Ch-Ch-Changes Coming to Disney Parks (Guest Post)

(The wife is taking over the blog today to talk about her thoughts on the changes that Disney announced last month at D23 in Anaheim.)

In July, Disney held their biennial D23 conference, during which Disney typically makes big announcements, specifically about the Disney parks (see: 2015’s conference, when they announced the new Star Wars and Toy Story lands).

This year’s conference was chock full of announcements, some surprising and some already rumored, some fun and exciting and some, not so much (depending on who you ask, of course).

Inspired by a recent podcast from my friend, Justin, of WDW Tales, I decided to write about my non-official and personally biased take on what’s coming to the world of Disney that I love so much.

Star Wars

Back in 2015, it was announced that a Star Wars land would be coming to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World (to my knowledge, they are intended to be identical). Allen, being the Star Wars lover that he is, was very excited. Me, being a liker of Star Wars, was completely and totally fine. Basically, I’m in for anything new.

This year, the official name of the land(s) was announced: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I have to say that the model of the land looks pretty cool, and will involve two new rides as well. It’ll be just like Star Tours! But an entire land and less bumpy (presumably)!

The piece of Star Wars news that truly weirds me out is the announcement of a Star Wars-themed resort at WDW. Per Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Bob Chapek, “It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day … ” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be thinking about Star Wars when I’m washing my face at night.

I also read that there won’t be any functioning windows in the resort – they’ll be fashioned to appear as if you’re looking out into space. No, thank you! Additionally, the resort cast members will be in character during your stay. I’m sorry, but this is one step away from a creepy Westworld reality – all we need is robot “hosts” instead of real people. Needless to stay, I will not be patronizing the resort.

Pixar

There were a few Pixar-related announcements at the conference, the first being the official opening of the new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios in summer 2018. Yay, Toy Story! I think this land will be fun and adorable, and I am there.

It was also announced that Paradise Pier, located in California Adventure, will be re-themed to Pixar Pier. I’m torn on this one. I absolutely love Paradise Pier. It’s one of my favorite lands in the entire Disneyland Resort, and I am resistant to see it change. California Adventure has gone through many different variations in its 16 years of life, and has almost exclusively changed for the better, but I’m reserving judgment on this one (give me a Wall·E presence and we’ll talk).

Alongside the announcement of Pixar Pier are several limited-time (?) events at the Disneyland Resort. One is Pixar Fest, which will bring about the move of the current, cute Pixar Play Parade to Disneyland, alongside a new fireworks show, as well as the return of Paint the Night (my fave!) to California Adventure. I’m assuming this will all go down around the time of the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend, which is Pixar themed this year. (Side note: Don’t leave me, Soundsational! Otherwise we’ll have words, Disney.)

Magic Kingdom

Tron! Tron! Tron! This is a pretty exciting announcement (even for someone who doesn’t care about Tron: The Movie and Tron: The Movie Before That One). Shanghai Disneyland’s awesome TRON Lightcycle Power Run is coming to Tomorrowland, and it’s going to be amazing. It’ll be located somehow behind Tomorrowland Speedway and next to Space Mountain, so best of luck to the team that gets to plan that traffic flow! (Side note #2: Don’t mess with the PeopleMover! I beg you.)

Another possibly cool announcement is the addition of a new theater on Main Street. It’ll be modeled after the Willis Wood theater in Kansas City (about which I know nothing), and I’m excited about the prospect of a new (indoor) show.

Epcot

A park in desperate need of some refurbishment (or maybe a complete overhaul), there are a few exciting new attractions coming to Epcot. The first (and maybe most controversial) is the replacement of the Universe of Energy with a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride. Having never ridden Ellen’s Energy Adventure (I know), I can’t completely say whether or not I agree with this decision; however, it’s unlike Epcot to rely on flashy Disney properties to sell visitors on this particular park, so I’ll be interested to see how this works within the completely revamped Future World.

Speaking of Future World, a fun announcement is the addition of a space-themed restaurant near Mission: SPACE. I’m excited about this announcement – it sounds like fun. If nothing else, it will give me a reason to venture to that corner of the park (seeing as how Mission: SPACE is the only Disney ride I will not ride [aside from the swinging gondolas of death at Mickey’s Fun Wheel]).

There are still some swirling rumors about adding new countries to the World Showcase, as well as some possible future updates (e.g., adding a Coco overlay to the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico); however, one confirmation is the addition of a Ratatouille ride in the France pavilion, which is super exciting and appropriate. I can’t wait to ride the current version at Disneyland Paris – I’ll report back about how awesome it is.

Hollywood Studios

Guys. This park has been down in quality as of late, mainly because it can’t decide what, exactly, it wants to be. It’s all over the place. Already in this blog post, I mentioned that the park is getting the new Star Wars and Toy Story lands. At this point, you might as well start taking bets on how quickly this park will be renamed Walt Disney Studios.

However, the most controversial change coming to Hollywood Studios is the replacement of The Great Movie Ride with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. We can all agree that TGMR is dated, but it’s a classic ride and the freaking centerpiece of the park. What will be its emblem now? A train station? Not sure to expect there.

I trust the Imagineers and hope that they will do a great job with this new ride, but it feels like kind of an odd move for the park. The ride will also feature the new style of animation used on the Disney Channel, which seems less stylistic than the full-length animated films. I’ll reserve judgment for now, but I remain skeptical.

Marvel

I touched on a few Marvel-specific updates earlier, but there are yet more to report. One is some sort of Super Hero universe in California Adventure, presumably near the new Guardians of the Galaxy: BREAKOUT ride that recently commandeered the former Tower of Terror (which, by the way, looks completely out of place among the mostly old-timey look and feel of the park, but I digress).

Another update is re-envisioning Disney’s Hotel New York in Disneyland Paris with a Marvel theme. Pretty innocuous, in my opinion, and also, do Europeans like Marvel? I guess they’ll have to, since Disney has decided to shove it down our throats over the next who knows how many years.

WDW Transportation

Two new transportation options for Disney World were announced. One is Disney Skyliner, a gondola system that will connect several resorts with each other and Epcot and Hollywood Studios. To which I say, Okay…? I mostly feel neutral. One thought is, why not connect some of the more outlying resorts and not those that are already so close to those parks, but all right, fine.

The second new transpo option at Disney World is Minnie Mouse-themed vans. I basically have no opinion on this other than they look adorable! It’s basically a flat-rate Uber that will take you anywhere on property. Just add it to the list of upcharge options Disney is pushing.

Final Thoughts

I truly love visiting the parks, and I can’t imagine any of these announcements will change that – hopefully it will all be better in the long run. Plus, when has Disney ever steered us wrong?

Seattle/Vancouver Weekend Trip

This afternoon, Rachel and I will be traveling to Seattle to stay with our friends Justin and Devin. On Friday morning, the four of us will head up to Vancouver, Canada for the weekend. Justin and I will be running in the SeaWheeze Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Several months ago, I blogged about how I received a free entry into this very exclusive race. And the weekend is finally upon us!

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We are looking forward to a few days with our friends in two great cities. So make sure to follow me on social media to stay up to date on all of our amazing adventures this weekend!

Instagram: @allenwhittaker
Twitter: @allenwhittaker
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allenwhittaker

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Dad’s Wedding Weekend

Last weekend, I had the amazing privilege of helping officiate my Dad’s wedding. And I’ll be honest, that first sentence was never a sentence I expected to write, but that is where we are.

You see, when my Mom passed away over 4 years ago, I think we all wondered (and hoped) that Dad might eventually meet someone. He was/is a very young man with many years left in front of him. We certainly thought it could happen. So when he began dating Suzanne (his future wife) about 3 years ago, I believe we all wondered if this would be a good thing.

Now watching a parent (especially one who was married for over 40 years) date someone different brings about very different feelings and emotions for sure. But I think our family did a beautiful job of welcoming Suzanne into our family and allowing her to get to know us.

And after dating for a good 3 years, my Dad and Suzanne finally got to their wedding weekend. And friends, what a beautiful weekend it was!

Friday evening, all of the Whittaker clan gathered with Suzanne’s family for a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It was such a wonderful time getting to meet all of Suzanne’s family, including her two sons, who believe it or not, I still hadn’t met yet.

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On Saturday, Rachel and I spent some time driving around Enterprise. It’s been quite a while since I’ve just explored my hometown. A lot has changed and yet so much has stayed the same. We were able to get by my grandparent’s old home and stop off to see my mom’s and grandparents’ graves.

Around noon, my side of the family gathered with my Dad for a little time together. My sister-in-law Deanna captured a beautiful picture of the 5 of us Whittakers gathered around our old kitchen table. I love this picture of us sitting down the same way we would when we were kids. And honestly, it’s probably the last time we will gather in this house around this table. Obviously, there were quite a few emotions…

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Later that afternoon, we made our way over to Enterprise First United Methodist Church (my childhood church) for the wedding ceremony. Now I was responsible for several parts of the service. I was playing guitar/singing one song and then leading a good portion of the actual ceremony. To say I was a little anxious would be an understatement.

 

I thought the service was absolutely wonderful and involved all of us kids. My brother Will played piano, sang and helped lead the ceremony, my sister Julie read scripture and was one of the bridesmaids, and my older brother Warren was best man (and “eye candy”). It was one of the sweetest ceremonies I’ve ever been to.

After the wedding, we headed down to Southern Broadway for the reception. We got to see so many family friends. People who practically raised me. It was such a meaningful time together celebrating Dad and Suzanne.

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Sunday morning, we met up at the Enterprise Country Club for brunch with both sides of the family and one last time together. After brunch, Rachel and I made our way back up to Atlanta.

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All in all, it was a wonderful weekend celebrating Dad and Suzanne. We are all so happy for them and hope it will be years of blessings for the happy couple!

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Check out my brother Will’s perspective of the wedding here

Friday Favorites

Welcome to a quick and fun edition of Friday Favorites. Here are a few things I am enjoying in my world.

Brooks National Parks Collection Brooks and REI are teaming up for a Brooks National Parks Collection celebrating our National Parks across the US with 5 unique shoe designs and t-shirts. Each shoe is stamped with its own unique national park crest. I picked up a pair of these shoes this week at REI and I love them! I can’t wait to start wearing them once the weather gets a little cooler in a few months.

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QALO Silicone Wedding Ring The QALO wedding ring is designed for those with an active lifestyle. And since my wedding ring is a little on the looser side, I decided to pick up one to wear when running. Looking forward to trying it out soon.

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Dad’s Wedding Weekend Finally, this weekend, my Dad is getting remarried, to a wonderful lady named Suzanne. It’s been over 4 years since my mom passed and we are all very happy that Dad has found someone to be with him to continue on this journey of life. Rachel and I are heading down to Alabama this afternoon to celebrate with family and friends. The ceremony is on Saturday evening and I will be helping officiate this joyous occasion.

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Hope everyone has a great weekend! Until next time…