MickeyBlog News Update – Edition #7
Disney theme parks have officially entered the fall season, and the holidays aren’t too far around the corner! Now seems like a good time to catch up on recent Disney news.
Like We Always Do…
As usual, we’ll start this week’s news by talking about…banking? Okay, we’ve totally never done that before, but this news item is important to some of you. For almost 15 years now, Chase Bank has released a special Disney credit card. Holders of this card receive some nice perks and benefits such as a special character meeting spot at Epcot, a Star Wars character spot, at Hollywood Studios, and a special lounge area during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
Cardholders also receive discounts on dining and shopping at various Disney locations. Plus, people earn one percent cashback on all purchases and two percent on Disney-related items. The latter benefit means that guests can return home from a Disney vacation to discover a nice Disney credit waiting for them. And, if those people are anything like my wife, they quickly head to the local Disney Store to buy all the products they didn’t get during the trip. But I digress…
The point is that several rumblings over the past calendar year hinted that the Chase/Disney business relationship was about to end, much like the longstanding Siemens deal did earlier this year. Thankfully, those fears were unfounded. Disney and Chase recently announced that they have signed a multi-year agreement to continue the program. If you’d like to learn more about the Disney Visa, you can read about it here.
Star Wars News! (We Have Your Attention Now.)
Since Hollywood Studios is basically the Star Wars theme park, let’s talk about the film franchise for just a moment. Disney has experienced a bit of production turmoil in recent months, firing the Han Solo directors in June. Then, they fired Colin Trevorrow, the director of Jurassic World, from Star Wars IX. Don’t freak out, though!
This latest turn of events has given Disney the opportunity to hire the director that they’d wanted all along. You know J.J. Abrams as one of the creators of Lost and, most recently, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes, the man who directed the most popular domestic movie release of all-time will also direct the culmination of the third Star Wars trilogy. Breathe easier, Star Wars fans! The franchise is safe once again.
From Disney’s perspective, this is a masterstroke. They were uncomfortable with Trevorrow’s plans for the end of the latest trilogy. The last thing the company wanted was to face questions about the film franchise in 2019, the same year that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens and becomes the most important part of the Parks & Resorts division. Since Episode IX has changed its release date from May of 2019 to December of 2019, Disney also has seven months to promote the movie organically via Galaxy’s Edge.
This is a brilliant business move all around…but a tough break for Colin Trevorrow. He’s now like Dougray Scott, the actor who was originally cast to play Wolverine but had to drop out due to Mission: Impossible 2 requiring reshoots. Then, Scott was the favorite to become James Bond, only to lose the role at the last instant. Yes, Trevorrow still has Jurassic World on his resume, but the director of Star Wars Episode IX is an instant legend in Hollywood. That’s now Abrams instead.
Disney After Hours: The Sequel
Last year, Magic Kingdom tried something new. It was the much maligned Disney After Hours ticketed event. For a not-so-modest fee, guests enjoyed the rare opportunity to enjoy the Most Magical Place on Earth while it was virtually empty. At an original cost of $149, Disney After Hours didn’t become an overnight sensation. In fact, several industry analysts noted that the company ended the event without fanfare, presumably never to bring it back again.
Disney then did the unexpected. They announced seven Disney After Hours events early in 2017, hosting two nights in January and March and three nights in February. The company must have sold enough tickets on those dates to bring back the event in 2018. For the somewhat lower cost of $119 per person, you can enjoy three hours of Magic Kingdom when you have the park almost to yourself. Almost all of the attractions are in operation at this time, an appealing thought.
If you’re interested, you can attend Disney After Hours on January 19th, 26th, and 30th. The February dates are the 8th and the 15th (extend Valentine’s Day by 24 hours, would-be romantics!), and the March ones are March 1st and 8th. So, Disney After Hours takes place on one Tuesday, four Thursdays, and two Fridays early in 2018.
For what it’s worth, I almost attended Disney After Hours last year. The only reason I didn’t was because it rained so much that we couldn’t leave the hotel room. That day, Disney was passing out free passes to theme park bloggers and DVC members, both of which I am. Even so, I was willing to pay for the event, as I think it’s generally a really good idea, just overpriced. If you love Magic Kingdom, this event is the closest you’ll ever get to the time Cartman on South Park bought his own amusement park. You have the run of the place. The folks I spoke with who were able to attend Disney After Hours were universally positive about it…even in the rain.
Disney seems to update their Mobile Order offerings perfectly in time with MickeyBlog’s news posts. This week, they added three new locations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Specifically, they added three Quick Service offerings on Sunset Boulevard. You now order ahead then grab your food without waiting in line at Catalina Eddie’s, Fairfax Fare, and Rosie’s All-American Café.
The recent additions bring the total number of Hollywood Studios participating restaurants up to six. The only park that has more is Magic Kingdom with seven. Animal Kingdom currently has four, and Epcot has the fewest, only two. Presumably, World Showcase additions to Mobile Order are a bit more challenging. Given the success of the early rollouts, however, several of them should join by the end of the year.
Similarly, Disney Springs currently has only one Mobile Order-eligible restaurant, D-Luxe Burger. When it adds more, you can consider the game changed, especially if you live in the greater Orlando area.
In news that’s not as good, Disney is making a change at Satu’li Canteen at Pandora – The World of Avatar. Everyone’s favorite eatery at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this summer is no longer serving breakfast. Disney has changed its operating hours, opening the restaurant at 10 a.m. during the offseason. The canteen will go back to serving breakfast at some point. Disney’s now referring to it as offering seasonal breakfasts. Fall apparently isn’t one of those seasons.
The Man Called X
2017 has been a rough year for legendary Imagineers. First, Marty Sklar died at the age of 83. Today, MickeyBlog mourns the loss of Disney Legend Xavier Atencio. One of Walt Disney’s favorite people and proteges, Atencio was so beloved at WED Enterprises that he earned the simple nickname of X. Everybody knew X and loved to pick his brain about the best ways to build rides.
Antencio earned this reputation by working for Disney for most of his life. He started with the company when he was 19 and then retired at 65. He only took breaks for World War II, where he was an esteemed military analyst and earned the rank of Captain.
During his time with Disney, X helped to build the first Omnimover for Adventure Thru Inner Space, also writing dialogue and music for the attraction. He also worked on Space Mountain, Spaceship Earth, and the Mexico Pavilion domestically. Of course, X is best known for his work on a pair of iconic Disney attractions: The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. The Disney Legend wrote dialogue for both rides.
More importantly, X also wrote the lyrics from those rides that you know and love. Anytime you sing Grim Grinning Ghosts or Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me), you have Xavier Atencio to thank for your happiness. His fingerprints are all over every Disney theme park experience, which is why everyone should take a moment to celebrate his life.