This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the ToothsomeChocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. The newest entrant into Universal CityWalk’s murderer’s row of restaurants has just gone into previews, with a grand opening not far behind. Located in the former home of NBA City, the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium sits directly next to the entrance to Islands of Adventure and its visually stunning facade fits in with other worlds that never existed (but you wish did) like Port of Entry or Seuss Landing.
When Toothsome was originally announced, it teased that it would debut with larger than life milkshakes. The idea of a milkshake with a full cupcake or chocolate covered banana on top seemed too good to be true. However, to quote Han Solo, “It’s true. All of it.” It turns out that the E-Ticket milkshakes were just the tip of the iceberg, as Toothsome is filled with both wonder and – believe it or not – an amazing menu. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this magical restaurant. So sit back, play the NXT song “Glorious” as appropriate background music, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Walk Around Characters!
Talk about bucking the trend. In a theme park world where getting rid of the human element seems to be a priority, Universal has walk around characters in the Skull Island: Reign of Kong queue and inside Toothsome. The restaurant has a lengthy backstory (which can be found inside the menu), and it revolves around Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. In Penelope’s exotic trips around the world, she discovered ways to infuse chocolate into extraordinary recipes. When Penelope returned home from her travels, she discovered that her parents had set out to join her (“Surely the world isn’t so big that we can’t find you.”) Penelope decided she would use her chocolate knowledge to create an emporium, and would share her dishes with the world until reunited with her family.
Penelope can be seen walking about Toothsome, occasionally with her robot companion Jacques. Just as with the best Disney meet and greets at the Magic Kingdom, Penelope stays completely in character, is filled with charm and as they would describe her in the 19th Century: is a bricky gal.
Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The Professor and her robot companion Jacques. (photo courtesy of Attractions Magazine. Attractions also has a great video of Toothsome which you WATCH HERE.)
Penelope’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Literally. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Six Best Kept Secrets at EPCOT. Yes, we love the awesome rides, the incredible resorts, and the mouth watering restaurants at WDW, but the more trips we take, the more we appreciate all the little details throughout The World. While most guests know of Hidden Mickeys, there are many other “Easter eggs” to discover, with many of these secrets being hidden in plain sight. We’ve previously looked at some great details at the Magic Kingdom (including references to Mr. Toad and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), and today we are going to look at some of our favorite “secrets” at EPCOT. So sit back, pour a out a 40 for Horizons, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – The Hollywood Tower of Terror at DHS Blends in with the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase
The Hollywood Tower of Terror is one of the greatest rides in Walt Disney World – in fact it took first place in our very own Best WDW Attractions Poll – but one of its most amazing features is that the ride not only fits thematically into Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it fits into EPCOT. The attraction is so tall that – from certain angles – it is one of the few things that you can see from inside a WDW park, but the Tower’s facade was ingeniously designed so that it would fit into the theming of the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase.
If Guardians of the Galaxy replaces the Tower of Terror in DHS, Morocco may have to be rethemed to the Knowhere Pavilion. (photo by Brian Carey)
# 5 – Future World Lights Up At Night
This is one that kids will probably notice well before adults, but at night some of the pavement in Future World takes on new life thanks to a fiber optic lighting package. In an area in-between Spaceship Earth and Innoventions Plaza, some of the pavement tiles have tiny lights that sparkle, making for a magical appearance. Meanwhile, over by Innoventions West, there are larger sections of pavement completely lit up with designs that “move” and change colors. Don’t feel bad if you’ve been to EPCOT 1,000 times and never noticed any of these lights, as most guests don’t even come near this area on their dash out of the park. As always, one of our best tips when it comes to touring the WDW parks is to slow down, and give yourself time to take it all in.
Future World, who may want to consider suing Pandora: The World of Avatar for gimmick infringment. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Stacey, enjoying another magical night at EPCOT. (photo by Ryan Pastorino. Instagram @disphotomagic)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Times THE SIMPSONS Totally Nailed Being A Theme Park Fan. We here at SATURDAY SIX HQ have never hid the fact of how much we love The Simpsons television show. Despite it being a cartoon, for us it is right up there with the all-time great comedies including Seinfeld, Parks and Rec, and Cheers. When Universal Studios Florida expanded the area surrounding The Simpsons Ride into a small version of Springfield, it was a dream come true. As a fan of The Simpsons dating back to when they were just short skits on The Tracey Ullman Show, seeing Duff Beer brought to life was just as a magical moment for me as it is for Potterheads walking into Diagon Alley and getting a Butterbeer.
One of the reasons The Simpsons actually being represented at the Universal Orlando Resort is so great is because the show has spent the better part of 25 years making fun of theme parks! Other shows have gone to theme parks and made some jokes (such as Boy Meets World, Family Matters, and – of course – Full House), but for the most part those shows were just promotional vehicles for Disney. The Simpsons didn’t hold back. Their jokes had some real truths to them, truths that readers of this blog would understand. Today we are going to look back at the history of The Simpsons and theme parks, and at some of our favorite moments over the years. Many of these scenes can actually be seen in the queue for The Simpsons Ride along with exclusive new scenes made just for Universal. So sit back, put on a pair of beer googles, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – “Bart’s New Friend” (Season 26, Episode 11)
We’ll start off with an episode written by Judd Apatow, a man who knows a thing or two about comedy, with a resume that includes Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year Old Virgin. The episode centers around Homer Simpson being hypnotized into thinking he is a 10 year child. Bart Simpson then begins to take advantage of the situation, using Homer as a way to thwart bullies at school and be the “brother” he never had. Before Homer can be de-hypnotized, Bart takes him to Itchy & Scratchy Land and we get to see them ride Soarin’ Over Springfield. This was a five star parody of one of Disney’s most popular rides.
Soarin’ Over Springfield.
Just like the real version, in Soarin’ Over Springfield you get to see guests’ legs dangling in front of you. Note the reference to Mystery Science Theater 3000.
With a swelling score, Soarin’ Over Springfield flies by all the major landmarks in town, including the long running tire fire.
Burning tire smell blown into the faces of guests, just as the scent of oranges was sprayed in the original Soarin’ and fresh cut flowers in the new Soarin’ Around the World.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has five on-site hotels. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (The Poly). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Premier (Portofino Bay Hotel), and Prime Value, which is where Cabana Bay Beach Resort resides.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Cabana Bay is Universal’s first attempt at a lower priced “value” resort, and is also the first time they have gone after the increasingly popular Family Suite market (led by Disney’s incredible Art of Animation Resort). Unlike Disney’s lower tier hotels (such as the All Stars) Cabana Bay is loaded with amenities. In fact there are so many “extras” at Cabana Bay that many Universal fans consider it their favorite on-site hotel despite it not offering Unlimited Express Pass. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this fantastic resort. So sit back, put on the soundtrack to Mad Men as background music, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Lazy River
Now, Cabana Bay has two huge pools, a giant slide, several jacuzzis, and a water play area, but what separates it from the pack is everyone’s favorite water feature: a lazy river. The E-Ticket of pools, a relaxing float along the lazy river – with its waterfalls and lush theming – can be just what the doctor ordered. Unlike many lazy rivers, Cabana Bay does not supply tubes to guests (they have no cleaning facility to disinfect them) but they do offer a wide assortment of tubes for pretty much the same price you would pay at WalMart or a pool store. Several of the tubes they offer are Cabana Bay branded and are relatively inexpensive souvenirs. One of the more popular tubes for kids is one that is themed to a car’s tire. There are also several water cannons around the river which kids love to play with.
Lazy river at Cabana Bay.
Lazy River at Cabana Bay.
Water cannons at the Lazy River. There is actually very little water pressure in these, so guests who don’t want to get wet can easily avoid them.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. If you’re like us you’ve been deluged with news lately. Many childhoods have been “ruined” because of female Ghostbusters, Justin Beiber – a noted Canadian – was offered $5 Million to perform at the Republican National Convention, and maybe most important of all Taco Bell created a Cheetos burrito. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world recently. So we took a page out of our old college playbook, guzzled down a dozen 5 Hour Energys, and pulled another all-nighter. We crammed as much information as possible into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – Universal’s Fast & Furious Supercharged Pushed Back to 2018?
Get your Coronas, baby oil, and English-to-Vin Diesel/Vin Diesel-to-English dictionaries ready, SUPERCHARGED is coming in 2018. (photo by Michael Sheehy and Matt Cleary)
While many people would scoff at the idea of the Fast and Furious franchise being an equivalent to Star Wars or Harry Potter, the box office numbers show that there is some smoke to that fire. To date the Fast and Furious movies are approaching four Billion dollars, which is about half of what SW and Potter have done, but F&F is picking up steam fast. In part thanks to F&F’s ethnically diverse cast, it appeals to demographics across the globe in a way that very few brands can. For example, in China Fast and Furious 7 opened to $182,000,000 while Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened to $52,000,000.
Universal announced that Fast & Furious Supercharged would be making its way to Universal Studios Florida in 2017, replacing Disaster and Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. Walls were put up in front of the old attractions, and graffiti was spray painted along the walls teasing the upcoming Fast and Furious ride. Earlier this summer, the year “2018” suddenly appeared in the artwork, so it looks like Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon and Volcano Bay will be Universal’s major projects opening in 2017. Supercharged, with a cast featuring more six packs than a Budweiser plant, will headline Universal’s summer a year later. Hopefully this extra time will allow Universal to develop F&F merchandise that can approach the levels Disney gets with Star Wars and Universal gets with Potter, because that is one area the franchise is way behind in.
# 5 – At Comic Con Disney Announces Guardians of the Galaxy Attraction to a Mixed Near Unanimous Fan Reaction
After a one year break, Marvel Studios returned to the world famous San Diego Comic Con and dropped some major bombshells, including one for the Disney theme parks. After giving news on their upcoming film slate (including Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and Thor: Ragnarok), Marvel brought out the cast for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. At the end of the Guardians presentation, it was announced that a new attraction was coming to Disney’s California Adventure: Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout. As we wrote back in March (Looking at ways Disney can introduce Marvel to the theme parks) the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction would not be a brand new ride, but instead replace the Hollywood Tower of Terror. The reaction in Hall H was not what anyone would call overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the Magic Kingdom. As you know, this July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. At the beginning of the month we began our journey at Animal Kingdom, which now takes on new life at night. We then made our way over to Hollywood Studios, a park currently going through some growing pains but still has some of the best experiences in all of WDW. Last week? The one and only EPCOT, a theme park like no other across the globe. Today we are going to finish up by heading into the park which was the centerpiece of Walt Disney’s “Florida Project,” the Magic Kingdom.
The partners statue at the Magic Kingdom. (photo by Brandon Glover)
There are not enough superlatives for Disneyland out in California, but with Florida came the “blessing of size” which allowed Walt (and the Disney company) to fix problems they would never be able to in Anaheim. For example, driving to Disneyland is much like driving to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, in that you can see the park from the road. With the Magic Kingdom, Disney created a theme park where the very entrance to the park is an experience, slowly revealing itself to guests in a truly magical way. Opening in 1971, the Magic Kingdom quickly became the most popular theme park in the world, and retains that title to this very day. What makes it so great? Well, today we’re gonna look at six of our favorite things inside this truly special park. So, sit back, relax in one of the rocking chairs on Tom Sawyer Island, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Festival of Fantasy
Even with heated competition from Universal and many other parks from around the world, there are still areas which Disney parks are completely untouchable. One of those areas is parades, and one of the best parades at any Disney park is the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy. With elaborate floats, stunning costumes, an original score, and filled with many of our favorite Disney characters, this is a parade worth waiting for. The backstory of the parade is that each of the units were built by the citizens of Fantasyland. It’s fascinating just looking at all the details on each float and how they seem to be designed from an era long ago. The music has that true Disney Difference, with Brave and Maleficent sections being standouts, and the amount of characters involved in the parade is staggering. From Anna and Elsa to Mickey and Minnie and almost everyone in-between, Festival of Fantasy has something for everyone.
The impressive fire breathing Maleficent. Sorry Gringotts, but this dragon also moves. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Tinker Bell doing her best impersonation of a theme park blogger receiving constructive criticism. (photo by Brandon Glover)
In Festival of Fantasy, Merida gets her chance to shine! (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We Love EPCOT. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. We started at Animal Kingdom, and then made our way to Hollywood Studios, but this week we are going to look at a theme park that is unlike any other in America: Epcot.
EPCOT, the only Walt Disney World park in which the monorail goes into the actual park. (photo by Brian Carey)
Comprised of two distinct sections (Future World and World Showcase,) it’s impossible to compare EPCOT to any other theme park you’ve been to. The term “edutainment” is often used to describe the park because it generally eschewed the traditional model of quick and whimsical children’s rides, and instead focused on long and elaborate dark rides that refused to shoehorn in Disney characters (RIP Horizons.) EPCOT’s mascot Figment became an immediate hit, and certainly remains the most popular character ever designed for a theme park. We’ve seen many changes to EPCOT over the years, but it remains a wonderfully unique park. Yes, we miss Kitchen Kaberet, World of Motion, and the original Journey into Imagination as much as anyone, but there are still plenty of things to love about EPCOT’s current state. What’s our favorite? Well, sit back, snack on some school bread, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Frozen Ever After
In 2014 we shed our tears with the rest of the #SaveMaelstrom movement, but an amazing thing happened when Walt Disney Imagineering converted the old Norway boat ride into an attraction based around the hit movie Frozen: they hit a monstrous home run. Given the constraints WDI had to work with including – for Disney – a rapid turnaround, Frozen Ever After is a dark ride so good that it would fit in perfectly with the legendary Fantasyland attractions at the Magic Kingdom. The animatronics are amazing (Olaf steals the show), guests get to see all their favorite Frozen characters and hear almost the entire film’s soundtrack, including the contractually obligated “Let It Go.”
Elsa, Anna, and Olaf in Frozen Ever After. (photo by Brian Carey)
Sven after getting a triple dog dare. (photo by Brandon Glover)
In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!
# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)
The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)
Captain America. (photo by Brandon Glover)
America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For July, we are going to try something new around here. It’s our first ever themed series of articles for the SATURDAY SIX, and we’re going to put a spotlight on Walt Disney World. That’s right, we are going to take a look at each one of Disney’s four parks and explain why they are some of our favorite places on Earth. First up, the oft-maligned Animal Kingdom which has completely transformed itself from a “half day park” to possibly the best theme park in all of Orlando.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (photo by Tim Grassey)
While Animal Kingdom was originally designed to keep people on WDW property, and not make a side trip to Tampa for Busch Gardens, it has become one of the most interesting theme parks you’ll ever see. By far and away the biggest park at Disney (the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction by itself is larger than the entire Magic Kingdom) Animal Kingdom has a combination of terrific thrill rides, world class shows, and amazing safari adventures. Filled with unforgettable experiences, Animal Kingdom simply has it all. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, pour out a 40 for Little Red, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – The Tree of Life
With Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth, WDW already had two of the greatest – and most recognizable – theme park icons in the world. With the majestic Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom’s park icon immediately joined them. Despite being completely man-made (even the leaves are made out of a special plastic called Kynar), the Tree of Life looks as if it sprung from the ground and it’s only when you stare at it do you begin to see over 300 animal designs carved into the trunk and roots. The details will make your jaw drop.
Recently the Tree of Life became even more breathtaking with the introduction of projection mapping for the Tree of Life Awakens shows. These three minute shows make it appear that some of the animals in the trunk come alive before your eyes, along with spellbinding special effects in the leaves above. This is true Disney Magic.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the queue for SKULL ISLAND: REIGN OF KONG. Over the last two years, Trygve Nelson and Seth Kubersky have been tracking the progress of Skull Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Earlier this month it began technical rehearsals and started letting guests experience the attraction. One area that has drawn consistent raves is the queue. Over the last fifteen years, Universal has become the best in the business at building queues in which people actually enjoy spending time in line. Guests walk through what seems like the actual movie set for Men In Black: Alien Attack. At The Simpsons Ride, in two separate pre-show rooms, guests enjoy some hilarious jokes written by actual writers of The Simpsons television show. Meanwhile guests get to tour the Daily Bugle in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (which even has a dedicated themed experience just for Express Pass guests, allowing them to see Peter Parker’s dark room). Universal then perfected the queue experience with Forbidden Journey and Escape From Gringotts, creating lines guests actually wanted to spend more time in. This was not just the theme park equivalent of breaking the four minute mile, this was breaking the three minute mile.
Skull Island: Reign of KONG. (photo by Brandon Gllover)
The good news, is that not only does Skull Island: Reign of Kong continue Universal’s era of incredible queues, it becomes the first to take a page from the Halloween Horror Nights playbook and be extremely creepy as well. A good queue sets up a ride’s story and atmosphere, and Skull Island takes that to the next level. The giant facade alone, with seemingly thousands of skulls strewn about and a giant ape head made carved out of rock, is something pretty intense for the theme park world. Inside, the queue gets even better. Today we are going to look at six reasons we love the Skull Island queue, including some details many guests may miss when walking through. So sit back, grab a banana, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Reference to Revenge of the Mummy
Kongfrontation was an opening day ride for Universal Studios Florida back in 1990, and was based more or less around the King Kong film from 1976. Like Jaws, this was an iconic Universal ride that many guests fondly remember to this day. Kongfrontation closed in 2002 to make way for The Revenge of the Mummy. As with many recent attractions, Mummy has several tributes to Kong in both the queue and attraction itself. In an Inception-like nod, Skull Island has a reference back to Revenge of the Mummy. As guests load onto the ride vehicle, to their right will be several skeletons. One of these skeletons is just like one of the skeletons that rise up and attack guests in the Mummy’s impressive throne room sequence.
Back in March, Universal started teasing their upcoming Kong attraction through the Myth Explorer web series and blog featuring Erin Ryder. In several of her updates, the 8th Wonder Expedition Company was seen or mentioned. In the Skull Island attraction, right before guests grab their 3D glasses, they will be able to see a crate stamped with this mysterious group’s logo. Many Universal fans, including Your Humble Author, believe Universal should have a full line of 8th Wonder Expedition Co. merchandise available. As of this writing, there is nothing.
Eighth Wonder Expedition Co. Hopefully soon to be seen on t-shirts, hats, Tervis tumblers, and pressed pennies. Hey, a guy can dream can’t he? (photo by Travis Terrell)