Disney And Other News Fit to Print
Oops. Even Disney makes mistakes.
No…not really a huge one.
And you probably know about it already:
A major new attraction previously announced at Walt Disney World Orlando will not meet Disney’s self-imposed deadline for opening.
No, the news was not really the delay…which was unusual.
But the real news is that Disney World Orlando ticker buyers will have to wait a little longer to see what “Rivers of Light” will look like.
More suspense, perhaps.
But that was only one bit of news during a rush of events that are revealing more details on summer and other theme park openings across Central Florida.
Disney is not the only one making news.
It all seemed to come in a rush.
There was everything from roller coasters (when you can get aboard a much-anticipated one)…to cuddly animals (see the cute new… are you sure they are two-toed sloths?)…to special events (are you really ready for chain-saw carrying Leatherface?).
And get this spoiler’s alert to your good times: some higher Universal Studios discount tickets (and innovative Disney Orlando ticket options as well).
As we said, some of this you have heard.
The vast majority of recent news has been from Disney, including an update on the most popular ride at Epcot, ‘Soarin.’
So most of this report will be about Disney, with a few other updated events that might be new to you.
But to keep you up to date, here’s what has been happening, news wise, (and we’ll try to stick mainly to the major events) in recent weeks.
Starting with Disney
Marketers and others must regret an earlier decision to tell the world that “Rivers of Light” at Animal Kingdom was opening April 22.
Sure, it’s easy to blame marketing because this date would have coincided with Animal Kingdom’s own birthday.
Disney’s always mechanically perfect publicity engine must have seen the chance to tie the new attraction with a birthday…always a winning combination.
The “River of Light” show’s importance is evident in Disney’s effort to make Animal Kingdom’s an all-day and night attraction.
Previously, of course, the animals were alone at night to sleep without being eyed by visitors.
But Rivers was not the only attraction delayed.
Disney also said Kilimanjaro Safari’s was also delayed. The nighttime version of the day trip was also delayed from its date of April 22.
Disney has its own explanation. But some reports were that there was trouble with the system controlling the floats used in the “Rivers” parade.
Why the Disney delay
Disney’s explanation came from Andrea Finger, who said:
"With the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re excited to give guests even more opportunities to celebrate the magic of animals and nature as day turns into night.”
She went on:
“While we’d hoped to debut these offerings on April 22, unfortunately, they will not open as planned on that date as we give the team more time to bring these innovative experiences to life in a way we know will exceed our guests’ expectations.”
OK. It is what it is. We’ll all have to wait with a little more patience.
After the Disney African news had barely been yesterday’s new, another new show was announced. It was based on famed author Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”
That show is called “Jungle Book: Alive with Magic.” It is a live production.
Disney again gave a date for this show: Memorial Day weekend.
Since it is a live show, with or without floats, estimates are you should be able to see it on schedule.
Disney is obviously tying the show with the obvious popularity (and high critical ratings) of the film “The Jungle Book.”
It is not ongoing however.
But the Orlando show should be a summer event at least.
“For us, it's a long cycle before another film like that comes by … so we want to find everything we can in that property that we can find a place for at Animal Kingdom,” said Joe Rohde, an executive with Imagineering.
“We try not to declare opening days for things until we're really sure we're opening them, right?” Rohde told reporters about Rivers, etc.
“It's a challenging, technical and aesthetic thing to work on … You want this to be beautiful, meaningful, perfect when it's open. In our business, you're open. You open, you're open. So, we're perfecting it.”
As for “Rivers,” no new date was set.
An amphitheater, seating 5,000 visitors, is reported to be well underway and still under construction on the park's Discovery River.
The "Light" show will feature animal-inspired floats and lanterns plus live performers in the form of storytellers, as is well known.
But a press preview did provide a glimpse of how it will look when other Disney ticket buyers get their own chance to see it.
Hundreds of news media people were on hand to see the “Rivers” preview. It turned out to be the middle segment.
It showed a tiger jumping from giant lotus blossoms floating on the park’s Discovery River. There was an original soundtrack described as “soaring” and “operatic.”
“There’s a lot more to the show,” Rohde said.
Disney after the sun goes down
Disney writer Jennifer Fickley-Baker pointed out that despite some delays, Memorial Day weekend will be a big time at Animal Kingdom,. It will take on a “whole new life…after the sun goes down.”
You will then be able to see Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids in darkness.
Also, there will be midway games and new attractions in DinoLand, USA.
For “The Jungle Book” show, the content and songs will have music and special effects infused with an Indian influence.
Animal spirts will “come to life: at the Tree of Life as it undergoes an “awakening.” Animal spirits will be conveyed through magical fireflies. “Each scene appears to emanate from within the tree itself and reveals stories of wonder,” the site says.
“Party animals” will be welcome at the Harambe Wildlife Party with lively African music and a marketplace, of course.
The Discovery Island Carnivale on Discovery Island will be another party with music and dancers that celebrate a love of nature.
Lunch and dinner will be served at a new restaurant called Tiffins.
But one of the most anticipated rides this summer is at another location. It is “Soarin’ Around the World,” a re-doing of the big screen gliding attraction. That is due to open in Epcot’s Future World on June 17.
The original ‘Soarin’ attraction (Soarin’ Over California) is located at Disney’s California Adventure park.
It opened in 2001 as an opening day attraction.
Epcot’s most popular attraction
Soarin’ made its debut at Epcot a few years later, in 2005.
The former ‘Soarin” was restricted to California. Which was worth a visit. It showed birds-eye views of lands and seascapes.
The new ‘Soarin” will be in a true wind-in-your hair experience to float above some of the most famous places in the world. The Great Wall of China, Sydney Harbor in Australia. And much more.
There’s a dozen ways to see the wonders of the world.
Your journey will lift up 40 feet into the air through the 80-foot projection screen.
IMAX magic. High definition projects operating at twice your normal speed in a movie theatre.
The effect is that of being in a glider with wind whistling around you. You feel like you are really flying.
There’s even a taste element. Completing the experience are orange blossoms and ocean spray.
True fans will particularly narrow their eyes at the various “Hidden Mickeys” found in golf balls flying in your face and other elements (fireworks, for one example).
You might appreciate the ride more by knowing the intense work involved.
Special permission to shoot many scenes had to come from various government agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior to shoot the Yosemite sections (airspace over national parks is restricted).
Hidden Mickeys not so easy to place
So you can imagine the ingenuity that had be involved with filming flight paths for the supersonic Air Force Thunderbirds.
Waits for the former ‘Soarin’ were up to two hours. But Disney says you can begin making Fastpass+ reservations now.
There was also news from Universal.
Oops again: Price hikes are among them.
The cost of a basic annual pass has gone from $214.99 to $234.99 for Florida residents.
That basic pass does not provide parking.
It also has blackout dates for one of Universal's two theme parks during the summer.
Earlier this year, Universal Orlando's ticket prices jumped to $105 from $102.
A mid-tier pass that provides parking and has no blackout dates costs $309.99, up from $299.99.
There’s also a pass with many extra benefits. Valet parking, among them. Also front-of-the-line access after 5 p.m.
Also, Halloween Horror Nights tickets now cost $444.99, up from $428.99.
Speaking of Halloween…
Sure, it’s only April. And the event will not start until Sept. 16 (running through October 31, of course).
Universal wants to give fans a chance to prepare.
The first new maze was named.
And the setting should not really be a surprise: “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
It’s almost a surprise to realize that Leatherface has been a no-show at Universal since 2007.
The film (in case you forgot) follows a group of friends on a road trip to visit a family homestead.
When they seek assistance at a house nearby, they become the prey of a cannibalistic family
The haunted maze will be based on the 1974 or original version of the film “Massacre,” where a young woman should have gotten an academy award for her screaming as she was pursued relentlessly by a grinning Leatherface.
Watch out for Leatherface
The music from the film was best described as chainsaw melodies
Just as a reminder re those Disney Orlando ticket prices…
Walt Disney World last year had increases in its own pass prices that included a $120 hike for Florida residents who want access anytime.
Newer Disney offerings and added new ticket prices include the “After Hours” and “early option” tickets.
Check in for “After Hours” is 7 p.m. on selected dates in late April and May (May 5,8,12 and 19).
Disney World ticket holders have access to park rides that include “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” and “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.”
There are limits on numbers of ticket buyers (no specific one was given).
Lines will be shorter, of course.
The price is $149 per person.
Another upcharge package Disney says is “perfect for families who want an early start” is a chance to enter the park before everyone else.
It also offers quick access to “Peter Pan’s Flight” and the Seven Dwarfs ride (particularly known for long waits), among others. A separate ticket, which includes breakfast, is required:
$69 for adults, $59 for children. In addition to regular park admission.
In coaster news, SeaWorld Orlando is sticking its neck out to set a solid date for when you can ride “Mako.”
A fast ride to learn more about sharks
It’s something of big news since this promises to be the longest, tallest and even the fastest roller coaster in Orlando.
That date is June 10. Look for a grand opening.
Meanwhile, previews offer a look at it with a presentation called “Mako Rising” in the park’s Nautilus Theater.
Twice a day shows at 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.
And in keeping with SeaWorld’s even heightened attempts to be more entertaining about educational matters…expect to see more facts about Mako-like sharks in the wild.
The Orlando area’s newest attraction, LEGOLAND in Lakeland, has not been left out of new announcements.
It set forth a new 4D movie, a summer nighttime fireworks show and a build-a-boat workshop at the park’s water park.
This represented the largest expansion to the Winter Haven theme park since it opened in 2011.
The most immediate opening on May 26 is the “Lego Nexo Knights 4D: the Book of Creativity.” The new film is the story of five young knights battling against the evil Jestro.
The 12-minute movie is based on the new TV show.
News from LEGOLAND
Summer fireworks will be part of the extended park hours, and meet-and-greet chances with Lego characters. The fireworks are included in park admission.
They will be held every Saturday and Sunday from June 18 to July 31.
Another new venue, the build-a-boat attraction is now open.
It’s just as described. Boats by LEGOS.
In Tampa, just 90 miles away, Busch Gardens just keeps adding animals.
The latest are described as “cute,” a word not normally used for their kind.
Are they major additions?
Well, not really.
They are baby sloths.
Hoffman two-toed sloths, to be specific.
The separate mothers are Daisy and Grizzly; the fathers Mario and Teddy.
At birth, weighing only 19 ounces and 6 ounces.
They can be seen at Jambo Junction, which is Busch Gardens’ home to “animal ambassadors who represent their counterparts in the wild,” in the theme park’s own words.
More news later…it just keeps coming. ###