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Welcome to a jam-packed edition of theme park news! There has been so much going on this past week that, well, we won't dare to spoil it. From changes to theme park safety protocol and costume reveals to berry blasters and Halloween happenings, here's everything you may have missed:
THE NEW THROWBACK RIDE THAT'S A BERRY GOOD TIME
As part of Knott's Berry Farm's 100th Anniversary celebration, the Southern California theme park is unveiling something unexpected: nostalgia. Its newest ride, Knott's Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair, is a 4D attraction that honors Knott's Bear-y Tales, a synonymous attraction that shuttered 35 years ago.
While the original was more of a traditional "dark ride" with guests moving through different show scenes, the new version is an interactive shoot-out adventure that sees riders rack up points by splooshing cartoon characters in the face with “jelly blasters.” The goal is to hit coyotes, who have stolen award-winning boysenberry pies intended for the Country Fair, all while traveling through digital reimaginings of curious and colorful spaces such as Frog Forest, Fortune Teller Camp, and Weird Woods, which first appeared in the original Knott's Bear-y Tales so long ago.
It's rather unheard of that this would happen — a beloved vintage ride being reinvented and remastered for a grand modern debut — and even more bizarre that it would translate to a new format so seamlessly, which it does. (If this all sounds odd, keep in mind their history is steeped in, er, jam. Knott's Berry Farm, which predates Disneyland, is credited with having cultivated and produced the boysenberry.)
For a California transplant like myself who never experienced the original, the storyline is a bit muddied, but I still had unbelievable fun whopping berry blasts into the face of unsuspecting critters and creatures. The whimsical tapestry of bears playing banjos and frogs working at the fair is made all the more fun by tossing berry splats in their unexpected faces by way of yanking a tiny plastic boysenberry. It's a joy to experience, and what's even more interesting is that it may have actually been aided by the pandemic shuttering the parks. According to writer Jeremy Thompson, the extra time was spent further detailing the scenes and exteriors for a more robust experience and it shows. Everything in the ride reacts, too, so even if you're not playing to get a new high score, you can still have plenty of fun, allowing guests of all ages a chance to enjoy the attraction.
Knott's Berry Farm officially opens on May 21, and annual passholders are getting early access to experience the park, as well as Knott's Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair, early this week. Knott's attendance is currently limited to California residents, but stay tuned for updates on entry procedures.
WHEN IT RAINS NEWS, IT POURS NEWS
There's plenty happening at theme parks from coast to coast, so here's a little catch-up on what went down:
Over in Orlando, both Universal and Disney amended their safety procedures to remove temperature checks, a move that makes sense, considering it was not the most reliable metric for detecting or stopping the spread of the virus. At that same time, Universal also made the choice to shorten social distancing from six feet to three feet, marking the first shift of theme park protocol not in lockstep with CDC guidelines, which has only shortened the distancing recommendations for in-school learning. It's too difficult to evaluate from afar until I return next month, but with most people visiting the parks with at least one other person if not their whole family, three feet of separation has the potential to quickly become a regular ol' line.
Walt Disney World's removal of temperature checks cascaded into a different kind of surprise announcement: A full partnership with AdventHealth, bringing telehealth services, online planning tools, and medical equipment delivery to the theme park resort. On its surface, it sounds extremely unexciting (considering every detail was pointing in a Figment-shaped direction), but the partnership actually brings some benefits to vacationers that were not integrated into guest experiences previously. Now, Disney World visitors will be able to reach out to a doctor if they fall ill, visit a nearby emergency room, and even have prescriptions delivered to their hotel. (At this time, AdventHealth was unable to specify which offerings would cost additional money or be billed to insurance, and what the cost may be.)
In more haunting news, if you happened to see Halloween updates floating through the air despite not having seen the beach in over a year, don't worry, you didn't blink and miss summertime. That was just Disney Parks' #HalfwaytoHalloween blitz, which resulted in some Muppets reveals in addition to other exciting parks news.
For Florida-bound visitors, the main thing to know is that the annual ticketed Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party event at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom will be replaced this fall with a new, amended late-night event. Disney After Hours: Boo Bash will take the twisted throne on select nights between Aug. 10 and Oct. 31, offering many core experiences, including costumes, characters, and heaps of candy, with all the proper COVID-19 safety precautions. Folks who make Halloween celebrations a priority may be saddened to hear of the lack of spooktacular entertainment, but it's impressive Disney World was able to find a way to offer something special for the scare-filled season, all while avoiding large gatherings for fireworks, shows, and other experiences. And, if it's anything like previous Disney After Hours events, the lines will be even shorter than at Mickey's Halloween party, making the abridged event more appealing to those who can stay up 'til midnight.
And, just a week and a half after Disneyland's reopening, even more things are opening at the SoCal theme park resort. Restaurants at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel — including Napa Rose, Storytellers Cafe, and GCH Craftsman Bar — will open to the public later this month, while Disneyland's Blue Bayou Restaurant will serve beer, wine, and boozy hurricane cocktails for the very first time when it officially opens on May 27. Disney California Adventure's Alfresco Tasting Terrace is also now being annexed for Legacy Passholders, aka annual passholders whose access was removed earlier this year like a Thanos snap.
There's plenty more news out of Disneyland, with Disney's Paradise Pier hotel opening up June 15 — a noteworthy date, considering that's when California is expected to reopen its economy. Further details and a first look at costumes from Avengers Campus, the forthcoming Marvel-themed land at Disney California Adventure, were also released, and we gotta talk about this shawarma cart:
Covered in newspaper clippings and sly references to past films, it's going to give parkgoers plenty to look at while picking up their superhero-style shawarmas when the land debuts on June 4. Can't wait!
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
- Three words: Beef. Fat. Candle.
- Disneyland is testing virtual queue, like with Rise of the Resistance, for Indiana Jones Adventure.
- Very cool that Disney College Program will be offering gender-neutral housing.
- At long last, we finally have confirmation that the world's worst soda flavor will return to Epcot.
- VelociCoaster is now soft opening to guests at Universal Orlando Resort.