This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at recent theme park news! It’s been an absolutely crazy week of news coming from Disney and Universal, so let’s get right to it!
# 6 – Disney Management and the terrible, awful, no-good week
As the Walt Disney Company prepared for this weekend’s highly anticipated D23 Expo, a shocking article came out which posited the idea that Disney itself was leaking information to a well-known blogger (Al Lutz of Micechat) in order to further certain agendas within the company. The article – titled “The [Dis]-Influencer” – went so far as to allege that some articles were written in their entirety from someone within Disney and presented to the public as coming from Lutz, an unbiased source with long-time connections to the online Disney community.
As you can imagine, the story sparked a lot of debate on theme park message boards, with several associates of Lutz – and Lutz himself – dismissing the article’s claims. On WDWMagic, one of the biggest theme park message boards around, TouringPlans’ own Len Testa even mentioned that Lutz may not be the only theme park blogger being co-opted by the Mouse…
Believe it or not the news got even WORSE later in the week when another story came out with a “whistleblower” filing a claim with the Security and Exchange Commission that Disney has been systematically misrepresenting revenue. This was one of the few stories which goes outside of the theme park community and becomes “viral.” Now, common sense raises some red flags in the person’s story, such as the statement that Disney’s revenues may have been goosed by $6 billion in a fiscal year in which they reported revenue of $10.6 billion. But, after the book and documentary ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room, nothing can be ruled out.
# 5 – Sony and Disney play a game of chicken with Spider-Man
If the above news was bad for those in Disney management, the following news was a huge blow to Disney fans. While all of us were still enjoying the “high” after an incredible Spider-Man: Far From Home film (featuring two of the greatest after credits scenes in movie history) news came out that there’s a good chance Spider-Man won’t be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe anymore. See, way back in the day when Marvel Comics was on the verge of bankruptcy, they made some bad deals in order to get some much-needed cash. One of those deals was selling the film rights of Spider-Man to Sony.
For non-comic book fans, Spider-Man is to Marvel what Mickey Mouse is to Disney: character that is synonymous with the brand. It’s why Spidey showing up in Captain America: Civil War was such a big deal. Disney, possibly needing some extra money thanks to Disneyland “feeling” empty after the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, decided to pull a page of Darth Vader’s book and alter a deal they made. Sony, feeling confident after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and a shockingly good Venom movie, think they don’t need the MCU’s help to get a billion dollars anymore and they certainly aren’t going to give Disney HALF of the first dollar’s gross.
Sources are saying that – as dire as the situation looks – cooler heads will prevail, and things will work themselves out. Or, Disney will just buy Sony like they did Fox to get X-Men and the Fantastic Four…
# 4 – MNSSHP Starts
We’re just past the middle of August, so that can only mean one thing: HALLOWEEN (at least for Disney, Wal-Mart, and CVS.) We’re actually going to do an entire SAT 6 dedicated to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party next week, but we thought you’d enjoy a taste of what’s coming. This year’s party actually has some rather significant changes and – more importantly – additions!
This week also reminded us that NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES. During the fireworks at a MNSSHP, this selfless dad got on his hands and knees in order for his child to have a better experience. It’s an important reminder that for every “Karen” who complains about childless millennials at the pretzel carts, there are 100 unsung moms and dads at the parks who just love seeing their kids have fun.
# 3 – Banshees go to outlet
Speaking of sneak peeks, next Saturday is one of those days where the stars align and you get a SATURDAY SIX and a Disney Outlet Store Photo Report! That’s basically like getting Thanksgiving and Christmas on the SAME DAY. You’ll want to set your alarms now, because it’s a doozy coming up including some stories of what happens when Disney unloads the once-popular Banshee puppets from Pandora: The World of Avatar for just $9.99. If you ever wondered what it was like when fisherman throw chum in the water to attract sharks, that’s what the Banshees were for eBay pirates. I’ll have a first hand account of what it was like to see the process in person along with some other MAJOR CHANGES that have come to the Disney Outlets here in Orlando.
Here is actually the most amazing part of the story. The Outlets put out a sign that a stack of boxes sitting by a wall were a “Banshee Rookery.” The actual Banshee Rookery at the Animal Kingdom was a brilliantly designed space with the Flight of Passage gift shop where guests could be paired with a Banshee.
Get ready for next Saturday….
# 2 – Star Wars Language Problem
We are one week away from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening up here at Walt Disney World but we have been enjoying a month of Cast Member and Annual Passholder previews. There’s been some issues with DJ Rex not working in Oga’s Cantina, a tarp being draped over the Hondo audio-animatronic in the Smuggler’s Run queue, and video of the automatic curtain which comes out when the Dok Ondor AA goes “101”. But that’s what soft opens are for, to work the bugs out.
One issue that has popped up is day guest’s interaction with Cast Members on Batuu. The CMs are in “character,” much like you see in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The biggest difference of course is that Potter takes place in the real world. What happens when the character is “from” a different world? Well, let’s see…
You may remember that Disney tried to do something similar at first for Pandora: The World of Avatar. They touted that Pandora was an alien planet, so to stay in theme there would be no regular theme park signage and the Cast Members would be fluent in the Na’vi language. As anyone who has been to Animal Kingdom can tell you, signage was put in IMMEDIATELY, and the fake language was used for approximately one week after the grand opening.
While we are on the subject of fake languages, Disney is going full steam ahead with Aurebesh. If you didn’t know, Aurebesh is basically the written word of the Star Wars universe. There is a ton of signage in Galaxy’s Edge that is written completely in Aurebesh. The SW:GE preview maps come with a handy dandy Aurebesh Decoder, which made us think of an iconic moment in one of our favorite movies, A Christmas Story…
# 1 – Universal removes branded butter
Imagine us at SATURDAY SIX headquarters. Having a perfectly good day, getting ready for the annual Turkeys of the Year article after seeing Disney’s survey on “Pecon Bill Tale Tin In and Café” and all of a sudden this bomb gets dropped on us…
The loss of E-Ticket butter?! This can’t possibly be true. Unfortunately, the Universal Orlando Resort Twitter account confirmed the bad news.
As we sat in our chairs, listening to “Leave The Memories Alone” and “I Will Remember You” on a loop, we fondly reminisced over all the fond meals we had with the best damn themed butter that ever existed.
Apparently, this theme park news also went viral…
Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!” – Harry Dunne, Dumb & Dumber
But all was not lost! Despite being near inconsolable, Universal gave us hope with this tweet from the official Halloween Horror Nights Twitter account that teased Cabana Bay Beach Resort would have something related to Stranger Things. Cabana Bay is one of our favorite hotels, Stranger Things is one of our favorite shows on TV, and Halloween Horror Nights IS our favorite event in Orlando. Consider us “all in.”
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX looks at theme park news! 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).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, 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.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!