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SATURDAY SIX News Desk: looking at this past week’s HUGE NEWS from Disney and Universal (Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade RIP, Forces of Nature Debut and MORE!)

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Generally speaking, the SATURDAY SIX covers all the theme park news at the end of every month in our world renowned THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX. However, right after press time last weekend there was some pretty big news out of both Disney and Universal that we had to talk about. So it was time once again to go bring back the SAT SIX News Desk. This of course means going back into the closet, dusting off the blue blazer, and “we’ll do it live!” starting with….

# 6 – Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade Going to Boot Hill Cemetery

While only Rumors and Innuendo for now, word on the street is that the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade at Disney Magic Kingdom is not long for this world and will soon be converted over into a lounge for members of the Disney Vacation Club. This marks another iconic part of Frontierland in transition with Country Bears Jamboree already closed and being reimagined into the upcoming Country Bear Musical Jamboree and Splash Mountain’s re-theme to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

The Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade was an opening day attraction for Magic Kingdom back in 1971, and it allowed guests to shoot at targets in a western themed environment.

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade.
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade.
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade.

Guests got to channel their inner Ralphie Parker as they used a rifle to aim and fire at the targets.

TouringPlans’ own Len Testa lining up a shot.
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade.

You may remember that back in December of 2015, Disney removed almost all guns from Walt Disney World. This included everything from the gun used by a skipper during the Jungle Cruise to toy guns being sold in the gift shops, so it’s pretty surprising that the Shootin’ Arcade lasted as long as it did. I remember that time very well, because all of those guns ended up at the Disney Outlet Store.

Both of the Disney Outlet Stores were so overrun with guns they could have qualified to be NRA Outlet Stores. Here’s a toy rifle and pistol set from Frontierland that was originally $21.95, reduced to $9.99.
A pretty cool looking rifle outside of the fact it may burn your retinas out. Originally $18.95, reduced to $9.99.

Big or small, if it was a gun, Disney removed it. Star Wars toy guns. Indiana Jones toy guns. Pirates of the Caribbean guns. Bubble wand guns. ALL GONE FROM THE PARKS OVERNIGHT.

Below is one of the discounted guns I bought at the Outlet Store because I used to beg my parents to buy me one after riding Pirates of the Caribbean when we went to Disney.

I could have used one of these when seeing Dead Men Tell No Tales in the theater. Just like Cap’t Jack, I only need one bullet.

There were even guns on keychains. At the time I never realized how many guns that there were in the theme parks. Seeing them all together at the Outlets made me realize that maybe the difference between me and one of those goofs wearing full tactical gear to McDonalds isn’t that large after all.

I spent a lot of time over the years at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade. I get why it’s going away, but I also think you could get the spirit of the attraction without using guns. It’s a shame that an attraction in a park that needs more capacity is being removed for essentially an up-charge experience, but that’s the theme park world we are in right now.

You will be missed. (pixie dust by Scott Walker)

# 5 – EPCOT Gets Weird Again

We here at the SAT SIX were surprised this past week when a new attraction at EPCOT started out of nowhere.

Forces of Nature is a live acrobatic show featuring some pretty amazing feats of strength and agility by a talented crew of colorfully dressed performers.

Forces of Nature by AntiGravity acrobatic show.
Forces of Nature by AntiGravity acrobatic show.
Forces of Nature by AntiGravity acrobatic show.

The debut shows of Forces of Nature drew a mix of positive and negative reviews online, but it seems like most of the negative ones didn’t understand the history of EPCOT. Since day one the park has had some things that many would consider “out there” for a theme park and has continued that tradition ever since with things like the Tapestry of Nations parade, the Kristos aliens, and even a birthday party for Barbie (yes, that Barbie.) When it comes to the question, “Wait, what was at EPCOT?!” My favorite answer is the Daredevil Circus Spectacular that took place over the course of 1986 and 1987.

EPCOT Circus. (photo via Imagineering Disney)

The four-times-daily, eight ring spectacle transforms CommuniCore into a ‘spacearena’ for an interstellar cast of spine-tingling acts — some of the world’s most famous acrobats and thrill performers plus troupe of elephant-like Martian Mastodons performing on Future World’s fountain stage.”

EPCOT Circus (photo via Imagineering Disney)

# 4 – Disney Teases Avatar (Again)

There is no denying the Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of the greatest theme park lands ever built. It is almost hard to believe that land opened almost 7 years ago. However it also seems that Disney has been teasing an Avatar “experience” for Disneyland for the last 7 years as well, while also giving no concrete information on what may be coming. This past week we got our first look at concept art for what may be coming to Disneyland and it looked absolutely AWESOME.

Friend of this fine blog series @Blog_Mickey even zoomed in on the article to discover some cute Pandora otters!

It would appear that Disney is using the popular brand Avatar as a dangling carrot to get the city of Anaheim to agree to Disney’s ambitious Disneyland Forward project. For those who don’t know, Disneyland Forward would involve rezoning the area to allow Disney to build basically whatever it wants on the current Disneyland Resort. If the rezoning gets approved, Disney is making the case that it would expand its current parks, hotels, and Downtown Disney district.

As great as the Avatar concept art looks above, its important to remember that in the current era of Disney, the first pieces of concept art we see can be much different than what actually gets built.  You see, over the years Disney has constantly dazzled us with incredible concept art for various lands, only to pull a last minute switcharoo and deliver something completely different. One example is Toy Story Land in DHS. At first we were shown artwork of “Andy’s backyard” that included a wonderful Big Al’s Toy Barn gift shop, a faux Western city facade, and even a trench for the Slinky Dog Dash guests to ride through.

Toy Story Land original concept art

Later, Disney released a “new and improved” concept art which made it appear that Hurricane Budget Cuts tore through the area. Theming was changed, and a whole bunch of stuff was outright removed. Remember that great Al’s Toy Barn? Well it’s gone. In fact all gift shops were gone. Can you imagine opening a theme park land catering to kids featuring the Toy Story brand and not having gift shops? To this day it boggles my mind.

Toy Story Concept Art Final

You can’t blame the Imagineers as they are at the mercy of the bean counters out in Burbank. When Disney Imagineers are allowed to cook, they deliver like no other. In fact this past week we saw an example of their greatness via a new show on Disney+ titled We Call It Imagineering. The episode on audio-animatronics gave us our first look at some of the characters which will be in the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure ride and they look OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Mama Odie audio-animatronic.
Louis audio-animatronic.

Before we go to our next subject, let’s spend a second paying tribute to blogger-in-the-sky @bioreconstruct. Bio has been delivering the theme park community some jaw dropping photos on the construction of Universal’s EPIC Universe from literally Day One. In fact, he has pretty much exclusively been flying the Blogger Copter over Universal property for a while now.

However, Rumors & Innuendo suggest that Disney is about to announce some very big projects at both Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, so of course Bio gassed up the copter and took a flight over Walt Disney World for the first time since last December. Why? Because he’ll be there to document the progress of these expansions. One of the projects we hear might be coming is Disney finally telling us what is “beyond Big Thunder Mountain,” something they teased at the 2022 D23 Expo.

Aerial photo of undeveloped land behind Frontierland at Magic Kingdom. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 3 – Universal Teases Next Tribute Store will include Jaws, BTTF and Ghostbusters

We have talked a lot about Universal’s next level Tribute Stores that have been regularly appearing in Universal Studios Florida for the last several years. Despite being short-term projects featuring completely different themes – including Jurassic Park and a Halloween Horror Nights comic book – the stores are filled with TLC and many Easter Eggs for longtime fans of the Universal theme parks. Lately, at the end of each Tribute Store “season,” there are details for the upcoming Tribute Store theme.

Now, the current theme for the Tribute Store is part of the Mardi Gras celebration and in one of the rooms a skeleton is sitting in front of a table.  This past week, some new items appeared on that table…

Tribute Store. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

It would appear that the upcoming tribute store is going to have a retro-theme, as two of the elements on the table include a VHS tape and tickets from an arcade.

Tribute Store. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

A closer look at the VHS tape says that it is for the movie TIME GHOSTS AGAIN. Two of the most popular franchises in the Universal lineup are Back to the Future (time) and Ghostbusters (ghosts.) This definitely isn’t “proof,” but I like our chances.

Tribute Store (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Believe it or not, Time Ghosts made it first appearance in a Tribute Store last year as part of this poster below.

HHN 32 Tribute Store.

Another addition to the Tribute Store came in the form of a projection. The Tribute Store regularly features a swimming gator traveling underneath the crashed “ship.” This past week, a shark can be seen swimming in these waters. This is a possible reference to another iconic Universal movie franchise, Jaws.

Tribute Store. JAWS tease. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Back in the summer of 2022, Universal had a Tribute Store themed to three popular movies: E.T., Jaws, and Back to the Future.

2022 Tribute Store. (photo by Michael Carelli)
2022 Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Tribute Store. (photo by Michael Carelli)

As a fan of these movies, the 2022 Tribute Store was absolutely fantastic, and if our guess on the upcoming Tribute Store is correct it could be even better.

# 2 – Universal Announces Dates for HHN 33

This past week Universal announced the official dates for HHN33. The hugely popular event will take place from August 30th through November 3rd. This is the first time in Halloween Horror Nights history that the event is starting before September (important to note that Labor Day falls pretty early on the calendar this year, Monday, September 2nd.) The news came one day after the dates were accidentally leaked by a UK Travel Agency. This follows the time honored tradition of tightly-held Universal details being released accidentally in the most bonkers of ways.  Over the years we’ve seen Publix put out HHN ticket displays before the event was announced. We’ve seen social media posts by construction workers spoiling HHN houses. We’ve even seen HHN Intellectual Property holders release videos before the IP was actually announced.

All that said, Universal was ready to go, as merchandise for HHN 33 appeared instantly in the parks.

HHN 33 Merchandise display. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Can’t say I’m a huge fan of bright orange t-shirts, but I really like this stylized Universal Arch. Bonus points for their not being anything absurd or gaudy on the back of the shirt.

HHN 33 shirt . (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
HHN 33 hat. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

This cup is probably going to be a Must Get for this household.

HHN 33 cup. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Just like the Tribute Store, even the merchandise displays have some fun nods for the fans. The garbage can is adorned with the number 24, referencing this year…

HHN 33 Merchandise display. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

…while a mannequin is wearing a bracelet with the number 33 on it.

HHN 33 Merchandise display. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

# 1 – THE GREAT DEBATE on Spaceship Earth…

In a week filled with big news from the theme parks, the most important news actually came via DisTwitter and its usual gang of misfits. For years, many people have referred to Spaceship Earth as “the golf ball.” However, author Daniel Miller presented the following question…

Digital Maestro Scott Walker actually answered Miller’s rhetorical question, but that’s not all…

…he produced a pitch perfect piece of artwork that shows you exactly the size of pool stick would be needed to hit Spaceship Earth if it was a pool ball.

There is even a shadow underneath the stick. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!

But that’s not all. NAY NAY. Scott teased that he would make a follow up post the next day…

…and he did (along with delivering a bunch of next level insane factoids)!

Spaceship Earth – 50m diameter Golf Ball- 42.67mm diameter Scale – 1:1171 Top Golf length -250m At scale – 263km (163 miles in freedom units) If you could reach the rear boundary fence at Top Golf, you could hit Spaceship Earth into Georgia.

Like many, Miller was in awe of Scott’s work.

But Your Humble Author had a different opinion…

That HAS to be it, right? In a word: No.


Going even farther out on Google Earth, Scott shows us that if Spaceship Earth was a bowling ball, the lane size needed for it would end at Animal Kingdom’s Dinosaur attraction.

Spaceship Earth – 50m diameter
Bowling Ball – 218mm diameter
Scale – 1:229 Average
Bowling Lane – 60ft x 4ft
At scale – 13740ft x 916ft
This puts the pins over Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom.
Bob and Josh going for a strike at D23?

Which ties us back to one of our original stories, because people paying attention to permits filed in the state of Florida are saying that Disney is preparing for a major project at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This project seems to be Disney moving forward on the teasing of a “Tropical Americas” land that would feature experiences inspired by Encanto and Indiana Jones. This area would be replacing Dinoland USA.

The Rumors & Innuendo seem all but confirmed when Imagineering recently posted on Instagram a reel featuring a behind-the-scenes look at models featuring a well-known casita along with a temple that looks very inviting for a professor of archeology who is into adventure.

It looks like we are about to be in for an exciting couple years in the world of theme parks, and we’ll be here along the way covering every step. See you next week!

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX NEWS DESK: A Look Back at the BIG News from Disney and Universal! 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).

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

The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Food Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Josh easyWDW

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Ian Barritt

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.

Rumors and Innuendo suggest this also could have been why Disney took away the Shootin’ Arcade…

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