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By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Category — w. Most Recent Stuff

Photo Tour of a Refurbed Room at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, see this.)

PHOTO TOUR OF A REFURBED ROOM AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter saw a room refurb project in the first half of 2018 that should be complete by mid-July.

I had the chance to stay in one of these refurbed rooms in early July. Compared with other recent Disney room refurbs, changes are pretty slight. Common to other recent Disney World room refurb projects, you’ll find

  • No more carpets (a lovely parquet floor replaces them)
  • A much larger (54-inch) wall mounted TV
  • Many, many more power points, and
  • High platform beds 30 inches off the ground that allow about 14.5 inches of clearance underneath for luggage or other items you might want to stow

There are some other minor changes, largely to the effect of simplifying the room, which I’ll comment on as we go through the photo tour. But the furniture is either the same or identical, except for new colors on the chair seats and power points set into in the dresser and bedside table.

But you don’t see the more structured closet, the solid sliding wood door separating the bath area from the living area, or the pocket door replacing the swinging door between the sink area and the tub area that one might have expected to find based on other recent refurbs like those at Pop Century and Coronado Springs.

The result is a bit of a mixed bag. The larger TV and extra power points are welcome—but so would be a more structured closet and a more sound-and light-deadening door between the bath area and living area.

The wooden floors and higher beds also seen in other recent refurbs are controversial, with the floor feeling “dirty” to some (I’ve not had that issue) and the high beds awkward for shorter people and also for some who don’t think they need accessible rooms but still have trouble landing in such high beds.

As you enter, you’ll find two queens on one side. The blank area to the left of the first bed is where a connecting door would be, if present. Note the new parquet floor. The old purple and gold theme is gone, as are the wallpaper borders above…

…but the detailed headboards remain.

Note also the graceful new light fixtures over the beds.

Here’s a shot of these beds from the bath side of the room.

A closer view of one of the beds.

Between the beds is a small bedside table, with a storage cubby below…

…and a drawer just big enough for your important books.

Note the four power points in the top of the bedside table.

As noted, the beds are now single-mattress platform beds, and there’s about 14.5 inches of clearance between the floor and the platform framing, enough for most luggage. My book is nine inches tall.


The other side of the room has a table and two chairs, dresser/mini-fridge with a TV above, and a small ottoman.

This side from the back.

A closer view of the table and chairs.


The dresser remains particularly nice, especially with the inlaid wood treatment.


The three drawers are typical of the moderates, and a little scant for most families–though there’s a large hanging area with a shelf above in the bath. Note the four power points above on the left–there’s a similar set on the right of the dresser.

A closer view of the added power points.

You’ll find the mini-fridge in the dresser, too…

…and the coffee service on top of it.

Last on this side you’ll find a small bench with a coat rack above.

The bath and closet area is separated from the rest of the room by this fabric curtain, not the sliding solid door we’ve found in recent refurbs of rooms with similar bath layouts.  The solid door provides much better light control, and somewhat better noise control. Note the decorative angles at the top of the entry way.

A closer, somewhat arty view of one of these, which were present in the old room, but white so subtler in their decorative effect.

In the bath area you’ll first find two sinks. The small round mirror on the left wall is new in this refurb.

Under the sinks you’ll find a shelf you can use for storage–and the hair dryer. Note, while we are, here the nice details on the face of the sink.

Next to the sink is the hanging area, along with an iron, ironing board…

…and safe. I forgot to measure the safe, but my book is six inches wide by nine inches tall, so you can tell the safe is large.


The rest of the bath, with the tub and toilet, is separated by a wall and door.

As is becoming common, small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and bodywash have been replaced with these large wall mounted bottles of the same–I saw the same wall items in my 2017 stays at Port Orleans Riverside and Pop Century.

That means you’ll find only these lonely items on the sink counter–lotion and soap.

These refurbed rooms are a mix of improvements, misses and missed opportunities—although different people will differ on which are which.

AMENITIES AT PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER RESORT

This review continues here.

 

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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July 14, 2018   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Bugs of It’s Tough to be a Bug

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE BUGS OF IT’S TOUGH TO BE A BUG AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

Bugs make up nearly ninety percent of what it referred to as the “animal kingdom” so it seemed natural to include them in some way in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After many other suggestions, it was decided to do a show inside The Tree of Life.

Then-CEO Michael Eisner himself told the Imagineers to check out the newest Pixar animated feature film that was currently in production, A Bug’s Life, that was scheduled to be released in November 1998.

The animated film was released after the attraction It’s Tough to be a Bug, “a creepy, crawly bug-eyed adventure” opened a full seven months earlier. This made It’s Tough to be a Bug one of the handful of Disney theme park attractions based on a film to open before the film it is based on. The very first was Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. It opened in 1955 but the film it references was not released until 1959.

The final concept of It’s Tough to be a Bug was that guests would wander through the roots of the tree into a theater space that had been hollowed-out by the bugs and seats approximately 430 guests. Guests then don “bug-eye” spectacles in order to see in three-dimensions the world through the eyes (or multiple eyes) of their insect hosts.

Senior principal production designer Zsolt Hormay, who led an international team of sculptors to carve the animals on the exterior trunk of The Tree of Life, was also in charge of the bugs in the queue line for the attraction. “I get calls all the time,” said Zsolt, “Any leeches? No leeches! Any cockroaches? No cockroaches!”

The Imagineers used Flik the ant and Hopper the grasshopper from the film as key figures in the attraction, but also added a Acorn Weevil (The Termite-ator), Chili, a quill throwing Chilean tarantula, Rolly, the dung beetle and the stinkbug Claire de Room to accompany a cast of hundreds of butterflies, beetles, ladybugs, hornets, spiders and larvae.

Some of the bugs appear on film. Some appear as elaborate audio-animatronics characters. Some only exist as puffs of air and rollers built into the theater seats. The bug-swatter effect is created by fifty high-speed fans hidden thirty feet overhead in the rockwork folds of the theater.

When the acid-spraying termite apparently squirts guests in their face, the harmless water spray comes from the seat in front of you. Imagineers chose an industrial smell officially labeled “earthy” for the stinkbug’s distinctive effect.

“It was a matter of getting our special effects to match the bugs,” said show writer Kevin Rafferty. “All the acts we feature in the show are based on what they do in nature. There really are acid-spraying termites and quill-throwing tarantulas.”

At the time, Hopper was the most sophisticated and advanced audio-animatronics characters that Imagineering ever created, and can perform a wide array of movements that make him as lifelike as possible.

Actor Dave Foley recreates the voice of Flik as he did in the original film. The voice of Hopper is not Kevin Spacey as it was in the film, but rather Andrew Stanton, who was co-director of the original film.

Cheech Marin does the voice of Chili. French Stewart the voice of the “Termite-ator”, Tom Kenny the voices of the Dung Beetle Brothers and Jason Alexander as the voice of Weevil Kneevil. Corey Burton is the announcer and the voice of various bugs.

P.T. Flea, voiced by John Ratzenberger as he was in the actual film, pops in briefly for one line, because Ratzenberger is considered “Pixar’s Good Luck Charm,” having voiced a character in every Pixar film. He is the voice of the villain Underminer in the new Incredibles 2.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, More Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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July 13, 2018   No Comments

Next Week (July 14 through July 22, 2018) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: JULY 14 TO JULY 22, 2018

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic Hours, parades, and fireworks.

 

For more on July 2018 at Disney World, see this.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/14-7/22/18

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 8a to 10p 7/14, 9a-10p 7/15, 9a-11p 7/16 through 7/18, 9a-10p 7/19 and 7/20, 8a-10p 7/21, and 9a-10p 7/22

Epcot will be open from 9a-9p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 8a-10.30p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 9a-10p 7/14 and 7/15, 9a-10.30p 7/16 through 7/19, 9a-10p 7/20 and 7/21, and 9a-10.30p 7/22

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/14-7/22/18

Saturday 7/14 Morning: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Sunday 7/15  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Monday 7/16  Morning: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Tuesday 7/17 Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: Epcot

Wednesday 7/18 Morning:  Hollywood Studios Evening: Magic Kingdom

Thursday 7/19 Morning: Epcot, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Friday 7/20 Morning:  Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: Hollywood Studios

Saturday 7/21 Morning: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Sunday 7/22  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/14-7/22/18

The Magic Kingdom: Afternoon Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3p every day

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/14-7/22/18

Happily Every After at Magic Kingdom: 9.15p every night

IllumiNations at Epcot:  9p every night

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9 and 10.30p every night

Star Wars Show and Fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 10p every night

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9.15 and 10.15p every night

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/14-7/22/18

See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

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July 12, 2018   No Comments

Updated 2019 Disney World Planning Tools

I’ve finally posted my updated planning material for 2019, based on Disney’s actual prices and my re-forecast of crowds.

I’ll explain more later on how all this works (the day job is just killing me right now), but the short version is that I am no longer seeing the weeks beginning 3/2/19 and 12/14/19 to be as good as I thought they would be, so there are now just 11 recommended weeks–down from 13 in my drafts.

The full set of material is at the links:

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July 11, 2018   1 Comment

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Copper Creek Villas and Cabins

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE COPPER CREEK VILLAS AND CABINS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

By Jim Korkis

The Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge opened in July 2017 as the fourteenth Disney Vacation Club resort

Imagineer project manager Mitch Mioelli stated, “We were pulling from different materials and objects that were indigenous to the Pacific Northwest.

“What we wanted to do, knowing that this resort would have been here for hundreds of years, is take materials that these settlers would have found on site and the rejuvenation and sort of re-gentrification of the area. It’s found objects that would have almost been artifacts from the mining area from the railroad. They would have been repurposed and built into their everyday houses and everyday construction.”

“Everything was coming westward on the trains and this is really an homage to Walt (Disney) and his love of trains and the westward expansion of the United States. So we played on that to make everyone feel that this was an early settlement. Everything is rooted in the history of railroad and the natural environment. We wanted to make it feel like the interior expanded into the exterior, so there’s floor-to-ceiling windows.”

Ken Potrock, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Disney Vacation Club said that “our guests have told us they don’t want any old hotel; they want themed hotels. They want a hotel that has a back story. They want to hear “is there a connection to Walt Disney?’ So we worked hard to give them what they wanted.”

Where the tale of the original structures at Wilderness Lodge draw their story from the 1800s, the new Copper Creek Villas & Cabins are tied to a slightly later period, when the railroad, mining, and quarry managers and foremen brought their families out west and built homes (like the cabins) along the lakes with some of the materials and objects found in the area.

The story is that the units employ “up-cycling” of materials like rustic tracks and reclaimed wood, as well as giant cogs that form a wall hanging and an occasional Hidden Mickey. Light fixtures are made from shards of colored glass from the quarry and, above the dining table, a chandelier features a giant cog from a crane.

Artwork in the rooms plus exposed steel beams and lots of wood are all used to reinforce the story. However, there are also playful references to Ruke and Tuke from Brother Bear (2003) and Chip ‘n’ Dale. The villas and cabins also have imitation wood flooring that according to Miorelli was “hand-scraped to make it feel like it came out of a sawmill.”

The Living-Dining Area of a Copper Creek Villa

The former Hidden Springs pool was replaced with a significantly larger pool named the Boulder Ridge Cove pool, with a zero-entry feature, more deck space, and a lot of decorative rockwork all around that is reminiscent of the sort of natural stone quarry that may be found in the Pacific Northwest. Nearby is a crane recycled from Disney Hollywood Studios now closed Catastrophe Canyon.

The Imagineers attempted to maintain a linear time lime for the entire set of buildings, from the arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Pacific Northwest spurring the development of rustic residential communities (Boulder Ridge Villas) to grand vacation lodges that attracted visitors coming to the U.S. National Parks (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge).

This was followed decades later by the abandonment of the railroad (in favor of cars, planes, etc.), at which time resourceful locals turned railroad relics (abandoned quarries, mines, train stations, railroad-supervisor residences, etc.) into new living spaces for today’s travelers (Copper Creek Villas & Cabins).

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! There’s reviews of all three parts of the Wilderness Lodge complex on this site:

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, More Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

July 6, 2018   No Comments

Next Week (July 7 through July 15, 2018) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: JULY 7 TO JULY 15, 2018

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic Hours, parades, and fireworks.

For more on July 2018 at Disney World, see this.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/7-7/15/18

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-10p 7/7 through 7/10, 9a-11p 7/11, 9a-10p 7/12 and 7/13, 8a to 10p 7/14, and 9a-10p 7/15

Epcot will be open from 9a-9p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 8a-10.30p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 9a-10.30p 7/7, 9a-10p 7/8, 9a-10.30p 7/9 through 7/12, and 9a-10p 7/13 through 7/15

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/7-7/15/18

Saturday 7/7 Morning: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Sunday 7/8  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Monday 7/9  Morning: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Tuesday 7/10 Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: Epcot

Wednesday 7/11 Morning:  Hollywood Studios Evening: Magic Kingdom

Thursday 7/12 Morning: Epcot, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Friday 7/13 Morning:  Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: Hollywood Studios

Saturday 7/14 Morning: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Sunday 7/15  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/7-7/15/18

The Magic Kingdom: Afternoon Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3p every day

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/7-7/15/18

Happily Every After at Magic Kingdom: 9.15p every night

IllumiNations at Epcot:  9p every night

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9 and 10.30p every night

Star Wars Show and Fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 10p every night

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9.15 and 10.15p every night

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/7-7/15/18

See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

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July 5, 2018   No Comments