Not Just Imagination would like to Wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
Ok, so this is my first of what I hope will be a weekly post sharing news stories about Disney and my thoughts about those stories. So without further ado here are the news stories about Disney I found interesting this week.
First up is an article form the Orlando Sentinel. Starting January 10, guest at seven hotels located near Disney Springs will now be able to take part in Disney’s Extra Magic Hours and be able to reserve Fast Passes 60 days prior to their vacation. I have three thoughts about this. 1. Now it will be even harder to score those coveted Flight of Passage fast passes then it is now. 2. Extra Magic hours will be even more crowded, making the park with Extra Magic hours the one to avoid. 3. Disney must be doing this to increase traffic to Disney Springs.
Meanwhile, Also at Disney World the new President Trump animatronic was unveiled. This article from Fox News is about people’s reactions to what the animatronic looks like. Personally I don’t think I will make a judgement about this until I can see it from the Hall of Presidents and not from a picture taken with a telephoto lens. After all we are talking about a figure that is meant to be viewed from a distance not close up.
This week Disney dominated the box office with “The Last Jedi”. This Time article is about the record box office numbers as well as the critics’ and fans’ reaction to the film. I have not had the chance to see “The Last Jedi” yet, even with some of the criticisms I have seen in the news I am still excited about it. I think the continued success of the movie franchise will create more opportunities for us Disney and Start Wars fans to enjoy our favorite galaxy far far away in the theme parks and on movie screens in the future.
This is good news for those of you with Frozen fans in the family. Animation Magazine is reporting that “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” is already available on Movie Anywhere. II have found Disney’s treatment of this short very interesting. I think the inclusion of it before “Coco” was to help drive up ticket sales for that movie during the Holiday season. Then after being removed from the theater before “Coco” was, Olaf’s Frozen adventure was aired on ABC as a Holiday special. Now it is already avaiable for purchase on Movies Anywhere just in time for Christmas. I am assuming this was all planned by Disney, and I think it is a very interesting model for the release of a short film. I hope to see Disney do this in the future with other films.
Finally, while this is actually news from last week, that has been reported just about everywhere so I will not include any links. Disney has agreed to purchase major portions of Fox including 20th Century Fox and it’s massive catalog. This move does a lot as it get Disney control of the movie rights of even more of the Marvel characters. Also even though Disney owns Lucas Arts and the Star Wars franchise, Fox actually owns the distribution rights to “A New Hope”.
In my previous post I listed the advantages and disadvantages of staying offsite versus staying on site at Walt Disney World. I did this without mentioning where I like to stay and why. Prior to 2012 I always stayed at one of the value resorts (Pop Century, All Star Music, All Start Sports, and All Start Movies). The primary reason I stayed at thee locations was the price. I did not care about the size of the room or the lack of amenities. I spent most of my waking hours in the parks. I did always have a few problems with the value resorts though.
- The rooms were small. It seemed like we were always getting in each others way, and getting ready to go in the morning took longer as we all waited for our turn in the bathroom.
- The long walk to the food court and bus stops. Depending on where our room was, it would take five to ten minutes of walking to get to either. That made it a little inconvenient for getting a drink in our refillable mugs in the morning, or when we got back from the park in the evening.
- The buses were always packed, and it often took as much as an hour to get from my room to the front gate of the parks.
In 2012 this all changed for me, as we were traveling to Disney World with a friend who suggested renting a condo. The place we finally choose was in a neighborhood called Windsor Hills. The condo had 3 bed rooms and two bathrooms and it had a kitchen. While we still eat most of our meals in the theme parks the kitchen made it easy to make a good breakfast. An other advantage I quickly discovered was the additional room that we had, it no longer seemed like we were tripping over each other while we were getting ready in the morning. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that the trip to the park was much quicker. We almost always drive our own car to Disney World, and with the condo only being two and a half miles from World Drive we would get to the parking lots very quickly. In fact, with the exception of the Magic Kingdom we were actually in the parks more quickly than when we stayed at Disney’s Value resorts. Every vacation since 2012 we have stayed in Windsor Hills in either a Condo or a Townhouse. The townhouses have three bedrooms and three bathrooms which we have found to be even more convenient. We no longer have to wait on the bathroom when we are getting ready for bed, or to go to the parks.
If you are considering staying offsite be sure to look around, there are plenty of options that just may be more to your liking than a hotel room somewhere. It also may be quite a bit cheaper, we stay at the townhouse for about $300 less per week than getting two rooms at a value resort (we usually have a group of six which necessitates the two rooms).
Choosing a place to stay for your Walt Disney World vacation can be a daunting task. By itself Disney owns and runs 28 hotels on it’s property. When you include all the hotels, rental homes, and time shares in the area surrounding Walt Disney, you have a lot of options to choose from. So how do you choose? Let’s start by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of staying in a Disney hotel versus a hotel or property not run by Disney.
Let’s start with the non-Disney properties usually referred to staying “offsite” by Disney fans.
Advantages of Offsite accommodations :
- Most offsite accommodations cost less (sometimes significantly less) than the Disney resorts,
- Most offsite locations offer more room than the Disney resorts
- If you go the rental home route you will have a full kitchen, which will allow you to save money on dining.
- You can escape the Disney Theming.
Disadvantages of Offsite accommodations :
- Depending on where you are staying you may need a car, or need to plan on the additional expense of Uber.
- Travel time to the parks may be increased. (When choosing offsite locations be sure to check how far away from Disney it is on a map).
- If you hotel does offer bus transportation to the Theme Parks it may not be as reliable as Disney’s bus services.
- If you are driving to the parks, you will have to pay $20 for parking each day.
- You will not be able to reserve your fast passes till 30 days before you arrive at the theme park.
- You will not be able to take part in Extra Magic Hours.
Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of staying at a Disney resort. This is what you will usually see Disney fans referring to as staying “Onsite”.
Advantages of Onsite accommodations:
- Free transportation from your resort to the Theme Parks, Water Parks and Disney Springs.
- Disney’s Magical express, a free bus service to and from Orlando international airport.
- Extra Magic Hours, which is time in the parks for only Disney Resort guest.
- The ability to reserve your FastPasses 60 days prior to your check in date.
- Free parking at the parks if you decide to drive your own vehicle or rental car.
Disadvantages of Onsite accommodations:
- Rooms are normally more expensive than rooms at hotels offsite.
- The standard rooms in the resort are normally far away from the bus stops and dining options.
- Rooms are usually smaller that at offsite hotels.
- You will often find yourself waiting in line for the Disney Buses, especially when trying to leave one of the parks after the nightly fireworks.
You also have to keep in mind that both the price and size of accommodations both Onsite and offsite vary widely. When making your accommodation you need to keep in mind that saving money and having more space in offsite accommodations may result in you sacrificing convenience, or exclusive benefits. You also need to consider the amenities at the place you are planning on staying. Will you actually be spending a lot of time there to enjoy the amenities, or will you be spending most of your waking hours in the parks.
Disney is always a magical place to visit, though during the Holidays it seems even more magical. Below I have my top 5 reasons to visit Walt Disney During the Holidays.
- Christmas music and decorations – Throughout the parks and resorts Disney goes all out with Christmas decorations and music that are themed to the area where they are located. For example Disney’s Hollywood Studios has decorations that look like the decorations of the 1930’s – 1950’s, with Christmas music playing from artist like Bing Crosby, the Andrew Sisters and Frank Sinatra.
- Special holiday entertainment – During the Holidays Disney has many special show for guest to Enjoy. In Epcot there is “Holidays around the World” where each country in the World showcase has a story teller that tells guest about the Holiday traditions of that country. Also around the World Showcase there are additional music acts (in addition to the groups that normally perform there) performing music appropriate for the season. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios there is the firework and projection show “Jingle Bing, Jingle Bam” staring the elves from “Prep and Landing”. Starting in 2017 there is also Holiday projections on the outside of the Tower of Terror. In Magic Kingdom there is the “Once Upon a Christmas Parade” and “A Frozen Holiday Wish Castle Lighting” featuring the characters from Frozen.
- Holiday food and drinks – This is especially true of Epcot’s World Showcase where Holiday Kitchens are selling traditional holiday foods and drinks from the country they represent. However, in the rest of Disney World you will also find some Holiday treats. Also if you are in Disney on Christmas or Thanksgiving several of the restaurants offer traditional Holiday dinners, as a warning be sure to check the menu before you arrive though as several of these special meals come with a special price.
- Holiday Versions of popular rides and shows – Do you like Illuminations? Then between Thanksgiving and New Years is the time to see it, as it is about 5 minutes longer with a special “Let there be Peace on Earth” finally. Other attractions get holiday decorations too, for example the Jungle Boat Cruise becomes the Jingle Boat Cruise complete with a different set of corny jokes.
- The Candle Light Processional – I know some readers are saying wait a second shouldn’t that be included with the special Holiday shows? And it probably should, but I think this one is so special it deserves it’s own listing. The Candle Light Processional tells the story of Jesus’s birth through the use of a full orchestra, mass choir and celebrity narrator. Normally there are three shows scheduled throughout the evening, but you will need to get in line early. Your other option for seeing the show is to purchase a Candle Light Processional dining package. The Dining package is available at several restaurants throughout Epcot, and includes guaranteed seating for one of the shows. You will need to reserve the Dining package as soon as they are announced (Usually the first week of July) as they are very popular and sell out quickly.
Did I miss any of your favorites? Please let me know in the comments.