Digital Spiders, soft, flying elephants and 4D turtles are all part of this weeks Orlando Parkhopper. The really big news this week is that Universal's Islands of Adventure re-opened The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman with new Digital projection effects. But does it improve the ride? Next we land in the Magic Kingdom for the soft openings of Dumbo and the Great Goofini Coaster. Finally we stop by SeaWorld for an update on their progress on Turtle Trek and Antarctica. Hurry! Let's hop!

Forget hidden Mickeys... Universal has hidden Stan Lees!

On March 8th Universal re-opened The Adventures of Spiderman Ride. Since its opening in 1999, The Adventures of Spiderman was hailed as the "best theme park ride ever!" With its amazing blends of digital and physical technology this was a hard claim to disprove. However, the quality of the filmed segments and the wear in the queue aged the attraction.

Universal Studios addressed this issue by closing the ride and reanimating all of the digital sequences, added 4k Digital 3-D projector systems and spruce up the overall ride system and queue.

Yesterday, Universal re-opened the ride and the Orlando Park Hopper team was on hand to see the results first hand.

While the entrance looks nicer now with its webbing instead of the spackling it had before, very little has changed. The queue still has the great pre-show videos that set up your adventure. But everything has been impeccably cleaned, repainted, replaced, and improved. It gives this ride a brand new feeling.

The crowds showed up in droves for the re-opening.

The audio in the queue is a bit louder and clearer now. So, as the the intercom pages in the Daily Bugle, you can hear the gags better.

The big changes start when you go to get your 3-D glasses. These are much different than the standard theme park 3-D glasses we are all used to. These are closer to the new Star Tours glasses. They have weight, and they feel nice, and they also block out your peripheral vision (which for this ride is important).

The SCOOP Vehicle

The new glasses are a bit strange looking.

Glasses in hand, we were ready to board the "scoop" vehicle. Once on board with the ride in motion, you immediately begin to feel that this is a whole new ride.

Without giving away spoilers we will let you know that the musical score is all new and better than ever, the 16 point surround sound in the vehicle gives a realism to your surroundings that will have you jerking your head to figure out what is happening, the physical sets all look brand new again... and then there is the 3-D... which is jaw droopingly stunning. From Spiderman to the Sinister Syndicate members, the detail, the realism is simply incredible. We found ourselves feeling like we were riding this attraction for the very first time all over again. The realism of the villains startled us a few times, and provoked some jumps.

If you have ridden The Adventures of Spiderman before, prepare yourself for an all new experience that ups ante of an already amazing attraction.

In the end, all I have to say about this experience is sorry Harry Potter, Spiderman has reclaimed the crown as best theme park ride in the world.

[EDITORS NOTE: That's the way King Eric sees it, have you ridden the new Spiderman? What did you think?]

Orlando Parkhopper Open - Saturday, March 24th, 8pm
Join us for the "1st Annual" Orlando Parkhopper Open at the brand new Hollywood Drive-In mini golf course at Universal Orlando CityWalk!

Come meet members of the Orlando Parkhopper team as well as other MiceChatters!

We're having a "fancy dress" theme, so if you got them, break out your tuxedo t-shirts, feather boas and tiaras! This isn't mandatory, but encouraged if you can! This promises to be a fun event!

Get more information about this event on MiceChat and on Facebook

The land has been leveled and cleared and vertical construction should begin soon on the Grand Floridian DVC Units.

Yesterday the first phase of the Magic Kingdom's brand new Fantasyland expansion soft opened to the public. We put the call out to our Orlando team in the hope that one of them might be able to run to the park and snap photos. By the time this update was published last night, we had received fantastic shots from Kevin Yee, Miles Bresin, Glamourama, Spark In The Dark, and Professor Brainard. You can see real glimpses of improvement in the new area, but this is just a tiny taste of what is yet to come. So far, you'll find that there's good, bad, and some we just can't decide on yet in the new offerings. Let's begin, shall we?

The walls were down and guests were free to
wander into the new area.

The walls promise fun further down the corridor.

Here we are.

New circus-y trashcans.

The path has been treated to look like trodden dirt. It is filled with circus animal tracks and wheel imprints.

One half of the new Dumbo attraction opened to the public for a soft opening.

Currently only one side of the attraction is open and the interactive queue is not open yet either.

The new Dumbo spinners are built over fountains just like its twins in California and Paris.

Which begs the question, if the experience is not ready, why open it?

New landscaping along the queue.

Only one of the two Dumbo spinners is operating for guests, but the much ballyhooed interactive waiting area and 2nd Dumbo (for extra capacity) isn't open yet. The experience is only partially finished and, in all fairness, not ready for a proper review. Right now, this is just Dumbo in a different location, but that experience will soon change with the fancy new queue Imagineering has cooked up.

In the evening, the lighting in the fountains below creates a surprisingly beautiful dance of colors and light. Couple that with the nightly fireworks and it is simply magical.

Barnstormer Featuring Goofy as the Great Goofini:
Further down is the "Great Goofini". Scratch that, it's "The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini". Huh? Who knew a kiddy coaster needed that big of a name?

Okay, they kept the original name and tacked on the Goofini name.

Night time shot

At least the entrance is interesting. Let's see what else is here.

Ample stroller parking

Along the perimeter of the roller coaster are banners advertising
other Goofini circus acts.

Really? That's it?

Evening brings some nice lighting.

They essentially removed all farm theme from the ride, stripped things down and added a little bit of circus theme to it. No more swooping through barns and startling the chickens. They have taken all that out. No, now you reach the top of an airfield themed tower and off you go. Done. It's a shame that they did very little to enhance this small attraction and actually ended up detracting from it.

There is some good news though. The new Fantasyland Train Station and restrooms are beautiful.

A sign above the toilets advises guests not to drink from the toilets.

The tidy bowl blue water is reason enough.

The evening sets and we get a look at the lighting package on display.

The train station is a beautifully themed and crafted element that matches the 1940's style town depot that appears in Dumbo. The set dressing, the brickwork, everything comes together very well.

And now for the rest of the ongoing Fantasyland project.

Storybook Circus:

The Little Mermaid:

Be Our Guest Restaurant and Belle Meet and Greet:

What do you like and dislike about the Fantasyland expansion so far, and what changes would you like to see them make (if any)?

As was mentioned earlier, the Kilamanjaro Safari ride will be undergoing major re-working this year that will completely remove the poacher subplot to the ride and finally showcase the zebra which have, since opening of the ride, been mostly sequestered backstage.

The ride will remain open throughout the year while the changes take place. Construction walls will be visible, as the work is done, but the show will not be unveiled until sometime in November

The good news for us is that we get to ride this excellent attraction many more times this year to keep you all up-to-date on the changes as they occur.

We are getting into the home stretch as SeaWorld prepares for an April 27th grand opening for this attraction. Exterior painting has started, as other finishing touches are added.

The Manatee Topiaries have gone missing. We are not sure if this is related to Turtle Trek or not.

Demolition continues in the old penguin area, making way for the new Antarctica land in 2013.

A new sign has debuted at Journey to Atlantis, it is a nicely themed addition.


With the recent passing of Monkees front man, Davy Jones, a gap was left in The Flower Power Concert Series held during Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival. In a very classy move the singer and drummer for the Monkees, Mickey Dolenz, will be filling in for the performances that will be held on May 18th, 19th and 20th.

Kevin Yee is putting a group together to go inside the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center. The tour, offered by the space center, is an additional $25 on top of admission ($48).

Kevin also suggests, "If you're buying annual passes, do it before March 7 to get the special $50 rate! (it's $56 after that)"If you are interested in join up with the group, follow the link HERE for more info.

While MrRatigan posted a close answer by saying, "Hidden park hopper--- gator land" Congratulations has to go to DisneyDrums for guessing, more specifically, last week's Hidden Parkhopper by posting..."It looks like the Hidden Parkhopper picture is of those Gatorbites. It's making me hungry for some fries right about now. XD"

Good job! Let's try this again. 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)!

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:

- Eric M. Davis (King Eric)
- Miles Bresin - Miles' Photos
- Kevin Yee
- Professor Brainard
- SparkintheDark
- Glamourama
- Aimster - Pictures by Aimster
- Editors: Fishbulb, Dustysage

Thank you all for reading, we hope you have a wonderful week and are inspired to explore the amazing variety of attractions on your next visit to central Florida. We'd love to hear your comments below.