Episode 55: Changes Ahead for the Disney Parks?

Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Berm! It didn’t even take us 3 months to get out another one as it did the last time!

Maybe you have heard rumblings about changes coming to the Disney Parks, both at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. Disneyland has committed to expanding the resort in some form in exchange for a tax break from the city of Anaheim. And Walt Disney World keeps closing things at Disney’s Hollywood Studios without announcing something new on the horizon. What does all of this mean? Listen to us as we comment on some of the speculations, and as we do some speculating ourselves.

disneyland 60th anniversary logo

In keeping with the Disney Parks theme, Matt tells about his recent visit to Disneyland to see some of the new additions and extravaganzas that were added for the 60th anniversary celebration. Listen in as he talks about parades, fireworks, and crowds!

Also, following up on our conversation about summer movies in Episode 54, we give our reviews of the latest Disney/Marvel movie, Ant-Man. Did it live up to our expectations?

All this and more goodness in Episode 55 of Beyond the Berm!

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New Life for the Great Movie Ride

In recent episodes of Beyond the Berm, we have discussed what the future might hold for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. We have talked about rumors of Cars Land and a Star Wars area, we mentioned the closing of the Backlot Tour and the great amount of land that the closure made available, and we recently talked about the confirmation that the Sorcerer Hat would be coming down in 2015.

Last week, we got another piece of the puzzle, as it was announced that Turner Classic Movies will sponsor the Great Movie Ride, one of the signature attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and that the attraction would even receive some minor upgrades. Those upgrades mainly include a new pre-show movie hosted by TCM personality Robert Osborne ┬áto replace the trailers that had been showing for over 25 years, and also a new film montage at the end of the ride featuring lots of new movie clips that hadn’t been included before. Wouldn’t it be nice if they also wrote a new script for the “drivers” in the attraction? Yes, it would. Maybe they will.

Personally, I am excited about this. And I think one of the things that I am most excited about is that they aren’t talking about major changes to the ride, but instead they will largely leave it as it is, which is nice because it is still a good ride. I am glad they aren’t pulling out some of the classic movies from MGM and other studios to replace them with more contemporary Disney movies. I like that films from other studios are represented, so that it isn’t just the Great Disney Movie Ride.

Chinese Theater

Before the Disney-MGM Studios opened, the attraction that interested me the most from all of the pre-opening publicity was the Great Movie Ride, mainly because it sounded like it would include lots of Audio-Animatronics, a ride, and perhaps some surprises along the way. In short, everything that makes for a good Disney attraction. And when I finally got to ride it just a couple of months after the park opened, I was not disappointed. The Wicked Witch animatronic from The Wizard of Oz was spectacular, as were several of the other figures, although some featured relatively limited animation. The sets and sound effects transported you into the movies that they were meant to represent, instead of just making you feel like you were looking in on something from the outside. And the next generation of the ride system originally used in Epcot’s Universe of Energy was cool, too. Add in to that the fact that there were two different versions of the ride, depending on if you ended up in the western scene or the bank robbery scene, and that made it even better. And real fire, too!

I know the Great Movie Ride may not supply the same thrills found in high speed or high altitude attractions such as the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that were added later elsewhere in the park, but I still thought it was a vital part of the attraction mix. Except for some of the corny script versions that have been used, I have thought it has held up well over time.

great movie ride poster

Perhaps now with some sprucing up and more visibility, the attraction will once again be one of the centerpieces of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now we know why the Sorcerer Hat is coming down – so that the Chinese Theater will be visible again. And some of the news outlets have confirmed that the Chinese Theater facade is in fact staying, since we and others have speculated that it might be changed out for something else. That is all good news.

And even better news is that as part of this partnership between TCM and Disney, classic Disney programming will be shown on TCM as well, in a presentation called Treasures from the Disney Vault. Already mentioned are classic movies such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Pollyanna, The Three Caballeros, Davy Crockett, and more, including shorts and episodes from the old Disney television show. For those of us who used to enjoy this type of programming when it was on the Disney Channel and lament on what the Disney Channel has now become, this is quite welcome news. Look for the first Treasures from the Disney Vault on December 21, 2014.

To read more about this news, check out the stories from Disney23, the Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Times, which first reported the deal.

Episode 43: iPhones, Walt Disney World Changes, and Trip Planning

Welcome back to Beyond the Berm for Episode 43!

For starters, we talk about the new iPhones, since both of us are iPhone guys. Have you gotten a new, bigger phone? Or even an even bigger phone? Hear our thoughts about them, and let us know yours.

Next up, we learned that Cast Members at Disney’s Hollywood Studios were informed that the final day for the Backlot Tour is this Saturday, September 27. Nothing has been announced to take its place, but that doesn’t stop everyone from talking about what it might be, including us. We also talk about some other changes around the resort, including the addition of Frozen in Epcot. Listen in to see what we think about all of this.

Matt is making a solo trip to Walt Disney World to take part in the Marathon in January, and he needs some help in planning what to do during the three days that he is there. Sort of a game, sort of asking for advice. What would you do? Matt would love to hear some suggestions! We talk about some starter ideas, but he would appreciate your feedback.

All this and more in this episode of Beyond the Berm!

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Christmas Photos from Walt Disney World

In Episode 7, we talked about Christmas at the Disney parks. So here are a few photos of Christmas at Walt Disney World that I have taken over the years. Enjoy!

The Christmas Tree in Town Square in the Magic Kingdom.

The Osborne Family Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Nighttime on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom

Poinsettia “trees” and Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Mickey and Minnie in the Christmas Parade at the Magic Kingdom

The Toy Soldier Band in the Christmas Parade at the Magic Kingdom

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

A large Christmas tree in the Grand Floridian Resort

Christmas stars decorate Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The “Dream Lights” on Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom

A closer view of some of the Osborne Family Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Mickey and Minnie topiaries decked out for the holidays

Christmas decorations at Italy in Epcot’s World Showcase

A large Mickey-shaped wreath at the Contemporary Resort

Holiday Wishes fireworks at the Magic Kingdom