Disney World to celebrate 25th Florida: Park plans a big birthday parade. Other attractions in state list events. Don't miss the Rat Lady at Universal Studios.

September 01, 1996|By Jay Clarke | Jay Clarke,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

Remember the E-ticket?

Twenty-five years ago, before Walt Disney World went to a one-price admission, tickets labeled from A to E were required for each ride. An A-ticket, the least expensive, was good only for wimpy little rides. E-tickets were the most sought after, because they admitted you to the most sophisticated attractions, among them the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Everyone wanted E-tickets.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Disney World is staging an "E-ticket" celebration starting Oct. 1. You won't really need the once-coveted coupon to attend, but Disney is tagging the event as one of E-ticket caliber.

For its anniversary, Disney World is transforming the Magic Kingdom's signature structure, the 185-foot-high Cinderella Castle, into a gigantic cake. Painted pink and white, it will sport 25 enormous candles when the 15-month-long anniversary event opens.

A 25th Anniversary Welcome Center is being prepared, where Disney memorabilia and a film about the past and future of the resort will be shown.

New versions of the theme park's popular parades and fireworks shows will be inaugurated on opening day.

And, of course, a massive rededication ceremony attended by Disney big shots, past and present, is planned for Oct. 1, exactly 25 years since the park opened its doors in 1971.

That day, a 1,076-member band will march down the Magic Kingdom's Main Street, just as it did the day Disney World opened.

Why the odd number? There will be 76 trombones, recalling the famous song from "The Music Man." The musical's author, Meredith Willson, led Disney's march in 1971.

A flyover also is planned on opening day.

While some nostalgia will be part of the anniversary programs, Disney is not missing the opportunity to promote its movies. The new Remember the Magic parade will feature floats inspired by Disney films -- "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Snow White." The IllumiNations 25 fireworks show at Epcot will wind up with a paean to "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King." Disney's anniversary bash undoubtedly will hog media coverage in early October, but another theme park may hog Central Florida's visitor count later in the month.

At Universal Studios

Universal Studios' big fall event centers on its favorite holiday, Halloween, which is an ever-growing crowd generator. For the sixth year, Universal is staging Halloween Horror Nights, and this one will be bigger than ever and last longer than ever. On 15 special, separate-ticket evenings -- three more than last year -- the theme park will do its darndest to scare the daylights out of, or completely disgust, its guests.

The ever-popular Rat Lady will be back this October, doing her revolting thing. The Rat Lady is a living young lady of admirable fortitude who lies still in a coffin while live rats run over her body.

Bill Preston and Ted Logan also are returning with their cult classic, Bill and Ted's Halloween Adventure, for the fifth year, and Beetlejuice will be host of another Price Is Fright show. There will be three haunted houses, a Festival of the Dead parade and, of course, the usual collection of mutants and monsters leaping out from dark corners with ghoulish glee.

Dates and details: Night of event admission (separate from day admission) will be $38.50 adults, $31 children 3-9. Florida residents get in for $28.50 adults and $26 children on advance sale basis, or $23.50 and $21 with a Pepsi coupon. Dates are Oct. 11-12, 17-19, 23-28, 30 and 31, and Nov. 1-2. Information: (407) 363-8000.

At Sea World

Meanwhile, Sea World also is cooking up some Halloween stuff, though much wimpier than Universal's.

Sea World's separate-ticket Halloween bit, called Shamu's Spooky, Kooky Halloween, is aimed at young children and features an evening of marine-style trick-or-treating. Dolphins, sea lions, otters, penguins and Shamu the killer whale will appear at Halloween-theme candy stations, animal shows will take on a mildly spooky theme, and kids can take part in a costume parade or get their faces painted weirdly.

Dates and details: Tickets are $16.95 in advance, $18.95 at the gate. The shows will be held 6-11 p.m. Oct. 26 to 31. Information: (407) 363-2259.

Disney World never has done much with Halloween beyond staging Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, aimed at families with children under 10, and its adult Spooktacular Halloween at Pleasure Island. Dates and details: Mickey's party, 7 p.m.-midnight Oct. 31; admission, $17.95 advance, $19.50 day of event. Spooktacular, 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Oct. 31; Pleasure Island admission, $16.95. Information: (407) 824-4321.

Busch Gardens does not have any special Halloween events.

More joy

Other selected fall doings in central Florida:

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