Michelle and Joe are on location at Disney’s Polynesia Spa and Resort in Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida for this special Disney specific podcast. They talk about the family traditions of Disney as they’ve been passed down through three generations now. We take a look at what Disney does right, what Disney does wrong and whether or not Disney World is still relevant and doing what’s right by it’s fans and it’s stockholders. We also ask, and hopefully answer the timeless question “Is Disney World really the happiest place on Earth”? Don’t miss this very special Disney edition of the podcast.
Speaker 1:0:04Welcome to insights into entertainment podcast series. Taking a deeper look into entertainment and media, your host, Joseph and Michelle Waylon, a husband and wife, team of pop culture, phonetics are exploring all things from music and movies to television and fandom.
Speaker 2:0:28This is insights into entertainment. Episode One, Polynesian Paradise. I’m your host, Joseph Waylon and I’m here with my cohost Michelle Waylon. Hello everyone. We are on location for this podcast at the Polynesian Hotel and resort and Walt Disney world in Orlando, Florida. Today our topic is going to be all things Disney for our kickoff. Before we get into that though, it would be worthwhile to establish Michelle’s credentials will be used as far as being a Disney authority. You are a member of the 23. Is that correct? That is correct. You are a DVC member. That is also correct. You are a annual pass holder a few years off and on. Yes. You are. You Disney Visa Card holder? I am. Um, you are also a multiyear applicant to the Disney mom’s panel. You’re not correct. Um, you were also a Disney stock holder, correct. So you have a [inaudible] was also a Disney cast member and you were a Disney cast member and you were, you’ve been the Disney, how many times a loft? Yeah,
Speaker 3:1:46I would say probably, maybe we’re up to 50 or 60 now.
Speaker 2:1:56I know they all Disney world.
Speaker 3:1:58No, I have been to Disney land a few times, but I have not done any of the,
Speaker 2:2:04uh, overseas Disney parks. Okay. As of yet. Okay. So I think, I think that establishes your credentials as a Disney authority or I’m really obsessive compulsive. Disney. Your Halach that too.
Speaker 2:2:25So let’s start off with the burning question. In everyone’s mind, is Disneyworld the happiest place on earth?
Speaker 3:2:36It depends. It can be. I think depending on how your experience goes, Disney does try to, to make it the happiest place on earth, but things just happen where it’s not the happiest place on earth. Um, I think we’ve seen it with a few of our trips that we’ve taken together. Um, the one trip where you wrote a very nasty letter to, to Disney after the experience because it just seemed like for us, everything was going wrong with the trip and one problem after another after another and it wasn’t that happiest trip, but yet there are people that I know that have had, you know, come down here and get an upgraded room or they get some sort of special treatment that they weren’t expecting. Um, and then it turns out to be, you know, the best vacation that they’ve ever had. And we’ve also had experiences of our own where just a out of the blue thing has happened where if we were someplace else, would that have a sick that seem experiences have happened to us if we were, you know, at Great Wolf Lodge or you know, a six flags amusement park.
Speaker 2:3:59Just for the record, you’re doing knowledge that it might not necessarily be the happiest place on earth. Is that correct?
Speaker 3:4:06I can neither confirm nor deny. I know for me personally, this is definitely my happy place. And I think a lot of it also has to do with, because I came here as a kid with my parents, I was very fortunate to have had a few Disney vacations, you know, growing up. So it’s kind of like for me passing the torch to, you know, to my family, to my daughter, you know, my mother first came to Disneyworld when she was pregnant with me and it’s kind of the joke that, you know, it was the DNA or whatever and we came here while I was pregnant with our daughter. So it’s, you know, there, there’s, for me it’s, it’s like a family tradition, you know, where some pair, you know, some families do ski trips, that’s their traditional, they do trips down to the shore or something. Disney for me happens to kind of be like a family tradition for me.
Speaker 2:5:12And it’s a multi, multi generational absolutely experience as well. Is Disney still relevant Disneyworld, we’ll say? Is Disneyworld still relevant today as it was in the seventies and eighties.
Speaker 3:5:31You know, it’s, it’s kind of hard cause I think we were talking about this the other day that up until recently in some cases, Disney didn’t feel the need to change things up. You know, you had rides that had been stable since the park opened in 1971 and they didn’t modify anything. Maybe upgraded some of the technology, but for the most part it was the same ride. If you had gone in 1971 is as you went now. But I think with the other theme parks in the area, universal, seaworld, you know, maybe not so much the competition came, especially with Harry Potter. And that whole section of universal just kind of blew up. And Disney realized, I think that they needed to, you know, upgrade certain things and add new things. So now you can see all of these new things that they’re putting in. You know, we, we saw it today. [inaudible]
Speaker 3:6:43is coming to the magic kingdom and there’s this whole area closed off and you can see the construction and then you have, um, guardians of the galaxy, you know, a ride coming in. They’re in Epcot, and then you have changes to Hollywood studios where you have the whole galaxy’s edge star wars land coming in. Plus even, you know, the great movie ride, which was a staple of Hollywood studios that shutdown last year, and now you have a Mickey and Minnie ride coming in. So they realize, you know what, we can’t leave things the same. We need to be upgraded.
Speaker 2:7:24That’s an interesting point. You mentioned with Mccain [inaudible] is it true that that’s the first Mickey mouse ride to appear in any Disney park?
Speaker 3:7:32Yeah, that’s the first Mickey, you know, exclusive ride back into the day they had America’s sings. I want to say, I’m sure we’ll probably get people that are like, no, it was this, right. Um, they had something, Mickey was part of the ride. Um, well it wasn’t a ride. It was a show, you know, so he’s been visual, you know, you’ve been able to see him
Speaker 2:7:58phantasm Harmaty magic. Right.
Speaker 3:8:01So he appears in, you know, certain things, but he’s never been the focal point of just an actual, an actual ride. Yeah.
Speaker 2:8:16Can a trip to Disneyworld cannot be considered or can it be managed as an affordable family vacation?
Speaker 3:8:25I think if you do it right, you can, you can obviously go over the top. You know, I think now, you know, you watch TV for, you know, an hour and you’re going to see a Disney world commercial and you know, they make it out to be, you know, this affordable trip. You know, they have multiple resorts of various dollar amounts. You know, you can stay at what they consider a value resort for a lower amount or if you know, the sky’s the limits, you stay at a deluxe resort. So, um, you know, depending on what time of year you go, what kind of package you go, you know, I think there, there is a Disney vacation within anybody’s price range.
Speaker 2:9:13Okay, fair enough. And we’ve stayed at several different metal. I mean we’re, we’re obviously staying at a deluxe resort now. We’ve stayed at all stars. I’m, you stayed at the moderates?
Speaker 3:9:25Yeah, we’ve stayed at the, at all various levels and there’s been pros and cons of, of all of them. I think, you know, for us when we stay at the value resorts, I think, you know, the, the one disadvantage that we tend to have is the transportation. It always seems to take a little bit longer to get any of the transportation to come or you’re sharing the bus with, you know, multiple locations. But now that we’ve been driving down as often as, as we have now transportation, depending on where we’re staying, sometimes we just take our own car and then we don’t have to worry about, you know, waiting for a bus or a boat or a monorail.
Speaker 2:10:13Do you think Disney is trying to keep vacations affordable for the average filing?
Speaker 3:10:20You know, it seems like they are, but then every day you see, oh look, park ticket prices are going up again. You know, how many times within a year does the average ticket price go up? How many times does the annual pass go up? So it, they’re obviously trying to compensate for, oh well we’re making all these upgrades and we’re doing all of this stuff. So you know, the money has to come from somewhere. But I think a lot of you know, you, you, you don’t see what you’re getting for it. And honestly, you know, we really don’t do other types of theme parks, so to say how much, you know, the differences in price between staying, you know, at Disney and staying at, you know, x, Y, z to to compare and contrast. You know, we know quick serve food, you know, ever, everybody always complains that, oh the food is so expensive, but you go to great adventure and it’s expensive. You go to great Wolf Lodge, Great Wolf Lodge is really expensive. Most people that go to great wolf lodge only stay one night because it’s, you know, it’s so expensive. Whereas most people that come to Disney, you know, probably stay three to four days on average.
Speaker 2:11:47Well does, he definitely does. Do a lot of expansion these days. They’ve been doing a lot of construction, a lot of its, that’s, we’ve been doing absolutely doing some parking expansions, obviously with the galaxy’s edge and the toy story land.
Speaker 2:12:07Do you think it’s fair that Disney is taking the money out of them, the attendees rather than out of the other branches of the passwords, bringing in, you know, billion dollar movies on a regular basis now that we’re, that’s bringing revenue in. Do you think, do you think Disney’s digging that money from the right place?
Speaker 3:12:29No, because you know, you would think as a company is one hand had a whole lot and the other didn’t that they’d kind of like, okay, we’ll give you a little bit from here. And I don’t know, I don’t know their financials to say, oh, because of how much is coming in through the, the animation we can give to the theme park. I think they might keep it all as their own, you know, different entities. I know the biggest joke or not joke, um, from cast members that I knew when Shanghai Disneyland Open and you know, they got Buku money to do all these great, fantastic rides. You know, if you, if you go on youtube and you search the various different rides, just the ride technology that they use is just fantastic. And everyone’s like, why don’t they have that here? Oh well cause I went to Shanghai, you know, oh we can’t get a new paint job because all the money went to Shanghai. So I think within all of the different theme parks, they all share their pot of money, but I don’t think they, you know, they go back and forth between the different, uh, divisions. Makes Sense.
Speaker 2:13:54Is Disney world just a once in a lifetime opportunity or do you think it’s realistic for people to come back on a regular basis like you have and we have,
Speaker 3:14:07no, I think there are people that, you know, it really depends on, on what you like to do as, as a family or as an individual or, or what. I think there are people that treat Disney as it’s, we’re doing it once, we’re never going to do it again. So let’s splurge on this. Let’s do, you know, this dining plan or eat at this restaurant or whatever. Obviously if it was a once in a lifetime thing, they wouldn’t offer an annual pass, you know, so they, they want people to come back and visit multiple times. You have, you know, people that are Florida residents that get special deals to be able, you know, to come in the park. They don’t offer an annual pass. They offer several flavors of annual cases. And that’s what I was about to say is that like for the Florida residents, they have certain annual passes that have blackout dates.
Speaker 3:15:07So when it’s the busiest time for the Disney parks, you can’t as an annual pass holder get into the park those days. Um, so it’s basically an off season pass. Um, I have a friend of mine who actually, she’s a Florida resident and she has an Epcot only pass and I didn’t even realize that they did one park type passes. And again, that’s something for Florida residents, I know that they have special tickets for after four o’clock to four Florida residents to come. So in a way, yes, they cater to those once in a lifetime. Like, Oh, do you know the liberty bobbity boutique or um, you know, go horseback riding or go on a boat or something. You know, those, those types of once in a lifetime things. But then again, you know, it’s always welcome home when you check in now. Like even if they don’t know that you’re a DVC, it’s always welcome home because I guess they figure, you know, you’ve been back once or twice already.
Speaker 3:16:20So of all the Times that you’ve been here, obviously we’ve established there’s a lot. What is it that keeps drawing you back? I don’t know. I think a lot of it is just part of that family tradition. You know, I go on the haunted mansion and I think of my parents, um, you know, and I go to the country bear jamboree. And as Corny as it is, and big owl reminds me of my dad because I remember coming here and watching, you know, different shows and things like that, you know, with my parents. And my parents are no longer here, so it’s kind of a way to keep their memory alive. So, you know, and, and every Disney fanatic has their own, you know, reason. I have one friend who, um, whose son is autistic and buzz Lightyear as his most favorite character ever. And He, um, you know, whenever she shares a story about, you know, coming to Disney with her son and as soon as he sees buzz Lightyear, he becomes a completely different person. Um, you know, so it, so for them it’s, it’s that magical event. And sometimes, you know, it’s, you know, if you’re the founder type of family that maybe you don’t really do things together on your vacations, it’s Kinda hard to come to Disney and not do something together, go on a ride together. And just have fun and be a kid. I think that’s really the biggest thing is, you know, it keeps you young.
Speaker 2:18:11There’s a lot of things that the district does, right? There’s a lot of things I think that Disney probably does wrong. What are a couple of the things that you think they do right? And I’m not talking simple stuff. I’m talking the above and beyond the, the, the magical moments. If I can use a cliche. Okay.
Speaker 3:18:32Well I think one of the biggest things, and fortunately we, we don’t have to take advantage of it, but I have lots of friends who then themselves have very specific food allergies or their children have specific food allergies above and beyond the peanut allergy and whatever. And Disney is one of the only places that I know of that will cater and bend over backwards to be able to feed, feed whatever issues you might have. You know, you go to a restaurant and it could be a quick serve restaurant and the chef will come out and talk to you and ask you, you know, what can I make special for you? Or you go to, you know, a sit down restaurant, same thing, you know, they go above and beyond. Um, you know, and even, you know, kids and, and adults with disabilities, a lot of, you know, the rides have some sort of modification so that a wheelchair can get on the ride so that you know, a child or an adult can actually go on said ride. Now granted, you know, there are certain the rights you have to be able to walk on to, you know, most of the roller coasters and things like that, but at least for a good portion of the rides, they make that accommodation so that not just the person that broke their leg, you know, you know, any person with any kind of disability can still have that magical experience.
Speaker 2:20:10So Disney really goes out of its way to be as all inclusive as reasonably possible.
Speaker 3:20:19Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I know that they, they came under some flack a couple of years ago because it was kind of easy to get a pass from guest relations where it allowed you basically to get on any ride right away. You basically showed the car, you got through the exit and you didn’t have to wait. Well, what found out was there was a travel agency in New York City, I believe. And they were basically, you know, you could hire them and they’d basically give you a note or they were like a tour guide for you and they’d get you a note. So for this extra $500 fee, hey, we’ll get you this disability card so you won’t have to wait online. So Disney changed their policy. And now in most cases, depending on what your disability is, what they ended up doing was changing a lot of the queue lines and making them wider so that if you were in a wheelchair, you could go through and we online just like anybody else. But there are still those exceptions to the rules, you know, depending on what the issue is, where some people can still get the cards, but it’s a, it’s a lot fewer in, in between, um, to, to get, but they do still do that if it’s warranted.
Speaker 3:21:56So I think your mention of two lines of Disney is a great segue into my next question. What does Disney do wrong? The wait times. I know we’ve had this discussion. We had this discussion today while we were waiting for our daughter to go on. Um, the seven dwarfs, mine train ride, we had a fast pass. And for those that don’t know what a fast pass is, Disney has this sort of reservation system that you can make for certain rides. So the idea is that you can make up to three per day and once they all have been used, then if there’s more left for certain rides, you can continue to make them throughout the day. So basically what happens is when you reach a certain point in before your vacation, you can go online and you can kind of make these quote unquote reservations and it’s an hour timeframe.
Speaker 3:23:00Um, and depending on the park, sometimes they have a certain tier levels. So, um, as an example for Hollywood studios, because they have the toy story rides, they have three toy story rides. You can’t get off three on a fast pass. For the same day, you could do one, one day one another day, one another day. Same thing with animal kingdom. With the two rides better in the Avatar land, you can’t get both in the same debt. So depending on what park and what rides, you have to kind of mix it up. So as an example, we had three FastPasses. We had one for um, Peter Pan, which we, that’s the only way we go on Peter van because the wait time on Peter Pan is usually always an hour. Um, for a three minute ride. That’s something that we’ve always said. We would never wait over an hour for a three minute rise. It’s just kind of ridiculous. So the only time again that we do Peter Pan is with a fast pass. So fortunately we had that. So we made it, we did what, maybe eight minutes total with a fast pass. But what they started to do is for these rides that have these enormous wait times, on average, they’ve now made a whole entertainment section of the Q line. So again, because I’ve never waited to go on Peter Pan. I don’t know what the Q line looks like besides what I’ve seen in youtube.
Speaker 2:24:40Disney has basically turned the experience of waiting for a ride into an attraction itself.
Speaker 3:24:48Absolutely. And now they just released an app probably maybe six months ago, the Disney play app, which is basically something for you to do while you’re waiting. I’m waiting in line. They have different things for you to achievements to a lock, unlock while you’re waiting in line or riding a certain ride and then they even have certain games that you can play with other people while you’re waiting in the queue line.
Speaker 2:25:21I’m pretty sure that’s something only Disney can get away with.
Speaker 2:25:31Thinking strictly from a Disney world standpoint, do you think that business is moving in the right direction for its fans?
Speaker 3:25:40Well, I, for one, I’m happy with all of the changes. Um, I know for me, I am not a thrill ride person. That is why Disney has always been so special for me because it’s a park that I can go to and go on the majority of the rides. There isn’t, I don’t have, you know, my short list is stuff that I don’t go on versus growing up in, you know, New Jersey and, you know, working at great adventure and going to great adventure. There were, you know, my shortlist was the rise that I’d actually go on where I know that there are people that they’re the thrill seekers. They liked the roller coasters, they liked the big rides. So like guardians of the galaxy. I’d love to go on it. What? I’ll never go, go on it. Um, you know, tower of terror. I would love to go on it, but it’s just, I will never go on it. Um, tron looks really cool from, you know what I’ve seen not ever going to go on it. So for those, you know, the Mickey Mouse right though, totally there. Um, but I think they’re, they’re adding things, you know, for, for all levels of, of guests, you know, out there now
Speaker 2:27:06as a stock holding herself. Do you think this, these moving in the right direction for its stockholders
Speaker 3:27:12could have this promise? He, yeah, because you know, you, you see the attendance doesn’t look like it’s dropped off. It, it obviously there are days you can come to the park and you can walk on everything, but you know, they’re constantly, you know, making changes and improvements and people are still coming, so obviously they’re doing something right.
Speaker 2:27:40I think that’s it for the podcast for this week. Thank you for your time, Michelle.
Speaker 3:27:45Thank you Joe.