Theme Park Bits: Gusteau's In Epcot, Mardi Gras At Universal, And More

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Universal Orlando has announced its Mardi Gras lineup.
  • Take a look at Gusteau's in Epcot.
  • And more!
  • In 2020, Epcot is getting a facelift or two in the form of intellectual property. One of the big areas that's getting updated — for good or ill, depending on how you look at it — is the France pavilion in World Showcase. That section is getting a ratty upgrade, which I don't mean as an insult! They're getting lots of updates themed to Pixar's wonderful 2007 film Ratatouille, including a trackless ride and, of course, a new fine-dining establishment named after the man who inspired Remy the rat to become a chef, Auguste Gusteau. Gusteau's restaurant is this much closer to reality – the sign is now visible from the Disney Skyliner, with the rotund chef's smiling face staring at you. Hope your appetite is prepared for this new experience.

    It's a new year, and that means that Mardi Gras is right around the corner. Universal Orlando is, as always, celebrating in style with its Mardi Gras celebration in 2020. They've just announced their lineup of musical acts who will be playing at the resort, from February 1 to April 2. You'll be able to see everyone from Diana Ross to Earth, Wind & Fire, to the All-American Rejects. Universal's Mardi Gras party will also have a unique parade, themed to Treasures of the Deep, big-band performances throughout the two-month period, and plenty of authentic Cajun food to spice things up.

    Aunty Kau'i

    Back at Walt Disney World, not all the news can be happy. Recently, the resort said a tearful goodbye to one of its longest-known residents: Aunty Kau'i. Kau'ihealani Mahikoa Brandt passed away after having worked at the Polynesian Resort since the opening day of Walt Disney World...which would mean that she had a tenure at the resort of over 48 years. Aunty Kau'i, as she was affectionately known, was a kumu hula, or a hula master, who performed her craft at the first Polynesian dinner show. That first show was part of a three-month assignment that turned into something longer and more beloved. She'll be missed.

    Moving onto something a bit more upbeat, January 17 marks the first big arrival at the Disney theme parks in 2020. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland is getting its own version of Rise of the Resistance and Imagineers are making their very last attempts to fine-tune and refine the all-encompassing ride before each of us can experience it for ourselves. Testing and adjusting at this late date requires the work of more than 100 cast members, including operations cast members who are learning from the ride each time they let it run in full. With the opening date just hours away, it'll be interesting to see what park guests make of the Rise of the Resistance.

    As mentioned earlier, Epcot is going through some big updates in 2020. Some of those updates are technically invisible, but no less worth mentioning. To wit: some of the pavilions in World Showcase, including Mexico, are getting new background music. In the Mexico pavilion, the new looped music (meaning, for the uninitiated, that it just repeats over and over until the park closes) has a tie-in to the Pixar film Coco, which makes some semblance of sense. That film is very much about a) Mexico and b) music. That said, one of the great old charms of the background music in Epcot is how Disney/Pixar characters rarely intruded. Those days, of course, are now long gone. At least the music is still in keeping with the generally light, laid-back theme of Mexico's pavilion.