The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the Current State of WDW and Universal (Disney Springs, Jurassic Park Coaster Construction, and More)

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the current state of Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort! After being closed for more than a month, it’s time to see how the parks we love so much are doing. The blogger high-in-the-sky copter has been gassed up, and @bioreconstruct circled Orlando to get the latest updates from the parks and resorts. Here’s what he saw…

# 6 – Disney Springs

For us theme park fans, the biggest news of this past week was the near-shocking announcement that Disney Springs would be reopening on May 20th. While full details haven’t been released yet, and it doesn’t appear that the Disney-operated stores and restaurants will be part of the first phased opening, it does feel good that we could be soon be enjoying thigh high chicken biscuits from Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ or getting some Donkey Sauce at Chicken Guy in the near future.

Reminder that the NBA Experience has been practicing the art of “social distancing” since it opened last year, so they should be in “mid season form” almost immediately once the quarantine ends.

Disney Springs, with the beloved Orange Garage in the top right of the photo. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Landing at  Disney Springs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Disney Springs shopping district. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Disney Springs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Disney Springs from the other side. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Marketplace. The big store on the right hand side of the photo is the World of Disney.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The LEGO dragon keeping an eye out for returning guests. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A wide photo of Hotel Blvd, which is easily walkable to Disney Springs thanks to a pedestrian bridge built several years ago. In the background you can see the show building for Cirque du Soleil, and beyond that other iconic WDW buildings including the Swan & Dolphin, Tower of Terror, and Expedition Everest.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 5 – Disney Hotels

The news of Disney Springs starting to re-open was the “good news” this week, but along with it came some “bad news” in the form of Disney attempting to save $900 Billion in spending by postponing – if not outright cancelling – some construction projects. It is not known at this time what will be included in these cuts to capital expenditures, but we can be relatively sure projects that are far along already will be completed, and those that aren’t…well, they might not be (at least for while). One topic of debate is the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel “experience.”  The Starcruiser is going to be a high-end immersive hotel stay that was expected to deliver a lot of “hands on” interaction to guests. Some expect the hotel to sit dormant for a long time, much like the Classic Years at Disney’s Pop Century Resort (which eventually became Art of Animation). Others believe the hotel construction will go on, because it will be such a revenue generator once it opens. Time shall tell.

Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Let’s check out some overhead shots of other WDW hotels. Here is Disney’s Caribbean Beach, with the new DVC Riviera Resort in the bottom right.

Caribbean Beach. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Construction of The Cove boutique hotel is chugging along. This will be located across the street from the Swan & Dolphin, and directly next to Fantasia Gardens mini-golf.

The Cove. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

While construction on the WDW-owned Galactic Starcruiser pretty much came to a halt over a month ago (along with most of the projects inside Disney parks), Marriott is still full-speed-ahead on building The Cove.

The Cove. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Always fascinating to see the full layout of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The design of the entire hotel is unique – with a semicircle design like a Kraal African village – and aerials like this will show you why some of the rooms seem like they are a mile away from the lobby.

Animal Kingdom Lodge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Animal Kingdom Lodge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Animal Kingdom Lodge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

On the side of WDW property that is close to Animal Kingdom Lodge and Coronado Springs will be the developed area of Flamingo Crossings. This will be a hotel, dining, and shopping district that will be competitively priced.

Flamingo Crossings. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Flamingo Crossings. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Now let’s make our way over to the Magic Kingdom area. The pic below has the Magic Kingdom toll plaza in the bottom left. There will be ramp improvements that will make it easier for guests to get to the Poly, Grand Floridian, and Shades of Green. The arrow is pointing to a new storm sewer that spans across the canals.

Infrastructure! (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Ever want to see what the Disney fleet of buses looks like from 1,500 feet in the air?

Disney Bus Fleet. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A closer look at the Speedway that is located right outside the exit of the Magic Kingdom. In the left hand side you can see what looks to be about a dozen or so Minnie Vans.

Speedway.  (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower.

Contemporary. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This is a wide view of the area that will finally allow guests to walk from the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom. I know there are some nights when I leave the park and I see a huge line for the monorail, a gigantic line for the boats, and an interminable line for the buses. So, there are definitely times where I will just walk my way back to the TTC if it becomes an option.

Grand Flo Walkway. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There are very few projects at WDW that I vehemently disagree with, but Reflections: A Lakeside Lodge at Fort Wilderness is one of them. The arrow is pointing to foundations outside Pioneer Hall.

Reflections. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A closer view of the new Tri-Circle-D Ranch.

Tri Circle D Ranch. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

One of the more bonkers stories of the past week was a man being arrested for camping out on Discovery Island.

 

 

# 4 – Disney Parks

Alright, let’s get a birds-eye view of the parks!

Typhoon Lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Blizzard Beach. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Disney recently bought about 235 acres of land west of the Magic Kingdom. That land is on the right hand side of this photo. The arrow is pointing to Space Mountain.

Blessing of size. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

An empty Magic Kingdom will never NOT be weird.

Magic Kingdom. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A look at Town Square.

Town Square. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Close-up view. The maintenance trucks seen here may mean that work has resumed on the refurbishment of City Hall.

Town Square. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Hub. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Fantasyland. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This look down into Tomorrowland shows the gears on the pavement that most guests probably never notice. This is a rare view.

Tomorrowland walkway. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This photo shows construction of the TRON coaster in the foreground with Space Mountain behind it. You can also see some roadwork going on as well.

Tomorrowland. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
TRON coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
TRON coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

I love this photo of Space Mountain and the TRON coaster in the background and the Grand Floridian in the foreground.

Space Mountain and TRON behind Grand Flo. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Heading over to Animal Kingdom, and it looks like the new security bag check area may be completed by the time the parks reopen (which means just in time for Disney to probably have to change the way they do the bag check procedure).

Animal Kingdom bag check. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Animal Kingdom entrance plaza. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Tree of Life. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A deserted parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
DHS entrance plaza. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
DHS Center Stage. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Sunset Blvd. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Work on the Woody’s Roundup BBQ restaurant in Toy Story Land could possibly be one of the victims of the budget cutting. The restaurant was sorely needed for capacity reasons, but there is reason to believe WDW may be in a reduced capacity phase for an indefinite period.

Woody’s Roundup BBQ. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Black Spire Outpost. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Rise of the Resistance. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Time for EPCOT (spoiler alert, this one gets depressing…).

EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Another look at EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Entrance. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Future World. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
With the budget cuts, who knows what will eventually happen with this place. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
RIP Club Cool et all. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Guardians of the Galaxy coaster and Play Pavilion. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Well, it’s official. The 2020 Flower and Garden Festival is OVER. The former colorful flower beds are going back to their normal state.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here’s a look at how the flower beds looked from the ground.

2020 Flower and Garden Festival. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The arrow here is pointing to where the above picture was taken.

EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The arrows are pointing to all the stuff that is GONE. We were able to enjoy the Flower and Garden Festival relatively close to when Disney shuttered the parks, and it was a great time. Looking forward to next year’s event.

“Bye Bye Bye.” – N*SYNC (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Butterfly Garden tent is still up.

Butterfly Garden. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here are some shots backstage of the work for the upcoming Harmonious nighttime spectacular. After IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth stopped, the temporary show EPCOT Forever was going to be the transition until Harmonious is ready. With $900 Billion in cuts, we may find out EPCOT Forever is going to literally be forever.

Harmonious work. Also note the Friendship Boats being docked. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Harmonious barges. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 3 – Universal Hotels

This photo gives a great look at several the Universal hotels. In the center we have Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Aventura Hotel, Sapphire Falls, and Royal Pacific Resort. Farther back you can see Surfside and Dockside. Even farther back  you can see the area where Universal’s next theme park will be.

Universal hotels. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Dockside and  Surfside. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Universal announced there would be a one-year delay in the opening of Epic Universe, their next theme park.

Epic Universe. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Epic Universe. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

At the site of Epic Universe there is staging for the Jurassic Park coaster in Islands of Adventure.

Jurassic Park coaster staging. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Track. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Pieces to be used for Jurassic Park coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 2 – Universal CityWalk

With Disney Springs beginning to open, it’s only a matter of time before we get an announcement of Universal’s CityWalk doing the same.

Universal CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Hard Rock Cafe Orlando is one of the more interesting restaurants in all of Florida (and a must-do if you love music, and who doesn’t?!) The Hard Rock is filled with memorabilia and interesting details. One of those details is that the stairs and handrails outside the restaurant are designed to be the “frets” of a guitar that you can see from above.

CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

In between the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando and the Blue Man Group/Rip Ride Rockit is an area under development. Not sure what this is for.

CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The backside of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando and Hard Rock Live event space.

CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 1 – Universal Parks

While Disney has stopped most of the work inside their theme parks, Universal is still continuing on, with various projects going on at all the parks. First up is Volcano Bay.

Volcano Bay. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The center of this picture is where work is being done for Punga Racers.

Punga Racers. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Overview of Islands of Adventure.

Islands of Adventure. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Great shot here of the Incredible Hulk Coaster. Did you know that the backstory of the nearby Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall in Marvel Superhero Island is that the attraction is powered by the “fear” in guests. Dr. Doom can’t be happy that right now that the biggest fear in the U.S. is that some people can’t get their Baskin Robbins.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

One of the good things about Toon Lagoon – other than the world class water rides – is that most of the characters in the area were around during the 1918 flu pandemic. So we can rest safe that Betty Boop, Mark Trail, and the gang at Gasoline Alley are safe under quarantine.

Toon Lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Looks like all the Who’s in Whoville are sheltering in space at Seuss Landing.

Seuss Landing. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

With no guests in the park, Universal Team Members can now drive work vehicles in the park during the day. This leads to some interesting pictures…

 

 

A look at Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Hagrid’s. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Leading up to the opening of Hagrid’s last year, we saw the planting of many trees for the “Forbidden Forest.” These trees are filling out nicely and from the ground look incredible.

Hagrids. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

It took ten years, but FINALLY Universal is completing work on lockers outside for guests riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Once done, this should really help the guest experience.

Lockers. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The arrow is pointing to where the lockers will be. Right past the iconic Jurassic Park gates, the lockers are themed so that on one side they will blend in with the Wizarding World, but guests walking through Jurassic Park won’t even notice.

Forbidden Journey lockers. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here we have a numbered photo that shows three different projects that are currently being worked on. # 1 is the lockers at Forbidden Journey. # 2 is the new home of the Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park. # 3 is the still unannounced Jurassic Park coaster.

Three projects. 1) Lockers at Forbidden Journey. 2) Raptor Encounter. 3) Jurassic Park coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

An overview of Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

An overview of the Jurassic Park coaster work.

Jurassic Park Coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here you can see a curved wall that has been built which echoes the design of the nearby Jurassic Park visitor’s center. The arrow is pointing to the lowest point in at the Jurassic Park waterfront.

Jurassic Park. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Station for the coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Another view of the station. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
This will be the launch exit of the coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The arrow is pointing to the outdoor seating area of the Three Broomsticks. Guests dining here will probably get a good look at those enjoying the coaster. Guests dining at Mythos (top right of the photo) look to be blocked from seeing the coaster.

Jurassic Park coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Arrow pointing to coaster staging in the nearby Toon Lagoon.

Staging in Toon Lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Overhead view of the new area for the Raptor Encounter.

Raptor Encounter. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Raptor Encounter.
Entrance to the Raptor Encounter.

Let’s head over to Universal Studios Florida next door.

Universal Studios Florida. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Maintenance being done for the lagoon show in USF. The water level in the lagoon has been lowered.

Lagoon show. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Universal will be moving a lot of “back of house” stuff to the new property at Epic Universe. This photo shows one backstage building at USF already demolished.

Demolition. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Closer view of the area.

Demoliton. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

HONORABLE MENTION – …and the rest, here on Gilligan’s Island!

Since gas is so cheap right now, let’s check out some other Orlando attractions. First up, Fun Spot. This kid-friendly park is located close to the Universal Orlando Resort and the Orlando Premium Outlets off International Drive.

Fun Spot. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The H2O Live! waterpark certainly looks like…well, something. Both Universal with Volcano Bay and SeaWorld with Aquatica went with theming and experiences. H2O Live! went the other way.

H2O Live. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Speaking of Aquatica, here’s a look at the wave pools.

Wave pools at SeaWorld’s Acquatica. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

SeaWorld.

SeaWorld. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

SeaWorld’s new coaster, Ice Breaker.

Ice Breaker. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Sesame Street!

Sesame Street. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

So there you have it: A look at what’s going on at WDW and the Universal Orlando Resort via @bioreconstruct! 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.

3 thoughts on “The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the Current State of WDW and Universal (Disney Springs, Jurassic Park Coaster Construction, and More)

  • May 9, 2020 at 9:53 am
    Permalink

    During this shutdown, Disney’s been filing a ton of patents that seem to be related to the Star Wars hotel. I think it might continue.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2020 at 12:57 am
    Permalink

    That SW hotel is the only project I’m certain will continue. The people rich enough to stay there will probably come out richer than ever in this crisis, and Disney needs the “whales” to make up for lost revenue in a half-capacity future.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2020 at 1:00 am
    Permalink

    “Reminder that the NBA Experience has been practicing the art of “social distancing” since it opened last year, so they should be in “mid season form” almost immediately once the quarantine ends”
    If heat kills Coronavirus, you just sanitized all of the West Side with that burn

    Reply

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