Once again life here in Orlando is just way too overstuffed with news and events. Legoland Florida has announced its opening date (October 15), for instance—make your reservations now! Later this week, Cheetah Hunt will open up at Busch Gardens Tampa. I’ll have coverage of that ride next week. (I hope my expectations aren’t too high—I love terrain coasters, I love speed, and this thing has so much promise!) Meanwhile, in a galaxy far far away...
Star Wars Weekends
The opening of Star Wars Weekends included visits by Disney CEO Bob Iger and the original Jedi master, George Lucas. There’s not a lot brand new this year. They have moved the shopping zone out behind Rock ‘n Roller Coaster (the usual ESPN sports zone) into a tent called Jabba’s Hut. The event merchandise felt like more of the same to me, but if you’ve never been, it probably has more of a spark for you than it did for me. I did like the new Star Tours merchandise.
$22 for six matchbox-sized speeders. A bargain.
One has to wonder why the shopping moved. Why not use the soundstage near Backlot Tour that was used last year and several previous years? Is it possible that the longstanding rumors are true, that this area (plus the nearby former Who Wants to be a Millionaire) might be prepping for a ‘someday’ ride? The rumors floating about mention the Crush coaster or a Ratatouille ride. Obviously, no one knows anything for sure.
The Jedi Training Academy was running many shows (good for them!) and the meet and greet backdrops were out (good for them! They always had a line). The parade route on Saturday was the whole route, but only the Hollywood Blvd portion on Sunday. This was odd, and seemed to irritate a lot of people. There was certainly much less viewing area than one normally expects for the parade.
My cheeseball favorite, the Hyperspace Hoopla, was on the main stage near the Sorcerer Hat. First, let me state my disappointment that the usual performer for Snig (let’s just call him R.) wasn’t there on Sunday. He and the Oopla performer (J.) have made such a great team over the years that I didn’t realize how jarring it would be to have alternate actors, but there you go. It was a diminished experience for me just on that basis alone.
Kit Fisto never comes out!
This year’s show celebrates rock rather than 80s or 70s music (other themes from past years), and it felt competent enough. I liked the jokes, as usual. What I didn’t like was the fact that viewing is still hard here in this new location. The ground slopes downward from the stage, making it hard to see over raised cameras (not to mention kids on shoulders). I’m not sure how they could fix this. Make the stage even taller? Build mini-risers in the whole viewing area to approximate gentle bleachers? I’d be tempted to move the whole thing to the Beauty and the Beast stage, personally.
Star Tours – Even More Tributes
Last week I listed a brief list of tributes at the new Star Tours. I’ve been keeping track of such remnants and tributes on MiceChat, updated for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Here are some of my favorites:
Star Trek fans: The Enterprise (NCC-1701) is represented on one wall
decoration (just under/before the large viewscreen in the queue).
Nearby are C3PO and R2, backwards.
Tony Wayne Baxter (and the original Starspeeder 3000 number)
in the other corner under the large viewscreen.
Also, Flight 1401… the address for WDI.
The G2 droid says it looks like Jar Jar, but we know better.
(Above, inset) K-DROID (107.9) was the name of the ‘radio station’ that would play behind the
originalG2 droid. You can spot this reference looking down at the first G2 droid from above.
The tube full of luggage sports the opening date of Star Tours in Anaheim: January 9, 1987.
It’s the flight attendant from the first queue video, 20 years later!
Dolphin’s Presidential Suite
A few weeks ago we toured the Presidential Suite at DAK Lodge, and now here is another one on Disney property. The Dolphin’s presidential suite sits on the 22nd floor—pretty much the highest guest-accessible location on Disney World property. That’s twenty feet HIGHER than the top of Everest or the Tower of Terror.
Hold your breath, and look around.
The view is, needless to say, simply breathtaking. Step out into the large balcony (with up to 30 of your friends) and you’ll be treated to a view of the neighboring Swan directly ahead, Epcot to your left, and DHS to your right.
The Land and Spaceship Earth look close to each other.
The backstory of the Dolphin and Swan make more sense from up here. This hotel is a “mountain” rising up out of Florida, and the black square on the side (no, it was never for the monorail) is meant to represent a lake. Water cascades down from here, runs across the spillway to the Swan, and thus there are wave-motifs all over the immediate area (and on the Swan itself).
The balcony would be the place to be for fireworks in either nearby park.
The look into the Boardwalk and Yacht/Beach club area is fantastic. With a zoom lens, you’ll feel like you’re right there. Which, in a way, you are.
Not far away at all.
While you’re here, zoom into Epcot. Everything takes on a new angle, and is suddenly interesting again. It’s odd how things which look so familiar from one angle will appear so fresh when seen from above, or from the side to such an extent.
France never looked like this before.
When looking at DHS from this side, you’ll see what a far walk it is from the Rock ‘n Roller coaster gate (the upside down car) over to where the ride itself occurs. And Tower of Terror looks so huge.
The yellow buildings to the left are from Wide World of Sports
Some of the windows in this suite (but not the balcony) face out to the Magic Kingdom. It’s a bit of a distance, but everything is still within sight. This is amazing to see first hand.
It looks like a tilt-shift picture, but it’s real!
Other windows face out toward Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can tell from this angle that there are very few tall buildings here!
That’s the Coronado Springs resort in the foreground.
The suite itself is huge, with seating in beds for eight, though you could put 14 in here using couches and so on. The place has a capacity of 30, all told. The room is often booked for groups, but if you can find it open, the rack rate will set you back almost $3,000 for one night. But it might be worth it for the view alone!
There’s an upstairs with more bedrooms.