TCM to Sponsor Great Movie Ride: Why This Matters

Turner Classic Movies is entering into a sponsorship/strategic partnership with Disney, one that will include a sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, as well Walt Disney Studios providing TCM with vintage movies and episodes of TV series like “Disneyland” and “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” for a periodic programming block on the channel called “Treasures From the Disney Vault.”

The first change under the sponsorship will debut in early 2015, with the films in the pre-show theater queue and finale of the Great Movie Ride receiving a refresh thanks to Turner Classic Movies. Additional changes have not yet been announced, beyond some new branding (see poster below) and TCM to “inject brand authority” into the attraction, whatever that means (also see below). TCM will also attempt to encouraging guests to explore the world of classic film once they leave Walt Disney World.

There are a ton more details about the partnership in this New York Times article, but since I don’t see value in regurgitating info press release style here, I’ve covered only the salient details above. You can read that article for more specifics. Instead, I want to offer commentary focusing on why I think this is a big deal.

Actually, at first blush, it may not seem important at all. Perhaps even bad, if you love the pre-show film and its infinite quotability, as I do. No changes to the substance of the attraction have been announced, so this really might end up being a non-story.

I think that’s a fairly cynical view, although I can understand why Disney fans might be cynical about anything good happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am not quite this cynical… (more…)

Disney World Free Dining 2014 Dates

DSC_6407 as Smart Object-1 copy

Walt Disney World has announced 2014 free dining dates! Free Dining is now being offered to Disney Visa credit card holders and became available for booking beginning on May 2, 2014 for arrival dates beginning at the end of August through late December, with blockout dates. Exact dates are listed below. It is rumored that the general public will be able to book Free Dining packages on May 7, 2014. Based on what we’re now hearing, all of the “Free Dining” dates for the remainder of 2014 were made available all at once and are what’s listed below, rather than a staggered “Early Fall” and “Late Fall/Winter” release of dates as has happened in the past. With this Free Dining offer, Value Resort guests receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan during the promotion, and guests at Moderate and Deluxe Resorts receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. Upgrading to higher tiers is possible for an additional charge (see details below).

2014 Free Dining Dates:

  • August 31, 2014 – October 3, 2014
  • October 26, 2014 – November 1, 2014
  • November 9, 2014 – November 20, 2014
  • December 12, 2014 – December 23, 2014

If you will be traveling during these dates, we highly recommend making Advance Dining Reservations now, even if you’re not eligible to book free dining yet, or even if you don’t plan on booking it. Everyone gobbles up the good ADRs quickly for Free Dining dates, so if you don’t book early, you will be stuck eating counter service or unpopular restaurants for the duration of your trip. We also recommend booking as soon as possible, as some popular/low capacity resorts book up fast. Also, be prepared to spend a couple hours on hold when you call in the morning that Free Dining becomes available to the general public–these long waits are fairly typical (booking online is a better option–assuming the online promo goes live at 7 am on May 7). You might want to have a no-fee, Authorized Disney Vacation Planner book your Free Dining package for you.

Here are the room exclusions: All-Star Movies, Port Orleans Resort Riverside, Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, Fort Wilderness campsites, Grand Villas at all resorts (3-bedroom Disney Vacation Club rooms), Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms, and the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, are all not eligible for Free Dining.

If you are wondering which hotel to book for the Free Dining promotion, check out our new Best Walt Disney World Hotels for Free Dining post. It gives our preferred option for each resort tier!


Avatar Land Coming to Disney World!

Plans for AVATAR Land have been posted online, and on October 12, 2013 at the Japan D23 Expo, Disney released concept art seeming to confirm these plans. While Disney didn’t explicitly say so, the concept art features a boat floating through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants (think Living with the Land, except breathtaking “Imagineered” plants), a sim ride where you soar into the sky riding a Banshee (think Soarin’), and an incredible environment based on AVATAR, with mountains that appear to float, and other mythical environments. All of this roughly matches those plans that leaked back in 2012.

For some, the even bigger news is that the new plans call for nighttime entertainment on Discovery Island. Based on the description and concept art, this new show sounds like a combination of the Disney Dreams (at Disneyland Paris) tech and the type of pageantry from Tapestry of Nations, the parade that ran in Epcot’s World Showcase during the Millennium Celebration.

This all comes just a couple of months AVATAR Land was teased at the Anaheim D23 Expo, effectively putting to bed months of rumors that the project was on life support or dead (to be honest, we still had our doubts that it would happen…we totally believe it will now, but Disney projects have been killed in later stages than this before!). It sounds as if an agreement between James Cameron and Disney has been reached concerning the content of AVATAR Land, and the pace of the project is set to pick up. After the colossal success of the Disney California Adventure overhaul, let’s hope AVATAR Land is similarly well-done. (more…)

2013 Disney D23 Expo Recap & Impressions


Disney’s 2013 D23 Expo occurred over the weekend in Anaheim, and we were there for days 2 and 3. The Expo is the bi-yearly event where each forward-facing division of Disney can show off what it’s doing, and where fans can meet and interact. I intended upon doing a blog post with real-time updates throughout the Expo, but that would have been a lot of work and like 1,304 other blogs were already doing that, so it seemed pointless.

Instead, here’s a recap of what happened at the 2013 D23 Expo. Following that are some of my impressions of our first Expo (since this weekend probably doesn’t merit a full trip report) and a ‘review’ of sorts.


There isn’t a whole lot to recap. Most of what was covered at the 2013 D23 Expo was already known. Additional details were provided or clarified in some cases, but not a whole lot of “news” came out of the D23 Expo. Here are a few quick hits that are noteworthy, though:

  • The Haunted Mansion Hatbox Ghost Audio-Animatronics figure was shown in the Journey into Imagineering booth. Inside the Magic shared a video of that.
  • By all accounts, Frozen looks absolutely awesome, and is going to have a great soundtrack. Here’s hoping the sneak peak of that is as good as the film.
  • The Star Wars project code-named “Orange Harvest,” was displayed in the Imagineering both. It hints at the Star Wars Land said to be in development for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. has more on this.
  • AVATAR Land was a non-topic, but the Imagineering booth contained a work station with “artifacts” from an Imagineering scouting hunt in Pandora. Sometimes, nothing is better than something. (more…)

Journey into Imagination 2014 Refurbishment?

We recently shared that the popular rumor that Journey into Imagination will receive an extensive overhaul is making the rounds again. This time, there’s a twist, as there’s an actual rumored closure date (January 2, 2014) and Cast Members are reportedly being trained on other attractions. This signals that something big is potentially in store for the Imagination pavilion, the only question is “what?”

That’s unclear at this point, but the downtime is rumored to be for almost all of 2014. All signs point to Captain EO being jettisoned to the outer limits, with a new 3D film replacing it, and a substantial overhaul to Journey into Imagination. With the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opening early 2014 and other expansion rumored for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom not opening until 2016 at the absolute earliest, it seems possible that an overhaul of Journey into Imagination will be Walt Disney World’s “big” move for 2015.

Whenever a pavilion at Epcot is expected to have significant downtime, there is always the understandable concern that the downtime is actually Walt Disney World’s way of quietly killing the attractions inside. Fans have witnessed this happen too many times to be completely trusting of the “refurbishment” designation for a pavilion that is only moderately popular. For a number of reasons, I highly doubt that’s what’s going to happen here, but the concerns are still valid.

I have no inside information on this potential refurbishment, but some of you have been asking for my take on these rumors as you know that I’m a huge Journey into Imagination fan, so here goes… (more…)

Disney Springs Announced for Downtown Disney


Disney Springs is the redevelopment of Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World, announced March 14, 2013 and set to complete construction in 2016, but open in phases prior to that. It is a shopping district concept that is intended to revitalize Downtown Disney and replace the disjointed Westside and Pleasure Island with a single, cohesive concept, separated into four areas: Town Square, Landing, Marketplace, and Westside. Construction begins April 2013.

Once complete, Disney Springs will have over 150 establishments (double Downtown Disney’s current number of approximately 75). The redevelopment is designed to evoke the feeling of turn of the century Florida, and Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs focused heavily on the redesign being a place for families. No announcements have been made concerning the shops, restaurants, and entertainment that will operate at Disney Springs, but speculation is rampant based upon previously leaked plans and a presentation containing the names of numerous third parties, as well as a few Disney-operated restaurants.

The facts of the announcement are covered here and the leaked plans are available here, so we’ll spare you that regurgitated info. Instead, we’ll share our reaction to the news… (more…)