Theme Park Bits: Mobile Charger Updates, New Roller Coasters, and More

The Rise of Skywalker Star Tours

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Say goodbye to free swapping with your mobile charger.
  • Tony Baxter talks about Star Tours.
  • SeaWorld Orlando has announced a new coaster.
  • And more!

If you’ve been to the Disney theme parks in the last couple years, you know that one of the most vexing elements of such travel (especially if you try to stay in the parks all day) is making sure you don’t lose battery on your smartphone. Now that Disney wants you to spend time in their apps, too, it’s best to keep a good charge on your phone. So that’s one reason why it’s been nice to have access to Fuel Rods: portable chargers you can buy and swap out. For a long time, those chargers have been swappable for free, but that time has apparently come to a close. The graphics on the machines have been updated to remove “free” from the language, and it’s hard to imagine that wasn’t on purpose. It’s a shame — the chargers cost enough on their own, leaving aside the ability to swap for a new one.

Few people in the annals of Disney theme-park history are as knowledgeable and full of background information than Tony Baxter. The legendary Imagineer was involved at the parks for decades, having overseen many of the most beloved attractions of the last half-century. So the fact that there’s a recent video with him talking about the background of the ride that eventually led to Galaxy’s Edge, Star Tours, should be enough to make you want to click through. And keep an eye in the background of that video to see just some of the scads of impressive collectibles Baxter’s amassed over time.

Let’s shift over to a theme park we don’t often talk about here in Theme Park Bits, but not because we don’t like it: SeaWorld. The Orlando location has announced a first-of-its-kind attraction for the spring of 2020, and it’s fittingly called Ice Breaker. This coaster will be the first launch coaster at SeaWorld Orlando, and the description makes it sound like a doozy. There will be four launches, and the coaster will go forwards and backwards, “culminating in a reverse launch that goes into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida – a 93-foot-tall spike with a 100-degree angle.” I feel like I need to be strapped in just to read that – sounds like quite the extreme thrill ride.

Moving back to Walt Disney World briefly, there’s good news and annoying news to report all in the same story. As mentioned earlier in the year, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is getting a new lounge themed to Beauty and the Beast. We know now that lounge is called Enchanted Rose, and has an interesting menu with items ranging from short-rib sliders to a crab and gnochetti gratin. And that’s all well and good, but here’s the part that rankles: as the article states, the lounge will “celebrate the magic and romance of Disney’s popular live-action movie.” Live-action? Really? Come on, Disney, let’s not ignore the wonderful animated film that made that live-action (with tons of CGI) movie possible.

Let’s close out today’s column with a look at another park we don’t talk much about outside of the Disney realm. Busch Gardens, like its sister park SeaWorld, has made an announcement about an upcoming coaster, though this one’s only somewhat new. That would be the Iron Gwazi steel coaster, coming in 2020. That name may seem somewhat familiar to you, and it should: there used to be a wooden coaster called Gwazi at Busch Gardens, and now it’s “evolved” into this modern hybrid coaster, with more than 4,000 feet of track and a 91-degree drop. Plus, three inversions, 12 airtime hills, and even more ways to make the shaky-stomached among us to lose our lunches.

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