By Robert Niles
We've heard that Disney has posted an audition notice for a theme park entertainment role playing the character Thor.Tweet
Thor at Disneyland in California. Photo courtesy Disney
At Disney's Hollywood Studios. That's right. In Florida.
If you've been following Theme Park Insider for awhile, you might remember that Universal Orlando holds a perpetual license to the Florida theme park rights for the Marvel characters it features at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Universal made this deal with Marvel years before Disney bought the comic book company, and Disney's coveted those theme park rights ever since making that deal.
The Universal Orlando deal is why Disney's "Avengerail" monorail skin promoting the Avengers movie could not run on the Epcot line at the Walt Disney World Resort. That graphic included characters for which Universal holds the exclusive regional theme park rights, so it couldn't be shown inside any non-Universal theme park in the area. Since the Epcot line of the Disney monorail goes into that park, the Avengers graphic had to stay on the Seven Seas Lagoon monorail lines, instead.
So why would Disney be posting an audition notice to bring Thor to Disney's Hollywood Studios?
Disney's already featured Thor in a meet-and-greet in the Innoventions pavilion at Disneyland (see photo above), where Disney's also been promoting other Marvel characters. Universal let its deal for the Southern California theme park rights to Marvel characters expire before Disney bought the company, so Disney's clear to use the Marvel characters in its parks in Anaheim.
Maybe the Florida notice is just a mistake. Or, if not, here's a theory. It's been well-established that Universal retains the theme park rights to the Marvel characters it has been featuring in Islands of Adventure. However, Universal cannot add additional Marvel characters to that land without permission from Marvel — which means permission from Disney, which, one can reasonably presume, is not forthcoming.
That leaves the Marvel characters not featured in Islands of Adventure, including Thor, in a bit of limbo. Does Universal's contract prohibit their inclusion in any other area theme park? Or can Disney go ahead and use those characters at Walt Disney World without infringing Universal's deal? We haven't heard a straight answer from sources inside both Disney and Universal about that.
Perhaps that question remains in dispute. If Disney wanted to push that issue, a character meet-and-greet would be the least costly way to do that. Let's play game theory and look at the possible outcomes.
If Disney brings Thor to Hollywood Studios and Universal does not object, Disney's presumably free to bring other non-Universal Marvel characters to Disney World. If Universal does object, and the matter ends up in court, Disney could be liable for a financial judgment in Universal's favor, but that would be the only expense. Disney wouldn't also lose the expenses of developing and building a theme park attraction. The cost of duping a Disneyland Thor costume and paying a few cast members in entertainment to portray him are next to nothing on Disney's bottom line. But if a judge or jury rules in Disney's favor, again, it's free and clear to start bringing those non-Universal Marvel characters to Disney World.
Maybe Disney's decided to take that risk. Maybe Disney and Universal have an understanding on which company owns which theme park rights. Or maybe the whole thing's a mistake that soon will disappear. But we've heard that the audition notice was posted. And that would suggest that things are about to become quite interesting regarding the Marvel characters in Florida theme parks.
By Krista Joy
The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade made it's debut today at Walt Disney World. It is the first new daytime parade to come to the Magic Kingdom in more than ten years. It is nothing short of amazing to observe this grand gala, which includes spectacular, state-of-the-art floats starring characters from favorite Disney stories, plus colorfully costumed performers on stilts, pendulums and swings. The supporting cast of performers dance along in elaborate outfits and give out high-fives while Disney’s most famous characters wave from high atop the elaborate floats. The original musical score is dreamy and upbeat.Tweet
A family and a newlywed couple were picked to be Grand Marshals - and they kicked off the parade in a beautiful convertible antique looking car. Then the first float goes by to celebrate the "tale as old as time".
Belle and the Beast share this float with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.
Whatever you do, don't take your eyes off of this one as it goes by. Tiana and her Prince rotate on a "lazy Susan" type of a platform with none other then Anna and Elsa on the other side! I almost missed getting a shot of them - but aren't they beautiful? This is Anna's coronation dress - and today was the first time we have ever seen it in a Disney Park. Her meet and greet in Epcot has her in her classic dress.
Next comes a huge mime, who draws some laughs ahead of the Snuggly Duckling - "Tangled" float.
Flynn Rider and Rapunzel from Tangled sail in an ornate longship in search of another “best day ever.” Watch for easter eggs hidden throughout this giant float.
An under-the-sea jubilee starring Ariel, Sebastian and an enchanted ocean ensemble from The Little Mermaid atop a sparkling music box is up next!
Much to the delight of the crowd, Ariel pulled out a "dinglehopper" and showed it off proudly!
She (of course!) combed her hair with it as well.
Not far behind, there are spinning seahorses!
Peter and Wendy from Peter Pan come next, soaring through the sky aboard a pirate galleon .
Yes that is Captain Hook SWINGING on a giant anchor!
The rainbow sparkling in the sun was an amazing sight.
Always in hot persuit of the Capatin - Tick-Tock the Crocodile follows close!
Next up is a troupe of Scottish dancers preceding Princess Merida herself, who is atop a giant bagpipe.
Her triplet "bear" brothers turn their heads and pop in and out as they go by!
Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (face characters) wave their wands...and have concerned looks on their faces.
The music gets a bit "darker" and the crowd cheers as Maleficent as a clockwork dragon is wrapped in battle with Prince Phillip and his mighty Sword of Truth! (The kids around me got a little bit frightened.)
Maleficent is surrounded by eerie henchmen on stilts.
The dragon breathes fire and the crowd cheers even louder. This is an amazing sight to see!
The raven is close as well - and he stuns you with his 12 foot wing span!
The giant tail waves as it goes by.
Things become happy and bright again as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs come along.
Bubble girls pave the way for Pinocchio.
This float is like a 2 for 1 - because the circus is right behind Pinocchio with Donald, Daisy, Dumbo and more in tow!
There is so much movement and merriment that you can't get it all in one photo!
The grand finale comes with high-flying fun as Mickey and Minnie approach in a giant hot-air balloon.
Plan ahead for this parade and login to My Disney Experience. There, you will want to reserve access to the FastPass+ section. You may want to see this parade more than once on your next trip. (I know I can't wait to go back and see it again!) You will celebrate the stories you know and love in a whole new way as this parade winds its way through the streets of Magic Kingdom park every afternoon at 3pm. The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade is a thrilling sight-and-sound spectacular. You won't want to miss it!
By Krista Joy
Legoland Florida unveiled some of the most cherished pieces of Cypress Gardens' botanical gardens this week, reuniting the past with the present. They did an amazing job, and on this day I got reunite my own past and present in some ways. I was very fortunate to attend Legoland's brief ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday on behalf of ThemeParkInsider.com. Although I had not been to Legoland before, I grew up and still live in Orlando.Tweet
I remember visiting Cypress Gardens when I was very young. My Dad's brother and his family would come down from Ohio, and Cypress Gardens was always a place we would visit while they were here. It is about an hour's drive to the Winter Haven location, so I have to admit (other than maybe a couple of school field trips with my boys) I haven't been back much since. My Dad and my uncle are both in heaven now, and I have to wonder if they were watching on this special day, when I actually got to go back to some of those historic spots in the park that people have not been able access for so long. My Dad and my uncle loved this place, and I know they still would.
Reuniting the past and present, the park plans to bring more Lego bricks inside the gardens to make them a little more accessible to families.
"What makes Legoland Florida different than other Legoland parks is the fact that it is built in Cypress Gardens," Legoland general manager Adrian Jones said. "Cypress Gardens is still a brand that exists within the center and is almost the heartbeat of Legoland. It makes it different; it gives us a different edge, and it also makes it probably the most beautiful Legoland park in the world." The Florida-shaped pool and Oriental Gardens have been cut off to the public since the park opened in 2011, but park officials always planned to open them, Jones said.
First, they had to repair the iconic Florida Pool, built as a set for the 1953 Esther Williams movie "Easy to Love."
The tile that once surrounded the Florida-shaped pool (that juts out into Lake Eloise) has been replaced with mulch and light-blue cement. It was filled Wednesday with nearly 10,000 large Lego bricks and surrounded by oranges as an homage to Cypress Gardens' founder, Dick Pope Sr.
In yet another great way to reunite the past and present, the classic Cypress Gardens "Southern Belles" were on hand for the ceremony.
Even when the actual Southern Belles aren't there to visit with guests in person, their Lego counterparts will be there to smile and pose for pictures at all times.
The other iconic area that reopened was The Oriental Gardens. The Oriental Gardens look just as pristine as the rest of the 30-acre botanical gardens. The peacefulness and quiet of this place was something I did not appreciate as a child, but now, I finally get it. You can't help but become a little reflective listening to the gentle water fountains. I found myself speaking very softly to the people around me. You just feel like you should whisper to each other when you are in a place like this.
The garden could also play a key role as Legoland tries to position itself as a multi-day resort instead of a one-day attraction. The gardens could be opened to guests of the planned lakeside Legoland Hotel. Jones said the park is "full steam ahead" on building the four-story, 152-room Legoland Hotel after the final permits were approved Tuesday.
Bob Gernert, namesake for the Bob Gernert Jr. Museum of Winter Haven History and recently retired executive director of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce was also on had for the ribbon cutting. As part of the chamber, he played a significant role in urging the state to buy the botanical gardens.
Legoland has become a great steward of the state-owned land under consideration to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Gernert said "Legoland, just by the fact that they take such good care of the park, have really nurtured and maintained this treasure."
"I have never walked into the gardens in the last 2-1/2 years that they weren't perfectly manicured, trimmed, and taken care of," he said. "I think the most exciting thing about this for me is the fact that it makes this park whole again. Now, there's no area left in the garden that is not accessible to the public."
In a very sweet gesture, Legoland created Bob's dream car out of Legos, complete with Bob and his bride nestled inside. Bob would later place the car in any place of his choosing inside Lego City. I heard that they made Bob and extra car to keep in his own home as well, and that they would be surprising him with that news later.
Cypress Gardens brought Esther Williams and Johnny Carson to Winter Haven, where they ate at Christy's Sundown and put the city on the map. Countless teenagers worked there as skiers and Southern Belles. Those teenagers are now parents and grandparents who are all undoubtedly enjoying Legoland together. To me that is really what reuniting the past and present is all about - and Legoland has accomplished this in spades.
By Robert Niles
Our goal with this year's Theme Park Insider Tournament is to show our many friends throughout the United States some of the cool attractions and theme parks elsewhere in the world. Most theme park fans in the U.S. know about the big Disney and Universal parks outside America, but there are some other great parks in Asia and Europe that should earn a place on fans' wish lists to visit.Tweet
Germany's Europa Park is one of those. The second-most popular theme park in Europe, after Disneyland Paris, Europa Park is owned by the Mack family and the park serves as a showcase for Mack Rides products. One of those is Blue Fire, a Mack megacoaster that debuted in 2009.
It's not the tallest or fastest coaster in the park (wait a minute....), but it's a peppy launched coaster that features a vertical loop, twisted horseshoe roll and a heartline roll. Let's ride:
Blue Fire's opponent today is the park's tallest and fastest coaster, and one of the few non-Mack rides in the park. The Mercedes-Benz-sponsored Silver Star is another Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, topping out at 240 feet and with a top speed of 79 miles per hour.
Climb aboard for your virtual ride:
Okay, it's decision time. Which of these coasters should advance to the next round?
By Robert Niles
King Kong is set to make its return to the Universal Orlando Resort. The great ape, star of movies from the 1933 Fay Wray original to the 2005 Peter Jackson blockbuster, once made a home at Universal Studios Florida, before the Kongfrontation ride closed in 2002 to make way for the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. When Kong returns, it will be to Universal Orlando's other theme park, Islands of Adventure.Tweet
We've known for some time that Universal Creative designers have been kicking around ideas for the Return of the Kong. As a result, theme park fans for months have been spreading rumors about a new Kong ride in one of the parks or the other. But ideas are worthless until they become reality. Lots of "blue sky" attraction ideas never make it to development. When parks start filing for permits with local authorities and start hiring contractors to develop the plans, that is when an idea become a project worth reporting as fact. That is when parks are putting real money behind an idea.
We appear to be at that stage now with Kong. Universal Orlando filed a permit application with the City of Orlando this week for a demolition project to clear space for either the new Kong attraction or possibly for a fifth hotel on the Universal Orlando property. We don't know for certain which project this permit represents, but we've heard from enough other sources within the industry to confirm that both projects are happening.
In addition, multiple Universal team members have reported seeing markers that suggest impending demolition work around the old Triceratops Encounter space in Jurassic Park, which is the land next to which industry sources have said a new Kong attraction would go. Frankly, space seems tight on that side of Jurassic Park with the show building for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey encroaching into much of that land's old empty space, which is why we've been skeptical of rumors that Kong would go in on that site. (Oh, please don't let this just be a Kong-topped polercoaster.) There's more space for a new attraction on the other side of Jurassic Park, near the new Cabana Bay hotel.
Universal lost the original version of the Kong animatronic attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 when the soundstage that housed that encounter on the park's backlot tour burned in a major fire at the studio. Universal ultimately decided to replace that attraction with the film-based King Kong 360/3D encounter, directed by Jackson, which opened in 2010.
With demolition on schedule soon, construction on Orlando's new Kong attraction, whatever and wherever it turns out to be, could begin once Diagon Alley opens to the public this summer. And development of the fifth hotel should be expected to begin not long after Universal wraps up its fourth hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort later this spring.
Expect this as the new normal at the Universal Orlando Resort. As one major new attraction development wraps up, a new one will begin. As one new hotel opens, construction will start on the next. Meanwhile, new developments continue to begin over in CityWalk, too, beyond the new restaurants and shops that Universal Orlando already has announced for this spring and summer.
What are you hoping for in a new Kong attraction — or a new hotel — at the Universal Orlando Resort?
Keep reading: March 2014 Archive
Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014
Get all of Theme Park Insider's reader ratings, tips, and advice for planning a trip to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld, in our new 2014 Orlando guidebook! It's more than 200 pages of well-tested, insider information that will help you get the most from your vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)
Theme Park Insider Guidebooks
Top U.S. Theme Parks
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Other Top International Parks
Readers' Top Themed Rides
Top Roller Coasters
Top Theme Park Shows
Features, News and Advice
2014 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar.
2013 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2012 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2011 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2010 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2009 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2008 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2007 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2006 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2005 Blog PostsDec.
2004-2005Staff column archive