New Tiana ride, Cosmic Rewind queue, Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue

This week’s Theme Park Rangers Radar is a Disney-centric one, with more Hoop-Dee-Doo doings, a return to Epcot for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind wanderings plus timelines from Maelstrom and the future of Splash Mountain.

Radar is a weekly roundup of notes from and about Central Florida attractions. It is published on on Wednesdays.

Before Disney’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue’s official return, I chatted with Tom Vazzana, creative director with Disney Live Entertainment, who helped restage the long-running show at Fort Wilderness’ Pioneer Hall.

Vazzana has a long history with Hoop, including as the Six Bits Slocum character and as director. We talked about the show, then and now. He shared thoughts on these topics

  • On Six Bits: “It’s a role of a lifetime because you get to sing, dance and be funny with triple threats around you.”
  • On returning Hoop-Dee-Doo cast members and new players: “There’s a tremendous amount of familiar faces. There’s new faces because we have a casting system. … And also what’s great is many of our servers, who I like to think are part of the show, have returned as well. When we all came back together to rehearse, it was like a monumental reunion … with some new faces. If we don’t attract new talent, and new talent doesn’t come to us, we really can’t survive. We need new talent to come in to make our shows fresh, and vibrant.”
  • On getting back into the swing of it:  “Some of it is muscle memory. … The comedy, the show, the fluidness of the show, and the timing of the show between scenes, is almost like getting on a bicycle — but with new talent. Remember, it’s their first bike ride, right? So they get their journey, too, and they get to express their artistic freedom.”
  • On why it took longer for Hoop to come back than other Walt Disney World productions: “The show is immensely immersive, more than most shows on property. You don’t sit down and watch. You sit down and eat, you sit down and talk, you sit down with dessert and you sit down with the cast. And some of you might even be up with the cast. … We have to do it right. And we have to do it safely. And we’re in an indoor environment with food and families in close proximity. So we had to wait. … I think we waited just the right amount of time to get it right.”
  • On his favorite moment in the show: “I like to watch the guests’ reaction and make sure the show’s on point. And when it is on point — which is usually always — I know that the end my heart’s going to soar. Because once those washboards join the table of families, and once those families and friends are playing the washboards, and once that cast comes off the stage and as part of the audience … and when the whole room is spinning in this atmosphere of inclusion and immersion, that’s when I’m like ‘We did it. Slam dunk.’”

My first return to Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind since previews of the roller coaster ended resulted in a success story and two burning questions.

Success first. The virtual queue worked like a dream for me. It was startling. I think the Rewind cosmos was smiling on me because of the less fortunate luck I had with virtual queue, Rise of the Resistance style, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Your results may vary. I used the recommended system going to app early enough to establish who else was in my party, then hitting the loading group button on the app at the very second the clock strikes 7 a.m.

I had not seen the queue in action, and both of my questions are based there. Must we be reminded so often to fill in all available space, even if the line is moving along? The message isn’t incorporated into theme and takes me out of the story. It’s jarring. Oh, maybe that’s the idea.

Much money was spent on the queue of Cosmic Rewind, so why are so many people staring at their phone/txt/dating app/game instead? Not just young people such as the one doing some game during the cool teleportation sequence in preshow, but grown-ups too.

This is why we won’t have nice things in the future.

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The latest happenings at Disney, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and other Central Florida attractions.

Once upon a time, Disney took a long-standing ride and gave it a princess-driven makeover. It was called Frozen Ever After (nee Maelstrom) at Epcot. It could also be called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the future name of the revamped Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom.

The two attractions have similarities, including use of water, recycling of buildings, modernizing of stories and extensive remodeling required. Now, with a “late 2024″ opening announced for Tiana’s ride, I got to wondering about timing.

So, into the Sentinel archives. Disney announced it was closing Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion in September 2014, and it shut down in October. It said a new “Frozen” ride was expected to open in “early 2016.”

Disney initially announced the Splash Mountain change in June 2020, then revealed the new name and opening season last week. (No closing date for Splash has been announced yet.)

That means the upcoming Magic Kingdom journey is expected to be longer, but there are plenty of insider factors that even an outsider could guess, such as the overall picture and mixture of the parks, complexity of revamps, condition of buildings, not to mention the lingering business effects of pandemic. The decade-ago urgency to cash in on the popularity of “Frozen” shouldn’t be forgotten either.

We’ll see how this plays out. For now I’m happy that we can call the revamp by its TBA initials and smile about the “to be announced” synergy. Stay tuned.

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