Thursday, August 30, 2007

 

Holy Land CEO Resigns

Well, I guess it wouldn't really be the Holy Land without a little upheaval now and again.

Just two months after acquiring the religious theme park, The Holy Land Experience, new owner Trinity Broadcasting announced that CEO Thomas Powell, who had nursed the attractions through troubled financial times and was instrumental in negotiating the sale to Trinity, is resigning.
Powell, whose resignation was effective immediately, also relinquished his seat on the park's board of directors.

Representatives for Trinity would not elaborate on the reasons for Powell's departure.

But the world's largest Christian television network, which took control of the nonprofit Holy Land in June, said it "recognizes and applauds Mr. Powell for all of his efforts and support for the Holy Land Experience."

Powell "assisted and participated in the negotiations and transition of the Holy Land Experience to its current association with Trinity, which has ensured the success, growth and mission of the Holy Land Experience," Trinity said. "Without Mr. Powell's involvement, this transition and success could not have occurred."

Powell could not be reached for comment.

Seems rather abrupt.

To read all about the park Powell is leaving, click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

 

Coming Attractions...

I'm hearing some buzz about "Orlando Attractions Magazine", a new venture that Matt Roseboom and Ricky Brigante are trying to get off the ground. I'm not familiar with Matt, but Ricky is a great guy who runs the always-interesting "Inside the Magic" WDW-centric podcast. (I may be biased, since Ricky once aided me in getting a copy of the Alien Encounter attraction soundtrack, which goes great with the AE chair I keep on my porch. Thanks, Ricky!)

Matt and Ricky are hoping their "Orlando Attractions" will fill a niche a "the only magazine available that covers all of the Orlando area theme parks, tourist attractions, restaurants and more with news, in-depth feature articles, attention-grabbing photos, updates and interviews". Sounds like it could be a fun read, like an O-Town "E-Ticket", if done right. But dead-tree publishing is an increasingly difficult business, and there's no word yet on their economic model or printing schedule. So we'll just have to wish them luck, and wait and see what hits the newsstands in the the coming months.

In the meantime, check out their website here: http://www.attractionsmagazine.com

Monday, August 27, 2007

 

Fins to the left, fins to the right . . .

Another reason to stay in Orlando.

 

Some notes from the rat...

I know this is the "Other" Orlando blog, but I spent some time at Disney this weekend:

* Spaceship Earth sans wand is so beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye. God's golf ball is back in its former glory!

* The Muppet Mobile Labs seems to be running demonstrations every day for the time being (even if Guest Services won't admit it over the phone). If you haven't already heard about this marvel of Imagineering, check out some video HERE: http://www.attractionsmagazine.com/video.php

The show starts from the gate near the Imagination bathrooms, and travels to Inventor Circle, Fountain of Nations, or Mission Space plaza. Ask a CM in the area when and where the show sets are, because it is not to be missed for anyone with the slightest affection for Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his long-suffering assistant Beaker. The performers behind the puppets do a first-rate job -- Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire should be proud. This is the kind of experiment that gives us faith in the future of Disney technology -- now let's get these guys a permanent gig in front of Muppetvision 4D!

* The beef bowls at the temporary food stand in front of the Japan pavillion are almost as greasy/salty/wonderful as the ones at Yoshinoya (Japan's answer to McD's). Be sure to ask for extra pickled ginger!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

 

Disney Wins One For U.S. Tourism

Disney Co. lobbyists have been instrumental in wresting new legislation out of Washington that will (of course) benefit Disney but that will also prove a boon to other Orlando attractions and a shot in the arm for U.S. tourism in general.
Under the new law, more countries could qualify to send tourists to the United States without visas for up to 90 days. Only 27 nations can do that now, but tourism officials hope others will be added if required security improvements are made.

The immediate beneficiaries will be South Americans. Ole!

Disney deserves a lot of credit on this.
The [Orlando CVB] recently released figures that about 300,000 South Americans came to Orlando annually from 2003 to 2005. Western Europe, whose travelers often don't need visas, sent about 1.4 million visitors to Orlando in 2006.

That has pushed Disney and the $700 billion U.S. tourism industry to find ways to attract new tourists globally. To promote that goal in Washington, Disney last year joined top travel companies in a coalition called the Discover America Partnership.

The group was central in promoting the visa change, at one point hiring as a consultant Tom Ridge, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The partnership now wants Congress to help promote U.S. travel in overseas markets.

"Disney has been very active in contributing to this process," said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

 

"A Game For People Who Hate Disney"

The year is 2015. Steeped in national debt, the United States reluctantly allows the Walt Disney Company to purchase the entire peninsula of Florida in the largest geographic acquisition since the Louisiana Purchase. Under its new president, formerly-ousted CEO Michael Eisner, the newly-sovereign state is renamed Los Disneys. Your job is to infiltrate the Magic Kingdom, blasting your way through animatronic pirates, holographic ghosts, tourists, security guards and even Mickey himself in an attempt to seek and destroy the frozen head of Walt Disney. However, doing so inadvertently triggers Eisner’s doomsday device… unless you can stop it.

Sound like fun? Well then, Los Disneys, a new video game, which I learned about through the CrunchGear site, may be just what you're looking for.

Apparently this is a reissue of an older game that used be compatible only with Macs. According to the Los Disneys site, the new version "is now compatible with Windows and even allows for cross-platform network gaming." You can download the game at the site.

Some other site features, including "Disneyworld Babylon," described as a "discussion forum for disgruntled tourists and employees of the Magic Kingdom," weren't working on a recent visit.

From what I can see of the game via the screenshots, it looks like it gives players the opportunity to waste some beloved Disney characters. I can't imagine that Disney will sit still for this unauthorized use of their intellectual property. It'll be interesting to see how they respond.

Disclaimer: Save the hate mail. I have nothing against Disney. In fact, I love Disney, as my participation in Disney-related events like Magic Meets and MouseFest will attest. I just thought the Orlando-loving community would like to know about this.

Also, I'm not a gamer myself, but I'd love to hear gamer reaction to Los Disneys. Feel free to post in the Comments.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

 

Audioanimatronics It Ain't

I've been to Disney," people will tell you, "But y'know what I think is the best thing they've got down there in Orlando? SeaWorld!" I heard it over and over again. In a way this reaction was somewhat surprising. After all, compared to the Magic Kingdom or Universal, SeaWorld is downright modest, with only a smattering of thrill rides.

Of course, this “I-liked-SeaWorld-best” attitude may be one-upmanship — that quirk of human nature that makes us want to look superior. After all, SeaWorld is educational and how much more flattering it is to depict yourself as someone who prefers educational nature shows to mindless carnival rides that merely provide “fun.” I’m just enough of a cynic about human nature to give some credence to this theory.

However, I think the real reason lies elsewhere. No matter how well imagined and perfectly realized the attractions at Universal or Disney might be, the wonders on display at SeaWorld were produced by a creative intelligence of an altogether higher order. The animated robotics guys can tinker all they want and the bean-counters in Hollywood can give them ever higher budgets and they still will never produce anything that can match the awe generated by a killer whale soaring 30 feet in the air with his human trainer perched on his snout. No matter how much we are entertained by Universal and Disney, at SeaWorld we cannot help but be reminded, however subliminally, that there are wonders in our world that humankind simply cannot duplicate, let alone surpass.

It’s a feeling of which many visitors probably aren’t consciously aware. Even if they are, they’d probably feel a little awkward trying to express it. But I am convinced it is there for everyone — believer, agnostic, or atheist. It’s the core experience that makes SeaWorld so popular; it’s the reason people will tell you they liked SeaWorld best of all. To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer’s magnificent cliché about human inadequacy,

I think that Walt will never do
A wonder greater than Shamu.


(Excerpted from The Other Orlando.)

This video gives some idea of what it's all about.

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Holy Land Video

As a follow up to the earlier post on Orlando's Holy Land Experience . . .

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

 

Attendance Up at Holy Land

Attendance at the Holy Land Experience is up 25%. And no wonder!
Jesus Christ is crucified and resurrected here six days a week.

Snarling Roman soldiers whip and drag him, and somber audience members watch. Some quietly weep at a pageant both bloody and cruel.

Top that, Mickey!

Questions of good taste aside, when it comes to the bottom line the new owners of the attraction must be doing soemthing right.
Trinity Broadcasting Network, a California-based Christian empire with 12,500 worldwide TV and cable affiliates, took over Holy Land and its estimated $8 million mortgage. Both are nonprofit organizations, so Trinity describes the deal as a ‘‘marriage’’ rather than a purchase, saying little money changed hands. Already, ticket sales are up 25 percent, owing to mentions on the new parent’s broadcasts, and an expansion is planned. It will include new shows, a general freshening and a new Trinity television studio, where movies and TV shows will be filmed and furnish even more publicity.

 

Disney Patents a Mickey Mouse

Disney Enterprises has submitted a patent application for a Mickey mouse.

Not the Main Mouse himself, but a computer mouse emblazoned with the familiar tri-circle "Classic Mickey" symbol.

For this you can get a patent?

You can see other recent Disney patent applications here.

 

Titanic Sinks

Titanic, The Experience is out on the street.

After a nasty landlord-tenant battle, the landlord unceremoniously evicted the long-running attraction from its home in the Mercado on International Drive.
The developer and the exhibit owner have very different stories about the dispute that led to Monday's eviction.

Unicorp Chief Executive Officer Chuck Whittal said a state Circuit Court ruling last week effectively put an end to confrontation, giving him the right to remove the exhibit from his property.

"I wanted them to be part of the redevelopment," Whittal said. "The project we are going to redevelop is spectacular."

But Michael Harris, owner of the Titanic exhibit, said he offered a variety of proposals for remaining in the Mercado, none of which was acceptable to Unicorp.

I had been told that the attraction was going to be moving to new digs nearby. Whether that's still a possibility is unknown.

WESH has more, plus video.


Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Prices at Universal Orlando

Here's a complete rundown on the latest pricing info (including tax, except as noted) at Universal Orlando:

1 day/1 park: $75.62 (adults)/$63.90 (kids)
1 day/2 park: $85.15/$74.50
2 day/2 park: $124.56/$113.91 (expires in 7 days, including 1st day of use)
2 day/2park (Non-expiring): $135.21/$124.56
2 park Unlimited: $91.57 (advance purchase) / $102.23 (immediate use)
Preferred Annual Pass: $202.30
Power Pass: $138.40
Citywalk party pass: $11.99 plus tax
Citywalk party pass and movie: $15.98
Citywalk movie and meal deal: $21.95
Citywalk movie and party deal: $21
Regular parking: $11
Preferred parking: $16
Single/Double stroller: $11/$17
Wheelchair (deposit): $12 ($50)
ECV (deposit): $40 ($50)
One park meal deal: $19.99/$9.99 plus tax
Two park meal deal: $23.99/$11.99 plus tax

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

 

Has Disney Crossed a Line?

Tinker Bell on a martini glass? Groan.
Try perching Mickey or Minnie or one of the Disney princesses seductively on the rim of a martini glass, then calling it a Disney collectible poster.

Forget it. Some things just can't be mixed without looking goofy or profane.

Yet there is one Disney character who pulls it off, in the new Disney poster "Tinkertini" by California artist Mike Kungl: Tinker Bell, the cartoon pixie with the fairy-tale innocence and the Jessica Rabbit figure.

The Walt Disney Co. has rediscovered the old favorite, modeled after actress Margaret Kerry and introduced in 1953 to Disney audiences in the animated film Peter Pan. With multiple new lines of T-shirts, toys and other products already out or on their way, Disney is capitalizing on the notion that Tinker Bell's spunky persona, mysterious back story and pinup-girl looks give her an appeal to Disney's usual safe-for-families market -- and a little beyond.

Tinker Bell is hot.

Maybe I'm just feeling old this morning, but the last company I want to see further sexualizing children and the cute little fairies they adore is Disney.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

 

Dean To Skip Florida Visit


No guarantees, of course, but it looks like Dean is heading for Mexico.

More from WESH TV.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

The Other Orlando Blog Flickr Group

Have you added your Orlando Vacation snapshots to The Other Orlando Blog Flickr group? Add your pictures today and they will show up in the photo viewer below.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

 

Say Hello to Dean


It's early days yet, but a tropical depression way out in the Atlantic has strengthened to Tropical Storm intensity and been chirstened Dean. WESH has the details.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

 

Pictures of the Endeavour Launch


The launch of Endeavour was a success.

WESH TV has a nice slideshow of the launch and the astronauts.

More on the mission here.

 

Want to see the future of Universal?

Scott Power's at the Orlando Sentinel is finally reporting on Universal Orlando's updated master plan, several months after it was leaked:


http://www.orlandosentinel.com/orl-universal1207aug12,0,4332041.story


If you want a closer look at the office buildings, hotel towers, and "workforce" apartment housing that Universal wants to build, take a look at this:



Click here for larger image.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

Review of Blue Man Group in Orlando at CityWalk

'Bout time I got around to reviewing the recently opened Blue Man Group show at Universal Orlando's CityWalk. So here goes:

Blue Man Group

What: Avant garde theater performance
Where: Across the waterway next to Hard Rock Cafe
Tickets: Adults $59 to $69; children 9 and under $49 to $59; annual passholders get a 10% discount
Hours: Varies widely. Generally there are two shows daily, but fewer shows during slower periods. Call.
Web: www.blueman.com or www.universalorlando.com

Back in the eighties, three “performance artists” created Blue Man Group in New York’s seedy East Village. They were weird, hip, edgy, incomprehensible. They were the most avant of the avant garde. Today they are family entertainment. Such is cultural progress.

Now an international phenomenon, the Orlando edition of the troupe holds forth in an industrial looking thousand-seat theater at the end of a long, winding pathway next to the Hard Rock Cafe.

And just what awaits at the end of that path? Well, perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid Blue Man Group is that it is pretty much indescribable. Three very bald, very blue, very silent guys in black pajamas (could they be space aliens?) appear on a stage that seems to be part of a strange factory and do a series of odd things, some of which take real skill, some of which are very funny, and some of which are just plain wacky. They are at once consummate masters of ceremony and befuddled innocents who seem constantly surprised by the presence of the audience.

Some of the best segments involve the trio’s considerable skill as percussionists (a four-man, day-glo combo assists from overhead). And who could have guessed how much entertainment value there was in pouring colored liquids on drum heads? There’s plenty of audience interaction and the show wraps up with a chaotic finale that involves everyone and sends the crowd out in a festive mood.

So what’s it all about? Some see a critique of modern society, others detect commentary on modern art. My advice is to check your brain at the door and let the fun of the evening take over. I found the more I tried to analyze, the less I enjoyed the experience. They do not recommend the show for children under three; personally, I’d stretch that to five or six.

There is a tendency to compare this show to La Nouba, the Cirque du Soleil show over at Downtown Disney. I think this is unfair. La Nouba is a multi-million-dollar extravaganza with a large cast. Blue Man is, essentially, a three-man show that has grown over the years but that still sticks close to its Off Broadway origins. It’s really an apples and oranges comparison.

Tip: The show lasts one hour and forty-five minutes, there is no intermission, and beer vendors work the crowd beforehand. You have been warned!

The best seats in the house. All things being equal, the closer and more centrally located your seat, the better. The first four rows are designated as the “poncho zone” and those seated there are issued cheap plastic cover ups, just in case. But it’s a far cry from a “splash zone” at SeaWorld and more marketing than anything else. Besides, I find the ponchos uncomfortable. Sitting a few rows farther back won’t decrease your enjoyment a bit. Zone 1, center is just about ideal. The “cheap seats” (Zones 3 and 4) are on a steeper incline and offer good sight lines of the whole stage.

Tickets can be ordered over the phone by calling (888) 340-5476 or (407) 224-3200 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily; you can also order online at the two web sites above (follow the prompts). There is a box office at the theater as well. You may also see offers combining a Blue Man ticket with theme park admission and a CityWalk Party Pass.

The show schedule is somewhat erratic. Typically there are two shows a day at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. or 6:00 and 9:00. But some days there is just one show and some days there are none. Call or check the web sites for show times during your visit.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

 

Universal Mimics the Mouse, Raises Prices

A few days ago, Disney announced a hike in admission prices. Handed yet another opportunity to differentiate itself from the "evil corporation" (a Simpsons Movie reference) down the road, Universal punted.
The same day it reported a rise in corporate profits and a continued slide in theme-park attendance, Universal Orlando raised many of its ticket prices Friday, matching Walt Disney World's $71 for a one-day adult admission.

The new prices took effect immediately, days after Disney instituted similar increases. Both resorts raised their basic one-day, one-park ticket by $4.

Oh, I get it. "We're making more money and people are staying away. So, if we raise prices, convincing more people to stay away, we'll probably make even more money!"

Brilliant!

Friday, August 10, 2007

 

Bye Bye MGM, Hello Hollywood

In a widely anticipated move, Disney has announced that Disney-MGM Studios will become "Disney's Hollywood Studios."

What? No Pixar? No ABC? Disney honcho, Meg Crofton explains:
"The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today's Hollywood has to offer -- in music, television, movies and theater," Disney World President Meg Crofton stated in a news release.

Huh? So I ask again: No PIxar? No ABC?

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Red Light Crackdown Could Snare Orlando Tourists

Reacting to a rash of accidents, Orlando police are installing cameras at 10 high risk intersections. Wendy Michaels thinks it's a good idea.
Wendy Michaels shook hands with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and appeared at the same news conference with top city leaders, but she would trade places with anyone not to be the center of this attention because Michaels nearly died when her car was T-boned in an intersection two years ago by a driver running a red light.

It was cases like Michaels' that prompted Orlando city leaders to move forward with installing cameras at the 10 intersections, and send car owners a ticket if the car is photographed running the red light.

Most of the targeted intersections are well away from the tourist areas, but three are right around Universal Orlando. They are:

Conroy and Kirkman, just north of the park.

Kirkman and Vineland, at the northeast corner of UO property (behind Portofino Bay Hotel).

Kirkman and Major, which marks the eastern entrance to the park.

So slow down, save a life, avoid a ticket.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

 

Cut-Rate Horror

Terror, like hope, springs eternal.

Terror in Orlando, a successor to Terror on Church Street (of blessed memory) and more recently Skull Kingdom, has opened at 7316 International Drive, not too far from Pirates Adventure.

It's a "soft opening," so until they get their act together, they're offering cheap thrills.
After 10 months of long days and nights, Terror in Orlando is opened at 4pm on Friday, July 13, 2007. That's right, Friday the 13th. As of right now, with all the delays we have experienced, only Mayhem Manor will be open while we put the finishing touches on the 3-D Funhouse, which will be open as soon as possible. As a special offer for the soft opening, we are giving everyone an automatic coupon for $2.00 off Adult and $1.00 off children on a regular, single admission*. We are also offering a "2nd Scare Rerun" (to take the tour again in the same visit) for 50% off the regular admission price. We hope to see all of you soon, and thank you for all of your support.

More info at 407-351-4164.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

 

Make That TWO Million Dreams

Looks like Disney is going to extend its popular "Year of a Million Dreams" program through 2008. So says a promo sent to annual passholders.
The popular program -- which includes daily prize giveaways awarded randomly -- has been credited with increasing attendance at all of the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) parks since it debuted in October 2006.

No specific details are available yet on whether there will be changes to the types of prizes given away, but speculation is that at least a few new tweaks to the program are in store for 2008.

Monday, August 06, 2007

 

Shoppers' Alert!! 30% Off

From August 9 to 12, Prime Outlets is offering you and me the same deal they give to friends and family, namely 30% off what are (we presume) already discounted prices. They say that means up to 60% off ticketed prices.

Prime Outlets is located at the northern end of International Drive, not too far from Universal Orlando.

Interested? You can print out a coupon.

Check out more about outlet shopping in Orlando.

 

Scare Tampa . . . uh . . .Spitless

From the folks at Busch Gardens Tampa (or is it Busch Garden Africa?):
Be part of the Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream 2007 Scare Squad. No experience is necessary! Tryouts are held at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay every weekend now through Sept. 8. The auditions are held Fridays from 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. No tryouts will be held on Labor Day weekend. Candidates must be 18 or older. All ages are welcome; our oldest performers are in their 80s! The jobs involve evening and weekend hours. This is the perfect second job or way to earn extra holiday cash. The rehearsals start in September. Event runs 16 nights, Sept. 28 – Oct. 28. We have hundreds of performing roles available in our Haunted Houses, Scare Zones and with our atmospheric entertainment throughout the park. Non-performing roles also available. Please visit BuschGardensTalent.com for more information.

I like that "no experience necessary" part.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

 

Bruce Willis Rocks the Rocket Garden

Looks like Bruce Willis' gig at Kennedy Space Center was a big success.
Some 7,000 people showed up to watch Bruce Willis and his blues band perform at the Kennedy Space Center's rocket garden.

Fans cheered as Willis sang and played the harmonica, filling the moments between songs by bantering with the crowd.

"We love playing for you," Willis said at Thursday night's show. "Even when it's hot."

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

 

The Magic Their Way

Disney has announced a whopping six percent hike, raising basic adult tickets to a record $71.
Disney announced Friday that the new ticket prices would take effect Sunday. The changes also affect discount packages that still can push the per-day cost below $23 for adults who want to commit to as much as a 10-day run at Disney's four theme parks.

An adult, one-day, one-park pass that now costs $67 will go up to $71. Price increases of 3 percent to 6 percent were tacked on to most of Disney's "Magic Your Way," Florida discount and annual-pass deals.

Maybe Mickey just felt he desperately needed the money.
Disney World's increase came just two days after corporate parent Walt Disney Co. announced a $1.1 billion third-quarter profit and another good season at the company's theme parks, where profit margins topped 20 percent.

And what about those other parks?
There was no word Friday out of either Universal Orlando or SeaWorld Orlando about whether they, too, expect to raise prices soon. Both said they make those decisions independently. Yet Central Florida's theme-park resorts have a history of raising ticket prices at about the same time to about the same amounts.

For comparison, here is the latest Universal Orlando pricing (with tax included).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

 

Skull Crushed on I-Drive

That's all she rote!

Skull Kingdom is now not merely dead but officially, sincerely dead.

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