Saturday, March 29, 2008

Treehouse Villas Construction Has Begun

A few weeks ago the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Disney had filed plans to finally remodel (or in some cases replace) the aging and hurricane damaged Treehouse Villas that once delighted guests with their unique accommodations. The are environmental conditions to be sensitive too, so the changes will result in a loss of square footage, but hey, at least you'll be able to stay in them again. Of course, we don't know if that will require membership in the Disney Vacation Club or not.

What we do know now is that construction fences have gone up around the property signaling the project is a go.

The above images is from February of 2008. It appears to be in fairly good condition, but some of the villas were still strewn with Hurricane debris as recently as last fall.

(photo courtesy Lemoncat1 via Flickr Creative Commons license)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

New Bus System coming to Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney World Resort transportation system is undergoing a major makeover right now. It is in the middle of installing a new package called Magic In Motion with the goal of improving service levels and increasing efficiency.

Last summer marked the start of the new system when on-board audio was added to the fleet of 263 buses. Soon each bus will be tracked by GPS and a computer system. In theory they will then know how many people are on each bus and where it is. This will allow them to redirect empty and under-utilized buses if they see there is a change in demand. If all works right, this will result in shorter wait times for guests and more efficiency for the transportation fleet.

I've been hearing about this system since sometime around the year 2000. I'm hoping they finally got it right. Right now it looks like May will see the system fully implemented.

The question is will this be a better experience for the guest? With fewer buses around how will they handle crushes of high capacity? Well, there is always that rumor that keeps floating around about how Disney will add a light rail or monorail line from Epcot to Disney's Animal Kingdom with Disney's Hollywood Studios inbetween. Yeah, don't hold your breath.

Photo courtesy BenUK via Flickr creative commons license.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Magic Kingdom's Autopia gets new name

Well at least one part of the rumor I hinted about here has come true, The Tomorrowland Indy Speedway has lost its sponsorship by the Indy Racing League. New signage has begun to go up proclaiming the new name the "Tomorrowland Speedway." It remains to be seen if the other ideas for the attraction are given the green light.

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Cheesecake Factory Express leaving DisneyQuest

The Cheesecake Factory Express has decided to quit DisneyQuest at the end of their current contract. They've been serving desserts and excellent meals at the Downtown Disney arcade for ten years. But now they're closing up shop.

The Cheesecake Factory Express was originally planned as a franchise type store that would be available in each DisneyQuest as they were opened across the nation. The DisneyQuest idea never really took off and so the Cheesecake Factory was left with a single 'express' location.

Disney will take over operations of the location and give it a new name beginning in May.

At one time an ESPN Zone was rumored to go into the DisneyQuest location. Essentially exchanging one arcade and eatery for another with a stronger brand. There is apparently another major store in Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney rumored to be ready to pack up shop, Virgin Megastore, if it does ESPN Zone will likely occupy at least part of that building.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Monorail Red Video - running on rails at Disneyland

The problem with Monorail Red appears to have been less serious than originally thought. When first tested, the new Mark VII Monorail was unable to make it around the first turn from the maintenance shed onto the track. The problem was thought to be with the design of the undercarriage, but turns out a piece was just installed incorrectly. That's been fixed and now Monorail Red is cycling at night in order to work out any further kinks.

There is even video of Monorail Red running. Unfortunately since all the testing is done at night, it's pretty dark. But you can just make out the new retro style of the Mark VII and see that it is running under its own power. I'm also hearing that Monorail Blue is back on schedule to be the second Mark VII to be delivered.

No word on when the public will be able to ride.

Parts of this article was sourced from the LA Times.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Nestle dropping Disney Sponsorship?

Nestle is one of Disney's larger sponsors. I think Nestle came in through the sponsorship back door when they bought the Carnation brand (someone correct me if I'm wrong on that). They took over sponsorship of The Land pavilion at Epcot when Kraft backed out and have various other sponsorships around the parks and resorts.

One of those sponsorships makes them providers of all the coffee (and hot chocolate) served at Walt Disney's Parks and Resorts (it is possible to get freshly ground gourmet coffee at a few locations). They also make the famous Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bars. The former is reviled but the latter is treasured.

Now we're hearing that Nestle, with its headquarters in Switzerland, may be on the way out in favor of competing products from that second most famous of American brands, Coca-Cola. Of course, there is one product that Coca-Cola does not make yet. Yep, that's coffee.

Hmmm, who else makes coffee these days? Can you say Starbucks? That's pure conjecture on my part. But wouldn't it be nice, Disney fans?

Meanwhile, let's hope Disney finds another vendor to make those Mickey Bars. (In a peanut free facility for those with allergies as the current bars are.)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Disney Park Parade Rotation coming soon

The first leg of the Parade Do-see-do has just been completed with California Adventure sending it's "Pixar Block Party Bash" to Disney's Hollywood Studios. California Adventure was rewarded with a brand new parade the "Pixar Play Parade", of course that's experienced a bump or two in the road lately.

Another rumor site recently posted that Disney's Animal Kingdom won't be getting a night parade after all. The infrastructure change required to make the DAK parade corridor capable of handling a night parade were deemed too drastic and therefore "Rivers Of Light" has been snuffed out. Having walked Disney's Animal Kingdom explicitly looking for how a night parade would work, I have to agree that any widening of the pathways would affect a drastic change on the intimate feel of the park.

Hopefully the Rivers of Light idea can be revived at another theme park; one also in need of a night parade... can you say Epcot? Although the death of ROL at DAK has not been confirmed by my sources.

Now I'm hearing that as soon as October 2009 the Parade of Dreams from Disneyland will be exported to the Magic Kingdom. This is in addition to rumors sending SpectroMagic to Paris in exchange for Fantillusion, which originally debuted at Tokyo Disneyland. I'm not sure if the Rivers of Light change will factor into this. It would be nice to get an original night parade at Walt Disney World soon.

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New Disney Cruise Line Ship Names

We all know there are two new ships coming from the Disney Cruise Lines. One in 2011 and one in 2012. Can't get here fast enough if you ask me. Over in Germany the Meyer Werft construction docks are at full speed, but the first of the two Disney ships is not yet shown on their webcam. (At least not by name.)

The current speculation is that the names will be the Disney Dream and the Disney Celebration. Both those names are awfully similar to other ships and ship lines. That's the same reason the Disney Princess is a non-starter.

I've put out my feelers but haven't found anyone that claims to have the final names. They may not even be chosen yet. There is one things we know for sure, the names will be the "Disney blank". If you are in a position to know, please help us fill in the blank in the comments below.

See also: Naming the new Disney Ships at The Disney Blog.

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