MickeyBlog News for June 11 – Richard Gerth Tribute
We have new FastPass Tiers, new FastPass locations, new admission ticket deals, and sad news about the retirement of one Disney icon and death of another. It’s a bittersweet update of MickeyBlog News.
A New Tier
The top-heavy nature of the FastPass system at Epcot is a subject of much discussion. The best attractions at the park are Frozen Ever After, Soarin’ Around the World, and Test Track. Each one is a part of Tier 1, forcing guests to pick their favorite during a daily visit.
This week, we learned Tier 1 is about to get even more crowded. The Epcot Character Spot is switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1 today. Yes, Meet Disney Pals is now one of the choices that come with significant opportunity cost. Should you or your children seek an interaction with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy plus others, you’ll have to stand in line for Frozen Ever After et al. These are the most crowded attractions at Epcot, and so it’s a brutal choice. MickeyBlog will post a list of pros and cons for each Tier 1 option later this month to help you decide.
A New FastPass Location
A Bug’s Land is no more at Disney’s California Adventure. It will cease operation later this year, but it’s already shut down its most popular attraction, It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Disney’s reclaiming this space for future developments, but the renovations come with some ripple effects throughout the park.
For example, the shocking success of Radiator Springs Racers forced Disney to relocate the FastPass distribution center for this attraction to a different location. It was near the entrance to A Bug’s Land. You can see where this is going. With that themed land going away, Disney has again had to switch the placement of FastPass distribution.
To avoid similar future issues, the new spot is close to Radiator Springs Racers. It’s at the overlook area for the ride, the one with the path toward The Wharf. While Disneyland Resort is transitioning away from paper FastPasses, the distribution lines likely aren’t going away anytime soon. This was a necessary step by Disney, albeit one with traffic flow repercussions from Carthay Circle all the way up to The Wharf.
Admission Ticket Deals!
Disney’s North American theme parks have a lot going on this summer. To guarantee that the most guests possible get to enjoy it, the company’s tweaked admission ticket options for the season.
At Disneyland Resort, the Pixar Fest celebration is cause for people to grab their friends and head to the Happiest Place on Earth. The catch is that these friends might not have park tickets. To solve the problem, Disney’s giving annual pass holders a chance to share the magic with their friends.
Pass holders can buy up to two single-day admissions for a price of as much as 40 percent off the regular price. Tickets range from $89-$109, depending whether it’s a Regular, Value, or Peak day. Disney even removed some of its blackout dates for certain pass holders. You can read the Parks Blog for specifics.
At Walt Disney World, park planners have a different strategy. They want all of the guests who aren’t interested in Toy Story Land to visit in June. Since that themed land isn’t open yet, Disney can soak up some park demand before Toy Story Land’s debut.
To achieve this goal, Disney’s removed all blackout dates at Walt Disney World from now through June 29th for almost all pass holders. Not coincidentally, Toy Story Land opens on June 30th. Disney’s also added the Refer-a-Friend offer at Walt Disney World, too. To learn about the best admission deals for your family, contact a member of the MickeyTravels team. Their service is free to you, so there’s nothing but upside from your perspective.
John Lasseter Retiring
MickeyBlog News eschews buzzkill news as much as possible. We want to be the friends who always put a smile on your face. Sometimes, Disney announcements are so important that we have to cover them, however, even when they’re uncomfortable or sad. We have two of these items today.
The first is that Pixar legend John Lasseter is retiring. Finding the right tone for this story isn’t easy. Loyalists and fans would want me to point out that Lasseter almost single-handedly legitimized CGI animation and thereby revolutionized family-friendly cinema.
Once fired from Disney for being too fond of computer graphics, Lasseter later returned as the conquering hero when the Mouse House bought Pixar. He held the simultaneous titles of Chief Creative Officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Feature Animation. Not coincidentally, Disney’s latest batch of animated titles reinvigorated the company and provided huge revenue streams thanks to the valuable new intellectual properties. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Lasseter was on a six-month leave of absence from Pixar. According to The Hollywood Reporter, his questionable behavior was an open secret at Disney. I will spare you the details, although you’re certainly welcome to Google them if so inclined. The gist is that female employees felt uncomfortable about him, especially if they wore skirts. His regrettable actions ultimately cost Lasseter his dream job, as Disney has chosen to let him leave gracefully rather than restore his job at the end of his suspension.
This situation is the latest struggle to separate an artist’s art from his personal behavior. Lasseter has unquestionably had a hand in crafting many of the seminal family-friendly stories of our lifetime. Conversely, some of his employees understandably won’t miss working with him. I think we all appreciate his art just as many of us recognize that his behavior warranted action.
A Sad Week at the Grand Floridian
Another staple of The Walt Disney Company passed away the other day. And his presence will be sorely missed each and every time that we visit Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Honestly, I have a lump in my throat as I type this.
Richard Gerth might not be a name you know, but if you have ever walked up to the main lobby entrance at the Grand Floridian, you’ve likely seen his smiling face. The genial man has held doors for strangers since his arrival at the hotel in 1991. He was already 65 back then, and he met the ostensible age of retirement assertively. Rather than disappear from the working world, Gerth embarked on his new career. He became the friendly face that welcomed guests to Walt Disney World’s most luxurious hotel.
Small in stature but always nattily attired, Gerth’s warmth and generosity became so admired that he developed something of a cult following. More than 18,000 people became fans of Gerth on Facebook. He would call each of them friends, I’m sure, because that’s the kind of man he was. He was so beloved in the greater Orlando area that the Sun-Sentinel wrote a loving tribute to him.
On a personal note, I vividly recall a chance encounter with Gerth a few years ago. Our Magical Express driver had failed to do a head count, causing him to skip our stop at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. We exited at the Grand Floridian, and we looked like what we were: exhausted, frustrated, and dragging our luggage to the monorail, a huge no-no.
With a twinkle in his eye, Gerth joked that we were having a bit of a day. He then swore that he wouldn’t tell on us and that we had his permission. As we dragged our bags to the elevator, he confidently stated, “You’re at Disney World. I’m sure your day is about to turn around.” He was right, of course, as we were, and it did.
The funniest part was trying to explain to my wife who she’d just met. She had no idea that the tiny man in the bespoke suit and straw hat was a living legend. Gerth won The Walt Disney Company’s highest honor for customer service, and fans have already called for two honors befitting his contributions.
One is a special customer service award bearing his name. The other is a statue of him standing outside the Grand Floridian. Both are wonderful suggestions that his contributions justify. Feel free to campaign with Disney to bring either/both to life. Enjoy the afterlife, Mr. Gerth, and thank you for all the warm smiles over the years.
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