Universal Orlando Resort

SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer

by on July 4, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer. We are little over a month away from the ultimate Disney fan event – the D23 Expo – where we will gain some insight into the future of the Walt Disney World parks. While the California parks have been blessed in recent years with a $1 Billion renovation to Disney California Adventure (bringing Cars Land, World of Color, and a new park entrance) along with upgrades to Disneyland for the park’s upcoming 60th anniversary (including the critically praised Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever, a new nighttime spectacular,) the Florida parks have been recipient of things less noticeable by your average guest like MagicBands, My Disney Experience, and Downtown Disney’s transition to Disney Springs. While additions like Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers and Winged Encounters have drawn rave reviews, they don’t have the pick-your-jaw-off-the-ground moment like seeing Radiator Springs Racer’s Cadillac Range mountains or walking into Universal’s Diagon Alley. 

Many expect us all to be wowed by what will be announced at the D23 Expo, some even speculating a $3 Billion overhaul to DHS (for the record, we here at the SATURDAY SIX don’t expect anything approaching that number, but even “just” a Billion dollars goes a long way baby.) One thing is for certain, whatever is coming isn’t coming soon, and today we’re going to look at how Disney is all but taunting guests to open their wallets starting with….

# 6 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios outright dares guests to go to the park

What a year for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, DHS has removed so many things without replacement that Matt Hochberg – the park’s biggest defender – is rumored to be hiding in the same bunker Saddam Hussein was found in. The Sorcerer’s Hat, gone. Studio Backlot Tour, gone. American Idol Experience and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, gone. Recently it was announced that the Magic of Disney Animation will be closing on July 12th and those in the know report that One Man’s Dream is also on the chopping block. Every park loses stuff as its part of normal theme park operations, but the difference here is nothing has come in to replace anything. Well, to be fair, a recent Soundstage Lounge was installed at the Jack Sparrow location. Unfortunately it looks more like the filming location for a sequel in the Saw series of films than your usual WDI made ultra-detailed area. The park has a shrinking amount of attractions, and while Frozen Summer Fun will get us through the next couple months, then what?

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Need an attraction? Make us an offer! (photo by Michael Sheehy and Matt Cleary)

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Minion Mania takes over Universal Studios Florida

by on July 1, 2015

They’re small, they’re round, they’re yellow, and when you set foot in Universal Orlando, they’re seemingly everywhere. The adorable, funny, and mischievous minions from the Despicable Me movies are about to get their own movie and Universal Studios Florida is awash in minion mania. Families and fans can get minionized in more ways than ever before, making this summer the perfect time to visit Universal Orlando and celebrate all things minions. Let’s take a look at all the ways you can get into the minion mania.

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Minion Scavenger Hunt
New for this summer a fun, simple, and silly scavenger hunt takes place throughout all of the Universal Studios Florida theme park. It’s not elaborate and obviously temporary, but it adds an entertaining way to celebrate the new minion movie. Families and friends are sure to have a good time reading the clues and exploring the park together.

Simply pick up your scavenger hunt card at the minion merchandise store, Super Silly Stuff. The card will give you the instructions and contains 10 clues describing where to find each answer. It’s a scratch off card, so some of the clues are partially obstructed by the scratch off panels, which is kind of frustrating; I’m not sure why the scratch off panels aren’t just under each clue instead of on top off the clue, but I guess we’ll just say it adds to the mystery of the scavenger hunt. Each clue gives a description of where in the park you will find your answer. The answer is marked by a large decal or display of the minions with an answer indicating one of the three most famous minions: Bob, Stuart, and Kevin. Once you see which minion is the answer just scratch off the bubble for the appropriate minion.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – June 21 to 27, 2015

by on June 30, 2015

The end of June is historically a busy time at Universal Orlando with the end of school bringing an influx of teens and ‘tweens to experience Universals thrills but this year’s crowds fell well short of what have seen in year’s past. The Universal Crowd Calendar predictions for the second half of the week were close to what we observed but not so much on Monday through Wednesday.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Universal Dining: Emeril’s New Cocktail Menu

by on June 29, 2015

A longtime favorite of TouringPlans readers, Emeril’s Orlando is the Florida outpost of Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans restaurant and has probably the best food and wine list within all of CityWalk, and considering the new competition including Vivo Italian Kitchen, Antojitos Authentic Mexican and The Cowfish, that is quite the accomplishment. The restaurant itself sits in prime real estate at Universal, overlooking the park’s lagoon as you make your way to Islands of Adventure. The food is Louisiana-style with Lagasse’s signature creative flair, with a menu that is routinely being updated with new dishes.

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Emeril’s in Universal CityWalk. (photo by Brandon Glover)

We were recently asked to try out Emeril’s new cocktail menu, and we felt we needed to bring along an expert in the field of theme park drinking to fully gauge the quality of this menu. A call was placed to the agents of Drunk@Disney, and after tough negotiations he agreed to join crack photographer Brandon Glover on this journey. The theme of the new menu  is simple: Classic New Orleans both pre-prohibition and modern. Emeril’s wanted to focus on providing an authentic new Orleans experience. Did they pull it off? Let’s check it out…

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Monk’s Revolt, The New G&T, Smoking Gun, and Passion Fruit Hurricane

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – June 14 to 20, 2015

by on June 23, 2015

Last week, Universal Orlando Resort continued its recent pattern of wait times much lower than expected. Crowds are down at Universal since the middle of May. While Disney World crowd levels fluctuated between ‘6’ and ‘9’ most days last week, Universal crowds never reached a level above ‘6’. This is good news for guests of Universal parks this summer as it appears to be a pattern that will likely continue.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love JURASSIC PARK at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 20, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love JURASSIC PARK at the Universal Orlando Resort. With Jurassic World becoming a worldwide smash (the first film ever to take in a half a billion dollars in its opening weekend. To put that number in perspective, the last Jurassic Park film, Jurassic Park III, made $368M in it’s entire six month theatrical run) we figured it is high time to cover one of our favorite areas in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Jurassic Park. While the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has been the critic’s darling since the day it opened in 1999 and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter completely changed Orlando tourism when it debuted in 2010, Jurassic Park has always been my favorite “island” in the park. Why? Several reasons, and today we’re going to count them down for you starting with….

# 6 – Jurassic Park River Adventure

Jurassic Park River Adventure hits a lot of great beats for me and it all starts with the attraction being a boat ride. From the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom to Living with the Land and Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros in Epcot, if it’s a boat ride, it’s probably one of my favorite attractions in the park. Our journey on JP River Adventure begins by passing through the iconic Jurassic Park gates and proceeds to give a Jungle Cruise-like leisurely ride while enjoying some larger-than-life dinosaurs. As theme park rides will do, “something goes terribly wrong” and we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a raptor attack and surprise, you’re NOT the alpha. In fact you just may be dinner. It is during the second half of the ride when the tension gets amped up, highlighted by the incredible T-Rex animatronic and a huge drop to cap off the ride.

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Splash down at the Jurassic Park River Adventure. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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“Open Paddock 9!” (photo by Jeff Kyle)

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8 Ways to Celebrate Universal Orlando’s 25th Anniversary

by on June 19, 2015

It’s the first theme park for which I have memories of all the excitement and fanfare of its opening days. Universal Studios Florida was the fifth major theme park to open in the Orlando area, 25 years ago on June 7, 1990. Although the anniversary day has come and gone, and the special concert series is coming to a close, there are still ways to celebrate Universal Orlando’s 25th anniversary.

25th Anniversary decorations

Admittedly the decorations are not as over-the-top as many of us would have hoped or imagined, but it’s still a nice touch to see the banners at the entrance of Universal Studios Florida as well as along Production Central and the Hollywood Backlot. These are essentially the same as what can be seen during Mardi Gras or the celebration during the holiday season. They are nice and the emblem is simple and classy.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever June 18, 2015: A Tale of Two Studios

by on June 18, 2015

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Take a Best Week Ever tour of Orlando’s two Studios theme parks. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Back to life, back to humidity…

Barely a week ago I was basking in the temperate glow of the Happiest Place on Earth, and now I’m once again enveloped in Orlando’s hot, moist embrace. What better way to celebrate my homecoming than with a visit to two of Orlando’s favorite theme parks with “Studios” in the name? (Okay, they’re also the only two.)

We’ll start with some random observations from around Universal Studios Florida, and then take a ride down I-4 to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the first day of Frozen Summer Fun.

Universal Studios Florida

The day I picked to visit Universal Studios Florida was predicted to be a 7 on our crowd calendar, but actually came in at only a 4 (part of a trend of lower actuals at Universal Orlando last week). Even so, there was a healthy flow of visitors entering the resort as I arrived in late morning.

I missed Universal Studios Florida’s actual 25th anniversary on June 7th because I was busy visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, but I still picked up a couple of these commemorative 2-Park Guide Maps for my collection. You can snag one for yourself at either Universal Orlando park through June 20th.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – June 7 to 13, 2015

by on June 17, 2015

History shows us that wait times at Universal Orlando Resort in mid-June should fall somewhere in the highest portion of the Universal Crowd Calendar’s ‘1’ to ’10’ scale. Last week, crowds at Universal fell short (in some cases, well short) of what the Universal Crowd Calendar expected. We expected lots of ‘8’s and ‘9’s but saw mostly ‘6’s and ‘7’s.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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Video of New Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show at Islands of Adventure

by on June 16, 2015

The cast for IOA’s new Sindbad show greets young fans after their first show. (photos and videos by Seth Kubersky)

After over a month-long hiatus, the new Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show has debuted at Universal Orlando‘s Islands of Adventure, and we have exclusive video of the entire first performance of the refurbished production.

Sindbad fans out there (both of you) may be wondering what’s changed with what can charitably called Universal’s most problematic production. While the show’s spectacular set has received a sparkly paint job and some new props, nothing has been radically changed on the visual side.

Of course, the scenery was never Sindbad’s big problem. It’s the shallow, self-referential script that was always the source of our issues with the stunt show, and (for better or for worse) the dialogue has remained about 90% unchanged.

Before we get to the main event, one element definitely is all-new. Ten minutes before showtime, an “assistant stage manager” selects a few volunteers from the audience to act out the story. Here’s a complete video of the opening day preshow:

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