The BLOGFlume—Heating Up

Cedar Point "peaks," Chicken Little goes digital, and Tarzan goes to New York.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: June 29, 2005 at 9:40 PM

Xtremecoastin 6/26/05

I think someone has mentioned this on the Kingda Ka discussion thread, but here is a video you have to see to believe. Most seasoned theme park fans have heard of roller coasters “valleying,” when a train does not have enough momentum to carry itself through the entire circuit. This phenomenon happens somewhat frequently on boomerangs and on a coaster’s first run on a really cold day. However, an even more amazing phenomenon occurred this past week on Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster. The coaster train actually stalled with riders at the very top of the tower. The train was launched at just the right speed, and the weight distribution of the passengers was just right to get the train to stop at the top of the 420-foot top hat. The train remained at the top of the tower until a maintenance person went up to the top of the tower on the service elevator, and just gave the train a push. The train coasted back to earth, and the ride was ready to go again. The “peaking” phenomenon has apparently occurred only five times in the ride’s history, and this was only the second time it has happened with passengers aboard. The chances of this happening are about as likely as flipping a coin and having it land on its end. I’m not sure how the passengers felt about being stranded 420 feet off the ground strapped into a coaster train, but I would have paid double to have been on that train.

Digital Chicken
Washington Post 6/28/05

The power of Walt Disney has been able to accomplish something George Lucas has been trying for six years. In preparation for the release of Chicken Little- Disney’s attempt at computer animation without Pixar- Disney is installing 100 digital projectors in theaters around the country near the 25 largest cities. George Lucas and many other directors have begun shooting films in digital because of the flexibility the format affords, and the quality that is preserved when a film is shot digitally. As one who has experienced the format, it is equivalent to watching a movie on DVD compared to VHS on movie theater scale. The last two Star Wars films were released in digital format, and the difference between a digital and a film projector a week into the movie’s release was simply stunning. Digital cinema also provides an easier way for theaters to get movies, as they can just be downloaded over a secure connection, or sent over on a small hard drive. In fact, Peter Jackson, while scoring Lord of the Rings at Abbey Road Studios with Howard Shore, had an Ipod containing a near final cut of The Two Towers stolen from a courier who was transporting the film from the hotel to the studio. Digital is here now, but many theater chains are slow to adopt the format because the projectors are very expensive, and the replacement bulbs are even more expensive. Theaters are also leery about the advancement of technology, and are rather averse to committing a lot of money in projectors that could be obsolete in a few years, since there are no technological standards surrounding digital theater. However, with the release of Chicken Little, Disney, along with Dolby, is installing the projectors to try to jump-start the technology. Many people who have never had an opportunity to watch a movie on a digital projector will get their first chance this fall, and hopefully the technology will catch on. The result could revolutionize movie making, and bring a higher quality product to the consumer.

Swinging Onto Broadway
Playbill 6/29/05

The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast have become two of the most successful shows on Broadway and musical theaters throughout the country. But look out, all of you soft rock lovin’ Phil Collins fans, because Tarzan is following in the footsteps of Disney movies turned Broadway shows. I have to admit I’m a big Phil Collins fan, especially everything he recorded before “Both Sides” and with Genesis, but it will be interesting to see how he measures up. The show will include most of the Tarzan animated movie score, and a number of new pieces specifically composed by Collins for the stage. The musical is set for a spring 2006 release. The animated theatrical release has already spawned two sequels, Tarzan and Jane and Tarzan II (in stores now), and a recently closed theme park treatment (DAK). It seems that Disney thinks that this franchise is more worthy of a Broadway treatment than many of the more popular Disney animated classics like The Little Mermaid, Hunchback of Notre Dame (a stunning show that was already created for MGM), and Aladdin (an amazing theatrical show at DCA). The production has some big names behind it, including director/set and costume designer Bob Crowley. With three Disney shows on Broadway, Times Square will be more Disnefied than ever, but I’m not sure it will last very long. The most popular shows on Broadway have been teetering on the adult side, with Spamalot, Avenue Q, and Wicked being the most successful new musicals the last few years. It’s possible that the Broadway treatment of Tarzan could take Broadway on an amazing adventure through the jungle, but I would not be surprised if the show is dark within two years.

Readers' Opinions

From Kevin Baxter on June 29, 2005 at 11:08 PM
Oh Tarzan's going down! Crowley hasn't directed a show before, and this show NEEDS a seasoned director, someone like a Julie Taymor or Sam Mendes, who have a history of breathing life into things that have been done a million times before. And how many times has the Tarzan story been told?

So an untried director has to work with a Disneyfied version of a well-known story, has a cast consisting mostly of animals, and a score that many find generic. Beauty and the Beast has done well because it started with a more beloved score from a more beloved movie. Lion King has done well because the movie was beloved and the staging was fairly ingenious (for anyone who hasn't been to a Cirque du Soleil show). The film version of Tarzan did well more for its visual style than for anything else, and that won't translate to the stage. The idea behind this is so moronic, since Disney only needed to look on sites like ours to see that the theme park version of the show is already pretty unpopular, ranking lower than other film-to-small-stage-shows like Beauty and the Beast Live, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Festival of the Lion King, Aladdin and even the much-derided new Snow White show at Disneyland. Not that these are all faithful adaptations, but since Tarzan Rocks is practically operatic, with little coming from the speakers but those songs, it certainly isn't a good sign.

From Derek Potter on June 30, 2005 at 7:58 PM
That ride on TTD would have been worth the admission price for the day. What's funny is that 6 riders apparently asked for immediate reride passes....and got them. What mooches...I would have been number 7.