Posts Tagged ‘seaworld’

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons You Need to Check Out SeaWorld Orlando

by on November 12, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons You Need to Check Out SeaWorld Orlando! While no one loves Walt Disney World and Universal more than us, it is always good to remember just how many incredible things there are to do during your Orlando vacation outside of the Big Two. Last year we covered Busch Gardens Tampa, which has only gotten better with the debut of its Cobra’s Curse roller coaster (a fantastic family coaster in the vein of Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) and today we are going to take a look at one of the most well known parks in the Orlando area, SeaWorld.

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SeaWorld Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Located conveniently near both Universal and Walt Disney World, SeaWorld is in the process of building itself back up after several down years following the debut of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village, and the release of the controversial film Blackfish. A new management team is in place, and the company hasn’t made any what were they thinking mistakes in a long time. SeaWorld, much like WDW, Gatorland, and Wet ‘n Wild, is quintessential Orlando, and has been a part of family vacations for decades. Today we’re going to list our favorite reasons on why YOU need to make SeaWorld a part of your next trip to Florida. So sit back, stay out of the splash zoneand let’s start with…

# 6 – Mako and Manta

Thrill ride fans are blessed in Orlando with some truly great coaster experiences in rides such as Space Mountain and Expedition Everest along with Universal’s Revenge of the Mummy and The Incredible Hulk, but SeaWorld is home to two of possibly THE best roller coasters in town. The newest attraction at SeaWorld is Mako, the fastest coaster in town. Its not kidding around, as a hypercoaster Mako is built on raw speed and delivering multiple moments of weightlessness that coaster junkies crave. If you have the need for speed, you must ride Mako. SeaWorld also did an amazing job with the entire area surrounding Mako, as it gives more of a Disney/Universal feel in terms of an immersive experience.

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Mako! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Objects in picture are higher than they appear. MUCH higher! (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Mako. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Meanwhile Manta just may be Your Humble Author’s favorite coaster. It all begins with a wonderful queue where you pass through an elaborately designed aquarium. The ride itself has the rider in a unique position where after loading the seat positions itself so the guest is facing the ground. While this position is to simulate riding under a stingray as it swims the ocean, it feels more like you are flying like Superman through the sky and is a wonderfully unique experience. While it may not have the big drops or intense speed of Mako, a ride on Manta is like no other and makes us smile from ear to ear.

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Manta. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Manta. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

# 5 – Animal Interaction

One of the absolute best parts of SeaWorld is that it allows guests to get up close and personal to a wide array of animals. Whether it is feeding sea lions, touching a dolphin, or even being able to be just feet away from a swimming manatee, SeaWorld connects us to a world that normally we can’t be a part of. There is a running theme of conservation throughout the park which can actually show the impact we can have – both positive and negative – on the marine life around us. Whereas the message of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom can be a little abstract to those of us in Orlando, SeaWorld works directly with the environment and animals of Florida.

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Dolphin Encounter. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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“Pardon me, coming through.”
“Pardon me.”
“Pardon me.
(photo by Mike sperduto)

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Dani’s Best Week Ever October 27, 2016: Bidding farewell to Halloween in Orlando

by on October 27, 2016

Halloween season is almost over here in Orlando, and if you listen close enough you can hear sleigh bells ring in the distance. It’s hard to believe, but here in the land of eternal entertainment our Halloween and Christmas / Winter holiday season starts in September and runs continuously to January, more than a quarter of the year. Thankfully, I am a sucker for this season, yet I still find it comical that we get two full months each of Halloween and Christmas.

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Over the course of this past week I enjoyed my favorite Halloween celebration in Orlando’s theme parks, conquered a thrill ride at the last minute, and started to see signs of the Christmas season celebrations. Let’s begin to say our farewells to Halloween and slowly turn our attention to the most festive time of year.

Orlando’s most valuable Halloween celebration – SeaWorld Spooktacular

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is the best value for Halloween in Orlando’s theme parks. It is included in regular park admission, no extra charge. It takes place during regular park hours on weekends in October. This allows guests to enjoy all the regular park offers plus the added bonus of a fantastic trick or treat trail, whimsical characters, festive decorations, and great photo opportunity. Plus you don’t have to keep the kids up late for an after hours event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, the ‘wow’ factor is not as strong as Mickey’s event at Magic Kingdom, but it is charming, fun, super affordable, and very kid friendly. Costumes are allowed, policies can be found here.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

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What you need to know about security procedures at Orlando’s theme parks

by on August 17, 2016

Orlando’s theme parks have enjoyed a decades long reputation for providing a clean and safe environment for all guests. Over the years the theme parks’ security procedures have evolved, adding layers and new processes. In the past few months we’ve seen a significant change to all the major theme parks’ procedures. In hopes of helping you prepare for your visit, I’ve laid out some of the security measures you can expect to encounter.

Keep in mind, there are multiple layers of security at all the parks. There are efforts that go unseen and procedures we don’t know about. Additionally, out of respect for the theme parks, their staff members, and their security, I won’t go beyond what is already shared with the public and easily seen when visiting the parks.

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Walt Disney World – Four Main Theme Parks

The Most Magical Place on Earth can’t hold such a title without having some solid security procedures in place. At the beginning of the year it was standard that all of Orlando’s theme parks conduct a bag check on any guest who had any bag of any kind, including strollers. Then a few months ago all three of Orlando’s major theme park destinations installed metal detectors at the security checkpoint. The rollout process and ramp up period varied for each destination.

Walt Disney World has proceeded with using their metal detectors for random checks. Although every single guest will go through a more-thorough-than-ever bag screening process, not every guest is asked to go through a metal detector. After the bag screening guests are selected at random to go through the detectors.

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The metal detectors are off to the side and are manned by a group of Security Cast Members. I have been selected multiple times. Each time the Cast Members have been very courteous and it has only added a minute or two to my ability to get to the park entrance. You may also notice law enforcement personnel at a few posts throughout the front entrance area, as well.

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Disney’s official park rules can be found here. Some of the highlights include statements that all persons, bags, parcels, and clothing are subject to screening, as well as stating that they reserve the right to not allow any item they deem inappropriate into the premises.

Guest that do not have bags have a separate area they can go through to bypass the bag screening area, but they are still subject to random metal detector screenings.

Of all the theme parks, you will most likely find that Walt Disney World’s screen process takes the least amount of time. Still if you arrive to the parks right around their opening time, be prepared for an extensive line at the checkpoints. It’s one of the reasons that we recommend arriving 30-60 minutes before any park’s opening time.

Disney Water Parks and Disney Springs

Currently, there are no metal detectors at Disney’s two water parks nor Disney Springs. At the water parks there is a bag screening, though not very extensive. There is no screening at Disney Springs, though there is a strong security and law enforcement presence.

Universal Orlando

Here you will find the most extensive screening process–and perhaps the most talked about process. Every guest will go through metal detector and all bags go through an x-ray machine. When you first approach the security checkpoint it really does resemble being at the airport. This security checkpoint is for all guests regardless of if you are visiting the theme parks or just CityWalk.

I have a slight concern with the location of this checkpoint, though it is difficult to think of an alternative location. During peak time, especially first thing in the morning, this domed area is extremely crowded. It can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience and when that feels like a bad bottle neck situation.

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Universal Team Members who park in the main parking structure must also go through the same screening area, though they have a dedicated separate lane. A few friends of mine that go through this process on a daily basis have expressed concerns with some of the interactions they’ve encountered with Security personnel, as well as encounters they’ve observed with guests.  I have had mostly good experiences, though there have been some rare occasion to the contrary.

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Dani’s Best Week Ever August 4, 2016: Reign of Kong, Off Kilter, Emeril’s Happy Hour and SeaWorld

by on August 4, 2016

The pendulum is always swinging. Just two weeks ago I truly had one of my best weeks ever! This one was decidedly less so. But I am an optimist and try to make the best of each situation. It also helps that I live in Orlando and have annual passes to all three major theme park destinations, plus I have a great collection of friends in my life. So when the air conditioning went out for four days in my house, I did what needed to be done and enjoyed Orlando life while waiting for my house to become livable again.

Thankfully this week marked new and exciting adventures at Islands of Adventure, and new fun offerings at SeaWorld as well. Come with me as I face the Reign of Kong, contemplate facing my ultimate fears with the Incredible Hulk, enjoy live music from the beloved Off Kilter, and take a quick stroll around SeaWorld enjoying the most affordable snacks and drinks in any Orlando theme park!

Beautiful signage - photo by Brandon Glover

Beautiful signage – photo by Brandon Glover

Off Kilter and Dancing at CityWalk

Saturday early morning I awoke to a hot and humid house. Goodbye air conditioning, hello discomfort and an expensive repair. I couldn’t get it taken care of over the weekend so I did what any reasonable adult would do, make plans with friends and head for Universal Orlando!

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Dani’s Best Week Ever June 23, 2016: Five Theme Parks in 24 hours

by on June 23, 2016

After one of the most emotional and trying weeks Orlando has ever encountered it is time to slowly get back into the habits that make us happy. Everyone grieves and heals in a different way. Personally, I wanted to get back into the swing of things and enjoy the life that I love. This is of course doesn’t mean that I’ve completely moved on or forgotten about the tragedy. But to me one of the ways to honor those that are no longer with us is to go enjoy life while we can, making each day the best we can make it. With that in mind, and with a bunch of new things to see at Walt Disney World and SeaWorld, I had a jam packed 24 hours spread across five Orlando theme parks.

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I took a half day off from work so I could get out to Walt Disney World and cover some of the new experiences that debuted on June 17, 2016. Originally my plan was to get to Magic Kingdom and then head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, Anna and Elsa’s new meet and greet location inside Epcot, the Royal Sommerhus, opened a little unexpectedly. I couldn’t just let it go, and besides that weather had gone from rainy in the morning to pretty stunning in the afternoon, might as well make the most of it. The more themes parks, the merrier.

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When I arrived at Epcot I felt a sense of joy that I hadn’t felt in nearly a week. As I set my eyes on Spaceship Earth I smiled for the first time in days. I couldn’t linger though, royalty waits for no one. I quickly made my way to World Showcase and straight to the Norway pavilion. As I approached I noticed a whole clan of Norwegian Cast Members gathered throughout the pavilion, more than I’ve ever seen.

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The Royal Sommerhus is one of the first areas you’ll encounter if you are strolling World Showcase starting in Mexico. This new building is a welcoming, cozy wood building meant to represent Anna and Elsa’s summer home, a place they used to visit when they were very young children. Upon arrival the posted wait time was 25 minutes, so after admiring the new buildings and the colorful flowers and landscaping I entered the queue. Past the 25-30 minute mark an overflow queue is utilized and it is entirely outside. Something to keep in mind if you visit on a busy day.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things in the Orlando Theme Parks We Can’t Wait to Experience in 2016!

by on January 9, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things in Orlando We Can’t Wait to Experience in 2016. What a year 2015 was in the Orlando theme parks. We had The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly but 2016 looks to be even better. We have brand new looks coming to some our favorite rides, several completely new attractions, and even a brand new onsite resort. If you’re not excited about what’s coming in the next twelve months you want to check your pulse, as you may possibly be dead. For the rest of us, let’s kick off the countdown with…

# 6 – Frozen Ever After (EPCOT)

The biggest change in the history of World Showcase is about to happen when the Norway pavilion transforms into the land of a fictional country. That’s right, while last year we wrote about the heroic efforts of the #SaveMaelstrom campaign – which unfortunately worked about as well as the Save Mr. Toad protests – this year we are hailing our new theme park overlords Frozen. The old Maelstrom attraction is being converted over to Frozen Ever After, a boat ride that will have guests sailing past audio-animantronics and everyone’s favorite: screens. Frozen Ever After will feature the rear projection technology that we all love in the dwarf animatronics at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, along with the rare opportunity to hear the song Let It Go.

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A show scene from Frozen Ever After. (concept art ©Disney)

 

But that’s not all! A Frozen meet and greet is coming to World Showcase, and you remember that a similar meet and greet forever changed how guests enter the Magic Kingdom every morning, Guests meeting Elsa and Anna wll do so at the new Royal Summerhaus. The theming of the Summerhaus will be based on an actual log cabin from Norway, and will also feature some of the tricks used in the Talking Mickey meet and greet on Main Street USA, which should help increase capacity. 

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Royal Sommerhaus in the Norway Pavilion, or whatever it’s going to be called. (concept art ©Disney)

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Eleven: Key West Kiss at Shark’s Underwater Grill

by on December 11, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where the drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY ELEVEN: Key West Kiss at Shark’s Underwater Grill (SeaWorld)

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Key West Kiss at Shark’s Underwater Grill. (photo by Brandon Glover)

SeaWorld has definitely had some challenges over the recent years. But one thing they do really well is provide one of the most laid back atmospheres of any theme park, anywhere in the world. The park is Orlando’s second oldest – behind the Magic Kingdom – and it is full of lush, tropical gardens and shady pathways. A great respite inside the park is Sharks Underwater Grill and Bar.

The bar itself is unique in that it is a mini aquarium. The countertop is clear, allowing you to look down and see the fish and coral. The bar area provides a good view of the large shark tank that makes up the entire back wall of the restaurant. It is always cool and dark inside, making it a great place to take a break. Right now with Mako construction in full swing, this bar offers all day, every day happy hour! Plus annual passholders get a 10% discount on top of happy hour pricing.

Recent menu changes at the restaurant and bar have had some hits and misses. The removal of Landshark Lager beer, for example, is a miss (come on, Landshark…. at a shark themed bar… that’s a no brainer right?). But other items like the lobster bisque and the tuna poke are quite the catch (it’s a seafood pun, get it?). There are four signature cocktails offered here. While not the most substantial offerings there is one that stands out.

The Key West Kiss is the strongest and tastiest drink of the limited specialty drink menu. A refreshing, but potent blend of Bacardi Rum, Midori, vodka, peach schnapps and pineapple juice, is poured into a tall hurricane glass and garnished with an orange slice and cherry. The flavors are tropical to say the least, yet it is not overly sweet. The sweetness of the Midori and peach schnapps are kept at bay by the vodka and rum. This is a great drink to enjoy while gazing at the sea life around you, or take it to go and stroll through the Key West area of the park where you’ll find Dolphin Cove and Stingray Lagoon. It’s a great way to toast a day of relaxation and fun at SeaWorld.

Ingredients: Bacardi Rum, Midori, vodka, peach schnapps, and pineapple juice.

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Shark’s Underwater Grill. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on October 17, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one as we dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been too busy watching the return of The Walking Dead on AMC, the Cubs and Mets winning their playoff series, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world in the past week. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could 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, feel confident you’re getting updated by someone who is kind of a big deal in the Eastern seaboard theme park blogging circles, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Mulch, Sweat, and Shears Plays Its Last Show at DHS.

Heaven needed a cover band.

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“So it goes.” – Kurt Vonnegut (photo by Matt Cleary)

This week, popular* live musicians Mulch, Sweat and Shears played their final show ever at DHS. Mulch joins Sounds Dangerous, the American Idol Experience, the Legend of Jack Sparrow, the Studio Backlot Tour, and the Magic of Disney Animation as attractions permanently removed from the park. This came just days after the popular** Duffy the Disney Bear meet and greet had its last day in Epcot. Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land can’t get here soon enough to stop the blood letting in DHS (and if I were Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular or One Man’s Dream I would lease, not buy). As for Duffy, maybe he can take Journey Into Imagination with Figment along with him in his journeys.

*At least in the Len Testa household

**At least in Japan

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Theme Park Related Comic Books

by on September 19, 2015

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.

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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…

COMICS_mickeyandgoofy# 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?

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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 Valdezwhere have I heard that before? In the end, this is a comic book about learning, which – for kids – is like getting socks for Christmas.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Events That Will NOT Be On Any Theme Park Calendar

by on April 11, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Events That Will NOT Be On Any Theme Park Calendar. We here at the Saturday Six offices are huge fans of the special events that take place in Orlando. Whether it’s admiring the topiaries at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, screaming during Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, or enjoying Santa and the rest of the Christmas parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, there seems to be something to enjoy every part of the year. But today we’re going to go in the other direction. We’re going to take a look at six events which we won’t be seeing anytime soon, starting with…

# 6 – Night of Juggalo at the Magic Kingdom

Each year Disney holds its Christian music celebration, Night of Joy, in the Magic Kingdom, but what about other types of music? What about the Insane Clown Posse? The Night of Juggalo event would be a weekend celebration that would totally change up the Magic Kingdom. During the party, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique would offer tattoos and piercings with their offerings. Instead of LeFou’s Brew, Gaston’s Tavern would serve Faygo from its taps. And the Dapper Dans would use their four part harmony to sing tunes from the songbook of Psychopathic Records. It’s an event that no party goer will ever forget, no matter how many counselling sessions they go to.

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The Insane Clown Posse playing in front of Cinderella Castle. WHOOP WHOOP! (And seriously, how DO magnets work?!)

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With Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J in charge, rules will be a bit more “relaxed” during party nights. We all miss Flash Mountain, right?

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