MickeyBlog News for January 13, 2020
This past week, Disney reduced the number of buses operating at some Walt Disney World resorts. Then, they introduced a new club for runners. No, these two things aren’t related…I don’t think. But we’ll talk about them, the death of a Disney icon, the firing of another famous person, and the hiring of a real-life princess in the latest edition of MickeyBlog News.
Disney Moves Forward with the Skyliner Plan
When Walt Disney World announced the Disney Skyliner, everyone realized that the company would reduce the number of buses running at some point. What has caught everyone by surprise is how quickly Disney moved to do so.
Barely three months after the gondola system opened, Disney officials changed the bus schedule at several official resorts. All four properties with a Skyliner station have reduced the number of buses departing from the hotel.
Specifically, these hotels only send buses to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios once per hour.
The impacted resorts are:
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
This policy change comes with many questions and a fair amount of criticism. Thus far, the Skyliner has already suffered one memorable shutdown and several less publicized ones. In fact, we’ve already witnessed a couple of closures in 2020, which isn’t even two weeks old.
Disney executives have pushed forward with a plan to reduce the public’s reliance on buses. However, they really should have waited until the Skyliner has proven that it can run smoothly for at least a few consecutive weeks.
Anyway, if/when you stay at one of these resorts, please be aware of the changes. Realistically, you were probably going to use the Skyliner most of the time anyway. Disney’s just limiting your options now.
Join a runDisney Club!
I’m not much of an outdoor runner. I’m more of a treadmill guy. So, I’ve never participated in a runDisney event, although I’ve vacationed at Disney with people who have.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the passionate, almost single-minded devotion that guests have to these mini-marathons. So, I’m not surprised by the latest announcement.
Disney wants you to join the club in 2020. Specifically, the people in charge of these events want you to become a member of Club runDisney. It’s a new annual subscription service with three tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
For $265, you can join the Silver level of the program. You’ll get a special runDisney jacket plus the opportunity to register for events first. You’ll also receive unique runDisney bibs, and Disney has promised a Virtual 10k solely for club members.
The Gold tier costs $479 and adds an even better amenity. For this price, you receive guaranteed entry to a runDisney marathon!
Finally, Disney offers the Platinum tier for $798. With the highest level of membership, you gain access to merchandise before it goes on sale to the general public plus a private character meeting. And you gain admittance to the exclusive runDisney lounge.
Disney’s betting on the fact that runDisney guests will happily pay more to streamline the racing experience. Given the crowds at runDisney events, I’m confident they’re right.
MouseGear Closes But…
Perhaps the most recognizable store at Epcot is gone, at least for a time. Several months after its scheduled closing, MouseGear closed its doors for an extended period.
Disney will renovate the merchandise outlet, modernizing it while bringing it line with the company’s vision for the park’s future. The MouseGear of old wouldn’t fit in with the sweeping changes in store for the former Future World. So, MouseGear has to go for a time.
However, MouseGear earns too much money each day for Epcot to lose it. So, park officials have introduced a temporary version of MouseGear at Innoventions East.
It’s a makeshift solution intended to reduce the financial shortfall caused by MouseGear’s absence. To you and me, it’s a new, albeit temporary version of a terrific store. I can’t wait to shop there in a couple of weeks.
Lizzie McGuire Creator Fired
Hoo boy. This isn’t a story I ever expected to cover. In 2001, Terri Minsky created a new television series for the Disney Channel. Lizzie McGuire would quickly become the defining television program for a generation of viewers. It ran for 65 episodes and eventually received a theatrical movie release, one that did shockingly well.
With the advent of Disney+, several classic Disney Channel shows have discovered new life. Company officials have greenlit updated versions of these programs, including Lizzie McGuire.
In the new take, Lizzie is about to turn 30, but she still receives (sometimes unwanted) advice from the cartoon 13-year-old version of herself. Everything about this idea has delighted fans, and Disney even saved the announcement for the 2019 D-23 Expo since they knew it would gain all sorts of positive media acclaim.
Alas, the bloom is off the rose now. After only two episodes of the new Lizzie McGuire, Disney has fired Terri Minsky. And the company’s official statement is quite icy: “After filming two episodes, we concluded that we need to move in a different creative direction and are putting a new lens on the show.”
The Lizzie McGuire reboot is on hiatus right now, while Disney scrambles to find someone who can take over for the woman who invented the program. It’s a big ask. However, I have enough friends in television and movies to know that if the company felt the need to do this, the production must have been in serious jeopardy.
A New Kind of Disney Princess
I’ve never been one of those people who follows the royals. I’m only vaguely aware of the rift between the Queen Mother and some of his ancestors. And I mainly know Meghan Markle from Suits and a Hallmark movie, not as the modern Princess Grace, an actress turned actual princess.
Having said that, I’m on social media and read the news enough to know what’s going on. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle just quit the royal family, which means that England might already have its most impactful story for 2020. I think this tweet sums up the situation best:
First time I’ve ever seen someone quit their family, saying it’s to spend more time with their jobs. https://t.co/iFBZokRXhX
— Eric Nelson (@literaryeric) January 8, 2020
What does any of this have to do with Disney? Well, Markle wants to return to Hollywood, but she wants to maintain her track record of charitable endeavors as the Duchess of Sussex.
So, she’s agreed to perform voiceover work in an unspecified Disney project. In exchange, the company will donate money to a charity of Markle’s choosing, one involving elephants.
This deal represents more than kindness from Disney. It also earns them a metric ton of free publicity. Right now, every move that Markle and Prince Harry make becomes international headlines.
So, Disney just got a lot of (almost) free press out of this. And they’ll get rewarded again when Markle’s project gets released.
The Death of an Icon
I’ve loved every Disney resort I’ve ever stayed in, but one towers above the rest for me. I’m a diehard fan of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, my home away from home. I dreamt of living here as a kid, and my Disney Vacation Club membership means that I kind of do now.
Throughout my Disney visits, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with one of the most recognizable faces at Walt Disney World. Aunty Kau’i, aka Kau’i Brandt, has died at the age of 88. Disney famously poached the Polynesian dancer during the 1960s, first convincing her to perform at Disneyland.
Brandt would transfer to Walt Disney World in time for the grand opening in 1971. She has entertained guests at the resort ever since then. Aunty Kau’i has handed out leis for as long as I can remember, and I’m heartbroken to know that the one she gave my wife in 2017 was the last one we’ll ever get.
This extraordinary woman brought joy into the lives of hundreds of thousands of hotel guests over the years. She’s an intrinsic part of the Polynesian’s reputation among Walt Disney World guests. She will be missed.
PS: Dewayne Bevil at the Orlando Sentinel wrote this lovely piece about her, the last of several from the newspaper over the years. It’s definitely worth a read.