Somebody Got the Memo

I’m pleased to report that, after many months of sub-standard appearance, things have turned around at Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. Apparently someone important must have gotten the message, taken a ride, and realized that things were, in fact, quite bad on those two rides. Within two short weeks, many of the glaring problems have been fixed.

Perhaps negative fan reaction (both my own updates and some efforts by numerous discussion boards on this very topic) CAN do some good? The things they fixed were broken for months (more than a year in some cases), but apparently if we all howl loudly enough, it’s good to know that we are heard. Reality check: or then again, maybe it was the coincidental visit this week to WDW by CEO Bob Iger and the Board of Directors (reportedly staying at the Boardwalk resort). Nothing like the boss dropping by to keep things fresh, eh?

Read what you're missing...

Of course, the fast action implies something else: it means they CAN fix this stuff quickly when they want to. They must have not wanted to previously… and that’s a bad thing in and of itself. Dare we hope that from now on they won’t wait for fan-based crusades to take hold before they keep things running at the high Disney standards for which they became famous? Or for the CEO to drop by?

Let’s start with Big Thunder. I’m pleased to report that the dreaded tarp is gone! There’s now rockwork on the wall, blending in with all the other fake rocks. Finally! I was happy to see this. After a few minutes, though, I realized that maybe I should instead be angry. It took far too long to fix. And they didn’t really “fix” it right—as the rock doesn’t move, nor do the others. This isn’t really the earthquake scene it’s supposed to be (remember— this is WHY the ride is called “Big Thunder”, a name supposedly given by the Indians who heard all the earthquakes).

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: a fake rock!

I’m pleased they fixed the tarp. The ride no longer feels like amateur hour. When the tarp was there, it was like the local state carnival, where quality didn’t really matter and “show” was an irrelevant concept. They’ve taken it up a notch with this fix. Now, instead of “amateur hour,” we’ve at least got some lip service paid to theme. But at the end of the day it’s still lip service. What good is the earthquake scene if there is no earthquake? This is the behavior I’d expect of a major theme park that WISHES it were internationally famous, but really can’t compete. It should not be the behavior of the industry leader.

In addition to the absentee quake, the geysers near the Rivers of America remain turned off, and there are those missing railroad cross-ties under the track. Plus, here’s something I keep meaning to mention but haven’t found a way to work in, many moons ago they removed the “second” seat of wheels on each train’s engine – it was there just for show, and they thought it could be removed, but the train looks a bit unbalanced without those wheels. It’s a smaller thing—certainly much less important than the need for earthquake effects, not to mention avoiding black tarps—but those “small things” are supposedly where the “Disney Difference” comes from.

The track looks great when there are railroad ties, n’est ce pas?

Splash Mountain is doing much better. All the Brer Foxes work now (though the mouth movements are still far from perfect most of the time, but at least they all move now), and some of the geese (at the start of the ride) and some of the chickens (at the end of the ride) now have moving mouths. That was good to see. Even better: the stream of water arcing through the air during the “Laughing Place” (think of them as leaping fountains) were back!

This frog at the start had some mouth movements! I nearly croaked!

But here, too, it was just a partial fix. While some of the geese and chickens now function correctly, others don’t. It’s not at the “embarrassment” stage like it was two weeks ago, but it’s still at the “inadequate” stage. For some animatronics, the mouth movements are too weak; for others, the movement is missing entirely. That was also the case for the “frog on a log” just prior to the dip-drop.

After the dip-drop, the Brer Bear scene is entirely static. The bear is supposed to be moving his head and arms (and didn’t they used to have orbiting bees on this beehive?) They definitely had orbiting bees on the next hive, right about Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, but that one lost its bees a few weeks ago and is still barren.

The gophers all pop up in the Laughing Place, but the final one in the ceiling which proclaims “FSU” makes his noise without making a physical appearance. One of the vultures at the upramp still isn’t moving his mouth.

Overall, the ride definitely looks better, but it can use even more tender loving care. Perhaps Iger will visit every few months now? That may be our only hope for getting things fixed around here.

The bouncing bunny has been working for some time now,
and was ironically not part of the recent troubles.

Killer Buzz

I dropped by SeaWorld on Friday to sample their “Summer Nights” promotion. OK, I’ll admit it – the name sounded like a ripoff of Disney’s Summer Nightastic from last year, and the logos look suspicious too. But while I’m in a mood for full disclosure, I might as well admit the REAL draw for me was the advertised brew sampler they helpfully told me about in a mailing to my house. Forget killer whales. I was there for the killer buzz.

It’s splashtastic. Have they been hiring One Disney writers?

It’s $25 (or $20 for annual passholders) for a night full of beer. You get unlimited six-ounce servings of beer or cider (they had pear or amber) – there are 20 varieties to choose from.

Or are those four-ounce cups? That would alter the math… but not my fun quotient.

Here’s the serving list:

  • Bass
  • Becks Pilsner
  • Blue Point - Blueberry Ale
  • Bud Light
  • Estrella - Damm
  • Kona Wailua Wheat
  • Landshark
  • Leffe Blonde
  • Magic Hat #9
  • Magic Hat – Circus Boy
  • Red Hook - Copper Hook
  • Shock Top Raspberry
  • Stella Artois
  • Widmer - Drifter Pale Ale
  • Widmer - Citra Blonde Summer Brew
  • Woodchuck Draft Cider – Pear
  • Woodchuck Draft Cider -Amber

Most of the beer is dispensed in booths near Bayside Stadium (the same booths they use for the holiday season, I wager), but a few restaurants around the park also let you have Bud Light or the like from their normal dispensers.

Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um, joche!

The booths sell the beers individually, if you don’t want to pay $20 for the wristband. It’s $6 for a 12-ounce cup… which implies each of my six-hour samples is “worth” three dollars. By that logic, I’d make back my $20 investment with seven of those little cups. By the end of the night, I’d had 12. Or maybe it was 14. I stopped counting carefully by that point. It seemed less important (you don’t suppose it was something they put in those drinks?!)

I figured I was doing my journalistic duty by drinking as much as I could, actuarial precision be damned. I was also, er, having fun with friends, which is arguably the point of an event like this. It’s why you shell out the money. $20 to get tipsy, sample many different kinds of beers, and have a good time? Sounds cheap to me. And it was extremely uncrowded when we went – you won’t wait more than 45 seconds to get served each time. The beer starts at 6pm and stops at 10pm, when the fireworks kick off.

Glowfest-style lighted tables from the Beer Zone (they should call it the Beer Zone, don’t you think?)
in the foreground, and the Reflections fireworks in the background. No, it wasn't with Mulan.

SeaWorld is trying hard to woo repeat customers this summer. Apart from the brew sampler, you’ve got the upgrading of the usual annual pass dining discount (10%) to a higher 20% after 5pm. And then there’s this cherry on top: with each entrée you buy at dinner, you get a free dessert if you flash the annual pass. Not bad!

Video Slideshow #3

- SeaWorld’s cooler policy: max 14 inches by 14 inches
- Flynn Rider no longer doing meet and greet with Rapunzel
- New sign at Character Spot at Future World
- Buzz Lightyear queue “purple” room now repainted, props are back
- Spinning ball returns to Tomorrowland after a rehab
- Pooh has a new meet and greet location against construction wall *behind* Mad Tea Party (in a corner)
- Friar’s Nook now serving teriyaki chicken nuggets
- Tile work on Pinocchio Village Haus roof
- Fungal growth on fence near Aunt Polly’s
- Ladders visible onstage? Not supposed to be!
- Diamond Horseshoe was open for 4th of July weekend, with Liberty Tree Tavern menu ($36 buffet)
- Robotic newspaper statue missing in Tomorrowland
- Everest FastPass allowed for *next* FP an hour later, rather than two hours. Due only to busy weekend?
- New stork exhibit near Restaurantosaurus?
- DJ Dino-Mite now spinning club tunes near closed Primeval Whirl
- Yak and Yeti café (outdoor seating) has new large shade structure
- Duckweed covers Discovery River near Camp Minnie Mickey
- Canoe sign for Camp Minnie-Minnie now instead says Festival of the Lion King (and its showtimes)
- 4th of July fireworks from Poly drew a few thousand folks; a snack stand sold drinks and small snacks

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.

2011 Kevin Yee

Let's Discuss!

Click on this link to discuss this article on MiceChat!

Find Kevin on Social Media

Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular "Where in Walt Disney World" photo quizzes.

On his public page and Twitter feed he also offers regular smaller updates on the parks.

Kevin's Disney Books

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

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.

History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.

In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.

Also recently issued...

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. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.

The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.

The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.

Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.

Also written by Kevin...

  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdom is 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 Member provides the first authentic glimpse of what it's like to work at Disneyland.
  • The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
  • 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.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages in the four Disney World parks.

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