Theme Park Bits: Disneyland Ticket Prices, Avatar Soundtrack, Up Is Headed To The Animal Kingdom, And More!

In this edition:

  • Tickets are going up, up, up at Disneyland.
  • Pandora: The World of Avatar has an official soundtrack.
  • Disney CEO Robert Iger went to Twitter to defend recent remarks.
  • Get a decent look at the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge ride vehicles.
  • Disney has purchased even more land in Central Florida.
  • And more!
  • We begin this week with some unsurprising but not particularly good news. Excited about your next trip to Disneyland Resort? Prepared to fork over at least one of your kidneys as well as your mortgage? Yes, it's that time again, as Disney has raised its ticket prices at the Anaheim-based resort. Now, for the very first time, if you want to buy a one-day, one-park ticket (the lowest of the ticketing options), you'll have to pay more than $100, at a price of $104. Parking prices have gone up 5 dollars, a 25% increase. And the most exorbitant increase is for the Premier Annual Pass, for the true high rollers who have nearly $2,000 to spend on the possibility of visiting either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure with no blockout days year-round. With Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge around the corner, raising ticket prices is expected, but still. These prices are getting insane.

    If there's one thing you must know about me, it's this: I'm a Libra. No, wait, the real one thing you must know is that I adore Disney theme-park music, to an unhealthy degree. (Like, "I have hours and hours of Disney theme-park music to listen to on my iPhone"-level unhealthy.) So in that spirit, I was pleased to see a recent, unexpected album release on iTunes for Pandora: The World of Avatar. This soundtrack features 12 tracks of music that you can hear while walking around Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Considering how prevalent background music is at the Disney theme parks, it's nice to get an official release every once in a while. Now, all you have to do is release a massive box set of all the music from Walt Disney World! You have at least one guaranteed buyer for that, I promise.

    One of my most cherished memories of visiting Walt Disney World with my wife came during our most recent trip (all the way back in 2012, because it turns out that having a baby is kind of a buzzkill when it comes to flying places – who knew!), when we experienced a dining package at Epcot as we watched their nighttime spectacular, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Though IllumiNations is sadly going away soon, that doesn't mean you can't eat in style while watching one of its last performances. Disney recently announced a new dining package at the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom pavilion. This pub has an excellent view of the World Showcase Lagoon, where the show takes place, and you can't go wrong with a nice order of fish 'n' chips with a stout Guinness to wash it down. The package starts off January 18, so don't delay.

    As you know, all the cool kids are on Twitter. Even our good friend Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is a Twitter user and it came in handy last weekend when he responded to some displeased theme-park fans regarding recent comments he made. (I presume he responded, as opposed to some PR firm manning his Twitter, but who knows.) Specifically, in a wide-ranging interview with Barron's, Iger talked about his reticence to design new theme-park attractions that weren't tied to intellectual property, talking about a "nondescript coaster somewhere, that maybe is [themed like] India or whatever". Seeing as the massively popular roller coaster Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom is...well, themed like India or whatever, you can understand the frustration from some IP-averse fans. Kudos – I guess! – to Iger for trying to douse the Twitter fire. Now, go design more exciting attractions that have nothing to do with IP like Expedition Everest!

    Today's Theme Park Bits is going to be top-heavy with Disney's Animal Kingdom. (It's never been a half-day park, kids! Plenty to see and do even outside of Pandora.) To wit: there's a new character arrival headed towards the kingdom, in the form of Kevin, the colorful bird from Pixar's masterpiece Up. (Did you know that Up turns 10 years old in May? Does that make you feel old too, or is it just me?) The 2009 film already has characters, Russell and Dug, meeting and greeting guests near the now-Up-themed bird show, so it's likely that Kevin will stake his (well, her) claim nearby. If anything else, I can't wait to see the photos of guests with the bird because Kevin's just so tall. Should be quite the imbalance of height!

    Let's move a little further away from Disney's Animal Kingdom, all the way over to...Disney's Hollywood Studios. (What can I tell you, it's a pretty Disney-heavy column today.) Toy Story Land has been doing pretty decently so far as the park's new addition, but it's had some unexpected emergency plastic surgery lately. What if, and go with me here, Slinky Dog was tail-free? Yes, it's true: due to safety concerns, Slinky Dog has had its tail removed from the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster. You can see for yourself in the artciel, but Slinky looks...kinda weird without a tail! (I'm sure it's all the rage in Central Florida, but sometimes friends have to tell their friends the harsh truth.) But according to the folks at WDWNT, the tail has been hanging on for dear life for a while, so this removal was inevitable. Better safe than sorry.

    To get the best early look at the ride vehicles for the attractions at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, I'm afraid that you're going to have go to work for the Walt Disney Company. Or, y'know, take a look at some of the photos a Twitter user found in a magazine intended for Disney cast members. (I mean, I wouldn't mind the former option, but the latter one is a lot simpler.) From these photos, you can get a halfway-decent glimpse at the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, which will serve as one of the ride vehicles in the new land in both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios. You can also see the ride vehicle for Rise of the Resistance, which seems to be designed in a similar-ish way to the vehicles from the Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland. The more we see about this land, the harder it is to resist wanting to go experience this land over the summer. (See what I did? "Resist"? Because..y' get it.)

    One day, not too long from now, the entirety of Orlando will be known as Disney City. (I'm kidding, but only half-kidding.) You may recall how, last month, Disney was reported to have purchased over 950 acres of land just southeast of Celebration, the town that was originally a Disney-owned genuine small town. Well, don't worry, one of the company's New Year's resolutions appears to have been "Buy more than we did in 2018", because they've apparently bought a 1,500-acre plot of land adjacent to the one they bought back in December. For context, the entirety of the Walt Disney World Resort, when originally purchased, was 27,000 acres; these two purchases are nearly 10 percent of that size. As with the previous purchase, this might be for water conservation. Or...maybe something bigger. Time will tell.

    The revitalization of the shopping and dining district known as Disney Springs in Orlando continues unabated, as they'll soon unveil a brand-new restaurant from a big-name chef: Jaleo by José Andrés. The 22,000-square-foot space is set to open sometime this winter, making it the celebrity chef's biggest restaurant ever. No doubt, the food will be excellent, but what really sounds distinctive and unique now is the restaurant's design, inspired by the artichoke. (You read that right.) The artichoke structure makes it so the restaurant has no solid walls, which should be quite the sight to see. (And the food's great, too, I'm sure.)