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Monday, May 20, 2019
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Disney unveils plans for 'Guardians of Galaxy' coaster, high-tech robots

At the world's largest amusement industry expo in Orlando, the head of Disney's theme parks revealed some mighty cool images of high-tech robots called "Stuntronics" and a Guardians of Galaxy themed coaster coming to Epcot that will turn riders to give them the best view of storytelling.

In its 100th year, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), a colossal trade show of coasters and attractions, featured Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney parks and consumer products, as its keynote speaker Wednesday morning.

Chapek, who analysts have annointed as a likely successor to Disney Chairman Bob Iger, drew oohs and aahs from the crowd when he showed off the next level of animatronics coming to Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios in 2019. He called it the most expressive and life-like ever built, with a greater range of motion. He then showed a video of what he called Stuntronics, which looked like robots who can do a back flip and soar through the air like Iron Man. Some of those characters will be put to work in the new hotel coming to Orlando that will make guests feel like they have entered a spaceship, he said.

He also spoke at length about Epcot getting one of the longest enclosed roller coasters in the world in 2021, with a Guardians of Galaxy theme. It's the largest concrete floor Disney has ever built, he said, and the finished building will be large enough to hold four of the Spaceship Earth globes that mark the iconic entrance to Epcot.

Chapek called it a "storytelling coaster."

"Each car will be programmed to point riders in the direction of elements throughout the course of the ride," he said.

In other announcements, Chapek said the Skyliner gondola system now under construction will open in fall 2019. It will whisk guests through the trees between three Disney hotels, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

IAAPA is the largest gathering of its kind for the global theme park and attractions businesses, drawing more than 38,000 in attendance this year, a spokeswoman said. It's where industry titans find out what's new and worth investing in. The Orange County Convention Center has a virtual midway filling more than 10 miles of aisles with fully operational rides, new arcade games, inflatables and experts from the many fields it takes to operate an attraction.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

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