This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at our favorite @bioreconstruct photos from 2021! When the year 2020 ended, I think collectively we all breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “well, no matter what happens this year it can’t be worse than that.” Challenge Accepted, replied 2021. Despite the craziness of the past 12 months, there was some positives we here at the SATURDAY SIX can reflect back upon. We took Bacini – the official dog of DisTwitter – to the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando to experience their Unleashed program for pets. I was finally able to start the Theme Park Hills To Die On series, presenting passionate defenses of the Skill Games in Springfield USA, PizzeRizzo, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Most importantly, after 8 long years, we finally said goodbye to the Disney Outlet Store Photo Reports and said hello to the Theme Park Enjoyment Index.
As always, the one single thing that was consistent throughout 2021 was awesome photos from our favorite blogger-in-the-sky, @bioreconstruct. Today we’re going to look back at some of our favorite photos that our pal “Bio” took over the past 12 months, and we also reached out some thoughts from the mysterious time lord himself. Let’s kick it off with…
# 6 – The “Big Picture”
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.
One of the most interesting pictures Bio took this year ended up being a great comparison tool when matched against a photo Disney itself took back in the early ’70s. First, let’s take a look at the original photo, which shows everything that existed around Seven Seas Lagoon when WDW opened in 1971.
Over 50 years later, Bio took a photo from almost the exact same place to show what has changed over time. Just amazing!!
For our next comparison, we’ll take a look at some Walt Disney World concept art that was posted earlier this year that shows the four Disney parks.
Below is Bio’s “recreation” of that photo, showing how the four parks actually fit in relation to each other. The arrow on the left is pointing to Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, while the arrow on the right is pointing to Space Mountain. This photo was taken on Oct. 1st, 2021, the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
One of my personal favorite shots from Bio this past year was the 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.
Meanwhile, Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe theme park is slowly coming together. The photo below was taken early in the year and shows the basic layout of the park, with the pole in the middle of the photo being the center of the new resort.
It’s exciting to see construction increasing at Universal’s Epic Universe. The most recent flight discovered identifiable site preparation. Easy to dismiss it as just dirt. However, expert analysts like Tommy and Alicia now able to tie specific spaces and plans into the site. They both have terrific articles on what definitely is being built, and what might be being built, at the site locations.” – @bioreconstruct
Aerial view taken later in the year showing excavations and land forming onsite of Universal’s Epic Universe. Top center seems to be a theme park land, with service roads already in place for Back of House access. According to theme park rumor guru Alicia Stella, the circular basin in this photo should be the home of a large fountain at the front of an onsite hotel, where angled berm is already seen. The fountain would be 200 feet in diameter with possible show elements and seating. Another person to follow is Tommy Hawkins, who has mocked up some pretty amazing maps showing where things could possibly fit.
Aerial look at the first two structures built for Epic Universe. Large building in front is a chilled water plant for air conditioning.
The photo below was taken on December 9th and helps put the entirety of the Universal Orlando Resort in context. The numbered arrows relate to: 1) Hogwarts Castle in IOA 2) Ride track storage pictured above 3) Kirkman Road construction 4) Center of Epic Universe 5) chilled water plant construction 6) Parking lot site.
The aerial below shows the Epic Universe site in the top left corner, while in the dead center of the photo is Universal’s Endless Summer Resort (Surfside and Dockside Inn & Suites.)
Bio’s aerials also give us an interesting look at attraction refurbishments. Below we see Dr. Doom’s Fearfall, with the tops of the two giant towers removed for refurbishment. Down below, the arrow is pointing to a Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges raft nearby, also being serviced in the area.
# 5 – Our Fine Feathered Friends
It’s fun to spot birds in unusual locations. For example, I heard an Osprey call several days ago and it was perched on top of one of the construction projects at Universal. Perhaps a sign of good luck to this project.” – @bioreconstruct
One of the most amazing stories from the year 2020 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 last year’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.)
The osprey was just one of many types of birds which Bio photographed throughout 2021.
There’s just something about ducks that brings a smile to the face of even the most jaded theme park fan.
On the official Cuteness Scale, with 1 being “Len Testa wearing a fanny pack and a shirt which causes seizures” and 10 being “Bacini air freshener“, baby ducks at theme parks score an 11. How can your heart not soar seeing these adorable little ducklings?
There’s a kind of duck that winters in Orlando and I have yet to see it in theme park waterways or lakes. As if it prefers quiet residential lakes. From time to time I spot racoons in resort hotel wooded areas at Universal, but often too dark for a photo. Otters sometimes seen along Grand Floridian walkway to Magic Kingdom, but usually too quick for a photo.” – @bioreconstruct
# 4 – The Resorts at Night
While daytime aerial photos allow to see the grand scale of the the theme park resorts, at night we get a whole new perspective with the amazing lighting packages at both Disney and Universal.
When not taking one of his dozens of helicopter flights per year, Bio has his boots on the ground taking some incredible photos as well. His use of long exposure shots provide great light trails for objects that are moving.
Across town, we’ll now take a look at the Universal Orlando Resort.
Since we’re in the air, let’s head on down International Drive and check out another Orlando vacation destination, SeaWorld.
Night aerials are challenging. Each location is different. Give Kids the World Village, for example, is near a Kissimmee airport runway. Allowed altitude is short, and combined with aircraft movement means a lot of fuzzy photos. Challenging, but managed to get magical photos of A Night of A Million Lights.” – @bioreconstruct
To close out this section, we’ll do a quick comparison of how much change we have gone through in the past two years. First, let’s take a relatively recent look at one of the most traveled roads in Orlando, I-4. This is the connection between the Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World.
Now let’s go back to I-4 in 2020, when both Universal and Disney shut down due to the Coronavirus.
# 3 – VelociCoaster
Speaking of the coronavirus shut down, when Walt Disney World shut down their resort, they shut down everything, including work on any new rides. Over at Universal, despite the parks and hotels being closed, work on the VelociCoaster continued on. If anything, work went even faster during this time period because construction crews didn’t have to work around guests during the park’s operating hours. This allowed Universal to have the Grand Opening of the VelociCoaster in 2021, instead of having to delay to 2022 or longer. The new coaster became a fan favorite from Day One, and after some careful consideration, I think I’m ready to say it has already become our favorite coaster in all of Florida (which has some tough competition with coasters such as Expedition Everest, the Incredible Hulk Coaster, and Busch Gardens Tampa’s Cheetah Hunt).
No one has taken more, or better, photos of the VelociCoaster than Bio.
Bio’s shots of the VelociCoaster track are simply beautiful.
Okay, let’s check out some of Bio’s patented long exposure shots, because his camera combined with the lighting features on each VelociCoaster train make for some AWESOME photos!
My personal favorite photos of the VelociCoaster are when photographers catch the Incredible Hulk Coaster and the VelociCoaster in action at the same time. Here is Bio’s incredible shot.
# 2 – Planets
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
# 1 – EPCOT
While still being a major construction zone (and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon,) EPCOT got a major “glow up” this year with the addition of lighting features added to Spaceship Earth and the debut of the nighttime spectacular Harmonious.
The new lighting package is absolutely STUNNING at night. One of the best additions to any park.
On October 1st, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, EPCOT transition it’s nighttime water show from EPCOT Forever to Harmonious.
We’ll close out this section with an incredible photo taken on the last day of 2021 with Harmonious in the foreground and the Enchantment nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Magic Kingdom also making an appearance in the background. It is rare that both shows are taking place at the exact same time. Talk about putting the exclamation point at the end of the year. What a shot!
It’s a compliment for Derek to write this best of article. However, I’m just the Hawkeye of theme park photographers.” – @bioreconstruct
HONORABLE MENTION – Mirror Glass
In photography, “Mirror Glass” is a term used for when water ends up reflecting an image in the same way a mirror would. Since both Disney and Universal have a lot of a water features, they can lead to some pretty cool looking photos!
Double Secret Honorable Mention: Cruise Ships!
Believe it or not, despite seemingly covering the theme parks 24/7, our man Bio has the time to charter flights in order to cover other things as well. When the cruise industry restarted earlier this year, you knew who would be there…
Triple Threat Honorable Mention: White Castle Opens in Orlando
This may seem crazy to anyone who has a White Castle fast food restaurant in their town, but when White Castle opened their first location in Orlando it was The Place To Be. It drew extremely long lines throughout the day. Despite having hundreds (if not thousands) of other restaurants nearby – many with little to no wait – people would wait in their cars for hours for White Castle’s signature small burgers. Why? No one really knows other than “You always want what you don’t have.” We actually had a similar situation in my town this year with a Checkers. In 2019, a Checkers fast food restaurant was built but never opened because of the coronavirus. In 2021, they finally opened it and had huge lines at the drive-thru every single day. I’ve been to many Checkers restaurants in my life and I assure you that while they are perfectly fine for fast food, there’s no reason to ever wait in a line for one.
WHEN YOU COME AT THE KING YOU BEST NOT MISS….
We’ll end this year’s tribute to our favorite Time Lord with letting you know something that happened this past week. First we have bio himself who posted a must see video of the VelociCoaster running that shows some brilliant traces of light thanks the long exposure photography. In the video, Bio mentioned that there were some flights from MCO in the sky…
CLICK HERE to watch the amazing video.
In jest, a person responded to Bio’s video with some follow-up questions.
Bio immediately responded.
In the end, game respects game.
So there you have it: Our Favorite @bioreconstruct Photos of 2021! 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. 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 SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, 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.