Plus…Update on Country Bear Jamboree, New after dark safari available at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and more!
by Don Myers
There’s some major news to report pertaining to one of the Mountains of the Magic Kingdom, so let’s head straight to Brer’ Rabbit’s Laughin’ Place and dive in to the latest edition of the WDW Radio Newswire……
As indicated, the Magic Kingdom is about to be without one of its star attractions in early 2013, as Splash Mountain is currently scheduled to shut down for maintenance shortly after New Year’s. The closure, which is slated to begin on Wednesday January 2nd, is nothing new for Splash Mountain, as the attraction has seen this type of downtime for several years now. It’s actually become quite routine, as this will mark the fifth consecutive year these early-year refurbs have occurred. I did a cover story on Splash Mountain for Celebrations Magazine, and in doing so I learned that these closures usually entail the draining and re-filling of the attraction’s water chute, and the downtime also allows workers to come in and work on any necessary repairs to the Audio-Animatronics while the ride is devoid of liquid. The closure is a bit lengthier this time around than it has been in years past, as Splash isn’t set to re-emerge from its annual refurb until Wednesday March 20th. If plans stay on track, this will put the total downtime at Chick-A-Pin Hill at just over two and a half months.
Continuing in Frontierland, we make our way over to Grizzly Hall now for an update on those singing country bears. On Wednesday October 17th, the Country Bear Jamboree made its re-debut after a closure of nearly two months. The attraction had been shut down for refurb since Wednesday August 22nd, and several modifications did indeed take place during the downtime. For starters, the show’s length was cut by quite a large margin. The old version of the jamboree was approximately fifteen minutes in length, and the new show now has a runtime of just about eleven minutes. As a result, several of the show’s scenes have been trimmed up a bit. Other changes are not so noticeable, and include things like updates to the show’s control system and sound system. The lighting inside the theater was also adjusted, and some of the bears even got costume upgrades! As a whole, the changes are pretty subtle, and should go relatively unnoticed by the average Guest. But for those of us who frequent the parks, many of these changes will indeed be recognizable. I understand most of these updates were necessary, but I just don’t see why they had to shorten up the show length by four minutes. It can be difficult to get small children to sit still for fifteen minutes, and attention spans are far shorter these days, so perhaps those reasons factored into the equation. I’m interested to hear what you guys think about the scene trimming and the potential reasons it was done, so feel free to sound off in the comments section!
For more news out of Magic Kingdom, let’s take the walkway from Frontierland over to Liberty Square. Those pesky tarps that have covered several buildings around Magic Kingdom the last few years have now made their way over to the Yankee Trader. The gift shop is the latest in a long list of buildings that have had this exterior work done, a list that includes the likes of Peter Pan’s Flight, it’s a small world, Pecos Bill’s Cafe, Frontier Trading Post, Frontierland Mercantile, Sir Mickey’s, Main Street Bakery, The Plaza Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, and many more. No word yet on how long these decorative tarps will be up, but when they do come down I’ll be sure to report it.
Time to board the Monorail and park-hop over to Epcot now, where there’s news to report out of both Future World and World Showcase. Let’s stop by Innoventions West first, where the IBM game Runtime has just closed up shop. IBM’s Runtime made its debut in 2008, so the game had a respectable run of four years inside Innoventions. Runtime pre-dated and than became a part of the IBM SmarterPlanet exhibit, which came to Innoventions in January of 2010. The other elements of the SmarterPlanet exhibit are still open, so it’ll be interesting to see what the future will bring to the section formerly occupied by Runtime.
Continuing our stroll through Future World, let’s head towards the breezeway and make a stop by Epcot’s Character Spot. The popular meet and greet location just closed down on Sunday October 21st for a major overhaul. The closure is expected to extend throughout the remainder of 2012 and into 2013, as the Character Spot isn’t scheduled to re-open until February at the earliest. If you’re going to be visiting WDW between now and February, you can still see Mickey and friends at various locations throughout Epcot. During the closure, Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto will all be conducting meet and greets in the indoor area between the Character Spot and Fountain View Ice Cream. The Main Entrance to the park will be Goofy’s new home, and a sombrero-laden Donald can be found in World Showcase at the Mexico pavilion. Donald has been appearing outside the Mexico pavilion for quite some time now, so when the re-vamped Character Spot opens it’ll be interesting to see if Donald is still part of the picture or not
Time to make our way across World Showcase Lagoon now, as we venture over to the France pavilion for a follow-up on a previous newsbit. In the September 19th edition of the Newswire, I talked about a new character location under construction near the pavilion. Well, the structure has now been completed, and construction walls have been removed to reveal a beautiful looking gazebo for the meet and greets. It looks like this gazebo will be the new home for Princess Aurora, as she has been at the location daily since Friday October 19th. As of now, Aurora is the only character conducting meet and greets at this new location. As I mentioned in the October 3rd edition of the Newswire, Marie has taken up residence at the flagpole on Main Street USA, and is expected to remain there. I wouldn’t expect the other two former occupants of the France pavilion, Belle and the Beast, to be making appearances at the gazebo either. With the Fantasyland Expansion already in soft previews, the happy couple are pretty busy welcoming Guests into their new home inside Magic Kingdom!
Okay, we’ve got one more stop to make today. For this one, we head out of the parks and make our way into the resorts. Earlier this month, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge unveiled a brand-new safari. The adventure takes place on the resort’s Sunset Savanna, and here’s the best part…the safari takes place after dark! Now, you might be wondering: How will I be able to see the animals? Naturally, Disney thought of that, as each Guest gets to wear a pair of night vision goggles! The excursion takes place on Wednesday and Saturday nights, departs for the savanna at 10pm, and lasts for about an hour. The safari is only offered to Guests staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or Villas, and it’s available for booking at a cost of $70 per person (ages 8 and up).
Well, that’s gonna do it for today’s update. But before we call it a wrap, let’s take a look back at the results of our previous poll. The question was:
Which attraction do you want to see interactive queue upgrades at next?
. Splash Mountain
. Peter Pan’s Flight
. Pirates of the Caribbean
. Tower of Terror
. Expedition Everest
And the winner is…..
Peter Pan’s Flight with 37% of the total vote! Pirates of the Caribbean finished a very close second, bringing in 30% of the votes. Splash Mountain rounded out the top 3, garnering 19% of the total vote. Tower of Terror finished in fourth with 12% of the votes, and Expedition Everest brought up the rear with just 2% of the total vote. I expected Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest to finish towards the back, as both queues are very unique and really don’t need to have interactive elements in place to enhance the Guest experience. On the other hand, interactive queues at Peter Pan, Splash, and Pirates would be pretty cool, and I’d expect to see all three attractions recieve these elements in the near future! Once again, a big thank you to everyone that took the time to vote. And now on to this week’s poll question. Halloween is just days away. So in honor of the special event, today’s question is dedicated to the darker side of Disney…