9 Incredible Disney Lowlights and Bloopers of 2018
Here at MickeyBlog, we all love The Walt Disney Company. In fact, we’re so passionate about all things Mickey Mouse that we’ve named the blog after him! We’re not blind to reason, though. We understand that all companies suffer the occasional blunder here or there. Some of them are frustrating to customers while others are…pretty funny. Let’s take a look back at the Disney’s nine lowlights of 2018!
9) A Bug’s Land closes at Disneyland
Ch-ch-changes! David Bowie sang about them way back when, and we as a society face them every day. Dealing with change is never easy, especially for Disney enthusiasts. On the one hand, we warmly embrace Walt Disney’s philosophy that plussing attractions is the only way to assure that the Happiest Place on Earth stays true to its next name. On the other hand, we hate the idea of losing some of the things that we love.
At Disney California Adventure (DCA), A Bug’s Land wasn’t an original themed land. The park opened in February of 2001 while the Pixar section wouldn’t debut until October of 2002. To a certain extent, it was an emergency construction since the opening of DCA was such a disappointment. Since the characters of A Bug’s Land are so adorable, however, we loved it anyway.
While we understand the need for progress, many Disney fans regret that upcoming changes at DCA come at the expense of A Bug’s Land. In September, the themed land closed for good. Some of the parts from one of its attractions, Flik’s Flyers, will be repurposed for Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, which opens later this year.
As for the allotted space at A Bug’s Land, a new and assuredly more popular Marvel-themed area will replace it. The entire situation proves once and for all that it’s tough to be a bug!
8) Be Our Guest Switches to Signature Dinner
Unwelcome price increases were one of the primary complaints that guests made against Disney last year. I’m generally immune to these aggravations, as I understand that Disney is a business. Yes, adding parking fees at hotel resorts wasn’t cool.
No, Disney shouldn’t have raised the rate of a Minnie Van ride three times in a calendar year. And none of us want annual admission ticket rate hikes. It’s the world in which we live, though. Products that are in demand will experience price increases. Some situations are more irritating than cost-of-living increases, though.
I don’t know about you all, but I hoard my Disney Dining Plan credits like a dragon protects all the golden treasure in its lair. The thought of spending more entitlements irritates me almost as much as the thought of NOT visiting a Disney theme park. I’m confident you can relate. So, Disney’s altering Be Our Guest Restaurant to turn it into a Signature Dining experience at dinner was just…mean.
To justify the price increase/doubling of dining plan entitlements, Disney changed the service to a prix fixe meal. This new dinner is $55 per person, and reviews for it range from “good but overpriced” to “terrible AND overpriced.”
The worst part is that the meal is still mainly the same as what a person on the dining plan would get previously. You’re just paying more or spending more entitlements for it. This isn’t a good look, Disney.
7) Robots Take Your Picture
The PhotoPass service is one of the best packages that you can buy at Walt Disney World. When you have PhotoPass, you can walk up to any Disney photographer that you see and ask to have your picture taken. The tireless professionals will work hard to ensure that you have a photograph that will provide you with memories for a lifetime.
As a money-saving tactic, Disney recently changed this practice. No, they didn’t touch PhotoPass. Instead, they added automation to a few of the character meeting spots, nine to be exact. This news wasn’t well-received by even the most loyal of Disney fans.
While park officials believe – and may be right – that an automated system is more likely to capture priceless moments, the human element of photography is invaluable to many. They don’t want a computer placed in charge, as machine logic isn’t always ideal. Disney may yet relent on this one due to the negative feedback that they’ve received thus far.
6) Pandora Closes Due to Fire Alarm Woes
Even after the opening of Toy Story Land, Pandora – The World of Avatar remains the hottest ticket at Walt Disney World. Park visitors are pulled to this themed land almost as if magnets are involved.
One of the secrets of Pandora is that its two attractions, Na’Vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage, share the same ride building area. At two points during 2018, the same issue caused the closure of both rides for an extended period. A faulty fire alarm system triggered problems that Imagineers had to correct.
Even though no one was in any danger whatsoever, Disney’s security practices are so strenuous that, at one point, both Pandora rides were closed for a full day. You can imagine what that did to theme park traffic at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that day. Strangely, it was nowhere near the worst park problem that they had in 2018, as you’re about to see.
5) Two Disney Transportation Vehicles Crash
At Walt Disney World, buses come and go seemingly every minute of the day. They’re the central transportation system in place, even though more people would equate the monorail with Disney. Sadly, both means of transportation suffered some struggles during 2018.
The most famous single incident happened late in the year. A 21-year-old cast member driving a bus on Epcot Center Drive failed to notice a different vehicle stopped in the road near the Epcot Toll Booth. The passengers on that vehicle, operated by Mears, received quite a surprise when they got rear-ended.
While news sites have exaggerated the velocity of the collision, it occurred at a very low speed. Still, it was impactful enough to crack the windshield of one bus. The young bus driver and 14 passengers required medical attention, too.
The 21-year-old was later ruled at fault and charged with a minor count of reckless driving. None of the passengers suffered any life-threatening injuries or the like. You can read the full details here. Given the sheer volume of bus trips at Walt Disney World each day, I’m honestly surprised that this sort of thing doesn’t take place more often.
4) Downtown Disney Hotel Project Collapses
One of the open secrets at Disneyland is that Disney needs more hotel rooms. Since the very beginning of the park, hotel space has been at a premium. Due to the prohibitive price of land in this part of Anaheim, Imagineers have only constructed one resort, Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa. The other two official properties, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and (unbelievably) the Disneyland Hotel, were later acquisitions.
Park officials had huge plans to change this situation with a new upscale resort at Downtown Disney. Then, something shocking occurred. The company lost a tax incentive credit valued at $267 million! The city of Anaheim’s governing council demanded that Disney honor the precise plans of its project.
Initially, Imagineers had planned to break ground at a set location before deciding that another one two blocks away better suited their needs. Anaheim’s city council told Disney that the tax rebate only applied to the original site.
The standoff between Disneyland and the city it made famous became one of the oddest stories of 2018. Several members of the city council had campaigned against Disney and earned their spots by promising to stand up to the company. The Downtown Disney hotel became these council people’s first opportunity to do so, and they made good on their campaign promise.
Disney executives were caught unprepared. The intransigence of the council’s position was particularly problematic since Disney had already closed several Downtown Disney stores and restaurants. With so much at stake, employees at the highest levels of Disney plotted a new strategy.
Park officials ended the Downtown Disney hotel project and entered into a new agreement with the city of Anaheim. They will no longer receive tax breaks from the city. It’s an unexpected twist to an acrimonious situation and one that leaves Disney without adequate hotel space for the foreseeable future.
On the plus side, the previously closed Earl of Sandwich got to re-open!
3) Spaceship Earth Leaks
Spaceship Earth opened in 1982 and immediately became one of the most memorable architectural structures in America. It was undeniably one of the top three landmarks in the south. A grand accomplishment in Imagineering, this geodesic dome combined form and function. As you know, the Florida weather is mercurial, with rain showers that appear seemingly out of nowhere.
Part of the design of Spaceship Earth is that it’s waterproof. The triangles that comprise the outer layer of the giant golf ball are angled in a way that causes rain to drip down safely away from the ride. And that’s why this story is so surprising.
Spaceship Earth sprang a leak in September of 2018. A plumbing issue caused a link within the lower portion of the building. This leak was so significant that it caused the unthinkable. Water dripped all the way outside the structure. The video of it blew up social media, although the issue was addressed so quickly that Spaceship Earth re-opened later that day.
2) The Monorail Has Problems (door opening, door falling off)
During most years, the sight gag at Spaceship Earth would win going away as the most visually ridiculous slapstick moment. 2018 was different, though.
The monorail system at Walt Disney World has employed the same monorail fleet for longer than any other one in the history of Disney. Critics have asserted for a while now that Disney must upgrade their fleet. These voices grew louder in 2018 due to a couple of famous incidents.
In January of 2018, the Monorail Red confused and frightened guests. The door on one of the ride cars opened! Passengers onboard at that moment could do nothing but gaze in confusion and, you know, hold on for dear life until the monorail reached its next destination. And then a door fell off.
Okay, this didn’t happen at the same time and wasn’t even on the same monorail car. In November, visitors at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa witnessed a shocking sight. The door on a Monorail Green car fell off!!!
Social media users suddenly noticed a slew of images of a monorail door hanging beneath the tracks at the Grand Floridian’s depot. The incident became a clarion call for monorail critics to scream from the rafters that Disney needs a new fleet at Walt Disney World. They’re right, too.
1) Maleficent Catches Fire
Several of the stories mentioned here are memorable and meaningful in their own ways. Picking the low light comes down to how a person values perception vs. financials and so forth. To Disney, the loss of the Downtown Disney hotel project was undoubtedly their lowlight.
To anyone trying to use the monorail on one of those two fateful days during 2018, it was the worst moment. And the folks who got went as they tried to walk by Spaceship Earth that day, it’s tough to imagine anything throwing under that.
As an unbiased observer, however, one moment embodied Disney’s unlikely series of park-related snafus in 2018. The Maleficent dragon from the Festival of Fantasy Parade started breathing fire! And no, it wasn’t part of the show. A gas line issue inside the structure got disconnected, leading to the flammable ignition that should have taken place above Maleficent to happen inside her.
The visual quickly went viral. Sites ranging from Entertainment Weekly to CNN latched onto the image of an actual, fire-breathing dragon. To be fair, it was very, very funny. For Disney, it was a rare black eye at a place known for its strenuous safety tests. Thankfully, no one was harmed by the fire or the “RUN AWAY FROM THE DRAGON!!!” stampede that it caused. Even the lowest of Disney lowlights is more funny than scary.