Theme Park Enjoyment Index for MAY 2022 (EPCOT Concept Art, Rescue Rangers Reboot, Universal is #FairToFlorida)

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The Theme Park Enjoyment Index (TPEI) is a monthly look at the events that have made an impact, both positive and negative, in this wild world of theme parks we all love so much. We’ll assign each piece of news a positive or negative number, tally it all up at the end and chart it. The range goes from 0-100 with 0 being Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration while a perfect score of 100 would be Pandora: The World of Avatar.

Remember, all links in TPEI open up in a new browser window. So feel free to check stuff out, we’ll be here when you get back!

Remember all that stuff you thought you were getting in EPCOT?” –  Walt Disney World

*”New & Improved” EPCOT Concept Art Released

The month started innocently enough, when on May 5th Disney released new images of the EPCOT “reimagining”  that was – as their standard operating procedure goes – a stripped down version of what they previously told us we were getting. Disney has taken a good amount of criticism recently from many ne’er do wells on social media when releasing concept art that has stripped away elements featured in previous pieces of concept art. For example, the original concept art for Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios looked like this:

Original Toy Story Land concept art.

Note the wonderful Big Al’s Toy Barn, the faux Western facade for a restaurant, and even trenches for Slinky Dog Dash to go through. Looks amazing, right? Is that what we got? NAY NAY. What we need to understand is that the first round of “concept art” from Disney shouldn’t even be called concept art, it should be rebranded as wishful thinking. This is where the budget cuts come in. Our next step in the process is the “new and improved” concept art featuring what we actually get:

Updated Toy Story Land concept art.
Sorry folks, no AP discounts available. (artwork by @dizwire)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… I must be a theme park fan.” – Ancient Proverb

Well, the MagicEraser came back for the upcoming changes to Future World at EPCOT (and please, don’t feel bad for the online jabs thrown at Disney’s way because they have plenty of dedicated fans who love nothing more than to grab their shields and knight up for the company, defending the honor of a company who loves to charge them more while delivering less.) First, let’s look back at the original concept art for the proposed changes to the World Celebration area:

It’s important to remember that the monstrosity known as the Harmonious barges sit out on World Showcase Lagoon because the “best views in the house” so to speak were going to be from a multiple story Festival Center. There was even a scale model of the Upcharge Pavilion Festival Center guests could look at in the preview center at the Odyssey…

Leave the memories alone…(photo by @Blog_Mickey)
Festival Center model. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)
Festival Center model. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)

The new concept art for World Celebration shows that the Festival Center is not coming to EPCOT and instead will be replaced by some sort of outdoor stage area to host live musical acts.

The good news? We still get to keep the Hamonious eyesores in World Showcase lagoon.

The new concept art release also gave us a much better look at the upcoming “Journey of Water, inspired by Moana” walkthrough attraction. I personally love the movie Moana and am glad to see more representation of it in the parks.

This area looks great.

The gardens area featured below in the updated concept art is right about where the Festival Center would have been.

What’s absolutely BONKERS about the way Disney announced these new additions to the park was in a Disney Parks Blog post (which you can read HERE), which started with the following: “As international festivals continue to become more of an integral part of the EPCOT experience…” That’s all fine and dandy until you spend a second realizing WHY festivals have become an integral part of EPCOT…because they stopped building rides. Thankfully we have Cosmic Rewind opening this very weekend, and we also had Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure late last year, but before that the last ride built was Frozen Ever After in 2016 (and that was just replacing Maelstrom, not a new addition to help capacity.) Before Frozen you have to go all the way back to 2006 for The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends (and once again, that was just replacing a ride.) In fact you have to go to the introduction of Soarin’ in 2005 for the last brand new ride added to EPCOT. So yeah, the festivals have become integral to the EPCOT experience because Disney hasn’t given guests anything else to do.

When it comes to concept art, I get it. I truly do. I understand that the artists working on these projects have absolutely no control over what Disney does and does not eventually include in the finished product. In fact, the design world would tell you that concept art isn’t even supposed to show you what a final product will look like and they are only intended to convey what an area would “feel” like. Renderings are the terminology the developmental art world would use to describe art that gives a more realistic version of what the public will end up seeing. You have to truly be in the weeds of the art world to make that type of distinction, as the average person is just going by what they see (as we are given absolutely zero inside look into the creative process/budgeting decisions/etc.) There has to be some sort of middle ground between Disney releasing “concept art” which eventually have massive changes and Universal putting out “concept art” pretty  much the day before something opens and saying “hey, this is what you’re getting, doesn’t it look great?!”

Springfield USA concept art.
Diagon Alley concept art.

TPEI Score: – 44 I’d imagine one of the challenges Disney faces is that they debut a whole bunch of concepts early because they have very high profile events like D23 conventions. They charge top dollar to super fans and you need to bring something to the table to satisfy them. NOTHING gets people more excited than a preview of what’s coming. That’s human nature. We don’t want what we have, we want what’s next. Universal, SeaWorld, Six Flags and everyone else in the industry can keep things closer to their vest for a longer period of time because they don’t have to feed this insatiable beast.

*Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers movie debuts on Disney+

Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Disney Afternoon, but I will admit it was mostly for DuckTales (and, in my true secret shame, I also loved Gummi Bears, to the point where I can still sing the entire theme song from memory). I didn’t mind Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin, but didn’t go out of my way to watch either. As a comic book fan, I became a huge fan of Darkwing Duck, but didn’t really connect to any of the other shows which were added into the block over the years. So when it was announced years ago that Disney was working on a Rescue Rangers movie, I didn’t think much about it at all.

Earlier this year we got the announcement that the Chip & Dale movie would debut on Disney+. Outside of Star Wars and Mavel, Disney’s track record on “straight to Disney+” is iffy at best, with many projects being downright abysmal (I’m looking in your direction Home Sweet Home Alone.) In early May, some really positive buzz was being seen on social media. I was skeptical, but also was definitely more intrigued about Rescue Rangers than I was before. The Rescue Rangers movie came out on May 20th and every person I knew said it was INCREDIBLE. I was still finding it hard to believe, but the sheer amount of positive reviews had me turn on the movie May 21st.

Spoiler Alert: It was awesome.

There is no review that can do this Rescue Rangers movie justice because not only is it filled with a million visual gags, it works on several different levels for fans of the Disney Afternoon, fans of different types of media (claymation, puppetry, etc), and even fans of seeing movie tropes get turned on their head. For fans of a certain generation, in some ways Rescue Rangers is a successor to movies like Naked Gun, and I couldn’t give higher praise than that. If you haven’t seen Rescue Rangers yet, STOP READING THIS, go watch, and come back. We’ll still be here, I promise.

We’ll just do a quick recap of the movie so I can explain some of the things I really enjoyed about it. The main thrust of the movie is that when the Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers cartoon ended back in the 1990s, it caused a rift in the relationship between Chip and Dale. To get to that point, we get the backstory of how they met and became famous. The world of Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers is one which takes place in our real life world, except that animated characters and any other form of media are presented as living in our world with us., very similar to Roger Rabbit. It works because the movie always plays it straight. For example, in a Behind-the-Music like documentary style they show Chip & Dale as background extras for an episode of Full House. This was bananas and even though we were only several minutes into the movie at this point, I was already ALL IN.

Chip & Dale on Full House.

With the Disney Afternoon show cancelled, Chip & Dale split apart. Chip got a regular 9-5 job, while Dale tried to cling onto his celebrity and appeared at fan conventions.  This movie will probably take 100 viewings to catch all the gags just in the convention scenes.

Sometimes even seeing things it is hard to believe they are actual real. Ugly Sonic is based on the vitriol across fandom after the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog was released. The reaction was so bad that Paramount went back into the movie and completely changed the character’s appearance.

The entire movie is filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments and sight gags, so make sure you are always paying attention and be sure to check out all the signage (billboards, bus ads, etc).

Mice cosplaying as Princess Leia and Kylo Ren at the convention.

Rescue Rangers has so many shoutouts to cartoons over the years. In one sequence we essentially get a look at the Chip & Dale Multiverse as we see them in animation styles of other cartoons, such as Ren & Stimpy and Rick & Morty.

The main villain of the movie had one objective, to take famous animated characters from our world, change them up and bit, and use them as stars of bootleg movies. This idea is INSANE and is just done perfectly. The execution of changing well known characters (many of them outside the Disney stable of characters) was almost shocking to see and absolutely hilarious. I’m using the example of Garfield below for two reasons: 1) It is a hilarious moment in the film you need to go out of your way to see. 2) Garfield was also the subject of another awesome video you need to watch RIGHT NOW. That’s right, our friends over at Defunctland – the very same people behind the legendary documentary on FastPass – put out a 30 minute video on The Bizarre Garfield Dark Ride.It’s only 30 minutes and is wonderful, so GO WATCH NOW.

I’m 100% serious when I say keep your head on a swivel when watching, and be prepared to hit that pause button to appreciate the details. Stuff will come on for a brief moment – like this ad for a Disney Afternoon Fight Fest game, that is a pitch perfect homage to the Super Smash Bros game from Nintendo.

One of my personal favorite gags was one of the bootleg movies we got a glimpse of, featuring a restaurant us theme park fans have seen over at Universal CityWalk.

The movie ends with a great joke by Chip mentioning that the credits would be sung by a famous person instead of “the actual song from the show everyone wants to really hear” and then we even got Darkwing Duck himself to appear suggesting HE should have been the focus of the movie. Home run is not even the description of how surprising this movie was. “Grand slam in the bottom the ninth to win the World Series” is how I felt when watching. Couldn’t have asked for more.

TPEI Score: + 8 To give an example how smart Rescue Rangers can be, at one point in the movie Chip & Dale are dropped off via bus into a different area of town. Dale asks where they are and Chip says, “The Valley. The Uncanny Valley.” For those who don’t know, the phrase “uncanny valley” is a reference to when a computer generated character looks just a little off to completely disorient you. The characters in this part of town have those very same glitches and just plain off looks that those of us who watched CGI heavy films in the 90s had to suffer through. Anyone who has seen Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Beowulf, or The Polar Express is going to FEEL this segment of the movie.

*Kenobi debuts on Disney+, is everything we hoped for (SPOILER FREE)

I will be extremely brief with this one because the first two episodes of Kenobi on Disney+ were released yesterday, during a weekend that also included the drop of Stranger Things Season 4 on Netflix and the long delayed release of Top Gun: Maverick at the movie theaters (which is getting shockingly rave reviews.) I watched the first two eps of Kenobi immediately after work on Friday night and – as a Star Wars super fan – they delivered in a big way. I have my criticisms of the Star Wars prequels, but one thing that those movies nailed was young Obi-Wan. Ewan McGregor made you believe.

When I first heard McGregor was coming back as Obi-Wan for a Kenobi series I was over the moon, and it’s hard to express how satisfying the first two episodes were as a fan and how much I am looking forward to the rest of the series. McGregor is bringing his A-game and it shows.  Haven’t felt this much of a high since I first started The Mandalorian and realized pretty quickly, “hey wait a minute, this is actually good!” Even bad Star Wars is better than almost all other forms of Sci Fi, but when Star Wars is good nothing can touch it. Nothing.

TPEI Score: + 22 I am back on a Star Wars high…

…oh wait, I spoke too soon.

BE FAIR TO FLORIDA!!!

TPEI Score: – 10 It is still a bewildering decision that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was created to lock itself in a specific time frame which takes place at some point between The Force Awakens/The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. To show why that idea was INSANE, let’s look at the next three high profile Star Wars shows coming out on Disney+. Kenobi just started. The trailer for Andor just came out this week and the show looks fantastic (unlike Kenobi, I had no interest in seeing a series based on the character of Cassian Andor from Rogue One, but now I do.) After that we’ll have Mandalorian Season 3. All three of these shows take place in three completely different time periods of Star Wars canon and even better? NONE OF THOSE THREE TAKE PLACE IN THE TIMEFRAME GALAXY’S EDGE RESIDES IN.

Thankfully someone came to their senses, at least out in Anaheim (AKA “the chosen one”) as they will be the first to truly break the Galaxy’s Edge self-imposed time frame and have characters which “shouldn’t be there.” Here’s the thing, everyone wants Mandalorian to be there. Everyone wants “Baby Yoda.” People love Darth Vader. A charismatic Young Lando character would be incredible. Just give the fans what the want. And while you’re at it, MAYBE BRING THEM TO FLORIDA (AKA “THE STRAW THAT STIRS THE DRINK”.)

Show me the lie. (meme by @clarabellecows)

*My Personal Nightmare Has Returned

STORY TIME. Back in 2020, when Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened in DHS, Disney partnered with McDonalds for a line of amazing Happy Meal toys. These were absolutely awesome, you had Disney characters featured with Disney rides like Expedition Everest, Tower of Terror, Jungle Cruise and more. This was basically the greatest Happy Meal promotion of all time for a theme park fan.

I don’t go to McDonald’s much, but I was going for these. On my first trip, my Happy Meal had a Hello Kitty toy. Aggravating? Yes, but in the big scheme of things it wasn’t that big of a deal. Several people online would give me tips, saying that I should ask the McDonald’s employee what the current toy was when ordering.

My response?

So I ignored the advice, and went to a different McDonald’s the next day.

This time I ordered two Happy Meals, hoping I would get two different theme park attraction toys. I ended up getting two Scarlet Witch toys. Had to have some fun at my own expense, even bringing up a story from the prestigious 2020 Theme Park Turkeys of the Year.

Ok, so enough’s enough. I’m only going to McDonald’s for these stupid toys, so I guess I’m going to have to bite the bullet on my next trip.

My response.

Here I am, feeling like an idiot for asking what Happy Meal toy I’m going to get and then I get the wrong one anyway? NAY NAY. I realized I gave the employees there some plausible deniability. Granted they are probably not theme park nerds like you and I, and may think any animated cartoon is “Disney.” Okay McDonald’s, you won that battle, but I’m going back the next day armed and ready with a more specific language…

 

And yet, if I were to burn that McDonald’s down to the ground I would be the one who goes to jail. That’s justice for you.

So after who knows how many trips to McDonald’s, I still ended up with ZERO Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Happy Meal toys. People online had several suggestions, including talking to a manager and ask for the display case which has all the toys in it. At this point I felt like the guy in the Nicholas Cage movie The Rock when they ask him to stick a giant needle straight into his heart, “Are you out of your f—ing mind?!” This is exactly why I don’t go to McDonald’s (well that AND they don’t sell the McRib but DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THAT!!)

SO anyway, apparently all those Runaway Railway toys were all recalled because of a contest that was also being run with the same promotion. The “rumors and innuendo” suggest that the ticket which came with the Happy Meal said the contest ended 8/31/2020, but the box the Happy Meal box said the real deadline was 1/12/2021. Who knows what is true and what is not true, but this month a whole new Happy Meal promotion came out for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and would you like at those toy selections….seem familiar?

TPEI Score: –  22 One negative point for every time I had to embarrass myself in front of a McDonald’s employee.

*Nature Has Reclaimed Shanghai Disneyland

(photo compilation by @RCDclub)

TPEI Score: – 2 Anyone do a wellness check on Shanghai Disneyland lately? Actually anytime my girlfriend asked if I mowed the lawn I’ll just show her these pictures and say, “could be worse.”

*Disney’s CFO Sticks Foot Firmly In Mouth, Again.

Last November, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy made the news during a quarterly earnings call when talking about Disney cutting costs to make more money. One of the ways Disney could add to their bottom line would be to “…cut portion size, which is probably good for some people’s waistlines.” Just a completely tone deaf comment from a senior management level person.

This month, Ms. McCarthy talked about the Galactic Starcruiser and you can listen to her stumble in the video embedded in @Blog_Mickey’s tweet.

As a person who has recorded hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of audio for podcasts, I generally have a lot of leeway for people making mistakes. I get it. When speaking extemporaneously, you’re bound to make mistakes. EXCEPT, Disney execs pretty much *don’t* speak extemporaneously. They have their talking points and they are going to hit them no matter how goofy they sound. This is actually spreading across Disney as a whole, as people outside Disney management are using corporate speak (such as “activations”) in lieu of language human beings actually use. Also? As a company, Disney is notoriously a stickler for making front line Cast Members use specific terminology, no matter how idiotic they come across to customers.

The one good thing that came out of all this nonsense, is creative genius Howard Bowers taking the ball and running with it, using the CFO’s slip of the tongue to create a fun hotel based on the Sci-Fi show Battlestar Galactica.

TPEI Score:  – 4 By now many of you know how much I love to quote movies, and one line I love from Disney’s Remember the Titans was “Attitude reflects leadership.” The CFO keeps having these things happen to them because of the overall disconnect between Disney upper management and the customers they serve. We are wallets to be lightened by them, and nothing more. They don’t spend time in the parks. They don’t have to deal with park reservations. They don’t have to use My Disney Experience.  They just hand down their edicts and live with a “let them eat cake” mentality, and until THAT changes stuff like this is going to keep happening.

*What Might Have Been….

Like a Heisman Trophy winner, or a Gold Medal winner at the Olympics, I too have tasted the sweet nectar of victory in the form of Theme Park Skill Games. Early this month, when posting some of the spoils of my hard fought victories, one picture caught the attention of a reader.

Spider-Pig was introduced in The Simpsons Movie and then made several appearances on The Simpsons show in following years.

TPEI Score: + 3 I love getting this quick glimpses of what “might have been” at the theme parks. Sam Carter knows his stuff too, as he was a creative designer being the Bumblebee Man Taco Truck along with the upstairs of Krusty Burger in Universal Studios Hollywood (Florida’s Krusty Burger only has one floor, but out in California it has a second level so that area needed to be themed.) You can read about both of these projects, along with other things Sam Carter has been involved with at Universal and Disney by CLICKING HERE and checking out his SAT 6 Artist Spotlight.

*Better WDW 50th Anniversary Statues Ideas

To say the 50th Anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World has been underwhelming is, at best, charitable. Not only does Disney seem like the guy who came to a birthday party and forgot to bring a gift, but they are also extending this “celebration” for what seems like 3 years. I guess the 50th Anniversary has to keep going until Tron opens at the Magic Kingdom so they can say that was part of it.

One thing we did get during the actual 50th Anniversary was a series of 50 gold statues that are featured in the four Disney theme parks. Several of them are really great and add to the overall atmosphere.  Who doesn’t love seeing the Fab Five any time they are in a theme park?

Pluto and Goofy statues at the Magic Kingdom.

If one character could define “EPCOT” it would be Figment, so it’s great that everyone’s favorite dragon has a statue there.

We’ve been talking a lot about the Little Orange Bird bird lately, and it is great to see a statue of this cute guy in the Magic Kingdom knowing the story of why the character was created by Disney.

Other statues get points for creativity. Stitch’s history with Walt Disney World is a mixed bag at best. Stitch covering Cinderella Castle with toilet paper is still a thing we can’t believe actually happened. I don’t think anyone would make a case for Stitch’s Great Escape being a great attraction (to the point where Disney can just close it, keep the area in Tomorrowland empty, and no one really wants it back.) But the character design of Stitch himself is off the charts great, and thanks to movies and TV shows, many guests love the character. Stitch’s statue of him “chewing” on a 50th Anniversary logo is fantastic.

Love the use of Jacque and Gus, as the two work together to hold up a 50th Anniversary logo outside Cinderella Castle.

But many of the 50 statues have absolutely nothing to do with the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. For example, what does Edna Mode from The Incredibles have to do with WDW? If we were celebrating “100 Years of Disney Animation” or something, sure Edna fits in there.  A Glorious Tribute to Pixar? Sure, fits there too. WDW? GTFO.

The movie Coco is great, but why would characters from that movie be one of the few selected for a WDW anniversary? Disneyland has done much more using Coco than WDW has.

Rocket Racoon and Groot? Trust me, I’m in the tippy top .00001% of theme park fans who love comic books and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but these two characters being part of the 50th anniversary spotlight? Just ridiculous.

@ThemeParkLore came up with their own group of 50 statue concepts that would work much better tribute to a 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World. Again, I love the Marvel characters, but they have had almost no impact on my love of the Disney theme parks. The “dog with a key” from Pirates of the Caribbean attraction? The goat with dynamite on Big Thunder Mountain? A happy elephant from Jungle Cruise? Those resonate with me.

 

Soarin’, Mine Train, Maelstrom, the robot butler from Horizons… all of these statues for work better than FROZONE (who actually DOES have a statue.)

 

Seeing these statue ideas once again brings me back to the “What Might Have Been…” mentality we had above. Of course that would have required a Disney Management team that loved the rich history and legacy of the theme parks they oversee, rather than just seeing them as Intellectual Property than can monetize.

TPEI Score: – 1 We deserved better statues.

*Speaking of Theme Park Lore…

There is so much talent and creativity in the theme park community. @ThemeParkLore, who designed the 50th Anniversary statues above, has spent months working on a project where he has illustrated ride layouts for 100 attractions at Disney, Universal, and other parks across the globe. Let’s look at some of the categories the drawings fall into…

First up, THEN & NOW – a series of hand-drawn ride layouts dedicated to exploring how the same physical space can house vastly different experiences… Be warned that this series highlights closed, fan-favorite rides and their (sometimes inferior) replacements, so have your tissues ready.

To show an example of the Then & Now series we will use the Great Movie Ride//Mickey’s Runaway Railway.

At the grand opening of the Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, the Lost Legend: The Great Movie Ride was one of only two rides in the park. Luckily, it was an epic one. Housed in the iconic Chinese Theater, this 25-minute dark ride was “EPCOT Center” caliber, taking guests on “A Spectacular Journey Into The Movies.” Narrated by a live, on-board host, “moving theaters” would advance through the most famous (licensing accessible) scenes in cinema history, from Casablanca to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Often described as the park’s “thesis” attraction – its centering ride a la Spaceship Earth – no one would’ve imagined that the Great Movie Ride would ever go dark. A wholesale swap for Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Fox films? Definitely in the cards… But a complete closure? Never! Until August 2017, when it was “curtains” for the classic. After a 28 year run, the doors of the Chinese Theater were closed.

The Great Movie Ride. (artwork by @ParkLore)

In March 2020, its replacement – Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway – made its red carpet debut. Now, the Chinese Theater hosts the premiere of a brand new cartoon short (“Perfect Picnic”), when a goofy mishap leads guests to cross into the cartoon world of Paul Rudish’s modern Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse shorts. The trackless dark ride sees Goofy’s peaceful ride around Runnamuck Park gone wrong, sending guests through incredible animated environments cast in such vivid color, texture, and depth, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. (artwork by @ThemeParkLore)

THEN & NOW: Aside from their loading areas, there are hardly any parallels between the Great Movie Ride and Runaway Railway. But there is one connection. The beautiful, opulent theater space that served as a queue for the Great Movie Ride (showing clips from the movies guests were about to pass through) has been subdivided into two smaller theaters (each maintaining the Chinese Theater aesthetic) that serve as the new ride’s preshow – a cinematic overlap between two very, very different rides.

To see more ride layout comparisons of attractions, including Maelstrom//Frozen Ever After, The Living Seas//The Seas with Nemo & Friends, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride//The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh CLICK HERE. Even better, on the Theme Park Lore website, these comparisons have been combined into one picture and you can use a slider to easily see the various changes from one attraction to another.

HERE & THERE: Illustrating and Comparing Disney Theme Parks’ Ride Layouts From Around the Globe

Almost every one of Disney’s “Castle Parks” has a Space Mountain, but none of them are exactly alike. In general, there are three main “models” of Space Mountain out there… and yes, you really can trace the ride’s convoluted path through the darkness of the cosmos on these layouts below.

The ’70s were a landmark era for roller coasters, when a “Second Golden Age” spawned a generation of steel classics. Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain is one of them. It’s often said that Walt Disney World’s version of the ride was “based on” the Matterhorn that had opened in California 16 years earlier. That’s undoubtedly true since both have two tracks, a single central lift hill, and tandem bobsled-style trains… but their layouts don’t really have much in common.

Magic Kingdom’s two tracks (“Alpha” and “Omega”) are nearly-exact mirror images of one another. Despite an anxiety-inducing climb up a central lift hill through a “space station,” neither track features a signficant “big drop.” Instead, the ride’s course focuses on straightaways, bunny hops, helices, and the sensation of flying wildly among the stars. Though many families recall the pulse-pounding, scream-your-head-off speed, it’s mostly an illusion strengthened by the darkness; Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain tops off at 27 miles per hour – the speed limit in a residential neighborhood.

Also unique: Magic Kingdom’s twin coasters unload directly below the space where they load. After guests had disembarked, the empty trains turn the corner and climb a lift hill that carries them back up to the load level.

Space Mountain at Walt Disney World (artwork by @ThemeParkLore)

Obviously, Space Mountain was a massive hit whose duplication back at Disneyland was assured. There was just one problem: since Disneyland already has the Matterhorn, it wouldn’t make sense to copy Magic Kingdom’s dual-tracked, bobsled-style coaster back to California. Instead, the ride was redesigned as a single-tracked coaster that’s slightly longer and faster than Florida’s, with a single load / unload station, side-by-side seating, and a three-tier, mostly-enclosed lift hill. Disneyland’s version of the ride has essentially become the “de facto” Space Mountain, having been duplicated in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

With just a single coaster inside, Disneyland’s physical “mountain” has a much smaller footprint than Disney World’s – about half the diameter. It’s also intentionally sunken into the ground to keep the peak from being seen from Main Street in the very compact park. (In Disneyland, Space Mountain is “inside” the park’s berm versus Magic Kingdom, where guests pass under the Railroad to reach it.) The mountain appears ever smaller than it is since the Magic Eye Theater (former home to the Lost Legend: Captain EO) is positioned in front of it. Guests queue on the theater’s roof before descending down into the mountain after the Lightning Lane merge point.

Disneyland’s version of the ride was also disassembled and rebuilt from scratch for the park’s 50th Anniversary in 2005. The “new” Space Mountain’s layout is unchanged from the old, but it does feature synchronized on-board audio by Michael Giacchino, a projection-based lift hill, and projection capability throughout the peak – all great tools for seasonal overlays like Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy and Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain.

Space Mountain at Disneyland. (artwork by @ThemeParkLore)

There’s another Space Mountain, too, but it’s not like any of the others. When Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, designers had to strike a careful balance of paying homage to “classic” Disney rides while reimagining them for a very different culture. As part of the biggest (and to date, most recent) ince a “Space Age” mountain of mid-century Americana wouldn’t resonate, designers instead crafted the Lost Legend: Space Mountain – De la Terre á la Lune.

A complete reinvention of what a “Space Mountain” could be, Paris’ ride was designed around Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the moon. In an outdoor, sunlit station, riders in could load into golden, steampunk trains boarded via an outdoor station, then drop into the bronze muzzle of the Columbiad Cannon positioned along the copper mountain’s exterior. To the swirling score of an orchestral arrangement, they’d launch upwards, diving into the peak and racing through a course of inversions.

Naturally, this fantastical, European Space Mountain is the subject of a Lost Legend feature on Park Lore because a decade after opening, the ride was “upgraded” to Space Mountain: Mission 2, dropping the interior aesthetic and sounds of Jules Verne and adapting the same general sci-fi motif as every other Space Mountain. Even weirder, in 2017 it was converted into Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain: Rebel Mission, though no one’s yet been able to figure out why getting to “a galaxy far, far away” begins with being launched out of a golden cannon.

Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris. (artwork by @ThemeParkLore)

HERE & THERE – To see more comparisons of rides from across the world, including Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Soarin’, and Pirates of the Caribbean, CLICK HERE.

ONE & ONLY: Illustrating the Ride Layouts of Disney Imagineering’s One-of-a-Kind “Bucket List” Landmarks

In 1959, Walt Disney oversaw the simulanteous launch of the Submarine Voyage, Disneyland Monorail, and Matterhorn Bobsleds – the first “E-Tickets.”  Sixty years later, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance arguably transcended the category for the first time. Perhaps best described as an ultra-E-Ticket (“U-Ticket”?), Rise of the Resistance is a staggeringly complex experience.

Rise of the Resistance. (artwork by @ThemeParkLore)

The attraction begins on Batuu – the remote, Outer Rim planet invented to be the setting of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – just after the events of The Last Jedi. Tasked by Rey to join the Resistance in its battle against the fascist First Order, recruits are loaded onto an Intersystem Transport Shuttle (ITS) to rendezvous with General Organa on the Mid-Rim planet of Pacara. But en route, the ITS is apprehended by the nefarious General Hux, who pulls the ship aboard Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer, the Finalizer.

Recruits are herded out of the ITS and into the Star Destroyer’s hangar, then subject to “interrogation” by First Order officers. It all comes to a head in an interrogation cell, where Resistance operatives make a risky play, breaking us out and loading us onto prisoner transports piloted by on-board First Order Droids reprogrammed to get us to the ship’s Escape Pods and back to Batuu before the Resistance arrives to strike against the FinalizerPhew.

For even more examples of One & Only attraction ride layouts, including Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds, Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest and DCA’s Radiator Springs Racers, CLICK HERE.

TPEI Score: + 6 Oh to be so talented…

QUICK HITS:

*Universal Opens New Tribute Store

Here is a quick behind-the-scenes look at how the SATURDAY SIX operates. I generally try to plan out the coming weeks and months. I’ll print out some monthly calendars, and write in the subjects I plan to write about that week. It gives me a plan of attack and also reminds me of events that are coming up which make natural tie-ins for articles.

For June, I figured I would start off with a look at Disney’s Pop Century (since I just stayed there recently while my dog was staying in a much better suite – with more amenities – at the nearby Best Friends Pet Hotel) and week two would be an article on Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure because that weekend is the release of Jurassic World Dominion. Lo and behold,  Universal Studios Florida opened up their newest Tribute Store right before press time and it is so awesome that it makes me IMMEDIATELY want to do an entire article. This means the SAT 6 on Pop Century is going to bumped back and this completely screws up my long term planning (see, this is why I argue with Len Testa that “flying by your seat of your pants” is always the best long term strategy.)

So we’re only going to take a quick peek at this new Tribute Store as we’ll do an in-depth look at it next week in this fine blog series. The façade to the Tribute Store is designed to look like an old timey movie theater, and inside the rooms are dedicated to classic Universal movies (which spawned beloved attractions.)

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Tribute Store 2022. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Tribute Store 2022. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

One of the rooms in the Tribute Store is elaborately themed to one of my all time favorite movies, Jaws.

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Other rooms are themed to Back to the Future and E.T. Each room is LOADED with incredible details and Easter Eggs for fans of the movies and the theme parks, such as this box labeled “Churro Stand Parts” referencing an in-joke for fans of the VelociCoaster.

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Earl the Squirrel makes an appearance…

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This photo-op featuring King Kong is a wonderful tribute to a legendary photo-op in USF that left when Universal closed Kongfrontation.

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Tons of awesome merchandise is available, including these medallions.

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There is also two new “wax” mold machines, one featuring a new Jaws design and another featuring the courthouse from Back to the Future!

Pinch me, I’m dreaming…. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The last room of the store is themed to a movie concession stand and has a lot of fun options for snacks, including this E-Ticket E.T. treat! We’ll see you next week for a look inside this magical place.

Tribute Store 2022. (photo by @AliciaStella)

*Homecomin’ creates it’s own backscractcher

A new Summer menu made its debut this month at Art Smith’s Homecomin’ (which just may be our favorite restaurant in all of Disney Springs.) Some of the new items include a St. Augustine Mahi-Mahi, Spicy Cauliflower Wings, and a Roasted Potato & Veggie Medley. However, for us what stood out was the introduction of the Tropical Itch. This drink features bourbon, rum, passionfruit, pineapple, lemon juice, and your very own bamboo backscratcher. That’s right, no more arguing with the security guards at The Poly to get your Backscratcher at Tambu Lounge because now you can park in style (in the Orange Garage, of course) at Disney Springs and make the quick walk over to Homecomin’.

*Fanboy Tears Are Still Free

*Show Me The Lie…

*You Never Know When You’ll Take Your Favorite Photo…

*How Great Is This?

 

*We’ve All Been There

*DisTwitter Fundraiser UPDATE

Last month we mentioned that we had started a Fundraiser for World Central Kitchen on behalf of DisTwitter. The auction was set for 7 days and was scheduled to end on a Sunday. For six days the auction was up on eBay getting bids. On Saturday afternoon, six days into the auction and 24 hours from its end, I got an email from eBay saying they had cancelled the auction. The reason? Because in the description of the item I had made a joke about NFTs. What I didn’t know at the time is that eBay apparently has a list of blacklisted words, and if you use them your auction will automatically be cancelled. I was informed that I was trying to “manipulate” the auction by using the phrase “NFT’ to attract potential bidders. This was just BONKERS. Here’s the best part: eBay CHARGED ME $90 for them cancelling the auction. You can’t make this stuff up.

So anyway, I rewrote the item description, removing the objectionable term, and relisted the auction and made it a 24 hour auction so that it would end at the same time the original auction would have ended. When eBay cancelled the original auction, it was at around $700. I wrote that if the new auction did not hit $700, I would make up the difference with my own money. Instead, what happened was even crazier than what occurred the day before with the cancellation. A bidding war broke out and here was the final tally…

To say I was overwhelmed by the generosity by the bidders was the understatement of the year. I still can’t believe it. After eBay took out their fees, the total amount I received was $2,196, Bacini and I made that total $2,222, as a reference to our birthdays (mine is 2/2, his is 2/22, and we are in 2022 so it seemed appropriate.)

We combined that money with the money we made from selling Disney Prize Packs. I realized that once the auction got to a certain amount, many people still wanted to donate to a great cause but couldn’t approach that high of a price point. So the house artists at Burgan Fine Art Studios got together to create Disney drawings for people who donated $100 (the people would also receive a Bacini air freshener.)

Burgan Fine Art Studio artists at work.

The total amount raised for World Central Kitchen was $3,222.

The winner of the auction, Eric Ahlstrom, let us know when his items arrived. I am in a huge debt of gratitude to Eric and everyone who helped the auction to the point it ended at. Truly appreciative to everyone who bid and of course all the people who bought a Disney Prize Pack.

Aside from the original items in the auction, a huge thank you to the great people on DisTwitter who also donated items including @AutismAtThePark, @SchuckJH, Nitro, Morgan Crutchfield, Jim Hill, @SonderQuest, @n8Creative, Professor Daniel Miller, @leavesonthelawn, @TheMouseAndMore, and the boys from @Parkscope.

I got a transmission from the Endor system that Hank Lonely sent an autographed photo directly to Eric, and we also received one for a future auction, so stay tuned.

 

Just a quick look at the 100s of photos I have to take with Bacini before one is usable…

But you can’t get mad at that little guy….

Last month’s Theme Park Enjoyment Index: 93
This month’s net change: – 40
Current enjoyment level: 53

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 Groundskeeper Willie.

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3 thoughts on “Theme Park Enjoyment Index for MAY 2022 (EPCOT Concept Art, Rescue Rangers Reboot, Universal is #FairToFlorida)

  • May 29, 2022 at 10:36 am
    Permalink

    Wow, this month was a rollercoaster/whirlwind of emotions! Thank you for this incredibly detailed recap of all the feels. Also, thank you for possibly your best typo ever, “Kenboi,” and I can only hope that one of the amazing artists out there will bless us with concept art of a Kenboi doll.

    Reply
    • May 29, 2022 at 6:50 pm
      Permalink

      We all knew the first typo in SATURDAY SIX history owuld come one day. Looks like Len Testa wins the pool with his guess of “10 years.”

      Reply
  • June 3, 2022 at 2:39 pm
    Permalink

    Do you know how long I have been waiting for a Hotel Galactica?? I want to blast Cylons and fly a Viper. I think there should be two sides Galactica Classic and New Galactica (which is getting kind of old). I mean who wouldn’t want to meet #6!!

    Reply

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