Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Radiator Mayhem: New DCA and USF Debuts

The past week has seen the debut of two highly anticipated attractions.  At Disney California Adventure, Annual Passholders were able to experience Radiator Springs Racers after five long years of anticipation and construction walls.  At Universal Studios Florida, guests were treated to a “technical rehearsal” for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.  The new offerings are not comparable as attractions, but they are both important to their respective parks.

© Disneyland Resort 2012. All Rights Reserved.
In 2001, Disney’s California Adventure opened at Disneyland Resort and was considered a dud.  When Bob Iger took over as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, he acknowledged that DCA was a problem that needed to be addressed.  In 2007, Disney did something unprecedented; they announced a $1 Billion+ makeover of DCA.  No domestic Disney park had ever been so critically maligned, and Disney never had to invest $1 Billion+ in an existing park.

World of Color
© Disneyland Resort 2012. All Rights Reserved.
June 15 marks the end of an impressive makeover that lasted five years and has brought: Toy Story Midway Mania, a redone Paradise Pier, World of Color, The Little Mermaid, Buena Vista Street, Carthay Circle Theatre, and Cars Land among other things.  DCA even got a minor name change (they took off the apostrophe S.)  Disney and WDI did a great job of keeping the good, working around it, and getting  rid of or improving the bad.

The Marquee for Radiator Springs Racers
© Disneyland Resort 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Radiator Springs Racers is capstone on this expansion/makeover.  It is arguably Disney’s best attraction stateside since Indiana Jones Adventure opened at Disneyland in 1995.  They spent a huge chunk of money on Radiator Springs Racers, and for the first time in a while, you can see where the money went.  From the rockwork to the animatronic cars, everything looks real and as if you were actually in PIXAR’s film.  As someone who does not care for the Cars franchise, this attraction has won me over.  Walt Disney Imagineering, and yes, even John Lasseter are to be commended.  The budget was bloated, but in the end, it was worth it.  Radiator Springs Racers should be a classic at DCA for years to come.  It was just what DCA needed.

©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem serves a different purpose for Universal Orlando.  Minion Mayhem was not needed to save UOR, Potter already did that.  Minion Mayhem is a key part in a grander scheme to make UOR more accessible and attractive to guests of all ages.  Despicable Me was one of Universal’s biggest movie hits in a long time, and it is a movie that can be enjoyed by all ages like PIXAR’s Toy Story.  It was a great choice to replace the irrelevant Jimmy Neutron in prime real estate at USF.  Universal announced the attraction in May 2011, and it has opened for technical rehearsal nearly a year later.  On June 13th, Universal announced that it will officially open on July 2nd.

Minion Mayhem
©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved
For months, Universal teased guests and fans with the addition of Gru’s house to the outside of the former Nicktoon Soundstage.  Around the premier of Cinematic Spectacular, Minion propaganda posters showed up on the building.  While all of this needed to be done as part of the redo, it also served its purpose of drumming up anticipation for the new attraction.  According to videos, pictures, and reviews, it seems like the attraction lives up to the hype.

Concept Art of Preshow
©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved
Minion Mayhem features a well-themed queue line, an additional preshow room (part of the former Nicktoon store was reclaimed for this room), 4K HD Projectors, new effects, a post show, and an attraction-specific store.  The attraction has been running intermittently for only a few days, and guests love it.  Kids are enjoying the dance party in the post show, and guests of all ages are buying merchandise.  The Minion characters are very popular with people.  The attraction consistently has waits of about 60 minutes.  USF desperately needed this for the summer while Jaws and Amity is re-purposed into Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The attraction also caters to the family demographic which Universal has traditionally lacked offerings for.  This goes a long way to fulfill UOR’s goal of being a more well-rounded resort where guests can spend multiple days.

It has been a great week for theme park fans on both coasts and for management.  Universal has completed its impressive “Year to be Here”, and Disneyland Resort has completed its five year makeover of Disney California Adventure.  There is now more to do at DLR and UOR than ever before.  It will be interesting to see where both resorts go from here.  Hopefully, the hard work and investment will pay off.

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