Scenes from the new outdoor Star Wars stage show at Hollywood Studios titled "Star Wars, A Galaxy Far, Far Away." Video by Tim Walters and Jennifer Sangalang Posted April 28, 2016
Orlando theme parks will be hoppin' come summer 2016.
Brace yourselves, Floridians: We're getting snow days. During a recent #AwakenSummer media preview at Disney, FLORIDA TODAY got a sneak peek at the new attraction Frozen Ever After, and we fangirled over "Star Wars" mania at Hollywood Studios. But, really, there are multiple new items on the agenda for all four Disney theme parks in Orlando.
Although Awaken Summer takes after "Frozen" and the Force, here are 5 things to look forward to this summer at Disney.
Epcot's most popular attraction's been closed for renovations since January, but some new scenes have been in the works for 3 years. And come summer, guests will get a bird's-eye-view of Sydney Harbour, Australia, and the Great Wall of China in this high-flyin' hang-glidin' adventure.
"We'll be taking our guests on a flight that spans six continents and several destinations," says Jason Grandt, art director for Walt Disney Imagineering. Expect to see a healthy mix of natural landscapes and human-made monuments. "The great thing about Soarin' Around the World is that even if you've been to these places before, you haven't seen them the way that we're going to show them to you," adds Grandt.
New life for Tree of Life
Instead of closing at dusk when the animals slumber, the fun continues into the night at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This summer, the theme park's piece de resistance, its Tree of Life, will shine bright with dramatic lighting, high-tech projections and "magical" fireflies. Also new? Guests will get to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris after dark. If you like seeing the animals during the day, just wait till you hear them at night in this wild attraction.
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More Disney princesses
Yes, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna of "Frozen" fame are getting a lot of attention — "Frozen: Ever After" at Epcot, please hurry! — but there's plenty of love for other Disney characters, too. Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog," Rapunzel from "Tangled" and the "Frozen" sisters will wave, smile and more for the new Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire show at Disney World. And when these Disney princesses join classic characters like Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse and Goofy on stage, well, it shows it really is a small world after all.
In full Force
The Force awakened at Hollywood Studios late last year just before the blockbuster smash "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Since then, the theme park's been filled with Storms Troopers marching and young Jedis in training.
At the beginning of April, a new outdoor stage show opened just outside the Star Wars Launch Bay at Hollywood Studios. Titled "Star Wars, A Galaxy Far, Far Away," the show features many fan faves such as Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and many more. You'll also have to watch out for those Storm Troppers - they're not afraid to get right in your face.
Then, this summer, there's even more star power in the nighttime fireworks extravaganza, "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular." Those on the good side — and the dark side — will enjoy the lasers, special effects and "Star Wars"-themed music in this nightly show. Light sabers and Darth Vader breathing impressions are most certainly welcome.
"Frozen" snow days and more Soarin' are coming to Epcot summer 2016. Video posted April 20, 2016, by Jennifer Sangalang, FLORIDA TODAY
We just can't 'Let It Go'
Epcot's newest attraction and the highlight of the #AwakenSummer media preview, is Frozen Ever After. Based on the super popular Disney film "Frozen," guests will get a taste of Anna and Elsa's world: Arendelle, the Frozen Willow Forest and Elsa's ice palace, to name a few.
Set in the Norway pavilion that housed the Maelstrom ride, construction continues on the Royal Sommerhus, a cabin that is Anna and Elsa's royal retreat.
"In the film, the sisters were unable to leave the palace. Our story takes place after the film," says Lauren Niederhiser, assistant project manager for Frozen Ever After. "You'll see a lot of different elements from their childhood to really give you that family vibe. It's all about their family, their love and the history of the royal family."
Niederhiser adds, the Royal Sommerhus is based on a cabin in Trondheim, Norway. "Our team was actually able to travel to Norway, took very much the same kind of research trip that the 'Frozen' filmmakers took when they were inspired to make the film."
Disney worked with the Oscar-winning "Let It Go" songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson, too. Niederhiser hinted different characters will sing in the attraction and during the "Frozen" meet-and-greet.
Wyatt Winter, product manager at Walt Disney Imagineering, says beloved snowman Olaf — who was quite the scene-stealer in the movie — will pop up in various places. "We were lucky enough to get all the original voice talent from the film back for Frozen Ever After," Winter says. "Including Olaf."
BONUS! Disney isn't the *only* theme park with big news for the summer. Neighboring SeaWorld Orlando will open its new hypercoaster Mako on June 10, and Universal Orlando unveils Skull Island: Reign of Kong, also in June.
• About Mako: The hypercoaster, or a roller coaster with a height or drop greater than 200 feet, will have tight turns, steep drops and "shark-attack speeds," soaring up to 200 feet high and reaching up to 73 mph, a news release states. The Mako, named for the shortfin mako shark, joins SeaWorld's other roller coaster rides, Manta and Kraken.
• About Kong: Everything about this attraction screams massive. Three-story temple, 40-foot-long ride vehicle ... remember, you're in Kong's neighborhood now! At Skull Island, guests become part of the Kong legend. The site features old-time radio broadcasters, torches and Kong sculptures. Some of the sculptures and rock formation take after Peter Jackson's film. A media preview takes place in late June, so stay tuned for updates on King Kong.
Sangalang is FLORIDA TODAY's entertainment reporter and Nerdgirl columnist.
Contact Sangalang at 321-242-3630 or email@example.com.