Friday, January 11, 2013

Spectromagic Floats Being Scavenged for New Parade, Maybe

When Main Street Electrical Parade returned to the Magic Kingdom for its recent run, the floats for Spectromagic were broken down and put in storage. Some parts were salvaged at that time to help beef up the MSEP for the rigorous route through the Magic Kingdom. But everyone always thought that one day MSEP would glow away again and Spectromagic with its creepy characters and light bright floats would return.

That may not happen. Entertainment managers recently went back into the storage area for the Spectromagic floats to check on their condition. They expect that some rehab would be required to bring them back to show ready, but the actual condition was shocking. The budget just wasn't there to make that level of repairs.

That leaves the park in something of a bind. Will they find the money to repair the floats with their old technology and lighting or wait until a budget appears for a new parade with more modern lighting.

Part of the issue is that LED lights are undergoing a bit of a revolution right now. It used to be when one light went out on a strand you had to replace the whole strand, not very efficient for Disney. A new technology now lets individual LEDs be replaced, but it's expensive still. The price will come down eventually, but Disney may not be able to wait that long, MSEP is getting to the point where it needs to be replaced or revamped too. This places Disney in a bind.

Three options are being talked about right now. 1) Rent a parade from DLP or TDL for a while (actually the MK's original MSEP is in crates backstage at Tokyo Disneyland right now, so they could just ship it back). 2) Build a new parade using as much of the old Spectromagic infrastructure as they can to save money.  3) Make a parade that can run both day and night. Disneyland Resorts Soundsational does that right now. This would let Disney kill two birds with one stone, since the day time parade has been rumored for replacement as well.

I'll let you know if I hear anything about a decision being made. I doubt it will come anytime soon.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Star Wars Boutique Park Considered for Walt Disney World

Concept art from Disneyland Paris

Discovery Cove is one of the few successful boutique parks out there. It's constantly improving the guest experience and winning awards. Not to be left out, a few years ago a boutique park was considered for Walt Disney World. It was to be an adventure themed park with animals. Eventually this idea was watered down and became Wild Africa Trek, an add-on experience at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

It's been said that a fifth gate is not likely for Walt Disney World, but there is a new rumor of a Star Wars themed boutique park planned for Walt Disney World. In fact, a few Imagineers have already been assigned to Florida to work on the project.

It would rely heavily on Next-Gen technology to make guests feel really immersed in the world. The first step is to start customizing that tech for Star Wars themed plot elements.

The backstory would be that guests have been selected for Jedi-Training. You would build and learn to use a light saber, pilot a fighter, learn jedi-tricks, and explore the 'dark forest' where you use your skills to confront the dark side. There would be a graduation ceremony and then a chance to explore the Jedi Academy (think of an elaborate role playing area with individual and group games where you can compete and score points).

Food options would include a reproduction of the Cantina (complete with band) and Jedi Academy cafeteria.

The whole experience would be about 4 to 6 hours long with one day tickets starting at around $200 with 'photopass-esque' options and personalized merchandise available as add-ons. It would also be suitable for families with guests as young as six, which was part of the problem of the other boutique park idea. This idea replaces the idea for expanding Star Wars themed area at DHS, that was been deemed unworkable due to land constraints and the hope that Marvel characters might someday become available from Universal.

Would you be interested in such an experience?

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Major Changes Planned for Downtown Disney Orlando

When Downtown Disney closed Pleasure Island is was unofficially acknowledged to be a combination of factors including increased competition from CityWalk at Universal Orlando and the fact that the new ticketless version of Pleasure Island was attracting a lot of people who just hung out and didn't spend much money. Yeah, they were making money, but they thought a new model could make them much more.

So they developed a plan to turn Pleasure Island into a new dining and outside entertainment district focused on some nationally known brands to act as anchor tenants. That plan turns out to have been dead on arrival due to a downward spiraling economy and the inability to get any major players to sign a contract. So they changed focus slightly to a more garden-esque feel that we've known as Hyperion Wharf. That too has been dismissed for reasons similar to the above. In the meantime Pleasure Island's once popular establishments have sat idle and much missed by fans. So what's next?

Turns out what's next may be the biggest expansion of Downtown Disney ever.

Disney has two problems right now. Downtown Disney is busier than ever, so they need to add capacity. Additionally, guests are leaving Disney property (three words Disney does not like to hear as it means your money is going in someone else's wallet) to go get their night time entertainment on or they're just retiring early to their rooms. To Disney that adds up to untapped revenue. They way to get that revenue is to build a brand new entertainment district at Downtown Disney with plans to ultimately double the size of Pleasure Island and the Westside.

In short, Disney has decided the best way to compete with CityWalk is to really compete with CityWalk.

A feasibility study is well underway looking at a plan similar to the one I've highlighted below. It's assembled from a few sources, so I may not have all the details correct, but the general thrust is true.

The basic plan is to build new parking garages along the I-4 and then add either a two-level entertainment district or more garages with an entertainment district above them on the other side of Buena Vista Drive. If they can get the State DOT to play along there would even be an off ramp from the I-4 right into the parking garages (yeah, Disney Imagineers dream of this all the time, but I've never seen it approved yet. There is always a street exit too.)

It looks like there are also plans to add more theater and concert hall venues down at the end of Westside beyond where Cirque Du Soliel is now. It's not clear if this is part of the major expansion or something on a separate track.

It sounds to me like this plan is fairly developed with Disney haven't already reached out the the state to see what it would need to get the off-ramp built. The question for me is, would this satisfy the real needs of the Walt Disney World resort? What do you think?

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

One of the key observations that has been made about the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game is that every land except Tomorrowland has a tie-in to the game. This has led many to speculate that Disney does not want to spend to add SotMK elements only to have to remove them for a giant upgrade to the land that may be in the planning stages right now.

The new Disney parks leadership (aka Tom Staggs) and Walt Disney Imagineering agree that Tomorrowland at both the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland is in great need of help. Cars land opens in June at DCA and New Fantasyland opens in November at the MK. This is fortuitous for the prospects for a new Tomorrowland. If the crowds and spending come to DCA and New Fantasyland as predicted, WDI will get the greenlight to move ahead with plans to update Tomorrowland in both parks.

Historically, Disney management has been much more likely to green light an attraction if it can be duplicated and used in multiple parks. They now believe they can get two Tomorrowlands for the price of one (so to speak). Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom would get clones of a new E-Ticket, clones of a C or D ticket,  and updates to theming that will be nearly identical at both parks.

Everything would be tied up around space travel and a very futuristic vision of far off places and new creatures. The C or D ticket is tentatively scheduled to be a WALL-E based next-generation omnimover (a more varied range of motion for the cars and onboard screens to interact with). The E-Ticket you've probably already heard of.

It will be more than just a single ride, but rather a whole pavilion. Everyone knows that Avatarland has been put on hold at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The reason might be because Imagineering has long held an interest in graphing an alien world onto Tomorrowland and the Avatar movies might provide the perfect vehicle. It also lets Disney have a working concept that won't see the park needing to re-invent the land every 15 years again.

That's all I have for today. Looks like we could be in for a very interested next 5 years.

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