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The Most Highly-Coveted, Heavily Sought-After Disney Awards: TouringPlans’ 2012 Picks!

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When I handed down my, now legendary, awards last year, I didn’t realize I would be issuing the inaugural awards  in what would quickly become a storied tradition surpassing even the Academy Awards and Soul Train Music Awards in terms of clout. The number of Imagineers and Disney executives who now proudly display a “Planie” on their mantel is staggering, and I swear I only broke into like 6 of their houses to put the award there. In actuality, I’m sure the three or four people who read these awards last year scrubbed the memory from their minds approximately 30 seconds after closing the browser window. But I dare to dream that someday, these awards will have their own red carpet gala!

Although anyone who disagrees with my picks here is obviously wrong, it’s worth noting that these aren’t official picks of the TouringPlans staff. So if anyone on the staff wants to disagree with me (and be wrong) as to the winner of any of these awards, more power to them.

Best New AttractionRadiator Springs Racers, Disney California Adventure

There’s absolutely no competition for this award. Radiator Springs Racers is the best US attraction Disney has opened since at least Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror, or perhaps earlier. It’s an appropriate flagship attraction for Cars Land, and is a “destination attraction” in that it will be the reason kids convince their parents to plan trips to go to the “Cars Park” out in California for years to come.

Radiator Springs Racers sets a new bar for Disney E-Ticket attractions as it brilliantly combines a ride through Ornament Valley with dark ride sequences and next-generation Audio-Animatronics. The ride system is similar to Test Track’s, but comparing Test Track to Radiator Springs Racers is like comparing Dinosaur to Indiana Jones Adventure. Racing side-by-side with another car through the breathtaking Ornament Valley mountains is an amazing experience, but it’s the dark ride sequences, the queue detail, and the complete package of Radiator Springs Racers that make it one of the greatest Disney attractions ever.

Honorable mention here goes to Test Track at Walt Disney World. While not technically new, Test Track “2.0” is so drastically different from its predecessor that it might as well be new. For the first time in years, Future World feels like it embodies the promise of EPCOT Center a bit more. With Test Track 2.0, Disney finally nailed what an EPCOT Center “2.0” attraction should feel like. It’s a shame that it took until the 3.0 version of the World of Motion building attraction for this to happen, but hopefully things are finally on the upswing for EPCOT.

The exterior queue of The Little Mermaid - Ariels Undersea Adventure in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom winds past Prince Eric's Castle!

Biggest Disappointment: New Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom

Maintenance issues have plagued Walt Disney World for the last several years, with plenty of new and continuing issues, so awarding this honor to New Fantasyland over, say, the Tree of Life, Carousel of Progress, Splash Mountain, Maelstrom, Expedition Everest, and probably a few more attractions that I’m forgetting might seem disingenuous. And it might be. The thing is, I’d be handing out this award to attractions with maintenance issues for the next decade if I didn’t look outside that realm.

Instead, I’ll give it to New Fantasyland. Judged in a vacuum, New Fantasyland is a solid addition to the Magic Kingdom. It provides a nice contrast to the sea of concrete of Old Fantasyland with plenty of lush landscaping and interesting areas of explore. It’s heavy on rich details, which are otherwise light in the Magic Kingdom’s Old Fantasyland. Just as important, it gives the Magic Kingdom needed capacity to absorb crowds.

Given that praise, it might be difficult to see how it wins this award. It wins because this is an award for Biggest Disappointment, not “Worst” _______. The former is relative to expectations, the latter is absolute. New Fantasyland is a disappointment because it has been billed by Disney as the largest expansion to the Magic Kingdom in 41 years, and has been heavily touted by Disney since the 2009 D23 Expo. Disney, itself, has been building excitement and anticipation for this land for over three years and fans have been craving an adequate replacement for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea since it closed in the area of New Fantasyland in the 1990s. To put things into perspective, construction of New Fantasyland will take significantly longer than construction of Cars Land…and New Fantasyland is no Cars Land.

After all of this build-up by Disney, it’s a bit disappointing that the “flagship” attraction of New Fantasyland is a C-Ticket Little Mermaid dark ride that, while containing a few really impressive Audio-Animatronics, also includes a lot of static and listless ocean denizens and regions of empty space. Be Our Guest Restaurant and Enchanted Tales with Belle are both arguably more impressive than the substance of the Little Mermaid ride (the official TouringPlans.com score for this attraction is 3.5/4, so clearly some people are going to disagree with me on my evaluation of the ride). Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid’s queue and exterior partially redeem it, but it lacks the wow-factor or charm to be the cornerstone of “the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom” at that land’s grand opening.

The level of hype as contrasted with the one ride of the expansion that’s currently open, in a nutshell, is why New Fantasyland wins this award. Be Our Guest Restaurant is beautiful and has fairly imaginative cuisine for the Magic Kingdom, and Enchanted Tales with Belle is a captivating experience that will surely leave an indelible mark on many youngsters. From a selfish perspective, I wish the funds for these two lavish elements of the expansion were allocated towards dark rides based upon “Disney Animation Renaissance” films (or even towards smaller, charming attractions like Casey Jr. or the Storybook Land Canal Boats), but I can understand and appreciate both as solid additions to the Magic Kingdom that others will surely love.

Plenty of New Fantasyland supporters will, I’m sure, point to the hunks of steel rising in New Fantasyland that will become the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, contending that it will be the flagship attraction of New Fantasyland, rendering my disappointment moot. I also have high hopes for this attraction. However, at the time of the “grand opening” of New Fantasyland, this attraction wasn’t open, and I’m not willing to deem something that hasn’t opened a panacea for New Fantasyland. I’m sure it will have its own grand opening in late 2013 or early 2014, at which time it might take “Best New Attraction” or might help the Magic Kingdom win “Park of the Year.”

Honorable mention here goes to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. The attraction (or whatever you want to call it) isn’t itself all that bad. It’s not for me, but I’ll concede that a lot of people enjoy it. The disappointment isn’t in the substance of the attraction, but in that  Disney has allowed profiteers to “lurk” around stations of the attraction, attempting to trade their common cards for rare cards held by unsuspecting guests (not all traders are like this, and profiteer traders are certainly the exception rather than the rule, but the bad apples are still enough to taint my opinion of Disney’s execution of the game). I’m disappointed in Disney having knowledge of these profiteers, and doing nothing to prevent them from preying on tourists and their kids.

Park of the Year: Disney California Adventure

Do I really even have to explain this one? Disney California Adventure was reborn in 2012, like a phoenix rising from Arizona! 😉 I could go on for thousands of words about Disney California Adventure’s rebirth (and have!), but that would be beating a dead horse at this point. There were no challengers for this award, and Disney California Adventure easily walks away with it thanks to Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, plus a lot of placemaking around the park that made it look new again.

Dining Establishment of the Year: Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom

I’ve only had the chance to dine here for lunch, but that was all it took to know that Be Our Guest Restaurant deserved this award. The artisanship, special effects, and details throughout Be Our Guest Restaurant make it as much an experience as it is a restaurant. The food is fairly inventive (especially considering this restaurant is in Fantasyland) and guests will find themselves taking time to walk around the restaurant looking at all of the effects and little details, instead of dining and dashing. While I personally don’t think the forced perspective on Beast’s Castle works, and the main dining room felt a tad like a mess hall during lunch, these are the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect dining experience.

In other years, Gaston’s Tavern and Flo’s V8 Cafe each probably could have taken this award. It’s interesting that for the second straight year, one of the best overall additions was a restaurant/bar. With Trader Sam’s and Be Our Guest Restaurant, Disney has really pushed the envelope on dining experiences.

Announcement of the Year: LucasFilm Acquisition

There were no theme park announcements deserving of this award in 2012, so I’ll punt this award to the LucasFilm acquisition, which undoubtedly will have indirect theme park implications at some point in the future. How near or distant in the future is anyone’s guess.

Am I way off with my picks? What are your picks for 2012 Disney Awards? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website http://DisneyTouristBlog.com. Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page (www.flickr.com/tombricker) and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/wdwfigment).

68 thoughts on “The Most Highly-Coveted, Heavily Sought-After Disney Awards: TouringPlans’ 2012 Picks!

  • As a local and AP holder to both Universal and Disney all I can say (and I love disney) is Disney better wake the F up! Universal is expanding like crazy and they keep adding new attractions that are absolutely amazing. The theming is on par or in some cases surpases what Disney is putting out. I think Disney is of the mind that people will like whatever we put out because we’re Disney. Universal on the other hand is trying to catch up so I think they are working harder on their attractions.

    Just my observations from someone who is a fan of both.

  • The fact that anyone would get so worked up about this cracks me up. These aren’t real awards. They don’t mean anything. It’s just some guy’s opinion. I personally don’t agree with most of what Tom said. But it was an interesting article.

  • Wow Tom good luck pleasing all of the Trolls!!! I agree with you completely, so much hype and I’m not sure what the main focused of the expansion is and no it cant be a restaurant. I did like the SOTMK but read my post above about the “lurkers”. I thought it was an honest article that was bound to get some flak way to stick to your guns.

    • I think some people just write things to get a rise out of other readers. I would hate to think anyone takes himself/herself so seriously that they can call other Disney lovers Trolls! I think I am glad I run into “trolls” and not Disney snobs on my visits!

  • I think the new Test Track is far and above better than the previous version. The previous version was loud and ugly. Now, the colors are cool and inviting. The que line is quiet and interactive. The ride itself reminds me of TRON (which I like). I used to think Test Track was very, very overrated, now the new version lives up to the Future World moniker and I can not wait to ride again. By the way, I am sure they will get most of the interactive stuff working eventually, but even when it doesn’t all work…it has far more interactivity than the previous (boring) version.

  • I was disappointed with the new Fantasyland. We went for our first trip to MK in the middle of December. I realize it had only been open a few days, but that area was so jam packed, we couldn’t even wade through the crowd. It seemed disjointed and hard to maneuver through. We were like sardines being squished into a little tin can. The lines for everything were well over an hour and we just walked our way to the dead, turned around and left.
    We also were excited to see and try the new Test Track. However, on the day we visited Epcot, the ride was down almost the whole morning. By the time it was back up, we had to leave for dinner reservations elsewhere.

    • **that should be, “we just walked our way to the dead END….”

  • Not sure Tom if you were looking for this kind of controversy, but I also must disagree with your arguments about New Fantasyland being a disappointment.

    Your main argument seems to be that it was built up so much but that what has opened to this point hasn’t been worthy of the hype.

    I think that the hype has been focused around the entire project, not just what opened in December and that although it was called a “Grand Opening” no reasonable person believed that this was going to match what the experience will be like when it is completed.

    As an aside, I also think it is awesome that you take the time to reply to all comments, even those that attack you aggressively.

    • I expected disagreements on New Fantasyland, but not the Test Track and SotMK stuff. Oh well.

      My main argument in this post is exactly as you characterize it. I’ll admit that it seems a bit weak.

      There’s something more to how I actually feel, but I just can’t articulate it. When I visited New Fantasyland, I really liked all of the little details, the facades, and the landscaping, but there’s still just something about it that I found disappointing. I can’t completely put my finger on it, but I think it’s the lack of substance given the scale of the project–and especially after seeing Cars Land.

      I never expected it to rival Cars Land in terms of quality(DCA needed a lot more than the MK needs), but for me, it’s not even close to Cars Land. I expected it to be at least on the same plane as that.

      With the exception of Mine Train, I think New Fantasyland looks a lot now like it will when fully complete. If I were to assign it a percentage, I’d say 75-80%. I’m hopeful that Mine Train will be the silver bullet that really brings the whole thing together, but I’ve tempered my expectations a bit.

      • I was kind of disappointed with New Fantasyland as well. It felt disjointed and lacked cohesiveness. You had Storybook Circus over here and then this giant construction project and then Enchanted Forest over there. I’m hoping once everything has been completed it will flow together more naturally. But currently I just didn’t feel it did. And I agree with you also that it currently is lacking that signature attraction. I think this will be fulfilled by the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but right now is missing.

  • This article wins the award for “most ridiculous blog article of the year”. New Fantasyland is most disappointing? Seriously? Over Test Track? The attraction that hasn’t functioned correctly for a single day since it came out of refurb?

    And your disgusting insults at people who trade SotMK cards goes far beyond rude. You owe every one of us an apology for those comments. Calling us “unscrupulous” and “creepy”? Who are you to to resort to such name calling? Trading cards is exactly as fun as trading pins and vinylmations. The act of trading does not make one creepy, or without scruples. On the contrary, most people LOVE trading away their duplicates. The fact that *you* don’t? That’s your problem. You need to rethink your positions.

    • At least this article wins something! 😉

      As for SOTMK, I stand by what I said. If you are a scrupulous trader, who doesn’t lurk around stations attempting to acquire rare cards from tourists for the purposes of reselling them on eBay, there’s no reason for you to take offense, as I made it clear that my words were aimed at those folks.

      • I haven’t seen any of those people at SOTMK trying to get rares to sell on ebay. And I went for a week in May, September and December and played a lot of SOTMK. Lots of people asked to trade but all were just trying to complete their sets and made fair offers.

      • I absolutely understand that there are a lot of traders who, just like pin or vinyl traders, are honest people just trying to have fun with a hobby. Fortunately, these people are probably the rule rather than the exception.

        Unfortunately, I have seen enough of the “card hawks” or “lurkers” (or whatever you want to call them) attempting to take advantage of unsuspecting guests to taint my opinion of how the game is being run. I’ve seen the same issue with pin trading, so I doubt it’s unique to SotMK. These unscrupulous folks are probably the exception rather than the rule.

        Whenever you have Disney “collectibles,” there will be this issue. Whether it’s people in the parks or DtD, or people buying extremely LE items to resell them on eBay (we saw this on EPCOT’s 30th with vinyls).

        There’s only so much Disney can do about the latter group–the ones that are being devious outside of the parks. However, the ones who are being devious INSIDE of the parks could be easily flushed out by Disney. It would take minimal effort and a trespass or two, and this wouldn’t be an issue at all.

      • Actually, no, you didn’t make that at all clear. And your continued condescending use of “as I made clear” is getting old real fast. Read your own article again. You called every single person who trades cards and carries a binder a creep and unscrupulous. What the heck does “Attempting to trade with unsuspecting guests” mean? Would you like us to announce from a great distance “STAND BACK EVERYONE! I’m going to ask this person in line with me if she would like to trade any duplictes!!!” so that she’s no longer “unsuspecting”? Get this straight – trading is not evil. Carrying a binder is not evil.

        Your entire tone throughout this article and every response you’ve given is revolting. I’m surprised TouringPlans allowed it to be posted, as it’s the exact opposite of the friendly and helpful kind of post I’ve come to expect from the company.

        “Biggest disappointment of the year”? Not New Fantasyland to be sure. I nominate this article and the responses to it. It’s colored my entire opinion of TouringPlans.com.

      • Since you are not the only one who has interpreted what I wrote this way, there must be at least some ambiguity in what I wrote in the original post. My apologies for that–it’s not my intent to refer to all traders in a derogatory manner.

        I will edit the post to give it more clarity. My response above your last one more concisely summarizes my position. At least I hope it does.

      • Tom I knew exactly what you meant and which “traders” you were describing, can’t please everyone but don’t stop putting up these great posts.

  • Only 4 categories? What kind of awards show is this? I suggest that next year you expand to at least 10 categories and do multiple blogs if necessary. Perhaps half of them could be the best things of the year and the other half could be the worst.

    I’d also like to see awards voted on by the Touring plans subscribers. The bloggers could come up with nominees and then we would have a week to vote on them.

    • What kind of awards show? The crumby kind!

      I would expand to include additional categories, but I already rambled on about these awards for 1,400 words, and I doubt anyone wants to read another 2,000 or so words for the added 6 awards.

      As for offering subscribers a vote…that’s not something that interests me, but I’ll pass the idea along to the rest of the staff.

  • I personally am considering Be Our Guest the flagship attraction of the New Fantasyland and I am not disappointed one bit.

    • If a restaurant is the top draw (they aren’t attractions) in a new land, that’s an automatic disappointment in my book–no matter how good or cool the restaurant.

      Dining is a big part of our trips, but the heart of Walt Disney World is ultimately the attractions.

  • I was very disappointed with where & how the wheel chairs are put onto the Little Mermaid ride.

    After you go through the que, you are escorted to another waiting area. That’s where real disappointment begins. They squeeze you behind a computer to get onto the moving beltway! – What a way to destroy a ‘magical’ experience, but to wait to enter a ride behind the electronic equipment that controls the ride.

    The wheel chair clam shell is an open shell – kinda neat, but it doesn’t have the same feel as the clam shell, like the wheel chair car in Under the Seas with Nemo. My biggest complaint is that they have to slow down the ride to make sure that the wheel chair is safely in place…. (ok – that might sound weird, but read on please….)

    I was hoping that they would put the time, effort & money into creating a wheel chair entrance more like Toy Story. Let’s face it, the EVC’s and wheel chairs aren’t going anywhere. Why destroy a ride (like all the slow downs in the Haunted Mansion) for the wheel chairs.

    It’s also confusing when you exit the ride. Once again, it might have been nice to have people exit in a different location like Nemo or Figment’s ride.

    I take either my elderly mom or special needs sister in their wheel chair to the parks. It’s great that they have these rides & vehicles for those that can’t transfer, yet it would be nice, if they didn’t degrade the experience for them or all of the other riders.

    • Very interesting perspective, and something I hadn’t considered regarding the experience. It’s unfortunate that they don’t have a better load procedure.

      Even with the stoppages, the Omnimover system that Mermaid and Mansion use are far more efficient than the way Toy Story Mania loads. So on the one hand, I can see your point about taking away from everyone’s experience with the stoppages, but on the other hand, I’d rather have the stoppages and half as long of a wait time.

      • Yes, when I’m not pushing a wheel chair around the parks, it’s nice to go on these Omnimover rides! – the lines really do move pretty quickly.

  • I have mixed feelings about NewFL. I have 2 young children who loved it but my husband and I thought that some of the attractions, Lttle Mermaid in particular was a new “Old” attraction. With the technological capabilities of attractions these days it seems like if you are going to put something in go a bit cutting edge otherwise the ride will quickly be outdated. They used technology in lots of unique and interesting ways but it is Disney they could have taken it to a whole new level with WOW factor. I still love the charm and butterflies of excitement that Disney and Fantasyland inparticular provide. We are going again begining of December 2013 so maybe we will luck out with an early preview of the mine train. Hoping it is great!

    • Just there for previews in November and feel the same way…missing the WOW factor and thought they could have done more with Under the Sea. I was more excited about being let in during AP preview days and not being a AP.

  • I am impressed with the Cars Land addition, but DCA still needs some work before I would call it reborn. The Hollywood section of the park is neglected, which means a big piece of the theme park doesn’t live up to the higher standards found elsewhere. Even Soarin’ is showing its age with a minimally themed queue and poor quality of the films. I think Disney made some great strides in improving the overall quality of the park, but there are some places where work is still needed before it could be called a full refresh of the theme park.

    • It needs more work before I’ll call it “as good as Disneyland,” but I think its form changed to such a drastic degree in 2012 that it was “reborn.”

  • Great article! I am really reading closely these days. We are trying to decide if we have to skip one park on our next visit, which one will it be? Care to write an article tackling how to make THAT decision? It’s totally subjective, I know! It’s hard for us to decide, since each park has at least one or two “OHMYGOSH I HAVE to do that” attractions.

    I’d love to see you guys have an area where readers could submit a question, then any and all Touring Plans folks that cared to could put in their opinions. That would be great! (I say this, of course, since I have a million questions.)

    Thanks for this article! We were sort of thinking that the new Fantasy Land would be of minor interest to us, compared to all of the other things we’d like to do. Our next trip in the summer will have Mom, Dad, and a 10 and 13 year old boy. Without the mine train, I doubt we will find much of interest there.

  • I’m glad to hear someone liked Test Track 2.0. It was definitely my biggest disappointment of the year. I miss the kitschy-ness of the old one, and I miss a proper pre-show to explain to me what the back story is. I thought maybe I missed something by going through the Fast Pass queue, but I wasn’t about to wait an hour plus in the standby queue to figure out what I might have missed. Next time. I’m trying to keep an open mind. Maybe it just isn’t for me, but it makes me glad that at least some people like it. I do understand trying to put the “Future” back in “Future World” but I just didn’t get appeal of the attraction. Thanks for your opinions – they awards are fun!

    • You definitely missed something going through the FastPass queue. Test Track 2.0 is a completely different attraction when experienced through the standby queue. In fact, I’d argue that the appeal of Test Track 2.0 is based solely on the experience in the standby queue. Rather than choosing from a limited sample of pre-designed cars as in the FastPass queue, in standby you spend several minutes designing your own car based on what attributes you find appealing/important. Then, during the attraction, it becomes more enjoyable to see how your personal design did against the others in your ride vehicle and ultimately against others overall. My kids absolutely loved seeing where they ranked at each section of the track and how they did at the end.

      We were fortunate to ride it on the first day it opened to the public, before the grand opening, and so were able to ride it three times through the standby queue that morning. Because of the desire to top your previous scores as well as others, the re-rideability is huge, not unlike TSMM. Unfortunately, the incredible waits in the standby queue once it opened limit riding it the way it should be experienced to realistically just once a day, at park opening. We rode it later that day with FastPass, and like you were disappointed in how the experience was different.

      I’d recommend giving it another shot on your next trip, but not with FastPass.

      • The design center aspect is a big part of it for me, but I think the substance of the ride itself is also improved. It’s still far from perfect, but it’s far better.

        For what it’s worth, though, I was never a fan of the original Test Track.

      • The interactivity of the stand by queue is often down. Not functioning. You just watch endless people try to figure out why it isn’t reading ther white card. Then they throw them everywhere and you walk through a mini disaster area.

      • Based on comments, it sounds this these downtimes are fairly common. Test Track has always been an up and down attraction due to its ride system, but it appears there are more issues now than before, which is a shame.

        That said, I made these awards based upon my experiences, and (with the exception of the ride being down one morning of our trip), I haven’t experienced these things. I’m not denying that they happen, but on the times we’ve ridden Test Track 2.0, I haven’t experienced any problems.

  • I agree that NewFL is the biggest disappointment, based purely on the “wait, that’s it?” factor. WDW should have worked out it’s construction schedule so that all the planned attractions opened at the same time. Imagine if Universal opened WWoHP but had a scrim around Hogwarts with signs saying “Coming Soon!”

    Second biggest disappointment: closing down Snow White, a slightly lame but still beloved ride for yet another princess meet-and-greet area.

    • “its”, not “it’s”. Don’t know what I was thinking – next thing you know, I’ll be typing “they’re” for “their”…

  • Some other awards:

    Best merchandise: The American Adventure t-shirt to commemorate EPCOT’s 30th anniversary.

    Most terrifying moment: The EPCOT 30th Illuminations tag (also the most awesome moment)

    Most egregious decision: Reducing evening EMH from 3 to 2 hours in 2013

    Best attraction update: The zebra section of Kilimanjaro Safaris

    Worst attraction update: Country Bear Jamboree

    • I agree with all of these, except possibly the American Adventure t-shirt. But, since I don’t know what I’d deem the merchandise of the year (that shirt was pretty awesome, but I also liked the DCA 2.0 designs), I’ll give you that one, as well. I also have yet to see the zebra section, so I’ll reserve judgment there.

      Now, if we’re talking WORST merchandise of the year, there are a number of “pop culture” shirts (“Swaggy” Mickey, “Relationship Status” Belle & Beast, etc.) that are absolutely tacky.

      • OMG, yes! The Swaggy and Sup Bro tees are the worst of the year BY FAR. They are hilariously awful.

      • Personally, I’m not a fan of those shirts, but my 13 year old daughter LOVED the “Sup Bro” shirt. It was the only thing she insisted we buy during our trip last week. Perhaps we old folks are not the intended audience. 🙂

      • Regardless of who is the intended audience, they are tacky. In my opinion, they degrade and cheapen the Disney characters. Shirts with Mickey that say “GTL” might be popular with the New Jersey crowd, but that doesn’t mean that Disney should make them.

      • Those shirts were terrrrrrrrrible. Gaston wins my award for best new in-park character. He was hilarious when we interacted with him.

    • Other than the t-shirt (’cause I never saw it) I totally agree! How dare they do this to the Country Bears! Come on – is the public’s attention span that short?

      … and that tag on EPCOT’s 30th – …… I go with super most awesome!

  • I hate to disagree but I say Test Track is the year’s biggest disappointment. The ride queue area is interesting and more interactive but otherwise I think the life and soul of the ride have been sucked out. There is no personality in Test Track anymore. You simply ride through some black light cardboard cut-out effects. The former environment rooms make no sense and simply covering the tractor trailer in neon colors to tie in with the rest of the re-design just seems lazy. The ride has little to no connection with the “test vehicle” you create in the queue area. The vehicle creation part just seems like a way to keep you from realizing how long you just stood in line. My kids enjoyed it but even they wondered how that part related to the ride. Make no mistake, I still enjoy the 60+ mph lap around the track and we’ll still ride Test Track. However, I think instead of taking a step forward with Test Track 2.0 Disney has actually taken a huge step back with the new Test Track. I think they should have updated the old version rather than replacing it with the bland attraction we have now.

    • I agree with you about the “dark” portion of TT. It reminded me more of a small carnival dark ride that a “state of the art” attraction. It looks like they just went in, sprayed everything black, and then added a few black-light effects.

      Still, the incomplete NewFL was more disappointing IMO.

      • It sounds like Test Track 2.0 is going to go down as one of those incredibly divisive attractions. I can respect that others don’t like it for the reasons you two stated, but I consider it to be the best addition of the year at Walt Disney World.

      • Well, to be honest I’m up and down about it. The design and evaluate your car portion of it (when it works) is a huge improvement on TT1.0. However, the themeing seemed to be an afterthought, definitely not up to WDW standards.

      • LOL. Is this post all a joke? Now I don’t know if anything you’ve said is serious or a joke. The ride is never even up and running. We were there 5 days in December and the ride was down almost the entire time OR the interactive portion was broken.

      • I met one of the engineers at a local event near my home. He was very pessimistic about TT opening on opening day. Yet, I guess management wasn’t going to let that date slip regardless if the ride was ready or not.

      • It is good to understand what you are looking for, so now I can appreciate we have VERY different views of what makes us love Disney World. I thought , as another reviewer said, that the life and soul and humanity (yes, even tho there were crash dummies there WAS humanity!) was sucked out of test track. The games at the end were fun, but it is a sad version of its former self in my mind. I miss Bill and his assistant!

    • I am super excited for the test track, but not in any ways that will win me ‘mother of the year’ award… My girls refused to go on this, and as I rarely use parent swap (because I’m not going to make my kids stand in line for something they don’t get to participate in), we didn’t get to go on it. But now since the new youtube videos have come out, suddenly it doesn’t look as fast, and my girls oohed and awwed over the pretty lights. Now they can’t WAIT to go on it. And I will happily take them on it… In my defense, I know my girls will LOVE this ride, they love sledding and bounce house slides, and my 6 year old went on Tower of Terror last year. But the old test track was too ‘scary’ looking.

  • Check, check, check, check.

    Clean sweep of correct choices by Mr. Bricker.

  • I wasn’t really disappointed by New Fantasyland, since we were told right off the bat what the contents would be. Under the Sea wasn’t a let-down since I never had high expectations. It’s a dark ride and I don’t feel Disney ever marketed it as anything other than that.

    In fact, I was initially underwhelmed by Enchanted Tales with Belle, but now having experienced it, love this charming attraction! Storybook Circus gets an A+ for its theme, particularly the character meet tent. The pork shank is destined to be a new Disney dining fascination, and Be Our Guest has easily become the best table service spot in the Magic Kingdom (admittedly, that’s not saying much).

    I don’t think we can adequately judge New Fantasyland until the remaining pieces open, but so far I really love it.

    • I agree with you regarding Enchanted Tales with Belle, Storybook Circus, and Be Our Guest. Especially with regard to Enchanted Tales, which has received its fair share of criticism. I hope Mine Train is excellent, but I’m not reserving judgment on a land that has had its “grand opening” until something else opens in it a year or two later.

      It’s with Mermaid where I disagree. The Disney California Adventure version of this attraction cost a reported $100 million (http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/01/news/la-trb-little-mermaid-disney-california-adventure-review-06201101) with a less ornate queue and exterior. I don’t see it as a $100m attraction.

      It seems to me that Disney has marketed New Fantasyland as heavily or more heavily than Cars Land. Frequent talking points are that the expansion has been planned for 30 years and that it’s the biggest expansion in 41 years. Statements like those, plus the barrage of ads, Parks Blog posts, viral campaigns, etc. make me feel that Disney is heavily marketing it.

      Savvy fans have known, more or less, what the substance would be for a couple years and have lowered expectations accordingly, but those people have looked beyond the marketing.

      Like I said, judged in a vacuum, it would be a solid addition. Judged against the Disney-created hype, I think it falls short.

  • I think your dead wrong about Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. I do not believe Disney had any idea how popular this attraction would become. My only disappointment is the lack of planning for the crowds gathering around each portal. There are very generous and helpful people who play this game. I might concede that for the first few months there might have been some people scammed by not knowing the value of the individual cards. But since then more people tend to give their cards away for free to new players. It is a welcomed addition to the Magic Kingdom and the best part is “it’s free”. Other than purchasing a play at home version which contains an ultra rare card the entire thing is free! The quality of the cards as a free souvenir is refreshing in a time where Disney is raising prices and lowering amenities.

    I hope you will reconsider your view.

    • My issue, as clearly stated in the article, is with the people who lurk around the attraction and Disney’s failure to do something about those people, rather than the attraction itself.

      I saw those lurkers in October and December, so unless something has happened to them since, I stand by my statements.

      • I think the number of lurkers of the nature of what you are complaining are far outnumbered by the helpful folks making sure that others had the opportunity to have fun playing the game. I was there for three days in mid December, and I was amazed at the friendliness of the players and traders trying to complete their sets of cards. I can’t believe you would be this negative about a free game.

      • Free? The Magic Kingdom has a (rather steep) daily admission. If I shouldn’t judge SOTMK because it’s “free,” I shouldn’t judge any attraction because they’re all “free.”

        If there’s even one of those lurkers that I mention, that’s one too many (I saw far more than one in December, and I didn’t even play the game). All Disney has to do is threaten to issue trespass warnings to these people and they’d all be gone in a day.

      • The point is that it is free AND you also get to take something home with you. And pick up where you left off next trip. And trade with other guests. What other attraction at WDW allows that for free? Pins costs money. Vinyls cost money.

      • Um, what the heck are ‘profiteers’? Is there any monetary value to these cards? If not, why would anyone try to be tricking anyone out of these cards? And who are these people that waste perfectly good touring time waiting for victims to prey on??? Should I bring mace????

      • I was there from Dec 15th through 22nd and played SOTMK for the first time. We spent a couple hours playing it over two days and were never approached by anyone and never saw anyone lurking around any of the portals. Overall we really loved this game. I thought it was much more fun than even the Agent P game in Epcot.

    • I agree with Tom and think some people are reading in to his review to much. Its really fun and its great that the cards are free. When we went last April I had 4!!! lurkers trying to get cards off of me and my son over two days. I even told one of the guys I would sell it to him for 40$ dollars and he just huffed and walked off. Then later in the day a very nice newlywed couple saw that I had the Rapunzel card ( which is one the lurkers wanted)and wanted it to get signed by Rapunzel for there first trip. I gave them the card and made there day and he graciously gave me all of his cards to hand out to kids, which I did and it was awesome!!! So yes its great fun and its great to be free, but the lurkers did irritate me.

      • “Lurkers” One of the things Ilove about Disney is how nice people are and how much fun it is to share experiences together with people you just met and will probably not meet again. Trading cards to help each other out does not qualify for “lurking” in my book! And yes, they ARE free…park admission is just that…meals are NOT free, these cards are. I am getting sort of sad with the negative comments in this blog. No one holds a gun to our heads saying we HAVE to go…try Great America if you want to see what “lurkers” are!

  • I nominate Habit Heroes for the Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration (Short) Lifetime Achievement award.

    • Ha! Assuming I remember to do so, next year I’ll add an inaugural “Habit Hero Award” that will pay tribute to the most boneheaded decision of the year.


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