This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Reasons We’ll NEVER FORGET 2019 (No Matter How Hard We Try!). With the new year upon us, it is time for another SATURDAY SIX annual tradition of looking back at some of the most “memorable moments” of the previous year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during 2019, and some of the worst as well, so today let’s look at six theme park stories that fall into a different area. Events that are almost hard to believe actually happened, but we promise that they did, and we’re here with the proof. So let’s kick it off with…
# 6 – Changes at the Disney Outlet Store
Imagine yourself enjoying a nice summer day at the Orlando Premium Outlets. You’ve just made it through the gauntlet of pushy luggage, perfume, and vape salesmen. You’re feeling great. Then you walk over to the Disney Outlet Store and see this sign.
This was an unprecedented event for any regular Outlet shopper. Here at TouringPlans we’ve been doing the Disney Outlet Store Photo Report every single month for well over six years and have never seen either store do a “phased closure” because it was too busy.
All of a sudden, SWARMS of people were rope dropping the Disney Outlet Stores every day.
Now, as miserable as rope dropping the Outlet was, the chaos inside the store was even worse. Items were being picked through like a Publix or Home Depot right before a potential hurricane. This meant that by the time many guests could get into the Outlet Stores, a lot of stuff was already gone.
Below are a couple pictures showing “empty space” at the Outlet Stores, something that generally doesn’t exist. When an entire display sells though, the Cast Members will remove the display itself to clear up the room.
There have been several prevailing theories about the sudden influx of people at the Outlets. One of them is that the influx of eBay and Amazon resellers has gone through the roof. I personally have seen these people work, and it’s not pretty. They will scoop up every single item they think they can flip, while leaving the “junk.” When Disney tries to implement limits on how many items one person can buy, the eBay pirates just work in teams, like velociraptors. However, we learned this summer that there was no honor among thieves…
This led to another operational change at the Outlets. Previously, you would come into the store and generally see the counter behind the registers stacked with items held aside for the eBay pirates while they continued cherry picking their way through the store.
An average guest’s chances of scoring a really good item against this coordinated effort was slim to none. Ever see the movie Rounders when they go to Atlantic City? A group of card sharks played together at a table, taking the money of the hapless card players who happened to stop at their table. “If you can’t spot the sucker within the first half hour at the table, you’re the sucker.”
At one point, word got out that the Outlets were clamping down on people taking photos or filming in the stores. This would be ostensibly be because the last thing you need during a store PACKED tight with guests is several people doing running commentary while they film for their vlog.
Of course at the world famous Disney Outlet Store Photo Report, we were ready in case something like that happened.
I can definitely say that no Cast Member has ever asked me to not take pictures at either of the Outlet Store. Then again, I’m also not walking around saying things like “HEY GUYS! DON’T FORGET TO HIT LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!” while bumping into other guests.
Regardless, some fine readers of Ye Olde Outlet Report put the blame on my shoulders.
Maybe the most amazing thing to happen this year at the Disney Outlet Stores didn’t actually happen at the stores. Nay Nay. It happened at the infamous gas station located right outside the Vineland Ave outlets. This Shell station has been charging $5.99 a gallon for gas FOR YEARS, and that’s the cheap gas. Premium stuff is even MORE EXPENSIVE. This year, the price actually went UP another dollar!!
There have been several people who have given reasons for why the gas price is so high. Some have said that the owners of the station didn’t want to sell gas, they just wanted the convenience store but the contract forced them to also sell gas. So they just make the price extremely high so they don’t have to deal with it. Others have said that because the location is in a hotel and tourist district, it’s targeting people on vacation or expense accounts, so price isn’t as much of an issue as it would be to locals. Whatever the answer is, this Shell is what we call next level bonkers.
# 5 – The Great Galaxy’s Edge Menu Flip Flop
Who knew that when Galaxy’s Edge finally opened in Florida that it would bring chaos at Docking Bay 7?
Despite opening up in California earlier in the year and having no problems (maybe because nobody went?) when Black Spire Outpost opened at DHS it almost immediately had issues. Last week we covered the amazing rise and fall of metal sporks at Docking Bay 7, lasting less time at WDW than the poop snacks at Animal Kingdom. It wasn’t long after that when Disney kept changing the menu. Not changing the items on the menu, because that’s normal. No, changing the NAMES of the items on the menu.
Here’s the menu of Docking Bay 7 when it opened. Notice names like Fried Endorian Tip-Yip and Braised Shaak Roast.
Well, apparently some guests didn’t understand what a Tip-Yip or Shaak was, despite the food item being clearly spelled out underneath the name. So Disney changed the menu, removing the Star Wars names.
Now, having a menu in Galaxy’s Edge that reads like the menu at Backlot Express or the ABC Commissary goes against the mantra of a “completely immersive experience.” So a new hybrid menu was created, with items like Endorian Fried Chicken Tip-Yip and Batuuan Beef Pot Roast. Like you could make ANY OF THIS UP.
Later in the year, when it came time to debut new food and beverage items, Disney just said “whatever. This’ll do.”
However, our favorite sign referencing “themed” Star Wars food actual came from outside the park in Celebration, Florida.
# 4 – Target Dog appears at D23 Expo
Many Disney fans get excited for the once-every-two-years D23 Expo out in Anaheim. A Disney fan’s “Comic Con,” it’s a weekend celebrating everything under the Disney umbrella. You get a look at the past, present, and future of the Disney company, and for many of us the highlight of the entire weekend is the “Parks and Resorts” panel. This is where Disney spent some time talking about what would be coming to our beloved theme parks in the near future.
A funny thing happened along the way. Since the last D23 Expo, there has been some “restructuring” in the way Disney runs its business. The Parks and Resorts panel was now the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products presentation. What this means is that the hour or so that used to be pretty much dedicated to stuff we all wanted to hear about was gong to be giving time to stuff that nobody but stockholders would care about.
Case in point.
One of the most bewildering moments of the entire D23 Expo last year was the announcement of Disney Stores being put into Target stores across the nation. Those of us in Florida have already seen elaborate Disney displays in Target for a while now. It’s not that Disney having a bigger presence in Target is necessarily a bad thing (although you could make the argument that it devalues the “prestige” of the Disney Store brand), but the fact that so much time was spent on this partnership during a 90-minute presentation was odd. Did time have to be filled because something which was going to be announced got shelved at the last minute? Was this just Bob Chapek, who came from the world of Disney merchandise, flexing his muscles in his area of expertise? We may never get that answer, but we do know that Bullseye, the corporate dog mascot of Target, was onstage during this ever so precious look at the future of theme parks.
Worst of all? Now that time has passed, some of the new “Disney Stores” have started to appear at Targets as a “shop in shop” and they don’t even seem that impressive.
For some of the panels at D23, guests could get something to take home as a gift. Sometimes it is pins, other times it can be limited edition prints and such. For the Parks panel, guests were given a Target gift card…
During the D23 Expo, Disney had unveiled a bunch of great new Pavilion logos for Epcot, and one Twitter user made one for the Target partnership.
Let’s not forget the possible syngergy between the Target Red Card and the now-owned-by-Disney Avatar.
# 3 – Merchandise put into Main Street Cinema at Disneyland
On June 17, Disneyland transitioned the fabled Main Street Cinema into a merchandise location. The general reaction to this change was – to put it lightly – not kind. In fact, in a community which seemingly can’t agree on ANYTHING, the merchandise addition to Main Street Cinema was universally reviled to a degree rarely seen.
While not admitting it was due to overwhelming negative response, on June 21, the merchandise “test” was removed.
For those of us immersed in the world of theme parks, we know how invested the Disneyland Social Clubs feel about “their park.” A change to the Main Street Cinema, especially one that involved throwing in generic merchandise, was going to grind their gears. Unfortunately, this may be the future of Disney parks, and is the direct result of the very same corporate restructuring we mentioned in the D23 Expo story above. In the past, “Parks and Resorts” and “Consumer Products” were two completely separate divisions of the company. Now, they are combined into one: Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products. What does that mean? It means that bags of popcorn are strategically placed in the queue of the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run to help generate sales for Kat-Saka’s Kettle. It also means places like the Main Street Cinema are going to need a find a way to “generate revenue” to justify their existence in this new world.
One of our favorite Meme Makers was Johnny on Spot, posting an Actual Shot of Walt Disney at the opening of Main Street Cinema being turned into a t-shirt shop.
In the end, this is one story that has a happy ending. After Disney quickly pulled the “test,” they put benches in the Main Street Cinema. Friends of ours who go to Disneyland often say that there are always people relaxing in the Main Street Cinema now, whereas in the past it would often sit empty. It’s amazing what a handful of benches will do to an environment (we’re looking in your direction Animal Kingdom…)
Speaking of things converted to make money, it doesn’t just happen out in Disneyland. Here in Florida we had the former home of the Jungle Book character meet-and-greet (and before that a boat dock for the Discovery River Boats) turned into a BAR. Literally.
When a new bar or lounge opens at Disney – no matter how unthemed – it is going to draw the attention of Drinking at Disney author Professor Dan Miller.
# 2 – DHS 30th Anniversary Logo
In May, Disney revealed their logo for the 30th Anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Surprisingly, Disney used the versions of Mickey and Minnie from the current Mickey Mouse shorts to be in the logo. This will also be the version of the characters used in the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction opening in March, but many people on DisTwitter felt the logo should have incorporated something from the history of the park.
Twitter user @MysticFlights was the first to offer some suggestions, including one I whole-heartedly agree with.
Others took some deep dives into former DHS attractions, including the Golden Girls house that was seen during the Studio Backlot Tour.
Who remembers Bette Midler in “The Lottery?”
The iconic Gertie.
In my mind, the facade to the former Great Movie Ride is right up there with Spaceship Earth in terms of Disney Park Icons.
With the park transitioning towards Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, don’t be surprised if we actually see this Death Star version by the end of 2019.
A near perfect logo featuring The Mickey Mouse Club that was taped at DHS.
Absolutely loved this take featuring the Osborne Lights.
People also had some fun with the logo, including this one using the mini Babybel cheese logo, prominently featured in Toy Story Land.
One of the current attractions at DHS.
# 1 – Disney’s NEW RULES
Unless you were living under a rock, the online theme park universe was rocked to its very core this year when the Disney Parks Blog let guests know that Big Changes Were Coming. Len Testa pointed out that the rules concerning strollers (and the banning of “stroller wagons”) seemed to be targeting the growing amount of Keenz 7s in the parks. Smoking was completely banned from inside the parks, and relegated to the front of each park. Loose ice now joins firearms and knives on the prohibited items list. Good news though, guests can continue to “reserve” as many lounge chairs at the pool as they want.
To prepare everyone for the changes, Disney release some handy reminders for guests.
As the majority of the DisTwitter Universe exploded upon hearing the news, several others brought the snark. This includes Ham Jenkins and his patented use of the of Walt Disney opening Disneyland photo.
Others came up with their own rules…
Honorable Mention – Tarp on Hondo
The greatest “weenie” of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the Millennium Falcon. There’s probably not a single guest visiting the land who doesn’t take at least one picture of this stunning ship. Inside the queue for Smugglers Run there is something just as amazing, the Hondo Ohnaka audio animatronic.
Hondo is a level of AA that we just haven’t see before and is almost jaw dropping to watch.
Unfortunately during Cast Member and Annual Passholder previews, the incredible Hondo AA in the Falcon was – at times – not working. Now some would argue this should cause the attraction to go “101” (ie: not available to guests) because the AA is such an important part of the overall experience. To that Disney said NAY NAY, and just covered the AA with a tarp and had Hondo on a screen talk to guests.
DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION – We’ve all been there
Well maybe not there. For that. But we get it.
So there you have it: Six! 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. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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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.