We should feel pretty confident about many aspects of what 2014 will hold for theme parks and attractions. Sure, a certain boy wizard will play a key role, and a group of height-challenged cast members are expected to raise a ruckus in the middle of Fantasyland. But who will show up for Bands, Brew & BBQ?
Here are a few predictions from the Theme Park Rangers Complaint Department for how things will really shake out.
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There will be grousing — and the shocking appearance of surprise — about long lines at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, when it opens sometime this summer.
Universal can't be blindsided legitimately by huge opening crowds like it was at the opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure three years ago, when the queue snaked through the theme park and out the front gate into Universal CityWalk. But interest level is higher than a quidditch game, and throngs are inevitable.
So let us locals be patient and remember Diagon Alley isn't going anywhere. And the elbow room that accompanies September in our theme parks will be mere weeks away.
(Flashback to 2010 and Disney fanboys tweeting that Potter's opening day was "epic fail" due to crowds. Really? How do y'all like Potter now?)
Anyway, I also predict the return of the "J.K. Wanted It That Way" Game, wherein any oddity of Diagon Alley is explained away by saying that Potter author J.K. Rowling wanted it that way, although Universal never officially put it at her bazillionaire feet. Alleys too crowded? J.K. wanted it that way. Hogwarts Express too slow? J.K. wanted it that way. Fire-breathing dragon a little gassy? J.K. wanted it that way.
Play along! At any rate, we should know more after Universal's informational webcast on Jan. 23.
Mine, not yours
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster is scheduled to open in Magic Kingdom in spring and be the final cog of the park's Fantasyland expansion.
Disney officials have repeatedly described the ride's intensity as somewhere between sister attractions Barnstormer, a sort of beginner coaster, and the runaway Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But, despite this advisory, some folks will want more thrills.
It's kind of like when grown-ups were mealy-mouthed about last year's debut of Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid. I had to look people in the eye and say "Oh, are you an 8-year-old girl?" Not every ride is made for everybody, so extreme-thrill seekers should adjust expectations before boarding.
Sorry for being so Grumpy.
Burning question: Will anyone show up for SeaWorld's Bands, Brew & BBQ fest? It has suffered a rash of performer defections tied to the "Blackfish" documentary that's critical of SeaWorld's whale operations, but I'm not sure the general public has run the other direction yet. The event was scheduled to begin Feb. 1.
Meanwhile, another Bands, Brew & BBQ is scheduled to begin Feb. 2 at sister park Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The only act posted is Beach Boys on Feb. 15. Will Blackfishers also go after Busch, which has the same owner, but no whales?
Disney fans will report extra-long ride lines and blame advance reservations made my MagicBand users. … Folks will stare at construction that will transform Downtown Disney into Disney Springs (eventually). … Water-park fans will dispute the "Nothing Taller" claim of the upcoming Aquatica attraction called Ihu's Breakaway Falls. Look for a waterlogged loophole.
Coming in January
What to watch for this month:
•SeaWorld Orlando is packaging three weekend events into a Wild Days promotion, starting with Jack Hanna Weekend on Jan. 11-12. That will be followed by Sea Rescue Weekend (Jan. 18-19), which features the national TV show, and Penguin Lovers Weekend on Jan. 25-26. (More info: SeaWorldOrlando.com)
•Otronicon, a celebration of digital technology, games and interactivity, returns to the Orlando Science Center for four days beginning Jan. 18. (Otronicon.org)
•"The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons" exhibit, curated by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, takes up residence at the Orange County Regional History Center on Jan. 25. Bugs Bunny and friends stay through March 23. (thehistorycenter.org)
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