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The Disney Dish with Jim Hill Ep 454:  Jollywood Nights is kind of a mixed Santa’s bag

The episode is sponsored by Agent of Excellence , Cirque Du Soleil: Drawn to Life , Storyworth , and  TouringPlans Travel

OPENINGS

Normal Open: Welcome back to another edition of the Disney Dish podcast with Jim Hill. It’s me, Len Testa, and this is our show for the week of Shmursday, November 20, 2023.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

ON THE SHOW TODAY

On the show today: News! Listener questions! Then in our main segment, Jim continues the story of how Disney brought Princess character greetings into the parks.

JIM INTRO

Let’s get started by bringing in the man who asks those of you who can fall asleep instantly: when do you do all of your panicking and overthinking? It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?

GUEST INTRODUCTION

And we’d like to introduce a special guest for today’s show, Christina Harrison from TouringPlans.com

SUBSCRIBER ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

iTunes:  Thanks to new subscribers The Real Alanne, David Mann, J Fiddy, and Garrett Dorman, and long-time subscribers Jimmy Hunt, Communicore Guy, Dana Snyder, and CWashi6.  Jim, these are cast members from EPCOT’s old World of Motion attraction who still have a lot full of gently-used chariots, flying carpets, and steam engines for sale at very fair prices.  Look for them near the giant air-powered tube-man display when the re-imagined Test Track opens in a few years, and they’ll get you a good deal. True story.

Patreon: Thanks to new subscribers Quilty1728, Brian C, Mathew Asher, and Kara Large, and long-time subscribers Catherine Turner, Florida0042, Unsupervised, and StLMouse.  Jim, these are the Disney cast members working to integrate another Disney theme park ride into the next Muppets movie. They say they’ve narrowed it down to Muppet Jungle Cruise, where the Muppets are on a NatGeo cruise with a big Hollywood producer, who just loves the puns that Captain Fozzy Bear starts every morning with. True story.

DISNEY UNPACKED / PATREON

We’re moving the show off of Bandcamp and on to Patreon beginning with our show on January 1, 2024. We’ve just released our second video with Imagineer Jim Shull, on the design of Crush’s Coaster in Disneyland Paris. Please sign up at patreon.com/jimhillmedia and don’t forget to close down your Bandcamp subscription after that.

NEWS

The news is sponsored by TouringPlans’ travel agency. TouringPlans can help book your next trip.  Plus it comes with a free TouringPlans subscription. Check us out at touringplans.com/dish.

                 

News

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind wins Themed Entertainment Association award for Outstanding Achievement

TEA notes that GOTG features several "firsts," including the first reverse launch for a Disney coaster and the first Disney Omnicoaster ride system, where vehicles make controlled rotations.

Get your park reservations now if you plan to visit WDW for New Year’s Eve

Our friends at WDWMagic note that several ticket types are now sold out for EPCOT, including hotel guests and day-ticket holders; APs are still available.  

(This is a deep cut for your Haunted Mansion fans): Our friend DCBaker over at the WDWMagic forums was stuck in the attic scene at the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion recently, and noticed a new additional prop.  And it’s got fantastic Disney lore attached.

Remember that the Haunted Mansion is the combination of a “scary” approach and a “funny/weird” approach, from basically every Imagineer who was working for Disney in the 1960’s.  I think Harper Goff and Ken Anderson started with the original idea that the Haunted Mansion should be dark, if not scary.  And later, Rolly Crump added the “Museum of the Weird” spin on it.  That idea included props like the coffin clock, dangerous plants in the greenhouse, and something called “the Candleman”, which is a spooky character made entirely of melted candle wax.

It looks like WDW has added the Candleman to the attic scene in Haunted Mansion:

If you’re on the ride, then when you’re in the attic,look for a small, about 1-foot-tall gray figure just to the right of the suit of armor that’s leaning a bit to your right.  Candleman might only be there for a limited time, so definitely go on the ride if you have the chance to see it.

Christina was at Jollywood Nights

•2 check-in locations. One = main gate & the other = Vacation Fun

I went in the main gate and only waited 8 minutes to get in and get my wristband, map, and lanyard.

The girls went inside and waited 30 minutes at Vacation Fun. When I went to meet them, a CM was telling people the line for the check-in went back to SWGE and she told them it would be faster to exit the park and come back in. (!)

•Rise virtual queue was gone in minutes and it spent the majority of the party down.

•Brown Derby party was walk-up on MDE. Hundreds of us got the text saying our table would be ready in 10 minutes. A CM told me it was a glitch and to wait for a second text. Our table was ready 59 minutes after we got the 10 minute text. The service was terrible, the food was small, expensive, and not good.

•Tip Top Club at Tower of Terror was a boring, dark, small space, and only had 3 drinks. Complete let down. This was supposed to be THE SPOT and was just a mess.

•The shows were great. The famous Jack Skellington puppet appears in the “What’s This?” show at the Hyperion and he was an enormous hit. The Holiday show with the Muppets (Disney Holidays in Hollywood) was adorable. No notes.

•Characters- the gang in Animation Courtyard swapped out. Mickey and Minnie rotated, Donald and Daisy rotated, and Goofy and Pluto. So, you could get in line for Goofy and end up seeing Pluto. Poor Pixar Place! I was one of 9 guests back there. Frozone was just plain lonely.

•The line for Phineas and Ferb was 90 minutes when we got in line and then it started to rain. Once the rain began, alllll of the outside characters left. That was 22 minutes for me.

•Food- no food or drinks were included. The lines were heavy until the rain started. In general, the food was not great, the portions were small and nothing we had was worth the line or the price. ABC Commissary had the Latin food and bands. The bands were wonderful and the food there wasn’t terrible but I wouldn’t get it again.

SUMMARY- There is SO MUCH dark space! The CMs aren’t in party costumes like MVMCP. There are huge patches of just dark space with faint music that give off more haunted park than party. Like the walk from Toy Story Land to Animation Courtyard, or anywhere other than Hollywood and Sunset. Dark and definitely not a party. We spent an enormous amount of time in lines for food and an entire hour trying to figure out brown derby and wasted a ton of time waiting for switching characters that then got rained out - with no plan b for weather. Hopefully they work out the kinks fast. There were about a dozen CM Leaders inside the Disney Jr building and they did not look like happy folks.

Surveys

Listener Questions

From mike:

From Nathan:

After hearing the discussions about the Vehicle Entertainment System and Method patent talked about on this week's show, it immediately made me think that this system could be used with Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. The patent would definitely apply to the ride, since the vehicles for Safaris are actual trucks, and by adding this system into place, it could be used as a way to extend the hours that the ride could be open (since it could be put in to replace sections where the animals would be out of view of park guests).

Just some fun thoughts to ponder about this usage, but if Disney does end up adding it in, now you know who called it.

From JoeTV:

Long time listener here. In March of 2024 I'm heading back to Aulani for an 8 day adventure. Thank you for your Aulani episode a few weeks back. On my way back from Aulani I'm stopping at Disneyland for the first time ever. I've got one day unfortunately. How do you think I should plan my day for both parks?

I’d get Genie+ for your day, and any Individual Lighting Lanes you’re interested in.

I think at Disneyland you want to see the things that are unique to Disneyland, and that are classics:

  • The Disneyland Railroad
  • If you didn’t see it in WDW, the Main Street Cinema
  • Indiana Jones: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Sailing Ship Columbia
  • Mr Toad
  • It’s a Small World
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • The Monorail

Here’s the attractions I’m divide on:

  • Great Moments w/Mr. Lincoln - Is Hall of Presidents enough?
  • Enchanted Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise - close enough to WDW?
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin

Research/Patents (use query "disney enterprises".as AND "theme park".ab)

COMMERCIAL BREAK

We’re going to take a quick commercial break.  When we return, Jim continues the story of how Disney brought the Disney princesses into the parks for character greetings.  We’ll be right back.  

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

Disney Princesses in the Parks
Feature Story
Part Two

Where we left off last week … It’s October of 1996. The Little Mermaid had just moved into her Grotto next to the old “20,000 Leagues” lagoon at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. And this meet-n-greet quickly becomes one of the more popular offerings at that theme park during that Resort’s 25th anniversary celebration.

So popular in fact that Disneyland out in California got its own variation of this same attraction. The Imagineers took that theme park’s Alpine Gardens (which – in a previous life – had been the queue for the House of the Future before that Tomorrowland walk-thru finally officially closed in December of 1967).

Quick side note: Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland – the one with the PeopleMover and the Rocket Jets which was known as “A World on the Move” – opened on July 2, 1967. And the Monsanto Corporation sponsored both “Adventures Thru Inner Space” AND Disneyland’s “House of the Future.” And for one brief six month-long period, these two Monsanto-sponsored attractions sat across from one another and were both open to the public.

To be fair here: I’ve also been told that – during this time – Disneyland’s “House of the Future” was only open during the Parks’ busiest times (i.e., the Summer months. Then only on Saturdays & Sundays in the Fall). This was largely because Monsanto executives were balking at what it was reportedly going to cost to tear down this all-plastic structure.

Had been built so well back in 1957 (only settled a quarter of an inch over that entire 10 year period), knew it was going to be a nightmare to tear down. And it was. Took a full two weeks to clear this structure (And this was back in the 1960s when – during the off-season – Disneyland was closed on Mondays & Tuesdays. So that they could then bring in the really heavy duty equipment into the Park).

Had no choice. Company officials wanted that thing gone by the time the crowds came back into the Park to celebrate Christmas. It took chain pulls & hack saws. But they eventually made it all go away.

Quick side note: David Bossert – the author of “The House of the Future: Walt Disney, MIT and Monsanto’s Vision of Tomorrow” – will be joining Len & myself next month to discuss how (during the 10 years that this Tomorrowland attraction was open at that theme park) they celebrated the holidays in this futuristic setting. Here’s a hint: What do you do when you gift someone a brand-new car at Christmas? Because that’s what Disneyland did annually with the House of the Future.

I bring this story up because – as you made your way through Triton’s Garden (which was what this part of Disneyland got renamed once Ariel’s Grotto was officially under construction) – you’d actually pass the big cement block that the House of the Future once sat upon. Looked kind of out-of-place next to those faux bronze statues of King Triton & his daughter Ariel.

Anyway, Disneyland got its “Ariel’s Grotto” up & running in 1996 as well. And the meeting-and-greeting of Disney Princesses then officially entered a new era.

No longer was this a spontaneous thing. Bumping into Snow White at the Wishing Well at Disneyland and then grabbing a quick snapshot with that character was now a thing of the past. Disney’s own research now showed that encounters with these specific characters at the Park was a real Guest satisfier. So the rules that had previously only applied to rides, shows & attractions at the Disney Parks were now applied to the Disney Princesses.

This is why – in this same window of time (1996 / 1997) -- Mickey’s Toontown Fair took one of the judge’s tent in this part of the Park and then turned it into a dedicated space where Guests could queue up in air conditioning and then patiently wait their turn to get their pictures taken with the Disney Princesses. The ones who weren’t Ariel, I mean.

Store space next to this queue – previously County Bounty, now Big Top Souvenirs – now had per-square-foot sales levels that rivaled the Emporium down on Main Street U.S.A. And that was largely because … Well, as Dad would stand in line with the kids, slowly making their way to the front of that very long line so that the kids could then get their pictures taken / grab the autographs of those Disney Princesses, Mom would shop in County Bounty.

This is why – when WDW initially announced its plans for the first iteration of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom back in September of 2009 and those plans called for the flattening of County Bounty – the executive who ran the retail side of that theme park rose up on mass and basically said “Are you high? You’d be tearing down one of the most profitable stores in the Parks.”

When Jay Rasulo & Tom Staggs swapped positions back in 2010 as part of Bob Iger’s bake-off to see who’d be the best possible candidate to be his new Number 2 … Staggs (who’d previously been Disney;s CFO but was now the head of Disney Parks & Resorts) listened to what the retail execs at WDW’s Magic Kingdom were saying.

Plans for a Pixie Hollow themed area to replace Mickey’s Toontown Fair were scrapped. New plan actually worked backwards from County Bounty. Staggs’ order was “That building now stays in place. You figure out what sort of story elements / theming fits around that structure. Because it’s not going anywhere.”

That’s actually why this area went from being Pixie Hollow to Storybook Circus. County Bounty was housed in a tent-like, supposed to be a temporary structure when it was first installed back in 1988.

That’s the part of this story that I love. Mickey’s Birthdayland – when it first opened in June of 1988 – was only supposed to a temporary attraction. Open for just 18 months and then to close in January of 1990 (After the 1989 holiday season officially wrapped. Lots of plywood / temporary structures. Not something you’d typically build in hurricane country). Too popular to close.

After the fact, had to make everything here hurricane safe. After 8 years of operations, the area that was known as Mickey’s Starland closed in January of 1996 and was then replaced by permanent buildings. Mickey’s Toontown Fair opened in October of 1996.

Same window of time that “Ariel’s Grotto” opened at that same theme park. Same rules applied to Mickey & friends that applied to Disney Princesses. Now dedicated meet-n-greet spot. Lines under cover with air conditioning. Retail opportunity in immediate vicinity.

Mind you, all of this happened before Andy Mooney came along as the new head of Disney Consumer Products and then decided – in the year 2000 – that the eight Disney Princesses (Which, at that time, were):

  • Snow White
  • Cinderella
  • Sleeping Beauty / Briar Rose / Princess Aurora
  • Ariel
  • Belle
  • Jasmine
  • Pocahontas
  • and Mulan

Were now a dedicated set of interconnected characters.

Those last two … Pocahontas is not actually a Princess. She is the daughter of Powhatan, who was Chief of 30 different tribes in coastal Virginia back in the early 1600s. Princess-like.

Mulan on the other hand … Well, at the end of the Disney film that bears her name, Fa Mulan has been awarded Shan Yu’s sword as well as the Emperor’s medallion. Which – as far as Andy Mooney was concerned – made her an honorary Disney Princess.

Those eight now had the promotional might of the Disney Company behind them. And whole area at the Parks – valuable pieces of real estate – were now surrendered to this brand.

Case in point: The Fantasyland Theater (home to “Beauty and the Beast: Live onstage,” “Dick Track in Diamond Doublecross,” “Animazement” and “Snow White: An Enchanting Musical”) was actually closed in the Fall of 2006. An 1,800 seat venue was then turned in Disney Princess Fantasy Fair.

Undercover venue. Air conditioning. Queue space. Could get your picture taken with 5 Disney princesses. Collect their autographs. Troop from princess to princess to princess.

Theaters are valuable. As are dark rides. Same year (2006) is when the first Bibbidi Bobbibi Boutique opened at the World of Disney at Downtown Disney in Orlando. Now not just money, but CRAZY money was to be had off of the Disney Princesses.

As the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques begin to multiply, so do the Company’s ambitions for the Disney Princcess. Final installment of this series … We get three new Disney Princesses. We get an expanded Fantasyland. Though not everything goes according to plan. Next gen meet & greets fall off the table as new Disney princesses do battle with old Disney princesses.

WRAP-UP

That’s going to do it for the show today.  You can help support our show and JimHillMedia by subscribing over at Patreon.com/jimhillmedia, where we’re posting exclusive shows every week.  

Patreon: That’s going to do it for the show today.  Thanks for subscribing and supporting the Disney Dish.

ON NEXT WEEK’S SHOW: Jim ….

(Nov 20) A Bug’s Life is released. We can talk about the development of that attraction and its upcoming re-theming

(Nov 21) The Timekeeper opens in WDW in 1993. We can talk about theme park projects Robin Williams did, or stuff that’s been in that theater over the years (Circlevision, etc).  Same thing with Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (EPCOT, 1994)

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights opens (2001) in DHS

(Nov 22) All-Star Music opens

NOTES 

You can find more of Jim at JimHillMedia.com, and more of me at TouringPlans.com.

PRODUCER CREDIT

iTunes Show: We’re produced fabulously by Aaron Adams, who’ll be teaching you classic dance moves from the Mashed Potato to the Stanky Leg, at the 28th Annual Black Hills Dance Festival, April 25-27, 2024 at the Monument Civic Center, on North Mount Rushmore Road, in beautiful, downtown Rapid City, South Dakota.  

Patreon Show: We’re produced fabulously by Aaron Adams, who’ll be singing the Journey classic “Stone in Love” as the Black Jacket Symphony recreates Journey’s multi-platinum “Escape” album in its entirety, and then Journey’s greatest hits, on Saturday, February 3, 2024 for the 9 p.m. show only, at the Mark C Smith Concert Hall, on Monroe Street, in beautiful, downtown Huntsville, Alabama.

CLOSING

While Aaron’s doing that, please go on to iTunes and rate our show and tell us what you’d like to hear next.

For Jim, this is Len, we’ll see you on the next show.


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