Walt Disney World to Begin Charging Hotel Guests for Overnight Parking

On Wednesday Walt Disney World announced that with all reservations made starting March 21 they will begin charging guests for standard overnight parking at their resorts. This charge will vary depending on the resort category and will be applied to guests’ hotel folio upon check-out.

The Standard Overnight Parking charges per resort category will be:

Value Resorts: $13 per night

Moderate Resorts: $19 per night

Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $24 per night

Disney Vacation Club Members will not be charged for parking when they are staying at a DVC Deluxe Villa regardless of whether they are using points at paying cash for their stay.  Members also will not be charged for overnight parking if they are using points to stay at any Walt Disney World Resort hotel.

As you can imagine this is raising quite a stir in the Disney fan community.

Why is Walt Disney World doing this? No one really knows for sure, but Disney has publicly stated that charging for overnight parking is becoming an industry standard and they are just falling in line.

This could be true and if it is it could be another indication that Disney is caring less about the total guest experience and leading the industry. Back in the late 1950’s having pay stalls in bathrooms was the “industry standard” yet, as the story goes, Walt Disney saw that no one was using them at Disneyland and guests were standing in line to use the free stalls. Walt had the pay stalls all converted to free ones. Guest experience mattered…at least it did then.

Some people have speculated that Disney is doing this to reduce the number of cars at the hotels and on property. Others have speculated that its because Disney doesn’t want you wandering off property for food or visiting Universal.

There have been dozens of other guesses as to why Disney is doing this.

In my mind I think the explanation is much more simple…its a cash grab that they feel that they can get away with.

Face it…the fees that they are planning on charging aren’t ridiculous or insane. I’m sure Disney has done their research and looked at the industry and figured what they can charge and not have major objections.

Also, think about who visits Walt Disney World and has a car.

There are the people who live close enough to Walt Disney World that driving is practical and flying isn’t worth the little bit of time saved. These people will still bring their car.

There are those where driving (even if it’s 12-20 hour drive) is significantly cheaper than flying. This is my family when everyone is going along and we have the luxury of time for the trip. This parking charge isn’t going to push anyone over the edge towards flying. It just isn’t.

Then there are those (me included when we don’t drive) who fly but rent a car because they like the convenience and flexibility and don’t want to hassle with the Disney busses. My guess is a huge majority of these people will still rent a car and bring it onto property.

I have no data, but I’ve talked to people…people who have had a car on property and even though inconvenient, this charge is not going to keep many people from still having their own car or renting a car while staying at a Disney Resort.

And this is the key..I think Disney knows this. They know the vast majority of people who are inclined to have a car on property will continue to do so and just pay the fee. They will just build the charge into the price of their vacation.

Now…in full disclosure, we’re DVC members and for most of our trips we’ll be exempt from the charge. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it or agree with it.  Honestly even if I’m paying for at hotel room I’m still going to want a car and I’ll end up paying the charge. This isn’t going to keep me from taking a car on property. I’m being honest….it’s just not.


After Over a Decade McDonald’s & Disney Partner Up for Disney-Branded Happy Meals

After more than a decade Disney and McDonald’s are back together just in time for the release of ‘Incredibles 2′.  The new partnership will bring Disney-branded Happy Meals back to McDonald’s this summer.

The two companies parted ways when childhood obesity rates were rising and there was widespread concern over calorie-laden children’s meals at fast food restaurants.

Earlier this month McDonald’s announced that it was revamping its Happy Meal menu and would offer selections that were lower in calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar. This meant ditching cheeseburgers and chocolate milk from the kids’ menu.  These items will still be available for purchase, but McDonald’s will not list them on the menu.  The thought being that these items will be less likely to be ordered.

McDonald’s plans to promote “Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet” in November.

Okay…..who besides us used their kids to get the toys….errr…..’collectibles’ for themselves?  Okay…I’m not proud of it, but yeah we did.

When my kids were younger the Disney-themed Happy Meals did their job.  Depending on the toy being offered we often went weekly and sometimes checked with McDonald’s in the area to see if they had a particular toy to complete our sets.

It’s great to see the return of Disney-themed Happy Meals at McDonald’s….not necessarily for the food but for another way to get unique ‘collectibles.’

Unfortunately my kids have now grown up and are too old for Happy Meals…or are they?

Disney Makes Series of Announcements for Parks Around the World at D23 Expo Japan 2018

Yesterday at D23 Expo Japan, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, announced a series of exciting  new updates for Disney Parks around the world.

One of the most anticipated items that was announce at D23 Expo last July is the Star Wars-inspired resort planned for the Walt Disney World Resort.  According to Chapek, “It is going to be unlike anything that exists today.”  At the D23 Expo Japan Disney shared a new look of the first-of-its-kind resort that will combine a luxury resort with a complete immersion into an the Star Wars story.

Many of us Star Wars Disney fans were looking forward to the immersion at this resort will that will stand out among all of the Disney resorts around the globe.  The huge announcement was that it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  This will give guests a total Star Wars experience.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stay at this resort, but I am excited about the concept and the possibilites that could be incorporated into it.

Chapek also unveiled a first look at Epcot’s highly-anticipated “Guardians of the Galaxy”attraction. The big takeaway…. it’s a roller coaster!

According to Disney, “With the “Guardians of the Galaxy”-inspired coaster, we’re going big. This one-of-a-kind family attraction will be one of the world’s longest enclosed roller coasters when it’s added to Future World at Epcot.”

If the Imagineers at WDI do anything close to what they came up with for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! this attraction could be truly amazing.  I for one cannot wait until it opens.

Now to the Disneyland Resort.  Chapek announced that Pixar Pier will open June 23 at Disney California Adventure park.  Pixar Pier will be featuring four whimsical neighborhoods representing beloved Pixar stories with newly themed attractions, foods and merchandise.

As announced earlier, Pixar Pier will also include the Incredicoaster.  This coaster will be a super combination of character figures, lighting and special effects that that is being promoted, will bring the Parr family racing alongside you in a high-speed adventure.

I am a huge Incredibles fan.  I think that it’s one of my favorite Pixar movies.  Of all of the things coming to Pixar Pier, this attraction is the one that I am looking forward to the most.

In addition to the Incredicoaster the announcement, Disney also announced that in June a dazzling new float for the popular “Paint the Night” parade featuring Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone from “The Incredibles” will be coming to Disney California Adventure.

I absolutely love the “Paint the Night” parade.  In my opinion it’s the best nighttime parade Disney has ever produced for the domestic parks.  Adding an Incredibles float makes it even better.

Chapek also announced that Disney’s first Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be  opening next year.

According to Chapek, “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will have a new catchy theme song created especially for the attraction as well as a new experience that defies logic that we’re calling 2 ½-D.”

While I will really miss “The Great Movie Ride,” I am really looking forward to this attraction.  I’m hoping that it’s done really well making it a fun attraction for the Studios.  The “2 1/2 – D” sound like it might be a lot of fun.  In Disney’s description it is supposed to be like 3-D except without the glasses.  What can I say….except….sign me up!

As for Disneyland Paris, Disney is re-imagining one of its resort hotels into Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel. Chapek shared a sneak peek into one of the rooms that will open the re-imagined hotel in 2020.

Chapek also announced that the Marvel Super Hero universe will be coming to Walt Disney Studios Park.  The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will be totally reimagined as a high-speed, hyper-kinetic adventure where guests riding the coaster will team up with Iron Man and their favorite Avengers.

I don’t know when I’ll ever get to Disneyland Paris, but if I ever do get there, this attraction will be on the top of my list to see and do there.

I like what Disney announced at D23 Expo Japan 2018.  What do you think?

Disney News Today to be Re-Imagineered

First of all….I would like to thank all of you that have been coming to Disney News Today for your Disney-related news stories.  I really appreciate it.

I have been struggling recently with how I have been presenting the news to you over the past nearly four years.  Over the past four years I have  been diligent in scouring the Internet for interesting Disney news.  As you may have noticed that a lot of the stories are reprints of press releases and stories found elsewhere.  I’ve been happy to be your conduit to stories that you may or may not have had access to.

In doing this I have chosen not to comment on or editorialize these stories.  This is why I’ve decided to re-imagineer the site.

This is where the change for the site will be heading.  After a short break…this shouldn’t be more than a few days or a week…I will continue to provide links to stories that I find interesting and have an opinion on.  With the link to the story I will provide you with my take on the story.  The take from a Disney nerd that loves the parks, their movies (Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation, Disney-Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars) and Disney-related podcasts.

When I find something that I want to comment on or find interesting, you will find it here.  I hope that you will like this change and I appreciate your future support.

Walt Disney World Introduces New Magic Bands

It’s been quite the year for MagicBands at Walt Disney World Resort, with the resort-wide rollout of the versatile and easily customizable MagicBand 2, the addition of the super convenient MagicKeeper accessories and an assortment of popular new limited and open edition designs. As Disney continues to expand this innovative wearable, we’re very excited to share a first look at two open edition MagicBands featuring new highly-requested colors that will soon be available for purchase online and wherever MagicBands are sold throughout the Resort.

The first new MagicBand is a solid-color millennial pink, the fashion-forward, trendy shade of pink that continues to grow in popularity. If you’re not familiar with this particular color, its hue is a delicate, softer pink, and we’re already hearing wonderful feedback from guests about this product. The band retails for $12.99 and will debut on Jan. 8. This new MagicBand color is a great addition to the already popular rose-gold Minnie Ears.

The second new color is brown and will first be featured in a fun new design starring the Seven Dwarfs from the Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The design includes the whole gang – Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy – as well as a few diamonds dug from their famous mine. Guests will have the opportunity to purchase this fun, new MagicBand, selling for $22.99, beginning today.

These colors join the new solid-color black MagicBand, which Disney released last month, offering guests even more choices for how they want to unlock the magic of their Disney vacation. As always, these MagicBands connect the vacation choices and purchases guests make in My Disney Experience – from effortless theme-park entry to Disney PhotoPass association, dining plan redemption, room entry and more. And as a reminder, with the MagicBand 2 design, you are able to remove the center icon to mix and match colors and create multi-color bands or take advantage of one of the MagicKeeper accessories to give you even more options on how to wear the magic.

From The Disney Parks Blog


What Disney Bought: A Billion-Dollar Breakdown of Assets

Now that the megadeal is done and the smoke has cleared, there’s a price tag that can be put on each asset moving from Fox to Disney. Analyst estimates vary; the numbers below are derived from RBC Capital Markets.

Disney is getting two groups of channels from Fox: FX Networks and National Geographic Channels. FX is the home of critically acclaimed, edgy series from “American Horror Story” to “Fargo”–exactly the kind of content Disney lacks. Nat Geo has just begun to broach that business with scripted fare like “Genius,” but it’s a classic brand that fits perfectly with Disney’s portfolio, and one that is already translating nicely to digital platforms like Snapchat.

That they may represent the priciest assets in the whole deal is less a reflection of their future worth and more a testament to how valuable linear channels have been over the past decade, given the billions of dollars in advertising and affiliate fees they’ve brought to Fox. But Murdoch’s willingness to give them up is proof positive that the pay-TV business is in a state of secular decline, one that will provide plenty of short-term value but limited in the long term. Digital channels like FXX and NatGeo Wild are probably going to be retired eventually.

With ho-hum franchises like “Kingsmen” and “X-Men,” Fox certainly can’t hold a candle to what Disney has accomplished as a movie studio, though there’s still value to be mined with the upcoming “Avatar” sequels and the expected commingling of their assorted superhero characters. The valuation here is probably more based on the greater successes Fox has enjoyed in TV from animation (“The Simpsons”) to comedy (“Modern Family”), where syndication has proved a veritable goldmine. TV production capabilities will be absolutely key to powering Disney’s intent to go head to head with Netflix in the streaming game come 2019.

At first blush, it might seem counterintuitive for Disney to pay so much for what is essentially a satellite-based operation, a business with dim future prospects. But there is so much more to Star than that: It not only provides more international exposure for Disney in a business where it’s under-represented, but India may be the biggest growth market on the globe. Best of all, Star has an OTT platform, HotStar, that already has over 50 million subscribers and rights to must-have sports content in the region like cricket. As Disney mounts a global OTT effort, this could become a very valuable piece of the puzzle.

With ESPN becoming something of an albatross around Disney’s neck these days, doubling down on sports might seem a strange move. But having 22 RSNs across the country that boast deals with some of the greatest franchises — like the home run-happy New York Yankees with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — could help shore up the faltering economics underpinning ESPN. Incredible affiliate fees will be a great buffer for Disney in the short term while it mounts a risky multi-year effort around OTT that may not provide desired returns for quite some time.

The value here is mostly tied up in Sky, where Fox had been engaged in a torturous, possibly doomed effort to snap up the 61% portion of the satcaster it doesn’t own. Handing that over to Disney could help ease the regulatory path to getting a deal done; the combination of Sky and STAR will give Disney an incredible international footprint across two continents.

The rest of these investments are tied up in Endemol, a production hub that could also help TV production efforts, and Hulu, where Disney will take a controlling interest. Hulu could become a valuable contributor to Disney’s overall OTT efforts given the head start the joint venture has in this space.

Total Enterprise Value of What Disney Is Buying From Fox: $66.1 billion

Fox Debt Disney Will Assume: $13.7 billion

Sale Price $52.4 Billion

From Variety

Disney Buying Most of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 Billion

Disney is buying a huge chunk of 21st Century Fox in a deal that promises to reshape the media industry and help the entertainment giant fend off digital rivals such as Netflix.

The $52.4 billion deal will combine two of the biggest players in Hollywood.

The sale represents a remarkable turn in the career of octogenarian mogul Rupert Murdoch, who is cashing out after building a major media empire. For its part, Disney is adding even more prime entertainment assets to an already swollen portfolio as it battles upstart streaming services that have undercut the traditional cable subscription model.

In addition to 21st Century Fox’s movie studio and regional sports networks, Disney is buying cable channels FX and National Geographic. Disney will also get Fox’s stakes in Hulu and European pay-TV provider Sky.

Prior to the deal closing, 21st Century Fox will separate the Fox broadcasting network, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and some national sports networks into a new company that will be spun off to its shareholders. The remaining properties would ideally in the coming years merge with News Corp., from which they split in 2013, Murdoch said on Fox Business Thursday morning.

Disney, which counts ESPN among its crown jewels, has suffered as consumers switch off their TVs and spend more hours watching streaming services such as Netflix that are distributed directly to consumers.

The deal allows Disney to expand its content, especially for streaming services. In addition to a majority stake in Hulu that it will have once the deal closes, Disney is preparing to launch two separate streaming services, one for sports and another focusing on entertainment. And it is pulling its content from Netflix in preparation for the launch. Adding Fox’s television and movie studios and the content they own means adding to the stable of must-watch content it can offer directly to consumers — and that streaming competitors can not.

There are also important international assets involved. Fox is in the midst of a lengthy regulatory review in the United Kingdom to take over the rest of the satellite broadcaster Sky it does not already own. In the announcement, Disney and Fox said “21st Century Fox remains fully committed to completing the current Sky offer and anticipates that, subject to the necessary regulatory consents, the transaction will close by June 30, 2018.” Disney would then assume full ownership of Sky as long as Fox’s transaction is completed before Disney’s.

If the deal doesn’t close, then Disney will retain Fox’s current 39 percent stake of Sky “and we imagine they’ll make their own bid for the rest of it,” Murdoch said on Fox Business on Thursday.

The deal will needs to undergo regulatory review and will likely take at least a year to close. The Justice Department, which last month sued to block AT&T’s purchase of CNN parent company Time Warner, will consider to what extent the new company could dominate the market, using its increased leverage to force cable companies and distributors to pay higher rates to carry Disney and Fox content.

News of a possible deal first came to light in early November when CNBC reported that Disney had approached 21 Century Fox about a deal to acquire the movie and television assets. That led to other companies, like Comcast, to explore an acquisition as well. But on Monday Comcast said in statements to media outlets that it “never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer” and was withdrawing from the discussions.

As the two companies work to complete the deal and Disney works to integrate its new assets, Bob Iger, who had been expected to retire, will remain as chairman and CEO of Disney through 2021.

Speaking on Fox Business Thursday morning, Murdoch said he made it a condition of the deal that Iger would stay on.

“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before,” Iger said in a statement. “We’re honored and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building.”

There had been some reporting that Murdoch’s son James, currently CEO of 21st Century Fox, would move over to Disney in a high level role and as a possible successor to Iger. But in a conference call with investors on Thursday morning, Iger said there are no immediate plans for James Murdoch.

“James and I have had a lot of conversations about the future of these companies,” Iger said. “He will be integral to helping us integrate these companies over the next number of months and during that period of time we will continue to discuss whether there is a role for him here or not.”

In a statement of his own, Murdoch said, “I’m convinced that this combination, under Bob Iger’s leadership, will be one of the greatest companies in the world. I’m grateful and encouraged that Bob has agreed to stay on, and is committed to succeeding with a combined team that is second to none.”

From CNN Money

Bob Iger Could Stay at Disney Beyond 2019 if 21st Century Fox Deal Happens

Walt Disney has already delayed the departure of longtime chairman and CEO Bob Iger a few times. But if a much-hyped (and, currently, only rumored) acquisition of 21st Century Fox actually does happen, then Iger reportedly could extend his tenure beyond his currently planned July 2019 retirement date.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Disney’s board is likely to extend Iger’s contract once more if the company’s reported negotiations to buy a large chunk of Fox’s entertainment assets do, in fact, result in a deal. Rumors that Disney may be talking to Fox about acquiring most of the latter’s movie and cable TV assets, including its valuable regional sports networks, first popped up in early November. Now, reports peg the value of a potential deal at anywhere from $40 billion to $60 billion, based on anonymous sources, with the companies possibly set to reach a final agreement as soon as next week.

In March, Disney’s board officially extended Iger’s contract until July 2019, marking the third (at that time) postponement of his planned retirement from the company. The chief executive, who took the reins at Disney in 2005, had most recently been set to retire in the summer of 2018. The main reason for Iger sticking around has been Disney’s inability to name an heir apparent, though Fox’s James Murdoch is now being floated as a potential successor if the deal is finalized.

Disney is coming off a recent fourth quarter that fell short of Wall Street’s earnings expectations, marked by the continuing struggles of the company’s television unit. Meanwhile, the company is looking to mount a huge challenge on the streaming front, with plans to launch two standalone streaming services—one dedicated to live sports and another for movies and TV—over the next two years. So, it’s possible that Disney would prefer for Iger to stick around a bit longer to oversee the aftermath of a potential megadeal and the packaging of Fox’s vast entertainment assets with Disney’s for the two streaming services.

From Fortune

Why Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is Really Being Removed from Coco Screenings

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, one of Disney’s less lauded short films, will soon be leaving theaters after screening in front of Pixar’s Coco, the animated film inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Yet while some have suggested it’s a direct response to poor audience reactions, EW has learned that isn’t the case.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was always promoted and scheduled as a limited run, EW has confirmed, with its theatrical play slated to conclude next week, as has recently been reported.

Mashable was the first to report that Olaf’s Frozen Adventure would end its theatrical run Dec. 8. The outlet reported that Disney had “directed theaters … to remove the deeply unpopular 22-minute Frozen short” from future screenings.

In addition, a user on Reddit, identifying as a movie theater worker, claimed to have received a note from Disney regarding the decision. “Please note that the run of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure playing before Coco will end after 12/7,” the alleged note stated. “Starting on Friday 12/8 no more Olaf shorts should be up on screen. With the extra 22 minutes of running time back, we would appreciate if you could get in an extra show if possible.”

In light of the information provided to EW, the alleged note appears to be more of a reminder and less of a notification of removal. “This was always promoted as a limited run so it’s not really a story — the end of our Olaf theatrical play is coming next week,” a Disneyrepresentative told EW. “All our ads and messaging called it as such.”

Featuring the return of Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), the short — which is the first from Walt Disney Animation to be screened in front of a Pixar film — sees the snowman from Frozenon a search for holiday traditions for Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). While most Pixar shorts run around 10 minutes, this Disney Animation work runs for more than 20 minutes.

Mashable called the pairing of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure with Coco, which received glowing reviews and recently won Best Animated Film from the New York Film Critics Circle, “culturally tone-deaf.” Other critics have echoed the sentiment.

“We are creatures of habit, and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure eventually feels like the grinning house guest who won’t leave, even though the party was supposed to clear out long ago,” reported The Washington Post. “As each successive song in the four-tune reel cues up, moviegoers’ reactions can be heard to switch from laughing irritation to growing mockery to outright anger.”

From MSN/Entertainment Weekly

Disney to Direct Theaters to Remove Frozen Featurette Next Week

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure has been put on ice.

Disney has directed theaters running Coco, Pixar’s latest, to remove the deeply unpopular 22-minute Frozen short that plays in front of each screening. The removal goes into effect on Dec. 8, sources familiar with the matter confirmed to Mashable.

The request from Disney also asks that theaters use the newly freed-up time to hold extra screenings of Coco each day.

Pixar movies generally open with a completely unrelated short film, usually running no more than 10 minutes. Olaf changed the game somewhat, between its length and its reliance on a Disney Animation Studios hit (Pixar’s shorts are generally homegrown).

The Frozen short has been especially problematic for a number of reasons. Length is the biggest issue, of course, since the actual movie doesn’t start until 40 minutes after the advertised time, between trailers, ads, and Olaf. That’s a lot of extra sitting around for an audience comprised primarily of kids expecting a story about music and family, set against the backdrop of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos.

Some have also accused Disney of shameless self-promotion, for swapping in what is seen as an ad for Frozen 2 — which is out in Nov. 2019 — where there would usually be a Pixar creation. As Mashable’s Brittany Levine wrote last week, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure “felt like Disney was spitting in my popcorn for 21 minutes.”

From Mashable