Changes coming to Disneyworld in 2012

Though Disneyworld in Florida still consists of its staple attractions like Cinderella’s Castle, the Indiana Jones stunt show, and It’s a Small World, big changes are heading to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2012. From a complete new world at the Magic Kingdom to a widespread overhaul of Downtown Disney, the coming year is bound to bring pleasant surprises.

At the Magic Kingdom, look for the Fall of 2012 to debut the new Fantasyland. Complete with the Beast’s castle, Ariel’s grotto, and a three-ring circus, the new attractions of Fantasyland will be found at the back of the park, near the existing carousel and teacups. New restaurants and quick service food stops will dot the landscape of Fantasyland, including one sit-down restaurant inside the Beast’s castle. Also in the new world look for a water attraction that wraps itself around The Little Mermaid theme. But perhaps the biggest attraction coming to the new Fantasyland is the 3-ring circus called Storybook Circus. However, unlike most circuses, this one will be permanent. Dumbo’s flying elephants, Goofy’s cannonballs, and character meet & greets will be just a few of the colorful, larger-than-life additions to the Magic Kingdom.

Meanwhile, over at Disney’s EPCOT look for the newly refurbished Universe of Energy building to feature an updated attraction with Ellen DeGeneres. This, along with the recently re-introduced ‘Captain EO’ 4D show, featuring Michael Jackson, will give EPCOT a positive shot in the arm.

Perhaps 2012’s largest changes will be seen at Downtown Disney. All three sections of DD are currently going through changes. At the Marketplace LittleMissMatched for girls has already opened, as has the new Pollo Campero quick service restaurant. Surprisingly, Pollo Campero sits in the same square footage where the longtime American icon McDonalds once did business.

In the Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney changes can already be seen. Gone are the dance clubs of the 90’s, and instead you’ll now find family-friendly restaurants with an around-the-world flair. Street performers play for visitors of the area, and new shops like Apricot Lane and Sammy Duval’s Curl draw shoppers in. Mixed into the new Pleasure Island is the new Irish restaurant Ragland Road and Paradiso 37, which serves up a cuisine from Central and South America.

In the West End section of Downtown Disney the storefronts are changing faster than you can say “Bippity-Boppity-Boo”. No longer exists the classic Magnetron store. Where am I supposed to buy my gift magnets now? Also gone is the Masters of Magic store. I always felt like most of us stopped in the store just to see a free magic show, and never had any intentions of buying a $29.95 magic kit. In their places look to see a Sunglass Icon store and clothing chain Wet Seal’s – Blink store to open up in early 2012.

The most exciting news to me is the creation of the Downtown Disney attraction called Splitsville; a 31-lane bowling alley that will double as a restaurant, bar, and dance club. As a sign says outside the current construction zone- “This isn’t your grandfather’s bowling alley”. Located in the old Virgin record store building, things are already underway for a Fall 2012 opening.

In a recent visit to Disneyworld, I asked a business owner about things happening at Downtown Disney. In our conversation she told me that the DD that we know today will look like something totally different by the year 2014. And if the fast-moving changes of 2011 and aggressive plans for 2012 are any indication, the entire Disneyworld experience that we grew up with will be something completely new in the very near future.


Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ shines

It’s been one year since the entertainment world was turned on its head with the news of the passing of Michael Jackson. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Jackson did to music in the 80’s and 90’s what Elvis and the Beatles had done in decades prior. Though over the last ten years Jackson had been talked about more for his legal and financial problems than his musical releases, he was ready to entertain the world once again with a world tour entitled ‘This Is It’.

With the launching of the ‘This Is It’ World Tour in the spring of 2009 the paparazzi frenzy began and the atmosphere around the tour took the shape of the days of ‘Thriller’. Scheduled to kick off in the summer of 2009 in London, the ‘This Is It’ tour began creating its stage, auditioning dancers, and promoting a Michael Jackson that fans had missed for nearly ten years. There was talk of new songs, remixed classics, and a revitalized King of Pop.

Then on June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson passed away due to cardiac arrest in his California home. Jackson’s death sent those around him into shock. Many associated with the tour stated that they had seen a Michael Jackson that was determined to reinvent himself and give his fans what they had grown accustom to. Nearly two months following his death, The LA County coroner declared Jackson’s death as a homicide due to a number of prescription drugs found in the superstar’s body.

With Jackson gone, the circus that had surrounded him for so many years, known as his family and handlers, became like bees to honey. As attorneys postured for various clients, claiming to be heirs to Jackson’s estate, concert dates around the world were cancelled.

However, during weeks of rehearsals leading up to the impending concert schedule and ultimate death of Jackson cameras were rolling. They captured Jackson planning every detail of the concert and choreographing each step to each beat of each song. These minutes of video at the time of filming seemed to be just a way to capture Jackson in his element. Little did anyone know that these captured moments would be the final impression of the greatest entertainer of all-time. And Michael Jackson,unknowingly, did not disappoint.

In the spring of 2010 the 2-hour film “This Is It” hit theatres around the world. Though it became one of the most viewed concert films ever, it didn’t overwhelm the entertainment world. However, now with the first anniversary of Jackson’s death the film is being sold at video stores and being shown on the Starz cable movie channel to much acclaim. It was on a rainy evening a couple weeks ago that I was channel surfing and stumbled onto the movie. Not expecting a lot from the movie, I settled in and quickly found myself becoming emmersed in the show by Jackson’s meticulous work-ethic, and one-of-a-kind talent. “This Is It” is magnificent! It shows the King of Pop at his finest. It chronicles an entertainer in his true element. It shows the world that even with all the turmoil that surrounded the star, Michael Jackson was most at peace when he was on stage and performing like no one else.

“This Is It” not only contains all of Jackson’s hits from “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” to “Billie Jean”, but also a segment which he had planned to pay tribute to the hits of the Jackson Five. Interviews with concert promoters, choreographers, band and dance members of the tour, and personal friends of the 50-year old Jackson are also documented.

Without a doubt, “This Is It” will entertain even the slighest fan of Michael Jackson. And after watching the  nearly 120-minutes of Jackson at his finest, one will understand why Jackson’s music is being purchased at a rate we haven’t seen for over ten years. For more information on the DVD and Blu-Ray visit .

After not expecting to be wowed at the beginning of “This Is It”, I can’t speak about this documentary/concert footage enough. It  becomes obvious that on that fateful day in June 2009 the world not only lost a once-in-a -lifetime entertainer, but it lost one of the great humanitarians of his time, while being tormented by the ghouls of his own stardom. As one of his hits was titled, Michael Jackson was “Gone Too Soon”.