Insider's Update: A peek inside new Disney attractions, and a look back at Universal history
Written by Robert Niles
Walt Disney World this week released a YouTube video of the Audio Animatronics that will populate the Magic Kingdom's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is expected to go into soft open sometime this month. Unlike Disney's traditional mechanical animatronics, the faces on these characters will be projections, creating a mash-up of practical animatronics with a screen effect. What do you think?Tweet
Over at Epcot, Disney's now offering a new, apres-Illuminations drinks-and-snacks package. The Epcot After Hours Wind Down will cost $35 per person and include a beverage flight and appetizers at one of four selected World Showcase lounges: La Cava del Tequila, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, Spice Road Table, or the Rose & Crown Pub. The event lasts until 11pm each night and runs from April 17 through Sept. 15.
It's been another good year for the Orlando theme parks. The "Visit Orlando" tourism board reported that Orlando welcomed a record 59 million visitors to the metropolitan area in 2013, a 3% increase over 2012 that kept Orlando as the nation's most-visited destination. For comparison, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced yesterday that the city of LA hit its own tourism record last year, too, at 42 million visitors.
Not all Orlando-area tourists are happy with their visits, however. A group of parents of children with autism has sued Disney over its changes to the overused and abused Guest Access Card system. Here's a PDF of the suit, which tries to make an ADA claim against the Disney Parks. If you're a legal geek, give it a read. Personally, it seems to me that the plaintiffs are trying to make a case based on what they wish for the ADA to be, rather than what it actually is.
If you've got the bandwidth and patience to download a 10 MB PDF file, there's some fascinating stuff in this citation honoring Shanghai Disneyland's Storybook Castle from the American Institute of Architects' Technology in Architectural Practice Building Information Model awards: construction photos, design process, renderings. It's great stuff for design fans.
A construction photo of the Storybook Castle foundation work, from the report
It looks like SeaWorld is running out of options in trying to get its trainers back in the water for orca shows at its parks. A three-judge panel denied SeaWorld's latest appeal of an OSHA ruling mandating restrictions on contact between trainers and orcas. We're awaiting an expansion of OSHA's apparent new commitment to theme park employee protection, such as a new rule barring park employees from sitting in the front of Disney monorails, since, after all, Disney's monorails have killed the same number of theme park employees as SeaWorld's orcas have. Right? (sound of crickets)
Continuing our focus on Universal Studios Hollywood this week, we should note that the park has opened a new "grab-and-go" restaurant, the Palace Theatre Cafe, located in the former retail location next to Mel's Diner. By the way, I wouldn't recommend actually trying to just "grab-and-go" with food at any such restaurant serving pre-packaged meals. I'm pretty sure that a more accurate description for these types of places should be "grab-and-pay-and-go."
USH has brought back its Waterworld show after a refurbishment that included the transfer of the show to a new production company, the same outfit that oversees the show in Osaka and Singapore. I'm not an obsessive fan of Waterworld, so I couldn't tell any major differences between this and previous Waterworld productions, save for the irony of the rust on the atoll looking much fresher. ;^) Here's the finale of the show, recorded this week:
Universal hasn't been making as big a deal of this as Disney and SeaWorld did for their anniversaries, but 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the opening of Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal's devoted a window at its Universal Experience walk-through on the Lower Lot to memorabilia from the park's first 50 years.
View Master reels and a promotional tour tram, on display. You can see more pictures from the exhibit on our Universal Experience photos page.
Finally, congratulations to the Tokyo Disney Resort today for welcoming guest number 600 million.
Photo courtesy Tokyo Disney Resort
That's an average of 20 million guests per year for the resort's 30 years. Amazing, and a testimony to the continued excellence of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, a three-time winner of the Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best theme park. Well deserved!
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