This week the SATURDAY SIX Proudly Presents: Flights with @bioreconstruct! That’s right, this week we’re hopping back into the helicopter with blogger-in-the-sky @bioreconstruct to get a bird’s eye view of the latest developments at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. However, despite how much time Bio spends in the sky, he’s also frequently seen wearing out his sneakers on the ground taking photos of the latest developments in Florida, including the recent opening of…
# 6 – WDW Store on I-Drive
One of the biggest tourist strips in Orlando is International Drive. Here you will find the Orange County Convention Center along with a metric ton of hotels, restaurants, mini-golf courses, gift shops promising “4 t-shirts for $10”, Icon Park and more. The current Universal Orlando is located extremely close to I-Drive (with the Endless Summer resorts actually directly off I-Drive) and the upcoming EPIC Universe theme park will also be located near I-Drive. Well, in-between the current Universal parks and EPIC Universe, Disney installed a GIGANTIC LED screen on top of a parking garage that can be seen from space. This parking garage is located on I-Drive near Sand Lake Road.
Let’s take a trip back to late September 2021, and look at the parking garage before the WDW signage was installed.
From what I can tell, Bio has documenting the construction of this large video wall every single day for the past year. Below we’ll go over some of the highlights he has seen.
Below the LED ribbon display you’ll see that circles of LED lighting have been added onto the parking garage. The circles of LED lighting are also on the side around the right corner.
Ok, now we are in the sky and the aerial photo below features a look at the video construction on April 29th. The arrow is pointing to where a WDW ticket store is now located, in the building attached to the parking garage. The WDW store faces I-Drive.
Now let’s take a look at the I-Drive skyline. From L-R we have the Hollywood Parking Garage (home of WDW’s giant LED ribbon), Magic Midway SlingShot, Orlando StarFlyer (in red, white & blue lighting for July 4th weekend), the Orlando FreeFall (currently closed), and The Wheel. As you can see, the LED circles that were installed across the entire parking garage combined with the Disney flowing video screen
This aerial photo of EPCOT has the “iconic” I-Drive skyline seen in the background. The arrow is pointing to the Hollywood Parking Garage (home to the new WDW ticket store and giant LED ribbon wall.)
Speaking of EPCOT….
# 5 – July 4th Weekend at EPCOT
The new lighting package at Spaceship Earth is straight up E-Ticket and allows for Disney to do some truly tremendous things, such as having SSE lit up like the American Flag during July 4th weekend.
Just absolutely gorgeous.
The Nova Corps Star Blaster outside Cosmic Rewind, with Spaceship Earth in the background.
This aerial gives another angle of the Star Blaster in front of the entrance to Cosmic Rewind.
# 4 – EPCOT Construction
Staying on Cosmic Rewind, let’s go back a couple weeks ago to late May, as the photo below has arrows at where construction staging was for the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. This picture was taken on May 27th, the official grand opening of the attraction.
Our next photo is of the same general area, taken from the EPCOT monorail, and shows the fencing which was up.
Our last photo in this series is a view of the same area taking more recently, showing the fencing removed from the area. This photo was also taken from the EPCOT monorail.
Let’s head into the park and look at what’s going on with the Journey of Water: Inspired by Moana walkthrough attraction. How this project is still nowhere near to being completed is mind boggling. The bottom arrow at what seems like waterproofing on top of the service basement remaining from Innoventions West. This area likely to be buried in dirt soon. The top arrow at some interesting material staging. Seems like dense foam blocks.
Despite taking forever, the attraction is starting to take shape visually and surely will looking fantastic when finished. Here we have a look at stages of craftsmanship by the Journey of Water rock work artists. 1) Colors outline plan for the sculpting. 2) Gunite applied for a sculpt of a cavity at top of a rock work feature. 3) Sculpted areas that seem ready for paint
Arrow in this photo at a dividing rock column in what seems to be a passageway forming in rock work.
Rock work “chips” are being added to the tallest frame of Journey of Water.
# 3 – “Aloha means goodbye…”
Just as Universal welcomed back their luau show at the Royal Pacific Resort, Disney officially began removing the former home of the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at the Poly. This area will be converted into more Disney Vacation Club units (and will probably be finished faster than the Journey of Water attraction in EPCOT.) Below is an aerial look at the demolition as it was just starting in mid June.
About a week later, the area looked like this…
As you can see below, by the beginning of July, the area was ready for the upcoming DVC tower.
# 2 – Tron Lightcycle Run
If it seems like we’ve been waiting forever for the upcoming Tron coaster at Disney’s Magic Kingdom it’s because we have. This past week we celebrated the five year anniversary of Bob Chapek announcing the attraction was coming. To put that number in context, five years ago Dueling Dragons was still in operation at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Since that time Universal has replaced Dueling Dragons with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Universal also built ANOTHER coaster in the same park with the VelocCoaster in Jurassic Park.
As crazy as this sounds, Tron actually seems AHEAD of schedule and seems that it will be ready earlier than many had expected. Construction has really ramped up this year for whatever reason (possibly because they want to somehow count this as part of the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary…which was on October 1st, 2021.)
Current look at the lighting installed inside the tunnel for the Magic Kingdom railroad that will be running underneath the Tron coaster.
# 1 – Epic Universe
Now let’s head across town and look at some construction projects which seem to have the “fast forward” button pressed on them. Several lands at Universal’s upcoming EPIC Universe theme park are showing tremendous progress. Our first photo is a very wide overview of EPIC Universe construction. The arrow is pointing at the Mythos restaurant in Islands of Adventure, to show how close all of Universal’s parks will be when finished.
Before we get into closer looks, here is a list of some of the projects being worked on in this area…
So let’s start at the center of EPIC Universe, and this large circle will be the home of a fountain which will surely have show elements like World of Color at DCA. The adjacent excavation will be another water feature which will have an attraction attached to it. At the top left of the photo is excavation for a turn that will occur in the dueling coaster. About a month ago we did a full rundown of what’s expected to be coming to EPIC Universe and you can read that article by CLICKING HERE.
Closer look at that turn for the dueling coaster.
The photo below shows the many projects being worked on at the same time inside the Universal Classic Monsters Land. Top left is the featured attraction in the land. The large circle at the right is main fountain of the park which we discussed above. The arrow is pointing to what potentially could be a restaurant fronting the onsite hotel.
Closer look at the front of the Universal Classic Monsters featured attraction so far. Guests to enter mansion with towers at left. Likely tall trees hide the show building, where boom lift is seen bottom center.
Top down view of the main attraction in Universal Classic Monsters Land. 1) Entrance. Framing seen of a mansion with varied height towers. 2) Hexagon of likely atrium. 3) Likely there will be large trees here to hide show building. 4 & 5) Rides often have 2 routes. 2 pairs of concrete.
Here is a photo of the construction of Universal Classic Monsters Land taken from ground level (Universal Blvd.)
Let’s head on over to Super Nintendo World, which is expected to be the huge draw of this park. In the foreground of this picture is a staging area which will later become an expansion area of the park once it is completed. Speaking of EPIC Universe expansions, “rumors and innuendo” suggest that the Lord of the Rings may finally be coming to a theme park. This has been talked about for Disney and Universal for YEARS and ultimately never coming to fruition. However, the permit princess Alicia Stella has put together a must watch video which covers the history of LOTR and the theme parks along with discussion of what may be coming to EPIC Universe. You can watch that video by CLICKING HERE.
Closer look at the upcoming Mario Kart attraction.
Donkey Kong attraction.
Yoshi’s Adventure. The track supports for this attraction are on the right.
Let’s quickly get on the ground for a moment to see how this area looks from Universal Blvd. The left arrow is pointing to the track supports for Yoshi’s Adventure that we mentioned above, and the right arrow is pointing to a large ring on the roof for that very same attraction.
Okay, back in the air and we get a look at the huge show building for the upcoming Ministry of Magic attraction.
Side view of the Ministry of Magic construction. Seems like much of the show building will be cavernous.
Next up, How to Train Your Dragon Land. This area will feature a roller coaster, and the service road indicates foundations at bottom center of the photo will be part of the land. The yellow arrow is pointing to the turn for the high speed dueling coaster which will be located outside the land. The top center of the photo features the large Ministry of Magic show building.
Another angle of How to Train Your Dragon Land. The coaster will have guests “flying” over rolling terrain. On the right hand side of the photo you’ll see a concrete trough where the coaster track will dip below grade.
Back on the ground, the photo below is a very wide shot showing various construction in EPCI Universe. At left, Universal Classic Monsters Land. Center is Ministry of Magic. At right is Super Nintendo World.
While “back of house” stuff isn’t that exciting compared to theme park attractions, there a necessary component to EPIC Universe’s success. Below we have the concrete walls of a warehouse being raised on the right. The Kirkman Road extension can be seen in progress at top center. That road will be for guests to reach Epic Universe parking. Team Member parking is seen here, along Sand Lake Rd.
Closer look at a Team Member support building under construction at Epic Universe. The concrete walls were cast flat, then raised. One of the casting areas being removed at right.
Closer look at floors being raised by boom lift in a Team Member office building at Epic Universe. Note the series of rectangles, indicating there will be atriums uniting the floors.
Below is a good look at how everything is fitting into place for the upcoming “3rd gate” for Universal.
HONORABLE MENTION – WDI Testing…
Folks taking the EPCOT Monorail from Magic Kingdom can get a glimpse of some testing being done by Walt Disney Imagineering. This test is being conducted outdoors across from the TTC parking lot.
Imagineers constantly test materials and products. Look towards former STOL Port (East of TTC parking) from the EPCOT monorail for a long term weathering test of artificial foliage.
Now what could WDI be testing weathering foliage for? Well it just so happens that it was recently announced that the Splash Mountain retheme looks to be coming sooner rather than later…
Double Secret Honorable Mention – The Resorts
For most people, the pictures they love the most from our pal Bio is his theme park construction shots. It’s incredible being able to see a project like EPIC Universe come to life in a way we just have never seen before (outside of Volcano Bay.) I get it, they are awesome, but for me my favorite BIO photos are the ones he takes of the theme park resorts showing the Big Picture that you just don’t get from ground level. I can’t get enough of them and here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks…
VERY rare to see shots from Disney’s All Star Resorts.
Triple Threat Honorable Mention – SeaWorld’s New Coaster
SeaWorld, which seems to be in an “arms race” with Disney and Universal to create new coasters, recently announced that a new Surf Coaster will be coming to the park in Orlando. SeaWorld is currently home to four pretty significant coasters: Mako, Kraken, Ice Breaker and Manta. For me, Mako is a NAY NAY coaster and way too scary with the large drop, but Manta is pound for pound one of my favorite coasters in all of Florida. We have done SAT 6’s on SeaWorld in general (years ago) and the recent Sesame Street addition to the park, and I think once the Surf Coaster opens it will be time to take the fam back there to get content for a new article and check out Ice Breaker.
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Presents: Flights with @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.