Well, we’re back.
After a week in the Vacation Kingdom of the World, and a bit of time away from Progress City (has it really been that long since the last post?), we’re gearing up for the next wave of activity here. I have books to review, DVDs to review, stories to write and a third podcast to figure out. Hopefully, this will happen sooner rather than later!
In the meantime, I thought I’d say hello and offer a few thoughts about Walt Disney World on my return. I won’t get too deep into it, because I’m sure we’ll be talking about it on the podcast and elsewhere, but there are some definite impressions that can be easily summed up.
All in all, it was a good trip. The parks seemed to be in mostly good shape, and aside from a few glaring exceptions the resort’s operations seemed to be smooth. One of the most noticeable things was the Cast Members, who seemed to be really energetic and on the ball all around. Maybe it’s because the College Program kids are all fresh and new, but it seemed like everyone was just… well… doing their job with a little bit of extra spark. There were a few bad eggs, as can be expected, but overall there was a higher than typical number of genuinely pleasant CM interactions.
Magic Kingdom: The Kingdom seemed to be in pretty good shape, although the custodial team was clearly not staffed enough to keep up with the crowds. But while the park was a little rough on the cleanliness front, it did seem to have improved its general maintenance considerably. A few years ago this park was falling apart at the seams. Now there was fresh paint visible in several places, and there were several positive little changes.
The exception, as is typical, is Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland continues to be a disaster, and needs a complete stem-to-stern overhaul. In Adventureland, the Tiki Room: Under New Management continues to grow more abandoned and outdated, and needs to be restored to its original show immediately.
EPCOT Center: EPCOT can be summed up pretty easily – Showcase looks great, Future World looks rough. There’s lots of fresh paint and new construction in World Showcase; work continues on the Cantina replacement and the new pizza place in Italy which, by the way, is going to be ginormous. Crowds packed the promenade, and every attraction and live entertainment performance drew a throng of guests. Showcase needs new countries. When you have that many restaurants and they’re all booked solid, it’s time to expand. Some new, fresh attractions wouldn’t hurt either.
Future World, much like Tomorrowland, needs to get sanded down and reconstructed. The Imagination pyramids looks like someone covered them with pig grease and soot, and there’s just a general feeling of clutter and malaise everywhere. There is, though, a lot of new retro merchandise so Disney should be applauded for that. There was also tons of new country-specific merch in each pavilion in World Showcase. Add to that some spectacular weather and the always-impressive Flower & Garden shows, and EPCOT was looking pretty darn good.
Hollywood Studios: Same old, same old. Empty buildings, outdated attractions, unadorned soundstages and still that bloody hat. Hollywood and Sunset still look great, but the rest of the park needs help soon. We also had an absolutely awful run in with a cast member here, but that’s Beacon Joe’s story to tell. This park has such great potential – give it some love, Disney!
Saratoga Springs: We stayed here, despite my reservations about it being a hallowed resting ground for the remains of my beloved Villas. The buildings have a distinct lack of interesting character, which we’ll discuss in the future, but it’s nice and quiet and the rooms inside were quite nice. It’s good to be close to the Village, especially now that the noise factor of Pleasure Island has gone down, and I love taking the boat ride up the Sassagoula. So I’d say the resort exceeded my expectation, but lacks the great escapist themeing of, say, the Polynesian.
Transportation: Surprise, surprise – my biggest problem with the resort is, once again, the broken transportation system. The fact that I had lots of online Disney folks expressing surprise that I actually tried to use the buses instead of driving everywhere shows how bad it’s gotten. It’s time for Disney to start at square one and overhaul the entire resort transportation infrastructure. The overarching design goal of Walt Disney World was that you wouldn’t have to use your car; now it’s almost necessary if you want to move about in a timely fashion.
Those are the cliff notes. I don’t want to give away too much, else I spoil all our scintillating commentary on the next podcast. Now planning has to begin for the next trip – Destination D in September. West-coasters, how about it?