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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

A backyard version of Disneyland's Matterhorn, classic ride closures, and more

By Carlye Wisel
Disneyland Monorail passing by its Matterhorn Mountain

Here are all your updates for what's happening with Disney, Universal, and beyond for this week's installment of Theme Park News. We've got DIY rides, RIP rides, and more. Let's get started. 


Who did you decide to quarantine with during the COVID-19 pandemic? If you're a Disneyland fan, you're probably wishing you had found a way to move in with Napa Valley's LaRochelle family, who built an entire backyard version of Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds.

It's not an indoor re-creation that runs through one's house, nor is it a small-scale ride — it's a full-tilt coaster in one's backyard, complete with a "yeti" monster. Yes! There's even a Yeti, just like the classic Disneyland attraction, whose Abominable Snowman surprises riders as they pass around its bend. Only difference? This one was constructed by a small team, is located in a wildly scenic backyard, and, oh yeah, was entirely erected during shelter-in-place:

It's absolutely phenomenal how realistic this rendition is, and how similar it is to Disneyland's. Take a look:

Really makes me think about how much time I've spent watching Netflix since March instead of, ya know, building a whole carousel in my living room or creating a Jungle Cruise in my bathtub. 


In surprising regional park news, Pittsburgh amusement park Kennywood announced that it would be permanently closing four of its older rides: Kangaroo, Volcano, Paratrooper, and Bayern Kurve:

The park's reasoning for shuttering the rides is worthwhile, but some fans are absolutely not thrilled about it. We're particularly enamored by high school student Ellen Sieber, who took it upon herself to create a Boycott Kennywood Instagram account over the removal, which wound up being covered on the local news. The account only has a couple hundred followers, fewer than a petition to save two of the four retired rides, which currently boasts over 15,000 signatures. Neither effort is likely to reverse Kennywood's decision, but it just goes to show that it always hurts to see vintage attractions take their final bow.


Christmas season is in full swing at Walt Disney World, where nighttime projections — the first glance at evening festivities upon Cinderella Castle's new rose gold paint job — wowed guests as they gathered to take in the displays. (Cast members were also spotted walking around with signs reminding guests to keep their masks on.)

It's not the only noteworthy pandemic reminder of the week. Disney World parks have also appeared to tighten their policy to ban snacks and drinks while in socially distanced lines for attractions, the latest restriction put into place for guest safety.

Over on the other coast, word came just before publishing that Disneyland President Ken Potrock emailed employees to inform them of forthcoming furloughs set for cast members at the executive, salaried, and hourly levels. We'll keep you posted once we hear more.

While Disneyland's theme parks remain closed, Aulani, the Hawaii resort and spa owned and operated by Disney, reopened to guests last week. Those hoping to fly to Hawaii, where COVID-19 cases are significantly lower than much of the contiguous U.S., will need to show negative test results; reporter Deanne Revel outlined what happens if travelers head to the Aloha state without plans in place. (At Aulani, all guests will need to undergo a temperature check and wear masks; certain amenities, services, and dining locations will be unavailable during the resort's reopening.)

And, speaking of hotels — Universal Orlando Resort confirmed that Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Dockside Inn and Suites will open on Dec. 15, 2020, while Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando will resume operations on Dec. 1.


THE MUPPETS ARE BACK! I don't care how many good jokes and worthy distractions were shared on Twitter this week, this is it.

Ever since The Muppets Present... Great Moments of History was scrapped last year, us Kermit heads have been waiting for their grand return, and finally, at long last, they're back to their lil' windowsills in Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square. It's not exactly what we hoped for, as the beloved characters are not performing, only silently posing for selfies, but for a Muppets-starved Disney fan, it's truly a Hanukkah miracle.


- SOS: There's a new Baby Yoda dessert at Disney World's gourmet bakery!

- Check out this first look at the vehicles for Epcot's forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy coaster

- This story about the 20 projects Disneyland has been working on during the pandemic is fascinating. 

My happy place is now Efteling's Twitter presence.

- You can now watch Disney Cruise Line's entire Frozen musical from home.

- The first regional California park has opened under the state's COVID-19 guidelines.

- Can someone check on Universal Orlando Resort to make sure they're OK?

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