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Disney Dish with Jim Hill Ep. 470: How WDW fans plan on gaming that “free water park” perk

Today’s episode is brought to you by TouringPlans.


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, March 11, 2024.


On the show today: Special guest Christina Harrison tells us what’s good at EPCOT’s Flower & Garden Festival!  And in listener questions, y’all have eight bajillion hacks for Disney’s upcoming free water park admission feature. Then in our main segment, Jim walks us through part of the last huge Magic Kingdom transformation project when Disney proposed Pixie Hollow for Fantasyland and we ended up with Storybook Circus.


Let’s get started by bringing in the man who wants to know why weighted blankets only come in one color best described as ‘mental illness gray’?

It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?


Also with us today is TouringPlans’ Walt Disney World in-park researcher, taste-tester, and newly-minted Fort Wilderness camping enthusiast Christina Harrison.  


iTunes: Thanks to everyone who subscribes to the show over at including

Alyx Jacobs, Michael Maruffi, Greg DiMichillie, John Kivus, Chris Jespersen, and Sue Moore.  Jim, these are the Disney Cast Members trying to replicate the “Beef Fat” candle on Le Cellier’s charcuterie board, at other World Showcase restaurants.  They say the bratwurst candle at Biergarten is a qualified success, the foie gras candle at Chefs de France is a hit, and it’s back to the drawing board at Norway after the scent-of-trolls fiasco.  Sue says she told you so.  True story.


The news is sponsored by TouringPlans helps you save time and money at theme parks like Walt Disney World.  Check us out at



Universal Orlando released more information last week about updates to its kid-friendly Shrek and Trolls lands at Universal Studios Florida:


Shrek’s Swamp Meet: Guests can visit Shrek’s Swamp Meet to interact with beloved characters Shrek, Princess Fiona, and Donkey, the noble steed eager to joke around and converse with guests, just outside of Shrek’s cottage.

Shrek’s Swamp for Little Ogres: This ogre-sized play area features four fun slides, wet play areas, and a playground where guests can climb, bounce, and splash around as well as venture into Shrek’s outhouse.

Mama Luna Feline Fiesta: The blockbuster film Puss in Boots 2: The Last Wish comes to life with this new interactive experience that takes place in Mama Luna’s retirement home for cats. Here, guests get to play with Mama Luna’s many cats on vivid interactive screens activated by buttons, bells, maracas, and levers. They might even spot the one and only Puss in Boots himself.

King Harold’s Swamp Symphony: Guests can create their own melodious masterpiece as they trigger a choir of ever-changing frog ribbits by continually stomping on an array of interactive lily pads.

Swamp Snacks: Families can feast like an ogre at this new kiosk, which will serve scrumptious snacks inspired by Shrek, including Shrekzel, Far Far A Waffle, Frozen Ogre, and more.


Trolls Trollercoaster: After strolling through a dazzling marquee starring cherished Trolls characters Poppy, Viva, Tiny Diamond, Satin, and Chenille, guests of all ages can take a ride on the iconic Caterbus, escaping evil spiders as they speed along a bright orange and yellow track aboard this family friendly rollercoaster.

Poppy’s Playground: Nestled under a giant, 20-foot mushroom is Poppy’s Playground – a shaded play area featuring colorful flowers and bugs with a bountiful array of fun bouncing and climbing structures for the youngest of trolls.

Trolls Treats: Poppy’s boombox from Trolls Band Together has been transformed into a playful kiosk that offers up brightly colored Trolls ice cream treats inspired by Poppy and Branch like the pink lemonade-flavored Poppy-licious Pink and huckleberry-flavored BroZone Berry.

High Five Hideaway: Cloud Guy hosts this all-new retail location featuring the latest merchandise, including apparel, plush, and accessories from Shrek, Trolls, Kung Fu Panda, Gabby’s Dollhouse, and more.

Kung Fu Panda

Po’s Kung Fu Training Camp: Inspired by the hit Kung Fu Panda films, this all-new play area brings the Panda Village to life like never before. Within both wet and dry play areas, guests have the opportunity to help the pandas wash and dry their laundry with enormous water cannons, dump buckets, giant fans, and more. Guests will also encounter fun elements throughout the experience, including an interactive gong; mischievous, giggling baby pandas; and oversized merry-go-round noodle bowls from Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop.

Po Live!: This digital, interactive meet-and-greet experience gives guests the opportunity to interact with the famous Dragon Warrior himself as he teaches them cool Kung Fu moves, cooks some delicious stir fry, and babysits his little cousin, Ling Ling…all at the same time.

Jim, we’re recording this show on Thursday, March 8, for release on March 11.  And before the show you said we should hear more about Epic Universe’s other lands any day now, right?

Flower & Garden 2024 with Christina:

-Best of F&G

  • Topiaries
  • 2 scavenger hunts: Eggstravaganza and Spike's Pollen-Nation with maybe the best prizes of any hunt
  • Weekends = uncrustables for free on walkway to WS
  • Smells amazing - especially
  • Free tea tours in UK - guided and self-guided and you'll get a map and a tea bag as a prize at the end.

-Top 3-ish Dishes (reference our Best $50)

  • Honey Bee-Stro Chicken & Waffles $6.75 and Honey Glazed Cauliflower, $5.00
  • Orange-Blossom Saffron Cake at Tangierine Cafe in Morocco, $5.00 - this isn't a new dish but it is better. The raspberry jam is really raspberrying this year.
  • Veal Tenderloin at Farmers Feast, $8.50 - maybe I just like sauces? The red wine syrup is EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
  • Avo Toast at Brunchcot $6.00 - still the most lovely balance of acid and sweet, crunchy and creamy

No. Just … No:

  • Literally anything Impossible and the plant based meat-like bun in Japan. No.


Listener Questions

From Evan:

I wanted to let you know that I went Marceline today, and my trip was inspired by the most recent episode of The Disney Dish!

I’m currently moving from Portland, OR to Knoxville, TN by way of massive road trip. I was driving through Wyoming yesterday listening to this week’s episode when one of you just happened to mention Marceline in reference while talking about Autopia. Immediately, I looked up how reasonable it would be to add this pitstop, and fortunately it wasn’t too far out of the way.

I had the BEST time. I was a WDW CM for six years and have been a lifelong Disney fan, so this was a bucket list item for me. I basically had the place to myself, and it was absolutely worth the detour in my road trip.

If it had not been for all the recent autopia info, I would not have appreciated the significance of the Midget Autopia. 🤣 I can’t remember if you said if you had been there or not, but it was fascinating to see the site of the old track and one of the cars.

Just wanted to thank you for helping make my road trip much more memorable! I love listening to the show, and I’ve been binging the Patreon content on this trip!

From Joshua, for Jim:

Do you know why Disney still has the MU (Monster University) blue hats for sale? The movie came out in 2013 and wasn't hugely popular, but they continue to sell them in the parks.

I have a theory and I wanted to see what you thought. I believe that when the person placed the order for the hats they accidentally added an extra 0 when ordering and they ended up ordering more hats than they wanted to.

From Sybil, and Jim, as a native English speaker I’d like your help with this one:

I have a trip to Epcot for Flower and Garden Festival coming up next month and have a burning question.

What is the pronunciation of the name of the main quick-service restaurant in Morocco?  In my mind I pronounce it like the city of Tangier with an “eee en” at the end (Tan-jeer-ien, rhymes with Nigerian). But I’ve heard it pronounced like the citrus fruit.

Mediterranean flat bread and pomegranate mimosa are clearly calling my name :)

Thanks for the podcast! I never miss an episode!

Len says: Finally, someone asks the really important questions!

On last week’s show I mentioned that two groups of students at Wake Forest University are looking at ride wait times and downtime at rope drop, to figure out what are the best two attractions to try and visit and Hollywood Studios, if you don’t know whether any rides are working.  And Erin wrote in with this:

Listening to your latest episode and I cannot wait for your data on ride downtime vs early entry strategy.  Thanks for this. On our last trip both Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain were down for early entry. By the time we realized this and went to Peter Pan, so had the rest of the crowd.

We were then faced with the choice of waiting at the rope to Frontierland to try to get to Thunder Mountain, or wait to see if mine train or space mountain would open. It was the most stressful morning of the trip and also the most deflating. We had gotten all 12 people up and to the park to just wait.

Len says: This little project got a lot of emails like Erin’s, so I’m excited to see what the kids come up with. I’ve seen the preliminary results, and once you know the reason for the results, it looks like it’ll make absolute sense.  

Also on last week’s show I asked listeners what Disney could possibly offer Universal to give up Universal’s East-of-the-Mississippi exclusive rights to the Marvel characters.  And Kelly wrote in with some great ideas:

There's a word that often gets left out of these discussions, yours was no exception, and that word is "exclusive."

It is a very different question to ask if Universal would allow Walt Disney World to ALSO build attractions featuring characters such as Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk than it is to ask what it would cost for Comcast to relinquish those rights entirely and rip out an entire land from one of their most important theme parks.

What if Universal says, "You can build your Dark Phoenix Coaster and your weird Spider-Man shooty game in Florida, but we are not restricted from continuing to use those characters in our parks as well?"

Now it becomes really interesting.  What would Universal want in return?

My suspicion is that it would end up costing Disney cold/hard cash. But if we're looking at rights to IP... I suppose there's The Simpsons, but I can't imagine that Universal cares that much about that property at this point. Fox owns the distribution rights to the Hammer Films in the US last I checked and that might dovetail with a few different Universal initiatives, but, again, not worth THAT much. If Fox weren't actively developing an Alien TV series, that franchise might look really good to Universal.

Hey, how about The X-Files? That might be enticing evergreen property for Disney/Fox to trade.

Universal has never needed the Marvel IP to be ultra-valuable for it to be useful in their Florida theme parks, does Disney think it’s needed?  If so, why?

Len says: Okay, Jim, first things first. This is the smartest take I’ve heard on this topic.  I think we should have Kelly negotiate everything we ever need going forward. She’s clearly thought through this from more angles and is looking for win-wins.  

Disney’s 2025 Offer of Free Water Park Admission on Check-In Day

Our friend Rick writes in with this:

Could Disney's 'free water park' perk be at least partially attended to draw one day of split stay $ away from Universal? I assume the number of people committing vacation time to UOR will go up next year because of Epic Universe. Maybe instead of spending your UOR check-out day at Volcano Bay (because it's right there and 'the same' as Disney's parks) this entices people to move over to WDW property earlier in the day, where they spend money on lunch, souvenirs, towels, etc.

Nik adds these thoughts:

Do you think this could impact how people book their accommodations?  Instead of booking the first day (travel day) on property, book off property and have your second day at the water park. Could Disney actually lose booking nights with this promo?

I have already thought about that for our next stay.

Len says: Bad Nik! Bad!

And then Dan, Valerie, Francine, and Morgan all wrote in with some variation of this hack:

In looking at Disney hotel and water park prices for 2025, a family of four (2A2C) would spend around $303 for one day of Disney water park admission.

But has Disney considered that it’s much less expensive to book a throw-away room at:

  • Fort Wilderness Campsites for $103, saving $200, and sleeps 10 people!
  • Any of the All-Star for $132, saving $171
  • Pop Century for around $184, saving $120

And take advantage of this deal instead.  Is Disney trying to boost hotel occupancy by decreasing revenue? It seems like the exact opposite of how they normally operate. Is this just something they’ve not yet gamed out?  Should we expect to see more rules and restrictions placed on this offer before 2025?  If so, what happens to people who book now, before those new rules are out?

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


We’re going to take a quick commercial break.  When we come back, Jim looks ahead to the Magic Kingdom’s Beyond Big Thunder project,and walks us through part of the last huge Magic Kingdom transformation project when Disney proposed Pixie Hollow for Fantasyland and we ended up with Storybook Circus. We’ll be right back.

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

Pixie Hollow Feature
Part One of Two

Every time that our buddy Bioreconstruct does a fly-over of the Epic Universe construction site, we see the same thing happen over & over again. First everyone sings Bio’s praises (as they should) about the latest set of spectacular photos he’s posted about this project. But – invariably – this is then followed by theme park fans who then says “Why can’t Disney build something like this?”

And the answer is … They have. They are. Just not here in the States. Not yet, anyway.

Case in point: Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan. This project – in one form or another – has been in the works since 2015. Back then, on the heels of the international success of the first “Frozen” movie (originally released to theaters in November of 2013. This Academy Award-winning film earned $1.3 billion worldwide. With nearly a quarter of a billion of that amount -- $249 million to be exact – coming from Japanese ticket sales. The Japan people just loved “Frozen” for some reason) …

Anyway, on the heels of that success, the Oriental Land Company announced plans to add a Scandinavia port to Tokyo DisneySea (FYI, Len: This is the model we saw during our walk-thru of WDI with Jim Shull back in
March of 2023). This project was first announced in 2015.

But then -- In November of 2016 – Hong Kong Disneyland announced that it would be adding a “World of Frozen” to that theme park AND a Stark Expo AND a Castle of Magical Dreams and multiple other new attractions.

Now I’m not saying that these two Asia Disney Parks (Well, Resorts really) compete. But in June of 2018, the Oriental Land Company says “Did we say that we were adding a single Scandinavia-themed port to Tokyo DisneySea. Our mistake. What we’re actually building is the largest addition ever to our second gate. 40 square acres. Which will include a “Frozen” -themed land, a “Rapunzel” -themed land, a “Peter Pan” – themed land AND our sixth on-site hotel.

Construction of what would eventually be called Fantasy Springs would begin in May of 2019. The Oriental Land Company’s goal was to have this project open by 2023 (Which – I’m sure – had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Hong Kong Disneyland’s “World of Frozen” was supposed to open that same year. It eventually opened on November 20, 2023).

But then the pandemic happened. Which is why – in October of 2022 – the Oriental Land Company announced that the opening of Fantasy Springs would be pushed back to the Spring of 2024. That’s since been revised to June 6th of this year.

Now – for today’s show – we’re going to concentrate on just one part of the Fantasy Springs project: Peter Pan’s Never Land. And – just to be clear here – we’re going to focus on one specific aspect of this land. Which is the kid-friendly attraction, Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies.

And – yes – that is the real name of this ride for families with smaller kids. Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies.

This is because … Well, as the official Oriental Land Company description of this attraction spells out, as Guests move through the queue for Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies …

… everything – from flowers and mushrooms to painting utensils and pieces of nibbled cheese – will appear bigger in size, leading guests to realize that they have shrunk down to the size of a fairy and entered their world.

Get it? You’re small now? Like Fairies are?

Okay. So the premise for “Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies” is that … Well, when you climb into your vehicle, you now effectively have become an employee of the Amazon warehouse that services Never Land.

Seriously. Here’s the actual description of this Fantasy Springs attraction:

Guests can help Tinker Bell as she starts her new delivery service in Pixie Hollow while visiting four seasonal locations to deliver various packages and parcels to the fairies.

So be sure and pull out your phone & then take a picture of every package. Because Never Land doesn’t have porch pirates. It has REAL pirates.

Speaking of which, I want to take a sec here to talk about the marquee attraction in Peter Pan’s Never Land. Which is called “Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure.”

Not the subtlest of names, Len. Sort of like going to a fast-food restaurant and saying “I’ll have the cheeseburger burger.”

Anyway … What’s kind of interesting about “Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure” (which is this 6 minute-long ride-thru experience which involves animation & 3D glasses is that – this time around – you’re not rescuing Wendy or Tiger Lilly from Captain Hook & his crew. But – rather – Wendy’s brother John. He’s the middle child in the Darling Family. The one who wears a top hat, carries an umbrella, has glasses and dresses in a full-length night shirt.

Have to admit that – me personally – I like the message that “Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure” is trying to put across here: Boys need rescuing too sometimes. More to the point, that young ladies can – and should – get in on the action.

Back now to “Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies” … I wanted to circle back to the Oriental Land Company’s description of this Fantasy Springs attraction for families with smaller kids. This line, to be specific:

Guests can help Tinker Bell as she starts her new delivery service in Pixie Hollow.

Now that’s a name that should be familiar to Disney World fans. Given that – once upon a time – the Magic Kingdom in Florida was slated to get its very own Pixie Hollow as part of the New Fantasyland expansion project at that theme park.

This project was first announced back in September of 2009. Jay Rasulo (The then-Chairman of Disney Parks & Resorts. And – yes – if you’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on in the corporate realm, you’ve probably heard Jay Rasulo’s name recently. He’s one of the candidates that Nelson Peltz has nominated for a seat on Disney’s Board of Directors. It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays at the Shareholders Meeting. Which – FYI – will be held virtually on Wednesday, April 3rd).

Anyway … When the New Fantasyland project was first announced nearly 15 years ago, it called for the near-doubling-in-size of the most popular land at the Magic Kingdom. Going from 10 acres to 21 acres.

And what Jay Rasulo originally wanted to add to Florida’s Fantasyland was a place where Guests could (I’m quoting from the official press release now) …

… Meet Tinker Bell and her friends in the magical world of Pixie Hollow.

Now the “Disney Fairies” effort launched back in 2005 (Some four years before the original Pixie Hollow project was announced). And “Disney Fairies” … Well, the creation of this franchise was spurred by a couple of things. First & foremost was the launch of “Disney Princess” in late 1999 / early 2000 and the enormous success of that bit of branding (i.e., $300 million in annual sales by 2001, $3 billion by the end of 2012).

The problem with Disney Princesses is that kids would age out of like this franchise / line on toys. Typical user 5 – 7 years of age. Disney Fairies was created partly to give Disney Princesses something to graduate to. Journals / Books. 7 – 9 years of age.

Other thing that spurred the creation of “Disney Fairies.” Interesting stat coming out of California. Mickey Mouse was the No. 1 selling character at Disneyland Park. No. 2 was Tinker Bell.

October of 2008 – Theme park trial balloon. Tinker Bell & her Pixie pals pushed Goofy, Pluto & Donald out of their meet-n-greet spot in the Country Fair tent in Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Two hour-long line, day in  & day out.

Thinking was … If the “Disney Fairies” were to set up shop in this corner of the Magic Kingdom (along with several new Disney Fairies meet-n-greets), every little girl visiting this Disney World theme park would spend hours back here. And then they – and their parents – would have to walk out past virtually every Magic Kingdom shop & restaurant.

It was a can’t-miss / sure-to-succeed proposition. So much so that – as the Imagineers began designing a Pixie Hollow not only for Florida’s Magic Kingdom but also for the new Castle Park that the Imagineers were designing (at that time) for Shanghai.

So how did we go from two Pixie Hollows being planned to the singular “Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies” that will be opening at Tokyo DisneySea in June. We’ll get to that on the second and final installment of this series on next week’s show.


That’s going to do it for the show today.  You can help support our show by subscribing over at, where we’re posting exclusive shows every week.   Check it out at

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 finishes up the story of how we went from multiple Pixie Hollows to … one.


You can find more of Jim at, and more of me, len at

Chrissy, where can people find you?


iTunes Show:  We’re produced spectacularly by Eric Hersey, who’ll be sharing grandma Hersey’s maple flapjack recipe and more at this weekend’s Maryland Maple Syrup Festival, March 16th and 17th, 2024, at the Cunningham Falls State Park, on Catoctin Hollow Road, in beautiful Thurmont Maryland.


While Eric’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.