New Pixar Pals parade disappoints many Disney World fans

Walt Disney World debuted a new parade – Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! – at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday. The new parade features characters from Pixar films Up! and Ratatouille that have never appeared in a Disney parade before.

New stuff at Disney is frequently met with breathless wonder by the many fans of all things Disney out there. But when it comes to this parade, reaction from Disney World fans, including many locals who turned out to see the parade’s debut, has not been good.

In the comments sections of blogs and YouTube videos about the Pixar Pals parade, Disney fans are describing the parade as “low budget,” “horrible” and “disappointing.”

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! replaces the Block Party Bash, a street party-parade hybrid that moved through the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stopped at certain points to bring the audience out to dance with characters from popular movies including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life.

The main beefs with the parade seem to fall into two categories: First, that the parade is not different enough from its predecessor Block Party Bash, and second, that the parade is too short.As for the charge that the Pixar Pals parade is too similar to Block Party Bash, well, it is pretty similar. Many of the floats are the same; the rest are simply repainted. Cast members’ costumes and props are also unchanged.

“All of the floats are recycled from Block Party Bash, merely repainted and slightly re-themed and the music isn’t original. Overall, it comes as a disappointment to many who had high hopes for the new production,” writes a blogger at easyWDW.com.

And is the parade, which has a soundtrack made up largely of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” too short? At less than 8 minutes in length, it is shorter than other Disney Parks parades, which typically clock in closer to the 15-minute mark.

Shelley Caran of OnTheGoinMCO.com describes Pixar Pals as a “lack luster eight minute blink and you missed it.”

About the only positive reaction we could find in the blogosphere comes from Ricky Brigante of Inside the Magic.net, who was a vocal opponent of the way the Block Party Bash stopped in the theme park’s walkways each day: “At least it doesn’t hog the streets for extended periods of time like Block Party Bash once did.”

So, while kids may enjoy catching a glimpse of their favorite movie characters, the overall consensus from the grown-ups seems to be that Disney’s previous afternoon “parade,” Block Party Bash, was superior.

StudiosCentral.com, a blog devoted to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park where the new parade debuted, writes: “The previous two daytime parades at the Studios, Block Party Bash and Stars & Motor Cars Parade, were far superior displays and much more of an engaging experience. … For those that have enjoyed quality Disney World parades over the years, you may find yourself disappointed and underwhelmed.”

Now that you’ve seen the video, what do you think?

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Disney World says goodbye to Block Party Bash

Disney Block Party Bash

New Year’s Day is a day of beginnings, but it marked the end for a Disney World parade. The Block Party Bash ended its run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on January 1.

The Block Party Bash was a rolling parade that stopped for a “street party” a couple of times along the parade route. It featured characters from DisneyPixar movies including Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.

The Green Army Men from Toy Story served as hosts and narrators of the dance party, inviting park guests out into the streets to dance to “Celebration” and “Shout” along with the characters and Disney dancers clad in technicolor outfits.

Disney announced last fall that the Block Party Bash would be closing in January. It is being replaced by a new parade, the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun!

The new parade debuts Jan. 16. It will include four DisneyPixar characters not currently seen at Disney Parks parades: Remy and Emile from Ratatouille and Carl and Russell from Up.

It is believed that the new parade will use the music from the Pixar Play Parade, which will be put on hiatus for most of 2011 at Disney’s California Adventure.

There will be no afternoon parades scheduled at Disney’s Hollywood Studios between Jan. 2 and Jan. 15.

[Image credit: Flickr user HarshLight]

Disney’s Spectacle of Dancing Lights: By the numbers

disney dancing lights

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is one of the most popular holiday events at Walt Disney World.

Each night at dusk, the lights are turned on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is impossible to take a picture that shows the magnitude of Disney’s dancing lights display. It completely covers the buildings in the theme park’s Streets of America section. So, to try to give you the big picture, here are some of the numbers that go into making this display.

1,000 – The number of lights this display started with when Jennings Osborne put some lights up outside his Little Rock, Arkansas, home at his daughter’s request. When the exhibit grew into millions of lights, it drew too much traffic to his neighborhood and was moved to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.

16 – The number of years that the spectacle has been lighting up the night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where it was first displayed in 1995.

5,000,000 – The number of individual lights now in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights display.

350 – The number of miles the strings of lights would cover if laid end to end.

40 – The approximate number of “hidden Mickeys” in the lights display. Disney designers add Mickey shapes to the display, and many guests try to find them all.

%Gallery-108574%1 – The number of black cats in the Christmas light display. When the Osborne family’s lights were transported to Walt Disney World, a cat from the family’s Halloween display wound up with the Christmas stuff. Each year, the Disney designers put the cat in a different location in the display for guests to find.

66 – The number of machines used to make the “snowflakes” that fall periodically during the display, according to Studios Central.

5 – The number of songs the Christmas lights are programmed to “dance” to. This year’s songs include “Christmas is Starting Now” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

3 – The number of “Phineas & Ferb” characters heard in the audio track that plays on the Streets of America. A bit with Phineas, Ferb and Dr. Doofenshmirtz has been added to the Spectacle of Dancing Lights this year.

21,000 – The approximate number of hours that Disney employees work to install the display.

53 – The number of nights that Disney’s dancing lights display can be seen this holiday season. It runs through Jan. 3, 2011.

Top 10 holiday sights to see at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is known for building theme parks and resorts that are larger than life. So it should come as no surprise that Disney goes all out during the holidays. It’s enough to have anyone humming “White Christmas,” even if it is 80 degrees outside.

Many of the holiday festivities start this week at Walt Disney World – yes, Disney skips directly from Halloween to Christmas. Here are my Top 10 sights to see at Walt Disney World during a November or December visit:

Snow on Main Street U.S.A.
It only gets cold enough for a flurry every few years in Orlando, but you can see snow at the Magic Kingdom on select nights each November or December. The flakes fall during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a special event that includes a holiday parade, Christmas fireworks and treat stations dispensing free hot chocolate and cookies.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Millions of lights twinkle in time with holiday music during this dazzling presentation at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Entire buildings are covered in lights, and more lights form Santa and his reindeer and other familiar favorites. The shows happen nightly after dark in the park’s Streets of America section.

Minnie’s Christmas cookie parade float
Minnie Mouse’s float in Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade delights the eyes with giant Christmas cookies and candy. But this “must-see” is a “must-smell,” too. Be sure to get a whiff of the cinnamon scent the float emits as it rolls by during this afternoon parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Santas with an international flair

In Epcot, the World Showcase pavilions show off traditional décor – and traditional jolly old elves — from their home countries each holiday season. Don’t miss a visit with Pere Noel in France or Father Christmas in the United Kingdom.

Stars on parade
The Walt Disney World parade shown on TV each Christmas Day is actually taped during a few days in early December, and Disney recruits members of the public and park visitors to be part of the audience for the taping. The 2009 parade audiences were treated to musical performances by stars including Kris Allen, Yanni and Nick Cannon. This year’s tapings are scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4.

Giant gingerbread
Disney’s pastry chefs work overtime during the holidays, creating larger-than-life masterpieces that are amazingly edible. Take a tour of the resorts to see their handiwork: a gingerbread carousel with chocolate horses spins at Disney’s Beach Club, toy soldiers guard the perimeter of a gingerbread gazebo at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, and a 17-foot gingerbread tree towers over the fourth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. If all that gingerbread sharpens your sweet tooth, stop by the life-sized gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian, which doubles as a bake shop selling cookies, peppermint bark and – you guessed it – gingerbread.

Towering wilderness
While Walt Disney World is home to more than 700 Christmas trees each December, the beauty at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a consistent favorite of Disney visitors. Shooting up more than 60 feet in the center of the lodge’s lobby, the Christmas tree is adorned with 60,000 lights and décor that suits the national park theming of the resort, including ornaments made from antlers. In fact, Disney’s Imagineers designed the Wilderness Lodge lobby with Christmas in mind, even installing power outlets in the floor where they would be needed for the tree.

Christmas-y campsites
While Walt Disney World decorators string more than 8 million Christmas lights around the resort, guests at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground also get on the action. It has become an annual tradition for many families to camp at Walt Disney World during the Christmas holidays, and they bring their celebrations – and their decorations – with them. Take a spin through the campground after dark to see the creative ways these Disney visitors light up their tents and RVs.

Cinderella’s Holiday Wish
Each night at dusk, Cinderella appears on stage at the Magic Kingdom to ask for a special holiday wish. With a wave of her Fairy Godmother’s magic wand, the princess’s castle is lit up with sparkling holiday lights. The glittering castle makes a great back-drop for a family photo.

Surprising treats
Holiday surprises also abound at Walt Disney World’s restaurants. Keep your eye out for special holiday menu items, such as chocolate Mickey waffles on the Crystal Palace breakfast buffet or a frozen Dole Whip dessert colored a Christmas green at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

[Image credit (gingerbread house): Flickr user M. Keefe]

Summer trips for Star Wars fans

There are several Star Wars-themed events in Alabama and Florida that should be worth the trip, so you won’t have to crash on Dagobah or invade Naboo to feel the Force this summer.

Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 21 through June 13

This annual festival attracts Star Wars fans of all ages to Walt Disney World. There are meet-and-greets with a number of Star Wars characters, including Darth Vader, C-3PO, Luke, Leia and Jedi Mickey, who will sign autographs and pose for photos. Stars of the movies and TV series in the Star Wars franchise appear each weekend for “star conversations” and autograph sessions. This year’s guests include Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) May 21-23 and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) June 4-6.

Most of the action is centered around the Star Tours theme park ride inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The ride will be closing in September for an update, so many Star Wars fans are attending Star Wars Weekends this year to get their last ride on the original attraction before it changes.

There’s also a Hollywood-style motorcade of Star Wars characters and celebrity guests each afternoon, complete with contingents of marching Stormtroopers. And don’t miss the Hyperspace Hoopla, which often degenerates into a Star Wars character dance-off.

Star Wars Weekends are free with regular admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A one-day ticket will run you $79.


Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination
U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
June 25 through Sept. 6

It’s the first Southeast U.S. showing for this traveling exhibit, which uses the futuristic robots and vehicles in the Star Wars movies to teach real-world science and engineering.

Visitors can meet C-3PO and R2-D2 and learn about how humans interact with robots in Star Wars. Then they can design their own robot in the Robot Engineering Lab. Or view a Star Wars landspeeder and actual vehicles and prototypes being designed today for space travel. In total, more than 80 original costumes and props from the six Star Wars movies are part of the exhibition.

More than 100,000 people are expected to visit the exhibit in Huntsville, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center says it will likely be sold out during peak times. Officials there suggest you buy your Star Wars exhibition tickets in advance. Day tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for kids, evening (off-peak) tickets are discounted to $20 for adults and $15 for kids.

And if you have Star Wars fans ages 7 through 12, be sure to check out the Jedi Experience overnight camps being offered at Huntsville’s Space Camp facility.

Star Wars Celebration V
Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida
Aug. 12-15

This Star Wars fan convention is sanctioned by and this year, produced by, Lucasfilm. It includes parties, autograph signings, costume events, collectible sales, panel discussions and all manner of Star Wars geekdom.

Jay Laga’aia (Capt. Typho in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) is the celebrity host for the event. Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) is the headliner.

A four-day ticket to the Star Wars Celebration will run you $128, kids get in for $54.