Am I crazy or has the Disney magic returned?

Well I got back a few weeks ago from our two week family vacation at Walt Disney World with a one night stay at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. In a future blog I will discuss my view and experience with our first stay at Disney’s Hilton Head Island – but that is for another day. It has been 2 years since my last visit to the world and my entire family (wife and 3 little girls) were very excited to be returning, especially with the Disney DVC discounted premium annual pass – gotta like the major discount – well worth the money (what’s up with Disney major DVC price increase? A future blog is coming about that). Anyway we stayed at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and like all our trips to Disney, we never make room requests. See my work life is so scheduled and planned and add to that the kids’ activities; it seems our entire life is scheduled. So when we go to Disney we tend to drop the schedule and major plans (we do some planning or I would go crazy – Fred thinks I am already there!) OK back to reality, so when we check in the room assignment is a complete surprise and we make the best of which ever room we get. I have never been disappointed even when staying at Wilderness Lodge with a view of the trash bins. Well our previous 3 stays at Saratoga Springs have been in the Paddock section, however this time we were located right across from the main pool, on the corner. We ran down 2 flights of stairs and were at the bus stop, the main pool, the rentals area and the restaurants and shop with our SUV parked right next to the door. I have to say it was the best location ever and hope to get to stay here again in the future, but I still will not make a request – I do like this surprise. Like really, you are at Disney, how much time are you planning to stay in your room? Also you are on vacation so relax, it sure beats looking at the snow fall! Now the bus service, well Disney states a bus every 20 minutes. Now I do not know what clocks Disney uses or if Disney time is different than mine, but let’s just say that whichever park we decided to go to that day seemed to have 1 bus every 40 + minutes, yet all other parks, downtown Disney and the Treehouses had buses every 15 minutes and many times back to back! Once again we changed the way we vacation – so really it was our fault. In years past we kind of had a plan but many days grabbed the first bus that arrived, it was excellent. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting and waiting for your bus as the crowds get so large that you are lucky to get a standing spot on the bus. This is not unique to Disney, but a reality with mass transit. I digress, don’t get me wrong I am not bitter about the vacation and we did have a fantastic time, but I have to say not everything is perfect at Disney and unlike many fans I have not stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, because I never did drink the Kool-Aid. I am a Disney fan, an avid blogger about Disney because of what Disney has always stood for, and I appreciate the hard work that Disney employees do to make the magic happen, but I do not sugar coat the reality – it is a business and if it does not make money then it will no longer exist. Now since my first trip in 2000 to my most recent trip, I have noticed a significant change in Disney Parks. For quite some time there was reduced upkeep on many attractions, with animatronics not working, reduced lighting (most likely to reduce refurbishment costs), reduced park hours, more universal food (same food everywhere) and the same merchandise in all the stores. Now with this trip I noticed significantly better lighting on all attractions. From Living with The Land I could actually see the animatronics in the rain forest and see the water falls, that you almost needed night vision goggles in years past to see. Each and every attraction we rode, the paint seemed to pop, the lights were brighter and the attention to detail has returned. The food variety is getting better, but still not back to the variety of 2000. The merchandise is another story. With the merchandise, what I remember is unique resort exclusive shirts, hats, mugs, T shirts with embroidered characters which made the price worth it. I hope someone in merchandise realizes that more generic item to keep costs down is not always the solution – that may work for Wal-Mart, but when I am shelling out $30 or $40 for a T-shirt it better have more than a screen print. Maybe I am getting old, and it is not that there is not some really cool merchandise items there (I still love everything in the Art of Disney stores), I have trouble finding a shirt design that I liked – maybe it is just me or maybe John Lasseter could give some of his magic to help merchandise like he has done with Disney Imagineering. With the huge amount of rumors floating around, maybe Disney with expand Hollywood Studios as I proposed many months ago as it seems they have realized they need to spend money to attract more guests. I am hopeful that many of the new rumors are true and that we are now entering a new Disney decade like we have not seen in 30+ years, maybe it is John Lasseter’s involvement that is pushing the imagineers to dream big and the suits to open their wallets. While I believe Harry Potter was a colossal mistake for Disney that put Universal on Disney’s level, for Disney fans and visitors, it was the best thing that could happen. With Universal nipping at Disney’s knees, Disney had to either step up and fight or hand the reins to the new kid in town. Thankfully the beast has awoken and the next decade is going to be one hell of a ride!

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