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I’m continuing to lap up the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, now being tested in the Magic Kingdom. These days, the tests run all day and into the night (usually almost until park close, in fact), even though the game won’t be officially unveiled for a few weeks yet. To judge by the fervor the game has unleashed among other fellow fans and weekly visitors, it’s going to create a serious addiction.

Read what you’re missing...

Disney fans are by nature collectors, and this game plays very wisely into that tendency. You get five cards per visit, but there are 70 cards in total to collect. Who can resist? Not us, certainly. We’ve been back multiple times to collect our five cards per visit. We’re up to 60 unique cards now. Many folks in the online community are about to complete their first deck; I suspect we’ll be a little later than most. The trading that goes on at the park is a further indication of how popular this game is.

Expect Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom to be around for a long time.

If you haven’t tried the game yet, you could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about. It’s a simple interaction game, not too different from Kim Possible in the broadest terms (you show up, you perform a can’t-lose action, and something happens in the environment), and thus it looks like it’s geared to small kids. I can’t argue that. It is, at least on the ‘easy’ setting, which is all that anyone gets during this soft opening. Later we’ll see the Medium and Hard levels, when it will be possible to lose the game, and when the card selection makes more of a difference.

I’ve learned a few things since last writing about this game. First, you really should bring back your keycard on your second, third, and 40th visit. You won’t be penalized or anything; you can still get your five free cards. If anything, doing it the other way (leaving everything at home) will result in them asking you where the keycard is. We’ve learned to just tuck it away with the annual pass so we always have it.

Your key to victory is a card.

One person in our extended family obtains the spell cards each time, but never plays the game. She just hands us the cards, since she knows we’re trying to build a full deck. She was given a moderately hard time on her last visit by the Cast Members, who looked in their computer and realized she’d been back multiple times, but never yet played the game. What was she doing with the cards, she was asked. I can see why they’d ask. She should try to play the game, but then, she might get as hooked as we are!

On some days, they also issue cards near the Tiana meet and greet (in Liberty Square, near the bridge to Adventureland by the Christmas shop). It might be possible to get a second set of cards here if your keycard is scanned at the fire station but not your admission media, but that just seems underhanded to me.

Fantasyland closes each night for fireworks, which causes a serious crimp in the Sorcerers system. If the computer would normally tell you to report to Fantasyland, it will instead say to “check back later” if FL is currently closed. At least the automation works.

We’ve noticed a typo in the Fantasyland Ursula storyline (“going” was spelled “gonig” in the onscreen captions), and the “go here” images are sometimes misleading, since the décor at the window has changed since they took the photo. But we also learned that sometime soon, they will replace those real photos with a hand-drawn image instead.

Soon to be all-animated.

Clearly, the biggest challenge associated with Sorcerers will be the lines. The thing isn’t out of beta testing yet, and already there are already 3 to 5 parties in line at many of the portals. There are several downsides to this, if the lines persist (let alone get worse). First, the concept of waiting around defeats the purpose a bit. If I want to wait, I’d rather that an actual ride greet me after my invested minutes.

Second, and more damningly, the portals are loud enough that the storyline is playing for the folks in line as well. You are likely to see “your” video before you even get to the front of the line, or worse, see a video you are destined to see 3-4 portals later. That takes the zing out of the storyline, n’est ce pas?

Will there be a FastPass soon?

They might need to throttle down availability, perhaps by virtue of not offering extra quests automatically. What they really need is more capacity, but the stations are undoubtedly expensive to build. No matter. The crazies like us really only care about collecting. We’re waiting for Cast Members to start card trading the way they now do pin trading and Vinylmation trading.

They are rumored to sell full decks once the game opens for real. That would be fine, but I’d be most interested if they kept adding cards as a way to get us coming back for more and more. What if they sold “extra” cards but continued to give away the “basic” cards? I’m definitely on board if the cards are park specific rather than movie-inspired, but obviously I’m a fan either way.

A new banner for Sorcerers.

The Rizzo Factor

One thing I’m not a fan of is poor maintenance. It’s a crying shame (or an absolute disaster, depending on your point of view) that in the midst of such awesome new experiences there are also continuing and serious problems with upkeep.

I’ve previously shown you the Splash Mountain finale as it appeared on January 22, with all animatronics broken. Here it is again:

They fixed it a few days later, but the problems have been going on for weeks now. Everything worked a week later, but by this past weekend (early February), some of the animatronics were broken again. The piano-player on the upper level was frozen in position. Is it so hard to keep things in working order?

Reportedly, they’ve been struggling with parts. I’m not too surprised, if true. For decades, they would keep spares on hand at the park, even if it might take years before a replacement was needed.

Now, they don’t keep any extra parts around—they wait for things to break, and then order them. This kind of “just in time” production line might make sense on a spreadsheet, but it has real-world implications. Rides suffer when parts are broken or missing, and the show doesn’t look perfect.

For most managers, that doesn’t matter. These days, the important part is that the conveyance mechanism itself works. As long as it keeps moving, they will keep the ride operating. The “Show” question is second tier.

A long time ago, there were some robotics and animatronics that were deemed so central to the Show that the ride would be shut down if they broke. Think of the auctioneer or ship captain on Pirates of the Caribbean.

You'd be angry too if you couldn't do your job properly.

For proof that those days are gone, look no further than the Disco Yeti over in Animal Kingdom. The signature feature of Expedition Everest, the yeti is so central to the ride’s “wow” factor that you’d think they would take the time to do a proper rehab so they could get him fixed. Yes, I know that apparently the mountain would have be partly deconstructed to get it fixed, and that it may make for an extended rehab period. But I’m thinking Walt himself wouldn’t care what it would take to get it right, if he were alive.

The entire TDO attitude is one of resignation. The park operators and current Team Disney Orlando management seem to think that people won’t notice, or won’t care when central show figures are broken. “Run it anyway” seems to be their mantra. Their customers would rather go on the ride broken than miss it.

I’ve got a new way to think about this attitude that I’m calling the Rizzo Factor. It comes from Rizzo the Rat, who dresses up like Mickey Mouse in the MuppetVision preshow movie. When Sam Eagle objects that he isn't the real thing, Rizzo exclaims “they’re tourists… what do THEY know?”

We’d laugh if we didn’t want to cry.

The more you think about it, the more you realize this is precisely the attitude TDO has toward Orlando visitors. They think visitors won’t notice and won’t care when show elements are broken. Rizzo’s line worked as a joke precisely because it was so far from the truth—Disney ALWAYS cared about the tourists in the past—but things have changed so much that the line now exudes irony. These days, Rizzo looks prescient rather than impudent.

It’s really another side of the Declining by Degrees that I’ve increasingly noticed for many years here in Orlando. If you think about it, the “Disney Difference” comes from a million tiny details all working in harmony and operating on a subconscious level. Taken together, they add up to an experience that visitors can’t put their finger on, but it’s magical. The reverse is also true. Take enough of those invisible (and expensive!) tiny things away in an attempt to save money, and eventually you’ll reach a point when the thing doesn’t seem magical anymore. It’s like the proverbial frog boiling in water; we don’t notice until it’s too late.

Did tourists notice when the drapes disappeared in the third showroom at Ellen’s Energy Adventure? Probably not. But the screens are now visible, so the big “reveal” moment later when Ellen uses her hands to expand the screen is diminished. To heck with showmanship.

Did the tourists notice when the side drapes similarly disappeared a few weeks ago in Impressions de France? Again, probably not. But the first few moments of the movie now lose their impact as it expands into widescreen, since the entire projection area is now visible from the start. The same is true of Mickey’s Philharmagic, which I just noticed this past weekend. There are no side drapes now, so the dramatic “reveal” is lessened once the show goes widescreen.

How do you like my parks?

Consciously, probably few people notice that. This is the whole point of the Rizzo Factor. They’re tourists—what do they know?

Guess what, TDO? It is noticed. The weekly visitors notice quickly, and the others sense that things aren’t as magical as they once were. It’s an oversimplification that WDW depends on first-time visitors. The reality is, after all these years, many are now repeat visitors. Some come once a decade, but many come every year. And the voracious upselling of Disney Vacation Club memberships that they’ve been doing for the past decade only adds to those numbers.

Video Slideshow

As a reminder, look below the video for a bullet-point list of what’s talked about. For those of you about to watch the video, don’t peek at the bullet points! They would be “spoilers.” This week we show some of the construction around the Magic Kingdom:

  • Grand Floridian DVC construction continues (still clearing land!)
  • First look at a bearded Cast Member
  • Big Thunder rehab: scaffolding everywhere
  • Skyway chalet now demolished, land cleared
  • Prince Eric's castle in Fantasyland is getting some decorations!

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Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2012 Kevin Yee

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Kevin’s Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

  • Jason’s Disneyland Almanac (co-written with Jason Schultz) is an exhaustive listing of every day in Disneyland history, from 1955 to 2010. You’ll find park operating hours, weather and temperatures, and openings and closings of any park attraction, shop, or restaurant… for every day in the park’s history.
  • The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
  • Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted.
  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.