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  • Springfield Opens at Universal Studios HollywoodWe review Krusty Burger and take a look at all the new offerings
  • Ready to Get Twisted?Twisted Colossus is nearing completion at Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Is Fastpass+ Helping or Hurting?Walt Disney World fans debate the program's first year of operation
  • The Wizarding World of Harry PotterRead our complete guide to Universal's Harry Potter theme park lands
Springfield Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood Ready to Get Twisted? Is Fastpass+ Helping or Hurting? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Robert Niles
Editor

NBCUniversal Announces Winners of Orlando Hackathon

Published: March 30, 2015 at 9:38 PM

We told you last week about the NBCUniversal Media Labs Hackathon at the Universal Orlando Resort, and didn't want to leave you hanging by not providing a list of the winners. Here are the top apps, as selected by the judges on Sunday and announced by NBCUniversal:

Grand Prize/Universal Parks & Resorts Marketing Challenge Winner: "SorcerAr"
"SorcerAR" mixes augmented and virtual reality, enticing guests to visit the park by allowing them to virtually walk through park attractions at home. Sean McCracken, Estella Gong, William Klein and Victor Salomon from New Mexico developed the winning concept.

Universal Parks & Resorts Technology Challenge Winner: "USense"
“USense” is an app that uses voice command to help complete the Universal Parks & Resorts experience for the visually impaired and hard-of-hearing, providing relevant contextual information about the theme park.

Universal Parks & Resorts Creative Challenge Winner: “Malignant Monster”
"Malignant Monster" is an interactive game for Halloween Horror Nights that uses beacon technology to spread the fear, connecting guests to monsters in the theme park.

Universal Parks & Resorts Entertainment Challenge: “Wanduh”
“Wanduh” is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that invites guests into a storyline in the theme park, while rewarding them for participation.

Hundreds of developers gathered at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel last weekend to develop potential applications for the Universal theme parks in a 24-hour hack session. Participants also worked on applications for NBCUniversal's Telemundo network and GolfNow. The top prize-winning team took home $10,000, while other challenge winners were awarded $1,500.

This was the third NBCUniversal Hackathon, following events in New York and Los Angeles. NBCUniversal is using these events to inspire and elicit creative approaches to information technology challenges while also identifying potential candidates for development jobs with NBCUniversal companies.

Judges for the Orlando Hackathon included TJ Mannarino from Universal Orlando Entertainment and Thomas Geraghty from Universal Creative.

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Robert Niles
Editor

Weekly Top 10: The Best Live Shows in Theme Parks

Published: March 30, 2015 at 9:50 AM

We'd bet that most people think first of rides when they think about theme parks. And while we love all the great rides in the parks, we know that top theme parks also provide some wonderful shows for our entertainment. This week, we honor the Top 10 live shows at major theme parks, as determined by the collective rating of Theme Park Insider readers. You can visit our Park Reviews page to start rating the shows, rides, and restaurants you've visited. And if you take a moment to register, you can submit reviews and photos of those locations, as well.

10. Pets Ahoy!
SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego (as Pets Rule!)

Pets Ahoy!

Cats, dogs, birds, and even a pig perform in this gag-filled show. Some of these four-legged stars were rescued from animal shelters, and there's usually a pitch at the end of the show encouraging the audience to adopt rescue animals.

9. Mystery Lodge
Knott's Berry Farm

Mystery Lodge

An elderly storyteller greets you from inside this Native American longhouse, where a fire burns in the middle of the room. As smoke from the fire twists into shapes, the storyteller believes to have seen an owl, a symbol of death. That prompts the man into a reflection upon his life, as he shares stories from his past, which collectively help illustrate the Pacific Northwest Native American experience.

8. Universal Horror Make-up Show
Universal Studios Florida

Universal Horror Make-up Show

Located behind a recreation of the facade of Hollywood's Pantages Theater, Universal's look at the work of special effects make-up artists is one of the few attractions that remains from the park's opening. Sure, there's a bit of gore and the gruesome in this live show, but the overall tone is mostly light, with a heavy dose of Universal's distinctive, sarcastic humor.

7. Festival of the Lion King
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland

Festival of the Lion King

Dancers, acrobats, singers, and costumed characters celebrate The Lion King in this musical performance in-the-round. No, it’s not the Broadway show, or even an abridged retelling of the movie plot, but more a lovely, rousing concert that tries to get the audience cheering, and often succeeds.

6. Carkitt Market Stage
Universal Studios Florida

Carkitt Market Stage

Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express much of the attention in Universal's Diagon Alley expansion, but don't overlook the live shows playing on this small stage in Carkitt Market. Those who take a few moments to watch Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees in concert or the performance of "Tales from Beedle the Bard" rave about these shows.

5. Fantasy Faire Royal Theatre
Disneyland

Fantasy Faire Royal Theatre

The clever Elizabethan musical storytellers Mr. Smyth and Mr. Jones present their slightly twisted take on some of Disney's fairy tales. Originally rotating shows of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Tangled," it's all "Frozen" these days. But it's a retelling of the story that even parents who've sat through their kids watching the DVD a million times still can enjoy.

4. Celtic Fyre
Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Celtic Fyre

This celebration of Irish music, dance, and culture plays in the Abbey Stone Theatre, featuring an impressive display of singing and tap dancing.

3. Blue Horizons
SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego

Blue Horizons

Blue Horizons tells the story of a girl named Marina (get it?) dreaming about the sea and the wonders within it. And, yes, those dreams do include jumping dolphins.

2. Waterworld
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Japan

Waterworld

Set in a world where the polar ice caps have melted, covering the continents in sea water, our hero Helen has discovered dry land. But the evil Smokers are after her and the secret of dry land's location. It's up the Mariner to save Helen, and fight off the Smokers. Meanwhile, stunt performers dangle from high above the stage, plunge into the water, and stuff blows up all over the place. And, oh yeah, keep your eyes open for the plane.

1. Aladdin
Disney California Adventure

Aladdin

A 50-minute retelling of Disney's animated classic, California Adventure's "Aladdin" paved the way for Disney's current Broadway hit and continues to entertainment visitors with an ever-refreshed script that allows the Genie to riff on pop culture while the rest of the production dazzles with wonderful songs and staging.

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Robert Niles
Editor

How to Deal with Food Allergies at a Disney or Universal Theme Park

Published: March 29, 2015 at 4:26 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

2015 Coaster Vote Final: The Most Anticipated New Coaster of the Year

Published: March 29, 2015 at 3:29 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Trader Sam's Opens and Aunt Polly's Returns at Walt Disney World

Published: March 28, 2015 at 3:50 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Where to Eat? Springfield USA Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

Published: March 27, 2015 at 10:52 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Twisted Colossus Construction Tour: March 2015

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:16 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Vote of the Week: After a Year, What's Your Experience with Disney's Fastpass+?

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:18 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Hacking the Future of Theme Park Entertainment, This Weekend at Universal Orlando

Published: March 26, 2015 at 4:57 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Disney Announces Tomorrowland Movie Previews for Disneyland, Disney World

Published: March 26, 2015 at 10:20 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Has Disney World Started Work on the New Entrance for Hollywood Studios?

Published: March 26, 2015 at 8:34 AM

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Russell Meyer
Writer

Fury 325 is Creating Buzz at Carowinds

Published: March 25, 2015 at 8:30 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Universal Orlando Installs Metal Detectors at Rip, Ride, Rockit

Published: March 25, 2015 at 7:59 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Bonus Vote of the Week: The Best New Coaster of 2015, Part Two

Published: March 24, 2015 at 4:33 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Where to Eat? Lunch at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Published: March 24, 2015 at 10:31 AM

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