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Disney World and the four dwarfs.

Along the shore of Cape Canaveral, satellites and shuttles regularly make journeys into the stars. A little over an hour's drive away, millions of visitors a year discover another universe, a galaxy of fantasy and fun dominated by a familiar round-eared, pug-nosed silhouette: the chief inhabitant of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Led by Mickey's mighty Disney World, the Orlando area is unchallenged as the theme-park capital of the world. The Disney Company wasn't the first to launch an amusement park in the Orlando area; that honor goes to 53-yearold Cypress Gardens, which packages botanical gardens, a zoo, a waterski show, and an ice-skating revue. Disney World entered the scene in 1971 and soon generated a surplus of visitors seeking additional amusements during their multiday stays. In the next two decades, a big bang of growth launched sever-al major theme parks in

the Orlando area, including:

* Orlando's Sea World, part of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich family of theme parks (along with Cypress Gardens and Boardwalk and Baseball), which features a variety of marine animals performing in themed shows.

* Boardwalk and Baseball (which replaced Circus World in early 1987), a mix of two all-American favorites: an amusement park and the world of baseball.

* Wet 'n Wild, at 25 acres, which currently claims the title of the world's largest water park.

Together, the five parks draw more than 28 million visitors each year.

Do these "satellite" parks merely orbit Disney's sun? The log for a voyager to Orlando, one park spokesperson told us, usually involves touching down at the sparkling Orlando airport on a Saturday; Sunday and Monday at the Magic Kingdom; Tuesday through Thursday visiting other attractions; and then maybe a return trip to Disney Friday. "When you have two kids in the back seat screaming to see Mickey Mouse, you do that first," she said. "Then you hit the other hot spots."

Parks work hard to get included on the Tuesday-Thursday schedules. For most that means a "constant state of change"-to use a favorite phrase of Disney World's founder. Disney World, in fact, keeps the other parks scrambling with an almost constant infusion of big ideas and big bucks.

Such friendly but spirited competition is a bonanza for first-time and return visitors alike. Even the locals, many of whom are out in force visiting the parks each weekend, have trouble keeping up with all the new launches.

The newest of the Orlando theme parks, Boardwalk and Baseball has become an example of the constant state of change. Last year, B&B added a miniature taffy-and-fudge factory plus SuperSpoof, a parody of live TV game shows, while it dropped a western-rider show. This year, B&B continues to search for the right mix as it becomes the headquarters for the Royal Lippizan Stallion Show.

Sea World has doubled in size in the past five years. New concepts at Sea World are usually serendipitous, as when in 1985 Baby Shamu became the world's first killer whale to be born and thrive in the care of man.

Now, in the "Legend of Shamu," the newest baby Shamu, born November 4, swims by her mother's side as the family performs a living documentary of the killer whale and its relationship with the Killer Whale Clan of the Tlingit Indians in Alaska.

Cypress Gardens is the least change conscious of the Orlandoarea parks. The park did open a new dining facility, the Crossroads Restaurant, in May 1988. In addition, "Air Dancin'!" featuring trampoline and trapeze acts, returned for a second Cypress Gardens engagement in December and will run through April 16.

New to Wet 'n Wild's repertoire of watery attractions are the Blue Niagra (two intertwined 300-foot tube slides) and the Bubble Up (a fountain-topped bubble that participants climb and then slide down).

Meanwhile, at the center of this amusement universe, Disney World is hardly lying back and basking in its own glow. The mouse king is going for a supernova.

Mickey's Birthdayland, the Magic Kingdom's new themeland, began a permanent stay last June in honor of the mouse's 60th birthday. Visitors celebrate with a tour of the star's home in Duckburg, a surprise birthday party thrown by Minnie, and a backstage visit with Mickey. In addition, Epcot Center added an 11th nation to its World Showcase-Norway, the Gateway to Scandinavia.

Disney World opened two hotels last year, the budget-priced Caribbean Beach Resort and the luxury-oriented Grand Floridian Beach Resort, which will eventually total 3,019 rooms.

The new Disney-MGM Studios is a Hollywood-class production studio that offers visitors a palm-lined recreation of Hollywood Boulevard; "The Great Movie Ride," which twists through scenes of film favorites; and behind-the-seenes tours of working wardrobe shops, shooting locations, and a special-effects simulation.

Upcoming in 1989: Typhoon Lagoon, a 50-acre water park (opening sometime in summer); Pleasure Island, a nighttime entertainment complex for adults (October); the Wonders of Life, the Epcot Future World's eighth pavilion, which explains the relationships humans have with their bodies (October); and, in the Magic Kingdom's Tommorrowland, Dreamflight, a ride through the history of aviation.

In fact, it may seem as if Disney is threatening to slowly squeeze out the satellite parks, Tom Brinkmoeller of Disney's publicity office scoffs at any suggestion that the park's latest moves are spurred by competition. Disney World i"under no gun," he says: the park is merely following a master plan originally laid out by Walt Disney himself. Unlike some of the smaller parks, which may be limited by size, budgets, and other more stringent controls, Disney's 17,000plus unused acres allow for nearly unlimited expansion. Brinkmoeller asserts, "When you're Babe Ruth, you can go for the home run."

A home run that may head straight for the stars. Still, the other parks aren't worried. Janeen Dunbar, Wet 'n Wild's marketing manager, believes there's room for all the parks in Orlando's entertainment uni"I don't think anyone is ever going to come down to this area and just do Disney," she says, "Disney does what Disney does very well. But you can't build a better water park than we do.

"All the attractions together having a market like we do is what brings in a record number of tourists," she says. "We work pretty well together. We all know that as long as we can keep our attractions and our names out there, we can bring people in for the central-Florida experience."

-with A. Hunter
COPYRIGHT 1989 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Walt Disney World theme park, Orlando, Florida
Author:Clark, Cheri; Hunter, A.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Words:1070
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