Thursday, May 21, 2020

Universal Orlando Resort Proposes Reopening June 5

Today Universal Orlando Resort proposed to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force their reopening plans. Watch the video below, which is time-stamped to start at the presentation. Universal is requesting to reopen all their parks on June 5.



Their proposal includes many policies and procedures already in place at CityWalk.


Universal's proposal passed the task force with unanimous approval but still needs final approval from Mayor Demings and Governor DeSantis.

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #194 - Friends of Gelitoni



This week Joe, Lane, and Mike are joined by theme park and travel journalist Carlye Wisel! This podcast is jam-packed with news: Josh D'Amaro the new chairman of Disney Parks, Experience, and Products; Disney Springs and CityWalk reopening; SeaWorld aims to reopen in late June; Universal Orlando laying out plans; and Gatorland's Social Distancing Skunk Ape!

Plus Mike's disdain for Disney Springs, Carlye's shock to Mike's revelation, a kinship over the love of Gelatoni, what we miss from theme parks, and more!

You can find Carlye on her website, Twitter, Insta, and SyFy.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Universal Orlando's Reopening - Polices, Procedures, and Next Steps

Covering such a topic as COVID-19, the economy, and reopenings is tough. There are many people who are hurting now who's last thought is "can I get a nachos at Margaritaville?" If you are financially able to please consider donating to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. A $25 USD donation helps pay for 100 meals to those in need.



Universal Orlando's CityWalk started a phased reopening procedure on May 11, 2020. In this article, we'll cover the new policies, procedures, and venues open while also looking forward to Universal (and Disney) reopening the resorts and parks. Outside of concrete information offered on the Universal Orlando website, we will be diving into speculation on reopening. While we all hold our own opinions on the government and business response to this virus we are largely going to avoid this and focus on the nuts and bolts.



CityWalk is now operating from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. Self-parking is free and valet is closed; parking attendants will space out cars to practice social distancing and then will come back later and repark cars in the unused spaces.

Temperature scans will occur on the rotunda level of the parking garage prior to entering the rotunda. Security TMs are set up in parallel to provide quick, unintrusive forehead temperature scans. Guests with temperatures below 100.4 are admitted into the resort; if a guest constantly tests 100.4 or above they will be denied entry. Afterward, the standard security screening will occur.

While at Universal Orlando guests will be required to wear face masks at all times unless they are eating or drinking. According to early reports, Universal Managers will be the only ones with the authority to enforce mask usage. Medical exceptions to the mask rules can be filed at Guest Relations. Additional TMs are around, sanitizing frequently touched objects such as handrails, tables, and chairs.



The shops and restaurants open at CityWalk Orlando are being updated with more locations, visit the Universal Orlando site for the most up-to-date list. For example, Toothsome and Cinnabun were added on the second day of operation. Restaurants are following local guidelines on capacity restrictions and table placing, for example, only the outdoor seating for Margaritaville was open. Retail is also slowly reopening with the Universal Studios Store and Margaritaville plus the Hollywood Drive-In mini-golf.

The novel coronavirus that spread COVID-19 transmits through water particles that are exhaled from an infected person. In addition to masks, a way to reduce spread is practicing "social distancing", the purposeful staging of groups of people so six feet is between all parties. Universal has laid-out distancing markers on the ground of locations with queues. Universal has started placing these markings outside of Islands of Adventure, too.



So what's next? Well, lets talk CityWalk. Social distancing markers have been placed outside of several currently closed restaurants including Hot Dog Hall of Fame and NBC Grill Brew. Hard Rock Cafe and Breadbox also are showing signs of reopening with new signage talking about mobile ordering and social distancing. We expect through the next two weeks more and more CityWalk locations will reopen based on menu item availability, staffing, and resources. Due to how novel coronavirus spreads we do not expect movie theaters, Hard Rock's music venue, or Blue Man Group to open soon.

Universal has not announced a reopening date for the resorts. Rumors suggest Universal is reaching out to TMs on reopening some aspects of the resorts in late May pending availability of TMs and supplies. Theme parks are even murkier with more signage, stock, and supplies needing to be ordered in addition to ramping up staffing. It is likely Universal will have staff testing new procedures and programs before guests return, meaning TMs could be called back and reports going out weeks before the parks reopen.



At this point it's nice to see CityWalk open again. It's nice to see Jacques and Penelope out greeting guests again. It's nice to see pink boxes full of donuts. And hopefully, soon it'll be nice to see guests riding Hagrid again. Be safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and be smart.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Epic Universe Is Not "Paused" or "Cancelled"

Remember April? Man, that was eons ago! Well, we've all lost our patience and sense of time while self quarantining. Ah the good ole days of April, when Comcast during their investor call informed people that Epic Universe is delayed. This was backed up during an Orange County meeting where Mayor Demmings confirmed that park construction is delayed.


The response to this bit of news has been... interesting. Many sites have been stating Epic Universe is "paused" and several people on Twitter jumped to the conclusion that the park won't happen this decade or at all. This is simply not true, work continues on the park as we speak. Orlando Sentinel quotes from Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder:

“This is about timing only. Our confidence in our business, our communities and our industry is as strong as ever. We will share more specifics as we move forward."

So, what's the deal? Well, it's a little bit of everything. Tom is 100% right, as state governments institute stay-at-home orders a lot of theme park work is considered non-critical. The offices, fabrication centers, testing locations, and more are now closed. While some work can be done from home there are communication and NDA impacts. This doesn't mean that all contractors are still working on the park, I have heard that some have stopped.

Construction on the park reportedly has slowed down, though I don't know why at this time. If I was to take a guess it would be to extend construction over a longer period of time to save money as the delivery dates for the park's various needs (creative work, ride hardware, theming elements, etc) fall behind. Construction on the road expansions to the new park are still on schedule.

So where does this leave us? Epic Universe has been delayed around a year to spring 2024. This is not due to cost or income but the very real supply chain issues from stay-at-home orders. Universal Creative is still working on the park and construction is still ongoing. The park is not paused, stopped, or canceled but instead, the development time is being stretched out.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast: 2020 Coaster Season (?) Memorial Episode



Alex and Alan talk mostly about the world of tomorrow, and we don't mean EPCOT. We literally mean the world...and tomorrow. Also some stuff about Indiana Beach and Alan's poor choices of YouTube viewing.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It!

Image copyright Walt Disney World Resort 2001.
It was impossible to escape Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the late 90s.

The imported British game show was an instant hit when ABC started broadcasting their version in August 1999. Millionaire found a perfect balance between its regal presentation, the charm of its host Regis Philbin, and drop-dead simple premise: answer a series of questions of progressing difficulty to win a million dollars. After a short run in the fall of '99 the show was quickly renewed and a larger show order was requested. 

Every network wanted their own prime time TV game show featuring dramatic lighting, tense music, dark backgrounds, and a personable host. Greed, Weakest Link, 21, 1 vs 100, and more attempted to cash in on the Millionaire rush. ABC ran the plane into the ground, showing Millionaire several times a week (new episodes and reruns) plus specials with celebrities and more. Viewership figures dropped and the primetime show was canceled in 2002 but a condensed half-hour version debuted for daytime syndication soon after.

In the middle of Millionaire mayhem, Walt Disney World announced an interactive stage show version of the game show will debut at Disney-MGM Studios. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It! opened in April 2001 in Soundstage 3 at the Studios. Disney-MGM Studios Entertainment (not WDI) faithfully recreated the New York set with the addition of several large projection screens and 600 seats. The 25-minute show largely played out like the one on TV with three major changes: 1) contestants were picked from the full audience (who had little gamepads to select A B C or D) 2) each question had a time limit to answer 3) instead of cash prizes contestants won "points" with each major milestone featuring pins, hats, jackets, and the million point prize consisting of a trip to see the show record in New York.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #193 - Concierge For All



It's a full house with Joe, Lane, Mike, Nick, and Sean! This week we welcome back to the podcast Len Testa of The Unofficial Guide and Touring Plans to discuss all the craziest happening in the world of theme parks. Topics include The Bobs, the future of the Disney Cruise Line, how the parks could reopen with COVID-19, hotel deals, writing the Unofficial Guide, and the guest ratings for the latest additions to the parks.

You can find Len at TouringPlans.com, The Unofficial Guide, and Disney Disney with Jim Hill.