Big Theme Park Stories of 2021

ORLANDO, Florida – Without a doubt, 2021 has been a busy year for theme parks in Florida.

While much of the discussion still revolved around the pandemic, theme parks spent the year launching new attractions as well as celebrating milestones.

There have been so many defining moments this year – Disney World turns 50, Universal Orlando opening VelociCoaster and SeaWorld bringing Howl-O-Scream to Orlando – and as we head into 2022, we’ve decided to take a moment to come back. on some of them.

Universal opens Jurassic World VelociCoaster

One of the most exciting theme park moments this year was the debut of Jurassic World: VelociCoaster by Universal. The thrill ride officially opened to the public in June at Islands of Adventure and was immediately a fan favorite. Combining the worlds of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World with the thrill of a high-speed roller coaster, VelociCoaster sets itself apart from other central Florida rides.

Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary

Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and to mark the occasion, the resort launched an 18-month celebration on October 1. The celebration included the start of new attractions and entertainment such as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Disney Enchantment, Harmonious and Magic Beacons at the park icons. However, some things that were originally supposed to open in time for the 50th anniversary have yet to open, including Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot and Tron Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom. Cosmic Rewind is now slated to open in the summer. We are still waiting for an update on Tron.

SeaWorld brings Howl-o-Scream to Orlando

For Halloween fans in and around Central Florida, 2021 has offered even more ways to enjoy the spooky season. As Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights came back in full force for an anniversary year, SeaWorld Orlando has stepped up its horror game with the addition of Howl-O-Scream. The more adult-oriented after-hours event included haunted houses, fear zones, and live performances. And the park plans to bring it back in 2022.

Universal resumes work on Epic Universe

Universal is currently working on expanding its Orlando resort with a new theme park called the Epic Universe. The project, first announced in 2019, was suspended in early 2020 due to the pandemic. Almost a year later, Universal announced that it had resumed work on the park, which is expected to feature at least four themed terrains, including one based on Nintendo characters.

Disney changes its “Disney look”

In April, Disney announced changes to its employee dress code, often referred to as the “Disney look,” in another step toward inclusiveness. The updated policy has relaxed the rules for the appearance of workers at work. Some of the changes included visible tattoos, body piercings, gender-neutral hairstyles and more. “We want our cast members – and future cast members – to feel a sense of belonging at work,” Disney Parks, Experiences and Products president Josh D’Amaro said at the time.

Several months later, Universal Orlando also updated its employee dress code to be more inclusive.

Universal increases starting wage to $ 15 an hour

Universal Orlando has increased its starting wages from $ 13 to $ 15 an hour. The increase, which took effect in June, made Universal the first major theme park in central Florida to offer this base rate.

In October, Disney World increased its base salary to $ 15 an hour. The pay rise was part of a deal the station made with its union a few years ago to gradually increase wages to that rate by fall 2021.

Theme parks are making leadership changes

Theme parks have seen a lot of changes this year, including changes in direction. In November, Universal announced a number of management changes in its parks division. Tom Williams, President and CEO of Universal Parks & Resort, will retire in 2022. He will be replaced by Mark Woodbury, who is currently President of Universal Creative. A month later, Universal also announced that longtime Universal Orlando President Bill Davis would be retiring. He will be replaced by Karen Irwin, who currently runs Universal Studios Hollywood.

Disney also had its own leadership reshuffle. Susan Arnold has been appointed chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Company, replacing outgoing executive chairman Bob Iger. And at Walt Disney Imagineering, President Bob Weis has resigned, leaving Barbara Bouza to head the division.

Disney presents Genie, Genie +

After first announcing it in 2019, Disney officially launched its Disney Genie service in the parks this year. Genie is made up of many parts, including a free scheduling tool and Genie +, a paid “skip the line” option that replaced the free FastPass + system. Genie can be hard to explain, but just be aware that it’s available through the My Disney Experience app and always includes features like wait times and mobile ordering.

Disney is making changes to the Jungle Cruise

As part of its efforts to be more inclusive, Disney announced in January that it would be giving one of its most popular attractions a makeover. Disney revamped Jungle Cruise at Disney World and Disneyland by removing the insensitive cultural representations and giving both rides an updated storyline. Disney is also set to give its Splash Mountain a makeover, with the intention of giving the attraction a “The Princess and the Frog” inspired theme.

Peppa Pig Theme Park Comes to Florida

In February, it was announced that Florida would host the very first Peppa Pig Theme Park. Under construction next to Legoland Florida, the Peppa Pig theme park will feature rides and attractions inspired by the popular children’s TV series, including “muddy puddles.” Throughout the year, more details about the park have been shared, including when it will open and whether it will be a certified center for autism when it does.


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