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  1. #1

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    WDW observations ...

    Yes, because you asked, demanded, pleaded, bribed and cried ... here's some quick trip observations from a great (they usually are) visit to WDW and Universal Studios.

    Resorts: split my stay between the WL and the Swan (two of my faves) and was not disappointed at all!

    WL renovations on rooms are complete and fantastic. From new, higher quality bedding (albeit they still are too cheap to triple sheet) and great, huge LCD flatscreen TVs to wonderful new lighting features and shelves under the sinks and new showerheads ... an all around upgrade that the lodge needed. Hell, they even have improved the quality of the toilet paper (likely due to the sponsorship with Brawny).

    The hallways also look great, BUT are already showing gouges in walls, dents and scratches due to CMs with maid carts and luggage carts. Putting padding on the corners of the carts would cost nothing and reduce damage largely, but simple solutions seem to elude management at WDW.

    Also, got a free, unsolicited upgrade to a courtyard view.

    Lots of work being done still on the outside of the lodge and on the bubbling stream that begins in the lobby and travels out to the pool. Some rooms were awfully close to where men were on scaffolding ... very bad show. Artist Point is still very good, but a step or two below WDW's best. Serving plain bread with plain butter just doesn't cut it at a restaurant of this caliber. But the potato-chive potstickers may be the best veggie entree I've ever had anywhere.

    Swan is even more upscale with all renovations complete. The place is more subdued and less over the top. Beds are still better than anything Disney offers. And the pool area has to be the most underrated on fan sites ... guess that has to do with the lacking of 'Disney magic.'

    Also, renovations to Dolphin dining locales are complete with the Fountain (a MUCH better version of Beaches and Cream) and Pikabu (former Tubbi's) looking so much better. Tubbi's used to be so depressing and felt basement like, but now is very colorful with rich, bright hues and fish decor all over. Palios is closed for good at the Swan with a new Italian bistro set to open in Spring '07.

    Most of the trip was centered around three fall events: Food and Wine at Epcot, MNSSHP at MK and HHN's at Uni.

    From an enjoyment standpoint, I'm very pleased to state that MNSSHP has moved to the top of my fall event list. It actually is getting better with each year, and with Disney ... well, that's saying a lot. It's also a fun family event that seems to attract a wide demo from parents with young kids to tweens to couples without kids, many of whom are costumed a whole lot better than MK CMs.

    HalloWishes is a great seasonal pyro display aided with half-perimeter fireworks. The music is a bit ... weird, but overall a great show. Boo to You is an addictive song and a better (BY FAR) parade than the sorry 100 Years of Snowglobes Now Minus the Globes for Your Dreaming Pleasure. Even this parade, with the Headless Horseman, has been plussed this year featuring a great Pirates float led by everyone's fave fem Cap'n Jack Sparrow. And the final float for Goofy's Candy Company may be a blatant commercial for a Disney 'brand' product, but it's fun just the same.

    Lots of great lighting, spooky music, projections and as many pounds of free candy as you can carry make this a GREAT event and one well worth taking part of.

    Oh, and maybe it was my going on a weeknight, but there were NO lines of more than 10-15 minutes for anything. Most were walk-ons.

    AND READ THIS ANYONE WHO SAYS I ALWAYS BASH MK CLEANLINESS (which I do, but that's not the point) ... I was amazed at the fact the park looked spotless when I entered at 6:45 despite the fact Disney has long since given up clearing the park of day guests opting to arm-band MNSSHP guests instead. No trash could be seen on the ground or pouring out of cans. Things looked very, very good.

    Food and Wine Fest at Epcot was a fun excuse to eat, drink, eat, drink, eat, drink, eat, drink, and drink some more. But it is starting to feel tired. Too many of the exact same booths selling the exact same stuff as years past. Samples are also getting smaller as the prices get larger. If I'm going to pay $125 to eat and drink my way around Epcot with a companion, I'm just going to make a PS for California Grill instead.

    The endless waits with locals to get a free sample of wine at a seminar or a tidbit of food also just doesn't seem worth it anymore.

    The Eat to the Beat concerts can be a mixed bag too. Seeing one Beach Boy with some other dudes (no, not John Stamos) was really kind of sad. But Little Richard, bless his heart, gave the crowds their monies worth and then some despite needing a hand to get on stage. And Three Dog Night, who I had never seen before, was actually great.

    That brings me to Uni's Horror Nights. I posted a full review in the Other Theme Park thread started by TDLFAN, but I am thru with this event for a while. What was a great event has simply been ruined by having a Frequent Fear Pass for locals that ensures an incredibly packed park overrun by drunk 20-somethings and cursing teens. The haunted houses are all tired retreads. And the Universal 360 show is so bad it makes MGM's Fantasmic look like the greatest show ever staged. Nuff said.

    Now for some random thoughts about Epcot and Disney-MGM, the only two parks I visited for non-events.

    MS never in three days had any posted waits longer than 20 minutes, which likely meant it was always a walk-on. Test Track was usually posted at 40 minutes with actual waits closer to 20.

    Nemo, as I've posted in other threads, is a good addition but nothing to get excited about. This isn't an Everest or a Soarin. It's a solid C-Ticket. No more. No less. I do think it will be a big hit with families and hey, that's what it was built for, right?

    I would have preferred an updated sea base with an added thrill ride and family component as was pitched to WDI. Instead we have a Nemo-themed aquarium.

    Also, pretty much everything you've read here of late is true. SSE will be getting a major overhaul but will keep its spirit intact. Canada and Norway's new films should debut next year (Canada's in January). Mexico will go down soon after for the Three Caballeros overlay.

    Imagination is still in limbo with Disney desperate to make sure the third redo isn't a disaster like the last two, and that means they're doing a lot of thinking about what's going to be done.

    WoL's reopening took many, including Epcot VP Brad Rex, by surprise. But higher-ups want added capacity for the holidays with Nemo, Soarin and TT expecting huge lines.

    A new film is being created for Soarin, although it may be one for the yet-to-be-announced but happenning none-the-less DSP ride instead of a completely unique one for Epcot, which will get it first anyway.

    The on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-etc Epcot parade has been put off again as funds will likely go to the new Illuminations show to debut in fall '07 for Epcot's 25th.

    The Steve Davison nighttime extravaganza for DAK is still on the table, but don't look for it before 2008.

    OK ... enough from the CM/WDI/Insider grapevine.

    Spent some time at the Studios and saw some good things merchandise wise. Sid's is once again selling a great collection of memorabilia type items and Hollywood-themed items. Keystone Clothiers has reopened after a major redo and looks terrific. The merchandise has also taken a turn for the upscale with a wide range of clothing and Disney watches for sale.

    Star Tours looks and feels a lot more than 16 years old. Very tired.

    ToT is so much better than at DCA ... I apologize again to anyone I told there isn't much of a difference. Boy, I haven't spent enough time at this park recently to realize just how much better and fully realized the FLA version is (and that's leaving out the whole 5th Dimension debate).

    Saw Fantasmic again.

    Wasn't at all impressed with Fantasmic again.

    It's a commercial for 1990s animation. It doesn't flow properly. The stadium seating is a pain and takes away any magic, and the bought at WalMart boat in the finale really is sad.

    Millionaire has been gutted and infrastructure for Midway Mania is being readied.

    One great thing at the Studios is on Monday nights, the current EMH night, they really have a party atmosphere as they turn up the pop Disney music, add characters around and turn up the special lighting ... it makes the park feel so alive and joyfull ... at least until one looks at the BAH.

    Great Movie Ride is still one of the best things about the park, but the finale movie really should have been redone instead of just removing clips and inserting Forrest Gump, Jack Sparrow and Marlin and Bruce from Finding Nemo.

    Dining wise, I ate well. Thanks for asking. Despite a recent change in chefs, California Grill is still a treasure. The tamarind BBQ filet is one of the best pieces of beef you can eat. Captain Jack's in DD is a great, peaceful lunch spot that I hope doesn't disappear for a leasee, but fear it will.
    Artist Point remains very good, but not great.

    And Trail's End at FW is one of the best, hidden gems of Disney dining for basic comfort foods in peace and quiet. Great salads and soups and cafeteria quality entrees.

    A sad note from FW though as the Petting Zoo basically doesn't exist except to give pony rides. No cows. No goats. No donkeys. No livestock. Just ponies. I guess the lawyers and the penny-pinchers win. And what was once a lively, but laidback corner of WDW just becomes empty.

    Other negatives: Mansion NEEDS a rehab badly ... a major one. CBJ too ... Pirates as well. All of them suffer from one common theme -- terrible audio problems.

    Lounge chairs at WL pool remained covered in bird waste for entire stay as they clearly don't wash them down at night.

    Oh, and the fries at the ABC Commisary are inedible.

    That about covers it ... If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

    All in all, a great trip even though the weather was HOT for October and even though I wasn't able to find time for DAK as I had to go visit old WL furniture at Mouse Surplus!

    Oh, and I also spent some time with some very nice folks ... you know who you are!

  2. #2

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    ToT is so much better than at DCA ... I apologize again to anyone I told there isn't much of a difference. Boy, I haven't spent enough time at this park recently to realize just how much better and fully realized the FLA version is (and that's leaving out the whole 5th Dimension debate).
    I'd love to hear more, especially since all the people who say WDW's version is better use the 5th Dimension room as the reason why DCA's cannot compare. Personally, I hate the 5th Dimension room so I'm curious to know why you prefered the one at MGM Studios. I'm guessing your judgement is based on "overall experience", as I see no other way for MGM's to be superior (since you're excluding the 5th Dimension and the rest of the ride is identical).
    ~ Tokyo DisneySea’s Arabian Coast at nighttime ~


  3. #3

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    great report... makes me wish I knew some of those sources you know. sounds like you had an on and off and on and off... ext. kind of visit

  4. #4

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by TDR_Fan View Post
    I'd love to hear more, especially since all the people who say WDW's version is better use the 5th Dimension room as the reason why DCA's cannot compare. Personally, I hate the 5th Dimension room so I'm curious to know why you prefered the one at MGM Studios. I'm guessing your judgement is based on "overall experience", as I see no other way for MGM's to be superior (since you're excluding the 5th Dimension and the rest of the ride is identical).

    First, the rides are not identical, even taking out the 5th Dimension (which I like but don't feel makes or breaks the ride).

    The MGM version has the breaking glass window from the old TV show at the end of the hallway, not the cheesy seeing yourself plummet.

    It also doesn't have the lame stop where you wave bye-bye to yourself.

    It also has a random ride sequencer so that you don't know what version you're going to get.

    Those are just the ride aspects.

    But what does it for me is the whole fully realized experience you get in Florida. It looks like a real, old abandoned hotel ... not a mission-style building sitting next to a theater's outdoor queue. You walk thru forboding gardens, with fog at night, with music playing and enter. The queue isn't cartoony.

    The whole building has the look of being genuine ... it's large and imposing ... it's not just suddenly there.

    It's really some of WDI's best placemaking work.

  5. #5

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    First, the rides are not identical, even taking out the 5th Dimension (which I like but don't feel makes or breaks the ride).

    The MGM version has the breaking glass window from the old TV show at the end of the hallway, not the cheesy seeing yourself plummet.

    It also doesn't have the lame stop where you wave bye-bye to yourself.

    It also has a random ride sequencer so that you don't know what version you're going to get.

    Those are just the ride aspects.

    But what does it for me is the whole fully realized experience you get in Florida. It looks like a real, old abandoned hotel ... not a mission-style building sitting next to a theater's outdoor queue. You walk thru forboding gardens, with fog at night, with music playing and enter. The queue isn't cartoony.

    The whole building has the look of being genuine ... it's large and imposing ... it's not just suddenly there.

    It's really some of WDI's best placemaking work.
    Yes. Even though I don't have a preference over which ride system is better, I do prefer MGM's for being more detailed and elaborate. Reason why I think the best version of Tower of Terror is in Tokyo DisneySea. Combines the best elements of WDW's version and utilizes DCA's more advanced technology. Plus, it has a preshow to die for!
    Last edited by TDR_Fan; 10-24-2006 at 09:17 PM. Reason: Typo
    ~ Tokyo DisneySea’s Arabian Coast at nighttime ~


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    Re: WDW observations ...

    That's why I'm looking forward to riding Tokyo's Tower next year!

  7. #7

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    That's why I'm looking forward to riding Tokyo's Tower next year!
    I'm sure you'll be very impressed. Tower of Terror fans have been touting it as the best version so far, even though the Twilight Zone reference has been dropped. Overall, it's more immersive than the previous versions and provides an unique experience to anybody who's been on the American versions.
    ~ Tokyo DisneySea’s Arabian Coast at nighttime ~


  8. #8

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    The on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-etc Epcot parade has been put off again as funds will likely go to the new Illuminations show to debut in fall '07 for Epcot's 25th.

    The Steve Davison nighttime extravaganza for DAK is still on the table, but don't look for it before 2008.
    So is the parade not looking like it is going to happen at all? or just put off at the moment? I know most people probably could care less about a parade at Epcot, but being the entertainment geek I am, not having a parade or lavish stage show at Epcot is kind of disappointing.

    Also, I can't wait to see what Steve cooks up this time. They BETTER let him do his thing and give him the right amount of $$$ to do it- They won't be disappointed, thats for sure!


    ps. thanks for the report!!! sounded like a lot of fun!

  9. #9

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Thanks for the non-trip-report trip report. I've been meaning to do one myself, but just never seem to find the time. A couple comments on your comments -

    And Three Dog Night, who I had never seen before, was actually great.
    I enjoyed 3 Dog back in the day, but wouldn't call myself a huge fan. But they really knocked me out last year at the same venue. The 2 remaining Dogs still have great pipes, and kick in plenty of energy for old guys!

    >Great Movie Ride is still one of the best things about the park, but the finale movie really should have been redone instead of just removing clips and inserting Forrest Gump, Jack Sparrow and Marlin and Bruce from Finding Nemo.<

    The original version of this was done by my editing hero, the great Chuck Workman (he's the guy who usually does all of the clip segments for the big award shows, among other things). He has a really wonderful sense of flow, of creating a narrative with his clips and then smoothly moving from theme to theme. The re-edits have most definitely NOT been done by him. They've been a simple hack job - cut out this and stick this in. There isn't nearly the feel and flow that the original had. I'd love to see them budget for a new version. Shouldn't cost more than 20 to 30 grand, and would make a gigantic difference in the "grand" finale.

    >Mansion NEEDS a rehab badly ... a major one. CBJ too ... Pirates as well. All of them suffer from one common theme -- terrible audio problems.<

    I didn't notice CBJ being any worse than it's always been. I've never thought the sound in this show was as present as it should be. And while my doombuggy audio was just fine in my HM ride through, the out of sync problem of the singing busts in the graveyard is practically criminal! It's just completely out of whack with the track playing in the rest of the graveyard. And it seems to be consitsent - not getting any better or worse. I'd bet there was a time code error on the last video set of the busts that they did, and they aren't going to fix it. Criminal, I say!

    Glad you had a great trip!

  10. #10

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Nemo, as I've posted in other threads, is a good addition but nothing to get excited about. This isn't an Everest or a Soarin. It's a solid C-Ticket. No more. No less. I do think it will be a big hit with families and hey, that's what it was built for, right?
    Call me crazy, but I was more impressed with Nemo than I was Soarin' when I visited EPCOT last week.

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by aimster View Post
    Call me crazy, but I was more impressed with Nemo than I was Soarin' when I visited EPCOT last week.
    to each his own...

    Nemo is a C maybe a D... only really one use of newer technology, and of course, the adapted technology...

    Soarin is a high D to a medium E....

    but people have opinions... thats wht we have message boards and communities...

  12. #12

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    WDW1974, I appreciate your observations. I would say that I really like DMGMS. There is a charm about the place that I really like. I know that others might not value that, but I felt I could relate to your description of DMGMS at night.
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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Okay, who are you and what have you done with WDW1974??????? With the exception of the traditional 'we need better bread' and 'Wal-mart boat' comments, that has to have been the most positive post I have ever seen from you. Just one addition though, they also added Narnia (which I feel is the best of the re-edited segments) and Chicago.
    “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” - Walt Disney

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    One great thing at the Studios is on Monday nights, the current EMH night, they really have a party atmosphere as they turn up the pop Disney music, add characters around and turn up the special lighting ... it makes the park feel so alive and joyfull ... at least until one looks at the BAH.

    Great Movie Ride is still one of the best things about the park, but the finale movie really should have been redone instead of just removing clips and inserting Forrest Gump, Jack Sparrow and Marlin and Bruce from Finding Nemo.
    It was just re-done and more was added besides that. You do realize that, right?

  15. #15

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    Re: WDW observations ...

    Quote Originally Posted by tcsnwhite View Post
    So is the parade not looking like it is going to happen at all? or just put off at the moment? I know most people probably could care less about a parade at Epcot, but being the entertainment geek I am, not having a parade or lavish stage show at Epcot is kind of disappointing.

    Also, I can't wait to see what Steve cooks up this time. They BETTER let him do his thing and give him the right amount of $$$ to do it- They won't be disappointed, thats for sure!


    ps. thanks for the report!!! sounded like a lot of fun!
    I would say it's doubtful you'll see a new parade at Epcot anytime soon ... they have gone back and forth on this pretty much since Tapestry was finally put out.

    I would also bet you'll see Steve's new DAK spectacular if Everest continues to draw folks in as it has. They know they can't have a park that basically runs 9-5 hours eight months a year.

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