This week’s SATURDAY SIX is our annual look at What We Lost From the Theme Park World this past year. We all took a lot of hits in 2020 and the theme parks were no exception. We’ll begin without any pithy banter and just rip the band-aid off by beginning our somber list with…
# 6 – Rivers of Light
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need…” – The Rolling Stones
If the year 2020 could be summed up in one Disney nighttime spectacular, it would be Rivers of Light; something that started off bad and somehow got worse. The “idea” of Rivers of Light was a great one. Animal Kingdom is one of the greatest theme parks in the world. The park has a unique concept and is filled with wonderful attractions, great shows, and must-see animal exhibits. However, once the sun went down, Animal Kingdom was lacking. Because of the live animals throughout the park, a traditional nighttime spectacular filled with loud fireworks was out of the question.
When Disney opened Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom, it planned to also introduce several other offerings which would enhance the guest experience at night. One of the elements of the new nighttime plans was the water show Rivers of Light. Designed for a new waterside seating area built directly in front of Expedition Everest, the show was billed as an exciting mix of water features, fire, original music, floating lanterns, projection mapping, boats, live performers, and even incorporating Animal Kingdom’s park icon – the Tree of Life.
Unfortunately, in a company known for delays, Rivers of Light was really delayed. Behind the scenes there was “rumor and innuendo” suggesting that the company was having major problems with the new technology that would be used in the show, with reports that one of Rivers of Light’s amazing Lotus Flower floats actually sank after hitting another element in the show. After a media preview in early 2016, Rivers of Light was immediately shuttered and replaced with a temporary show based on the live action Jungle Book movie.
Almost a year later, Rivers of Light returned to the park with a version that was completely retooled, this time without some of the former features of the show (most noticeably, the floating lanterns). Despite being highly anticipated by guests, the overall reaction by many was “meh.” Rivers of Light was just missing something. The water screens never worked quite right, and despite having one of the best soundtracks for any show at WDW, it just didn’t have the memorable wow factor that is found in many other Disney signature shows. The following year found budget cuts removing the live performers. Generally speaking, that doesn’t improve any show, and the same can be said for Rivers of Light. In a true departure from what we normally get at the parks, the show was originally designed to be free of traditional Disney characters. However the low ratings from guests led to a “We Are One” update being shoehorned in, featuring footage from The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Bambi, and more. Shockingly, this quick-fix did not make the show that much better at all.
In July, Disney made the somewhat shocking announcement that Rivers of Light would not be returning to the parks once they reopened from the coronavirus shutdown. Shocking in the sense that you know a ton of money was put into developing Rivers of Light, and it’s not like Disney to cut bait on something they are so heavily invested in.
Burgan Fine Art had a little fun with the oft-reported problems with the show.
Everything said, Rivers of Light DID have a lot of great stuff going for it. The soundtrack was amazing. The lotus flower popcorn bucket that came out in support of the show is one of the best Disney has ever done. Funnily enough, the show was so delayed that the popcorn bucket came to the parks months before people saw what the lotus flower bucket design was based on.
Rivers of Light also had some great themed souvenir cups. They were in the shape of lanterns and – like the lotus flower popcorn bucket – lit up. For whatever reason, these are also some of the only Disney popcorn buckets and souvenir cups that have made their way to our beloved Disney Outlet Stores.
The lotus flower drink topper looked great, much better than almost any other drink topper Disney has tried to sell as an upcharge.
Even the lotus flower cupcake looked fantastic!
# 5 – Primeval Whirl
Our long national nightmare is over…
When Disney made the announcement that Rivers of Light would not be coming back to Animal Kingdom, it also said that the park would not be reopening Primeval Whirl in Dinoland USA. For me personally, Primeval Whirl was my least favorite attraction in all of Walt Disney World. The constant jarring of the coaster vehicle just hurt.
The “backstory” of Primeval Whirl is that it is Chester and Hester’s take on what guests experience in the nearby Dinosaur attraction, and here we have scientists working on the time travel machine.
One user on social media suggested that the ride be destroyed much like the dinosaurs themselves.
This past week, Primeval Whirl ride vehicles were seen on the streets of Orlando.
Next stop? The Disney Dump!
# 4 – Clown Pool at Disney’s Boardwalk
“Welcome to a magical journey through my mouth.” – Krusty the Clown, The Simpsons Ride
One of Disney’s most iconic pool designs is located at the Boardwalk Resort, and what’s most amazing about the pool’s most well-known feature is that it’s, well, creepy. Guests using the pool’s large slide find themselves coming out of the mouth of a clown. It’s important to remember that the era of which the Boardwalk Resort is themed to was a much simpler time. Back in the 1920s and ’30s, clowns were just clowns. In more recent years, clowns have been transformed into killers such as Pennywise in Stephen King’s It, mocked like the Insane Clown Posse (“magnets, how do they work?“) or generally seen as something suspicious. That said, even if clowns were still just clowns, this is weird.
Despite it being generally regarded as something ridiculous, the creepy clown pool has become an institution at Disney, so it was definitely a surprise when the following photos were shown on social media.
Right now the pool slide exit is covered, and Disney has confirmed that something new will be replacing it. Many presume that the new element will include some sort of Disney intellectual property.
This is the SATURDAY SIX, of course we’re gonna get an aerial by @bioreconstruct.
One user on social media suggested incorporating another element of the Boardwalk Resort into the pool slide…the even creepier nanny chair faces.
Artist SonderQuest, whose art we proudly featured in the annual Theme Park Turkey of the Year Awards, also did a wonderful drawing commemorating the creepy clown pool (along with a bonus even creepier nanny chair).
# 3 – Somehow, even MORE losses at EPCOT
Heaven needed a bad Quick Service…
After the last few years, it didn’t seem like there was anything left for EPCOT to get rid of. Nay Nay. Disney found some more stuff.
First up, Electric Umbrella served its last meal in February. In a park well known for great dining, Electric Umbrella would probably be near dead last in many guests list on Where To Eat at EPCOT. The menu itself was uninspired, serving the same burgers and flatbreads you can get at many places across Disney property. The restaurant did have a great spot in Future World, a lot of seating, and I’m always a sucker for neon lighting.
Like everything else at EPCOT, we got to see Electric Umbrella come down piece by piece.
Here’s a shot of the ceiling area of Electric Umbrella from the last night is was opened…
…and a photo of the same area being demolished, as seen on October 31st.
This fine blog series has had some fun with Electric Umbrella over the years, including the creation of this phone case in our article on Disney Merchandise That Doesn’t Exist (But Totally Should!)
The restaurant also made the cut for our article on The Worst Places to Propose at Walt Disney World.
Bye bye, Pin Central. With a rather iconic look for what amounts to a oversized Disney pin kiosk, Pin Central was a hotbed for Disney pin trading for years. The canopy structure extending out from Pin Central is artistically a great design, and combined with the neon lighting at night made Pin Central one of the coolest looking shopping experiences in the park. Over the years, pin trading has died down in the parks, and much of this area was converted over to selling generic EPCOT merchandise, but there was a time when Pin Central was THE place to go for Disney pin collectors.
This is one that kids would probably notice well before adults, but at night some of the pavement in Future World took on new life thanks to a fiber optic lighting package. In an area in-between Spaceship Earth and Innoventions Plaza, some of the pavement tiles had tiny lights that sparkle, making for a magical appearance. Meanwhile, over by Innoventions West, there were larger sections of pavement completely lit up with designs which would “move” and change colors. Don’t feel bad if you’ve been to EPCOT 1,000 times and never noticed any of these lights, as most guests didn’t even come near this area on their late night dash out of the park. Like the canopy design for Pin Central, the fiber optic lights were a small touch, but were everything we love about EPCOT in design.
# 2 – The Void at Disney Springs
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” – Obi-wan Kenobi, Star Wars
I am not a huge fan of Virtual Reality gaming. In fact my first experience with VR was on a Legoland coaster. (This is of course completely discounting all the horrible “VR” such as Aladdin’s Magic Carpet at DisneyQuest.) Like 3-D movies, I’ve always thought VR was a neat gimmick, but nothing that special. After doing The Void at Disney Springs, specifically Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, I’m 100% convinced VR is the future of the entertainment industry. Guests were outfitted with a special helmet and backpack, then literally walked into another world. I could not believe what I was experiencing. As a rebel spy, you were transported to the lava planet Mustafar and as God as my witness it feels like you are there. One of my favorite parts of the entire experience is that it doesn’t “dumb itself down” and all but made you figure things out on your own during the journey. You also had the smart aleck droid K-2SO (from Rogue One) along the experience, giving suggestions and funny comments about your ability in the game (or lack thereof). At several points you got to shoot at attacking Storm Troopers and at the end even got a small taste of Darth Vader. It was everything the 10 year old me wanted and then some. A literal dream come true. After we finished, all I could think about was doing it again. The cost was $29.95 per person, and while the actual gameplay was only about 7-10 minutes long, it was worth every single penny.
# 1 – @DrunkATdisney
No one saw this one coming. In late August, I noticed the following on my Twitter app.
For those who don’t know, @DrunkAtdisney was one of the most popular accounts in all of “DisTwitter.” The brainchild of Dan Miller (coauthor of the best selling and wildly popular Drinking at Disney book), the guy affectionately known as “Drunky” on Twitter was popular with pretty much everyone. Amassing over 25,000 followers, Drunky put the work in keeping people entertained. In fact, he would tweet more before 7 a. m. than most people tweeted the whole day (or, to be honest, any given month). The tweets were always good natured, and many sparked a conversation within the fanbase.
Twitter has some weird rules though, and once – without thinking twice – Drunky posted a reply that he assumed would be taken as a joke. For context, there is a famous moment in the show The Office, which has Michael Scott whispering to his arch-nemesis Toby “I’ll kill you.” The moment came during Toby’s exit interview, and everything about the scene was a perfect summary of the long running tension between the two characters. The moment has been captured in GIF form, and is used approximately a million times a day on Twitter.
Drunky didn’t use the GIF however, instead he chose to type out the phrase “I’ll kill you.” Keep in mind that this was written in a joking way during a conversation between friends. However, that specific phrase being written out triggered an automatic flag on Twitter’s end, causing them to immediately shut down Drunky’s account.
Here is what Drunky saw on his end when logging into Twitter.
I posted about Drunky being banned, and across the board people were shocked. Immediately there were hundreds, if not thousands, of responses of people wondering how this could have happened. The best part though? Well, apparently Drunky has many followers outside the United States. When a person from Asia retweeted my original post about Drunky being banned, they had people replying to them in other languages. Using various translator apps allowed us to see how “Drunk at Disney” was translated, including Overseas park drinker man account.
Even better was Overseas Park Drinking Old Man Account.
Now you can see why all the couples who have to use a translator app to communicate on 90 Day Fiancé never seem to work out.
DisTwitter being DisTwitter, we of course treated this news with the respect and dignity it deserved…by spending the next four months busting Drunky’s balls.
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) December 13, 2016
The DisTwitter version of Guess Who? has Drunky’s suspended account as a card on the lower right.
Speaking of people on the DisTwitter Guess Who? board, here’s @SuperWeenieHtJr making an astute observation.
Some of us can’t help ourselves…
HONORABLE MENTION – Wishful Thinking?
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Looks Back at What We Lost From the Theme Parks in 2020! 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 covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
Theme Park In Memorium Plot
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 “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, 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.
Regular SAT SIX readers know how much we love our four legged companions. A first ballot Hall of Famer in theme park pets was Spencer. A regular visitor to both Universal and Disney, Spencer was a world class cuddler and the best damn friend a person could have. You will be missed buddy.