In the last half-year I’ve tried to come up with a way to give quick updates on the U.S. Disney Theme Parks without sounding like a press release. Due to my excellent and professional writing I found this task to be difficult. I’ve had to turn down countless job offers due to these posts and I’m sick of it. With that in mind, it’s time for a new format! (Okay, maybe I just wanted to try something slightly more unique than giving quick updates with brief commentary.)
This new idea for a park update post is extravagant. So extravagant, in fact, that it demands its own line and capital letters:
Theme Park Power Rankings!
That looks good, right? I know it does. But what are these Theme Park Power Rankings, you might ask? Well, let me guide you through the mystery. If you’re unfamiliar with power rankings, they are used a lot in sports writing when columnists/bloggers have no other ideas for content. The writer gets to decide which team or player is playing best on the current date and then ranks the teams in that order. Why use this overdone format? Well, not many theme park blogs are brave enough to venture into the world of power rankings. Allow me to take the fall for everyone else. Why so many rhetorical questions in this paragraph? Because those are the easiest to answer.
These power rankings will feature the six U.S. Disney Theme Parks. Like real power rankings are supposed to do, they won’t reflect which park is the best overall. Disneyland and Magic Kingdom would constantly be at the top of the list if these rankings were just ‘what park is best’. Instead, these will reflect new attractions, entertainment and dining. They will also take into account any rumors of the last few weeks. Confused? You’ll figure it out. Are these rankings strictly my opinion? Yes, but my opinion is always right… Ready to start? Me neither, but here we go anyway!
- Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World’s original park gets the top spot on these arbitrary rankings by default. Magic Kingdom hasn’t screwed anything up recently so they get the top spot. They premiered a new daytime stage show that has received very good reviews. While I’m not usually a big fan of daytime stage shows, I’m looking forward to seeing this one.
There is a curious rumor going around (and it seems to be nearly a sure thing) that the Muppets will infiltrate Liberty Square. My favorite characters in one of my favorite theme park lands? Sounds great, right? Well, I’m not so sure. Liberty Square is set in colonial America. There weren’t any Muppets back then. While immersive, themed lands have become a trend to build, taking care of excellently themed lands that exist has been put on the back burner. Breaking theme in different areas frustrates me. Still, I think this could be done correctly. The Muppets can fit most areas as they can be dressed up in any way. The rumor is that they will interact with guests who are walking by Hall of Presidents. If this is done in a non-intrusive way then this could be a draw for kids and muppet fans. Time will tell!
- Epcot – With the successful opening of Soarin’ this park should be at the top of the list. Throw in Frozen Ever After (breaking theme aside) and Epcot has added two quality attractions in the last month. The animatronics in Frozen Ever After look spectacular and this attraction is much higher quality than most of us expected. They have run into malfunctions with the ride nearly every day so hopefully those get ironed out shortly.
So, why doesn’t Epcot get the top spot that it has rightfully earned? It’s due to another one of these rumors popping up. While the Muppets in Liberty Square gives pause, Guardians of the Galaxy in Epcot’s Future World makes me stare at a blank screen dumbfounded for 15 minutes. The rumor is a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction (or two) will be replacing Ellen’s Energy Adventure in the next few years. Guardians is a great franchise but it doesn’t belong in Epcot. Or at least it doesn’t belong in the old idea of Epcot. If they are going to start adding different franchises to this park then the park needs a new theme entirely. That’s a shame. Epcot was once the greatest idea ever for a theme park. Now it’s been morphed into something else because businessmen don’t see the corporate synergy flowing through the old version. While this is a post for another day, I’ll be sorry to see Epcot break further from its theme. On the plus side, I’m glad that it’s not rotting to pieces like Hollywood Studios did for a few years. If the theme is going to change hopefully what they add will be full of quality and will have some sort of theme.
- Animal Kingdom – Last I checked in on Animal Kingdom they were set to open up the park at night. That happened and most of what they opened were well received. The Tree of Life Awakenings are beautiful. The safaris at sunset have drawn pretty good reviews. Tiffins (a new signature restaurant) and the Nomad Lounge are both seen as upgrades over other Disney restaurants. The street parties fit the area well. But, there’s one black eye. The Jungle Book nighttime show is terrible by all accounts. It was hastily thrown together as imagineers to sort out the issues with Rivers of Light. Disney hasn’t updated us on whatever is happening with Rivers of Light, which is unfortunate because that show will almost surely be better than this Jungle Book show. Once Rivers of Light opens I believe Animal Kingdom will become a much stronger option. Until then, it sits in the third spot.
- California Adventure – Not much going on here. Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater opened to strong reviews. Soarin’ took the place of Soarin’ Over California. There are rumors of a Marvel Land coming. Hmm… Maybe this park should be much higher. Hey, I’m no power rankings expert. This is my first time!
- Disneyland – Disneyland had a big summer last year and has coasted on those additions through this year. There isn’t much going on here either. Some more bad rumors persist here. Disneyland Forever, the new fireworks show that debuted last summer, is said to be on its way out once September rolls around. Some of that has to do with Star Wars Land construction and some of that has to do with budget cuts. Hopefully Paint the Night won’t be Disneyland’s only nighttime spectacular. I would be sad to see any of the new shows go, as they are all well done. September 2016 to summer 2017 could be a fairly bad time to visit Disneyland, with a lot of construction going on and many attractions down.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – This poor park just can’t seem to get much right. DHS debuted two new Star Wars shows, one during the day and one during the night. The one during the day has drawn bad reviews, although they’ve ironed some issues out. The fireworks show, Star Wars A Galactic Spectacular, is a mixed bag. When standing in the right spot, this show is well done with great projections. When standing in the wrong spot the projections are hard to see and the fireworks are well off-center. My advice would be to get there fairly early and see the fireworks in the courtyard in front of The Great Movie Ride. With so few attractions and shows that have issues, it’s still up for debate if Hollywood Studios is worth going to.
I should mention that Disney Springs has probably had the strongest year of any Disney Park area. While not a park, Disney Springs seems to be opening something new every week. There are great restaurants and stores to try. If I was to include it in my power rankings, it would probably be in the top spot.
Now comes the fun part! You get to tell me what an idiot I am for the order of my rankings. Yes, I know DCA is too low. You can still remind me in the comments. Also, let me know if you have any questions about what is going on in the parks. I’m happy to help however I can!