Maleficent Adventures

Travelling Around the World

Category: Universal Orlando

Looking forward to the Future of Orlando Theme parks

You may or may not have been following the D23 expo which took place last month but there were lots of Disney theme park announcements which has got us excited for our Trip to Florida next year.

We love going to Orlando, visiting both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, so we thought we’d highlight what exciting changes are coming next to the parks:

  • Opening Spring 2018 Fast & Furious – Supercharged is heading to Universal Orlando
    Expect high speed car chases, special character cameos and a thrill ride with cutting edge technology taking over from the Disaster Ride. Holly visited Universal Studios Hollywood in January and caught a glimpse from the Tram tour, and if this is anything to go by, it will be spectacular!

    Photo Credit: Universal Orlando

  • Summer 2018
    • Toy Story land opens in Orlando
      Not necessarily a new announcement but something we are eagerly anticipating. Opening in just over a years’ time, Toy Story land shrinks you down to size to allow you to play in Andy’s back yard. Rides include Slinky Dog Dash, a rollercoaster, and Alien Swirling Saucers. We are big fans of this area in Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris, as it is so well designed with lots of intricate details.

      Photo Credit: Disney Parks

Slinky Dog definitely looks like our kind of rollercoaster, we are not huge fans of being shaken about or going upside down (think Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain – Florida, as some of our favoruites). Check it out here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK8gDmZS6c8

  • Hotel Aventura: Universal Orlando’s 6th on-site hotel
    Opening in August 2018, this 16 floor hotel will host 600 rooms and will sit adjacent to Sapphire Falls hotel. The building will tower over the Universal park, making it ideal to sit back and relax in their rooftop bar.

    Photo Credit: Universal Orlando

  • Walt Disney World is getting a new form of transportation
    If you have ever been to Walt Disney World, you’ll know how far apart the parks are. To get from your hotel to the parks can take a 10 minute wait at a bus stop followed by a hot bus ride to your destination. Disney is tackling this by providing an gondola system – Disney Skyliner. This will connect Disney’s Hollywood Studio Park and Epcot (which you can walk between relatively easily) to the following hotels: Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach and Riveria Resort. Each capsule will be designed after Disney characters and it is schedules to be opened in 2018.

    Photo Credit: Disney Parks

  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
    D23 saw the unveiling of the official name of the Stars Wars land at Walt Disney World, opening late Summer in 2019. One ride announced will involve flying the Millennium Falcon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the system replicates the Spaceship Earth over in Epcot, where you and three others work together as a crew to fly the ship.

See details from Disney Parks here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP1jcbPRxc8&feature=youtu.be

  • New Disney Vacation Club Resort
    Disney Riviera Resort will sit between Epcot and Hollywood Studios and will be home to the newest property to join the Disney Vacation Club. For those who don’t know, think of Disney Vacation Club as a time-share programme which allows you to pay for your Disney vacation over the year. Riviera Resort is said to host “unbelievable views of the night time spectaculars” of both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, and is scheduled to open late 2019.

    Photo Credit: Disney Parks


  • Dragon Challenge is finally closing
    On September 5th this year, Dragon Challenge (formerly Duelling Dragons) located in Hogsmeade Universal Orlando will close down to make way for a thrilling new Harry Potter e-ticket attraction. This “highly-themed” roller coaster which will hopefully breathe new life into the land. Don’t get us wrong, it is an incredible land, but since Diagon Alley opened it is hard to compare the two. You won’t have to wait long for the new ride as they say it will open in 2019, we are heavily anticipating further ride details to be announced.

  • Disney Announce a highly themed and immersive Star Wars Hotel
    Complete with story lines and cosplay, Disney have just announced a Star Wars hotel which will revolutionise hotel experiences as we know it. Opening near Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World in 2020, this hotel is expected to have high room rates but play home to once in a life time experiences.

    Photo Credit: Disney Parks

  • In 2021 there are lots of exciting things to see around both Universal and Disney parks
    • Guardians of the Galaxy ride opening in Epcot
      At the beginning of this year Disneyland Anaheim unveiled the Guardians of a Galaxy make over to the Tower of Terror, and we are finally starting to see this franchise come to the Florida parks. There is no clear indication as to what the ride will be yet but we know it will open in 2021 and replace the Universe of Energy ride in Epcot.

      Photo Credit: Disney Parks

    • One of Hollywood Studios’ original rides to close
      The Great Movie Ride opened with the park on the 1st of May in 1989, and is set to close on 13th August 2017 after an almost 30 year run. To be honest we never really got the deal on this one and so are looking forward to the new attraction: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. This will be based on the new Mickey Mouse shorts seen on the Disney Channel and boasts a “2 ½ D” experience… whatever that entails.

      Photo Credit: Disney Parks

    • Ratatouille coming to World Showcase
      Anyone who has been to Disneyland Paris in the last three years has probably been on its newest ride, Ratatouille: The Adventure. This immersive ride shrinks you down to the size of a rat as you assist Remy in making his favourite dish. This ride is coming to the France pavilion at Epcot and as one of our all-time favourite rides, we are sure will be well received.
    • Tron Lifecycles Power Run coming to the US
      This announcement is Holly’s favourite: Tron Lifecycle is coming to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. This ride was first seen in the Shanghai park. This ulta sleek looking, coaster-style ride pulls riders in as they race around the track.

      Photo Credit: Disney Park

    • Is Super Nintendo world coming to Universal Orlando?
      The real question is when is it coming? Universal have just broken ground for the land at Universal Studios Japan which will open in 2020, conveniently in time for their Olympic games. The main attraction announced is a Mario Kart ride experience, which sounds a-ma-zing. They have also announced there will be expansions to both Hollywood and Florida Universal parks.

      Photo Credit: Universal Orlando

With so many rides and expansions in the mix, both Disney and Universal Studios Orlando will race to get everything done and the kinks worked out by 2021. Just in time too, as this will be Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration which falls on 1st October, and we hope to be there for it. Best get saving now!

 

A Celebration of Harry Potter 2017

Every year Orlando Florida hosts a 3 day event, dedicated to celebrating the world of Harry Potter. This January, Holly and her friend Tom decided to time their trip to Orlando to coincide with this and Holly has written a round-up of her favourite things from the event:

In its fourth year running, A Celebration of  Harry Potter brings fans not just from around US but the world. I can guarantee you’ll get sucked into the incredible atmosphere and magic which surrounds this event.

I booked a vacation package through Universal (hotel only) which meant I got added extras as part of the Harry Potter celebration, which included:

  1. A stay at the Hard Rock Hotel for 5 nights
  2. Early access into the park
  3. Free Express Pass for the rides
  4. Access to an exclusive Q&A with film stars
  5. Three Broomsticks breakfast
  6. Exclusive evening event at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  7. Commemorative Merchandise Item
  8. Commemorative Pin and Lanyard

Commemorative Lanyard

Commemorative Pin

Commemorative Merchandise Item

I found when I was researching my trip the price for a vacation package was similar to just booking accommodation, and with the added benefits (listed above) I couldn’t resist. The exclusive lanyard which allowed me to fast track queues for the expo also allowed access to a special area for the demonstrations which were less crowded.

One thing to note: If you are travelling from the UK and planning to get an Orlando package deal, e.g. with Virgin Holidays, you aren’t able to get this special vacation package as it’s only available when booking direct with Universal.

I booked the basic vacation package (£800PP), there was also a premium vacation package which costed more, but included unique experiences such as an exclusive autograph and photo session with the film talent.

Arriving

Shortly after arriving we headed over to the Group Sales counter in Islands of Adventure to pick up our passes. Then we were ready to start enjoying all the festivities.

The parks was not that busy on the Friday, possibly because most people were coming after work and there wasn’t much on. It wasn’t until 7pm during the Opening Night Event when it started to get busy. Here we got our first glimpse of the Harry Potter  stars which were present for the entire weekend: Warick Davis (Flitwick and Griphook), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy).

Here is a round up of things you can expect to experience during the course of the weekend:

 The Expo

Set across two sound stages, we saw a range of companies showcasing Harry Potter merchandise.

Lego showcased their new Harry Potter characters on their Lego Dimensions games.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London broke the news that they were opening up a new forbidden forest section. #FollowTheSpiders showcased at the expo and this opened on March 31st this year. We even managed to get a sneak preview of Aragog and get an insight into how the prop and design team made this monstrous creature.

The Exhibition
Touring around the world to fans across the globe, the collection of Harry Potter props was showcased at this event. This included Hermoine’s wax figure (used in the second film), as well as Quidditch supplies, Quaffles and more.

Check out this mosaic this was created by using photos from the event using the hashtag #HPCelebration.

Hundreds of artists were used to help bring the books to life, and much of this work was on display during the course of the week. I particularly enjoyed seeing some of the amazing live pastel sketches around the park.

Inside the expo, artists were working on a Fantastic Beasts montage

Outside on the pavements:

Exclusive Q&A with Film Talent

One of my favourite moments out of the entire weekend was the exclusive Q&A with the actors. It was early on Saturday and located in the Toon Lagoon amphitheatre. We got an intimate catch up with the stars. Funnily enough, myself and my friend Tom were sat behind the VIP section, and when Matthew Lewis came on he was heckled by his friends from the crowd in front. Jason Isaacs also shared that if Lucius had a Patronus it would have been Donald Trump’s hair.

Props showcase with acclaimed prop maker Pierre Bohanna

This was a talk about the props and prosthetics created and used for the films hosted by Warwick Davis. Pierre is also part of the team behind the #FollowTheSpiders Forbidden Forest.

Graphic Design for the Harry Potter Films with MinaLima

Probably one of the lesser known companies used by Warner Bros in the making of the films, but this design company is behind all the graphic design in the films; including the new Fantastic Beasts franchise. They also designed all of the merchandise for this year’s Harry Potter celebration.

Currently they now have a permanent ‘pop-up shop’ in SoHo London which you can visit, details of which can be found here.

Examples of graphic design work from the Harry Potter films

For some Top Tips if you are planning a visit to A Celebration of Harry Potter see my article in the link above

I had a really good time at the event and the Q&A with the stars as well as the expo were definitely my highlights. I wouldn’t say it merits going every single year but I’ll definitely be heading back in a few years-time.

 

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