Saturday, June 30, 2012

Soundstage 44 Completely Leveled 6/30/12

The title says it all.  After 2 weeks of demolition, Soundstage 44 at Universal Studios Florida is nothing more than a pile of rubble.  Some doubted whether it would be demolished at all.  Then, others thought maybe parts of it would remain.  No more wondering or doubting, it has completely been torn down.

Pictures can be seen at Orlando United in the thread dedicated to Soundstage 44 here.

Now that the demolition of Soundstage 44 is complete, we believe that the same crew will move over to Islands of Adventure where there are three buildings in Lost Continent that are slated for demolition.  This demolition is to make way for the Hogwarts Express expansion.  More on that here and here.

As for the future of the Soundstage 44 plot, it remains a mystery.  Expect a more in-depth post about that soon.  In the meantime, have a great weekend.  Remember, adventure is out there!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Be Our Guest Menu Revealed 6/27/12

©Disney. All rights reserved.
Today, the Disney Parks Blog posted an article revealing the menu for Be Our Guest Restaurant and a few other details about the restaurant.  Possibly the biggest announcement was that reservations for the restaurant will begin in August.  Given that the restaurant is located in New Fantasyland and being touted as a pseudo-attraction, it should be a hard place to get into, so reservations are a necessity.

As for the menu, it is the most compelling slate of dishes in all of Magic Kingdom.  Whether you intend on dining there for lunch or dinner, there should be something unique for the more-refined guest.

From the article, it appears that Disney still intends to operate the restaurant as quick service for lunch and transform it into table service for dinner.  Guests can probably look forward to early iterations of NexGen ordering methods for the quick service iteration of Be Our Guest.

Check out the article and interview with Head Chef, Michael Deardorff, here:

Fourth Anniversary of PI Closure Announcement

"Disney has said in the past that it expects to complete its redevelopment of Pleasure Island by 2012."
-Jason Garcia, 2010
©Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.
It is hard to believe, but it has now been four years since Walt Disney World announced that Pleasure Island would shuttering its doors forever on September 28, 2008.  In the press release, Disney promised the closure was to usher in its "bold new vision" for Downtown Disney.  Four years later, fans of Pleasure Island are still waiting for that new vision.

The shocking news came on June 27, 2008, and many fans were in disbelief.  The Adventurers Club was the most beloved club on Pleasure Island by fans.  Most took it for granted as if it would always be there.  But if history has taught us anything, nothing is safe in a theme park.  If you need examples, you need look no further than Jaws, Horizons, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  No club would be spared.

Why were the Pleasure Island clubs closed?  Kevin Lansberry said guests demanded more "shopping and dining."  If you search Disney forums, you will read tall tales of gangs, drugs, shootings, and other vile things.  Others will tell you that the clubs lost money, and they will use the tired "Disney is a business" line.  From Parkscope's experience, and you can be assured we are well-experienced when it comes to Pleasure Island, we never once witnessed any such violence.  As far as profitability, we have been assured that the only real loser was Comedy Warehouse.  The Adventurers Club was profitable as were others like Mannequins.

Kevin Lansberry
Source: Attractions Magazine, 2008
Disney's real reason for closing Pleasure Island was that they wanted to get out of the nightclub business and instead, increase their real estate business.  Disney believed that third party vendors would be knocking down the doors of Team Disney Orlando (across the street from Downtown Disney) with truckloads of money, begging to move into Pleasure Island.  There were two problems with this plan:  1) America was in a huge recession 2) Disney failed to secure said third parties BEFORE announcing the closure.

Part of what made Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island third parties so successful was having night clubs there to attract business.  Surely, Paradisio 37 envisioned a vibrant nightlife district when it signed its lease with Disney. Since closure, it has been rumored that Raglan Rd was very unhappy about the lack of foot traffic that resulted from the loss of the clubs.  Harley Davidson has since moved to West Side.  Pleasure Island is not so pleasurable anymore.

Hyperion Wharf: Bold, New, Dead
©Disney. All rights reserved.
In 2010, Disney announced that Pleasure Island would be transformed into an area called  Hyperion Wharf. Concept art was released and posted on construction walls.  Motion and Beach Club were demolished and turned into "seed and mulch."  That was the extent of Hyperion Wharf.  It quietly disappeared, and the concept art was removed from the area.  Disney has said that they are still working on a future plan for Pleasure Island.

Today marks four years since the announcement of the "bold new vision" and all Disney has accomplished is the demolition of two buildings and irreparable harm with fans.  Pleasure Island fans will never get over the botched closure, and Disney fans should not be so quick to overlook it either.  The ineptitude shown in the handling of Pleasure Island transcends this one instance, it permeates throughout Team Disney Orlando where no one is accountable and every single entity in the resort must justify its existence through profit.  The Adventurers Club was never meant or designed to make World of Disney level profits, it was intended to enhance the guest experience while making money (yes, it is a business.)
The Adventurers Club made the bulk of its money from private events, but the goodwill, memories, and magic it made for its guests (even the private event customers) was priceless.  Can you put a price-tag on Cinderella Castle, the Tree of Life, or Spaceship Earth?  That was what the Adventurers Club was to Pleasure Island and could have been for Downtown Disney.  

Walt Disney World built its reputation on special experiences like the Adventurers Club.  It was one of those things you could not experience anywhere else.  When Pleasure Island first opened, it was full of things you could not experience at your hometown nightclub district.  It was chock full of Disney details.  There was live music, fireworks, and it was New Years Eve every night.  Not everything needs to drive profit or see tremendous gains every year.  Some things just need to be there to enhance the guest experience.

Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency are the four keys of Disney service.  Notice, show comes before efficiency or at least it is supposed to.  Closing things like Pleasure Island puts efficiency before show, and what does Disney have to show for it?  Empty buildings and angry patrons.

To those of you who revel in the closure of Pleasure Island and never miss a chance to remind fans that it is gone and never coming back, what have you gained from this?  You have gained nothing, nothing at all.  Fans who enjoyed Pleasure Island lost something important to them, and no one got anything in return.  Think about that next time you begin to troll someone over Pleasure Island.  Reveling in nothingness just makes you look silly.  Yes, Disney is a business, but no good business has buildings collecting dust for four years.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Soundstage 44 Demolition Progress 6/23/12

We were beginning to wonder what was going on.  Since we reported that Soundstage 44 was going to be demolished, all that had been removed were Donkey's meet and greet and the concrete overhangs.  Today, Parkscope Correspondent, Nick Corjay snapped a shot of progress as seen from Richter's Burgers.

SS44 Demolition from Richter's Burgers
© 2012 Nick Corjay.
As you can see, the demolition crew has now started removing the precast concrete shell of Soundstage 44.  This is a curious way to demolish a building, but we suspect it may be due to asbestos in the building materials or its proximity to other buildings in the area.  Some people were beginning to suspect that the entire building shell would remain, but that does not seem to be the case. After the shell is removed, the structural steel beams will be next.

Follow @Parkscope on Twitter, and follow @NickCorjay for live photo updates from the parks.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Agent P Saves the World, Trains Splash & Elephants Duel!

With all the rumblings in the Universal Orlando rumor mill, it is easy to overlook the smaller happenings at Walt Disney World.  Storybook Circus became a bit more kinetic recently when Casey Jr. began soaking guests and Timothy Mouse helped the other set of Dumbos to begin to fly and thusly "duel".  Also, Agent P has kicked Kim Possible out of World Showcase.  Lets take a brief look at the new experiences at Walt Disney World, shall we?

© Disney 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Storybook Circus completed the introduction of the new Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction by getting the second spinner testing.  Soon, guests will be able to soar on one of two Dumbo spinners.  This effectively doubles the capacity of the original Dumbo.  While waiting to load one of the two spinners, guests will be able to enjoy the Big Top.  The Big Top is Dumbo's new interactive queue, which will open in July.  This new expereince will allow children to enjoy a play structure until it is time to soar with Dumbo. 

© Disney 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Storybook Circus also opened the new Casey Jr. Splash and Soak Station and boy is it wet.  Whenever I first heard about this addition, I thought it was going to be pretty similar to Donald's Boat, but I was wrong because Casey Jr. takes Splash and Soak to a new level.  This water play area is sure to bring enjoyment to the younger set.  They still have a few issues to figure out such as parents allowing children to climb over the fence surrounding Casey Jr. to get inside the train, but I'm confident a solution will be found.  Casey Jr. plays an important part in theming Storybook Circus and is thusly key to the area.  After all, without him, Dumbo wouldn't be visiting the Magic Kingdom. 

© Disney 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Magic Kingdom is not the only park getting additions this summer season.  At EPCOT Center, Kim Possible has been given the old heave ho in favor of Agent P.  For the new adventure, we are asked to assist the Organization Without a Cool Acronym (OWCA) in stopping Dr. Doofenshmirtz from completing his evil scheme.  Once you signup to assist OWCA, you are given your Field Operative Notification Equipment or FONE (pronounced phone).  This device will allow you to recieve your instruction from OWCA while you are in the field. 

© Disney 2012. All Rights Reserved

From this point, you are assigned a country to visit and you follow the steps your FONE sends to you in order to stop the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.  Major Monogram and his intern, Carl, will guide you as you complete your missions around the country.  Various objects will interact with you as you complete your mission such as fountains becoming active or the clock in Germany going off.  This is basically a redone version of the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure with some new additions to it.  The one thing I like about it is that you are assigned an agent name that the Major Monogram and Carl will refer to you as via your FONE.  For instances, if your name is Jennifer, you will be referred to as Agent J.  I think it is nice that Disney is trying to keep this experience fresh with a overlay and smart of them to capitalize on a very popular property in Phinease and Ferb.

© Disney 2012. All Rights Reserved

Lastly, Disney has also released some pictures of Walt Disney World's own version of Radiator Springs over at the new Art of Animation Resort.  This section looks really nice and should resonate with Cars fans of all ages.  You can see the pictures of this new section of the resort here.  The blog also released a first look at the new queue line for Under the Sea - Journey of The Little Mermaid, which can be seen here.  The new queue space looks equally as stunning as Storybook Circus and it features an awesome tribute to an original attraction at the Magic Kingdom. 

Thanks for reading, and let us know what you think. You can either leave comments on the blog or tweet us @Parkscope or @MrX_381. Until next time! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UOR Permit Update 6/21/12: Lasers!

Today, Universal filed a building permit with the City of Orlando to add 5 laser platforms to the sea wall around Universal Studios Lagoon.  Presumably, the lasers will be integrated with Universal Cinematic Spectacular and/or special events such as Halloween Horror Nights and Mardi Gras.

Follow us on Twitter @Parkscope.

Discuss Cinematic Spectacular at Orlando United.

Hogwarts Express Speculation 6/21/12

Disclaimer:  We are not permit experts.  The following article is speculation based on laymen observations of permit review comments.

© 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
Activity has picked up on The City of Orlando's review of permits related to the Hogwarts Express attraction coming to Universal Orlando as part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion.  From certain review comments, some details about the stations and ride may be gleaned.  We will not make any promises about the accuracy, we can only do our best with what is public record.

First off, The City of Orlando has changed the name of Project 3641 (South Station), and it is now labeled Project 4691 (Connector.)  Both now have the Connector project number of 4691.  From this, we are inferring that someone originally mixed up the two permits when they were originally posted.  As more information has come out, it is looking like the permit originally labeled as the Connector was, in fact, for South Station (Hogsmeade Station.)

Our reasoning: The Connector permit and North Station basically have the same price tag tied to "Sewer Benefit."  This cost seems to be related to the amount of water displaced.  North Station, of course, is being built on what used to be Jaws, and South Station is being built on top of a Dragon Challenge pond.  Both are displacing quite a bit of water.  Also, North and South Station will most likely be similar in size, so the permit costs should be nearly identical.  Currently, North Station is $7917; South Station is $381.04; and Connector is $6394.50.  As you can see, it seems like they were mixed up from the start.

Even more evidence exists that the permit originally labeled "Connector" was really South Station.  In the review comments for Connector, there are references to load areas, unload areas, capacity, and other details that would be associated with an attraction station.  We have been led to believe that the Connector is the train itself by a Phase 2 contractor.

© 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
Now, on to the interesting things brought up in the review comments.  The things that most stand out are certain capacity figures related to unload & egress, the mention of a "ticketing structure," and an "exit tunnel."

For North Station (Platform 9 3/4), the reviewer says, "the exit capacity for the occupant load is deficient. (occ load 1259 capacity 1170)."  This is according to the Life Safety Code which requires a minimum amount of exit space based on occupancy of a space.  We are going to infer that the current exit space is insufficient to hold the occupancy load of 1259 and is only capable of handling 1170 in its current state.  That is not to say that the train capacity is 1259 or even close to it.  Even if the capacity of each train is a third or fourth of that figure, it will be a people eater (a monorail holds around 400.)  However, sometimes exit capacity is calculated for an entire structure, so this figure may be for all of North Station in the case of evacuation.  Again, speculating based on limited knowledge and facts.

The North Station will also have a boiler room.  We are speculating that this will be for a steam effect at the station.  Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom uses a boiler for its steam effect at the load station.

Hogsmeade Station from Harry Potter & the Philosophers Stone
© 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
For South Station (Hogsmeade Station), the reviewer says he/she has trouble deciphering capacity of a few aspects of the station.  The only number thrown out is 204 for an entry stair which does not do us much good.  The South Station plans are apparently unclear in other ways:
"Cannot determine from the plans the true occupant load, entry points, exit points, what is the ticketing building for, and exit tunnel, what it the occupant circulation paths, etc. This will affect the total occupant load and egress capacity for this building."
As mentioned earlier, there is the mysterious "ticketing building."  Some of the biggest speculation surrounding the Hogwarts Express project is how Universal would handle ticketing.  Most thought this would prevent the attraction from happening.  Like the reviewer, we want to know what this ticketing building is for.  Is it just there thematically, or will it be a functional ticket booth for guests who need to upgrade to a 2-Park ticket?  We're hoping that it is just there thematically, and if not, hopefully the ticket building has a big queue for the ill-prepared.

Future site of Hogsmeade Station.
© 2012 Universal City Development Partners.  All Rights Reserved.
© 2012 Google Earth.  All Rights Reserved.
Another interesting mention is the exit tunnel.  Now that we know that Hogsmeade Station will be sitting between the Dragon Challenge tracks, perhaps this tunnel will take us between Dragons and Sinbad so we do not see Sinbad as we exit.  Or maybe it is just a simple exit tunnel.  Food for thought.

Just in case there are still doubters that this is for the Hogwarts Express, both permits reference the building connecting to a ride system.

As for the Connector, nothing interesting to the report.  Again, another reason why we think the permits were mislabeled.

Since posting this article yesterday, the City of Orlando has once again changed the permit numbers for South Station and the Connector.  The permit originally labeled as Connector is now for South Station and numbered Project 3641.  The permit originally labeled as South Station is now for the Connector and numbered Project 4691.

Please leave us comments on what you think, or tweet us @Parkscope.  Also, join in on the discussion of #WWoHP2 on Orlando United.

Permit Links:
North Station
South Station

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hogsmeade South Station Plans

The South Florida Water Management District posted plans today for Project 3641 in connection with "basin improvements."  We have found some simple layouts of some of the Hogwarts Express stations which will feature heavily in the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort.

Hogsmede Station
© 2012 Universal City Development Partners. All Right Reserved.

Above, you can see the layout for what is assumed to be the  Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express, which is by far the most interesting piece in the plans that we acquired. The station seems to be set back between the two tracks of Dragon Challenge.

What the area currently looks like.  Sinbad is on the right.
© 2012 Google Earth. All Rights Reserved.
Earlier, we put up an article about the demolition of the buildings in Lost Continent that were thought to be making way for the station. With this apparent setup, it looks like Universal may be going for a queue area or pathway for what is probably going to be a very, very popular attraction.

© 2012 Parkscope
© 2012 Google Earth. All Rights Reserved.
© 2012 Universal City Development Partners.  All Rights Reserved.
Other than that, the majority of the plans are about how Universal will be dewatering the station areas and moving ground water into surrounding basins.  According to the documents, Universal plans on having to move millions of gallons of water.  Hopefully, work will start soon.

Link to SFWMD plans:

Follow @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 on Twitter for future updates on #WWoHP2

Discuss #WWoHP2 at Orlando United.

Minion Mayhem AP Preview

©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved

Universal Orlando Annual Passholders get the opportunity to be "One In A Minion!" first.  From June 18th - July 1st, AP holders will gain early admission to Universal Studios Florida to ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem!  One hour prior to regular scheduled park opening, both Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4-D will open to AP holders.  To signup for this opportunity, visit  Space is limited and first come, first serve. Remember, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is in technical rehearsal and subject to delays or closures. 

If you get an opportunity to became one the first to become a Minion, let us know what you think! Tweet us @Parkscope or @MrX_381.

UOR Permit Update 6/19/12: Lost Continent Demo

Universal City Development Partners filed three demolition permits on January 20th of this year, and today, they were finally issued.  The three permits are for Building 234A, 234A Tent, and 234B. These buildings are located in the Lost Continent and are right outside of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  People are probably most familiar with the ice cream stand that was in one of the buildings.  It is believed that these buildings are being demolished to make way for the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade Station and possibly a new entrance for Dragon Challenge.

The area to be demolished.  Hogsmeade Arch at bottom.
© 2012 Google Maps.
The permits were approved long ago, but it seems like Universal wants to take these buildings down while they have the demolition equipment on property for Soundstage 44.  They finally picked up and paid for the permits.

Follow @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 for future updates on #WWoHP2

Transformers: Energon & Allspark

The prospect of Transformers: The Ride 3d coming to Universal Studios Florida is exciting enough, but if it does come, we can expect more than a great ride.  Transformers has the latest additions to Universal's family of specialty food and beverage.

© 2012 TFW2005.
Universal Studios Hollywood is currently the only place to get Energon, the energy drink of Transformers.  The drink has been described as a creamy orange soda. It comes in a special Energon glass with a light-up cube.

© 2012 Theme Park Review.  Check out their report of Transformers Grand Opening here.

From Universal Studios Hollywood's "What's Hot" page:
Still thirsty for battle? Become infused with an Energon energy drink, the preferred fuel of Transformers and exclusive only at Universal Studios Hollywood. Available at the Recharging Station on the Lower Lot.
Also available is Allspark which is the Transfomer version of the Chocolate Frog.  Allspark comes in the form of a milk-chocolate cube and features the designs of the cube from the films.

© 2012 TFW2005
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem opening on July 2nd, offers the cookies that Gru's girls sell in the movie.  Universal attractions currently offering specialty food and/or beverage include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Simpsons Ride, Green Eggs and Ham, and now Transformers and Minion Mayhem.

Parkscope loves unique merchandise and food & beverage offerings in theme parks.  It takes the theme to the next level and inspires spending because you cannot get it at home.  Generic merchandise and Coca-Cola at every corner does not.  If Transformers does indeed replace Soundstage 44, hopefully Energon and Allspark come with it.

Follow @Parkscope for the latest developments on Soundstage 44.

Universal Century Part 3: USF Revival

As invited media members were enjoying Disneyland Resort’s Media Day for Cars Land, Universal Creative was flying sight-balloons above Soundstage 44 at Universal Studios Florida.  Later that night, Back to the Future props were removed from the area.  The next day, a demolition permit was fast-tracked through the City of Orlando.  Apparently, there is yet another new attraction coming to the Studios.  Universal Orlando and Comcast mean serious business, and they are in the midst of their own Disney California Adventure remodel for Universal Studios Florida.

© 2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved.

One could make an argument that the revival of Universal Studios Florida began in 2008 with the opening of Simpsons.  Another argument could be made for 2009 and the opening of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  However, there is no doubt that the Studios' own extreme makeover is now underway.  So far, this year has seen the addition of Cinematic Spectacular, Superstar Parade, new character dining experiences, and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.  This year has also seen the closure and demolition of Amity and Jaws.  And starting this week, Soundstage 44, the former home of Hercules and Angela Lansberry, is being demolished to make way for another new attraction.

Soundstage 44 has not been used in many years, and it was last used as a Haunted House for Halloween Horror Nights.  On May 17th, permits were filed to prepare the building for this years Halloween Horror Nights.  On June 11th, a mysterious Notice of Commencement was filed for a building at the Studios for demolition and partial build-out.  We at Parkscope suspected it may be for Soundstage 44, but there was not enough information available at the time.  Then, things quickly got more interesting as the week went on, and on Friday,a demolition permit clearly designated for Soundstage 44 was filed and approved.  Sources were caught off guard, but after having some time to get their bearings straight, they have heard that Soundstage 44 project is on a very aggressive timetable.

© 2012 LA Times. All Rights Reserved.

Since June 15th, the Internet has been abuzz with the news of Soundstage 44's impending demise.  Everyone wants to know it will be.  Much of the speculation centers around the recently opened Transformers: The Ride 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood and Singapore.  The attraction has gotten rave reviews and was recently described as "better than Spider-Man."  Many have held that Transformers is unlikely because it is too similar to Spider-Man, and that is a valid point.  Transformers' main distinguishing features are the elevators that enable the showbuilding to have a smaller footprint which makes it a prime candidate for the Soundstage 44 plot.

What is clear, is that something new is coming to Universal Studios Florida, and it is coming very, very fast.  If Universal really does have an aggressive construction schedule, we could possibly see the Soundstage 44 replacement before Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in the former Amity area.  On top of Potter and Soundstage 44,  there have been rumblings that Kidzone is due for a complete redo, Fear Factor Live is due for a replacement after its current contract runs out, and the plot between Men in Black & Simpsons is in play.  Earlier this month, there was talk of future expansion at the Studios taking place behind Disaster and Diagon Alley.

© 2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved.

The additions that Universal Studios Florida has received this year are just the beginning if insiders are to be believed. Think back to where the park was last year, and look ahead to what it will be like in 2015.  In 2010, Universal Studios Florida was very similar to the California Adventure of 2007, but in five years, the former could match or even better the latter after its makeover.  Diagon Alley is the Studios' Cars Land; Cinematic Spectacular is its World of Color; Despicable Me is its Midway Mania; etc. Universal Studios is getting the California Adventure treatment without the fanfare.

The next five years should be very exciting for fans of Universal Studios Florida.  Comcast has seen what quality can do with the success of Potter at Islands of Adventure.  Investment and quality additions eventually increase the bottom line.  Add exciting things, and guests will come.  The Studios has already seen attendance bumps from its new entertainment offerings.  This summer, hours have been extended to accommodate the increased interest in the park.  Barring any surprise announcements by Disney, Universal Studios Florida should be poised to overtake Disney's Hollywood Studios when its revival is complete.

This article is Part 3 of Parkscope's Universal Century series.  Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

Follow @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 for future updates on #USFrevival

Monday, June 18, 2012

UOR Dining Experiences Now Available

Universal Orlando now has two new dining experiences available for guests to book that give guests special access to Universal's Superstar Parade and Universal's Cinematic Spectacular.  These new experiences have been offered at Disney theme parks for years and are yet another step in Universal Orlando's transformation into a well-rounded resort experience.

Despicable Me float in Superstar Parade
© 2012 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.
Universal's Superstar character breakfast takes place at the recently reopened Cafe La Bamba located in the Hollywood section of Universal Studios Florida.  During breakfast, guests will get to interact with characters featured in the parade: Hop, Despicable Me, Dora & Diego, and Spongebob Squarepants.  Guests will also enjoy early access to Shrek 4-D.  Presumably when Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem officially opens July 2nd, it will also be available.  Later in the day, guests who book this dining experience will have a special VIP area reserved to watch Universal's Superstar Parade.  The price for Adults is $26.99 and $10.99 for Children.

Guests enjoying Cinematic Spectacular
© 2012 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.
Universal's Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience takes place at Lombard's Seafood Grille from 4-7:45 pm.  After dinner, guests get to watch Universal's Cinematic Spectacular from Lombard's Seafood Grille Deck. The price for Price: Adults $44.99 and $12.99 for Children.

Find out more about Lombard's Seafood Grille here.

Today's theme park guests who have children demand these sort of exclusive experiences that make the parks easier to enjoy.  Instead of having to seek out characters, the characters come to you, and instead of having to stake out spots to view the parade or Cinematic Spectacular, you have a reserved, exclusive area.  Most guests do not want to be bothered with those sorts of things, so these new experiences are perfect for them.

For reservations or more information, call Call 1-407-503-DINE (3463).

You can also make reservations at Universal Orlando's website.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Electronic Humm

I consider theme park fandom to have several 'levels' to it. First level is going to the parks and enjoying the time there, then it progresses deeper into collecting, research, and reliving the parks at home. Personally, I'm somewhere near level 12, where you write about them on blogs and forums and write historical articles.

But one of the first things most people find themselves wanting is theme park music. Previously, the only outlet was through officially released albums of varying levels of quality and depth. Sure, anyone can get "Grimm Grinning Ghosts" quite easily; but what about Papillon by David Arkenstone? Previously you'd need to scout record stores ready to spend $12 on one track. iTunes made this progressively easier to get, but now with Spotify large sections of park music is now available, for free, online.

Thanks to Kyle Crane, there is now a Spotify playlist of Disney Parks music. It has everything from the Tiki Room to "I Already Have a Husband" by Balafon Marimba Ensemble; 'We Are Here To Change the World' by Michael Jackson to 'Standing in Motion' by Yanni.

NOTE: The embed code for Spotify has been flaky, if this does not work, use this link instead.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Worth It List: 6/17/2012

The past several weeks have been massive for the theme and amusement park industry. Lots of great stories and news pieces came out covering new attractions, editorials, rumors, and history. Here are the things that are Worth It.

Worth Reading

Progress City: From The Model Shop...

Michael over at Progress City has unearthed rare EPCOT models from the mid to late 70s showing rejected and never built ideas. The lost Dark Continent pavilion, the original Land, and World Showcase circa 1978. Make sure to click on the photos, they're massive!

Long Forgotten is again at the forefront of theme park research and historical analysis with this unique article on the gentrification of the two different Disney Haunted Mansions. I won't ruin it, but I will say it'll make you consider how the designers have an influence on the an attraction beyond just personal styles and opinions.

Worth Watching

Progress City: A Secret Showcase

Long lost footage from 1977 showing old school WDW and the 'World Showcase', back before Marty infamously pushed the two models together!

Attractions Magazine: Casey Jr Splash 'n' Soak

Nice little diversion and pallet cleanser here. Nothing more than some water, sounds, and movement.

This is the best video of the new, mega E-Ticket anchor for Disney California Adventure. You see all the figures at good light levels. I simply love the Doc Hudson AA.

Attractions Magazine: Minion Mayhem

The final part of the Summer to be Here, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is now in technical rehearsal. Universal Creative has really nailed the humor and charm in this attraction!

Worth Listening To

Passport to Dreams Old & New: A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World

This is a few months old, but if you have not given this a listen yet, do so. It's a loving recreated snip-it of Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom from the mid 70s. The whole CD starts with my favorite musical piece ever written for Walt Disney World: the long lost Walt Disney World Theme.

Close your eyes, and imagine yourself walking into the show building. That is all.

What Is Going On At Venetian Point?

Over the past few weeks, it has been reported around the internet that height balloons have spotted at site designated as Venetian Point.  Today, I got a report from a friend in the area that once again, the height balloons are out, and whats more, they've been clearing the shoreline.

It has long been believed that the land is unsuitable for building a resort.  Could that just be a myth/urban legend floated out to the fan community like the sinkhole below Horizons?  Height balloons have also been spotted at the Polynesian Resort for preliminary work on the DVC addition to that resort, but the tests on Venetian Point are too far away to be for the Polynesian.

So what is going on?  A Cell-Phone tower?  Could we actually be getting a resort on Venetian Point 40 years later?  Imagineers flying kites?

Venetian Point Plot circled in red.  Monorail line in blue.
© Google Maps 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2012

UOR Permit Update 6/15/12: Project 7448

Universal loves to file permits on Fridays.  The Hogwarts Express permits were filed on a Friday two weeks ago.  And Project 7448 was originally filed 3 weeks ago.

Today, two new building permits showed up for Project 7448 which has been revealed to be a series of buildings.  Also, the original Project 7448 permit was updated to be an individual building.  Project 7448 was originally speculated to be part of the new London Waterfront that is replacing the Amity Boardwalk area.  Work has already begun on the new sea wall, but they have to drain water from the holes they have been digging.

The original 7448 Building Permit:

Today, the updated 7448 permit now named Building 64

The new Project 7448 Building 65

And new Project 7448 Building 65 A

The original 7448 permit, now named Building 64, was updated this morning by the Reviewers to include language referencing Florida Building Code 303, 106, and the word 'mercantile.'  FBC303 refers to the group (category) that the buildings it are in.  Specifically, 303 A3 BII which suggests that it is, in fact, a mercantile and one with low capacity (less than 50.)  FBC 106 deals with buildings containing multiple floors.  The permit reviewers reference the lack of information of a second floor.  I suspect the second floor is for storage.

Project 7448 very well could be a series of buildings for the new London waterfront.  Surely, Universal wants food, beverage, and merchandise in an area that will someday be a very popular Cinematic Spectacular (or future iteration) viewing area.  It could also be referencing new buildings in the Diagon Alley complex.  Only time will tell.


Soundstage 44 Demolition permit!

Keep up to date on Universal permits by following @CaptMichael87 and @Parkscope

Discuss Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Orlando United.

Also, check out what else Universal is up to with the surprising Soundstage 44 Project.

Glow with the Show Debut

"Glow with the Show" Mouse Ears
© Disney 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Last night during the Disney California Adventure media event, Disney unveiled new mouse ears featuring "Glow with the Show" technology.  At first glance, the ears just light up, but they do much, much more.  Remember the old Magical Moments pins that used to be sold years ago that would light up at certain areas of the park?  This is a 2012 beefed up version of that concept.

Magical Moments pin from The Happiest Celebration on Earth
© Parkscope Archives 2012.
Glow with the Show Ears currently interact with Mad T. Party and World of Color at Disney California Adventure.  The technology enables the ears to change colors and turn off and on in sync with scenes during World of Color.  It is very impressive visually and technically.

Steve Davison, famed for his nighttime shows at Disney, posted this on his Facebook page:

"Had a run through last night of "Glow With The Show!" at World of Color! It is so cool! I've been wanting to do this idea for over 10 years, and now we finally have the technology to make it happen. It really is a fantastic enhancement to the show as you become living pixels of color that interact with the performance. I am so excited!"
The Disney Parks Blog promises that the ears will interact with other things around DCA.  It will be interesting to see what else they do.

We at Parkscope look forward to seeing this technology implemented at all Disney theme parks.  It seems to be a perfect fit for Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  The amphitheater set-up is perfect to showcase this technology.

This is great use of technology.  Bravo Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Entertainment.

UOR Permit Update 6/15/12: Soundstage 44

UPDATE:  Sources have now led us to believe the replacement is a permanent haunted house.  Article here.

The times they are a'changing.

Over the past few days things have seemingly moved at a rapid pace around Universal Studios Florida's Soundstage 44. For those that are unfamiliar with the Soundstage numbers, this is the building that once housed the Murder She Wrote experience, and later the Hercules and Xena show. The building has been vacant for over a decade after the Herc/Xena show finished its run.
The old Herc/Xena Sign
Since then it's been a vacant building in the middle of the park, and has featured the Back to the Future Delorean and train outside since their ride closed. It's also housed a haunted house for a past Halloween Horror Nights and will fill that role again this year if permits are to be believed.
The abandoned and empty SS44. (c) 2011 The Disney Report
But yesterday, the BttF Delorean was moved from its location, and then reports came in that the train has also been craned out. And then today, word has come that height balloons have been seen floating over the Soundstage. On top of that, Michael here at Parkscope found a permit earlier in the week for a demolition of an old building and the construction of a new one.

Permit filed 6/11/12
Could this be Soundstage 44? Right now it's a lot of guess work, but signs are pointing that way.

Now for some fun stuff. What could be going in the space? Well, I'm bored at work so I did a little preliminary numbers crunching, and the results are interesting to say the least. If they decided to take the Monsters Cafe with Soundstage 44, and to be honest, I don't know why they wouldn't, we would have a plot of land that is about 310 feet x 145 ft(marked in yellow), which is a plot of land bigger than Cat in the Hat and smaller than Mummy.
The area of SS44 and Monsters Cafe
Now, add in the sidewalk and queue area around the building (marked with red) and you get a plot of land that would be able to fit a ride the size of Transformers. Optimus Prime would look really good there, wouldn't he? And with the reopening of Cafe La Bamba, Monsters is now expendable, not that it's open all that much to begin with.
Expanded plot area
Again, this is all guesswork about the future for this plot, but one thing seems to be certain: Soundstage 44 is not long for this world. I'd guess that it'll be used for HHN and then tore down to make room for the next experience. Or, if Universal is really aggressive, they'll use another location for the house and will get cracking soon.

UPDATE 6/15/12

Demolition permit filed for "Building 44" which is likely Soundstage 44

Stay tuned to Parkscope for more updates as we get them, and remember to follow @Parkscope on Twitter for up to the minute news and notes. And head to Orlando United to discuss what could be coming.