Eli Manning visits the Magic Kingdom, Heroes have habits at Epcot, and we get a birds-eye view of the Fantasyland expansion all right here in the latest Orlando Parkhopper. We don't just breeze through the Disney parks, no sir. We also stop by Universal and Islands of Adventure for a look at old amity, Despicable me and the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration. All this, news about Fast Pass changes, a tour of the Busch Gardens coaters, and a new Communicore Weekly and Kevin Yee right here!

Moments after the Super Bowl was over yesterday, Eli Manning shot a spot for Walt Disney World as seen below. A very special thanks to Denise Preskit of Mousesteps.com and SparkintheDark for their coverage of this event.

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Unlike his delayed appearance at Disneyland in 2008, Manning made good on the promise and rode a victory parade through the Magic Kingdom yesterday.

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The public works division of Main Street U.S.A. is hard at work refurbishing more of the facades.

The IceCream Parlor is closed during the refurb

Disney recently loosened its restrictions on grooming and now allows trimmed goatees and beards at a maximum of 1/4" in length. We spotted a cast member with the new look. What do you all think?

Disney debuted a new Valentine's Day portion into the Magic, Memories, and You show this week. It was cute, if not just a little quick. Regardless it is nice to see little changes made to the show.

You'll find more images of the show in the Kevin Yee video below.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, there are new Dooney and Burke bags available on Main Street. Valentine's Day is next Tuesday, February 14th. Guys, this means get your check books ready. Again, that's Tuesday February 14th. Put it on your calendars now.

Yes, guys, the easiest way to a woman's heart is through a handbag.

With Disney, it is the little things that create magic as much as the big things. In this case, we are happy to report that the torches in the pre-show area of the newly renovated Tiki Room are operating once more.

Here, fire is a good thing. Isn't that right Iago?

Fantasyland continues to change week to week. A very special thanks to Adrian Court for his amazing arial shots this week.

Behind the castle is the expansive Fantasyland project.

Dumbo and Great Goofini Coaster:
We start with the right side of the expansion, nearest the train station. This is where the dueling Dumbos and Great Goofini coaster are going in.

This overview shot gives us an idea of the scale. Dumbo is top center/left, Great Goofini is left and the circus tents are to the right.

The lift hill and drop of the Great Goofini coaster.

The new train station sports a brick covered facade, sturdy in appearance and nicely done so far.

The old Dumbo spinner has been removed and is being repainted and refurbished for installation closer to the train station in its new home.

The Little Mermaid:
The exterior of the Mermaid building is well along.

Bottom left is the mermaid show building, to the right is the Be Our Guest restaurant and meet and greet show buildings.

Be Our Guest Restaurant and Belle Meet and Greet:

The Seven Dwarves Coaster:
From this overview shot you can clearly see the footprint of the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster. This will, of course be the last bit of the expansion to be completed.

The footprint of the coaster in the foreground with the two princess show buildings behind it.

An overview of the area.

Our friends at Touring Plans are reporting that Walt Disney World cast members have been informed that they will begin enforcing FASTPASS return times on March 7th. The new rule will build in a bit of flexibility, allowing guests to ride a few minutes earlier than their return time (to ease crowding at FASTPASS entry) and to ride up to 15 minutes after the FASTPASS window has closed.

While the change may sound like a good thing in principal, the reality is likely to cause a great deal of trouble for guests. The attractions at WDW are quite spread out and the parks are large. If a guest picks up a Sorin' FASTPASS in the morning and the return time is in the afternoon, they might very well have worked their way to the back of World Showcase by the time their return window opens.

Further, the return times were abandoned early in the implementation of FASTPASS due to guest frustration and impact on dining reservations. These concerns will pop right back up the moment the new policy is put in place.

On the good side, many more FASTPASSES will go unused, resulting in shorter standby waits.

What do you thing about all this? Good thing? Bad thing? Unintended consequences?

(There is no word about these changes coming to Disneyland)

Kevin's got another interesting update for us today which features
The Magic Memories and You Romance segment. The Grand Floridian's new DVC construction. Fantasyland construction update. The brand new Habit Heroes at Innoventions. And a look at all the antenna toppers at Mouse Gear.

Thank you Kevin!

The Walt Disney World resort unveiled their latest addition to Epcot this week in the form of Habit Heroes, a new mini-attraction in Innoventions East sponsored by Blue Cross and Anthem of Florida. As with all Innoventions exhibits, this addition brings attention to a particular cause that the sponsor wants to showcase - in this case, the unhealthy habits of teens and young people. A special thanks to Kevin Yee for his additional photos.

Orlando Parkhopper, R. A. Pederson, takes us for a tour and review of the new Innoventions attraction. There are a few photos here, you can find more of them in Kevin Yee's video above.

It's an imposing structural addition overall. Walking south along the old "road-to-tomorrow" through Innoventions East, the facility rises up along the right side of the path across from the popular Sum of All Thrills attraction. A large wall is covered with comic book style depiction of the various bad-habit-themed villains doing their dastardly deeds. If you remember Innoventions from a few years ago it's worth noting this location was once the site of Waste Management's multi-station garbage truck game "Don't Waste It." The imposing structure and massive scale of the addition along that curve in the path is sure to draw attention from guests. The sheer wall of comic book depictions nearly reaches the two-story high purple Innoventions ceiling.

An overflow queue runs back along the comic book wall and the wall itself gives way to entry alcove. The alcove looks like something that fell straight out of the Great Movie Ride. Though small (and perhaps even a bit cramped) the area is themed to look like a big city alleyway with tall brick walls, false windows, and someone's laundry hung out overhead. Within the alcove, participants are grouped and experience a sort of pre-pre-show.

A search light scans the cluster of guests waiting in the area occasionally as a helicopter is heard overhead. At this point it's assumed a bit of the back story is meant to be conveyed by the Innoventions Cast Member manning the entryway, but our host sort of bombed the entire thingy noticeably. I'm pretty sure it's meant to be the entrance to a gymnasium - some sort of historic gymnasium with valuable athletic trophies inside. I think we were waiting for a tour - she really got the whole spiel messed up - and guests are supposed to be waiting outside for a tour of the gymnasium. She did go out of her way to say the police were searching for something, hence the helicopter, and that it'd be a shame if some villain stole one of the valuable trophies inside the museum - "wait no, it's not a museum, it's a gymnasium!" Yes, that's exactly how it went. Confused? So was I!

This was admittedly a "testing" day but we were told the attraction had been open to guests the day before and was going to open for regular operations the next day. One would think an idea of what the back-story was for the experience would be clearer for both the audience and the host. Regardless, after a few minutes of waiting our group of volunteers/extras/people-going-on-a-museum-no-wait-a-gynasium-tour . . we were let into the gymnasium.. museum... whatever. The first room inside is actually a very nicely themed box resembling an old-timey gym with a pommel horse and all sorts of old old trophies. One could say it looks like an extension of the Main Street Athletic Club over at the Magic Kingdom. A large projection screen takes up one wall and, in a nicer thematic touch, an old fashioned projector begins a sepia-hued video slide-show of the history of the gymnasium. So perhaps it's a gymnasium that's been converted to a museum? Regardless, there's bad habits and people's awesome physical activity and general "doing of stuff" that has kept the nefarious villains at bay for years. Until now.

The crap has apparently hit the fan and some poor "teen" (he's maybe 13.. and that's really pushing it...) is generally schlubby looking and perhaps a bit porcine. By golly, it must be some bad habit villain. Ditch the sepia, cue these form fitting spandex bodysuit clad folks at a futuristic bright colored not-so-secret-lair.

It's Whats-Her-Face and That-Guy! No, it's actually Callie Stenics and Will Power. The girl is obviously the same actress (and nearly the same hairdo) from the Sum of All Thrills - which wouldn't be so bad, if the other attraction wasn't directly across the sparkly path from this one.

Now, a quick note, and since it came up other park guest comments as well - Will Power in the skin-tight suit has obvious whose-its and whats-its galore. That's a costuming decision that might need some rethinking in a family friendly park. Back to the story at hand, Will and Callie need to defeat the villain who has taken over the life of our chubby little teenaged friend. Will and Callie can't just do this themselves, but because all of us humans are apparently on the side of good, by golly, we're perfect recruits. An Innoventions host comes in, congratulates us on getting the job and gives us rubber band bracelets bearing the Florida Blue Cross and Anthem logos. Guests are told to wear these bands, which are color coded and given out at random, to know their role in forthcoming challenges. That seems do-able.

Too bad it never does. A door opens and the small hoard is ushered into an elliptical-shaped room with a large screen encompassing the upper level. At this point each guests is sent to a remote-control-looking station.

This is where things got even more confusing than the whole gymnasium/museum back story. As I said, each guests was told by the Innoventions host to go to their own remote control station and there was the exact number of guests to the match the stations. However, Will and Callie suddenly appear on the screen overhead and ask us to raise our hands for each color group - denoted by our wristbands. They say that we are only supposed to push the button on the remotes that match our wristband color.

So you're at a station with multiple buttons but you're only supposed to push the color button that matches your wristband per the recorded video spiel. Pushing a button is supposed to zap "something" as it falls from above on the screen. Everyone else has only one color, and the falling things could be anywhere and could be any color. How is this supposed to work? Confusion sets in and nearly everyone in the room looks at the Innoventions hosts in the room with a face that says "How is this supposed to work?" and then TV sets start falling down on the screens overhead.

And did I say overhead? Really, almost completely "overhead" - not in front of you a few feet and upward at an angle that easy to see and right within your sight-line, no, it's almost a vertical wall you're about a foot away from. All of the participants in my group groused that it put a crick in their neck to try and play the game. As we began to miserably lose the game of falling TVs by actually doing what the instructions said, the Innoventions host began to huff frustratedly that we were supposed to hit all of the buttons and then even later in the game hit two buttons at once to destroy multicolor TVs. Ok, whatever you say boss. Oh, did I mention there's long stretches where nothing will fall down from above a particular remote control, leaving that player with nothing to do but wonder if theirs is broken? There's a sneaking suspicion that the game was designed to have guests be in the middle of the room, thus able to actually see the screen properly, and then run to a remote control to hit the button on an as-needed basis - then, later in the game two people would need to be at a remote and hit the buttons. That'd be a fun group game wouldn't it? Not here - we're staring straight up at a wall with TV's falling at us and a frustrated Innoventions CM trying to explain how it works contrary to all logic and the stated rules in the intro-film. Fun fun fun.We really hadn't given up all hope of having fun yet. A game during a "test" period might be buggy - and hey, apparently we defeated some sort of villain. Go us! Then Will and Debbie Downer appear to tell the group that another villain has gotten hold of poor chubby and he was at risk of getting even chubbier. Some sort of tempting food villain. Doors open and we're off to yet another room.

The next room is a long hallway with Toy Story Mania ride guns stationed every few feet in front of long rectangular screens. One side is fighting the evils of snack food like pizza and chips while the other is going after sweets like ice cream and cookies. Guests are supposed to fire to destroy the deliciousness. The guns supposedly shoot healthy things - mine had carrots and broccoli. Under normal circumstances I'd opt for the ice cream, but I made a vow of some sort by putting on that blue rubber band and I needed to uphold it.

There have been some improvements made to the Toy Story Mania gun system for this new attraction. There's a button on top to fire with instead of the pull-string, if desired, and there's also the option of switching between two types of ammunition. Each gun seems to have it's own two types as my veggies were adjacent to some lovely fresh fruits.

But there are problems in the design of the game itself. The screen is once again really close, making the angle for aiming the gun rather difficult. Being on the end of the row I could barely shoot anything. Second, the choice of ammunition seems to have zero effect on the game play. Finally, progress in the game itself seemed non-existent after the first few seconds. Guests would begin wildly shooting and globs of ice cream would dissipate but there was no indicator of progress or goals. Not all ice cream would break down and several static pieces that looked like active targets just remained no matter how many times you hit them. Did we win? I suppose so.

There's also in-theater effects that blow and possibly spritz the same way Toy Story Mania does, but these seemed randomly timed. If they were triggered by guests or an extension of the villain flitting around the screen it was impossible to tell. Also, those wristband team colors were never mentioned in this room and will not be mentioned ever again in the attraction. Oh well, they're free souvenirs.

And... there's another room. A big dark room with Habit Heroes logo circles on the floor in pools of light. Everyone gets their own pool of light for dramatic effect. The big screen in the front of the room lights up and we're now going to battle a third villain - he's a rotund guy in a singlet who is apparently lazy or something. So, apparently that kid we're defending has the bad habits of watching too much TV, eating unhealthy food, and now is also lazy. I hope he got paid pretty well to be depicted this way in front of thousands of people daily, especially at his age. While the villains are CGI, that kid is real and at this point I feel kind of bad for all this being dirty laundry being aired in the middle of Epcot.

But there's no time to think the attraction is making nameless-actor-kid look bad, no, it's time for you to look ridiculous in public! Now begins the Mousercise portion of attraction! (Mousercise was a children's dance aerobics show involving fur characters and young children that aired on the Disney Channel in the 80's.)

It begins innocently enough with the Will and Callie asking you to wave your hand to encourage the villain to move as well. Then there's hopping... then there's spinning and hopping and jumping and bouncing and all kinds of physical exertion. There's actually a warning sign at the front of the attraction mentioning that it requires moderate physical exertion.

This could somehow be construed as fun by hyperactive younger children. The almost entirely adult population of our group - no, we weren't all Disney bloggers, just a random group of people in Epcot - were mortified by this. Midway through the game, almost everyone had stopped and given up from either being tired out, over it, or not wanting to look that silly.

Come to think of it - this was a cool overcast day in February with highs in the 70's. Can you imagine someone wanting to do this in the middle of the summer heat at Epcot? I can't and a quick survey of my group suggested the feeling was the same all around. That said, and the game now over, Will and Callie chirpily congratulated the two people left spasticly dancing by the end of it. All the villains vanquished, we were shown the door. Thank you, come again, goodbye. There's a post-show area that was being finished with some game consoles, but it wasn't open yet. One can assume it's going to have games similar to those available at the sponsor's website: Habit Heroes | Defeat Bad Habits in This Educational Health Game for Kids

So that's pretty much it. Was it awful? Sort of. Would I do it again? Not unless I'm really bored in Epcot or with a very young hyperactive child who needs to burn off some sugar. There have been some great strides in bringing offerings to Innoventions that aren't just blatant corporate advertisements. Sadly, while Habit Heroes did attempt to be more than an advertisement, it failed in many aspects at being entertaining or engaging. There's just too many flaws in the execution to overlook. If it's going to be a big video game, it needs to be functionally playable. The sets themselves are pretty nice and nothing seems overly "cheap." It just doesn't function the way it was intended to.

Also, a note on the Cast Members staffing the attraction - each section had us handed off to a different Cast Member. That means the spiel-butchering pre-pre-show host was not the one bungling the TV remote game. It was an overall spotty experience throughout with multiple employees who had undergone full training on how to operate the experience. So, to suggest it was just one bad Cast Member having one bad day would simply not be true. It was bad across the board and not up to the touted Disney standards. If it's not ready to open, don't open it to the general public. That is a choice Disney had made and they still had the option of having cast member or staff previews to work out the kinks. Instead, they chose to open the attraction in the current state and it must be judged on how it was presented to us - not fanciful thoughts of how good it may later become.

It officially exists for the completionists to give a try, but otherwise, there are far better ways to spend your time in Epcot. On the Epcot attraction scale of good to bad ranging from Soarin' to Symbiosis, this is distinctly on the Symbiosis side.

We'd like to thank R.A. Pederson for this comprehensive review of Epcot's newest attraction. R.A. is quite an expert on Epcot. In fact, he wrote a whole book on the subject: The Epcot Explorer's Encyclopedia: A guide to the flora, fauna, and fun of the world's greatest theme park!


Meet Jeff and George, the madcap duo of the MiceTube. If you haven't discovered them yet, take a look at the video below. We're sure you'll want to share with all your friends because these guys are off the hook fun!

Well? What did you think? You can find more from the Communicore guys as well as all of MiceChat's great video content on the MiceTube.

Here we are at the Universal Orlando Resort. There is plenty going on in preparation for the upcoming year. Let's check it out.

Drive-In Mini Golf, in Universal's City Walk, is coming together very quickly now. The 50's horror and sic-fi theme looks like it will be a lot of fun to play.

Universal claims that the mini golf will open later this month, but that seems unlikely from the amount of work left to do.

The park is preparing for Mardi Gras, which will run from Feb. 11 to April. 14th. There is a full concert line-up, Mardi Gras parade, and festive food, including Jambalaya, Shrimp Gumbo, Andouille Sausage, Red Beans & Rice, Beignets and more! On top of it all they will also have bands, direct from New Orleans playing throughout the celebration.

The Mardi Gras Parade Schedule
  • February 11, 18, 19, 25 - 7:30PM
  • March 3, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 - 7:30PM
  • March 31 - 8:30PM
  • April 7, 14 - 8:30PM
Concert Schedule:
Saturday, February 11, 8:30pm – B-52′s
Saturday, February 18, 8:30pm – Kelly Clarkson
Sunday, February 19, 8:30pm – Boyz II Men
Saturday, February 25, 8:30pm – Diana Ross
Saturday, March 3, 8:30pm – Goo Goo Dolls
Saturday, March 10, 8:30pm – Big Time Rush
Friday, March 16, 8:30pm – J Cole
Saturday, March 17, 8:30pm - Sugar Ray
Friday, March 23, 8:30pm - Hot Chelle Rae
Saturday, March 24, 8:30pm – B.o.B
Friday, March 30, 8:30pm – Plain White T’s
Saturday, March 31, 9:30pm – Prince Royce
Saturday, April 7, 9:30pm – Cyndi Lauper
Saturday, April 14, 9:30pm – KC & The Sunshine Band

Some shows are already in the spirit

Work continues in the lagoon in preparation for the new nighttime spectacular debuting this summer. The scale is going to be pretty impressive for sure. But it make the lagoon look like such a mess during the day. Let's wish them luck.

Filming at the Studios? Who knew? A Canadian T.V. Crew was spotted filming with the minions, possibly in preparation for the new ride, Despicable me.

Construction is taking place along the new parade route. It is mostly reinforcements and repaving work at this point.

Here, we show the progress at the Despicable me ride. Out front, the marquee structure has come together and is awaiting the sign. Construction is being cleaned up as the final touches are made inside.

It is impressive to see how much of the old Jaws ride is gone. They are wasting no time at all in prepping the area for bigger, better things.

As excited as we are about the additions to come, we can't help but feel sad to see JAWS going out in a pile of rubble.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure has reopened after a brief, annual refurbishment.

What is interesting is that the model on display of the "Island" that you are supposedly on went out for cleaning and refurbishment too yet no real changes were made to it.

Why is this odd? Well, while you are able to spot all of the things to do on the island you can also see that they had originally planned on building...

The Jeep Safari ride. Since Harry Potter has taken that land up, there is practically no chance of that concept ever seeing the light of day at Islands of Adventure. It's a nice homage to a lost idea.

Busch Gardens has some of the best roller coasters in the US, if not the world. Today, we'll take a look at these stunning thrill rides.The first roller coaster that Busch Gardens opened was the Python, back in 1976. It was also the first roller coaster with inversions to be built in Florida. Python was an Arrow Dynamics corkscrew, modeled after the original corkscrew at Knott's Berry Farm. Python was located in the Congo section of the park and closed in 2006 to make room for Jungala.

The next roller coaster that opened at Busch Gardens was the Scorpion, in 1980 along with the rest of the Timbuktu area of the park. Scorpion is a classic Anton Schwartzkopf Silverarrow model looping coaster.

In 1993, the park opened Kumba, which is Swahili for "Roar"... and does this coaster ever! Built by Bollinger & Mallibard (B&M to roller coaster nerds), Kumba features seven inversions such as B&M's first diving loop (which the lift hill goes through!) and interlocking corkscrews.

Following the success of Kumba, Busch Gardens opened Montu in 1996. Named after the Egyptian god of war (Monthu), Montu is the park's only inverted coaster (again built by Bollinger & Mallibard) and was the world's tallest and fastest inverted coaster when it opened. Montu features seven inversions, such as an Immleman loop, zero-G roll a and batwing (which is a rare element on inverted coasters).

The next coaster that opened at Busch Gardens was also its first wooden one, and a unique one at that. Gwazi is a dueling coaster, built by Great Coasters International (GCI). The name Gwazi originates from a fabled creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a lion. Accordingly, the two sides are named "Lion" and "Tiger". The coaster opened in 1999, sitting on the site where the brewery once stood. Gwazi is largest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the Southeastern United States. When the ride opened, the coaster trains were manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC), which provided a very rough ride.

In 2011, Gwazi got brand new trains designed by GCI called Millennium Flyers. The new trains eliminated some of the roughness.Up next is SheiKra, the first B&M dive machine coaster to be built in North America. SheiKra opened in 2005 and features a 200 foot drop at a 90 degree angle (after being dangled at the top of the lift hill for approx. 5 seconds). The name SheiKa comes from shikra, an Asian-African hawk that's known for diving straight down for its prey.

Sand Serpent is a wild mouse coaster that was originally at Busch Gardens Williamsburg (there it was originally called Izzy, then Wild Maus) and then moved to the Tampa park when Williamsburg began construction on their Curse of DarKastle ride.

In Florida, the coaster was originally called Cheetah Chase, but the name was changed in early 2011 to avoid any confusion with......Cheetah Hunt. Busch Gardens' newest coaster opened in 2011 and is the first launched coaster in the park. Built by Intamin, Cheetah Hunt features three launches and elements such as "leaping" over the Sky Ride, a heartline roll and a "lazy figure 8” atop a 102 foot tower.

Busch Gardens also has a kiddie coaster in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun area called Air Grover.

And those are the coasters of Busch Gardens Tampa. It is an amazing collection of both family and thrill coasters. Next week we will learn a bit more about the food offerings at this great park.

The 2012 Florida State Fair is coming! This year's fair runs February 9-20 at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa (just off I-4). In addition to your rides, deep-fried food on sticks and animal exhibits, featured entertainment this year include:

• Elvis Extravaganza (Feb. 11-12) - a showcase of some of the best Elvis impersonators in the country!
• The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show
• Circus Hollywood
• Racing Pigs
• Lawn Mower Races
...and MORE!

Admission to the fair is $10 at the gate (midway rides are a separate upcharge), but you can purchase discount tickets and ride armbands at participating Sweetbay Supermarkets through February 8. For a list of participating stores, visit: http://floridastatefair.com/pdffiles...rStoresWEB.pdf

For more information on this year's Florida State Fair, please visit Florida State Fair

Congratulations to Trumpet for guessing last week's Hidden Parkhopper by posting ..."Hidden parkhopper: Habit Heroes at Epcot"

Look into the magnifying glass below and see if you can figure out where the park hoppers are this week. Post your guess in the comments area below. If you are the first to guess the answer you will be featured in next week's update. GOOD LUCK!

Want to meet up with other Disney fans while at Disney World? Several of the Orlando Parkhopper team members are part of a group that meets every weekend. Join the public Facebook group and get notified of events(the locations are different every time)

If you appreciate this column, share this page with your friends and don't forget to click that Facebook thumbs up button at the top of the page (it give us the encouragement to bring you even bigger and better updates)!
We want your photos! Contribute to the Orlando Parkhopper by emailing dustysage@micechat.com with your submissions. We welcome volunteers for single contributions as well as permanent "Parkhopper" staff.

Please join us in thanking the fantastic and talented crew of writers, photographers and news contributors who worked so hard this week to bring you the latest information from the parks. This week's team included:

- Adrian Court
- Aimster Pictures by Aimster
- Denise Preskit Mousesteps.com
- Eric M. Davis
- Professor Brainard
- R.A. Pederson - Author, Epcot Explorer's Encyclopedia
- SparkintheDark
- Editors: Fishbulb, Dustysage

Be sure to pick up a copy of R.A. Pedersons' book: The Epcot Explorer's Encyclopedia: A guide to the flora, fauna, and fun of the world's greatest theme park!

Thank you for reading, we hope you've been inspired to explore Orlando's many wonderful attractions. We'd love to hear your comments below.