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*A Tribute To All Theme Park Time Lords (But Mostly @bioreconstruct)
Over on our series the SATURDAY SIX, we started off the new year right on January 1st with an entire article dedicated to Our Favorite @bioreconstruct Photos from 2020. Let’s take a quick look at some of our favorites. First up, a truly amazing aerial photo that shows both the Harmonious lagoon show in EPCOT as well as the Enchanted nighttime spectacular at the Magic Kingdom. This is an incredibly hard to shot to get because these shows rarely take place at the exact same time. Bio is always in the right place at the right time.
When he’s not taking one of his dozens of helicopter flights per year, Bio has his boots on the ground taking fun shots inside the theme parks, such as this photo showing a little duck surveillance in EPCOT.
One of my favorite themes among all of Bio’s pics is the “mirror effect” he photographs so well, including this photo of the Walt Disney World Dolphin.
However my absolute favorite type of picture he takes are the aerials which show The Big Picture. This particular one taken on October 1st – the 50th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World – shows so many things. The TTC, Poly, Grand Flo, Contemporary, Magic Kingdom, and even Discovery Island in Bay Lake where that one guy camped on in 2020 when WDW was shut down.
We’ll never know exactly how he does it, but sometimes it’s better not to know. The only thing that is for sure is that the mysterious enigma wrapped in a nutshell and surrounded by question marks that is @bioreconstruct is the hero we need right now (although not the one we deserve).
TPEI Score: +12 Bio is continuing his legacy of outstanding work in 2022 with his seemingly daily coverage of the Never Ending Story that is Tron construction, explaining how things work with things like the shuttle from the Galactic Starcruiser to Batuu, beautiful shots of park icons like Cinderella Castle, and is giving EPIC coverage of the building of Universal’s newest theme park.
*Our Long National Nightmare is Over: Typhoon Lagoon REOPENS!
The last of Disney and Universal parks to reopen from the coronavirus shut down in March 2020 – Typhoon Lagoon – has finally opened its turnstiles back up to guests on January 4th.
Seeing Miss Tilly again was a sight for sore eyes.
Always great to see new themed refillable cups. This one for Typhoon Lagoon is just fantastic.
You know how much we love our theme park snacks, and the mini donuts available at the Disney water parks are worth the price of admission alone.
For the 50th anniversary of WDW, Disney has released a bunch of 50th themed snacks across property including the EARidescent Ice Dream Cone at Typhoon Lagoon. As you can see, Disney put about as much effort into the 50th food items as they did the awful 50th merchandise.
But at least its something new, so there’s that.
Love the Typhoon Lagoon pressed penny designs, and it also has one of the rare pieces of artwork where you can see Mickey Mouse’s toes.
TPEI Score: +8 Who knows why it was closed for so long, but its great to have Typhoon Lagoon back. Of course as soon as Typhoon Lagoon reopened, Blizzard Beach closed for it’s annual “seasonal maintenance.” At some point later this year, Florida will finally have all its parks up and running, which is a good thing.
*Shrek 4D Injures Its Last Guest
Heaven needed a DVD extra…
After almost 20 years, Shrek 4D was retired in Universal Studios Florida. It’s a remarkable run for an attraction that was panned by many in the theme park community and in a park that is certainly not known for nostalgia. I’ve always had a soft spot for Shrek 4D, mostly based on how much I loved the original Shrek film and how much it helped change the animation industry story-wise. In fact, if Universal hadn’t announced in 2021 that it was closing Shrek 4D in early 2022, I surely would have written an article defending the green ogre for our Theme Park Hills to Die On series.
However, we were able to give a eulogy of sorts to Shrek 4D, so at least we got some sense of closure.
Universal’s social media team put out a pitch perfect tweet at Shrek 4Ds time of death, using a memorable line from the film.
One nice surprise after Shrek 4Ds closure is how much of the attractions props have shown up for sale inside the Universal park. This includes the iconic green Ogre Vision glasses, which were available for $5. Many other pieces from the attraction’s incredible pre-show have appeared as well, which is amazing because the pre-show was themed to a torture dungeon.
TPEI Score: +8 As much as I personally loved Shrek 4D, the attraction came from a different time of Universal Creative and the park itself is completely different than it was in the early 2000s. Even the Shrek brand hasn’t done a great job of keeping the character relevant to today’s audience, so if that’s going to be the case it’s time to go. Even though the announcement of Jason Momoa for Fast & Furious 10 has piqued my interest, I wouldn’t have been upset if Universal had closed Supercharged along with Shrek 4D to do a bit of housecleaning. Stuff at the theme parks which is legitmately awful, like Primeval Whirl was at Animal Kingdom, needs to be removed sooner rather than later. Hopefully with a replacement in mind…
While Universal hasn’t given any definitive answers to Shrek 4Ds replacement, they have given us some hints. On social media after Shrek 4D closed, they posted a short video with an onion in front of the Shrek 4D show building. Onions are something that is closely identified with Shrek because of a moment in the original Shrek movie in which he tells Donkey that Ogres are like onions, because they have layers.
The video showed a hand removing the onion and placing a banana in the exact same spot.
Bananas are of course identified with the Minions from Despicable Me.
The construction walls that went up around Shrek 4D also featured Minions, so there is a clear implication that whatever is replacing Shrek 4D will be themed to the Minions.
For those who don’t know, the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction at USF is located directly across from Shrek 4D.
TPEI Score: It’s a wash Right now the best intel we have in the theme park community on what is replacing Shrek 4D comes from Alicia Stella of Orlando Park Stop. Alicia says that Shrek 4D’s replacement will be based around the Villan-Con concept from the first Despicable Me film. That’s definitely better than the stroller parking that replaced Primeval Whirl. While I’m far from excited about this Villain-Con attraction, I’m also open to seeing how it plays out, because if you would have told me a year ago that a comic book show based on the character Peacemaker would be my favorite thing on TV, I would have said you were nuts too.
* We DO Talk About Bruno (Yes, YES!)
I mentioned Peacemaker above, and I’ve also been enjoying The Book of Boba Fett, Cobra Kai season 4, the Harry Potter Reunion on HBOMax, and my guilty pleasure, the 90 Day Fiancé Universe on Discovery+ (for those who want to know, I want watch everything related to 90 Day and love it all). TouringPlans’ own Joe Matt has been begging me to watch Encanto on Disney+ and I told him there’s just too much other stuff to watch (because I also have even MORE guilty pleasures like 1,000 Pound Sisters, My 600 Pound Life, and Alone on Discovery+). However, I saw Disney released a video of the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” on Twitter and despite not seeing the movie, LOVED the song. I loved it so much I put it in one of my playlists and have probably listened to it 100 times in the past month. so the following news didn’t shock me one bit…
This past week the song went even higher…
TPEI Score: +10 So I ended up actually watching Encanto and thought it was a perfectly good Disney film. For me it was similar to “one and dones” that I enjoy but probably will never watch again like Zootopia, Coco, or Big Hero 6 compared to animated films I’ll rewatch multiple times like Ratatouille, The Incredibles, or Moana. The wild success of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” would lead me to believe the viewing numbers for Encanto are probably pretty strong and it’s lack of representation in the theme parks right now is shocking. I get that marketing probably thought this film wasn’t going to be a hit, but at the very least kids nationwide are singing the Bruno song like they did “Let It Go” from Frozen and that’s something you want to capitalize on while it’s hot.
*The Strange Saga of the Figment Popcorn Bucket
Well if you were living under a rock and missed this story from earlier in January, don’t worry we got you covered as we did An Entire Article Covering It All. But here’s a quick summary:
When the Figment Popcorn Bucket was released at the start of the Festival of the Arts, it became an immediate smash hit. Everyone wanted one. I mean how could you not, look how cute this is!
The first day lines were so long that they made not just the local news, but across the globe.
Guests were being told waits of 5, 6, 7, and even 8 hours!
Of course some of the people in line were eBay resellers.
Seemingly hundreds of Figment Popcorn Buckets went straight to eBay at inflated prices.
This gave Julia Mascardo an idea….
The proceeds of this eBay auction would go towards Habitat for Humanity. The community made the story go viral and bids shot through the roof. Higher than even the price gouged buckets themselves from the eBay resellers!
Unfortunately, eBay allows trolls to do what they do best, ruin things for everybody.
Throughout everything, the Figment Popcorn Bucket memes were coming left and right and they were WONDERFUL.
TPEI Score: +44 Outside of the eBay reseller nonsense, which is involved in almost anything Disney related these days, the Figment Popcorn Bucket was one of the few times everyone in the community came together for something they truly loved. It really reminded me of the opening of the Wizarding World back in 2010, the lines were next level bonkers, but everyone walked out of Hogsmeade with their jaw on the ground. Everyone loved the Figment Popcorn Bucket and just having that fan favorite dragon on a great piece of merchandise was a Good Thing. The “Bad Sketch Drawing” story was insane to see play out in real time, and then got even crazier. In the end, we got an amazing story, a worthwhile charity got a large donation, and the Figgy popcorn bucket memes were flowing.
*When We Were Young
One of the best meme trends this month was based on the poster advertising the When We Were Young Festival. Instead of punk/emo bands from the early to mid 200s, the theme park community recreated the poster using stuff from the parks that we loved. One of the absolute best was by Howard Bowers and features some wonderful references including Food Rocks, The Magical World of Barbie, and Cranium Command.
Universal Fans will love the poster from Scott Walker showing an almost overwhelming variety of classic attraction logos crammed together, just like the original poster it is paying homage to!
TPEI Score: +2 You have to be quick on the draw in DisTwitter if you want to succeed, and the talented gents above came through fast with some great deep pulls for theme park fans to enjoy. Never heard of Halax? Don’t worry, Defunctland has an entire documentary on this long-lost Tomorrowland band.
*Booking a Walt Disney World Vacation in 2022
So, a friend of mind sent me the following text earlier in January and there wasn’t enough Xanax in the world once I read it…
How do you tell someone they are about to be overwhelmed with information when it comes to going to Disney if they haven’t been for a while?
This picture below pretty much sums up what an unsuspecting guest is about to discover the hard way.
If you have problems and have to call Disney, or even if you have any questions, well good luck with that…
TPEI’s own Scott Walker repurposed a classic meme to show the differences in preparing for a Disney and Universal vacation right now.
While Twitter user Quirky Fox brilliantly repurposed another one…
TPEI Score: -10 Even if you subscribe to TouringPlans, have all the Unofficial Guide books, religiously read people like Seth Kubersky, Tom Bricker, and Blog Mickey, you still may not be prepared for the stress of a current Walt Disney World vacation. Aside from the general B.S. that prices are way up, the parks are filthy, and staffing is horrendous, Disney has seemingly created a bunch of obstacles simply for the goal of getting us guests to pay to get around them. Planning and anticipating your Disney vacation used to be as fun, if not even more fun than the vacation itself. Now its by far and away the worst part and we’re not even talking about stuff like having to get up at 7AM every single day of your vacation to secure things like Lightning Lanes.
*EPIC Universe Gets An Opening “Date”
This past week Universal revealed that the opening of its EPIC Universe theme park would be in the Summer of 2025. This was announced during an earnings report where Comcast revealed that the Universal parks had the best fourth quarter for it’s theme parks in history. In fact, Comcast CEO Brian Robersts said that if he had one regret it was slowing down on the construction of EPIC Universe while the Universal Orlando Resort closed for several months in 2020. The feeling is that there is pent up demand in the theme park world, and if Disney is going to make things like vacation planning harder for guests, well there’s a place down the street that will be more than happy to entertain them.
The Universal Orlando social media team made a post referencing the opening time frame of EPIC Universe and were playfully tweeted at from a user bringing up the construction of the Tron coaster over at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Universal’s reply was exactly why I love Twitter so much.
Speaking of EPIC Universe construction, who else but @bioreconstruct was in the sky this very past week giving us an up-to-the-minute look at what’s going on with what could be a game changing event in Florida.
TPEI Score: +22 Summer 2025 can’t get here fast enough. Like Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness leaks, if even half of what I have heard about EPIC Universe comes to fruition, it will immediately become my favorite theme park in Florida.
*The End of Magical Express
We ended our 2021 Theme Park In Memoriam article with a tease of Magical Express being on life support, and on January 1st Magical Express ceased to exist at the Orlando International Airport. In all of the cost cutting, penny pinching decisions that Disney has made over the last several years, this one is the most confusing. @Defunctland‘s Kevin Perjuer put into words what many people felt…
There are some Disney Diehards who will defend anything the company does, no matter how nonsensical, and they came out of the woodwork saying that ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft already have changed how guests can get from the airport to Disney. That is true, but this doesn’t take into account that demographics that go to Disney compared to Universal and other places in Orlando. Disney is very kid friendly, especially young kids, and one thing the ride sharing companies aren’t set up for is car seats, especially multiple car seats for families with more than one child.
There was also something to be said for the ability to check your luggage when flying and never have to worry about it again until it was waiting for you in the room at the Disney hotel you were staying at. For many this gave an opportunity to quickly go to theme parks at the start of their vacation and maybe get an extra half day of park time or more. Not anymore. Nay Nay. Now people booking a Disney vacation are just like everyone else, and need to lug all those bags with them on every step of the vacation. It’s one less thing to keep you “hooked” on Disney and making it a family tradition and instead looking elsewhere to spend some of your vacation time.
TPEI Score: -12 One day this decision may make some sort of sense, but right now it must seem like a gift from the Gods for the Universal Orlando Resort and any other vacation based business in Orlando.
*ANOTHER Fight at Walt Disney World
A fight in – of all places – Toy Story Land at DHS went viral on social media with multiple guests involved in a melee. The cause of the fight is unknown, but it is one of a series of recent skirmishes that have been filmed and posted on social media.
One thing that is great about DisTwitter, is that even negative stories like idiot guest behavior can be turned into something fun.
If you are on Twitter, be sure to follow @GoAwayGreen because he has been posting some fantastic “tips” from the Disney Genie.
TPEI Score: +2 This would be a -10 for any fighting in the parks (everyone involved should be trespassed forever and/or signed by the WWE because that brawl was still more entertaining than this year’s Royal Rumble) combined with a a +12 for Howard Bowers awesome Disney Genie tip gimmick.
*The Universal That Could Have Been….
It’s always interesting to see concept art from Disney or Universal of things that never came to be, but former Imagineer Jim Shull posted a really interesting piece of artwork on a proposed Universal City. A look at the artwork below reveals quite a lot of differences from the Universal Orlando Resort that we know today!
Let’s take a look at the area that was intended to be Universal’s second theme park to join Universal Studios Florida. While it shares some similarities with what the area eventually became – Islands of Adventure, there are some huge differences as well. In the left center of the photo you see the area which we know now as Marvel Superhero Island, but the area in the concept art is themed to DC characters instead with the Daily Planet building in Metropolis. For years on the Disney Dish Podcast, Jim Hill has talked about the “Tooniversal” project, in which Universal’s second theme park was planned to based around DC Comics, Seuss, Jay Ward cartoons, and Warner Bros characters.
Let’s take a recent aerial look at Islands of Adventure from – who else – @bioreconstruct, that gives us a great 1:1 comparison of what we got compared to what was planned.
TPEI Score: +2 It is always fascinating to get a taste of what might have been (Tooniversal,Western River Expedition, WESTCOT) but what we ended up getting with the Universal Orlando Resort is pretty remarkable and – to me – a more satisfying result that what Universal City looked like it was going to be. You never know though, and don’t forget to take a look at the article I did for Parkscope back in the day: 100% Totally True Theme Park History – The ORIGINAL Plans For the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which, for the first time ever, showed the shocking way Universal was going to bring The Boy Who Lived into the theme parks.
Alright, let’s take a look at some Quick Hits….
*Be Fair To Florida!
This month the #BeFairToFlorida movement wasn’t prepared to see the following, as social media user @DtimesJP found a “Mickey & Friends” popcorn carrying case that was released in early January in Japan. Check this out, a themed carrying case to put your regular popcorn bags in. Something absolutely unnecessary, and yet… AND YET, it’s something now that I can’t live without.
*Universal is FAIR TO FLORIDA
What an incredible month at the Universal Orlando Resort, as they came through in a major way for us in Florida (AKA “The Straw That Stirs The Drink”). First up, this ADORABLE E.T. plush! This awesome plush has E.T. sitting in a basket, just like he does in the attraction E.T. Adventure.
The plush even has straps so you can attach it to your bike at home!
We can’t say enough good things about the VelociCoaster, and one of the coolest parts of that ride is the Mosasaurus roll over the water. Recently, Universal released a fantastic looking Mosasaurus plush.
While Disney has been working with gussied-up pyramid schemes like Lulurae and Scentsy, Universal has been partnering with a small business (the Magic Candle Company) to produce exclusive product for the resort. Recently, a line of candles was released that represent the onsite Universal hotels, including the Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Sapphire Falls.
These are available in the gift shops at the Universal hotels.
What I especially love is that even when the candle is burned, you still have a great looking tin collectible.
More themed candles came out for the theme parks as well. With artwork by Andrew Stonecypher (the artist behind the incredible Earl the Squirrel merchandise late last year), these candles pay tribute to beloved Universal attractions.
How can you top E-Ticket candles? With new pressed penny designs featuring Jaws, BTTF, Kong, E.T. and the VelociCoaster!
You know how much we love our Universal Pressed Pennies, and look at this lineup!! A murderer’s row of collectible coin designs.
How GREAT is that Jaws penny? I’m also a sucker for park logo pennies like the USF design.
Remember last year when we did an article on some OUTRAGEOUS EATS at the Universal Orlando Resort. Well, in that article we mentioned that there are multiple places in the parks where you can buy candy with insects inside them. One of these places was in Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure. Well, even the INSECT CANDY GOT THEMED PACKAGING. We are in a golden era of theme parks. Even stuff that doesn’t need to be done is being done.
*What’s in YOUR Collection
The E.T. plush we mentioned above is now firmly in my collection, and this month we got a fascinating look into the theme park collections of others thanks to this question posted on Twitter.
Some of the responses were absolutely out of this world. Check out this amazing collection of attraction tickets.
A welcome mat from The Contemporary.
A wonderful pin from the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. I remember years ago staying at Coronado Beach Resort as Gran Destino Tower was under construction and we received an awesome pin set featuring the Three Caballeros. I’m not even a pin collector, but it’s really neat when you have something you just can’t buy in a gift shop.
For years I have always wondered why theme parks sell baseballs with attractions printed on them. “Who collects these?!” would be my thought. Well, now I know. Seeing a collection like this makes me wish I had been picking up baseballs over the years instead of scoffing at them.
Any true theme park fan has a kitchen cabinet full of souvenir cups, but one person responded with a very unique look at his collection…
One guest was in Animal Kingdom during a heavy storm in which one of the plastic leaves from the Tree of Life fell to the ground. Now this is an artifact with a story behind you can tell when people ask “why do you have a leaf behind bullet proof glass?”
Next week we begin our annual ARTIST SPOTLIGHT series on the SATURDAY SIX and it all kicks off with the talented Rob Yeo. This amazing MuppetVision Cast & Crew jacket was given to Rob by a complete stranger after he gushed over it being featured on an auction site.
One person replied with a t-shirt which blew my mind, as it featured a prototype design for the one year in which Halloween Horror Nights took place at Islands of Adventure (HHN 12). The shirt features Cindy as the Icon, but the actual event ended up having The Caretaker as the Icon. The character of Cindy was a demented little girl, and the HHN theme would be that the lands of IOA would be overtaken by her toys. However, around this time in Florida there was a panic over child kidnappings, and the character of Cindy was scrapped until being brought back years later (as the daughter of The Caretaker).
Well, that lucky guy showed up…
For those who don’t know, this banner has earned a bit of fame with theme park fans because of its ridiculousness. It was refurbished and the original ended up at the prop shop in Universal Studios Florida (at the same store which sold the Shrek 4D Ogre Vision glasses we mentioned earlier) and Hunter “Elvey” Underwood scooped it up.
*Your Monthly Taste of the Disney Outlet Store
This monstrosity of a t-shirt was sold at the DisneyStyle store in Disney Springs. I would love to hear the original pitch for this shirt by the person who designed it.
Meanwhile at the actual Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando we got a look at some bizarre patches from the NBA Experience that somehow were originally priced at $9.99 each.
Unfortunately I don’t have any money for patches, because all my cash is going towards a $1000 Disney hoodie…
*Anatomy of a Drawing
The second week of January had the SATURDAY SIX with a look back at some of the next level bonkers theme park stories that just missed out on being included in the Theme Park Turkeys of the Year Awards.
The article, 6 Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2021 (No Matter How Hard We Try!) included a guest who publicly urinated in Disneyland, a series on Disney+ that straight-up ripped off a YouTube video, and Disney restaurants that have appeared on food delivery systems such as Door Dash and Grub Hub. Another story that we covered was a viral video of a guest who jumped off a Living with the Land boat to steal a cucumber. This story was so crazy that I thought it would make a perfect drawing as the “header photo” of the article.
I sent a DM to artist Brian Cooper seeing if he had any time in his schedule for the drawing. The pitch was the drawing would be based on Derek and Bacini (from the David & Derek series) would be the guests who jumped the boat on Living with the Land. For those uninitiated to the series, David & Derek is the theme park equivalent to “Goofus & Gallant.” Derek would always be doing the worst things a theme park guest could do, and it’s hard to top jumping off a moving ride vehicle to steal something. Bacini was introduced into the series to be a sort of moral compass for Derek, very similar to the claymation show “Davey & Goliath.” However, the character bible of Bacini reveals that while in general he will always do the right thing, he is tempted towards the dark side anytime that food is involved.
So I quickly mocked up a sketch of what I was picturing in my head and sent it to Brian. Because Brian and I have worked together a lot, at this point we are pretty much on the same page with a lot of things, so the sketches I send him are very “loose” and don’t include many details.
Thankfully Brian had the time to do the drawing, and sent back his first sketch. In my original notes to Brian, I suggested that for the other passengers on the Living with the Land boat in the background he should draw himself and his wife Jenna. Brian did draw them and also added David – from the David & Derek series – in the boat as well. When Brian sends the first sketch, it lets me see where there are possible areas to add some extra details in. When I saw the benches on the Living with the Land boat, I knew we had to add someone else in. Not just anyone either, Len Testa in his seizure-inducing outfit that we had in last month’s TPEI.
The next step of the process has the inks done and the coloring process started.
The final version was ::Chef’s Kiss::
To quote the great Hannibal Smith from The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. The drawing came out better than I had originally pictured in my head as Brian had delivered another masterpiece. I think I need to talk Len into TouringPlans selling prints of some of his work because it is just amazing.
Last month’s Theme Park Enjoyment Index: 6
This month’s net change: +88
Current enjoyment level: 94
Writer Derek Burgan, when not cleaning Len Testa’s pool, can be found reading comic books, watching professional wrestling, and taking his dog Bacini to Universal and Disney. organizing his various Tsum Tsums in alphabetical order. He will not, we repeat not, be found at a Disney Outlet Store. An official DisTwitter Influencer, you can interact with him @derekburgan
Digital Artist Scott Walker hails from Scotland and is the fifth most famous person from this country following Alexander Graham Bell, Ewan McGregor, Gerard Butler, and Princess Merida.