Legoland’s pirate procedures, looking arty at Epcot, mulling Moana – Orlando Sentinel

Theme Park Rangers Radar undertakes an underwater mission for new boat ride at Legoland Florida, stares at the poster for Epcot International Festival of the Arts and circles around Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. That last bit was a mostly dry run.

Radar is a weekend stack of theme park facts that’s published on on Wednesdays.

While aboard the new Pirate River Quest boat ride at Legoland Florida, I looked up and down and had two questions.

Much of the attraction’s route goes through renovated canalways of Cypress Gardens, which operated on these grounds for decades. Another thing that makes Pirate River Quest distinctive is that each ride vehicle has a pilot, a human being, who steers things. There’s not a submerged rail to keep everyone on track, so to speak.

That could have been considered a modern update. So why not?

“The reason is because of the age of these canals and the fact that they are natural waterways,” said Nick Miller, director of operations of the Winter Haven theme park. “If you’re going to put a rail down in something like this, that means draining large amounts of water, putting a bunch of concrete down. It wasn’t the right thing to do.

“We’re in charge of keeping the garden as beautiful and as original as possible, and so that wasn’t necessarily an option for us,” he said.

Once the boats complete the canal portion of the quest, it’s time for the open waters of Lake Eloise. And while the weather was lovely for opening week, it was also January weather in Florida. The boats, which carry a dozen or so passengers, have no canopies or coverings for shade and my mind drifted to future summers … or, heck, even a Sunshine State spring.

So why not?

“We did consider canopies. But what we didn’t want to lose was that ride through the canalways where you’re able to look up into the cypress trees and see all the nature around us. The canopies would have actually hidden that view,” said Rex Jackson, managing director of Legoland Resorts — North America.

But remember those boat captains control speed as well as route, depending on conditions, he said.

“I do anticipate in the hot summer months, you’ll see the ride back on Lake Eloise will be faster than when you’re in the gardens,” he said.

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is in full swing again. Among its eye-catching elements is the event poster — titled “Epcot — The Magic of Possibility” — by graphic designer Jason Ratner.

The work includes mainstays of the park, including Spaceship Earth, looped by the monorail, as well as the latest retro rendition of the fountain, flanked by flagpoles and 1980s-ish logos. There are lots of lines and groovy corners that hearken to early Epcot days.

“The lights on Spaceship Earth and the view of the fountain are some of my favorite parts about Epcot right now,” Ratner said. “So I really wanted to make that front and center and to really have the whole piece kind of feel what Epcot feels like — a little bit of our past now in our present and what the future will be.”

To make all the poster parts work together, he fiddled with his original sizing of Spaceship Earth and the base of the fountain during the creative process, he said.

“With stuff like this, where there are so many pieces that have to fit together perfectly, I do try to get it as close as possible in the sketch stage so that I don’t have many challenges in the digital stage,” Ratner said. “But with this one, I kind of was back and forth on a lot of things. It worked out in the end.”

Some Disney World observers might describe the Epcot transformation process as drip-drip-drip, but considering part of the construction is for an attraction called Journey of Water, inspired by Moana, that’s a little on the nose.

Plus, in recent weeks, visitors have been able to spy some vertical construction nearby and well as the installation of the 16-foot-tall figure of Te Fiti. So after a recent panel discussion by Imagineers, I asked Project Sarah Ramos just what we could expect when complete.

“There’s a lot that we’re going to be focused on, really, with the conservation of water and that message there,” she said. And then I was told (wait for it, wait for it), we were going to have to wait for it.

“A lot of it we’re waiting to share with our guests of what’s coming. There’s so much of it that I know our guests can see from outside the fence and on the monorail and everything … but we really want to make sure that some of the little tidbits and things that we’re doing inside, we’re making sure that we save until later this year.”

  • Sunday is the final day for operation of Magic Kingdom’s Splash Mountain, which is being renovated, re-imagined and renamed Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
  • The broadcast of “Premier League Mornings Live” will be done at Universal CityWalk on Saturday and Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. More info:
  • Pirate Fest Weekends begin Saturday at Legoland Florida, running through Feb. 19. Happily, Pirate River Quest, the park’s new boat ride, opened last week. More info:
  • Sesame Street Kids’ Weekend is set for Saturday and Sunday at SeaWorld Orlando’s Sesame Street Land. More info:
  • At Orlando Science Center, the Tap Beer Festival is set for Saturday and “Earth Matters,” a sustainability exhibit, opens Sunday. More info:

What’s on your radar? Email me at [email protected]