Disney Springs Update: Game of Thrones Cupcake, NBA Experience, Etc.

Disney Springs is next up for our May 2019 Walt Disney World Construction Updates & Photo Reports. In this, we look at what little work is still happening around Disney Springs…with a really long Game of Thrones cupcake review at the end.

Before that, we’ll take a photo stroll around Town Center, the Landing, West Side, and Marketplace to check out the the latest at Disney Springs. We’ll also share construction progress photos of the NBA Experience, Frontera Cocina, and more.

We’ll start out with NBA Experience, since that’s the major project that remains ongoing at Disney Springs right now. Just last week, tickets went on sale for NBA Experience, which will open on August 12, 2019. One-day NBA Experience will be $34 for adults (ages 10 and up).

Guests will be able to feel what it’s like to be an NBA basketball star by participating in 13 interactive and hands-on activities across 44,000 square feet and two floors. A ticket to NBA Experience grants guests access to hands-on activity, and you can return to stations multiple times to try and improve your performance or learn more.

It’ll be interesting to see how this resonates with Walt Disney World guests. My inclination, and that of literally everyone I talk to, is that there isn’t the market for a ticketed experience like this focused on a single sport. However, that’s among Walt Disney World fans, and it’s certainly possible we have blinders on in terms of the “average” guest. I wouldn’t expect half of the stores at Disney Springs to be viable at WDW, and yet, their doors are still open. I guess we shall see.

Nearby, Bongos Cuban Cafe prepares to meet its demise.

This comes shortly after the opening of Jaleo next door, and I don’t think anyone is surprised that Bongos is next up to close and (presumably) receive an overhaul and new concept.

I remember our visit during the 25th Anniversary when Bongos had just opened. At the time, I was (for some reason) under the impression that it was the hippest, fanciest restaurant at Walt Disney World, and you pretty much needed to be rich to eat there.

In perusing the menu now, it seems fairly reasonable by Walt Disney World standards. It’s one of the few WDW restaurants we’ve never done…and I sort of want to eat there before it closes, even if it’d be “pointless” by blogging standards.

I also really want to do the Southern Brunch at Homecomin’.

Our recent Wine Bar George Brunch Review was the opposite of popular, but this one looks too fun to pass up. Maybe we’ll just do the unthinkable and enjoy the meal without reviewing it. Or, perhaps if I highlight the restaurant’s no-smoking policy it’ll generate more interest in the review. 😉

It’s tough to tell, but Frontera Cocina is in the process of covering its outside dining. A smart move given the whole “sunshine and rain” thing Florida has going for it.

This is another restaurant I really want to revisit.

One place I regularly revisit is this UNIQLO.

Best place to shop in all of Disney Springs.

Above is the Game of Thrones cupcake currently available at Sprinkles. It tastes good. If you’re wondering whether we bought a GOT cupcake solely for the sake of having an excuse to write about the show, the answer is an unequivocal yes. (Stop reading now if you don’t care or haven’t seen the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones.)

We were late to the party with Game of Thrones. Due to preconceived notions about its subject matter and apprehensions about its graphic nature, we wrote it off years ago. After seeing what a cultural phenomenon it had become, we decided to give it a shot this year. We were instantly hooked, and made it our goal of catching up before the series finale, so we could watch that live. A goal we achieved this past week.

We watch a lot of HBO, and their channel montages have long featured characters from the show. This gave us a rough idea of who was (and was not) around in the late seasons from the outset, but aside from that, we had managed to avoid most spoilers. (The only big one came from a recent viewing of the movie Long Shot, of all things!) As soon as we finished ‘The Bells’, I went online to read reactions and was surprised by what I found.

I’ll preface this by saying that I find many criticisms of this season, and particularly the penultimate episode, to have a lot of validity. Action has supplanted dialogue, which has been frustrating as some characters have felt like shells of their former selves. This is an acute problem with Cersei and Tyrion, who both went from being incredibly well-written and intelligent characters to being mute and dim-witted, respectively.

With that said, Game of Thrones has always been a flawed show. It has developed a strong fandom because of its depth, characters, richness, and mythos. At its core, Game of Thrones is nonetheless a really slick soap opera. Previous seasons took meandering paths to get where they were going, pursuing subplots with zero payoff. For a sprawling fantasy with so many characters, a lot of it felt redundant.

This season has been the polar opposite of that, and the tonal difference is admittedly jarring. It’s not necessarily worse than previous seasons, just a very different show. The characters about whom the complaints have been the loudest (that I’ve seen) are Jaime Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen. I’ll start with Jaime, as this one can be dispensed with quickly. His wasn’t a redemption arc–he repeatedly, explicitly said everything he did was for Cersei, and that he’d do anything for her.

Throughout the series, Jaime has been a sympathetic character because he demonstrated good intentions and a kind heart. Nevertheless, whatever goodness he had has always been overshadowed by and beholden to his weakness for his sister; as if he was in an abusive relationship or had Stockholm Syndrome.

Jaime betraying Cersei would’ve been the sharpest out-of-left-field turn in the series. Fans wanting Jaime to fit neatly into a redemptive archetype overlook the reality that there’s little black and white in Game of Thrones. As in real life, it’s shades of grey; they’re all flawed characters–even “heroes” like Jon Snow.

Then there’s Daenerys, who many contend was betrayed by the writers with her hairpin turn, which felt unearned. It’s difficult to argue that this approach was ideal, but I’d argue that if Game of Thrones ended with a benevolent Dany sitting on the Iron Throne, it would’ve betrayed its overarching themes.

For me, the underlying themes are more important than any individual character. Game of Thrones has always had an anti-war subtext, and actively questioned the legitimacy of both moral idealism and utilitarianism. One thing that’s refreshing about ‘The Bells’ is how it shifts focus from the power-hungry characters to the common people who are the actual casualties of war.

This has been touched upon throughout the series, but it’s good to see it underscored towards the end. This is especially true as there’s no appreciable difference in commoners’ lives between Daenerys and Cersei, neither of whom have demonstrated any interest in crafting the Westeros Magna Carta. Yet, the horrors of war persist, disproportionately impacting these common people.

From the outset, Daenerys has singularly focused on reclaiming what belongs to her: the Iron Throne. In pursuit of that mission, she happily stood by as Drogo killed Viserys, and she herself brutally killed numerous others who were in her way. In large part, viewers gave all of this a pass because those she killed were deemed “bad” and because she seemed “good.”

Daenerys was a relatable survivor; a rags to riches character who said she wanted to make the world a better place. Throughout, she kept craving power, adoration, and the trappings of authority (just look at her absurdly long title). Her only goal is and has been ascending to the Iron Throne. Every decision she’s made is in service of that, with adoration being reinforcement she’s needed to stay on the right track.

Most of Dany’s “best” decisions were made within such parameters, and likewise made it easy to root for her–she was built up as a savior figure. (And in so doing, developed armies of indebted supporters.) That doesn’t change the fact that she’s craving absolute, authoritarian power. When decisions over actual rule became more challenging and less black and white, Dany’s initial impulses were often misguided and reductionist. Advisers steered her in the right direction, but it was pretty easy to envision a scenario where the wheels fell off and things took a horrible turn, especially with some of the brutal ways she killed her enemies.

Once in Westeros, Daenerys found herself not as a savior figure, but as a foreign conqueror in a country that didn’t have straightforward problems–and ultimately did not view her as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Add to this the betrayal or deaths of those closest to her, and what happened doesn’t seem like an out-of-left-field turn for Dany. Maybe that moment would’ve benefited from more narrative groundwork, but that arguably would’ve telegraphed her ‘snap.’ (And this is a show built upon surprises.)

Everyone can make poor, regrettable decisions in the heat of the moment, and (thirst for) absolute power corrupts absolutely. What Dany did is not a stretch, and no hand-holding for viewers to accept this as a plausible twist should have been necessary. Nevertheless, a bit more character work this season might’ve been nice. (For a multitude of reasons, I agree with everyone saying this season should’ve been 10 episodes.)

In the end, part of what makes Game of Thrones so compelling is that it’s thought-provoking and there’s room for interpretation and analysis. My perspectives on all of the above are hardly unassailable, and barely even scratch the surface of the most recent episode. Healthy discussion makes fiction more interesting and enjoyable, and the existence of this around Game of Thrones speaks to the long-term quality of the show, warts and all.

At the same time, it can be difficult to separate good faith debate from toxic hardcore fandom, which simply wants to take ownership of a story. We’re seeing a cultural rise of this, as too many fans want to have stories they consume told in a way that is most gratifying to them–which is often the most indulgent way possible. Shows like Breaking Bad and Six Feet Under had incredibly satisfying finales, but the Sopranos ending has endured, still sparking conversation and dissection to this day. Personally, I’m glad that (it appears) Game of Thrones is not heading in that direction, but perhaps I’ll eat my words if tonight’s episode ends with Jon Snow on the Iron Throne.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Any thoughts on Game of Thrones? What about the actual Disney Springs material in this supposed update: NBA Experience, Bongos, or anything that has opened recently? Other insights or observations? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

31 Responses to “Disney Springs Update: Game of Thrones Cupcake, NBA Experience, Etc.”
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