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Welcome to this week's Theme Park News roundup! Cue the somber music and pour one out for Shrek while getting amped for some special events around the corner. From pretzel price increases to pandemic updates, here's everything you need to know from the past seven days:
WAITS, WINE AND WHAT'S NEXT AT DISNEY
January is routinely one of the slowest months at the parks, but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on. Buffets may not be en vogue at the moment due to our never-ending pandemic, but we've still got a hearty selection of Disney Parks news from the past week. Tuck in for some procedural changes, price increases and even a look towards festivities later this month:
Just when you were getting the hang of Lightning Lanes and Boarding Groups, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure switches up its approach. There is now a standby line for Epcot's newest ride for the first time since its debut, allowing guests to wait it out in real time instead of doing their best to grab a spot in the virtual queue as early as 7am each day.
If you want to board Remy's Ratatouille Adventure more seamlessly, you can always purchase the Individual Attraction Selection through Disney Genie to skip the regular line — which is still offered, despite virtual queue going away — or, if you're a Disney World hotel guest, you can scurry through the French kitchen during Early Entry each and every morning.
There's some food news coming out of Walt Disney World and, well, you're not going to like it.
Disney Food Blog is reporting on hundreds of price increases across the parks on everything from Mickey Pretzels and ice cream to beer, burgers and bottled soda. These kinds of upticks are incremental and happen often, but have now boosted the price of a Dole Whips to $5.99 and Mickey Pretzels and cheese to $7.50.
Price increases at the parks are standard, and typically the sentiment is that people react poorly but continue to go — but these days, even die-hard fans can feel those fees adding up. With admission costing more, FastPass+ converting to a paid system with its own paid upgrades, and the cost of transportation to and from the airport factored in, even more theme park planning prowess is required to navigate a Disney trip for the same price point as before.
The old mentality used to be that it's beneficial to keep guests on property, as they'd end up spending all their money onsite. When you evaluate all these changes together, though, they're essentially giving guests more reason than ever to leave the "Disney Bubble" for meals, snacks and groceries. Yes, boosting the price of soft serve and beer and entrees is incremental and yes, this happens regularly, but it's important to note that it seems like we're reaching a tipping point as we inch towards an $8 complex carbohydrate shaped like a familiar mouse. Turning a profit as we reach whatever end of the pandemic is essential for the business, but my editorial Spidey sense tells me there's an issue brewing here that isn't going to show itself for a few years, and when it does, will be challenging to untangle.
We are a mere nine days from the greatest celebration Disney California Adventure hosts all year: Lunar New Year! I'll get into it more later this month once it kicks off Jan. 21, but know that I am plenty excited for it to begin. If you were planning to hold off until Spring Break to visit Disneyland Resort, just know this bombastic celebration lasts through Feb. 13 and can be combined with that SoCal resident ticket offer so, you know, might be worth making a few trips. And, over in Disney World, Epcot's International Festival of the Arts kicks off Jan. 14 through Feb. 21 with themed food, artistic experiences and live performing arts.
IT'S ALL OGRE
Shrek 4-D has officially shuttered at Universal Studios Florida, ending its 18-year reign with a chanting crowd and a proper goodbye.
Am I crying or just cutting an onion? I'll never tell.
As much as yours truly loves Shrek — 11 months ‘til Shrekcember 2K22! — the attraction had pretty much run its course. The Orlando theme park resort is wasting no time teasing its forthcoming replacement, though. Since the ride officially closed, Universal's social media has been dropping hints by way of half-eaten bananas, widely known as the Minions' very favorite food. Although there is already a Minions attraction at the park, it's just across the way from Shrek 4-D, making it an easy sell as a lil' Illumination-themed area. Add, too, that there's enough proof in the pudding to double down on the animated characters, and it's more than likely we'll get a second experience themed to Gru's tiny menaces. Minions: The Rise of Gru is slated for release later this year, and if the past is any indicator, this franchise will continue to pull big numbers far into the future.
A COVID-19 UPDATE
Like too many repeat rides on VelociCoaster — or selecting the swinging carriages on Disney California Adventure's Pixar Pal-A-Round — one's head feels on the verge of spinning due to the fact that we're...still in the midst of a raging pandemic, and things have, sadly, not improved over the past week. For Orange County, Florida; Orange County, California; and Los Angeles County, California, Covid-19 cases have "have increased recently and are extremely high," according to The New York Times. "The total reported for the past week was the highest of the pandemic [and] the test positivity rate...is very high, suggesting that cases are being significantly undercounted." Egads! It's the first time I've seen the exact same language be used across all three theme park regions in the paper of record, which means we're still in the thick of it. Stay safe out there and mask up!
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
The biggest drama in the Disney community this week? Shopping bags.
There is once again money in the banana stand!
Knott's Peanut Celebration begins Jan. 22 at Knott's Berry Farm and will feature an explosion of characters, entertainment and themed food.
I cannot discuss this further but... it's imperative you see it with your own eyes.
As per Los Angeles County updates reclassifying the attendance level of "mega events," Universal Studios Hollywood will now require proof of vaccination or a negative test on most days. Translation: if you're visiting the park, be prepared to show your stuff.