New sights and experiences at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando!

Walt Disney World

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Celebrate Today banners

I don't remember seeing these back in March, but the grassy area near the parking lot tram stop at Disney's Animal Kingdom now has a bunch of the current Celebrate Today banners.

Rapunzel movie poster - 01 Rapunzel movie poster - 02 Toy Story 3 movie poster The Princess and the Frog movie poster

Up next are a few new movie posters for the upcoming Disney and Pixar animated films.  All of these are found in The Magic of Disney Animation as you enter the interactive area of the building.

Disney's Contemporary Resort - Bay Lake Tower - 01 Disney's Contemporary Resort - Bay Lake Tower - 02 Disney's Contemporary Resort - Bay Lake Tower - 03

The new Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort was finally finished and open to tours and presentations.  This is the latest addition to the popular Disney Vacation Club (DVC) program.

Bay Lake Tower view - Epcot Bay Lake Tower view - Expedition Everest Bay Lake Tower view - Magic Kingdom Bay Lake Tower view - Disney's Contemporary Resort

And of course, a few neat views from the top of the Bay Lake Tower.

Disney's Boardwalk construction

Part of the Boardwalk was being refurbished.

Downtown Disney Celebrate Tonight! banner - 01 Downtown Disney Celebrate Tonight! banner - 02

Celebrate Tonight! banners in Pleasure Island and the Wide Side in Downtown Disney.  I don't remember if these banners were up or not back in March.

Dwontown Disney - Characters in Flight balloon - 01 Dwontown Disney - Characters in Flight balloon - 02 Dwontown Disney - Characters in Flight balloon - 03

The great big yellow balloon visible from many places in the Walt Disney World Resort is for the new Characters in Flight balloon ride in the West Side at Downtown Disney.  You do have to pay to go up for a ride, but a 400-foot elevated view of the area does seem like a pretty tempting offer.

Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 01 Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 02 Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 03 Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 04 Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 05 Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 06 Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents - 07

After its lengthy refurbishment, The Hall of Presidents was open again in Liberty Square and updated to add the current president.  Overall, I was very impressed with this show and enjoyed it very much, from the presidential paintings in the waiting room to the show's narration by Morgan Freeman to seeing the highly detailed Audio-Animatronic presidents themselves.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village - 01 Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village - 02 Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village - 03 Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village - 04

The Kidani Village (Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas), another major addition to the Disney Vacation Club system, was finally finished and open for business.  The resort complex itself is just as nicely themed and high quality as the neighboring Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The pool area for Kidani Village is really cool as it has a main swimming pool as well as a water play area complete with interactive water features, a waterslide and even a waterfall!

Epcot - Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure - 01 Epcot - Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure - 02

The new Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure in Epcot is a lot of fun.  It doesn't matter if you're not twelve-years-old or if you've never seen an episode of the show.  It's easy to pick up on the secret agent theme and the cast of characters as they direct you through each World Showcase country, going from one clue to the next.  Allow yourself a few hours and check out this adventure for yourself.  I can guarantee you that you'll be focusing on a lot of small and unnoticed details that have been added discretely to the countries, and you'll most likely get a kick out of the endings to the missions.  I haven't done all of the countries yet, but so far China has my favorite ending.

The big problem with this attraction is that it gets busy and you may have to wait as people in front of you activate events before it's your turn to do so.  This ruins the experience of being a secret agent if there are three others all wanting to trigger the same event.  It helps that there are many quests within each country so not everybody will be going along the same exact path to the ending.  This helps space out the people and it also adds a little bit of a replay value to the attraction.

I could care less about the cartoon show, but Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is entertaining to me and I'd love to see it expanded to the other theme parks.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Voyage of the Little Mermaid

The main sign for Voyage of the Little Mermaid is missing the characters from the movie & show.

Seven Seas Lagoon - new boat - 01 Seven Seas Lagoon - new boat - 02 Seven Seas Lagoon - new boat - 03

A new boat was spotted cruising around Seven Seas Lagoon and pulling up to a dock at the Magic Kingdom.  The boat (named Magic Kingdom I) was flying a pirate flag, has bench seats for a lot of people, and looks like a modified version of an old Discovery River Cruise boat that use to circle the river in Disney's Animal Kingdom.  No regular guests boarded the boat as it looked like the cast members were more likely taking it on a test run.

Downtown Disney - Paradiso 37 - 01 Downtown Disney - Paradiso 37 - 02 Downtown Disney - Paradiso 37 - 03

The new Paradiso 37 restaurant was open for business in Pleasure Island.

Downtown Disney - Princess Diana exhibit - 01 Downtown Disney - Princess Diana exhibit - 02

Another major change in the West Side at Downtown Disney was the closing of the Virgin Megastore.  The building itself is still there and the lower floor is housing a temporary, pay-for exhibit dedicated to the late Princess Diana.  When it comes to paying to see this, DisneyQuest, a concert at the House of Blues, or even going for a ride on the new Characters in Flight balloon, there is no way that this museum can or will be able to compete.  Don't expect this temporary exhibit to be around for much longer.

Magic Kingdom - Space Mountain closed for refurbishment - 01 Magic Kingdom - Space Mountain closed for refurbishment - 02 Magic Kingdom - Space Mountain closed for refurbishment - 03

We knew that this was going to be closed for refurbishment, but it was still sad to see Space Mountain closed.  Tomorrowland as a whole felt naked without Space Mountain or Tomorrowland Transit Authority being operational.  It was a little bit eerie being by the big mountain at night without there being any other people.  The Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor show is rapidly declining in attendance, and Stitch's Great Escape! doesn't draw in the crowds like when it first opened.  Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was clearly the busiest ride in the land.

As a plus, for the time being Tomorrowland is fairly quiet and you can easily walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds of the futuristic land without annoying people getting in the way.  The only mystery is why Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Transit Authority are still listed as being open on the Magic Kingdom's July of 2009 version of the guidemap.

Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland Stage - 01 Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland Stage - 02

The new Tomorrowland Stage was complete and already waiting for a new show.  It seems that Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration wasn't the big hit that Disney was expecting, as that show only lasted about a month or so and was already gone by the time we arrived in Florida.  But then again, when was the last time there was a good live show in Tomorrowland?

Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland Transit Authority closed - 01 Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland Transit Authority closed - 02

Along with Space Mountain, the reliable and always entertaining Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) was closed as part of Space Mountain's lengthy refurbishment.  It was strange seeing the cars motionless on the track and not hearing the audio from the ride.  It just added more to that general eerie feeling in Tomorrowland.  We'll have to wait and see if there are going to be any changes made to the TTA when it opens again this Fall.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney: One Man's Dream - 01 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney: One Man's Dream - 02 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney: One Man's Dream - 03 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney: One Man's Dream - 04

Inside the museum part of Walt Disney: One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios was a collection of concept art and other material from the opening of the Disney-MGM Studios back in 1989.  It's too bad that more of this material wasn't around the park as this year is the twentith anniversary of the opening of the Disney Studios theme park.  Where have I seen this kind of information before?  Hmmm . . .

Downtown Disney - World of Disney store - 01 Downtown Disney - World of Disney store - 02 Downtown Disney - World of Disney store - 03 Downtown Disney - World of Disney store - 04 Downtown Disney - World of Disney store - 05

The last noticable difference at Walt Disney World was the addition of the Celebrate Today! decorations and a push for Pinocchio merchandise in the World of Disney store in the Marketplace at Downtown Disney.

Universal Orlando

Islands of Adventure - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction - 01 Islands of Adventure - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction - 02 Islands of Adventure - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction - 03 Islands of Adventure - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter construction - 04

In Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure park, construction seems to be coming along quite nicely for the new The Wizarding World of Harry Potter island.  I haven't seen any of the Harry Potter films yet, but I'll make it a point to do so before the new island opens as a lot of the new theming looks quite interesting.  Plus, I don't want to resort to asking little kids about the different characters or plots in the movie while on the rides.

Universal Studios Florida - Fast & Furious cars

Next door in the Universal Studios Florida park, the muscle cars from the Fast & Furious movie are currently on display in the New York section of the park.  They're on the same alley where The Blues Brothers Show performs, across from Revenge of the Mummy.

Universal Studios Florida - Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt roller coaster - 01 Universal Studios Florida - Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt roller coaster - 02

And finally we have the nearly complete Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster at Universal Studios Florida.  We saw them making a few test runs of the trains, but alas, nobody was offered a sneak preview of the new ride.  The loading station looks outstanding at night.