socially-distanced ride lines at Disney's Magic Kingdom
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Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Disney fully reopens as Universal's latest attraction boasts a supreme legacy

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Jul 22, 2020

Greetings from quarantine. I am holed up in my basement following a week of theme park reporting, but I’ve seen enough (and taken enough notes) to bring you plenty of updates about how Florida’s parks are proceeding amid the pandemic.

The NBA’s bubble is also moving forward — the content, I swear, has only gotten better; don’t miss Matisse Thybulle’s excellent vlogs — but within recent days we’ve seen Walt Disney World open in full, Disneyland keep things quiet for its birthday, and Universal drop some not-so-subtle glimpses at the future of Halloween Horror Nights. Let’s get to it:

DISNEY OPENS IN FULL

Last Wednesday, Walt Disney World made it official, opening its final two theme parks — Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot — thus making the entire resort open for business. Following the first two parks opening on July 11, nothing too eventful went down, save for the debut of Rise of the Resistance’s virtual line system with thrice-daily availability and, well, the resort opening during a pandemic.

Two days later, on its 65th anniversary, Disneyland would have opened. Instead, it remained shuttered due to governmental delays related to the COVID-19 crisis, signaling toward the massive dichotomy between the East and West Coasts. In Florida, parks are open and welcoming guests, while in California things are shutting back down. The two states are neck and neck with caseloads — on Monday, Florida reported 10,347 new cases, while California reported 9,231 new cases, and the positivity rates were at 14.7 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

It’s unclear when Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and other California parks may open; the outdoor mall district Downtown Disney opened on schedule. We shared some in-depth information on Disney World's reopening last week, but stay tuned for more details on California's resorts in the coming weeks.

HOW STUNTACULAR

While in Orlando learning about Universal’s safety protocols, I was able to catch a screening of the park’s newest attraction, The Bourne Stuntacular, a stage show themed to the Jason Bourne film series starring Matt Damon. 

I’ve always preferred practical attractions to being a passive audience member, but this show is something special. I won’t spoil the plot — photos and video are not allowed, which keeps its twists and turns shrouded in a thin layer of secrecy — but melding physical sets with an overwhelming 3,640-square-foot LED screen provides an effect that makes impressive use of its space, tricking viewers into believing the suburban or skyscraper sets are much more extensive than they are.

For a park that’s often ribbed for its overuse of screens, here it provides an experience that simply wouldn’t stand without them. Some parts may be chaotic — a clunky transition here or there, not to mention Julia Stiles in a pre-show video (!) —  but overall, it’s a dang joy. (Bonus points, too, for the park’s slow but safe audience load both into and out of the theater, making the show so much easier to enjoy.) All in all: Don't miss it on your next trip.

IN A GALAXY VERY, VERY CLOSE BY

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge merchandise is landing at Target stores as part of its corporate partnership with Disney, with pre-orders opening yesterday morning (with some filling up swiftly) as shipments officially “arrive” Aug. 30.

Merchandise from Disneyland and Disney World’s theme park lands had essentially been restricted to Batuu’s marketplaces and shops, marking a stark shift from the immersive land’s ethos. From a story perspective, it’s somewhat antithetical to the in-world theming Galaxy’s Edge prides itself on — where no products say Star Wars and everything is in canon —  but it’s also a nice way for families to get their theme park fix with many unable and understandably not willing to risk visiting this summer.

For anyone watching their budget to save up to build a droid in the theme park land — customizable Droid Depot creations cost the same as Target’s pre-built one — you can net a major galaxy-spanning high from the Galaxy’s Edge outpost website, featuring coloring sheets, activities, and, I gotta say, some exceptional interplanetary recipes with coordinating images. Snowtrooper toast! Pilot pies! A teeny-tiny C-3PO presiding over a smoothie! It’s just so cute!

"TWEET" OF THE WEEK

So yeah, it’s not a tweet, but this NBA Bubble Disney musical by The Ringer’s NBA Desktop is exceptional:

Not only do the characters sound like their celebrity counterparts, but the lyrics are just incredible. Don’t miss the particular perfection of an animated NBA commissioner Adam Silver doing "Be Our Guest." Lumière's got nothin' on him.

LINKS LINKS LINKS

- The perfect theme park meme? A dream of visiting all your favorite places at once.

- Theme park reservation requirements have been removed from Dollywood and Cedar Point.

- Robin Lopez, the perfect man.

- If you’re wondering if Universal Orlando will be doing Halloween Horror Nights, here’s a big neon arrow pointing toward yes.

- Disney World Annual Passholders were given an additional month of park access.

- Disney has clarified its policy on guests eating in the park.

- If you own a Fuel Rod — you know, one of those rechargeable chargers swappable at theme park kiosks — you’ll have to apply for “Founders Status” to keep free exchanges.

- Love this well-written piece published on Disneyland’s 65th birthday

- I will never get used to this.

- The holy grail!

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