Theme Park Enjoyment Index for DECEMBER 2021 (Christmas at UOR, Soarin’ Over Home Depot, Michael Eisner back at Disney?)

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The Theme Park Enjoyment Index (TPEI) is a monthly look at the events that have made an impact, both positive and negative, in this wild world of theme parks we all love so much. We’ll assign each piece of news a positive or negative number, tally it all up at the end and chart it. The range goes from 0-100 with 0 being Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration while a perfect score of 100 would be Pandora: The World of Avatar.

Remember, all links in TPEI open up in a new browser window. So feel free to check stuff out, we’ll be here when you get back!

*Cabana Bay KILLS IT for Christmas

While we already established earlier this year that Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is hands-down The Greatest Value Resort In Theme Park History, somehow the best got even better over this past month with the introduction of their own Holiday Beer Crawl. Everyone reading this knows that that theme park guests love their bar crawls. Whether its Drinking Around The World at EPCOT, the Seven Seas Lagoon Monorail Bar Crawl, or the infamous Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, there’s something for everyone. There’s just something about drinking an adult beverage that makes the prices we pay, the lines we wait in, and the weird guest behavior we see easier to deal with. Cabana Bay has four bars onsite, and this year they debuted the Holiday Beer Crawl. At each of the bars there was a seasonal beer offering, and when purchased the guest would get their card punched. After four punches, the card could be redeemed for the greatest prize of all: another beer. To quote the great Homer Simpson, “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!”

Santa’s White Christmas stout by Ten10 Brewing Company from Orlando, FL. Available at Cabana Bay’s Swizzle Lounge. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Shiner Holiday Cheer by Spoetzl Brewery from Shiner, TX. Available at The Hideaway Bar and Grill. (photo by Scott Sanders)

Most everyone reading this is a big fan of the refillable souvenir mugs at the onsite hotels. While Disney hotels have the exact same offering at all their hotels, and seem to change the design about once a decade, it may come as a surprise to some that Cabana Bay has had about 10 different refillable mug designs since the resort opened in 2014. In fact, they also have seasonal designs for Halloween and Christmas. Just AMAZING!

Cabana Bay’s refillable mug offered during the holiday season. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Straight up E-Ticket. (photo by Scott Sanders)

This holiday season also brought the return of Cabana Bay pens and stationary to the hotel rooms. During the last couple years, we lost a lot of things in various hotel rooms (mostly things that guests would physically touch, like pens) and only gained small bottles of hand sanitizer in return. Slowly, but surely, we are on are way back to returning to some sort of normalcy and that should make guest’s heart grow three sizes in one day (and not from the usual culprit, cholesterol).

Nature is healing. (photo by Scott Sanders)

TPEI Score: +8 Just when I think I couldn’t love Cabana Bay more, they go and make the resort even better.

*EPCOT Center Christmas Sweaters

In last month’s TPEI we covered the joyous moment of when Figment received his holiday sweater at the Imagination Pavilion. For some this marks the official beginning of the Christmas season (for me it’s finding Christmas Crunch at the supermarket). Inspired by this great sweater, Kevin Hedet created his own designs of other EPCOT Pavilions, and they are AWESOME.

Some of the EPCOT Holiday Sweater designs. (artwork by Kevin Hedet)

Be sure to check out Kevin’s RedBubble or TeePublic stores to get your own holiday sweater, t-shirt, or these terrific designs on any number of items.

The Living Seas Pavilion holiday sweater. (artwork by Kevin Hedet)

One user on social media used a photo of the Figment walkaround character (who we never see anymore) in his holiday sweater. This would be such a wonderful photo-op for a park that desperately needs anything it can get as it experiences a seemingly decade-long’s worth of “growing pains” with construction.

If only we lived in the timeline where this was possible. (photo by @vinny_toon)

TPEI Score: +5 I’m always astounded by the creativity in the theme park fanbase.

*Soarin’ Over Home Depot

Speaking of being blown away by creativity, in early December the Home Depot Twitter account posted a short video of a what seemed to be a drone flying into one of their stores and giving us “Santa’s eye view” of the shopping experience. In a sheer moment of brilliance, Twitter user @BelaskiFilms used the the same video and transformed it into Soarin’ Over Home Depot by adding the incredible Jerry Goldsmith orchestra score from Soarin’ Over California as well as the dangling feet that we guests would see when riding the attraction.

This is a Must See video which you can watch by CLICKING HERE.

These screencaps of the video do not do the video justice as you’re missing one of the greatest scores in theme park music playing in the background as well as the feet going up and down as if you were actually on a hang glider. Just perfect.

TPEI Score: +18 The Christmas gift we all needed but didn’t know that we needed. It may seem hard to believe now with Soarin’ Over The World just being a “good” attraction at EPCOT, but there was a time when Soarin’ Over California was the only attraction in the entirety of Walt Disney World which guests felt compelled to spontaneously applaud when it was over. It was THAT GOOD.

*Fire Trucks On Main Street USA

Guests in the Magic Kingdom on December 14th got to see something unusual as emergency vehicles were driven up Main Street USA in response to a small fire that broke out during a performance that involved fireworks. No one was hurt, and from all accounts it seems like the fire was small enough to be put out with a fire extinguisher. Certainly was a rare, and somewhat surreal site to see real life fire trucks driving down Main Street USA surrounded by guests.

No truth to the rumor Disney was kicking the tires on an upcharge Main Street USA meet-n-greet with Red. (art by Scott Walker)

TPEI Score: +2 It’s good to see that Disney put safety ahead of something like “ruining the magic.” Thankfully it seems like this was not a big issue at all, but if the day ever comes when you or your family member do need an emergency vehicle at a theme park there is some peace of mind that you’ll actually get one instead of the company’s afraid of The Wrath of a Karen.

*More Galactic Starcruiser Info Came Out and it’s “NOT GREAT, BOB.”

December brought us the first real bits of info on the Galactic Starcruiser hotel, which will open next year. As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for…

Entertainment Weekly got the exclusive reveal of Captain Keevan, who will be in charge of our hotel stay two night adventure (copyright Disney). For me personally, to use the word “underwhelmed” is the best I can come up with. I went on a rant earlier this year explaining what I feel one of the biggest differences was between Star Wars and Star Trek. This is from a lifelong Star Wars fan.  For me, I always felt Star Wars put the effort into making aliens wildly different than us from Earth. On the other side of the coin, Star Trek seemed to go the cheapest route possible and just put humans in make-up. For the most part Star Trek was trying to do allegories with their story telling, so I get it. Captain Kirk trying to calm a conflict between two alien species is meant to show how different cultures on Earth can’t get along either. I get it, it works for them. But that’s not Star Wars.

So anyway, Captain Keevan ends up looking like the character Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek in one of her signature wigs and wearing blue face paint.

Captain Keevan of the Starcruiser. IMPORTANT REMINDER: THIS IS AN ACTUAL PHOTO FROM DISNEY, NOT A PARODY.

 

Confirmed. Captain Neevan is definitely the latest comeback role for Moira Rose. “David, be a doll and get my lightbulb sword thing.” (art by Scott Walker)

During The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration show on TV, Disney aired a short video with featuring The Goldbergs’ Sean Giambrone experiencing some of the elements of the Galactic Starcruiser. I assume that the intention of this video was to get people excited about the Starcruiser and to start booking “excursions.” Instead, the reaction was so vitriolic that Disney attempted to scrub any evidence of this video ever existing. Generally speaking? Not a good sign.

The hallways look sterile and the “bridge” of the Starcruiser has a bunch of fake buttons, switches, & levers for guests to touch like the queue for Transformers: The Ride 3D.

Josh D’Amaro showed us the “lightsaber training” that will be part of the Starcruiser “experience” and it seemed like something straight out of a Dave & Buster’s restaurant that you could pay $5 extra to play. I say that as someone who had no problem spending $200 at Savi’s Workshop and didn’t feel like I was ripped off whatsoever. What I didn’t understand about the video of Josh and the lightsaber training was that this was the best it could ever possibly look, right? Disney had total control over the experience and could even edit things while saying that was part of the “puffing” and shouldn’t be expecting as part of the actual experience.

Josh D’Amaro with lightsaber.

Things got really weird with the next Starcruiser video was released. This one was for guests who had booked a trip onboard the ship and featured Endario Zinn, a representative from the Chandrila Star Line. Like Captain Keeven, Zinn’s alien-ness consisted of purple makeup and geometric designs on her face.

Why don’t you WATCH THIS VIDEO before moving on. It’s only two minutes long. Seriously, WATCH IT.

This image of Zinn was used in about 10,000 memes on Twitter.
Part of the Galactic Starcruiser “experience” is playing the card game Sabacc, something that pretty much no one wants to do. (meme by @TOCP#82)
How we all feel. (meme by @zackstack)

One of the most interesting subplots of the ongoing Starcruiser story is that there were reports of all the early bookings for the hotel two night adventure being sold out for months. Despite the exorbitant price tag of $6,000-$10,000 per cabin, many hardcore Disney fans were crowing that clearly people had underestimated Disney’s genius. Then came the reports of bookings being cancelled

Galactic Starcruiser if built in Roller Coaster Tycoon. (art by Scott Walker)

On the Disney Dish Podcast, Len Testa and Jim Hill commented that this coincides with a down payment guarantee period about to pass.

Possible Galactic Starcruiser billboard for 2022 (meme by @ThankYouKeyzus)

At the end of the month, during Disney’s annual Christmas Day Advertisement Parade any mention of the Starcruiser was conspicuously absent.

(meme by Scott Walker)

Meanwhile, I’m just sitting over here drinking all the tea.

 

TPEI Score: -100 It doesn’t make any sense that they would be doing this, but Disney HAS to be holding back the good stuff, right? This can’t be the highlights. We haven’t even seen a human in the actual cabins, presumably because they will look so small that people will lose their minds. The irony that this would be the world’s greatest Star Trek hotel experience is not lost on me.

*Michael Eisner to replace Bob Chapek at Disney?

One of the most bonkers stories that was actually covered by legitimate news sources this past month was the idea of “industry executives” predicting Bob Iger will return to Disney as its CEO. As readers of this Fine Blog Series, I’m not a fan of the current management style of The Disney Company by any means, but I would put the odds of Iger coming back to lead the company at about 0%. There’s going to be a huge bill coming due sooner or later for all the cost cutting and penny pinching they have been doing at WDW, and the projections they had for Disney+ (which some had them passing Netflix in subscribers in just a couple years) now seem a little pie-in-the-sky. I definitely could see a big shake-up coming, but I would be shocked if Iger was the person who came back into control.

Twitter user @GratDisMemes used this story and mashed it up with a moment from Spider-Man No Way Home as a way to bring back another Disney CEO that many people want to see back in charge…. Michael Eisner.

“Hello.” (meme by Gratuitous Disney Memes)

TPEI Score: – 1 With anonymous sourcing, for all we know the “executive” predicting Bob Iger coming back to run Disney could be the same executive who greenlit vertical TVs which crashed and burned. So maybe let’s take this prediction with a grain of salt because the person who gave may just be what we call next level bananas.

This wasn’t the only time we got to see the “magic portal” meme used with themed parks, as @magiccitymayhem created some wonderful pictures using Universal Studios Florida. First up we have a picture of the Holiday Tribute Store, with the magic portal showing Halloween Horror Nights.

No one does seasonal events better than Universal now. No One. (photo by @magiccitymayhem)

A look at Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure with the magic portal revealing Dueling Dragons.

Two great coasters in one shot. (photo by @magiccitymayhem)

The biggest gut punch to longtime Universal fans may be this pic of Diagon Alley with the magic portal revealing its former resident, the Jaws ride in Amity.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat… and smaller merchandise bags. MUCH smaller.” (photo by @magiccitymayhem)

Let’s end the month by doing our QUICK HITS…

*Epic Universe Speculation Map

We are getting closer and closer to the opening of the newest theme park in Florida and if this map by Alicia Stella doesn’t get you excited you may want to check your pulse because you might be dead.

Epic Universe. (map by Alicia Stella)

*Story Removes Mention of AAs

Believe it or not Ellen’s Energy Adventure in EPCOT closed all the way back in 2017 and it’s replacement, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, is still not even CLOSE to being finished. As a reminder, we learned on The Imagineering Story (available on Disney+) that the entire Disneyland park in California was built in one year. Of course that was at a time when Disney was run by a company run by someone who’s motto was “Everybody needs deadlines” where the new management style is “Everyone needs end of year bonuses, but mostly just us.” So all construction projects now at Disney take forever and who knows when Cosmic Rewind will actually open for guests.

Why is this one roller coaster taking so long to build? We may never know but from the Not A Good Sign Department, in early December Entertainment Weekly removed a part of their story on Cosmic Rewind that mentioned audio-animatronics.

(art by Scott Walker)

*How Would YOU Change the Sun Wheel Face?

Artist Roy Yeo, whose work is absolutely awe inspiring and will kick off our annual SATURDAY SIX Artist Spotlight month in February 2022, had a fun challenge for DisTwitter this month by asking the following question…

Here are some of our favorite replies:

The Beloved Michael Eisner. (meme by @TehSEJ101)
The Not-As-Beloved Bob Chapek. (meme by @VitaminSteve)
The Creepy Clown Pool mascot from Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. RIP. (meme by @n8creative)
The even creepier Nanny Chair face from Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. (meme by @SuperWeenieHtJr)
DCA Superstar Limo reference. (meme by @ThemeParkUmpire)

The following designs were based on this version of Mickey’s Fun Wheel…

Mickey from the new Mickey Mouse Shorts, which I personally LOVE. (meme by @2Josue2Furious)
May be biased, but I think this one with Bacini, the official dog of DisTwitter, is my favorite. (meme by Scott Sanders)

*Some Time Capsules Need To Stay Buried

Back in October, Disney opened up a time capsule that was buried 25 years ago by Cast Members at the Contemporary Resort. Not much of note was found in it, but this month the @TouringPlans Twitter account posted a photo of Len Testa which also seemed like it was buried deep into the Earth but somehow dug up.  Never known as a fashion plate, Len was photographed at Disney MGM Studios wearing a fanny pack, a shirt that causes seizures, and a hat you only seen worn in cartoons, old timey comic strips, or a member of the Little Rascals.

Len Testa with the look of a man who just found out he had to effectively pay for Fast Passes he used to get for free.

The look of disdain and general malaise on Len’s face reminded me of something, but it took me a while to put my finger on it. Then it hit me, the oft-used photo of Ben Affleck smoking. So I rubbed Aladdin’s magic lamp and asked Genie for a mash-up of these two photos. Lo and behold, @bryanrunsthwrld made my wish come true…

The epitome of “Do I look like I’m having fun?”

*This Month’s Taste of the Disney Outlet Stores

This month’s “taste” was a full blown MEAL as Christmas morning Santa delivered a full Disney Outlet Store Photo Report that covered BOTH the International Drive and Vineland Ave locations.

Lots of fun details in this Outlet Report header. (artwork by Scott Walker)

Thanks to hard work of Joseph “Bob the Builder” Machado, we got to experience what it’s like visiting the Disney Character Warehouse lately (spoiler alert: it’s MUCH different than the last few years and even the last few months) along with seeing the newly relocated home of the NBA Experience.

Last month’s Theme Park Enjoyment Index: 74
This month’s net change: – 68
Current enjoyment level: 6

 

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 Rowdy Roddy Piper.

SEE YOU ALL IN 2022!

Always have to look at the silver lining…could be seeing Florida Resident discounts for the Galactic Starcruiser sooner rather than later! (art by Scott Walker)

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4 thoughts on “Theme Park Enjoyment Index for DECEMBER 2021 (Christmas at UOR, Soarin’ Over Home Depot, Michael Eisner back at Disney?)

  • January 1, 2022 at 3:02 am
    Permalink

    Man I do look forward to these posts!

    Given the fact that there are many negative values, maybe the scale needs to be adjusted (like Sorceror’s Hat Icon = -100 points, etc.) I love that Starcruiser is on here with that great of a negative, too. Given the look and feel of Batuu and Rise of the Resistance, I was utterly shocked by how far apart from the universe the previews felt. I was also really sort of hoping that they’d use the opportunity of a still-empty ship to film scenes for one of their Star Wars shows (Book of Boba Fett, maybe), to at least give fans something to connect to in the fandom and absolutely increase bookings. I’ve been ready for this since I learned that it existed, I want to keep that excitement and momentum up!

    More than Star Wars, I felt that the intro video was being given by one of The Collector’s aliens and that Guardians: Breakout was about to start rocking at me. But lo, for the sadness of having missed out on the Star Trek Experience in Vegas (ie the Rise of the Resistance ride before Rise was ever dreamed up.) Even that seems closer to immersion in a fandom than the Starcruiser right now…

    Reply
    • January 2, 2022 at 1:50 pm
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      Well, now we know what a -100 is, and it has nothing to do with Stitch.

      Maggie, I had the exact same feeling that I was watching something out of Guardians of the Galaxy. Maybe the real reason Disney took this video down is that, in yet another cost cutting move, they are going to repurpose the footage in the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster in place of animatronics…

      Reply
  • January 1, 2022 at 4:22 pm
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    The more I see about Galactic Starcruiser, the more thankful I am that Disney did not get the rights to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

    Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 2:17 pm
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    I like the new video (though the static is weird), and I like Sabaac. I agree that this is likely to be a disappointment overall judging by the original video they put out, but to me the biggest question is how the acting and RP elements will go. If they get that right, it’ll be a great experience. Roleplaying helps suspend disbelief like nothing else. I wish they would improve their set design in the hotel, but I guess that’s probably locked in at this point. You never know, maybe they got freaked out by the video response and will invest some money on making changes. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

    Also worth noting that if the Star Wars hotel fails, this will be terrible for the future of interactive and creative elements like this. So I hope the naysayers are wrong, not just as a Star Wars fan, but as a fan of Disney and RP in general.

    Reply

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