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Tuesday theme park news round-up: Time to take back Thanksgiving?

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Published: November 5, 2013 at 11:15 AM

It's the first week of November, so of course that means the start of the Christmas season at theme parks and retail stores throughout America (and maybe elsewhere). Christmas trees, garlands, and fake snow are appearing at many of the Disney theme parks, and the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party starts at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom this Friday night.

Is it time for a national movement to reclaim Thanksgiving? Who would like to see Christmas decorations stay in the box until the day after Thanksgiving? How about making the day after Halloween the day that the Thanksgiving decor goes up, and we give over the month of November to the build-up for the great national feast, instead? Disney could still offer hard-ticket evening parties, but they'd feature Thanksgiving dinners as well as the expected parades and fireworks. ("Mickey's Very Cranberry Thanksgiving Party?") Who wants November to be less Santa, and more Stuffing?

But Christmas will come eventually, and parks are unveiling this year's special holiday offerings. Dollywood is adding a new production of "Dollywood's A Christmas Carol" to its Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration, which kicks off this Saturday. The show features eight new songs written by Dolly Parton, as well as a "hologram" performance by Dolly herself as Ghost of Christmas Past.

Speaking of new shows, Universal Studios Florida has posted an internal casting call for a new musical production to replace its Beetlejuice show. The new show will continue to feature Beetlejuice and the Universal Monsters, but that's all we know about the new production at this point.

In more Universal Studios Florida news, work continues on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, for an expected late May or early June official opening. Reader Michael B just posted some new construction photos of the Diagon Alley facade:

Harry Potter Diagon Alley construction photo

Another Harry Potter Diagon Alley construction photo

One more Harry Potter Diagon Alley construction photo

We've got more over on our Gringotts Coaster photos page.

In less encouraging theme park news, Alton Towers in the United Kingdom has had to close its new Smiler roller coaster once again, after a guide wheel blew, spraying fragments onto four riders. No one was seriously hurt, but it's another problem for the park to fix on this ride.

Back in the United States, the "Toontown Bomber" has been sentenced. The now-former Disneyland employee who placed a dry ice bomb in a Toontown trash can as a prank last May, leading to an evacuation of the land and a media freak-out, is facing 36 days in jail and a lifetime ban from the park. Which raises an interesting question: Which punishment is worse? Would you take a lifetime ban from Disneyland to avoid a 36-day jail sentence? Or would you rather take 36 days in jail to avoid a lifetime ban from Disneyland? (Of course, this guy's facing both.)

Readers' Opinions

From David Brown on November 5, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Instead been looking at the concept art for Diagonal Alley. The one thing I don't see being built at the moment is the tall 'Dragon Tower'. Is that just conceptual fantasy or is their a surprise up Universal's sleeve?
From Jay R. on November 5, 2013 at 2:38 PM
"Mickey's Very Cranberry Thanksgiving Party".

LOL!! I couldn't even read the rest of the article!!! I think Robert needs to name all new potential holiday parades for Disney....that was hilarious!

From Jack Hammond on November 5, 2013 at 2:51 PM
Extremely excited about Diagon Alley. It might even make me prefer USF over IOA!
And for the record, I would certainly rather have jail time, than be banned from heaven (Disneyland).
From Manny Barron on November 5, 2013 at 5:31 PM
Just out of curiousity, how does Disney or any theme park enforce keeping a certain person out of their park like the situation this man is facing?

It's not like they look everyone up as they are crossing the turnstiles.

From James Rao on November 5, 2013 at 6:17 PM
Banned from all Disney parks or just Disneyland? I really don't think I want to go to jail. Ever. My Jack Sparrow guyliner would make things uncomfortable for me! ;)

As for the Thanksgiving question: absolutely agree with you. I love Thanksgiving. It is my favorite meal...errr...holiday of the year. The Christmas season should not start until December 1. But I also think Halloween starts way too early...October 1, folks, not just after Labor Day!

From N B on November 5, 2013 at 6:53 PM
The dragon at the entrance of Gringotts will be the last element to go on. It's sits atop the front fa├žade of the entrance and will be perched high enough to see from across the lagoon.

From the concept art, it looks like the Knight Bus will be right off the lagoon near the main entrance....

I find it hard to believe this will all be finished before August 2014, still waiting for an official opening day before I book our trip.

From James Trexen on November 5, 2013 at 7:12 PM
Are we sure there's even going to be a dragon outside? Universal doesn't exactly have a solid track record when it comes to animatronics and one of this size and subject to conditions such as inclement weather really makes it a risky gamble. Gringotts should be a fine exterior, with or without a dragon.
From Stevo B on November 5, 2013 at 9:53 PM
It really upsets me that they were so hard on this kid who was just "playing the game" that many other cast members played. As for the banned-for-life, bull. He could easily pay for ticket and walk into the park, no questions asked unless another cast member recognizes him and turns him in, which I believe no one who do.

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