News update: Orlando area gets new wooden coaster, plus Disney/Universal notes

December 8, 2016, 6:49 PM · Let's catch up with some more theme park news from today:

If you missed it last summer, the From Coraline to Kubo: A Magical LAIKA Experience walk-through exhibit is returning Universal Studios Hollywood's Globe Theater. The display of stop-motion animation models from the studio's films will run from December 21 through January 15, which, probably not coincidentally, roughly corresponds with Oscar voting season. With so many Academy voters in the area, perhaps Laika is hoping the display will return some attention to its critically acclaimed Kubo and the Two Strings animated feature. For the rest of us, it's still a good show, and well worth seeing.

On the east coast, Universal Orlando today announced that Matthew Lewis and Warwick Davis will attend January's "A Celebration of Harry Potter" event at the resort. Universal promises more actors from the film series will attend as well, plus panels with filmmakers, and an expo that will include displays from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The event runs January 27-29.

Walt Disney World has announced the return of Disney After Hours at the Magic Kingdom. This hard-ticket event allows participants to enter the park at 7pm, then stay for three hours after the park's official close to other guests. More than two dozen attractions will be open for event visitors, and there's free ice cream and popcorn, too. It's like an extra Extra Magic Hours, but open to anyone who buys a ticket — not just to Disney hotel guests. The event will run January 20 and 27, February 2, 9 and 16, and March 2 and 9, 2017. Tickets are $119 per person, but just $89 for annual passholders and DVC members. Call +1-407-827-7185 for tickets.

Fun Spot America in Kissimmee is stepping up its game for 2017 with today's announcement that it is partnering with The Gravity Group to build a 2,256-foot wooden coaster. The $6 million ride will offer an 80 foot drop, top speed of 48 mp, 11 airtime moments... and the first 360-degree barrel roll on a wooden coaster in the southeast. Here's the concept video:

Also in roller coaster news, Disneyland Paris posted this look at its Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is just days away from emerging from a major refurbishment, which includes the addition of the Disneyland-style "exploding" finale on the "C" lift.

Replies (6)

December 8, 2016 at 8:18 PM · Yawn. Dull news so far this year on the Orlando park front. Next year hopefully Avatar get's finished - and hopefully we'll see some work starting on Star Wars Land. Anything else is just filler.
December 9, 2016 at 2:31 AM · Kubo and the Two Strings deserves an Oscar. I was very impressed by the movie.
December 9, 2016 at 9:40 AM · Hey Robert and other TPI'ers:

I was wondering what the difference is between
Fun Spot America in Kissimmee and Fun Spot Orlando.

AJ mentioned he wanted to visit a Fun Spot park in his Trip planning thread, so now I am looking at maybe visiting one of these in May...

December 9, 2016 at 2:56 PM · Brian, the two Fun Spot America parks are different parks that share the same owner. The original park (Fun-N-Wheels) was more or less a typical family entertainment center with go-karts, mini golf, bumper boats, etc. At some point, this park was sold, and eventually it closed down. The original owners returned to Orlando in the late 1990s and built Fun Spot Action Park as a new family entertainment center. They later purchased the Kissimmee location from a different owner and operated it under the name Fun Spot USA until both parks were rebranded. In the past five years, the company has converted the parks from simple family entertainment centers to full fledged (although small) amusement parks.

As for differences, the Orlando location (which is located near Universal Orlando and I-Drive) is the larger of the two and features more amusement park rides in addition to typical family entertainment center attractions (including four go-kart tracks and a skycoaster). This location is home to three roller coasters, the most prominent of which is White Lightning, a GCI out and back wooden coaster (and, until 2017, the only wood coaster in the Orlando area). Other coasters are Freedom Flyer, a suspended family coaster, and Sea Serpent, a small kiddie coaster. The Kissimmee location (which is located near Old Town) is a lot more focused on traditional family entertainment center attractions, with standard amusement park rides consisting of mostly kiddie rides (except this new wooden coaster and a spinning mouse coaster). The main claim to fame of the Kissimmee location is that they are home to the world's tallest skycoaster.

As for me, I think this new coaster looks excellent, and if it is open by the time of my visit I'm planning to include both Fun Spot locations in my trip. An all-day pass at the parks is around $40 and includes access to both parks in the same day, so with both having major coasters it makes little sense to visit only one of them.

December 11, 2016 at 8:23 PM · Many thanks AJ...
December 12, 2016 at 8:09 AM · Looks like a good coaster, on the verge of greatness... Just needs to be a bit longer.

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