Welcome back to another photo update around the Universal Orlando Resort. This week we’ll start things off with a look at the installation of the sign on the exterior of NBC Sports Grill Brew. Over at the Studios, the archway has been decorated for Halloween Horror Nights. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for HHN coverage this week since there’s plenty of new props and merchandise to look at. Over at Islands of Adventure, we’ll take a look a look at King Kong and a Toon Lagoon shop under refurbishment. All that and much more, so let’s get going.
Welcome to Universal Orlando.
The facade of NBC Sports Grill Brew is now finished.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Theme Park Related Comic Books. To steal a phrase from Forrest Gump, comic books and theme parks go together like peas and carrots, especially Disney. In fact, the Disney characters that we love to meet in the parks so much starred in their own comics going back all the way to 1940. Despite switching publishers several times over the years, Disney comics continue to be produced today, most recently by Marvel and IDW Publishing. To celebrate the launch of their new line of Disney books, IDW has been releasing variant covers on all their Disney titles focusing on the theme parks.
Epcot themed covers.
These covers are absolutely amazing and done by the artists Derek Charm, Amy Mebberson, and James Silvani. We are going to spotlight these variant covers throughout the article because we love them so much, but the SATURDAY SIX itself is going to look at comic books over the years whose stories have dealt with theme parks directly. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – Mickey and Goofy explore the Universe of Energy (1985)
This is more than likely the one book on the list which most readers have seen because it was a giveaway at Epcot back in 1985. The comic features Mickey Mouse and Goofy exploring the Universe of Energy pavilion, better known today as Ellen’s Energy Adventure. From the attraction’s beginning up until 2004, Exxon was the sponsor and the comic is little more than propaganda for the fossil fuel industry.
The comic starts with Mickey and Goofy in the Universe of Energy pre-show and boarding the ride vehicle. These are my favorite parts of any theme park comic book. Forget the story, I just love seeing the landmarks and attractions drawn on the page. The pair even travel into the portion of the ride with dinosaurs, which made me very happy. Mickey and Goofy then spend the rest of the book talking about the history of energy consumption, how we currently get fuel, and what we can do in the future. In one great scene from the book, as Mickey describes to Goofy that gas could become expensive if we were cut off from foreign oil again, Goofy fears the day of gas sky rocketing to $1.27 a gallon. I wonder what ol’ Goof would think of $5.99 a gallon gas near the Disney Outlet Store?
Mickey Mouse references the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis. Hey Kids! Comics!
While some lip service is paid to finding alternate sources of energy, the book is mostly focused on highlighting the true heroes of industry: people who drill for oil. Drilling in Alaska, drilling off a ship, deep sea oil platforms, basically anything Exxon is involved in. In another wonderful scene, Mickey shows Goofy a map and explains how a pipeline leads oil from Prudhoe Bay in the northern part of Alaska down to Valdez in the southern part. Hmmmm, the Exxon Valdez…where have I heard that before? In the end, this is a comic book about learning, which – for kids – is like getting socks for Christmas.
One of the first things I noticed that was different at Universal Orlando and SeaWorld versus Walt Disney World is the refillable mugs inside the theme parks. What I didn’t realize until after my first few months of becoming a regular Universal Orlando visitor is the substantial variety of refillable mug programs available throughout Universal Orlando. There’s four options just in the theme parks themselves, then there’s two different programs at the Universal hotels, and finally two programs inside CityWalk, oh and none of the programs can be combined. So in hopes of helping you navigate through the busy waters of all the refillable mug options I’d like to share the details of each option. I’ll also give my stance on if I think each mug is worth it or wasted.
In the theme parks
Character mugs – $15.99 / $0.99 refills
Wasted: If you or your child is a big fan of a specific character then the character mugs might be a good value for you. Personally, I think their clunkier size make them impractical for repeated, every day use. However, they certainly are unique and add to the fun of being inside the theme parks.
Regular refillable cup and Black Transformer mug – $8.99 / $0.99 refills
Worth it: If you are an Annual Passholder or will be visiting for an extended amount of days, the basic refillable cup is a good deal. The $0.99 refills are not limited to the day of purchase, so you can easily get your money’s worth considering one fountain soda is $3.19. If you use the refillable cup more than 3 times you’ll have spent your money wisely. There are also a good amount of food and beverage locations throughout the park to snag your free refills. The downside is the refills are your basic fountain drink variety, not the fancy smancy Coke Freestyle flavor selection.
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:
I’ll never forget that feeling of fear and excitement as I sat in the movie theater and watched the massive T-Rex break free and step down onto the soggy earth in Jurassic Park so many years ago. When Islands of Adventure opened 16 years ago, this exciting and frightening world was made real. Over the years, as Islands of Adventure has evolved, the Jurassic Park island has changed, and perhaps lost a little of it intriguing nature. After all, the boy wizard’s original domain now neighbors this mysterious jungle. It’s hard to stand out when you’re next door to the destination that changed theme parks forever.
Now that Jurassic World is about to escape into the theaters, many have hoped and wondered if Island’s of Adventure’s Jurassic Park will receive some upgrades to coincide with this next generation movie. Already there have been a few updates that have breathed a bit of new life into this land, though there is certainly potential for more to be done. Let’s explore the wilds of the jungle and see how Jurassic Park is being reborn.
Take a dino selfie at the new Raptor Encounter in Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Park (photos and video by Seth Kubersky)
While Disney was loudly kicking off their Coolest Summer Ever promotion with bicoastal 24 Hour parties, Universal Orlando quietly opened a new attraction over Memorial Day weekend with little fanfare, as the new Raptor Encounter debuted in the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure. Conventional wisdom says that, while Universal makes excellent thrill rides, Disney dominates the meet and greet experience. But much like the Transformers meet and greet in Universal Studios Florida, this innovative dinosaur photo op flips that expectation upside down.
The new Raptor Encounter is located outside of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, in an unused area that was formerly the entrance to Triceratops Trail, a long-defunct walkthrough attraction. Guests approach a fenced-in holding pen that has been built to contain a live velociraptor, who has been trained just well enough to pose briefly for photographs between snaps and screeches.
Yes, The Three Broomsticks may be the best quick-service restaurant at Universal Orlando Resort, and, yes, a lot of Broomsticks’s impressiveness is due to its immaculate theming, which is arguably in a league of its own.
But Mythos differentiates itself in a number of key ways, from the small (it’s a table-service eatery rather than a counter-service one) to the large (instead of being based on a pre-existent intellectual property, it has the double duty of creating another world for guests to inhabit from scratch while simultaneously transporting them there). When added together, it becomes quickly apparent that Islands of Adventure’s premiere venue is also its most immersive one, and that, indeed, Mythos takes top thematic billing at the entire resort.
What, exactly, is in a theme, and how does it impact your culinary experience? Let’s find out.
As of April 9, 2015, all Universal Orlando guests wishing to ride the resort’s major outdoor roller coasters must deposit all loose and metal objects in a locker before entering the queue. Mandatory airport-style security screenings, including walk-through metal detectors and handheld scanning wands, will be used to ensure that no prohibited items — specifically phones, keys, coins, cameras, and selfie sticks — are carried onto the attractions.