Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cleansing Wave?

If you're walking by Woody Woodpecker's KidZone in Universal Studios Florida, you might be hearing something. Wanna know what it is? It's the winds of change. This past weekend, the KidZone's radically redone gift shop opened as Spongebob Storepants, a highly themed and detailed store/meet and greet dedicated to Bikini Bottom's most famous resident.

Personally, the project was low on my list of things to keep an eye on. Universal's new night show, parade, Busch Garden's Williamsburg's Verbolten, and Disney's big California Adventure redo were taking up most of my theme park attention. To me, Storepants was merely going to be the possible first step on a newly revamped KidZone. But as I said, the store opened this past weekend, and what I see has really impressed me, and given me a whole heck of a lot of hope for the future of this decrepit area of the park.

The facade is a huge improvement over the former Universal's Cartoon Store's boring exterior. The detail and color really explode off the building and welcome you in.

Spongebob Storepants Facade (Source: Orlando Attractions)
Once inside you can meet Spongebob, or explore the store to see some clever puns right up this Jungle Cruise Skipper's alley.
Punny! (Source: Orlando United)
But I'm not here to give an in-depth look at the store. You can find more of those across the internet from people that have actually been inside it (check out OrlandoUnited.com for a good one). No, I'm here to talk about the bigger ramifications the store can have for a long ignored area of USF, the KidZone.

As a theme park fan who often defends Universal against Disney fans who often don't know any better, KidZone is one thing I just can't defend. Okay, Ripsaw Falls I can't defend either, but that's a different story.

KidZone is just there. No thought went into its design, and it's just ugly building after ugly building, with two (TWO!?) playgrounds thrown in with an off the shelf kiddie coaster and the ET Adventure. Stepping into KidZone after wandering the rest of the terrific Studios park is like stepping into a bizarro portal to a Six Flags. Okay, maybe not that bad, but you get the point. There are walkways that scream late 80s/early 90s and a haphazard approach that just leaves me scratching my head.

The properties represented aren't horrible (Woody, ET, Barney, Curious Geroge), but they're a group with very little relate-able connection, which furthers the feeling of disconnect. But for the past year I've, along with a few others I confer with, have been hearing whispers about a KidZone extreme makeover. And after seeing the store, I'm excited.
Remember Fievel? No? That's cool. Most people don't. (Source: WDWInfo.com)
The rumors state that a much more unified area is on the way, and the whole area will receive a facelift. Which is great. As it stands now, we have a lot of concrete and very little theming. We have ugly, ugly buildings in a semi circle. And if Bikini Bottom is on its way, I welcome it.

I'd expect Fievel's Playland to go first, as well as KidZone Pizza, to be replaced by a Bikini Bottom play area and the Krusty Krab respectively. As for the rest, well that gets tricky. Will the whole land become a Spongebob land? I personally doubt it, but I have heard rumblings of such a change.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room of this situation... The ET Adventure.
It's like an acid trip you can ride.
©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved
Listen...I know ET is a classic attraction. I love it, in an ironic kind of way. But let's not act like it's some hallmark of themed design and is untouchable. Would it be a shame to lose a classic ride like this? Sure. But I think ET's days are numbered. And if the park has survived (and thrived) without Back to the Future, Jaws, and King Kong, losing ET won't be a killing blow.

Now, I'm sure you're all asking what could replace ET. Well, I think we should keep a weathered eye on what's going on in Singapore. They're in the process of building a Sesame Street attraction that apparently has the same ride system as ET. While they wouldn't be able to clone the attraction to USF (Busch has the Sesame Street rights in the states), it could give us a clue as to what kind of ride Universal can produce in the same kind of ride space. Plus, some of those Green Planet scenes inside the ET Adventure could turn into Bikini Bottom quickly, no?

We don't know exactly what's going to happen, but we're excited. The store has turned out very well. Now let's just hope merch sales boom and we can get a new land that lives up to the Universal standard, rather than what we have now.

Stay tuned to Parkscope for further developments on KidZone and theme parks around the world, and make sure to follow @Parkscope on twitter. Thanks for reading!


No comments:

Post a Comment