In a cleverly timed marketing move, Legoland Florida announced in March that it was building a ride and a “land” based on Lego’s newest product line, Legends of Chima, which debuted in January, along with two episodes of a Cartoon Network animated series of the same name. The ride is scheduled to open July 3. The Cartoon Network series will resume July 10.
Interestingly, like the Transformers, the Chima story line involves a battle between good and evil over a source of energy. In Chima, tribes of highly advanced animal warriors form alliances led by Laval the flame-haired Lion Prince and his childhood best friend Cragger, now the evil Crocodile King. They go to war over orbs of “chi,” the mystical energy source.
Centerpiece of the new land will be the Quest for Chi, a very wet water ride in which visitors join the battle, firing water cannons at other passenger boats and being hit by water from cannons fired by observers on shore. The ride takes guests from the Lion Temple through other tribes’ habitats — the Rhino Quarry, Raven’s Roost, Wolves Encampment, Gorilla Forest, Crocodile Swamp, Eagle’s Nest and more.
The World of Chima will also have Speedorz Arena, where kids can build and race Speedorz chariots — a Chima model; a 4-D movie starring Chima warriors; character meet-and-greets and, of course, a shop where visitors can buy Chima products.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
After the last space shuttle mission in 2011, NASA began transferring the retired shuttles to their new homes — museums in Los Angeles, Washington and New York. But one shuttle — Atlantis, the last to fly — remained at Kennedy Space Center, which is now its permanent home.
Atlantis is the centerpiece of a $100 million exhibit that will open June 29 at KSC. Delaware North, the company that operates the Visitor Center at the space center, built a 90,000-square-foot building just for the exhibit. The exhibit also has about 60 stations with interactive programs about all aspects of the shuttle program, including the roles it played with the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Atlantis is in the same condition it was in at the end of its last mission, its exterior scorched in spots like the working piece of machinery it was, not a shiny clean model. It has already been mounted in the cavernous exhibit, hung 30 feet above the ground and precisely angled as if it were in orbit. When the exhibit opens, its payload bay doors will be open and its robotic arm extended.
Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland has been revamped and expanded into two areas — Storybook Circus and the Enchanted Forest. If you think of Fantasyland as a home, Disney has rearranged the furniture, painted and put up new window treatments (Storybook Circus) and built an addition (Enchanted Forest).
In the first phase of the expansion, which was completed in December, Mickey’s Toontown Fair was closed and some of the older attractions were updated and features were added to give that part of Fantasyland a circus theme. A second Dumbo ride and a circus-y play area for youngsters waiting to board were added. There’s a new Casey Jr. water-play area, with elephants and giraffes shooting water from their circus-train cars. Goofy’s Barnstormer, a junior roller coaster, has also been given a circus theme. There’s a new venue for meet-and-greets with Donald Duck, Goofy, Minnie Mouse and Daisy, all circus characters, in Pete’s Silly Sideshow.
Old favorites remain, including the Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and that ride with singing children we won’t name because it will be three days before we get the theme song out of our head. Snow White’s Scary ride is gone.
The new additions in Enchanted Forest are two castles — Prince Eric’s and the Beast’s — and the villages that flank them. They house Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, a gentle ride under the sea, accompanied by the music of the movie; the very popular Enchanted Tales With Belle, a meet-up with the Beauty and Lumiere, in which guests play small parts; the French-themed Be Our Guest restaurant in the Beast’s Castle (table service, wine and beer at dinner); and Gaston’s Tavern, which despite its name doesn’t sell beer but offer’s LeFou’s Brew, a sweet non-alcoholic drink based on apple juice, with mango and marshmallow.
Next up: Princess Fairytale Hall, a regal meet-and-greet venue for Disney princesses adjacent to Cinderella Castle in the spot where Snow White used to be, scheduled to open late this year. The last piece of the expansion, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster with dangling cars that swing from side to side, is under construction in the center of Fantasyland and is expected to open next spring.
Elsewhere at Disney World:
• Downtown Disney: Almost five years after the clubs on Pleasure Island were closed and plans for a makeover were shelved, a remake of that area as well as the rest of Downtown Disney into “Disney Springs” is beginning. Although some new businesses have opened in the old Pleasure Island section, some of the clubs still stand vacant, their entrances masked by masses of large potted plants. The essence of the area will remain the same — a dining, shopping and entertainment center — but it will have more businesses and be more family-friendly. In addition, the landscaping will change to emphasize the waterfront, with a lake and a spring flowing through four outdoor neighborhoods. The makeover will open in phases, with the final section to be completed in 2016.
• Splitsville: In the works before the plans for Disney Springs were drawn, this combination bowling alley/club/restaurant opened in December at Downtown Disney in the space formerly occupied by a Virgin Megastore and bolsters the entertainment opportunities in the West End. Although the two-level business has 30 lanes, food and beverage service are estimated to account for about 70 percent of the operation. Splitsville has seating for about 500 (some of it outdoors); menu items including sushi, burgers and pizza; and live music. The lower level is family-oriented, but the upstairs is 21-and-older late nights on weekends.
• Test Track at Epcot has been modernized and gotten all kinds of bells and whistles. Before getting on the ride, you design your own virtual car on a touch screen. It doesn’t actually take form — you ride in the standard ride vehicle — but the ride’s controller compares its theoretical performance against the ride car’s. The updated “test track” looks like an expressway through a computer, but it still ends with a run around the exterior of the building at 65 mph — the fastest ride at any Disney park. At the end of the ride, you can get your photo taken with a digital rendering of your virtual car or a dream car by Chevrolet, the ride’s sponsor.
• A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas is an interactive adventure that opened last month at Magic Kingdom. Much like Disney World’s original virtual adventure, Kim Possible at Epcot, this one takes guests on pirate raids throughout Adventureland.
• Wilderness Explorers: Another interactive game, this one is set at Animal Kingdom and aimed at the 7-10 age range. Players complete challenges, learn about animals and nature, and collect sticker badges.
• Characters: Two new meet-and-greet venues recently opened. Guests can meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at their new exploration headquarters, Adventurers Outpost, on Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom. Mike and Sulley from Monsters University meet visitors at the Monsters University Student Union on the Backlot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
• Avatar land: This new area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is to be based on the fictional land of Pandora from the Avatar movie franchise and designed in collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron. Although Disney has not released any details on attractions, Cameron has said it will include a flight simulator. Construction has not begun, but is expected to take several years.
A new musical show featuring the characters from the Madagascar movies opened in May in the newly refurbished Stanleyville Theater. The 20-minute show, Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation features pop music performed by a live band. The characters — Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julien, Mort and the Penguins — also hold meet-and-greets in the park.
Busch Gardens also is permanently closing its Sandstorm ride, which has been in the park since 1979, and temporarily closing Busch Flyers, Desert Runners and Kiddie Train to make room for a new attraction, which has not yet been announced.