Baby Rhino born at Animal Kingdom

11 May

Kendi, the first white rhino ever born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, has become a mother herself. She gave birth to a healthy male on the 4th of May.

Kendi, 13, and son are resting backstage at the theme park, and they will join their herd on the savannah in the coming weeks. The baby, who has not been named yet, is the ninth white rhino born in Animal Kingdom history, Disney says.

“The birth of a white rhino calf is certainly something to celebrate since the population of this species is endangered in the wild,” says Jackie Ogden, vice president of animals, science and environment for Disney Parks. “It’s encouraging that with protection and careful management, the global population of white rhinos continues to grow.”

White rhinos are gray in color. The name stems from the Afrikaan word “weit,” which means wide and describes the shape of the animals’ mouths, Disney says.


Guest Article: The Future of Interactive Attractions, Farrah Hedwat – FloridaTix

16 Apr

The Future of Interactive Attractions

Imagine taking a person from the 90s to the theme parks and attractions of today. What would you show them? Which rides would you go on? Would much have changed in these years? The 90s don’t seem like a long time ago, but sometimes I like to remind myself of how I old I really am when I think that the Jurassic Park movie came out nearly 20 years ago in 1993!

This was almost the same year I went to Orlando for the first time and experienced the awe and wonder of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. Since my most recent visit in October last year I can appreciate that a lot has changed with the opening of bigger more advanced rides and attractions, giving me a whole new perspective.

3D Fun and Interaction

One thing that stuck out for me was the number of 3D rides Universal Studios had built since my first visit in the 90s. The Simpsons Ride, Shrek 4D and the Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were all new exciting experiences for me, but the one that stuck out as the most memorable was the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman in the Islands of Adventure. Although this ride is not interactive, it is a huge leap in how we experience rides, seamlessly immersing us into a fictional world of Marvel. Could we see more of these kinds of rides in the future? If other theme parks noticed the kind of success these 3D attractions received, we could no doubt expect to see this becoming a trend over the next few years.

Something else which was new since my first visit was the competitive attractions which pit guests against their friends in an effort to win points. The best example of this was the MIB ride in Universal Studios, but Walt Disney World had managed to take it one step further. In the PIXAR area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Toy Story ride combines the immersive experience of 3D with a competitive shooter. As you don the 3D glasses, guests must shoot balloons to get more points, with the winner displayed at the end. It’s a novel idea which has evolved and will hopefully become more popular over the years as the technology becomes more accessible.

Cast Members and Characters

The competitive attractions engage guests in a new way and encourage repeat visits as people try to get a new personal best on the score sheets. It was clear, judging from some of the scores, that a few people had been practicing quite a lot. But how do you use interactive experiences to encourage guests to explore the rest of the park?

Walt Disney World was the original brainchild for this when it introduced its characters to the park for the guests to see in real life. Fans of Disney, young and old, react with excitement at the sight of their favourite characters, giving them the chance to walk up to talk and even touch them. From princesses to the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, and if you keep your eyes open you can interact with cast members who really act like their characters from the movies.

It wasn’t long ago that the Disney parks showed off their new Mickey Mouse character complete with the ability to talk and respond to star dazed guests. With a fully animated face and friendly voice, Mickey can now converse with visitors asking them if they are having a good time and even answer their questions. Could this be another trend we see happening in the future with theme parks? Would we be able to talk to other characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy soon?

Personalised Technology

There is no doubt that smartphones and tablets have changed the way we communicate and see the world as a whole. With the click of a button, our friends can see where we are at this very moment. We can upload videos and photos for everyone to see seconds after we have taken them. We can even book our tickets and make reservations without even having to talk to anyone.

Social networking and mobile apps have, almost by accident, gone hand in hand with travelling and holidays as people enjoy sharing their experiences for everyone to see. It’s easy to find point of view videos of rollercoasters posted on Facebook and YouTube along with personalised Flickr accounts full of photos from die hard Disney fans.

However, there is one aspect of mobile technology which is becoming more and more relevant. Augmented reality is beginning to be a big part in people’s lives and theme parks are starting to take notice. Once again, Walt Disney World is the first park to experiment with this.

‘Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom’ uses state of the art technology which encourages visitors to play a role playing game throughout the park at certain portals. The idea is to save the Magic Kingdom from the Disney villains such as Cruella de Vil and Scar who were recruited by Hades from Hercules. Players become apprentices to Merlin from The Sword in the Stone in an effort to stop the villains stealing pieces of a shattered crystal ball.

It’s a hybrid game of a treasure hunt and interactive trading cards which create an immersive experience. It’s a novel take on including guests in on the action and makes them feel like they are part of the magic as they hold up their cards to a magic mirror and see it animate according to their commands.

This idea has so much potential as parks could incorporate Q codes and mobile camera apps to create an immersive experience which encourages guests to explore and take part. This is certainly something that will become a popular feature over the next few years.

What Will Parks Be Like In Another 20 Years?

When predicting what theme parks will be like in the future I always look to see how the big competitors are doing in Orlando. As the worldwide playground for attractions and rides, it’s the one place we can look to for future trends to be emulated by other smaller parks around the globe.

4D experiences and interaction looks to be the next popular step as guests already enjoy 3D movies and even have their own 3D TVs complete with special glasses. Theme parks will aim to stay one step ahead of lifestyle technology as they try to offer new experiences that are inaccessible from home. 4D and 3D attractions now seem to be the cornerstone for most popular theme parks.

As this becomes more popular and common, each park will find unique ways of making these experiences stand out on their own. We could see greater variation and creativity with this kind of technology, following the examples set out by the larger parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Perhaps we will even see rollercoasters using this 3D or 4D technology in an all new hybrid ride.

It’s obvious that the experiences from 20 years ago have changed greatly as theme parks encourage guests to take part for themselves. It’s certainly an exciting prospect to imagine what these experiences will be like in another 20 years.

Universal Studios Parade & Nighttime Show

3 Apr

Universal’s Superstar Parade and Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories will debut on 8th May.

The daily parade will feature characters from Despicable Me, Hop, SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer. There will be new state of the art floats, along with dancers that will interact with spectators. The floats will be also be transformed into meet-and-greet areas for the characters at other points during the day.

The end-of-night Cinematic Spectacular will spotlight scenes from almost 200 films, projected onto screens on the Universal Studios lagoon. This production will be flanked by pyrotechnics and synchronized-fountain action. Universal says it will run year-round except “during annual and special events.”

Cinematic Spectacular will be narrated by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman. Its story “will take guests on an emotional journey through epic cinematic moments filled with heroes, horror, laughter, good vs. evil and triumph,” Universal said.

In addition to the launch of these the Superstar Parade and Cinematic Spectacular, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem will be opening this Summer, a ride under construction in the building that housed the Jimmy Neutron Nicktoon Blast.

The theme park also has construction walls up around the area that was the site of the Jaws ride, which closed earlier this year, but it has not made official announcements about what will go there. So watch this space!

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Fantasyland Expansion Starts

13 Mar


Hey Folks

Disney World has opened the first phase of the Fantasyland expansion yesterday with part of the Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus area, featuring new takes on the Dumbo ride and a roller coaster.

The multimillion-dollar expansion, the largest in the Magic Kingdom’s 40-year history, will open in stages as new sections are ready.

Visitors on Monday saw a new version of the popular Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride and the Barnstormer roller coaster, revamped to fit a circus theme.

The Dumbo ride has a new decor and color palette, inspired by vibrant tin toys and carousels of the early 1920s. Golden storks top the ride, followed by a ring of elephants representing Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo’s mother in the 1941 movie.

Eventually, the ride will have an indoor, interactive queue and be joined by a duplicate Dumbo. The ride vehicles also have a new look — the flying elephants are a lighter grey and, for the first time, they have pink accents on the underside of their ears and feet.

The Barnstormer roller coaster now features Goofy as the Great Goofini, a stuntman for the circus. The coaster has been re-themed to reflect the character’s many circus talents. Props such as a cannon, a smoking rocket and the “wheel of peril” are found along the coaster’s queue.

The coaster’s rail has not been altered, but its ride vehicles now race through a couple of new elements, a billboard and a tower.

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Spider-Man returns

8 Mar

The popular Amazing Adventures of  Spider-Man attraction returns to action today in high definition.

The texture of Spidey’s suit; the expression and skin complexion of Doctor Octopus’ face; and the veins of Hobgoblin’s pumpkins were new details seen in the attraction during a media preview Wednesday. Fireflies, sewer rats, a marquee for “The Clone Saga” and more traffic are new elements of the film.

Although the ride vehicles have not changed, Coup said their movements have been reprogrammed, notably in the climactic scene where passengers drop from high above the street only to be rescued by the web slinger.
In addition to the new high-def look, Universal added a 3-D projection system and revamped the attraction’s soundtrack, sound system, lighting and sets seen before and during the ride.

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TurtleTrek to open 27th April

26 Feb

Great news folks…SeaWorld Orlando has set a grand-opening date for TurtleTrek. It’s domed, 3-D film will debut on Friday 27th April.

The attraction, which the theme park says in the first of its kind, will follow 25 years in the life of a turtle — compressed into about seven minutes. Guests will stand inside the round dome to watch the events unfold above.

TurtleTrek also includes animal habitats for manatees and turtles plus a call for guests to become “everyday heroes.”

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24 hours of Disney magic…yes please!

24 Feb

Great news for all of the mega Disney fans out there, the Magic Kingdom will stay open for 24 for hours to celebrate this coming leap year! For the first time in Walt Disney World’s history, the park will stay open around the clock for what the event they are calling “One More Disney Day”, a a play on the fact that leap year provides an “extra” day.

It’s expected to be business-as-usual at the park but in marathon (and overnight) style. The idea is to have the park open so guests “can take advantage of every minute of their extra day to make memories with friends and family,” says Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Jealous I’m not over there to enjoy 24 hours of the Walt Disney World magic, if you are going, enjoy!

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