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Mickey Mouse is back in action, Halloween is on the way, and Universal goes green

Character hugs are back, Halloween rumors are swirling and Universal Studios Hollywood's historic attraction takes an environmental turn.

Main Street Electrical Parade

Hello and welcome to another week of Theme Park News! Things are, at long last, returning to normal as character greetings and explosions in the sky return to Disney Parks, while Halloween looms ever closer. From a new celebrity joining the ranks of ride pre-shows to kids' Darth Maul dreams come true, here's everything you need to know from this past week:

DISNEY RETURNS TO A NEW NORMAL

Blink and you'll miss it — a return to form, that is. In the past week, Disneyland has brought back nearly all of its classic nighttime entertainment while both it and Walt Disney World have granted permission to anyone who wants to give good ol' Mickey Mouse a hug.

Yes, after two long years, true character greetings are back. Throughout the pandemic, Disney Parks hosted meet-and-greets at a distance, but now everybody's favorite princesses, characters and yes, anthropomorphic mice are once again able to make memories and greet guests with a proper hug.

It sounds trite, but I myself didn't realize how much it changes one's experience when you're actually able to closely converse with a character. Standing ten feet from Winnie The Pooh is cool, sure, but having a rare A Bug's Life moth call you back over to take a special photo from behind her wings or Goofy appears, like magic, at your resort hotel ready and willing to smile for selfies is a nice touch that makes the world feel normal again and even my cynical self is thrilled to see back.

Light-up Turtle Premium Sipper

Over at Disneyland Resort, it's not just characters who have made their grand return because nighttime entertainment is back in a big way. Disneyland Forever fireworks are back up and running — I forgot how good this show was during the pandemic! — as is World of Color at Disney California Adventure and, my personal favorite, Main Street Electrical Parade. While some (fools!) may view the parade as a quasi-irritating throwback, I am absolutely in love with it. From the little vehicles buzzing and shuffling themselves down Main Street, USA, to the grand new finale float, which highlights movies including Moana, Encanto and Coco, it is so good to have it back. (And... not just because I fully flew cross country, from Walt Disney World to Disneyland, just to catch its debut.) Also? The merch couldn't be better. Couldn't be better!!

There's more to come, though — Fantastmic!, the flawless waterfront nighttime spectacular at Disneyland, will return on May 28.

HALLOWEEN ON THE HORIZON

We're not even in May, but don't worry, theme park Halloween is never too far behind. Disney's Halfway to Halloween promotion is about to hit full force... even if we've not yet made it to summer vacation, let alone fall break.

Revelry includes a Nightmare Before Christmas popcorn bucket in the likeness of Jack Skellington and specialty cupcakes — both only available this weekend — but other special announcements yet to come this Thursday, April 28. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is more than likely going to be part of that forthcoming news, so we feel confident assuming the party is back on in its traditional form this fall — but for actual announcements later this week, stay tuned to Disney's blog and TikTok to keep track of any nightmarish news ahead. 

Chainsaws whirring out of context don't fit as seamlessly into the springtime months, but that hasn't stopped the Halloween Horror Night rumor mill from churning on both coasts. Rumored maps are out for Universal parks in both Orlando and Hollywood which, again, are rumors — as much as we wish Universal Orlando's rebuttal has a grain of truth to it. From their irreverent twitter account's ill will towards Mardi Gras, though, we can already feel the fear-filled season breathing down our necks. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

GOING GREEN WITH JIMMY FALLON

Universal Studios Tram

Universal Hollywood's Universal Studio Tour has debuted four new electric trams that will take guests through Hollywood history and across the widespread expanse of the neighboring film studio.  The Studio Tour, which snakes past Universal Studios sound stages, through sets and travels into two attractions themed to King Kong and Fast & The Furious respectively, will now do so with some of the largest battery-powered vehicles of their kind in the country. Incredible!

LINKS LINKS LINKS!

  • Epcot's Connections Cafe — and more importantly, its permanent Starbucks location — has opened.
  • Terry Crews is in Disney's new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction? Ok!
  • Wow, this headline gets me.
  • Who needs to look back on pre-pandemic years when you can rewind all the way back to your high school graduation with Disneyland's new event?
  • At long last, intricate face-painting has arrived to Disney's Star Wars-themed Galactic Starcruiser.
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