The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the EMPTY THEME PARKS at Universal and Walt Disney World

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the EMPTY theme parks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. This past week was the longest year in theme park history. Last weekend the parks, hotels, Disney Springs, and Universal CityWalk were all open. Today they are all completely closed down out of concerns for the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Reminiscent of the “Thanos snap” effect in last year’s Avengers: Endgame, the sight of empty theme parks is something that takes getting used to. However, just as Captain America saw the positives of seeing “whales in the Hudson” in Endgame thanks to the lack of ships in the water, we too will try to take the opportunity to see the “bright side” of our current situation. So today we’re are hopping into the blogger high-in-the-sky helicopter with the one and only @bioreconstruct to get a view of the theme park world like we’ve never seen before, and of course we have to start with…

# 6 – Magic Kingdom

One of the common posts on social media during the last week is people posting pictures of the lack of traffic throughout the United States. Even in Orlando, driving the infamous I-4 highway between Walt Disney World and Universal has been a breeze. For us theme park fans, it’s pictures of things like the empty toll plaza at Disney’s Magic Kingdom that can give us the same, “Wow, didn’t expect to ever see that” feeling.

Empty toll plaza. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Transportation and Ticket Center.

Arrow points to barriers by a recently renovated guest walkway. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Welcome to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Note that despite no guests, the flag is still raised on Main Street USA.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Main Street USA. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The hub and Main Street USA. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Magic Kingdom’s hub and spokes. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Shot from The Poly, here is Cinderella Castle during its paint job for the upcoming 50th celebration for WDW next year. Also note the Partner’s statue in the front and Beast’s castle in the back. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

For years we have been joking about a single crane at Cinderella Castle “ruining” photos for guests. Now the castle has a whole bunch of cranes surrounding it as the castle is being repainted for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary next year.

Cinderella Castle. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Fantasyland. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Fantasyland and Storybook Circus. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Frontierland. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
An empty Frontierland in the background with the Rivers of America giving us a neat mirror glass effect.(photo by @bioreconstruct)
TRON Coaster center with Space Mountain on the left. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
TRON Coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The yellow line shows the probable pathway of the Walt Disney World railroad once the TRON Coaster is complete. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Contemporary in the foreground with Space Mountain behind it and TRON Coaster to the right. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Here we have a service boat making the trip from Fort Wilderness to a service area at the Magic Kingdom. In the back right is the area for the upcoming Reflections DVC resort. (photo by @biorecostruct)

 

# 5 – EPCOT

Will never get used to seeing empty parking lots at Walt Disney World.

Empty parking lot at EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Overview of EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Spaceship Earth surrounded by construction. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Demolition currently going on behind Spaceship Earth. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Closer look at the demolition at Innoventions West. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The beautiful floral murals made for Flower and Garden. The butterfly house is at the top of the photo, right next to the Imagination Pavilion. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Mission: SPACE and Test Track. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
World Showcase. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
One end of World Showcase, with the Mexico Pavilion at the far right. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Germany Pavilion. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Italy, American Adventure, and Japan Pavilions. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A look straight down at the American Adventure Pavilion showing the America Gardens theater. To the right you can see seating and the smoker for the recently opened Regal Eagle Smokehouse. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
International Gateway. The France Pavilion with the upcoming Ratatouille ride near the center of the photo. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Work backstage for the upcoming Harmonious nighttime spectacular. Here we can see work being down for the various barges that will be used during the show. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The three barges at the top of this photo will join together for a central sphere during Harmonious. The barges in the foreground have rotating arms being installed that will be used for lighting and effects. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Another look at the barge construction. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

How often do you see all of EPCOT’s Friendship Boats?

Friendship Boat storage. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 4 – Animal Kingdom

Empty Animal Kingdom parking lot. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The new tram loop and bag check area just about fully finished. Still mind-boggling that Disney put all this time and money into building new bag check areas for all of the four theme parks and didn’t go with the Universal way of scanners and metal detectors. THAT SAID, Disney probably needs to do whatever they can to catch people trying to make a “statement” as there have been several high profile incidents in the last several years of guests bringing in large banners of their favorite politician.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Pandora: The World of Avatar. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A drained Kali River Rapids. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Storage area for Kali River Rapids on the left with the Maharaja Jungle Trek on the right, including the aviary.(photo by @bioreconstruct)
A look at part of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve for Kilimanjaro Sarfaris. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A Cast Member checks on some of the animals. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Elephants at Kilimanjaro Safaris. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Base camp for Expedition Everest. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Expedition Everest. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The nearby Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here is the current look at the McDonald’s going up near Animal Kingdom/All-Star Resorts/Coronado Springs. The roof is comprised of solar panels.

McDonald’s. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
McDonald’s. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Here you can see the Golden Arches “M” peeking out. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 3 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Empty parking lot at DHS. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
DHS entrance plaza.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The center stage area. Notice the neon lighting for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been turned off. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Echo lake on the left-hand side of the photo. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Sunset Blvd. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Tower of Terror. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Toy Story Land. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A look down at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Kylo Ren’s ship at the top center part of the picture. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Docking Bay 7 on the left. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

With so many people being out of work during the “abundance of caution” for the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it will be interesting to see how fast Disney moves forward with the upcoming Star Wars Starcruiser hotel. This will be marketed as a high-end two day “experience” for guests, including excursions to Batuu in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Also should be noted that the hotel will not look like a spaceship from the outside.

Starcruiser. The big plots of dirt will eventually be a large forrest, protecting the view of guests from the outside world. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Starcruiser. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Starcruiser. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
This area is the expected to be where the Mears bus space shuttles will “dock” to transport guests to Batuu. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

To the right of the Starcruiser we can see some major work being done tearing down an overpass coming from Osceola Parkway.

Starcruiser on right. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Ground-level view. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Guests probably remember a different view of this area…

Original parking entrance of DHS. Picture taken in 2018. (photo by @bioreoncstruct)
Another ground-level view, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the background. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Current status of The Cove hotel being built near the Swan and Dolphin. To the right of this hotel is the Fantasia Gardens mini-golf course. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Skyliner station at Caribbean Beach with what is believed to be the entire Skyliner fleet taken off and stored.(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Skyliner cabs sitting as still as they did that infamous night in 2019 during “unexpected downtime.”(photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

 

# 2 – Universal Studios Florida

Approaching the Universal Orlando Resort may give some guests a feeling like Will Smith had in the movie “I Am Legend.” Universal Blvd, a 5 mile stretch of road which almost always has activity, would be completely vacant for minutes at a time.

Universal Blvd. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The entrance to Universal Studios Florida. The large Mardi Gras medallion has been taken down and ready to be moved backstage. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Transformers: The Ride 3-D in the direct center of this shot.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The large wedge-shaped building in the top center is for the upcoming Bourne Stuntacular show. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Mirror glass effect on the water at USF. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Here we have Springfield USA on the left, Men in Black: Aliens Attack in the center, and the London waterfront and Diagon Alley on the right. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here is the entire track of the Hogwarts Express leading from King’s Cross in Universal Studios Florida to Hogsmeade Village in Islands of Adventure.

Hogwarts Express. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 1 – Islands of Adventure

Marvel Superhero Island. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Incredible Hulk Coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Toon Lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A look at some of the construction going on in Jurassic Park. For some great analysis of what is going on in this land, be sure to check out Alicia Stella’s report over at OrlandoParkStop.com.

Jurassic Park. (photo by @bioreconstruct with labels by Alicia Stella)
At the center of this photo are areas of different sizes and unusual shapes for a concrete pour. This will all be part of the upcoming Jurassic Park coaster.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)
With the Jurassic Park Discovery Center on the left, this shot gives a better idea of scale for the work being done on the upcoming coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A launch element that will be used on the coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
An overview of the Universal parks (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Honorable Mention –  Volcano Bay, Dockside  and Epic Universe

Volcano Bay. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Volcano Bay. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Volcano Bay’s signature slide Honu has recently been under refurbishment. Arrow points to some scaffolding.(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Area reserved for Volcano Bay expansion. You can also see how close Universal is to residential areas on the left.(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Universal’s newest hotel, Dockside Inn & Suites (part of the Endless Summer Resort) was scheduled to have its grand opening this week. It has been postponed.

Dockside Inn & Suites. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Phase 1 of Dockside is complete and ready for guests. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The main drop off area for Dockside. The bus stops are the orange covered locations on the left. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Before everything went south with COVID-19, Universal invited us to check out Dockside Inn & Suites with a tour. Here’s some photos from that tour.

Dockside lobby. (photo byMichael Carelli)
Dockside Lobby. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Seating at Dockside food court. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Inside a Dockside room. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Dockside phase 2 still under construction. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The arrow is pointing to an area right outside of Dockside Inn & Suites that will eventually become a 20 story hotel replacing the I-Drive Grand Resort. This hotel will not be owned by Universal. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

We’ll finish up with the one area that has always been empty, the plot of land for Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe theme park.

Overview of the Epic Universe site. Large Arrow is pointing to an access area at Destination Parkway. Guests will drive in and go to a large flat parking lot that the smaller arrow is pointing to. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Epic Universe site. At bottom right is track for the upcoming Jurassic Park coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Shot of the track. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Recently completed retention ponds. Sand Lake Road in upper left of picture. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX looks at the EMPTY PARKS in Orlando. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The SATURDAY SIX Presents: @bioreconstruct’s favorite aerial photos

SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at theme park photography

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

This past week was supposed to give us the debut performances at Cirque Du Soleli’s new “Drawn to Life” show in Disney Springs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

One thought on “The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the EMPTY THEME PARKS at Universal and Walt Disney World

  • March 21, 2020 at 6:52 pm
    Permalink

    We’ve seen Hollywood Studios this empty before.

    Reply

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