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Eight First Impressions from Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios Japan

By Rob McCullough
Published: August 28, 2015 at 7:47 PM
It has taken me a long time to digest everything we had the chance to experience at Tokyo Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Japan. It’s obvious that there are a lot of sites out there that you can go to for a highly detailed review of all the elements of these three parks. I decided not to do the same. Those people had a lot more time and were able to experience way more than I was able to do in three days. Believe me, three days is better than nothing, but it won’t even let you scratch the surface. So I figured I’d just give you some of my impressions from visiting these three remarkable theme parks.


We visited Japan in early June, which must be one of the best times to go. Schools are still in session and there are no holidays in June. As a result, all three parks we visited were relatively uncrowded. I have seen photos of the lines at the turnstiles at TDLR that seem to stretch for miles. We arrived at each park within the first hour of operation and never waited more than five minutes to get through bag check and past the turnstiles. Granted, June is the start of the rainy season so we didn’t see a lot of blue sky, but it also never poured on us and the clouds help keep it fairly cool.

Seating for parades and shows

1. You won’t believe the size of Tokyo Disneyland – If your home Disney park is Disneyland in California, going to the Magic Kingdom at WDW for the first time will give you a little bit of the size shock Walt Disney World visitors will experience upon walking around TDL. You may have heard that the streets are wider, but you won’t believe the difference. Space is something residents of Tokyo don’t get a lot of, so when TDL was designed, it was built big to handle the crowds and give the visitors the experience of being in a place with a lot of room. One of the first places we stopped to soak it all in was the edge of the hub near Cinderella Castle. There is a huge seating area in the center of the hub that must have enough seating for several hundred people. Another part of the park where the scale was very evident was Tomorrowland.


2. The merchandise is very different – If you have ever been in a Hello Kitty store here in the states, imagine that esthetic and merchandise mix, but as Disney. That’s what it’s like to go shopping at a theme park in Japan. You traveled all the way to DisneySea and you can’t wait to ride the greatest dark ride in the world, Journey to the Center of the Earth. As you head towards the exit, you think, “I’m going to buy a T-shirt and a hat so I can wear them next time I’m at my home park and impress everybody.” Sorry, no you’re not. Not only are there no gift shops at most of the exits, the nearest gift shop to JTTCOTE sells mostly princess stationary and cellphone charms. Attraction specific merchandise was very sparse. Tower of Terror had a few things. Pooh’s Honey Hunt had a lot of Winnie the Pooh merchandise, but little of it was ride related. One of my favorite souvenirs I bought is a reproduction of the flashlight you use while riding Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek. Are you a Pinhead? Leave them at home. There will be nobody to trade with and not a lot of pins to buy. It’s just not a thing in Japan. I am curious to know if they bump up the pin programs with the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

So what are the popular things to buy at theme parks in Japan? The most popular items seem to be small gifts you take back home to give to friends and family. This largely takes the form of boxed cookies, rice crackers, ramen and candy. All the goodies in those boxes or bags are individually wrapped so they can be passed around the office or classroom upon your return. Cell phone charms, stationary – pens, pads, stickers and house wear, character head towels and hats are very popular. There is also this bear you might have seen named Duffy. Duffy is mildly popular in the states, but people lose their cotton-picking minds over Duffy in Japan. I’ve never seen anything like it. There are entire shops in DisneySea dedicated to him, his girlfriend and now a cat who paints. I bought a small Duffy plush meant to be clipped to a back pack. He is dressed in his Easter finest including a straw hat. It was the most quintessentially Tokyo DisneySea thing I could think of to buy.

More weird food

3. And so is the food – Would you want to travel all the way to Japan and eat the same stuff there you can get in Orlando? No. Most of the food is Asian inspired, but you can find the occasional burger, pizza or fried chicken meal too. The Hungry Bear in Westernland features curry dishes, not B-B-Q. The shelves in the bakery in World Bazaar aren’t overflowing with chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes and Krispy treats. What you will find instead are the kinds of breads and sweet rolls you’d find in an Asian bakery, many of them slightly tweaked to look like Disney characters including a melon flavored “Little Green Man” bun. Turkey legs are represented, but they are much smaller than the caveman sized legs sold in the US. There is also an abundance of character shaped food. Rice on a plate is almost always molded into a Mickey head. Sandwich buns in a restaurant in the Mermaid Lagoon section look like clam shells. Universal Japan has steamed buns in the shape of Hello Kitty and the Minions. Many locations at TDR didn’t offer any diet soda, but they do have delicious bottled teas and Kirin lemon…it’s wonderful. I’m sure you know about the amazing variety of flavored popcorn sold at the parks in Japan. There were at least a dozen varieties found between the parks. We finally broke down and bought the banana and chocolate flavored popcorn at Universal mostly because of the extremely cool Minion popcorn box. His eyes are articulated and they look left to right as you walk.

If anybody can pull this look off, this sexy devil can.

4. Fellow guests are extremely courteous – Do you ever get annoyed by the people you are waiting in line around, or who are standing near you while waiting for a parade or show? It might have partially been that I couldn’t understand their conversations, but the guests in these parks just seemed more civil than those in the parks in America. I never once saw a flash photograph taken inside a ride or show. Nobody ever tried to break in line. Even the large school groups we saw were on their best behavior. Most amazing is how people wait for and then watch the parades. The culture is to stay seated near the front, and this gives a much better view to everyone. People are allowed to spread out plastic sheets or blankets one hour before the parade starts. Families stay on their sheet and everyone has a fine view. I’m curious to know, is the blanket/sheet used to hold their space, or to keep them from sitting on the dirty ground.


5. Ride vehicles are built to a smaller rider size – I’m a big boy, always have been, but I’ve never felt uncomfortable on a Disney ride vehicle. Seats seem to be designed around the average size of Asians, not North Americans. All the coasters, Splash Mountain, Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek, even Journey to the center of the earth were uncomfortable or difficult to get into and out of. In many rides there is both a seat divider between riders and a bump at the edge of the seat right where your crotch sits. This greatly decreases the size of the seat. When we went to ride the Raging Spirits coaster at DisneySea, the cast member at the single rider entrance called another cast member over to escort us to a test seat. The seat was down a hidden path, in an enclosed structure so nobody would be able to see my husband and I attempt to squeeze into the seat. We both fit, but it’s a very peculiar exercise to go through with staff members who speak very little English. Universal Studios Japan has not installed the Big Boy seats that IOA has on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I did not fit. My husband could, but even the single rider line was posted at a two-hour wait; far too long a wait based on our very limited time at USJ. Luckily we have ridden the ride in Orlando dozens of times. your Easter bonnet...

6. The staff is not as fluent in English as you might expect – We only had one situation in three days of theme park visits where the language barrier seemed to be more than we could manage. That situation was eventually resolved. Just know most of the staff is not going to be able to make small talk with you in English. You will have no trouble taking care of the usual theme park business. Almost all the shows are in Japanese. The Country Bear Jamboree had a couple of English numbers, but the Tiki Room was all in Japanese. Storm Rider had English subtitles during the preshow, but there was nothing in the main theater. I’m sure our Jungle Cruise skipper was really funny based on the other people in the boat, but I had to rely on my experience to know I was looking at “The backside of water!” We watched the Backdraft show at USJ. It is sadly dated. Ron Howard looks about 16 years old in his mid-1990’s sweater and ball cap. The entire show was dubbed in Japanese which actually made this attraction more fun based on the silliness of not understanding what was being said. I am positive that if something major had come up a fluent English speaker could have called to help at a moment’s notice. It’s also important to remember to learn a few simple phrases in Japanese out of simple courtesy to the Cast Members who are working so hard to bring these amazing places to life.


7. The rides are across the board tamer in Japan – I will always prefer the Orlando version of Tower of Terror for its ride experience, but nothing can compare with the version in Japan up to the moment the ride begins. You just have to experience it, but the queue for TOT tells a much more compelling story, and one that will never lose its connection with the visitors. The Twilight Zone is an important part of mid-century American TV culture, but it is not something that I bet many under 30s have a connection with. Anybody can look at the paintings of Mr. Harrison Hightower in Tokyo DisneySea's version of Tower of Terror and understand what he is all about. It’s obvious why bad things happened to him…and eventually us. The same goes for the Raging Spirits rollercoaster. It looks amazing! The spectator aspect of it is amazing. The ride, eh…I’m glad we did the 20-minute single rider line rather than the 80-minute standby line.


8. Rides still have corporate sponsors – Until the last 15 or so years US rides were almost always associated with a corporate sponsor. You don’t see that as much anymore. I think every major ride and lots of smaller rides and shows in the parks in Japan still have corporate sponsors. Even the Hello Kitty Cupcake spinner was sponsored by Mr. Donut, a brand that I used to love, but don’t know if they are even still in business in the US.

Yes, that's a shore enough Mickey Churro

Final impressions – If you have any friends who are not theme park people they may seem very concerned about why you’d waste a day of vacation in a theme park that is, in their eyes, the same old thing you can do in California or Florida. A – Don’t listen to them. B - Why are you friends with people like that? My husband is less enthusiastic about parks than I am. Our first stop at Tokyo Disneyland was the line for Pooh’s Honey Hunt. I got in line and he headed out to retrieve Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain. When he got back his eyes were wide and bright and he said, “You are not going to believe how amazing this park is!” He was right. We both had a remarkable visit. Anybody would.

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Where to Stay: Review of Disney's Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World

By Amanda Jenkins
Published: August 27, 2015 at 10:58 AM
As Labor Day approaches, we know that summer is coming to an end. But there is a place though that captures the essence of summer and holds on to it all year long. That would be Disney’s Beach Club Resort. I’m sure that I am not the only one who has ever rode the Friendships between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and gazed longingly at the large pirate ship, where squeals of delight were heard. The white sandy beach stretched out along Crescent Lake beckons you toward the resort. Needless to say, this bright blue resort called to me like a mythical siren. I had to stay there.

Disney’s Beach Club Resort

Our vacation this summer allowed me that chance. It took a lot of persuading on my part to convince the guys that this was the place to go. With our annual passes, I was able to book a club level room with a nice discount. Once I pointed out that this was the resort that we were dying to go due to the pirate ship slide, they were slightly ready to give in to my request.

Stormalong Bay

We arrived early and it was immediately apparent upon entering that the lobby brought about a sophisticated ambiance mixed in with memories of a beach visit. The lobby is decorated in creams, browns, blues, and sea foam greens. Many of the seating areas boasts of shell-like furniture, which draws one to sit nestled, like a pearl, within it. The impressive chandelier has large seahorses and is draped with a string of pearls. The sconces also had shells and starfish as part of their designs. It seems to be the perfect setting to start one’s stay.


Our room was located on the first floor. I personally have never stayed on the first floor at any of the resorts, so this was also a new experience. Our room contained two queen beds and one daybed (with chocolate mints on our pillows each night). It was a corner room and it felt like we had more space than usual. The room contained two sets of windows and a sliding glass door leading out to a patio. Our room looked out over Crescent Lake of one window and a small pool out the other.


The wallpaper design had little seahorses and the pictures were of beach scenes. We even had a Mickey lamp that helped remind you that you were at a “seaside” resort. The bathroom was more nautical in design with a ship and lighthouse wallpaper on the walls and seashells as the design along the vanity area. Two of the things I liked most about this room was how bright it was and the fresh flowers that were placed on our chest each day. I was concerned that staying on the first floor would result in a more disruptive rest with noise, but we did not suffer from any of these.

Mickey lamp

The Stone Harbor Club is the concierge level where one can get snacks and drinks throughout the day. It is also decorated along the lines of the lobby. We were not as impressed with the selections that were offered here. The only items that caught our eyes were the desserts offered in the evenings. The other snacks offered were not appetizing. Our concierge stay at the Board Walk resort offered a much better selection of food. My boys did not eat anything here other than the occasional chocolate chip cookie. We would mostly come up here to get some cokes and the occasional dessert during our stay here.

Stone Harbor Club

Now for the entire reason I wanted to stay at this lovely resort. The most impressive three-acre pool ever created is known as Stormalong Bay. When I visit Walt Disney World, I don’t believe in hanging out at the hotel, much less the pool for very long. I’ve always felt that this took away from time I could spend riding rides at the parks. This pool totally blew that idea out of the water. Both the Yacht and Beach Club guests share this massive pool. It is such an incredibly popular place, that castmembers are stationed at the entrances to scan MagicBands to make sure that there are no outside visitors. I asked some of the castmembers about this and they informed me of how many people try and sneak in to this pool. They said that many attempt to climb the rocks to get inside, only to realize that there is no way to enter in through that path. Once your MagicBand is scanned and they see that yes, you are indeed a resort guest, you are given another wristband to wear so that you may come and go as you please into that pool. The colors of the wristband change each day. You are also checked for these wristbands if you are attempting to go down the slide.

Water slide

This pool is by far the shining gem of this resort. I have never had so much fun at a resort pool. And we tried it all! It is a steep climb up to the pirate ship slide, but so worth it. There is also a lazy pool area (probably for those that climbed the pirate ship over and over), where there are floats available to allow the gentle waves to push you through the meandering path. I loved floating along, letting my feet drag along the sandy bottom. Absolute paradise. There are other sectioned off pools for little ones and for those that want a quieter swim without the lazy part. The proof that this pool is so wonderful is that my family (all of which would ride rides for as long as the parks stay open) actually chose to not go to the parks twice during our stay just so that we could spend as much time as possible at Stormalong Bay.


This resort is lovely. It was undergoing some refurbishment while we were there, yet it did not disturb our stay. We loved being here. The only problems we encountered were with food. With my picky eaters, it was hard to find quick service selections to meet each of these needs. We were satisfied with the room service we ordered during our stay. Transportation was excellent considering the summer crowds, and we loved being next door to Epcot’s World Showcase. Within five minutes we were at Epcot from walking along the pathway. The boats and walkways to Hollywood Studios were a pleasant change from the buses. We will definitely be returning to this resort for another visit. This resort dedicated to summer fun has won our hearts.

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Knott's Berry Farm Announces its 2015 Halloween Haunt Lineup

By Jacob Sundstrom
Published: August 27, 2015 at 9:50 AM
On Wednesday night, Knott's Scary Farm announced the lineup for its 2015 event to loud, lengthy applause. Again. This is the third year I’ve been to Charles M. Schultz Theater to see the unveiling of Scary Farm on a warm August night, and it never ceases to amaze me how fired up the fans of this event are. Knott’s manages to pack the theater just to announce what mazes will be at the event. This, you may have gathered, doesn’t just happen everywhere. In fact, it doesn’t happen anywhere. Except Knott’s.

Knott's Scary Farm reveal

What makes all the commotion all the more amazing is that there really weren’t very many new mazes unveiled. Seven mazes had already been announced prior to the event, six of which were returners, and front man Jeff Tucker announced four more -- two of which were new. A slate of three new mazes out of 11 total isn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but Scary Farm has largely trimmed down on the fat and excess of some of its mazes and most of the offering at this year’s event sound pretty darn good. So let’s get to that.


Dead of Winter
Somehow, someway we made it through this announcement without a “Let it Go” joke being cracked. God is good. “Dead of Winter” takes guests through an icy tundra to face a vengeful snow queen; what she’s so upset about isn’t mentioned and honestly doesn’t matter. Vikings were mentioned, meaning this will have a bit of a Nordic twist.

Sound familiar? Of course not.

Paranormal Inc.
This announcement had a considerable amount of song and dance to it. A group of paranormal researchers (think Ghost Hunters, or Tucker and Specs from “Insidious”) came out on stage to announce they would be doing some research at Knott’s Berry Farm.

While talking about their work, one of the not-so-lucky band of nerds is snatched up by some sort of invisible demon, ala “Paranormal Activity,” and is dragged away to a grisly murder (offstage, of course). This maze sounds to me like a classic haunted house with this group of paranormal investigators mixed in as a bit of comic relief. Sign me up.

My Bloody Clementine
While not really a maze, the newest overlay on the Calico Mine Ride sounds like it just might be the best yet. Taking full advantage of the updated tech on the Mine Ride, Knott’s will opt to tell a great ghost story on the ride in 2015. Oh, and for the first time there will be live actors populating the mine.

How this will all play out remains to be seen, but color me optimistic. I think this is going to work.


Special Ops Infected - Patient Zero
I was not a huge fan of the Special Ops experience at Scary Farm last year. I was in the minority. This year it’s back with double the actors and double the route — and updated guns to boot. So if you liked it last year, it’s back with a vengeance this year.

The Gunslinger’s Grave - A Blood Moon Rises
This was, by far, the worst maze at Scary Farm last year. Why? It wasn’t scary. Because cowboys aren’t scary. That just might change this year, as it sounds like werewolves will be added to the mix in a reboot of last year’s maze.

Voodoo - Order of the Serpent
By far the best maze last year, Voodoo is back and bigger than ever; which is good news given the maze’s relatively small footprint last year.


Tooth Fairy
A decent maze last year that will serve its purpose well this year.

Trick or Treat
Quickly becoming a staple of Scary Farm, this was one of the better mazes over the past couple of years and there’s no reason to think that will change this year.

One of my personal favorites, particularly because the set dressings are so damn good, this Edgar Allen Poe themed maze is a lot of fun.

Black Magic
Cool sets and a fun concept have been largely wasted on an aimless, directionless cast. Someone figure out how to get scares going in this thing!

Pinocchio Unstrung
Just bring back the Doll Factory. This maze has long rotted away.


Elvira’s Asylum
She didn’t make an appearance at Wednesday’s unveiling, but she’ll be back for the third-straight year with a new show.

The Hanging
Here’s the new Hanging, it’ll be a lot like the old Hanging.

Tickets are on sale now and the event begins on Sept. 24. What maze are you most looking forward to?

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What's Next in Orlando? Here are 16 New Reasons for Fans to Visit in the Next Five Years

By Robert Niles
Published: August 26, 2015 at 10:11 AM
Let's face it — 2015 has been a quiet year for the Orlando-area theme parks, as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have pretty much taken the year off from opening any major new attractions. But things are about to change in Central Florida, as the region's theme parks have announced more than a dozen major new attractions to open over the next few years. Let's take a look at all the parks have told us is coming.

Coming Later This Year

Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen · Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen

This Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant will open in the old Adventureland Veranda space by the end of the year.

Hello Kitty Experience · Universal Studios Florida

Hello Kitty

This shop and meet-and-greet location is taking over the recently closed "Lucy: A Tribute" exhibition space.

Star Wars Launch Bay · Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Launch Bay

Featuring meet and greets, shops, and exhibits based on the new movies, the Launch Bay will open in the old Animation building.

Coming in 2016

Frozen Ever After · Epcot

Frozen Ever After

This overlay of the old Maelstrom ride will open next spring, along with a new Anna & Elsa meet-and-greet building next door.

Mako · SeaWorld Orlando

Orlando's first Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, which will be the city's tallest and faster, opens next summer.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong · Universal's Islands of Adventure

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Kong returns to the Universal Orlando Resort next summer, in this dark ride that will blend 3D imagery and animatronics.

Sapphire Falls Resort · Universal Orlando

Sapphire Falls Resort

Universal Orlando's fifth on-site hotel opens in July 2016.

Soarin' Over the World · Epcot

The new version of Disney's Soarin' film opens sometime next year, along with a third theater for the show, to provide addition capacity for what is often Epcot's longest wait.

Rivers of Light · Disney's Animal Kingdom

Rivers of Light

Animal Kingdom's first night-time spectacular also debuts sometime in 2016.

Disney Springs · Walt Disney World

Disney Springs

The transformation of Downtown Disney will wrap up by next year, with coming additions of the Indiana Jones-themed Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, The Edison, and STK Orlando.

Coming in 2017

Volcano Bay Water Park · Universal Orlando

Volcano Bay Water Park

Universal's new 33-acre, on-site, themed water park opens in 2017 and replaces Wet n' Wild, which will close at the end of next summer.

Fast & Furious · Universal Studios Florida

Fast & Furious

You'll walk through the warehouse where Dom and his gang work on their high-performance cars, then we are guessing you'll be invited to test-ride a new, experimental vehicle. When you do, of course, something goes terribly wrong as arch-enemy Shaw attacks... and the gang has to save the day.

Pandora - The World of Avatar · Disney's Animal Kingdom

Pandora - The World of Avatar

Disney's next new land will open in two years, transporting visitors to the planet Pandora, the setting for James Cameron's Avatar. The land's highlight will be a new Soarin'-style, 3D Banshee ride called "Flight of Passage." There also will be a boat ride through a bioluminescent forest, and of course, those massive, floating mountains outside.

Coming in 2018 (more or less, we think)

From this point forward, we are guessing on opening dates.

Toy Story Land · Disney's Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Land

Disney will recreate Andy's backyard in this new land, will will feature a new entrance to the popular Toy Story Midway Mania ride, as well as a new spinner and a family coaster.

Nintendo · Universal Orlando


Universal has announced plans to bring Nintendo-themed attractions to Universal Orlando, but hasn't yet said where or when. If someone's taking bets, we'd wager a Butterbeer on Nintendo becoming the replacement for Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone, in 2018 or 2019.

Coming in 2020 (you think)

Star Wars Land · Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Land

Disney's largest new themed land expansion will feature two new rides, one placing you in the middle of a battle with the First Order, and another where you take control of the Millennium Falcon. Immersive locations, stores, restaurants and a cantina bar complete the land, for which Disney has yet to announce an opening date.

Of course, this list includes only new developments that parks have officially announced. It doesn't include planned refurbishments, including the announced improvements to the Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure, or upcoming special events, such as the Star Wars-themed Seasons of the Force at Walt Disney World. The rumor mill also adds several other potential new attractions onto the schedule for the next five years, including a replacement for the Twister show at Universal Studios Florida, new Marvel-themed rides at IOA, and maybe even another Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion.

When will be your next trip to Orlando, and for what?

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Universal Bringing Fast & Furious to Orlando

By Robert Niles
Published: August 25, 2015 at 2:15 PM
Universal Orlando will build a new Fast & Furious-themed attraction at Universal Studios Florida for a 2017 debut.

Universal's sibling park in California opened a Fast & Furious encounter on its Studio Tour this summer, a 3D motion base ride on the park's backlot trams, with new scenes created for the ride starring franchise actors Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, and Luke Evans.

Universal Studios Florida's version will take over the space currently used by the Disaster attraction and Beetlejuice show, both of which will be closing soon.

Fast & Furious
Universal's concept art suggests that the first scene in the attraction will be a walk-through

Universal Orlando published notice of the new attraction yesterday before pulling it back. The post reappeared today, offering a description of the new attraction that holds to the same form as the Hollywood version except that it will be a stand-alone attraction, as Disaster! featured a stand-alone version of the Hollywood park's tram-tour Earthquake encounter:

This ride is going to fuse everything you love about the films with an original storyline and incredible ride technology. You’ll get to check out some of the high-speed, supercharged cars you’ve seen on the big screen. You’ll be immersed in the underground racing world made famous in the films and explore the headquarters of Toretto and his team. Then, you’ll board specially-designed vehicles for an adrenaline-pumping ride with your favorite stars from the films.

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Why Isn't Disneyland Getting a New Marvel-themed Land?

By Robert Niles
Published: August 24, 2015 at 11:07 AM
Will Disney ever do anything more with Marvel at its U.S. theme parks?

That's the question I address in my newspaper column this week, Why so little love for Marvel at the Disneyland Resort?

Marvel characters

Earlier this month at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Disney did not announce any major new Marvel-themed attractions for the Disneyland Resort, even as it announced new lands based on Star Wars for Disneyland and Walt Disney World and announced a Toy Story Land and detailed new attractions based on Frozen and Avatar for Disney World. Theme Park Insider readers already know that Disney does not hold the rights to use major Marvel characters at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, thanks to Marvel's long-standing deal with the Universal Orlando Resort.

But why can't Disney do something with Marvel in California, where it does own the theme park rights to these characters? In my column, I respond that the answer comes down to two issues: space and demographics. Even with a new 5,000-space parking structure coming online in the next few years, Disneyland simply doesn't have the parking capacity to handle the extra crowds that a new Star Wars Land and a Marvel Land would bring. That's the space problem.

So why Star Wars instead of Marvel? That's the demographics. Right now, Star Wars' demo skews older than Marvel's. But with new movies on the way, Disney is betting that Star Wars will extend its appeal to younger visitors, while retaining and even deepening its appeal to older visitors. That would give Star Wars a broader demographic appeal than Marvel. Throw in the fact that Disney can spread the development cost of a new Star Wars Land by building on both coasts, and going with Star Wars becomes the easier choice for Disneyland.

Granted, if Disney had abundant open in space in Anaheim, it probably would go ahead and build both lands, using Marvel to appeal to whatever segment of the market like Marvel but doesn't care for Star Wars, and to lengthen visits from fans of both. But Disney doesn't have that kind of space in Anaheim. It does in Florida, but it doesn't have the rights to use Marvel there. If Marvel is going to expand its theme park presence in Florida, it will happen at Universal Orlando.

And that is why American theme park fans aren't getting a Marvel-themed land at a Disney theme park resort.

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When Will Star Wars Land Open?

By Robert Niles
Published: August 21, 2015 at 11:15 AM
Vote of the Week: Star Wars fans would love to know when they can start planning their Disney vacations to see the new Star Wars Land, either at Disneyland or Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. Although Disney has officially announced its plans to build these two lands, it hasn't said anything about when they will open... beyond "it will take a while."

Star Wars Land
Star Wars Land concept art courtesy Disney

But even though we have no official news about an opening date for Star Wars Land, Disney's left a trail of clues for dedicated theme park fans to follow. By taking a look at the timeline of previous major building projects at Disney World and Disneyland, and considering the current status of the project, we can make a very educated guess about when these new lands will open.

Construction has not yet started in either Anaheim or Orlando. Disneyland has identified the site in the park where it will build its Star Wars Land, but Walt Disney World has yet to announce its location in DHS. At least one contractor is on board in Orlando, and the permitting process has begun in Anaheim.

Both parks will have to start major demolition and infrastructure work as the first steps in their Star Wars Land construction. Disneyland is moving some of its backstage facilities to remote locations in order to expand the on-stage boundaries of the park to accommodate Star Wars Land. Disney's Hollywood Studios is said to be working on new access roads and expanded parking, which will allow for the expansion of on-stage boundaries for its Star Wars Land, as well. In addition, existing on-stage facilities will be need to be demolished to clear space for Star Wars Land on both coasts.

How long will all this take? Let's look at Disney's recent construction history with major new lands. Disney announced plans in 2007 for Cars Land at the Disneyland Resort, completing that project in 2012. That's five years. In Florida, Disney announced its Avatar project for Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2011 and will complete it in 2017, for a six-year development period. Disney announced the New Fantasyland project in 2011* and finished it last year, for a three-year build. (*Update: Comment points out that the original plans for New Fantasyland were announced in 2009. The 2.0 version, with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, was announced in 2011. So let's say three-to-five years for that project.)

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

Plans for Star Wars Land appear to be further along than Avatar was when it was announced. However, Star Wars Land will require more surrounding infrastructure development than even Cars Land did, and certainly much more than New Fantasyland. And then there's the timing of promotions to consider. Disney is also working on a Toy Story Land for Disney's Hollywood Studios and its much-hyped Avatar land opens in 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

It's hard to imagine Disney squandering promotional opportunities by opening any two of these new lands in the same year. Given that Disney has not announced an opening date for Toy Story Land, either, that tends to suggest that it won't be open by next year. If you save 2017 for Avatar, that slides Toy Story Land to 2018. That then puts Star Wars Land on deck for 2019 — at the earliest.

Disneyland doesn't have any competing projects on deck. But parking at that resort is causing gridlock on busy days already, even without Star Wars Land attracting thousands of new guests each day. It's hard to imagine that its Star Wars Land will open before Disneyland completes its new 5,000-space parking garage east of Harbor Boulevard, which is expected to take several years, as construction has not started on that, either.

So with all this in mind... let's crowdsource an answer here. (Or at least, a collectively educated guess.)

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