Disney World Unveils Plans to Reduce Wait Times

From Bonnie McCarthy of WalletPop.com:

In an era lived at the speed of 4G, the Imagineers at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., have spent the past year establishing systems and park controls designed to prevent long lines and agonizing wait times from thwarting the buzz at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

If successful, their efforts will mean more fun for the price of admission — as well as more time to shop (read: spend money) and eat (more money). Everybody wins.

In the article, “Disney Tackles Major Theme Park Problem: Lines,” New York Times reporter, Brooks Barnes, revealed that Disney World’s new, high-tech nerve center hidden beneath Cinderella’s Castle, “uses video cameras, computer programs, digital park maps and other whiz-bang tools to spot gridlock before it forms and deploy countermeasures in real time.” Score one for progress!

For example, according to Brooks, if computers monitoring the number of guests waiting to ride Pirates of the Caribbean indicate a spike from green to yellow, “the center might respond by alerting managers to launch more boats.” Cool.

Similarly, the center may send costumed characters to distract … err, entertain, folks waiting in line or direct a mini parade to entice guests into a more unpopulated area. Pied pipers of fun (and crowd control) so to speak.

The command center also keeps an eye on restaurant and gift shop lines and will advise managers to open more registers or hand out menus to waiting guests in order to speed things up. Anyone who’s ever languished in line should appreciate the effort. Phil Holmes, vice president of the Magic Kingdom, flagship Disney World park told the Times, “These moments add up until they collectively help the entire park.”

In fact, Disney World has reported that since the new command center has gone into effect, the average number of rides per admission has increased from nine rides-per-visit to 10. Mama likes.

Although Disney has been using technology for years (analyzing data, Fast Pass systems and weather satellites), Mickey’s new Bat Cave demonstrates an increased commitment to modernization. Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts told the Times, “It’s not about us needing to keep pace with technological change. We need to set the pace for that kind of change.”

Brooks points out that Disney is already experimenting with smart phone apps that can help visitors find where their favorite Disney princesses and characters are currently appearing in the park, and they have also added 87 video game stations to the highly trafficked waiting area for Space Mountain.

In the future, new wrist-band technology containing individual Disney preferences, identification and credit card information may further grease the wheels of wait times and provide a more personalized experience. “Picture a day where there is memory built into these characters — they will know that they’ve seen you four or five times before and that your name is Bobby,” said Bruce E. Vaughn, chief creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering in an interview with the Times. “Those are the kinds of limits that are dissolving so quickly that we can see being able to implement them in the meaningfully near future.”

Definitely something to think about if you’ve been considering reserving one of those new budget-friendly rooms scheduled to open at Disney World in 2012. Hold on tight to your mouse ears and buckle up, the future is gonna be a wild ride — with much shorter lines.

New Spiel on the Walt Disney World Railroad

With all of the changes coming to the Magic Kingdom in the coming months and years, it was only a matter of time before the recorded spiels on the Walt Disney World Railroad had to be changed. Well, they were changed on Thursday. There is a new voice and narration on the trains for the first time since the opening of Toontown Fair in 1996. The new spiels include the addition of Jack Sparrow to Pirates of the Caribbean (Just to give you an idea how long it has been since this has been changed) and mentions of all the new attractions coming as part of the Fantasyland Forest Expansion. The spiels also include Mickey’s Toontown Fair despite it closing in February, so expect to see the narration change frequently.  Banks Lee was there to capture the new spiels as well as a ride on the Railroad in video, so enjoy:

A World of Ways to Ring in 2011

A visit to Walt Disney World is always the best way to ring in the New Year, and this year it is certainly no different. The parks are pulling out all the stops as far as live entertainment, so even if you’re stuck in a giant crowd of people, you can fill your day with something other than long attraction wait times. Here’s the line-up:

Magic Kingdom

  • “Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!” Street Party at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. & 5:15 p.m.
  • “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade” at 12 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • “Main Street Electrical Parade” at 7 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.
  • “Holiday Wishes” fireworks at 8:30 p.m.
  • “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks at 11:50 p.m.
  • Park Hours: 8 a.m.-2 a.m.

While not listed by Disney, don’t miss the Celebrate the Season castle stage show, and the Club 626 Dance Party & Totally Tomorrowland Christmas in Tomorrowland.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • “Block Party Bash” parade at 3 p.m.
  • “Fantasmic!” nighttime extravaganza at 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m. & 10 p.m.
  • Live performances by in-park band “Mulch, Sweat and Shears” at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat at 8, 9, 10 and 11 p.m.
  • “Lights, Camera, Happy New Year” fireworks starring “Mulch, Sweat and Shears” at 11:55 p.m.
  • Park hours: 8 a.m.-12 a.m.


  • Special version of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” at 7:30 & 11:40 p.m.
  • Park hours: 8 a.m.-1 a.m.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • “Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade” at 3:45 p.m.
  • Park Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon

  • Electrical Water Pageant at 10:25 p.m.

At Downtown Disney and Disney’s BoardWalk

Cirque du Soleil at Downtown Disney

  • 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. performances of La Nouba
  • Special New Year’s Eve champagne toasts
  • Guests will receive a limited-edition La Nouba pin created for the New Year’s Eve event
  • More info: 407/939-7328 or cirquedusoleil.com/lanouba

DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney

  • Ring in the New Year at DisneyQuest with favorite cyber attractions and games, a DJ Dance Party with a New Year’s Eve countdown, party favors and a coupon for a personal pizza and soda at FoodQuest
  • Party Hours: 8 p.m.-1 a.m.
  • $39 per person, advance/$45 per person, day of
  • More info: 407/934-7639 or disneyworld.com/disneyquestparty. Tickets may be purchased online or at the DisneyQuest Box Office.

Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s BoardWalk

  • Dance into the New Year at Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s BoardWalk
  • Party Hours: 8 p.m.-2 a.m., ages 21+
  • $35 for access to the main floor of the Dance Hall, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight
  • $75 for a VIP ticket that adds a private upstairs area with seating; limited viewing for Epcot fireworks with guaranteed seating and coffee, tea or hot chocolate with dessert bar and a premium bar
  • More info: 407/WDW-DINE

There are also some very special dining opportunities available for New Year’s Eve:

La Hacienda de San Angel at Epcot

  • La Hacienda de San Angel is offering a special six-course prix-fixe menu and live music starting at 9 p.m.
  • $199 per person, or $225 with wine and spirits (plus tax and gratuity), $49.95 ages 3 to 9
  • Epcot admission required
  • More info: 407/842-1107 or e-mail lahaciendadesanangel@me.com

Bistro de Paris at Epcot

  • Bistro de Paris is offering a special prix-fixe New Year’s Eve menu
  • $150 per person, $225 with wine pairings with each course
  • Epcot admission required

California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort:

  • California Grill will host a New Year’s Eve party featuring food stations, an open bar, a casino-style game room, DJ, dancing, Disney characters, live entertainment and a great viewing location for the Magic Kingdom fireworks
  • $525 per person, all inclusive
  • More info: 407/WDW-DINE

More Details Emerge For DCA Entrance Makeover

From the LA Times:

An intense, 16-month construction project designed to transform the Disney California Adventure entryway from a nondescript strip mall into a circa-1920s Los Angeles streetscape will begin in earnest Jan. 4.

As part of an ongoing, $1.1 billion makeover, the sweeping and extensive reimagineering will wall off 4 acres of the main entrance between the C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A letters, Sunshine Plaza, Grizzly Peak and Hollywood Studios Backlot. The remade entryway, dubbed Buena Vista Street, will be designed to evoke the era when a young Walt Disney first arrived in Los Angeles.

After the winter holiday season ends, construction walls will go up around the iconic C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A letters Jan. 4 so that crews can turn the plaza area into Streamline Moderne turnstiles modeled after the former Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Read on over at the LA Times Website…

DisneyQuest Rings in 2011 with a New Hard Ticket Event

Disney World has announced a new, hard-ticket New Year’s Event event taking place in addition to the usual festivities at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

New Year’s Eve Special Event

Come to Downtown Disney for a cyber celebration of New Year’s Eve at DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive theme park. Ring in the New Year with favorite games like Virtual Jungle Cruise, Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters and CyberSpace Mountain.

The party starts at 8:00 p.m. and goes until 1:00 a.m. Your night includes access to all DisneyQuest attractions and video games, a DJ Dance Party with a New Year’s Eve countdown, party favors and a coupon for a personal pizza and soda at FoodQuest.

Tickets for this family event are available for purchase online or by calling 407-WDISNEY (407-934-7639). Advance purchase tickets are $39 per person (includes tax). Day of the event tickets are $45 (includes tax). Tickets may also be purchased at the DisneyQuest Box Office.

This is an interesting alternative to the larger celebrations at the other parks and actually isn’t a bad value. If you consider that pizza and a soft drink would probably cost somewhere between $8-10, the ticket price for the DisneyQuest attractions is actually between $29-31. For those who have already experienced New Year’s Eve in the parks or are looking to escape the crowds, this may be a good idea.

Imagination Pavilion Lights the Night Sky Again

Long time visitors to Epcot may remember that the large glass pyramids of the Imagination Pavilion used to change between a variety of colors. In more recent years when major changes were made to the pavilion, the nighttime lighting was changed to an orange glow. Just this week, the original color changing lights were brought back:

Imagineers stated at the opening of Captain EO in July that it was the start of much bigger things for the Imagination Pavilion. Maybe this is just another step toward something else…

More Art From Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

More information on Disney’s Art of Animation Resort released today by the Disney Parks Blog:

If our first peek at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort left you wanting more – take a look at what we’re sharing today. Our newest artist renderings give a better idea of the themes you’ll be able to see when the resort opens in 2012.

Artist Rendering of 'The Lion King' Area at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Recognize those characters from The Lion King? The three other themed areas at the resort will be CarsFinding Nemo and The Little Mermaid.

Artist Rendering of the 'Cars' Area at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Artist Rendering of 'The Little Mermaid' Area at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Artist Rendering of the 'Finding Nemo' Area at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Expect to see some amazing sights inside the resort as well. It’ll have themed room interiors in the nearly 2,000 new units — 1,120 family suites in The Lion KingCars and Finding Nemo wings and 864 themed rooms in The Little Mermaid wings. And once open in 2012, the resort will create 750 permanent jobs.

Booking dates haven’t been announced yet but check back here for updates and more images in the future.

DCA Expansion, Phase 2?

The LA Times posted an interesting story about a possible second phase to DCA’s major overhaul.

As Disney California Adventure reaches the midway point of a $1.1-billion expansion, I’d like to take a speculative look at what Walt Disney Imagineering might have in mind for Phase 2 of the massive renovation project. DCA’s extreme makeover was necessitated by the on-the-cheap, off-the-shelf nature of the nearly decade-old theme park that even Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger now calls “mediocre.” Phase 1, which began in 2008, fixes about a third of the flawed park. What I’m interested in looking at here are the possibilities for the other two-thirds. What follows is a land-by-land compilation of possible attractions and thematic changes for Phase 2: Most of the proposed plans that have come to light remain firmly in the “what if” stage. In some cases, Disney announced and then postponed attractions. In other instances, the ideas have filtered out into the online community. In all circumstances, Disney remains officially mum, guarding future projects as closely held secrets. Quite naturally, any sequel to the wholesale reimagineering of DCA remains contingent on the success of Phase 1, which wraps up in 2012. So far, the crowds have responded positively to the uptick in quality (Toy Story Midway Mania dark ride), spectacle (“World of Color” water show) and attention to detail (Silly Symphony Swings wave swing). And the best is yet to come. Crews have broken ground on Phase 1 projects that demonstrate Disney’s commitment (the $100-million Voyage of the Little Mermaid dark ride), ambition (the 12-acre Cars Land) and heritage (Buena Vista Street entry plaza). Mouse watchers believe if Phase 1 continues to pay dividends, Iger will pony up more money for Phase 2 starting in 2013. The operative word here is “if.” So far nothing has been announced for Phase 2, but Imagineers have been busy dusting off old plans and dreaming up new ideas for the re-emergent Anaheim theme park. As any Disney fan knows, these “blue sky” proposals can change repeatedly over the course of development – and many never see the light of day.

You can read on over at the LA Times Website.