Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Universal Acquires Wet 'n Wild Property and More

Today, three interesting documents were uploaded to the Orange County Comptroller.

1) There is a Notice of Merger by declarant Universal Studios Water Parks LLC.  In the document, land that Wet 'n Wild is on and various lease provisions are listed in Exhibits A and B respectively.  I think in this case, "merger" means that Universal's lease rights are merging with the ownership rights held by Southwest Land Company and SWL Holdings.

2) Deed of Wet and Wild Property from Grantor Southwest Land Company to to Grantee Universal Studios Water Parks LLC

3) Deed of Wet and Wild Property from Grantor SWL Holdings to Grantee Universal Studios Water Parks LLC

Thanks to Gator on Orlando United, we now have this lovely graphic:

"I put together this quick and dirty map showing what exactly Universal just got their hands on. They (Universal Studios Water Parks Florida LLC) now own everything within the yellow borders (notice they are not all contiguous) and the blue lines and numbers refer to the separate parcel numbers you will see in the deeds."-'Gator'

This is pretty big news and quite a coincidence because we were discussing potential land acquisitions, water parks, and 3rd gates on Orlando United today.  Up until today, Universal only leased Wet 'n Wild and did not own the land itself.

Ongoing discussion of Universal Orlando Expansion at Orlando United.

More on this as the situation develops.  As always, follow us on Twitter @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 and @Skipper_Sean

UOR Permit Update: Potter Sets and Possible Screen Installation

Big new Notice of Commencements were put up yesterday on the Orange Country Comptroller site for Universal Orlando Resort, both which seem to point towards the Wizarding World of Harry POtter - Diagon Alley expansion. The first is for set installation, and the NoC directly supports that it is for Project 722, which is the overall project number.
The second, and more perplexing one, is for projection screen installation. One would think this is for Gringotts, but it also seems a bit early for that considering the state of the interior in the last pictures we've seen.
As always, stay tuned to the blog and @Parkscope on twitter for all available updates.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hot Coffee

Starbucks in the Main Street Bakery at Walt Disney World
Photo Courtsey of through
The apocalypse arrived 7 months late as the Starbucks Coffee shop opened in the old/still there Main Street Bakery. And here we are, still here, a week later. Thankfully, because I really wanted to see Book of Mormon the past weekend.

Starbucks in the Main Street Bakery at Walt Disney World
Photo Courtsey of through
As with the Fiddler & Practical Cafe in DCA, the new Main Street Baker sells Starbucks coffee, tea, and other drinks, but conversely, they ONLY sell Starbucks pastries and food. Good news for those looking for something familiar from the outside and for those wanting breakfast items all day. Maybe that bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich at 2pm can sure that Drinking Around the World hangover?

In order to maximize guest flow and space the old layout was gutted and a more efficient operations implementation was chosen. Cast members take remote orders while guests wait in line, then proceed to the cash registers once their have their coffee cake and Venti Soy Mochas with double pump of almond.

Starbucks in the Main Street Bakery at Walt Disney World
Photo Courtsey of through
I think Starbucks in the parks is a huge step up coffee quality, even if I don't think the coffee is that particularly great. The most interesting thing for me is why Disney decided to open Starbucks in a small, cramped area in a location on Main Street host to an already very popular dining establishment. Why not go down 500 feet and around a corner to the Tomorrowland Terrace, which was open before rope drop for breakfast when the Main Street Bakery was closed. You'd still have the unique bakery options and then Starbucks very close by. It seems like a no-brainer, but oh well.

It seems odd that locations in the MK like Tomorrowland Terrace, Adventureland Veranda, and more remain shuttered while other locations get repurposed. Some times I'll never understand Disney.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hey a Movie!

Disney Hollywood Studios (nee Disney MGM Studio's, or if you found a renegade bus, Disney's MGM-Studio) is going through a major renovation

  1. Expansion of Star Tour to incorporate Backlot Express and Indiana Jones (E-Ticket moto bike in the later, restaurant in the former.)
  2. Removal of the three times a day Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt Show
  3. Expansion of Pixar to add a modified for Florida Carsland to DHS next to Pixar Place
  5. Oh did we mention Muppets is being removed at worse, moved at best?
It's the rumor of the month. I don't tend to trust rumors much beyond where I can throw them to (basically to Dudley Do Rights) but this one seems to have some momentum combined with D23 buzz the New Fantaslyand Expansion got like 5 years ago.

My opinion and theory comes down to "Starbucks".

If something better replaces something similar, it's a win. If something, in order to replace something inferior replaces something VERY GOOD, it is bad. Take the new coffee shop on Main Street. Yes, we get new coffee, but to replace all the good pastries also? Maybe we're just washing even on the whole deal.

Loss of Muppetvision is bad. Maybe nobody cares or sees it a a requirement, but I see it as the last project Jim Henson took part in. In its original location. I understand no Disney Theme Park (TM) needs to be a cemetery, but if we keep Carousel of Progress hobbling along why can't we keep the superior Muppetvision 3D continuing? Yeah don't answer that one with 1.) Horizons 2.) Journey into Imagination 3.) Timekeeper 4.) anything older than a decade that was removed and believed to be a dark horse.

Point is, the Hollywood Studios expansion should be an EXPANSION. It should grow the park, not eat its own tail. Of all the attractions to eliminate, MUPPETS? Not the vacant theater where Sounds Dangerous is at? Not American Idol? Nowhere else? MUPPETS?

Of course we are all reporting and obsessing on minutia, so it doesn't matter till it opens. Just ask Equatorial Africa, Dick Tracy Crime Stoppers, and Beastly Kingdome. And those were ANNOUNCED NOT JUST RUMORED.

I guess what it comes down to is 'what franchises are hot?' and 'what are people looking for in a studios park?' I think both questions are things Disney and myself are having problems answering.

Three Little Parades: Disney's Odd Early Millennium Entertainment

From Walt Dated World/Alison
This weekend a small conversation on twitter lead to the discussion of Disney's California Adventure, the first attractions removed from it, and eventually the disastrous parade, 'Eureka!, A California Parade'.

In the early millennium Disney created three similar parades, one that fell flat on their face, and two  stand heads and shoulders above others.

Eureka!'s influences comes from a parade 16 months old, located across the continent.

LaughingPlace. Go see their awesome page on the whole Tapestry of Nations/Millennium Celebration!
In October 1999 Disney launched the Millennium Celebration with new attractions, parades, shows, fireworks, and exhibits. Tapestry of Nations was the sleeper hit. Epcot's version of the Main Street Electrical Parade, it drew guests in night after night of their vacation. It was not unknown of guests to come down to see just this parade.The parade didn't have massive, complex floats or special effects. In fact, it only consisted of one float type repeated over and over again (see above photo for the Drum Unit). What Tapestry lacked in floats it made up for in puppets and the large cast.
The parade spent 3 years in development, with music provided by Gavin Greenaway, puppets by Michael Curry, and show direction from Gary Paben. Over the 3 years the overall narrative, direction, and design changed, but the theme of a world collage of art stayed. Through development several puppets were designed but then discarded. Pay attention to these.

Tapestry of Nations had a pace and movement seen through video and photos that cannot be duplicated. It must have been seen in person. Tapestry of Nations was something VERY special to not only many guests, but to my family. My family first saw this parade on my behalf in October 2000 after I bugged them to leave the Beach Club and walk to France, back between the quad and the river to watch the parade. Nobody in my family looked away or doubted me. We revised the parade within a year, and then again with the modified version of the show, and it's much lessened sequel.

Tapestry of Nations, brilliantly, is three parades in one: three parade routes around the World Showcase Plaza make it appear to be one continuous parade, but it is not. These sections were Canada to France, France to Germany, and Germany to Mexico. This allows for a parade that isn't hours long and also fills up the walkways for the climatic 'Gateway of Time' segment. When all the puppets and floats are out, the lights around the promenade go out, while the mirror balls on top of the rolling percussion units wash starts over the puppets, buildings, and guests.

Allen Castillo

Tapestry of Nations was a curative masterpiece of design and music. But it wrecked havock on the World Showcase Promenade. By the time WDI 'updated' the parade to feature Walt's 100th birthday, it became watered down and basterdized. Tapestry of Dreams (the third parade in this narrative) neutered the music, de-matured the narrative, and degraded the puppets.

After the original Millennium run of the parade, Tapestry of Nations cut the Canada to France section due to the winds on the bridge between UK and France. This continued with Tapestry of Dreams, and by the end of its run, the parade was only running between Germany and France.

Instead of the parade being about world unity and civilization, it's about children's dreams and stuff. The Dream Catcher float with three characters replacing the Sage of Time and the first drum float. The characters are here to collect children's dreams and the puppets behind them are those dreams coming to life? Something? It's not as clear as the 'Great Millennium Walk' theme of Tapestry of Nations. Plus, there's something about a guy on stilts that is lost when you have characters in spandex at eye level.

The puppets received new 'personalities', with Disc Man and Hammer Man acting as jokesters wandering between the other styles of puppets. And in a decision similar go giving a 2 year old spoons and metal pots, all the puppets received various noise making additions. Cymbals, rattlers, bells, and chimes created a chaotic atmosphere that distracted from the puppets movements and music.

Oh, and the music. Tapestry of Dreams remixed the original soundtrack to include children telling their dreams and awkwardly taking out the Millennium Celebration theme to put in something for the 100 Years of Magic.

The WDI direction, the show managers, and the recession of the parade route all made sure this version of this beautiful parade would die, and quickly.

These things replaced the majestic Sage of Time. WARSAW was contacted for crimes against humanity.

Lets all celebrate the circle of humanity one last time, as we dance together, the drums, of the Tapestry of Nations.

'Eureka! A California Parade' debuted at Disney's California Adventure in 2001. The second attraction to close (after the infamous Superstar Limo), Eureka lasted till the end of summer 2002. No final date is found online, as this parade was given a dogs death.

Eureka was trying to mimic the Tapestry formula. There were drum units. the rejected puppets, the whole nine yards. It never worked. Instead of having majesty with a musical score and grand puppet designs, it had "Come Away With Me" and rejected Tapestry of Nations puppets added.

From Eureka.
From "Marking the Millennium" book, Disney Enterprises Inc
But Eureka shared a very important part of Tapestry of Nations, without actually understanding it: being minimalistic only works when you're surround with excess. Nobody with their right mind would consider Eureka a sleeper hit of DCA the first few years. Fewer would see it. Epcot had a promenade full of facades with shops, restaurants, and 'attractions'. The California Adventure 'performance corridor' did not.
Yesterland. Seriously, a dude dressed at the Hollywood Bowl.
Tapestry of Nations chose and was selective in its depiction of culture. There were examples of african metal working, aztec lines and headdresses, colors and shapes from France, and puppetry from Germany/Italy. Eureka seemed to grasp at any and all cheap and flimsy showings of California culture. A dude, with a head dress like the Hollywood bowl. A pair of stilt walkers as the Golden Gate Bridge. What Tapestry drew from influences to create something new, Eureka just stole whole cloth to create a kitsch sliver of California.

The parade had a custom soundtrack by Bruce Healey. Unlike the Gavin Greenaway soundtrack, Eureka was stale and shallow. And because of the lack of a central musical theme, the show ended up hallow and weak. It was simply trying to ape the puppet and simplistic nature of the Epcot parade without fully understanding its nuances.

My family, months after Tapestry of Nations, also saw Eureak. They saw no connection, unlike me. I don't blame them. At a first glance it's comparing a fine Jiko wine to two buck Chuck, but there is some connective tissue. Some, slightly.

I will not try and to defend Eureka, it is bad. But it's a parade with a core of California, more than can be said of Tapestry of Dreams, than seemed to turn against its roots and ideals to simply provide something more 'accessible". It's weak, but still unique.

Disney has experimented with the deconstructive parade.

The idea of lights, characters, and massive floats is a new one. The opening day Disneyland parade shows the basis of the Tapestry of Nations style of parade. Main Street USA? Cowboys and Indians? Adventureland? Tomrrowland? Nothing fits.

It's non-structured and heavily based on narration and theory. It's an Epcot parade. No dancing, twinkling lights or characters. But it all does fit. As no one culture, country, or culture fits, the Tapestry of Nations and Eureka parade is a purely Disney parade, through and through.

What makes Eureka and Tapestry of Nations is a core theme: the collection of culture. Whether it be the nations of the world showplace or the cultures of California, the parades unique in celebrating the melting pot of culture of America.

It's quite the shame after these parades 'we' dived right into a world where stereotypes and those counter stereotypes interact in Disney parks. No choice, you're either a Pirate or a Princess.

Wouldn't it be great it if you could chose to be a Disc Man?


UPDATE 3/8/2014

Something I left out the original piece is some photos and video of the Tokyo Disney Sea 2nd Anniversary parade, Mickey's Fantastic Caravan, and their use of the Tapestry puppets. The parade uses direct lifts of puppets from the parade along with some lamer 'inspired by' designs. Watch for yourself below.