Theme Park Bits: Disney Animatronic Stolen, A Sneak Peek At Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Animal Kingdom's New Ambassadors, And More

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Take a look behind the scenes of Universal Orlando's nighttime spectacular
  • Disney has released a sneak peek at the experience of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
  • A petition is gaining steam, attempting to relieve Disney of the trademark for "Hakuna matata"
  • Disney World's Top of the World lounge is being used for paid DVC events moving forward
  • Has one of Epcot's old Audio-Animatronic figures been stolen?
  • And more!
  • Every theme park worth its salt has to have a nighttime celebration that's designed to dazzle and awe audiences from around the world. Universal Orlando is no different, with the Universal Orlando Cinematic Celebration featuring characters and clips from all sorts of movies the over-100-year-old studio has released. Of course, as you'll see from this behind-the-scenes video, most of the movies are from the last few years, such as Jurassic World, The Secret Life of Pets, and the Harry Potter films. The nighttime spectacular looks quite exciting, even if only one of those film franchises is particularly entertaining.

    2016 National Film Registry Movies

    As you no doubt know, "Hakuna matata" means "no worries." (For the rest of your days, natch.) You may or may not also know that this phrase is not something that was created specifically for the 1994 smash hit The Lion King, but a real phrase in the Swahili language spoken by tens of millions of people in Africa. Though the phrase has been co-opted by Disney for a long time for its shirts sold in theme parks, a petition recently began making waves in the hopes of getting the House of Mouse to stop enforcing trademark law on a phrase that's to Swahili speakers as "Good morning" is to most English speakers. With the 2019 remake coming soon, I imagine this will continue to make headlines, raising very legitimate and valid questions about cultural appropriation.

    We turn now to some urgent, breaking news: an Audio-Animatronic figure from Epcot may have been stolen. Though this may not actually be, y'know, urgent for real, it's genuinely something that's kept Disney Twitter abuzz for the last week or so, and what a fitting use of "abuzz"! Because, you see, the name of the character who may have been stolen is Buzzy, from the long-closed Cranium Command attraction in the also long-closed Wonders of Life pavilion. Buzzy, Twitter users are arguing, was stolen in part because Disney has failed to archive its not-in-use figures, thus making it easier to take away without anyone knowing for sure what's happened. There's still a lot of hazy information on this, but this much is true: Disney really ought to be archiving its historical theme-park figures. There's no good reason not to.

    If you're traveling at Disney's Animal Kingdom anytime soon, you should keep an eye out for the park's newest animal ambassadors. They're two donkeys, named Jack and Jill, who have been located at Animal Kingdom since its opening day in 1998, and they'll be roaming around Africa and Discovery Island to help tell a story. (If there's one thing Imagineers love, it's putting a story onto just about every disparate element in one of the parks.) Specifically, they'll be letting guests know how South American donkeys are used to help replant forests and emphasize conservation efforts there and around the world. I kid about story, but Animal Kingdom is my stealth favorite Disney World park, and its embrace of conservation is one of the reasons why. So keep an eye out for these donkey friends if you're headed to Orlando soon.

    If you're headed to Disney World soon, and I mean real soon, you ought to stop by a limited-time restaurant experience at the Magic Kingdom. You may be like me, and not even have known that Aunt Polly's was a restaurant on Tom Sawyer's Island, but it'll be open through January 5 with special items like Becky's Buttery Biscuit BBQ Sliders (say that five times fast) and a Mississippi Mud Pie. You can't stop by this restaurant past the 5th, so don't wait if you're in the area for the New Year's weekend.

    Oh, to have the excess of money to spend on being a Disney Vacation Club member. If, unlike me, you are a DVC member, bully for you. Well, and also, you'll soon be able to spend even more money at special events at the Contemporary Resort. Specifically, you can head over to the Top of the World lounge soon for paid events between January 14 and June 30 of next year. It's not yet clear what the future of the lounge will be starting in July, and that's likely dependent on how successful the DVC events are in the first half of 2019. Still, adding on another prix-fixe item for only an exclusive set of guests goes against the notion of Disney World being a park for any and all families, but what do I know.

    If you're a rabid fan of the Disney theme parks, and/or a rabid fan of the Star Wars universe, you no doubt were pleased on Christmas morning to wake up and watch...that trailer for Jordan Peele's new movie! That looks pretty creepy, right? OK, but I'm just kidding around, because what I really mean is the new sneak-peek video of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, set to open at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the new year. Though most of the video is still displaying what amounts to test footage – the land is still under construction in both Anaheim and Orlando – the experience of what it will be like to ride inside the Millennium Falcon certainly seems like it's going to be worth the multi-year wait.