Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Festivus for the Theme Park Us

Today is the day where we forego the stress and commercialism of this time of year and celebrate around the adorned aluminium pole. To the uninitiated, Festivus was brought to the public forefront in 1997 through the TV classic ‘Seinfeld’ as a holiday excuse for George not to give co-workers gifts and for Kramer to take off work.

So finish up your Festivus meal around the aluminium pole and lets kick it off with some theme park Festivus activities...

Airing of Grievances

Tom Bricker
Universal Orlando, you have parks with some of the most beautiful lands and areas in theme parks seen at night, so why do you close your parks so early? A 10PM closing should be a normal occurrence, not a rare event that only happens during the summer and at Festivus (and Christmas too, I guess.) Additionally, odd restaurant and quick service hours cause issues finding a good place to eat in the parks. Why does Mythos close at 3pm while the park is open till 7? I understand the desire to have guests to go CityWalk, but even CityWalk isn’t fully open till dinner. Take a page out of Disney’s book and expand your operating hours to match the demand

From @tweetneal
Walt Disney World, you differentiate yourself with the super cool monorail system that connects the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and several deluxe resorts. It’s of of your signature features in the resort, so why have you let it rot away? Yes, some carpets in the monorails have been changed out, but lots of them still look worn, AC is incredibly weak, smell bad, and stories of the monorails going down happen frequently. The Parks and Resorts division is claiming record attendance and profits, so why not spend the money to upgrade your monorails to the futuristic and sleek transportation system that it is!

Photo courtesy of
Universal Studios Hollywood, you’re entering the big leagues next year when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade opens on the west coast. You’ll add two new attractions, many cool new shops, and new shows. But why can’t the same attention and care put into Harry Potter be extended to your parking situation? Crazy traffic flows, scattered parking garages, and now no annual passes include free parking. For a park that treated its annual passholders well and was supported by said passholders through ugly times, the lack of parking options is ugly.

Feats of Strength

Let's not rumble, son. Folks we get it, you're strong and have had a few drinks. Please stop acting tough and fighting Halloween Horror Nights scare actors? Some of the coolest and best scare actors have left the event due to stupid guests, so lets end this now. Scare actors in scare zones and houses are not just amazing actors but are amazing people. Please, just wrestle your dad.

About positive feats of strength, need I say more than these two tweets?

Festivus Miracles

IT'S A MIRACLE! Star Wars land has been rumored for decades, and finally with the release of The Force Awakens around the bend, Bob Iger announced the new land at D23. And woah, if The Force Awakens is any indicator, this land will be the bees knees. Incorporating all of our favorite planets into one rim planet was a sort-of stroke of genius as we now can experience all our favorite locations without that weird necessary issues of planet traversal or story! With many insiders worrying Disney would spend "their time" and wait for any sort of announcement or building, this was a great surprise to have.

But what about another new theme park in Orlando? Today, the Orlando Sentinel leaked Universal Orlando finished the purchase of 450 acres of land for future development. With this much land Universal can build new resorts, CityWalk, and a new theme park. And with "green lights" ahead we're really looking at a bright future.

Universal Orlando Closes 450 Acre Land Deal

Paul Brinkmann from the Orlando Sentinel is reporting Universal Orlando Resort has closed the deal to purchase 450 acres of land off of I Drive. The property's deed was transferred through a claim deed last Friday, December 18th.

For more information and speculation on the land deal, read Joe's post and listen to our podcast.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

5.4- Seth Lord

Joe and Nick are joined by Seth Kubersky from The Unofficial Guide series and! Reporting live from Disney's Hollywood Studios, Seth describes the new Star Wars food and drink offerings, talks about the Star Wars launch bay, and Star Tours. Then we dive into metal detectors at parks, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood opening, Disneyland construction, goats, virtual reality, I Drive, Nick's weekend Orlando trip, answer your questions, and more!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeCaptMichael87ParkscopeNick, and/or Parkscope_Sean.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Spoilerscope- The Force Awakens

Joe, Meg, and Sean talk SPOILERS about Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Do not listen until you've seen the movie, you've been warned!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeCaptMichael87ParkscopeNick, and/or Parkscope_Sean.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thoughts on Possible Universal Orlando Land Purchase

Image from Google Maps. X notes location of Skyplex
In the 1990s, Universal acquired roughly 450 acres of of land north of Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway for future expansion. Colloquially referred to as "The Lockheed property" and "Sand Lake Road complex", the land was purchased from Lockheed Martin where it was used for missile testing. Because of the testing, the land required environmental clean up before it could be used for its zoned purpose: entertainment and theme parks.

Universal in 1998 launched their infamous Universal Studios Escape rebranding, which caused brand confusion with the two parks and CityWalk. Additionally Universal changed owners more than a game of musical chairs, suffered through the tourism slump after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a recession, and a lack of direction for the resort which lead to a weak resort with declining attendance, supported by convention space. The resort was hurting, and to make the resort appear more appetizing for Blackstone Group and new owners, the land was sold off.

On December 1st, 2015 during the Skyplex Orange County Commissioners meeting for approval of the project, news leaked on (behind paywall) that Universal has an option on the contract for land purchase.  Additional confirmation was provided by the county commissioners. This land, in addition to the Wet'n'Wild property (which is closing December 2016) could open up a massive, unprecedented expansion for Universal Orlando Resort, and the biggest theme park additions in Orlando since the 1990s.

The land, again, is rumored for purchase by the Universal Orlando Resort. Until UOR announces the land deeds are in their hands, nothing is final. But the vibes coming out of UOR seem to indicate this is nearly a done deal and Universal Creative has already started planning for the new land. So lets throw some caution to the wind and speculate some.

First, the land is isolated from the main resort property, approximately 3 1/2 miles via road from the Universal parking garages. This poses a massive issue with transporting guests between the three plots of land effectively. Buses would be the easiest method, with new stops at all the resorts, but would cause issues at the main parking garage and with the notorious I-Drive traffic. Most wish for a new monorail system, both because of the quick and sleek monorails bypass all I-Drive traffic, and also because it sort of snubs the conventional logic on why WDW hasn't expanded their monorail system. But monorails would require construction over existing land and highways that Universal doesn't own the rights to.

With that in mind, some have suggested Universal would not use the land for theme parks. Instead,  non-guest facing facilities could be moved away from the theme parks, opening up more land for attractions and guest areas at USF and IOA. I believe this will happen, but Universal doesn't have 450+ acres of back stage areas, maybe a few dozen acres at most, leaving plenty of room for resorts and a theme park. Even more puzzling are suggestions Universal will build unaffiliated, non-UOR branded convention hotels, convention facilities, and a high end residential neighborhood. Conventions have, and continue to play, a large part in the UOR resort (and also WDW), but unaffiliated expansion for a non-core business attached to the resort is grasping at straws.

In my mind, this expansion is for a third park, additional resorts, and a "City Walk South". It's likely hotels will have convention space and advertise the close proximity to the Orange County Convention Center, but that will supplement and sell hotel space, not be the focus. A new parking garage complex will be built and the new CityWalk could split the dual personality of the existing CityWalks. One CityWalk could focus on a broader audience with a relaxed atmosphere while the other offers nightlife and activities for those over 21.

A third theme park has been long rumored to be planned and recent rumors from several sites have suggested Universal Creative are currently working on such a park. But problem is those rumors never lined up with the suggested locations at Wet'n'Wild and another rumored plot of land off of Major Drive, east of the Portofino Resort. The Sand Lake complex offers the proper zoned land a new park. While already zoned, there could still be challenges to the plan due to light pollution, height of additions, sound, and traffic. If those sound familiar, that's because UOR's opposition to Skyplex was based on these worries. It's my belief (without inside information) that part of UOR's plan was to set precedent for when their projects are going forward there will be no legal foot to stand possibly stand on. After all, Universal launched a flyer campaign against the project, but themselves were a no show at the December 1st hearing. 

So what could a third Universal theme park look like? I have suggested on the podcast that Universal could look to create a park based on the relationship between communities and the wild world around them, similar to Tokyo DisneySea and the original ideas for Disney's Animal Kingdom. Sean also point to Tokyo DisneySea as an example, where several separate lands are connected with one connecting theme, which is also physically a body of water. Other on Orlando United have come up with several ideas of their own. One idea that I believe holds no water is a full Nintendo theme park. Universal and Nintendo want a Nintendo experience open at Universal Studios Florida as soon as possible, and while Nintendo is a massive brand, it cannot support a 40,000+ guests per day theme park.

What do you guys think? Will we see more resorts? What about transportation issues? Theme park ideas? Leave your comments below.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

5.3- Land Acquisitions

Joe, Mike, and Sean discuss Joe's quick Orlando trip, Grinchmas, food, Christmas traditions, Universal's option on a contract for 450+ acres of land, Kong, Joe as Mini Me, and more!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeCaptMichael87ParkscopeNick, and/or Parkscope_Sean.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Report: Universal interested in 474 acres near Universal Blvd reports (behind pay wall) sources have informed them that 474 acres of land owned by Colony Capital is being purchased by Universal Orlando Resort for expansion of a third park and additional resorts. The leak occurred during the approval meeting for the Orlando Skyplex, a project Universal Orlando Resort has blocked. Confirmation from Universal at the meeting about their contract leads us to expect this was a planned move to possibly thwart the Skyplex project and their claims of studying the land Universal already owns.

Universal's land (undeveloped area) compared to location of Skyplex (marked with red X)
This land was originally owned by Universal Orlando till the 2000s, when under financial hardship during the recession and poor ownership, the land was sold to Lockheed Martin. The lack of additional land created a Disneyland-esque situation where UOR was quickly becoming an island in a city sprawl. This land purchase will work with the Wet'n'Wild land to add more hotels, shopping, dining, parking, transportation hubs, and possibly another theme park to the resort.

We will report more as we hear it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5.2- Disneyland Trip Planning with The Trackers!

Joe and Nick are joined by the one and only Jim and Tenn, I mean Tim and Jenn, Tracker! We cover Tim's trip to IAAPA 2015, rumors of The Secret Life of Pets dark ride at IoA, help Tim and Jenn plan their FIRST Disneyland trip, ceiling fans, Final Destination deaths, and more! Make sure to follow Tim and Jenn on Twitter and check out their awesome YouTube videos!

Make sure to check out our last episode with Bob Sehlinger, author of the amazing Unofficial Guide series!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeCaptMichael87ParkscopeNick, and/or Parkscope_Sean.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Permit Update- Fast & Furious Supercharged Building Layout

Poster NJBrandon on Orlando United has posted a building layout for the Fast & Furious Supercharged attraction at USF from permits..

Compare this to a layover of a google maps view of the old Disaster show building below.

You can see this will be a major expansion to the attraction; new filming elements have occurred with Ludacris for the ride, who is not featured in the USH version.

Parkscope expects this to be an expanded, new version of the ride but will not be radically different from the experience at USH. So don't expect this to be a rollercoaster, Test Track style ride, or not primarily screens based.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Diagon Alley- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

London & the Streets of Diagon Alley - Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts - Kings Cross Hogwarts Express

Photo courtesy of Tom Bricker

Below the escaped Ukrainian Ironbelly sits Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the predominant bank of the wizarding world. Second only to Hogwarts in security and safety,  Gringotts employs strong safety measures: dragons protect the deep caverns, enchantments protect the vaults, goblins guard the secrets of the bank with their honor and lives, and Ministry of Magic Guards patrolled the foyer.

Photo courtesy Universal Orlando Resort
Where as Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Express take place during the Summer of 1996, Escape from Gringotts takes place May 1st, 1998. During this time Diagon Alley is a desolate street while under the rule of a Voldemort controlled Ministry, which wouldn't be a pleasant setting for a theme park. While goblins still work the tellers, the Voldemort controlled Ministry guards run the bank (aka your helpful Universal Team Members; explains the no bag policy).

You are here to open a new bank account and take a tour of the bank. Of course, this occurs parallel to the heist of Helga Hufflepuff's cup by Harry, Ron, and Hermione and you get caught up in the action. A last minute rescue from Harry saves your hied from Voldemort's torture, which also lets loose the dragon on top of the bank. Oops.

Escape from Gringotts expands upon the same design philosophies from Forbidden Journey, Indiana Jones Adventures, Countdown to Extinction (née Dinosaur!) and Radiator Springs Racers by using the whole land as a build up to the ride experience. Diagon Alley is the shopping district for the Wizarding World and as such the bank is its hub. The Knight Buss conductor to the bar tender at the Hopping Pot plays into the roll of Diagon Alley, and this all cumulates under that dragon.

There are three designed areas in the bank: marble covered guest areas, back stage dark wood, and dank cave space. As you progress through the queue you peal back the vernier of the bank as the fitted suits and marble columns give way to dark wood, middle class-esque working areas. What's
interesting is the goblins 'control' the main guest areas, while ministry officials/TMs are present in the offices and vault loading station.

Escape from Gringotts load area.
Photo courtesy Universal Orlando Resort
Talking about the vault loading station, this is one of the many comparisons I've seen between this attraction and Indiana Jones Adventure out at Disneyland. The vault load area echoes the same
massive caves at Indiana Jones Adventure, as does the dual load dispatch area and "turn into wait and hold show scene". Similarities also come in pacing where you interact with Indy/Bill between action segments, view massive set pieces, and then are "stationary" for the final two show scenes (darts/ball and Voldy/lava). And of course we cannot forget the "goodbye" from Bill and Indy before the music swells as you enter the ride station. I'm not saying the rides are comparable or identical, but I've heard from more than one person they get reminded at spots.

Indiana Jones Adventure load area.
Photo courtesy Jon Fu.

One of the under reported and loved scenes in the attraction is the lift to the vaults. Using a floor that raises and falls a few inches, projection screens to show outside the lift car, and wind creates a next generation version of the hydrolators from The Living Sea. Thought what separates the lift from the hydrolators and other similar faux elevators is the plot progresses beyond "you're being transported somewhere else" which puts it more in line with the non-faux elevator but actually a real elevator of the stretching rooms in The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Here the characters descend with you and the guests glimpse the trolls which will feature later in the ride.

There are two unique aspects to this attraction that are worth mentioning. During the first show scene is one of the few "tilt" tracks in existence; here your vehicle stops at a dead end of track to watch a scene before the track tilts forward, aligning with another piece of track to create a drop. Your vehicle is held during this time using breaks before they release at the opportune time for a cool first
impression. The other is vehicle movement, where unlike typical roller coasters you do not face forward or parallel to the track the whole ride experience. Rides like Seven Dwarf's Mine Train feature "tilting" left and right, but Gringotts also spins the vehicles in time to the ride while the roller coaster track itself pitches and yaws in time to the ride film. What you end up with is a ride system more like a cross between Spider-man at Islands of Adventure and Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida (or for those Disney based, imagine if Indiana Jones Adventure was a roller coaster too).

Escape from Gringotts succeeds in impossibly putting you into the highly controlled world and movies created by JK Rowling. It doesn't hit the perfect home run like Indiana Jones Adventure does, but matches itself quite well against rides like Radiator Springs Racers and Forbidden Journey. Yes, the attraction further cements Universal into the "put these glasses on watch this screen" attraction category, but that's another discussion for another time. Gringotts is the keystone element of a complex and texturally rich land. Nothing works quite as well as without this attraction and this attraction doesn't work as well without Diagon Alley, and that's an amazing feat.

5.1- The Unofficial Guide's Bob Sehlinger

Tami Knight.
Image courtesy The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016

We're back after a break! Joe and Mike are joined by Bob Sehlinger of The Unofficial Guide series to talk about New Fantasyland, SeaWorld's big announcements last week regarding rides and killer whales, and Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon. We close out with an interview with Bob about his background, fandom of Disney and the parks, funny stories from his research trips, hilarious stories about Len Testa, and more!

Disclaimer: Copies of the Unofficial Guide were provided to Parkscope for review for this podcast. Parkscope has purchased and continues to purchase Unofficial Guide books for our own personal use.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeCaptMichael87ParkscopeNick, and/or Parkscope_Sean.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Our First Parkscope Mailbag!

After having written this blog for so many years, we thought it was high time to give back to our faithful readers with a real, unfiltered mailbag article! Now you can become part of the Parkscope family, and be famous! Like us! (Thinks) Um…

These are real questions from real readers.

I didn’t buy my tickets for Star Wars! And now they’re sold out! Help!
--S. Martinez, Los Angeles, CA

Parkscope: Oh no! We didn’t either! And good heavens, we didn’t realize that it was just playing on one day, in a tiny limited amount of theaters only in Los Angeles, New York, and Bangkok! We were under the impression it was an omni-glut mega movie rollout that will play at 4,000+ theaters around the country and continue for several months! Boy, were we stupid!

Disney raised the prices for Annual Passes again. Is this all they know how to do? Don’t they know they’re pricing out their most valued customers?
--D. Amezcua, Tustin, CA

Parkscope: To be fair, let’s give credit where credit is due. Disney also knows how to:
1)   Close beloved attractions forever
2)   Sue their competition out of business
3)   Make a successful sci-fi movie
4)   Play the same three princess songs all the time, everywhere
5)   Open merchandise stores at attraction exits

So let’s be a little less critical of Disney, shall we? They’re doing the ABSOLUTE BEST they can with their $130 billion market cap, and their stock that has multiplied by a factor of seven since 2009. I mean, what ELSE could they POSSIBLY do with all that money?

I think your park is too crowded. I went there yesterday for Halloween and I couldn’t ride anything because of the lines. You need to do a better job of kicking people out, especially the ones who dress like Trump.
--Billy, Clearwater, FL

Parkscope: Our most sincere apologies! Once we build a park on our website, we promise we will kick out more people than we do now. In the meantime, to make up for this inconvenience, if you print this page out you can use it as free admission to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!  Just walk on up with this page to the front gate. Tell them Buck sent you.

One time you said that the broken bust in the Haunted Mansion wasn’t Walt Disney, but it totally is! Otherwise how would he have gotten that moustache?
--M. Bohn, San Francisco, CA

Parkscope: Indeed! Great catch, by the way. We didn’t even realize it was Walt Disney until we saw that moustache! We don’t know why we didn’t see it, after all he looks just like he does in his final portrait hanging above his secret tomb underneath Cinderella Castle!

Do you know how I can be an Imagineer? I always wanted to do that but never knew how. Is there a number I can call?
--P. Guzman, Houston, TX

Parkscope: Yes! Call the Team Disney Anaheim information line at (714) 781-3463. Tell them you want to become an Imagineer and ask them who you can send your portfolio to. If they don’t give you a name, send your portfolio to Attn: Professional Recruiter at 700 W Ball Rd, Anaheim, CA, 92802. Then send all of your theme park attraction ideas to Disneyland Guest Communications, via e-mail and hard copy, to really impress them with your creativity! They’ll love you for doing that! You’ll be a shoe-in. And if they don’t hire you, it means one of the few bad apples at Disney is trying to steal your ideas! So when you see your attraction ideas come to fruition in a few years (the similarities might be small, but that’s only because the Imagineers are trying to hide their plagiarism) get them back with an intellectual property lawsuit! Disney will be forced to hire you on the spot as part of their settlement! You can’t lose!

Should I even pay for cable anymore? I don’t even watch sports but they force me to pay for ESPN. Disney is evil :(
--P. Frost, Wichita, KN

Parkscope: You think that’s bad, we hear now you can’t enter the Magic Kingdom if you’re not wearing an Anna or Elsa costume! Are they out of control or what?

Feel like making your relationship what it used to be? Now you can get Viagra online straight to your mailbox! Click on the link below to learn how!

Parkscope: Sorry, our filter was off. We don’t get letters like that very often. We promise.

I was walking in the park the other day, and I noticed that you’ve taken out a lot of the Outdoor Vending carts. You really should put them back, they’re far less expensive than the over-spent and over-staffed QSR locations, and the SPLH metrics guarantees a continued increasing profit margin. Close more restaurants.
--P. Pressler,

Parkscope: (**throws water**) THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!!!

You can send your (real this time), unfiltered questions to, or send us a message on Twitter!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The "Not Another Trip Report!" Part 1: Epcot has Left the Library. Epcot has been Saved.

This is Walt Disney World. You are with Sigourney Weaver, aboard the website Parkscope. Something has gone wrong. One by one the readers have vanished. And somewhere in this website, a terrifying TRIP REPORT waits to claim its next victim!


What follows is a moderately detailed and wholly spontaneous trip report of my recent adventures hacking away at Brazilian tour groups. Many, many of these topics might become entire columns in the future, since they have increasingly piqued my interest the more I think about them. We’ll see if you agree.

Oh, and I have an EASTER EGG surprise for you. Hidden somewhere in this column is the FULL DRINK MENU for Pleasure Island, specifically Comedy Warehouse. Yes, all the PI specialty drinks are somewhere below. This is not a joke! It’s here. And, according to my research, it’s the ONLY KNOWN PICTURE of the Comedy Warehouse drink menu on the entire internet! See, now you might read it!

Got that Egg White delight Spinach Cabbage McMuffin handy? Grabbed that Danish in the shape of Mount Rushmore? Then let’s get started!

Epcot ‘15

So...They can think of THIS but somehow NOT tie it into Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit? Who's asleep at the switch?!

Spaceship Earth and my other lovelies: Upon entering the most experimental of prototypes, I had to partake in one of my most sacred of rituals: immediately doing what every other clueless tourist with a map glued to their face would do and head straight for the giant space dome that everyone else is running to regardless of sanity or common sense. I have to do SSE first. I just have to. It’s like the people who always go to a certain hot dog stand immediately upon entering the ballpark. I have to pay my respects to John Hench and Ray Bradbury, even though they would never in their right mind ask me to thank the Phoenicians. And, to pay even more respect to Messrs. Hench and Bradbury, I listened to the thing in German. I just can’t stand the new(er) spiel. I mean, do we really have to pander to the lowest common denominator? I can’t believe (and I mean this sarcastically, because you know this is true) that there was some meeting, somewhere, among Disney “creative” executives who looked at the data that said “young kids don’t like Epcot as much as Fantasyland” and pronounced the ultimate solution to be having Judi Dench act like Dora the Explorer. It’s just insulting to my ears, to my American heritage, to my sci-fi background, and to practically everyone who ever lived in ancient Mesopotamia. I still can’t get over that. Lord almighty. So, German it is. Usually it’s Japanese, because Japanese voice work is so much better than American voice work, but I needed a good laugh. See, Germany is good for something!

Before we go on, let me just say that SSE, Universe of Energy, American Adventure and Living with the Land are probably the only fully pleasant experiences I can even have at Epcot any more, mostly thanks to Fastpass+ (more on that later). I can’t help thinking that there has to be someone else who thinks it’s possible for Disney to produce a new UOE show using the exact same cast as the 1996 version. Wouldn’t that be weird and kinda geeky all at the same time? Is there a Kickstarter for this? Can there be a Kickstarter for this?! Come on internet, I don’t ask for much.

The producer's going crazy because Einstein fell asleep again. Someone poke him with a MagicBand.

World Showcase: I found my normal tour around World Showcase to be more unpleasant than usual because as time goes on, we old WDW stallions are starting to realize a tidal wave that has just hit our treehouse and flooded our dreams: that World Showcase, themed stratificationarium extraordinaire, vestige of Ryman and Redmond and Goff and McKim, has inexorably turned into little more than a walk-around themed bar district. Yes, for some reason, the same hoity-toity executives who felt that Pleasure Island was a walk on the just-a-little-too wild side also felt what the Mexico Pavilion really needed was a Margarita stand and a Tequila bar. No more attractions, no more restaurants (unless they provided uber-expensive Illuminations packages, natch). Just more booze. Is anyone running this ship? Does the left hand realize that the right hand just all but challenged the Orange County department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to a duel? What is going on these days?

On a related note, who wants to start a bet on how long it takes Disney to call this "Rainforest Theming?"

France: On a more satisfying note, the French Pavilion still provides one of the most untouched remnants of EPCOT Center left in this world. Sure, Perry the Platypus likes to swing from the chimneys and the Patisserie now serves sandwich and pastry items that can be found in many, many other locations on property, but by golly walking into Impressions de France is like walking into a time machine back to 1982. I think it has to be the only remaining untouched attraction from 10/1/82. For that, it gets my click. And a toast. With all the alcohol I stumbled over to walk there.

American Adventure: I sat in the dark auditorium for 40 minutes with a look of pure joy. I just kept thinking how we will never see anything like AA ever again. A 40 minute multi-presentational animatronic show? Unbelievable. I sat with a smirk on my face, since it’s obvious given Disney’s recent history that the park executives have absolutely no idea it’s still there. Attractions Director: “The American what? It’s where? I didn’t know we had an America Pavilion. I never go past the Japanese sake bar.”

Mission: Sinise: I might be the only one in the world who thinks that if Guests didn’t know the darn thing spun, they wouldn’t psych themselves out and get sick. Can someone do a study on this? Can we have a control group from Brazil pretend to be led into the Orange queue but instead be snuck into the Green queue? How many less people would get sick if Moe from Global Guts didn’t tell them to leave if they’re afraid of spinning, after informing them that Mark from Israel is in the lead with 550 points heading into the Crag level? Has anyone with any authority thought this out loud? “Hey, you know how we don’t tell Guests on Star Tours they’re moving and shaking inside a box on stilts…?” Hypersleep deactivated.

Tron Track: This is the second trip I’ve taken to WDW since Test Track received the Tron makeover, and there’s a little buzzing in my head I can’t seem to shake. I walked past the new queue, the dreadfully boring preshow/waiting/prison area where we’re put in an airlock until all the other kids are done doodling their non-existent car, then was shuffled onto a ride that I was told was different than Test Track but ended up just being Test Track that got up on the wrong side of the bed. Oh, now I remember what that buzzing in my head was saying. I can hear it now, it’s real quiet: WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS??!! Seriously, I can’t even fathom why Disney spent so much money to quite possibly make one of their star E-Tickets less interesting than what it was before. Didn’t we used to have a rough road section? And a climate chamber? And a truck that was hiding because it wasn’t covered in bright neon? I’m racking my brain to think of another instance where Disney spent money with the sole purpose of making an attraction less exciting (except obviously not for Tom “tile murals are exciting” Fitzgerald). Not to add characters, not to make it PC, not to add pointless distractions, but to literally make it less interesting? I mean, this is a unicorn attraction here. How many times has this happened? And more importantly, why was there no real effort placed on this renovation? Covering things in neon, pretty though it is, does not an attraction make. What makes it even more insulting is the fact they didn’t even take the concept to its conclusion! WHERE ARE THE PRETTY NEON LIGHTS ON THE EXTERIOR LOOP??!! There was nothing! Not one little sliver. Think of how cool that could have been. Had it been done right, it could have made the entire effort worthwhile. What a travesty.

Disney’s Hollywood Pixar Marvel Star Wars Muppet Lucas Studios (Esquire)

Fastpass- : Before we continue, I have to quickly mention the Marx Brothers movie that Fastpass+ has become (or Fastpass-minus, preferably). I’ve heard arguments from both sides of the aisle about the pros and cons of this system, and I’m guessing from what I’ve heard that the internet community is largely divided on this issue, but after hearing all the arguments I cannot for the life of me find any reason to think why Fastpass+ is an improvement, or at least that it doesn’t cause more harm than good. For every argument I’ve heard in it’s favor, I can think of two or three ways it would create a negative experience for other Guests who don’t collect Vacation Club Points like Sonic the Hedgehog collects gold rings. I simply can’t wrap my mind around why this is a net gain in terms of overall Guest satisfaction (and I mean all Guests, not just the ones who plan every day of their vacation six months in advance). And this is even after Disney lifted the ludicrous rule that you could only get Fastpasses for one individual park each day (I mean really, who plans this stuff?) This is obviously a topic for a potential future article (God help us all) since there is far too much to talk about here. I only mention it because it very negatively affected one afternoon of mine with very little effort (it really infects everyone’s vacation like a disease and bothers you even when you’re trying not to pay attention like the people who talk in the movie theater). And I’m not even counting the fact that I saw 45 minute lines (caused by Fastpass+) for SSE, GMR, Living with the Land, Mansion, and Buzz on weekdays during the offseason (that really honks me off). I went to Studios on a whim one afternoon. I guess I must have been spoiled because I had gone to MK the day before and I was able to get a FP for practically anything (except a new kid’s coaster that seems to be all the rage these days). So I went to the FP+ terminal and saw wow, Coaster and GMR had times available that afternoon (I wasn’t going to wait in a 45 minute line for GMR). Awesome. I clicked on Coaster, then tried to click on GMR, but the icon had gone dark (I was able to get Space, Thunder, and Splash the previous day). I called over a FP+ attendant, we’ll call him Sven. As you can probably guess, hilarity ensued. Cue Benny Hill music.

Sven: How can I help you?
Me: Hi Sven. Awesome name. I’m trying to click on Tower, it was there a second ago but now it’s dark. Did it sell out in the half second it took me to blink?
Sven: Oh, you already have a FP for Coaster.
Me: Indeed.
Sven: You can’t have a FP for Coaster and GMR at the same time.
Me: I don’t get it.
Sven: See, there’s two columns here. You can only pick one attraction from the left column and two attractions from the right column.
Me: Is this some sort of theme park communism we’re witnessing?
Sven: (laughs) No, this is just Disney’s way of evening out the crowds.
Me: (ignoring the fact that the last time GMR had a 45 minute line was in 1991) So they put the big attractions on the left? So less FPs are given out?
Sven: Right.
Me: I can’t help but notice the Great Movie Ride is in the left column.
Sven: Yeah.
Me: And Beauty and the Beast.
Sven: Right.
Me: Can you tell me, seriously, if anyone has chosen these two in the left column instead of Coaster or Toy Story Mania?
Sven: I can’t remember.
Me: Oh believe me, I would remember if I were in your position. I see Tower and Star Tours are on the right…is there a suspicious waning of popularity for these two that we don’t know about?
Sven: I dunno.
Me: As long as you have to make a life or death choice between Toy Story Mania and Robert Osborne Presents?
Sven: I’m just the guy who does the thing.
Me: And what a thing it is you does. That’s fine…I guess I’ll just grab one for Tower and Star Tours.
Sven: Tower’s out, and Star Tours is for 7:15.
Me: Fine. Nevermind. I’ll just take the one for Coaster. (Fumbling at the controls). It’s not working.
Sven: You can’t do that.
Me: Do what?
Sven: You can’t just take a FP for Coaster. You have to pick two more.
Me: Come again? I have to do what now?
Sven: You have to take two more, or you don’t get any.
Me: The hell? This is progress?
Sven: Do you want the Star Tours one?
Me. No. Just give me the next two available.
Sven: Enjoy your 3:15 showing of Voyage of the Little Mermaid!
Me: (Death Stare)
Sven: Next please!

That in itself would be bad enough, but of course it couldn’t end there. The Little Mermaid FP was for a return time between 3:15 and 3:25. I went over to MuppetVision, which took slightly longer than I had anticipated, and made it to the show around 3:25. I went to the original FP return area, but it was no longer there, so I looked around for either a sign or an attendant (not there). Finally, after waiting at the entrance for a CM to show up, I saw one coming out of what looked like the return lane. I went up to him and showed him my pass. “I’m sorry,” he said not so sincerely, “we’re closed.” “The show’s 101?” I asked him. “No,” he said, “You were supposed to get here at 3:25, and it’s 3:26, so you need to wait in Standby.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “If you wait in Standby, there’s no guarantee you’ll get in this show.” “No man, I’m good. Have a nice day.” My nice gesture was not returned, as the Cast Member was probably looking for babies to steal candy from or small dogs to kick. So for those keeping score at home, our amazing Fastpass+ system has developed the following wave of negative effects:

1.     Fastpass+ bloats GMR line to 45 minutes, past the line of bearability
2.     Fastpass+ forces life or death choice between Coaster and GMR, looks like no GMR for Jeff today (single tear emoji)
3.     Hey, instead, you want to go on an attraction you have absolutely no earthly interest in?
4.     Jeff goes on MuppetVision, since it’s the only attraction at the time that has a short wait, and still misses FP time for Mermaid, even though it was not something he wanted to do in the first place

And can you imagine being a father of four girls who made his Fastpasses five hundred months in advance and shows up one minute late to Voyage of the Little Mermaid and is told under no uncertain terms to get lost by the teenage minimum wage attendant who just wants to get Vista Laid that night? Having been a greeter before (though not the kind who hates people), I’m telling you, there would have been real violence. This is Disney’s idea of a good time?

The Great Osborne Ride: Wow, Robert Osborne really is full of himself isn’t he? “Welcome to Robert Osborne presents Robert Osborne’s Great Movie Ride Starring Robert Osborne (and Sigourney Weaver).” And the not one but two blatant plugs for TCM in the final scene. Was Disney this desperate to have TCM’s sponsorship that they would bow to such pandering? I mean, talk about tasteless. Do we even need tour guides anymore? Why can’t we just replace them with animatronic Robert Osbornes? He’s castrated the spiel as it is. How sad.

Free Hat: FREE HAT FREE HAT FREE HAT FREE HAT…I can’t believe this is real! It’s like finally seeing the demise of the Pepto Bismol castle, except 13 years too late! I can see the framed architecture again! I can see the meticulously sculpted park icon! I can’t see a giant middle finger to all of us who don’t want to remember Paul Pressler! It’s like Michael Jordan finally getting rid of his Hitler moustache! FREE HAT FREE HAT FREE HAT!!

If the hapless mom in the middle had was wearing a fanny pack, you'd think it was 1989

And Now for Something Completely Different: There seems to be a new(er) safety procedure on the parking lot trams that forces Cast members to make a last call for boarding, announce that there’s no more boarding, then play the 90-second safety spiel announcement, and leave only after it’s done. The dirty looks they get by people who are told not to board but see the tram just sit there, perfectly still, for another 2 minutes or more is priceless. It’s why I get up in the morning. Can’t you just cut the boarding after the safety spiel? Seriously, people. The lawyers are out of control.

Frozen, or God’s Punishment for Male Cast Members: I treat Frozen like the annoying dog that your neighbor takes for a walk past your house every day. The rest of the neighbors just love that dog. I mean, how can you not like that dog. It’s the cutest freaking dog in the whole freaking world. Just leave me in peace. You do what you want Frozen, just don’t poop on my lawn. There’s a good dog.

MuppetVision: As a West Coaster, I really miss MuppetVision. It’s always been a real highlight for me. I miss it even more now that the Muppets have a TV show that quite possibly has caused several of my friends’ eyes to bleed. As a species, the human race simply cannot afford to eliminate a piece of Jim Henson when his legacy is being defecated on in such a fashion. I think this is the first sign of the apocalypse. Although, I’m glad to see the guy who closed the Country Bear Playhouse at Disneyland a few months before the release of the Country Bears movie has found another job at DCA, closing MuppetVision right before the Muppets debuted a show in primetime. Keep gettin’ dem checks, hilariously incompetent Disney synergy guy. (And isn’t it time we eliminate the completely pointless Muppets Most Wanted tag from the preshow? Is it so painfully obvious Disney couldn’t screw up the Muppets more if they tried?)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or as it’s known now, “Disney’s Crane Kingdom,” because yikes

Avatar Cranes: The cranes be everywhere! But are we actually sure this time they’re building the Avatar Promised Land? Is there actual progress being made? Can we clone Al Lutz so his duplicate can brave the horrendous swamps of Florida to bring us weekly updates on the so-called progress? I think there have been something like three Harry Potter expansions that have been announced and built since construction began. Civilizations have grown and died. There have been 17 new Doctor Who’s. I might be off a little there. But it sure seems like it.

Wait Your Turn Safaris: I’m going to take this opportunity to comment not on the perfectly serviceable jeep ride through Harambe to see the concrete and fiberglass Baobab Tree, but to quickly note a trend that has been an annoyance since the Darth Paul years of 1999-2002: the fact that Disney tends to pull vehicles for the night way too early, to the detriment of Guests still in the park. To be sure, pulling vehicles at the end of the night is an appropriate time and cost-saving measure, too convenient to be ignored. Starting about 15 minutes before park close, pulling these very-expensive-to-maintain vehicles out of the operation saves time for nightly maintenance crews and money on potential long-term wear and tear. When I was a Cast Member at the Temple of the Luxuriant (Forbidden) Eye, we sometimes pulled vehicles as early as 30 minutes prior to park close on slow nights. But also of note, our Leads were very aware of the effect it would have on our wait times. Pulling some vehicles at IJA (as long as both load stations were operational) had little effect on our wait time (five minutes at most), because our now depleted jeeps would simply coast into Unload instead of stopping behind another unloading jeep. The extra wait would be minimal, and would be partially offset by the fact that Guests did not have to wait to Unload. Unfortunately, I encountered some areas at WDW that took no such consideration, the most egregious being at Safaris and Thunder. In these instances, jeeps/trains were pulled more than an hour prior to closing, causing inexcuseably bloated wait times. At Thunder, a downsized 3 train operation caused what should have been a walk-on experience with a maximum 5 train operation during a relatively slow night into a 20-minute wait, with the line now past the Fastpass merge point. It was sad to see so many Guests forced to wait to this extent where there should be no wait at all. And again, on Safaris, my party and I waited in a painfully slow line that started past the stroller parking area. Even the Fastpass line had backed up past Warden Wilson’s happy pappy Harambe Channel (keep in mind, this was around 3:30 on a 5 pm close). As the line slogged to the merge point, one of the Fastpass Guests asked the merge CM why things were taking so long (he actually asked specifically if it was an animal delay). She said no, that they had been “taking vehicles off” so there would be delays and backups, as well as interminable waits in between jeeps. Isn’t that nice. During my time in Attractions, we were taught that a short wait for Guests should be considered part of the “Courtesy Key” (Safety/Courtesy/Show/Efficiency), and that contributions to Efficiency (removing vehicles, ERing Cast Members) should only be made if the Guest Experience was not affected too detrimentally. I’m just so puzzled that WDW would make such operational decisions so early before park close. They seem to have a mentality that a 20-minute wait is acceptable, regardless of the time or the park conditions. This is certainly another topic for another time, but if Disney wants to shake the impression that it’s uber-busy 24/7/365, shouldn’t they actually allow the slow times to be slow? During times of reduced park hours, Stay Time decreases, which means Guests have less time to spend money on food and merch. Don’t the Disney Scrooge-athons in the MBA department want Guests to spend more money? Guests can’t spend money if they’re waiting in line. It’s just one of those things that make you scratch your head.

And hey, did someone say SHOPPING?! That cues us up for …

Disney Springs, or, “Oh, the Humanity!”

The Sunglass Shacks: Okay, to be fair, there is still an enormous amount of construction going on, and the gridlock and overall pandemonium I experienced at this once-peaceful corner of WDW could easily be explained away by the fact that the full expansion has not yet opened. But that still doesn’t explain why I’m not impressed with the ongoing effort. Bill and Ted said it best: “Why have Pleasure Island when you could have a sunglass shack?” I guess I miss the days when Disney wanted Downtown Disney to be different, a change of pace from the rest of the property, a place where they put things that did not fit anywhere else, in the name of variety. Pleasure Island, DisneyQuest, House of Blues, the old Marketplace, Cap n’ Jack’s, Virgin Megastore, Cirque du Soleil, these are things that could encourage a separate visit to see DTD when you could be spending your time at the theme parks you’re spending $100/day for. But now it’s just…shopping. And a very limited variety of “things that aren’t shopping.” Even the so-called “new adventures,” namely the Splitsville bowling and the NBA Experience and the hangar where they serve Raiders of the Lost Meatballs, are little more than watered-down and far more expensive versions of what came before. Does the hangar really replace the Adventurer’s Club? Does NBA really replace Disneyquest? And the prices are an obscenity for the quality you get in return. They replaced what used to be a varied experience with one big outlet mall. Disney’s Sunglass Shack outlets? Since my primary MO while visiting WDW is not shopping, there’s now nothing for me here. I used to enjoy going to Disneyquest/PI/wherever and shopping before or after, but Disney doesn’t want me there unless I’m willing to buy an entire kitchen set including the kitchen sink. So I won’t be.

Random Tangent: Why does the WDW property still have so many one-lane roads? Having lived in LA for a few years, where there is exactly infinity-zero room for construction or expansion of anything of any kind, I tear my hair out every time I have to drive on one of these one-lane jobs through the swamp. They have NOTHING BUT ROOM. And Guests CONSTANTLY COMPLAIN ABOUT OVERCROWDING. AND BUSSES THAT TAKE TOO LONG TO REACH THEIR DESTINATION. THIS IS THE EASIEST FIX IN THE WORLD. WHERE DID MY HAIR GO??!!

The Magic+ Kingdom

The Swiss: Has anyone else performed an act of Good Samaritanism while in line for an attraction? Have you done things like close a switchback queue that’s no longer necessary (or opened one when crowds are overflowing)? If so, we’re friends. Automatically. You don’t have a choice. There’s no escape. I walked by the Treehouse and saw there was literally no one exploring inside, lo and behold some funny person had switched the Treehouse wait time to 60 minutes. I changed it back to the only wait time Treehouse has ever had (0). When I returned from watching Tropical Serenade, the Treehouse was full. It’s amazing how weird yet predictable tourists can be. There are now, I’m sure, religious texts that sermonize about my generosity. All hail Doom.

Wherefore Art Thou, Little Orange Bird?: I nearly had a panic attack when I saw that Aloha Isle had moved into the Sunshine Pavilion. I was quickly told that the Orange Bird had moved his Citrus Swirl over to the former Aloha Isle location. I can easily think of two reasons this could have happened (since theming and WDW history suggests the Sunshine Tree Terrace remain at the Sunshine Pavilion): 1. Some number cruncher saw they could sell 2% more Dole Whips if they moved to a location with one more register, or 2. Someone wanted to duplicate Disneyland’s highly successful Dole Whip setup. It’s sort of a downer either way. Profits before Show, yet again. I do share Foxxy’s view on this point that WDW has its own history, and making changes to be “more like Disneyland” is contradictory and silly. Read her full column here rather than listen to me blabber on, since I agree with practically every word:

Enchntd Tki Rm nd Cntry Br Jmbre: Really Disney? You thought the one thing Magic Kingdom needed was to cut 2 minutes from Tiki and Bear Band? Someone actually thought this up? And it’s pretty funny how some of the changes are just plain nonsensical…Wendell and Gomer’s protracted appearances coming first to mind, or perhaps the fact that the Bodiless Three now have exactly zero lines in between intro and exit. There certainly was no creative direction here. It’s easy to see what happened, it happens with movie making all the time. The director is given a set time limit, and is told on no uncertain terms to cut to that length of time. So they cut one verse of Big Al, one verse of Ole Slew Foot, etc. until the show’s pacing is completely shot. But hey, at least Iago and Olaf aren’t somehow involved, right? (Down girl!)

Hopefully-One-Day-Will-Be-Extinct-Gen Mansion: When did the Haunted Mansion move into Toontown? Did I miss the memo? Someone tell the magical Disney map people that we found Toontown, it’s been hiding with 999 ghosts for some reason.

Is this Fantasyland now? Does Syfy Channel play real sci-fi shows? I don't know what to think anymore!

Packages will be sent through Next-Gen Queues: The new(er) Space version is just frustrating. It’s nice that Disney is spending some money and everything, but here it seems they were changing things just to change them. Really guys, little green alien is our new color scheme? And why does every screen now have to be SO FANTASTICALLY BRIGHT? Could people not see the departure board in the first room before? Because the new freaking bright lights wrecks the go-away effect of the wall paint. And why is there a giant unthemed hallway on the way to Alpha that looks like the backstock area of a garage sale? Is this where the money ran out? My head hurts.

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Bar: After my forays at MK I did sneak into Trader Sam’s to see how it compared with the West Coast version. And seriously, doesn’t Disney learn from it’s mistakes? There was little to no seating inside the main area. I thought this was supposed to be the bigger, better version? Where’s that WDW spirit? Sheesh, they get constant complaints at DL that the bar fills to capacity too quickly. Don’t they listen? Unbelievable.

On the bright side, Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, and the Peoplemover are still truckin’, and though COP looks and sounds awful, thank god it’s still there. That’s another area that I think Disney brass have simply no idea is still in existence. One can only hope.

A Final Word:

Epcot has Left the Library. Epcot has been Saved

I’ve heard so much negativity about Epcot from fans for the past, well…who are we kidding, 15 or so years. Disney replaces classic attractions with Pixar, or Six Flags thrill rides, or anything else. It’s really very obvious that Disney management, as it exists today, has little or no interest in Epcot (other than through alcohol sales). They couldn’t care less about Epcot’s mission or point of being. It’s plainly obvious. And that’s sad. But what’s strangely hopeful about this situation is…there has been very little damage done to Epcot’s core infrastructure. Disney’s apathy towards Epcot has caused a strange sort of sleepy sickness that makes them ignore making Epcot that much worse. In the Eisner days, they weren’t shy about spending the money to tear entire attractions down and replace them. Nowadays, they’re too lazy to spend the money. So everything we’ve come to despise about Disney’s attitude towards attractions and creative thinking, has actually been what has saved and preserved Epcot.

It reminds me of what happened with Fastpass. Old school Disney fans hate Fastpass for several reasons, probably the most egregious being the overcrowding of walkways, the creation of a lower-class theme park stratification, and the blatant intention of Fastpass to get Guests spending more money in the restaurants and shops. Yet, one good thing that came out of the Fastpass initiative was the very real possibility that it saved several smaller attractions from extinction. Because Guests are now walking around, they don’t just visit shops and restaurants, but they have time to go to smaller attractions they normally wouldn’t have time to visit during a regular operating day. I’m convinced Fastpass is the reason why we still have a Tiki Room in Anaheim and a Carousel of Progress in Orlando. These attractions just fell through the cracks of the system and were able to avoid extinction.

I see the same kind of “falling through the cracks” happening with Epcot. The core is still there. With the exception of Horizons, no 1982/83 pavilion has been fully bulldozed or replaced. Spaceship Earth is still there. Journey into YOUR Imagination has kept the first 2/3rds of Dreamfinder’s ride track. Only very small changes were made to Universe of Energy or the Living Seas. All we have to do is take down some window shades and Innoventions looks more like Communicore again. Underneath all the frou-frou and pin stands and DVC stalls is EarthStation and Communicore. Just like with American Adventure, I think Disney just doesn’t want to spend the money or effort to change things at Epcot. Which, considering how much worse it could be (EPCOT BECOMES NEW DISNEY SPRINGS/DVC EXPANSION!!!) is not an entirely hopeless thought. All it will take is one smart person to say, “Hey, maybe people really like Epcot!” and flick the switch back on. But for now, EPCOT Center is quietly waiting in the dark, like a surprise birthday guest…like one day’s it’s going to pop out of your birthday cake (that’s an interesting visual). Shhhhhh! Don’t tell Disney it’s still there!

"Johnson, what is that?"
"I dunno sir, possibly a leftover from the Eagle Pines course?"
"I don't have time for this. I have admission prices to increase."

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (and the real reason you’re probably still reading this). During my trip, I paid a visit to my former house and said hi to my wonderful former roommate, Tim. Tim is a GSM at MK and owns his own DJ company, and therefore has an unhealthy obsession with Pleasure Island. So much so that he purchased the real Comedy Warehouse drink menu from Property Control and plastered it on my former bedroom wall (I’m actually not making this up). So this is the moment you’ve been waiting for … I now present to you, my friends, dear readers … THE COMEDY WAREHOUSE/PLEASURE ISLAND SPECIALTY DRINK MENU!!!

******CUES HALLELUJAH CHORUS***************


Okay, so it’s not hidden at all. Now we can make Rage in a Cage and Jessica’s Secret to our heart’s content! According to my research, this is the ONLY picture of the Comedy Warehouse drink menu available anywhere! You’re welcome, internet! And you’re welcome for the extra clicks, Parkscope administrators!

Send your unending praise to Jeff @ParkScopeJeff on Twitter, or complain about him at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com. Kungaloosh!