5 Surprise Hits of 2015

Before we get too much further into 2016, I thought I would share my top 5 surprise hits at Walt Disney World. These are the things that I didn’t have too much expectation around, but inevitably found great value.

1. Anything to do with Disney Springs. Everything that Disney seems to be touching at this location seems to be working. From the general layout of the experience to the shops and restaurants, there is something new and wonderful every time I head over there. And I head over there several times a month.

The Boathouse is a terrific upscale, but casual restaurant. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The Boathouse is a terrific upscale, but casual restaurant. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

2. Expansion Efforts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We’re not talking–at least yet–about the Avatar addition or even the new Rivers of Light show coming in. We’re simply talking about all of the small improvements being made around the park to make the guest experience more enjoyable. From the widening of paths to the addition of new shops and restaurants, it doesn’t take long to realize that this park is going to be really one of the best parks in the Disney canon. I was never a big fan of this park. It was the lesser of all four on my list. It may move up this next year.

The expansion of Disney Outfitters has made this set of shops into an Emporium size location. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The expansion of Disney Outfitters has made this set of shops into an Emporium size location. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Wonderful design details can be found in these new additions. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Wonderful design details can be found in these new additions. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

3. TCM Overlay to The Great Movie Ride. Everyone’s talked about the sorcerer hat coming down. I applaud that as well. But what I really have enjoyed are all the touches that have gone into the Great Movie Ride with TCM now playing host. The change of movie banners in the queue, the additional new ending, and especially the film hosted by Robert Osborne, which I could honestly just sit and enjoy. I almost want the queuing to go longer.

An additional montage of films as guests return to disembark from the attraction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
An additional montage of films as guests return to disembark from the attraction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Unfortunately there were supposed to be some changes to the ride itself. With all that is happening construction wise, they felt it was best to not let the ride be down for an extended period to change that out. That means we may be waiting another 5 years for a change (and yes, I think that means you, Alien).

4. Skipper Canteen. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I have visited, and I find the place to be splendid. You still feel the Dorothea Redmond touches to the original interior design. For a restaurant that has been out of touch for so long (other than private group catering), this is really a surprise and a delight. In some ways, I think we may have the best Adventureland–at least in terms of size as well as total rides and offerings–of any of the parks worldwide.

I used to host groups inside this restaurant, long closed to regular guests. But the building still seemed dead even to those visiting. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
I used to host groups inside this restaurant, long closed to regular guests. But the building still seemed dead even to those visiting. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

5. Three Caballeros Animatronics Addition. When Gran Fiesta Tour opened, I was totally disappointed by the fact that when you got to the amphitheater there was no audio animatronic–just a film of the trio singing. Learning that the Mickey Mouse Revue was closing at Tokyo Disneyland, I expected that the trio would come back to Walt Disney World. But no word, and no action. So when it finally happened, what a delight! Having never personally seen the Mickey Mouse Revue, this couldn’t have been cooler.

As cute as they are, they are limited in terms of movement. I wonder if it would be possible to play the cartoon that was on the screen behind them while they play? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
As cute as they are, they are limited in terms of movement. I wonder if it would be possible to play the cartoon that was on the screen behind them while they play? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

While fantastic things are underway for 2016 and beyond, I hope that there are a few surprises as well. My hopes and aspirations on those soon–hopefully before 2017.

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