Our D23 questions, Animal Kingdom show returns, more from Figurehead history

This week’s Theme Park Rangers Radar looks backward and forward, particularly when it comes to Disney World attractions, thanks to announcements — and teases — from D23 Expo.

Radar is a weekly roundup of scraps and scenes from Central Florida. It appears on OrlandoSentinel.com on Wednesdays.

Theme-park fans want to know more. Even if you just told us 25 newsy things, we’d want to know more.

So that’s the situation after the recent D23 Expo session featuring Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro, who littered the globe with announcements about coming attractions.

Naturally, we have more questions, and they frequently start with the word “when.” We got a glimpse from D’Amaro, but afterward my mind wandered again to what he didn’t share, prompting these post-D23 burning questions:

  • Is Tron being Ratatouillized? The under-construction Tron / Lightcycle Run ride at Magic Kingdom will open in spring 2023, D’Amaro announced. Well, we’ve waited this long…. And to try to spring it before the end of this year just bangs into the already busy holiday season. Still, we are flashing back to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which sat silently for months before opening at Epcot on Oct. 1. Side note: A spring debut for Tron could fall into Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration that, in theory, wraps up April 1.
  • Wow, already? D’Amaro had two big announcements about nighttime spectaculars, and, honestly, he was kind of casual about it. “Happily Ever After” returns to Magic Kingdom next year, which just got “Disney Enchantment” on Oct. 1, as part of the 50th celebration. Plus a new show is in development for Epcot, home of “Harmonious” only since Oct. 1. That production is expected late next year. … It’s too easy but accurate to say many fans were not enchanted with “Enchantment.” And “Harmonious” haters frequently target its large equipment looming in World Showcase Lagoon all day. What is the future of the big black tacos?
  • Will we be able to touch the new Walt Disney statue? The figure headed for Epcot was displayed at D23 Expo, and D’Amaro said that Journey of Water and the whole middle section of World Celebration would be done by the end of 2023. It made me wonder about the positioning of the work, named “Walt the Dreamer,” in which Disney is seated. Will we be able to sit alongside Walt, like one can with Roy Disney on a bench at Magic Kingdom? Or will there be a buffer zone more like the Partners statue near Cinderella Castle?
  • When will Splash Mountain go down? Plans are well underway for the re-imagining of the ride into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, to the point that the broad opening has been announced for the end of 2024. Pardon my when, but when will we get our last chance to Splash? And will the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland versions be on the same timeline?
  • What the cat hair? My sister recently reminded me of this folksy saying from my dad, a sort of midcentury modern WTF or a Jiminy Cricket exclamation. So, when the D23 session turned into a blue-sky scenario that flirted with being announcements but clearly wasn’t something announced, well, I said “What the cat hair?” I almost said it in all caps.

D’Amaro and two Imagineers tiptoed around the possibilities of rethinking Dinoland at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and expansion in area past Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom. But then they teased further with coy suggestions about what characters could going there, like from films such as “Zootopia,” “Coco” and “Moana” …. or maybe just a Disney villains-at-large space. Then they displayed fancy, finished-looking renderings.

Of course, this is the creative process. Not everything drawn up gets greenlit or created. But it was … something to see it livestreamed to the world. WTCH?

One last worrisome question: Will “Beyond Big Thunder” be the next “Transformation of Epcot” catchphrase/drinking game? Asking for a friend.

“The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” show will have a second season, Disney has confirmed.

The documentary-style program’s first season debuted in September 2020. Among its subjects were a couple of gorillas — Baby Grace and Gino, in separate episodes — and Kenya the giraffe, who animal-care team members attempted to get to voluntarily submit for a pedicure of sorts.

Lessons learned from that last episode: It ain’t easy to sedate the big guys, and giraffes take their own sweet time. You be you, Kenya.

Theme Park Rangers

Theme Park Rangers


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

The show featured multiple cast members in their roles and was narrated by actor Josh Gad.

There were reports of filming at DAK earlier this year, but there have been no announcements of when the show will be available.

Jim Faherty is one of the personalities on display as part of the “Figurehead: Music & Mayhem in Orlando’s Underground” exhibit that can now be seen at Orange County Regional History Center. In the years covered, basically 1986 to 2001, Faherty was a concert promoter and held a day job, he says.

I asked, decades later now, if he’d do it all over again.

“I wouldn’t change one thing. … I started doing concerts when I was basically 18. You’re kind of just dumb and young and fearless,” he said. “I had a good day job that I made really good money, and it fulfilled a fantasy that I could do Flaming Lips and Red Cross and Afghan Whigs and became friends with them — they stayed at my house.

“I was a music geek. I was a music geek times 50. So to fulfill that fantasy of doing these bands was insane. That was the highlight of it.”

  • On the spooky season front, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and SeaWorld’s Howl-O-Scream both run Friday, Saturday and Sunday. SeaWorld’s Spooktacular, a daytime event included in park admission, is Saturday and Sunday.
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party events have sold out for the rest of the year at Magic Kingdom.
  • The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival rolls on daily. Eat to the Beat concert performers include Venezuela’s Los Amigos Invisibles on Friday and Saturday and American Authors (“Best Day of My Life”) on Sunday and Monday.
  • Icon Park’s Oktoberfest, featuring German beers, polkas, strudel and more, begins on the I-Drive attraction’s central lawn.
  • Sunday at the Orange County Regional History Center, it’s Coffees & Conversations: The Hip Hop Scene in Central Florida, with Israel Vasquetelle and Jeremy Hileman, curator of “Figurehead: Music & Mayhem in Orlando’s Underground.”

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