More than 88,000 paying participants are expected at all events.

 The full 26.2 mile Marathon is Sunday.  There's a half-marathon tomorrow. There was a family run this morning, and children's races.
Here's more on the history of the race.

And for more on the events, head  Yes, it has its own web site. Proof that one small race has evolved into multiple marathons throughout the year both here and in Disneyland in California.
 And  it's probably no surprise, there's a large line of marathon merchandise to snap up. Including an official shoe.

Yes, less than 2 weeks into the new year, Disney's marketing is off and running. We'll see what else Mickey will conjour up with his sorcerer's hat.
See you at the races.


January 10, 2013

A few thoughts on the shakeup at Disney.
The number one question people have asked me since news broke that Walt Disney World was getting a new president: Will it mean new attractions, and will maintenance improve at what are now, rightly or wrongly, considered by many to be the worst-maintained parks in the Disney chain.

To that end, critics point out that the Yeti in Animal Kingdom's biggest draw, Expedition Everest, has been motionless for years.  

A small branch fell from the Tree of Life last year. Disney's response: tack up netting above the heads of people waiting in line for "It's Tough To Be a Bug."  

Most recently, ride workers say a chunk of concrete fell from Splash Mountain. The temporary solution there: tarps were added over the load and unload area, and sprinklers for some planters were  turned off.

 Fortunately, that ride just went down for rehab. Hopefully a permanent solution will be part of that work, and hopefully all animatronics, projectors and effects are working again, too!

All of this happened during Meg Crofton's stint at the top of the largest theme park complex in the world.

 Crofton is well-known for her work on local charities, and was recently named the Orlando Sentinel's 3rd most powerful person in Central Florida.
What she wasn't really known for was getting out in the theme parks except for formal announcements.

Her replacement, George Kalogridis has a very different reputation.

As president of the Disneyland resort since 2009, he's been known as someone who is out in the Disneyland parks regularly, talking to cast members,  watching guests and fighting for quality.
 He also did that in his last major job at Walt Disney World. As Vice President of Epcot, insiders say he fought and won to have the Millennium Celebration centered at that park  from 1999-2001. He is also generally credited with pushing hard for Mission: Space as a way to boost attendance.

Like Crofton, Kalogridis is a long-time Disney veteran.
 She started at Disney's now-sold telephone company back in 1977.
He started in 1971 as a busboy at the Contemporary Resort, during its opening year.
 While Crofton has largely an HR background, most of  Kalogridis' career has been in the parks and resorts.

In short, Kalogridis has the reputation of someone who cares about quality and the guest experience, but as President of Walt Disney World, he will have a lot more to worry about than a broken Yeti.

He has to manage 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Downtown Disney (and its Pleasure Island problems), 24 Resort Hotels (with nearly 28,000 rooms and DVC Timeshare Units), 67,000 Cast members,  a sports complex, government outreach, and the list goes on and on.

Good luck, to you George. I look forward to seeing what changes you bring starting Feb. 1. And congrats to Meg Crofton on being able to devote more time to the big picture, now that she is in charge of operations at all US Parks & Disneyland Paris.


January 9, 2013

I-Drive's big year

2013 could be called the Year of I-Drive. At one end, as I've mentioned, Universal will open its groundbreakingTransformers ride.

At the other end, SeaWorld is opening its first-of-its kind Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins land & ride.

But in between some pretty exciting projects are under construction.

Among them are 2 sister projects that are redeveloping some of the attractions area's oldest and most run-down areas just south of Sand Lake Rd.

I-Drive Live is well under construction. It is a 20-acre, $250 million redevelopment of  the long-demolished Mercado shopping center that will eventually include  Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Sea Life Aquarium and the 425 foot high Orlando Eye Wheel, plus restaurants, shops and, eventually hotels. It will open in phases around the Summer of 2014.

Virtually next-door,  I-Shops is a $50 million redevelopment of the old Wyndham Hotel site. It will include revamping 600 Guest rooms & has 13 spaces for shops and restaurants. It is due to open by late this year.

But on its property, Kings Bowl America is due to open late next month,  featuring 22 bowling lanes, billiards, bocce, plus a restaurant and lounge.

And, as we've shown you, Fun Spot America's doubling in size with two new roller coasters opening by June.

Here's a link to a description of all of the projects underway on I-Drive, from the I-Drive District's web site.

We'll keep you posted on all of these new attractions coming to I-Drive here on Theme World and on Local 6.

And while it isn't directly on I-Drive, congrats to the staff of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando. Their hard work earned the resort 2nd place on the list of Top 10 Hotel Spas in the U.S. From
Here's what TripAdvisor said about the  Ritz-Carlton Orlando:

"Resembling an Italian palazzo, the 40,000 square-foot spa at this Floridian hotel pampers travelers with unparalleled services and amenities. After unwinding in one of 40 treatment rooms, guests can take a dip in the heated outdoor pool or put their feet up on a plush chaise lounge in the sanctuary room.  A TripAdvisor traveler said, "I adore their level of service, love the grounds, the pool is beautiful; the spa is relaxing and soothing."

You can read the full list here.

And while we're at it, here's a link to our previous blog entries so far, including the post that has many of you talking: "Is Big Mickey Watching you?"

Expect an update on MyMagic+, FastPass+ and how testing is going at Disney soon.