Written by Russell Meyer
Published: March 27, 2005 at 9:45 PM
Jim Hill, one of the foremost experts on Disney, was recently excused from the park for conducting an unauthorized tour. As the story goes, Mr. Hill was escorting a group of no more than 10 paying guests (each paying $25) through Disneyland, and was stopped by Disneyland security during the course of the tour, and asked to leave. In defense of Mr. Hill, he has been conducting these tours for quite some time now. Even some managers at the park were aware of the tours, and did not mind his “private” and uncensored tours of the park. Disneyland conducts a number of tours around the park at a much higher price than the Hill tour. The Hill tours are reportedly conducted rather discretely, and the small groups have allowed Hill to go mostly unnoticed in the park. The rumor is that a couple of people have accidentally tagged onto the Hill tour instead of their scheduled Disney-run tour, and they eventually filed a complaint with park management about some of the content of the tour. This led to management promptly finding the Hill tour, and shutting it down. Disney probably has the right to throw Hill out of the park for taking away profit from the Disney-run tours, but it seems that the reason that the Hill tour was shut down is because Disney does not approve of the material Hill was spouting during the tour. I guess all of those foreign tourists walking around the park with their flags should be on the lookout, because Disney is watching. Jim Hill probably isn’t completely innocent in this affair, but maybe he should not have kept his tour looking so legitimate, so that unsuspecting tagalongs would never have been a problem.
Just a Bump
Powder Keg, Silver Dollar City’s newest roller coaster, experienced a minor problem that caused four passengers to be taken to the hospital. The train was approaching the station at approximately 3 miles per hour, and bumped an empty train that was stopped in the station. Four riders seated in the front of the train were sent to the hospital for precautionary examinations, and were soon after released. The ride is scheduled to officially open on April 7, 2005, and the fire marshal has given the park permission to re-open the coaster once minor modifications are made to the braking system. This accident seems strangely similar to an incident that occurred on Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland, even though different manufacturers are involved. Powder Keg has been completely reconstructed by S&S from a water coaster into a pneumatic launch coaster, and is the first coaster they have constructed using steel tubular track. It seems like the accident was caused by a simple blocking problem, but a simple blocking problem on Big Thunder has caused a whole lot of headaches for Disney. Hopefully Silver Dollar City can fix the problem, and the roller coaster will run flawlessly.
First Trip of the Year
In a new record, it took me five operating days before I made it to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the first time. I have been to five straight passport preview days, and due to some prior commitments, I was unable to make it to the preview day for the first time this season. As I had expected, the holiday and dreary and chilly weather (upper 40’s) kept most people away, and the park was about as deserted as I’ve ever seen it. I had an opportunity to stroll through the park to notice some of the changes that have been made in the off-season. One of the interesting changes that have been made is that plastic passports are being phased out in favor of (supposedly) water resistant paper. Whether this is a cost cutting measure, or just for convenience and to speed up the season pass processing, it was somewhat deflating to spend $250 on a piece of paper. Anyway, my wife and I got our renewed season passes processed, and signed up for beer school. The beer school did offer two of Anheuser-Busch’s newest offerings, Budweiser Select and BE, which looks just like normal beer, but strangely smells and tastes like a normal energy drink. Another change to the park is the bald eagle and wolf habitats. While the new wolf habitat is not yet complete, it looks like guests will be able to view the wolves in a zoo-like setting when they are not performing in a new habitat - a beautifully landscaped area in the valley between Ireland and Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve. As reported in the media kit, Busch Gardens has added a new restaurant in Aquitaine. However, what they did not say was that the new LeMans Bistro is a full-service sit down restaurant, the first in the park. We walked by and checked out the menu, and we were urged to make a reservation. Considering the lack of crowds in the park, we decided to just come back later in the day for a nice dinner. The menu looked very good with sandwiches, entrees, salads, and desserts, and the cast member at the stand continuously mentioned that the servers were not to be tipped, but would offer top-notch service. However, when we returned later in the day, the restaurant was abandoned. Actually, a number of restaurants that were open earlier in the day closed about midway through the day, probably because the lack of crowds. I guess we should have made that reservation. The other big change to the park is that big grey castle-looking thing in Octoberfest. The exterior of The Curse of DarKastle is looking quite good, and with five weeks until media preview day, most if not all of the primary exterior work should be completed. The dark grey walls were rather ominous, and the main spire announces the attractions existence without looking too obvious. The newly renovated gift shop across the way, “Der Marktplatz,” is a combination snack bar and gift shop that already contains a few gothic souvenirs perfectly tailored for the new attraction. Another noticeable change was on the bridge connecting Octoberfest to Festa Italia. The bridge, which last year received the new non-slick surface and canopies, has been given a “Salute to Heroes” treatment complete with theme music and seals from each of the services. There was also an enhancement to one of the ticket booths that also received a “Salute to Heroes” treatment. I felt that while the tribute was nice, and many members of our armed services will appreciate the recognition, it felt a little overboard, and out of place in the park. Also, Apollo’s Chariot received a fresh coat of paint, and the purple seems to get even purpler every time they repaint it. We left a little before the park closed, and had a pretty nice day, despite the not-so-nice weather.