Theme Park Bits: 'Avatar' Land Updates, 'Race Through New York' Opens, And 'Star Wars' Events

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • A preview of Universal Studios' Race Through New York ride.
  • Disney plans new ways of entertaining you with Star Wars.
  • Universal's flagship Harry Potter ride gets an upgrade.
  • All of the Avatar Land updates your could possibly want.
  • Universal seemingly promises good food at their Volcano Bay water park.
  • And more!

Disneyland

David Koenig at Mice Chat has good news and bad news for Disneyland fans. The good news: Fantasyland and Tomorrowland will both be getting makeovers once Star Wars Land is built. The bad news: a number of beloved attractions, including Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, look to be on the chopping block.

While Disneyland's Autopia is one of the attractions on the chopping block at Disneyland, just a got a tiny bit of refreshing. The ride now features "Honda's ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) humanoid robot and its new robotic friend, Bird – the first character created especially for this attraction – as they embark on the ultimate road trip." In other words: Honda paid Disney some money to help maintain an aging attraction and got some representation in the new story.

The official Disney Parks blog reports that the Main Street Electrical parade will now play through August 20, offering Disneyland guests more time to enjoy this limited engagement.

If you want more Main Street Electrical Parade, this behind-the-scenes video showcasing how the performers are costumed is pretty cool.

We know this much at Star Wars Land at Disneyland: the park's eye-lines will never be the same.

Disney surveys don't always foreshadow what the company is planning to do in their parks, but they do foreshadow what they're considering doing in their parks. In this case: a temporary revamp that themes the park to Pixar characters.

pandora

Walt Disney World

Disney is going all-out with the theming in Pandora: The World of Avatar, including the introduction of a new "translation device" that, when combined with collectible cards, will help guests translate the Na'vi language. This device also lights up for nighttime exploration. And yes, you'll be able to buy one in the gift shop located in the land.

Guests staying in select on-property hotels now have the chance to reserve their Fastpasses for the new attractions. According to the Disney parks blog: "Guests at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels can reserve FastPass+ selections for the two attractions up to 60 days prior to check in, beginning today. For all other guests who have pre-purchased valid park admission, reservations will be available starting 30 days prior to their visit, beginning May 27, 2017. You may select one of these two attractions in your first set of Disney FastPass+ selections, depending on availability."

Disney is also looking to offer "extra magic hours" for Pandora, allowing guests to stay in the park until 1:00am to better enjoy the area's bioluminescent plants.

Disney has released another video taking you behind-the-scenes of Pandora. This one delves into some of the design philosophies of the land and how real-life animal and nature experts consulted to make it believable.

This other Pandora video explores the relationship between Pandora and Earth, explaining why this science fiction land belongs in the Animal Kingdom park.

If you're ready to spend $255 per person (on top of your normal admission fee), Disney is offering a special early tour of Pandora, with Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde as your personal guide. That cost gets you lunch with Rohde, as well two hours of time to explore Pandora on May 19, one week before the land officially opens.

And if you're really curious how the theme park sausage gets made, this article about Disney's uphill battle marketing Pandora is a fascinating read. Meanwhile, Disney has agreed to pay $3.8 million in back wages following a worker dispute.

The Hollywood Studios park is only about half a theme park right now, so they keep on adding special events to encourage people to stick around. So prepare for "The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters," a musical performance that will perform three times nightly starting May 26.

Speaking of new events coming to pad out Hollywood Studios, here's a breakdown of everything coming to the park for the Star Wars: Galactic Nights event this month:

  • Rebel Base Activities – The Rebel Base will serve as the event hub with multiple events, hosted shows, Star Wars dance parties and more taking place in the center of the park.
  • Can't miss Star Wars photo ops – Don your Star Wars finest and enjoy iconic Star Wars backdrops, including the debut appearance of BB-8, Han Solo cast in carbonite, Jabba the Hutt's Palace, the Hoth Wampa Cave and more.
  • Galactic Nights Stars in Cars Motorcade – This procession will welcome in Star Warscelebrities down Hollywood Blvd.
  • Imperial March & March of the First Order – Get your cameras ready for the arrival of the dark side. Darth Vader will lead a battalion of stormtroopers on a dramatic march down Hollywood Blvd to the Event Stage. Captain Phasma will also lead a unit of First Order stormtroopers through the park, pausing to give a demonstration of power and strength.
  • "Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away" – Watch high-energy clips of the best moments from the film saga juxtaposed with character moments on stage, featuring Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and more.
  • "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" – The skies will come alive with the power of the Force, as the park's popular Star Wars-themed nighttime spectacular lights up the night.
  • Show Your Star Wars Spirit – Come dressed as your favorite character and celebrate 40 years of Star Wars milestones.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Nighttime Show

Universal Studios

The west coast version of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has received an upgrade. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's flagship attraction has replaced its 3D projectors with 4K projectors running at 120 frames-per-second. This brings it more in line with the Florida version of the ride, which never utilized 3D in the first place. Speaking of upgrades, Universal Studios Japan will is set to debut a new nighttime show where evil Dementors are projection-mapped into the sky...which just sounds terrifying.

Water parks aren't known for their spectacular cuisine, but Universal Studios' Volcano Bay (which opens next month) has been billing itself as a next-generation water park. Does that mean good food? This video is here to convince you.

It has to be a coincidence that the backstory for Universal's Volcano Bay sounds an awful lot like Moana. Right? Right?!

As Volcano Bay gets ready to open, Universal has revealed what they will do with the space formerly occupied by Wet n' Wild, the legendary water park they acquired and promptly closed: they're building a hotel.

Meanwhile, Comcast has just spent $2.3 billion to take full ownership of Universal Studios Japan, which was previously co-owned by a number of different partners.

Twister: Ride it Out may be gone, but the new Race Through New York attraction pays tribute to the late attraction and its late star, Bill Paxton, with a number of amusing Easter eggs. Like many theme park in-jokes, you have to squint to find them, but they're worth it.

Meanwhile, Race Through New York has entered technical rehearsals and you can watch a video of the lavish queue line in the video above. Inside the Magic also offered their thoughts on the attraction, saying that it's a good ride, but not one you're liable to cherish: "The ride also seems to have limited repeatability due to an uninteresting storyline that is rushed and shallow. It's a quickie that hasn't worked hard enough to put you in that sweet spot. You never actually connect with it and almost feel a void when exiting. To put it bluntly, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon might be the one-night-stand of attractions. The excitement is so high in the beginning, but after a good romp, the reality is there isn't much substance. Instead, there is a slight feeling of nausea, and it's time to move on."

This video contains a few snippets of POV footage from the ride itself and, in this context, it's not very impressive. But you know the old saying: never judge the multi-million dollar simulator ride by its promo video.

If you'd like to know more about Race Through New York, you can watch this video interview with Universal Creative's Jason Surrell.