This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 10 YEARS OF @bioreconstruct! The theme park Universe loves to celebrate anniversaries. Last year we had the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World and the 30th anniversary of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. Next month we have a big one coming up with the 40th anniversary of EPCOT, but this month we something even more special than all of that… the 10th anniversary of @bioreconstruct on Twitter.
To hear how we got to this point, let’s hear from the main himself:
Way back 2006 I was helping with pandemic planning. Twitter was announced and the team and I figured it was a communication method we needed to reference in the training materials. (BTW nearly everything planned for and seemed far-fetched like closing theme parks came true.)
At the time, I didn’t see a need to join Twitter myself. A few years later I was contributing photos to friends in email. It started to be apparent that it would be faster to share photos in Twitter, and that’s all I’ve been doing since. Sharing photos with the real bloggers.
Aerial photos are just a very expensive hobby. I look at them as a theme park version of Sports Photography. Some idea of what will unfold in front of the lens and the shot will only be available for a split second. There is never a particular plan for flights, but my ‘ Spidey Sense’ tells me there could be something interesting to shoot.” – @bioreconstruct
My first personal interaction with Bio came back in October of 2015 when he posted the following photo on Twitter.
You have to remember at the time, DisTwitter had experienced several stories over the previous year of guests being stuck on monorails for an extraordinary length of time. In their defense, there is no entertainment on a stuck monorail and there is no air conditioning. If you feel “trapped” in a closed space with many people you don’t know, 15 minutes will seem like a hour. It’s interminable. In early October of 2015, some guests were stuck on Monorail Yellow for over 2 and 1/2 hours until Reedy Creek Emergency Services could evacuate them.
Less than a week later, Bio was around when Monorail Yellow was once again stuck on the track. So I took his photo and applied a tagline that the candy bar Snickers had famously used for two decades, and posted it on Twitter.
After posting that photo, Bio followed me on Twitter and reached out to me via a Direct Message. A friendship was started that continues to this day. I personally admire his talent, his dedication, and his overall “love of the game,” so to speak. There’s plenty of good photographers in the theme park universe, but precious few great ones. Bio is one of the great ones and is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
However, the thing I respect possibly the most is Bio’s “man of mystery” persona. Despite everyone knowing who he is because of his incredible photography both on the ground and in the air, no one actually knows who he is. In a world of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Tik Tok, that is incredibly rare. We live in a LOOK AT ME world, but Bio keeps to himself, gives out less-than-zero personal details about his private life, and simply goes about his business producing amazing content on a daily basis. It is an impossible task to go through ten years of Bio’s theme park photos to pick out the “best,” so instead we are going to look at various areas he has covered over the last decade and post some of our favorites…
# 6 – Mother Nature
One of the hardest things to photograph in general is lightning, but somehow Bio is always Johnny-on-the-spot and has his camera ready for when a bolt strikes at Disney or Universal.
In this photo below there are spotlights shining on the left during a pre-show announcement for the EPCOT Forever fireworks show. Lightning is forming in the clouds on the right. White dot above the cloud is the planet Venus, which leads us to our next section…
# 5 – Look to the Skies
We’ve done several articles in this Fine Blog Series on the craft of theme park photography. The best photographers can take something we’ve all seen a million times and present it in a way that is unique and eye catching. While most of us park goers aren’t astronomers, I think pretty much everyone would enjoy being able to see other planets from inside the theme parks. The good news is: you can. The bad news is, since most of us aren’t astronomers, we don’t know when or where to look. Thankfully, Bio has us covered.
Many years ago I went to the Smithsonian Planetarium show. This was also the same year that visible planets were in a row. I decided that I needed to learn more about the night sky. The Moon is particularly challenging to include in theme park photos, as it’s very bright and moves rapidly enough to become blurry.” – @bioreconstruct
# 4 – Big Picture View
The expression can’t see the forest for the trees is used to describe when a person is too involved with minor details to see the whole situation of a subject. For us theme park fans on the ground, we are enraptured by the incredible theming and design that is in front of us, but it takes someone like Bio thousands of feet up in the air to show us how all the smaller pieces fit together to form the larger puzzle. For me personally, these are my favorite style of photos that Bio takes. I can’t get enough of them!
One of my all time personal favorite shots from Bio is ths one below that shows Universal Studios Florida. What I love about this photo so much is that it shows how much work Universal has done in maximizing space since they are limited it what they can do compared to Walt Disney World’s “blessing of size.” In the photo below we see both trains of the Hogwarts Express (one going to USF, one going to Islands of Adventure), Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit traveling through multiple “lands” of the park, and soundstages that were used for Halloween Horror Nights 30.
# 3 – DID YOU KNOW….
Bio is a fascinating person to follow on Twitter because he always delivers the goods. Take this shot of the Nova Corps. Star Blaster with Mission: Space in the background. Seems like a simple photo to the layperson, but is an almost impossible shot to get as it has to be taken from the monorail and the photographer only has a split second to get an unobtrusive shot as the monorail is breaking on a curve.
Bio has had many photos go “viral” over the years but the one which got the most attention across the globe was this aerial of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge featuring the Millennium Falcon.
Speaking of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as far as I know Bio is the only person to take helicopter tours above both Disneyland and Walt Disney World within weeks of each to show the differences between each land.
We also have had many examples over the years of Bio taken an aerial photograph one day, only to show the same area from ground level shortly thereafter. This gives an incredible perspective on construction projects.
Our next two photos are a wild comparison. First we have a ground view of the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival floral mural taken on March 7, 2020. Now, its important to remember that the Festival ended abruptly March 15 when Walt Disney World closed due to Covid-19.
Our next photo was taken overhead on May 4th, 2020, and you can see what happened to the flower mural. The yellow area is where Bio took his original photo on the ground.
Follow Bio long enough and you’ll be sitting for a spell under his learning tree as he delivers some pretty interesting facts about the theme parks we love so much. Our next series of photos is going to show how the Disney Imagineers went to great lengths to provide painstaking details inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Most of which will never be noticed or understood by the majority of day guests.
Many Disney fans love “Hidden Mickeys” and there have been several Hidden Mickeys that can only be appreciated when looking down at them from the sky. In fact, possibly the greatest Hidden Mickey in history was built directly into Disney-MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios). Guests on the ground saw nothing out of the ordinary, but from above…
Here is the state of the “Hidden Mickey” today…
Let’s take a look at how Bio’s flights above can show us some clever “tricks of the trade” used by Disney. Us guests on the ground often marvel at the incredible work by Imagineers, but like a good magic act, a lot of what we are seeing is an illusion. Take for example the facade for the Dinosaur attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Guests approaching the building are first going to notice the impressive Aladar figure out front, with the Dino Institute in the back. Looking at the building, we see trees and shrubbery in the near background. This tricks our mind into thinking we’re walking into a building that “can’t” be that big, right?
Up in the air, we can see that Disney cleverly disguised the massive show building we are about to enter by planting trees on top of the building!
Staying in Animal Kingdom, let’s take a quick peek at Pandora: The World of Avatar. Guests walking into the land are always blown away by the magnificent “floating mountains” and the incredible rockwork behind them. But with an aerial view, we can see that this rock work and design is meant to block the view of a show building that makes the one used for Dinosaur look small in comparison!
Anyone familiar with “Hollywood” and the art of movie making knows that when it comes to building a film set, you only spend time on details which will be seen by the camera. The same applies for theme parks if we replace “camera” with “guest.” Take Expedition Everest, one of the most brilliantly themed roller coasters in the world. (At least that’s our opinion. Others consider it a “nondescript coaster themed to India or whatever.”) Every aspect of Everest looks INCREDIBLE to those on the ride or looking at the attraction from inside the park.
However, this aerial photo from behind Everest shows that the back part of the attraction isn’t themed at all.
A theme park photographer always has to keep their head on a swivel, because you never know what details you may catch with the camera…
They say it’s better to be lucky than good, but the best photographers know that “luck” comes from extreme preparation and knowing when to be at the right place at the right time.
Bio will often post photos from the parks that he has taken over the last several decades, to give an incredible history lesson for theme park fans. On April 10, 2020 Bio posted the photo below of Universal Studios Florida that was taken in 1992. The picture shows the start of construction for Fievel’s Playland (which will be located behind the fence.) This photo brilliantly shows the contrast in themes you will see at Universal (especially back then) as the Pyscho house/Bates Motel sign is seen in the background. On the right of the photo is the original Hard Rock Cafe, which was actually shaped like a guitar when seen from above.
Universal has gone all-in on mold-a-matic machines, offering multiple designs throughout the year. Bio is always there to get the new figures once they are released and then updates his Twitter followers with a picture of the complete collection. Below is a photo of the entire collection as of Halloween Horror Nights 2022. This includes the various color variations that some of the machines had (because OF COURSE he tracked that as well!)
For me personally, another series of pics from Bio that really stood out was when he photographed the theme park world during the pandemic shutdown of 2020. We collected many of them in THIS ARTICLE, but it is still eery to see places that are normally packed with people just completely empty.
Again, to see more photos from this “Can You Believe This Actually Happened?!” moment of time, CLICK HERE.
# 2 – runDisney
Over the years, runDisney has become a HUGE part of the Walt Disney World experience. Runners are insatiable for it, with many events selling out immediately. The rest of us know to avoid those weekends because everywhere is going to be packed. Bio has been covering runDisney events from Day One, and his Twitter feed over the years have given an amazing look at the overall experience.
Because runDisney events often have runners going through backstage areas at Walt Disney World, we get views of places we almost NEVER get to see anywhere else….
Here is the part which is NEXT LEVEL BONKERS. After completing a runDisney race and providing us many pictures on the ground, Bio has even charted a flight later that morning TO GET PHOTOS OF THE SAME RACE FROM THE SKY. We do not deserve this man.
If you like runDisney medals, well we know a guy…
Now I don’t really have much interest in participating in a runDisney event, but I love SEEING stuff from a runDisney event. Especially the stuff that is talked about by runners but barely ever photographed, such as the amount of port-a-pottys used for each race…
# 1 – Epic Universe (first theme park from ground up)
One of my favorite things on Disney+ so far was The Imagineering Story, because it gave us a behind the scenes look at the creation of several theme parks. Until now, we have only seen the creation of theme parks through the view of Disney and Universal. We see what they want us to see because they are the only ones who had access. Thanks to @bioreconstruct, and technology coming a LONG way over the last 50 years, we finally are getting the first ever look at the creation of a theme park from the ground up.
It all started back in 2018, when Bio took the first charted flight over an expansion area that Universal owned. At this point in time, nothing had been announced but work was being done on something…
Since that time, with monthly flights over the area (if not more), we slowly are seeing an actual theme park come into shape.
Bio’s awesome photography in the air has allowed others – including Tommy Hawkins and the Permit Princess Alicia Stella – to make informed speculation on what is coming over the next few years. Our excitement level was already high seeing Bio’s photos of the area, but it goes to a few pitch knowing what we could be looking at…
An Epic Universe quiz from August 5, 2022. Can you identify the construction projects at the arrows in this aerial photo?
HONORABLE MENTION – Animals
One of the most amazing stories since this blog series was created was the battle back and forth between Universal Orlando and an Osprey. This struggle for supremacy, taking place on the highest point of the VelociCoaster track, was covered in depth in 202o’s Theme Park Turkey of the Year Awards. This “fight” between bird and man actually went into 2021, and it wasn’t until the VelociCoaster opened that Universal could finally be declared the winner (the Osprey was given several other options nearby from Universal in which to build its nest.)
While many remember Bio’s hilarious coverage of the Osprey at Universal, he has been photographing all manner of birds, fish, and other animals in the theme park world over the years.
So there you have it: TEN YEARS OF @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 THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, 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, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. 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.