alley.

Do I raise all this ancient history now to crow that in fact the prices HAVE gone up a lot in those eight years and the rides HAVE stagnated and maybe even the quality of what they are offering HAS deteriorated? And that “Val” is the culmination of all these years of bone-headed decisions? Surprisingly, no.

I raise all this now because I think, finally, this half-human, half-velociraptor (VelociHuman?) has tipped the scales for me internally. Something has changed in my thinking. I was content to call it “declining by degrees” back in 2006 because the effect was mostly invisible. It needed a name because it operated in SUCH small measures, no one noticed when the actual event was occurring. The proverbial frog allowing itself to boil in water, because the increases in temperature were so gradual, is exactly the right metaphor for Declining by Degrees.

For some people, the frog is *already* boiled – I’m not seeing a lot of positive reaction by adults to the dinosaur (my seven year old likes it, though). And here’s what’s even more surprising: I’m not even all that bitter about it. I’m not turning in my annual pass, I won’t stop going, and I’m even going to continue writing about the parks – both here online and in books – because I have achieved a weird, unexpected sort of equilibrium and even ACCEPTANCE about it all.

Unrelated image: Diagon Alley at Universal nears completion.
Unrelated image: Diagon Alley at Universal nears completion.

Are the parks pale shadows of what they were two decades ago? Sure, in some ways, especially in operations. Queues are always filthy, the monorails are held together with duct tape (this is not an exaggeration), Cast appearance guidelines – slipped from a few decades ago – are not being maintained even as is, and the tailoring of operations to match demand has been devilishly competent, such that there *is* no off-season any more. Quiet areas have been converted to more sales floors, fountains switched off to conserve and save, and lightbulbs sit burned out for months at a time (also not an exaggeration) on the rooflines of the ultra-expensive Grand Floridian.

But not EVERYTHING is broken. Despite the list enumerated above, the Orlando Disney parks do not resemble Six Flags parks in any way, shape, or form. New stuff does still get added – admittedly, many are restaurants or shops, or perhaps only SMALL attractions instead of E-Tickets. While it’s been frustrating to watch the local competition – Universal especially – move quickly while Disney dallies, it’s not fair to say that the Disney dream is absolutely dead. You’ll still encounter loads of happy tourists. You’ll find ride refurbishments that pay happy homage to company history and luminaries, which tickles me to no end. You’ll find young girls meeting the princess of their dreams and having literally the vacation of a lifetime. You’ll see once-per-decade visiting families who love Disney and don’t really see that a few rough edges are all that visible.

The truth is, BOTH perspectives are true simultaneously. The parks *are* pale shadows of their former selves, but they are also still a powerful draw and often still deliver powerful messages and emotions.

Unrelated image: Drew Carey theater now used for previews.
Unrelated image: Drew Carey theater now used for previews.


“Val” has helped me realize that for much of the past decade, I’ve been in mourning without knowing it. I’ve been mourning the Disney parks as I knew them. Certainly I was mourning how the Florida parks now do not hit the heights the Florida parks used to hit (Remember when Epcot was open until midnight all summer long? When the Halloween parties admitted half as many patrons, charged half as much, and gave you a free photo souvenir of your family? When every animatronic figure – let alone the central one of the attraction – was always working or else the ride would be shut down?)

Perhaps I was also mourning my personal loss of Disneyland as a playground since I moved to Florida – a little of that is probably true – and perhaps some of the adjustment was less “mourning” than it was simply culture shock since WDW is not DL.

Here’s the thing, though. Mourning and culture shock have some similar “stages” that everyone goes through. There’s a period of denial at first (during which everything in the “old” place was better) and, with culture shock (less so in mourning) a period of euphoria sometime thereafter. A true equilibrium comes even later, with true acceptance finally sinking in.

The “bottom line” has been true for me for some time now, and it’s probably been visible in my writings when seen longitudinally, yet I haven’t phrased it quite so baldly until this very second… but here it is: I accept Walt Disney World for what it is. The place delivers amazing Disney magic on a daily basis, but it also falls a bit short of what “could be” for a Disney park. (Anyone in doubt of the latter should just take a quick gander at TDL and especially TDS).

This velociraptor test is hopefully just that – a test. Perhaps saner heads will prevail, and recognize that the typical Disney standards for quality, not to mention believability and immersiveness, are not being met here. But perhaps not. And that, too, I will accept.

The true question is whether the larger paying public will be so forgiving. Not all of them grew up visiting Disney parks every single year, followed by working for 15 years for a Disney park, then visiting Disney parks twice a week for a decade after that (while simultaneously writing blogs and books about the experiences). In other words, Disney is in my blood, and I’m blessed to live locally to WDW, so it’s easy for me to keep going.

Will everyone reach the same conclusion? Will you? That’s the billion-dollar question, isn’t it? Do YOU have a straw that might someday break the camel’s back?

Ultimate Orlando Clicks #11

We start this week at Cabana Bay, Universal’s new value resort, and do an extensive photo tour in the middle of the day, with few visitors around. Then it’s off to see the Knight Bus at Diagon Alley, plus use a zoom lens to seem some new details being added. We also explore the new Starbucks at Islands of Adventure, and use that zoom lens to check out a safety sign for the train station at Hogsmeade (apparently, there will be no videotaping allowed on the train). We document the exterior of Zonko’s, which has closed permanently, and examine the somewhat-new midway games in Jurassic Park. Then it’s off to DHS, where we see the Constantin video in the queue for MuppetVision and look at the Sound Stage Studio (former Drew Carey spot) now showing a 3D extended trailer/mini-movie for Maleficent. Finally, it’s off to DAK to see the new walkaround dinosaur, a velociraptor named V (or Val, the second day). This dino is brought to life via a puppeteer inside the suit.

Direct link: http://youtu.be/G6zoPoeqyyQ

Ultimate Orlando Clicks #10

I didn’t have a MiceChat update last week, so here’s the Clicks video from last week, as well.

Capt Cook’s has closed, and the temp location of the eatery has no Dole Whip. We also tour the Epcot Easter egg hunt for kids (map, stickers, and a prize, but you pay to play) and the edible Egg display at the Grand Floridian. Then we hop into the Magic Kingdom to see updates on the Hub construction and smaller tweaks.

Direct link: http://youtu.be/Aitl7D46_kY

Ultimate Orlando

I’ve maintained a “side blog” since 2006 and now am unifying all my social networking around this one site and brand. That means I only use the “Ultimate Orlando” venues/accounts going forward on Facebook and Twitter. Also of note: I had to change the YouTube channel, so be sure you switch your subscription to the new one. If you follow me on any of these services, please update your bookmarks:

  • FerretAfros

    I think that’s a great way to sum up how I’ve been feeling as well. A vacation to WDW still has a lot of really great stuff in it. However, it’s not as great as it could be; there’s a lot of missed potential there. Does that mean that I don’t still enjoy my time there? No. But it does leave me wishing that they had done things slightly differently

    And for what it’s worth, I get a similar feeling about DLR, though with different specifics. Especially with the DCA makeover, they invested a lot of money to make it a great experience, but decided to cram in character tie-ins everywhere, leaving it as just a really good experience instead of something more broad and universal. It’s not bad by any means, but I don’t think it lives up to what Disney’s taught me to expect from them

    • CaptainAction

      Looks like someone at Animal Kingdom lost a bet.

  • ravencroft

    My AP for Disneyland Resort expires… today! I have already made a decision to NOT renew. I may become an AP customer again in a couple of years but for now I am going to spend my entertainment time elsewhere.

    • redrhino54

      Enjoy LEGOLAND…….lol

      • ravencroft

        I’m thinking more like museums, parks and mountain biking. Our family has never been to legoland so perhaps one trip to say that we have done it.

    • CaptainAction

      I see where you are coming from but I think WDW is in a lot worse shape than Disneyland, believe it or not.

      At least CA made some gigantic improvements and a well themed E Ticket attraction.

      You probably would’ve dropped a WDW Annual Pass about 5 years ago.

      WDW tore 1 ride out for another (like they were landlocked or something) and the new one never has a line. They are slow walking (a 3 year walk) a kiddie C Ticket coaster to try and pull attention from Diagon Alley, London, Escape From Gringott’s E Ticket, Hogwarts Train (let’s see if it’s E Ticket or not), and Knockturn Alley. That’s a sad effort, isn’t it?

      Maybe Val can help pull folks away from Potter as well?

  • almandot

    Agree with most all of what you wrote. That being said, people probably remember this from late last year.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmxQSwwTRqU

    The raptor suit is something from outside of Disney. I don’t know if they’re “testing” some 3rd party atmosphere thing to see if people like it similar to how they did DeVine or Push(I think those were both outside concepts brought in?), but that’s the problem when everything and anything at WDW is a 3rd party these days, people think it’s Disney’s own internal development team coming up with everything. DisneyParks™©® protecting their brand used to be producing top quality entertainment, now most of the time it’s making sure the stuff they bring in from 3rd parties doesn’t embarrass them. 😛

    • solarnole

      It does not matter if it’s from a third party it’s being tested by Disney in a Disney’s Animal Kingdom and if it looks fake and cheap it hurts Disney.

      It’s embarrassing that Disney would even let this out into a park.

      Test it at Downtown Disney by T-Rex not in the highly themed and detailed roadside carnival area of their flagship zoo. This Dino is too fake for Route 66 and makes the other wood cut outs look realistic which ruins the old rundown side of the road carnival theming of the area.

      Did third party companies theme the area too? Disney needs to take ownership of its parks and stop being so cheap.

      • Bob Gurr

        EMBARRASSING! Walt…come back, we need you now more than ever.

      • CaptainAction

        Val will be announced on the same day Potter London opens to draw interest from Universal.
        Brilliant marketing!

  • bamato

    An excellent article. I have never been to WDW, so I can only follow whats posted here on MC, and from what I’ve seen you aren’t far off in your opinion of the status of WDW.

  • DuckyDelite

    Looking at pictures of “Val”…Lol. Lol. Lol. Wait, let me catch my breath. Okay, I’m better now. I don’t want to indicate I’m not a fan of street performance artists. I enjoyed the vine people at DCA and obviously Lion King has been a huge hit.

    But I don’t get Val at all. Maybe if there were 3 or 4 artists at a time for a little mini parade. But some guy walking around with a dino head. I don’t get it.

    The only thing I can hope is this is very early testing for an upcoming AvatarLand parade.

    • CaptainAction

      This is a prototype for new Star Wars Land.

      Han will appear to use a lightsaber to cut a Taun Taun open and Luke’s legs will pop out.
      Luke will then walk around wearing the Taun Taun with Han and they will have a meet n greet just outside the Death Star Themed restrooms.

      No E Ticket rides but you can reserve a place in the meet n greet line with your magic hancuffs 6 months out.

  • Nola ron

    Having just returned from Disneyland last week, my first visit in 22 years or so, I tend to agree. Disney is still magical, but not as good as it once was. I.e. All of tomorrowland needs a facelift for sure, just looks dirty. Too town is pealing paint all over the place.m and even it’s a small world facade needs a paint job. But upkeep is happening. BTMRR same ride with new effects wonderful upgrade. DCA first visit but how many times to they have to try and fix little mermaid? Magic but not as much pixie dust, perhaps.

  • Sifferz

    Great article! I certainly haven’t reached acceptance yet, lol. I don’t know when I’ll feel like spending all the money it takes to go east coast when they’ve been slipping backwards on showmanship for awhile now, with management that doesn’t seem to have any interest in the parks themselves. Lots of good and lots of bad for the Iger era; hopefully his replacement values showmanship in the parks more than scraping every last dollar out of the place, though I certainly understand and cannot look down on the people who have put the practices in place; it was their job to maximize profits.

    Just wish the leadership cared about the parks themselves rather than the parks as a business, I suppose.

  • tooncity

    Folks, just stop going to this place. If you want better parks, then just stop going. Very simple.

    • ayalexander

      Except that these are the best there is. That is what’s simple, what do you do when world class resorts don’t live up to their former selves, yet they are still better than the rest? The answer is NOTHING. You just have to blog about it and hope the Disney parks do better. We don’t just give up on Disney parks, like it was stated above, its in our blood.

      • CaptainAction

        I’m not so sure. Read the article on this site about Universal and IOA grew 39% between 2009-2012 while WDW parks either shrank, were flat, or grew 2% during the same 4 year period.
        The original article was from this last weekend in the Orlando Sentinel.
        The incredible thing is that Universal has only accomplished about 10% of it’s plans between 2009-2012.
        That period didn’t include, Transformers, Springfield, Despicable Me, Hogwarts train, London, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, Escape From Gringott’s, Cabana Bay (value resort which is less expensive than WDW value resorts, sleeps 6, lazy river, slide, table service offering, different food truck areas to change it up each day, bowling alley, all in a sophisticated 50’s-60’s theme without giant yo yo’s).
        This period 2009-2012 also didn’t include Universal’s new plans for Skull Island King Kong E Ticket attraction underway, removing Fear Factor for Ministry of Magic from HP, new Waterpark/Theme park, New Third gate theme park, 2 more new resorts, all connected by a monorail to Citywalk.
        To be fair, this period of 2009-2012 also didn’t include all the great new things added to WDW during this time; stores and restaurants at Fantasyland, tearing out Snow White for a Little Mermaid ride (1 for 1), Dwarf Mound kids coaster (still waiting on it to open after 2 years).
        Maybe the public is getting a little smarter than Iger gives ’em credit for.
        Maybe more folks are coming to say that $500/day for a family to take the SAME vacation they had 7 years ago is not so worth it.
        Maybe Universal will surpass AK, Dis Studios, or Epcot in the next 1-2 years?

      • cruise

        I agree, but I will admit that I’m starting to get uncomfortable calling Disney “the best” when Universal’s equivalent of a live dinosaur looks like this:


        Hopefully tourists will start to notice.

    • RenMan

      Until tourists and regulars start voting with their wallets, it seems that this won’t change, which is heart-breaking because it means that the Disney Co. will now only be motivated by money rather than having core entertainment values that would dictate a higher minimal standard. It seems that the droves of people going to WDW won’t stop because they either don’t know better or just love the Disney magic so much that they have to have some, as ayalexander has pointed out.

      So you can see why Al Lutz used to get so frustrated with the huge numbers of people going to WDW. I don’t agree with the way he expressed it – insulting everyone who goes there – but I understand his sadness that people do not seem able or willing to hold Disney accountable by NOT GOING.

    • RenMan

      Until tourists and regulars start voting with their wallets, it seems that this won’t change, which is heart-breaking because it means that the Disney Co. will now only be motivated by money rather than having core entertainment values that would dictate a higher minimal standard. It seems that the droves of people going to WDW won’t stop because they either don’t know better or just love the Disney magic so much that they have to have some, as ayalexander has pointed out.

      So you can see why Al Lutz would get so frustrated with the huge numbers of people going to WDW. I don’t agree with the way he expressed it – insulting everyone who goes there – but I understand his sadness that people do not seem able or willing to hold Disney accountable by NOT GOING.

      • CaptainAction

        The funny thing is how angry some folks get when we point these things out.

        Why defend greedy WDW execs who view you as a walking wallet?

      • Cory Gross

        Well here you have a problem with hysterical overstatement. It is one thing to say “gee, the parks aren’t being taken care of like they were 15 years ago” or whatever, and another to make it sound like going to a Disney park is an ordeal on par with a civil war in sub-Saharan Africa.

        Believe it or not, people really aren’t all THAT stupid. There are just things they’re willing to consider problems and things they are not. The most-visited theme park in the world building a *gasp* kiddie-coaster is not a problem. Frankly, it SHOULDN’T be a problem by any sane estimation.

        Sure, I can complain as well as anybody when I feel that the parks are taking creative missteps… I can really get going on the vandalism to Pirates of the Caribbean… But I still keep going because regardless of those missteps, Disney is still offering something attractive enough to make me want to keep coming back. Apparently it is doing that for a lot of people.

      • RenMan

        Cory, I’m sure you’re right. I haven’t been to WDW in many many years, and this website has generally looked disparagingly on developments there, so it’s hard for me to know what’s going on without going there myself.

        I have family members who go to “the world” all the time and they love it. And they know the parks well, so it’s not like they’re ignorant.

        I think my take on it is that even Disney’s “B game” is wonderful, so people still have a lot there to enjoy. it’s just a shame that Walt (or someone like him) isn’t in charge to make sure they bring their “A game.”

      • Cory Gross

        I’ve noticed that more than a few people on here have nothing nice to say about Disney, which is a shame for them most of all. Ordinarily I wouldn’t invest so much time and energy into something I hated SO much.

        Personally, I think it’s possible to be critical of creative missteps and mismanagement without devolving into what looks like irrational, hysterical contempt for the parks, which are still pretty awesome. It comes across like a distinct lack of perspective. The global environmental crisis is a problem. Magic Kingdom building a land geared towards shared family entertainment above E-ticket thrill rides is not. And hey, apparently a lot of people (like myself) enjoy that kind of thing.

  • Big D

    Well, I guess I’ve always accepted that WDW won’t be as kept up or as fresh as DLR because of it’s size. However, there’s a difference between not mainting something that used to be amazing and actually bringing out something that is below standards. This honesly looks like something you could see at Chucky Cheese or at a local mall (or DCA 1.0). It’s one thing to do a show like Finding Nemo where you can see the actors because you’re there to meet the fish, you’re enjoying the show. This is just pathetic.

    • Internitty

      I think it’s more to do with management than size. Look how much they are willing to throw at a system to shake every cent out of your pockets

  • Zero56

    Why don’t they just do it like The Raptors in Universal Studios Singapore?

  • Internitty

    Although I agree completely with most everything you have stated I would point out that “Val” is being performed in a style of puppetry that is very common. The puppeteers in The Lion King on Broadway for example are clearly visible throughout the show, the puppeteer for Lago in DCA’a Aladdin is also clearly visible. Even during the brilliant Walking With Dinosaurs Arena Spectacular, the puppeteers were visible for many of the dinosaurs especially the velociraptors. Val to me looks very much like it has been taken directly from the Walking with Dinosaurs live show, perhaps it is even a performer and costume from that show, it certainly looks like it to me. Having said that, I completely agree that standards have been dropped so far by WDW that I have no interest in returning, or at least until they clean up their act.

    • deggert

      For me, the difference is the context. I’m perfectly happy to have visible puppeteers during a puppeted stage show (such as the Broadway Lion King or the Nemo musical at AK), or if used during a parade (where it’s less of a character and more a piece of scenery). To have a walk around character with the life-giving aspects clearly visible damages the reality of not just that character, but of all the walk around characters in the park. It is almost akin to a head character removing his head while still in public view – it makes everyone conscious of the fact that it is all an illusion.

  • EC82

    Disney executives still see these comments as so much bit**ing from “crazy fans.” They really do. They have their heads buried so far into their money pile, they can’t see anything at all, especially not what the competition is doing. Right now, they care about one thing only, and Jay Rasulo said it perfectly in May 2013: “We get a bigger share of their wallet.”

    That is ALL they care about. They have no interest in making real change to their parks in Florida, as long as they can point to something like the hub tear-up or the view-wrecking DVC at the Polynesian and tell institutional investors (and George Lucas and Steve Jobs’ widow), “We are making major capital expenditures to invest in our parks.”

    Shame on John Lasseter and George Lucas. The former made promises he would ensure the quality of Disney parks and Disney movies, then allowed “Planes 3,” the “Finding Nemo” submarines, and “Maleficent” previews. The latter has claimed all his life that he admires Disney, used to take his family to WDW every year, and has remained silent despite being the second largest individual shareholder.

    Meanwhile, what we’re left with is theme parks that don’t decline by degrees anymore, they jump right off sharp cliffs. Epcot STILL has a makeshift stage that’s falling apart in the center of its park. It looks like something out of a high-school football field. Epcot is a sad, sad place. There is still some wonder there, but you have to look REALLY hard for it.

    Disney’s Animal Kingdom is adding “Avatar,” failing on its promise to expand our imaginations with the Beastly Kingdom concept that was so heavily touted on opening day 16 years ago.

    Hollywood Studios is a travesty, a theme park that celebrates neither movies nor Holllywood, but only Disney commercialism. Everything it could have been has fallen by the wayside, with the only silver lining to that cloud being that Universal Studios has turned into what we always hoped Disney-MGM Studios might be. And then there is that pathetic hat, a perfect emblem of everything wrong with Disney: cheap lawyers who won’t negotiate for rights; cheap “Imagineers” who come up with a sheet-metal roof to a tacky souvenir stand as the “centerpiece” of the park; and cheap-minded “brand” executives who literally shove “Disney” to the center of the park no matter what kind of aesthetic it ruins.

    And the Magic Kingdom. The poor Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland and Frontierland are meaningless now. Main Street sells Disney cr*p in every single storefront. Fantasyland has seen a nice improvement, but at what expense? I feel sorry for the Magic Kingdom, once the jewel in the Disney crown, now just another bauble that executives fiddle with for fun.

    We’re all pretty much in mourning, I guess, aren’t we?

    • Haven

      Being a Southern California born boy, Disneyland is my land. I have never cared so much for the Magic Kingdom in Florida. I understand why it was built a full scale, but it seems so vast and empty compared to the charm of Disneyland. I understand that it was put together without Walt’s guidance and was finished under corporate vision, and it shows, always has. WDW has never held that “Hollywood” artistry feel that Anaheim always did and still manages to do. I often find myself spending only about 4 hours at Magic Kingdom whenever I find myself in Florida. Fantasyland here is the worst of all of them, always felt barren and very little charm and landscaping. Now Disneyland Paris, wow, that’s a Fantasyland. Well, at any rate, I guess I just like more intimate settings…I’m a hopeless romantic. Disneyland, leave the lights on, I’m coming home 🙂

  • EC82

    “Queues are always filthy, the monorails are held together with duct tape” …

    BUT, executives get nice healthy bonuses and many make in the high hundreds of thousands and some in the low millions to ensure that costs are contained as effectively as possible.

  • blondiemouse72

    Well that’s….underwhelming…uninspiring…yeah those words will do

  • Eric Davis

    My Disney Annual Pass has expired, and right now I just can’t imagine what could make me renew it. I have friend who can get in for free the once or twice a year I go now….

    Even though I live just down I-4, I have zero desire to visit any of the Disney parks.

    Universal and SeaWorld on the other hand… I am there every weekend!

    • CaptainAction

      Our family of 5 hasn’t visited any of the WDW parks in over 3 years. We were annual passholders every year.
      Now we have Universal annual passes.
      You couldn’t have convinced us 10 years ago that we would have done this. We would have laughed at you.
      See you at Gringott’s!

      • blondiemouse72

        No you won’t I like my dinner to stay down thankyou

      • RenMan

        It is fascinating that there are folks that would be interested enough in Universal’s offerings to forego their annual passes at Disney. Now, what I wonder is how this will play out long-term. What I hope happens is that there does come a day when park attendance reports change in such fashion that Burbank feels the need to pour cash into WDW, and the folks that used to be APs at WDW feel happy about doing so again.

  • wdwprince

    Acceptance of decline? A sad day indeed.

    In all honesty Kevin, how much of your acceptance of decline occurred because you are now accepted as a blogger by Disney Parks?

    You have been very honest about this acceptance and what Disney has given to you (and other bloggers) in the form of invites and free swag. Has this played a part in your current state of mind?

    Do you feel that if you continue to criticize that you won’t get invites anymore? You have always been about honesty. Can you answer this with the same honesty?

    • blondiemouse72

      Get off here and go make more you tube vids….my family love watching them

      • wdwprince

        @blondiemouse72 Thanks! Lol. I have just started working on my latest video (Blizzard Beach) yesterday and today. I’ve been having a hard time focusing lately. So back to editing….

    • Kevin Yee

      Oh! this is a very important question and I’m glad you asked it.

      I’m still not on the “invite list” at WDW. I get invited to zero media events with Disney.

      • OprylandUSA

        Wow… I wonder why. You haven’t written anything particularly negative. All of your stuff is really honest. I guess its because you don’t recite press releases word-for-word like other bloggers (maybe?) or viewpoint tilts to whatever freebie is being given away this week *cough*JIMHILL*cough*.

        Having worked at an entertainment/hospitality company in the past, we were never beholden to positive reviews/posts. It’s odd (and a shame) that Disney is that way.

      • wdwprince

        Thanks for the response Kevin. I remember recently you wrote about getting swag at Cali Grill I think it was. Well that makes it even worse that you feel acceptance of the decline.
        However, you are in the final stage of loss/grief according to Kubler/Ross and that is acceptance. But that also implies that you will no longer fight/write for what you once stood for? I hope not. You have an audience for your opinions and they are valued.

      • Hyder Simpson

        Hmm…, a lot of read meat here. I don’t recall if red meat was served at the California Grill presser to go along with gift cards?

  • jcruise86

    If Universal’s new Cabana Bay value resort sells out, Universal will raise its rates.

    I’m afraid WDW won’t improve much as long as the MK keeps getting 17 million visits a year–which is #1 in the world. But if attendance does drop in a year when Universal’s parks see increases, then Disney won’t be able to blame it on the economy or “changing recreational preferences.” I’m interested in seeing the attendance figures for Florida theme parks in 2015. What’s the publication that publishes them? (Link, please! :))
    And when do they come out?

  • cruise

    Very fitting that this article runs the same day as the USF update “Taking Market Share from Disney.” I expect to see something like this dino at my local Natural History Museum where admission is $8. This is such a clear step backwards from Lucky that its frightening.

  • Mousecat

    Somebody at Disney must have seen War Horse on Broadway. That puppet is very effective even in regular light. This one, not so much.

    Sam Gennawey

  • danielz6

    Cruise that’s pretty bada$$. Would’ve been cool if it had a chain around it’s neck to look more subdued and reinforce the whole theme of Jurassic park which is the illusion of control.

    • RodeToad

      Cruise thanks for sharing that video of a well done concept – and danielz6 good point !

  • David Yeh

    Oh, Kevin… I hope you’re not going to stop pointing out the declining now that you’ve “accepted” WDW to be the disappointment that it is.

    Regarding the “test”.. I really don’t understand it. So many folks have done a far better job with the same technology. Having the performer wearing black just makes it stand out even more. It really is disappointing that we’ve gone from a fully realized audio animatronic to this.

    And seeing a puppeteer in a stage show is one thing. To pretend that a dinosaur is walking around the park is another.

    My last trip to WDW was in 2007. Since then, the only thing new that has been added that isn’t at Disneyland already is the upcoming Seven Dwarfs Mine. That’s seven years and nothing worth coming back to see.

  • Tielo

    I think Val really fits the area perfectly, ugly, cheap and depressing.

    Fun aside, great article. Where you accepted the downhill road Disney choose for it’s flagship resort I mourned and buried it and moved on. There was a time I bough every immaginering book and was looking for the next big thing while enjoying the rest. That all ended 10 years ago. I keep following the websites to see if there is a reason for me to come back and close Disney in my hart again, I really want to, but nothing pulls me over and only strengthen my dislike.

    Now I’m looking forward to a book about Universal Creative. That park is doing almost everything wright. Maybe it’s because I have to come all the way from Europe that I’m less forgiving like you Kevin but I can’t wait to visit Universal Resort Orlando on my next vacation this December and January. Not 1 of my tourist $’s will go to Disney.

    • CaptainAction

      December and January are my favorite months to visit Universal – nice choice.

  • swrdfghtr

    Setting aside the whole “I hate Disney parks now” argument for a moment…

    I think the problem with the “velociraptor” really goes back to Dino Land’s lack of a cohesive place. I mean, I know the storyline is supposed to be the big formal Dino Institute, with Hester & Chester setting up shop nearby to sell cheap trinkets and run a parking lot carnival… but those don’t lend themselves much to “place” when you’re talking about an overall theme (dinosaurs) that, to modern humans, is largely fantastical.

    For example, if this was a fantasy village that existed next to a forest full of live, ancient dinos – then yeah, I could see street performers in “dino costumes” like this ‘raptor wandering around. It’d be a fit for that place. As-is… it’s tough to imagine what would be a fit, in terms of streetmosphere.

    I don’t think this is a “quality” problem or a “cheapness” problem. I think they’re truly trying to try bringing some life and movement to the area, but struggling to find something that fits because there isn’t a firm direction already in place. The ‘raptor is no cheaper nor more low-quality than D’Vine, or any of the Citizens of Buena Vista Street. It just doesn’t “fit” like they do.

    It isn’t for lack of money. Hester & Chester may have been done on a budget, but it was a substantial chunk of cash. That same cash could have done something a lot more thematic… I think the company just struggles to put “dinosaurs” across. It’s possible Beastly Kingdom would have had similar problems, without a firm sense of place and time.

    I always thought it was a shame that the Dinotopia stuff never worked out. That would have given Disney a really concrete place and time to work around, and I bet they could have made a really fun land out of it.

    • Cory Gross

      Awesome constructive critique! Thank you!

  • MainSt1993

    Here’s the thing…I can go to WDW for free, and there’s just not much draw for me any more. And I *love* theme parks! WDW turned into such a disappointment so many years ago that I spend my vacation dollars elsewhere. Tokyo, Hong Kong, and soon to be Shanghai will be Disney-related trips for me before Lake Buena Vista.

  • ToddS

    Perfectly said. It’s about the immersiveness. A dinosaur with a man sticking out of it is unacceptable. It’s like the MSt2K gang said when zippers were visible on the aliens in “Attack of the (the) Eye Creatures” — “THEY JUST DIDN”T CARE!”

    I have been mourning for years as well. The example for me is the large shop in Frontierland. I always point out (to anyone who will listen) that they used to stock floor-length leather cowboy jackets, boots, chaps — tons of stuff you could certainly buy, but that they never planned on selling. It was all there just to create atmosphere. Now it’s just pins and candy.

  • CaptainAction

    I don’t think we are Disney Haters. I think we are folks who loved WDW and don’t like it at all when WDW execs of the last 10 years treat WDW like a giant cash register and guests like wallets.
    Calling everyone who is criticizing WDW execs of the last 10 years Disney Haters is just a lazy attempt to dismiss the debate.

    • Cory Gross

      Conversely, histrionic complaining that Walt Disney World is the worst themepark that ever themeparked and that anybody who doesn’t agree is some kind of low-minded sycophantic enabler is also inhibiting any kind of constructive discussion, y’know? Personally I think you’ve got it pretty good if your biggest problem in life is that Walt Disney World spent a couple years and a few million dollars building a ride that you aren’t interested in riding. I am interested in riding it myself, and I’m pretty sure that’s not because of any moral failings on my part *shrug*

  • jon81uk

    In my opinion the Val puppet character looks better than Lucky does in your pictures. Lucky is covered in signage and loo kings like a plastic figure. Val the velociraptor looks more natural and I imagine is a reasonably realistic looking puppet even if you can see where the human is.

    • CaptainAction

      At best, Val looks like she ate a human and is passing him. Sorry, but we all thought it.

      Lucky looked ok for 8-10 years ago.

  • buzzyfan

    Oh, jeez this is horrible!

  • fnord

    This is nuts. A war between those who have already visited phase one wizarding world and
    were naturally blown away, and totally can’t wait
    for the new sections, and those dedicated to
    only caring about the disney magic experiences
    they have grown up with and are wary of supporting the competition.
    And of course she who just hates those roller coaster support structures!

    • blondiemouse72

      I visited Wizarding World and was NOT naturally blown away…can I start my own group

      • CaptainAction

        You are the group. Congratulations, chose a name.

  • MikeBlakesley

    All these people saying they don’t go to Disney World any more, aren’t renewing the APs, their family doesn’t want to go anymore, blah blah……but yet the parks are MORE full now than they have ever been. We started making annual visits in September 1999, and that first time we went, the longest wait on any ride was 15 minutes. Most were 10 or 5. When’s the last time THAT happened (unless there’s a rainstorm)?

    The bottom line is Disney has spent all its Florida money for the moment on hotels, NextGen, “decor” at New Fantasyland, the Mine Train and a bunch of various refurbishments. They’re working on Avatarland plans now — which as underwhelming as that sounds to me (I’m not an Avatar fan) it is going to be hellishly expensive. And who knows what they’ll do with Star Wars. I think patience is warranted here. Do I wish they would ramp up maintenance and fix the burned out light bulbs? Absolutely. Do I think they’re headed for the toilet? No. They still provide the best theme park experience out there, this ridiculous velociraptor thing notwithstanding. (That looks more like a parade element than a “streetmosphere” piece. Whatever happened to keeping the behind-the-scenes works out of sight?)

  • CaptainAction

    MK yes, crowded. Look at the traffic after lunch at AK, and often Epcot. Flow is toward the exit.

    Read the article.

    It won’t happen overnight. It has just begun. Lots of folks just wont keep paying $500/day -$1,000/day for Spaceship Earth, Imagination, Ellen’s Energy, etc.

    Everything at Epcot is 20-10 years old. AK premier Yeti is still broke. Val is an example.

  • sediment

    Kevin, a few comments:
    1. You’ve given up. They’ve beaten you. I don’t blame you for this, as they have not even tried to improve while you’ve been hammering at them for nearly (over?) 20 years now.
    2. You’re still writing about them, so you need to keep your AP. You can’t let them try to buy you by having them invite you to staged events. (Like other sites.) And buying multi-day tickets will cost more based on how often you go (and how often you’re underwhelmed). When you stop writing about them and start writing about Uni exclusively, then you’ll probably have to give up the AP. That will be a big moment, I think WDW execs will take notice (if they care about anything longer term than this fiscal year), and I expect it to happen as soon as your kids grow out of WDW.
    3. I see a cheap raptor suit, and think, “they traveled/hunted in packs.” So, five or six more should have been made. That might make up for it, though the lawyers would nix that many wild, swishing tails about in the park.

    Lastly, wow EC82! Awesome post!

    Really lastly: Don’t think I’ll ever make the trip back to WDW. Too far, not worth it, go somewhere else instead.

  • Hyder Simpson

    The point that’s missed in all this wailing and gnashing of teeth is the fact that not only is market share not a zero sum game, Disney’s market share is more valuable per capita than the competition’s. Disney has built up such an infrastructure that if the company really wanted some short term gains all they need do is to offer a free meal plan and let the travel agents do the work for them.

    I doubt if any of the competition will ever have any negative effect on Disney’s bottom line. The sub-negligible, nattering population certainly does not. Why? It’s the same reason why Disneyworld offers 180 day dining reservations, it’s the most popular place on earth.

    • CaptainAction

      You didn’t read the article did you.

      • Carrie317

        Of course he didnt which is why he is giving his opinion. Unfortunately CaptainAction, most people on this website will never want to see Disney for what it is becoming. Less rides, more meet n greets and dance parties. If I were Disney, I would do that as well. Why? An attraction costs a lot to run every hour. A meet n greet costs the actors (12/hour maybe) and the character escort (8/hr). 2 Frozen princess characters and an escort and I spend less than $35 to run that attraction per hour. That is awfully good for my bottom line!

      • CaptainAction

        True Carrie.
        I don’t see why it’s impossible for some folks to say that they have loved WDW in the past, and those old attractions are still there, but that they wish WDW execs of the last 10 years would stop standing on the throat of new E Ticket attractions?
        I think the last E Ticket attraction at Epcot was Soarin’, and it’s like 10 years old!

        I think the last E Ticket attraction at AK was Everest and I think it’s 8-9 years old and has a broken Yetti with an added $20 strobe light for it’s centerpiece!

        I think the last E Ticket attraction at MK was Splash Mountain and it’s around 20 years old!

        I think the last E Ticket attraction at DS (I don’t count Toy Story Mania – just like some won’t count Despicable Me) was Rockin’ Rollercoaster and it is 12-16 years old!

        It all stopped around 10 years ago but these execs remember how to raise prices like crazy every year. Guests can’t notice that there is nothing new at WDW over the last 10 years, until the 10 years have passed. They are starting to notice.
        It takes time for things this big to turn.

  • CaptainAction

    Hey Hyder, Cabana Bay is ranked 4 out of 5 and is on the same page after being open less than a month. Half the resort is still under construction and the lazy river hasn’t opened.
    Don’t worry, everything will be great.
    Wonder what your comments are on the list above of lack of E Ticket attractions at WDW over the last 10 Years?
    In the last 4 years, Universal has grown 39%.
    Same time period, WDW grew between negative, flat, and 2%.
    Universal is only 15% complete on their plans to compete with WDW.
    Hogwarts Train, London, Diagon, Gringott’s, etc aren’t even open yet.
    It’s not the past that matters so much, it’s the guests attitudes moving forwards. The critical 10 years with almost nothing new at WDW while Universal offers more than it ever has is very interesting.
    Now we will see if Universal can beat attendance at AK, Epcot, or DS.
    Why would anyone get upset with Universal for making WDW execs look lazy the last 10 years?

  • CaptainAction

    Sorry, meant to point out above that the Universal value resort, Cabana Bay, is on the same page as WDW’s moderate resort, Coronado Springs in Tripadvisor ratings.
    Cabana Bay has been open less than 1 month. Coronado Springs has been open way over 10 years.
    Let the other half of the resort open and give them a few months. They’ll work out the kinks.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Ummm…Val totally sucks and there is no excuse beyond cheapness. Sorry, Disney defenders. On this one, at least, the suits went super cheap, super obviously and super stupidly.

  • Hyder Simpson

    Cabana Bay has a poorly configured bathroom ventilation system and apparently very thin walls, guests are treated to the bathroom sounds of adjacent guests. This motel is not equivalent to a roadside Motel 6, let alone any of the Disneyworld lodging choices. It’s other purported “amenities” probably won’t amount to more than pig lipstick.