‘The Magic is in the Details:’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Switches to Plastic Sundae Glasses & Installs Incorrect Lighting

Tom Corless

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‘The Magic is in the Details:’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Switches to Plastic Sundae Glasses & Installs Incorrect Lighting

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant is one of the most beloved restaurants in all of Walt Disney World, so when what some might call “minute changes” take place at the establishment, it’s kind of a big deal to a lot of guests. Two such changes have taken place over the past few months that are worth diving into.

For those unaware, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios table service restaurant allows guests to dine in a car-shaped booth or table and chow down at the “drive-in” playing thrilling, chilling sci-fi scenes. The restaurant is known for its hamburgers and other classic American fare on the menu, but also for its “scary” clips on the screen, including attacking aliens, marauding mummies, rampaging robots, and more.

WDW DHS Sci Fi Dine in Theater Restaurant Interior 7

A Hollywood-style soundstage acts as your portal into the 1950s, guiding you through kitschy vintage memorabilia, the illuminated tail lights of your fellow drive-in diners, and a sky full of twinkling stars set the mood as you place your order.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Sundae Glasses Now Plastic

Sci-Fi Dine In Theater Restaurant Sundae Glasses Replaced with Plastic

Back in January of this year, the iconic sundae glasses had been changed away from the style you might have found at a Soda Fountain or Malt Shop in the appropriate era of the 1950s. Now the sundaes come served in the above plastic cups that aren’t really correct for the period, nor feel correct given the cheapening of materials.

Sci Fi Dine In Milkshake Glass

The previous sundae glasses that were used since 1991 were made of glass, as pictured above. The problem they were having in recent times was that the glasses would often crack from going straight from the hot dishwasher to having cold ice cream served inside. The restaurant was breaking the glasses so frequently that the proprietor decided to switch to plastic cups.

While it is understandable that a cheaper solution to a problem is often celebrated in the modern Walt Disney Company, one has to wonder how Sci-Fi Dine-In managed to not have this problem for over 30 years. Perhaps they ordered enough where they could have many cooling for a period while another batch was ready to be served or currently in use by guests. Whatever the solution was for so many decades, it’s clear there was an unwillingness to maintain the classic parfait glasses or order enough at one time to solve the issue.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Interior Lighting Incorrectly Changed

As for the lighting changes, we recently noticed that the lighting on the antenna towers along the wall had been changed, and are now bright white instead of red. They also twinkle in the same manner as the stars do.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Interior Lighting Incorrectly Replaced

In this photo, you can see the before, where the antenna lights were once red. The subdued lighting also indicated that the towers were very far away.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Interior Lighting Incorrectly Replaced

In these photos, you can see the current state of the antenna lights: a much brighter white and an incorrect twinkling effect. In fairness, both red and white lights are installed on towers and antennae like this to alert pilots that there is a tall object in their flight zone, so it’s not necessarily completely wrong. That being said, they certainly don’t twinkle like stars, and it’s apparent the original design intent was to make the towers stand out and not look like more stars from a distance.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Interior Lighting Incorrectly Replaced

The entire starry sky is much brighter, which isn’t an issue. For the record, it is nice to see something be maintained in an era where so much at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not (we’re looking at you MuppetVision 3-D seats). We just would like to see someone reprogram these lights to act like those on towers and perhaps return them to the original colors.

Editorial Note: A Fandom Divided

The reception to these changes on social media has been divided, to say the least. Some agree with us that maintaining these small details is important, while some claim what we are doing is nitpicking. I don’t know that those who feel these observations are ludicrous fully understand the history and reputation of the parks they are visiting. What made Disney different from the rest of the industry was attention to detail, great customer service, and cleanliness. Walt Disney tasked Imagineers with building a place that was far more detailed and thematic than anything that had come before it, and these creative people would have lengthy debates over such minute details, feeling they are important to the environment and the storytelling. If the details aren’t important to you, then I don’t think you are necessarily a Disney fan, I just think you are a fan of vacations.

The Disney Parks are a place to make memories with friends and family, but the backdrop of those memories is important. That backdrop should be spotless, glimmering, and immersive, as Walt and all the creatives who followed his vision believed it should. These small details matter, and The Walt Disney Company should care about maintaining them and the quality standards of their founder, whose name they invoke on a daily basis when it benefits them.

All these small details that fade away eventually add up, and you will wake up one day with a far inferior product than was offered previously to you.

What do you think of these changes to Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant? Do these lapses in theming affect your experience when visiting the parks? Or do they not matter? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “‘The Magic is in the Details:’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Switches to Plastic Sundae Glasses & Installs Incorrect Lighting”

  1. Agree 100% with you. Those details have have always mattered at the parks, and you can feel it when those in charge don’t care and things start cheapening. Anyone who thinks you’re nitpicking is low-standard.

  2. Tom and WDWNT, thank you for continuing to be an advocate for these sort of things! Although they may appear minor on the surface, they depart from meaningful theming and quality experiences. The de-theming of resorts and experiences and the cheapening of the Disney theme park product needs to be addressed before all that is left is another Six Flags with a Hampton Inn!

  3. These are minor complaints, but we do not need more plastic in the parks or this world. LOL. Please bring back the glass sundae glasses. The burgers, and even the Impossible burgers, and the salads are so good here, probably in my top 3 of the entire WDW property.

  4. People who argue you are nitpicking are also willfully ignoring the cost of a WDW vacation. In particular, the continuous price increases that far exceed normal inflation–even the current “normal”; plus all the recent nickle and diming like paid Fast Pass. For what Disney charges, they should be held to higher standard. There’s a difference between being a boot licker and being a fan. Fans have a right to hold Disney to account for poor maintenance when they charge top shelf prices.

  5. Another blogger once called it “Decline by degrees.” Yes, it may not seem like much, but when you start to layer all the nitpicks things, eventually you realize that it’s nothing like it used to be. I think of the Flower & Garden festival as an example. Once upon a time there were workshops, guest speakers, presentations by local garden club. Now there is none of that, just topiaries, food booths, and concerts. Yes, I still love those things, but I sure miss the way it used to be. The devil is in the details.

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