Big Little Things Disney World Needs to Bring Back

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Walt Disney World has made steps in the suitable course so far in 2024, enhancing the visitor expertise in measurable methods with the return of all-day Park Hopping, Dining Plans, and finish of park reservations for many vacationers. There’s nonetheless stuff to repair, and this record covers little-but-big methods to perform that.

What we imply by ‘big little’ issues to repair is the very minor perks or choices that always go unnoticed or are missed by themselves, however make a serious or significant distinction in combination. These usually are not excessive stage and we don’t get many questions on any of them at this level, however they do matter as a result of all of it provides up.

Frankly, this what Walt Disney World is all about. It’s not simply the little particulars in themed design or placemaking, it’s additionally that consideration to element within the visitor expertise. Going above and past in methods huge and small. Enhancements company might not discover in isolation or largely wouldn’t mourn if lacking, however that collectively make Walt Disney World really feel like a well-oiled machine and a world-class trip vacation spot the place each visitor is a VIP. Giving company issues they by no means knew they wanted.

Hence ‘big little’ issues. That’s why you received’t discover Disney’s Magical Express, free FastPass, or Extra Magic Hours on this record. Or even complaints about shorter park hours, lacking nighttime spectaculars, or subpar upkeep and experience downtime. Those are all ‘big-big’ issues about which we nonetheless do hear common complaints and are very noticeable cuts or points. That’s the stuff everyone seems to be speaking about–and for good cause, because it’s both vastly missed or core competencies.

This record is extra under-the-radar issues and magical moments that completely may transfer the needle on visitor satisfaction, intent to revisit or suggest metrics, particularly in combination. But individually, virtually nothing on this record is on the stage that even lifelong Walt Disney World followers usually are not reserving journeys or returning on account of. The absence issues, however most of this doesn’t actively stand out as being a difficulty.

Hopefully all of this is smart. Given that common readers are sometimes longtime Walt Disney World followers who “get” what makes the place particular, I think it’ll resonate. And if not, we are able to return to grousing in regards to the Disney’s Magical Express elimination and whether or not Epic Universe will “force” Disney’s hand to convey again a few of these extinct visitor perks in 2025 or past. But for now, right here’s my record of massive little issues that Walt Disney World must convey again…

Resort Delivery – It boggles my thoughts that this has not returned. Back in my day, Walt Disney World would magically transfer merchandise you obtain within the theme parks to your resort for pick-up so that you didn’t have to hold souvenirs and stuff round all day. This free service was a pleasant on-site perk, and an effective way to not want a pack mule by the top of the day.

Like different issues, comparable to Disney’s Magical Express, this “perk” was mutually advantageous. Walt Disney World’s calculation was that company would spend extra money on merchandise within the parks in the event that they didn’t have to hold their purchases round all day lengthy. And they had been appropriate. I’m not even an enormous merchandise individual, and I’ve misplaced depend of what number of instances we’ve opted towards shopping for one thing in the previous couple of years as a result of we didn’t wish to lug it round all day. “We’ll just grab it at the end of the night at the Emporium.” (Famous final phrases that just about by no means come true–at the very least for us.)

I perceive why Walt Disney World didn’t really feel the necessity to convey this again in late 2021 (when just about the whole lot else was going again to regular), as provide chain disruptions resulted in empty cabinets and merchandise shortages. So there was actually no incentive to supply the perk–the restricted number of gadgets was promoting out, regardless.

However, as soon as 2022 rolled round and the bullwhip impact resulted in a ton of overstock…effectively, that appeared just like the opportune time to convey again Resort Delivery to ‘incentivize’ the acquisition of that merchandise. Maybe somebody forgot about it? Perhaps it was a ploy to extend rental of makeshift procuring carts (e.g. strollers)? Suppose somebody at Simon, proprietor of the Orlando Premium Outlets, is paying a kickback to not convey it again to maintain these lengthy traces at Character Warehouse?!

Joking (however are we?) apart, the continued absence of issues like Resort Delivery suggests to me that both staffing shortages usually are not absolutely addressed or Walt Disney World is in any other case not firing on all cylinders. Even although it’s pitched as a perk, I strongly suspect Walt Disney World is leaving cash on the desk by not providing Resort Delivery. As such, I’m considerably sympathetic to the absence of this–however then once more, I believed the identical factor about Disney’s Magical Express…and but!

Lunch & Breakfast at Be Our Guest – There was a degree when transferring to the identical prix fixe menu for lunch and dinner was the suitable transfer for Be Our Guest Restaurant. Table service eating was in high-demand, company had been spending freely as pent-up demand performed out, and there have been staffing shortages that decreased capability.

That time is over. Be Our Guest Restaurant is now not as widespread because it as soon as was. It’s in all probability not even among the many high 25 most troublesome Advance Dining Reservations regardless of an inherent benefit of being an in-castle restaurant at Magic Kingdom themed to Beauty and the Beast. ADR availability is plentiful, as are spots on the Walk-Up Waitlist. The final time I dined at Be Our Guest, the restaurant was lower than half full and the server to visitor ratio was surprisingly excessive.

Suffice to say, it now not is smart to deal with Be Our Guest Restaurant the identical approach in 2024 because it did in 2021-2022. This is doubly true because the counter service restaurant and breakfast ‘scene’ at Magic Kingdom is pretty bleak. Not solely is it dangerous, nevertheless it’s busy. I don’t find out about you, however nothing makes a mediocre meal at Cosmic Ray’s or Pinocchio Village Haus extra pleasing than ready in a protracted line or having to hunt for a desk.

Not solely that, however bringing again the counter service lunch and breakfast at Be Our Guest can be enjoyable–memorable meals that may permit extra company to step inside Beast’s Castle. Be Our Guest Restaurant continues to be a winner from a thematic perspective, and experiencing that depart a long-lasting impression on plenty of children and their households. (And whereas we’re at it, convey again the devoted Beast meet & greet for dinner. This smile and wave from a distance stopped making sense 2 years in the past.)

Pandora Rangers – Since its opening, Pandora – World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom has been residence to a few of Walt Disney World’s weirdest leisure. And I adore it for that. It began with these hippie kinda people who had been like tour guides that may showcase the natural world. Unsurprisingly, these had been very quick lived–I don’t assume these performers made it various months in 2017. (Could be fallacious, however I don’t recall seeing them after that.)

One yr later, Disney found out the proper answer with the the Pandora Rangers. In explicit, when the Pandora Utility Suit walk-around character made its debut within the land. This is just like the army AMP Suit counterpart in entrance of Pongu Pongu, however not evil. Instead, the pleasant pilot of this engages in tacky and enjoyable banter with company, explaining what he’s realized on Pandora.

Perhaps I’m a sucker for mechs (I’m an enormous Metal Gear Solid fan), however I all the time beloved the Pandora Utility Suit and thought it added loads to the land. Crowds all the time gathered to see this towering performer, which is sort of the sight to behold. This particularly makes the record as a result of, for all of its magnificence and recognition, Pandora can really feel (paradoxically) lifeless throughout the center of the day.

Even as each rides publish hour-plus waits and Satuli Canteen is busy, the land itself is quiet and uncrowded…as a result of everyone seems to be in line or consuming. Bringing again the Pandora Rangers would assist give the land extra of a lived-in high quality and assist company recognize the fantastic thing about the land itself that they could in any other case overlook whereas racing round doing the rides and consuming the meals.

Brunch at California Grill – I’ll be trustworthy, I don’t assume this issues to 99.99% of company. Brunch on the Top was a really restricted expertise, and I’m fairly assured that it was largely widespread with repeat company. That means it was superb, but in addition that fewer new company had been having fun with it.

Regardless, Brunch on the Top at California Grill was our favourite eating expertise at Walt Disney World and we’re amongst this small however vocal minority who would like to see it introduced again. Of course, if it does return, it’d in all probability go the way in which of Takumi-Tei or Monsieur Paul and have an exorbitant value improve that may doubtless make it a non-starter for us. (Even if not, having a brand new child in all probability accomplishes the identical.) But we’d prefer to at the very least have the choice and comprehend it’s there.

To make this extra broadly interesting, I’d additionally add eradicating the prix fixe menu at California Grill. This is one other meal service that has outlived its usefulness, and there needs to be a greater answer to the issue of company wanting ‘free fireworks’ viewing than this. It was enjoyable for the fiftieth, nevertheless it’s gotten previous–and grow to be unambitious.

Citizens – It appeared like an inevitability given the cuts over time, however dropping the Citizens of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Citizens of Main Street at Magic Kingdom is such a colossal blow now that we’ve felt their absence for thus lengthy. In each parks, these ‘citizens’ are roaming “Streetmosphere” performers who inhabit the doorway space boulevards, giving these streets a way of life.

It’s all the time a pleasure to come upon one of many characters or their random exhibits, and the ‘citizens’ skill to single out particular company and make them really feel particular or like a star was one thing particular. This is the kind of factor that doesn’t present up on visitor satisfaction surveys and is an “easy” minimize for administration obsessive about spreadsheets or no matter, nevertheless it makes a world of distinction for the folks impacted. Those private connections and little moments are an enormous deal.

We all the time beloved doing lunch at Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom, hoping that one of many residents would drop in for hilarity or hijinks. Likewise, we made a degree of watching the end-of-day Funniest Citizen “comedy-off” on Sunset Boulevard. These performers might not be a synergistic IP addition just like the Mirabel meet & greet, however you higher imagine they had been a “brand deposit” that embodied the guts and soul of Main Street at Magic Kingdom and Old Hollywood at DHS.

EPCOT Festival Seminars – Probably an unpopular opinion, however EPCOT Food & Wine Festival has been coasting for the final 4 years. It has rested on the laurels of its longstanding repute, whereas serving up simplified menus and largely crowd-pleasing delicacies–however not a lot else. Last yr did get higher due to the Disney100 cubicles, however Food & Wine was nonetheless the weakest occasion of the yr at EPCOT. It’s widespread at this level because of the hype machine and inertia. Which isn’t to say there aren’t incredible dishes (there are!), nevertheless it’s been a shadow of its former self.

This is partly comprehensible because the occasion has grow to be a sufferer of its personal reputation, with longer traces and better demand necessitating less complicated dishes that can enchantment to extra palates. An even greater cause why it’s the worst occasion of the yr at EPCOT is as a result of it now not presents one thing additional.

Think about it–each different competition has meals and. Food and artwork. Food and flowers. Food and holidays. Some of them even have higher meals. But Food & Wine simply has the meals (effectively, and the wine–however that’s a part of the meals). By dropping the seminars & demonstrations, celeb chef appearances, particular meals, merchandise & e-book signings, culinary panels, and different low-cost or free occasions, Food & Wine has gone from the largest-scale occasion of the yr at EPCOT to the smallest.

This is clearly criticism–the whole lot on this record is–however that is one other entry the place I’m keen to offer Walt Disney World the good thing about the doubt. Many of the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival choices with upcharges with astronomical value tags. Disney is leaving a ton of cash on the desk by not doing them, and if there’s something we all know in regards to the firm, it’s that they’re huge followers of cash. So their absence suggests to me lingering staffing points or a scarcity of area. Here’s hoping that CommuniCore Hall will treatment this (and likewise, that its building tempo is accelerated and the venue is definitely completed by this fall).

Aunt Polly’s & Tomorrowland Terrace – Another comparatively area of interest one on condition that the primary of those eating places was solely open a couple of weeks per yr (I’m guessing a few of you will have by no means even heard of it). The different had a perpetual id disaster and acquired a brand new menu like each different quarter.

Nevertheless, Magic Kingdom wants extra selection on the counter service entrance and likewise extra capability. These two issues would assist enhance the visitor expertise, and lower-traffic places like Aunt Polly’s and Tomorrowland Terrace may have the latitude to serve creative and enjoyable meals, whereas additionally serving to relieve the strain whereas additionally enhancing the park’s delicacies. Two small however significant web positives.

Oh, and if Pecos Bill truly goes to be redone as Tiana’s Palace (I’m skeptical at this level), Magic Kingdom will completely want extra counter service capability. That’s non-negotiable, except the ‘solution’ is consuming on high of trash cans.

Jedi Training Academy – Even pre-closure, it appeared like there was some want inside Walt Disney World to consolidate Star Wars choices in Galaxy’s Edge and reduce the off-planet choices. I by no means fairly understood this, particularly with Imagineering and the Lucasfilm Story Group being so steadfast in regards to the guidelines and character integrity (one other rant for an additional day) that means that the land was restricted in who and what it may showcase. Star Tours was the one huge exception, since they discovered a technique to make The Sacred Story™️ work with the brand new land.

In any case, it’s completely loopy to me that Jedi Training Academy has not returned. The Trials of the Temple interactive stage present was completely adored by company, and was a ‘magical moment’ for thus many children and their households who had the possibility to take part. It was the sort of trip-defining expertise for a subset of company that simply justified its existence. One of these issues that, for those who had the fortune to do, you knew simply how particular it was.

Even as somebody who by no means acquired to expertise it firsthand or by means of the eyes of my youngster, it was straightforward for me to see that Jedi Training Academy was one thing particular. One of these little ways in which Walt Disney World captured lightning in a bottle and turned a easy factor right into a “Core Memory.” Stuff like this that has a propensity to forge a brand new era of followers is what ought to truly be sacred for Walt Disney World. While we’re at it, convey again the paintbrush scavenger hunt on Tom Sawyer Island!

Toppings Bars – You could be considering at this level that Magic Kingdom counter service eating is a sore topic for me. Gee, I don’t know why you’d draw that conclusion, that is solely the third entry on the record that pertains to the topic. I may simply rant for a couple of thousand extra phrases in regards to the sorry state of the flagship fortress park’s quick meals scene.

Toppings bars made Cosmic Ray’s and Pecos Bill palatable. It additionally helped that that they had higher and extra formidable menus again in 2019, earlier than chopping corners and switching to meat suppliers that promote regardless of the grade is true above pet food. This is a degree we already belabored in The Death of Pecos Bill, so I’m not going to beat a lifeless horse (hopefully the meat provider follows my lead).

I’ll simply add that I’m skeptical that is even saving Walt Disney World all that a lot cash. Sure, it reduces visitor abuse of the toppings bar–however the present method is rather more labor-intensive, and labor isn’t low cost anymore! There’s gotta be a center floor compromise (staffed toppings bar?), as a result of the present consequence is that two of Magic Kingdom’s greatest eating places are serving solely marginally-edible delicacies.

Cinderella Castle Dream Lights – I’d argue that this isn’t a ‘big little’ factor–it did and would trigger followers to e-book journeys–however I believe Walt Disney World may disagree. Regardless, I’ll by no means go up the chance to sing the praises of the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights. Those icicle lights had been considered one of our favourite issues about Christmas at Walt Disney World for the decade-plus previous to them being cancelled in 2020. We spent many a late evening on Main Street, merely gazing down at these resplendent lights, savoring the scene. I misplaced depend of what number of instances we did this over time–in all probability over 100.

For those that have by no means had an opportunity to see the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, they’re nothing in need of spectacular. Some of you cynics may assume such a bodily gentle show is quaint or antiquated, surpassed by the benefit and adaptability of projections. That these of us who miss the Dream Lights are merely clouded by nostalgia and sentimentality, ignoring the daytime visible blight, set up, and ease of the bodily icicle lights.

I wholeheartedly disagree. No projections can match the greater than 200,000 tiny white lights that illuminate Cinderella Castle and rework it right into a veritable ice palace. The Dream Lights would cease you in your tracks, with the resplendent bodily show being an absolute jaw-dropper. Words, photographs, and video completely can’t do it justice. I’m not usually one for the flowery language in Disney’s press releases, however even the corporate’s advertising and marketing groups undersold the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights. Whatever reward you’ve heard in regards to the Dream Lights, it’s true. All of it.

And after seeing the underwhelming ‘Frozen Holiday Surprise’ (I don’t assume we ever lined this, however how did Disney spend a lot effort and vitality and find yourself with unanimated projections that had been worse than the momentary ones they did in 2020?!), I’m much more satisfied of this. I’m not a lot for conspiracy theories, however I’d like to imagine that somebody purposefully made ‘Frozen Holiday Surprise’ dangerous in order that it’d be simpler to justify chopping it and bringing again the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights. Here’s hoping!

The Kiss Goodnight – I’m a agency believer that first and last impressions matter loads for Walt Disney World, which is why I’m such a fan of the improved arrival expertise and streamlining of bagcheck with these Evolv entire physique scanners. It’s an evening and day distinction for the previous course of–or present one at Disneyland. (Seriously, it’s. We complain in regards to the dangerous–nevertheless it’s additionally essential to reward the nice!)

While this isn’t as impactful (figuratively) for as lots of company, the Kiss Goodnight is a type of ‘big little’ issues that left such an indelible impression on the company who noticed it that it may assist flip them into lifelong followers. Once once more, phrases, photographs, and even video can’t do it justice. We however tried, singing its praises in “The Kiss Goodnight: The Greatest Thing Most Guests Don’t See” and “The Kiss Goodnight, Revisited.” (Two articles about one thing that lasts solely a few minutes–that ought to say the whole lot that must be stated!)

The Kiss Goodnight was a type of if you already know, you already know magical moments. It was an emotional powerhouse for thus many individuals as a result of it’s the end result of a fun-filled go to to Magic Kingdom. During this second of pause, you let your guard down and Disney’s cautious tugging at your heartstrings “gets you” as you’re already concurrently drained and happy on the finish of a protracted day within the park. This is Walt Disney World at its greatest, and the sort of ‘big little’ magical second that the corporate ought to acknowledge is rather more essential than it may appear. Especially if there’s no intention of bringing again Disney’s Magical Express, free FastPass, Extra Magic Hours, and so on!

Planning a Walt Disney World journey? Learn about motels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews web page. For the place to eat, learn our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To lower your expenses on tickets or decide which kind to purchase, learn our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets publish. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips publish takes a novel take a look at intelligent gadgets to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will assist. For complete recommendation, the perfect place to start out is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for the whole lot it is advisable to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What ‘big little’ issues would you prefer to see Walt Disney World convey again? Think it’s these magical moments and different smaller-scale issues which have a approach of constructing each visitor really feel particular or going above and past which might be the guts and soul of Walt Disney World? Which of the entries on this record would you prefer to see return? Do you agree or disagree with our decisions? Any questions we may help you reply? Hearing your suggestions–even once you disagree with us–is each attention-grabbing to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!



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