Wednesday, February 29, 2012

24 Hours in the Magic Kingdom

Goodmorning everyone! As many of you know today is leap day and the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are going to be open for 24 straight hours today in celebration of leap day. Since I am at WDW at the perfect time for this event I decided to use this extra day in the park by spending the entire day in the park! I'm just about to leave for the Magic Kingdom and I plan to spend the full 24 hours there and I have a lot of features planned for this blog while I'm there. So check back often today and tomorrow to follow me on my journey to spend a whole day in the park!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Picture of the day - 2/27/12

This is the view of the Mexico pavilion from the new La Hacienda de San Angel Restaurant. Like the other pavilions, Mexico looks great at night as the lights illuminate the different levels of the main pyramid  building.

Monday Links

If you came to this site in the past and read the description "Your Source for Disney news, views, and reviews." You may be wondering where the Disney news is at and now I have the answer! With this weekly feature I'm going to provide some links to all kinds of disney news and interesting stories to keep you updated with the weekly happenings from Disney around the world. If I see any news thats interesting and about Disney chances are it will end up here! Although I will not be dealing with news in depth a lot here hopefully this will provide a little look at what's going on with the Disney company every week and now I can truly say that Grading Disney is "Your source for Disney news, views, and reviews."

Here's the first set of links for the week of February 27 - March 4:

  • Iphone Magic - There's not a whole lot of news this week but this is one cool announcement that Disney made recently; Their official Mobile Magic app is now going to be available on Iphone. I personally have not used this app much but it is well designed and can be helpful when planning a Disney trip.
  • Cool Runnings - The Disney Princess half marathon took place this last weekend and once again proved to be very popular drawing over 19,000 women (and some men) to run in it on Sunday morning.
  • Wait Loss - There has been some controversy about Disney's newest inoventions attraction as many people have said that it takes a negative view on weight loss and this has lead Disney to close the attraction atleast temporarily even though it is less than a month old.
  • Up all Night (and all day) - Leap day is coming up soon and that means in a couple days for the first time ever both Disneyland park and the Magic Kingdom will be open for a full 24 hours straight! This is a fun story about a couple who plans on taking advantage of the long hours at both parks. Stay tuned for more news about the 24 Magic Kingdom opening here at Grading Disney!
That's all the news for this week! Check back every week for more news and daily for new reviews and updates and as always tell me what you think in the comment section.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Picture of the day - 2/26/12

I took today's photo the yesterday outside of the tower of terror. These flags that hang over the entrance to the Hollywood Tower of Terror's gift shop make it clear that you are about to enter the old Hollywood Tower Hotel and are a great extra that adds to the story and theming of the ride. These flags are a little inconsistent with the rest of the attraction though as they appear to be new while the rest of the hotel looks as if it has been sitting empty for years. Nevertheless, little additions like this are what makes the stories Disney tells so good.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ride Matchup #4 - It's Tough To Be A Bug vs. Kali River Rapids


The 4th Matchup in our tournament (you can find the whole bracket here) is our first Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a pair of attractions that are very different from each other face off. Here are the reviews of two of Animal Kindom’s original attractions; Kali River Rapids and It’s Tough to be a bug.
It’s Tough To Be A Bug Review
1. Visual Theming - Taking place inside the Tree of Life definitely makes It’s Tough to be a bug a unique experience. The queue line is great as you can get some awesome close up views of the tree and its detailed animal carvings and the theater inside is just as good as once you enter you will really feel like you are underground with your bug hosts.  Score 9.25 out of 10
2. Audio Theming - It’s Tough to be a bug is not only a visual immersive show but it also has some great audio effects as many times throughout the show the sound effects will make you feel like you are really in a swarm of ants, spiders, bees, beetles, and other bugs. Score 8.5 out of 10
3. Story Telling - Like most Disney shows, It’s Tough to be a bug does a great job of telling its story although the story of Bug’s Life may be a little outdated today as it is no longer a popular movie. Score 7.5 out of 10
4. Popularity - Bug’s Life was released in 1998 and was only a moderately popular movie at the time and now 14 years later it is a story that isn’t recognized by many of the young kids who visit the park. Therefore, the show is not very popular today either a fact which is shown by the recent removal of it’s fast pass kiosks. Score 7 out of 10
5. Age Range - Although this show is based off an animated movie which was loved by many kids, It's Tough To Be A Bug maybe scare away some younger visitors due to its intense effects. These effects are cool and make the show immersive but they can be a little much for some guests. Score 7.5 out of 10
6. Lasting Appeal - It's Tough To Be A Bug does not seem to have much lasting appeal at this point as its story is outdated and the show itself is no longer very popular with guests. It would certainly not be surprising to see a new show take over the theater inside the tree of life in the near future. Score 6.5 out 10
7. Intangibles - It's Tough To Be A Bug is a pretty good show and has some unique experiences such as a queue that winds around the tree of life but it is a show which is becoming outdated and is simply not a favorite of Animal Kingdom visitors anymore. Score 7.5 out 10

Kali River Rapids Review
1. Visual Theming - Kali River Rapids is located in the back of the park and is therefore somewhat secluded, this works perfectly with the theme of the ride as you'll truly feel as if you are traveling through the jungles of southern Aisa. Score 9 out of 10
2. Audio Theming - Music and sound effects don't play a huge role in the ride but the soundtrack that is present in the background helps to enhance the rides story. Score 8 out of 10
3. Story Telling - Disney is great at incorporating a story into everything, even a simple water ride such as Kali River Rapids. On this ride you will follow the story of a Asian village that is fighting against illegal loggers and you will see the destruction they have caused along your trip. This story certainly isn't Disney's greatest story but it is a nice addition to the ride nevertheless. Score 8 out of 10
4. Popularity - Given the Animal Kingdom's relatively low number of rides, Kali River Rapids has managed to stay pretty popular among guests even though it opened in 1999. Score 8.5 out of 10
5. Age Range - Kali River Rapids is a basic water raft ride and therefore it sometimes doesn't appeal to older and younger guests but for the most it is pretty mild and family friendly although those who want to stay dry definitely shouldn't ride. Score 7.75 out of 10
6. Lasting Appeal - Kali River Rapids is the only water ride in the Animal Kingdom and one of the few rides in general so unless some new attractions are built in the park it is likely that this ride will stay around for a while but at the same time at 13 years old this ride is getting a little dated. Score 7.75 out of 10
7. Intangibles - Even though Disney enhances Kali River Rapids with a nice queue and a storyline at its core this ride is simply a basic raft ride that is solid but unspectacular. Score 7.5 out of 10

Scores
It's Tough To Be A Bug - 7.5 out of 10
vs. 
Kali River Rapids - 8 out of 10

Winner - Kali River Rapids wins this matchup because although it is nearly as old as It's Tough To Be A Bug it has managed to still be popular and be a key ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Picture of the day - 2/24/12

Today's picture comes from the Haunted Mansion Queue where recent additions have made the line more interactive and a lot more fun. Disney has started creating these kinds of lines at popular attractions making wait times at busy attractions seem to go much faster. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Introducing Restaurant Reviews!

Here at Grading Disney I want to review everything that Disney has to offer not just rides so I'm really excited to announce the beginning of restaurant reviews here! I'm going to cover a variety of restaurants in the future from in park quick service booths to gourmet restaurants such as Victoria and Albert's. Like the ride reviews I hope these reviews are both helpful and fun to read as I explore all the great things Disney Dining has to offer!

I will grade restaurants based on the following scale. Let me know what you think of the scale and if anything should be changed or removed. As always these grades and the grading scale are just my opinion and are just for fun so I hope you enjoy!

Grading Scale for Restaurants
  1. Taste - The main reason why someone goes to a restaurant; does it taste good? Is the overall quality of the food good? Are there any unique flavors at this restaurant or are classic foods presented in a new way?
  2. Value - How much does the restaurant cost in relation to the quality of the food and atmosphere? Can you feed a large family or group there without breaking the bank?
  3. Menu - How extensive is the menu and how much variety does it have on it? Are there both signature dishes that are favorites and something new to try every time you go back?
  4. Atmosphere/Theming - Is there a specific theme to the restaurant and if so does it pull off the theme well? Is there a special story or atmosphere at the restaurant?
  5. Popularity - How busy is the restaurant on a regular basis? Is this restaurant considered a favorite among guests?


Picture of the Day - 2/22/12

Today's picture of the day comes from a recent trip I took down to Walt Disney World. This is me with my girlfriend, Kelsey, in front of Expedition Everest at one of the best photo spots in the Animal Kingdom. Be sure to be on the look out for signs for suggested photo opportunities around the parks as these areas provided some of the best views of the park and there is sure to be a Disney photopass photographer around these areas who would be happy to take your photo. These areas allow you to capture a great photo to remember some great family memories in the parks.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Video from Tomorrowland

When I was at Disneyland I also had the chance to take some video in some of the attractions so heres some video to go along with the photo tour:

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
video

 Matterhorn Bobsleds
video

Space Mountain loading area
video


Monday, February 20, 2012

Photo Tour - Disneyland #2 Tomorrowland

"It's something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing...and adding to."


 This is what Walt said about Disneyland and in no area of the park is this quote more applicable than in Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is truly something that will never be finished because time always keeps progressing and theres always a new future ahead of us. This presents a dilemma for Disney because to make an area that is themed on the future would require constant updates to stay ahead of the curve. To overcome this dilemma imagineers created Tomorrowland at Disneyland as a retro view of the future. Tomorrowland is a celebration of the future we once imagined.


Our first stop on the tour is at the tomorrowland monorail station where you can arrive into Disneyland from downtown disney traveling aboard Disney's "Highway in the sky". These sleek trains fit in well with the decor of tomorrowland and are not only a great way to travel to and from the park but they are fun to ride and don't cost a penny to use.

Upon arriving at tomorrowland guests are usually drawn to one of many high profile attractions in the area but perhaps the most prominent is the giant white dome of space mountain which is a fan favorite and a classic that is seen in many other Disney parks. Space Mountain is a high speed roller coaster through deep space that provides just enough thrills while still staying family friendly and at the same time showing that a thrill ride can have a great storyline and theming.

I reviewed the Magic Kingdom version of Space Mountain a while back and it got a very high score but I think that Disneyland's version may be even better with a very cool queue line and improved visual and sound effects that will really make you feel like you are blasting through space. 


Across the way another highlight attraction takes you not to the depths of outer space but instead the Finding Nemo submarine voyage is a journey through liquid space. This ride offers guests a very unique experience of being able to board a submarine as you travel underwater following the story of Nemo and his friends. And although your submarine isn't actually ever completely immersed this is still a fun attraction for guests of all ages.  

Orignally this lagoon was home to the 20,000 leagues under the sea submarine voyage and while that attraction was a classic fan favorite the updated version with finding nemo is well done and has proved very popular as well. Finding Nemo is a ride that is best visited as soon as the park opens or else you might face wait times of an hour or more.                                     


After a long day standing in line the people mover used to be one of the best ways to relax and take in some great views of the park. Unfortunately the Peoplemover is now closed but you can still see the track that once took people on a tour around tomorrowland.
As you're traveling around tomorrowland you are likely to notice a big rocket that stands in the back corner of the area. This rocket used to mark the entrance to rocket to the moon and mission to mars but even though it still no longer has a ride under it this rocket is one of the many eye-catching icons of tomorrowland that show the area's retro view of the future.

A tour of tomorrowland will also show you some very interesting details and themeing. Tomorrowland is small when compared to other lands of Disneyland but like the other lands there is a lot to look at. If you take time to slow down and look at everything that the area has to offer you will notice tons of great "Disney magic"!



As our tour comes to a close we can't help but mention the huge mountain that forms the boundary between tomorrowland and fantasyland. This mountain is home to the Matterhorn bobsleds, an attraction that was originally dreamed up by Walt Disney himself and although it was built in 1959 it still is very popular with guests today.


As the sun sets on the Matterhorn mountain we bid tomorrowland goodbye and move on to the next exciting adventure on our tour of Disneyland!


I hope you enjoyed our tour of tomorrowland! Stay tuned for more tours of the park and ride reviews from all the disney parks in the near future. If you like the site become a follower so you can instantly see when I post new stuff.
Thanks and enjoy,
AJ

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Picture of the day - 2/19/12


Sorry I've forgotten to post a picture of the day the last two days but heres today's picture of the day. This tropical waterfall in today's picture of the day adorns the lobby of the Polynesian resort and makes guests feel like they are on a tropical island. It shows the great theming of all the Disney resorts and specifically the Polynesian.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Grades and Standings

I recently came up with a grading scale to give a letter grade to the rides I review along with their number grade. Here's the scale I came up with:

a+ 10-9.75
a 9.5-9.25
a- 9
b+ 8.75
b 8.5-8.25
b- 8-7.75
c+ 7.5-7.25
c 7
c- 6.75
d 6-6.5
e 5.75 of less

Using these new grades here are the overall standings of all the attractions I've reviewed here so far as well as links to their reviews.

Standings
1. Peter Pan's Flight (Magic Kingdom) Score: 9.25 A
2. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) Score: 9 A-
3. Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (Hollywood Studios) Score: 8.5 B
4. Test Track (Epcot) Score: 8.25 B
5. Astro Orbiter (Magic Kingdom) Score: 8.25 B
6. Mad Tea Party (Magic Kingdom) Score: 8 B-
7. Maelstorm (Epcot) Score: 8 B-
8. Hall of Presidents (Magic Kingdom) Score: 7.75 B-
9.Gran Fiesta Tour (Epcot) Score: 7.5 C+
10.Sounds Dangerous (Hollywood Studios) Score: 6.75 C-

As I review more and more rides I plan to have regular updated standings as well as standings for each park and each land in the park. I hope you enjoy the reviews and as always I would love for you to give me your feedback on what you think about the new scale and the ride standings so far!

Picture of the Day - 2/16/12

The Picture of the day today comes from Disney's backlot studio tour at Hollywood Studios. Its the classic "earful" tower which is one of the many cool sights you can see from on board the Backlot Tour.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ride Matchup #3 Astro Orbiter vs. Peter Pan's Flight

Continuing with our tournament we travel the Magic Kingdom for our third matchup. This is battle of classic attractions as it is the Astro Orbiter of Tomorrowland versus Peter Pan's Flight of Fantasyland!

Peter Pan's Flight Review
1. Visual Theming - Like other classic Disney dark rides, Peter Pan's Flight, is very good at immersing riders into its story and the main way it does this is through the use creative visual scenes and characters. Peter Pan's Flight is full of interesting scenes (ie: the pirate ship and London at night) that effectively retell the story of the entire movie in a fun way in just a few short minutes. Score 9 out of 10
2. Audio Theming - Similar to the visual scenes of Peter Pan's Flight, the sounds of this attraction really capture the essence of the story and portray it for guests in a way that makes them feel like they are really in the action. Along your ride you will hear Peter Pan himself lead you on your journey to Neverland where he is accompanied by others such as Captain Hook and Smee. These characters coupled with a soundtrack that closely follows the action makes the guest feel like they are really traveling with Peter Pan and his friends. Score 9 out of 10
3. Story-Telling - The basis of this attraction is telling the story of the movie Peter Pan and considering the impressive visual and audio details of this ride it is no surprise that it does a good job telling this story. From the beginning to end the story of Peter Pan's Flight is clear as you get to experience classic scenes from the story such as flying over London at night and battling Captain Hook and his crew. Score 9.5 out of 10
4. Popularity - Peter Pan's Flight is a very popular ride and regularly boasts very long wait times. Often lines can form that are longer than an hour long making this attraction perhaps the busiest in all of Fantasyland. Score 9 out of 10
5. Age Range - The popularity of Peter Pan's Flight is a testament to not only its quality but also its ability to appeal to a wide range of people. Peter Pan's Flight is a great ride for the entire family and although it may appeal slightly more to young visitors many adults will walk away from the ride happy as well. Score 9 out of 10
6. Lasting Appeal - Since its opening in 1983 in the Magic Kingdom, Peter Pan's Flight has appealed to many guests and it appears primed to stay that way as it still draws large crowds and is considered by many to be a classic e-ticket attraction. Score 9 out of 10
7. Intangibles - One of the most exciting things about this ride is the unique experience that it gives compared to the other dark rides. Per its name, Peter Pan's Flight gives guests the illusion of flight as the vehicles travel through the ride. This unique experience along with the great story and story-telling of this ride make it a must do Score 9.5 out of 10


Astro Orbiter Review
1. Visual Theming - Although Astro Orbiter is a simple ride it still has a great space theme that is a focal point of Tomorrowland and at the same time provides views of the park that can't be beat. Astro Orbiter is a great ride to sit back and relax on while taking in sights from all around the Magic Kingdom Score 9 out of 10
2. Audio Theming - The soundtrack of Astro Orbiter does a good job of matching the pacing and action of the ride and goes along well with the theme but it doesn't really stand out in any way that makes riders specifically notice it. Score 8 out 10
3. Story-Telling - At first glance it may appear that Astro Orbiter does not really have much of a story to tell but if you examine the ride closer you will notice the ride vehicles that are made to look like old Saturn V rockets and Astro Orbiter tells the story of space travel as people once saw it and this story fits in perfectly with Tomorrowland's retro view of the future. Score 8.5 out of 10
4. Popularity - Astro Orbiter is a very popular ride with families and often has long lines but these lines are primarily due to the rides slow loading time and the ride is not as popular as Dumbo in Fantasyland which is the same style ride. Score 8 out 10
5. Age Range - The Magic Kingdom has two other rides which have the same style as Astro Orbiter (Aladdin's Magic Carpets and Dumbo) and the main reason for this is that the rides hold great appeal with families and a wide range of people. The Astro Orbiter has an especially large appeal because its height and speed provide some thrills while still remaining accessible to all ages. Score 9.5 out 10
6. Lasting Appeal - The Astro Orbiter has always had steady lines and like Dumbo and Aladdin's Magic Carpets this type of ride has proved popular for a long time. The Astro Orbiter is likely to be a family favorite in Tomorrowland for years to come. Score 9 out of 10
7. Intangibles - The Astro Orbiter is a very simple ride and its style is used in many different attractions in Disney and other theme parks but it has a unique theme and story which help set it apart. Also its location and elevated position make it great ride for the family to enjoy will overlooking the park. Score 8 out of 10


Final Score
Peter Pan's Flight 9.25 out of 10
vs. 
Astro Orbiter 8.25 out of 10


Winner - Peter Pan's Flight wins the first matchup in the Magic Kingdom section of our bracket because it does a great job of telling its story and providing a unique ride experience for guests of all ages. Although Astro Orbiter is a solid ride, Peter Pan's Flight is an e-ticket attraction and family favorite which appeals to many visitors to the Magic Kingdom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Photo of the day - 2/14/12

Today's picture is a classic view of Cinderella's Castle. Going to the Magic Kingdom on a December night and seeing the castle decorated for Christmas is a great experience that everyone who visits Disney World should see at least once.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Photo Tour - Disneyland #1 Main Street U.S.A.

This last spring I had a chance to travel out to California and I thought it would be fun to share some of the photos from my trip and go on a tour of the original Disney parks land by land! This is another new feature that I'm excited to start here at Gradingdisney.com and I hope to tour many fun and unique places throughout the Disney parks so sit back, relax, and enjoy as we take a trip down Main Street U.S.A. in our first photo tour!


As you enter the turnstiles of Disneyland the first thing you'll notice is the train station that sits on top of a beautifully decorated hill. This station is a prime example of Walt Disney's direct influence on this park as Walt's love of trains led to this station and many others just like it to be built in all the "Magic Kingdom" style parks around the world. This station also provides a great photo opportunity for guests and sets the stage for the story of the classic American town 



Next as you approach the two archways passing under the station you are greeted by a sign that beckons you into the park. It promises of what lies ahead of you at disneyland; a world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. Walt wanted Disneyland to have something for the whole family to enjoy and the park certainly does as there is really something for everyone's interests here.




If you look down at the ground in the archway that leads into the park you will notice that its painted red and this is because Walt Disney wanted to "roll out the red carpet for his guests" as they entered the "show" of Disneyland. As soon as you enter the main part of the park you become part of the show as you really feel as if you have been transported back in time to a classic American street. The first two buildings you are greeted by are the beautiful city hall and fire department buildings. Originally, the Fire Department housed Walt Disney's private apartment but now it holds a shop on its lower level while city hall is appropriately home to guest relations. 





The view from the front of the park down Main Street is truly special as the old-fashioned buildings frame the castle at the end perfectly. Unfortunately when I visited the left side of Main Street was undergoing maintenance so it doesn't look quite as impressive as it normally does but Disney is creative even in their use of construction walls as they are made to blend in with the buildings around them. This is just a little extra touch that Disney adds but all these little things add up to create the Disney magic that is loved around the world.



Traveling down Main Street one of the first buildings you run into is the Main Street cinema which plays some of the classic disney cartoons and is free for anyone who wants to step in for a couple minutes and cool down and watch Mickey in his cartoons such as the original Steamboat Willie.



There are a lot of great places to grab a bite to eat along Main Street such as the Carnation Cafe and Blue Ribbon Bakery. Both restaurants provide a great place for families to grab a quick bite before they head of to one the other lands of the park or to satisfy hungry, cranky kids who have spent a long day in Disneyland.

There are also many places to shop along Main Street as both sides of the street are lined with unique disney souvenir stores. In fact there may be too many places to shop as additions in the recent past have partially ruined the imagery of the street that intersects Main Street U.S.A. This street was added to give the illusion that you were really on Main Street in a small town and there were other roads branching off of it but as evidenced by the fruit stand in the picture below which makes the street less prominent than it once was. Still, Disney for the most part has done a good job maintaing the original feel of the area as a walk down Main Street can truly make a person feel as if they have been transported back to the turn of the century.


The main reason why Main Street U.S.A and countless other Disney creations are able to immerse people in the stories that they tell is the use of meticulous detail. Disney is so good at getting the little things right and looking around at Main Street this is evident everywhere wether it be in the windows which are made to honor important people in Disney's history or something as simple as a food cart disguised as a classic car there are details everywhere on Main Street


As you near the end of Main Street U.S.A. the centerpiece of the park, Sleeping Beauty Castle comes into focus. Although this castle is not quite as impressive as its Magic Kingdom counterpart it still is a very eye-catching and beautiful focal point, or "weenie". It and the partners statue in front of it are photographed perhaps more than anything else in Disneyland because it is such a popular and iconic spot. Sleeping Beauty Castle is the perfect place to embark on new adventures as you travel out to the experience all that the lands of Disney land have to offer.


I hope you enjoyed my first photo tour of Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland. I hope to provide many more of these in the near future that will travel through many different areas of the Disney parks!

New look!

If you have been to this blog before you may notice some recent changes I have made to the layout and design of the blog. I thought that the old look was a little too dark and maybe be hard to read so I decided to change things up to make gradingdisney.blogspot.com more inviting and user friendly! Let me know what you like or dislike and if there is anything else you want changed!

Picture of the day - 2/13/12

Today we travel out to California for the picture of the day. Here's a picture of the classic Matterhorn looming over Fantaysland from my trip to Disneyland last spring.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Picture of the day - 2/12/12


Today's picture of the day comes from the Boardwalk where the Atlantic Boardwalk makes the area feel like the old fashioned Atlantic seaside that Disney Imagineers sought to create. Every visitor to Disney should check out the Boardwalk at sometime as it has something for everyone and it will truly make you feel immersed in the classic boardwalks of America!