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.
Without further delay, here’s a selection of my latest shots of the every-accellerating construction on IOA’s new King Kong attraction, as seen from guest areas around Toon Lagoon, Thunder Falls Terrace, and Camp Jurassic.
A quick recap: IOA offered early entry hours from the time the first Harry Potter land opened in 2010 until last year. Once Diagon Alley opened last summer, both parks opened for early park admission until the summer season ended, at which point only Universal Studios Florida was opened. This made sense, as most guests are primarily interested in the new Diagon Alley, and early park admission was the best time by far to experience Escape from Gringotts without a lengthy wait.
A Celebration of Harry Potter 2015 is on the horizon. Potterheads, Muggles, and everyone else are anxiously awaiting its arrival much like young little witches and wizards waiting their turn to cross onto platform 9 ¾ for the Hogwarts Express on their first trip to Hogwarts. This event officially debuted last year and seems to be a new annual tradition (we hope). This year’s A Celebration of Harry Potter will take place January 30 – February 1, 2015.
Much in the same vein as Disney’s Star Wars Weekends, A Celebration of Harry Potter brings together celebrities from the movies, special shows and Q&A sessions, and exclusive exhibits. What’s more, it brings in a nice hefty revenue stream for Universal Orlando and Loews Hotels as vacation packages with special benefits are sold at a mind baffling rate. But what if you weren’t able to snatch up one of those enticing packages? You can still find ways to revel in the celebration.
Last year I decided not to purchase any of the packages and went about the whole thing very casually. No planning, no forethought, just showed up…. And I got nothing accomplished (though I still had fun). Here now are my tips, just keep in mind, this is based on my experience last year. Some things may be changing this year, but I am confident the same tips will apply.