Saturday, December 24, 2011

THIS WEEK IN PODCASTING: DECEMBER 18-24, 2011




WDW FanBoys Episode 106: IN this show hosts Bret, Tim and Paul cover what merchandise they think Disney geeks and fans would love to find under their tree for Christmas.   This show is filled with great stories and interaction between the hosts. They offer up some suggestions of what to buy, and share which memorabilia they own. Check out their website for good pictures of the merchandise that they own. They continue to mature and hone their podcasting techniques and this show in particular was very informative and fun to listen to. I really feel like the hosts compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They are very personable and seem, at least, to be interested in what the other is saying. A good solid offering from the crew this week.     



Season Pass Podcast Episode 187: On this week show Doug Barnes and Brent Young interview Pete Owens who is the Media/Public Relations Manager for Dollywood Company. As someone who has never been to Dollywood, I found this show very interesting. The interview does a great job and covering the past present and future of the Tennessee Park. I learned a hell of a lot from this show. Pete Owens really knows his stuff and told some really great stories about how the park came to be. I’m a real nerd for that kind of stuff. Host Doug Barnes asks some really great questions and does a great job at getting the necessary information out of his guest. The trio also covers the upcoming Wild Eagle coaster that is being built in Dollywood. TSPP continues to impress me. It is a quality and professional show.       



Remotely Universal Episode 4 CaptainJakes Casino: The show hosts Will and Logan try to explore the consequences and effects of a possible casino being put in the family tourism Mecca of Orlando. On the surface it would seem like a good topic for a show, but the hosts just can’t quite pull it off. The hosts are inexperienced, and not just in podcasting, I wonder if the pair has even been to Universal Studios. Their working knowledge of the parks is mediocre at best. It almost seems like when covering a topic about the park, they are reading off of a map or Universal’s Wikipedia page. When the hosts give their opinion on a certain topic or news story, their thoughts are undefined and one dimensional at best. (And I bet a lot of you are saying that same thing about this blog right now!) Was there a need for another Universal Studios podcast? Of course there was, but I think the crew over at WDW Today just thought they could throw two guys in front of a microphone and make a show about Universal and make some money off of it. The show does have great production quality and some good structure, but as we already know, great structure without quality content does not a good show make. Bottom line is, if you follow the usual theme park suspects on twitter and facebook, and you read screamscape once a week, you really aren’t going to miss much by not listening to this podcast. The hosts are very likeable and personable but this show has a long way to go. Money can’t buy content, passion, and charisma. I’ll keep listening to this show and I hope it improves.         



WDWNT Episodes 222 – 223: On episode 222 the crew finally wrapped up their two and a half year quest to determine what era was the Golden age in Walt Disney World history. They give their opinions on which time period in Downtown Disney and the waters parks was the best era. The opinions they offer up are solid and hold a lot of water. I really enjoyed listening to the crew wrap this segment up. Which year in Walt Disney World history will “be the defining moment in 4 decades of incredible attractions, dining, and entertainment?”  You’ll have to listen to find out. Trust me; it will be well worth your time. On episode 223 host Tom Corless gives a one on one interview with the author and Disney critic Kevin Yee. Kevin Yee is a writer of miceage.com and author of books like, Your Day at Disney, and Mouse Trap. On this show he offers some great insight and sharp pointed opinions about the state of WDW today. Kevin is a great writer and is not afraid to be objective. Host Tom does a great job at interacting with Kevin and the two make the show very easy to listen to. Both shows this week from WDWNT offer up good information and lots of fun. Yes, I cheated a bit as episode 222 was released on the December,16. I am sure this will ruin the little credibility and good standing I had with the theme park fan community.  



SHOW OF THE WEEK: UnofficialGuide Disney Dish Episodes 3-4: The purpose of the show of the week is to share with fans the podcast that has the most information, history, and fun each week. Without a doubt the Disney Dish brings all of those things and more to the podcasting table this week. Perpetual Rebel Spy Jim Hill and Unofficial Guide guru Len Testa, are your host for this delightfully simple podcast. The format for the show is great; give Len and Jim a recorder and have them walk around the theme parks and tell stories. When I went through my Top Ten Podcast, the Jim Hill and Nathan Rose show Magical Definition was at the top of my list for a reason. Disney Dish is this week’s show of the week for the same reason. Jim and Len pack these walk through shows with tons of history and information. Humor plays a big part in the shows as well. Jim and Len are almost unknowingly funny. During the Animal Kingdom show, Len mentions the buzzards circling over the hosts, and Jim Hill looks up and screams, “I’m not dead yet!” Listening to Jim tell stories as the pair walk through Animal Kingdom and EPCOT is pure joy. Jim dissects each ride, pavilion, and retail shop. Jim is such a wealth of information and knowledge. He shares stories from him about what attractions could have been and why they never came to be. The section of episode 3 when the hosts talk about the future AVATAR land in Animal Kingdom is full of useful never before heard information. I really look forward to more shows from Len and Jim.   


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

OCCUPY DISNEY! Examining how Disney is milking every penny out of its theme park fans, one parade at a time. PART 2: Merchandising




Disney loves to make money, and one of the most successful methods of making money for the Disney Company is their merchandising division. To be more formal it’s the Disney Consumer Products arm of the company. They produce toys, clothing, and other merchandising based upon Disney-owned properties. Disney is considered to be at the very top of the mountain when it comes to merchandising. They approach their merchandising with precision pin point accuracy that even Seal Team 6 would admire. Just think about the way they get your kids wrapped up into Disney characters. Lets take Disney/Pixar Cars for example. First your kids see the promotion for the movie on the Disney channel. Then you buy your kid the hat and shirt he sees in the apparel section of Wal Mart. Maybe your kid wears that hat or shirt to the movie. After seeing the movie your child is whipped into a Cars frenzy and tells you he wants MORE merchandise! Then you hear that there is a character meet and greet at Walt Disney World. Maybe you buy a Cars stroller to cart the kid around in while at WDW. While at WDW Disney hits you over the head with kiosk after kiosk of Cars hats, light up spinners, shirts, books, cups, etc… Bottom line Disney is focused on building great characters with lots of depth and dimension; for the sake of a good story, yes, but more so for the purposes of turning a good character into a merchandising, money making machine.   

While the money they make from theme park admission, hotels, and restaurants is big and important, one of the top priorities at Walt Disney World is selling merchandise. Merchandise reached more than 90 countries and generated an estimated $40 billion at retail in 2010. Over the last 88 years Disney has developed one of the most loyal and fanatic fan bases in all of corporate America. Disney fans will walk through a wall of fire to get the latest limited edition pin, or cut off their right arm just to get a chance to stand in line to buy their daughter a new dress from the latest Disney princess movie. On top of all of this madness there is one section of Disney fans who take it to a new level of extreme. Disneyana is a term for toys, books, animation, theme-park souvenirs, and other collectibles produced by the Disney Company. Disneyana collectors will stop at nothing to get the latest limited edition, must have Disney novelty. More importantly, to the Disney Company Disneyana fans will pay almost any price for these precious objects. It is a bit unfair to talk prices and value when it comes to Disneyana collectors. After all, they are in the business of collecting and reselling, and Disney has little to no responsibility for the inflated after market value of these products.

     

Often times Disney finds itself lacking fun, interesting, and lovable characters that they can pimp out to young children who beg their parents to go out and merchandise of said character. So, instead of pushing its writers and character developers to come up with new characters, Disney has chosen to buy other characters. Disney is like a hungry monster that likes to gobble up intellectual property and characters like Michael Moore likes to gobble jelly donuts. Pixar is a big example of this, but now many beloved Pixar characters have been created under the Disney umbrella so its one in the same. Other casualties include, Marvel Characters, Inc., The Muppets, The Baby Einstein Company, and to a smaller extent ESPN. On the $4 billion purchase of Marvel, Disney chief Bob Iger said that the deal, will “allow Disney to sell Marvel's vast array of characters and properties across different media platforms and in many more markets.”  Disney was hungry and a little desperate to bring more characters and content into the fold, but more importantly Disney saw an opportunity to make a truck load of money off of Spidey and pals merchandise.           

Greed does have its price. The first Disney Store (then titled "The Disney Store") opened in Glendale, California on March 18, 1987. As any kid from the 90’s would tell you, going to the Disney store was like going to Disney World without actually going to Orlando. During the 90’s and the 2000’s the Disney stores saw very strong sales, but in 2004 after seeing massive operating costs and the exit of key executives in Disney Consumer Products, Disney decided to convert most of its Disney Stores into a licensed operation. In 2008 Disney purchased back the stores and closed almost 40% of all Disney Stores. It was a massive failure and it put a huge spotlight on Disney’s greed. Disney stores were liquidated and closed faster than Chairman Mao closed churches and temples. Disney said that they believed a smaller chain "could add value to the Company in the promotion and monetization of its growing number of robust franchises". Today, with the exception of the massive World of Disney store in Downtown Disney, the Disney Store is literally a shell of what it used to be. You can still find what was a Disney Store in your local mall today; just look for a temporary Halloween costume shop or the newest Victoria Secret. Look closely, yup, that used to be a Disney Store.  



From watered down Disney stores in malls, to overpriced theme park princess makeovers Disney is making bank on selling crap to its fans. They have managed to homogenize their theme park merchandise under the much hated Disney Parks label. You can read a very passionate letter to the Disney Company from Ola Suddeth titled “Please Give us Quality Park Merchandise Again!”They have shoved worthless stuffed toys on end caps at Wal Mart and they have priced their in park merchandise into the stratosphere. As we “Occupy Disney”, there is a way to fight back against this monster mega evil corporation. Mousesurplus.com is a site where Disneyana collectors can buy theme park and resort treasures. While most of the prices for the merchandise on mousesurplus.com is a bit hard to swallow, like a Disney Tomorrowland Transit Authority Attraction Door for $800, there are some really good deals on the site. Mousesavers.com has a decent guide to some discounted Disney merchandise. You too, can write your own letter to the head of Disney Consumer Products, Bob Chapek, and tell him how you feel about the overpriced, cheaply made, homogenized crap Disney is spitting out at its all too willing fans. In the end it is the responsibility of the Disney Company to make as much money for its shareholders as possible, but it  is also our responsibility, as consumers, to keep Disney in check.    


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

THIS WEEK IN PODCASTING: DECEMBER 11-17, 2011



WDW Kingdomcast Episode 7, Drinking Around the World:
This week’s show features special guest Leonard Kinsey, author of The Dark Side of Disney. As is the usual with this show there is a lot of cursing, drinking, and farting. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what your in the mood for. The premise of the show starts out innocently enough; lets walk around world showcase and talk about the best places to drink. This format ended up molested and abused by about the third country. Drinking shots after every country can do that to you. Its not the best the WDW Kingdomcast hosts have to offer, but it wasn’t a bad listen. Slightly entertaining and funny, this show was fun to listen to while sitting back in my game chair and playing WWE12. Any show that has Leonard Kinsey on it will get my attention.    


Betanouse #90Optimized Touring Plans: This week was a week of highs and lows for Betamouse fans. Host Henry Work discussed how to use the new Touring Plans application which optimizes in park touring plans. Joined by Unofficial WDW Guide and Touring Plans guru Len Testa, Henry breaks down different situations you may find yourself in while using the new Touring Plans application. The two go back and forth and really put the application through its paces. The new application allows you to update, change and adjust your on the go, in the park touring plan. If you find yourself in the park consider using the free app. Good conversation and interaction between Len and Henry. On a much more depressing side, Betamouse host Henry Work announced that he will be leaving his post at Touring Plans and his position as host of the show. He will be working for the Disney Company. As a result he will be discontinuing the Betamouse podcast. If you haven’t listened to the show yet, I’d say it’s time you begun. Start downloading and you wil learn a ton about WDW tech!

In the Loop RebootedDecember 12 2011: The Coaster Crew does it again. Another show filled with marginal theme park info, half cocked opinions about upcoming attractions and slightly less foul language. All kidding aside, host Clint is a true professional and puts on one of the best produced shows I’ve ever heard. This week’s show sees a fun contest for tickets to Dollywood. Co host Joel does give some really insightful views and opinions on the latest happenings at Disney. I love the live interaction the hosts have with the fans in the chat room. Any podcast that takes live phone calls from listeners gets bonus points from me. Alec Baldwin is this weeks Douche of the Week.

WDW Today Shows 967, 968: In addition to the usual “Listener Questions” show this week Matt Hochberg and the rest of the WDW Today crew gave us episode 967. The hosts pick a value or moderate resort at WDW and explain how they would turn it into a deluxe resort. The idea had a lot of merit and potential but I think the crew may have phoned this one in. With predictable answers like, “I would add a table service restaurant” or “I would make the pool bigger”, I think the crew really wasted a golden opportunity. This topic had lots of potential but trying to squeeze the opinions of 5 different people into 15 minutes really waters down the show. They can really do better. Words I have heard my mom repeat a thousand times. 


The Dis Unplugged December 14 2011: This week’s show from the Dis was… sigh…. I mean it was…..sigh……What I’m trying to say is that the show was very……sigh…. Ok, ok. This week’s show did not offer up much in the way of news, content, information, or entertainment. I guess you could say it was their year in review show? The crew was broadcasting live from the Swan and Dolphin hotel the morning after their big party at Universal Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The show opened up like any other Dis Unplugges show; the crew glossed over a few news stories and then spent a lot of time trying to sell you Dreams Unlimited trips. Sigh. This weeks show was a chance for the Dis to thank their fans for listening and buying all those expensive overpriced trips from Dreams Unlimited travel. I say it was a chance for the crew to thank the fans, but instead the show consisted of fan after fan walking up to the mic and thanking the podcast crew for all they do. Again… sigh…. How this show manages to maintain such a loyal almost fanatical fan base I have no earthly clue. They must be taking a page out of Ron Pauls book. If you missed this show, thank yourself!

Your Mousecast Show 38 –Back in Time: This is another one of those shows that continues to get better and better with each new edition. The hosts continue to gel and their interaction with each other is great. They also have one of the best and most entertaining news recap segments in Disney podcasting. On this week’s edition the crew talks to Disney historian Jim Korkis. Jim talks about some general Disney history and also makes an appeal to all the single ladies in the UK. The hosts didn’t miss a beat when it came to trying to keep up with Jims slightly twisted since of humor. Hosts Alan, Chris and Steve did a great job at asking Jim insightful questions, and Jim did an equally great job at answering them. A very interesting and informative listen for any Disney podcasting fan. Your Mousecast may be one of the most underappreciated shows out there.


SHOW OF THE WEEK: WEDWAY 100 This may not only be just the show of the week, but this may be the show of the year! In WEDWAY 100 we listen to the first meeting of the Metro Retro Historical Society. The society consists of Disney historians Michael Crawford of Progress City USA and George Taylor of Imaginerding. With WEDWAY Radio hosts Matt and Nate Parrish they discussed the vision, implementation, and changes to the pavilions in EPCOT’s future world. I am not a huge fan of EPCOT, and in fact, EPCOT may be my least favorite park in WDW, but I was glued to my iPod for the entire episode. I learned so much from this show and the hosts, and since I am a nerd, learning is my favorite activity! When the MetRet society takes us through the Land pavilion I was so tuned into the show I nearly rollerbladed into a busy intersection. I was drowning in the depth and wealth of information being presented by the crew. When talking about the history of the SEAS pavilion I could see myself walking though it with the crew. This show was podcasting gold; packed with useful information, great interaction between the hosts. In addition, Matt and Nate seem to get better and better with each podcast! You would be hard pressed to find another set of podcast hosts who have more chemistry, knowledge and passion than these sibling hosts. As a wrestling fan I have seen very few 5 star matches, and as a podcast fan I have heard very few5 star shows; this one may be one. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen for yourself!




Monday, December 12, 2011

WHO DOES IT BETTER: WALT DISNEY WORLD VS. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO….PART 1

 
The rivalry between WDW and UOR has a long history. From the opening of UOR to the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter these two theme park companies have traded blows for the last 20 years. It is believed that before Universal landed the Wizarding World that Disney was in talks with JK Rowling but talks broke down and Rowling took the wizard a few miles north on I-4. With the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter many Disney World fan boys have left the Disney resort and made the journey to Universal to visit Harry and crew. With many people discovering Universal Studios Orlando for the first time after a lifetime of nothing but Mickey they find out that there is a lot more to UOR than they knew. Some WDW fan boys come to a scary realization. They find that there are some things that Universal does BETTER than Disney! So let’s explore who does it better, Disney or Universal.


PARKING at Disney: Both of the Orlando resorts charge you about the same to park. Parking at Disney has always been a bit of a hassle for me. When you step out of your car you can hear the words of Walt Disney echoing around you; “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland...the blessing of size.”  What Walt saw as a blessing, many first time visitors to Disney see as a nightmare. The parking lots at the four theme parks of WDW are HUGE! You have two choices once your car is parked. You can walk the long hot sweaty walk to the park entrance or you can take a tram. In theory the Disney trams are great, but in reality I find them to be a massive hassle. Again, in theory you get out of your car, walk to the end of your row, hop on the tram and take the short tram ride to the park entrance. In reality you get out of your car, walk to the end of your row and hope that the tram is there waiting for you. This doesn’t always happen. It could take up to ten minutes at certain parks for another tram to come around to pick you up. Once on the tram you have to wait, and wait, and wait. Cars are continually entering the lot and people are continually racing to the end of their row to catch the tram you are already on. Depending on the type of tram operator you have, you may wait until the tram is full to take off. Sometimes you get lucky and the tram driver can see another tram is pulling up and the one your tram takes off. So great, your tram is moving and it’s time to relax and start your vacation right? Wrong! Suddenly you hear a noise that is louder than a T REX eating a jet engine. If the roaring sound of the engine isn’t loud enough, you might be unfortunate enough to be sitting under one of the equally loud and equally annoying tram speakers. The tram attendant is giving out very useful information but the speakers are way too loud and ear piercing. By the time your tram has arrived at the front gate you are prepared for a long day at Disney; lots of waiting, and very loud noises. If you chose to skip the tram and walk then you probably beat the tram to the front. You have saved yourself a lot of waiting and saved your hearing, but this is Florida and you just walked across a black tar parking lot in over 90 degree heat with a couple of kids and a backpack filled with the everything you are going to need to make it through the your day. Pick your poison with Disney parking. Me, I walk!       

PARKING at Universal: Parking at Universal Orlando is not quite the adventure you get at WDW. Universal does not have massive open parking lots like the ones at Disney. UOR instead has one multilevel covered parking garage. After parking your car you make the journey to the escalators or elevators to make your way to the appropriate level to get to the park entrance. Once on the correct level you can take a series of moving walkways, or you can take just walk to the entrance of CityWalk. The walkways are all covered and with the exception of a few ambitious people trying to run past you on the moving walkway, the walk to the entrance is fairly easy. It’s a lot like being in an airport and walking from security to your terminal. Its covered, there’s a lot to look at and you can go at your own pace.     

So who does it better? This one is pretty obvious: Universal Orlando

Now that you have made it to the front gate it is time to enter the park. Visitors to both Universal Studios and Disney World see the same thing when they enter the theme park. A person and a camera.

PHOTOPASS at Disney World: When entering WDW you are immediately greeted by a person with a smiling face and a camera. They say hello and you walk about your business. If you want them to take a picture of you, you can just simply walk up to them and ask to take a photo. After the photo they scan a small card about and hand it to you. You can take this card to any Disney photo pass photographer, hand it to them and your photos will accumulate throughout your vacation. The photographers are even floating around in the lazy rivers at Disney’s water parks. The price for Disney’s photo pass is the same if you take 1 picture or 200! At $120 it’s a great value if you take a ton of pictures. The photographers can even add in different photo shop type techniques to your pictures to show your family holding a baby dinosaur. The photographers are polite courteous and will gladly take a picture of you and your family with your own personal camera.

PHOTOPASS at Universal: When entering a park at the Universal Orlando resort you are greeted accosted by a Universal photographer who yells at your family, “Hey guys look over here!” “Guys smile! Come on smile!” Imagine running through the perfume department at Macys with a bunch of middle aged cat ladies in pants suits trying to spray you with the latest scent from Lady Ga Ga or Justin Bieber. #shudder.  If you do not respond to that, have no fear. The Universal photographer won’t hesitate to throw himself in front of you to take a picture. No matter where in the park you are. The photographers will even take a picture of you entering the park. No, not in front of the park icon, just a picture of you entering the park. Imagine a picture of you dazed confused, and trying to fit that damn park ticket back into your wallet. Who doesn’t want a picture like that!? The Universal photographers in the front are extremely aggressive and very annoying.  (Imagine a Universal photographer on a Disney tram. Eek.) On the bright side you may only run into these aggressive over bearing photogs when you enter the park. They are virtually nonexistent in the rest of the park. Maybe they turn up at a random unscheduled character meet and greet (more on that in a future edition), but that’s about it. At Disney the park wide photography service is called Photo Pass. At Universal Orlando the service is called….um…..one second, let me check google…. Ok, it’s called Universal photo connect. You don’t see that around the park much, maybe they are trying to keep it a secret. Remember how I said at Disney they give you one card with all of your pictures on it? Neat right? Well Universal decided to break the mode and revolutionize the business by giving a different card for every picture they take of you! Who doesn’t want to walk around the park with about 20 different strips in their pocket or bag? The price for Universal Photo Connect is about $20. That’s $20 per photo. You can buy your ride photos for about $5 but the process involves buying a different card, and it just gets convoluted and confusing from there            

So who does it better? Walt Disney World      



Keep checking back for more Who does it better articles!                                                                     
                                    

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