Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Madness Disney Attraction Bracket!

With the NCAA basketball tournament in full swing right now I thought it would be fun to move away from the normal WDW attraction ratings and create a "March Madness style" bracket of some Disney rides and see which is the best.
Below is the bracket of the 2011 Grading Disney March Madness Championship. I will break down each matchup and grade each ride head-to-head. The ride with the best overall rating will move on to the next round. Check out the blog often to see new matchups and to find out which ride is the best!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ride Review #4 The Hall of Presidents (Magic Kingdom: Liberty Square)

History of the Hall of Presidents - When Disneyland opened Walt had plans in place for a show featuring all the Presidents of the United States in wax figure form. It was to be called "One Nation Under God" but this show never came to fruition. Problems with the creation of the wax figures caused Walt to try and find a new medium to create America's leaders from. He decided upon  the creation of audio-animotronic figures to represent the presidents. The first one that was created was Walt's hero, Abraham Lincoln and Walt decided to star him in his own show, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Later, after Walt Disney's death, Imagineers decided to bring back the plans for Walt's original show, "One Nation Under God" by creating audio-animatronics for all the presidents. In 1971, The Hall of Presidents was opened in Liberty Square of the Magic Kingdom. The Hall of Presidents has been running its show ever since and has been updated whenever a new President enters office; most recently with the inclusion of  Barrack Obama.
The Hall of Presidents Review -
  1. Visual Themeing - The show is visually impressive because of the realistic recreation of the presidents as audio-animatronics. Plus there is a pre-show area with historical items that is very interesting and well themed Score 9.25 out of 10
  2. Audio Themeing - The music throughout the attraction is patriotic and inspiring, going along well with the theme. The speeches given by the presidents are also very well done and realistic. Barrack Obama's is an actual recording of our current president Score 8.5 out 10
  3. Story-Telling - The Hall of Presidents does a great job telling our nations history and displaying our country's leaders. The only real problem is that the actual video portion of the show describing the history of our nation is a little short but this is to accomadate the time taken by the presidents. Score 9.25 out of 10 
  4. Popularity - There are not many guests visiting the Hall of Presidents any more which is a shame because its a great show. This show draws modest crowds but is very rarely completely full. Score 6 out of 10
  5. Age Range - This show is more accomadating of an older crowd which can appreciate its history more. Younger visitors are often bored because they don't grasp the fine details of the show. Score 7.5 out of 10
  6. Lasting Appeal - The story of The Hall of Presidents is timeless and with its ability to be updated with every new president that enters office, the show remains fresh. Still visitors to the Magic Kingdom are generally less interested in this type of show than they once were Score 8.25 out of 10
  7. Intangiables - Hall of Presidents is a original Magic Kingdom ride but it's not the first thing that many people think of when disscussing the park. It does do a great job of telling its story and fitting into the themeing of its land of Liberty Square, though Score 7.75 out of 10

Overall Score 7.75 out of 10 - The Hall of Presidents is a very good show and an original Walt Disney attraction but in many ways it has failed to keep up with the modern crowds of WDW which may or may not be a bad thing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Special Video Footage of Test Track

Here's a couple of videos I shoot well on Test Track to go along with the Test Track review:

Ride Review #3 Test Track (EPCOT: Future World)

This is my first ride review from outside the Magic Kingdom. From this point forward I am planning on alternating between rides from the 3 newer Disney parks and rides from the different lands of MK. So look out for many more ride reviews in the near future.

History of Test Track - With a sponsorship deal ending and crowds diminishing at EPCOT's 10-year old World of Motion  in 1992, GM and Disney Imagineers decided it was time to go in a new direction with the pavillion. They decided upon the concept of a ride called Test Track. This new ride was scheduled to replace World of Motion 19 months after it was closed in January of 1996. Test Track was pushed back numerous times due to technical difficulties, though, and did not open until December 1998. Once the ride did open, once again under GM sponsorship, it became one of the most popular attractions of the park by providing a long ride and thrilling experience to guests. It has continued to be a crowd favorite to this day; more than 12 years later.

Test Track Review -
  1. Visual Theming - The queue line and ride as a whole is visually well themed, but there is nothing extraordinary about it and some of its images are slightly outdated. The ride does provide a post show featuring some of GM's latest cars which, although being a simple advertisement for the company, fits in with the theme and looks cool. Score 7.75 out of 10
  2. Audio Theming - Although this ride doesn't have much music it makes up for it through the use of engaging sound effects. The sounds heard on the ride enhance the experience and increases the rides thrill. Score 8 out of 10
  3. Story-Telling - The story of Test Track isn't particulary deep, but it is well - told, clear, and concise. It's story is a creative way of introducing guests to the topic of the ride. Score 7.75 out of 10
  4. Popularity - Behind Soarin', Test Track is currently EPCOT's most popular ride. If you arrive at the park late expect to see wait times over an hour and a shortage of fastpasses. Score 9.25 out of 10
  5. Age Range - Like Space Mountain, Test Track has a tendancy to exclude some ages because of it's thrilling nature. Although it doesn't contain any drops or loops it's high-speed finish can be too much for some. Score 7.5 out of 10
  6. Lasting Appeal - Test Track isn't super old, but it still has great appeal with crowds. It is now 12 years old and could easily double that if it doesn't get shut down due to its high matinence requirements Score 9 out of 10
  7. Intangiables - Test Track is  very memorable and popular ride at EPCOT. It has shown some rust and technical difficulties over the years but remains a great attraction. Score 8.75 out of 10

Overall Score: 8.25 out of 10 - Test Track may not be the biggest attraction at Disney World but it is among the most popular with good reason. It is a thrill ride that manages to incorporate some great Disney magic.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ride Review #2 Mad Tea Party (Magic Kingdom: Fantasyland)

History of The Mad Tea Party - The Mad Tea Party, themed after Lewis Carroll's classic book, Alice in Wonderland, started out as an opening day attraction at Disneyland on July 17,1955. Alice in Wonderland's connection to Disney did not start with the park, though. In fact it goes all the way back to the early 1930's. Walt Disney wanted to create a live action version of Alice as one of his first films in 1933 but things didn't work out at the time. Still the story stuck with Walt and resulted in a later animated movie and The Mad Tea Party ride at his new park, Disneyland. This ride became very popular in the 60's and was recreated in the Magic Kingdom for opening day there. Opening on October 1, 1971 the ride featured numerous spinning teacups which have been thrilling (and in some cases nauseating) guests for nearly 40 years.

Mad Tea Party Review -
  1. Visual Themeing - Although this ride is relatively small, it still has many interesting design elements such as the ride vechicles painted to look like teacups and the teapot in the middle which hides the dormouse. Though this ride was an opening day attraction it still looks fresh and up to date Score: 8 out of 10
  2. Audio Themeing - The Mad Tea Party has a great Alice in Wonderland themed soundtrack. It's upbeat songs play well with the chaotic yet fun atmosphere of the ride. Score 9 out of 10
  3. Story-Telling - This ride does a good job of telling the story of the Tea Party scene of the movie Alice in Wonderland. It features some of the characters such as the Mad Hatter and the dormouse which depthens the connection to the story Score 8 out of 10
  4. Popularity - Mad Tea Party isn't a headline attraction at the Magic Kingdom but still manages to draw decent crowds. It regulary boasts wait times of about 15-25 minutes Score 7 out of 10
  5. Age Range - Although it may not be considered a thrill ride when compared to the Magic Kingdom's "mountain attractions", Mad Tea Party's spinning cars can still be too much for people to handle; especially those with weak stomachs Score 8 out of 10
  6. Lasting Appeal - The fact that this opening day attraction is still pulling in good crowds even though it doesn't provide top level thrills is a testament to its timelessness Score 9 out 10
  7. Intangiables - This ride is very fun and can even be considered a Disney "classic" but there are more memorable experiences throughout fantasyland and the Magic Kingdom as a whole Score 7.5 out of 10
Overall Score: 8 out of 10 - The Mad Tea Party is a ride which has managed to hold its own since opening day of the Magic Kingdom by providing a good story as well as a thrilling experience which can't be found at other Fantasyland attractions. It is certainly good enough to be labeled a Disney "classic"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ride Review #1! Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland)

History of Space Montain: Space Mountain was originally inspired by the success of the Matterhorn which opened in Disneyland in 1959. Walt Disney wanted to create a similar style thrill ride for a tommorrowland makeover in 1967 and imagineers were commisined to design what would ultimately become Space Mountain in the mid-60's. Unfortnately Walt's death in 1966 and other circumstances of the time put the production of Space Mountain on hold. It wasn't until the early 70's that the design of the ride was continued. By this time Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom had opened and proved to be a perfect home for the new attraction since the addition of another Matterhorn ride was unfeasible. Space Mountain opened on January 15, 1975 under the sponsorship of RCA and went on to be a highly successful ride which has been repeated at all five "Magic Kingdom style parks" worldwide. Space Mountain has gone through a few renovations (most recently a major renovation in 2009) and changes in sponsors (RCA, then FedEx, and now sponsorless) through the years but it is for the most part still the same ride that has been a tomorrowland classic for over 35 years.

Space Mountain Review:
  1. Visual Themeing - Space Mountain is impressive to look at both inside and out. The pitch black interior of the ride exhibits the mystery and wonder of space while adding an extra thrill to a relatively tame roller coaster. The structure itself is an icon of tomorrowland and the entire Magic Kingdom Score : 9.5 out of 10
  2. Audio Themeing - The upbeat soundtrack fits perfectly with the space theme and thrilling nature of the attraction. It features over 100 sound effects which vary from ride-to ride on the starry-o-phonic speaker system. Score : 9 out of 10
  3. Story-Telling - Riders get the thrilling experience of blasting into space on board Space Mountain. The themeing of this attraction plays into the storyline very well and makes the ride what it is but the overall story of this ride is not as deep or detailed as other attraction Score: 7.5 out of 10
  4. Popularity - Space Mountain is one of the most popular rides in the Magic Kingdom. It regularly draws lines of over an hour even in light crowds which is extraordinary considering it is over 35 years old. Score: 9.5 out of 10
  5. Age Range - Space Mountain is relatively mild as far as modern roller coasters goes and therefore appeals to a wide range of people. Still it carries enough thrills to scare away some visitors Score: 7.5 out of 10
  6. Lasting Appeal - This is the oldest and perhaps the most popular of the Magic Kingdom's famed "mountain" attractions. It has still held a great appeal as it approaches its 40th birthday. It can certainly be considered a Disney classic Score: 9.75 out of 10
  7. Intangibles - Space Mountain stands out as the main attraction of tomorrowland. It shows how the Disney Magic can be effectively applied to thrill rides Score: 8.5 out of 10
Overall Score: 9 out of 10 - Inspired by original Disneyland attractions such as the Matterhorn, Space Mountain has its own magic and is one of the best Disney thrill rides of all time. It is a Magic Kingdom icon which has been popular for years in Disney parks around the world.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grading Scale for attractions

This is the scale I will use to rate all attractions. There are 7 different categories and I will give a score from 1 to 10 in each.

  1. Visual Themeing - Does the ride look good? Does what you see enhance the story and fit the overall theme of the ride?
  2. Audio Themeing - Is the ride's soundtrack memorable? Does it have any special sound effects or narration? If so how well does it fit the storyline?
  3. Story Telling - Is there a deep and creative story that goes along with the ride? Does the ride do a good job of presenting this story?
  4. Popularity - Is this attraction a must do for park visitors? Does it make people want to ride it over and over again? Would people wait in long lines to experience it?
  5. Age Range - Is this ride suitable for all ages? Does it exclude the young or the old? Does it have something for everyone?
  6. Lasting Appeal - Is the ride memorable? Does it stand up to the test of time? Is it a Disney "classic"?
  7. Intangibles - Does the ride stand out? Does it create special memories for people? Does it have some extra Disney magic?

List of Features

Here's a rundown of some of the features I have planned for this blog:
  1. Ride Ratings - main topic of this site. I will grade the rides on a specific scale which I will post soon
  2. Resturant/Hotel Ratings - I will also have a specific grading scale for these
  3. Back to the future - A look at brand new and future Disney attractions with a special rating on how exciting these new attractions will be
  4. WDW Time Machine - I go back in time and rate some of the rides from Disney years ago.
  5. Matchups - Head-to-head battles to see what the greatest Disney attractions are (possible matchups include: Park vs. Park, Orignial Disneyland attraction vs. Magic Kingdom Equivalent, Seasonal attraction vs. regular etc.)
  6. Standings - Periodic rankings of the top attractions
  7. Disscussion Threads - A chance for readers to give their own ratings and discuss their favorite attractions

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Welcome to!

Hello and welcome to!

I am a life long Disney fan who has been to WDW over 40 times since the early 1990's. In this time I have ridden almost every ride, stayed at almost every hotel, and eaten at almost every resturant at Disney. So I thought it would be fun to try to figure out what is the best of the best at Disney World. Therefore I created this blog to rate each individual attraction, hotel, resturant, and even entire park and break them down to see what makes them so great.

I was inspired to create this blog when I saw the number of Disney websites on the web and realized that many of them were talking about the same things. (Disney news, rumors, trip planning etc.) I decided to make a website that I would really enjoy and that would be a little different from other sites. I'm sure that there are other sites that provide an evaulation of WDW but I hope to make this site very fun and full of information so it will stand out among the crowd.

I also will make this blog an interactive experience. If you have something to say about an attraction rating or disagree with one of my ratings I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section. I hope to have a forum page where members can discuss all things Disney if I get enough people following this blog. So if you enjoy this blog, which I truly hope you do,  please spread the word. Tell all your friends so that Grading Disney can become a great community of Disney fans!

Thanks and Enjoy,
Austin Smith