florida

Penn & Teller House Confirmed for HHN 22

Universal Orlando has just announced its fourth house for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event. It’s based on Penn & Teller, the magician duo from Las Vegas. So far, every house this year is a licensed entertainment property. We’re wondering when they will announce some houses that are original creations. Check out the details below: Continue reading

Universal Orlando announces fourth resort

Universal Orlando finally announced the long awaited fourth resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, in a press release today. It’s aimed at the more budget concious families visiting the resort. It will occupy the land right beside the Royal Pacific Resort. Read all the details below: Continue reading

Universal Orlando Hidden Gems: Three Broomsticks Outdoor Seating

Brad shares a quiet location to take a break and enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine outside of the craziness that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

TIP: Grab a Butterbeer at the Hogshead Pub inside the building, and head out the back doors to access the outdoor seating area. Another way is to go down the alleyway right beside the bathrooms past the ATM machine.

Obama visits Walt Disney World to promote U.S. tourism

Today, President Obama was in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World to help promote U.S. Tourism. He wants to make sure the U.S. is the top tourist destination in the world, and is going to make it much quicker to process Visa’s from China, India, Brazil, and other booming economies. Check out a video of the speech and full transcript below. Continue reading

Disney and GM to re-imagine Test Track at EPCOT

Disney and General Motors have renewed their long-term business relationship with a new multi-year corporate alliance. As part of the new alliance, GM will be actively involved with Walt Disney Imagineering in the development of a re-imagined, design-centric Test Track experience. The refurbished Test Track will be presented by one of GM’s most famous brands, Chevrolet. As Chevrolet marks its 100th anniversary, the new alliance agreement enables General Motors to tell its story in new and exciting ways to millions of Guests from around the world and continue as the official vehicle sponsor of Walt Disney World Resort.

“We are excited to renew our long-term alliance with General Motors,” said George Aguel, Senior Vice President, Corporate Alliances for the Walt Disney Company. “This unique agreement extends collaboration between two of the most recognized brands in the world, a relationship that spans over 30 years. The re-imagined Test Track Presented by Chevrolet will continue our shared goal of providing unique and innovative experiences that engage Disney guests in exciting and interactive ways.” ”
“As a global brand, Chevrolet is looking forward to welcoming Guests from around the world to the re-imagined Test Track,” said Joel Ewanick, Global Chief Marketing Officer for General Motors. “The best of Disney and the best of Chevrolet will come together to bring Guests an immersive experience in the design process of the vehicles they see on the road today and will see in the future.”
Plans call for closing the current GM Test Track in April 2012, with an anticipated opening of Test Track Presented by Chevrolet scheduled for fall 2012.
As part of the re-imagining, the Future World attraction will feature a sleek new “Chevrolet Design Center at Epcot” immersing Guests in the fascinating world of automotive design. Amid upbeat music, engaging media, dramatic lighting and a collection of Chevrolet concept cars and model vehicles, guests themselves will become automotive designers – and peer into the future of personal transportation in the process.
At interactive design and styling workstations, Guests will be able to create their own custom concept vehicles. The adventure will then shift into high gear as Guests buckle into their 6-person “SimCar” ride vehicle and put their design through its paces on the exhilarating hills, switchbacks and straight-aways of the Test Track circuit.
Their performance testing complete, Guests will move into a post-show area filled with special effects and be scored on how well their custom concept vehicle did. And of course, Guests will be able see the very latest Chevrolet vehicles in an all-new state-of-the-art showroom.

24 full hours of magic at Disney Parks

One more day of magic....yes please!

Disney Parks guests can get the most out of February 29 when Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California celebrate Leap Year by keeping a theme park on each coast open for 24 hours of nonstop memory-making fun.

For the first time ever, both the Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland Park will stay open for 24 hours straight as part of a bi-coastal salute called “One More Disney Day.” From 6 a.m., February 29 to 6 a.m., March 1, 2012, local time, guests can fill the extra day of leap year with a marathon of Disney magic and fun.*
And for 60 days straight – from Jan. 1, 2012 to Feb. 29, 2012 – a daily winner will be chosen in the “Disney Parks One More Disney Day Sweepstakes” to receive a Disney Parks vacation.  One entrant each day will win a vacation for four to make memories at either Disneyland Resort in California or Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.**
For the past year, Disney Parks has invited guests to “let the memories begin,” noted Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
“We’re honored that so many guests have shared their Disney memories with us as part of ‘Let the Memories Begin’, and I’m pleased to announce that the campaign will continue throughout 2012,” Staggs said. “To celebrate, for the first time ever, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Parks will remain open for 24 hours on Leap Day, so that our guests can take advantage of every minute of their extra day to make memories with friends and family.”
In addition to the extra time, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California will feature a special offer:

  • Guests get one more day and night of memory making, free when they buy a 3-night/3-day non-discounted Walt Disney Travel Co. room and ticket package at select Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort hotels.  The package offer is good for arrivals most nights Feb. 26 – March 10, 2012 and must be booked by Jan. 31, 2012. ***

In 2011, Disney Parks has encouraged families to “Let the Memories Begin,” with guests celebrating their only-at-Disney memories by sharing their vacation stories, photos and videos online at DisneyParks.com/memories.
Guests can find out more information about other Disneyland Resort offers and tickets at www.disneyland.com and other Walt Disney World Resort hotel and ticket offers at www.disneyworld.com. Guests can find out more information about “One More Disney Day” and get official rules for the “Disney Parks One More Disney Day Sweepstakes” atwww.OneMoreDisneyDay.com.

The Making of IOA: Secrets of the Signage

For more than 25 years, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory —    with its many visual wonders and thematic units — has exercised the imaginations of young and young-at-heart viewers alike. Such magic-wielding worlds as Willy Wonka’s are typically confined to movie land. But movie viewing isn’t the only way to experience paradise. If you’re seeking an off-screen Eden for all ages, you might consider visiting Orlando, FL’s Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park.

Located adjacent to Universal Studios Florida ®, the billion-dollar Islands of Adventure was conceived in 1994. “We were looking for thematic content for a second park; we were looking to build large ‘islands’ that would house attractions,    restaurants and merchandise shops,” explains Steve Leff, Universal Studio Inc.’s (Los Angeles) graphics manager.
To create the park’s six islands, Universal went to great pains to find themes that appeal to both children and adults. The science-fiction/fantasy film Jurassic Park ®provided the details needed to create one island. Another island was born after Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., La Jolla, CA, granted Universal permission to use Seuss characters. At the same time, Universal contracted with Marvel Comics, New York, to use Marvel    Super Heroes, as well as King Features, a division of the Hearst Corp., New York, to incorporate “Sunday Funnies” characters. The park’s “Port of Entry™” and “The Lost Continent™” islands are themed to reflect adventure, exploration, trading, myths and legends. From these contract agreements, Universal acquired enough content to build a new park. Steve recalls, “We wanted to go into the fantasy realm and create worlds based on the thematic properties we collected from outside sources.” To ensure the detail of each island, it took Universal approximately five years to oversee and complete the project. The park celebrated its grand opening May 28, 1999.

Jurassic Park River Adventure entrance sign

Designing the park 
Under Steve’s guidance, Universal’s seven-person graphics team created design concepts for Islands of Adventure’s more than 2,100 signs and graphics. The designers’ first task was to name the park’s attractions, restaurants and shops. Steve explains, “Many facilities had not yet been named. And since we had to design signs for these facilities, we needed to first create names to put on the signs.” Once the nomenclature was established and legally approved, the designers began creating concepts for the park’s main-identification and large-scale signs. To establish the signs’ placement on various buildings, as well as to ensure the appropriate structural and electrical components, Universal designers worked closely with outside architectural and engineering firms.
The team’s primary goal was to ensure the graphics complimented the overall theme-park environment. Steve says, “Park graphics should blend in with the facility’s overall theme. However, they should not blend in so well they go unnoticed by the visitors.” Another design goal was to differentiate the appearance of the islands while maintaining a uniform wayfinding system for the entire park.
Early planning, hard work, skill and outside help from a number of graphics-design and architectural and engineering firms allowed the Universal team to accomplish its goals and create what it considers “coffee-table-book graphics.”
Upon completing the project’s design concepts, Universal mailed letters to approximately 50 qualified sign fabricators requesting information about their shops’ size, capabilities and product  offerings. The fabricators were also asked to send photos and shop drawings of prior, heavily themed project work. From this feedback, Universal narrowed its search to 25 companies. Steve then traveled to each location and interviewed the candidates. He says, “I wanted to get a feel for the companies and select the island(s) for which they could produce the best graphics.” For example, to produce the signage for “Toon Lagoon™” and “Marvel Super Hero Island™,” Steve sought electric-sign shops. Many of the signs for these two islands incorporate fabricated aluminum, Plexiglas ®and internal neon illumination. Likewise, he sought shops with experience fabricating foam and fiberglass sculptures to complete the signage for “Seuss Landing™” and “The Lost Continent.”
The signshops were then asked to bid on the project, as well as submit technical proposals outlining how they would plan and complete the job. Once Universal received the proposals, it matched qualified fabricators with the appropriate project work. The number of sign fabricators and vendors assigned to each island was determined by the amount and type of work required.
One of the many Dueling Dragons signs

Managing sign production 
Fifteen-year-old Design Communications Ltd. (DCL), Boston and Orlando, FL, fabricated all signs for “Port of Entry” and “The    Lost Continent.” According to Steve, DCL’s proposal stood out because the company’s found-parts coordinator could visit ship yards and salvage companies to seek ship and airplane relics for “Port of Entry,” which features an adventure-and-exploration theme. Also, DCL’s foam- and fiberglass-sculpting experience made it the perfect sign fabricator for “The Lost Continent.” DCL was the only company chosen to fabricate signs for two islands.
The signshop began fabricating signs for “Port of Entry” in February 1998 and “The Lost Continent” in June 1998. Approximately 480 signs were produced for both islands. DCL President Mark Andreasson says his shop’s biggest fabrication challenge was creating so many one-of-a-kind, large-scale signs. “We’re    accustomed to producing large-scale signage — for shopping malls, stadiums and airports — which is repetitive in nature. For the Islands of Adventure project, however, we had to create many completely unique signs that were complicated to engineer and fabricate,” Mark explains.
Project management, Mark says, is the key to overcoming such fabrication challenges. To manage the Islands of Adventure job, his shop broke the project down into small parts and assembled in-house teams. Approximately half of DCL’s 110 employees worked on the project during its peak time. Any work not assigned to an in-house team was subcontracted. DCL hired approximately nine subcontractors to share the workload and more than 100 vendors to supply materials and miscellaneous items.
Good project control helps overcome any production and communication challenges that might arise when a signshop has to monitor the progress of both in-house and outside production. Mark advises that communication between shops remain open at all times. When working on a job of this size and nature, sign-makers should keep the project’s scope in mind throughout fabrication to limit rework. “It’s important for sign fabricators to encourage conceptual designers to spell out what they want. By doing so, fabricators can keep a job’s parameters from changing,” Mark says. To ensure profitability, sign manufacturers should also track a project’s every detail and cost, as well as maintain good documentation and update shop drawings.
Hogsmeade Sign....one of the newest signs at the park

Fabricating and installing the signs 
There was no cookie-cutter approach to the fabrication and installation of the 480 signs DCL produced for Islands of  Adventure. Aluminum, fiberglass, Sign•Foam high-density urethane (HDU) and natural wood were among the variety of    materials the shop used to create the theme park’s signage. Fabrication techniques included hand-carving, hand-painting, sandblasting and sculpting. In addition to being one-of-a-kind, each sign was engineered, manufactured and installed to withstand abuse from the park’s many visitors, as well as Central Florida’s humid climate and severe wind load. Mark and his crew completed fabrication and installation of all signs for “Port of Entry” and “The Lost Continent” in 12 months.
Here’s an overview of the materials, techniques and installation methods DCL used to create five of the signs for “The Lost Continent”:
Alchemy Bar: Measuring 6 feet tall, the sign incorporates an aluminum frame structure distressed to resemble aged pewter and wrought iron; cast-resin embellishments, a carved urethane sign band and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) lettersA hammered, stainless-steel mixing bowl cups a 27-liter    Pyrex™ borosilicate-glass flask, which is plastic-coated for    safety and to simulate a hand-blown appearance. A magnetic stirring device — housed within the steel mixing bowl — spins a plastic-coated steel bar inside the flask and stirs 150 pounds of    fluid. To illuminate the fluid, a neon ring is placed inside the    sign’s base enclosure. A faux-finished mounting plate and square, aluminum tube are used to support the structure.
Dragon’s Keep: The 4-foot-tall sign employs aluminum and medium-density overlay (MDO) with carved Sign•Foam. Acrylic, foam and cast resin make up the sign’s 2-foot-tall medallion. Internal neon illumination accentuates the sign’s acrylic push-through letters, which are filled with crushed amethyst. The sign’s acrylic jewel features bevel-cut edges and internal, fiber-optic illumination. The 9-foot-tall tree — in which the sign is embedded — contains a steel structure with a sculpted-foam shape. Painted, fiberglass, epoxy-coat detailing make up the construction’s outer shell.
Frozen Desert: DCL used aluminum and Sign•Foam to prepare the 7-foot-tall masterpiece. The sign’s aluminum patterns are router-cut from successive layers and filled in with cut-glass tiles. Epoxy resin holds the tiles in place. The sign hangs from steel chains attached to a 10-foot-tall aluminum support arm with a foam and fiberglass surface shaped, carved and painted to resemble aged wood. In addition, this support houses six MR-16 electrical lamps.
Oasis Coolers: An aluminum core structure and a sculpted, rigid Sign•Foam lower panel make up the 8-foot-tall sign. Its 1-inch-thick, double-sided acrylic centerpiece features a translucent cloisonné (an enamel decoration) finish. A    custom, sculpted-foam, glass- and resin-coated tapered flagpole supports the sign.
Shop of Wonders: To produce the 9-foot, 6-inch-tall sign, DCL combined aluminum and carved Sign•Foam. The lower arc’s internal, neon-illuminated, foam-carved letters are paint-filled and covered with glass beads. A translucent paint    finish on polycarbonate makes up the sign’s molded sun and moon faces. The sign’s upper arc comprises internal, neon-illuminated, colored-enamel, routed letters. A gear motor and cam device — housed in the sign’s upper arc — allow the center faces to rotate 90 degrees. The sign is affixed to a building with a square-tube steel support.
Steve admits Universal pushed the envelope in specifying the park’s signage. However, he thinks the project’s designers and fabricators overcame the challenges and produced what he considers outstanding theme-park signage. He says, “I think we’ve created the best theme park in the world. Its signage, as well as its architecture, thematic elements, lighting and rides are state of the art. And the public’s reaction has been tremendously positive.”
According to Mark, the park is a sign professional’s paradise because the signs incorporate every imaginable substrate and fabrication technique. Although DCL has worked on a number of large-scale sign projects worldwide, it considers Islands of Adventure to be its most creative and detailed work to date. Mark says, “The theme park’s environment is superior to anything else I’ve ever seen. And it’s rewarding for DCL to have been an integral part of such a tremendous project.” The only way to grasp the magnitude of this undertaking, however, is to visit Central Florida’s newest unique destination. “It’s a smorgasbord of signage,” Mark laughs.
Islands of Adventure main entrance sign

Island Designers and Fabricators 
Port of Entry: The signage for this land of adventure, exploration and trading juxtaposes crude and elaborate elements,    incorporating ship and airplane relics, as well as other salvaged    materials. Senior graphic designer: Wayne Clark, Universal Studios    Inc., Los Angeles; fabricated signs: Design Communications Ltd.    (DCL), Boston and Orlando, FL; DCL’s project manager: Karen    Gorczyca; painted graphics: Jim Neal Signs, Orlando, FL.
Seuss Landing: A wacky, irregular land inspired by the stories of Dr. Seuss, its animated signage is sculpted from foam    and fiberglass and brightly painted. Senior graphic designer:    Cathy Lloyd, Universal; main-identification signs: Jon Richards    Co., Mira Loma, CA; secondary sculpted pieces: Scenic Productions, Gainseville, FL; plaques: Graphic Systems, Orlando, FL; flags and    banners: Olympus Flag & Banner, Milwaukee.
The Lost Continent: The subtly lit signs in this land of myths and legends are sculpted, carved and textured to mimic trees, shields and stone. Senior graphic designer: Stephen Oliver, Universal; fabricated signs: DCL; DCL’s project manager: Angela    Goddard; painted graphics: Jim Neal Signs; flags and banners: Olympus Flag & Banner.
Jurassic Park: Based on the science-fiction/fantasy film, this island incorporates signage made from wood, granite and patented metals. Senior graphic designer: Wayne Clark; all sign work: Architectural Graphics Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.
Toon Lagoon: Inhabiting this island are    larger-than-life, digitally printed graphics of “Sunday Funnies”    characters, including Betty Boop, Blondie, Beetle Bailey and    Popeye. The island also features internally illuminated voice    bubbles and painted, newspaper-shaped walls. Senior graphic    designer: David Woody, Universal; fabricated signs: Heath &    Co., Oldsmar, FL, and Sightline Studios, Starke, FL; painted walls    and graphics: Adirondack Scenic, Glens Falls, NY.
Marvel Super Hero Island: Spider-Man is one of many    Marvel Super Heroes who calls this island home. The island  contains a number of aluminum-backed 3M Scotchprint graphics, which feature various lighting and neon effects. Senior graphic designer: Stephen Oliver; signs and graphics: Architectural Image Manufacturers, Atlanta; Scotchprint graphics: Visual Impessions,    Charlotte, NC.

The making of Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando

Rummaging through the archives here at Theme Park Canuck, we came across a series of articles about the making of Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. These date back to 1998 and 1999 before the park opened. We always wished that Universal created a book about the making of the park, but that never happened. We’ve got features on each of the islands (Marvel, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Suess Lagoon), plus one about all the unique signage found in the park. If you’re a theme park buff like we are here at Theme Park Canuck, you’ll find these articles fascinating. Enjoy! Continue reading

Walt Disney World Resort Sends 2011 out with a Bang

new years at walt disney world

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest fireworks evenings of the year at Walt Disney World Resort, a place where fireworks are both spectacular and an every-night occurrence. Fireworks and nighttime shows will light up the skies and create a mood of celebration at three theme parks on Dec. 31, 2011, while revelry of other sorts takes place elsewhere throughout the Vacation Kingdom.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s in store:

  • Magic Kingdom presents a double helping of pyrotechnics: “Wishes” nighttime spectacular with a holiday overlay at 8:30 p.m. and “Fantasy in the Sky” at 11:51 p.m.
  • Epcot‘s “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” delights revelers with a salute to the new year at 7 p.m. and 11:42 p.m.
  • At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the 25-minute spectacular “Fantasmic!” that combines water, fire, lights, lasers, fireworks and music will be presented at 6:30 and 8 p.m., with the popular “Lights! Camera! Happy New Year!” fireworks display at midnight.
  • At Cirque du Soleil, all guests attending the Dec. 31 performances will receive a limited-edition Walt Disney World/Cirque trading pin. Shows are at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. For pricing contact 407/WDW/SEAT.
  • Registered guests at select Disney resort hotels will be treated to music and entertainment. At Narcoosee’s restaurant (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), for instance, there will be a four-course dining experience for $149, plus DJ, balloon artist and special fireworks viewing at 8:30 and 11:51.
  • Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort offers a special-ticket New Year’s Eve party from 8 p.m.-2 a.m. with video DJ Tony Zapulla.

For specific information about other holiday dining offerings at Disney resort hotels on Dec. 31, call 407/WDW/DINE.