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Weekend theme park news round-up: Despicable Me opening date, SeaWorld strikes back

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Published: December 22, 2013 at 9:22 PM

An attentive Twitter user discovered an online contest that appears to have revealed the opening date for Universal Studios Hollywood's version of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. The attraction will open in April, according to this contest found and Tweeted by @jmillsgreen. USH's Minion Mayhem will be accompanied by a Super Silly Fun Land play area, a merchandise store, and a "Despicable Delights" food location.

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

In our new Orlando guidebook, Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014, we talk about the "monorail or ferry boat" choice that Walt Disney World visitors face when traveling from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom. Starting January 21, and continuing through March, Disney will be closing the monorails on the Magic Kingdom route between 11:30am and 7pm on weekdays. That means it's ferry boats or buses for getting to and from the Magic Kingdom during those hours. Disney's doing maintenance on the monorail route, in an effort to cut down on the unscheduled downtimes that have been plaguing the monorails in recent months.

SeaWorld's finally fighting back against the creators of Blackfish and the Change.org campaigns to pressure musicians not to perform at SeaWorld Orlando. In a letter run as a full-page ad in several newspapers late last week, SeaWorld debunked falsehoods in the movie and defended its animal care practices.

In a twist, some theme park fans have started their own Change.org petition, trying to pressure Netflix to remove Blackfish from its streaming catalogue. The bands that Blackfish supporters targeted bailed from their SeaWorld gigs after those petitions received as few as 5,000 signatures. This new, pro-SeaWorld petition has about 500 signatures as of this posting. It'll be interesting to see if it can gain more signatures than the anti-SeaWorld petitions.

And if you would prefer to just put your brain on autopilot for the holidays and look at some pretty pictures, Disney's got you covered with a photo gallery of Christmas trees at Disney parks around the world. If you'd like to look beyond the Disney parks, we ran with the same concept on our Pinterest page last year: Christmas trees from around the world of theme parks.

Readers' Opinions

From 68.151.43.30 on December 22, 2013 at 11:48 PM
How long before the official opening do rides have soft openings? I know that there's no hard rule, but if you could give me some examples (Transformers and Despicable Me in Florida) that'd be great.
From Anon Mouse on December 23, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Pushing back seems to be working on some recent issues. I applause pushing back more often. No one should capitulate on misinformation.
From Russell Meyer on December 23, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Soft opens are pretty unpredictable, especially more than 6 months prior to the project opening. If you have a trip already planned for April, I'd say, you're probably out of luck for the three new Central Florida attractions (Harry Potter, Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster, and Falcon's Fury/Pantopia). You might have a chance if you already have a trip planned in May or June. If you don't have a trip planned already this summer, I'd highly recommend waiting until late summer (August) or the fall when it's guaranteed that everything will be open, and likely less crowded as well. If the opening of Hogsmeade was any indication, you can expect HUGE crowds this summer at Universal and lines up the wazoo to get on the new attractions, and just entering the new areas of USF.

Me personally, I'm planning my trip next year in October to avoid the crowds and virtually guarantee that everything will be open and operational with few interuptions/glitches. We did the same thing when the original WWoHP opened, and it was far easier to enjoy the area in October than the horror stories about the lines and delays in late May/early June.

We missed New Fantasyland's opening last fall by just a couple of days. They were conducting soft openings the week before we arrived, but transitioned to cast member and VIP previews the week we were there, and had to look at the new area from afar. We had no expectation of getting into the area, so it wasn't so disappointing, but I was a bit bummed that we missed it by just a few days. With something as big as Harry Potter and the new Disney coaster, I would not even go within a month, give or take, of the projected openings early next summer.

I would never plan a trip over 200 miles around a projected attraction opening. Now if I lived in Florida, and had annual passes to all of the parks, I would stop by every day through the months of April, May, and June to try to get in during the soft openings, but since I don't I'm not planning my trip until I'm pretty sure all of the major new attractions will be open.

From Robert Niles on December 23, 2013 at 12:16 PM
As for Universal Studios Hollywood, Transformers had about a month of soft opening before the press event and the official open. The facade for Minion Mayhem appears to be nearly done, though we have no idea how construction's going inside. And there's much left to be done on Super Silly Fun Land. Given where they appear to be at now, I think a March soft-open sounds aggressive for the Despicable Me land.

Ditto all of Russell's advice, of course.

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