This week’s Theme Park Rangers Radar goes out into space, out of control for a dinner show and out on a “Lion King” ledge … with some popcorn.
Radar is a handful of kernels about Central Florida attractions with a sprinkling of snark. It publishes on OrlandoSentinel.com on Wednesdays.
It hasn’t been as easy as saying “abracadabra,” but the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show is rebounding from the pandemic and changing with the times.
The show, part of the WonderWorks Orlando attraction on International Drive, is expanding its schedule to three shows a night, up from two, starting June 11 and running through Aug. 7.
“I think people are so starved for escapism that the shows have been getting the best response ever. … People are desperate to forget everything that’s going on,” says Tony Brent, performer and producer of the show.
“And I think they’re also craving human interaction,” he says.
“We have welcomed back thousands of guests to watch our show since the pandemic, and the momentum isn’t slowing down,” says Brian Wayne, general manager of WonderWorks Orlando.
The show has been in flux since reopening from the pandemic shutdown. Part of that was adjusting to social distancing, and part of it was an effort to keep it fresh, Brent says.
“I do rearrange things, and I take things out. Since it is pretty much a 50% comedy show, I try to have some pop-culture references and things in there,” he says.
For the reopening, it was decided there would be no physical contact with customers.
“I had to re-evaluate what I was doing in the past. I realized I was, by nature, a very touchy-feely person with people on stage. … It was a hurdle to overcome,” Brent says. The show also changed the positioning of its cameras, allowing social distancing of up-close magic.
“It allows everybody to see everything that’s going on, no matter where they’re sitting,” Brent says.
Audience participation has returned to the show.
Brent, who started with the WonderWorks show in 2000, says he’s adjusted the pacing over the years to maintain the attention of audience members, who have entertainment options literally at their fingertips.
“A routine that I might have done 10 years ago that was maybe 12 minutes long, is probably five minutes long now,” he says. “I speed up some things, I slow down … to keep the audience off- balance enough that they don’t go for the phone.”
Outta Control includes a dinner of unlimited hand-tossed cheese and pepperoni pizza, salad, beer, wine, soda and dessert. The price is $33.99 ($23.99 for ages 4-12). There’s a VIP version for $61.99.
For more information and reservations, go to wonderworksorlando.com.
It’s not a magic trick; it’s probably just science. The exterior of the building that will be home to Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex shifts colors.
“We actually have these translucent tile panels as you walk and as the sun goes, you’ll see them change colors,” says Howard Schwartz, senior director of marketing and sales.
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“It goes from purple to green. … It gives a nod to things that will be coming in the future, and we want to make sure that this building kind of feels that way as you go from the outside to the end,” Schwartz says.
Inside, Gateway will feature flight-flown commercial spacecraft and forward-looking exhibits plus Spaceport KSC, which simulates four space travel conditions of the future. It is scheduled to open to the public on June 15.
Am I too hard on popcorn bucket collectors? Yeah, probably. It’s good, clean, hot-buttered fun though, and I must admit I did see a bucket in action in a way that I couldn’t bring myself to mock.
It was the Simba-shaped container, which is molded in the unusual shape where the owner can lift the “Lion King” character up into a Pride Rock-style pose. I saw a couple of people recently raise their Simbas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in front of the “Lion King” mural on the gate across from Tiffins restaurant. It was clever, Instagram-able fun.
That same day I saw a women with the same Simba figure somehow tied to the Loungefly backpack, so that the little lion was dangling from her torso. Also clever, but it looked like a long day and a long way to go for fashion.
Still, it might make you burst into “nants ingonyama bagithi baba.” Instead I’ll remind you that the full-blown return of Animal Kingdom’s “Festival of the Lion King” is set for July 16.
What’s on your radar? Email me at [email protected]