Disneyland New Upscale Hotel Indefinitely Put On Hold

According to the Orange County Register the new hotel that was planned to begin construction at Anaheim’s Downtown Disney last month has been indefinitely put on hold after Disney and the City of Anaheim could not agree over the terms of the development.

From previous reports the new upscale hotel had been slated to have 700 rooms spread over the west end of Downtown Disney. This included the site of the former Rainforest Cafe, ESPN Zone sports bar and restaurant, the AMC Theatres and the popular Earl of Sandwich restaurant, which closed in June to make way for the new construction.

Construction had been expected to start July 1.  The new hotel was scheduled to open in 2021, making it the fourth Disney-owned hotel at the Disneyland Resort.

According to the Orange County Register, Disney pulled the project because  they could not reach an agreement with the City of Anaheim over terms under which the hotel was to be constructed.

Disney’s move was in response to an August 6 letter in which Anaheim City Attorney Robert Fabela told Disney that a change in the site plan would make the hotel ineligible for expected tax incentive rebates.

“Given the city’s position that our project does not comply with the requirements of the Agreement, you have given us no other choice other than to put construction of the hotel on indefinite hold,” David Ontko, chief counsel for Disneyland Resort and International Parks & Resorts wrote to the city attorney Wednesday.

It was unclear late Thursday whether the city would revisit the issue, now that the hotel has been removed from the planning agenda.

What is not known is how this development will affect any construction already under way and the what will happen with locations that formerly housed the above restaurants and theater.

 

 

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TRON Attraction Update: Walt Disney World Railroad & Tomorrowland Speedway Operations to be Affected

Last summer at the D23 Expo Disney announced plans for a  TRON-style attraction that would be added to Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom and would open sometime in 2021.

The new attraction will be located in an entirely new area next to Space Mountain.

If you weren’t already excited about this new attraction, Disney has updated us with some related adjustments to two nearby attractions,meaning construction is now getting serious.  According to Disney, both the Walt Disney World Railroad and The Tomorrowland Speedway operations will be interrupted during the construction of the new TRON coaster.

The Walt Disney World Railroad will temporarily take up residence at the Main Street Station starting sometime this December, pausing its grand-circle tours of Magic Kingdom. During this time, guests will be able to get an up-close look at the railroad and take advantage of one-of-a-kind photo opportunities.

The Tomorrowland Speedway will also close for a portion of 2019, as the track is adjusted for the new attraction.  The railroad will reopen in the summer of 2019.

The new Tron attraction which will debut in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021, is based on TRON Lightcycle Power Run that is located at Shanghai Disneyland.

The TRON Lightcycle Power Run debuted on Shanghai Disneyland’s opening day and quickly became the highest-rated attraction at the park.

I personally cannot wait for this attraction.  I was excited when the announcement was made at the D23 Expo and now that construction has moved along far enough for them to start moving or adjusting portions of the nearby existing attractions I’m getting even more excited.

If you were planning on being in Walt Disney World while the operations of the Speedway and the Walt Disney World Railroad will be affected please be aware of the adjusted operations.

 

Walt Disney Company Plans to Eliminate Plastic Straws by Mid-2019

The Walt Disney Company announced today that they are planning on eliminating single-use straws in all of its owned and operated locations by mid-2019.  This will include all of Disney’s theme parks with the exception of Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea.

Disney claims that this elimination amounts to a reduction of more than 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers annually.

Disney appears to be joining the trend that was recently spearheaded by the announcement from Starbucks earlier this month that they would phase out single-use plastic straws from its more than 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020.

In addition to the Walt Disney Company and Starbucks, McDonald’s announced in June that it would scrap plastic straws from restaurant locations in the U.K. and Ireland and replace them with paper straws, starting in September. Vail Resorts, owner of Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe and sister resorts in Colorado, Utah, British Columbia, Vermont and the Midwest, has also banned plastic straws.

“Eliminating plastic straws and other plastic items are meaningful steps in our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products. “These new global efforts help reduce our environmental footprint, and advance our long-term sustainability goals.”

For guests staying at Disney hotels or traveling on Disney cruise ships, there are additional changes coming.

Over the next several years there will be a transition to refillable in-room amenities, a move that is expected to reduce plastic by 80 percent, the company estimates.  This has been rumored to be going property-wide for a while now after Walt Disney World had previously begun implementing this at some of its resorts earlier.

Disney also said they plan on reducing the number of single-use plastic shopping bags in owned and operated parks and on cruise ships, offering guests the option to purchase reusable bags.

It will be interesting how guests respond to the new straw policy.  I personally don’t care whether I have a straw with my drinks.  I only use the plastic ones Disney provides at sit-down restaurants because they toss it at my glass.  I refuse to use the paper ones because I find that they don’t last a meal and that they disintegrate in my beverage.  While I do use the plastic straws at quick-service restaurants, I’ll adapt and just not use anything.  There are people that I know that cannot drink anything with ice in it without a straw or use a straw with any drink either out of preference or necessity.  How these guests respond is anyone’s guess.  Many people have already mentioned that they’ll bring their own straws, some reusable, some not.

I personally wouldn’t be surprised if at some time in the near future Disney starts selling Disney themed/branded re-usable straws in its parks.

Equally interesting will be the implementation of the “decreased number of single-use plastic shopping bags” in the parks.  I suspect that what’s probably going to happen is purchased items won’t automatically be placed in a bag and that guests will be asked if they want a bag.  At that point they will be offered the “opportunity” to purchase a re-usable bag.  I imagine Disney will still have to use bags for guests that want purchased items transported to the front of the parks to be picked up later or if guests want their items sent back to their resort.

Okay….now it is time for my cynical take on this.

I’m sure some part of the Disney Company is doing this for the sole concern of the environment.  I have no doubt that this is contributing to the decision.  I suspect that the biggest reason for this decision is financial and if there is a PR win that comes with it…so be it.

Look at it this way…

Disney spends a lot of money having someone make straws for all of their restaurants and beverage carts.  They know that with this change people will use fewer straws provided by Disney, even the paper straws.  People will just use less of them.  This means Disney spends less money.

The same in regards to the bags.  Some guests will decide not to use bags or will purchase the re-usable bags.  Again, less money spent on plastic bags.

If in fact Disney decides to offer Disney-themed or branded re-usable straws this is a new found revenue stream.  Also, Disney mentioned that instead of plastic bags they will “offer” re-usable bags.  We all know that this means “sell” don’t we?  Again…a new revenue stream.

So, Disney spends less money, finds new revenue streams and they come off as environmentally friendly.  It’s a win-win-win situation.

 

Monte Cristo Sandwich Removed from Menu at Woody’s Lunch Box

If you have enjoyed the Monte Cristo Sandwich at Woody’s Lunch Box or were looking forward to trying it, I have some bad news.

According to multiple guest sources the Monte Cristo Sandwich has been removed from the menu at Woody’s Lunch Box in Toy Story Land.  This was confirmed when I checked the menu on Walt Disney World’s website.

According to Orlando Theme Park News, cast members state that they are being told that the sandwich was removed because it wasn’t popular enough.   According to sources the sandwich was officially taken off the menu on July 15.

From comments that I’ve seen online, the sandwich has had mixed reviews.  Many people critical of the sandwich have stated that it wasn’t a true Monte Cristo, and fell short of the one served at Café Orleans in New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Other guests who have enjoyed the sandwich say they liked it for what it was, despite it not being a true Monte Cristo.

Rivers of Light Dessert Party Now Available for Reservations

If you are fan of dessert parties at Walt Disney World, today Disney Dining has opened reservations for a new Rivers of Light Dessert Party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

According to Disney, guests will need to begin checking in 60 minutes prior to the main show (8:15pm for a 9:15pm show) at the Rivers of Light Asia Viewing Area Terrace which is  located across from Expedition Everest.

At the Dessert Party guests will be able to enjoy themed desserts and savory snacks. Drink selections include specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, iced tea, lemonade and water.

When the show is about to start, you will head down to the VIP Seating Area for a viewing of Rivers of Light.

Pricing
Admission is $79 per adult and $47 per child (ages 3 to 9) including tax; gratuity not included or required. Separate Disney’s Animal Kingdom park admission is also required.

Please note that the menu items are subject to change and the experience may be changed or canceled without prior notice.

Reservations
Book online or call (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. Guests under 18 years of age must have parent or guardian permission to call.

Disney Shutters DisneyToon Studios

Disney has decided to shut down the animation house of Disneytoon Studios, the people behind the “Planes” movies immediately.

“After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios,” a Disney Spokesperson said in a statement.

Disneytoon Studios was created to work on the Disney’s direct-to-video projects. This notably included the “Fairies” films from 2008-2014. Disneytoon Studios was also responsible for two worldwide theatrical releases: “Planes” in 2013 and “Planes: Fire & Rescue” in 2014

It has been rumored that Disneytoon Studios had been in development on an untitled project since 2014. The project has since been removed from the theatrical release schedule and is no longer in development.

According to Indiewire, approximately 75 people will be laid off.  The decision to shut down the studio is apparently unrelated to the recent leadership announcements at Walt Disney Animation and Pixar.

While no one likes to see people lose their jobs, creatively DisneyToon Studios has been a failure. With nothing having been released since 2014 and nothing in the creative pipeline it was a smart decision to shut down the studio.

I’m sure the people laid off will find jobs elsewhere.  Many may even find jobs at either Walt Disney Animation or Pixar.

Disney Announces Jennifer Lee, Pete Docter to Run Disney Animation, Pixar

Disney has officially announced that Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter will split John Lasseter’s duties at Disney.

This announcement comes shortly after Lasseter announced that he was stepping down as Chief Creative Officer at the end of the year, after taking a six month leave of absence that was related to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Docter, the director of “Up,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Inside Out,” along with numerous writing credits has been tapped as chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios.  This has been rumored and talked about in the Disney fan community ever since Lasseter announced his leave of absence.  I along with many Pixar film fans are pleased with this announcement.  I personally have not heard any comments that express any unhappiness with Pete Docter taking over at Pixar.

“I started here 28 years ago,” said Docter. “I am fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people on the planet, and together we will keep pushing animation in new directions, using the latest technology to tell stories we hope will surprise and delight audiences around the world.”

Even though both have been rumored to be in the running to  assume the announced roles, I still found Lee’s announcement a bit more of a surprise..  Lee has quite a pedigree as a writer, having writing/screenplay credits for “Wreck-It-Ralph,” “Zootopia,” and “Wrinkle In Time.”  She also has directed “Frozen” and “Frozen Fever” and is currently directing “Frozen 2.”

“Animation is the most collaborative art form in the world, and it is with the partnership of my fellow filmmakers, artists, and innovators that we look ahead to the future,” said Lee. “My hope is to support the incredible talent we have, find new voices, and work together to tell original stories.”

Both will report to Alan Horn, the studio chairman.

I personally am happy and enthusiastic about Pete Docter leading Pixar.  Since I personally am not as familiar with the leadership style of Jennifer Lee, I am optimistic about her leading Walt Disney Animation.

Disneyland Putting Limits on Annual Passholders for 2019…May Be Hinting at Possible Opening of Galaxy’s Edge

Today Disneyland announced what may be the first of sweeping changes coming to its annual passport program.  For the first time, Disney may limit which parks some passholders can visit on specific days.

These changes come at a time when officials for Disneyland Resort are debating what is the best way to manage enormous crowds that are expected when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens next summer in Disneyland.

It’s being reported that Disneyland will be sending out, possibly as early as today, an email to passholders explaining the new program.  Sources say that they will be creating two new admission calendars.  This means that some passes will be good at certain parks on certain days, but not necessarily both parks on the same day.

According to Disneyland spokesperson Liz Jaeger, “As our business evolves, this is the first step in reshaping our Annual Pass program, which will better manage the guest experience and allow all Disneyland Resort visitors to have a great visit, particularly as we look forward to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in summer 2019.”

Reportedly, starting next June, passholders will see two calendars,  one for each park. Passholder will then need to check both calendars to see which park they can visit on which day. It’s being reported that the biggest changes will be coming to holders of the Deluxe passport, while higher levels experiencing no change at all.

As what happens currently, annual passholders will go online and use drop-down menus to see which park or both they can visit on a chosen date. A green date means yes. Gray means no.

With this announcement, Disneyland is extending its planning calendar to 13 months to allow passholders to look now and see which days they can visit in June 2019. Normally the calendar would only have been visible through May.

According to Disneyland the current two-park-per-day system on a single calendar will continue intact for the coming year and then through the end of May 2019.

The SoCal Annual Passport, which is geared to Southern California locals, admits these passholders only on weekdays and during the off-season. The highest level, which allows visits every day of the year, even the most crowded ones, which are typically around Christmas.

Ticket type June 2018 admission days (both parks) June 2019 admission days (both parks)
So Cal Annual Passport (on hiatus – only renewals) 19 0 (20 for DCA only)
Select Annual Passport 4 0 (3 for DCA only)
Deluxe Annual Passport 25 13 (Plus 17 for DCA only)
Signature Annual Passport 30 30
Signature Plus Annual Passport 30 30

Currently, if they are not blocked out, passholders can visit either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure or both. It’s common for people to hop between the parks in one day.

With the change announced this today, Disneyland is hoping to reduce crowding in Disneyland during the summer of 2019, by sending many visiting passholders to Disney California Adventure instead.

According to the new calendar for June 2019 Deluxe passholders (currently priced at $729/year) will be able to visit both parks on 13 days, while on 17 days they can visit only California Adventure, for a total 30 days of admission.

This compares to this June, when Deluxe passholders could visit either park on 25 of the month’s 30 days.

This is where speculation for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge comes in.  Some astute Disney observers are speculating that the highly anticipated land will open on or shortly after June 21st.

With the announced changes, Disney experts are saying that the changes were much less draconian than was speculated, and that they expect to see another big price increase as well to control passholder levels.

‘Disney Junior Dance Party!’ Coming This Fall to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Do you have a little one and do you and them love Disney Junior?  Well….do I have good news for you if you’re planning on visiting Walt Disney World this fall.

Today Disney announced that an all-new Disney Junior show will be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this fall. “Disney Junior Dance Party!” will be, according to Disney, a high-energy, live show that is inspired by the most popular Disney Junior shows on TV such as “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” “Doc McStuffins,” “The Lion Guard” and the newest hit series “Vampirina.”

The new show will be a musically infused, interactive concert, hosted by Finn Fiesta and a DJ, named Deejay, of course, who involve guests, especially little guests, in all the fun. This will include live appearances from some of your favorite characters and fun music from Disney Junior.

Minnie Van Service Now Available to all Walt Disney World Guests

Last summer at the D23 Expo Disney announced that the Minnie Van service would become available at Walt Disney World. Today Disney announced  that the service will be available for everyone at Walt Disney World, through the Lyft app.

Opening the service to all Walt Disney World guests comes after phasing it in over the Disney resorts, but initially restricted to only guests staying at those resorts.  As stated above, the service is now available to everyone that is visiting Walt Disney World..

The Minnie Van service offers a comfy and convenient way for guests to travel to and from the theme parks, to dining reservations at resort hotels, family gatherings, shopping sprees at Disney Springs and much more in no time at all.

All guests have to do is download the Lyft app on their mobile device, open it from anywhere at Walt Disney World Resort and select the Minnie Van service option. Then, follow the following steps:

  • Confirm your current pickup location.
  • Enter your Walt Disney World Resort destination and tap “Request.”
  • The app will display a map tracking the vehicle en route and give you an identifying vehicle number to help you spot your car.

With Lyft, guests can request the service with their smartphone and pay right through the app.

The service is available between 6:30 AM and 12:30 AM.