Hello, and welcome to Dateline Disney World! This week, we’re covering the re-opening of Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom, the ever growing Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Annual Pass RFID conversions taking place at Epcot. We’ve got well over 100 photos for you this week, so let’s go!

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Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!!

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Upon entering the park, I noticed how when the light hits the Main Street buildings in a certain way, they just shine in photographs. They’re also in really nice shape since Disney has basically refurbished every building, some twice over the past few years.

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[center][size=5][b]Splashing Again[/b][/size]
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This week, Disney reopened Splash Mountain after a several month long refurbishment.

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The queue looks just the same, but is nice and clean.

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Nice colors here.

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No more tarp protecting the load area!

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And now, here’s a long series of photos from the entire length of the ride. Notice the very vibrant colors and how fresh everything looks.

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Inside, the lighting is looking great and the Audio Animatronics all look very solid.

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Looks like all the AA’s were either cleaned up of replaced entirely.

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Even this one was working.

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Heading into the Laughing Place scene, I haven’t seen this many working AA’s and water fountains in a very long time.

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There were lots of working (there’s a theme here) AA’s and very vibrant colors in the finale scene.

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Overall, I am VERY impressed with this refurbishment. The audio was crisp and clear in every scene, I saw effects working that I haven’t seen in years, the AA’s were spectacular, and the colors and lighting were great. It very much felt like the Splash Mountain of old. And when the ride is at this level of show, it is easily one of the top rides in Orlando. I am not afraid to call Disney out on what they’re doing wrong (see last week’s article), but I am also not afraid to praise them for the great work they do as well. And they really knocked it out of the park with this one. I hope it can be properly maintained and stay like this until next year’s annual refurb.

[center][size=5][b]Construction Kingdom[/b][/size]
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More fresh paint being applied in Adventureland.

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Work continues at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, with more rock work and roller coaster track going up almost every week.

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Tons of detail showing up on the Mermaid side.

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The path to Storybook Circus is currently open to help flow with spring break crowds.

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More window work being done on the back building.

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Lots of steel that will soon become more rock work and environmental set pieces.

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The project is really moving along, and excitement is starting to build!

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At Epcot this week, our journey takes us to the Odyssey building, where Disney is converting Annual Passes from paper tickets to the new, plastic RFID tickets.

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Disney had lots of information set up explaining the whole MyMagic+ changes.

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They also had a whole bunch of cool pieces of memorabilia there, like classic Audio Animatronics and models.

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The Incredibles will be the marketing behind the MagicBand.

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It was pretty neat, and way cooler than if it were just an assembly line of pass conversion. The conversions will be going on at the Odyssey until mid May. Here are what the new APs look like.

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Mine has the orange stripe on the bottom to indicate that parking is covered by the pass. Passes that don’t have parking covered have a black stripe. We were also able to choose from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy for the pass. It feels really nice to have a plastic card. I would always have to change out my pass a few times a year when they were paper since they would demagnetize or tear from getting wet. Now we have something concrete, and it is a big upgrade!

Well, that wraps things up for this week’s Dateline. Are you excited for the positive changes at Splash Mountain? Will you be changing out paper for plastic at Epcot soon? Let us know in the comments!!

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If you enjoyed the column, especially the photos, and you want to check out more photos and tutorials on Disney photography, please check out my photo site, [URL=”http://www.DisneyPhotographyBlog.com”]Disney Photography Blog[/URL]. And if you like listening more than reading, you can hear us talk about Disney and photography on my podcast, [URL=”http://www.ISO5571.com”]ISO5571[/URL]