This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Reasons We’ll NEVER FORGET 2020 (No Matter How Hard We Try!). With the new year almost upon us, it is time for another SATURDAY SIX annual tradition of looking back at some of the most “memorable moments” of the previous twelve months. Now we already covered some of the most next level bonkers events of 2020 with the prestigious Theme Park Turkey of the Year Awards, 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 -Self Parking at Wilderness Lodge
For decades, the cost to park at WDW hotels was built into the price of the room. Then, in 2016 a new initiative began, one based on “nickel and diming” every consumer on property. On came the up-charges, and opportunities like $700 tents in Tomorrowland and a bus system which would drop guests off backstage to skip the “hassle” of a park’s main entrance. Eventually, this initiative found its way to on-site resorts as every single hotel on property began to charge guests an additional fee for overnight parking. People exempt from the parking fee include: guests with disabilities, Cast Members staying as guests, guests part of a group or convention, or guests staying at the Fort Wilderness campsites.
This year, a guest found a whole new way around the parking fee dilemma… by making their own spot.
Either that, or someone was trying to recreate the Test Track attraction at home.
Thankfully members of DisTwitter were at Wilderness Lodge during the course of these events, so we got Full Coverage.
# 5 – People be Wildin’ Out at Disney
Over the years we’ve seen many reports of guests reacting badly in the park. We’ve seen people try to climb the pyramid at EPCOT’s Mexico Pavillion. We’ve seen guests choke other guests for standing during nighttime spectaculars. We even saw one family in Disneyland do their best to recreate a melee generally only seen on the Jerry Springer show. These stories come and go, generally getting a quick reaction before all us move on to The Next Thing.
On rare occasions, a guest acts so inappropriately that they unite the entire community, and it’s usually because they break one of the theme park commandments, such as
COMMANDMENT: THOU SHALT NOT DISRESPECT THY DISNEY DUCKS
Back in July, right before WDW opened for the public, the parks let in Cast Members to perform a “stress test” of sorts to make sure everything was ready to go before regular guests came back. For reasons still unknown, one Cast Member decided this was the time to not only pick up a duck in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but film the experience to put on Tik Tok and generate views.
This went about as well as you think it would, and Disney Duck Girl was born. Response to the video was swift.
Several others had fun with the Disney Duck Girl story.
One person even made a music video…
WORD OF ADVICE: If you ever do something that sparks an internet outrage against you, “take the L” and move on. Apologize. Take a moment of self-reflection and try to understand where everyone else is coming from. Evaluate your choice and make an honest assessment of what you could have done differently.
Of course, no one ever does this. They usually make excuses for their behavior. Disney Duck Girl’s excuse was that she was afraid for the duck’s health because of children nearby. Keep in mind that *she* posted the video which debunked her own story.
Disney actually may have been happy about the duck story, because it distracted people from a video that Disney themselves put out before the parks opened and was immediately mocked by the internet.
COMMANDMENT: THOU SHALL NOT “STIFF” THY SERVER
Tipping at Walt Disney World is one of the most controversial subjects in theme park community. I get it. Many guests come from countries in which servers in restaurants make a livable wage and the “tip” – so to speak – is built into the cost of their meal. Unfortunately that’s not how it works in America, nor at Walt Disney World. Here, servers are paid an extremely low wage because of the assumption that tips will bring up their earnings. Whether that policy is “right” or “wrong” is a battle for another day. This is just simply how it is, period.
Servers get poorly tipped, if not outright stiffed, many times over the course of a year. Like our story above, they just have to “take the L” and move on. The servers can’t complain, because in almost all cases tipping is voluntary. When guests gloat about being a jerk to a server, that always backfires, such as this next story from EPCOT.
In September, a self-described Disney Expert posted an Instagram story about her experience at Via Napoli.
During the story, the “influencer” showed the check they got for a pizza. In the Instagram story, the “expert” said that they read the menu wrong. The original bill was for slightly over $50. The person than applied than Annual Pass discount to bring the check down to $45. Here’s where we get to the point of the story which shows you everything you need to know about this so-called Disney expert’s character. In the updated check, they put zero in for a tip with the hand written explanation,
Sorry not to tip, but this price is outrageous.” – Alleged Disney Expert
Even better, the Disney “influencer” created a GoFundMe, trying to get people to chip in and reimburse the $45 spent on lunch.
Reaction to all of this was BRUTAL. It wasn’t long before the story changed. Multiple times. The updated Instagram story now claimed this “expert” was misled by the server, was being attacked by everyone on social media, and even went so far to suggest it was God’s Will which led them not to tip. Lessons Learned? Like the tip itself, zero.
The good news is that this is the rare story with a truly happy ending. After learning about the situation, another person started a GoFundMe page for the Via Napoli server. A whole bunch of people contributed – much more than expected – and the Via Napoli server was given the entire amount of the funds in the form of a $1,430 tip.
As always, regardless about how you feel about tipping at WDW, there is something to keep in the back of your mind when going out to eat at any table service restaurant:
COMMANDMENT: THOU SHALL NOT MISQUOTE A BUG’S LIFE
Speaking of touchy subjects, a new one was added to the list this year in terms of face coverings. Whether you agree or disagree with the wearing of face masks inside the Disney parks is irrelevant, they are a mandated rule. Other companies, including the supermarket chain Publix, “encourage” customers to wear masks, but will not do anything to customers who chose not to. That’s not how it works at Disney, because the last thing the company needs after this past year is an outbreak that gets traced back to the theme parks.
Despite signage EVERYWHERE saying masks are mandatory…despite impossible-to-miss pop-up messages that come up on your phone when you log into MyDisneyExperience and apocalyptic audio messages in parks providing “reminders”…there are still guests who think they don’t need to wear a mask at Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World’s response: NAY NAY.
While many guests have been asked to leave the parks if they refused to wear a face covering, one man took it to another level back in September. In what had to be an attempt to go “viral,” the very embodiment of the Florida Man stereotype was escorted out of DHS by park security while causing a scene. Screaming about his rights – although certainly not the “right to remain silent” – the man even invoked the beloved Pixar film A Bug’s Life in his ranting..
“Remember the movie that came out at Walt Disney World?,” yells the man. “It was called A Bug’s Life! Remember Hopper? If one guy stands up, one ant stands up, then they’ll all stand up and they’ll lose control.”
Many memes were created that fateful day.
Because the mask-less man was live streaming the entire altercation, we also got a rare look backstage at DHS. When guests get trespassed from Disney, they are generally brought back to a backstage room while paperwork is filled out. During this exchange, one person in this entire saga ended up being a hero to many: the Cast Member who served our unmasked man his trespass warning while explaining He Can’t Come Back Here Again. One user on social media even applied characters from A Bug’s Life to this unforgettable moment.
COMMANDMENT: THOU SHALL NOT COVET THE NEIGHBOR’S CLOSED ZOOLOGICAL PARK
When Walt Disney World closed earlier this year it was a blow for us all. I personally had a long planned family vacation scheduled for April that was to be split between Universal and Disney. By March it was clear this vacation was not happening and every day brought one of two things, either I was calling the parks to cancel something or they were sending me an email letting me know that it was cancelled for me. I felt like Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story when he sees the family turkey after the neighbor’s dogs tore it to pieces. “The heavenly aroma still hung in the house, but it was gone, all gone! No turkey, no turkey sandwiches, no turkey salad, no turkey gravy, turkey hash, turkey a-la-king, or gallons of turkey soup!” My dreams of Volcano Bay, Hoop-Dee-Do Revue, and the Poly’s Spirt of Aloha show were gone, just like that. Thousands of other guests around the world were going through the exact same thing as me.
Except one guy.
One guy decided that now was the time to finally have his dream vacation. With the parks and resorts closed, this guy decided to camp on Discovery Island.
Keep in mind that Discovery Island isn’t an easy place to get to. After this guy was spotted on a boat going to the island, Orange County deputies did their search on foot, by helicopter, and by boat before finally making contact with him. In fact, body cam footage of the manhunt came out and it was next level insanity. Guns drawn like a game of Call of Duty, the police searched Discovery Island in what they referred to as, “best game of hide and seek ever.” At one point, when going through a building, an officer says, “…and this is where they raised the baby dinosaurs.” WHAT?!!!!
COMMANDMENT: HONOR THY DISCOUNT AND BUYING LIMITS
It was a banner year for merchandise resellers, with the announcement of Splash Mountain being rethemed to Princess and the Frog bringing people out in droves. As soon as Disney’s Magic Kingdom reopened from its coronavirus shut down on July 11th, bags and bags of merchandise featuring characters like Bre’r Bear and Bre’r Fox were quickly whisked out of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and immediately put on eBay with a massive surcharge.
And when we say immediately, we mean immediately as some pieces of merchandise were listed while the seller was still inside Frontierland after making the original purchase.
These pictures do not even do justice to what was witnessed over the course of a week. Despite constantly being restocked, it wasn’t long before the entire Splash Mountain gift shop was completely stripped of anything piece of merchandise actually related to Splash Mountain. Less than a month later the gift shop was boarded up and labeled “temporarily” unavailable on Disney’s website, as it remains today.
Resellers have been controversial topic in many theme park message boards and social forums. By buying stores out of stock, many people feel deprived of the chance to purchase the merchandise themselves, and are forced to buy items from the resellers, feeding into a vicious circle. Any time a limited or “hot” item is released and immediately scooped up by resellers, there are cries to Disney that Something Should Be Done.
As someone who has followed the Disney merchandise game for quite a while, I can tell you with almost complete certainty that there is one hard truth: They Don’t Care.
In my experience, not only does Disney NOT do anything to dissuade people from buying out the stock, they go out of there way to help them. I say this without judgement. It is what is. Earlier this summer we saw a reseller go to the Disney Outlet Stores and make multiple trips back and forth to their car carrying Frozen castle sets. On one trip, a Disney Outlet Store manager helped them bring Frozen sets to their car. As God as my witness they helped them to their car. I say this only as a way to hopefully help others “let go” of some sort of anger they hold towards Disney Cast Members for not stopping these resellers.
We can summarize the entire situation using an iconic moment from the movie The Fugitive.
# 4 – You Never Know What You’ll See on the Disney Skyliner
After a slightly bumpy beginning and having a laugh with the emergency kits, the Disney Skyliner has turned one of the best methods of transportation at Walt Disney World. If anything it has become even better since the coronavirus shut down because now your party is all but guaranteed to get a “private” Skyliner cab rather than sharing it with others like in the past. Being on the Skyliner gives guests a unique view of Disney property, and while being high up in the air may have you looking into the horizon to see places normally you couldn’t see, don’t forget the opportunity to take a look down…
For those who don’t know, this wide swatch of dirt is not – I repeat, NOT – a road to travel on.
Speaking about things you can’t believe you’re seeing with your own eyes, over at Universal CityWalk an interesting character showed up in front of Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. The robot dog named Latte was outside and interacting with walk around character Penelope Toothsome. Back in 2019, there were photos and videos of a robot dog made by Boston Dynamics. Watching this robot dog in action can be a bit unsettling, and anyone who has watched a Terminator movie knows eventually this is how Skynet will end up taking over the world. While us humans are still in charge of the Earth, we can take a moment to photo of one of these robot dogs with an elaborate steampunk makeover.
# 3 – Sugar Factory Straight Up Rips Off Toothsome
Latte the robot dog isn’t even the craziest story involving Toothsome this year. Back in July, our friends at Attractions Magazine tweeted that Sugar Factory would be opening a new fast-casual restaurant concept in Orlando.
If you look at that concept art and think, “that looks familiar,” well, you’re not alone…
Below is concept art for Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal CityWalk.
This is so next-level bonkers that it got us thinking of the restaurant McDowell’s that was used to hilarious comedic effect in Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America movie. The joke was that McDowell’s was a complete ripoff of the fast food chain McDonald’s, but the owner tried to say otherwise…
One user on social media took the Sugar Factory concept to the next level, introducing characters familiar to anyone who has seen Penelope Toothsome and her robot companion Jacques.
Believe it or not, that’s not even the craziest theme park ripoff story of 2020. While perusing books, one person on DisTwitter came across the following…
Let’s take a closer look at that logo…
Remind you of something?
Speaking of which, we’re proud to introduce the new logo of this fine blog series…
# 2 – The Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain Remind Guests “You May Get Wet”
Many of the stories we are talking about in this article never made it past the theme park community. The next story got worldwide attention. Back in February, people on social media started reporting that a boat on the Jungle Cruise was sinking with guests still on it.
It didn’t take long before the boat was almost completely submerged. Thankfully all the guests were removed from the attraction before they got too wet.
However, that did not stop DisTwitter from running wild with this story, creating seemingly thousands of memes and jokes based on the situation in near record time.
Others referenced more lines from the attraction…
The references to Titanic were everywhere.
One of our favorite memesmiths – who likes to incorporate Walt Disney from the opening of Disneyland in 1955 – used the opportunity to not just put Walt into this situation, but have him wearing a snorkel.
More recently, the Jungle Cruise was seen in the form of a Happy Meal toy available from McDonald’s.
As you can see, I can’t let things go.
In August, another Disney attraction had some issues taking on water as guests posted video of water quickly rushing into their Splash Mountain log.
DisTwitter was Johnny On The Spot, having their usual fun…
One user created a meme using a well known Flex Seal ad to make a joke about how Disney could fix the ride.
But the actual Flex Seal brand even made a joke about the situation!
Even Disney’s number one competitor got a small jab in…
We see you laughing over there Universal, but don’t forget YOU did THIS…
For reasons yet to be discovered, over at the Universal Orlando Resort, a large ad was put in the middle of a lake. Ads aren’t unusual, especially in Orlando, but this is ad designed for only one person to truly appreciate…Blogger In the Sky @bioreconstruct.
BREAKING: We have just been alerted to the fact that this “ad” is actually made out of floating solar panels.
If you’re going to get wet, be sure to carry an umbrella…
If you don’t have one, just grab a giant one lying around at DHS like this guy.
Ain’t No Laws With
White Claws SeaWorld
Social media user @OrlandoLoser saw the following at SeaWorld. At first glance, nothing seems too much out of the ordinary..
…however, it turns out a guest jumped into the lagoon and started swimming around!
Other guests were seen enjoying the “water features” of the Discovery Cove entrance.
# 1 -Summer 2020: When EVERY Theme Park Was As Empty as Disneyland after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Opened
Clearly the thing that will most be associated with 2020 is the unprecedented closure of every theme park in the world. We’ve had some fun over why Disneyland “felt empty” after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened, but now the parks WERE empty and it was depressing.
Meanwhile out in California…
If we could sum up Theme Park’s 2020 in one photo….
Just how bad did things get this year? Well, let’s take a look at the gas station closest to my beloved Disney Outlet Stores. This Shell gas station on Apopka-Vineland Road, just around the corner from Disney Springs, has to be the most expensive gas station in Orlando. For years, the price of regular unleaded gas was $5.99. For those reading from outside the United States, it was rare to ever find a gas station selling gas for more than $3 a gallon.
Now, prior to the coronavirus, gas prices in general have being going down in America. In some areas it has gone even lower than $2 a gallon. How did our famous gas station react with all the prices going down? IT WENT UP A DOLLAR.
It’s important to remember that the $6.99 per gallon was for the CHEAPEST gas at this station. The premium gas was actually almost $8 a gallon!
With the parks shut down and tourism to Orlando crushed, the most shocking even of 2020 occurred…our gas station finally lowered their prices.
It almost seems like mirage.
Honorable Mention – DisTwitter’s Tweet of the Year
And the runner-up…
Double Secret Honorable Mention – “I Before E, Except After C…”
We’ll close this year’s Never Forget with a story that should be fresh in many people’s minds. In mid-December, Disney posted a picture of the refurbishment going on at the Boardwalk’s pool. However many people noticed that the “Keister Coaster” had a small typo…
After a bunch of reaction online, Disney posted a picture the following day with the spelling fixed.
How does something like this happen when probably 50 people had to sign off on this design before it was even approved, let alone physically created? Well, turns out Disney must have their own “Derek”…
This was not the only prominent typo at Disney in 2020…
So there you have it: Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2020 (No Matter How Hard We Try!) 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).
If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:
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.