Written by Victoria Johnson
The Spicy Beef Shumai is a dumpling stuffed with beef. It is placed on a pickled cucumber slice and dressed with greens. The dumpling was a thick wrap and a bit chewy. The beef filling was very good. I don't know if the topping or the meat were meant to be spicy but there was no bite to it at all.
Overall: This would be ordered again
Next up: Showcase Plaza, near Disney Traders
Shrimp Ceviche with Lime Mint Foam and Blue Sky Black Cherry Boba Freeze (Non-Alcoholic)
Written by Victoria Johnson
Today my day started off at Hollywood Studios. Groot stayed home today so I was flying solo. A Fast Pass* was had for "For The First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing Along Celebration". If you are a big Frozen fan like me, you do not want to miss this show! Check the MyDisneyExperience app for Fast Pass availability and times. In fact any of the main attractions that you absolutely don't want to miss, obtain your Fast Passes first and then plan the remainder of your day around those times. Fast Passes are hard to come by and the more popular the attraction the harder they are to get.
After the show, I made my way to the Skyliner to go to Epcot.
Festival of the Arts started on Friday, January 17th at Epcot/World Showcase. If you have never been, it is definitely a not miss opportunity. Enjoy delicious food, beautiful art, amazing shows-such as the Disney on Broadway concert series, featured artists, and other hidden "gems". You never know who you might run into in the parks during the Festival of the Arts- Paige O'Hara (the original voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast), your favorite Disney Broadway stars and more!
There is so much to see and do during the festivals at Epcot. This trip was dedicated to finding little hidden paintings on the buildings in the different countries, like the one you see above. Characters are painted on the buildings only during the Festival of the Arts. Some are hard to locate and will take some investigating, but others are visible the minute you walk into the country plaza, or even walk right by them without even noticing. This is a great game for families or a bunch of friends. You can create your own "stakes" and make it a scavenger hunt of sorts.
I couldn't stay for as long as I wanted as it started to rain and I had to head out. I did, however, make it all the way around the showcase. I started at France and worked to the right, ducking into a few stores along the way to step out of the rain.
The next time you are at Epcot's World Showcase during the Festival of the Arts (which runs from January 17th-February 24th) see what "surprises" you find on the buildings and share them with us here or on our Facebook Group page, Universal_Disney_Nutz. We would love to see what you spy out there!
Next week will bring back Tasty Tuesday, with some of the foods from the Festival. I'm thinking lunch, dessert (which those who know me is my favorite part of the festival), and a non-alcoholic specialty drink. Tune in next time to see what I snack on!
*Fast Passes: Disney FastPass+ service lets you reserve access to select attractions, entertainment, and more. With the purchase of a ticket or Annual Pass, you can make selections as early as 30 days before you arrive to the property-starting at 7AM EST. Plus if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, Disney Springs Area Hotel, or other select Good Neighbor Hotels, you can make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to your check-in for the ENTIRE length of your stay; and the best part? There is no extra charge for this benefit!
If you are unsure on how to make your FastPass+ selections, feel free to ask anyone in our Facebook Group, or email us at email@example.com and one of our travel specialists will be more than happy to help you finalize these details!
Written by David "Indy" Graham
If you haven't yet taken the time to review Part 1 on how we would layout our park please visit our prior post. So just as a quick refresher for everyone else, our park layout was a mix of what Universal is rumored to have for Epic Universe but with the connecting Hub and Spoke layout of the Magic Kingdom. Now let's talk rides.
When it comes to the rides for each land the number that are in the lands are less important at times as long as the ones that are there the people connect with. That's not to say I would want 1 or 2 rides for each land yet this design has worked. For Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando it only has the Escape from Gringott's attraction unless you want to count the Hogwarts Express as more of an attraction and less of a themed transportation system between the 2 parks. And at Disney for Galaxy's Edge it only has 2 rides within it with Smugglers Run and the recently opened Rise of the Resistance; however if we jump over to the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, then you have 7 attractions located there. A quick look at just the 2 different lands at Disney you can clearly see how rides have evolved from simple quick story dark rides that you travel through to now where attractions are putting you in the middle of the action and even letting you decide the outcome of the ride.
So let's assume for my park we have 6 lands to play with and all roughly equal and good in size. Each land would have at least 1 E-ticket attraction (coaster or test track) as the main-themed anchor to that land. This would also help to spread out the crowds in the park based on the experience they were looking for. Now, I'm not fully against completely screen-based attractions, to be clear, but me and them don't see eye to eye with my motion sickness; however, they do have a place in story telling attractions when it's not possible to have the actors from your IP to be there day in and out within your attraction 365 a year, so prerecorded scenes only make sense. Personally, Escape from Gringotts and Reign of Kong were 2 of my favorite rides at Universal as I feel they did a great mix of ride and screens. Yet, with that said, if you told me I only could ride 1 attraction at Universal I would take Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure without a second thought. For me that is a well blended attraction that shows you can build a story telling ride and not completely kill it with screen after screen. And when Disney opens Tron in a little over a year at the Magic Kingdom, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, both I think will be another step in story-telling thrill rides. And considering that we live in Florida, knowing the outside section of Tron is under a roof means they can run it ran or shine.
For that reason I would have a lot of covered sections for my outdoor attractions so they could be run as much as possible when inclement weather usually shuts down a lot of rides here. As for the balancing out the other rides in the different lands, I think having a mix of at least one flat ride (think Dumbo style or a spinning teacups) and a dark ride (Haunted Mansion or Pirates of Caribbean) or 4D (Toy Story Mania or Shrek) or even 1 or 2 water rides (Splash Mountain or Jurassic Park River Adventure) could balance out each land. This would provide each land with something for every generation and something for people of different size and heights, giving families a reason to spend more time in each land instead of running to another area so the kids can ride something or off to the next thrill ride like at a Six Flags or Cedar Point (which I love my coasters). You then add in the specialty themed restaurants with exclusive food and drinks and of course your IP merchandise and it's a win-win for the theme parks as well as a one of a kind experience at every turn.
So would this be a park you would want to visit or do you think it's completely off on what you would want in your park? Let us know in the comments your thoughts or improvements you would make.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
Recently the UDN staff was talking about all the new rides that are coming to the Central Florida theme parks this year as well as in the near future and how we can't wait until they open so we can experience them. This got me thinking with new theme parks like Dream Island (Russia), Genting Theme Park at Genting Highlands Resort (formerly 20th Century Fox World in Malaysia), The London Resort project as well as Universal building Beijing and Epic Universe, how would I build my dream park if I could.
First let's take a quick look at the two giants when most people think theme parks locally. When you think about the Magic Kingdom and Universal they market to different age groups really. Sure one could argue that they offer a little something for everyone, however let's take a look a little deeper. A lot of people go back to the Magic Kingdom as it's a nostalgic trip for them, as well as they have more rides for the younger generation (in addition, to someone of a larger build they have more that can be ridden based on their ride designs). Universal knows that Disney has the younger kids on lock down for now and they even had a commercial a while back called "kids grow up" and poked fun at Disney and how they out grow them for more thrilling rides. It's a fact that Universal does have more teen and adult driven rides. This is apparent just by looking at the height requirements in their ride portfolio. Both parks know how to brand market themselves and do it quite well for who they are targeting. As time goes on with new lands and hopefully parks, we will see that those lines start to overlap more on attractions and branding.
As for park layouts, it is without saying that Walt Disney had a great design with what is referred to as the Hub and Spoke model that Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom use. You have the Main Street/Entrance that lead out to the different lands and then they connect to each other through themed portals to the others lands. For any great park, having each land themed to set up the illusion and experience that you are really there- with the goal being to leave you in awe and possibly touch you emotionally each time you visit them. (As a side note to this I witnessed this many times when I worked for Universal as I saw many Harry Potter fans cry when they entered Diagon Alley). Universal set the standard when they opened The Wizarding World at Islands of Adventures and again with Diagon Alley where you are immersed completely in them and away from the outside world. These lands complete the experience by offering everything from not only amazing ride experiences but themed food, exclusive drinks and exclusive shops to complete the story. Disney in return to this new standard built Avatar, Toy Story and Star Wars lands based on now what people want and expect from theme parks. Come 2023, assuming everything Universal is rumored to do with Epic Universe, they will take that idea and move it to the next level with a free Main Street entrance (think Citywalk 2.0) area and then each land will have it's own turnstile entrance making each land an exclusive and immersive experience. Based on the concept art Universal has previously released each land currently looks to only have one way in and out, making it unique as Universal could sell discounted tickets to just a themed land and have tier pricing based on how many lands you want to visit.
Now with those ideas I think a well blended park would have a little of both Universal and Disney in them for the perfect family experience. Taking the rumored layout for Epic Universe with the immersive lands I would still find a way to use the same Hub and Spoke model as used with the Magic Kingdoms connecting the different lands, but would figure out a well hidden themed turnstile area between the lands. I believe this would help with possible crowd control issues at the more popular lands as well as provide the option to still sell individual lands (making the assumption that Universal does this). And much like Universal does in each Harry Potter land with the Hogwarts Express, have places to upsell the guest with a multi-land experience. For land ideas I think it's important as Universal and Disney have proven picking the right IP for a land is important to not only get the people in the park but to keep them coming back. Not to say with the right attractions in a land, it won't keep the people from wanting to visit. Space Mountain is a great E-ticket ride at Disney, but when Disney opened Tomorrowland within no time the land was outdated. For this reason Disney slowly moved to more of a sci-fi feel for the land so they weren't having to try to update it every couple years.
This hopefully gets you thinking about what your theme park would look like and what possible layout idea you would go with. Would you want a Hub and Spoke, or more like Epcot or Universal Studios, and have a lake in the middle to go around that could also double for a night time show. Stay tuned for part 2 when we talk about thoughts on ride selection for each land.
Share your thoughts with us and comment below!
Written by Victoria Johnson
He sat outside on the patio. It was a cloudy day, but cool and breezy. As he waited for his meal he enjoyed the view of the lake, Disney Springs balloon, and the boats. He ordered the Tanis Tacos: Tuna.
They were built with Togarashi Spiced Ahi Tuna, Avocado Crema, Pico de Gallo, shaved Red Cabbage and served on toasted corn tortillas, topped with jalapeno. There were 3 to a serving. Beverage of choice was an unsweetened iced tea and water.
The platter was brought to the table and the first impression was “this was going to be good”. Tuna looked perfectly rare-pink.
First bite: WHOA that’s spicy. Took off the jalapeño. A little too spicy. Took away from the avocado crema. The pico was spicy as well.
Deconstructed the next taco. Tuna spicy. Pico spicy. Avocado crema was good, just not enough. Cabbage, well it’s Cabbage. No flavoring that I can ever taste.
The Tanis Tacos were good. Needed a little more avocado crema and maybe some more cilantro. The only cilantro was in the pico de gallo.
Score from Groot: 8 / 10
After lunch Groot enjoyed a cappuccino from Joffrey’s Coffee. Had a little something special added.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
If you ask almost any person, especially a Disney fan, they can probably tell you where you can find at least one hidden Mickey at Disney. They might even know about the one you can only see once a year at noon on November 18th (Mickey Mouse's birthday) located in the queue for Under The Sea: The Voyage of the Little Mermaid when the sun aligns just right to reveal the Mickey. But what about other less common ones to the thousands that pass through the gates each day at the parks. Below is a list of just a few the next time time you visit the Magic Kingdom to keep your eyes open for.
1) when looking at the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, the building at Disney is called Castillo de Morro. It’s construction design was based on a real Spanish fort.
2) Inside the right-hand side queue for Pirates of the Caribbean keep your eyes peeled for two skeletons playing chess however look closer and you will see the game is check mate.
3) Hungry and miss the Adventures Club? The Skipper’s Canteen restaurant features a room dedicated to S.E.A. the Society of Explorers and Adventurers a fan favorite from Pleasure Island which closed in 2008.
4) Bow for the princess. As you enter Fantasyland through the Castle archway, look for the Cinderella fountain on the left. You’ll see a painting behind her with a crown well above her head. When you take a drink from the fountain, which at the same time you are ‘bowing’ to the Princess Cinderella look up as you are drinking — she’s now wearing her crown.
5) At the Tangled theme rest area, look hard to see if you can spot Pascal hiding around anywhere. Additionally, look at the ground to see if you can spot hoof prints from Maximus.
6) When at the Winnie-the-Pooh attraction be sure to look for references to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the attraction that previously occupied this space. As you enter owl’s house look to your left for a portrait of Owl receiving the deed to the attraction from Mr.Toad.
And speaking of Mr. Toad, which was a park original favorite - after it closed a tombstone was placed in the pet cemetery of the Haunted Mansion for J.Thaddeus Toad.
7) Tink is that you? The next time you exit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad look in the rock work to the left to spot a hidden Tinkerbell.
8) Watch where you step when walking through Liberty Square. The street is colored to represent the waste and excrement that Americans dumped in the street during Revolutionary times as they did not have sewer systems yet. In keeping with the historical accuracy of the colonial time period, the restaurants such as Liberty Tree Tavern and Columbia Harbor House do indeed have bathrooms however they get away with it as technically their bathrooms are in other lands.
9) Everyone loves to read the tombstones when in line for the Haunted Mansion however the next time you are in the line see if you can spot the engagement ring in the pavement.
10) Puppy Love? The next time you are at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, look for Lady and Tramp’s paw prints in front of the stairs that lead up to the restaurant.
11) When walking down Main Street USA most people are fixed on the castle or getting to their favorite ride but have you ever taken time to look at the windows? The windows of the upper stories of the shops are labeled with the names of famous Disney Legends and Imagineers. Having a Main Street USA window is one of the highest honors bestowed by Disney.
There is even a door on the left heading to the castle to pay tribute to all the Disney Cast members labeled "Magic Kingdom Casting Agency".
12) The American flag is required to be raised, lowered and flown at half-mast due to regulations. As a result, each flag on Main Street U.S.A. is missing a star and a stripe so they can be flown permanently other than the main flag in town square on Main Street, U.S.A. where you can watch the American flag retire for the night in this stirring patriotic ceremony.
13) The Castle as well as the different attraction mountains (and Tower of Terror) are all under 200 feet (199-feet to be exact). This is due to the fact that any building over 200-feet would require red flashing aviation lights. And Speaking of Cinderella's Castle, it's not really made of stone. The entire building is built out of fiberglass, concrete, steel, cement, and plaster, with no bricks or stones used at all.
14) Do you own a pair of Mickey ears? Some UDN members own a few of them, right Tanya? Did you know if connected end to end, Mickey Mouse ear hats would span over 175 miles and that number just keeps growing.
15) Wonder how they keep the Magic Kingdom so clean? Guests at Walt Disney World are never more than 30 steps away from a trash can.
16) Ever wonder why you can see the Magic Kingdom so good when you are at the Ticket and Transportation Center looking across the Seven Seas Lagoon? That is because Disney dug out the Seven Seas Lagoon to make the Magic Kingdom two stories as Florida is only 3 feet above sea level. The first floor is is for employees underneath in underground tunnels called "utilidors" that house the massive costume departments, cast member break rooms, garbage chutes and more.
17) Thousands walk right by that large tree within Liberty Square, which is known as the Liberty Tree and has thirteen lanterns hanging from its branches. Each lantern represents one of the original thirteen colonies during the Revolutionary period of America’s history. Disney has also grown over 500 oak trees from acorns produced from the Liberty Tree. That's a lot of trees!!
18) Thirsty? Did you know you never have to pay for water in Disney World. Just go to any quick service restaurant in the park and ask for a cup.
19) The monorail is as much of the Magic Kingdom's history as the Castle. But did you know since 1971, the Walt Disney World monorail trains have logged enough miles to make 30 round trips to the moon.
20) Future so bright you better look for your shades. An average of 210 pairs of sunglasses are turned in to Disney's lost and found every day. That means that since 1971, an estimated 1.65 million pairs of glasses have found their way into the “lost” bin. Not only sunglasses but Lost and Found cast members collect more than 6,000 cell phones, 3,500 digital cameras, 18,000 hats, and 7,500 autograph books annually.
21) And my personal favorite. Next time you walk under the train station take time to look at the rare pictures from Walt's personal life and love of trains. There are a lot of photos of the live steam layout he had in his backyard called Carolwood Pacific Railroad. The Carolwood Pacific Railroad inspired Disney to include railroad attractions in the design of Disney parks.
There you have it UDN fans, just a few less common Disney gems to look for the next time you are at the Magic Kingdom. Did I miss one you know about at the Magic Kingdom that you think others need to know about and look for? Let us know.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
What would be the first thing you would think of if someone said the names MCA, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Seagram, DuPont, Vivendi, General Electric, Blackstone and Comcast? Do you think of things you put in your house, or maybe commercials you might see on one of the media giant outlets? For most people they wouldn't think of Universal or theme parks in general, but each of those companies has owned a part of Universal in just the past 60 years.
It wasn't until Comcast stepped into the role of full ownership in 2011 that Universal found the parent company with the financial backing, the willingness, and more importantly the belief, in the theme parks to help make them what they are today. Yet today it is a business outlet and one that made Comcast about one-third of NBCUniversal's total operating cash flow last year. That's a jump of about 7.5% over the prior year or about $1.46 billion in revenue for them. Seeing the financial return theme parks can make, NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke (who plans to full retire on August 14, 2020) was quoted back in 2018 making bold promise that Comcast would invest more money in its theme park business than it spent to acquire NBCUniversal. So what does that really mean?
According to the information I found, NBCUniversal reportedly spent $250 million building the Hogsmeade section in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened back in 2010. Comcast spent about another $400 million to construct Diagon Alley as well as another $300 million on Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. That type of major investment is why Stephen Burke said "Disney will no longer get a free ride", and it shows as Disney supposedly spent around $1 billion to build Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
So what does the future hold for Universal even with Steve Burke assuming the role of NBCUniversal chairman till August? Later this year, Universal has already opened Universal's Endless Summer Resort - and plans to open Dockside Inn & Suites March 17, 202, and in Spring they will open The Bourne Stuntacular. In 2021 is the unannounced Jurassic Park roller coaster (rumored to be called Velocicoaster) which is currently under construction at Island's of Adventure. All of this is just in Orlando, and not counting the other parks they have with Universal Beijing to be added to the list in Spring 2021.
Comcast had promised to open a new attraction each year so that leaves 2022, which should put the new attraction in the Studios side as they seem to rotate each year bewteen the 2 current dry parks; or could Volcano Bay finally see that 5 acre expansion? And unless you are living under a rock for the past year, 2023 will be an exciting year as Universal's Epic Universe is set to open that year. It will be the first major theme park to open in Orlando since Disney's Animal Kingdom opened April 22, 1998 and Universal's Islands of Adventure on May 28, 1999. Any way you look at it Comcast is definitely expanding it's Universe in Orlando.