By Jeff Elliott
So while our editor Robert's been in Orlando, enjoying his VIP early ride access to new attractions, the Blog Flume Filter's been languishing in his email in box, completely forgotten. That's it. I've had enough. In the spirit of Robert's new-found love for Hyperspace Hoopla, I'm challenging him to a "Blog Off with the Blog Flume Bloggers." Robert's had his go, with all his goodness and happiness and magic and stuff. Now it's time to turn to the dark side of theme park news.
Shanghai Disneyland – There are rumors that a new ride film is being worked on for Soarin' Shanghai Disneyland that would feature an international set of famous landmarks. The rumor continues to say that right after Shanghai opens, the other Soarin's might receive the new ride film as well, sometime around mid-2016. The real question here is whether or not there are going to be other improvements to the attraction. I would think that the new film would be a good excuse to install a new state of the art projection system. There have also been rumors about some kind of tie-in with the Disney's Planes movie, but as I would consider that more of a short-term upgrade than a long-term integration, I doubt they would adjust the ride film at all. And since the best part of the ride was Kronk's preshow, I would be extremely irritated if they did away with that.
Hong Kong Disneyland – For those of you who are interested in track layouts and how ride systems work, the following video plots out where the vehicles are in the ride house of Mystic Manor with a split screen for two different cars. It is purely geekdom, but I have to admit that I already watched it twice.
By Robert Niles
ORLANDO -- The Memorial Day weekend unofficially kicks off the summer vacation season in the United States, so theme parks often use the weekend to launch new attractions and promotions. But the nation's top theme parks outdid themselves this year, with a fusillade of fun on both coasts.
We start this morning in Orlando, where Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom kicked off its "Monstrous Summer All-Nighter" 24-hour party at 6am. Guests arriving before that hour got a treat from Mickey at the park's toll booths -- free parking! Once across the Seven Seas Lagoon, media floodlights illuminated the park's iconic train station.
Crowds were slow to fill the park as the sun dawned over its attractions, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, under construction in the New Fantasyland expansion.
But let's not dawdle too long in the Magic Kingdom. We've got a date at SeaWorld Orlando. At 8:45 this morning, the park officially opened its new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction to the public, launch the ride with a live rendition of its theme song from country singer Lauren Alaina.
As visitors rushed into the new ride at 9am, eventually pushing it to a five-hour wait, we'll switch focus to the west coast, where it was 6am, and the California edition of the "Monstrous Summer All-Nighter" 24-hour party was just getting underway.
The first riders on SeaWorld's Antarctica
Our M. Ryan Traylor covered the press preview of the new Mickey and the Magical Map musical at Disneyland last night, and stayed over to watch the crowd assemble in Anaheim.
He shot this fun time-lapse of the crowd massing around the Disney California Adventure gate,
As well as this panorama shot of an empty New Orleans Square.
While Disneyland guests streamed into the two California parks, back in Orlando, we were on our way back to Walt Disney World, to visit highlights in all four of the parks before the end of the day.
At Epcot, you'd asked me to visit Test Track, to offer my opinion on this ride, which recently opened in its new format.
I like the Tron-like wireframe look of the new version, along with its nod toward involving riders with some interactivity. (You help select automobile design features that will be "tested" along the way as you ride through the Test Track.) With so much design done on computers these days, I found Test Track a welcome update of the original, though, as I noted on Twitter, I still wouldn't turn down the chance to ride once again the World of Motion attraction that Test Track replaced.
From Epcot, it's on to Disney's Animal Kingdom, where you suggested a ride on Expedition Everest.
So I thought I'd bring you along with me:
The "Disco Yeti" continues to appear to have become a permanent feature on this ride, as Disney's made no effect to repair and reanimate the massive Yeti animatronic within the mountain. So strobe lights flash continue to flash on it to create an illusion of movement (thus the "Disco Yeti" nickname).
Many theme park fans had hoped that Universal Orlando would jump into the mix today by soft-opening its Transformers: The Ride 3-D today, as well. Universal stepped on SeaWorld's big media premiere for Antarctica yesterday with its public confirmation of a new Simpsons-themed "Springfield" street to come this summer. But as of mid-afternoon, insiders were telling us that a soft open of the ride wouldn't come until next week. So my quest to ride Transformers in Singapore, Hollywood and Orlando, all before their public openings, appears to have failed. At least for now.
Update: Just got back from Hollywood Studios, and I'm calling it a night. But Hyperspace Hoopla was worth the trip to Orlando. It's wonderful silliness -- pure fun.
The Star Wars Stars dance "Gangham Style."
I know the knock on Hyperspace Hoopla -- that it's not respectful of the Star Wars characters. But that implies a definition of "respect" that turns on maintaining a rigorous narrative discipline within the franchise.
Jedi Mickey dances the show to a close.
But there's a deeper form of respect, one that transcend intellect. And it's the love that this audience feels toward these Star Wars characters. Sure, we can respect their movies (well, most of them), but this is a love that also allows us to get silly, throw away our roles and just enjoy spending time together, even doing absurd things. Just like a family. As the Palaptine character said at the beginning of the show, "Are you really going to complain about logistics in a show that had Amidala dancing with Leia?"
Indeed. Just watch, and feel the love. (I didn't bother trying to record tonight's show -- I just wanted to enjoy it. So here's the video from Matt Roseboom's crew at Attractions Magazine, recorded last week.)
Have a great weekend, everyone. And whatever you do, take some time to feel the love.
How are you celebrating this holiday weekend? Please tell us your theme park travel plans, in the comments.
By M. Ryan Traylor
Disneyland has a brand new stage show, opening on May 25th at the Fantasyland Theatre.
In Mickey and the Magical Map, our hero, a mischievous Mickey Mouse, gets into a spot of trouble when he tries to be more than just an apprentice. The sorcerer has been working on a magical painting of a special map that will take dreamers to wherever they can imagine and it’s almost finished. Mickey decides that he can just fill in that one last spot and that’s when he starts his magical journey.
Mickey and the Sorcerer – Yen Sid
Mickey and the Magical Map takes the audience through a series of Disney films. First we meet King Louie from The Jungle Book. Next was a trio of princesses: Pocahontas, Mulan and Rapunzel. From there we are whisked under the sea with Sebastian. We come back to shore for an animated song and dance from Lilo & Stitch. Then Princess Tiana and her riverboat close the show.
The story structure is similar to Mickey’s Philharmagic across the country at Magic Kingdom, but unlike that attraction, this is a live show. Don’t worry, it’s still in 3D. Rounding out the cast of Disney characters is an ensemble chorus of singers and dancers and a live trumpet player who joins Louis and Tiana.
MMM is a nice addition to the Disneyland park, giving guests an opportunity to see a live show during the day. The only other daytime main stage show currently running is Aladdin at DCA. With this show, Disney also brings a diverse cast, showcasing four princesses of different ethnicities. Whereas Aladdin could have a small audience based on their taste, MMM reaches out to a greater range of viewers.
The Magical Map is the great technology winner of the show, with 35,000 square inches of LED screen surface. The choreography of live action and animation were perfectly in sync, especially as Mickey descends into the painting. To get the best view of the entire map, don’t sit in the front section. Be sure to grab a seat on one of the many rear benches. The close seats are slight obstructed due to the design of the map’s platforms. You won’t miss any of the live performance, but the map won’t line up perfectly between its sections.
Mickey and the Sorcerer – Yen Sid
Magical Map isn’t intended to be nighttime spectacular. If you’re looking for effects and fireworks, you’ll need to wait until the sun goes down in Anaheim. This show is just a wonderful mix of some of the greatest hits from Disney history.
Magical Map is shown in the newly renovated Fantasyland Theatre. Prior to this show, this area was used as the Princess Fantasy Faire for a Disney Princess meet and greet. You can now meet the princesses over at the new Fantasy Faire, open now and located just to the left of the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle on the old location of the Carnation Plaza. You can also see the tales of Belle and Rapunzel at the Royal Theatre in Fantasy Faire.
By Robert Niles
Universal Orlando today confirmed that it's building a Simpsons-themed Springfield street to open this summer at Universal Studios Florida.
Concept art of Universal Studios Florida's Springfield. Image courtesy Universal.
From the press release:
The expansive, new area within Universal Studios will be anchored by the mega-attraction, The Simpsons Ride, and will allow guests to enter the world of The Simpsons like never before. It will be the only place in the world where guests can walk the streets of Springfield. It will include a brand-new outdoor attraction, places and foods pulled right from the show and two new Simpsons characters who will make their debut with the new area – Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob.
So the big rival to Butterbeer turns out to be... Duff Beer? Universal's Springfield development illustrates the power that food can play in themed environments -- the various food brands in The Simpsons are as much a part of the narrative of Springfield as anything else in town, much as the food served as such an evocative element in Harry Potter. But how will Duff Beer and Krusty Burgers taste? We will have to wait until this summer to find out.
By Robert Niles
ORLANDO -- Twenty-one years after SeaWorld blended dark rides and live animal exhibits to take visitors to the North Pole with Wild Arctic, SeaWorld Orlando's completed the journey to the other side of the world.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin brings SeaWorld visitors to the South Pole for a unique ride adventure through the lives of a colony of penguins. Built amidst SeaWorld's largest-ever capital expenditure, Antarctica is set within an impressive vista of rock and ice, under a rockwork icon of a mother and child penguin.
Upon entering the ride, you begin your adventure with a two-minute pre-show, introducing you to a Gentoo penguin couple, standing guard over their egg as a storm approaches. It's the last egg in the colony to hatch this year, but will it hatch in time? The answer comes quickly -- yes, and we meet the center of our attention for the rest of the ride, young Puck the Penguin.
After this introduction, we're ushered into another waiting area, where we can select a "mild" or "wild" adventure. You'll be riding in unique trackless motion base vehicles from Oceaneering, the same firm that created the ride vehicles for Universal's Transformers and Spider-Man and Disney's Indiana Jones rides. The difference between wild and mild comes down to how much the ride vehicles spin on your adventure through the ice caverns of Antarctica.
On its preview evening, almost everyone selected "wild," leading to a much longer wait for that option. Keep in mind that SeaWorld's definition of "wild" is pretty mild, especially when compared with those much more intense motion-base rides. Still, if you're not a fan of what my wife calls "jiggle box rides," such as Star Tours and the like, or if you have any upper-torso strength issues, you should opt for the mild adventure. You'll see the same scenes as the "wild" riders -- in fact, you might get a better view of the ride's detail, as you won't be spinning gratuitously through much of it.
Once your party has selected its adventure option, you're ushered into yet another small waiting area, much like the final wait area on The Simpsons Ride (and Back to the Future before it). From there, you step into the eight-person saucer that will take you through the ride.
You begin in a room that struck me as a '60s-mod twist on a cavern, more like being inside a lava lamp than a cave. But as your vehicle slides out onto the floor, you're reunited with the baby Puck, who will soon grow up, lose his fuzz and face his first major life challenge -- diving into the sea water for the first time.
But as we wait for that, we're off into the most visually impressive scene of the ride -- a massive ice cavern, filled multiple colors, hanging icicles and dominated by a massive frozen waterfall. Mild riders will get to linger with the detail, while the wild riders shriek as they spin around the room. As you exit into the next scene, "fire" blasts from the cavern walls.
Then it's on to meet the grown-up Puck, on his way to a destiny with the sea. It's here that we encounter the conflict in the ride, and given how mildly SeaWorld's treated the narrative up until this point, that moment of conflict surprised everyone in my vehicle. Sensitive children might be frightened by Puck's moment of peril, but I found it engaging -- a moment of suspense that enlivened the ride's narrative.
I don't think I'm playing the spoiler by revealing that our young hero survives his test, but the highlight of the attraction is yet to come -- a chance to spend time with a colony of live penguins, in the ride's post-show exhibit.
As you approach the unload platform, you'll hit a blast of frigid air, and might notice your unload ride attendants wearing parkas and wool caps. It's cold in here -- nearly 30 degrees. You're on the penguins' turf now. The lights are kept low in late May, to simulate the penguin's native Antarctica habitat. The brutal chill will likely force most visitors to hurry along, but pack a jacket so that you can linger with these animals. Watching the penguins dive into the water and blast through it, just inches away from you, ought to provide more of a thrill than any spin through an ice cave, anyway.
Here's SeaWorld Creative Director Brian Morrow, telling me a bit about the ride's story, and its unique ride system, which allows anyone who can sit upright to ride:
And here's a POV video of the entire experience (minus the waiting, of course):
Ah, the wait. What we don't yet know about Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is how long those wait times will be. The ride did not soft-open before its media premiere, and on its preview party night, the ride experienced several short downtimes, diminishing its capacity. Given the slow pace of dispatch last night and again this morning, it's hard for me to see how SeaWorld gets this ride operating at full capacity in time for its public debut Friday morning.
For most theme park fans, their enjoyment of a ride depends as much upon how long they waited as what they experienced once on board. If SeaWorld can dispatch a quartet of ride vehicles every minute or so, as designed, fans will find this a fun ride. But if dispatch happens once every 10 minutes or more, this is going to be a long wait for the payoff. We'll see what happens this weekend, and beyond.
Keep reading: May 2013 Archive
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