Earlier this week, in my 2013 Parks Preview report, I mentioned there are rumblings Animal Kingdom's Avatarland may be on hold again. One reason, the insanely popular "Festival of the Lion King" has to move first, and the cast was just given new contracts.

Well, today there is new proof Disney is getting ready to do SOMETHING. Disney recently filed a permit with the  South Florida Water Management District asking for approval to clear out a 1.5 acre site in the Africa area, behind the Tusker House Restaurant & Dawa Bar. The shape of the building on the plans looks to be a virtual duplicate of the facilities for "Festival of the Lion King." Though insiders tell me it will look very different on the outside, and properly themed to Africa.

Tip of the hat to the always excellent "The Disney Blog" for breaking news of the permit filing.

Here's the header of the application with  SFWMD  so you can do a permit search if you want to read all of the documentation: 

South Florida Water Management District Application:

Application #: 121217-6  
Permit#: 48-00714-P Approved Date:  
Issuing Office: ORL
Permit Type: Environmental Resource (Compliance Letter Mod)
Expiration Date: Project Acres: 1.59
Project Name: A K Africa Hardscape Improvement Receiving Body: Pond Cde
Location: Orange S34/T24/R27 Landuse(s): Commercial
Applicant: Walt Disney Parks And Resorts U S Incorporated Lee Schmudde P O Box 10000 Lake Buena Vista FL 32830
Other Interested Party: Reedy Creek Improvement District Mahmoud Elsabagh 1900 Hotel Plaza Blvd Lake Buena Vista FL 32830-0170

If you do search, be warned the SFWMD site is really slow to load the permit documentation.

As to the show itself. no word yet when construction will start, or if Disney plans to build the new theater before closing the existing one.
We will keep you posted.



January 2, 2013

 Happy New Year!

As we close the books on 2012, local theme parks are starting to recover from some of the biggest crowds of the year.  Today, and for several days over the past week and a half, Disney's Magic Kingdom reached what is called a "Phase 3 Closure." Basically, that means there were so many people that Disney would only let in resort guests, Annual Passholders & people with restaurant reservations. How many people does it take before Disney closes the gates? It varies, depending on how many rides are down for maintenance, but insiders tell me the Magic Kingdom's maximum capacity is around 80,000 people. Doesn't sound like a fun time to be at the world's most popular theme park. Epcot  workers estimate the park had a New Year's Eve crowd of around 85,000.

Fortunately, locals can just wait a few more days for sanity to return. With most of Disney's Fantasyland expansion & Test Track 2.0 now open at Epcot, what can we expect to see new in the parks for 2013?

FunSpot USA is doubling in size, and recently sent us an aerial image showing the large construction site. You can see the start of construction on one of its two new roller coasters in the lower right hand corner. FunSpot hopes to have them open by May with a grand re-opening of the park off I-Drive set for Saturday, June 8th.

Kennedy Space Center ended the year with a new entrance complex, but the highlight will be this summer's opening of the new home for Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Universal & SeaWorld have the biggest additions on the way. SeaWorld's "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins" is a whole new land the park calls its largest expansion ever, complete with first-of-its-kind trackless ride that promises the closest encounters yet with all types of penguins.

Universal has the momentum. Since the "Wizarding World" opened, attendance has been soaring. Last year, Universal added the great new "Despicable Me" ride, its first daily parade & a Cinema Spectacular. This year, the ground-breaking "Transformers: The Ride 3-D" will open less than a year after demolition of an old soundstage. That is unheard of for a complex, high-tech attraction. (In contrast, Disney is taking 4+ years to build the Fantasyland addition).  Also on the way, a Simpsons miniland, including several Springfield landmarks, and if online reports are true, it will also include a small new ride.  That should tide people over until the not-yet-announced Harry Potter part 2 opens at the studios. We'll have more on that project, and word of several other big expansions at Universal soon.

That leaves Disney. In 2013, expect the new "Princess Fairytale Hall" meet & greet where the old "Snow White" ride used to be, along with Rapunzel-themed bathrooms between "it's a small world" and the "Haunted Mansion."

There is also the possibility the smallish "Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster" will be complete before the end of the year.

That will wrap up the Fantasyland expansion, and wrap up the last major project Disney has announced for all of its four parks.