Epcot has a new Pastry shop being built in France, and the operator of the Morocco pavilion's restaurants claims they will be adding a lagoon-side eatery this year, though Disney has not confirmed that. 

Other than that? Not much is in the works at all at Disney.

Nothing has been announced for Hollywood Studios, though there are rampant rumors all or part of CarsLand will be cloned from Disney California Adventure Park. Animal Kingdom is still allegedly getting an Avatar-themed land sometime this decade, though there are whispers of more setbacks on that project. One telling sign: The cast of the popular "Festival of the Lion King" show just received new contracts through September, after previously being told the show would temporarily close (presumably because Avatar is slated for the Camp Minnie-Mickey area of the park).
So -- SeaWorld & Universal have multiple large-scale new rides on the way that could all be game-changers.  Disney has a small-scale (but fun-looking) coaster. Disney doesn't like having its thunder stolen, and the company's CFO admitted recently attendance was down last year at its four Florida parks. Universal certainly isn't saying that.  It will be interesting to see how things shake out when the amusement industry trade group THEA reveals its attendance rankings for last year.

I'd expect Disney to make an announcement or two for new projects sooner than later. No news to report yet, but we'll keep you posted.

 See you in the parks!


December 20, 2012

Happy 50th For Gatorland's Jaws

We'd like to wish a Happy 50th to a true Central Florida icon: the Gatorland Jaws.

Gatorland Jaws

If I'm not mistaken, it is the oldest surviving tourism icon except  for Clermont's Citrus Tower.

 The Orlando Sentinel's Dewayne Bevil has a  terrific article  on the history of the jaws, but, long-story short: Gatorland founder Owen Godwin, Sr. ca lled on his son, Frank, to design something special for an expansion of the park's entrance and gift shops. (Gatorland itself opened in 1949 as the Florida Wildlife Institute)

 The giant concrete & steel jaws  opened in 1962 and quickly became one of the most-photographed landmarks in Central Florida.

Early Gatorland Postcard

I have long been fond of this slice of old Florida, and have a personal connection: I met and got to know Owen Godwin, Jr. & his wife, Nancy, quite by accident decades ago when I was in Israel.  

So it was personally stunning and sad when it looked like the Jaws would have to be torn down.

2006 Gatorland Fire

I was producing the Local 6 Morning News on November 6th, 2006 when the main entrance complex and gift shop caught fire and quickly burned to the ground.
the most memorable image: flames shooting out of the mouth as seen here from Sky 6.

Charred Gatorland Jaws in 2006

As you can see the damage was extensive.

Fortunately, the park was able to quickly re-open and rebuild, and they saved and restored the jaws, though they no longer are the entrance to the park, they remain a very popular photo spot.

Gatorland Cake

A ceremony this afternoon will mark the 50th at Gatorland, on OBT.
To celebrate the park graciously sent this cake to the Local 6 Newsroom.

Gatorland Cake

Our thanks to  Gatorland & here's to 50 more years of the smiling gator jaws.

For  more images of Gatorland,  here's a link to a ClickOrlando slide show.