Florida is where it's at and Hopping is what we do, join us this week for all sorts of new news and views from the Orlando parks. News continues to flow from the area theme parks as Universal prepares to open the highly anticipated Drive-In mini Golf and the Despicable me attractions. Meanwhile, Epcot gears up to host another year of the wildly popular Flower and Garden Festival. Over in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, construction forges ahead. Let's take a look . . .

Here at the Magic Kingdom the Peoplemover continues to falter, a new Fantasyland is being built and the FastPass police are planning to crack down on return times. Will it ruin your upcoming vacation or enhance it?

Currently, both the Main Street Bakery and the The Chapeau are under refurbishment. The Ice Cream Parlor is now closed due to the activity.

The Chapeau. Fancy tarps at the Magic Kingdom are common these days.

The Ice Cream Parlor is closed. But they aren't directing guests to alternate locations as they usually do.

The Chapeau

It is a common occurrence to travel through Space Mountain's dome and find that the clunky old attraction has Broken down. The only good news about this is that Peoplemover riders can sometimes view the attraction with the house lights on. On a recent ride around Tomorrowland on the Peoplemover we noticed that the maintenance crew had left the lights on throughout the Peoplemover attraction. It was an odd experience, but sort of fun as well.

Work lights at the station were on...

The dirty LED lights...

The long dark corridors were brightly lit.

Unfortunately for Disney, the well lit sections which we'd normally find dark do not appear to be well maintained. A coat of paint would go a long way in helping the ride appear more futuristic. Peoplemover is one of the classic Disney World attractions, and we'd hate to see it suffer the same fate as Disneyland's (closure). Please join us in encouraging Disney to maintain this fantastic family friendly attraction and preserve it for generations to come.

The walls are coming into view and the circus is slowly moving into town for an extended stay (we assume). Here is what has happened in Fantasyland's expansion this week.

A crane on the path to Dumbo and Great Goofini

The walls and turrets that are the barrier to the further outreaches of the kingdom are taking a definitive shape.

You've got to hand it to the Imagineers on this part of the project. The level of detail far surpasses the old tent and awning portion of Fantasyland. Once the expansion has been completed, we hope they'll turn some attention to the existing facades in Fantasyland which will look simple in comparison to the new structures.

Dumbo and the Great Goofini Coaster:

The second spinner is coming along nicely in the foreground. The other spinner is located behind it in nearly completed condition.

Stacked stone barriers and planters are taking form.

The old tents are being prepared for their new exterior skins.

The new Fantasyland Train station in the background looks fantastic.

The Little Mermaid:
Here is the exterior of the Little Mermaid queue. The details are coming out on Eric's castle as well as some structural additions to the caverns.

Be our Guest Restaurant, Belle Meet and Greet:
The village and scenery are becoming clearer in Belle's provincial town while the Be Our Guest Restaurant facade is further along the path to completion.

Fantasyland Restrooms:
The sad demise of the skyway ride station has made way for the new and improved Fantasyland Bathroom project. The current bathrooms next to Peter Pan will be removed and relocated across the way where the Skyway chateau once stood. That frees up space for Peter Pan to get an expanded NextGen queue.

It was just a few years ago that Disney built a fancy stroller parking lot in this area.

One of the wonderful things that a lot of the counter serve restaurants have at the Walt Disney World resort are topping bars. Freshly torn lettuce, grilled onions and tart pickles all for free for your burgers and sandwiches. After a brief hiatus the topping bar returned to Cosmic Rays! Excellent news!

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Kevin Yee offers his own photo tour of the Orlando area parks here.
- Sorcerers of the MK has new banners and signage
- Toppings bar has reopened at Cosmic Ray's
- MK rose garden has been seriously trimmed back
- Grand Floridian DVC pics this week
- No more FastPass machines at Tough to be a Bug
- DAK after dark photos of the walkways
- Rough paint job on Min and Bill's dockside diner
- MuppetVision looks fantastic, with all effects working

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Spring is ready to, well, 'spring' at Epcot as the park prepares for the annual Flower and Garden Festival. The event begins March 7th and runs until May 20th this year and will feature 100 topiaries throughout the park - 75 of which will be Disney characters. Buzz, Woody and Lotso will be there along with other Pixar favorites this year.

With just a few weeks to go, the park still has plenty of work to get ready for the fun.

A whole expanse ready to be planted

Some fancy bird condos

The exhibit in Innoventions west, which used to allow any park guest to ride a Segway, has been closed for a while now. Strangely, the signage and dome for the Segway Central experience are just sitting empty in full view. Generally, construction walls will go up, or at the very least the signs will come down and a make-shift seating area will be created.

Renovations continue over at Tutto Italia restaurant in the Italy pavilion. The dining location will be closed until April 30th, 2012 for extensive renovations. Let's hope that when it returns there will be some of the original charm restored to the location that made it so great when it was known as Alfredo's. We miss the upbeat fun and entertainment this location had before the life was sucked out of it by the Patina Group when they took over and named the location Tutto Italia.

As you can see, this is more than a simple redecorating project.

In case you have not heard, the Kilamanjaro Safari ride will be undergoing an extensive re-write to its story line which will completely remove the poacher sub-plot from the ride and create a new zebra viewing area along the route.

Beginning at the end of this month, the final scene featuring the poacher camp and Little Red (the baby Elephant) will begin to be dismantled and hidden behind construction walls and tarps. When the area returns, it will be home to a new enclosure for the Zebra that have rarely had a chance to shine. Why is that? It turns out that Zebra can be a fussy bunch. In fact, they were downright ornery and mean to the other animals and, thus, don't make the best savannah-mates. Therefore, they are rarely on view.

Since the opening of the ride, it was a rare thing to catch a glimpse of them as they spent most of their time sequestered in an off-stage savannah that could only be seen, briefly, after crossing the dilapidated bridge. They will now have a new home and serve as an ending to a ride that has had more than its share of re-writes. We also hear a rumor that the geysers might be removed as well, but, we will have to wait on that one.

Farewell Little Red!

Before we move on to Universal Studios, let's take a look at the latest Communicore Weekly from the MiceTube.

It's our 5 Show Anniversary Show! Yay! We celebrate by re-living some of our FAVORITE moments and feature an AMAZING live musical performance! Plus, for our 5 Show Anniversary Show, we're featuring 5 times the laughs*!

Also, we have these awesome segments!




We await with baited breath, putters firmly in hand, for the opening of the Drive-in Mini golf in Universal CityWalk. The course, which missed the hopeful opening date of President's Day Weekend is supposedly ready to open any day now. Already being toted as one of Orlando's best mini golf courses, this should be a huge hit.

There are two 18-hole mini golf courses. One is called "Invaders from Planet Putt" and carries a sic-fi theme. The other is "The Haunting of Ghostly Greens" and carries a classic haunted house theme.

Once the vegitation grows in (which doesn't take long in Florida) this place is going to look stunning.

The lighting will really enhance these courses. keep this in mind for a cool evening activity with the kids.

If you purchase your annual pass to the Universal Orlando Resort with an American Express Card, you'll get a special perk. There is a private lounge set aside just for you. It is stocked with chilled water, chips, granola bars, and charging stations. Pretty cool huh?

It looks as if the exterior for the new Despicable me ride is going to resemble the front of Gru's house from the film. Metal framework has been going up for some time but it wasn't until now that a real recognizable shape could be seen.

If you and your kids are crazy about those adorable and accident prone minions, this attraction will surely be quite popular (at least while it's new).

Universal continued work on their Summer nighttime lagoon show, Cinematic Spectacular. During the early development of the park, Steven Spielberg was heavily involved as a creative consultant. One of the things he insisted on was that there be no indication during the day that there was an infrastructure in place for an evening lagoon show. Sadly, with the production of the previous Universal 360 and now the Cinematic Spectacular, it seems that directive is being ignored. This is a bit of a downer. But if the show is a hit, it will go a long way to helping folks ignore the obtrusive equipment during the day.


In a strange pair of coincidences, we have noticed a few things that will amuse Disney Fans. For starters, we are all aware that Disney is finally building a Ghirardelli location inside Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California. But, due to it's proximity to the new Cars Land project, it will not resemble the original Ghirardelli square building in San Francisco. However, over at Universal Orlando, they have a wonderful replica of the building...

Stranger still, the Universal location never became a chocolate shop and soda fountain due to contract talks falling apart.

Then, close by, there is another strange, if unintentional, Disney reference. Tokyo Disney Sea's Tower of Terror attraction was built by a fictional character named "Hightower". You'll find that name at Universal. Given the number of ex-Imagineers who built and continue to work on the Universal parks, we'll have to list this one as a "Possible" coincidence.

Interesting? Yes. Does it mean anything? Probably not.

As we all know, Harry Potter is moving in the area that Bruce the shark once called home. The area backstory for Amity was that it was supposed to be 4th of July, hence the games and activities. With the new construction, Universal took a bit of a hit in revenue from the games. They have now constructed temporary game booths to keep revenue up and guests occupied.

The park is now celebrating Mardi Gras, which will run until 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:
  • [*=left]
    [*=left] Saturday, March 17, 8:30pm - Sugar Ray

    [*=left] Friday, March 23, 8:30pm - Hot Chelle Rae


We were able to take in some of the Mardi Gras fun and it was awesome! The parade is a wonderful highlight.

The souvenir store near E.T. is being made over into a Spongebob Squarepants store.

A new parade is coming to Universal this year and will be the first real full time parade, with show stops, that the park has had in years. All of the parade warehouses and costume departments that were originally built for such a thing are long gone and they are having to be rebuild anew. They have also constructed a brand new parade route and are paving throughout the park to smooth things out for the traveling floats.

Everything is textured, aged and themed. Well done so far.

What is it with poor Dudley DoRight? The ride is down, once again, for refurbishments.

Cogratulations to BrianFuchs for guessing last week's Hidden Parkhopper by posting..."Hidden parkhopper - Hope I'm describing this correctly: Big Thunder town - it's the outside wall of the "two story" shack that's next to the windmill tower."

Good job Brian. Let's see if we can stump all you loyal readers this week. 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 answer correctly, 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:

- Aimster - Pictures by Aimster
- Eric M. Davis
- Professor Brainard
- Kevin Yee
- Miles Bresin - Miles' Photos

- Editors: Fishbulb, Dustysage

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.