It’s tough to compete with the Universal opening of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, but Disney doesn’t have to try. In Orlando, a major upgrade in one theme park draws crowds, and those additional visitors usually spend a day or two at the competing parks.
Still, Disney has a few events worthy of note. Here’s what’s happening this summer in the Magic Kingdom:
Main Street Electrical Parade
It’s back. The keystone of Disney’s Magic Kingdom promotion this year – part of its “Summer Nightastic” – brings the original self-lit parade back to Orlando after a run at Disney’s California Adventure. It’s not the first return – it came back in 2001 – but Disney fans love the Electrical Parade the way kids like mac ‘n cheese or peanut butter and jelly. It’s comfort food, a fond memory from bygone days. For those visiting Disney for the first time, however, the “I’m impressed” level probably doesn’t surpass reactions to SpectroMagic, the nighttime parade now on hiatus.
The Electric Light’s core technology is pretty much Christmas lights on black fabric. Imagine your reaction to the best and brightest nearby house at Christmas time when it’s decked out in a million watts of commercial holiday décor. However, the Electric Light Parade tosses music and characters into the mix (Disney knows how to manipulate emotions) and the parade is an exclamation point at the end of a ride-filled day.
It’s not exactly the same-old parade, either. New in 2010: Tinker Bell leads the parade in her own float, and a few other Disney standards have been added, including Pinocchio and Snow White.
Through Aug. 14, “Summer Nightastic!” lights up the sky behind Cinderella’s Castle. It replaces, temporarily, the “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” fireworks show.
Note to those who have not seen Disney fireworks: Don’t skip it because “we have fireworks back home on July 4.” Disney pumps music out and runs it in tandem with the exploding fireworks, matching colors, explosions and moods. From a technical standpoint, it boggles the mind to realize they’ve clocked the time it takes from firework send-off to explosion and timed it to the music.
Not exactly a summer thing, it’s worth noting that construction is underway in the Fantasyland section and will take up to three years to complete. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an original Magic Kingdom ride that closed in 1994, left a vast amount of unused land and, for 16 years, a serious hole in the number of Fantasyland attractions. This expansion makes up for that. It’s an upgrade on par with the new Harry Potter section in Universal, though each one actually adds only a single new ride.
When completed, the revamped Fantasyland will have:
• New ride. Ariel (The Little Mermaid) gets her own attraction. No details yet.
• Princess visits. While guests currently can see and take photos with Disney’s princesses, the new Fantasyland gives each her own themed area. Cinderella will greet guests (mainly girls) and dance; Belle (Beauty and the Beast) will read to visitors in a new setting; and Sleeping Beauty will celebrate her birthday accompanied by the three fairies.
• Beast’s castle. In addition to meeting Belle in the castle’s library, guests will be able to dine in one of three enchanted rooms. (“Enchanted” could mean many things.)
• New layout. Even traditional rides, such as Dumbo and the Carousel, will move and be redecorated. Dumbo will have a “new interactive, three-ring circus tent.”