✩ Disney World News and Information

  • If you are older than 13 and reading this, you are probably a fan of “Star Wars.” This raises a question:

    Are you a real fan?

    Someone who would not let Halloween pass by without investing, say, $3,000 in your Star Wars costume…label it a somewhat outrageous investment for wearing something just one night of the year…and getting nothing more in return than a lot of candy kisses.

    Not to mention the rest of your family whose expensive outfits are also checked by you to ensure they are authentic…the real thing.

    But if that is you, stop a minute, please.

    Be honest….don’t you think…sometimes…you are a little old for this gig?

    After all, you are an adult. Or almost.

    Or maybe.

    But there’s no reason to be even the least little bit squeamish or defensive or even mildly ashamed about your fandom, really.

    It’s shared.

    By all.

    Or just about all.

    There are a lot of Star Wars fans out there.

    Star Wars has endured for more than three decades, just like Batman, Superman, James Bond, and yes, even longer…

    …Mickey Mouse.

    The Force comes in all ages

    Sure, this is an often-said statement about many areas of life.

    Who is not a fan of movies, for example?

    And “Star Wars?”

    Celebrity fans include Matt Damon, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Anna Kendrick.

    We are headed here in two directions:

    1. What you have to look for when you buy Disney World Orlando tickets for Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World Resort (and ditto for Disney tickets for Disneyland in California).
    2. Why Star Wars is everywhere.

    For example, you know about star wars soup, tape dispensers and far more prevalent, toys. And more toys.

    But did you know about:

    ---Thousands of people during US census saying their religion was “Jedi?”

    ---The impact on simple baby names. There are children now who are called by newly popular names like Luke and Leia and many other movie characters (even Darth, believe it or not).

    ---And YouGov, a rather dull site that normally takes on opinions for such serious issues as the next US President, studies whether more men or women prefer Star Wars.

    ---The New York Times, by any accounts a serious newspaper with world-shaking important news, does some in-depth analysis of the various events associated with “Star Wars.”

    ---And there are comparisons to the classic work of Joseph Campbell’s definitely highbrow book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

    This is a notion similar to placing a copy of Shakespeare’s classic “King Lear” next to a Superman comic book.

    All this started with a 1977 movie that no one predicted would be earth-shattering popular.

    What is going on here?

    Here’s one comment on its influence:

    “George Lucas' multi-film Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern American popular culture. Star Wars references are deeply embedded in popular culture; references to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in many English-speaking countries with the assumption that others will understand the reference. Darth Vader has become an iconic villain.”


    Impact of Star Wars

    “Talking about the cultural impact of the Star Wars franchise is like talking about the effects of the sun on the planet. It’s that big and encompassing.”

    More on all that later but first, what are they doing these days to get you to buy Disney tickets?

    It will still be a while before the new land is open, (patience is paramount right now).

    Theme park officials have been typically tight-lipped about exactly when you can buy your Disney World tickets to actually see what they have created.

    So rumors are rampant…there will be new characters, but exactly who?…will the new land’s setting just be the earth or other planets?...will there be a special place where Yoda hangs out…or Dagobah, perhaps…will there be new boat rides (and who will pilot them, if anyone?...and will you get a chance to pilot the Millennium Falcon?

    Yes, to the last question.

    You should be able to drive the spaceship.

    But a boat? There aren’t any boat-driving characters in the films, are there?

    So who will be the driver? Unknown.

    Largest expansion ever

    At 14-acres in size, Star Wars Land will be the largest single-themed expansion ever added to a Disney theme park.

    Disney promises a “massive new land will transport you to a never-before-seen planet—a remote trading port that acts as one of the last stops before wild space—where Star Wars characters and stories come to life.”

    OK. We do know both the Florida and the California parks will be selling Disney World tickets to the new lands.

    And more details are promised on Feb. 21 during the “Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60” that will be shown on ABC television. None other than Harrison Ford will be on hand for (presumably) more details.

    But in the meantime, let’s look at what is there now at Walt Disney World Orlando:

    Photos, always big here. You can do your selfie under the towering and intimidating AT-AT walker. Or at other related backdrops at Hollywood Studios.

    One of the latest news happenings (not rumor but real) is that Kylo Ren is going to be here for photos, etc.

    If you have been there in the past couple of months, you’ve certainly seen the fireworks.

    They’re part of “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular.” A mixture of classic and new music by composer John Williams performed by the London Symphony.

    A “Symphony in the Stars Dessert Party” is available through March 19. Cost: $69 adults.

    Themed food

    Dark Side Chicken and Waffles and other dishes at the Backlot Express, Hollywood Studios. Also popcorn buckets and Star Wars cupcakes found everywhere (or almost). 

    The experience at both Disneyland and Disney World:

    “Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple.”

    This is for kids who be introduced to Star Wars for the first time, at least if they are only four years old. Designed also for kids who may have more experience up to age 12 (will older ones sneak in? Could be).

    Either way, a chance to experience it.

    Parents must pre-register with kids before your visit (recommended doing it as early as possible).

    Kiosks show you where to sign up.

    If you are personally too old for Jedi training, take heart.

    You can meet Darth Vader and Chewbacca. Available for photos at the Star Wars Launch Bays.

    Star Wars Launch Bay

    A walk-through experience with exhibits and artifacts from the films. Also, props and models of future things you’ll see in the movies.

    Also, a short, ten minute film to remind you of the half dozen movies. You might have missed some parts so it retells the story.

    Star Wars souvenirs and merchandise, of course, will not be flying around in outer space but readily found. Anything from cheap couple-of- dollar pins to $4,000 Darth Vader costumes.

    Star Wars themed food, too.

    Now let’s get back to those “Star Wars” baby names.

    No, Tom, Dick and Harry

    The movies have created hundreds of new ones to rival every “Tom, Dick and Harry. “

    An analysis of US government data found new Lukes, Leias, Hans, Landos and even Darths.

    Luke was already common, however.

    But its popularity has been driven by the movies (the name has been on an upward swing since 1977).

    As for Leia, just in 1978 alone, there were 156 new baby girls who started life that way.

    But obscure names also made a comeback. There’s some Obis as in Obi-Wan Kenobis’, for example.

    None of this is particularly unusual.

    Other Disney films have also produced popular names. Wendy in Peter Pan, for example. More recently: Elsa in Frozen.

    That survey we mentioned by YouGov?

    It found that men (74%) are more likely than women (just 51%) to say they like ”Star Wars.”

    But on the other hand, women are more likely than men to confess they have never watched a Star Wars movie.

    And not nearly everyone has watched at least one of the movies. But well over two thirds of the sample population, or 69%, have seen at least one version.

    Why Star Wars is so popular

    So what is behind all this attention?

    One answer: the opinion that creator George Lucas got the idea of the hero’s journey through Joseph Campbell’s classic: “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

    That is a very basic (and in Campbell’s opinion, a very universal concept that goes way beyond the US and is worldwide) with the widest appeal possible.

    Some interpretations are that Luke Skywalker is on a quest but it is one that can help adults as well as children tell the difference between right and wrong.

    Not just our opinion. But so said the New York Times newspapers.

    Serious books have examined the idea.

    Kevin S. Decker in a book called “Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine” had a lot of high-brow theories.

    Essays tackled the philosophical questions from the films such as:
    “Was Anakin predestined to fall to the Dark Side? Are the Jedi truly role models of moral virtue? Why would the citizens and protectors of a democratic Republic allow it to descend into a tyrannical empire? Is Yoda a peaceful Zen master or a great warrior, or both? Why is there both a light and a dark side of the Force?”

    Another opinion on its enduring popularity:

    “The Star Wars films continue to revolutionize science fiction, creating new standards for cinematographic excellence, and permeating popular culture around the world. The films feature many complex themes ranging from good versus evil and moral development and corruption to religious faith and pragmatism, forgiveness and redemption, and many others.”

    Influence extends beyond the film world

    That may be really philosophical and vague.

    But the influence of the films alone helped buoy up Hollywood’s movie studios but also influenced it in many other (some say fundamental) ways.

    To cite just one example:

    Before Star Wars, special effects in films had not appreciably advanced since the 1950s.

    Star Wars created a new boom in state-of-the-art special effects….and companies created to provide them.

    The impact went beyond movies. It spread across the US’s political debates.

    A few years back, various groups were brawling over US President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to ring the country with missiles as part of the “Strategic Defense Initiative” program.

    Not surprisingly, both friends and foes picked up the nickname “Star Wars” (there were efforts by George Lucas and others to keep the trademark for themselves, but the efforts were turned down by various courts).

    When President Ronald Reagan proposed a space-based missile defense program in the 1980s, it was officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI—but the program was universally known, to friend and foe alike, as the “Star Wars” program.

    Reagan also made a famous speech at the height of the Cold War in which he identified the Soviet Union as “an Evil Empire.”

    Our cousins, the British also got into the political game. It came up in a UK parliament debate.

    Parliament member Harry Cohen related the familiar Star Wars joke: “May the 4th be with you.”

    Our very language has been influenced by “Star Wars.”

    You probably have heard them such as Yoda’s motto: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

    Gulp. Hard to beat.

    Princess Leia's line, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope," has been endlessly imitated and parodied.

    And Darth Vader?

    Star Wars words become part of everyday language

    Another word for evil or bad.

    Not all of these references were totally correct but that did not matter.

    For instance, the famous line was supposed to be “Luke, I am your father.” Except the phrase was really “No. I am your father.”

    In that, Star Wars joined other misquoted lines.

    With perhaps the most previously famous one “Play it again, Sam.” It is a reference to another famous 1942 film of far less impact: “Casablanca.”

    We hear all the time that Humphrey said “Play it again, Sam.”

    Except that he didn’t say it.

    But back to those new names.

    The “Darth” may be around for a while, sure.

    But not so for a lot more Yodas or Chewbaccas…though you never know. ###

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    You have “ridden the movies.” That’s what they call theme park rides based on films.

    But that’s nothing compared to what is coming next.

    That is the promise of “Star Wars Lands” in Orlando and California.

    And whatever other thrills the movies have brought to theme park rides, there are predictions this one will be the best ever.

    The “Star Wars” films, as we have been told repeatedly, have drawn record attendance. Their appeal is to millions of worldwide fans whose ages cut across all generational lines.

    So anticipation of what Disney comes up with has been high.

    Not a lot is known about what to expect from the new land and its rides. But it is not far-fetched to imagine the combination of Disney Imagineers with modern-day technology should produce an irresistible experience for Disney Orlando ticket holders.

    As many have been on TV, Harrison Ford and robot droid BB-8 unveiled the first details of the highly anticipated “Star Wars Experience” during a February special.

    But the reaction to the most recent occasion of what will come from “Star Wars” was not an overwhelming amount of information.

    Meeting the promise of Star Wars

    The program was termed by some as a “tease.”

    That is in keeping with the Disney general philosophy not to reveal too much of its plans before the actual happening.

    So what to expect…when you get your Disney ticket to the new “Star Wars” Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida?

    The Han Solo star introduced the plans saying: "Star Wars is, for lack of a better word ... awesome.”

    Not exactly a lot of detail.

    He went on:

    “I'm so blessed that I had the opportunity to be a part of it, to walk in these iconic locations. And soon, you'll be able to do that as well. Not in a galaxy far, far away, but in a place close to home."

    OK. So what, already?

    The program showed off new concept art from the attractions, including some shots from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon as it flies into battle with the “First Order.”

    Hints of coming attractions

    Not a lot was revealed…but photos and other comments from the TV event did provide some hints of what’s to come…

    The Millennium Falcon ride will be interactive. That’s hardly big news.

    You climb aboard and fly with you-know-who, but do you just sit there like an airline passenger in Seat 4C, the middle row?

    No. It appears you get to drive the ship.

    Steering it.

    Even shooting the weapons.

    Obviously, since you will be with a group, you won’t be by yourself sitting next to Han Solo.

    There will have to be different stations for riders who individually have their own controls.

    Another attraction (as we presume from drawings and other information) will have a ride vehicle going through a series of scenes. Riders will be attacked and fire back at Stormtroopers. Interactive battles of some kind are obviously intended.

    Steering space ships, firing your weapons

    Star Wars fans might also want to know the dining and souvenir elements.

    At least two restaurants are planned.

    A “Star Wars” style cantina is expected, which was mentioned in the TV program.

    A sit-down dinner style restaurant is also believed to be planned.

    Dishes will stick close and be named after movie staples, of course….to further put you into the outer space experience of being on other planets

    A dinner show might also be on the menu.

    An open market with not just shops but dining stops with casual quick meals should also be part of the mix, with favorite characters from Star Wars mingling nearby. Dining on odd dishes, as well.

    No timetable has yet to be announced for when all of this will open. But Disney likes to use the word “Soon.”


    You have heard the term: “Riding the movies.”

    Meaning: boarding a theme park vehicle that recreates a movie experience.

    This has become almost commonplace, which raises the expectation bar at Disney.

    Some theme park providers such as 20th Century Fox are planning amusement parks entirely based on movie rides such as “Aliens” and “Planet of the Apes.”

    This earthly galaxy is really far away

    Unfortunately, you will have to go to Dubai to try that one. And not until the projected opening date: 2018.

    There is no doubt that at some future time a Disney Orlando ticket will get you to in to see the new “Star Wars” attraction.

    But in the meantime, let’s take a look at some movie-based parks that never got off the ground.

    Here are some you missed:

    You could have been a “Crimestopper” with the comic strip’s “Dick Tracy.”

    Riders would have been driven through the crime-ridden streets of Chicago’s1920s for shootouts with gangsters and members of Big Boy Caprice’s oddball collection of henchmen.

    The film starring Warren Beatty as Tracy did poorly at the box office. And a planned sequel never happened.

    It’s believed the relative poor showing of the film (it was anticipated to be as popular at the comic strip but that did not happen) brought an end to the attempt.

    The Muppets in 3D was another failed effort. The plan was for “The Great Muppet Movie Ride” with parodies of classic movies. Statler and Waldorf would appear heckling each other.

    The ride would have taken visitors through movie sets for “Frankenstein” and “Peter Pan” with Muppet-like characters.

    The “Frankenstein” section featured a mad scientist's laboratory, with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew conducting an experiment gone awry on his long-suffering apprentice “Beaker.”

    The “Peter Pan remake had the Muppets knocking over set pieces and scenery while suspended from cables and tossed around the room. The ride was to have been part of a special Muppet-themed area of the park.

    But the death of creator Jim Henson ended that ride.

    Disney-goers love the movies

    After the success of “The Love Bug” movie in 1976, it just made sense to have you-know-what.

    The ride would have taken you through scenes from the movies (the Golden Gate Bridge, among others). The plan was abandoned.

    Disney also had plans for comedic film director Mel Brooks.

    The comic concept included a vampire who keeps cutting himself as he shaves because he can't see himself in the mirror.

    Another featured a closed bathroom stall with “Frankenstein” reaching for some toilet paper, only to grab one of the Mummy's bandages instead.

    The project ran into problems

    when developers couldn't come up with a cohesive story for the ride. Brooks left the project to star in and direct the movie Life Stinks.”

    There was almost a Disney theme park in another location that was the scene of a famous film,”Meet me in St. Louis” with Judy Garland (of “Wizard of Oz” fame).

    But the park was not about that or any other film.

    It was more than half a century ago.

    Walt himself negotiated for this park

    Disney himself drew up plans for an indoor theme park in downtown St. Louis before giving up in a dispute over money and turning attention to Florida.

    Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955, and by the early 1960s, Walt Disney was looking to expand with another park easily accessible beyond the West Coast.

    The Associated Press wrote:

    “St. Louis seemed a good choice, and not just because of its geographically central location or because Disney grew up in Missouri.”

    St. Louis was booming at that time.

    Plans called for “Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square” to cover two blocks in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the Arch grounds and the Mississippi River.

    St. Louis isn’t blessed with California-like weather, so Disney’s plan called for a five-story indoor park.

    Some of the rides planned for St. Louis eventually became fixtures at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

    These included “Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion,” and “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.”

    Disney himself met with St. Louis Mayor Raymond Tucker in March 1963 to discuss the proposal.

    But the idea fizzled.

    No beer, no park

    Legend was that the plan was thwarted because Anheuser-Busch beer baron August A. Busch Jr. insisted that the theme park sell beer.

    Disney refused.

    But an even more mundane reason was cited by a local historian: Disney was willing to pay for the rides and attractions, but wanted St. Louis’ redevelopment corporation to pay for the building. The corporation declined to do so.

    Disney officially backed out in 1965.

    Perhaps the most famous Disney park that did not open was an American history theme park in northern Virginia. Environmentalists and historians objected and even the US Senate raised objections.
    The 3,000-acre, $650 million park called “Disney’s America,” had been planned just 35 miles outside of Washington, near the site of the First Battle of Bull Run.

    Disney abandoned the project in 1993.

    “It inspired fervent opposition from some historians who said it could blot out important Civil War sites and from environmentalists who said that it would bring crowding, road congestion and smog to an area where all these problems have mushroomed in recent years, “ reported The New York Times.

    “Disney’s America” was designed and planned as a complement to the monuments, museums, and national treasures of Washington D.C. Disney described the park as a venue to discuss the future of and learn more about our nation’s history by living it.

    No Disney’s America, either

    The park would offer guests rides, shows and interactive experiences about the history, present, and future of America. The park was designed as timeline, starting in the mid-1860s and going back in history or forwards into the future.

    The park was to include a ride through a blast furnace, and virtual reality Revolutionary War battles, in which visitors would have had a chance to fire muskets.

    Also planned were nightly recreations of the Civil War battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack, the first duel between ironclad ships.

    Then, there were planned parks that went beyond movie reach.

    One of these was “The Museum of the Weird.” Madame Tussaud-like. Just it sounds.

    One of its features was a talking chair. It stood on its hind legs to speak to talk to visitors.

    It was to have been filled with other strange collectibles, such as wallpaper that seemed to stare back at guests.

    There was also a grandfather clock decorated with human bones, and a haunted organ played by a ghostly skeleton.

    Ideas found now at Haunted Mansion

    The project folded after Walt Disney's death, but several of the museum's ideas became part of the “Haunted Mansion” instead

    “Candy Mountain” was one of the most famous non-starters that at one time sounded sweet.

    It was a ride inside a rock candy mountain. Candy canes and lollipops surrounded it. Planned for California but never happened.

    Animal Kingdom park brought wildlife into Disney in Orlando. But one planned section that was scrapped would have taken visitors on rides populated by wildlife that didn't actually exist.

    The canceled “Beastly Kingdom” was to have explored "animals of myth and legend.” Dragons, unicorns, etc.

    There was also a suspended roller coaster called "Dragon's Tower" that brought riders face to face with a huge fire-breathing dragon.

    Some kid-friendly rides were also planned for a section called “DinoLand USA.”

    Never happened, though the Kingdom did get a mountain roller coaster “Expedition Everest,” which did have riders chased by what some call a mythical creature, a “Yeti.”

    Almost EPCOT

    ECPOT was set to have a Time Racers in Future World. It was a high-tech thrill ride that fast forwarded riders through history or time travel.

    It was supposed to replace Spaceship Earth, but its price tag approached $500 million, which was too high for down-to-earth Imagineers.

    EPCOT itself had a whole string of lands that were planned but never finished such as an Iran Pavilion with a ride through Iranian history and a shopping bazaar (scrapped after the fall of the Shah of Iran).

    Among other proposals, there was an Equatorial Africa Pavilion (would have featured a 60-foot treehouse and African cultural areas). There was even a Soviet Union Pavilion (with the Kremlin and a replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral, all abandoned when the old Soviet Union disbanded).

    As of now, we can only wait for “Star Wars” and anticipate that the next attraction though not as big as that may have its own twist.

    There are rumors that at least one attraction is doing the opposite of the movie-theme park progression: “It’s a Small World” may be destined for a big screen production. That would be a different kind of ride. ###

    Disney is expensive!

    Can’t Afford Theme Park Prices? Tough

    Let’s face a not-very-encouraging truth here: If you can barely afford to pay the admission price to get into a theme park, they don’t want you, anyway.

    Ditto or similar situation: if you have major issues with being able to afford just to get past the turnstiles, they also don’t want you.

    The reason is that more money is made from your renting a hotel room and buying food, drinks, etc.

    Believe it or not

    No, we are not financial analysts. And we don’t know all the details or specific financial cash flow, etc., of the theme park business.

    But we do know some general principles.

    And that involves theme park admission prices.

    They are not exactly what some stores call “loss leaders”…super low prices to get your attention so you buy an item or two while other costs are much higher…but sort of like that.

    This brings us to rising admission prices at theme parks.

    Universal announced a few days ago that a one-day pass will now cost $105, up from $102. A two-week park-to-park pass sells for $155, an $8 increase from the previous ticket price. 

    That is only $3 or $8 more per ticket.

    “Walt Disney World and Universal often raise their ticket prices around the same time so eyes will be on its moused-eared neighbor to see what move will come next,” reported the Associated Press.

    The admission price issue will continue, of course.

    The idea is that anyone visiting during Christmas week or peak periods around the upcoming Spring Break and summer will be paying more.

    Does anyone like to hear this kind of news?

    No, not really.

    But we do accept it all.

    Reluctantly. Grudgingly.

    With many complaints.

    Only $3

    But when you think of it, $3 multiplied by, say, 1,000 people is only $3,000.

    It would cost you more to get into an Orlando hotel’s presidential suites for just one night. If you could afford it.

    One of the unmentioned goals of higher prices is to keep some people out of there.

    These rising numbers are not like random lottery numbers.

    They have been “crunched,” as the financial people say.

    Analyzed. Carefully thought out.

    They are designed to encourage those who can pay.

    Keep in mind that those who can pay the admission price can also rent the higher paying hotel rooms like the Grand Floridian.

    Yes, there are less expensive value resorts at Disney and elsewhere.

    But by all accounts, these are normally full. No real challenge there to make money.

    Disney and others want you…in expensive rooms

    So it’s something like the airline business, where the very expensive first class tickets make up profits for all those cheap flight specials.

    At the same time, people today are spending more money. The economy is improving.

    Continues to improve.

    But if you are typical, like us, you say:

    How dare they keep raising their prices?

    Both Disney and Universal are above the $100 mark for a single ticket. Or another way to look at it:

    $100 for a single day of entertainment.

    Of course, you and many others like yourself probably don’t just buy single-day tickets.


    One-day tickets not a good investment

    There are other options.

    And there are also other ways of looking at these rising prices.

    We don’t mean to be a sort of an apologist for higher prices at theme parks, but these moves also come at a time when parks are reporting record-breaking revenues.

    The parks have their reasons, as we already know.

    "We set our prices to reflect the value of the experience we provide our guests," Universal said officially.

    "And we provide the greatest value where our guests tell us it matters most – with our popular multi-day tickets and vacation packages.  Guests who use multi-day tickets or packages can save as much as $40 off our single day ticket price."

    You might also accept one Disney pr person who points out that a ticket buys you 16 hours of entertainment.

    That’s right: 16 hours.

    Sleep tight after this visit

    That only leaves you eight hours if you go to sleep right away…but so what?

    There’s also the issue of just how much it costs to operate a theme park. And keep you happy and content as well.

    Perhaps you have not thought about that.

    But our pr person is on the right track…believe it or not.

    Again why?

    Because there are various ways of looking at these higher prices.

    There’s what you can really get or buy for $100 (or one Benjamin Franklin, whose face is on the bill).

    Did you know, for example, you can buy a donut for $100?

    And there’s inflation.

    Did you know or do you know…just how far your dollar…or how little your Benjamin buys these days?

    And those theme park costs…Yes, they have a reason and it’s mainly not just to make money but to keep you the visitors happy, too.

    Much of all this depends on your own attitude.

    And how you see spending $100 (which is only admission, of course, and does not include the many other expenses in theme park visits).

    But let’s take a closer look at some boring numbers.

    Such as how much it costs to visit a theme park.

    Here are 14 ways (14 because 13 is bad luck) ways of looking at $100.

    No. 1: Let’s start with the real cost of theme parks, which varies a lot.

    Real costs of theme parks

    First, what does it cost to visit a theme park?

    The answers are varied.

    We’ve seen all kinds of figures.

    Most of what you can find out about typical costs to visit an Orlando theme park is usually accompanied by another word:


    Or how to do a theme park with a tight budget.

    So that’s a subject for another time.

    So all the advice we will offer now is that there are no secrets.

    Well, OK.

    Here are three common sense areas to save money.

    First, buy as much as you need for your vacation before you even get to the park. It will almost certainly be cheaper.

    Secondly, be conservative in your buying of souvenirs. They are costly at the parks.

    Thirdly, arrive early. Stay late. This is costing you a lot of money. So make the most of your time (but really, 16 hours is a bit long for almost anyone).

    How much does it actually cost for a family to vacation at the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

    Estimates can range from only $300 a day, very conservative, to $2,000 a day. And even more, of course.

    So let’s leave this with our best estimate for most people:

    Anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per person, even if that person is pretty young (though we will not count bottle-drinking infants).

    No. 2: Let’s look at what it would cost to build a new park.

    Jurassic Park.

    That would be a great park

    Put it in some place like Costa Rica (there are islands there without people).

    Costa Rican real estate websites estimate the value of two islands with a total land size of 66 square miles would set you back about $10 Billion. That is a B for Billion, not an M for million.

    Now that does cover any other cost such as the billions on research to build Audio Animatronicanimals. Feed them, of course (What? We don’t know). And other expenses.

    Total estimated cost: $23 billion (and we don’t have to repeat the B instead of the M)

    No. 3: How much does Disney spend on its present parks in a typical year?

    According to public records, the Disney Parks branch of the Walt Disney Company spends $11.7 billion a year on operating costs.

    No. 4: So how much does it cost to Visit Disney around the World?

    Not a bad deal if you can afford to get there and stay there.

    One comparison finds that the UK version is about $90 (translated to pounds).

    Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort even less (at least for admission): $69.55 or $52.25 in US dollars, one-day tickets, according to a recent check.

    Disney used to cost $1

    No. 4: What you might not have known about Disneyland and the value of a dollar. It was one of the first amusement parks ever to even charge an entry fee.

    No, not in Orlando but in California, of course.

    Previously, as history students know or can find out, most amusement parks had no single main entrance.

    Tickets for each individual ride had to be purchased.

    Disneyland changed all that: one entrance with admission gates blocking it. 

    So the price for a day when it opened: $1.00 or a ticket booklet with eight rides for $2.25 or with inflation: $29.

    Additional tickets: 10 to 35 cents (the equivalent of $1-$3 dollars today). Well before newer tickets so no repeated rides aboard the Jungle Cruise unless you pay what is now $3 for them.

    It only took three years for the price to be raised to $1.25 or $3.35 for the booklet. Which would be $38 today.

    That was the first rise (long before Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, of course).

    But new attractions in 1958 sweetened the price with the Disneyland Railroad and the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough.

    Now we come to 1982 (closer to the time of the Orlando park opening) when the price went to $15 a day.

    No more ticket booklet system. One price pays all.

    With inflation, the actual cost of the park was similar to when it opened 23 years earlier (but of course, there were complaints even then).

    No. 5: And Walt Disney World in Orlando?

    The admission price was $3.50 when it opened in 1971 and $9.50 in 1982.

    No. 6: What you can do with $100?

    Buy several five-pound bags of Gummy Bears.

    A Marshmellow bazooka.

    About a dozen or so “Slinkies.”

    Oops. You’re not interested

    These are more inclined to be favorites of the younger set.

    The very younger ones, we mean, who don’t know the value of a dollar.

    No. 7: What can adults do with $100?

    Adults can buy several Cuban cigars these days (now legal) for just one Franklin (though these are admittedly the cheaper ones).

    This is true only under certain travel conditions and besides, it’s not healthy to smoke anyway. So skip this buy (though if you have to do it, you can’t go wrong with Montecristo No. 2’s or Cohibas, any size).

    For all ages: $100 will also buy you 100 McDonald’s ice cream sundaes. Or 100 small fries.

    No. 8: What else could you do with $100?

    Real Simple Magazine asked its readers and their answers were often practical, but not much fun, either…

    ---Buy five $20 gift cards from favorite stores and keep them around for bad days when you need an uplift.

    ---Take dads advice: “Save a third, spend a third and give a third away.”

    ---Spend it on food, wine and a good CD or movie.

    ---Put it towards airfare to visit a best friend not seen since third grade 20 years ago.

    ---Pay the dues to become a member of a local art museum.

    ---Clothes don’t last long but books do. So buy some books.

    ---I would use it to go horseback riding. I love horses.

    ---I would take a class on economics to learn how to handle my money.

    ---Golf lessons. Fun but a chance to spend time with friends.

    ---Start a blog about theme parks (ooops, competition here, so let’s cut this short).
    No. 9: You can buy a used car for $100. Really?

    Or at least that includes some Internet claims.

    “Sound cars, good for many thousands of miles of cheap transportation, are readily available, and bought every day, everywhere—for less than $100,” says one site.

    Disney magic not part of the deal

    The claim is that these are not a cross between a leprechaun and a will-of-the-wisp (whatever that is) and you don’t have to believe in fairy tales or Disney magic go find such cars.

    It’s important to have the correct attitude when buying these cars, the site adds.

    But perhaps that attitude includes being sure the price includes an auto engine that runs.

    No. 10: Still more on that $100.

    Invest in the stock market. Not a big sum, sure, but you do have to start somewhere.

    And here’s another number to shock you:

    If you had invested $100 in Coca-Cola back when it first went public in 1908, it would be worth an astonishing amount today.

    Believe it or not: $24.5 million.

    No. 11. Invest your Ben Franklin in something he would not recommend: Gambling.

    During a powerball jackpot that reached $1.5 billion, one site said the odds of you winning with a $100 ticket investment was 1 in 292,201,338.

    Enough said.

    No. 12: $100 is associated with a lot of failures.

    Movie theater company Regal Entertainment a while back sold a special $100 ticket for a James Bond movie. You could see it as often as you wanted.

    The ticket was personalized with your name on it.

    Regal marketing people said if successful, the ticket would be continued.

    No word on similar new offers.

    Olive Garden also introduced a “never ending pasta pass.”

    For $100, 1,000 lucky fans got unlimited pasta and Cola-Cola at their local store for a more than a month.

    No word on re-runs of that, either.

    No. 13 and more: Remember that $100 donut?

    It was real. Offered by a Brooklyn restaurant.

    Made with 24 caret gold.

    It started tongue-in-cheek:

    “We started making them because we love champagne and we love donuts,” a spokesman said.

    Sales took off

    Even cheaper if you buy them by the dozen.

    But another temporary fad like hula hoops.

    No. 14: Remember that when you think of $100 tickets at Universal and Disney.

    In the meantime, Orlando’s third major attraction, SeaWorld says it has no plan to keep up with ticket increases at Disney or Universal.

    Count on it.

    For today, at least. ###