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Orlando Parkhopper

Space Mountain Upgrades? New Busch Gardens Emporium, Sea World Updates, Uni & more...

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by , 04-16-2012 at 08:25 PM

Hey gang, welcome back to another edition of the Orlando Parkhopper. While news was slow this week, we were able to pick up on a few interesting things happening at the Magic Kingdom. We also dropped by Busch Gardens Tampa to shop at their newly renovated Emporium and see the new Let's Dance show featuring Burn the Floor. We even check in on Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld too to see what's going on. But first, a chance to win free stuff in our two Orlando Parkhopper contests . . .


Did you spot something interesting in the Orlando parks? Want to share? If you submit a photo, tip, news or even a whole section of info that we are able to use for the column, we'll enter you in a contest to win a $50 Amazon gift card. If we run your item in the Orlando Parkhopper this month, we'll automatically enter you into the contest. A winner will be selected at random at the end of the month.

Just send your entry to [email protected] and be sure to mention that you are entering the Orlando Parkhopper contest. Let us know as much as you can about the item you are submitting as well as the name we can use to credit you with on the site.


Even if you aren't in the Orlando area and can't compete in the contest above, we still want to give you a chance to win! Read our updates carefully and then comment below on your thoughts about what you like and don't like in any of the parks we cover in Florida. We'll give you one contest entry for each of our Orlando Parkhopper updates that you comment in (one entry per update regardless of the number of posts you make). At the end of the month, one reader will be chosen at random to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

The Grand Floridian project continues to progress. More earth has been brought in to shore things up and level the area out.

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom and a few bits of news we collected for you this week from Fantasyland and Adventureland.

Space Mountain seems to have new digital projectors. They appear to be testing them right now. Currently, they project images of meteors, stars, giant chocolate chip cookies and other space related images. Although this could just be a normal projector upgrade replacing the old rotating slide projectors, it does allow for the possibility of something much greater. Couple this with the rampant rumors that both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions of the ride will be upgraded sometime in the future, and perhaps we may see something impressive soon. Only time will tell.


The Fantasyland construction project is still quite a way off from being done. Construction can be a disruptive process. For instance, the sight lines on the west side of the construction project have been completely destroyed. They removed all the trees so you can now see the back of the unthemed show building for "it's a small world" from Frontierland and Liberty Square. It is a very odd and rather jarring thing to see from on stage. With any luck, they'll get through this sooner rather than later.

And a very special thanks to Kevin Yee for his construction photos this week.

The area near Haunted Mansion

While we are on the subject, let's take a look at the current Fantasyland construction projects.

More of the new Castle Wall barriers are going up now.

Here we have the exteriors of the Belle meet and greet and the Be Our Guest Restaurant.

We hear that the ride is essentially done on the inside and would be ride-ready within the next few months. However, due to its placement in the construction area it is inaccessible to guests. The exterior queue continues to amaze as more details are added each week.

The area between Storybook Circus and Little Mermaid.

Last week, we showed you that the mine coaster had finally gone vertical. But since then, there isn't much new for us to show you here.

The torches are finally working again after having been out of service for about the last four years. EXCELLENT!

This past weekend saw big changes at EPCOT - the end of 2 eras. Of course, the biggest news (though surprisingly hushed by Team Disney Orlando until the doors were shut) was the closure of Test Track on Sunday night. For months, the rumors swirled about the closure of the attraction since the Disney Parks blog announced the big changes coming to the attraction, changing the former testing facility theme to the "Chevrolet Design Center at Epcot." Nothing was ever mentioned of its actual closing date, causing the Internet to burn with rumors. Finally, word did begin to trickle out that Test Track would be closed beginning April 16th, despite the lack of official word from Disney to its guests. Eventually, the doors were shut, the walls were put up, and the construction began the following day (yesterday), even if the official Disney website still didn't admit it was being closed until June 1. This has left many guests angry as there was not warning about the closure for them to plan their vacations around. As of yesterday Disney came clean and posted the official refurbishment dates on their website here

Despite the communication mix up, to alleviate the gap in the attraction lineup, EPCOT is testing some new ideas to make the loss less apparent. The biggest is the Test Track All Stars, a singing group themed to travel songs. In addition, the grab and go section of The Land, as well as all 3 of its attractions, as well as the Character Spot meet and greet will be open until 10PM on a trial basis. This means that while the park will still close at 9, these places will remain open to help the crowd levels. It's nice that Disney is trying something, but what is painfully obvious is the need for new attractions in the park for them to be able to close an E ticket and still have enough major attractions for the guests. Plus, being honest about closing dates might help too.

The spiel for all Walt Disney World monorails changed in mid-April. Yes, the Jack Wagner "Please stand clear..." spiel is still there.

A recording is attached below. Notice that the narration is almost exactly the same as it's previously been, but the voice has changed. Reactions to the voice are somewhat mixed. Some are saying it's similar to the voice of a GPS unit, while others claim it's less "used car salesman" and more sedate and calm. What do you think?

Hooray, Star Wars Weekends are back and Disney has released the full schedule of celebrities and events.

The annual event takes place each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 18-June 10, 2012.

Here’s the scheduled celebrity lineup for Star Wars Weekends 2012 (subject to change):

Weekend 1 (May 18 – 20)
• Ray Park – (Darth Maul – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• Jerome Blake (Rune Haako/Mas Amedda – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• Dee Bradley Baker (voice of Clone Captain Rex and Clone Commander Cody – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Weekend 2 (May 25- 27)
• Andy Secombe (Watto – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• Ray Park (Darth Maul – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• Tom Kane (voice of Yoda – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Weekend 3 (June 1 -3)
• Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• Silas Carson (Nute Gunray/Ki-Adi-Mundi – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• (Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice talent – currently TBD)

Weekend 4 (June 8- 10)
• Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing – Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
• Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett – Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi)
• Daniel Logan (Boba Fett – Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones)
• Nika Futterman (voice of Asajj Ventress – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Activities & entertainment (subject to change)
• “Hyperspace Hoopla”: This high-energy, one-of-a-kind show is a chance to see some of the famed Star Wars characters performing like never before. It will take place on a stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat on Hollywood Blvd., and is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. each event evening.
• Autograph Opportunities: As always, there is no additional charge for the celebrity autograph sessions at Star Wars Weekends. The autograph lines will once again be handled via a FASTPASS-type system. The meet-and-greet session/autograph opportunities are extremely limited, so guests need to arrive early to receive a FASTPASS. Please refer to this link, which will take you to the official Star Wars Weekends event page on There, you’ll find more detailed information under “Celebrity Autographs.”
• Star-Studded Event: Keep in mind, autograph opportunities are not the only place to see the celebrities. Star Wars stars take part in fun throughout the day in Star Wars-themed talk shows, behind-the-scenes presentations, the gala “Legends of the Force” parade and more.
That is all that we have so far. The weekend events and appearances can change at any time so please check back for more updated info as the events get closer.

Communicore Weekly on the MiceTube

Do you miss Horizons at Epcot? We do! This week's Communicore Weekly takes a look at this much missed attraction as well as a new This Week In Disney History segment, Five Legged Goat, and even a Bathroom Break.

If you enjoy these awesome Communicore Weekly videos, please be sure to share them with your friends and leave a comment.

Load up the car with everyone you know and head on down to the park for a very special park admission deal. Now through June 30, passholders can get a $20 discount on admission for family and friends.

Go to the BGT site for specific rules and details

The main gift shop has been given a total makeover and it looks great! Merchandise is better categorized and a new cash wrap has been added to the back wall, freeing up more space for merchandise displays (the old cash registers were in the middle of the store.

It's really a fun store.


This show, featuring the international dance troupe, is back performing several times daily for a limited engagement at the Desert Grill. Set against a fast-paced soundtrack of familiar favorites, the troupe brings a new twist to contemporary ballroom dance with the Foxtrot, Tango, Jive, Swing, Mambo and more!

From what we can tell, this part of the old Penguin habitat is going to remain.

The walls have come down, and new signage has been put up. The tank has been filled, and the "quick rising floor" is still raised, but all signs are point to the opportunity that this attraction/restaurant might reopen this summer.

Here is a new midway game that they installed near Manta. Good or bad? Let us know what you think.

Turtle Trek is almost here folks! April 26th is the scheduled opening date so we will bring you the info the second it happens.

CityWalk's new installation is moving along with cement pillars now installed.

Construction walls have come down around half the building, with a two different paint schemes, and windows paintings. It will be interesting to see how this is executed in the end. Perhaps it's a test?

April 14th was the last day for Mardi Gras this year at Universal Studios Orlando. We love this annual festival and are sad to see it go, but we are excited for the upcoming Summer Concert series, the new parade, the new firework show, and the new Despicable Me attraction that are coming this summer.

Universal has added themed elements to the outside of the barges to help dress up the industrial look. This is a welcome change, though we wish they had found a way to sink them during the day.

Congratulations go to michael darling for guessing last week's Hidden Parkhopper by posting...
"Hidden parkhopper is the rockwork behind scaffolding on the new Little Mermaid attraction? "

Good job! Let's try this again. Look into the magnifying glass below and see if you can figure out where the park hoppers are this week. Post your guess in the comments area below. If you are the first to answer correctly, you will be featured in next week's update. GOOD LUCK!

Want to meet up with other Disney fans while at Disney World?
Several of the Orlando Parkhopper team members are part of a group that meets every weekend.


Join the public Facebook group and get notified of events (the locations are different every time.)

If you appreciate this column, share this page with your friends and don't forget to click that Facebook thumbs up button at the top of the page (it give us the encouragement to bring you even bigger and better updates)!

Please join us in thanking the fantastic and talented crew of writers, photographers and news contributors who worked so hard this week to bring you the latest information from the parks. This week's team included:

- Eric M. Davis (King Eric)
- Professor Brainard
- Aimster - Pictures by Aimster
-Kevin Yee
- Editors this week: Fishbulb, Dustysage

Thank you all for reading, we hope you have a wonderful week and are inspired to explore the amazing variety of attractions on your next visit to central Florida. We'd love to hear your comments below.

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Updated 04-17-2012 at 08:00 AM by Orlando Parkhopper



  1. Monorail Man's Avatar
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    Love the new spiel. It's MUCH less grating than the old voice, and it has a smooth tone. I think the Monotone voice works better, makes it seem more like real transportation, and avoids the high tone that the old one had. Plus, a monotone voice is better when it cuts in and out. Overall, a plus - feels more retro to me!
  2. RossMidlane's Avatar
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    I'm thinking the hidden parkhopper is the Turtle Trek building. Just a shame I have to wait a few years to fly back over to Florida to see it.
  3. mratigan's Avatar
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    Does anyone know the price of the ride vechal toy here thanks
  4. jcruise86's Avatar
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    That's for the update!

    Here's a link to Jack Wagner's Wikipedia bio:
    Jack Wagner (announcer) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    I would trade my voice for his.
  5. dfan07's Avatar
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    This week's Hidden Parkhopper is the wall of the Turtle Trek building.
  6. WDW1971's Avatar
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    I. The Grand Floridian looks way too close to the other buildings. I really wish they would have left an open expanse. We do not need everything to be built up, the rest of the world is being more built up so they do not need to do it at WDW.
    II. What are they planning on doing for the old skyway station area? How are bathrooms going to be large enough to cover it’s a small world? I thought that the old skyway was one of the most charming parts of fantasyland and had the best theme. What a shame to destroy that architecture. Hopefully the bathrooms will look nice and they will plant more trees.
    III. Little Mermaid is looking nice, much better façade than California’s
    IV. Interesting replacing Test Track with a singing group. I just do not see the appeal; hopefully they are as charming as the Voices of Liberty, though I doubt it.
    V. I do not like the new spiel, the old one has is part of my childhood memories, this one does not sound right.
  7. Twist1234's Avatar
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    Always nice to see upgrades in SM, the little upgrades always make it more of an E ticket worthy ride. I really like the new narration on the Monorail, it's quite calm and relaxed.
  8. DisneyZealotBJP's Avatar
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    Does anyone have an idea on when despicable me: minion mayhem will open besides the opening being summer 2012??
  9. jordan__edge's Avatar
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    Although Disney execs could've done a MUCH better job in how they went about closing it, I'm glad that Test Track is finally getting an update. Hopefully, it will not disappoint.
  10. Quentin's Avatar
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    I am very happy Test Track is getting updated, as far as the new monorail spiel goes, I like it a lot. I think it fits perfectly.
  11. danyoung's Avatar
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    According to, there's kind of a mind-blowing thing going on now in Epcot. Yes, the Land pavilion and all of its attractions are open from 9pm to 10pm. But the cast members working there are instructed to NOT tell anyone about it. Nor is Disney promoting this late open anywhere. It's really a strange situation for Disney to be offering a benefit that they're not giving out information on in any way.
  12. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
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    The more I hear the new spiel, the less it bothers me. Though the Test Track mess really should have been handled better. I'm glad it's getting TLC but at least properly let people know, especially if you know.
  13. KingEric's Avatar
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    Depiscable me will be open summer of 2012. What that traditionally means for universal studios is late June.
  14. pixie chick's Avatar
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    Bummer! Looks like we'll be just in time to miss all the new stuff. Lol. Pixie kid will be sad that Test Track is closed, but that just means we'll have to plan another trip after it reopens, I guess!
  15. Twist1234's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung
    According to, there's kind of a mind-blowing thing going on now in Epcot. Yes, the Land pavilion and all of its attractions are open from 9pm to 10pm. But the cast members working there are instructed to NOT tell anyone about it. Nor is Disney promoting this late open anywhere. It's really a strange situation for Disney to be offering a benefit that they're not giving out information on in any way.
    Oh heck yes, I'm so riding Listen to the Land at night.
  16. DisneyDrums's Avatar
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    Does anyone know when Fantasyland is projected to be completed?
  17. CazzaCarroll's Avatar
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    So exciting seeing the Fantasyland changes each week, now to try and get over there from Australia.