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Insider's Update: New Soarin' theater, new Boardwalk restaurant, and new raises for Disney employees

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Published: July 19, 2014 at 11:57 AM

We've learned from several sources that Walt Disney World is moving ahead with plans to build a third theater for the Soarin' show at Epcot, which ultimately should help relieve the often-hours-long waits for the show. If all goes well, the third theater could be ready in time for the debut of the new Soarin' film in a couple years.

Soarin'
The Soarin' show building could be getting even bigger.

Over at Disney's Boardwalk, the resort has announced the replacement for Kouzzina by Cat Cora: Trattoria al Forno, an Italian restaurant that "will showcase Old World techniques, including handcrafted mozzarella made daily, a variety of Neopolitan-style pizzas baked in wood-burning ovens, and other classic Italian favorites such as risotto, baked lasagna, chicken great alla Parmigiana with tagliatelle pasta and more." If that sounds familiar, it's pretty similar to the line-up for Universal Orlando's Vivo Italian Kitchen, which opened at CityWalk last month... Or Via Napoli, over in Epcot's World Showcase... Or Portobello at Downtown Disney... No worries, though. The day people stop liking Italian food is the day the zombie apocalypse is upon us. Although the zombies likely will decide that they prefer the brains they crave to be smothered in marinara sauce.

Many of Walt Disney World's cast members will be getting well-earned raises soon, thanks to a new contract agreement between the company and its employees' largest unions. The deal raises starting pay for most park employees from just over $8 to $9-an-hour this year, with 50-cent-an-hour raises each year after that, while preserving pensions for new employees and avoiding immediate cuts in health benefits. The pay raises are good news for all Orlando businesses, as it puts more money to spend in the pockets of more than 20,000 local Disney employees... and possibly more, if it leads to wage increases at other area parks. Employees will vote on the deal Aug. 1.

On the west coast, Disneyland has announced plans for another interactive game at Disneyland, following this month's introduction of Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush!. The Adventure Trading Company will open in Adventureland on August 1, continuing a game that Walt Disney Imagineering tested in its pavilion at last year's D23 Expo in Anaheim.

We hope that everyone is enjoying their summer, but we must note that many theme park fans already are looking forward to fall and this year's Halloween events. Universal this week announced that SyFy's Face Off will be coming to Halloween Horror Nights as a scare zone in Orlando and a maze in Hollywood. This follows announcements of a From Dusk till Dawn maze on both coasts, as well as the return of The Walking Dead. Here's the playlist of this year's promo videos from Halloween Horror Nights:

A final item: Reader Nathan Alexander notes that Sea Viper, Australia's first triple-looping coaster, has closed at Sea World Gold Coast.

Readers' Opinions

From Kevin C on July 19, 2014 at 1:16 PM
Why would it take a couple of years to add a new theater to an existing attraction?

I've been on the ride. It's a warehouse-style room with a big screen and a ride vehicle that moves a bit.

What on earth is so time-consuming that it will take a couple of years to expand?

From Jaiden Cohen on July 19, 2014 at 2:28 PM
That's not a pic of the soarin building. That is the millennium showplace convention center.
From 108.86.248.184 on July 19, 2014 at 2:39 PM
Glad to see Disney might make new films for 'Soarin', it should be something continuous with 5-6 options from around the world. That would be appropiate since visitors come from around the world. And like Star Wars you never know which trip you will take.
From steve lee on July 19, 2014 at 2:46 PM
Funny, I would think the best way to reduce wait times on Soarin' would be to give crowds a reason to visit the Imagination pavilion or Universe of Energy or the shuttered Wonders of Life pavilion.

I guess it's easier to just keep adding to one of the few decent attractions in Future World and just keep ignoring the outdated stuff that no one visits. It makes it easier for me, since it means there's no reason to get to Epcot before World Showcase opens.

From 173.65.226.200 on July 19, 2014 at 5:08 PM
The new Soarin' needs to be in 15/70 IMAX, as it is the highest quality projection system in the world. Digital cinema can't even come close.
From Rob McCullough on July 19, 2014 at 5:15 PM
Sorry - but that IS a photo of Soarin' behind Canada. The tent you are talking about is a bit further to the left of Canada and not nearly that tall.
From 166.137.119.48 on July 19, 2014 at 5:39 PM
The only way to ride Soarin is after a tipsy trip through the Wotld Showcase. If Universal was building the theater it would be done in time for this year's Food and Wine Festival.
From 209.44.133.160 on July 19, 2014 at 6:17 PM
3rd screen for Soarin'. Finally. I agree with the folks who posted above. Why should it take Disney 2 years to add another screen? And how can Disney go a decade with zero major upgrades to Epcot?
From 72.189.141.1 on July 19, 2014 at 6:32 PM
There were plans to have a third (and possibly even a fourth) theater for opening day, but time and budget made it get dropped. Thinking only two theaters was enough has been plaguing it since day one. Target numbers were based on California's Guests, which are annual pass holders, so wait times there are typically much shorter (low demand) whereas here in Florida it's mostly first time visitors or those on vacation with limited time so there is always a huge demand.
From James Trexen on July 19, 2014 at 7:10 PM
I have my doubts about the Soarin theater, especially when you look at that photo. With a shape like that, a major change would have to be made to the whole infrastructure to the building.
From 216.53.168.57 on July 19, 2014 at 9:01 PM
That is a very wide, but not very deep building as you're seeing it in this photo. If you look overhead, there is plenty of room behind to add one or two more screens
From N B on July 19, 2014 at 9:51 PM
I'll have to disagree about digital projection... 8K will look better than standard film blown up that big... especially if is filmed in 8K to begin with. Digital projection can also be stitched together on a large screen much easier as the projectors are tiny compared to IMAX and no not need to be rewound.

All film suffers from motion judder eventually. Those holes in the film that the gears use to feed it through the aperture get worn out and enlarged over time and it the picture can shift a few inches on a screen that large.

Four 8K projectors can be stitched to produce 16K resolution very easily.

From Sylvain Comeau on July 20, 2014 at 9:22 AM
The CMs deserve a much bigger raise. They're the ones who put up with the crowds which put billions in Disney's coffers.

The new version of Soarin' has been rumored for years and years, and is supposed to be called Soarin' Around the World. I certainly hope that the head office will force WDW to adopt the new version, since we've all seen the old one a zillion times.

From 94.203.206.10 on July 20, 2014 at 10:17 AM
I am thrilled to hear the CM are getting raises. It is a shame that Disney has such a fantastic reputation as a company, but anyone I have ever worked at Disney left due to wages. Hopefully, they can retain more frontline talent with this new agreement.
From 98.85.98.163 on July 20, 2014 at 1:20 PM
Man I can't wait another Soarin building,Soarin over Avatar and a possible Toy Story Midway Mania building expansion.

It's nice that Disney doesn't depend on screen based attractions like Universal ...

From 97.100.108.108 on July 20, 2014 at 3:09 PM
It's really simple as to why it will take Disney so much longer to expand the Soarin' building to add another theater... They want to do it RIGHT. Sure, Universal could put it in in about six months, if the attraction used "off the shelf" mechanicals like 99% of Universal's rides. But Soarin' uses a unique lifting mechanism which will have to be built from scratch. And if Universal somehow managed to pull off such an amazing feat it wouldn't be properly themed and would probably break down every other showing.
From Tim Hillman on July 21, 2014 at 6:00 AM
^^^^^Fanboy Alert! Fanboy Alert!^^^

That's right, Anon, let's give Disney a pass for moving at a glacial pace because they do it "RIGHT" and Universal puts in '"off the shelf" mechanicals' in "like 99% of Universal's rides."

Put down the Kool-Aid and face the facts. Both parks give us great attractions of all kinds. One company moves slowly, and the other is doing amazing things and being very responsive to their customers. Just because you can't handle reality doesn't mean that the rest of us have agree with your silliness!

From 70.114.218.19 on July 21, 2014 at 10:13 AM
The excessively long lines on Soarin' are the result of a lack of attractions at EPCOT. I would rather see Disney invest money in adding new attractions rather than expand capacity on an existing one.
From Kevin C on July 21, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Tim,

Both the anonymous comments above you looked like snark to me

From Tim Hillman on July 21, 2014 at 11:37 AM
The first one is definitely snark. I'm not so sure about the second one. That's the trouble with anonymous comments. Sometimes it is hard to tell if they are being sincerely fanboy or just being snarky.

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