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Photo TR: First Time to Orlando! WDW, Universal, Busch, More

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Part 1: Arrival, Epcot and Universal (Below)

Part 2: SeaWorld, Hollywood Studios and Newsies!

Part 3: Busch Gardens and Fun Spot

Part 4: Hollywood Studios, Orlando Eye and more Epcot!

Part 5: Via Napoli, Magic Kingdom and ELSA!

Part 6: Disney's Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom

Part 7: Final Days in Orlando!

BONUS UPDATE: Tangled Toilets Tuesday!


For someone who has been into theme parks for at least 10 years I had never managed to do the one thing that I always get asked about. That of course was "Have you been to America?" "What did you think of Disney World?". My answer to this was always "Ive never been!" much to peoples surprise. That was until last month when I finally got to visit Orlando!


Before this trip the furthest I had ever traveled before this trip was to Scandinavia on the TPR trips so I had no real concept of jet lag or how I would handle a long flight. Safe to say they both kicked my arse. The best way to show this though is of course with pictures and videos so here we go!


This trip was the first time I have ever used Gatwick airport and wow that airport is terrible. Its almost the CDG of the UK. That being said I have only ever used Heathrow Terminal 5 when flying out of the UK so maybe I have just been spoilt.



Holy crap I'm actually going to America! Unlucky for America!


This is the plane I'm sure many Americans now hate because it was responsible for bringing me into the country.


Having survived the flight without killing anyone Robb picked me up from the airport and we instigated "Operation Jet Lag" which basically involved heading straight from the airport to Epcot and meeting up with Jack. Great plan don't you agree?



Yay I made it to America and first stop Epcot!


Yes people this is the future of the human race!


After some Spaceship Earth and now having passed my 2nd and 3rd wind Robb and Jack thought it would be a good idea to take my for my "Epcot right of passage". Being as tired as I was at this point I didn't register what this was until I saw the machine with the dreaded word "Beverly" on it.


Moving on................


Obviously this picture shows my feelings on the matter but just to clarify feel free to watch my reaction below.





After that life altering experience I think we headed over to Mission Space which just made me feel awful on so little sleep. I had no idea what the ride was let alone how it made you feel. Turns out this was all due to the lack of sleep but damn I would not recommend going on that ride while running on very little sleep.


After what felt like torture it was time to end the night on what ended up being my favourite Epcot attraction! Other than knowing that this ride was loads of cars on a track going fast at one point I didn't know what to expect. This ride is REALLY good! The Sim Track felt like I was inside Tron, plus the whole car competition element is such a great addition and adds a whole new element to the attraction.



Can you visit Epcot without Test Track? Simple answer NO!


People are under the impression I was compensating with the large tyres on this car. Those people are correct.


After this point I was pretty much dead on my feet so we left the park so I could crash and get some serious sleeping done because my first full day in America would be at Universal.


So after some sleep me, Robb and Elissa headed out to Universal (Im sorry Elissa! ). My knowledge of Universal wasn't extensive being the terrible enthusiast that I am but I did know there was Harry Potter stuff but I still thought of the park from what I knew 10 years ago with Hulk, Spiderman and Dragons being the main things, so I was in for a shock.



I don't think anyone in history has their picture taken in front of this!


For anyone traveling to Orlando and wanting to do all the parks I can't recommend this ticket enough. It caused me no problems, I got into all the parks with no issues and for what you pay you get a phonomenally good deal compared to if you paid for each park individually.


"Prepare To Be Thrilled" On one of Universals many MANY simulators.


So I will make it very clear before I get started on all the Harry Potter stuff I want to make it very clear that I am NOT a Harry Potter person, I've not read the books or seen all the movies so its all pretty alien to me. I can't deny at all that the whole area is incredibly detailed and the theming is incredible but unless you are a Harry Potter person is all just fancy theming. Gringotts is the same as well, the technology behind that ride is amazing and it blew my away but I literally had no idea what so ever what was going on during the ride or who the people on the screens were.



While this giant dragon was incredibly impressive this whole area meant nothing to me as I'm not a Harry Potter person.




Which is the entrance to Diagon Alley? You decide!


Wow you deported me from America that quickly?


Elissa entering Potter land with Coke products! SUCK IT JK!


Here is proof that it actually happened but JK obviously wasn't happy as Elissa vanished into thin air!






I thought the park was quiet when we arrived, turns out everyone just got crammed into the stupidly compact Potter Land. Honestly for an investment that was going to bring in the amount of people like Potter was bound to they really should have designed the walkways with that in mind.


After Robb tricking me into going on the nauseating Forbidden Journey on my own we took a couple of awesome rides on Dragons before heading off to do the stuff that I associated with Universal.



This was my favourite ride at Universal without question because it has so many unnecessary features in it! Plus it has fire and as we know, everything is better with fire!


This was terrifying. Im so glad I didn't turn around though otherwise I would have had ancient Egyptian mummy junk in my face!


The Simpsons ride I forgot the park even had was just terrible. For something as loved as The Simpsons they should have done so much better instead of a badly animated movie and a really rough simulator.


Spiderman is by FAR the best of the many, many, many simulators that Universal has. I really have never been anywhere in my life that has as many simulators.


ET phone home to ask how the hell this ride is still here. I am glad its still there though as it is just so so terrible its good.


I loved the whole Seuss area and this train attraction was a really fun little ride.


Having not read any Seuss stuff since I was very young the whole area managed to bring back so many memories.


Believe it or not this is a VERY intense ride. Trying to stay dry by following the song takes up a lot of energy and puts some serious stress on you.


I hear this will be the new home to King Kong. I really hope its not going to be another simulator as there is already too many of them at Universal.


This is the one thing at Universal I was looking forward to riding more than anything. A solid old school B&M. Such a shame it was running like crap and really rough. I can imagine back in its day this was an amazing ride but it really doesn't seem like its been looked after well and needs a lot of TLC.


When I see stuff like this it made me think the park must have been amazing before Potter came in and everything got neglected.


I know some of the comments I have made make it seem like I didn't like the park because I did but it was extremely obvious that all attention has been placed on Potter now and the rest of the park has been forgotten about. They might as well call the place "Harry Potter Land feat. some other stuff. Hopefully with the new Kong attraction going in it means they will now shift the focus back to other Universal properties and give the rest of the park some attention.



Goodbye Universal you gave me a great first day in Orlando.


Once we left the park mid afternoon I went and had a much needed nap (stupid jet lag) while Robb went off to see Newsies. When I woke up KT decided one of the places I needed to experiance was Olive Garden so me, Elissa and KT went there for dinner. It wasn't a bad call by KT at all as I had a great spaghetti bolognese and I got to witness people eating the largest salad bowl I have ever seen. Im pretty sure they need a small farm for each restaurant given the size of the bowls.


After dinner again jet lag was killing me so it was an early night for me as the next day I has SeaWorld, Disney Studios and Newsies to look forward too!


Keep an eye out for part 2 of my first time Orlando adventures because I am going to try and update this DAILY!



Edited by StealthFan
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Great report! As a fellow non-HP fan, I couldn't agree more with your opinion that it's not much more than "fancy theming" and not too accessible for the non-fanboy crowd. But say that to a Universal fanboy (they're pretty intense) and they'll rip you to shreds


I also agree that Universal is heavy on simulators and the rest of the park would do well to be as well-maintained as the Potter areas. However, Kong is supposed to be a much more traditional dark ride, and I think we'll see the park getting to be in better shape soon!

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This looks to be a great start to an Epic trip report! TPR Forum members! Don't forget you can hit the "subscribe" button towards the top of the page and get altered of new updates to this thread!

Edited by robbalvey
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I also still really really want to visit the Orlando parks. I am an Harry Potter fan, but that looks very busy, is it really only one street in that new area?

I visited Universal Hollywood once, which I enjoyed (especially the VIP Studio Tour we did), but the Orlando parks are high on my list. That ticket seems like a good deal too, must make a note of that!


Looking forward to the rest of the report!

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^Research and development =/= love for the rest of the park.


I would say if you feel it is debatable, provide some examples. This was just his opinion based on his first visit.




Since 2011, we've seen the following done/upcoming at the parks:


Universal Resort

-Rooms at Hard Rock Cafe Hotel, Portofino Bay, and Royal Pacific Resort renovated in the past 4-5 years

-New value resort, Cabana Bay, opened

-New restaurants and entertainment facilities open throughout Citywalk, replacing less effective and profitable ventures on-site

-Miniature Golf attraction added to Citywalk

-Blue Man Group show replaced the former, then-unused Nickelodeon Studios building


Universal Studios Florida

-New trains on Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rocket for a more reliable ride

-Turned a vacant studio building into Transformers: The Ride 3D

-Built Diagon Alley in the old Jaws land

-Jimmy Neutron replaced with Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, including the awesome post-show dance party with the minions

-Additions to The Simpsons Ride, namely rounding out Springfield with exclusive eateries (Moe's Tavern/Krusty Burger) and the Duff Beer Garden

-Spongebob Squarestore opens in Kidzone

-An family-friendly parade is added during the daytime hours

-A nightly show with lasers, fireworks, and projections is added

-Improvements to screens and animatronics of Revenge of the Mummy

-Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue updated in 2014 with a new setlist


Islands of Adventure

-Consistently updated ride profile for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (most recently when USJ's version opened)

-Suess Landing (buildings and walkways) repainted

-Hulk repainted

-Toon Lagoon facades repainted and water/foam surface treatments replaced yearly

-Major 4K and visual upgrade for The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman

-Major, weeks-to-month long refurbishments to the Jurassic Park, Dudley Do-Right, and Popeye's water attractions in the cooler months

-Still pristine conditions for the theming in Lost Continent, namely around Mythos and Poseidon's Fury

-Continued attention-to-detail paid to the Talking Fountain in front of Sinbad (water effects work, stereo still good, conditions excellent)


Are there areas that could be improved? Sure.


-Fear Factor Live needs to go

-Toon Lagoon amphitheater should be used for an E-ticket in either Toon Lagoon or Marvel Super Hero Land

-Jurassic Park needs another attraction to round out the area

-Kidzone needs to be completed revamped (which I believe is already planned)

-Twister replaced (which I believe is to happen very soon)

-Terminator 3D needs a 4K upgrade and improvements to the show (which rumor has it was planned for some point, this one I'm iffy about)


But I think it's pretty clear that, once Comcast purchased Universal Studios in 2009 from Blackstone, investments in the park, on new additions, maintenance, and general upkeep, have been up considerably. I don't think there's been any doubt as to the improvements to the resort on whole whole, helping lead to its meteoric rise since 2011.

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Not to derail this awesome TR further (I love seeing the perspective of first time visitors), I think his overall point was that the level of detail in Potter is so high the rest of the park can't compare. To that extent, I would tend to agree. It's not that the things are terrible at UO by any means, but the level of detail in the Potterlands is just so high the rest of the park is going to look worse by default.

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Not to derail this awesome TR further (I love seeing the perspective of first time visitors), I think his overall point was that the level of detail in Potter is so high the rest of the park can't compare. To that extent, I would tend to agree. It's not that the things are terrible at UO by any means, but the level of detail in the Potterlands is just so high the rest of the park is going to look worse by default.


You have summed it up perfectly there! As I said before I didn't dislike the park at all just not being a Potter fan does make some of the park pretty alien to me regardless of how good it looks. If Kong is done to the quality of Potter then the park will have a great future ahead of it!


Glad everyone is liking the trip report so far next update will be SeaWorld, Disney Studios and Newsies!

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Not to derail this awesome TR further (I love seeing the perspective of first time visitors), I think his overall point was that the level of detail in Potter is so high the rest of the park can't compare. To that extent, I would tend to agree. It's not that the things are terrible at UO by any means, but the level of detail in the Potterlands is just so high the rest of the park is going to look worse by default.


If so, fair enough, but there's no way around that. The Potter lands are subject to Rowling's incredibly high standards for approval, and the bar has been set by the incredible work by Stuart Craig and the production design from the films. Other than Lord of the Rings, there isn't a property out there that can truly compete on that level of detail (maybe Star Wars, but I bet we don't see that sucker open until 2018 - 2020).


EDIT: I see what you did there.

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Interested to see the rest of your report. Congrats on making it to the park! I finally went for the first time in November for my honeymoon. Can't say I shared the same thoughts tho. Especially on the Simpson land and ride. Considering I knew nothing of what to expect, I thought the ride was one of the most incredible experiences at the park. The journey from the line to the actual ride and screen was my favorite part.


As a coaster nut, I totally expected to feel simulator overload as well, but they are so well done I found them to be my favorite part. I think the themed elements are pretty incredible all the way around, but that's just me. I don't think I fall into the "fanboy" catagory either since I've only went once. I had incredibly high expectations and they where exceeded.


Can't wait to see your Busch Gardens trip report, that's the other park I visited.

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I'm sorry, nice trip report and all, but your criticism that Comcast/Universal has neglected most aspects of the resort outside of Potter is very debatable, and looking at the R&D numbers provided in the annual reports, inaccurate.

The guy is looking at the park as a first timer based on what his expectations should be from years of hearing about the park through reports. Instead of criticizing his thoughts, perhaps it should be taken into consideration what the resort looks like through the eyes of someone who has never been?


EDIT: Reading the rest of the thread I see you're just a Universal fanboy that can't take anyone posting anything critical about the parks, and when they do, you'll just debate it to the nth degree with a bunch of factoids that still doesn't change the original thoughts posted. Your comments from this point onward will be disregarded by me. I felt the trip report was fantastic and I love seeing other perspectives.

Edited by robbalvey
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Keep up the great TR! While I love seeing any type of TR about Orlando, there's always that something extra when it's one from someone who has never been. Just seeing people's reactions to the sheer level of detail put into these parks is worth it. I'm looking forward to seeing your reactions to the other parks you haven't experienced.

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After living in Orlando for a few years, I became way to accustomed to the parks. It's so refreshing to see reports like this where people get to experience it for the first time, and take us on that journey. Great report and I can't wait to see what you think of the other parks. Your commentary on olive garden was pretty funny. I can't imagine going to these parks for the first time now-a-days with all the hyped they've had. I think my favorite take away so far is your acknowledgement of how many simulators the parks have. Have a great time, looking forward to more!

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Great report Craig, I can relate to a lot of things about your trip, including jetlag, lack of knowledge about Harry Potter, and wild expectations when I took my first and only visit there in 2011.


For myself, I first headed straight for the Rip Rocket coaster (which I still rate as one of the most fun coasters), then raced clockwise around that park onto Twister, Mummy, Earthquake, previous Jaws, ET, etc. so it was like finally seeing all those classic 'movie' attractions that I'd always heard about, which used to be the basis of the park's existence.


I did Islands Of Adventure on a different day including Potter etc. but that park didn't give me the sense of 'finally here', even though several rides and the theming there were great. I don't know how much things have changed now, but it certainly seems like the whole place is becoming a lot more like IOA than the 'classic movie' styled park (if that makes sense). I realise both parks are based on movie themes, but there used to be a subtle difference, in my opinion.


Looking forward to the rest of your reports!

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Great trip report! Having been a first-time visitor to Orlando myself less than half a year ago, I can certainly relate to the expectations and great feeling of finally being a place you have wanted to go for a long time! Looking forward to the next update.

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Great report! Haven't been to Universal in over a decade, but I'm glad to see that the Spiderman ride held up well (that was my favorite at the time). I see how the high attention to detail in Potterland can be completely lost on someone who isn't a fan. Hopefully that same craftsmanship will be carried into all future projects at the resort, and the park should look balanced again. Since I've never ridden Hulk, Dragons, Mummy, Rip Ride Rocket, Potter stuff, etc. It will probably feel like my first time at the park as well when I go in 2016. Can't wait to see the rest, and I hope you have fun here in the states!

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After a good nights sleep next on the Orlando agenda was SeaWorld. Honestly SeaWorld was the park I knew the least about before going to. All I know about the park was Shamu and the fact they had some weird penguin dark ride. I basically went into this park with no real exceptions on what to expect other than to see some fish and some insane protester people.


Amazingly when we drove up to the park there was no insane Blackfish people which I still haven't decided from a personal point of view if thats a good thing or not as I would love to have seen how insane these people look in person.


Upon entering the park the first thing that hit me was how well landscaped the park is which is always fantastic to see as there are far too many parks in the world that really lack in that department.



SeaWorld was definitely a "Sea of Surprises" for me!


First stop once we entered the park was "Empire of the Penguin". This was one of the few things from the park I knew a little about and was really interested to see what it was all about.



This sounds like a really bad follow up to "Planet of the Apes" right?


Haha it says bottom.


These vehicles are amazing pieces of technology and could be utilised in so many different ways. Sadly I think SeaWorld dropped the ball on it.


I don't know what these things are meant to be but I'm pretty sure an alien will appear from one of them.


This penguin enclosure was easily the best part of the attraction to me and thats not just because I got to see a penguin take a crap.


Even though I didn't know what I expect with Empire I really felt disappointed with the attraction. For a ride that has the sort of technology behind it that this does it really was under utilised and makes no sense what so ever. The park could have easily had an attraction to rival Universal and Disney here but instead it has a really odd story and lots of random spinning. I do hope the park look at this attraction in the future and upgrade it because it has HUGE potential.



Its always great to see such a wonderful view like this at a park and I love to see parks celebrate anniversaries such as their 50th.


However wrapping the observation tower windows arguably wasn't the best idea........


Turtle cookies > Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


This could be one of the sexiest pictures ever posted on TPR don't you agree.


I loved the Turtle tank more than the movie part of this. It would be really good if you could see the tank and not have to worry about the movie at all. The talk from the animal staff was really good on its own and they did seem really passionate about how they have saved some of the turtles and given them a good quality of life.






Yes even I can be an everyday hero! (Do I get a theme song?)


Yay I found Shamu!


HOLY CRAP HES TRYING TO EAT ME! Call they Blackfish phsycos, they can get a second movie out of this!


Pretty sure humanity has been set back a few years due to this invention.


Now that Shamu regurgitated me it was time to hit up my first B&M at the park. Kraken!


And wow what a ride! It was at this point I thought to myself "Orlando has some really good B&M coasters, whats going on here?". When I have thought about Orlando and talked to people about it over the years I never thought it would be home to some really very good B&M machines, especially with the fact that as we all know most coasters from B&M really don't have the old school punch to them anymore. Kraken was very much old school in my view and I loved it. When a ride is intense enough to the point I know I could never marathon it without getting dizzy thats a great thing. The only other B&M I have been on in recent years that makes me feel that way is Nemesis and thats not bad company now is it.



Having been to MANY SeaLife centres in my life I am a bit jaded when it comes to underwater tunnels or at least I thought I was until I went through this one. The moving walkway seemed a bit odd to me at first but then I realised just how genius it actually is because it prevents bottlenecking and people blocking the way through because they are standing in a group!


Oh thank god! Its good to know I can breath at SeaWorld.


Now onto the next AWESOME B&M at SeaWorld.


Before getting on this ride the only flyer I had been on before is Air. Now while Air isn't that bad of a ride it is the prototype so its of course a bit reserved. I was not expecting this ride to kick so much arse but it totally did! The pretzel look is far more forceful than you would expect.


I loved how noticeable it was when you were in the back seats and you saw all the water shoot up. Yet again another kick arse B&M for Orlando. Seriously how is it fair you get so many good B&Ms?


While I love Manta I did have one issue and that was the operations. The guy batching guests really had no clue what so ever and just caused everyone to bottle neck at the top of the stairs if they wanted to wait for the front row which caused a backlog of people and loads of empty trains/seats to go out.


The whole purpose of this extended front row queue is specifically to prevent that from happening but the guy was just oblivious to it and it was infuriating! None the less the ride is still REALLY GOOD!


Hmmm who has the better lighthouse Universal or SeaWorld?


We got done with SeaWorld a lot quicker than I was expecting but that may be due to the fact that it was quiet more than anything else. The park really is very nice and looks amazing but I felt like it was having an identity crisis. On one hand the park has some really great rides and attractions but on the other hand it seems very focused and driven on their conservation efforts. I don't know much about how the park is run and stuff but it seemed to me like they don't really have a direction they want to go in and drive towards yet but I could be wrong. I will be interested to see what comes to the park over the coming years as without question it has such potential and if they find the right balance between conservation and theme park it could be amazing. Also I don't give a damn what all those insane Blackfish people say because all the animals looked pretty happy to me and without the park its pretty much a given that they wouldn't survive in nature.


As we finished at SeaWorld early we decide to head to Disney to grab some lunch and something very important! MAGIC BAND!



Yay I have arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios!


First things first was to get my Magic Band. Naturally I got myself an Elsa one because she is awesome! (Sorry Anna!)


Up until this trip the only Tower I had been on was the one at Paris and had one huge flaw in it before I ever rode it. That flaw being the fact that its in France!


So what can I say about this ride that hasn't been said before? I mean its brilliant! The ride vehicles are amazing and the whole show sequence before the main tower part is fantastic. To me this is the best ride in studios without question!


A good piece of advice is to eat lunch after riding Tower as I can't imagine it would feel to fun having that sausage bouncing up and down inside you............


After lunch we had time to do one more thing so we took a ride on "The Great Movie Ride"


Which features by far the WORST cockney accent in the history of the movies!


While riding I was astonished to find out how old this attraction was as it looks really new still. The ride vehicles looked like they were in the first year of service the animatronics all looked great. There was a few effects that even as a first time rider it was noticeable they were not functioning correctly but it still didn't take away from the experience at all.


After movie ride we headed out of the park to take a rest as later that night we were off to see Newsies. I will have more to say about Studios in a further update as there was no way I wasn't going to see the Frozen show!


Now just because I am in Orlando didn't mean to me I only wanted to do theme park stuff, I mean I had never even been to America before so I had so much to experience. So while planning this trip Robb said to me he managed to get me a ticket to go and see Newsies with him, Elissa and KT at the Dr Phillips Centre. Now I had never been to a musical in my life before this trip so I was really interested to see how I would react to it.



First thing to say is WOW, the Dr Phillips Centre is an amazing building. What a great venue for any show!


All I knew about this show before by using my Sherlock Holmes level of deduction skills was that it had something to do with the news.


Overall I was very impressed with the show. It had some catchy songs, the actors were great and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I will say I have come to the conclusion that I am just not a musical sort of person. I don't think I would ever go out of my way to go and see a musical but I wouldn't say no if someone invited me along to one again. I can totally see why some people love going to musicals though because it did create a really unique atmosphere.


For me personally the highlight of the show was these towers. For what is basically 3 towers the way they utilise them is pure genius! It actually blew me away what they managed to do with the towers and how other things came on stage to work with them etc.


So overall a VERY succesfull and enjoyable second day in Orlando and my final day of any real jet lag side effects. Its always nice to experience new things and I am very glad I went and saw Newsies because if it wasn't for Robb my musical cherry would still be intact. I was already having a fantastic time on the trip and it had only just begun!


Next up on my American adventure is Busch Gardens and Fun Spot so stay tuned to see how I handled Falcons Fury!!

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