An Orlando Theme Park Round-Up By Susan & Simon Veness!
You’ll have to excuse us if we sound a little out of breath this week but it has been a truly remarkable few days, even by Orlando’s hectic, non-stop standards!
Transformers the Ride Grand Opening Event
If there is one thing that has left us genuinely breathless, it is TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D, the newest and most eye-catching addition to the attraction line-up at Universal Studios. A day of previews and behind the scene tours at Universal Orlando was followed by an evening dedicated entirely to the new Transformers the Ride 3D – with the chance to experience the attraction. And what a truly breathtaking experience it is. Here, in best movie style, guests are inducted as N.E.S.T. recruits to help the Autobots battle the evil Decepticons.
The queue area is huge, and hugely detailed, and, while the ride itself borrows from the same motion base as The Adventures of Spider-Man, it delivers in a whole new way, with an incredibly fast-paced four-minute whirl into the battle for the All Spark, the Transformers’ essential life-force. The 3-D graphics are state-of-the-art, while the sound system, special effects and even an eye-popping slow-motion film sequence are even better, ensuring an immersive experience that will captivate kids and grown-ups alike. It certainly has more of the feel of walking into a movie than a theme park ride and the repeat factor is off-the-charts impressive as there is SO much to see, you will definitely want to try it again and again!
As if all that wasn’t enough, the next morning we had the official red-carpet walk-of-fame and opening ceremony for the ride. And just Wow! and then Wow! one more time after that. Not only did we get to meet all the creative minds behind the attraction, but also the heads of the Universal and Hasbro companies, the film-actor voices for Transformers Optimus Prime and Megatron, and then film director Steven Spielberg, who is executive producer of the Transformers movies and who walked the red carpet with Optimus.
Not content with wowing the media and the park’s thousands of guests who had packed in to see the ceremony, Universal then turned the moment into a firework-strewn attack by the Decepticons, with the Autobots helping to see off the ‘invaders’ with the help of Florida’s Black Diamond Jet Team, who delivered a stunning overhead fly-by.
Optimus Prime and Steven Spielberg walk the red carpet
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Prior to the unveiling of Transformers the Ride 3D, Universal laid on a full day of media events and updates to give us the lowdown on the new (for March 31, 2014) Cabana Bay Reach Resort, which will be their fourth onsite hotel and offer two main pool areas, with Universal’s first lazy-river feature. It will have a 10-lane bowling alley and a big central food court, and will be themed in 1950s and 60s retro beach resort style. There will be 1,800 rooms in all, 900 in value-priced standard room configuration sleeping 4 and 900 in 430sq ft suites that sleep six and also have kitchenettes (with a fridge, microwave and kitchenware).
Springfield Behind the Scenes
Next, we went behind the construction boards of the Springfield area that is rapidly taking shape in the Studios park. Instead of just the Simpsons Ride, we will have a full ‘land’ devoted to the famous cartoon TV family by later this summer.
Fast Food Boulevard opened last week – a clever food-court style restaurant devoted to Springfield’s well-known dining options – and you can now try a Krusty Burger, get the ‘catch of the day’ from the Frying Dutchman, grab a slice from Luigi’s Pizza, sample the fare of Cletus’ Chicken Shack and slug down a Duff beer at Moe’s Tavern – plus a non-alcoholic Flaming Moe, a fizzy orange drink that smokes with dry ice! We were impressed by all the food we sampled (the Krusty Burger is surprisingly good, so Krusty can’t really have had anything to do with it) and the setting should definitely appeal to Simpsons fans.
And, behind the hoardings, executive producer Mike West pointed out all the fun to come – the Kang & Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, a clever variation on the fairground circular ride on flying saucers that will have several neat ‘alien’ features; the Duff Brewery and Shop, a pleasant place to sit and sample the local brews with a view of the central Lagoon; Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck; the Springfield Founder Statue; Lard Lad Donuts; and Chief Wiggum’s (crashed) police car, that just happens to have run into a fire hydrant and created a clever water-play area for kids.
Magic Kingdom's Main Street Bakers Re-Opens
We’ve been to see the re-opening of the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom (now featuring Starbucks products for those who like their coffee); we’ve enjoyed the latest version of Capone’s dinner show; and we have been totally wowed by Universal Studios and their new Transformers attraction, which opened on Thursday. It was good to see the Bakery finally open again after its long refurbishment, with a greater range of products (especially coffee!), but we’re sad there is no longer any indoor seating, as this was one of our favourite places to sit with a drink or pastry.
Capone's Dinner Show Re-worked
We were impressed by the new incarnation of the Capone’s show, the Speakeasy-type venue that opened 20 years ago and has undergone a complete re-working in 2013 to bring back Detective Marvel (now just a humble Patrolman) from a previous show but also updates the stories of ditzy Bunny-June and hapless mobster Fingers Salvatorio. The food is pretty good, it’s a lot of fun with good cast and audience interaction and, best of all, there is a new “shootout” at the end when you get the chance to snag a free T-shirt!
Moe’s Tavern. Where else?! We just love the fun Simpsons styling, you can grab a Chicken & Waffle Sandwich from the food court and the Duff Beer ain’t half bad!
Things we hear: During the media line-up for the Transformers event, some people were saying, “What should we ask Steven Spielberg if he comes over?” To which one wag replied: “How about: Hey Steven, can I tell you about this script I’ve got?!”
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