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Tokyo Disney Resort Said to Be Planning a Major 'Frozen'-Themed Attraction

By Robert Niles
Published: October 29, 2014 at 9:05 PM
Nikkei Asian Review is reporting that Oriental Land Co., the company that owns and operates the Tokyo Disney Resort, will build a major Frozen-themed attraction for the resort in 2017.

The new attraction will be part of "partial renovation" of the resort and the centerpiece of a US$4.5 billion capital investment in the resort between now and 2023.

Where will the new Frozen attraction be? According to the article, that's undecided. It could take the place of the It's a Small World ride in Tokyo Disneyland, which is slated to be moved as part of the park's renovation plan, according to the report. Or, Oriental Land could choose to build Frozen at Tokyo DisneySea.

Cape Cod at DisneySea
Our suggested site for Arendelle

We suggested DisneySea as an ideal location for a Frozen-themed attraction last February. The port of Arendelle fits perfectly within the harbor theme of DisneySea, and we noted that underutilized Cape Cod area of the American Waterfront land offers some sight lines that could lend themselves to an Arendelle setting.

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Tips for Visitors with Disabilities at the Orlando Theme Parks

By Robert Niles
Published: October 29, 2014 at 9:25 AM
The Orlando theme parks provide some of the world’s most accessible vacation destinations. Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando accommodate millions of visitors each year, including many with varying degrees of physical and cognitive abilities.

Daniel Etcheberry has written about disability issues for us at ThemeParkInsider.com: “My theme park life can be divided in two parts; my able body experience and my disabled experience. 1999 was the year that changed the way I would experience the same rides that I rode before. Ending up in a wheelchair with no ability of standing up on my own and with upper torso weakness, it changed my ride’s experience. Actually the changes have been from the minimal to the impossible.”

Many theme park attractions have been designed to accommodate people with mobility issues. On these attractions, a visitor may remain in a wheelchair throughout the experience, from the queue to the ride or show itself. On other attractions, visitors might need to bypass the regular queue and enter through a special entrance for wheelchair users. Many such rides also might require wheelchair users to transfer from their chair to a ride vehicle.

“Theme parks try to get as many guests as possible into their rides on a daily basis,” Daniel wrote. “This means that they rush everyone; it’s not a problem for body-abled people, but it can be challenging for disabled people who needs more time to get in and out of the ride’s vehicles. Cast members always tell the disabled that there is no rush, but when there are so many eyes looking at you, the situation becomes stressful.

“One example of a fast-paced loading ride is Soarin’; guests enter the ride when the previous ones are getting out of their seats. Someone in my party has to get my wheelchair and come back for me. Once I’m seated in my wheelchair, all the new guests are seated and waiting for me to get out and start their ride. That’s stressful. The Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean is more relaxing for me — or anyone disabled. The unloading area in another location, so the only person looking at you is the operator.”

Reader Tracy Bates added, “Toy Story Mania has the best loading area for the disabled in my opinion. Your ride vehicle is pulled from the queue so you can take as long as you need without holding up anyone and when you're ready to go, you’re just inserted back onto the main track to go through the ride. Also, you don’t have to transfer out of a regular wheelchair because you can just roll onto the vehicle and they’ll tie it in place.”

Walt Disney World has a webpage for visitors with mobility disabilities: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/mobility-disabilities/. That page lists all the attractions at the resort’s four theme parks where visitors may remain in their wheelchair at all times, where they must transfer to a Disney-provided wheelchair, where they must transfer to a ride vehicle, and where they must be ambulatory to experience the attraction (such as on certain playgrounds).

On attractions where riders must transfer, Disney’s cast member employees can help make that transition easier. Daniel wrote, “Test Track is very difficult to transfer because the vehicle’s seats are lower in height than the loading platform. But if you ask a cast member to let you transfer in the seat belt checking area, the vehicle will be at your same height.”

Disney rents wheelchairs and ECVs for guests who either wish to leave their at home or whose mobility or cognitive disability doesn’t typically require them to use a chair, but who would feel more comfortable having a chair for their day in the park. Wheelchairs cost $12 per day ($10 per day for a multi-day rental), while ECVs cost $50 per day. Other companies in the area also rent chairs to people visiting the parks.

For visitors with visual disabilities, Disney provides audio description devices and Braille guidebooks at its Guest Relations offices in each park. Ask at the front gate when you enter. A $25 refundable deposit is required when you pick up an audio description device or Braille guidebook.

For visitors with cognitive disabilities, Disney offers a variety of support. Companion restrooms are available throughout the resort, and Disney offers multiple ways that visitors with cognitive disabilities can avoid waiting in traditional queues. Visitors traveling with a person with a cognitive disability, such as placement on the autism spectrum, should make use of the Fastpass+ system to reserve as many experience times as possible. Once at the park, though, such groups can further plan their day by using a Disability Access Service Card. (The DAS has replaced the old Guest Assistance Card system.) Parties with a DAS Card may schedule a return time to any attraction, equal to the current standby wait time for that attraction. That way, you will not have to wait in the queue. You can learn more about the DAS system and how to get one on Disney's webpage for visitors with cognitive disabilities: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/cognitive-disabilities-services/.

On that webpage, you also may download a PDF “Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities.”

Universal Orlando has a webpage for guests with disabilities, at https://www.universalorlando.com/Resort-Information/Accessibility-Information.aspx. You can download a PDF rider’s guide from that webpage, which will detail access information for all of Universal Orlando’s attractions. Universal also employs a return time system for visitors with cognitive disabilities similar to Disney's DAS Card.

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Two New Restaurants Confirmed for Disney Springs in 2015

By Robert Niles
Published: October 27, 2014 at 10:16 PM
As Scott Joseph reported last April, Disney confirmed today that chef Masaharu Morimoto will open a restaurant at Disney Springs next summer. From Disney's press release: "Morimoto Asia will be the Japanese master chef's first-ever pan-Asian restaurant featuring flavors from across the continent. This Disney Springs dining destination will include unique exhibition kitchens showcasing traditions like Peking duck carving, and dim sum." The restaurant will be located in The Landing section of Disney Springs, on the site of the old Pleasure Island.

morimoto-asia-concept.jpg
Concept art courtesy Disney

Also opening in The Landing next year will be The Boathouse, a waterfront restaurant serving steaks and seafood. The restaurant is being developed by Schussler Creative, which also developed the Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex, and Yak & Yeti at Disney World. The unique feature here will be "guided tours aboard the Captain’s piloted 40-foot Italian Water Taxi with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries and guided Amphicar rides that launch from land, enter the water, and take guests on a 20-minute tour of the landmarks of Disney Springs." The Boathouse is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015, before Morimoto Asia.

Previously:

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Monday Top 10: The Most Popular Rides in Orlando

By Robert Niles
Published: October 27, 2014 at 10:11 AM
We know that you love talking about theme parks. (You probably wouldn't be reading theme park websites if you didn't!) Over the years, we've learned which theme park attractions are most likely to get people talking, and they are among the most popular theme park rides in the world. To kick off our weeklong celebration of theme parks, here are our Top 10 Most Popular Rides in Orlando, as determined by the most votes cast in our Theme Park Insider reader ratings. Obviously, newer attractions are at a bit of a disadvantage here, as they haven't been open that long. And "popular" doesn't necessarily mean "best," but the 10 rides here certainly include some of our Orlando favorites.

10. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue revamps Disney's original Star Tours ride with a 3D projection system and multiple, randomly-selected scene options during your flight from the pursuit of the evil Galactic Empire.

9. Splash Mountain
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Splash Mountain

Fans love this musical romp with fun characters, some nifty twists and bumps, and its soaking wet, 40-miles-per-hour, 52-foot drop.

8. Test Track
Epcot

Test Track

While you wait to board, you'll get to choose some of the elements of a new car that will be tested during your ride. Once on board, you'll ride in a six-seat "test vehicle" as unseen engineers test your car for traction, response, efficiency, and, of course, speed.

7. Jurassic Park River Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure

Jurassic Park River Adventure

"Oooh, ahhh... that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming." Sure enough, the velociraptors escape, the meat-eaters are running loose, and, oh, is that a T-Rex trying to eat you? Hang on, because it's all downhill from there.

6. Soarin'
Epcot

Soarin'

Board one of three massive "hang gliders" for a flight around the state of California, breezing along above river rafters, orange groves, golf courses, national parks, and even an aircraft carrier. For the finale, you'll skim above a downtown Los Angeles freeway on your way to a fireworks display at Disneyland, making this the only theme park attraction whose climax is a scene from... another theme park.

5. Haunted Mansion
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Haunted Mansion

This Dutch Gothic Revival New England mansion looks innocent enough on the outside, but 999 "happy haunts" reside inside. The Haunted Mansion long has been one of Disney's most popular attractions at theme parks around the world, with its deft use of stagecraft to create a variety of illusions.

4. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Disney's Hollywood Studios

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Themed to an "Old Hollywood" resort from the late 1930's, this elaborately themed drop ride offers multiple drop sequences, so you'll probably not get the same ride twice.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Pirates of the Caribbean

Walk through the Spanish fortress and step into a bateau for your ride into a mysterious cavern. Be sure to "keep your ruddy hands in board," though, for "there be rough seas ahead," ones that will drop you into a musical pirate adventure.

2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Universal's Islands of Adventure

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

J. Jonah Jameson's hired you as an intern at the Daily Bugle, to test its new automated news-gathering vehicle, the SCOOP. But, of course, news breaks and everything goes “terribly wrong,” and you're soon twisting and spinning around the city as a collection of villains torments you with fireballs, floods, and even a 100-story drop.

1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Universal's Islands of Adventure

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Professor Dumbledore has opened Hogwarts Castle to Muggles for the first time, and you're invited. Step inside the castle for a walking tour of the dungeons, greenhouses, and Dumbledore's office, before Harry, Ron and Hermione catch up to help you board a flying bench for an airborne tour of the castle and grounds. Now if only you could get away from that nasty dragon that keeps chasing you....

What is your favorite theme park attraction in Orlando? And which one have you gone on the most over the years? Tell us, in the comments.

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Universal Studios Hollywood Construction Update: October 2014

By Robert Niles
Published: October 26, 2014 at 9:54 PM
Construction is moving at a brisk pace on the Upper Lot at Universal Studios Hollywood, where Springfield and Hogsmeade Village both remain on track for their openings in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Foot traffic on the Upper Lot has been reduced to one narrow path between construction walls on the way to The Simpsons Ride, Studio Tour and the Starway.

Construction

On the left, Louie's Pizza and Pasta has closed.

Louie's Pizza and Pasta

Meanwhile, construction on the Springfield USA restaurants appears to have reached full height.

Future west-coast home of Krusty Burger

On the other side of Springfield, construction continues on Hogsmeade Village and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here's the entrance to Hogsmeade, with the familiar arch from the Orlando version taking shape in the middle.

Hogsmeade Village construction

And here is what Hogsmeade looks like from the other side, from the Studio Tour exit.

More Hogsmeade construction

Of course, the highlight of all this is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the show building is approaching full enclosure, with facade work yet to begin.

Hogwarts Castle construction

A couple more items to note: With no trace left of the Flintstones Bar-B-Q, Universal has added a turkey leg to the menu at neighboring Pink's. However, Universal also has reduced the offerings on the Pink's menu, which is now down to a chili/cheese dog, the Mulholland dog, and a chili cheeseburger, in addition to the turkey leg, a plain hot dog, and a chicken Caesar salad (from Louie's). With cutbacks at Gru's Lab Cafe, too, the food options at the park continue to narrow for people who want something more than prepared "grab and go" options. (Universal Studios Hollywood remains the only major theme park in the country without a table service restaurant in the park.)

On a happier note, we visited this weekend on my birthday, using the free companion ticket that Universal sends to each annual passholder for their birthday month. This includes passholders with the $92 "buy a day, get the year" ticket. That's a $77 birthday present when you consider the price of the discounted companion ticket sold to USH annual passholders. So let's count that as one more perk for a USH annual pass. (Update: Now hearing that Universal's no longer giving away birthday tickets for new APs, starting with ones sold this month. Oh, well.)

At least we still have the birthday button!

Birthday button

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Review: Halloween Haunt at Canada's Wonderland

By Jacob Sundstrom
Published: October 26, 2014 at 7:45 PM
Going to a new theme park is one of my favorite things in the world — everything is interesting and foreign and new. Walking down a pathway for the first time, passing by a landmark for the first time; hell, entering a queue for the first time becomes a memorable and exhilarating experience. But beyond that newness, and beyond the biting cold and wind of Vaughan, Ontario, Canada’s Wonderland offers an incredible sense of scale.

Canada's Wonderland

The place is massive — clocking in at 321 acres (Disneyland sits at a paltry 160 in comparison) — and is essentially one big loop, very similar to the hub-and-spoke setup you’ll find at Disneyland (and at parks all over the world, not coincidentally). While Wonderland has been a staple of Canadian amusement parks for many years, it put itself on the international map in 2008 by opening Behemoth — it affirmed its spot there with the addition of Leviathan, and it further cemented its place in the North American pantheon with Guardian this year.

Behemoth

Wonderland has the third-largest roller coaster collection in North America, and while many of these aren’t anything to write home about (a Vekoma SLC, a few non-descript wooden coasters and a boomerang being among them), the Canadian park offers enough high-end thrills to earn its bronze medal. Beyond the coasters though, what makes Wonderland so great is its landscape — the park is absolutely gorgeous and there’s no lack for space anywhere inside. Wonderland largely achieves what I believe is a theme park’s chief goal: making guests forget about the world outside the gates.

Leviathan

This was especially true at the park’s Halloween Haunt event, which boasts 11 haunted attractions (10 of which are mazes) that sprawl across the park. Many of the names and themes are familiar to those who have spent any time at a Cedar Fair Haunt before — Asylum, Club Blood, CornStalkers and Terror of London are all mazes I’ve experienced in some form before, but rest assured they share in name and theme only. As someone who spends most of his Halloween-time in Southern California, it was interesting to see how permanent many of these mazes are — in sheds and warehouses backstage, it was pretty clear a few of these mazes hibernate 11 months out of the year before being spruced up for the annual haunt.

Asylum

That isn’t a knock on the event, to be clear, it’s just a comment on what is necessary to put on a Halloween event without a year-round staff dedicated to it. There is no John Murdy and there is no well-publicized-designers-panel like at Knott’s Berry Farm. The actors eschew makeup for masks for the most part, and like at Knott’s the impetus is certainly more on fun than fear. While there were a few good scares to be had, the mazes seemed to be designed to give you a sense of place and not a sense of dread.

Halloween Haunt

There were no chainsaw actors and I didn’t see a single slider at the event — we were able to finish every maze within a few hours of its opening, thanks in large part to the parks’ massive size. While many of the mazes were a bit forgettable, CornStalkers stood out as one of the scarier mazes I’ve experienced. To get to the entrance you must walk through what feels like miles of queue which takes you towards the back of the park. Once you arrive there you are sent through corn stalks that are easily nine-feet tall — and they straddle a path that couldn’t be much narrower. Many of the actors could use some coaching, but by and large the event was a lot of fun.

In many ways that sums up the Canada’s Wonderland experience — it wasn’t striving to be Disneyland or Universal Studios, and it doesn’t have to be. What it did was set attainable goals and knock them out one after another. With two of the best coasters in North America in Behemoth and Leviathan and a nice collection of all-ages coasters and rides, Wonderland has the talent to be a name-brand park; now it just needs the recognition.

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Let's Give Away Some Stuff!

By Robert Niles
Published: October 25, 2014 at 8:11 AM
It's my birthday today, and to celebrate, I'll be the one giving away the presents! Here is a look at some of the stuff I will be giving away to Theme Park Insider readers this week:

Birthday giveaway

The haul will include:

  • An interactive magic wand from Ollivander's in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
  • A commemorative wand from the opening of the original Wizarding World at Universal's Islands of Adventure in 2010
  • A Harry Potter gift pack, with a Fanged Flyer, Pygmy Puff, and Hogwarts Express hat
  • A Gringotts prize pack, with commemorative vault key, "gold" bar, and a $20 Gringotts bank note
  • A limited-edition Disney Oswald the Lucky Rabbit watch
  • A pair of "Glow with the Show" "Made with Magic" mouseketeer ears
  • A Dooney & Bourke Mickey Mouse handbag

Prize packs also will include a signed copy of our new Theme Park Insider Visits the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or upcoming Theme Park Insider Visits Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando: 2015 guidebooks.

If you haven't registered to become a member of Theme Park Insider yet, please do so right now, as we will be giving away these prizes on our Discussion Board next week, and you will need to be a registered member of the site and logged into your account to enter to win.

We will put one prize pack up for giveaway each day, starting Monday and continuing through a week from tomorrow (Sunday). But there will be a task that you (collectively) will need to accomplish before we give away each prize. That's all I am saying about that for now. ;^)

This is good stuff, everyone! So register now, log in, and start following our Discussion Board to be ready to enter when the giveaway starts on Monday.

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