Monday, February 23, 2009


Poseidon's Not Too Furious

Someone asked me about what's going on at Poseidon's Fury in Universal Studios Florida. Seems they write a blog dedicated to Jeffrey Combs, the actor who plays Lord Darkenon in the attraction.

So here's the skinny: Poseidon's Fury is a shodaw of its former self. The roaring vortex effect -- arguably the main reason for standing in line for the attraction -- has been turned off.

I'm also told that in another attempt to save a few pennies, many of the pyrotechnic effects in the last scene have been eliminated.

All in all, the only reason to pop into Poseidon's Fury now is to escape the rain. Let's hope that, as the economy improves, so will the effects in this attraction.

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Friday, February 20, 2009


Theme Parks Lobby, Too

So Universal shuts down two attractions until Spring, SeaWorld cuts out free beer, and then we learn this.
New state records show that Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and the parent company of SeaWorld Orlando spent at least $390,000 — and as much as $750,000 — lobbying the Florida Legislature last year.

That was up from a range of $290,000 to $630,000 that the three businesses spent in 2007.

All I can say is that would pay for a lot of beer.

BTW, Jason Garcia has replaced the estimable Scott Powers on the tourism beat for the Orlando Sentinel.

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Monday, February 16, 2009


Hollywood Bowl Opens

The spiffy new Hollywood Bowl performance venue at Universal Studios Florida debuted with a performance by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It replaces the empty space that used to be The Boneyard.

DeWayne Bevil has the scoop (with pics).

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Sunday, February 15, 2009


MouseFest 2009 Cancelled

Walt Disney World is not the focus of this blog, but you might be interested to know that MouseFest, the biggest gathering of Disney nuts in the world, has thrown in the towel for 2009, seemingly a victim of it's own success.

Details here.


Peabody Expansion Progresses

The Peabody Hotel, which I covered in depth in SeaWorld, Discovery Cove & Aquatica, is making progress on its new tower addition.
Now the project is finally under construction and well under way, and this time — in the middle of the worst recession in decades — hotel officials say the timing is actually right.

"It's always good to renovate and expand your hotel when the economy's down," said Alan Villaverde, the hotel's executive vice president and general manager. Vendors eager for work are offering better deals than they did just two years ago, he said. The construction will occupy more than 900 people at its peak, he said, and the expanded hotel's work force is expected to double, from 650 to 1,200 or more employees.

The Orlando Sentinel has more.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Twister Closing at Universal Studios Florida

Universal is shutting another attraction -- at least until "spring" (whenever that might be).

Last week it was Fear Factor, this week it's Twister.

Two thoughts:

1. They are educating people that coming during the slow periods is a bad idea, since the park will be substantially less enjoyable.

2. They are telling the entire world: "WE'RE IN BIG TROUBLE!!" Why don't they put up a big sign at the entrance, just for good measure?

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Friday, February 06, 2009


Canned Corn Festival

The Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival is throwing in the cob after 35 years.
Big Bertha -- a 6-ton, 350-gallon water-boiling behemoth that can cook 1,650 or so ears of double-sweet corn in just nine minutes -- will be steamless and unemployed this year, for the same reason so many humans are getting pink slips.

"It's the economy," said Faye Odom, recording secretary of the Northwest Orange County Improvement Association, which runs the festival during Memorial Day weekend.

Dumb move, if you ask me. Especially when you note that . . .
The event started in 1974 as a small corn boil to raise money for community projects.

Now I know the economy sucks, but the NOCIA can't afford to mount a small corn boil for the true believers and to keep the tradition going?

The stuff is really good, by the way, not your average supermarket corn. Before the bean counters had a hissy fit, Thunder Falls Terrace at IOA served nothing but Zellwood corn and it was one of the best reasons to eat there.

Still, there's some hope-
But one commercial farm had remained the festival's chief supplier of corn -- Long and Scott Farms, which provided about 3,500 crates, or 170,000 ears, for the event. Anna Sciarrino, director of sales for the farm, said the loss of the festival shouldn't hurt the farm because it sells most of its corn at stands and markets.

Sciarrino said the farm hopes to host its own festival in May, with fresh corn, music and vendors, but details have not yet been worked out.

Let's hope they do it.

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Memorial Manta Day at SeaWorld

SeaWorld is now announcing Manta for Memorial Day. Actually, a few days early on May 22.

The video above (aptly described by SeaWorld as a "teaser") is long on fish and short on coaster, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

If I'm reading the iconography of the video correctly, the ride will have an effect similar to the one at SheiKra over at Busch Gardens Africa, where a part of the ride vehicle chassis dips into the ocean, sending up a plume of water to soak bystanders.

While you're at it, pick up the best freakin' guide to all the Busch parks. At a discount.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009


Rip, Ride, Rockit Update

The Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit roller coaster at Universal Studios Florida is progressing apace.

No official word on opening yet, but the buzz is that it will be open by late May, all the better to grab the attention of recently graduated high schoolers.

I had always sorta assumed that the load-in area would take over the real estate once occupied by The Boneyard, but that space has been transformed into a venue for live music with the completion of the Hollywood Bowl stage. Very nice it is, too.

The actual entrance to RRR will be through the narrow street between the USF store and Jimmy Neutron, the one that now leads to Blue Man Group and the Hard Rock Cafe.

The idea, it seems is to have two entrances, one inside USF and the other in CityWalk. From what I've heard, the park entrance will be open during park hours (Duh!), and the CityWalk entrance will open when the park closes, allowing visitors to CityWalk to purchase tickets to ride. No word on how they'll handle people who bought park tickets that day and annual passholders.

Another wrinkle in the arrangements is that the ride would have to close at 10 p.m. to avoid bothering Universal Orlando's neighbors, although the location seems pretty remote from residential areas to me.

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Fear Factor Closes (Until Spring)

Universal Orlando is closing its Fear Factor attraction until Spring and cutting hours at other, unspecified attractions in response to "the poor economic forecast for 2009."

According to WESH TV News:
It will be a limited number of attractions within Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. He said visitors shouldn't experience problems, because the attraction hours will be aligned with demand.

Staffing will also be impacted by reductions, the Universal representative said.

All team members will remain active, so there will be no layoffs. However, team members' hours will be affected.

Team members will also retain their health benefits.

Some good news at least. And the guidebook is still on sale.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


"Wittenberg" at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Web 2.0 has come to the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. (I refuse to call it Orlando Shakes. Ugh.)

But they have posted a cute little video preview of their latest play, "Wittenberg" by David Davalos.

Here's their description of the play:
This sprightly and hilarious battle of wits features university colleagues Dr. Faustus (a man of appetites), versus Martin Luther (a man of faith), and their struggle for the soul of young Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (a youth struggling not only with his beliefs but also with his tennis game!). Come hear the story behind the story of Hamlet in a highly entertaining and humorous exploration of reason versus faith. Featuring Eric Hissom and Jim Helsinger.

Warning: It's got naughty language, so leave the kiddies home.

Helsinger and Hissom are among the Shakespeare Theater's best actors, so while I can't vouch for the play, it should be getting get a good staging.

Runs through Feb. 15. More info at 407-447-1700.



Bye-Bye, Dubai

Another sign of the times:
Busch Entertainment Corp., owner of SeaWorld and other theme parks, has shelved plans to build four parks in Dubai, making the project the Middle Eastern state's latest casualty amid the international credit freeze.

Worlds of Discovery was announced just a year ago with a media spectacle that included performing killer whales and renderings of the parks on a man-made island shaped like SeaWorld's signature Shamu. Busch Entertainment President Jim Atchison touted it as a "momentous occasion" and a chance to put the Busch brands on a "true global stage."


Busch and partner Nakheel PJSC, a state-backed real-estate company and leading developer in Dubai, agreed last month to suspend work because of worsening financial conditions. The two companies will reassess the project sometime this summer.

Too bad. I was sorta hoping Nakheel might be a possible "white knight" for Busch Entertainment.

One positive note:
The announcement comes as a number of projects planned for Dubai appear to be halted, though a Universal Parks & Resorts spokesman said Universal's Dubailand park is still a go and scheduled to open in 2012, two years later than the opening targeted when the park was announced in 2007.

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