11 Worst Things That Happened at Walt Disney World in 2019
Another exciting year at Walt Disney World has come and gone. While Disney fans will remember 2019 for its remarkable accomplishments, the company still suffered some lowlights. Here’s the Worst of Walt Disney World 2019.
11. Chaos at Rise of the Resistance
This one is really a positive disguised as a negative. Demand for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance reached such heights that Disney officials scrambled to find ways to solve the congestion issues.
Coming to you LIVE from Hollywood Studios!
Posted by MickeyBlog.com on Thursday, December 26, 2019
Disney introduced a digital queue system with boarding groups for the ride. However, Disney’s Hollywood Studios also opened at random times for several straight days, sometimes as early as 6:20 a.m. If not for these steps, Disney could have never met all the demand for their greatest theme park ride of the 21st century.
10. Star Wars Restaurant Menus Change Names…Twice
Imagineers themed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so precisely that even the restaurants were alien. Instead of fried chicken, guests had to order Fried Endorian Tip Yip. It somewhat became a blind taste test as confused patrons guessed at what their food would be.
Cast members heroically attempted to explain the menu in detail, but that solution came with problems. Disney wasted work-hours this way, and not every guest could perfectly understand cast members. So, the company changed the menus of Batuu to much more Earth-friendly names.
For example, the Tip Yip became…Fried Chicken. For a brief period, that’s what it said on the menu. Star Wars fans expressed outrage at this, and so Disney tried again. They altered the menus to a more middling position. Now, hungry guests can order Endorian Fried Chicken Tip Yip. This way, Batuu keeps its detailed theming, but guests know what they’re ordering.
9. Disney Changes Stroller Rental and Delivery Rules
Ever since the advent of Amazon, enterprising Disney fans have found smart ways to save money during a Walt Disney World vacation. They’ve shipped packages to their hotel in time for the visit. Everyone knows that Disney overcharges for things like bottled water, while Amazon sells cases of the stuff for low prices.
The problem on Disney’s end is that cast members must shirk other responsibilities while accepting Disney packages. Then, they must take the items to the guest’s room. It’s just not a great use of company resources.
To counteract this problem, Disney got a bit greedy. The company announced a new policy to charge guests a modest fee for room delivery. This didn’t go over well, and so hotel managers re-evaluated the entire system.
Disney altered third-party vendor delivery rules such that guests must be present for almost all transactions. The lone exception is “trusted vendors,” a term for the businesses that pay Disney for the privilege of exclusivity.
Now, stuff like stroller and ECV rentals require you to be there for the pick-up unless it’s one of Disney’s preferred companies. It’s not a welcome change, but that’s the rule now.
8. PhotoPass Switches Heavily to Automated Pictures
In late 2018, Walt Disney World officials confirmed a plan to replace PhotoPass photographers with an automated system. By Disney’s logic, cast members could only capture a handful of images during guest interactions. A computerized eye-in-the-sky device could catch every moment of the same encounter.
Disney fans recoiled at the idea, which forced Disney to dial back some of their plans for automated kiosks. Management didn’t abandon the strategy entirely, though. During 2019, Disney implemented these computerized systems in several popular character spots.
For example, you’ll now find this service at Star Wars Launch Bay. Even some of the classic Disney spots have converted to automated kiosks. Celebration Central with Mickey & Minnie has changed from conventional photographers to computers. Thousands of loyalists have signed petitions against this change, but Disney officials stubbornly did it anyway.
7. NBA Experience Opens to Yawns
In 2017, after nearly 20 years in operation, DisneyQuest at Disney Springs closed permanently. Disney officials felt that they could get better use out of the space by re-theming it to something more commercial.
The company soon revealed that Imagineers would repurpose the building as NBA Experience. It would showcase the beauty of basketball as a sport. Disney’s ESPN arm possesses strong ties to the NBA. So, the idea made sense from a relationship perspective.
From a business perspective, well, it hasn’t done well. Even in the earliest days, attendance at NBA Experience seemed disappointing. Disney didn’t include admission with any ticket packages, forcing guests to pay $34 per person to enter the facility.
Once inside, the attractions are pretty entertaining. I don’t think that anybody believes that they’re worth $34, though. A strong selling point is the exclusive merchandise, but it’s overpriced. Also, some of it is available without admission.
Disney has since offered ticket deals for annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. Even with those incentives, NBA Experience appears likely to get ignored by most vacationers. The only exception would be if/when Disney adds admission to ticket packages, as they’ve done with mini-golf courses.
6. Monorail Evacuation
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re remembering the monorail evacuation from 2018 and worrying that I’m confusing my years. Sadly, I’m not.
Walt Disney World experienced another monorail mechanical issue in September of 2019. The tram lost power entirely, leaving Disney with no other choice. They had to evacuate the customers onboard via emergency response cherry pickers. It was a nightmarish experience for all involved.
Ordinarily, this story would have lingered in the memories of Disney fans for months. However, something even worse happened a few days later. And that caused people to forget about this one.
5. IllumiNations Ends, Epcot Forever Poorly Received
On September 30th, IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth played for the last time at Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon. The fireworks exhibition became such a staple of an Epcot night that the Themed Entertainment Association had to retire an award. IllumiNations won the Best Outdoor Night Production from 2005 through 2015.
Disney’s decision to close IllumiNations struck many as odd. However, the reality is that some of the presentation’s spectacular visuals grew less spectacular over time. Park officials believed that they needed to make a change.
MickeyBlog’s coverage of the last night of Illuminations:
Coming to you LIVE from Illuminations: Reflections of Earth!
Posted by MickeyBlog.com on Thursday, July 18, 2019
In 2020, a new nighttime fireworks show will anchor World Showcase Lagoon. Until then, Disney needed a bridge presentation to fill the void. That show, Epcot Forever, highlights some of the greatest tunes from Epcot attractions. And it’s sadly made the Worst of list because many people don’t care for it.
Personally, I adore the show, but I’m an evangelist for the early days of Epcot. People who don’t fall into that group just aren’t interested in Epcot Forever. The lack of crowds for the fireworks tells the story. Disney sought a placeholder presentation, but the consensus regarding Epcot Forever is that it isn’t good enough. I don’t get that at all.
MickeyBlog’s coverage of the first night of Epcot Forever:
Coming to you LIVE from Epcot Forever!
Posted by MickeyBlog.com on Monday, October 28, 2019
4. Buzzy Gets Stolen
The funniest story that MickeyBlog followed this year is also the unlikeliest.
All the way back in 2007, Cranium Command closed at the Wonders of Life pavilion. In fact, the entire pavilion closed, and nobody has thought much about the attraction since then.
Well, that seemed accurate until the old Buzzy audio-animatronic (AA) went missing. Suddenly, Buzzy became the trending story for May. Word leaked that Epcot employees couldn’t find the adorable lil dude. Then, the story turned ugly when mainstream media outlets found out a sordid detail.
The thief had taunted Disney about the burglary. Someone sent Disney pictures of Buzzy’s mechanical, disembodied head! What a monster! For Disney’s part, the staff knew that they were missing roughly $7,000 of stuff.
The story provided another twist when the police discovered the thief. This genius listed some of the items for sale online! People like this are why statistics show that 90 percent of criminals get caught. But the best part wouldn’t come out until late in the year.
The new owner of Buzzy was none other than NBA star and Disney superfan, Robin Lopez. The thief had contacted Lopez to gauge interest in the items. The baller certainly was but sought assurance that the person owned Buzzy legally. The criminal lied — big surprise — and persuaded Lopez to buy the AA.
Lopez will apparently testify in court about the transaction. The current state of Buzzy’s head isn’t known, though. What kind of person would rip Buzzy to pieces???
3. Epcot Closures
At the 2019 D-23 Expo, Disney executives acknowledged the obvious. Epcot’s in the early stages of a massive overhaul. Imagineers will make sweeping changes to the walking paths within the park, a rarity across all Disney theme parks.
To start these changes, Epcot had to close a lot of established stores and attractions. While some of these shutdowns haven’t occurred yet, here’s the list of stuff that’s either leaving the park temporarily or forever:
- Art of Disney Baymax Character Spot
- Club Cool
- Fountain of Nations
- Fountain View Starbucks
- Innoventions East attractions (Colortopia et al.)
- Joy and Sadness Character Spot (Joy will get moved elsewhere)
- Mouse Gear (will have a temporary store in a different place)
- Pin Central
The front of Epcot’s going to look entirely different in 18 months.
2. Magic Band Glitch at Magic Kingdom glitch forces barcode scanning of Magic Bands, nightmare day for park guests
When Disney introduced Magic Bands, critics jumped on the technology for any headline-worthy glitch. Over the past few years, Disney’s had the last laugh, as the reliability of Magic Bands is exceptionally high.
In late-July, Magic Kingdom guests learned just how much they rely on Magic Bands. A computer system glitch knocked out the entire service. Guests couldn’t use their Magic Bands for park admission.
Without Magic Band access, Magic Kingdom collapsed into a state of anarchy. Okay, not really. The situation wasn’t great, though. Cast members had to dust off barcode scanners (what year is this?) to verify admission.
This process went so slowly that guests claimed they waited more than two hours to enter the park. Angry customers swarmed Disney’s social media channels with complaints. The entire situation seemed like a lock for the worst mishap of the year, but then…
1. The Disney Skyliner Incident
Need I say more? Virtually everyone knows about this story by now. On September 29th, Disney finally opened the Disney Skyliner system. This introduction occurred a month later than expected, as most analysts expected the new gondolas to launch at the same time as Galaxy’s Edge.
Apparently, park officials had a good reason for the delay. The Skyliner operated for less than a week before a serious mishap occurred. An issue that a PR rep described as a “power failure” stranded guests in the sky for more than three hours.
Before the new gondolas opened, virtually everyone against the idea stated their fear that they’d get stuck on it. Disney executives dismissed the thought as unlikely right up until it happened. Then, everyone realized just how poorly the company had prepared for the worst.
Trapped travelers tried to call Disney for help. Many of those calls went unanswered. Most of the ones that did get in touch with cast members received little support. After all, nobody had experienced a Skyliner shutdown before, and the troubleshooting process was unclear.
Meanwhile, those poor unfortunate souls in the gondolas got plenty of salt in their wounds. The audio recording announcements repeated every few minutes. It was the equivalent of getting stuck on It’s a Small World, only several stories above ground.
I could go into greater detail on all that went wrong with this accident. There’s really no point, though. Everybody knows that Disney screwed up huge. The Disney Skyliner shutdown wasn’t just the worst thing that happened at Walt Disney World this year. It was one of the lowlights of the 21st century.