Published using Google Docs
Disney Dish 2024-04-22_Shownotes
Updated automatically every 5 minutes

Disney Dish with Jim Hill Ep 476: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” gets ready for its grand opening

Today’s episode is brought to you by: TouringPlans, Cirque Du Soleil: Drawn to Life, Green Chef and Storyworth


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, April 22, 2024. Happy birthday, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


On the show today: News! Our first surveys about Universal’s upcoming Kids park! Plus I go horseback riding at Fort Wilderness. And listener questions! Then in our main segment, Jim gives us part 3 of the story of how Disney World’s Tomorrowland came to be.


Let’s get started by bringing in the man who has just learned from Human Resources that when your co-worker says “Can I ask a dumb question”, your response should not be “More than anyone I know.” It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?


iTunes: Thanks to everyone who subscribes to the show over at including Matt Stout, Michael Lee, Jonathan Wyman, Jake Pearson, David Maruca, and Jennifer Stewart. Jim, this is the Disney culinary team on the new frontier of Disney theme park food: outbound marketing.  So one day soon we could get personalized messages in My Disney Experience like “Hey, it’s Jennifer. We just made Tonga Toast. I can swing by in 10 minutes with some coffee too. You interested?” 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




  • Michelin awards for Florida
  • Next week: Disneyland Forward approved

  • Every show should begin with a round of self-congratulations
  • We said on the April 1 show that we thought Tiana’s would open in the first half of June. Last week Disney sent out invitations to the Tiana opening media event, which is June 9-11.
  • Reminder:
  • CMs are blocked out of MK June 3-14.
  • So CM previews are likely before June 3, because otherwise they’re blocked out of the park.
  • That would open the possibility of some guest previews the first week of June, starting with Golden Oak residents, and eventually DVC and AP.
  • I’ve started to hear feedback from folks who’ve been on the attraction, and it’s very, very encouraging.

  • Universal Orlando announced dates for Halloween Horror Nights:
  • Starts Friday, August 30, through Sunday, November 3, 2024
  • Wednesdays through Sundays
  • Single-night tix start at around $88.
  • VIP tours and Express Passes are available, which I highly recommend.
  • I’m going the weekend of September 20. Hope to see y’all there.
  • Universal also announced the names and opening dates of its moderate resorts for Epic Universe:
  • Universal Stella Nova Resort, opening January 21, 2025
  • Universal Terra Luna Resort, opening February 25, 2025
  • I believe these are both at the south end of the park, close to the Convention Center.
  • Combined 1,500 rooms, so ~750 each
  • I paid $230/night with tax for an upgraded pool view at Stella Nova.
  • And $201/night with tax for an upgraded pool view at Terra Luna.
  • Weeknight rates start at $160, weekend rates at $240/night
  • Universal advertises these as moderates
  • From the press release:
  • Cosmos Cafe and Market at Stella Nova Resort and Omega Cafe and Market at Terra Luna Resort: These quick-service restaurants feature made-to-order American classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a selection of grab-and-go items.
  • Galaxy Bar and Galaxy Grill at Stella Nova Resort and Moonrise Bar and Moonrise Grill at Terra Luna Resort: Guests can enjoy burgers, quesadillas and salads at these walk-up service pool bars and grills.
  • Nova Bar at Stella Nova Resort and Luna Bar at Terra Luna Resort: Each hotel’s lobby bar will offer specialty cocktails curated with unique ingredients, along with the classics.
  • Amenities:
  • Resort-style Pools: Each hotel features a nearly 10,000-square-foot pool with a relaxing hot tub, comfortable lounge and table-top seating in the pool area, a firepit and more. Plus, the whole family can enjoy the resorts’ recreational activities like poolside movies and outdoor games.
  • Fitness Centers: Guests can take advantage of complimentary, state-of-the-art fitness centers featuring a variety of strength and cardio equipment, and locker rooms with showers available for use on arrival and departure days.
  • Game Rooms: Guests of all ages can enjoy a variety of standard arcade and video games in the hotels’ dedicated game rooms.
  • Jim, does this point to an Epic Universe opening in the first half of 2025?

  • Disney announced a major expansion and name change for its second park in France, currently known as “Walt Disney Studios Park
  • Name change to “Disney Adventure World”
  • Expansion will nearly double the size of the park
  • More “immersive” experiences, such as World of Frozen, to go along with Avengers Campus and Worlds of Pixar
  • Jim, that means we’ll have a dedicated Frozen land in … France, Tokyo, and Shanghai, but not in the US?
  • I mean coincidentally, we’re at the very beginning of a 10-year expansion cycle here in the US.
  • Disney says more than 90% of the park will be re-done.
  • Adding a bay of water for Frozen
  • Frozen Ever After ride
  • Anna & Elsa meet-and-greet
  • That body of water would make sense as a venue for a nighttime show too
  • Tangled update to tea cups, Raiponce Tangled Spin. Jim, we saw this ride vehicle at Imagineering last year and we were sworn to secrecy about it. But our good friend Jim Shull apparently worked on the design:
  • Princess character meet and greet: The Regal View Restaurant and Lounge, a stylish table-service restaurant that will offer guests spectacular views over Adventure Bay, along with a chance to meet some of their favorite Disney Princesses.
  • Updates to hotels and the Disney Village


Several listeners, including our friends Jared, Kelly, and Brian, got a survey from Universal Parks and Resorts asking about kids and theme parks. The survey did not initially identify itself as from Universal, but if you answered correctly to these questions, you got the survey:

1. How many kids under 18 are in the household?

2. Typical weekend activities (freeform response)

3. What places would you take your kid to? (Zoo, museum, casino, indoor activity park, theme park in scale of Extremely Unlikely to Extremely Likely)

4. What cities could you see taking your kid to in the next 3 years? (Scale of Extremely Unlikely to Extremely Likely for Phoenix, Las Vegas, New York, Philadelphia, Orlando, Dallas, Los Angeles)

5. What's a drive (in minutes) you wouldn't have a second thought about to do for a trip? I said 60

6. What's a drive you would sort of have to plan out but would be able to do? I said 240 minutes

7. What's a drive you would refuse to do at all in a car? I said 1200 minutes (20hrs)

At that point it revealed itself as a Universal Kids Survey and here's the other questions:

 Then: $45, then $65 (there might be an anchoring effect here by saying $55 first)


  • How many times per year would you visit at that price?


Listener Emails

From an anonymous source related to our DAS coverage last week:

Disney is partnering with a third party medical group and not completely outsourcing the Accessibility department. This partnership will support the Accessibility Services team from a guidance perspective. There are many Guests Relations cast members and managers who are excited to begin their new role in Accessibility Services.

Guests can be assured that they will continue to have individualized conversations with Cast Members who will guide them to appropriate services and accommodations.

Also last week I asked whether Prince Ali, the new Aladdin character at 1900 Park Fare, is the first prince at a character meal since Prince Charming in 2009. Lots of people wrote in to say that Prince Eric and Prince Charming were both at the Trattoria Al Forno character breakfast before the pandemic.

From Stephanie, who wrote in about Halloween Horror Nights:

My husband and I have been attending HHN for the past 5 years and agree that it is an awesome halloween event. Last year, we decided to do the RIP Tour. In full transparency, this tour is expensive. However, it is SO worth the money.

In all our years of going, we've only made it through about 5-6 houses per event. We're also exhausted from all of the walking and waiting in lines. On the RIP Tour, we got through all 10 houses in 4 hours. In those 4 hours, we also experienced all of the scare zones, had private areas to take breaks, eat and hydrate (food and non-alcoholic drinks were complementary at these private areas), and had reserved seating at their main show. In addition to getting through all of the houses in a much more efficient way, we also had an amazing tour guide who provided the back story to each house, which helped make the house that much more immersive.

After the tour, you're then free to ride attractions via the express lane. We will be doing it again this year and hope to have a similar experience!

Len says: I’ve done a couple of VIP tours at Universal. Totally agree. If you’re going to do this, ask for Logan S as your tour guide.

From Brock B:

How does Disney feel about the youtuber/tiktok subgenre of vloggers that have popped up around their Disney parks?

Len: I think like every business, they’re trying to be as accommodating as possible in the hopes of getting positive coverage. I know they’ve got fairly sophisticated metrics to track who they work with, and for which events. And they have specific rules about what all of your posts - not just the Disney ones - should look like (e.g., no profanity or discussion of controversial issues). And, obviously, you have to say nice things about them.

I think the things Disney doesn’t like are the things all of us collectively don’t like: doing unsafe things like jumping into World Showcase Lagoon, or trying to take hand-held video on TRON despite the warnings not to.

Jon B writes in with this:

I was wondering if you know why Disneyland specifically (but also the other Disney parks) gets better specialty popcorn buckets than Walt Disney World. And more frequently.

Len: BE FAIR TO FLORIDA. Also, I mention this because Tokyo Disney just showed what their new Peter Pan popcorn bucket will look like. It’s a small model of Big Ben, where the roof comes off for popcorn, and the clock dial glows at night.

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 finishes the story of how Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland came to be.

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

Disney Dish – Feature for April 22, 2024
Walt Disney World’s version of
Tomorrowland – Part 3 of 3

WDW Tomorrowland
Part 3 of 3

Where we left off … It’s now the late Summer / early Fall of 1972. What with the Magic Kingdom needing additional capacity, the expansion of the Tomorrowland section of that theme park has to continue.  But – at the same time – since the Imagineers are actively toying with the idea of building the Walt Disney World Showcase at the edge of the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot (right next to the monorail station & the TTC) and since that project is very Tomorrowland-like when it comes to its overall look & design … Never mind about happens when construction of Epcot-the-City begins in the mid-to-1970s.

Long story short: Walt Disney Productions has a problem when it comes to “Project Florida.” They have these three aspects of their new destination resort – Tomorrowland, the Walt Disney World Showcase & Epcot-the-City – that are all futuristic in their overall look & design. But in order to succeed, these three different aspects of Walt Disney World are going to need distinctly different identities. Different versions of the future, if you will.

Quick side note: This is actually – back in the mid-1990s (starting in 1994) – Tomorrowland at Florida at the Magic Kingdom was reimagined as the Tomorrowland that Never Was. Embracing a sci-fi-of-the-1930s / Buck Rogers kind of look. Not to mention jokey names Rockettower Plaza (a riff on Rockefeller Plaza in NYC).

This was reportedly done because – at the time – visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort were confused because the Company’s resort in Florida had areas at two different theme parks that had very similar names: Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom and Future World over at Epcot.

Additional side note: To further complicate this issue … I was told as recently as last year that the reason Disney poured all of this money over the past 5 years into reimagining the front part of Epcot is because there were still visitors to WDW who were confused by the Resort having both a Tomorrowland & a Future World. Which is why that part of Epcot has now been rebranded as three different areas: World Nature, World Celebration & World Discovery.

30 years later, the Company’s still trying to clear up this confusion concerning Florida’s Tomorrowland & Future World over at Epcot.

Even further side note: I know that this may seem silly to most Disney fans (i.e., the very idea of confusing Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom with Future World over at Epcot). But I can assure that the Company takes things like this – they call it brand identity – very, very seriously.

But then again, people who are on vacation often forget to pack their brains. I can’t tell you the number of Cast Members who have told me about Guests coming up to them on Main Street, U.S.A. and then asking for directions to Harry Potter Land. Or – for that matter – Team Members over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure who have to break to Guests wandering around Marvel Super Hero Island that the “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind” isn’t in that theme park. But – rather – over in Epcot’s Future World … Excuse me: The World Discovery section of that theme park.

Okay. Back now to Walt Disney World in the Late Summer / early Fall of 1972 and the problem the Company is having with three future-based projects and not having enough future to go around … You always have to remember that – at this point in “Project Florida” ‘s history – Disney management is still recovering from having radically overspent on the construction of their destination resort. Back in the mid-1960s, it had been estimated that it would cost the Company $100 million to turn some swampland in Central Florida into Disneyland East. When the final costs were all totted up in late December of 1971 (including everything that had been spent in September & October of that same year in the mad rush to get the Resort open for its previously announced October 1, 1971 opening date), that number was now $400 million.

Now given that – back in 1954 & 1955 – the folks who were in charge of finances at Walt Disney Productions saw the costs of turning an orange grove in Anaheim into the Happiest Place on Earth go from an estimated $5 million to $7 million to $9 million to $11 million to – again, there was a crazy last minute push to get Disneyland open by July 17th of 1955 to $17 million … They really should have seen this coming with “Project Florida.” That history would repeat itself.

But that didn’t happen. And in the first year of Disney World’s operation, there was all sorts of finger pointing behind-the-scenes when it came to who had been the most wasteful, money-wise, when this destination resort was just getting up out of the ground.

Mind you, Disney World was a hit right out of the box. People were pouring into the theme park. The hotels around the monorail loop were full. The campground at Fort Wilderness was doing turnaway business. So – long range – things were going to be fine. Once the Company paid down all of that debt it had racked up due to those cost over-runs that had occurred during the construction phase of Walt Disney World, things would be ducky. WDW was going to be a money making machine.

But then – in September of 1972 – the Mattel Corporation announced that it would be building Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus World right down the road from the Magic Kingdom. Just 10 miles away in Haines City, Florida.

And when Disney executives learned the details of this $60 million project, they absolutely freaked. Let’s start with who was helping to design the place. Which was Rolly Crump, one of Walt’s favorite Imagineers.

And then there was the overall hook of this theme park. Which was you were going to get to visit a small American town on the day that the big top was coming to town. Which was obviously Main Street, U.S.A. but on the next level.

As Guests arrived at Circus World, they were first supposed to be encouraged to visit the outskirts of town. Where the circus train was off-loading all of its animals for that night’s big show. As you were waiting for that afternoon’s circus parade (which would roll through the length of this charming turn-of-the-century town), you were encouraged to explore the midway. Which had a wide assortment of classic carnival & theme park rides.

At the outer edge of town, you could watch as the big top went up. In town, you could also visit shops where you’d then watch the costumes for the performers / harnesses for the animals being made. Also visit Clown Alley and learn the tricks of the trade / be made up as a buffoon.

Nighttime, you’d journey to the big top and see one of several shows. Could also visit this theme park’s icon. 140 foot tall elephant-shaped structure with a houda (Indiana riding platform with roof). Elegant restaurant inside the elephant’s body (Elevators in legs). Houda outside viewing platform.

What especially bothered Disney about Circus World was … Well, Mattel (which was flush with Hot Wheels & Barbie money at the time) had a well considered plan here. They had purchased Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus a few years previous. And their plan – when it came to what they were building in Haines City – was two-fold.

The circus had always wintered in Florida. Historically down in Sarasota, where John Ringling had built an elaborate Italian pallaza facing out on the Gulf of Mexico. But that version of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus’ wintering space … That had been built for an earlier version of the circus. One where the circus traveled from town to town and then erected big canvas tents.

That version of Ringing Brothers no longer existed. Starting in the mid-1960s (which is when the Feld family first bought the circus), the operation had ditched the canvas tents and go to performing indoors in arenas all over the country. Which had effectively streamlined & modernized the operation.

This then brings us to the secondary agenda for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus World. Out front, facing towards the public, Circus World was supposed to be a theme park in the vein of WDW’s Magic Kingdom. But out back, behind the scenes, it was supposed to be the new corporate headquarters / wintering grounds for the whole operation (Remember how I mentioned – when you toured the park – you could see costumes being sewed / harnesses being made. Actual day-to-day operations at the Circus would be turned into shows & attractions at the Parks).

For Disney, this idea was terrifying. Well-funded competition just down the street designed with the help of a veteran Imagineer that didn’t necessarily have to make the sort of money that a Magic Kingdom needed to stay open because – truth be told – what Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey was actually building here (with Mattel’s money) was a new state-of-the-art corporate headquarters that would then allow the circus to update its overall operation / modernize all of its back-of-house facilities while AT THE SAME TIME making the public pay for the privilege of peeking behind the scenes.

What especially worried Disney was that Ringling Bros & Mattel had announced in September of 1972 totally borrowed from the Mouse’s playbook. EX: The first part of Circus World that was supposed to open was its Showcase. Much like the WDW Preview Center (which had been located off of I-4 along Hotel Plaza Boulevard from January of 1970 – September of 1971), you could visit a Circus tent-like structure and view all sorts of models & concept art for the park-that-was-yet-be-built. But you’d have also been able to view an IMAX film (This --  by the way – was the very first time this film format was readily available for folks East of the Mississippi to see).

The Circus World Showcase was supposed to break ground in early 1973, with the project’s preview center then opening in the Fall of that same year. As for Circus World (the theme park), Phase One of that project was supposed to open in late 1974 / more likely early 1975. With the rest of this theme park to then built in phases from the mid-1970s right up to the early 1980s.

Which – if you’ll remember the time line that we discussed on last week’s “Disney Dish” (Where work on “Phase One” of “Project Florida” [i.e., the Vacation Kingdom portion of Walt Disney World] was supposed to end in time for America’s bicentennial [Summer of 1976]. Which would then allow the Company to begin work on “Phase Two” of “Project Florida.” Which would be construction of Epcot-the-City) in late 1976 / early 1977 – would have put serious competition just down the road from the Magic Kingdom.

Again, remember this is a Disney management team that is still concerned about paying down those cost overruns that had occurred during the construction of Florida’s vacation kingdom. And now a well-funded competitor (one that didn’t really need to make as much money as Disney did because the secondary agenda for Circus World was to give Ringling Bros an up-to-date corporate headquarters and a modern wintering facility for its traveling circus) would be setting up shop just down the street. Which then potentially threatened Disney’s ability to quickly pay down that $400 million debt.

One month later, at WDW’s 1 year anniversary celebration, the Company holds what can only be called its “Shock and Awe” press conference. It announces that:

·          “Pirates of the Caribbean” is coming to Florida

·          “Space Mountain” is coming to Florida

·          The campgrounds at Fort Wilderness will be doubing in size

·          The Walt Disney World shopping village is coming to Lake Buena Vista

The vacation kingdom’s carefully calibrated, years-in-the-planning “Phase One” & “Phase Two” plan just gets tossed out the window. Total construction cost for these new additions to WDW is $60 million. Which is the amount Mattel said it would be spending on Circus World. Coincidence? I think not.

Lot of people shocked by this announcement. Marc Davis (who’s spent 5 years working on “Western River Expedition” at this point) now being told “Stop work on your cowboy & Indians thing. We need a version of ‘Pirates’ for Florida STAT.”

Disneyland management as well. As far back as 1965, they’d been told that they’d be the very first Disney Park to get a Space Mountain indoor roller coaster. Which is why – starting in 1966 – they began featuring that signature structure which would eventually house that thrill ride – prominently on that theme park’s souvenir map as a “future attraction.” Now they learned that WDW would be getting Space Mountain first.

Weird bend on story: When Marc Davis learns of this, he tries to sell Disneyland on the idea of building “Western River Expedition” on the West Coast. The sad part of this story is – when Davis goes to do this – the place where this project would have logically fit out in Anaheim (which was Disneyland’s old Indian village) – was already in the process of being transformed into another Davis-designed-for-Florida attraction. Which was the “Country Bear Jamboree.”

What’s especially fascinating about this moment in Walt Disney World history is that … Well, Mattel frightened Disney into spending money it really couldn’t afford to spend at that time out ahead of the Arab Oil Embargo (which started in October of 1973. Just one year later). Which was a period where Disney was simultaneously celebrating its 50th anniversary and freaked out that it was saddled with so much debt at a time when people couldn’t buy gas to drive down to their resort in Florida. Scary, scary time back in Burbank.

But then the kicker: As it turns out, Disney spent this $60 million on rapidly & radically expanding the WDW Resort when they didn’t have to.

Why? In 1971 & 1972, the Mattel Corporation experienced two truly terrible Christmases back-to-back. The first Christmas, there’s a dockworkers strike in Long Beach, California (which is the main port in the U.S. where Mattel’s product – which was coming over from factories in Asia – would be off-loaded. Strike lasted until well into the Fall of that year. Mattel’s toys couldn’t make it to store shelves in time for Christmas. Company stuck with all sorts of unsold inventory come January / has to write it all off. Loses a bundle that year.

1972. Mattel management decides “We’re not going to let something like that happen again with the dockworkers. Let’s shift most of our toy production from Asia to Mexico.” Then – in the late Summer of 1972 – there’s this massive fire at Mattel’s main factory in Mexico. 75% of the Company’s inventory gets burned up before it can then be loaded on trucks & sent out to stores.

Two miserable Christmases, sales-wise, back to back. Hard for Mattel to climb out of this financial hole. Tough decisions have to be made.

April 26, 1973. It’s roughly six months after Mattel has announced that it will be building Circus World in Haines City , FL. Irvin Feld – the then-President of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus – is in his hotel room getting dressed. That morning, he’s supposed to take part in the groundbreaking for the Circus World Showcase (this project’s equivalent of the WDW Preview Center on Hotel Plaza Drive).

Irvin – as you might expect from a guy who runs a circus – is a real showman. He’s arranged for a dozen of the circus’ elephants to be there at the groundbreaking. Each of them will be outfitted with oversized construction helmets & shovels. They’ve all been trained to use their trunks to wield these shovels as part of the project’s groundbreaking ceremony. It’s going to be a hell of a photo op.

The phone then rings in Feld’s hotel room. He then picks up the receiver. It’s Ruth Handler, the founder of Mattel (She and her husband Eliot started this toy company back in 1945). Ruth gets right to the point. “Irv, we’re selling the circus to Venture Out. They’re the recreation arm of Gulf Oil. To be honest, I don’t know if Gulf will want to go forward with construction of Circus World. I’m so sorry to do this to you. But we had to sell. We’re out of money. Best of luck to you.”

And with that news rattling around his head, Feld still has to go over to the Circus World construction site and take part in the groundbreaking that morning.

This is an amazing story – the twisty, turny tale of Circus World in Florida. I’ve been researching the history of this Park (and how it was intertwined with Disney for much of the 1970s) for nearly 50 years at this point. Really have to do something-of-size with this story at some point.

But that, Len, is the story of how we wound up with the Tomorrowland we have today at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. Where a Space Mountain arrived in Florida years ahead of when it was originally supposed to. All because Circus World (which – at one time – had the might of Mattel behind it) – panicked Disney management.

Which is ironic. Given that – according to what we see in “Dumbo,” anyway – elephants are supposed to be frightened by mice. Whereas this time around, it was a mouse that was frightened by a elephant.

MAIN TOPIC - Patreon 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.  Our most recent show came out last week and is answers to your listener questions.  Check it out at

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



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


iTunes Show:  We’re produced spectacularly by Eric Hersey, who’ll be defending the Undisputed Circus Voltaire World Title belt at the  Delaware Pinball Collective 2024 Tour Open Championship on Saturday, May 18, 2024 from 10 am to 7 pm at the Delaware Pinball Collective, on First State Boulevard, in beautiful, downtown Wilmington, Delaware.


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


We’re dedicating this show to Melissa Crim and the family of our friend Andy Crimm, who passed away last week. Andy was a great guy, a huge theme park fan, and for some reason only known to Andy and God, a fan of this show. Many of y’all met Andy at our events, including the Starcruiser meet, our Disney Dish cruise, and others. Always in a good mood, and always up for doing something in the parks. Andy will be missed.

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