Walt Disney World Announces Plans to Build New Nature-Themed Resort

Earlier today Walt Disney World announced plans to build a nature-inspired resort along the shores of Bay Lake.  The new resort will be located between Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge on land that previously was the long time closed River Country water park.

The deluxe resort will be themed to complement its natural surroundings.

Disney said the new resort, which has not yet been named, will open in 2022.  The new resort will include 900 hotel rooms and Disney Vacation Club villas.

“Walt Disney World is in the midst of our most significant expansion in the last two decades and the combined 1,700 new hotel rooms and proposed Disney Vacation Club villas we are building at four different resorts will create thousands of new construction and permanent jobs and will drive economic opportunity and incremental revenue for Central Florida,” said George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “We continue to add new attractions, new lands — and these beautiful accommodations will be right in the heart of all that magic.”

The resort has not been named as of yet will be Disney’s 16th Disney Vacation Club property.

“This resort experience will be a celebration of Walt Disney’s lifelong love and respect for nature, with some fun and even surprising accommodation types that families will find irresistible,” said Terri Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club. “It will give our members and guests yet another opportunity to stay in close proximity to all the newest attractions and experiences in our theme parks, and with the flexibility, value and world-class service families expect from Disney.”

 

 

 

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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.

 

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.

Disney Animator Dave Michener Dead at Age 85

Animator and story artist Dave Michener, who worked at Walt Disney Studios for more than 30 years, has died at the age of 85.  His wife Donna said he died at his Los Angeles home on February 15 from complications due to a virus.

Michener co-directed “The Great Mouse Detective” alongside John Musker and Ron Clements.

Michener starting with Disney in 1956, right out of college, and worked there until his retirement in 1987.  He contributed to classics like “Sleeping Beauty,” “One Hundred and One Dalmatians,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day,” “The Aristocats,” “Robin Hood,” “The Rescuers” and “The Fox and the Hound.”

He was hired by Walt Disney himself, who had seen one of his art exhibits at the Chouinard Art Institute. Michener also produced and directed character animation for Epcot Center in the 1980s, followed by similar duties at Tokyo Disneyland’s “Meet the World” attraction and the pre-show PSA on the history of aviation at Disneyland.

Disney Releases New Pixar-Themed MagicBands

Earlier today Disney released five brand new Pixar-themed MagicBands at Shop Parks.  The movies that are being featured are Toy Story, Monsters University, Up, Cars, and Wall-E!

The brand new designs are for the MagicBand 2.0 and for the first time, two of MagicBands have designs on the center icon that is not the Mickey Head symbol we’ve come to expect.

Each of the new MagicBands sells for $22.99 plus tax and can be found in the Shop Parks app and on the Shop Disney website.

Here are the new designs –

I’m kind of partial to the Toy Story and WALL-E ones myself.  How about you?

I imagine that these new MagicBands will be extremely popular, so if you like them and want to get some, you might not want to wait around too long.  Just sayin’.

Avengers and Other Super Heroes to Assemble in New Themed Area at Disney California Adventure in 2020

Yesterday Disney announced that new Marvel-themed areas will be coming to Disneyland Resort, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland in the near future.

The new Super Hero-themed land at the Disneyland Resort will begin recruiting guests in 2020.  Spider-Man and the Avengers will be joining Guardians of the Galaxy in a completely immersive Super Hero universe in Disney California Adventure. The new land will be anchored by the immensely popular Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, in the area that is currently occupied by “a bug’s land.”  “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” already closed on March 19 and the rest of the land is scheduled to close later this summer.

Disney also announced that as part of the transformative multi-year expansion announced for Disneyland Paris, the new Marvel-themed area at Walt Disney Studios Park will include a reimagined Rock ‘n Roller Coaster where riders will team up with Iron Man and their favorite Avengers on a hyper-kinetic adventure in 2020.

Also announced were multi-year expansion plans at Hong Kong Disneyland, including a new themed area that will include an exciting attraction where guests team up with Ant-Man and The Wasp.

It was great to finally get some details about the Marvel-themed land at Disney California Adventure.  This area has been hinted at by Disney for a while now, so it was nice to finally get some official “vague details” to hype-up the fanbase.

I for one am very excited about this new area.  While there is a portion of the Disney fan community that are upset that in getting this new land means the extermination of “a bugs land,” I am not one of those.  The movie “A Bug’s Life” that the area was based on has never been one of my favorite Pixar movies and I’ve not been all that fond of the attractions is this land either.  In other words, I’m not all that broken up to see the bugs go away.

If Walt Disney Imagineering can replicate the great work that they were able to do on Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! the area could be amazing.  Personally, the year 2020 cannot come soon enough….I am really excited and am already planning on a possible trip for when it opens.

Disney Marvel fans….ASSEMBLE!!!

 

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?