Plus…Festival of Fantasy Parade makes its grand debut at Magic Kingdom, Mark Hamill scheduled to appear at Star Wars Weekends, and more!
by Don Myers
We begin this edition of the Newswire at the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, where the 2014 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is now underway. Now in its 21st year, the festival kicked off on Wednesday March 5th and will wrap up on Sunday May 18th. From topiaries to food kitchens, there’s a lot of exciting things to check out at this year’s Flower & Garden. Let’s begin with the new topiaries on display. Of course we have to start things with everyone’s favorite amphibian/mammal couple: Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy! The duo can be found between Germany and Italy, Miss Piggy glamorously waving at her adoring public, her loving Kermie right by her side plucking a banjo! They are joined by approximately 100 topiaries for this year’s edition of Flower & Garden. All of your favorites are back for 2014. From Lightning McQueen parked outside Test Track to Buzz Lightyear greeting future astronauts by Mission: Space, each topiary has been cleverly placed throughout the park. I think my favorite display is over at the United Kingdom Pavilion, where Captain Hook can be found angrily shouting as that ever-persistent crocodile lurks nearby. But for the true gem of this display you have to look up, as you’ll find Peter Pan positioned high atop one of the buildings joyfully looking down on the whole situation!
But that’s not all there is to see and do at this years Flower & Garden, as the Outdoor Kitchens will be returning once again to the World Showcase Promenade! Each pavilion will feature a special kiosk with a unique variety of food and beverage items to choose from. Quench your thirst at the new Florida Fresh kiosk with a “Watermelon Passion Fruit Slushie” or a “Hurricane Class 5 Florida White Sangria.” You can also indulge your taste buds at The Smokehouse with a “Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake.” This amazing new menu item comes with maple frosting, Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, and a pretzel crunch, a fitting tribute to the new Miss Piggy topiary indeed! You can even satisfy your Dole Whip craving at the Pineapple Promenade, as they’ll be serving up the delicious pineapple soft serve (with or without rum, your choice) all festival long!
Time to park-hop over to Hollywood Studios now, as there’s some major news to report on the 2014 edition of Star Wars Weekends. The first celebrity has been confirmed for the event, and it’s a big one. Hold onto your light sabers kids…Mark Hamill will be on hand for Weekend IV! Weekend IV will be the fourth of a record-setting five weekends for this year’s event, and it takes place June 6th-8th. This is a pretty big deal for Star Wars Weekends, as this will be the first-ever appearance for Hamill at the event. It’s also arguably the biggest name ever inked in the history of Star Wars Weekends, so kudos to Disney for landing Luke Skywalker for Weekend IV! It’s worth noting that Disney has only confirmed Hamill for the Legends of the Force Motorcade and the talk show session inside Premiere Theater. There’s no word at this time as to whether or not Hamill will be available for the autograph sessions that weekend, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this story as well as any other celebrity confirmations in the coming weeks.
For more Studios news, let’s make our way over to the Streets of America. If you happen to see Muppet-Vision 3D in the coming weeks you may notice a slight variation to the pre-show, as Constantine Frog has spliced his way into the pre-show video! The Constantine appearance comes as a promotional tactic for “Muppets Most Wanted,” which opened in theaters March 21st. No word on how long Constantine Frog will be invading the pre-show, but expect the variation to remain in place throughout the duration of the film’s theatrical run.
Time to venture over to Magic Kingdom now, as there’s several newsbits to touch on. Let’s begin with the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Festival of Fantasy made its much-anticipated debut on Sunday March 9th, filling the gap in the Magic Kingdom’s afternoon entertainment lineup left by the January departure of the Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. Festival of Fantasy features nine brand-new floats, as well as an all-new soundtrack. All of the classic Disney film’s are represented, with floats dedicated to Peter Pan, Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty, just to name a few. There’s also a Royal Princess float featuring Cinderella, Prince Charming, Belle, Beast, Tiana, and Naveen. The Grand Finale float features the Big Cheese himself, as Mickey and Minnie Mouse wrap up the show high atop Mickey’s gigantic airship float. The parade can be seen daily beginning at 3pm on Main Street USA.
Speaking of Main Street USA, there’s an update to report on the seating expansion over at Casey’s Corner. In the March 4th edition of the Newswire, I talked about the opening of the indoor portion of the seating expansion at Casey’s. Well, the outdoor dining area has now re-opened and the quick-service spot is now operating at full capacity. There’s about twenty red and white candy-striped umbrella tables in the outdoor dining area now, which is about twice the size of the original exterior seating layout at the restaurant.
But Casey’s Corner isn’t the only quick-service spot undergoing a makeover. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is also the recipient of a seating change, as the outdoor dining area has been enclosed and added into the interior of the restaurant. The outdoor patio’s enclosure and inclusion into the main dining area provides a significant amount of additional indoor air-conditioned seating at Cosmic Ray’s. The size of the crowds at the restaurant can be downright ridiculous during the peak seasons, so this is indeed a welcome change to the realm of Sonny Eclipse and the Space Angels!
Our final bits of Magic Kingdom news come from the refurbishment front. Let’s stay in Tomorrowland, where the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover will finally be seeing some downtime this summer. The refurb has been scheduled and postponed a couple times already, but it looks like the closure is set to begin on Saturday May 3rd. The PeopleMover will re-open on Tuesday July 1st, putting the total downtime for the attraction at just over eight weeks.
The Astro Orbiter has also been added to the list of upcoming closures. Just like the PeopleMover, the Astro Orbiter will be closing down on Saturday May 3rd. But this will be a lengthier refurb then that of the PeopleMover, as the attraction isn’t slated to re-open until Thursday August 21st. This will put the total downtime for the Astro Orbiter at just under sixteen weeks, and ensures the attraction will be closed for the majority of the Summer.
Well, that’s gonna do it for today’s update. But before we call it a wrap, let’s take a look at the results of our last poll. The question was:
Which Country would you like to see added to World Showcase?
. South Korea
And the winner is…..
Australia with 31% of the votes! Greece finished a close second, gaining 25% of the votes. Brazil and Ireland tied to round out the Top 3 with 13% each, and Egypt was close behind them with 9%. Once again, a big thank you to everyone that took the time to vote! Okay, this week’s question comes courtesy of my little brother Tim:
Don Myers covers news and recent events in Walt Disney World. He has been enamored with the World of Disney since his first trip to WDW in 1986. As they say, the rest is history! Don also has been a contributing writer for Celebrations magazine since 2009.