Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Nightastic Review

Standing in the boiler room, you hear thunder clap in the distance. The lights blink and then go out. The cables of the elevators spark and almost snap. A little girl can be heard singing faintly somewhere in the background.

This is the new Tower of Terror - Summer Nightastic style. And it's awesome. Dare I say, I might like it better than the original. And it's not all that's great about Summer Nightastic.

This being said, I do admit that when Disney first announced their plans for Nightastic a few months ago, I was underwhelmed. I thought it was a poor attempt at trying to counter Harry Potter over at Universal. But then I came to understand that it wasn't supposed to go toe-to-toe, and it took experiencing it to fully understand. What it's supposed to be is a fun and cool evening treat for people who want something new in WDW. And that is definitely what it delivers - at least for the most part. And what it does, it does really well.

Basically, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom hit this one out of the park. What they offer is outstanding. The Main Street Electrical Parade and The Summer Nightastic Fireworks Spectacular are AWESOME. I needed to see the MSEP in person to fully appreciate it (youtube does it no justice at all). And as we mentioned in the last article, it was a hit. I now see why those WDW old-schoolers were giddy with excitement for its return; it is a LOT of FUN, plain and simple.

The fireworks are also equally impressive. The 180 degree blasts really add to the spectacle. And when the castle goes to battle with Captain Hook - it's phenomenal. I loved it - it's as much a different experience from Wishes as is MSEP is from SpectroMagic. Both Wishes and Spectro pull at the heart strings while MSEP and the Nightastic Fireworks are all about the fun. A very different experience for sure, and for those who have seen the Spectro/Wishes combo multiple times, a welcome change. That's not so say we don't like the previous combo, but a little update to the Magic Kingdom evening presentation is a breath of fresh air. A little tip: stand somewhere in the Hub in front of the castle or on the Railroad platform; standing in the middle of Main Street, USA will obstruct your view of the peripheral fireworks.

Hollywood Studios' effort is also first-rate as well. First, the Rock & Glow concert under the giant Sorcerer's hat is also a tremendous amount of fun. Lead by Mulch, Sweat & Shears (one of my favorite live acts in WDW) and several different DJ's, it really adds to the festive, party atmosphere meant for Summer Nightastic. Mulch is a great amount of fun and those guys are really talented. I'm glad they are being showcased here. Their 80's set is particularly great.

But The Studios really hits the mark with the Tower of Terror. Now, I've heard several reviews that don't agree with the changes, but I can't disagree with that sentiment more. I LOVED the changes. What they've done has made the ride more creepy and exciting. And, in my opinion, it actually melds with the theming better. I'd love for it to stay this way.

The changes begin in the boiler room. You do hear thunder in the distance rumble and roll, and every once in a while a clap occurs followed by a dimming of the lights and finally they go out completely...and slowwwwwwly come back on. You also do hear the faint singing of the little girl who was on the elevator in 1939...it is very much creepy and effective.

After boarding the elevator, during the first stop after the door opens, a bright flash takes your picture...then the sequence happens where the "ghosts" appear, then the window breaks. Then you move on.

The next stop is the forward-moving sequence. But instead of the Twilight Zone inspired odd set pieces along both sides of the hallway, it has been turned into a black starlight field. After turning the corner and heading toward the drop sequence, a large photo appears of the elevator with all the guests seated (the pic taken during the last stop). The guests are then electrified and begin to dissolve and disappear from the seats...a very awesome effect.

After this, the doors open and you move into the elevator shaft. Instead of the typical "YOU ARE ABOUT TO DISCOVER..." line, there is nothing but darkness and creepy jazz music...and boy, does that work. Then the sound of thunder and cables snapping...and WHOOOOOOSH you drop. Then up to the top 3 full times. It is incredible...I can't rave enough about the Tower of Terror. And remember, we're talking about what was arguably my single favorite attraction in all of WDW to begin with - so it had set a high bar for itself. And it blew it away. I loved it; so did the whole family.

For everything that Magic Kingdom and The Studios did correctly, Epcot and especially Animal Kingdom didn't do AT ALL.

Now, at least Epcot has the return of the Sounds Like Summer concert series...and I do very much enjoy that and it's a welcome addition to the evenings at World Showcase. It is a lot of fun (when it's on the schedule), and even though it's not a brand new concept, it's something. And you can't complain too much about bringing something old back like the Sounds series since MK is using the same strategy with the Electrical Parade. But Magic Kingdom is also offering a lot more to go along with that. Epcot isn't.

And speaking of not offering anything, Animal Kingdom has cornered the market on this one for Summer Nightastic. Disney did proclaim that it would have "extended evening hours" for the summer, but I have yet to see that. Leaving the park open until 7 p.m. on most non-EMH nights is not my idea of "extended hours." I'm only upset about this because AK is so phenomenal at night - it's absolutely beautiful. But most people don't get to see that. This wouldn't be so bad if they actually did live up to their claim of extended hours, but they haven't. At least they are including the Taste Of Africa event after the Jammin' Jungle Parade every afternoon...however, that costs extra (sort of like a mini Food & Wine Festival). So, in essence, AK has really not done anything at all for Summer Nightastic.

But beside that, I love The Mouse's effort for this summer event. It's a whole lot of fun, and little extras like this is really what WDW excels in - it always adds so much to the park experience. I'm actually hoping they continue with the Electrical Parade, the Fireworks and the Tower of Terror changes well past the summer.


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