Theme Park Enjoyment Index for MARCH 2023 (Roundup Rodeo BBQ Opens, “Be Fair To Florida” Gets a Win, Vegan Butterbeer)
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*Disney Signage Reaches New Heights (and by “Heights” we mean LOWS)
The Power of the Post-It was on display this month in Disneyland as the Disney Signage Hall of Shame got a new inductee at this snack stand. Sometimes you have Disney signage which just transcends the medium and achieves a higher plane of existence.
This is the true “Disney Difference.”
Being sold out of Turkey Legs is next level. This would be like Publix selling out of Moxie soda or Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.
WHO CALLS IT “CORN ON A COB?”?!!!!
Did ChatGPT write this Post-It note?!
The good news is that – once again – DisTwitter was able to take these lemons and make lemonade once again, brilliantly re-using the Post-It note in meme form…
I mean, seriously, how awesome is this one below?
Elsewhere in Disneyland we saw this signage on the FuelRod machine.
I’ve been where this Cast Member has been. You start writing something and then you realize you’re running out of space on the paper and have to start “massaging” the final letters to make sure everything gets in.
This note was ALSO cleverly used by DisTwitter…
I can’t move on to the next section until I give my full review on buying a FuelRod at Disney or Universal…
Our next Disneyland sign is actually perfectly fine. The 95th Academy Awards were held earlier in March, and over at the Carthay Circle lobby you could see the special Oscar given to Walt Disney for the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (which was years ahead of its time.)
I don’t care who you are, this is pretty cool.
TPEI Score: – 8 Disney signage has been particularly awful this year. There’s always been some gems here and there, but I think we’ve covered something that was next level bonkers in every single edition of TPEI in 2023. To quote the wise philosopher Shane “Hurricane” Helms: what’s up with that?!
*Roundup Rodeo BBQ Opens in Toy Story Land
Well, the restaurant that should have opened up four years ago with the land FINALLY opened this past week in Toy Story Land.
Last year in this Fine Blog Series, we covered what happened when the Original Plans for Toy Story Land were changed to What We Got. For whatever reason, in their infinite wisdom Disney built a kid friendly land based on some of the most popular characters in the world A) without any shade B) without a single restaurant outside of a quick service option with just two windows and C) without a gift shop.
Years later, some of the land’s problems are starting to be addressed, and the addition of the Roundup Rodeo BBQ is a huge one. Some have pointed out that – in storyline – there’s no way that some of these characters could interact with each other. My answer to that is the same as to the people who think that characters like Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and The Mandalorian shouldn’t be seen in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge because of the timeline issue…quite simply and eloquently, STFU.
We’ll get to a full review of the restaurant soon once we can get in there, but everything I have seen from the experience looks great. I love a good biscuit, and Roundup Rodeo looks to have one of the best in all of WDW. As a person who dines with a plant based eater, I’m really looking forward to trying the Impossible “rib” chop. Do I think the “Andy’s Coming” bit is strange? Yes, but if kids are into it then who cares.
Little touches like the pen given to guests to sign the credit card bill at the end of the meal being presented like a giant pencil? That is straight up E-Ticket and one of my favorite things at ANY theme park restaurant. We’re paying top dollar for an “experience,” and something we can tell people about back home, and simple things like this giant “pencil” is something you will remember long after your meal.
*Speaking Of Things That Took Forever To Open…
Tron Lightcycle Power Run has officially begun taking on guests in a current “soft open” status. In the past soft opens/technical rehearsals by Disney and Universal allowed guests the opportunity to possibly enjoy an attraction before it’s official grand opening, but it came with the knowledge that the ride may go down at any time and not come back up. I remember being in the queue for Transformers: The Ride 3-D and when the ride broke down they told guests that if we left the line, we couldn’t get back in line and there was no way of knowing whether the ride would ever come back up that day. We stayed in line because two of the people I was with were in town on vacation and wouldn’t be back to ride when Transformers officially opened a couple weeks later. After an hour we had moved up slightly, but not because the ride started running…NAY NAY…we moved up because so many people had quit and left the line. Nearly two hours into our wait, the ride came back online and we got to enjoy it. We probably would have waited about a half hour more in line before giving up ourselves. There comes a point where you have to weigh the risk/reward of how much vacation time you are prepared to sacrifice for just the possibility of a ride, not a guarantee. Several years later, SAT SIX photographer Brandon Glover spent six hours in line during a technical rehearsal for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley. As a die-hard Potter fan, Brandon was prepared to wait all night, but Universal completely emptied the queue and gave everyone a “return anytime” Express Pass for Escape From Gringotts that did not expire. Six hours. One Express Pass (and they should be considered lucky, most people who get emptied out of a queue during a technical rehearsal get nothing.)
Long story short, until Tron, guests going to a soft open needed to manage expectations and understand they may not actually ride the attraction. The soft open is being used by Disney to adjust operations as they get actual guests riding for the first time. This would be a stress test of sorts and show them problem areas they might not have seen during the earlier controlled conditions the ride was testing under. For Tron, Disney started selling Lightning Lanes for the ride. In my mind, when I’m paying top dollar for a Lightning Lane that comes with the expectation that I’ll be riding the attraction almost no matter what.
Turns out, roller coasters are fun. Who knew?
We’ll do a dedicated Tron article after the ride officially opens next month, but one thing I’m loving is the amount of people having fun with Tron’s on-ride photos….
In a very nice surprise, Disney is opening up a themed snack kiosk outside Tron. It almost seems strange that this snack kiosk has a unique look and even more unique menu. It’s like someone at Disney Creative said “we’re not gonna mail it in tonight!”
As of this writing, you can only access the Tron Energy Bytes kiosk if you have a Virtual Queue or Lighting Lane for the ride. It won’t be long before us regular humans can enjoy the Tron donut holes though.
Until then, it is food and drink that can only be enjoyed by a privileged few…
TPEI Score: + 5 Tron appears to be an across the board home run for WDW. A fun ride. A unique snack cart. Tons of great merchandise options. Looking forward to the grand opening in April.
*Our Long National Nightmare Is Over…VEGAN BUTTERBEER Is Here!
For many reading this, the idea of vegan butterbeer may not seem like a big deal. However, for those who are vegan or who vacation with vegans, this is a very big deal. Butterbeer was the real game changer when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010. We did an entire article on the butterbeer phenomenon, a drink which “rumors and innuendo” say made Universal so much money that it paid for the entire cost of the land within the first six months.
Some people like frozen butterbeer the most, while others prefer regular butterbeer. The people with good taste, like myself, enjoy the best version of butterbeer: hot butterbeer. Until this month, vegans (or people who are dairy-free) couldn’t enjoy ANY version of butterbeer. The cream topping contained animal product, and Universal’s license with Warner Brothers forbid any changes in the serving of butterbeer. Yes, at first glance that seems INSANE, but as a longtime Universal parks fan I will say that them having their feet held to the fire by license holders such as the Wizarding World and The Simpsons, ultimately leads to a much better product compared to when they don’t have anyone to answer to (I’m looking in your direction Fast & Furious – Supercharged.)
On March 2nd, Universal finally debuted vegan butterbeer.
TPEI Score: + 3 Thicker foam +Less sugary +No aftertaste = a great version of butterbeer. Unfortunately vegan butterbeer can only be purchased in the restaurants, which leads to longer wait times. All I can say to the vegans who have to suffer those lines is this: it’s worth it.
*Runaway Railway Gift Shop Opens
As much as I love and miss The Great Movie Ride, I consider myself a big fan of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. This is helped in part that I absolutely adore the new Mickey Mouse shorts (including all their amazing references to the theme parks.) Then, Runaway Railway opened in Disneyland last month and I just about lost my mind. Turns out I was living in a Fool’s Paradise when it comes to Runaway Railway because the Disneyland version makes the Walt Disney World version pale in comparison. The actual ride itself? Probably about the same, but this is a theme park, not your local traveling carnival, and we factor in the overall experience.
Despite Florida’s alleged “blessing of size,” WDW removed an iconic ride (in fact, the attraction which you could argue defined the entire point of Disney’s Hollywood Studios) to shoehorn Runaway Railway in. Disneyland, already absolutely stuffed to the gills with rides, found a way to add Runaway Railway into the mix without removing any rides. Just amazing. The queue for WDW’s Runaway Railway is pretty much the concrete pavement we stand on outside under the hot Florida sun. Disneyland made an INCREDIBLE queue that has guests walking through an area filled with clever references and “film props” from Disney animated films as if they were legitimately filmed like real movies in our world.
These faux movie posters below have more thought put into them then anything in the WDW queue for Runaway Railway.
So Disneyland guests get an unbelievable queue experience while we get umbrellas. Just great.
To add insult to the injury, Disneyland just opened a fully themed gift shop to support Runaway Railway. Of course it is NEXT LEVEL AWESOME.
E-Ticket word play with “EngineEar” and the storyline of the gift shop is that its a hobby shop for train enthusiasts. So you’ll see train references throughout the store.
Including a model train traveling above you.
The shop is loaded with fun Runaway Railway merchandise. Trust me, as someone who covered the Disney Outlet Stores for almost a decade, I know the difference between the good Disney merchandise and the bad Disney merchandise, and this is definitely the good stuff.
One of the neatest toys I’ve seen released for any attraction is this remote control trackless train that features the ride vehicles for Runaway Railway. At $150 it is expensive, but dang is this thing COOL.
I wish they would create the exact same thing without the remote control aspect, but then again I wish they would make toys of almost all the ride vehicles at Disney.
Another part of the fantastic queue those
spoiled rotten cherished Disneyland guests get to experience is a snack stand that is filled with references to Disney characters and shows.
Even better, some of these candy ideas can be bought by guests in the gift shop!
TPEI Score: + 5 for Disneyland getting an awesome Gift Shop. – 10 for those of us in Florida getting screwed again. But wait….
*Be Fair To Florida Movement Has Major Victory
Now, it doesn’t make sense why they are selling these in EPCOT rather than at DHS, but we’ll take our wins where we can get them!
The world is finally getting it.
The Mandalorian on Disney+ returned for Season 3 earlier this month, and the character made his reappearance out in Disneyland. If you remember, The Mandalorian and Grogu made their debut in Disneyland back in 2022 for a limited time.
However, this time was different. A day after The Mandalorian showed up at Disneyland, he also started appearing in Disney’s Hollywood Studios down in Florida. Disneyland has always had a ton of great walk around characters that we never see in Florida, and for Star Wars specifically the “rumors and innuendo” explained that the reason WDW couldn’t have the characters was because the “timelines” didn’t match up. Star Wars super nerds understand that The Mandalorian takes place shortly after Return of the Jedi, but the land of Batuu itself takes place many years later during the most recent trilogy of movies. In this example, “timelines” was codeword for “Disney being cheap.” NO ONE CARES ABOUT TIMELINES. People want to see Darth Vader. People Want to see Boba Fett. People want to see Princess Leia, R2D2, Darth Maul and The Mandalorian. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.
TPEI Score: + 22 Disney is finally FAIR TO FLORIDA
*EPCOT Flower and Garden continues to be great
If it wasn’t for the Festival of the Arts, Flower and Garden would be my favorite time at EPCOT because this is the best any Disney park ever looks. It’s just FANTASTIC. The new topiaries are stunning and the park is just so beautiful during this time period.
The butterfly in Mirabel’s hand has a lighting effect that is wonderful to see in person.
Always good to see the classic topiaries as well. How can you not have a smile on your face seeing Kermit the frog riding a bicycle in any form?
*Universal’s New and Completely Unnecessary Logos That No One Asked For
In case you missed the news, Universal released new logos for its properties this month. The one for Universal Orlando Resort is fine, although it does look a little weird with South America cut off like that. Once you notice it, it’s hard not to notice it.
The new Islands of Adventure logo is a true “why?” moment for me.
What was wrong with the old logo?
Here’s a mockup of the “new and improved” logo on the iconic IOA lighthouse.
The biggest offense to me is this Volcano Bay. By itself, in a vacuum, it’s fine I guess.
The problem is that Volcano Bay’s original minimalist logo is one of the absolute best logos ever made, and probably sold thousands of swim shirts and other pieces of merchandise because of its appeal.
Universal also “rebranded” itself as Universal Destinations and Experiences. The old “boring” name was Universal Parks and Resorts. God forbid we don’t try and shoehorn any corporate buzzwords into absolutely every aspect of life.
*Rumors and Innuendo
Earlier this month, the Permit Princess Alicia Stella alerted everyone to an interview with actor Ken Marino where he talked about a possible retheming of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at DHS. You can watch the relevant part of the interview by CLICKING HERE.
For those that don’t know, Ken Marino is actually part of the pre-show of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as the sound engineer working in the studio when Aerosmith comes in.
So anyway, Ken Marino mentioned in the interview that he heard that the attraction was going to get a new band in the form of Queen. The theme park blog sites and YouTubers went CRAZY with this story.
Eventually, Ken Marino commented that he did not know if the actual ride was being rethemed, it was just something he heard once and repeated it.
Unfortunately, this is how we get a lot of news in this particular fandom.
Now I love Ken Marino as an actor. He’s HILARIOUS. Huge fan of the show Party Down from years ago and can’t wait to see the newly released season 3 (which was why Ken Marino was on a podcast in the first place, to promote his latest show.) My biggest takeaway from the interview was not the Queen part. Nay Nay. It was Ken saying that he had *never* actually ridden Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. I just found that fascinating. I guess as actors, they can just do a job and then just walk away from it forever.
*E.T. Adventure Gets New Passports
We’re getting to the point where the E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios Florida is getting to be the Last Man Standing from the park’s opening day attractions. This is also one of the very few rides I would consider chaining myself to if Universal said they were getting rid of it. If you want to get ride of Fast & Furious – Supercharged, I’ll pay for the sledgehammer, but E.T.? Over my dead body.
Anyway, one of the fun parts of E.T. Adventure is the Interplanetary Passport that guests get after the pre-show with Steven Spielberg. You give the Team Member your name, and they give you the passport. When you board the ride, you give the passport to the Team Member at the load station. At the very end of the ride, E.T. says your name. This occasionally works about as good as the ending video in Spaceship Earth, but its fun nonetheless. Here’s a look at the original version of the passport…
The cards have been recently updated.
The original concept of these passports came from the fact that the ride was sponsored by AT&T. It may seem unimaginable to my Gen Z’ers reading today, but there was a time in this country when people used “calling cards” to make long distance calls to friends and family. It’s a part of American History we’d all like to forget and maybe if we can convince the governor of Florida that calling cards were somehow “woke” we can get any mention of them removed from history books.
*It Snowed In Disneyland
In early March it actually snowed in Disneyland, which made major news across DisTwitter. The “well, actually” people were out in full force that day, reminding everyone that it was actually graupel. As annoying as that was, at least it led to this great meme that tied into the Splash Mountain closing from January.
*Money Can’t Buy Taste
If you want to spend a Million dollars on a Disney themed house, go for it. But you can do better than this.
This looks more like a pawn shop than a Disney themed house.
The dresser is E-Ticket, but everything else? GTFO.
Let’s take a look at some actual cool stuff, like this exclusive beer made for The BOATHOUSE.
Love these shirts for Big Mountain Thunder Railroad and the Jungle Cruise.
But this hoodie is going straight to the Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!
Seriously, is this some sort of elaborate joke that everyone is in on but me?
Over at Universal, work continues on the upcoming Minions-themed Villain-Con attraction. This is taking place in the former home of Shrek 4-D and the fact that it is probably going to open before the Moana walk through garden at EPCOT is just mindblowing.
The Vicious 6 have posters on the side of the building now. These are replacing giant posters for shows like Murder, She Wrote, so this is a huge step up theming wise.
I’m not a big “thoughts and prayers” guy, but if you have any good thoughts to spare please send them along the way to blogger-in-the-sky @bioreconstruct. Despite multiple hospitalizations this month, Bio spent the rest of his time in the air and on the ground giving the world incredible coverage of Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. We don’t deserve to have Bio in our lives, but I’m so glad we do and let’s check out a sampling of his incredible work from this month (and to see even more, make sure to follow @bioreconstruct.)
Now let’s head across town…
Speaking of EPIC Universe construction…
Speaking of Nintendo, let’s check out some art this month including these awesome wand designs themed to characters we’ll be seeing in Super Nintendo World. A great mash-up of the Wizarding World and video games.
One of our favorite artists on DisTwitter – SonderQuest – delivered a drawing this month inspired by the cult classic Thunder in Paradise.
What does Thunder in Paradise have to do with theme parks? Well, we’ve done an entire article on all the Walt Disney World locations that the show was filmed at!
Love this Pizza Box design created for PizzeRizzo.
How about this great drawing of the entrance to Poseidon’s Fury?!!
RIP Rolly Crump
The theme park world suffered a huge loss this month with the passing of former Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump (its a small world, Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room and more.) Rolly’s impact on the theme park world enjoyed by guests, and his inspiration to generations of creative people can not be overstated.
For the Artist Spotlight feature on Hayden Evans, one series of drawings he did that I adored was based on Walt Disney Imagineers. These included Bob Gurr, Harriet Burns, and Mary Blair, but Hayden kicked off the series with Rolly Crump. Here he explains why…
“The first in the series was Rolly Crump. It had to be Rolly. Thanks to Jeff Heimbuch’s collaborative Crump-ography “It’s Kind Of A Cute Story,” I found in Rolly not only someone so abundantly inspiring (the compliment “Hey, your art reminds me of Rolly Crump!” is a compliment I will never get tired of hearing), but also a kindred spirit. There was this endearing irreverence and charm to him, a bold yet lovable quirkiness. I strived to be bold in this painting of him – I was using techniques I had never used before, color combinations I’d usually shy away from (using a gold-ish highlight against the rosy pink I had used for his skin, for example). It was as much a “love letter” to Rolly and all of the other Imagineers I ended up illustrating that I could make, but of course never considered that any of them would actually see them (especially given the fact that most of them had passed on). But it was this painting of Rolly and the ensuing Imagineering Legend portraits that prompted me to create my art Instagram (/haydenevansart), and by so doing my painting of Rolly eventually came to Jeff Heimbuch’s attention, who messaged me to tell me he’d show Rolly my painting himself!”
Last month’s Theme Park Enjoyment Index: 35
This month’s net change: +15
Current enjoyment level: 50
Writer Derek Burgan, when not cleaning Len Testa’s pool, can be found reading comic books, watching professional wrestling, and taking his dog Bacini to Universal and Disney. organizing his various Tsum Tsums in alphabetical order. He will not, we repeat not, be found at a Disney Outlet Store. An official DisTwitter Influencer, you can interact with him @derekburgan
Digital Artist Scott Walker hails from Scotland and is the fifth most famous person from this country following Alexander Graham Bell, Ewan McGregor, Gerard Butler, and Groundskeeper Willie.
2 thoughts on “Theme Park Enjoyment Index for MARCH 2023 (Roundup Rodeo BBQ Opens, “Be Fair To Florida” Gets a Win, Vegan Butterbeer)”
These are such fuel for me. Love the Universal shoutout to Derek, but those signs seem like a college student’s “Into to graphic design” work. Is it just me or is the ‘A’ in Adventure bigger than the ‘e’?
Also now I’m thinking about this since the March 2022 TPI is ‘recommended reading’ but…did Hank Lonely return to the Starcruiser yet?
The FuelRod kiosks really have proliferated at both WDW and Universal Orlando. I suppose they will do as a last resort, but purchasing a modern portable charger ahead of time must be a far better value proposition. There must be enough guests who don’t know that to make operating these kiosks worthwhile. Just seems strange