Written by Jeff Elliott
Published: January 31, 2013 at 1:20 PM
Middle-Earth – Not that this confirms anything at all, but a trademark was just taken out for use of Middle-Earth in a theme park. The rumors said that it was Universal that was trying to close a deal, and that much we cannot confirm, but it does look like it is moving past the wild theory stage. [Editor's note: The applicant is Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises), a division of The Saul Zaentz Company, which holds the worldwide licensing rights to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. If the name sounds familiar, Zaentz is a film producer who won Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, and The English Patient. He also produced the Ralph Bakshi version of LoTR.]
Transformers, under construction in Orlando late last year
Universal Studios Florida - Transformers the Ride is progressing on its lightening schedule and is now said to be doing test runs of the vehicles that were dropped off in the dead of the night. They are getting close to the last hundred days, so I am sure they are very close to the panic stage. In other news, work continues near the Simpsons ride were they are working on the facades in what looks like they may turn into Moe's Tavern, Krusty Burger, and Kentucky Fried Panda. Personally, I have never heard of a Kentucky Fried Panda, but if you want something to not go extinct, make food out of it and the ranchers will fall over themselves trying to figure out a way to keep the supply up. I wonder what Panda veal tastes like?
Universal Studios Hollywood – Apparently, sometime between Despicable Me and Harry Potter’s openings, there are plans for another new attraction. As of yet this project is shrouded in mystery. It has been a while since I have been to this park, so I am not sure what they need. Good guesses might include How To Train Your Dragon, The Grinch, and Madagascar…or maybe Lord of the Rings.
SeaWorld San Diego – Shamu is now taking reservations for a candlelit dinner for two on Valentine’s Day. Namely: you and Shamu. Please don’t bother bring a guest, because on Valentine’s Day, Shamu is your date. And I hope you brought the high credit limit card because Shamu only eats high quality seafood and really knows how to pack it away by the shovelful. At least you can go on this date with the knowledge that even though you are paying a mint for all of the food your date is shoveling down its throat like it was nothing, you will be guaranteed to see your date naked by the end of the night, because Shamu doesn’t normally wear any clothes. So if you are sick and tired of expensive dates that end shortly after the dessert tray has made its fifth pass past the table, give SeaWorld a call and see if there are any more slots open to go on a Valentine date with Shamu.
SeaWorld San Antonio – Pets Ahoy is the name of the new comic show for this year featuring dogs, cats, birds, rats, and pot-belly pigs. I wonder if they realized how close they got their show name to Chips Ahoy. Now all I can think about is food. Mmmmm…bacon. Mmmmm…poultry wrapped in bacon. Mmmmmm…anything wrapped in bacon.
Disney Theme Parks - Disney has several patents that are currently being processed by the patent office, one of which is a system that projects 3D images on a water screen. I don't think this technology is very feasible for World of Color, but Fantasmic in Florida is an option as well as Shanghai. The problem with 3D is that the view angle is very limited and can only be seen correctly from the front side.
Shanghai Disneyland – It appears that the first stage is near completion. All of the infrastructure is nearly complete and they are now starting to work on vertical construction. Don’t get your hopes up, the first thing that they are building is a production center and then preview center. After that they are going to start work on the Toy Story themed hotel. But eventually they may start getting around to the really important part of the park, the FastPass machines.
Epic Mickey – The studio that created Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2, named Junction Point Studios, is being shut down by Disney. With all of the money that Disney is losing on their video game division (to the tune of 1.6 billion), you had to know that the second you have a flop the doors are getting locked. I played Epic Mickey and it was so frustrating and tedious that I didn’t bother to buy the second one even though I heard it was much better. The first game sold 2.7 million copies because it was an awesome premise. The second game sold just over 500,000 copies because the first one was so bad, that after you got past the first movie intro, it quickly bogged to so that no one finished the game, and those that did saw no need to go and do it again. R.I.P. Junction Point Studios.
Muppets - The new Muppet movie now has a name: The Muppets...Again! I don't quite see how this is any better than Muppets 2 and certain not as good as Muppets II. The could have at least called it The Great Muppet Caper 2, since that is what the story is eerily familiar to.
Star Wars - There are a couple of interesting bits in this universe. First of all, Disney has confirmed that JJ Abrams, who did a bit of good work for ABC with that "Lost" series that no one really watched, so Disney has decided to bring him back and see if he can use some of the same tricks to make the Star Wars Universal never end. As a result of all of this going on and the frankly tepid response to Episode 1 in 3D, Episode 2 and Episode 3's conversions to 3D have been put on hold while they work on a movie people might actually be interested in dropping a couple of coins for. There have been some rumors that the casting directors have been looking for Brittany Spears to play "the annoying character" in the first new movie, but they have learned their lesson from the prequel movies and plan on killing her character off in the first 5 minutes...shortly after singing a song for the soundtrack that is undecipherable under some random rap guy's gangsta lyrics….and twenty years later when the special edition comes out, they will replace the song anyway.
Big Thunder – Disney has decided to use one of their rides for the seed idea for a story. This time it is based on Big Thunder Mountain (but only called Big Thunder), and this idea is going to be a TV series.
Epcot – Someone took a low light camera onto Test Track. This video does a very good job of showing all of the projection screens and work they did to the retheming.
Escape from Tomorrow – This has been going around the message boards so I thought that it was important to mention it in here. I hate to break the news to everyone, the coolest thing about this movie, well, you already know it…that the movie was shot renegade style in the Disney Parks without permission. Now here are the bad parts: the filming is bad, the acting is bad, the story doesn’t make any sense and is a flimsy premise at best, and finally it will never, ever, see the light of day, because Disney’s lawyers are going to bankrupt the filmmakers in legal fees trying to defend themselves in court. Trust me, this one only sounds cool, but it is a waste of your time and money.
Walt Disney World – Following the lead from its CEO, there has been a severe change in the cast members over the last couple of days. Instead of calmly answering question, cast members now harangue guests for not reading the fine print on the map and figuring it out for themselves. Cast members were also observed glowering disappointedly at guests who didn’t seem to know what they were doing at the parks and making snide comments to each other suggesting that the guests should know better. When quizzed about the drastic change in attitude, a cast member told me, “We always try to take our lead from the people in charge and there is no higher person in the chain of command than our CEO. Going off of his example, this is how he wants every cast member to treat guests.”
Kentucky Kingdom - Ed Hart and company have finally officially won the bid to resurrect the park (not that there were any other bidders). The work starts on Monday. Good luck. Stay safe. And let us know if you need anyone from Theme Park Insider to go on a tour to see what you have been up to. It is a long hill to climb to get the park back up to a million patrons, and you could probably use all the help you can get.
Kings Island - Instead of just removing Son of Beast, it looks like there is further clearing and slashing that is going on at the park. The go-cart track has now been removed and the water tower in the action section is being removed as well. This definitely makes a person wonder what they have in mind to put back in that area. New rumors point to a single large ride and future expansion plans, but I can’t think of anything that big that Kings Island doesn’t already have. Screamscape thinks maybe a huge inverted coaster. I am thinking of a dive coaster or the new magnetic 4D coaster S&S was talking about…but it is all pure speculation.
Schlitterbaun Padre Island - While I have been to Schlitterbaun on South Padre Island before they added the indoor water park, and am more than happy to step up to the stand and testify for the absolute genius of a water park where you (almost) never have to get out of the water, Schlitterbaun just began construction on Padre Island in Corpus Christi. It should be open by March next year right before the volcano heat of the summer.
California’s Great America – Gold Striker was topped off this week, hitting the high point of the roller coaster. It is unfortunate that this coaster, the tallest wooden coaster in California is not getting more publicity with all of the other high profile projects ongoing at the moment. But trust me on this one, since this is a GCI coaster, it will be an excellent ride.
Legoland California – I really hate to steal someone’s thunder so without further ado (although admittedly up until I saw the video, I thought they were adding a “China” section and not a “Chima” section…and I have no idea what a “Chima” is…)
Insider's Pick: Ever wondered what it would be like to work at the Walt Disney World Resort? Stories from a Theme Park Insider offers more than 100 pages of fun, insightful, and even sometimes touching stories from people who've worked at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It's a great way to get in the mood for your next trip to Orlando, or just to keep the memories of a Disney World visit alive.