2010 in Review: Our Top 10 most popular Disney and theme park stories

in Disney, Entertainment, Walt Disney World

As we reach the end of 2010, it’s always a treat to look back in the world of theme parks to see what has happened over the last year. The below list recounts the most popular stories throughout the last year, based on the number of views of each topic. Most are individual articles that include food, new technologies, announcements, and special events, but the top story of the year spanned spanned many articles and grabbed the attention of media worldwide.

So now I present to you our…

Top 10 Disney and Theme Park Stories for 2010

10. Review of Disney’s Via Napoli restaurant

The highly-anticipated opening of Disney’s Via Napoli pizzeria became our most popular restaurant review to date. The article features my take on the food (as a picky Italian eater) as well as colorful photography, a video tour of the restaurant, and interviews with its creators. Since its opening, Via Napoli has continued to draw large crowds of guests at Epcot each day.

9. Details for Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream 2010

Halloween is always a popular time of year within theme parks and this year was no exception. When Busch Gardens Tampa Bay unveiled its theme for 2010, many came to InsideTheMagic.net to read about Sylvie, her band My X, and the haunted houses and scare zones the park planned to offer up. Many (including myself) were especially interested in Alone, the “personal experience in horror.”

8. “Urban explorers” rediscover Discovery Island and River Country

The winner of the bizarre theme park news story of the year (and 8th most popular) goes to a group of self-proclaimed “urban explorers” who took it upon themselves to venture into the long-closed areas of Walt Disney World formerly known as Discovery Island and the River Country water park. The adventure actually took place outside of 2010, but their documentation, including pictures of the rundown Disney area, become quite popular this year.

7. Talking, interactive Mickey Mouse makes his theme park debut

Disney regularly surprises guests with new experiences, but this 7th most popular story of 2010 commanded attention of fans and media around the country. In what was intended as a quiet play test inside Disneyland park, Disney brought out a version of Mickey Mouse who could not only blink his eyes and move his mouth (as had been seen on various Disney stage shows) but also talk and interact with guests, all while staying completely in character. This level of verbal meet-and-greet interaction had previously been reserved only for “face” characters and not costumed ones and when one guest’s YouTube video hit the Internet, all were interested to see what Disney had to say about it. The next day, Disney admitted to the test, but would not comment on when this new technology would be used in the parks. Later in the year, talking Mickey Mouse returned during the World of Color opening.

6. Buzz Lightyear and Jessie learn to dance for Toy Story 3

A surprising addition to this Top 10 story list comes in at number 6, where Buzz Lightyear and Jessie the Cowgirl learn to dance the pasodoble in preparation for their roles in Toy Story 3. Okay, it was really Pixar’s animators who needed to learn the dance and they did so courtesy of a couple pros from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” While a short dance sequence is featured within the Toy Story 3 film, the majority of the dancing occurs during the movie’s credits. But regardless of when it occurs, the popularity of both Toy Story 3 and “Dancing with the Stars” placed this story in the Top 10.

5. Disney considers adding VIP ticketing options

Sometimes rumor and speculation based on fact are what make a story popular. That’s exactly what happened when Disney sent out surveys to select guests asking their thoughts on ideas surrounding VIP experiences within Disney’s parks. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on these potential new ticket options, making this story our 5th most popular of the year.

4. Disney gives away 50 free song downloads

Free is always popular. Free and Disney in the same sentence is even more so. So when Disney decided to give away 50 free songs over the summer of 2010, this story was a hit, landing itself at number 4 on our Top 10 list. The free MP3 downloads included songs from Disney Channel stars, Disney movies, theme parks, and other TV shows. Now that the giveaway has ended, you can still purchase any songs you missed on Amazon and/or iTunes via the links in this article.

3. Halloween Horror Nights 2010 at Universal Orlando

While Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream brought Halloween to our 9th most popular article for the year, it’s Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights XX that skyrocketed to the number 3 spot. Details for each year’s Horror Nights event are always highly-anticipated and with it reaching its 20th year in 2010, expectations were extra high. This article was consistently popular from the moment Universal released the details through the end of Halloween and will continue to bring interest as Horror Nights fans reminisce about an amazing year in scares.

Also popular in the world of Halloween Horror Nights, though not quite popular enough to make the Top 10 list, were my review of Halloween Horror Nights 2010 and the list of event dates.

2. Disney unveils plans for Golden Oak luxury homes on Walt Disney World property

We saw a huge jump in traffic to InsideTheMagic.net when Disney revealed plans and artwork for its unique housing community called Golden Oak. The community will feature multi-million dollar homes on Walt Disney World property and, needless to say, is only for the super rich. The popularity of this article was largely fueled by a link from Perez Hilton’s blog but was also widely posted on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, this story has the most Facebook “likes” for the year at a whopping 2,454!

1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at Universal Orlando

By far, the most popular story of 2010 was the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. This story transcended theme park fans into pop culture, with the launch of the only place guests can step into Harry Potter’s world, visit Hogwarts Castle, walk through Hogsmeade Village, drink Butterbeer, and leave with plenty of souvenirs. InsideTheMagic.net gave the world its first in-depth look at the Wizarding World with early access showing off photos and video of all of its attractions. Our first-look was “liked” on Facebook 2,160 times, but many other articles continued to show off all that is the Wizarding World, from sneak peeks to merchandise to the grand opening ceremony featuring many of the film series’ stars.

Here are just a few of the many popular articles we featured about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010:

  • Spoiler-filled review of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride
  • Wizarding World merchandise listing
  • Wizarding World merchandise available online
  • Wizarding World merchandise available at Orlando International Airport
  • Tour of Hogwarts Castle
  • Wizarding World opening day line
  • Spoiler-free review of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride
  • Party provides pre-opening sneak peek inside the Wizarding World
  • Early sign reveals Forbidden Journey ride capabilities
  • Dervish & Banges store expands
  • Pre-opening clear look into Hogsmeade Village
  • Wizarding World merchandise added to main Islands of Adventure gift shop
  • Emma Watson and other Harry Potter stars make a pre-opening Wizarding World visit
  • Summary

    It’s unlikely that we’ll see anything on the scope and scale of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s opening in the near future of theme parks. It was possibly the most highly-anticipated theme park creation short of the opening of the original Disneyland and certainly the most widely-discussed of 2010. But while Universal Orlando sits on the top spot for this Top 10, Disney and Busch Gardens are not far behind, having offered plenty of additional entertainment throughout the year. Going into each year of Disney and theme park fun, all that can be expected is that each year will be filled with plenty of surprises and 2010 had its share.

    Tomorrow, we’ll continue the look back at 2010 with our Top 10 most popular theme park videos for the year. Then on Sunday, January 2, return for our annual “Ear in Review” podcast where I am joined by A Window to the Magic’s Paul Barrie as we spend a few hours discussing everything that happened in the world of Disney throughout the past year.

    If you have a favorite story of 2010, post about it in the comments below!

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