Saturday 29 July 2017

News Update - Pirate Auctions, Symbolica, D23 and Marty Sklar

July has been an absolutely enormous month for theme park news, from around the world and especially from the D23 Disney fan convention that was in Anaheim a couple of weeks ago. We'll get to all the news on that in the second, but first it is only right to acknowledge that Disney legend Marty Sklar passed away at age 83 yesterday. One of Walt's right hand men, Sklar has long been seen as a link to the opening of Disneyland and Walt's philosophies on parks and entertainment. Quite impressively he is the only Disney cast member to have been at the opening of all 12 of the Disney theme parks world wide. He was an inspiration to many in Walt Disney Imagineering, and had an undeniable impact on the parks and attractions as they stand today.

So on that sad note, let's move onto some general theme park news from July 2017.

At the start of the month, Disney announced that it was changing the Auction scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean at all of it's installations, to remove what could be considered a depiction of human trafficking. They announced that "the redhead" at the centre of the scene would now be armed, and the auction would be for things (guns and booty) rather than people. Strangely this became quite a debated issue, where people were taking this to mean that Disney was trying to "destroy" or "whitewash" one of it's early attrations. When the Disneyland Paris version of this ride re-opened, we got a taste for how this scene would now play out in the US parks. From my perspective this is a good change. I understand those that are nostalgic for the ride in it's original form, but people need to understand that ride has not existed for years. This ride has been updated in multiple ways, particularly since the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It's never been a true depiction of what pirates were like either, so arguments to that effect are flawed as well. I think social change should impact parks that have long standing attractions. I'm not saying everything has to be It's a small world type peaches and cream, it's just that when an issue like human trafficking becomes much more part of the social consciousness, then vague depictions like this are much more easily interpreted. Once interpreted like this, one scene can be jarring inside a ride like this, especially for parents of young girls. So, in short I'm for the change, let's all move on.

Moving over to the Netherlands where super park Efteling have opened there much anticipated new trackless dark ride "Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy" on the first of July. The ride features Pardoes, one of the main characters for the park, who guides vistors through the hidden and enchanting parts of Hartenhof Castle. The ride has three separate tours which you can be taken on, which separate and come back together at various parts of the ride. It also has an interactive element with touch pads on the ride vehicles which control different parts of the ride. At 35 million Euro this represents the largest investment in Efteling's history and really is one of the most impressive dark rides to open in the last 10 years.

The biggest news stories of the last month MOSTLY came out of the D23 fan convention that was held in Anaheim two weeks ago. Even before the event started we were treated to an in depth look at the Star Wars Land model which teased the wonderful details of this land coming to Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios very soon. We got even more details at the start of D23, when we learnt that this new land would be called Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and that it would open in 2019 with the west coast version to open first.

Across from Disneyland at Disney California Adventure, they are getting a new Pixar Fest event and Paradise Pier will be rethemed to Pixar Pier. We also got our first official hints at the Marvel Superhero Universe themed area is currently in development for Disney California Adventure, which will have much more announced in the future.

On the east coast, and there is plenty happening at Disney's Hollywood Studios where Toy Story Land is opening in 2018, followed by Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in 2019. The surprise news of the event was the brand new Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway to replace the Great Movie Ride at the centre of the park. But DHS isn't the only park set for a makeover with Epcot to be enhanced in phases, with first phase to be completed by 2022 for the 40th aniversary of the park. In World Showcase the France Pavilion is receiving a clone of Ratatouille from Walt Disney Studios Paris and the China Pavillion will be getting a new film to replace Reflections of China. In Future World Ellen's Energy Adventure is being replaced by a new E-ticket attraction themed to the Guardians of the Galaxy which we don't have any hard details about. Mission: Space to recieve a more kid friendly mission, the Green Mission, which will be an orbit of Earth featuring much greater sights and sounds. The new mission will debut in August. Mission: Space will now also feature a full-service restaurant where guests eat in space! Which will be awesome!

In Magic Kingdom,  a new theatre on main street modeled after the Willis Theater in 1920s Kansas City, and in 2021, Magic Kingdom will open Tron Lightcycle Power Run, in tomorrowland adjacent to Space Mountain, which is a clone from Shanghai Disneyland. But the biggest news for WDW was really outside the parks where Disney announced Star Wars luxury hotel coming to the Hollywood Studios resort area. This immersive hotel will be themed to a space craft in the Star Wars universe with each guest room having a view of space. There is also a new vacation club resort Disney Riviera Resort opening in the Epcot resort area. Some new transportation portions were also announced with
Disney's Minnie Van service to start operating as an Uber style point to point transport at a flat rate of $20 per trip. Also the rumoured Disney Skyliner, an aerial gondola system, was announced to connect the Epcot and Hollywood Studios areas. With stops at Epcot's International Gateway and the main gate of Disney's Hollywood Studios, in addition to Disney's Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera resorts.

Outside of the US the only real news from D23 was that Disneyland Paris to be home to the first Marvel-themed Resort.

Post D23 we've seen the re-opening of Fantasmic! and just this weekend, the re-opening of the Disneyland Railroad and the Rivers of America at Disneyland. At WDW, there has been an announcement that  "Grand Avenue" will open at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This will be themed to the Los Angeles street of the same name, and will put a touch of modern day California into the park.

Outside of Disney and D23 over at Universal Orlando, they have announced that they are closing the Dragon Challenge twin roller coasters to make way for a new attraction in the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Exactly what this will be is unclear but rumour has it that it could tie in to the Forbidden Forrest that surrounds Hogwarts.

So that is the news for a massive month of theme park news! Keep looking ahead though, as August 16th is National Roller Coaster day in the US, which is very likely to bring on announcements from Knott's Berry Farm, Silver Dollar City, Great America and King's Dominion.

That's it for this month's News Update. For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next time, Cheers!


  1. wow, so much! I agree, it's a smart move to change the auction scene and I like they are changing it to the red head doing the buying! :) :) Makes me like/appreciate Disney even more!

    1. Yeah! Huge month, plus I haven't been blogging enough to keep up. The redhead scene I'm glad it's changing if nothing else that I don't have to explain it to my own redhead who takes things to literally!