Archive for the ‘Theme Park Headlines’ Category

Theme Park Headlines – New Frontiers

September 13, 2009

Image © Disney.

Disney Cruise Line is heading to Alaska, Star Tours is getting a sequel, and WDW’s Fantasyland is being majorly expanded.

By Blake

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

I officially and truly appreciate Twitter.

I was skeptical to the idea of it at first, but then as I started to use it to post Disney news and view more Disney information from others, I began to “get it.” However, it wasn’t until this weekend that I absolutely, positively was VERY glad that I was a Twitter user.

If not for Twitter, I would have never experienced the jittery excitement I have felt as I excitedly click “refresh” repeatedly to view the live tweets from Disney fans as they report from the D23 Expo.

There was another significant announcement yesterday (Friday, September 11, 2009) at the Disney Cruise Line presentation. Disney previously posted some online videos of Donald Duck and Goofy trying to find out where the Disney Cruise Line was headed to next. Disney answered this highly-anticipated question yesterday, revealing that in summer 2011, Disney Cruise Line is going to . . . Alaska! The breathtaking scenery of Alaska is sure to be a wonderful pairing with a Disney cruise vacation. You can view details at

Disney Cruise Line is heading to Alaska in summer 2011. Image © Disney.

In other Disney Cruise Line news, on August 31, Disney announced some changes coming to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island that most Disney cruises make a stop at. Changes include a larger family beach, a new lunch spot, and new water play areas, to be finished in summer 2010. On top of that, two additional Disney cruise ships are currently being built – the Disney Dream (setting sail in 2011) and the Disney Fantasy (coming in 2012).

This morning (Saturday, September 12, 2009) Disney fans (both present at the Expo and those that would read the reports later), were in for some huge surprises from the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation.

Many topics were discussed, including an expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland that will include several new lands (including Toy Story Land); some details about World of Color, a nighttime water show debuting at Disney’s California Adventure in spring 2010; and the new Cars Land, opening at Disney’s California Adventure in 2012.

Then, the first major shocker was revealed – Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland is going to get a massive expansion, growing twice as large as it currently is. It’s going to be amazing.

Some of the outstandingly exciting changes to Fantasyland include two identical Dumbo rides to speed up the wait (complete with an interactive queue) and a new area based on Pixie Hollow from the Disney Fairies movies. Additionally, there seems to be a large emphasis on the princesses, especially in new, unique ways that guests are going to be able to meet them. It seems that each princess character greeting specific to each princess’ personality. For instance, guests will be able to dance with Cinderella, celebrate a party with Aurora, and experience storytelling with Belle. (I’m guessing this is the already-open Storytime with Belle, just relocated?) I think it’s a very creative idea to try out different character greeting formats other than traditional meet & greets.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is getting an interactive queue in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

There are also going to be several expansive new attractions added to Fantasyland. A new ride based on The Little Mermaid is going to be built called Ariel’s Adventure, and will be similar in style to other Fantasyland attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It will take guests into Ariel’s world to tell her story, and is going to be like another Little Mermaid ride coming soon to Disney’s California Adventure.

Ariel’s Adventure will be a new ride based on The Little Mermaid, and will open in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

Additionally, the Imagineers are building two new restaurants based on Beauty and the Beast – Gaston’s Tavern and Be Our Guest Restaurant. Be Our Guest will be located inside the Beast’s castle, a new area where guests will be able to eat in several themed settings directly from the movie. This place seems like it’s going to be awesome!

However, a down side of the Fantasyland expansion is the unfortunate closure of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. One of my favorite areas in the Magic Kingdom, Toontown opened as a temporary land to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday in 1988, and was later decided to be a more-than-temporary addition to the park. Some of the attractions in Toontown are Mickey’s Country House, Minnie’s Country House, Donald’s Boat, and The Barnstormer. Some good news is that The Barnstormer might be staying despite the Fantasyland changes. It will certainly be sad to see Toontown leave. It’s one of the most cleverly themed and detailed sections of the Magic Kingdom and it will definitely be missed.

The first phase of the Fantasyland expansion (including the princess elements) will open in 2012, while the Pixie Hollow section will open in 2013.

Lastly, there was one more significant announcement at the Parks and Resorts presentation, but it was delivered with the help of Darth Vader and 50 storm troopers. Coming in 2011 to both Disney’s Hollywood Studios (in Walt Disney World) and Disneyland is Star Tours 2, which is sure to delight many Star Wars fans. The attraction will replace the currently-existing Star Tours simulator ride, and will be a new 3-D experience.

I don’t think there have been many events that have been so jam-packed with exciting Disney news like the D23 Expo. I’ve had such joy reading reports that others have posted about the fun happenings that have occurred so far. The Disney Cruise Line Alaskan voyages, Fantasyland’s expansion, and the new Star Tours 2 are all sure to be guest-pleasing experiences. Those Imagineers know how to dream.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 12, 2009. All images © Disney.


Theme Park Headlines – Mickey’s Ready for Fall

September 5, 2009

Image © Disney.

Walt Disney World kicks off its annual Halloween celebrations and prepares for its Christmas festivities.

By Blake

Originally posted September 5, 2009.

While some students may not even have headed back to school yet and the Labor Day holiday is just arriving, Walt Disney World isn’t wasting any time in saying goodbye to summer and heading right into their impressive, crowd-pleasing fall agenda as their Halloween and Christmas special events begin to get underway.

Throughout the summer, Disney began making preparations for The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The buildings in the Streets of America section of the park are being adorned with thousands of sparkling lights. The popular decorations will make their official debut as they light up the park November 10, 2009 – January 4, 2010. You can check out pictures of the event’s recent progress at

As early as mid-August, the Christmas Dream Lights began their installation on the spires of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. A fairly new holiday tradition that began in 2007, the Dream Lights spectacularly transform the Castle into an amazing wintry sight (even though it’s already pretty amazing without them). The lights magically turn on thanks to the help of Cinderella and friends in a brief ceremony entitled Cinderella’s Holiday Wish. The Dream Lights will be ready at least by November 10, which is the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but could appear before then. Pictures of the lights’ installation can be seen at

Mickey and friends are busy perparing for the holiday season, which includes Disney favorites like The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and more. Image © Disney.

However, while those and other Walt Disney World Christmas events are over two months away from making their 2009 premiere, Halloween is already in full swing over at the Magic Kingdom. Special Halloween decorations were set up throughout Town Square and along Main Street, U.S.A. a little over a week ago (as shown in a blog on, and the first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party of the season took place last night, September 4.

The highlights of each party include Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, the HalloWishes fireworks, the Villains Mix and Mingle stage show, special character appearances (by several rare friends, as well as some familiar characters in Halloween attire), and candy stations. Many of the Magic Kingdom rides and attractions are open, too.

Minnie, Mickey, and other Disney friends can be found throughout the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Image © Disney.

Although the party is mostly the same as in years past, there are a few minor changes this year. There are still two dance parties, but they contain a few differences. The Fantasyland dance party still takes place at Ariel’s Grotto, but the characters present there are now Minnie and Daisy. Additionally, the Tomorrowland dance party has changed locations: it’s not in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café anymore, it’s now at the stage formerly used for Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration (near Carousel of Progress). Characters appearing at the Tomorrowland dance party are Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto. Outside of dance parties, there appears to be a small new float in the parade featuring Madame Leota’s tombstone from Haunted Mansion. (It’s worth noting that although the villains float was dropped from Magic Kingdom’s regular afternoon parade last spring, it still remains a part of the Halloween parade.)

There may also be a few other small changes, but since the party just took place last night, other information has not yet been spread. However, this article will be updated to include any other reported changes that have occurred at this year’s MNSSHP.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party requires a separate ticket (different from regular park admission) to attend. On nights when the party takes place, it lasts from 7pm through midnight. However, if you enter at or after 4pm, you will not need a regular park ticket to enter, so my advice would be to not visit a park on the day you attend the party, so that you can rest up as well as save some money.

For pictures of the Halloween decorations throughout the Magic Kingdom, check out, and for a recap of the September 4 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, visit and The party will continue on select nights through November 1. Whether you’re attending or not, have a not-so-scary Halloween!

By Blake; posted September 5, 2009. All images © Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – Patriotism and Tragedy

July 8, 2009
Image © Disney.

1,000 new American citizens, an Animatronics version of President Obama, and a tragic monorail accident were among the occurrences of Walt Disney World’s Independence Day week 2009.

By Blake

Originally posted July 8, 2009.

The Fourth of July 2009 at Walt Disney World will not be easily forgotten anytime soon, as a result of a series of completely unrelated events, some exciting and one sorrowful. There were some celebratory events, such as the welcoming of 1,000 newly-sworn-in American citizens and the openings of several exciting new attractions, though one particular tragic accident involving a monorail crash and the death of a Disney Cast Member flared headlines across the country.

One of the lead-ins to the holiday week was the appearance of an Audio-Animatronics character of Luxo, Jr., the lamp from the Pixar short of the same name. Luxo is found on a ledge above guests on Pixar Place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, near the Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction. Although he made his debut around June 22 (which was followed by coverage on,’s Twitter updates are now reporting that Luxo is currently not making appearances, but will resume doing so soon. When he’s out, Luxo appears every 15 minutes and interacts with guests in addition to participating in some creative antics.

Luxo, Jr. has made his debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image © Disney/Pixar.

On June 29 at the Magic Kingdom, The Pirates League officially opened in Adventureland. Similar to how Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique features princess makeovers, The Pirates League is all about pirate makeovers. Guests may choose from a selection of assorted packages, all of which are listed at Like Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique, the makeovers are a bit pricey, the least expensive package being $49.95 plus tax. Coverage of The Pirates League can be seen on,, and However, if guests would rather not have an all-out makeover but are still looking for a unique Disney hairdo experience, they’d be better off at the less expensive Harmony Barber Shop on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.

Moving on, sometime over the course of last week (though I seem to find contradictory opening dates – a preview was held on June 28 nonetheless), The Hall of Presidents re-opened from its extensive refurbishment with major new additions. It has a new subtitle, making its full name The Hall of Presidents: A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders. Among the changes are the inclusion of Morgan Freeman as narrator, Abraham Lincoln giving The Gettysburg Address, George Washington speaking (he previously did not), and the addition of Barack Obama to the lineup of presidents presented as Audio-Animatronics. Pictures of the newly re-opened attraction can be seen at (beware of spoilers, though!).

On July 3, also in the Magic Kingdom, 1,000 people were sworn in and officially became United States citizens. Broadcasted live on CNN, the ceremony took place in front of Cinderella Castle with the help of Mickey Mouse (dressed in patriotic attire), Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, actor Andy Garcia, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. After they gave the Oath of Allegiance, the new citizens experienced The Hall of Presidents. Coverage of the event can be seen at

That evening, Magic Kingdom held a performance of a special Independence Day fireworks presentation titled Celebrate America. On Independence Day itself, July 4, another performance of the show was held. Also on July 4, Epcot’s IllumiNations had a special holiday finale, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios had its own patriotic fireworks show.

A special Indpendence Day fireworks show, Celebrate America, was held at Magic Kingdom on July 3 and July 4, 2009. Image © Disney.

Early morning on Sunday, July 5, the mood changed significantly as two monorails collided. The crash tragically killed 21-year-old Cast Member Austin Wuennenberg. The Epcot monorail system closed for the day, re-opening the afternoon of July 6 with additional safety precautions. It is definitely sorrowful that something like this happened, though hopefully nothing like it will occur again. BlakeOnline sends prayers and thoughts to friends and family of Wuennenberg as they cope with their loss.

The Independence Day week events continued as a new Princess Diana exhibit titled Diana: The People’s Princess opened on July 7 at Downtown Disney. Although guests may enter Downtown Disney itself for free, admission into the Princess Diana exhibit is $5.00 for children through age 9 and $14.50 for ages 10 and up.

Diana: The People’s Princess, a new exhibit about Princess Diana, is now open at Downtown Disney. Image © Disney.

With all of that activity going on, it certainly was quite a hectic Independence Day at Walt Disney World this year. Luxo, Jr., The Pirates League, The Hall of Presidents, the many new American citizens, the special fireworks shows, and Diana: The People’s Princess were all causes of celebration while the tragic monorail accident was definitely a mournful event.

By Blake; posted July 8, 2009. All images © Disney. Pixar Animation Studios logo © Disney/Pixar.

Theme Park Headlines and Disney Detours

June 19, 2009

Introducing two revamped BlakeOnline columns.

By Blake

I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that articles about the Disney parks here at BlakeOnline have become somewhat of a broad umbrella of mixed subjects, containing two very different types of articles. One of these includes vacation-planning advice, the other being news articles about the Disney parks.

To further narrow down these two varied topics, I’ve decided to divide up the park-related articles into two columns. Theme Park Headlines will not be solely the home of Disney park news, while Disney Detours will focus on vacation planning. Additionally, Disney Detours will also highlight my views about Disney park rides, restaurants, and atmosphere by providing somewhat of a review of each attraction covered.

All of the pre-existing park-related articles have been sorted into their appropriate new homes.

By Blake; posted June 19, 2009. All images © Disney.

Image © Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – Celebration Central

June 16, 2009

Image © Disney.

Disney Parks and Disney On Ice continue to roll out new ways to celebrate all year long.

By Blake

Originally posted June 16, 2009.

In recent years, the Disney Parks have been known for their continuous annual “themes,” a marketing technique that has increased particularly within this decade. The “100 Years of Magic” celebration commemorated Walt Disney’s 100th birthday in 2001, “Magical Gatherings” encouraged guests to come in large groups in 2003, the “Happiest Celebration on Earth” honored Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005, and the “Year of a Million Dreams” gave away 1,000,000 special moments to park guests from late 2006 – 2008.

This year, Disney Parks are asking guests to celebrate another occasion. However, this time, it’s up to the guests to decide what to celebrate. Whether it’s an anniversary, graduation, or birthday, Disney wants you to celebrate your event with them.

However, even Disney is aware of the economic recession. To keep their attendance numbers high and to continue to bring more guests to their parks, Disney has implemented several outstanding vacation deals, as well as new live entertainment options.

Disney Parks are celebrating in 2009 with vacation promotions, new live entertainment, and attraction updates. Image © Disney.

Some of those vacation deals include summer guests at Walt Disney World having a “buy 4 nights, get 3 free” option (a deal whose booking window has now closed), Walt Disney World guests receiving the Disney Dining Plan for free (if they book by July 26 and visit by October 3), and Disneyland guests buying 3 nights and getting 2 free (if they book by August 11 and arrive by September 26). Guests visiting an American Disney Park on their birthday in 2009 even get free admission (if it is on their actual birthday and they have a valid ID).

Disney has also implemented several new attractions that encourage guests to “Celebrate Today.” In January, an updated parade debuted at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom called Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. In February, the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party rolled into the Magic Kingdom and the American Idol Experience opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disneyland premiered the Celebrate! A Street Party procession in March, and opened the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue venue at Big Thunder Ranch in April. In May, the Magic Kingdom debuted Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration, a live stage show in Tomorrowland featuring Stitch interacting with park guests (though there is some serious speculation going around about this show lately, all of which is rumor at this point).

The American Idol Experience opened in February at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image © Disney.

Just last Friday on June 12, Disneyland kicked off a summer-long celebration called “Nightastic!” that will last through August 23. The festivities, which only take place at night, include new live entertainment. Disneyland Park features a new fireworks show called Magical, which includes an appearance by Dumbo. (The former fireworks show, Remember Dreams Come True, will return after Nightastic! is over.) Additionally, Fantasmic! has been updated to include appearances by Tick-Tock Crocodile from Peter Pan and the eels Flotsam and Jetsam from The Little Mermaid. Later this summer, an enhanced dragon of Maleficent will debut. (These changes are just for the Disneyland version, though, and are not being implemented to Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).

Additionally, as part of Nightastic!, special enhancements have been made to the Pixie Hollow character greeting area at Disneyland. The space opened in October 2008 so that guests would have an opportunity to meet Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Now, at nighttime, the area features several updates including special effects using lights and water, as well as enchanting background music. The Disney Fairies also participate in Nightastic! over at Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s next-door neighbor. A new Tinker Bell float has been added to Disney’s Electrical Parade, and several floats (including ones carrying Snow White and Pinocchio) have returned to the parade after a period of absence.

And the celebrating isn’t over yet.

On June 29, Walt Disney World will open The Pirates League in the Magic Kingdom, a unique experience that will give guests pirate makeovers (similar to how the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique gives fairy tale makeovers). In early July, Barack Obama will make his debut in the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents along with several other new enhancements to the attraction. In late August at the Magic Kingdom, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority will re-open after its refurbishment, which will be followed by the November re-opening of Space Mountain. (Both attractions have been closed since April.)

Disney On Ice is also getting in on the act. They’re debuting a new show called “Celebrations!,” which will premiere in Lakeland, Florida, on September 4, followed by a nationwide tour. The new show involves many Disney characters celebrating all kinds of festivities, from unbirthdays to holidays.

Disney On Ice will debut a new show, Celebrations!, this September. Image © Disney.

Additionally, from the look of the art for the show on, it appears that Princess Tiana will be making her Disney debut in Celebrations!, which should be quite exciting. Tiana is a new Disney Princess and the main character of the upcoming animated film The Princess and the Frog, which is coming to theaters on December 11. This means that Disney On Ice guests might get a sneak peek into Tiana’s story a bit before it comes to the silver screen. Nevertheless, the art for Celebrations! also includes Woody, Buzz, Stitch, Peter Pan, and more, so it should be a very entertaining show to say the least.

With the great vacation deals Disney has implemented and the new live entertainment and attraction updates they’ve added to their parks, the first part of 2009 has certainly been host to a lot of celebrating where Disney is concerned. The upcoming Disney On Ice show and additional theme park enhancements hint that the party is just getting started.

By Blake; posted June 16, 2009. All images © Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – Main ‘Street View’

June 10, 2009
Image © Disney.

Disneyland Paris has implemented Google Maps’ Street View.

By Blake

Originally posted June 10, 2009.

Last year (at about this same time, actually), Disney and Google introduced a fascinating new feature to Google Earth – 3-D buildings of Walt Disney World in Florida. This allowed users to navigate their way through any of the Walt Disney World parks or resorts virtually (as opposed to the usual bird’s-eye view Google Earth has).

Google Earth introduced 3-D views of Walt Disney World in 2008. Cinderella Castle photograph © Disney. Google Earth image – image © Aerodata International Surveys, © Tele Atlas, buildings © Disney.

I was very excited about this implementation because I found it wonderful to be able to “stroll” through the parks right on my computer. However, the 3-D buildings took very long to load, making Google Earth (and the rest of my computer) very slow. At the time I thought it was acting slowly because the buildings had just been added, and that they’d take a while to work correctly. However, almost a year has come and gone since the Walt Disney World buildings were added to Google Earth and they haven’t gotten any quicker.

Recently Disney and Google teamed up again to introduce a 3-D version of Disneyland Paris, displaying the same experience of walking through the parks. Although I’d like to report that the kinks were worked out, that’s not the case. The 3-D parts are still slow.

But there’s some good news, too. With the introduction of Disneyland Paris in 3-D also comes the implementation of Disneyland Paris “Street View.” On Google Maps and Google Earth, the Street View allows users to look at actual photographs (as opposed to a 3-D rendering) of an area from the “ground” and move up and down streets in that way. Since the Disney parks don’t contain actual public street names, Street View hasn’t had access to the parks. Until now.

With Disneyland Paris’ Street View, users can go through Disneyland Park and its neighbor, Walt Disney Studios Park. A few Disney friends show up along the way, too. To access it, click here and then click that yellow person you see on the left of the screen. Drag the yellow person anywhere in Disneyland Paris, and there you have it! You can make your way through the parks by clicking your keyboard’s arrow keys.

This is part of a year-long celebration Disneyland Paris is hosting called Mickey’s Magical Party. Other festivities include new live entertainment like the Stars ‘n’ Cars Parade, which was recently imported to Paris from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Mickey’s Magical Party is being celebrated this year at Disneyland Paris. Image © Disney.

The Street View is a much easier and faster way to navigate virtually through Disneyland Paris, and hopefully the feature will be added to other Disney parks.

By Blake; posted June 10, 2009. Disneyland Paris characters image, Cinderella Castle image, and Mickey’s Magical Party image all © Disney. Google Earth image – image © Aerodata International Surveys, © Tele Atlas, buildings © Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – “Some Imagination, Huh?”

May 2, 2009

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been an imaginative journey into showbiz for the last 20 years.

By Blake

Originally posted May 2, 2009.

Possibly the most changed Walt Disney World theme park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is quite different than it was when it first opened 20 years ago. The park has constantly been in a state of change, even before it was open. It was initially supposed to be a movie-themed pavilion in Epcot, though when ideas and plans began to grow vaster, the concept changed to become Walt Disney World’s third theme park and opened on May 1, 1989.

The entrance area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is somewhat similar to the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, in that it represents a fanciful view of Hollywood that never really existed much like Tomorrowland includes elements of a lighthearted future that will probably never occur. The rest of Hollywood Studios is a little bit like Epcot’s Future World because it includes attractions themed to modern franchises and productions, and because of that some specific areas may need to be spruced up from time to time, similar to the pavilions of Future World changing to keep up with technologies that might occur later on down the road.

However, unlike Tomorrowland and Future World, Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates showbiz. Since its opening, the park has changed from a behind-the-scenes backstage peek at how movies are made to a tribute to modern productions, added with that extra touch of Disney enchantment.

When the park first opened, it had just two rides, and both of those attractions are still operating today. The Great Movie Ride is located inside a Grauman’s Chinese Theatre look-alike and takes guests on a boat ride through scenes from classics such as Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz, while the Studios Backlot Tour glimpses into how several special effects are made for movies. The Backlot Tour was once significantly longer and featured areas that now belong to other areas of the park, including a street that featured several famous front yards like the front facade of the house from The Golden Girls.

As the early years of Hollywood Studios progressed, several more attractions opened, including Star Tours, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and the Magic of Disney Animation in 1989, Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure in 1990, Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D and Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage in 1991, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid in 1992. All of these attractions are still open today.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular opened in 1989 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Also featured were several attractions that are no longer open, such as Super Star Television (which had guests acting out TV scenes with pre-recorded actors and actresses such as Lucille Ball), Monster Sound Show (which featured guests creating sound effects), and Backstage Pass (which featured set copies and behind-the-scenes looks at several productions). Additionally, other live entertainment that no longer performs includes Here Come the Muppets (which ran from May 1990 – September 1991), Dinosaurs Live (September 1991 – August 1992), and Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses (1991 – 1994). Later on, Hollywood Studios would also include stage shows based on Pocahontas (from 1995 – 1996) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (from 1996 – 2002), which were both performed in the Backlot Theater (now called the Premiere Theater, and used for special events).

Star Tours must have given Disney a hint that guests wanted to experience more thrill rides in the Disney parks, and in 1994 the Imagineers created one of their most intense and suspenseful attractions ever, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The ride itself, although scary, isn’t that frightening. It’s basically an up-and-down drop ride. But the anticipation that Disney builds and the details that are put into the eerie storyline make the ride downright hysterical. Hysterically scary.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of Disney’s most frightening attractions.

In 1998, another production debuted – Fantasmic!, a nighttime spectacular that originally premiered at Disneyland and features characters, floats, water screens showing animated clips, fireworks, and more, all showing the dreams of Mickey Mouse. It still performs today, though in January 2009 its schedule was changed to only being performed twice a week.

In 1999, Sounds Dangerous, an auditory-based attraction featuring Drew Carrey, opened and is now operating on a seasonal basis. Also in 1999, the park’s next thrill ride opened – Rock ‘n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, a super-fast indoor roller coaster that blasts Aerosmith tunes into guests’ ears. In 2001, the park introduced Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!, which had guests entering the hot seat and answering questions to win prizes (but not a million dollars).

The outside of Rock ‘n Roller Coaster features a giant guitar.

In October 2001, Walt Disney World kicked off a celebration called 100 Years of Magic for Walt Disney’s 100th birthday, and with it came a 122-foot version of Mickey Mouse’s sorcerer hat in front of the Great Movie Ride. Also ringing in the celebration was a new exhibit, Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, which is still open and features a walking tour of Disney-related art and models followed by a short biographical film about Walt Disney. Lastly, as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration, three of the Walt Disney World parks debut new parades. Hollywood Studios premiered the Stars and Motor Cars Parade, which featured Disney characters riding in cars based upon their personalities or stories. It ran through the spring of 2008.

The Sorcerer Hat was added in 2001 as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration.

In May 2005 when Disney parks worldwide were taking part in the Happiest Celebration on Earth, which commemorated Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, Hollywood Studios premiered Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, which initially debut at Disneyland Paris. It shows a peek into how movies create car stunts and chase scenes.

By 2006, Hollywood Studios was in a state of awkwardness. Yes, it still included some of Walt Disney World’s best attractions and shows, but it lacked a sense of continuity and theming to tie its attractions together. It couldn’t really be called a working studio anymore because it wasn’t. TV productions weren’t filmed there anymore (with the exception of special events like ESPN: The Weekend). The animation studio inside the Magic of Disney Animation where Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and a few other animated works were mainly made was no longer in use. Radio Disney no longer broadcasted from the park. The Backlot Tour had been shortened to make room for Lights, Motors, Action! Overall, the park was in need of a major boost.

Thankfully, in early 2006, Disney bought Pixar. With that deal, Pixar characters officially became full-fledged Disney characters, and since then John Lasseter and other Imagineers have put forth an amazing effort to re-invent Hollywood Studios.

Like I stated earlier, the park now relies on marketing itself to a modern audience, and by doing so includes a selection of attractions based on current franchises. In January 2007, High School Musical Pep Rally debuted at the park and has since been updated twice to coincide with subsequent High School Musical sequels. In January 2008, the park changed its name from Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to reflect its overall transitioned theme from a peek into movie-making to a celebration of Hollywood favorites. In February 2008, Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage! was updated to feature a new lineup of characters from shows that are currently playing on Disney Channel’s Playhouse Disney section. In March 2008, the Pixar gang came in full force with Block Party Bash, an energetic new street party featuring Pixar characters. The park also features meet & greet appearances by some of Disney’s newer characters, like Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars, as well as characters from Bolt.

Block Party Bash is a street party featuring Pixar characters and debuted at Hollywood Studios in March 2008.

However, small little updates still weren’t going to be enough to re-define Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A fantastic, “E-Ticket,” classic Disney experience would really be the key to helping give the park a boost. Toy Story Midway Mania!, which opened in May, 2008, is exactly that. In the ride, guests put on 3-D glasses and play virtual carnival games in a Toy Story-themed environment. The attraction is now the park’s most popular ride, with wait times of up to three hours in the afternoon. With the new ride came a newly-themed street as Mickey Avenue was transformed to Pixar Place, featuring a new shop, a new Woody and Buzz meet & greet, and an area based upon Pixar Studios.

Toy Story Midway Mania! is an immersive new experience that opened in May 2008.

More change came in February 2009 when the American Idol Experience opened. In it, guests can choose to go through an audition process for the chance to sing in front of a live audience, while the audience votes for their favorite performer. Each performance’s winner goes on to a daily finale, and the winner of the finale receives a dream ticket, allowing them to skip the lines at a real American Idol audition. The American Idol Experience debuted in grand style, with a world premiere on February 12 that featured over two dozen American Idol celebrities, including all seven previous winners.

The American Idol Experience opened in February 2009.

With all of that hoopla going on, what’s next? Is the transformation that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been going through complete? Small changes will probably still occur, especially in the case of character meet & greets, which seem to be slightly altering as new animated movies are released. Aside from that, about everything else is pretty vague.

With such an expansive history in just 20 years of operation, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has changed tremendously, and most of those recent changes have definitely been for the better. The park has been an example of Disney wonder through its impressive and mixed attractions that provide sensational entertainment experiences for guests. It includes some of Disney’s greatest individual rides and shows, each of them filled with detail and many of them immersing guests into fantastic stories.

Some imagination, huh?

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By Blake Taylor; posted May 2, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Theme Park Headlines – Disney’s Hollywood Studios Turns 20

April 29, 2009

Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates 20 years of showbiz enchantment on May 1.

By Blake

Originally posted April 28, 2009.

WDWCelebrations has done it again. For the third time, the fan-based Disney website set up an unofficial event to commemorate a special Disney park anniversary. Also for the third time, Disney indirectly set up some official events of their own to accommodate the many fans attending the unofficial WDWCelebrations event. This first happened for Epcot’s 25th anniversary in October, 2007 and then again for the 10th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in April, 2008.

Now it’s happening again for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as WDWCelebrations’ “Studio 20” event takes place at the park on Friday, May 1, 2009 and Saturday, May 2, 2009.

The day caps off an eventful few weeks for Hollywood Studios, as several other activities surrounding the park began on April 17 when Grad Nites began. A special event exclusive to high school seniors, Grad Nites took place at Hollywood Studios this year after years of occurring at the Magic Kingdom. Grad Nites took place four select nights April 17 – 25.

The Hollywood Studios birthday fun continued today (Tuesday, April 28) when The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by the Imagineers was released into bookstores. However, even though the book was supposed to be released on the 28th, the bookstore that I visited to buy it didn’t have a copy available. When I went to go ask if the bookstore could order it, they said that for some reason the book hadn’t printed yet, so they couldn’t order it. I do not know at this time if the book was indeed released today, or if it was delayed. If anyone else has any news about the book’s release status, please let me know.

The new book The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was supposed to be released April 28, though some stores may not have it yet.

The next DHS-related event will occur on Thursday, April 30, when characters from the popular Disney Internet game Club Penguin will begin making appearances at Hollywood Studios near the Backlot Tour. It should be exciting to see how the characters look, as well as if Disney decides to put anymore of their Internet characters (such as those from Toontown Online or Pirates of the Caribbean Online) into the parks.

Characters from the Club Penguin online game are scheduled to begin greeting Hollywood Studios guests starting April 30.

Lastly, Disney is planning some official events to take place on Friday, May 1, in addition to the unofficial Studio 20 activities. When the park opens at 8:00am, a special ceremony will take place. Later on at two different times throughout the morning, a special Imagineering presentation will take place in the Premiere Theater, which should definitely be an insightful experience for those who attend. Imagineers Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Jacobson, and Bob Weis are all scheduled to speak at the presentations. Any park guest can view both the ceremony and the Imagineering presentations (you don’t have to participate in Studio 20 to see them).

With The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios being released, the Club Penguin character meet & greet beginning, Studio 20 taking place, and the special ceremony and Imagineering presentations going on, it’s sure to be an exciting 20th anniversary celebration for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

*Update from May 2, 2009.* You can check out coverage of Hollywood Studios’ 20th anniversary (which featured a speech by the park’s vice president Rilous Carter and a special exhibit) on,, and

*Update from May 16, 2009* The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now scheduled for a July 2010 tentative release.

Related BlakeOnline articles:
By Blake; posted April 28, 2009; updated May 2, 2009 and May 15, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Channel Flippin’ and Theme Park Headlines Reminders – Spongebob and Space Mountain

April 17, 2009

A few quick updates.

By Blake

Originally posted April 16, 2009.

Hey, everyone! I first want to say thank you to everyone who supported the Easter post I wrote a few days ago. Your support really means a lot.

Secondly, I wanted to inform you of two quick updates, since I don’t currently have the time to write a full report on either news stories.

The first piece of news concerns the guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea, Spongebob Squarepants. Remember to tune in to Nickelodeon on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8pm Eastern Time to see an anticipated episode of the hit Nicktoon. The episode is a half-hour special called Spongebob vs. the Big One and will feature a special voice appearance of Johnny Depp!

The next bit of news concerns a Walt Disney World favorite, Space Mountain. The next few days are your last chance to ride the classic Disney roller coaster in the dark before it goes into extensive refurbishment on Sunday, April 19, 2009. It is currently scheduled to re-open on November 21, 2009. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority will also be closing on April 19, but will re-open a little earlier than Space Mountain, on August 24.

Image © Disney.

I just wanted to remind everyone of that news, so make sure you watch Spongebob Squarepants on April 17 at 8pm Eastern Time to hear Johnny Depp voice a character, and if you’re in the Orlando area try to ride Space Mountain before Sunday, because it’s your last chance to ride it until November!


By Blake; posted April 16, 2009.

Theme Park Headlines – Spring Is In Full Swing at Epcot

March 28, 2009

Epcot’s acclaimed Flower and Garden Festival returns for 2009.

By Blake

Originally posted March 28, 2009.

Every year for 75 days, Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida comes alive with a beautiful display of breathtaking flowers, enchanting topiaries, and an all-around magical Disney experience when the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival blooms throughout the park.

One of Walt Disney World’s most popular special events, the Festival takes place each year at Epcot from around mid-March through May and includes exhibits, demonstrations, concerts, and plenty of eye candy. The entire park is filled with magnificent flowers, each display designed uniquely with that extra Disney touch. The shocker? The event comes free with park admission, a rarity for many activities these days, especially when Disney is involved.

This year’s Festival officially kicked off on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, with an opening ceremony following on Saturday, March 21. The ceremony featured Epcot Vice President Dan Cockerell, as well as the director of the new fall 2009 movie Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure Klay Hall, producer of Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure Sean Lurie, and the Disney Fairies – Tinker Bell, Silvermist, Fawn, Rosetta, and Iridessa. The group opened a new-for-2009 area of the Festival, a Pixie Hollow-themed playground called the Fairy Garden. The area features topiaries of the Disney Fairies and is located near the Mouse Gear shop and Innoventions, just behind Spaceship Earth.

The theme for 2009’s Flower and Garden Festival is “Celebrate Springtime,” to coincide with Disney Parks’ “What Will You Celebrate?” 2009 promotion. This theme is abundant at the entrance to the park, where a vast display of Disney Princess topiaries celebrate Cinderella’s coronation as princess. The display is called “Cinderellabration,” which is also the name of the stage show that performed at the Magic Kingdom during the Happiest Celebration on Earth in 2005 and 2006. The “Celebrate Springtime” theme is also apparent in a new Lion King-themed series of topiaries in Showcase Plaza. Also new for this year is the Pirates Adventure Zone, a Peter Pan-themed playground featuring topiaries of Captain Hook and Tick-Tock Crocodile. Other returning favorites include Minnie’s Magnificent Butterfly Garden and the Future World “quilt” of flowers.

This year’s Festival center is again inside the Wonders of Life pavilion, which is located in-between the Universe of Energy and Mission Space. Although the attractions inside the Wonders of Life have been closed for some time now, the pavilion is still used as the center for the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, as well as for Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival in the fall. Inside, guests can hear speeches, see demonstrations, and purchase Festival-exclusive merchandise.

The sponsor of the Flower and Garden Festival this year is Disney Nature, which is releasing its first movie, Earth, on April 22 (Earth Day). A sand sculpture themed around Disney Nature has been built near Mouse Gear.

Lastly, the Flower Power Concerts have returned this year. All throughout the Festival, music groups will be performing in the American Gardens Theater during the weekends. Performers include Davy Jones, Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, Jose Feliciano, and more.

Filled with beautiful flowers, magnificent displays, and much more, Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is a must-see for anyone visiting Walt Disney World from now through May 31.

By Blake; posted March 28, 2009. All images belong to Blake’s family.

Coverage of the 16th Epcot Flower and Garden Festival opening ceremony can be seen at:

Pictures of the many displays at the 16th Epcot Flower and Garden Festival can be seen at: