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The BLOG FLUME -- Hold On To Your Hats

It's more of the same as another hurricane hits Florida, another show hits the road and another movie hits theaters.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: September 27, 2004 at 10:49 AM

Please welcome site veteran Russell Meyer to Persister for today's installment of the Blog Flume.

A special thanks to my editor and wife Stefany for her assistance.

Not Again!
Another Hurricane causes closures in Central Florida

For an unprecedented third time in two months, weather has caused closings at theme parks in central Florida. I’m wondering where the Sentinel found a honeymooning couple from New Jersey who were “not very concerned” about the incoming storm, and feel that a foot of snow is more nerve racking than a Category 2 hurricane (big surprise). Living in the Washington D.C. area, we’ve experienced both ends of the weather spectrum over the past 10 years. Both weather extremes can be equally crippling, but most damage and problems caused by snow is a result of ignorant people trying to venture out in a blizzard, or just not skilled enough to drive in the snow. The damage caused by a tropical system is almost completely caused by nature, and the damage is more severe and longer lasting. I’m sure the resilient people of Florida will make it through yet another punch, and I wish them all the best in dealing with yet another disaster.


Not Again!
Another Disney Musical Readies For National Tour

Doesn’t Disney have enough musical touring companies? I suppose the show demonstrates how Disney has over-saturated its own market, since they’ve resorted to using a libretto full of rejected songs in a show with no real story. Is anyone really going to pay Disney prices for a show with little story and a set of second tier songs from the Disney catalogue? I guess we’ll find out in about a month, in the greatest place to start a national musical tour... CLEVELAND!


Not Again!
Shark Tale Readies for Release

Dreamworks is trying to put some more buzz behind this Friday’s release of Shark Tale (as if there isn’t enough marketing power behind the release already), and MSNBC poses an interesting question… Do A-list celebrities help out animated features with their voice talents? Take Aladdin, coming to DVD in “Special Edition super-uber-hyper Disney DVD format” a week from Tuesday. It was groundbreaking in promoting an animated movie based on a voice talent, Robin Williams (and what a performance!). However, Disney’s most recent flop, Home on the Range, provides an opposite example. The recently released DVD is only 5th on the DVD rental market in its first week, and chock full of celebrity performances, but weak on box office punch. Pixar seems to be taking a middle road, relying on one or two A-list celebrities and a bunch of lower tier talents for supporting voices, a formula that seems to be working for them. The Incredibles vs Shark Tale will be an interesting fight to see, though the films will not be directly competing in theaters. Based on what I’ve seen of the two, The Incredibles looks to be a much more appealing and original story.


Not Again!
Golden Ticket Awards Released

It seems like only last year when the Golden Tickets were announced by Amusement Today. Many of the winners have retained their spots from last year, with Cedar Point taking “Best Park,” Holiday World taking “Friendliest Park Staff” and “Cleanest Park,” and Busch Gardens Williamsburg taking “Best Landscaping” and “Most Beautiful Park.” In order to give those parks that may be overlooked in lieu of the big guns like Cedar Point and Schlitterban, two new categories were added this year- Best Children’s Park, won by Legoland, and Best Indoor Waterpark, given to West Edmonton Mall. One of the biggest surprises is Millennium Force unseating Six Flags New England’s Superman: Ride of Steel. And while I’ve never seen it, I have a hard time believing that Six Flags Fiesta Texas has a better night-time show than all of the Disney parks. Maybe someone who’s been to SFFT can enlighten me. It seems that most of the other winners have won previously or ranked highly. While Amusement Today may be experts, looking at their top coaster lists will demonstrate that by no means are they enthusiasts.

Want to comment on the job that Russell Meyer did today? We're keeping a running log of reader comments on all the Blog Flume candidates here.

Readers' Opinions

From luis gonzalez on September 27, 2004 at 5:21 PM
This is another good posting but i still feel like it was a little workman like. Its important to be informative i still would like a little more of your own opinion thrown in, this is after all a "blog."
From Derek Potter on September 27, 2004 at 5:23 PM
Hats off to Holiday World for retaining their titles of friendliest and cleanest park...they deserve every bit of the credit they get. Even though it's not chock full of super thrill rides or big money theme attractions, Holiday World is a must visit for anyone simply for the guest experience....free parking, free soft drinks, and free sunscreen all day, and the service really does beat all the other parks, from Disney and Universal to Busch to Cedar Fair. Splashin Safari, Holiday World's waterpark, also came in at number two on the best waterpark list. This park will be the one to watch in the next few years.

What's interesting to me is that the theme parks that are talked about so much on this site are pretty much left out of the picture. IOA had the best showing, but lost to Cedar Point for best park, and lost to Kings Island for best kids area. The only awards they took home were for best water ride (Ripsaw Falls), and best dark ride (Spiderman). Epcot took second in best night show, (SFFT's show really is pretty good), but other than that, nothing but some distant fourth and fifth place finishes in categories like landscaping. Busch Gardens Williamsburg deservedly got most beautiful park and best landscaping, but the rest of the Busch parks aren't there. What's on this list are the little guys like Holiday World, Knoebels in PA, and Dollywood in TN.

So what do all of the theme park superfans think about this list? I think that it's nice to mention Knoebels and Holiday World rather than Disney or Universal for a change. In my opinion, it's just like movies, music, or any entertainment. The biggest, most popular, and well themed isn't necessarily always the best.

From Robert OGrosky on September 27, 2004 at 6:52 PM
I think in these types of polls it helps being the small guy on the block like Cedar Point rather than a corporate park like Disney or Universal as there is a natural david vrs golaith battle where people perfer the little parks.
And im not surprised SROS lost out, with a rider dying on tha type of rollar coaster it will give the coaster some bad vibes.
From Russell Meyer on September 27, 2004 at 7:13 PM
I would not call Cedar Point a "small guy on the block." Holiday World is, but Cedar Point, NO WAY...Cedar Fair owns 5 major theme parks and a number of water parks, more than Busch and more than Universal.
From J. Dana on September 27, 2004 at 11:51 PM
Many of my friends in Florida are still without power. I got this e-mail from a Disney Imagineer/writer: "I hope this time the saying 3 times and out holds true and this is the last hurricane we have to face. I'm at a friends in Zephyrhills [near Tampa] and she has trees down and we were without power for 10 hours, but baciscally doing good.

I only have very limited email. Friend has local internet service and they are running on generator. Not sure when I'll get a chance here to check again."

The theme parks did fine. It's the nearly 100,000 theme park employees (and the rest of those poor souls) we should be concerned about. Prayers are with them.

As far as the new Disney musical, I don't think the folks as Disney have any illusions as to think this is going to be a Lion-sized blockbuster. I like the fact that they're doing a small, nostalgic, music-based musical. And from what the article says, it does appear to have a story of sorts. I guess the thing I like is that this is more than just throwing an animated film onto the stage. They're actually trying to present a pretty spectacular music catalogue to the theatre-going public in an original way. I, for one, think that they'll make tons of money off this show. It's got that "Walt" factor to it. This is the show for everyone who fell in love with Walt, and for everyone who has fond memories of Sunday nights watching the Wonderful World of Disney. No, it's no Beauty and hopefully it's not a Beast. But maybe it'll be a nice aside. Something the kids will like, but the parents will love. No, it's not at the top of my to-do list, but then again, I'm not a big fan of all the old Disney songs. And Cleveland may not be NY or LA, but it's certainly not Pumpkintown or Hicksville either, that's for sure. It's common practice to debut a new show in a smaller market--of course, the Cleveland Metro Area's population is nearly 2 and half million--not too shabby. I'm tellin ya, if those darn Disney on Ice shows can continue to be a success, then this show should have no problem.

As far as famous actors playing voice characters--I'm all for ditching them altogether. Some doh doh thinks that just because someone has a face on the big screen that families will care one bit about if we hear their voice coming out of a cartoon fish. However, there have been some actors who completely MADE their animated counterparts: Robin Williams in Aladdin, of course; Ellen as Dory in Finding Nemo; perhaps Mike Myers as Shrek and Eddie Murphy as Donkey (reprising the exact same voice and character as he had in Mulan); maybe Billy Crystal in Monsters. And, of course, James Earl Jones as Mufasa. But other than that, I doubt many other animated films would have been worse off without their celebrity namesakes. I say bring back the professional voice actors....long live Mel Blanc! The Little Mermaid revived animation with nary a famous person.

Some of those Golden Ticket awards seem merritted, but I don't put much stock in much of this poll. Since the poll was taken in various spots around the country, I sense a little bit of "cheering for the home team." Everyone likes to brag about where they live, and, of course, we all think that our own little regional park is the best thing since sliced bread. But I do have to give it to them, the did do a large-scale poll. Schlitterban is definitely the best waterpark around. But c'mon folks: I've been to Dollywood. Sure, it has some nice, fun shows. Great fun, as a matter of fact. But when Dollywood and Silver Dollar City trump all of the biggies in the Best Shows category, I kinda put much less credibility in the poll.

For all it's faults, I can't believe Disney's Animal Kingdom isn't listed as one of the most beautiful parks, and how can Islands of Adventure be a more beautiful park than Epcot? It may be a better park for some, and it definitely is MUCH more thrilling. But more beautiful? Um, okay. And Blizzard Beach is more beautiful than Typhoon Lagoon? What a crock! I do think, though, that the Best Park category does show that Cedar Point and IOA have done a great job of gaining a faithful following. Both parks are definitely worthy contenders. So, I can live with some of these categories, but most of them are just so much....empty air.

From Kevin Baxter on September 28, 2004 at 1:31 AM
I think parts of AK are beautiful, but Dinoland and Camp Minnie/Mickey certainly bring it down. And as neat as the Tree of Life is, I don't consider it beautiful. So basically we have two lands at AK that are beautiful.

Well, IOA has three lands I consider beautiful: Lost Continent, Jurassic Park and Port of Entry. Seuss Landing is cool, but I'm not sure beautiful is the word. And Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon certainly aren't beautiful, but both are far better than the two bad lands I mentioned at AK. So I would definitely call it more beautiful than AK. And I think AK is more beautiful than Epcot. In fact, "beautiful" is never a word I have associated with Epcot. Some of the country pavilions are very nice, but there are wide swaths of space there, which takes away from its beauty. But I would definitely consider BGW more beautiful than both of them.

As for Blizzard Beach being more beautiful than Typhoon Lagoon, there must have been a big crackhead vote. I tend to agree that most of this poll can be dismissed. Sure, TPI doesn't focus enough on smaller parks, because those parks just don't get the traffic the biggies do, but our voting system does recognize quality parks. As of this post, Dollywood is a Top Ten park on this site. I would put way more trust in our polls than any other poll out there.

Regarding celebrity voice talent... I am mostly against it. I usually hate hearing voices I recognize when I am trying to believe in a cartoon character. Sometimes the voices overcome this handicap and develop a three-dimensional character, like Degeneres/Dory, Myers/Shrek and Tom Hanks & Tim Allen as Woody & Buzz. I would disagree that Robin Williams did the same, since the Genie was basically just Robin Williams in cartoon form. It worked for the movie but he didn't create a character different from his own persona.

I seriously doubt Will Smith will be able to do this either. Will Smith is basically Will Smith in everything he does, except maybe for Ali, and he was still Will Smith a lot in that too. But I have high hopes for Jack Black who appears to be creating a real, separate character, at least in the trailers.

I think the stars should be relegated to supporting roles unless they can bring something new to the characters they will play. And I didn't have much hope for Shark Tale but the new trailer is much funnier, and they seem to have transformed the plot into something a lot more interesting too. The Incredibles is still scaring me, as they have FINALLY started airing commercials, but they have dumped the uninteresting one with all the only-for-the-trailers CGI and gone back to the original hilarious teaser trailer that ran before Nemo. This could mean things aren't going well, but you can never know with the whole Eisner/Pixar crap.

From Ben Mills on September 28, 2004 at 3:12 AM
Jack Black, regarding his role as Lenny in Shark Tale:

"It was a great opportunity to discover a different side to myself. Usually I play the insane party animal. This time I was able to show the sensitive, tender side of Jack Black. Lenny's very sweet, a little bit cowardly, maybe a bit more like the real me. Which explains why the voice is kind of like Woody Allen..."

From Total Film.

From Robert OGrosky on September 28, 2004 at 10:43 AM
Cedar Fair may have 5 parks, but it is very small when compared to companies the size of Disney/Universal-GE/A & B and Paramount-Viacom.
Cedar Point may be its biggest park but in attendance/etc its much smaller than any of Disney or Universal's Parks.
From Ben Mills on September 28, 2004 at 11:44 AM
It's good to see Efteling get a mention in the Most Beautiful Park category. However, I remain baffled to how Thorpe Park's Colossus reached 48, yet WBMW Madrid's Superman didn't even get onto the list.

Thanks, Amusement Today. You Rock!

From Russell Meyer on September 28, 2004 at 12:44 PM
2003's attendance of 3.3 million people for a park that is only open 1/2 of the year (Memorial Day to Labor Day and weekends in September/October), doesn't seem very "small" to me. Cedar Point drew, on average 24,000/day. Compare that to other year-round parks' per day average, Cedar Point is 3rd based on 2003 numbers (behind only Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Yes, Cedar Fair may not have the same corporate backing of a major movie company or other Furtune 500 company, but based soley on theme parks, Cedar Fair is not a "small fish in a big pond." I would argue the inverse.
From Robert OGrosky on September 28, 2004 at 6:28 PM
Following are the top ten most attended North American theme parks, according to "Amusement Business." The info includes the name of the park, its location, its 2003 estimated attendance, and how it compared to the previous year's attendance.

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 14 million, flat.
Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif., 12.7 million, flat.
Epcot at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 8.6 million, up 4 percent.
Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 7.8 million, down 2 percent.
Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 7.3 million, flat.
Universal Studios at Universal Orlando, 6.8 million, flat.
Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando, 6 million, flat.
Disney's California Adventures, Anaheim, Calif., 5.3 million, up 13 percent.
SeaWorld Florida, Orlando, Fla., 5.2 million, up 4 percent.
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, Calif., 4.5 million, down 12 percent.

I imagine if i take a smaller park and count only attendance on thursday's between noon and 100 pm i could also make that park the 3rd best in attendance too.

From Robert Niles on September 28, 2004 at 7:14 PM
Well, Cedar Point is 14th on that list, with 3.3 million in attendance. And it's the highest attendance of any park that's not open 12 months a year. (Higher than a few that are, by the way.) So Cedar Point's hardly a small park. I think you'd have to be under 1.5 million in attendance to qualify as that.
From J. Dana on September 28, 2004 at 7:59 PM
Okay, just for argument's sake, to be fair, let's say we take all those parks that are currently on the top-10 list and open them only when Cedar Point is open...it's the only fair way to count, right? Hmmm, I think that their per-day average would go up EXPONENTIALLY. Can you imagine closing Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios for the "cold-weather" months, and opening them only for a little less than 1/2 the year? They'd be SOOOO crowded during that time, and would likely draw more than their regional park counterparts. Cedar Pointe is what it is, and its attendance numbers should not be "handicapped" because it only opens for 1/2 the year. Yearly attendance should be counted as the number of people who attend during the course of a year. We can't just count a selected timeframe during a specifically-chosen busy day. (This ain't the Florida presidential election) This goes back to my point (in previous posts) that the smartest theme park planners put theme parks in climates where they can be open the whole year--or at least they build the parks in such a way as to have them open even when it's cold outside. Facts is facts.
From Russell Meyer on September 28, 2004 at 8:34 PM
However J. Dana, the smartest theme park planners can also design a park to succeed in whatever climate they exist in, and many "non-fair weather" parks have managed to succeed despite the handicaps associated with weather. A smart theme park planner can create an environment that encourages return visits despite only being open during warm months. Lets be honest, the Florida parks are jugernauts because of the "vacation experience" and variety of oportunities. I don't think I could even spend more than 4 days in Sanudsky, OH, but you could spend weeks in Orlando because of the variety of park options. It's not just weather, but the variety and diversity of entertainment options.

I think that if it were possible for a park to attract a steady attendance throughout the year in a cooler climate and maintain a year-round profit stream, they could draw competition and give the Florida and California parks a run for their money. Many parks are currently doing this by extending their seasons into October and November with Halloween events, and some parks are opening their gates as soon as March in addition to many parks opening their gates for Christmas lights and activities. I see roller coasters with seat warmers and de-icers on the horizon!

From John Franklin on September 28, 2004 at 11:50 PM
Well people, looks like Disney can film a new ad for WDW.
Can you see it?
Jeannie, now that you're a catagory 3 hurricane, where are you going?
Jeanne: I'm going to Walt Disney World.
From Robert OGrosky on September 29, 2004 at 6:49 PM
Russell- While what you say may be OK in moderate weather climates. That does nothing for the mid-west unless you will build the park indoors. WHen you are gettting snow and below zero weather there is no way to run a effective theme park, which cant be compared to people sitting in there warm cars driving by x-mas decorations. And this is easily seen when you go to a halloween event and once the temps drop into the 30's(which isnt cold at all for midwest standards) and attendance goes way down.
The trouble that parks like Cedar Point and other SF parks has is they get inflated attendance numbers by getting swarms of teenage season passholders visiting numerous times which helps the numbers but doesnt aid the bottom line which is what parks need ie-people paying higher prices to get into parks/food sales/souvenir sales etc and that is brought in more by families/out of town visitors which is why FLA parks do so well. I know my self we spend little at our local park and spend much more on food/trinkets when visiting parks.
From Russell Meyer on September 30, 2004 at 11:12 AM
I would tend to agree. When I go to home park, BGW, I tend to not buy a lot of stuff, because it's pretty much the same as the last time. However, the local parks still get money from concessions, even season passholders will buy at least one item of food or drink in the park in the course of the day, so at least they're getting something from every person who walks through the turnstyles.

I wonder if anyone as thought about turning waterparks in northern climates into winter parks with ice slides and ice skating. Many theme parks in the northern climates have either attatched waterparks or ones adjacent to their properties that could be turned into great winter playlands. Sounds silly, but I wonder if anyone has thought about it...I for one would pay money to go down an icy waterslide on a luge or even a potato sack.

From Kevin Baxter on October 1, 2004 at 1:11 AM
Why are we so far behind Europe in some of these areas? Europe (especially Germany) has spectacular indoor water parks that are open year-round. I swear, if something retail ain't going in the building, no one wants to bother.
From Dan Babbitt on October 1, 2004 at 10:55 AM
In connecticut there are plans to build a indoor theme park. By an independent firm, I dont know .This park will include 5 diferent indoor "Lands". it will be built near Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casinons! its going to be pathetic... but its a chance!!!
From Kevin Baxter on October 3, 2004 at 12:06 AM
Hey, much of Westcot (the original idea for what became DCA) was supposed to be indoors. The pavilions were supposed to be multi-floored - like Epcot's Land pavilion, I presume - with most of the attractions being indoors also. It can be done, but considering how reliant parks are nowadays on roller coasters, the only parks who could really do this are Disney and Universal.
From Ben Mills on October 3, 2004 at 4:41 AM
sp: WESCOT.

Tee hee.

From Kevin Baxter on October 4, 2004 at 11:16 AM
Huh?
From Ben Mills on October 4, 2004 at 2:16 PM
Come on Mr. Theme Park Expert, you should know this. Despite the mispellings of many, the 2nd park that should have been was actually spelled "Wescot" rather than "Westcot". See? No T.
From Kevin Baxter on October 4, 2004 at 7:56 PM
Not that I ever saw. I always saw it as Westcot. As in WestEpcot. Some places I saw had it also spelled WestCOT but never EVER Wescot. Google it.
From Ben Mills on October 5, 2004 at 9:45 AM
Wow, do I look like a fool. Not that anyone ever reads the columns once they drop off the top two.

Having said that, a Google search produces about two websites. One refers to it as Westcot, the other as Westcot/Wescot interchangably. I'm sure I've seen it spelt both ways before, so God knows what I actually is. Maybe you are right. It would make sense, I spose.

From Kevin Baxter on October 6, 2004 at 3:04 AM
My Google got several. But I also did Westcot/Mouseplanet, Westcot/Jim Hill, Westcot/MiceAge, Westcot/Laughing Place etc, and then the same for Wescot and got zippo. I does my research, dude.
From Ben Mills on October 6, 2004 at 12:48 PM
Sorry. I'll keep quiet next time.

;-)