This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About. It’s hard to believe that in a land full of fantastical theme parks, luxurious hotels, and wonderful memories filled with pixie dust that people could have anything to complain about. But they do. In fact, after a thorough investigation the Saturday Six staff has compiled a list of 548,321 complaints, and that’s just in the Florida parks. Today we’re going to look at the six of most prevalent complaints and say “STAHP!”
# 6 – “They are building too many Starbucks”
Out of nowhere, Starbucks has seemed to have taken over the theme park world in Florida. The first step in theme park world domination for the coffee brand? The beloved Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom. Starbucks then moved over to Epcot and replaced the Fountain View Cafe, complete with a hidden Communicore logo to appease the hardcore fans. Two more Starbucks are coming to Downtown Disney, and it is rumored that locations will be also be opening up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, sooner rather than later. Not to be outdone, the Starbucks location over at Universal’s CityWalk is moving from its second floor No-Man’s-Land location down onto the ground level, and Island of Adventure’s Arctic Express has been converted into a Starbucks.
What’s going here? The answer is simple. People love Starbucks. Period. The Starbucks brand is strong enough that it can charge a premium price for a drink you can get almost anywhere else cheaper, and have people lining up for it. While the Main Street Bakery certainly wasn’t hurting for business before, it’s easy to see how successful the ones at Downtown Disney and Universal will be compared to what they are replacing. The new Starbucks locations are in prime real estate and will be all but printing money.
If these Starbucks locations were McDonald’s, you could make a case that there are better restaurants all over either property. If the locations were Dunkin’ Donuts you could make a case that there are better bakeries around. But no one at Disney or Universal is doing a better job than Starbucks at making good coffee and, as far as we know, the world didn’t end when the first Grande Latte was served on Main Street.
# 5 – “Animal Kingdom is a half day park”
Poor Animal Kingdom. The biggest (by far) theme park in Florida is saddled with the complaint that it’s only a half day park. Disney chairman Tom Staggs recently said the upcoming Avatar expansion will make the park a “true full day, must-see experience.” Sorry, Tom, we disagree as we think Animal Kingdom is already a full day experience, and a great one at that.
Are there as many attractions as there are at the Magic Kingdom? No, but it offers an experience that no other Disney or Universal park can offer. It has one of the greatest E-Tickets of all in Expedition Everest. It has a park icon in the Tree of Life that has something new to notice each time you look at it. It has two of the best shows on Disney property with Finding Nemo – the Musical and Festival of the Lion King. It has more carnival games than all the other WDW parks put together. Okay, so maybe that last part isn’t so great, but one thing Animal Kingdom does has in spades is animals. Duh.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of our favorite rides in any park, and how can you not love the Flights of Wonder show? Both give guests a unique look at live animals, but nothing can compare to walking the actual trails in Africa and Asia. Some may enjoy going from attraction to attraction and standing in queues, but we enjoy the relaxing, set-our-own-pace treks throughout Animal Kingdom. The new Wilderness Explorers interactive experience is one of the best value-added additions we’ve seen at any park.
Next time you go to Animal Kingdom, leave your pre-conceived notions about a “half day park” at the front gates and enjoy a day at a theme park you can’t get anywhere else in Orlando.
# 4 – “The size of shops at Hogsmeade Village are too small”
People have complaining about the size of the stores in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade Village since the first day it was open. To those people we ask, have you seen the Potter movies? The former tagline for Universal Studios was “ride the movies,” and while these stores aren’t rides, they are delivering the goods on guests being able to experience exactly what they saw on film.
We get it, this is ‘Murica and we are used to Walmart, Costco, and a bigger-is-better mentality. That isn’t Harry Potter. Authenticity is the number one goal at the WWOHP, and it nails it. Instead of focusing on the size of the shops, look around at all the insanely intricate details in the store windows. Look at the products at Dervish and Banges or Honeydukes and see how perfectly they tie in with the Potter books and films. Universal recreated Hogsmeade Village, it feels real, and they look to take it to the next level with the opening of Diagon Alley later this summer. If you’re not a Potter fan, we can understand the frustration, but just know that Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions isn’t MouseGear at Epcot, Magical Menagerie isn’t Big Top Souvenirs at the Magic Kingdom, and Borgin and Burkes won’t be Villains in Vogue at Hollywood Studios. And we’re all better off for it.
We’re not sure if the belief that “Universal has nothing for kids” comes from Disney super-serving the young child demographic or how much Universal is associated with their non-kid friendly thrill rides such as the Revenge of the Mummy or Incredible Hulk coasters. Regardless, there is a lot of stuff for kids to do at both of Universal’s parks.
At Islands of Adventure kids have Seuss Landing, one of the most whimsical places in all of Orlando, that is completely immersive. Over in Marvel Superhero Island they will be able to meet Spider-Man, Captain America, and other Marvel Comics characters for photos and autographs. Meanwhile, Camp Jurassic in Jurassic Park is – for our money – the greatest play area in any theme park and has the only ride at Disney and Universal where you must have a youngster with you to get on (Pteranodon Flyers).
Over at Universal Studios Florida we can say just one word: Minions. Between the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction and the Despicable Me character party zone, kids are going to flip out seeing and interacting with Gru, his three daughters, and of course minions. There’s more Despicable Me in the Superstar Parade, as well (along with other characters, including those form Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer, and the movie Hop). Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone has several elaborately themed attractions and play areas for the kids, including a Curious George “ball room” that you’ll have to drag your kids out of. One area that many guests don’t know about is the play area inside A Day in the Park with Barney, and it has several amazing interactive elements for the younger set. Depending on your child’s height, thee are attractions such as E.T. Adventure and MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack to enjoy.
Who cares? Seriously. Who cares? The Yeti is a victim of the Disney Hype Machine. Well before Expedition Everest opened we were all inundated with reports of how amazing the Yeti animatronic was going to be. The Travel Channel still plays the Animal Kingdom video from before Everest opens, and the hype for the Yeti dwarfs even what Universal is doing for the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction. Positioned under a tarp, viewers aren’t even shown the Yeti, only given promises about how ming-blowing it would be.
Not long after its debut, the Yeti stopped working, and the whining began. Never has so much been made out of so little. Guests only see the Yeti for a second during a very thrilling ride. Because of the obsession with the malfunctioning Yeti, the jaw-dropping theming of the Everest attraction is almost never brought up. The Everest coaster is a crowning achievement in Disney rides. It is one of the – if not THE – most picturesque attractions in WDW. You can take amazing shots from all over Animal Kingdom. The queue is among the best on Disney property. The ride itself is one of the most thrilling you can have in a Disney park and shows what Walt Disney Imagineering is capable of when they are let loose. But all anyone talks about is “the broken Yeti.”
# 1 – “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth needs to be changed”
We know what you are thinking. Faithful readers of the Saturday Six will remember that the staleness of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is one of our very own complaints. 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 now we are going to
flip-flop play Devil’s Advocate and make the case for keeping this iconic nighttime spectacular just the way it is.
Let’s face it, if IllumiNations ever changes we’ll never get anything like it again. We’re not 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 glove unfolds like a flower, but that flower brings with it one of the most show stopping finales we know of. IllumiNations is not by any means perfect, but you just know if Disney changed this show, the globe would be replaced by a giant Duffy the Disney Bear head, the music would be the Frozen soundtrack as sung by Demi Lovato, and the narration would be done by Whoopi Goldberg.
Don’t you dare change a thing Disney. Don’t you dare.
So there you have it: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we’ll be looking at six “secrets” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade Village. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.