Summer rides, good Disney World bosses, NASA Loungefly bags

Yes, it’s hot enough for Theme Park Rangers Radar. This week we take the time machine back to summers past, hear what former Disney exec Jim MacPhee looks for in a boss, and shop in space. (It’s a loungefly alarm.)

Radar is a weekly compilation of notes and news from Central Florida attractions. It published on OrlandoSentinel.com Wednesdays.

Summer isn’t the hottest season for theme park debuts. Attractions like to be up and running for one of the longest busy stretches of the year. But some summer birthday rides have turned out to be big deals.

  • Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened on June 18, 2010 at Islands of Adventure to thousands of robed devotees. Also in attendance this week was Daniel Radcliffe, who played the young wizard in eight films, and other actors, as well as Potter mastermind JK Rowling, who made only the most secretive appearances in the park. The summer strategy was repeated with the neighboring attraction, Diagon Alley, which opened on July 8, 2014 at Universal Studios.
  • June has produced two of SeaWorld Orlando’s great roller coasters. Kraken officially opened on June 1st, 2000 and is now rolling under a fresh coat of paint. Mako debuted on June 10, 2016 as Orlando’s tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster.
  • Typhoon Lagoon opened on June 1, 1989 at Walt Disney World. According to the Sentinel, it was the area’s third water park after Wet ‘n’ Wild on International Drive and Water Mania in Kissimmee. Typhoon Lagoon was part of a wave of Disney World projects including Pleasure Island and Disney-MGM Studios, now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • The Wedway PeopleMover – currently operating as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover – debuted at the Magic Kingdom on July 1, 1975. The Sentinel reported at the time that the ride traveled at 10 mph and could carry 3,700 passengers an hour. The attraction recently updated its border count, which includes past renditions and points to the future in the form of the Tron ride under construction.

When we interviewed Jim MacPhee, former senior vice president of Walt Disney World, about his leadership book, Engage, Inspire, Lead, we asked him to name a WDW executive who influenced him during his 43-year tenure would have.

Instead he named three. He would have gone on longer. But here are some of those thoughts on a trio of executives he has worked with and/or under.

  • Bruce Laval, executive vice president of operations development and developer of FastPass, who retired in 2001: “He was really, really, really smart. But he was also very provocative in terms of how he thought about doing things differently and improving things across the board. I learned so much from him that you can think differently, push yourself further and make a big difference. That was around the time Disney-MGM Studios opened up, sort of an arms race with Universal Studios. … So we had to be different than the normal Disney experiences because later on we had direct competition.”
  • Meg Crofton, who retired in 2015 as President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US and France offices: “Without question, the most inspirational leader I have ever worked with was Meg Crofton. … She came in and was one of the first female general managers in the resort business, actually over at the Disney Inn, which used to be the Shades of Green. She made a great impression. …Meg is a poster child for me for someone who can really take people and motivate them and get them to scale mountains in a big way. Because she takes the time to explain the why behind everything. She takes care of people on a family level, takes care of people on a work level and on a social level. And she listens, listens actively, even if she may have already made up her mind. I don’t know if she has always done it or not, but she actively listens and records. You know, the effect just makes people feel good. … I have to say that I learned as much or more about empathy, inspiration and leadership from her than probably anyone else.”
  • Josh D’Amaro, current chairman of Disney Parks Experiences and Products: “I think he has a strong connection to the business. I think he has a strong pearl in the cast and, you know, the emotional connection with them. He’s a really great example, and I think I was to a certain extent, of someone who can be really influential on the business side, but also demonstrates the empathy and relationship on the cast side. As you reach the higher and higher levels, it’s a rare mix. We have them. … I’m really proud of him because I think he’s a visionary leader for the future – now and for the future, I should say.”
Amusement park ranger

Amusement park ranger

Weekly

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

Side note: my transcription service refers to Josh D’Amaro as “Josh Tomorrow” and that’s so wrong and yet so right.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has joined the Loungefly set.

The Brevard County attraction now offers three NASA products from the company, which it bills as “the fan fashion retailer of choice.” You may have seen their Disney-related products, which are basically themed around characters, rides, and even theme park foods.

For the visitor complex are a backpack, shoulder bag and wallet in white space suit designs on the outside. The NASA symbol – the meatball – is on the lining and the zipper.

Prices range from $40 to $85, and items can be purchased from the World’s Largest Space Shop in the complex or online at thespaceshop.com.

A quick zip through upcoming options.

  • It’s the first weekend of the Epcot International Food & Garden Festival and its Eat to the Beat concerts.
  • The full blown Festival of the Lion King returns to Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Saturday.
  • The Electric Ocean event will rotate nightly at SeaWorld Orlando and the Awe Summer activities will continue at Legoland Florida.
  • The Orange County Regional History Center hosts Fun in the Sun-themed Sensory Sunday with hands-on activities.
  • The Orlando Science Center is holding Webb Telescope Telescope Day Saturday, marking the release of the telescope’s historic first photos.

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

About Mike Crayton

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