Editor’s Note: Please join me in congratulating and celebrating Don Myers, one of our longest-running writers here on the WDW Radio blog and an anchor of the WDW Radio blog-writing team. Today marks Don’s FIFTIETH blog. Thank you, Don, for sharing your knowledge, wit, and passion for Disney with us for the last two and a half years. You are appreciated by so so so many people. Here’s to the next fifty!
by Don Myers
“When stars are born, they posses a gift or two. One of them is this: They have the power to make a wish come true…I bet a lot of you folks don’t believe that, about a wish coming true. Do ya? Well, I didn’t either. But let me tell you what really changed my mind. You see, the most fantastic, magical things CAN happen…and it all starts with a wish…”
I’m sure a lot of you may recognize that quote from the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. The beloved fireworks show has graced the skies over Magic Kingdom park for nearly 10 years now, an admirable milestone indeed. But today we celebrate another milestone. It no doubt pales in comparison to a respectable run such as Wishes, but I wanted to take this time nonetheless to celebrate a feat that has taken a lot of time, hard work, and dedication to accomplish: WDW Radio Newswire Edition #50!!!
It all started back on October 25, 2011. Well, the true date stretches back to the summer of 2011 when I talked with Lou, and he asked me to join the WDW Radio Blog Team. But then you’d have to go back to the spring of 2009 when I got my first writing gig for Celebrations Magazine. But then you’d have to go back even further to the summer of 1986 and my first trip to WDW, which sparked this love of all things Disney and this desire to share my passion with others.
But for the sake of this article (and before I begin to sound like Owl), we’ll start with October 25, 2011. That’s when my first article was published here on the blog. It was a piece on three new kiosks coming to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. A fitting start, as Epcot is my favorite park! And as you can see, October 25th 2011 was quite a long time ago. A lot of changes have swept through Walt Disney World Resort since that time, so much so that I felt it would be fitting to dedicate Newswire # 50 as a retrospective to all of the major announcements and new attractions, resorts, restaurants, and shops that have sprung up around the property in the time since article # 1 was published.
It’s funny, back then it wasn’t even called the WDW Radio Newswire! That moniker didn’t debut until article #5 on November 11, 2011. But this article isn’t about me. It’s about all the changes that have taken place over this time and it’s about celebrating our love of Disney. So let’s get things started with big announcements!
Okay, this first one was actually announced a few weeks before article #1’s publication, but I was very much a member of the blog team and hard at work on the brainstorming process when this announcement was made, and due to it’s magnitude I feel that an acknowledgement is quite necessary. I’m referring to the September 20th 2011 announcement of AVATAR-Land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Plans for the AVATAR-Land include several attractions, restaurants, and shops, and plans are still firmly on track for the area to be open in 2016.
Our next major announcement came seven months later on April 27th 2012, when the official opening date was finally confirmed for the remainder of the Storybook Circus section of New Fantasyland. This was a much anticipated announcement, as the opening date for Dumbo’s second spinner had been pushed back on several occasions. An announcement was also made at this time pertaining to the opening of Phase II of the expansion, the Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast areas of New Fantasyland. Details of both these announcements can be found in the April 30th 2012 edition of the Newswire.
Let’s use the details of the New Fantasyland announcements as a segue to the next aspect of our retrospective: Attractions! Several new attractions have come, and a few have gone since Oct 2011. Let’s take a look at things park by park, beginning with Epcot. And if you’re talking recent attraction news at Epcot, you have to begin with Test Track. The announcement came on January 6th 2012 that Test Track would be closing in the spring of 2012 for a major overhaul. This re-designing of the attraction would see it closed down for refurbishment for nearly eight months. But on December 6th 2012, a new and improved Test Track made its triumphant debut! Details of the initial announcement for Test Track’s transformation can be found in the January 9th 2012 edition of the Newswire, and details on the attraction’s re-opening can be found in the December 3rd 2012 edition.
Now let’s move over to Animal Kingdom. There’s only been one major piece of attraction news at the park, a massive revamp to the finale scene of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Little Red, the lovable Audio-Animatronic infant elephant, was completely removed from the scene and replaced with a savanna of live zebras. The storyline for the safari was also updated to reflect this change, and details can be found in the February 21st edition of the Newswire.
Let’s venture over to the Studios now, where The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow made its debut on December 6th 2012. The official opening date for the walkthrough attraction/meet and greet experience was included in the November 21st 2012 edition of the Newswire, and the initial announcement and details for the attraction can be found in the May 7th 2012 edition.
Time to park-hop over to Magic Kingdom now. Of the four parks, Magic Kingdom has seen the most changes since October 2011. This is kinda funny when you think about it, as the other three parks have seen some sweeping changes over the last decade. But recently it’s been the elder statesman at Walt’s beloved Florida Project that has undergone the most dramatic transformations, most notably New Fantasyland. We touched on the announcement aspect of the expansion earlier, now it’s time to pay homage to the attractions themselves. Let’s start with Storybook Circus and the relocation of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Dumbo soared high above the Fantasyland skies for over four decades, permanently fixed in the same spot since opening day. But plans for the Fantasyland expansion called for the relocation of the beloved pachyderm to Storybook Circus. A second spinner was also part of the deal. The addition of Storybook Circus also brought several other new attractions into the mix, including a revamped version of The Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini, the Casey Jr. Splash n Soak Station, and Pete’s Silly Sideshow. Storybook Circus undoubtably brought some significant changes to Magic Kingdom when it opened in March of 2012, but the landscape was dramatically altered with the December debuts of Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales with Belle. This phase of the expansion was a perennial topic covered many times over the months here at the Newswire, most notably in the April 30th, August 15th, September 19th, and December 3rd 2012 editions. But it’s not just the attractions themselves that make this expansion so special. Several new restaurants and shops were also brought into the fold, including Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern, and Bonjour! Village Gifts. But the true gem may very well be the landscape itself. The addition of Belle’s village, Beast’s castle, and Ariel’s Grotto are stunning visual masterpieces.
Several other editions have taken place at WDW since Oct 2011. Over in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Yakitori House became the Katsura Grill and Bistro de Paris was transformed into Monsieur Paul. A massive expansion also took place at France’s Boulangerie Patisserie bakery. Outside the parks, we saw the addition of the Art of Animation Resort and the emergence of Splitsville in Downtown Disney. But there were also a few subtractions to note, as Snow White’s Scary Adventures and the entire land of Mickey’s Toontown Fair sadly drifted into the realm of extinction. The Studios also had a couple casualties in the form of Disney Channel Rocks and the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun parade. But let’s keep things positive and look forward to some of the exciting additions on tap in the near future at WDW. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster is set to debut in 2015, and AVATAR-Land is still on pace for 2016. Outside of the parks the DVC wing of the Grand Floridan continues to rise up along the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, and Downtown Disney continues its transformation to Disney Springs.
So much has transpired since the first edition of the Newswire was published here on the blog. Not just at WDW, but for me personally. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to create countless memories and special moments for my family and loved ones, and I’ve been able to form several new bonds. I also met and fell in love with the most beautiful girl in the World, sweetheart you are my motivation, my inspiration, and my angel. For this and so much more I am immeasurably grateful. Things haven’t always been easy these last couple years, but all I can say is never EVER give up. If you want to be a published writer, you can do it. If you want to be an Imagineer, you can do it. If you want to be a Monorail pilot, you can do it. Or even if you just want to meet someone special and find true happiness, you can do it. Don’t ever be afraid to wish. Don’t ever be afraid to dream. And whatever your dream may be, don’t ever give up on it. I don’t want to get too sentimental, but if just one person reads these words and decides to follow their dreams, I’ve done my job. And now we’ll end this article the same way we began it…with a special quote from Wishes:
“Remember, we must always believe in our wishes. For they ARE the magic in the World…”
Don Myers covers news and recent events in Walt Disney World. He has been enamored with the World of Disney since his first trip to WDW in 1986. As they say, the rest is history! Don also has been a contributing writer for Celebrations magazine since 2009.