Friday Five: Random References & Reflections

The Friday Five is back again, with a collection of news and notes as we head into the weekend:

1. Cinderella’s Royal Table is getting a two-month long refurbishment in early 2015. It’s currently scheduled to be closed from January 5, 2015 through March 6, 2015 (but as with any construction project, that re-opening date is just a best guess). I think most will agree that it’s about time CRT got a refresh. There’s no word from Walt Disney World about adding a temporary character meal elsewhere (as they did when they put colonial-dress characters in Liberty Tree Tavern while Crystal Palace got its refurb). I expect that the CRT closure will make it MUCH harder to get reservations at Akershus’ Princess Fairytale Dining and, to a somewhat lesser extent, 1900 Park Fare’s Cinderella’s Happily Ever After dinner, as those are the only “princess meal” alternatives. I also expect this to place a greater premium on Princess Fairytale Hall Fastpass+, since that’s one of the few alternatives for meeting multiple princesses at once.

2. Walt Disney World is adding several “Frozen”-themed entertainment opportunities at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as part of “Frozen” Summer Fun – LIVE, running from July 5, 2014 through September 1, 2015. Entertainment will include Olaf on Summer Vacation (which involves something called a Take-Along Olaf and social media-posted photos hashtagged #OlafSummerVacation). We don’t have much detail about this yet, but I’m guessing is sort of a “Flat Olaf” thing, like Flat Stanley; an Anna & Elsa parade (it doesn’t sound like it will include a meet & greet); “Frozen” sing-alongs throughout the day in the Premiere Theater; Soundstage One will become a “Frozen” playground and shop, including “Frozen”-themed snacks as well; a “Frozen” dance party at 5:30 p.m. each evening; and “Frozen”-themed fireworks at 9:45 p.m. each night, after Fantasmic! (Note that the evening events will not take place on August 23, when the park closes at 7:00 p.m. for the hard-ticket Villains Unleashed event).

3. Thanks to DISDads contributors Bob Chavez, Al Jardines, Ryan Treichler, Todd Breaux, Scott Henney, Justin West, Tony McDaniel and Andy Fix – it’s the participation of the community that makes this place special!

4. There’s still time to join us for the DISDads Dream Cruise. We’re sailing on the Disney Dream out of Port Canaveral, Florida from June 22-26, 2015. We’ve got a great group of DISDads families already booked, and would love to have more. Our travel partners at Fairytale Journeys would be happy to put together a no-obligation quote for you – book today and you’ll have over 9 months to finish paying for your vacation!

5. The final round of DISDads Podcast’s Bunk Madness Walt Disney World Resort hotel tournament will be LIVE this Sunday on DISDads Radio, starting at 8:00 p.m. We hope you’ll join us – there’s a chat room at DISDads Radio for live chatting and opportunities to call-in and talk with us on the show.

Friday Five – Random References & Reflections

httyd2It’s been a great week here at DISDads.com, so it’s time to dust off the Friday Five again. Here are just a few of the things rattling around my brain this Friday the 13th:

1) I’m taking my family to see DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon 2 tonight (watch for a review here at DISDads.com soon). We all loved the original, and even enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon shorts that came out with the HTTYD DVD (especially the Legend of the Boneknapper). I have avoided the early press on HTTYD 2, so that I go in to see it with a blank slate. But I have to admit, my expectations aren’t particularly high. The Shrek sequels were very uneven, and got worse over time. We’ll see how How To Train Your Dragon holds up to a second go-round. Anyone else going to see it opening weekend?

2) I’m seeing reports all over the Disney fan community that indicate that the Garden Grill rotating restaurant in the Land Pavilion at Epcot has not actually rotated since at least November, 2013. That means that a key element of the restaurant’s décor has been out of order for more than six months now. I don’t know that it’s a huge deal that it’s not rotating – it seemed to me that guests were split about 50/50 over whether the rotating was something they liked about it or something that they tolerated and enjoyed the restaurant in spite of – but it is disturbing that the only reason we know about this is that fellow theme park guests are posting about it on message boards. Disney hasn’t said anything publicly about the restaurant not rotating. Even if they don’t have a target repair date, it’s misleading to guests considering booking the restaurant to fail to publicly acknowledge this ongoing issue.

3) In case you didn’t notice, DISDads.com has published new content every day for over a week now. We’re making a real effort to keep the content flowing and fresh around here, and it wouldn’t be possible without the participation of the DISDads community. Shoutouts this week for website contributions from Ryan Treichler, Andy Fix, David Juart and Jon Arthur; and for podcast participation by Todd Breaux, Scott Henney, Justin West, Michael Williams, and Adam Dale. Thank you guys!

4) Twitter shoutouts this week go to John Scanlan and Chris Schenk. John gave us a big hand, filling in at the last minute on the Bunk Madness Magic Kingdom Area live show. We’re looking forward to talking with him on the podcast again soon to learn more about Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. And Chris honored us with his suggestion that the DISDads Podcast was one of the podcast teams he’d like to go out an have a drink with. Any chance you’ll be at Walt Disney World over Marathon Weekend 2015 Chris?

5) Completely random thought, prompted by the ongoing Bunk Madness tournament on the podcast. If you could choose the location for a new Walt Disney World resort, where would you put it? Tell us about it in the comments.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow DISDads, and have a great weekend!

Friday Five: Random References & Reflections

©Disney

©Disney

Lots of news to share, so the Friday Five is back!

1. Today the Disney Parks Blog announced that they’ll again be kicking off the summer travel season with a 24-hour Disney Parks event. From Friday, May 23, 2014 at 6 a.m. until Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 6 a.m. (local time) guests are invited to “Rock Your Disney Side” at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and at both Disneyland and California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort. Guests are being encouraged to dress up as their favorite Disney hero or villain, and the “140 Character” announcement of the event on Twitter suggests we’ll see lots of meet and greet opportunities – sort of a blending of the Friday the 13th Villains event at Hollywood Studios this past year and the 24-hour Disney Day. Are you making plans for Memorial Day weekend at a Disney park?

2. We have an official start date for the new Festival of Fantasy daytime parade in the Magic Kingdom. The parade will make its official debut on Sunday, March 9 – and the photos and videos that have been released so far look amazing. Clearly, Disney is expecting the parade to be popular, as we’re already seeing reports that reserved viewing areas for Festival of Fantasy are available via Fastpass+ for at least some dates. Do you usually make time to watch Disney afternoon parades? Will you make a special effort to see this new parade?

3. With remarkably little fanfare or plans leaked out in advance, Walt Disney World announced a major reconfiguration of the Hub area at the Magic Kingdom. In a move intended to help ease congestion problems, particularly around parade and fireworks times, the Hub is being remodeled in a manner similar to that used for Tokyo Disneyland. Mock-ups show that new pathways will allow guests to move to the front of the park without going down Main Street, including a path that leads all the way to the park exit without rejoining Main Street. The new pathways will also provide new viewing areas for castle shows and fireworks, in particular. In my opinion, this reconfiguration is overdue, and will make both the Hub and Main Street areas much more pleasant experiences at the end of a day in the Magic Kingdom. The Parks Blog posted a flyover animation of the reconfiguration – what do you think of it?

4. There’s still time to pre-register for the DISDads Dream Cruise 2015! As we await Disney Cruise Line’s release of itineraries for the second half of 2015, we are still planning on setting sail on Father’s Day – June 21, 2015. Pre-registration allows our travel partner, Fairytale Journeys, to ensure that you get booked at the best pricing possible for this cruise. We have eight families pre-registered so far, and have had inquiries from several more. The latest rumors I’ve heard suggest that we should get an itinerary release sometime around March 15, 2014, which is just a couple of weeks away. You can still sail with us, even if you don’t pre-register. But DCL pricing is almost always cheaper the closer to the itinerary release date that you get booked.

5. We are pleased to announce that DISDads Radio will be moving out of beta testing mode on March 15, 2014. And when we go live, we’ll have three excellent podcast partners streaming podcasts with us. The Enchanted Tiki Talk Podcast is a newer show that is off to a great start, and fits right in with the DISDads perspective on Disney. The ResortLoop.com podcast just recently posted their 101st episode, and is hosted by a pair of Disney Dads, Bob Coller and Tim Scott. I’ve been proud to call myself Loopy for months now! And finally, a podcast that I’ve been encouraging DISDads to listen to since way back on Episode 2 of the DISDads Podcast, The Disney Film Project Podcast, will be streaming its extensive back catalog as well as new shows on DISDads Radio.

What do you think about all of this Disney and DISDads.com news? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday Five: Trip Report Edition – Parking, POP, and Puck

bacon-wrappedmeatloafOK, lets see if I can keep the Trip Report momentum going AND get a Friday 5 posted today, by combining the two.

1. Alamo Car Rental counter bypass Online Check-In is AWESOME. I just smiled as we we walked right past the long line of people at the Alamo counter, straight out to the cars in the lot. Then, we picked from the array of available full-size cars and drove away, “checking out” the car as we exited the lot. Smooth. Painless. Possibly the best car rental pickup experience I’ve ever had.

2. We stayed at Pop Century for the first couple of nights prior to the Convention. I had called a few days ahead to let them know that my daughter would be in a wheelchair, and while we didn’t need a handicap-accessible room, we would appreciate a first-floor room. Kudos to the room assigner at POP, because the room we got might just be the single best room in the entire resort. We were in room 137, which is on the corner of Building #10 (Big Wheel building in the 70s section) closest to the parking lot. It was also very convenient to Everything Pop! It really made accessing everything with a child in a wheelchair surprisingly easy.

3. Speaking of the wheelchair, following up on my earlier post about arranging a rental, Apple Scooter was solid if unspectacular. (Oh, and Buena Vista Scooter never did call me back). The wheelchair that we reserved was waiting for us at Pop Century when we arrived, though it took a ridiculously long time for the three apparently completely unoccupied Cast Members at bell services to find it. Once they did find it, the wheelchair, while the proper size and in working order, was missing an armrest on one side. It wasn’t a big enough problem for it to be worth calling about a replacement, but it was annoying. This also marks the end of my praises for the service at Pop Century for this trip (at least on the resort side). While waiting for the wheelchair, Jonathan was playing around with his beloved stuffed pygmy puff “Liversnaps” (long story. You don’t really want to know). When we got back from dinner and were getting ready for bed, Jon noticed that Liversnaps was missing. We called the front desk immediately to let them know that a pink stuffed fluff-ball was probably out in front of the resort, where we had been waiting for the wheelchair. We were informed that both Bell Services and Lost & Found were closed for the night, and that we could check back again in the morning. We never did get Liversnaps back. Sadly, this will become a recurring theme.

4. One parking tip about a room at the corner of Building #10. Don’t do what I did. I dutifully followed the signs and parked in the parking lot designated for the 70’s section when I went to unload our luggage and bring it to the room. That parking lot puts you on the complete opposite side of Building #10 from the room. By the time I got the three suitcases and a box full of Convention schwag to the room, the handles on both sides of the box were broken and I was sweating so badly that I had to change shirts before dinner. AFTER figuring out exactly where the room was, I was able to see that parking in the lot designated for the 90’s buildings was MUCH, MUCH closer.

5. Once I’d gotten the luggage to the room and changed clothes, we headed to dinner at Downtown Disney. We had multiple purposes here – I could pick up our tickets at Guest Relations and exchange our PhotoPass+ voucher for our PhotoPass+ card and lanyard. AND we could have dinner at what has quickly become an arrival evening tradition – Wolfgang Puck Express. I had the bacon-wrapped meatloaf pictured above. All of our food was excellent. The restaurant has a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of choices so that everyone can find something they like. It’s a particularly good deal when you’re on the dining plan, since it only costs a Quick Service Credit, but even paying cash I consider it a great value.

Friday Five: Random References & Reflections

It’s an all DISDads Convention Friday Five this week:

1. We’ll be broadcasting the DISDads Podcast LIVE from the DISDads Convention on Saturday, January 12 beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. To listen in, just point your browser to our Mixlr page. You can join in with the LIVE fun in our Mixlr Shoutbox, and we plan on taking live callers via Skype during the broadcast as well.

2. The best way to keep track of specific plans during the convention is by subscribing to the Plancast feed. If you let us know that you’re planning to join us for an event, by clicking the “Count Me In” button, we’ll know to watch out for you before proceeding.

3. Special thanks to our DISDads Convention sponsor, Fairytale Journeys Travel and Susanne Hayes; and Fairytale Journeys travel agent hosts Aaron Rittmaster, Mark Pratt, Mark Harbeson, John Thomas

4. It’s been nearly two years since anyone has reviewed the DISDads Podcast on iTunes. Reviews make it easier for new listeners to find the show. We’d really appreciate it if you could take a couple of minutes to write us a review! (If you do, we’ll give you a shout out during the live show).

5. A reminder about a few closures during the DISDads Convention: Main Street Bakery begins it’s Starbucks remodel on January 6; Mad Tea Party and Splash Mountain will be closed in the Magic Kingdom; Epcot Character Spot will be closed; Kali River Rapids will be closed; and Blizzard Beach will be closed.

Friday Five: Random References and Reflections

1. The big news in the Disney community this week has been Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, Ltd. Much of the discussion has focused on the part of the announcement about Disney agreeing to make three more Star Wars films, the first to be released in 2015 with follow-ups in 2017 and 2019. As a fan of the Star Wars franchise, I LOVE this arrangement. George Lucas will be working on the film as a creative consultant, and long-time collaborator Kathleen Kennedy will be an Executive Producer, but it’s clear that Disney Studios will be in charge. This should give us the best of both worlds – Lucas’ vision for his franchise, coupled with Disney’s ability to attract top-notch screenwriters (who can actually script dialogue), directors, and on-screen talent. On the Disney Parks front, this acquisition lends credence to earlier rumors about additional Star Wars features at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I fully expect that we’ll see a Cantina Restaurant and Bar (and I’m crossing my fingers for an animatronic band). The real question is whether we’ll get a full “Luscafilms Ranch,” as a counterpoint to Pixar Place on the other side of the park. What elements would you want to see in a Lucasfilms Ranch land at Hollywood Studios?

2. So far, we’ve raised $550 selling two items in our Give Kids the World Charity Auction. The current item up for bid is the now-returned-to-the-Vault Beauty & the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas DVD+Blu-Ray. Current high bid is $30 from Scott Henney – you’ve got until 10 p.m. Central Time on Sunday to top his bid!

3. All of our best thoughts and prayers go out to several DISDads and their families who are still displaced from their homes, dealing with loss of power and damage to their homes and neighborhoods post-Sandy. Keep your heads up guys, and please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help!

4. The Lucasfilm announcement seems like it may have stolen some of the thunder from Wreck-It Ralph’s opening weekend, and that’s unfortunate. Wreck-It Ralph is getting outstanding reviews – it’s pulling at 84% Fresh rating from critics at RottenTomatoes.com and DISDad Ian Shephard offered this early review: “WOW!! Wreck It Ralph has it all! A great uplifting story, heroes, heroines, and a ton of candy! We, who never pay to see movies anymore, would happily pay to see it again. Take your kids, friends, loved ones, and random people off the street. It isn’t just for gamers, but has some funny parts for everyone. YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT! lol… “Oh, reee-oh. Oh, REEEE, oh!” When are you planning on going to see it?

5. In non-Disney news, Universal Studios has announced that Transformers: The Ride, a 3D simulation ride described by many as based on the same ride technology as its Spider-Man attraction, will finally be making its way to its Universal Orlando theme park. The ride debuted in Universal’s Singapore theme park back in 2011 and opened in May at Universal Studios Hollywood. The Orlando ride is essentially a clone of its predecessors, though the show building will be unique. Construction actually began about 5 months ago, and Universal says the ride will be ready to open for the Summer 2013 travel season. Inside the Magic has a nice collection of photos and videos both of the Hollywood version of the ride and of the Orlando announcement.