Let’s get our mindset back to 2013. It was a simpler time six years ago. Obama just got re-elected, Marvel’s Phase Two was just starting and we had not yet learned about just how crazy the landscape of social media impacting theme park fandom as a whole could be used. But in 2012, Disney announced that their yearly marketing theme was going to be a little thing called Limited Time Magic. A year long promotion that promised special weekly limited time offerings. Some would be continuous, like Year of the Ear highlighting a new ear hat. And some would be one day events that would cause massive amounts of people to flood the parks. And once they announced it, everyone said to themselves, “Wow, this promotion idea is a guaranteed money maker with all the great possibilities. There is no way this could turn into a dumpster fire of a promotion.” Let’s see how Disney turned this into a dumpster fire of a promotion.
Keep in mind during this, I am only going to really look at Walt Disney World during this time, as that is what I experienced. Disneyland had similar promotions during the time of minor variations on what was offered at WDW, but for the most part they were almost identical with WDW having one or two events that were exclusive. But I won’t be covering those since, as previously mentioned, I wasn’t there.
The promotion that ran the whole time was the Year of the Ear. Where Disney would highlight a special ear hat or collection of ear hats. Some of these were advertised as “Available for a Limited Time,” but those were only for the special holiday ear hats or the Flower and Garden strawberry ear hat (which only came in children’s size so my big head didn’t fit these which caused me to spiral into depression that I’m still dealing with today). While a neat idea and it did help in laying the ground work for ear hats and headbands to come later, especially with the villain headbands, it was more or less just an excuse to showcase items already out or not that interesting. It gets a pass, but more leaning towards the, “waste of my time,” column.
Bling in the New Year Dance Party (Dec. 30-Jan 5): Get ready for a lot of dance parties. This was a dance party in Tomorrowland, which was already a thing going on. They did shake it up by having Elvis Stitch instead of normal Stitch. Not a bad offering, but not the best way to start it off.
Winter Wonderland (Jan 14-20): It was Donald, Daisy, Chip and Dale in flannel meeting in Canada with a special backdrop. It was cool being able to meet ALL four characters together because as is, it was hard to meet Donald and Daisy together. The chipmunks were a nice bonus, but the year just started and we’re 2/2 on a rating of, “Why Bother?”
Long Lost Friends Week (Jan 21-27): This was one of my top tier events I was waiting for. A chance to meet some hard to find characters who never meet in one place. The roster did not disappoint either. Robin Hood, Prince John, Sheriff of Nottingham, Friar Tuck, Big Bad Wolf, Three Little Pigs, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Pinocchio, Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket, Scrooge McDuck and Ludwig Von Drake (who had never met stateside before). Each met for nice long sets, each one really cool to meet. This was the first really good event for the program.
Choose 2014 Disney Art Design (January 25-31): You could go onto the Disney Parks Blog and pick a design to be featured on select pieces of limited edition 2014 merchandise. I remember seeing about 3 pieces of this eventually in 2014 and it sold okay. Once again, not a bad event. But the problem was that it wasn’t anything you had to be in the parks to experience.
Souper Bowl Celebration (February 1-4): Outside of the standard Super Bowl MVP parade the day after the game, the offered two different soups that represented each team playing in the game. There was a Lobster Bisque because the Patriots and Tomato Basil Bisque because 49er’s (was it because they wear red or do miners really like tomato bisque)? And just like the game, both soups were terrible. At this point, I had almost given up on this promotion.
True Love Week (Febraury 11-17): But how can I hate love? I can’t I love love. I love my fiance. I love my dog. I love what they did for this week. First off, all the princesses met with their princes, Minnie wore her heart dress all week and Bert met with Mary Poppins. But coolest of all, they had the Cinderella carriage out for a photo op. It was a nice event that would start a 3 week trend of great events.
President’s Day with the Voices of Liberty (February 18-24): How do you celebrate President’s Day at Epcot outside of a week long concert of the Voices of Liberty being moved to the American Gardens Theater with cool lighting, perform all the patriotic hits and Golden Dreams? You can’t and they haven’t done this since and it’s a shame. This was one of my favorites and a lot of other people’s too.
Dapper Dans – The “Original Boy Band” (February 25-March 3): How do you make pop songs sound even cooler? Barber Shop Quartet, obviously. Hearing pop songs performed by the Dapper Dans on Main Street was kind of weird at first, but it was so out there and weird that you couldn’t help but enjoy it.
Spring Trolley Show on Main Street USA (March 3- May 12): March is kind of a slow month and is filled with events that they normally do. This was the debut
of the recurring seasonal trolley shows. This one was fine. Not the worst
(we’ll get to that later).
Vinylmation “Easter Egg” Hunt (March 18-24): Remember Vinylmation?
Remember how they over produced a lot of items and they needed a way to get rid of them? This was their solution. In later years, they would bring this
practice back of hiding giant eggs that look like Disney characters in World
Showcase at Epcot. But the more recent prizes have been actual Easter eggs
minus candy that are replicas of the World Showcase eggs. Like a few things on
here, it is apparent in hindsight that this was their way of test things that
would later become standard. Or in the next events case…
Spring Fling (March 25-31): This is the Easter activities they do every single
year. Meet the Easter Bunny and Mrs. Easter Bunny and the Easter pre-parade.
The only difference was that there was an Easter egg hunt at the UK Pavilion
and Future World East. Outside of that, the same thing they do every year.
Go Vintage at the Disney Truck Shop (April 8-14): There used to be a truck
at Disney Springs that sold Disney items on the West Side back when it was
Downtown Disney. And you could purchase shirts with the truck’s logo. Now
granted, I did not buy one, never saw anyone buy one, never saw then at the
outlets, cannot find a single eBay listing for one and have never seen anyone
wearing these. I actually want to know who bought them. Mostly to point and
Celebrate Disney Fairies Week (April 15-21): When Tinkerbell used to meet at
her magical nook (that’s what she said), they rotated her with a specific
character different days to meet with her. This made it so it was random fairy
throughout the day…revolutionary!
Party for the Planet (April 22-28): The celebrate Animal Kingdom’s 15th
anniversary they added rarer characters to Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade
(member that?) as well as a special dance party in Dinoland, USA. As far as
special anniversary events go, it happened. It was better than some other ones
in recent memory and the dance party was fun. But after almost two months of
under whelming events, how could Disney possible turn this around and breath
new life into their year long promotion?
May the Fourth Be With You (May 4th): Hey look, Disney turning it around and breathing new life into this year long promotion. This event is regarded as the absolute best event of the entire promotion. Granted, the event was basically Star Wars Weekends for one day, but there was one special addition. Disney advertised that you’d be able to ride Star Tours and randomly be joined by a character. And then Star Tours was down from park open until about 2PM. And while nowadays fireworks at Studios happen every day, back in 2013 it was a rarity to happen and we got Symphony in the Stars. Only complaint was that Mickey didn’t pull a lightsaber out of the stone in Fantasmic and use the force to defeat the evil villains invading his mind. The best part was that it never felt super crowded. Everything was spread throughout the park, lasted all day and the crowds didn’t flood into the park all at once because of it. They’d have to be stupid to not use that same formula if they ever held another one day only event for Limited Time Magic at Hollywood Studios.
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Fiesta! (May 5-11): The day after Cinco de Cuatro, Disney hosted a Cinco De Mayo celebration in the Mexico Pavilion. Outside of the normal mariachi music, there was folk dancing, marionettes and the remaining two out of the Three Caballeros, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, joined Donald Duck (Or El Pato) for his meet and greets. A neat event and seeing all Three Caballeros was incredibly cool and worth the sunburn I got waiting in the line.
Merida Becomes an Official Disney Princess (May 11): On Mother’s Day weekend, Disney held a coronation for Merida to join the Disney Princess roster. There were bagpipes, little girls pretending to be ginger, a horse, everything cool! While it was just a moment and not something going on all week, it was still really cool because of it. Out of all of these, it was the most limited in terms of time and was a part of Disney history. But that wasn’t the only thing happening that weekend.
Make a Moment in Time Out of Mother’s Day (May 11-12): This was the worst of the events in May, which is easy given how stacked May was. But even in any other month it would’ve been a dud. Why? The offerings were, come look at these watches we just came out with and moms get a flower for entering the park (what they do every year). It wasn’t bad, but incredibly underwhelming. Especially with how stacked the entire month of May was. Which ended with…
Monsterous Summer (May 24-25): One More Disney Day 2: Electric Boogaloo! Only this time with monsters. The last event was done on February 29th to coincide with the Leap Year. This one was themed to Monsters University, so all of the special snacks, treats and merchandise were monster themed. They even had some times were they played Monsters Inc. in it’s entirety in Tomorrowland. It was really cool going to Magic Kingdom in a bathrobe and my pajamas at 3AM. My only complaint was that several of the food items ran out before the night was over. But I was looking for them at the wee hours of the morning. So it was more my fault for dragging my feet on getting them. It was an overall really fun month of events. How would Disney top May?
Summer Time Trolley Show (June 2-August): The second of the theme trolley shows, but summer themed. It was okay and nothing incredibly remarkable.
Monsters University Homecoming (June 14-August): The Monsters University promotion continued with a Homecoming celebration at Hollywood Studios. A few times throughout the evening Mike, Sully, MU cheerleaders and Scare Supply (totally not Mulch Sweat and Sheers) would come out, lead the crowd in the MU fight song and some other songs. It was okay and a somewhat prelude to Frozen Summer Fun. Not a bad event, but it stayed for too long well after interest in the movie was long gone.
Sneak Peek of The Lone Ranger (June 14-August 3): Admit it, you forgot this movie existed. This also started the trend that is still going on today of Disney Movie Previews being played in the parks. This one was in the ABC Sound Studio (where Path of the Jedi currently is as of writing this) which was housing nothing when this came out. The preview wasn’t too bad, but also over stayed it’s time, especially when the movie failed harder than any other movie that year. They also sold a Lone Ranger Boot souvenir cup at Pecos Bill’s starting on June 21st.
Teen Beach Movie Beach Party (June 24-September 1): To celebrate the DCOM of the same name, this brought a DJ into Typhoon Lagoon and had cast members playing games based on the movie and playing songs of the same movie. The stars showed up for the first day to promote it and that was it. It was a good way to extend the day at Typhoon Lagoon.
Independence Week (July 1-7): You know what’s better than celebrating America? Celebrating America all week long! For one whole week, Disney did their Independence Day fireworks instead of the normal day before and day of. They saved the 360 degree show for those two days, but for a week straight there were patriotic fireworks and perimeter fireworks. A great way to help in dispersing the crowds. They also debuted a specialty cupcake that tasted like an apple pie and they have yet to make a better cupcake than that and never brought it back.
Mickey’s American Streetbeat (July 8-14): How can I best describe this show? Imagine the Blue Man Group, but with Mickey Mouse and it violates the Geneva Convention. That is they only way I can describe it. The entire show is, “We can hit this stuff that isn’t and instrument and kind of break dance.” The whole show is a clunky mess that doesn’t have the typical Disney charm you would want from a show with Mickey Mouse. We have seen variations of most of the other Limited Time Magic events take form in another way since. This one was buried so fast in the deepest grave to never been heard from or acknowledged ever again. This was my actual least favorite event from the entire promotion, and I experienced Villains Unleashed. Yes, a 22 minute show was worse than an entire miserable night. But we’ll get to that.
Long-Lost Friends Week (July 15-21): We got a nice pallet cleanser with this one. It did have the returning Robin Hood characters and everyone else was replaced with Chicken Little, Abby Mallard, all the Brer’s and Dr. Facillier and Louis the Alligator. A nice repeat of a fun event, but I do wish they swapped out the Robin Hood characters for another group.
Christmas in July (July 22-28): Were decorations put up at Magic Kingdom? No. Any of the parks? No. So what did they do? Cupcakes and Christmas stuff they already sold. It was disappointing given the potential.
American Idol Live! Celebrity Motorcade (July 31): To celebrate Season 12 of the original show on FOX, there was a special Motorcade at Hollywood Studios with the finalists from that season. It was a neat event and some good synergy with the former attraction. It also didn’t bring in a lot of guests because the interest in the show was waning. Not a bad event, but not a good one. Very middle of the road unless you are big into American Idol.
Planes Commemorative Wings (August 2-While Supplies Last): From the world of Cars, but not good enough to be made by the people who made Cars, came the movie Planes. To celebrate the new movie, special flight wings (a pin not actual plane wings because how would you check those at the airport) were given out to children aged 5-13 who rode Soarin’. Normally I’d be mad because it was specific to guests of a certain age, but that would also imply that I care about the movie Planes, which I don’t. It’s good having events that do target a younger age as it’s great for parents to have their children happy, which was the point of Disneyland and what would become Walt Disney World. And speaking of events targeted to children…
The American Idol Experience: Juniors Edition (August 12-18): All I’m saying is thank goodness Frozen was still 3 months away at this point. Otherwise this would turn into a Frozen karaoke event which was still a year away from this point. This event did allow kids 6-13 the opportunity to sing in front of a live audience. Sadly, they weren’t allowed to sing something like Footloose, but from a selection of 21 songs. Personally I would’ve paid to see a 7 year old belt out Kenny Loggins. But I still have my pipe dreams to fulfill that. It was a nice event and something great for parents to see and fond memories for the kids to take back.
Dapper Dans – The “Original Boy Band” (August 19-25): It’s the same show as the first time they did it and I don’t even care because it’s so good.
Celebrate the “Dog Days of Summer” (August 26-September 2): A tried and true staple of modern Magic Kingdom, if you ever need something put it as a dance party in Tomorrowland. This one though featured Disney Dogs that everyone loves. It had Pluto, Bolt, Stitch and Dug dancing with everyone. It was a neat event, but not something ground breaking.
Fall Autumn Trolley Show (September 1-November): Have you ever wondered how many words rhyme or kind of rhyme with Autumn? No, well too bad because this show answers that question. The show would be okay if it weren’t for the forced rhyming scheme of every sentence having a word that rhymes with autumn or the actual word. They do the cardinal sin of song writing by rhyming autumn with autumn. I view this as the equivalent of watching “The Room” where I can laugh at how bad it is.
Villains Unleashed (September 13): Unleash the Villains was the actual worst time I have ever spent at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I once got attacked there by a group of 50 teenagers (long story). Yet that some how wasn’t AS bad. This was one of the marquee events of the promotion. An advertised night dedicated just to villains that everyone was excited for. I have previously mentioned in another article my many issues with it. Here’s a link to that if you want to take a look: https://thechurroblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/unleash-the-villains-and-the-crazies
Pirates Week (September 23-29): To celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, the Magic Kingdom offered some special pirate events. They had expanded adult options for the Pirates League, Pirate Goofy and Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates met for meet and greets, the Rusty Cutlass band performed some sea shanties and there was a pre parade with all the guests who were made into pirates at the Pirate League to march down Main Street. Not a bad event and definitely something that was a nice offering for parents to have more great memories.
Downtown Disney Chalk Art Festival (October 4-6): Disney brought in chalk artists to cover Downtown Disney in chalk art and it was really cool seeing some of the crazy designs that they would come up with. Even better was that this was technically a free offering since anyone can go to Downtown Disney free of charge. A really cool offering that I wish they would do more often.
Attraction Tours with Imagineer (October 7-11, 14-18, 21-25 & November 4-8): I’m technically cheating with this one, but they’re all the same idea just different attractions. Guests were able to enter a raffle to be on a tour of a certain attraction or area lead by an Imagineer. October 7-11 was Expedition Everest, 14-18 was the Fantasyland Castles, 21-25 was the garden at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and November 4-8 was Animal Kingdom as a whole. This was a neat idea as having been on a tour of The Great Movie Ride lead by an Imagineer, they give you a lot of incredibly minuscule details that no one would even think of and aren’t in any book or site. This was a great opportunity for a select few to learn about some famous attractions and landmarks at Walt Disney World.
The Happy Haunted Horseshoe (October 28-November 1): The Diamond Horsehoe became the Haunted Horseshoe and they had several variety acts including the Cadaver Dans. It was a neat throwback to the original days of the Diamond Horseshoe and it’s a shame that it hasn’t returned to this original form. But it was good to see it one more time, even with a Halloween overlay.
Salute Veterans (November 11-15): Each day, Magic Kingdom paid tribute to a different branch of the military with a more grandiose flag retreat ceremony. It takes a lot for me to shed a tear, but this did it. Cannot even put in words how it was, but it was a real sleeper hit of the entire promotion.
Holiday Fun (November 15-January 4): They announced when all the parks would start doing their holiday offerings that happen every year…why was this Limited Time Magic?
Jingle Cruise Poster (November 22-While Supplies Last): To celebrate the new holiday overlay to the Jungle Cruise, they handed out posters for the Jingle Cruise until they ran out, which they did in 2 or 3 days. It was a nice quality poster and one that gets hung up in my apartment every year.
Donate a Duffy the Disney Bear to Toys for Tots (December 2-8): In a wonderful bit of good will, every $5 purchase at Once Upon a Toy or World of Disney, Disney would donate one Duffy to Toys for Tots on top of donating $200,000. I have no jokes for this, as it was a really cool event that promoted generosity. A wonderful event that caused me to do some shopping at those stores that week.
Secret Santa Week (December 9-13): On top of being able to meet Duffy in his Santa outfit on Main Street, all of the characters at Magic Kingdom gave out souvenir autograph cards shaped like Christmas presents. Nothing super crazy, but a neat offering to get everyone in the Holiday Spirit.
Tour the Magic Kingdom with VP Phil Holmes (select dates in December): Having taken one of Hollywood Studios, there is nothing more insane and absolutely incredible than a tour of the park by Phil Holmes. Phil is an opening day cast member and a former Haunted Mansion butler. Phil also has very harsh opinions on things and is the most entertaining tour guide I have ever had in my life. I wish I could have been on one of those tours because I can only imagine how great it would have been.
Celebrate Mary Poppins (December 16-22): To mark Saving Mr. Banks coming to theaters and Mary Poppins being released on Blu Ray around the same time, Bert met with Mary that week and guests were given a double sided high quality glossy poster. A nice little event.
All New 2014 Art Merchandise (Starts December 22): So how do you end a year long event? With a T-Shirt release. Weak sauce.
So was this a terrible promotion, no. But it was incredibly disappointing. There were some great events that evolved into other longstanding offerings. Long Lost Friends Weeks were always cool, but there could have been more and in other parks. The 24 Hour Event and of course the May the 4th event were probably the two highlights. Other great ones were the tours of different locations and the Veterans Day and Independence Day celebrations. But even those couldn’t save a promotion filled with Souper Bowl, the managing of Villains Unleashed and weeks of nothing noteworthy. Not to mention that it was heavily skewed towards Magic Kingdom in terms of where the offerings were.
Now it is unrealistic to expect Disney to always do amazing parties and everything every single week, especially since all of these things were included with theme park admission (except the food and merchandise). But this was hyped through the roof. I think the expectations were too unrealistic for what we were given and Disney has yet to give us another year long promotion like this. Year of a Million Dreams, this was not. Plus this gave us Mickey’s American Street Beat which is a dumpster fire that was put on display for everyone to witness.