This week’s SATURDAY SIX makes its long awaited return to the Disney Dump! With Walt Disney World doing a little “Spring cleaning” this summer and deciding to get rid of even more attractions (Great Movie Ride, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and the Music of Pixar Live! among others) we here at the SATURDAY SIX have put our noggins together and figured out a couple more things they can take to the dump as well.
We made our first trip to the Disney Dump a couple years ago, and anything that was asked for then would not be eligible for this article. This is why you won’t see Dinoland USA, Electric Umbrella, ABC Commissary, BoardWalk Pizza Window, Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Stitch’s Great Escape. Look at that list again and keep in mind Stitch’s Great Escape is still around while the Great Movie Ride – the heart and soul of DHS – is now gone. Today we’re going to take a look at things we’d all be better off without, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
When Captain EO made its debut in 1986, it was the epitome of what made Disney Disney. Produced by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, score by James Horner, starring Michael Jackson, EO was an all star collaboration of the highest order. The movie itself was one of the first true “4D” films, in which the theater itself became part of the experience with seat movement, laser and smoke effects. There was absolutely nothing outside of Epcot Center that could be compared to Captain EO.
Now, if you have a DVD player in your house (or NETFLIX) you can have your very own replacement for Captain EO with the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. Unlike Captain EO, several of the short films used in the “festival” have been converted into 3D, despite the fact they weren’t made with 3D in mind. This is the difference between buying a beautiful bouquet of flowers for your significant other, and just grabbing something off your front lawn right before you get home. Captain EO represents a certain era of Disney, when only imagination was the limit to what could be achieved. In a way, the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival also represents an era of Disney; one in which intellectual property, branding, and corporate synergy supersedes “outdated” concepts like “theme.” Do yourself a favor, stream a Pixar short on your mobile device while waiting in line for a better attraction.
# 5 – The Ubiquitous Flatbreads Across Property
There are three things that even the most casual of Disney fans know. The theme parks are expensive, all the rides end in a gift shop, and the pizza stinks. Thankfully in the past few years third party vendors (including Via Napoli, Splitsville, and Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza) have shown us that one can actually have good pizza at Walt Disney World. Unfortunately Disney itself has doubled down on pre-made flatbreads that have popped up across property faster that you can say supercalifragilisticpizzatastesatrocious. Despite being premade, the quality of these flatbreads are so inconsistent it almost makes me want to award a Michelin star to the BoardWalk Pizza Window, because at least their food always resembles pizza.
“In our quest to eat all of the awful pizza around Crescent Lake, here’s some “food” from Beach Club Marketplace.” – Tom Bricker
“We were looking forward to eating there and trying the Sausage Pepperoni Flatbread Pizza that we had watched someone do a food vlog on. It looks so good and big.. So, we ordered that and a Sprite.
What we got was nothing like we had seen in the video and was the worst of anything we ordered, the picture makes it look big, but believe me, it is not big at all.
Kids might like it, and if you are a fan of cheap frozen pizza, you might like it. The best description that we can give it is it tasted almost like cardboard with some sauce and flavoring on it.” – davidjjenkins1961
“Disney reportedly tested flatbread recipes for more than a month before deciding on this combination. Because there aren’t a lot of pizzerias around to go on. But to be fair, one is never really sure which defrosted meats and canned vegetables will jive together on the palate.” – Josh
Meanwhile THIS is one of the flatbreads they are serving at Pinocchio Village Kitchen in Shanghai Disneyland. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! Keep the Tron lightcycle ride, we’ll take this!
# 4 – Circle of Life: An Environmental Tale
The Circle of Life experience in The Land pavilion at EPCOT can best be described as theme park’s version of being scared straight. Who doesn’t like The Lion King? Well, Circle of Life uses our pals Simba, Timon and Pumbaa to educate theme park guests on how they – all of us humans in fact – are destroying the planet. Impressionable kids may come away scared from the fires and other infringes upon nature seen in the film, so be prepared. Strangely enough, Circle of Life almost seems like it was made by someone anti-theme parks and no one at Disney noticed for twenty years. The film actually would have fit in perfectly at the Banksy art exhibition Dismaland: A Dystopian Theme Park. Maybe we could redo this concept with the Lion Guard and tone it done by about 20%, although I don’t think most guests are going to want to learn about floating plastic garbage patches given the next attraction on our list…
# 3 – Club Cool
Speaking of synergy, when a Coca Cola gift shop becomes one of the few attractions left standing, it may be time to rethink Future World. The most original part of Club Cool, the opportunity to taste thimble sized versions of soda from around the World, has been made partly irrelevant thanks to a much better experience served at the Coca Cola store outside bar at Disney Springs. Over the years Disney has also become a leader in making the parks a healthier experience for kids, with “Mickey Check” meals and more, so it may be a good idea to also move away from a “Drink More Soda” attraction. WHAT IF we ditched the Coke sponsorship, kept the “cold” theme, and made this a fun meet and greet area for characters like Frozone and Olaf, or even any character dressed in “winter” gear. Then we get an actual attraction for those that are into pictures and autographs, while also delivering the air conditioning people want to take a break in. Win/win.
# 2 – Bongos Cuban Cafe
When turning Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, WDW didn’t just hit a home run, it hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Seres. The new additions (including Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, Frontera Cocina, and Morimoto Asia) have done the impossible by making Disney Springs the Go To place on property for great restaurants, taking the throne from Epcot’s World Showcase. New stores have come onsite, a great new bus depot for transportation, and a new Cirque du Soleil show is on the way.
We mentioned some restaurants earlier, and they all have one thing in common: celebrity chefs. There was a time in American history when the restaurant rage was celebrity owners. Bongos Cuban Cafe is from singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. Bongos takes up a large footprint at Disney Springs, sits waterside, and historically has scored extremely low with TouringPlans readers. I’ve been to Bongos and had a pleasant enough experience, and can only guess to why it scores so poorly with many others. Possibly it is because the menu may see “exotic” compared to others in the area, and the live salsa music a start contrast to the more rock music you will hear at the nearby House of Blues and Splitsville (not to mention Disney Springs background music.) With many of the new restaurants going into The Landing area of Disney Springs, maybe a new restaurant replacing Bongos in the West Side could help draw some traffic away from there. Possibly one by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (trying to get my Hell’s Kitchen-themed restaurant experience by hook or by crook.)
# 1 – The All-Star Resorts
The concept of a true “value” resort offering rooms at a much lower cost to allow more guests the opportunity to stay onsite is a good one. When the All Star Resorts were opened in 1994 you could even make the case they were a decent alternative compared to the hotel landscape in Orlando. However, in the last twenty plus, the competition surrounding Disney has upped their game. In 2014, the Universal Orlando Resort opened their first value resort with the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and it was filled with amenities including a bowling alley, a lazy river, and pool bars that served food.
After a recent stay at the All-Stars, I think it is time for Disney to start putting some TLC into the resort so that it feels more “Disney” level of quality. The decor around the hotel is larger than life, and while some don’t like that idea in general, I think we can all agree what is there has become stale and could use some freshening up. With the amount of Disney brands and characters that have been created and/or bought in the last two decades, this seems like an easy fix. Disney could even reconsider the current concept of sports, music, and movies and change them to more Disney-inclusive ideas like pirates, princesses, and superheroes. We can assume Disney could also bump up the room rate a bit if a guest’s room view was looking out a giant version of Thor’s hammer instead of a three story tall Coke cup.
While there’s not much Disney can do about the “intimate” space inside each room, at least they could be a little more themed outside of a picture on the wall. Art of Animation showed the level of detail that Disney can put into a value resort overall, and specifically the actual room you stay in, and it would be nice to have more of that onsite and less of the Motel 6-vibe that’s there now.
In the last five years, “food and beverage” has exploded in the Orlando area giving us incredible resort experiences such as Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Poly, Abracadabar at the BoardWalk, and Stone Water Tavern at Universal’s Sapphire Falls. We had fun a while back with a SATURDAY SIX doing a value resort bar crawl, but the article was done tongue firmly in cheek to show people how awful these bars are compared to everything else on property. At the all-Stars, the bars are small extensions directly off the food court and have all the charm of a kiosk in the middle of a mall. Guests at the resort deserve better than that.
Food courts have also taken a major leap in quality since the All-Stars were created, and one only needs to look at AOA’s Landscape of Flavors or Cabana Bay’s Bayliner Diner to see value resort quick serve food options that can compete with any other hotel on property. The food court at All-Star Movies was not in that league and actually made it feel like eating at the resort was a punishment rather than something to look forward to.
If you’re considering staying at the All-Stars, spend a couple minutes checking out this blog by Neil Trama: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Checking into Disney’s All-Star Sports.
So there you have it: Six MORE Things That Can Go to the Disney Dump! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, “Groovy” Michael Sheehy, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!