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The BLOGFlume—In Like A Lamb

A spectacular Bambi emerges from the vault, a building that's too spectacular, and a buyer for Paramount.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: March 2, 2005 at 10:11 PM

March has started with very little in the way of theme park news. However, never fear, because it is guaranteed to go out like a lion with a number of regional theme parks opening their gates in a couple of weeks. I know I can’t wait, but until then, let’s get to the few stories I was able to track down this week.

Bambi Restored
PR Newswire 3/2/05

Disney’s animated classic Bambi has finally made it onto the uber-popular Disney DVD format. The new release has already sold over 1 million copies since it hit store shelves on Tuesday. The newly restored movie has all of the bells and whistles one would expect in a Platinum Edition release from the Disney Vault. Not only has the film been digitally restored to a quality that surpasses that of the original, taking over 9,600 man-hours of work, but it has also been upgraded to modern 5.1 home theater sound. The package also includes a number of special features including: “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings,” where viewers can actually watch Walt Disney pitch the story of Bambi, “Forest Adventure Game,” and many other features and extras. The DVD is a complete package that puts the classic tale in a format that is worthy of one of the finest animated features of all time. I haven’t had a chance to pick up my copy yet, but probably will this weekend. From what I’ve seen on television through the advertising bombardment surrounding this release, the film looks stunning, and the restoration appears to be one of the greatest achievements in classic film restoration. I do remember catching Bambi on TV a few years ago, and it was really showing its age, but the scenes that have been released show a dramatic improvement that is far beyond any restoration Disney has done in the past including: Snow White, Dumbo, and Fantasia.

Too Much Glitter in Hollywood
LA Times 3/2/05

It appears that the shiny exterior of the one and a half year old Walt Disney Concert Hall was too bright for the city that is full of glitz and glamour. The City of Los Angeles has requested that the exterior of the building be sandblasted to cut down on the extreme temperatures created by the highly reflective surfaces that cover the exterior of the landmark downtown building. Nearby office tenants complained of their electric bills doubling because of the reflection, and people walking around the shiny monolith have been feeling the sun’s heat magnified by the unique curved surfaces. Frank Gehry, the renowned architect who designed the building, has agreed to the changes, but one would think that he’s probably not too thrilled that a building that has quickly become an icon of the downtown LA area will be losing its luster, literally. When I visited Los Angeles a year and a half ago, just prior to the opening of the building, I found the shape and style a bit weird, but strangely attractive and interesting. The sandblasting of the exterior should not take away too much of the style from the interesting building, and hopefully placate the neighbors.

Of Paramount Importance
Thrill Network 3/1/05

It looks like Viacom may have found a buyer interested in purchasing their much-improved parks division. A group assembled by former Viacom executive Tom McGrath is looking to keep Paramount Parks off of the auction block. The value of the chain is valued at as much as $1 billion, and may command more if a bidding war erupts. Other large park chains are also seen as prospective buyers, including Universal Parks, Cedar Fair, and Six Flags. NBC/Universal would not be a bad choice, but I shudder to think of the day that Cedar Fair or Six Flags gets their hands on a park chain that has done so much right over the past few years. Paramount has worked so hard to become a “theme” park, and has been able to separate themselves from the Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks with more intricately themed attractions, and an experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family. I’m rooting for Tom McGrath to keep the chain in capable hands, and keep Paramount Parks going in the right direction. Under the right leadership, the sky’s the limit for the Paramount Parks chain.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on March 3, 2005 at 7:10 AM
Cedar Fair won't buy Paramount. They are very conservative when it comes to spending money, and this is the opposite of that. They have enough fixer-upper properties to work with as it is. The only x-factor there is the new incoming CEO in 2008 (who knows what he's gonna do), but Paramount parks would be sold by then. Six Flags doesn't have a billion dollars to buy more parks, and it's hard to imagine Universal wanting to deal with parks in the seasonal part of the country. They are not a bad choice, but an unlikely one. I look for Tom McGrath to gather the troops and make the purchase. They would surely continue in the direction they are going because they are seeing lots of success. To be honest, I can't see any other company out there doing a better job right now than Paramount Parks.
From Chuck Campbell on March 3, 2005 at 5:19 PM
Well, I did sign my credit card receipt at Food Lion the other day with a "Curse of DarKastle" pen . . .

Like you said, slow news day.

From Arthur Cashin on March 4, 2005 at 7:36 AM
I pray that McGrath gets it. Have you seen the online survey for PPI? (http://www.parkfeedback.com/research/survey.aspx?s=PKDRIDES05) They have some great potential rides out there. Management should be rewarded for putting that much planning into the parks.

You know SF or CF will kill them all. CF does not believe in themes and SF just can't seem to get out from under their debt.

I thought that NBC/Universal was trying to sell their parks (or at least find a 49% partner), so I wouldn't see them as a buyer.

From Pete Brecht on March 4, 2005 at 8:53 AM
Arthur, thanks for the survey link. I'd encourage anyone who frequents (or is considering visiting) any of the Paramount parks to fill out this survey. If they follow through with any of these ride concepts, things are looking pretty bright.
From Jeff Sohns on March 4, 2005 at 9:45 AM
Derek, I couldn't agree with you more.
From Robert Niles on March 4, 2005 at 12:58 PM
Holy heck! Paramount's ripped off our old Rate the Rumors section! ;-)

Kevin, are you consulting for them now?

From Robert Niles on March 4, 2005 at 1:16 PM
By the way, I just took the survey and I am stunned by the quality of a couple of these concepts. (And bored by others, but still....)

Why, oh why, can't these guys buy Magic Mountain?!?

From Arthur Cashin on March 4, 2005 at 2:10 PM
They can't buy MM because they are up for sale themselves.

PPI has some great ideas, but no committment from its owners. What is wrong with that picture?!?

The transition to a true movie-themed park is an expensive and risky. If you wait for a successful movie, you still need 18-24 months to get the ride in place. Ride prices have gone up significantly due to costs like steel and apparently no one wants to build the ride before the movie is a success.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that whoever buys PPI will keep it on its upward swing. I know as soon as they put an Italian Job in PKD, I'll make a special trip to ride it.

From Robert Niles on March 4, 2005 at 5:44 PM
It sounds to me that Paramount Parks will be "bought" by a collection of current Viacom/Paramount execs and stockholders, essentially making the "sale" a spin-off into a seperate company run by pretty much the same folks but that generates cash for the parent. From what I hear, the Legoland sale is proceeding in much the same way.
From Derek Potter on March 4, 2005 at 7:01 PM
In Paramount Parks news, Kings Island's Italian Job coaster may have suffered a setback. Spectrum Manufacturing in Utah burned to the ground the other day. This is the company that built the Mummy coaster cars for Premier Rides...the same company building the Italian Job. This isn't a confirmed report, but rumors are buzzing about. This company is apparently one of Premier's go-to guys, and the article posted gives us more food for thought by stating that coaster cars going to Ohio were destroyed in the fire. Again, this isn't confirmed, but the pieces fit together. Here's the link.

http://tv.ksl.com/index.php?nid=5&sid=154281

From Chuck Campbell on March 4, 2005 at 8:53 PM
Thanks for the survey URL, Arthur. I'd love to see PKD get a few of these proposed new attractions (particularly Italian Job, the Tomb Raider walkthrough, and the SpongeBob indoor coaster).
From Derek Potter on March 5, 2005 at 8:06 AM
Paramount releases guest surveys quite often....from ride concepts to restaurants to live shows and childrens attractions. They are really tapping the guest for what they want to see, and from what I've heard from PKI higher ups, the guest surveys play a fairly big part in their decisions.
From Jason Lester on March 6, 2005 at 9:48 AM
I read in the LA Times that people working by the concert hall were getting sunburned and that the sidewalks were heating up to over a 100 degrees.
From Arthur Cashin on March 6, 2005 at 2:07 PM
The sunburn comment from Jason reminds me of when Caesar's Atlantic City opened. They had a mirrored facade facing the ocean. In its first August, the sun got so intense that it started fires on the boardwalk!
From Kevin Baxter on March 13, 2005 at 12:35 AM
Everyone's forgetting a PERFECT buyer for the Paramount parks... Busch! They've got five and would only add three more. All three of which do quite well. Plus, purchasing Paramount would probably get them access to better characters than they got now.

It's nice and all to see an ex-Viacom person going after them, like he might actually understand them. But the parks languished under his tenure, so I would actually PREFER a Busch buyout. But since that's just pie in the sky, I'll hope for that. And maybe something of worth in PGA EVENTUALLY!

From Ben Thompson on July 31, 2005 at 10:44 AM
I think Paramount Pictures itself only took over the Parks at Viacom in 2001 when things started to change, putting in Nickelodeon, Tomb Raider, Bubba Gump, Happy Days, Italian Job etc., so the languishing was really before then. Prior to that Jane Cooper ran them reporting to Viacom's CFO(!). I agree that until they started really "theming" the parks and using the Viacom IP they were kind of a SF wannabe. BTW, Legoland was sold to Blackstone who also owns Merlin Attractions in London and 50% of Universal Studios so maybe the whole thing is going to the private equity "locusts" like everything else. Blackstone used to own 50% of Six Flags before Burke & Co. bought them from TWI.