Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hollow Scream: A Look at Williamsburg's Dissapointing 2012 Haunt

As I sit down to write this review, I'm still not exactly sure what I saw Saturday night at Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Howl-O-Scream 2012. This being my third year in a row at the event, Saturday felt like a bizarro world compared to the past 2 years. The first two were fun romps through a beautiful park with a multitude of scares and a terrific atmosphere.

This year felt like a hollow shell of an event.

My friends and I reached the park around 4:30 in the afternoon this past Saturday, an hour and a half before the event was scheduled to begin. Since my two companions had yet to ride Verbolten (a review of which can be found here) we decided to head over there and hit that. After waiting a little under an hour in line, we reached the station.

Before going on, I have to give the park a shout-out for giving the queue video inside the travel agency a Halloween overlay. Very well done.

The ride itself is still spectacular. I know I had originally said I still preferred Griffon to Verbolten, but I think I have to reverse that now. The ride is just such a complete package, even though I still think the ride path and building could use some more theming and greenery.

After we got off the coaster, we decided to hit Das Festhaus for a bite to eat before the event kicked into gear. We walked by this year's "Open Casket" bar where the bartenders are dressed up as Vampires. It's a nice touch. When we entered the restaurant, we found that one of this year's new shows "Night Beats" had begun on the central stage, so the place was packed. Luckily, we found a seat and I got a terrific carved turkey sandwich for dinner. The foot at BGW is phenomenal.

Night Beats was a highly entertaining way to spend dinner. I missed most of the story, but from what I gathered it was a vampire/ghost cabaret show, and they sang plenty of great songs. The singers were all talented for the roles, and there was some nice playing around with the audience. Overall, a nice way to kick off the Halloween event.

Unfortunately it was mostly downhill form here.

Exiting, we stopped at Open Casket for a drink, and then wandered towards the front of the park to pick up my camera which I had stashed in a locker for the time being. I was excited to use the DLSR for the first time in a them park. Unfortunately, the conditions of HOS just didnt't lend itself all that well to my desires. The event felt so empty, I just didn't find a lot of interesting shots to take. There was a nice shot of the Loch Ness Monster reflected in water, but I didn't have the time to get a good vantage point on the busy bridge I was on.

While walking, something hit us very quickly. The atmosphere was just not there. The streets had light theming compared to the past two years, and there were basically no actors in the streets. This year, BGW decided to go the "horde" route and have roaming bands of actors going all over the park. The bad part is they only had TWO hordes in the event. If you're familiar with the park, it is huge. There's a lot of ground to cover for two hordes, and it just leaves the park feeling empty. I'm not exactly sure what the rationale was for this change, but it's definitely taken away from the event.

And the streets weren't the only thing that were empty. The houses were too.

The first one we hit was Catacombs, which is a maze that's been around since I've been going to the event. It's themed to Paris's underground mass graves, and was the only house I'd call good from the entire night. Well staffed and the actors were giving their all.

Next, we headed to Deadline, the house that I ranked as the best last year. The story is while digging for a new subway system in Pompeii, the construction released a gas, turning people into zombies. Again, this house started off strong, but fizzled out near the middle. I went through 2 or three rooms straight with no actors, or one actor that just kind of stood there. The final two rooms were almost barren, and the best effect/scare from last year was wasted without an actor.

Then came Fear Fair, the haunt themed to a deadly traveling carnival. This one was strong last year as well, with demented clowns and interesting scares at every turn. This time I went through a few of the tent mini-mazes without seeing a single actor, including areas where there was supposed to be a featured character.

After three mazes, we were feeling pretty down on the event, and left Italy and headed back towards Verbolten and the Oktoberfest area. Here, Bitten had almost a two hour wait, so we headed over to the new Root of All Evil maze, dedicated to the icon of the event, The Lady of the Gardens.

Oh geez...this maze...

Was completely and utterly terrible. It was themed to the Lady taking over the BG landscaping department. You start off by taking a picture, which completely takes you out of the moment. Then, you go through a series of deserted greenhouses and what amounts to a hedge maze. The first outdoor section had potential, with a scareactor in a fountain and the Lady of the Gardens.But the guy in the fountain just kind of waved his hand at us and the Lady of the Gardens was just out in the open, negating any scare. The rest of the actors, the ones that were there, just kind of laughed and waved gardening implements at us.

After this, the event was almost over, and a thunderstorm was on its way, which closed the rides we wanted to do. Instead of getting caught in the rain, we decided to head for the car, ending our night.

Overall, the event just didn't have enough scareactors to be effective. The streets and houses were both almost barren, and the theming in the streets just wasn't up to par compared to previous years. Making the lack of actors worse were the attempted "scares" of the ones there were. They were just not effective at putting you on edge, often times telegraphing their scares. Also, the feeling of deja vu  with repeated houses definitely got to me this year. I think the park needs more than one new house a year to be considered elite.

I'm not sure I'll be returning to the event unless there is a marked change in the way things are done. I hope that happens, as I love the Williamsburg park and love a good haunt. Here's to hoping.

Parkscope Permit Update: Cabana Bay Resort Layout

A document filed with the Orange County Comptroller today has given us our first real look at the layout of Universal's new Cabana Bay Beach Resort .
In the picture, you can see Buildings A, B, and C, which all have had permits applied for. Turkey Lake Road is at the top of the picture, and Adventure Way is at the bottom. In the center we can see what seems to be the pool area depicted in concept art from the announcement.
(c) Universal Orland Resort 2012. All rights reserved.
Here's another view of the overall property. The first three buildings from above are seen here, as well as the lobby building and the two zig-zagging buildings on the bottom. It can be assumed the second pool mentioned in the press release will be between these two.

As always, follow @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 for updates as they come to light.

Link to Permit:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

UOR Permit Update 9/26/12 More Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Phase 2 is moving right along.  Yesterday, the London Waterfront partially opened and construction walls were pushed back paving the way for Diagon Alley work to move forward.  Today, Universal filed a new permit for Buildings 66 B and 66 C

Building 66 is Gringotts.  Building 66 A is the front left of Gringotts (likely queue.)  Building 66 B is the front right of Gringotts which is either the Gringotts exit giftshop or Borgin and Burkes (if that area is Knockturn Alley.)  Building 66 C are the 2 small buildings nearest to the Fear Factor Service Road which were believed to be restrooms early on.

UPDATE:  Project 7448 which consists of Building 64 (the left half of Diagon Alley), Building 65 (Ollivanders?) and 65 A (the building to the right of the entrance) was finally issued today.  It was first filed in May.

As always, thanks for reading Parkscope, and please follow us on Twitter @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87.  Next week we will be heading to Universal Orlando, so stay tuned!  Also, like us on Facebook.

UOR Permit Update: Springfield Remodel 9/26/12

Today, Universal filed another building permit for the forthcoming Simpsons land known as Project 971.  Per this new permit, buildings 72, 72 A, 72 B, 72 C, and 73 F are being remodeled for this project as well as the areas around them.  New construction will take place as well.  If you are not familiar with this project, the area around the Simpsons attraction is rumored to be become a Simpsons miniland.  A few weeks ago, a partial demolition permit was filed for the complex (Building 72) outside of Simpsons consisting of the Kwik-E-Mart, the International Food and Film Festival, and the restrooms.

If anyone has a map of Universal Studios with buildings numbered, we would be much obliged if you would send us a copy.

As always, thanks for reading Parkscope, and please follow us on Twitter @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87.  Next week we will be heading to Universal Orlando, so stay tuned!  Also, like us on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

WWoHP London Waterfront: Now Open! (partially)

Today, Universal Orlando opened up the first section of the forthcoming second phase of the wildly successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  While the project has yet to  be announced, guests can already walk through a faithful recreation of London's Victoria Embankment spanning from San Francisco to Men In Black.  The new walkway has been opened to help alleviate the heavy crowd flow of Halloween Horror Nights and to allow for work to finally begin on laying out the foundations of Diagon Alley.

Our friends at Amusement Pics have gotten the first photos of the area.  Check them out on their Universal page here:

Check out the rest of Amusement Pics' update here

The waterfront is not fully complete.  Still to come are ornate lamps, copper lion heads, and a park area.  In the meantime, guests can enjoy a nice new view that has never been available.  Originally, the area was occupied by Amity buildings.  The new area should be a great place to catch Universal's Cinematic Spectacular (#Cinespec), and the Halloween Horror Nights Horror Tributes (#HHNCinespec) in the lagoon.

Next week, myself, Sean, and Nick will be visiting Universal Orlando.  Be on the lookout for us and do not be afraid to say hello!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Penn & Teller HHN Press Event

I'm a huge Penn & Teller fan (if you couldn't tell from previous posts), and this video of them doing a Press Event for HHN 22 is right up my ally.

Be forewarned, there are some bleeped curse words, as Penn is a foul mouthed b@$%@&).

Video courtesy of our friends at Attractions Magazine.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Avatarland Announced One Year Ago Today

It has now been a year since Disney dropped a bomb on the world announcing a partnership with James Cameron which would bring the world of Avatar to Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney resorts around the world.  No clue was given as to what the land and/or attraction would entail, and no concept art was released.  One year later, the theme park world is still awaiting a scintilla of what is coming.  Some even wonder if it is even coming at all.

©2012 Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  All Rights Reserved.

James Cameron is a notorious perfectionist much like J.K. Rowling and seems to want the same level of control, quality, and detail that J.K. got from Universal with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The latest rumors echo what has been said since the announcement, Cameron and Disney are butting heads over the budget.  Theme park attractions do not come cheap these days.   The Wizarding of World of Harry Potter was reportedly built for $265 million, but that is the exception, not the rule.  Cars Land at Disney California Adventure cost considerably more per insiders.  Disney attractions especially seem to cost a lot, but the price tags are usually warranted.  Cars Land looks every bit of what it cost.  There is no doubt that Pandora will cost a pretty penny to be built to Disney and Cameron standards.  So, it is understandable that there have been quibbles over budget.

No one can deny that Disney's Animal Kingdom does not need the investment.  The World of Avatar could potentially put Animal Kingdom on the map and make it a "full day" park.  Disney fans have been mixed on this news since it was announced.  Most seem to be against it, some are excited, and the rest just want to see some investment in Animal Kingdom no matter what it is.  Disney has not helped Avatarland's reception at all.  It is hard for anyone to get excited about something that has had little positive news since it was announced a year ago.  Most everything about the project has been negative (sequel delays, etc.)

Whether right or wrong, in this age of instant news, fans demand something to hang their hat on and look forward to.  Fans need/needed something to convince them that this is the right direction for Animal Kingdom, and thusfar, they have received nothing but a nebulous announcement a year ago.

Epcot 30: Suddenly Interesting

©2012 Walt Disney World.  All Rights Reserved.

Yesterday, the Disney Parks Blog finally unveiled plans for a public celebration of Epcot's 30th anniversary.  Up until yesterday, the only events to commemorate the opening of the first non-Magic Kingdom style park were limited to Disney fans willing to pay a hefty premium.  The events announced yesterday are much in the vein of Epcot 25 which I was fortunate to attend.

On October 1st, guests can experience the following:

Throughout the day on October 1, guests can attend Epcot history presentations in World Showplace courtesy of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club. These presentations are included in park admission and are limited in seating.
1-2 p.m. – Designing the Future – Past and Present: A panel of Disney Imagineers remembers 30 years of building tomorrow!
4:30–6 p.m. – Epcot: How it Changed the World with Marty Sklar
6:30–8 p.m. – Epcot: How it Changed the World with Marty Sklar
Guests can also attend an anniversary moment at the America Gardens Theatre at 3 p.m., which will feature appearances by Disney leaders and include performances by Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty. (Seating for this presentation is also limited.)
That evening, the October 1 presentation of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” will feature a special 30th anniversary tag.
If you are a local or have time off and disposable income, I cannot recommend going to Epcot for the 30th enough.  No matter how you feel about Epcot's current state, it was and still is a special park.  This anniversary will be a reminder of that if it is anything like Epcot 25.  There is something to be said about being around real Disney fans, hearing the original BGM, and hearing Marty Sklar talk.

We at Parkscope were worried this anniversary would be nothing more than a cash grab or a chance for bragging by the Disney fan "elite" (D23 members.)  We are very glad that Disney is once again offering a similar slate to that available five years ago.  Bravo Disney.  Our only suggestion is to announce this further in advance for Epcot 35.

If you are looking for more things to do on October 1st, check out WDWCelebrations.  They did a great job with the 25th.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Disney Parks Blog Hints At An Addition To Pirates of the Caribbean; We Have Exclusive Interview With An Inside Source

No really.

Universal Orlando Resort Permit Update 9/19/12: Mummy Getting New Projectors

Universal filed a few notice of commencements of note today.

First, the most exciting one is the installation of new projectors in a few scenes of Revenge of the Mummy. This has been rumored for quite some time, but now we have some solid proof that the ride will be receiving some upgrades.
The next one is a bit more nebulous, but I figured I'd put it up anyway. It's for a new prefabricated building behind Building 30 in Universal. As we have said before, we're not exactly experts when it comes to the building numbers in the parks, so we'll just leave this to the experts.
As always, make sure to follow @Parkscope on twitter for up to the minute updates.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Disney World Permit Update 9/18/12: Electric Umbrella Construction

Disney filed today with Pooley Enterprises INC in Orlando for general construction of the Electric Umbrella at EPCOT. The area of effect can be seen below, as well as a Google Maps representation of the area. We'll keep you updated as the situation develops.

Google Maps view of area

Permit View. (c) Walt Disney World Resort. All rights reserved.
Link to permit:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Penn & Teller Nuke Las Vegas Preview

I'm a HUGE Penn & Teller fan (seen them live, loved Bullshit, downloaded all the episodes of Fool Us, etc), so I was incredibly excited to see Universal Orlando uploaded a preview of the house.

As someone who won't make it to the house, this was a great watch.

Hollywood Horron Nights 22 starts this Friday, September 21st at Universal Orlando.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Food & Wine Every Day-ival

WDW Magic is reporting that Be Our Guest will serve Alcohol. In Magic Kingdom. For the first time.

The following is a live video from this week's meeting of "What Would Walt Do?",

Polynesian Resort Refurbishment

Today, as usual, Disney filed some new permits.

The only one that really stood out from the bunch is one that WDW has filed for a room renovation for the Polynesian Resort. Every building is listed, so it seems to be quite extensive. There have been rampant rumors that the resort will receive some sort of DVC wing eventually, but for now Disney seems to want to spruce up the old girl and have her looking her best.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Construction Update

Well, the vertical construction continues on WWoHP's expansion on the former Jaws site. Today, our friend MrEPCOT sent us this picture from behind the park, showing the progress of what is believed to be the Gringotts ride building.

(c) Parkscope Blog 2012

Hope you enjoyed, and remember to follow @Parkscope!

Rumor: New Fantasmic Show and Expanded Theater?

Rumors began circulating this morning that there was to be an announcement having to do with DHS and Fantasmic today, and as the day has progressed, things have become a bit more clear, seemingly.

Over at Orlando United, a trusted posted hatetofly posted a rumor stating that the show was receiving what he classified as a "reboot" including new scenes, effects, and an expanded theater. Then, on WDWMagic, another trusted poster Disneyhead mentioned that the seating would be increased by 1,000 guests, but did not go into anymore detail.

We have been told that there is indeed a media event tonight. So please follow @Parkscope on twitter and discuss on Orlando United for up to the minute updates on this rumor.

UOR Permit Update 9/5/12 More Potter

Two new building permits were filed today by Universal Orlando for Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  One permit is for Universal Studios Florida, and the other, is for Islands of Adventure.

The first permit is for Project 7664 which is related to the building permit for Project 7717 which was for the foundation layout and primary structural system of Platform 9 3/4/Kings Cross.  The description says it is for Bld 64 D and 64 E.  Thanks to a document Parkscope friend Lee sent us in July, we know that 64 E is the train station in Universal Studios aka Platform 9 3/4.  64 D is the sizable building to the left of Gringotts and the right of Platform 9 3/4.  We do not know what 64 D is yet. Permit review comments may clue us in.  There have been rumors of a Weasley Wizarding Wheezes walkthrough attraction.  This building could certainly house that.

The second permit is for Project 3135 which is related to the building permit for Project 3641 which was for the foundation layout and primary structural system of Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure. The description says it is for Building 235 which is presumably Hogsmeade Station.

There is nothing really new here, sure, but this is a sign of things progressing beyond utilities and below ground things.  Last week, work began on the construction of a tower crane for Platform 9 3/4 and demolition work has been ongoing at Islands of Adventure for the site of Hogsmeade Station.  This is truly an exciting time to be a Universal fan.  The resort is literally transforming right before our eyes.

As always, follow us on Twitter for up to the minute updates @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 and Like us on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gaston's Tavern Unveils Signature Drink

After hints from Al Lutz, it seems the incredibly popular Red's Apple Freeze from Carsland is heading to Gaston's Tavern as 'LeFou's Brew'.

This is LeFou, by the way. Makes you think 'fruit mango foam', no?
Image copyright Walt Disney Company.

The drink is a frozen apple juice with a slight hint of toasted marshmallow. Sounds good, no? How about topping that with fruit mango foam! You know, all those mango plantations on the French country side.

And of course they'll be available in novelty mugs!

Busty woman in back with real beer not included.
Image copyright Walt Disney Company.

I'm interested in trying it, and of course I'm going to totally rock the Belle chalice through the park... like a boss.