New at Fantasyland: Rapunzel's Tower (and in its shadow, public restrooms). (Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel)
We’re just three months into 2013, and we are bursting with theme-park developments. And this is supposed to be the slow season. Instead of waiting nine months to compile a year-in-review post, I’ve decided to make quarterly reports that update the goings-on in one swoop. OK, a drawn-out swoop, but a swoop, nonetheless.
I’ve organized it in categories: New Business (attractions announced or opened), Old Business (progress made on previously known projects) and Came and Went (events and such that were contained within three months in question).
We won’t pretend it’s comprehensive, but it hits the highest points and may include a news item you missed or repressed. Some items include links for more details.
Legoland Florida announced its next expansion, World of Chima, will feature a water ride called the Quest for Chi. The Winter Haven park reopened its water park and, in the process, doubled the number of Lego blocks used in nearby figures and displays to 4 million. Legoland made alterations to its pricing structure, including a discount for buying for specific days in advance and an annual pass for Floridians for $99. (The latter includes parking.) Read more about World of Chima at Legoland Florida.
Downtown Disney will be renamed Disney Springs as the result of a new expansion plan set for completion in 2016, Disney officials announced. The project doubles the number of shopping, dining and entertainment venues, and it includes two parking garages. Read more about Downtown Disney and Disney Springs.
Two attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will end their runs on April 6, Disney World announced. The curtain falls on the “Disney Channel Rocks” street show and the “Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun” parade.
Fresh food offerings were added to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival lineup at kiosks around World Showcase. (The very mention of “Dole Whip with Spice Rum” caused a minor frenzy.) Some call it a “pretty Food & Wine.” This is the 20th year for the flower fest.
Disney World began unveiling details of its long-under-wraps MyMagic+ program, which eventually will include the ability to secure FastPasses in advance and colorful guest wristbands to activate other features at the parks. First up: Turnstile-free entrances at the theme parks.
The Kinsey Collection, art and artifacts documenting African-American history, opened in the American Adventure building at Epcot. Check out the Imagineered lanterns, designed to decorate and inform (and showcase stars such as Whoopi Goldberg). Read more about Kinsey Collection at Epcot.
Rapunzel’s Tower popped up in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland. It stands high above a new restroom next to “it’s a small world” and within spitting distance of Haunted Mansion. Not that Rapunzel would ever spit. Read more about Rapunzel's Tower (and bathroom) at Magic Kingdom.
Disney World introduced “Limited Time Magic,” special mini-events that typically last one week. Examples: Meet and greets with rarely seen characters, Dapper Dans quartet sings boy-band medley.
George Kalogridis was appointed president of Walt Disney World. Kalogridis, a UCF alum, was previously president of Disneyland Resorts. Read a profile of WDW president George Kalogridis.
Universal’s Mardi Gras festivities began. New parade floats feature celebrations from around the world. Think Day of the Dead on stilts. Among the Mardi Gras performers have been Matchbox Twenty, Demi Lovato and “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips.
TNA Wrestling ended its eight-year run of taping episodes at Universal Studios in March. Read more about TNA Wrestling leaving Universal.
Orlando Science Center entered a partnership with National Geographic that’s connected to its newly remodeled Digital Adventure Theater. There it started showing major-studio (and 3-D) movies such as “Wreck-It Ralph” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The science center also developed a new exhibit called “Corrosion: The Silent Menace.”
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex introduced the Angry Birds Space Encounter, complete with real-world slingshots. It announced a straightforward name for its upcoming shuttle exhibit -- Space Shuttle Atlantis -- and an opening date for the $100 million attraction -- June 29.
Hard Knocks announced it will open a location at Pointe Orlando on International Drive, with franchises set for other cities in the Southeast U.S.