News update: The Force Awakens at Legoland, plus Disney/Zika controversy

September 15, 2016, 7:17 PM · Legoland California announced its 2017 additions today. The highlight will be six new scenes for the park's Lego Star Wars section of Miniland, inspired by the first 20 minutes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The displays will depict:

The new displays will open for the park's Lego Star Wars Days on March 4-5, 2017. Other additions to the resort next year will include a "Surfer’s Bay" expansion (including a "competitive water raceway" with six slide lanes) at the Legoland Water Park, and Ninjago-themed rooms at the Legoland Hotel. And in 2019, the resort will open a second hotel, the Legoland Castle Hotel, the resort announced today.

New Jersey's Meadowlands is slated for a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, which developers say will be the largest indoor park in the western hemisphere, when completed. The project is planned to be part of the American Dream Meadowlands shopping and entertainment development, whose owner, Triple Five, is also behind Minneapolis' Mall of America, which also has a Nickelodeon Universe park. The development also is slated to include a Legoland Discovery Center, Sea Life Aquarium, a DreamWorks-themed water park, and an indoor ski slope. But don't book plans to visit until you read this paragraph from the report:

Triple Five hopes to secure $2.7 billion in financing, including $1.15 billion in public bonds, by the end of September to resume construction on the long-delayed project. The site has been idle since April, when the developer ran into trouble funding the work.

In other words, it's not a done deal yet.

Finally, Wall Street analysts and Disney spokespersons are debating whether or not fears of the Zika virus are turning would-be visitors away from Central Florida and its theme parks, including the Walt Disney World Resort. A financial services firm cited two surveys last week that suggested that about half the respondents who had considered Orlando-area vacations had either decided against them or cancelled their plans, due to Zika concerns.

But a Disney spokesperson pushed back, saying that the virus has had "no real impact on cancellations or future bookings" at the Walt Disney World Resort.

It's hard to parse this one — I haven't seen the original survey so I can't make any judgment about its validity. (Anyone got a link to the demos/methodology?) And Disney didn't say anything about whether future bookings were up, stable, or down — just that the virus has had no real impact upon those bookings. But that would be hard for Disney to tell precisely, unless people explicitly cited Zika when canceling plans. And Disney wouldn't know about plans never made. Clearly, the company — and other parks in Florida — remain concerned about public perception of the virus, as illustrated by all that free bug spray they're distributing to guests.

Replies (4)

September 16, 2016 at 10:20 AM · I am a bit puzzled as I have never been bite by a mosquito in a Disney park in Florida (even in july/august and with dozens of stays). I've read that Disney designed some elaborate strategies to have the mosquitoes away from their parks (anyone have a link/reference?). However, if these strategies exist, they are hidden. So the bug spray thing was maybe designed to be visible to show that Disney is doing the best (lawyers suggested?). But Disney also got a Streisand effect... Communication is not easy! ;)
September 16, 2016 at 1:22 PM · Robert. Or anyone. Disney owns star wars. Does lego have a contract pre dating the purchase
September 17, 2016 at 7:55 PM · Note that it's always "Lego Star Wars," which is considered a different franchise than Star Wars proper. (Just like Lego Batman, etc.) So long as Lego is depicting stuff in Lego, they're cool. Of course, I'm certain that Disney retains some veto power here, which is perhaps the reason why we're not seeing any Lego Star Wars attractions beyond the Miniland depictions.
September 18, 2016 at 6:47 PM · I am currently at Walt Disney World as a guest. There are preventive measures for guests getting bitten including repellent stations in the parks and bug spray in the hotel rooms. However, I have yet to see a mosquito. Also it is very busy here. I kept reading online with how quiet it would be this fall. That has not been the case as the last few days at the Disney parks have been fairly packed.

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