Greetings, fellow theme park obsessives! In the past week I have traveled from D23 Expo to Batuu and back and I am now just a vessel designed for breaking theme park news that never sleeps and runs on sugary theme park snacks. Ooh, gimme that Epcot caramel corn!
Craving a round-up of what happened at D23 Expo? We've got it all right here; otherwise, let's dive into the week's biggest hits:
GALAXY'S EDGE @ WDW BRINGS THE HEAT
I've now been to Batuu West and Batuu East and dare I say it... I like Walt Disney World's a little better? It's more of an emotional choice than a practical one as the lands are nearly identical, but something about its location within Disney's Hollywood Studios just grabs me in a way I didn't expect.
Walt Disney World is, as I always call it, "the big show," and there's something about the park being populated with families who have excitedly waited months, even years, to come here that energizes the land in a way groups of friends driving up from Los Angeles does not. Not that California's new Star Wars land is worse, by any means — again, they're practically carbonite copies of each other (heh) — but its location just gives it a significance and weight that isn't paralleled as widely at Disneyland Resort.
Last week's opening went flawlessly, but for nerds like us who truly want to nail down what the difference is between the two lands, let's get into it, shall we?
Alcohol is served openly at Disney's Hollywood Studios: Oga's Cantina operates more like Trader Sam's than a hidden-away bar. At Walt Disney World, not only can you order the specialty mug drinks (like the Yub Nub and Cliff Dweller) without the souvenir mug, but if you splurge on one, they'll give you a fresh mug to bring home instead. You can even take your cocktails to go if you want to get back out into the land — something they'll encourage to keep guests from lingering. And oh yeah — those blue and green frozen milks? Here they come topped with rum and tequila, respectively, if you're so inclined.
The colors and orientation are slightly different: Certain areas of Black Spire Outpost have a brighter paint job in effort to balance out the sunlight, but the bit that surprised me most while there in person was the path from the Marketplace toward Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. This walkway is more winding than at Disneyland and lends itself to some hidden corners that make the Resistance Forest truly feel hidden.
I've already yelled about this, but the transition from Toy Story Land into Galaxy's Edge is so bizarre and I LOVE IT. Something about smashing together the primary colorscape and gigantic everyday objects of Andy's backyard with a remote, far-flung, desert-toned outpost is just the type of design mania I crave from a theme park. No hate on Frontierland meshing so well or Critter Country's path blending right in because that's also dope — it makes Galaxy's Edge feel like it's always been hidden back there — but the chaotic mishmash of styles just soothes my soul.
Oga's Cantina has a (somewhat) secret new dish: It's a charcuterie plate from space! Seriously, this thing looks decidedly intergalactic. (I also got in many Twitter fights about if this dish is actually a secret, but if no one told me about it during food interviews at the media preview or during regular service and it wasn't on the restaurant menu and I didn't see it with my own eyes, I'm calling it a dang secret okay!)
The sounds of the land: They're much, much louder and more pronounced inside Florida's Star Wars-themed land. When you hear a ship overhead, you're likely to think it's actually real.
The Batuu Bits at Oga's Cantina vary: The Outer Rim watering hole has removed the rice crackers and wasabi peas of Anaheim's space pub mix in exchange for veggie chips, "guacamole bites," and a DELICIOUS chermoula dip. Don't skip it, especially on this coast.
Restaurant Reservations: Savi's Lightsabers and Oga's Cantina take reservations here too, but so does Droid Depot — and all up to 180 days in advance. You can always try your luck with walk-up, but just take note, it's always best to save your spot at Walt Disney World.
Call me crazy: But I'm convinced the Oi-oi puff tastes different in Florida. Is it the humidity? Do I have bad food memory? I gotta get one at Disneyland again and compare.
Sleep somewhere specific and you'll get in super early: If you're visiting Disney World before November 2 and are staying at an eligible hotel, you can enter Disney's Hollywood Studios as early as 6 AM for Extra Extra Magic Hours. Boom!
And — what a week, I can't believe I'm listing this as merely an addendum — we got a look INSIDE Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which opens on December 5 at Walt Disney World and January 17, 2020, at Disneyland Resort, and I damn near lost it. That photo below? I've seen it in real life, and it's unfathomable. Twelve minutes of an intense interview later and I can confirm that a good number of the nearly 50 Stormtroopers within the Star Destroyer scene will be audio-animatronic with slight movements and animation. (SPOILER ALERT: There is plenty of intel about the attraction within this thread, which I'm intentionally leaving out here.)
From everything I've learned and have inferred from Imagineer responses while reporting, this ride is going to be truly unprecedented. I rarely get this excited about an attraction, but hoo baby, this one deserves it.
KNOTT'S SCARY FARM JUST LANDED THE BEST GUEST OF ALL
Yes, September and October are Universal Studios' time to shine, but a part of that Halloween glory is being pulled in Knott's Berry Farm's direction this time of year more than ever because OH MY GOD, THEY GOT PUPPET UP!
Allow me to explain: Knott's Scary Farm, one of the biggest terror-filled theme park events in California, already has a cult following for its apocalyptic haunted houses and blood-curdling mazes. New for this year's event? Puppet Up! Uncensored, the unreal improvised puppetry show helmed by The Jim Henson Company, is coming to the Buena Park, California, extravaganza and I will go there JUST FOR THIS. I cannot explain how much of a "get" this is?!?!?!
The improv puppeteers aren't "college-improv-show-on-the-quad" funny, they're HOLLYWOOD funny, and with 80 puppets to choose from it's a full dose of Muppet-y comedy for adult audiences, all included within the event. Don't judge me when I suggest you buy two nights of Knott's Scary Farm tickets: One to see three back-to-back shows by Puppet Up! and one to actually do the dang thing. And, when you see this crazy Muppets fan in the audience screaming with joy, you'll know why.
CLOSURES, CHANGES, CLUB COOL'S LAST STAND
I don't love to dwell on things being removed — it's a natural progression of theme parks — but here's a catch-up on everything that's shifting this week:
Epcot's Big Changes: We all knew that retro center hub was going away with Epcot 2.0 on the horizon, but Club Cool, Fountain View, Innoventions, and Character Spot will officially close on Sunday, September 8. I already said my heartfelt sticky-floored goodbyes this week, but it appears Club Cool might not be gone forever! A sliver of hope for the new age of this timeless park.
Disneyland's Entertainment Cancellations: Major entertainment cuts have been swirling online the past few days, but this convenient roundup summarizes nearly all of it. Soarin' Over California's summer-long run has come to an end with Soarin' Around The World returning to its permanent place, but in sadder news, the Pixarmonic Orchestra and its lively Pixar Pier performances will end September 15, along with The Laughing Stock Co., which will conclude its Golden Horseshoe run on the same day. The news follows the closure of Red Car Trolley News Boys, which ended its performances at Disney California Adventure in late July.
Halloween on the Horizon at Disneyland: The season officially kicks off this Friday, September 6, when Haunted Mansion Holiday debuts in tandem with the autumnal fireworks and effects show, Halloween Screams. There's an all-new (and spook-filled) World of Color show, "Villainous!" starting September 17 as well, as part of specially ticketed Oogie Boogie Bash evening parties. (Here's my review from a private preview I saw a few weeks back.)
A LITTLE HALLOWEEN WHAT'S UP
With Labor Day behind us, it's all Hallow's Eve from here on out. Don't forget to buy your tickets sooner than later for Oogie Boogie Bash at Disneyland — over half the tickets are already sold out — Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida and Knott's Scary Farm at Knott's Berry Farm.
And with that, here's a half-hour's worth of work distraction via... LINKS!:
ALL THE THEME PARK NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT:
- I took my mom to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Things got....interesting.
- Among the characters that will arrive as part of Disneyland's new parade: Moana!
- Just try to not smile while listening to Podcast: The Ride's live episode from — well, near — D23 Expo.
- Since I don't actually work at this website, I'm allowed to say this is a good story.
- Women teaching their moms how to Disneybound is, expectedly, adorable.
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival landed last week, and with it came extensive coverage about what is actually worth your coin. Trust my friends Shay of People magazine and AJ of Disney Food Blog — they won't lead you astray.
- If you understand this, you also spend too much time on DisTwitter.
- Looking for Hurricane Dorian updates? Head to the Orlando Sentinel, which took down its paywall to make details available to all.