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Todd Regan

Universal Update

12/22- Coaster rumors at Universal and Jurassic Park III photos, Christmas warning for Disneyland, a sing-a-long version of Evita in the works and more!

What a month I've been having! Seems that every friend I've ever had has come to visit Southern California in the last month. As a result, I've played host to a few trips to Disneyland and Universal as well as Six Flags, the Getty Center, Knotts Berry Farm, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal parks as well as the always fun Sea World Adventure Park. Some of what you are about to read has been culled from these trips, the rest from an ever expanding team of industry super spies ;)


Interesting News from Universal Studios Hollywood

They've named the new kid's playground

Two of my favorite undercover Uni sources independently informed me that the new Kid Blast zone being developed at the park may include not just one but perhaps two kiddie coasters.   

Also, much thanks to Shorty for the info on a plan to test Universal Express (similar to Disney's Fast Pass) on the Jurassic Park water ride. Looks like guests staying at Universal affiliated hotels and annual pass holders will be the test bunnies. If successful, look for this program to spread out to Back to the Future and E.T. I have heard that the system as currently used in Florida isn't all it could be and can cause some confusion. I'd love to hear from those of you who have recently used this system at one of Universal's Orland parks. Many many thanks to Shortie for all his help over the last few weeks, keep those hawk eyes open!

Also, thanks to the Uni employee who wrote to tell us that the Animal Actors show (which I hate) is in the final planning stages for a major update. The new show will still include live animals, but will have a modern television tie in (perhaps with the Animal Planet cable network). Sounds interesting and certainly couldn't be any worse than the current show. Now if only they'd do something about that ancient old Wild Wild West Stunt Show . . .

Below are the newest shots from the Jurassic Park III sets - they've been shooting at night!

As you can see above, the set is massive - the photos below show the night shoot in progress on 11/29.

These three shots (starting above - continuing on below) illustrate how huge this outdoor set is - the lighting used simulates daylight to be able to control the look inside

Note the man sitting under the klieg light on the left hand side of the photo below - we told you this thing was huge

It is really worth a trip to the park right now just to see all the wonderful things going on: Grinchmas, Jurassic Park III, and all the interesting construction going on.  


More Sing-a-longs at the El Capitan on Hollywood Blvd! 

You Mouse Planet regulars will remember the wonderful reviews we gave Midnight Mary (the Mary Poppins sing-along) at the El Capitan. It was such a success that they are bringing it back March 16 through 25.

The interesting thing is that Disney is expanding the concept out to other films as well. The more adult sing-along version of Evita will run at the El Capitan January 25, 26, 27 and most Friday and Saturday nights in February. I know I'll be there.


A Disney Nightmare on Main Street

We had a wonderful dinner at the Disneyland Hotel on Thanksgiving and decided to head into the park for the Christmas fireworks afterwards. However, the last Christmas parade of the evening was just finishing up, and the park was so crowded that we had to wait until the parade was over before we could even think about making our way up Main Street.

Much to my surprise, the crowd moved directly into the street forming an unmoving wall of people. Those who were unlucky enough to get caught in the Main Street shops before the parade were trapped inside for as long as twenty minutes as the crowds attempted to crawl around those who had laid claim claim to their very own spot of Main Street.  

Over the course of half an hour we pressed our way down the right side of Main Street, then trudged slowly toward Small World for the Fireworks. There was no way I was going to subject my family to that crowd on Main Street. The Believe in Holiday Magic fireworks are truly a treat not to be missed. But at what cost?

The story sickens. My wonderful old friend Katie made a rare visit to Southern California and wanted to meet me at Disneyland the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I agreed to join her around 8 pm in our special spot near New Orleans Square.  

I didn't make it. As though Thanksgiving evening had been totally purged from my brain, I found myself waiting twenty minutes for a tram at the parking garage. I arrived at the front gate just as the last parade was wrapping up for the evening. Not even thinking, I headed into the shops on the left side of Main Street and made it as far as Center Street (near the Blue Ribbon Bakery) where I would remain stuck for nearly one hour!!!

The crowd behind me started to push out toward the street. The Crowd in front of me was pushing toward the shops and the Bathrooms behind me.  There was nowhere to go. After fifteen minutes or so, the crowd began to get rough. I heard a woman inside the bakery crying out loud that she had a little boy who needed to use the restroom. Another woman near the Bakery fell to the ground and was unable to get back up for a few minutes because the bodies were pressed shoulder to shoulder. A rather large bruiser of a man decided to take matters to a new level of crudeness and began to push his way through, causing general panic and shouting throughout this section of the street.  

All too slowly, I made a painful journey 25 feet across the street. I was pushed, stepped on, and yelled at. Ducking into the shops on the right side of Main Street, I weaseled my way all the way to the camera shop where I finally broke free Just in time for the first Fantasmic to let out. Repeat the scene above as the crowds were unable to move toward Main Street and had nowhere to go. Somewhere near Big Thunder I heard the Fireworks begin. I was now an hour and a half late meeting Katie and knew that I would never make it all the way to New Orleans Square. I also knew that I could not turn around and leave the park. I had nowhere to go?  

I ended up in the one place in Disneyland I never go. Heading up the much less crowded Big Thunder Trail, I ducked into the Village Haus where I found a small table and sat. Now this is a perfectly cute little restaurant, but let's face it the food here is amongst the worst I've ever had which is why I never go there. I was starved and there was no line, so I broke down and ordered one of their terrible burgers and sat until Katie called my cell phone. She had a similar tale of crowds and agony. We did finally meet up with each other around 10 pm.  

Too late to make this long story short, so here is my warning to you: If you must head to Disneyland for the weekend before Christmas through Christmas Day or for New Year's Eve, be prepared for unbelievable crowds. Don't expect Disney employees to be able to handle the masses, they simply are not equipped or staffed to keep the crowds moving.

Also, do not hesitate to make your complaints known at City Hall. If you feel that you have not gotten your moneys worth, demand a return ticket or your money back. I do believe that Disney hears our complaints when they end up having to pay for them. Click here for Adrienne Krock's fantastic tips regarding busy days at Disneyland. 


So, what am I doing for Christmas? Well, Universal is closed and I have a friend in from Minnesota who wants to go to  . . . DISNEYLAND! This time I'll be prepared (or will I?).

I wish each and every one of you a most happy holiday season and hope that all of your travels are magic ones.


11/20 - Christmas is busting out all over

The entry gate is all done up (above), and there's a giant poinsettia tree in the plaza (below)

Santa Kong
Even King Kong is in the spirit this year!

Lot's of news for you today: my review of Universal's Grinchmas, ice skating at City Walk, Universal price increases, and a review of MousePlanet's new Disneyland tour! Disneyland isn't the only place making holiday magic this year, so join me as yet another holiday season creeps up out of nowhere.


Speaking of the all-knowing, I had the guilty pleasure of taking a one and only Fabulous Disney Babe tour of Disneyland last week.  

Fab
The Fabulous Disney Babe enjoying the Disneyland snow

My family decided that I deserved a break and splurged on the perfect present. I haven't been on a Disney tour of any kind in years. Truth be told, I'm a Disney nut by birth and never thought I could learn anything new from a tour. I had no idea what this powder keg of a woman had in store. Turns out that the happiest place on earth didn't get that way with smiles and pixy dust. Fab dished so much dirt about proposed attractions that never made it, Imagineering blood feuds, and park gossip and rumors that I will never look at the park the same way again.

What happened to the Sub Lagoon and whose wise brained idea was it to shut it down? Better yet, what may take its place and who is standing in the way. Fab knows, and best of all she tells.

I was particularly fond of her Haunted Mansion tales and the saga of that magnificent new land that never got built, Discovery Bay. Creative geniuses, jealous backstabbing, executives from hell, Disney has it all. No soap opera has better material than this; if Disney really wants to produce a hit show for ABC they should rush a Disneyland version of Dynasty into production ASAP.

Fab, thanks for the great tour and a fantastic day in the park! I'm still thinking about the Disneyland that could have been and the one that still may be.

If you are looking for information on the Fabulous Disney Babe tours, click here. I'll be jealous if you get to have martinis with her, have fun!


The Grinch is a huge hit, and not just at the movies!

Wow, look at the flocking
Wow, look at the flocking

Universal has done it again, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was a big hit this weekend at the movies and at the theme park! Once again Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) brings the movies off the screen for you to enjoy first hand. This time around it is Grinchmas, a Dr. Seuss inspired Christmas wonderland. The Grinch has only just stormed the theatres and USH already has a new stage show, snowy mountain sledding (real snow!), and a fantastic walk- through maze which includes actual sets from the movie.

The Whos welcome you!
The Whos welcome you!

I'll give you a quick review of these new but temporary attractions and encourage you to set aside a day to see it all for yourself. 

The Whobilation stage show -

 Whobilation
Check out the huge set, Horton, and the spiral flocked tree!

The Who's are celebrating the holidays with acrobatic flare.

 Whobilation Whobilation
Who du Soleil?

The show is short but cute with tons of action and moves not often seen outside of a Cirque du Soleil tent. To top it all off, they make it snow at the end of every show! 

 Who made it snow? the Whos, that's who.
Who made it snow? the Whos, that's who.

This snow is a bit more soapy than Disney snow, but still a fun effect.  

The Grinch Cave Maze -  

Oh no!
Oh no! ...

Grinch Maze
...the Grinch Cave is not as scary as it looks.

That Crazy Grinch lets you explore his secret cave. While the maze part is a bit bare, the best is yet to come. You'll soon come to a huge cavern which houses some enormous artifacts from the movie. You'll find a two story cymbal monkey,

 
Huge 15 ft tall monkey in the Grinch cave

the Grinch's sled, 


That's the Grinch's sled in the background.

and the Grinch himself of course!

Isn't the make-up amazing?
Isn't the make-up amazing?

This attraction is extremely well done considering that it will only be open for a few months, it's simply amazing to see all this stuff that is actually in the movie.

Mr. Crumpit Snow Plummet -

If you are willing to wait in line for a long time to sled down a bunny hill for about 12 seconds, you will love this attraction. Regardless of how fun it actually is, the mountain looks totally cool and certainly froze smiles on the faces of the folks I observed. Perhaps that's because of the real snow piled on mountain, something that many Southern Californian children have never seen.

  The big snow slide
The big snow slide

Kudos to Universal for their outstanding effort on Grinchmas. You'll love it!


Meanwhile...

They've named the new kid's playground, that is moving in where the War Lord tower used to sit, it's now the KIDS BLAST ZONE.

And our good friend Bruce the Jaws shark has been moved a few feet to clear a walkup up.


Outside the theme park at the far end of City Walk (behind Hard Rock Cafe), Universal has set up an ice skating rink. 

Universal Ice Rink
Ice rink at City Walk

While the official opening date it scheduled for November 24th, look for it to soft open daily through the 23rd. Prices are $6.50 per person with an additional charge of $2.50 for skate rental. Hours are listed above in the column to the right.


On a less exciting note, Universal has matched Disney's recent price increase and has raised single day passports to:

Adults: $43 
Children: $32 
Seniors: $37

Upgrade to a regular annual pass (some blackouts) for only $9

Upgrade to a deluxe annual pass (no blackouts) for only $29

This is a trend that I wish Universal would break. Disney may soon price itself out of the market and I sure would like to see Universal and Knott's Berry Farm take up the slack, providing a more cost effective day for the family.

Quick reminder: Universal will close for Thanksgiving and Christmas

Thanks for stopping by folks, check back soon for the story behind my 8 hour date with Bette Midler. Happy Thanksgiving and as always, happy travels! 


You can e-mail the Dusty Traveler at dustytraveler@mouseplanet.com

 

 USIG Index

Contents

Archive of past stories:

Archive 2

Archive 1

 Universal Quick News

Ice Skating:

Cost: $6.50 per person $2.50 skate rental.  
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 am through 10pm  Weekend 11 am to Midnight.

Grinchmas Pass Information:

Each California resident who purchases a full price admission during Grinchmas (November 17 through January 1) will receive unlimited admission from January 1 through March 31.  Ask for details at the park.

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