Theme Park Bits: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Coming to ‘Fantasmic,’ Celebration of Harry Potter Returns to Universal, and More ‘Star Wars’ at Disneyland Paris
Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
In this edition of Theme Park Bits:
- Pirates of the Caribbean is reportedly replacing Peter Pan in Fantasmic at Disneyland.
- Season of the Force is heading to Disneyland Paris.
- A Celebration of Harry Potter returns to Universal Orlando for year four.
- Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium soft-opens amidst a lawsuit.
- Notes on Animal Kingdom‘s ever-changing hours.
- Hong Kong Disneyland rebounds, but it really wants that Iron Man attraction.
- A first look at the new gingerbread house in this year’s Haunted Mansion Holiday.
- The crazy true story of two guys who documented Epcot’s Horizons.
- Walt Disney World’s Magic Bands may be getting an upgrade.
- Yep, this year’s Disney parks Halloween merchandise is here.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida has often been described (and derided) and a “half-day park” by fans, with many visitors only allocating four or five hours to exploring it while spending full days at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. This isn’t necessarily accurate – if you take your time and explore every animal exhibit, it is very much a full-day experience – but Disney actively started combatting this image earlier this year by introducing new nighttime entertainment. An evening show involving the central Tree of Life, a night version of the popular Kilamanjaro Safaris, and the show The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic all arrived along with longer operating hours. The park, which traditionally closed around 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening, was staying open until 11:00.
Until now, that is. Starting on September 6, Animal Kingdom will now close at 9:00 and in October, the park will once again close down at 6:00 or 7:00. There has been no official announcement – these times were only noted because they appeared on Walt Disney World’s website. However, Disney spokesperson Andrea Finger did send this email response to Orlando My Way:
We will continue to offer new nighttime experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including Kilimanjaro Safaris, the awakening of the Tree of Life, Tiffins restaurant and more. We will continue to adjust our hours and will remain open after sunset to deliver those experiences for our guests. As sunset gets earlier, we will be able to offer these experiences earlier than we have in the summer.
She doesn’t mention The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic because that show, which received an underwhelming response from visitors, is reportedly closing on September 5. That show was a literal last-minute replacement for Rivers of Life, an ambitious and expensive show that ran into difficulties and has been indefinitely delayed. With no Rivers of Light on the horizon, and with Pandora: The World of Avatar not opening until next year at the earliest, Animal Kingdom’s late-night offerings are looking a little thin at the moment. The change in operation hours can’t help but feel like Disney throwing its hands in the air and saying “Fine! We can’t justify those later hours yet!” Hopefully, that will change sometime in 2017.
While Rivers of Light sits in theme park purgatory, the massively popular Fantasmic show at Disneyland has been temporarily halted due to the construction of Star Wars Land. With the show not set to return until May 2017, Disney Imagineers have been reportedly fine-tuning the entire thing in its absence, replacing projectors, upgrading lights, and installing a new sound system. But WDWNT says that the segment of the show revolving around Peter Pan will be reworked to star characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies:
In addition, the show will be sporting a few new segments, including one for Pirates of the Caribbean, which would replace the Peter Pan segment which has been in the show since it debuted in 1992. Using projection mapping technology, the plan will be to turn the Sailing Ship Columbia into the Black Pearl. The ship will host a large fight between Jack Sparrow’s crew and that of Captain Barbossa. Of course, The Columbia will be re-rigged for all new stunt work featuring Captain Jack Sparrow and his pirate friends. The truly amazing part (if true) is that the projection mapping technology will follow the ship around the river, also projecting onto the performers on the boat. This effect would allow performers to change in appearance, jumping between a skeleton and human form just like the characters in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Feelings will probably be mixed about this change, since Peter Pan is still a beloved movie from the heyday of Walt Disney himself and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have been diminishing returns for some time now, but I’m fascinated by the idea of using projection mapping technology to transform the Columbia into a pirate ship and the performers on it into skeletons. Similar technology has been employed in Disney’s nighttime castle shows, but this sounds like a gigantic leap forward for some already fascinating tech.
It looks like Magic Bands, the RFID-enabled wearables that make navigating Walt Disney World a breeze, are getting an upgrade. According to Disney Lists:
The FCC recently posted information about a new magic band system titled “MagicBand ID Q3E-MB-R1G2.” Under this new generation of MagicBand technology would replace the straps with a small round puck. The puck could then be moved from band to band similar to how other wearables such as Fitbit allow users to move the tracker from one band to another. It would also allow guests that prefer not wearing their magic band on their wrist to carry the puck in a pocket.
Although they serve an actual purpose, traditional Magic Bands have proven popular amongst frequent visitors, who collect different bands. Naturally, a more portable “puck” opens the door for additional merchandising options while reducing costs for Disney itself.