SATURDAY SIX Presents IN MEMORIAM: Looking Back at What We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2019

Share This!

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is our annual look at What We Lost From the Theme Park World this past year. As theme park fans, we’ve had a lot to be thankful for in 2019. However, as much as we all loved riding the Disney Skyliner, being able to walk down Sesame Street, and experiencing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it wasn’t all good news. We did have to say goodbye to some of our favorites at Disney and Universal. Without further ado, let’s kickoff the somber list with…

# 6 – Restaurants

Some wonderful new eateries opened in the theme park corridor this past year, including Bigfire at Universal CityWalk, Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort, and the incredible Three Bridges Bar & Grill at Disney’s Coronado Springs. We did lose several longtime restaurants though, including Bongos Cuban Cafe at Disney Springs. Believe it or not, Bongos has been at the Downtown Disney/Disney Springs area since 1997! You couldn’t miss Bongos’ signature large white pineapple when walking down the West Side thoroughfare, and celebrity owner Gloria Estefan often had autographed items available in the gift shop. Bongos’ authentic Cuban cuisine certainly stood out from the other Downtown Disney restaurants, but popularity faded when the area transitioned into Disney Springs  (and the debut of Art Smith’s Homecomin’, Morimoto Asia, and The BOATHOUSE, among others).

Bongos Cuban Cafe. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Bongos at Bongos. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Signed Gloria Estefan CD from the Bongos gift shop. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Pork bites. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Bongos, early November 2019.
The last bit of the iconic pineapple coming down. (photo by@bioreconstruct)

McDonald’s by the All-Star Resorts

If you’ve never been to the McDonald’s by Disney’s All-Star Resorts, well, consider yourself lucky. Even by McDonald’s standards this place was a disaster. The prices were higher than any other McDonald’s in Orlando, and the restaurant’s general state was FILTHY. Trash on tables along with overflowing garbage cans were more common than not, helping make this Mickey D’s one of the worst places to propose at Walt Disney World.

McDonald’s by the All-Star Resorts. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Author Drunk@Disney gets on one knee at Mickey D’s. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The old McDonald’s has been torn down. Above is an aerial photo of the current status of the new McDonald’s that will be replacing it. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Liberty Inn

In a park full of great and unique places to eat, Liberty Inn at the American Adventure in EPCOT left something to be desired. In fact, its biggest selling point was that it wasn’t all that busy during peak days at the park, giving guests a chance to eat in air conditioning without a huge wait. Like Bongos, it’s all about location, location, location. If Liberty Inn were in the Magic Kingdom, it would possibly top a list of where to eat. At EPCOT though, it’s hard to justify eating there where you are mere steps away from places like Via Napoli, Rose & Crown, or La Hacienda de San Angel.

Liberty Inn seating. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

Liberty Inn was also the home of the next level bonkers food items to support Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live! show.

Space Sandwich, just like the ones Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain ate. (photo by Michael Carelli)

 

# 5 – Mizner’s Lounge

To respectfully honor the legacy of Mizner’s Lounge at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, we reached out to get some words from the Mayor of Mizner’s, Jason Schuck.

“Mizner’s was a contradiction, the classiest bar on property — with its tuxedoed orchestra, ritzy 1920s Florida decor, and high-end whiskeys & cognacs — yet also the most laid-back, with a chill crowd, friendly conversation at the uniquely curved bar, and the most fun F&B crew Mickey ever hired (as anyone who ever heard the infamous “Squirrel Story” can attest). Any given night saw plenty of local regulars, but even more from across the country and indeed the world — the brothers who run the Facebook group, for example, visited once a year from Vienna, drinking up all the Jager every night they were in town. It truly was Cheers — staff and regulars routunely went on adventures together outside the bar, from nights out at Devenneys (also RIP) to Christmas parties to bartenders’ weddings. As the doors closed for the final time in April, it truly felt like losing my best friend, because it was the place I always saw so many of my best friends. It will be missed.”
Mizner’s Lounge.
Mizner’s Lounge.
Mizners Cooler. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Chocolate Martini. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Mizner’s bar snacks, one of the few free things you can get at a WDW eatery.

 

# 4 – Leave a Legacy, Club Cool, Innoventions, Fountain of Nations, et al.

There were a lot of announcements at this year’s D23 Expo, several of which dealt with the future of EPCOT. Much like DHS over the past few years, EPCOT is currently going through a major transition stage. Construction walls are everywhere, and we have to remember that the “new and improved” park is coming at a price. For new things to come, old things have to go. One of the more striking changes that people will notice immediately is the removal of the Leave a Legacy monoliths in front of Spaceship Earth.

Leave a Legacy in front of Spaceship Earth. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Leave a Legacy placard. (photo by Tim Grassey)
Leave a Legacy. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Legacy a Legacy. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Leave A Legacy allowed guests to get their picture printed on a tile, which was then put on one of the large monoliths in front of Spaceship Earth. Often the pictures didn’t exactly look all too great. Sometimes they didn’t even look human, like this one featuring Inside Universal‘s own Bri-Man.

Not only could you get pictures put onto the Leave a Legacy project, you could also put up tributes for people who have passed away, such as this tile for my family members Laurel and David.

Leave a Legacy’s greatest achievement may have been holding all five members of the band NSYNC.

FUN FACT: did you know NSYNC’s “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You” was written about the Electric Umbrella? (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Despite many calling for the Leave a Legacy albatross to be removed for years, it was still surprising to see them taken away.

Leave a Legacy now needs its own Leave a Legacy. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
“Which way to Star Wars Land?” (photo by @bioreconstruct)

For all its faults, Leave a Legacy meant something to a lot of people, and it shall be missed.

R.I.P.

Here’s a look back at the Fountain of Nations, and behind it Club Cool, the Fountain View Starbucks, and a part of Innoventions West.

A snapshot of a piece of Future World we won’t be seeing again. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

You knew it was time for a Future World overhaul when a Coca Cola gift shop becomes one of the few attractions left standing.  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.

Club Cool. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Cokes from around the world. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Club Cool. (photo by Brandon Glover)

It is really a shame to see what Innoventions has turned into over the years. A shell of its former self, the only reason worth going into the building in recent years is to check out one of the weirdest bathrooms in all of Walt Disney World.

Innoventions. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Innoventions bathroom. (photo by @TrickyRicky_85)
Aerial view of Fountain of Nations removal. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Aerial photo of the removal of Innoventions West. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 3 – Burudika

Unfortunately, one of the biggest cuts we have seen in the Orlando Disney parks recently is at the expense of live entertainment. While guests may go home and talk about the E-Ticket attractions they rode, or the restaurants they ate at, it’s often the live performers that can give you those “magical moments” that you just can’t describe in a guide book. That may come from interacting with the Citizens of Hollywood at DHS, or – one of our all time favorites – enjoying the Burudika Band at Animal Kingdom. Burudika was a street party, with singing and dancing and audience participation. Essentially African music meets modern rock and jazz, Burudika was the standard by which all Disney live bands could be measured by. Named after a fake hotel in Harambe Village (#story,) Burudika was an invaluable piece of entertainment in the park that could appeal to all ages and all cultures. They will be missed.

Burudika Band.
Burudika performs. (photo by Chasen Hampton)
Burudika Band. (photo by Drunk@Disney)
Burudika Band.  (photo by Safari Mike)

 

# 2 – Themed Butter

Heaven needed a condiment.

8/20/19…a day that will live in infamy. The day Universal removed themed butter from its restaurants.

The first time I saw themed butter, it left me wondering if anything in my life had ever been this perfect and knowing at the same time that it hadn’t. I was in love, and the feeling was more wonderful than I ever imagined it could be. – Nicholas Sparks, probably

E-Ticket butter. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

One day in the future I will be able to tell my grandkids that I was able to see these gorgeous pats of butter on my plate at restaurants such as Mythos and Lombard’s Seafood Grille, and I will do my best to describe the wonder and beauty of the Universal Orlando Resort logo stamped onto butter. Such a perfect representation of what separates the theme park world we all love from the crappy world we all live in. Alas, like pogs, Alf, and everything else that was too good to be true, themed butter was not long for this mortal world.

When #CONFIRMED is like a dagger into your heart…

Meanwhile we have our new butter that we look at with disappointment.

“This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.” – Prince (photo by @ViewsAndQueues)

There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling if I did, the joy would be gone as well.

 

# 1 – IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

We know what you are thinking. Faithful readers of the SATURDAY SIX should remember that the staleness of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was one of our very own complaints about the Disney parks. However, the readers have spoken, and to quote the great Joe Perry in the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster pre-show, “C’mon, you know how we feel about our fans.” So instead we are going to flip-flop play Devil’s Advocate, and make the case for  this iconic nighttime spectacular.

Let’s face it, we are never getting a show like IllumiNations ever again. With Reflections of Earth we weren’t overwhelmed with characters or forced-in product placements (we’re looking in your direction World of Color). It is the very definition of a spectacle using over the top fireworks, lasers, neon lights, and a stirring musical soundtrack to deliver its story. Yes, the story may actually be more incomprehensible than the plots for The Matrix sequels, but along with the pyrotechnic ballyhoo there is the large globe doing whatever it is that it does. We don’t know exactly why the globe unfolds like a flower, but that flower brings with it one of the most show stopping finales we have ever seen. IllumiNations was not by any means perfect, but for anyone who saw episode two of The Imagineering Story on Disney+, it was perfect representation of what EPCOT is supposed to be.

Crowds build in World Showcase for the last showing of IllumiNations. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Crowd levels between Italy and Germany Pavilions for the last IllumiNations show. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
IllumiNations pre-show torch.
IllumiNations. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
IllumiNations. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
IllumiNations. (photo by Brandon Glover)
IllumiNations. (photo by @ViewsAndQueues)
IllumiNations as seen from the rooftop tower bar at Gran Destino. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

Honorable Mention –  The DHS shortcut sign

Savvy Disney park guests knew there was a “back” entrance to DHS, located near the Swan and Dolphin. That entrance is now unavailable to guests and is solely dedicated to Disney buses.

Old sign. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New sign. Queue the sad trombone sound effect. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
How the new system works. (aerial photo by @bioreconstruct)

Tomorrowland entrance sign

Speaking of signs, we also lost the Tomorrowland entrance sign at the Magic Kingdom as it was replaced with a much more bland (sorry, “artistic”) white one.

Tomorrowland. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Tomorrowland. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Double Secret Honorable Mention – The Rise and Fall of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge SPORKS

One of the real surprises when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened out in Disneyland was the debut of metal sporks at Docking Bay 7. The land officially opened on May 31. By June 3, so many sporks had been taken by guests that Disney just started using generic utensils instead.

Many of us thought there was no chance that the sporks would make it to Florida when Galaxy’s Edge opened up in DHS at the end of August. Lo and behold, we also got the sporks!

E-Ticket sporks. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

However, it was not to last long, and probably for the same reason they got rid of them at Disneyland. While our Galaxy’s Edge opened on August 31, the sporks were gone by September 9, rivaling the infamous Animal Kingdom poop snacks for the title of “shortest stay at the WDW parks.”

So there you have it: In Memoriam – a look back at what we lost from the theme park world in 2019! 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).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

SATURDAY SIX – 6 More Things That Can Go To The DISNEY DUMP

SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at theme park photography

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

Sorry Howie. (photo by Brandon Glover)

7 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX Presents IN MEMORIAM: Looking Back at What We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2019

  • December 28, 2019 at 10:33 am
    Permalink

    Mizners will live on in our hearts and memories. Thank you Jason, for your words.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2019 at 2:06 pm
    Permalink

    I’d stumbled on that back entrance to DHS once not realizing that it wan’t the expected way to enter. Of course, that was a few years back, when there wasn’t much need to find a shortcut into DHS.

    Illuminations could have used an update that had a similar artistic feel, but Epcot Forever is the fireworks version of those scrims they put on buildings during renovations.

    After losing Chakranadi a few years ago, cutting Burudika really stings. These are the things that put Disney above amusement parks and it’s sad to see them go.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2019 at 6:32 pm
    Permalink

    I agree; I only found out recently about Chakranadi being cut, as it somehow flew under my radar, preparing for my first trip after a few years break. Seeing them was a must-do tradition with a tea from Anandapur tea company and while I am sad for me, I’m really sad for guests who will never get to experience these wonderful bands for themselves and have those memories. Don’t even get me started on Banjo Brothers & Bob…

    Reply
  • December 28, 2019 at 9:05 pm
    Permalink

    While Club Cool is no great loss as a whole, I wish that a new drinking fountain would be added that substituted Beverly for water.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2019 at 9:21 pm
    Permalink

    Wait, they cut Burudika?! WHAT THE %#*$?!

    Reply
  • December 31, 2019 at 11:43 pm
    Permalink

    now that’s an E-ticket water fountain!

    Reply
  • January 17, 2020 at 2:02 pm
    Permalink

    There was no harm in Club Cool. 99.9% of guests would get one or two tiny cups of each flavor once a trip. No health risk there. However, it was the only place I know of where you could get these small samples of foreign sodas for free. I first experienced it in 1983. We really missed it on our last trips in October and December/January. Epcot as we know it is basically gone (and I don’t just mean Club Cool Epcot, I mean almost all of Epcot except for some of the still-unpolluted by IP Showcase countries).

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *