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Hello and welcome to this week's Theme Park News roundup! We've got global Disney news, Halloween Universal news, and even some regular Florida news. Here's what you may have missed in the past few days:
A LITTLE LOOK FORWARD AT BOTH DISNEY RESORTS
At Walt Disney World, we're seeing a few key steps toward pre-pandemic activities returning (including ketchup bottles! IYKYK) Here's what you can expect and look forward to:
News broke last week that Disney's Cultural Representative program is returning to Epcot. It's actually rather significant — Epcot pavilions are traditionally staffed by cast members from coordinating regions to lend cultural authenticity to each pavilion, which provides an extra layer to these themed spaces, even within the boundaries of a vacation destination.
Members of this Disney International Program returned to their home countries when the pandemic began, and Epcot simply hasn't been the same without them. Now, set to return in phases, the program will provide participants from select countries whose 2020 stint was canceled or shortened with the first opportunity to apply.
Cultural Representative participants will be welcomed back in August to Epcot's Germany, Italy, Norway, UK, Canada, and France pavilions. According to AllEars, "residents of other countries will be invited once more travel restrictions are lifted."
We're also hearing new details of the soon-to-be-updated Finding Nemo show at Disney's Animal Kingdom. A recent casting call provided details on which characters will be in the retooled puppetry performance, and we're pleased to hear the film series' core characters will indeed be part of the new stage show. Nemo, Marlin, Dory, Crush, Bruce and others will appear in the performance, set to return at a to-be-announced date in 2022.
Minnie Van service is also returning to Walt Disney World Resort this summer. The specialty private car service, which runs off the Lyft rideshare platform, provides direct transportation from Disney cast members throughout the entirety of Walt Disney World, as well as between the resort and Orlando International Airport. (Perhaps its best perk? Each vehicle has two car seats — something that can be hard to come by in a traditional Uber or Lyft ride.) No word yet on pricing, but we will keep you posted.
Over at Disneyland, a new Disney Vacation Club tower is underway at Disneyland Hotel, while Hyperspace Mountain will return to Disneyland for a limited time starting on April 29. As Disney Food Blog points out, this is the first time the intergalactic attraction will reappear at Disneyland since 2019. Hyperspace Mountain's blast back onto the scene coincides with May The Fourth and could possibly extend to the timing of Star Wars Celebration, an expo at the nearby Anaheim Convention Center May 26 through 29. (No end date has yet been announced.)
HALLOWEEN IS ON THE HORIZON
We're in the swing of things this Spring which, naturally, means it's time to talk about theme park Halloween. Universal's beloved HHN, or Halloween Horror Nights, has begun dropping hints on the creeps that await later this year at its Orlando resort.
Ten new haunted houses will debut as part of the terrifying endeavor, along with five scare zones — walk through, if you dare! — and two live shows. Details on all are soon to come, as HHN tends to parse each new reveal out as its own announcement, so keep a close watch to their Twitter account for nightmarish news. (Details for Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights have not yet been revealed.)
The fright-filled event will run for 43 nights at Universal Orlando Resort this year, starting on September 2 and ending on October 31. Single night tickets are available now, along with R.I.P — V.I.P, but with scares — Tour experiences and Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour, which allows guests to enter haunted houses, with the lights on, during the day time to see the magic and mayhem up close.
A FLORIDA UPDATE
Florida HB 1557 — widely known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill — has officially been signed into law. As radical legislature continues to be passed statewide in Florida, the effect it could have on theme park employees' families is significant and only just begun.
We discussed what the past few weeks have been like for The Walt Disney Company, who are one of the state's largest employers, but this week we saw a different side to the organization, for whom Florida's theme park resort is their most notable worldwide.
In a statement shared publicly, the company emphasized that HB 1557 never should have been passed nor signed into law. Disney also looks towards the future by confirming a dedication "to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."
It's late, sure, but it's not insignificant. With a statement coming from corporate and not dedicated to a single employee, it suggests that Disney has taken into consideration the thoughts and views of their own employees (as well as backlash from the general public) and rededicated themselves from staying out of politics to leaning directly into denouncing hateful laws. Could Disney have done so before the bill passed? That would have been better, but at least now there's hope that the company will take action against this and any similar legislation.
The specific impact this new law will have on Florida theme parks — Disney-owned or otherwise — remains to be seen.
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
- The Lily Margarita, in partnership with model and major Disney fan Lily Aldridge, is now available at La Cava Del Tequila at Epcot at Walt Disney World. It'll set you back $25 — but $5 of each purchase through April will be donated to Women for Women International.
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort has brought back its Fourth Night Free deal starting on May 1. (It's one of my favorite hotels in the area, and carries many of the perks of Disney-operated hotels — and way, way more amenities.)
- The Super Bowl never has to end, since LEGOLAND California has introduced a LEGO model of SoFi Stadium.
- Kennywood will reopen on April 16.
- A teenager, tragically, died on an attraction at ICON Park in Orlando.
- Is this how much a hotel costs?!