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SeaWorld, Disney announce attraction opening dates

TurtleTrek SeaWorld Orlando

Photo challenge: How do you take a picture of a 3-D movie attraction? . . . © SeaWorld

April 2012: SeaWorld Orlando opened one of its new attractions – TurtleTrek – which uses technology in a different way, and Disney World announced opening dates for its upgraded Fantasyland section, which will come online step-by-step over the next two years.

Now open at SeaWorld Orlando
In TurtleTrek, SeaWorld uses 3-D movie technology, a domed overhead screen, and other special effects to essentially turn the audience into a small sea turtle. It’s tough to be a turtle and the movie gives the audience some idea of the challenges. (People I know spent hours waiting for a sea turtle nest to hatch, only to watch in horror as sea gulls picked them off like WW II soldiers invading Normandy.) While elements such as 3-D technology are almost old school now, the overhead movie is unique among Orlando’s parks.

Opening later at SeaWorld
An expansion of SeaWorld’s penguin section is old news, but the company released new details. SeaWorld says the ride, called “Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin,” will use new technology that “can change from visit to visit” and “guests will be able to choose the level of thrill.” That often means some kind of motion simulator (closed compartment with seats that dip and turn in sync with a movie playing in front, similar to SeaWorld’s current ride “Wild Arctic.”)

However, SeaWorld also says guests will get “closer than ever (to) its colony

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of penguins.” That could imply a segment that includes walking, which would also make the attraction similar to “Wild Arctic.” Since penguins live in 30 degrees for comfort, guests will either freeze or be separated from the birds. That may create a problem, and SeaWorld says “how close has yet to be detailed.”

Opening soon in Disney World’s Fantasyland expansion
The Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland will unveil elements in July. While a small section already opened, it doesn’t feature any new attractions – just the Dumbo ride in a new location and a kid’s coaster redecorated. In July, however, a water play area for kids rolls out, and the Dumbo ride doubles in ridership as a twin ride opens beside it. Disney also designed a more entertaining queue.

Opening late 2012 in Disney World’s Fantasyland expansion
Disney says a significant number of things will be open by the December holidays, which means they’ll probably open in the slow fall season to give employees time to train, and engineers time to work out kinks. Holiday guests will be the first to encounter:

  • Be Our Guest restaurant. It sounds as if Disney changed the Beast’s ballroom into a restaurant. It will feature massive chandeliers, which were a focus of the movie’s finale.
  • Gaston’s Tavern. No word on whether this will be the first Magic Kingdom venue to sell liquor.
  • Belle’s cottage. Future home of story-telling time with Belle.
  • Ariel’s Grotto. Kids can meet the flippered princess here.
  • “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.” This ride already operates in California and, according to others, isn’t “young princess enjoys the sea with her friends” so much as “evil sea witch stalks innocent creatures and kills a few.”

Opening 2014 in Disney World’s Fantasyland expansion
A coaster based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs debuts in 2014 as the final piece of the Fantasyland expansion. Disney execs say, however, that it’s the centerpiece of the expansion (biggest, best ride) and the literal centerpiece (located front and center).

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