James Keaton as BJ in the final performance of the current version of Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue at Universal Studios Florida (photos by Seth Kubersky)
Not every theme park attraction can be a 5-star E-ticket, but every ride and show has someone who will mourn when it’s gone — especially the cast and crew who brought it to life. Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue at Universal Studios Florida might not have a top rating in the Unofficial Guide, but has earned a special place in some guests hearts, judging by the very vocal crowd that packed the final performance on January 4, 2014. Universal Studios Florida’s Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue closed after Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. for a complete reimagining, replacing the current version of the show that has been performed since 2006.
When the Beetlejuice show reemerges later in 2014 (date unknown), it will have an all-new script and song list, along with new performers. I’m told that only two members of the current cast had their contracts renewed to perform in the new production.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things in Orlando We’re Looking Forward To Seeing in 2014. 2013 was a great year to be a theme park fan. Just in Orlando we got the opening of Transformers: The Ride 3D and a huge Simpsons expansion in Universal Studios Florida, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin arrived at SeaWorld, while Disney introduced Princess Fairytale Hall and the incredible Tangled-themed bathrooms at the Magic Kingdom (along with starting a much needed overhaul on Downtown Disney.) But the good news is 2014 looks to be even better, yes, better. Here’s our list of the top six things we’re looking forward to the most over the next 12 months…
Will Breadbox be CityWalk’s answer to the ultra popular Earl of Sandwicht at Downtown Disney? (Photo Courtesy of Universal Orlando)
In late 2013 Universal unveiled a massive reimagining of its entertainment complex, CityWalk. In fact, the new and improved CityWalk had already started with the opening of Red Oven Pizza Bakery in November, but little did we know how much more would be coming.
By the summer of 2014, Coldstone Creamery (ice cream), Menchies (frozen yogurt), Bread Box (sandwiches), Antojitos (Mexican), Hotdog Hall of Fame, and The Cowfish (burgers/sushi) will be joining the list of eateries in CityWalk. Pastamore, which is shutting down this week, will also be reopening as yet-unamed Italian restaurant (rumored to be Pranzo) in which guests will be able to see their pasta made from scratch in front of them. Starbucks, currently on the second level of CityWalk, will also be moving downstairs and assume a more prominent position as guests make their way from the Universal parking garages to the theme parks. Lastly, the Universal Studios Store will undergo a major retheming.
The new attraction, which replaced USH’s Terminator 2/3D attraction, is largely identical to the Orlando version, but features a much more elaborate facade depicting Gru’s home and neighborhood. Adjacent to the ride (replacing the Coke Soak area) will be Super Silly Fun Land, an amusement park-inspired playground with a “spinner” kiddie ride.
The addition of Despicable Me is the first of many changes coming to Universal Studios Hollywood, including the recent demolition of the revolving tunnel on the Studio Tour, the rumored addition of an expanded Simpsons area similar to the new Springfield USA in Orlando, and the eventual opening of a west coast Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Read the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland for complete info on USH, and keep an eye on this blog for future updates on the evolution of Universal.
The key to Gringotts Vault 722 has arrived… (Photos by Seth Kubersky)
Welcome, wizards and muggles alike, to the latest installment of TouringPlan’s PotterWatch (we’ve dropped the “2.0″ for simplicity’s sake), your regular expansion update on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. This time we’ll take a look at Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront facade, and hear the tale of the Gringotts Vault Key.
Diagon Alley Construction Photos
First, here are the latest photos of construction on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, taken at “magic hour” for our first look at the facade with some of the scaffolding removed:
While Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, and other seasonal entertainment at Walt Disney World seem to get the lion’s share of publicity this time of year, visitors to Orlando shouldn’t overlook Universal Orlando‘s holiday offerings. Universal Orlando holidays might not have quite the nostalgic lure of Mickey’s merrymaking, but Universal’s options are every bit as expertly produced, and have the benefit of all being included with regular park admission (unlike the extra-cost “hard ticket” nighttime parties at the Magic Kingdom).
Universal Orlando’s holiday lineup, which kicks off the first weekend each December (unlike Disney, which starts Christmas almost before Halloween is over) and continues through the Saturday after New Year’s Eve, consists of two main components, described in detail below.
There’s been no noticeable progress on the Hogwarts Express since it completed its first test run, as reported in our last installment. Instead, let’s take a nighttime look at the London Waterfront, the facade that conceals Diagon Alley.
Slow-speed Hogwarts Express testing has begun at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter (photo by Seth Kubersky)
Exciting news, Harry Potter fans: Hogwarts Express testing has commenced at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando Resort! The iconic Hogwarts Express trains, which were lifted onto their elevated rails in late October, began slow-speed movement tests over the weekend.
It will still be many months before guests get to ride the Hogwarts Express attraction, which is expected to officially debut in June 2014. When complete, the Hogwarts Express will provide transportation between the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley expansion in Universal Studios Florida, and the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
Ordinarily, the Touring Plans team would be the first to bring you footage of the Hogwarts Express testing, but this time our friends at Orlando Attractions Magazine have beat us to the punch (blame our post-Thanksgivukha turkey & latke hangovers). Check out their video below, which also includes some shots of the London Waterfront construction, and check back here often for further PotterWatch progress updates on Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The first new episode of TNA Impact will be recorded live at Universal Orlando’s Soundstage 19 on November 21-23, 2013. In the past, guests wishing to be part of the studio audience could attend free of charge. Since production typically occurs inside the soundstages, we anticipate little to no impact on crowds or touring inside the parks on broadcast days. Keep an eye on Universal’s production website for information on how to attend.