Insider's Update: Free dining, expensive parties, and a now-empty pipeline at Walt Disney World Written by Robert Niles Published: May 2, 2014 at 9:32 AM In case you missed the announcement this morning, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will open to the public on May 28. Fastpass+ reservations now are available via the My Disney Experience link on disneyworld.com . Given that Disney allowed invited reporters and fans to ride this week, one wonders if Disney's really going to keep the ride closed to the public for the next four weeks, or if May 28 simply is the first day for which you can make Fastpass+ reservations. Either way, if you're visiting the Magic Kingdom this month, you might as well "swing" by and see if the dwarfs will let you in. It's time again for what's turned out to be Walt Disney World's annual offering of free Disney Dining plans with Walt Disney World on-site hotel vacations. This year's offer is available to Disney Visa cardholders now, and will open to the rest of the public on May 7. It's a free quick service dining plan for 3- to 14-day vacations at Value Resorts, and a free standard dining plan for vacations of the same length at the Moderate and Deluxe resorts, for the following arrival dates: August 31 - October 3 Readers' Opinions From David Brown on May 2, 2014 at 9:58 AM "We will see if Disney will continue to enjoy growing, record-breaking attendance at its theme parks by promoting itself as a lifestyle brand rather than offering new attractions for the next three years." That's a very astute observation Robert and it's made me think. I have realised that 'lifestyle brand' is exactly what my wife and I see in our vacations at Disney and why we prefer to stay there than at Universal. We enjoy visiting Universal and always include it in our vacation schedules but we get the most pleasure out of simply 'being' at Disney. We spent many hours last time just walking - around the parks, around the different resorts, around Downtown Disney - soaking up the atmosphere. We don't get that same relaxed 'vibe' at Universal and it suits us well. I appreciate it won't be for everyone and theme park fans tend to be younger and more interested in thrills and technological boundary-pushing but I think there are more people out there who want that lifestyle experience for a week or two than want a constant adrenaline rush and consequently I wouldn't bet against your prediction Robert. It saddens me that there are no new attractions planned for Disney in the immediate future but as the saying goes, if it ain't broke...... From 184.108.40.206 on May 2, 2014 at 10:34 AM But it is broke. And it is called the Disco Yeti.... From Brandon Townsend on May 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM I will be at WDW on the 27th. Have been trying to change my Fastpass+ selections but the website is not working as usual. My family and I are doing the Keys to the Kingdom Tour that morning, so maybe we can get a ride on the 7 Dwarfs that way.
I was hoping it would open after my trip. Crowds will be crazy. From Brett Blake on May 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM Robert, realistically, what do you think it would take for WDW to start aggressively planning and building new attractions? It seems it would require a radical change in mindset, but I'm not sure what could trigger that, short of a few years of flatlining or shrinking attendance. I'm looking for some reason to hope that they can change their thinking, but I just can't see any, and that's a little depressing. I might have to start planning that Tokyo trip, after all... From Robert Niles on May 2, 2014 at 1:25 PM Actually, I think that all it will take is Shanghai Disneyland opening and freeing up a lot of Imagineering time and the theme park capital budget. From TH Creative on May 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM It should be noted that while there may be no attractions in the pipeline (at least none that we know about) the company's investment in construction at its Florida property is enormous. Disney Springs Retail Expansion Disney Animal Kingdom - Nigh Time Entertainment Disney Animal Kingdom - African Village Disney Animal Kingdom - World of Pandora Back of House - Laundry Facility Expansion Magic Kingdom - Hub Hardscape Renovation New Resort/Entertainment Area Development - Flamingo Crossing Combined these projects (along with a myriad of smaller upgrades and renovations) represent hundreds of millions in investment. Further there is the news that Tom Fitzgerald fis moving from Disneyland Paris to become the creative director at Epcot and that Scott Trowbridge is now in charge of a new Star Wars studio within WDI.
Certainly it must be acknowledged that the company is investing a substantial amount of revenue in the Florida property's resorts and infrastructure and that the moves involving Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Trowbridge could reasonably be regarded as harbingers for new attractions still to come. From David Ackerman on May 2, 2014 at 4:02 PM TH Creative's list points out what WDW's problem is. Every item is food or hotel. Imagineering seems unable to move any attractions along. (And no, I don't consider a few drawings and a promise of Avatar to be a "real" attraction.) Maybe Disney needs to admit they can't compete any longer in the theme park world and sell the parks to Universal. Then, they could concentrate on hotels and restaurants From 220.127.116.11 on May 2, 2014 at 4:16 PM I have to say that after our spring break vacation which was three days at Universal followed by six days at Disney, we are changing our future plans. It will now be three to four days at Disney followed by four days at Universal. The new fast pass is not optimal, and the unlimited express pass at Universal with the new AAA attractions has us making the change. Certainly other people enjoy different things, but we are the type that uses the fireworks and parades as a way to experience rides more efficiently, and we never do any character meet and greet (although our boys would totally stop if a terminator walked by). I think that Disney is missing a massive opportunity with Star Wars, but maybe they have crunched the numbers and know that the infrastructure must improve in order to absorb the influx of people they would get. From TH Creative on May 2, 2014 at 5:25 PM So Mr.Ackerman's approach to quality embraces a model where the resorts should be ignored. Where guests should be expected to pay for hotel rooms that are neglected. That decades old HVAC, electrical, plumbing and finishes should be considered to be acceptable. That traffic systems and back-of-house operations should become lower priorities. I see. Mr. Ackerman writes: "Maybe Disney needs to admit they can't compete any longer in the theme park world and sell the parks to Universal."
I Respond: I'm sorry, but "compete?!" (Chuckle) While I have expressed skepticism abot the TEA/AECOM report due to the ambiguity surrounding its methodology I have no doubt that BOTH Disney and Merlin outpace Universal's attendance in numbers that are measured in seven (if not eight) digits. From 18.104.22.168 on May 2, 2014 at 4:57 PM Avatar counts as an attraction. It's happening. From James Trexen on May 2, 2014 at 5:34 PM Looking at the artwork for Rivers of Light, it seems like that a stadium-like viewing area (whether it's standing or sitting is unclear, but I'd more likely guess it'll be the former) will be built. I know firsthand that the viewing area for World of Color can be a pain, so I appreciate Disney trying fix what needs to be improved and I know others will too. From Anon Mouse on May 2, 2014 at 6:02 PM For the occasional visitor like myself who visits once every 5 to 10 years, Disney World offers more enough attractions. Locals might not be satisfied. Currently here for vacation, I was quite impressed with what I've experienced especially with the rehabbed attractions like Test Track and Living Seas. The New Fantasyland is certainly a strange mix of offerings, but it is good enough. I spent nearly a full day there alone and I wasn't able to reach Dumbo. It is so large. The Dwarf's coaster is almost unnecessary and I won't bother without a Fastpass. While I can look forward to Avatar, the rumor is the boat ride won't make it in the début or at all. Can someone confirm? The weakest parts are the the Hollywood Studios, and Epcot World Showcase needs some marquee attractions. Universal is doing great with their additions, but I don't think they match Disney's offering unless they have their own version of Fantasyland in the wings. Star Wars is Disney's answer to Harry Potter, but they are slow walking their plans. This says a lot about Disney's perceived competition. From 22.214.171.124 on May 2, 2014 at 7:52 PM I think they should skip building new rides and spend billions of dollars on trackable wrist bracelet technology originally designed to track prisoners in jail... From Jonah Sirota on May 2, 2014 at 9:11 PM Robert pointed out that the imagineering effort is 120% in Shanghai right now. I think it is unfair for everyone to say that Disney is losing the theme park wars when they are merely behind Universal in recent construction in Orlando. From a holistic Disney Parks perspective, they are building or have recently built: Huge and successful DCA expansion, two state-of-the-art theme-park-like cruise ships, a new gigantic resort in Shanghai, major new mini-land at Paris, major expansion in Hong Kong, biggest expansion ever of MK at WDW, and upcoming major expansion at DAK. Plus the mymagic+ stuff. It's not popular on sites like this, but it is state of the art, and once all the other players jump on board Disney will be executing more smoothly due to their head start. If we can all just take a step back and think the way that the executives that actually have to make these things work do for a sec: Universal had a spectacular success with Harry Potter and they are riding the wave as far as they can. They are increasing market share, but plowing profits back into growth. That is a smart model, because they have room to grow, but it is not long-term sustainable. Eventually, they will slow down and become more selective about how they invest, and the larger their Orlando resort becomes, the more money and time they will have to spend on maintaining and sustaining a resort of that size. In other words, they will start to have more DIsney-like problems. As their market share grows, they will also be expected to perform at Disney's level with regards to customer service, etc. (I am not trying to start a flame war, but Universal, which has very good customer service, is still no Disney. Disney gets a lot of flak because they market perfection in this area) Disney, on the other hand, has not, and likely will not lose profits from Universal taking market share. They WILL respond, but they will do it on their timeline. What's the upside of them rushing anything to market right now? (Almost every extra visiter to Orlando is still visiting Disney. When Universal builds another couple of hotels, then Disney may start to feel the heat, as this entire story is really about how many hotel rooms you fill per night). Everyone complained about how long SDMT took to be completed, but they still created an attraction that no one else on the planet could make. If that were not the case, they would have a problem, but Disney knows their strengths and their audience, and they are giving them just what they want. Just for fun, here are my predictions for the future: 2015: -Star Wars land at DHS announced. Fairly vague details that will focus heavily on Episodes 4-7. The amount of Episode 7 stuff will largely depend on the success of that movie at the box office later that year. To open in phases 2018-2019. -Update of Soarin' to new film. 2016: -Major overhaul of Future World at EPCOT announced (of which Soarin' was already a part), including a redo of Imagination with the re-imagined Dreamfinder and Figment comic book at its core, redo of Energy pavilion, and a new "smart" environment linking the entire area using technology developed for Avatar-land, with RFID-enabled lighting and fountain effects, etc. Also, Communicore repainted tan, and Spaceship Earth finally pressure-washed. Frozen ride in Norway OR Remy ride in France (not both) (opened in phases 2019-2021) -Night show opens at DAK 2017: -Avatar opens, environment and boat-ride first. Flight simulator delayed to 2018. EPCOT updates pushed back indefinitely... 2018: Avatar land done, Avatar 2 film disappoints at box office. Mos Eisley land opens, but only a restaurant and a gift shop at first. 2019: Global recession hits, everything scrapped. ;) From O T on May 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM We will see if Disney will continue to enjoy growing, record-breaking attendance at its theme parks by promoting itself as a lifestyle brand rather than offering new attractions for the next three years. This is kind of shocking to me, Disney, a big entertainment company selling their vacations as a lifestyle brand. But after I head some people say that the only time their family functioned as a family was during a Disney vacation it started to make sense to me. As a European I work to live, work 36 hours a week and have about 6 weeks of vacation with the option to buy more vacation days. No double shifts and many short breaks to visit London, Paris or Venice. We have a breakfast in the morning with the whole family and a home cooked meal at 6 in the evening. In the weekends we spend our time with the whole family doing chores, visiting relatives or do hobbies. Being together as family is how we live why have a family if you can't do that? To work a lot to go on a 1 week vacation to spent a ton is beyond me. Why not work less and live more. You can have more magical moments throughout the then in an overpriced theme park between plastic and concrete. If you need Disney to have some magic in your life I regard you poor and failed in life and it's time you take a step back and try to look at the big picture and do what really is important. Visiting a theme park is fun, visiting new ride and experiences (in and outside a theme park) is even more fun but doing it with you family is the most important thing. From Gabriel Schroll on May 3, 2014 at 6:27 AM You know, I would say that TH Creative's list of expansions and renovations is exactly why the theme parks themselves seem neglected. WDW is so large that it is incredibly expensive to simply maintain their current infrastructure. It's not unlike a city, where sure it'd be nice to see a big 50-story skyscraper of glass and steel rising downtown, and it'd be cool to see a big half-billion dollar retractable roof stadium built for your team, and a light rail [read] system, etc. But there's only so much money, and in WDW's case, they have to make sure they don't allow any of their properties to fall into disrepair. I don't want to stay at the Boardwalk for instance, and think to myself "Disney really let this place go" or use a public bathroom at Downtown Disney and see leaks and rust. It's such a massive piece of land with so many hotels to landscape, rooms to constantly refurbish, roads to repave, etc etc. I'm surprised they have money to do ANYTHING in the parks. With that in mind, it's pretty spectacular that they've finally opened 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, which "looks" beautiful, no matter how exciting it might be. It fits New Fantasyland well. From Tim Hillman on May 3, 2014 at 7:44 AM As usual, with THC's comments, I find myself in mixed agreement. The infrastructure improvements are necessary, and they eventually will enhance the guest experience, but they're not the reason why I visit Disney World. I go for the rides and attractions set in immersive lands. When there are not enough attractions in a park, and I find myself standing in ridiculously long queue lines, the quality of the rides and lands is immaterial. My visit is degraded, and I start looking for other options for my entertainment money. As far as giving Disney a pass for having a great deal of construction and upgrading going on in their infrastructure and not having the capacity to also improve the parks, I don't buy it. If Disney can't maintain and upgrade their infrastructure AND build awesome rides and lands, they are either incompetent or cheap, and that observation is not made of the Imagineers, instead it's made of the guys with MBAs and spreadsheets who are calling the shots. I don't understand why the American Disney fan has to be largely ignored while Imagineering is focusing on overseas locations. Is Imagineering so limited or Disney Corporate so incompetent that some of the rides and attractions being developed for overseas can't be modified and installed in an American theme park? To me that would be a smart thing to do since it would save development time and money and please the American Disney fans, but as I suspect, the bottom line come down to money and the lack of desire or the lack of any perceived need to spend it. The "rock star" fascination with certain Imagineers is baffling. I'm not in the industry and THC is, but what doe this say about the state of Imagineering? Are these Imagineers so special that nothing exception can be developed for a Disney park without their involvement? If that's the case then what does that say about the quality the other Disney Imagineers? Can they not be trusted with a major or even minor development? So, I'm not willing to give Disney a pass just because they have a lot going on right now. The company is huge. Their profits are enormous. Their fan base is rabid and loyal. They didn't get to this point by sitting on their laurels and doing just enough. When it takes longer to accomplish a major refurbishment (New Fantasyland 2011-present)) than it does to build an entire park (Disneyland 1954-1955) something is wrong. Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014 Get all of Theme Park Insider's reader ratings, tips, and advice for planning a trip to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld, in our new 2014 Orlando guidebook! It's more than 200 pages of well-tested, insider information that will help you get the most from your vacation.<br>For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201405/4001/