The BLOGFlume—On the Go

The end is near at Busch Gardens, and new beginnings are near at Islands of Adventure and McDonalds.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: July 27, 2005 at 10:06 PM

Changes at Busch?
Busch Gardens Williamsburg 7/25/05

According to the latest press release from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, time is running out to experience two of the most amazing theme park shows ever developed. Imaginique, a Cirque d’Soileil-style nightly spectacular, and Irish Thunder, a Riverdance-style song and dance show, will both be ending their runs in the park this season. Imaginique’s final performance will be on Sunday, August, 21, 2005, and Irish Thunder’s final show will be on Sunday, September 18, 2005. Both shows have been incredibly popular, and both, incidentally, rely heavily on foreign talent. Imaginique normally ends its run in the Royal Palace Theater near the end of the summer, and it is not clear if anything will be developed to take its place. Many parks use fireworks or massive light shows to end the evenings in the summertime, and Imaginique was definitely one of the most unique day-ending shows that has been developed for a theme park.

Irish Thunder’s end is a little more interesting, since Busch has stated in its press release that the show is closing to “make room for a brand new experience in 2006.” While Irish Thunder’s popularity has declined slightly over the past few years, it is still more popular than just about any theme park show the United States outside of Florida or Los Angeles. The show is so popular that there are “groupies” that still stand in front of the Abbey Stone Theater well before the doors open to grab seats at the very front. Irish Thunder could also be considered the anchor attraction of Killarney, and is one of the few reasons to turn right at Heatherdowns. The other attractions in Killarney include Secrets of Castle O’Sullivan, Corkscrew Hill, and Budweiser Beer School. There is no indication that the “new experience” will be a new show or a different kind of attraction. The closing of the show so early in the season suggests that the Abbey Stone Theater could be in for some major renovations, or perhaps a Howl-O-Scream attraction could be on-tap for the theater. The promotion of Shari McGhee to Vice President of Entertainment could be an indication that new, more-elaborate show could be in store. Ms. McGhee was the driving force behind the creation of Irish Thunder. At any rate, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is losing two of its most popular shows, and hopefully these big “holes” in the lineup will be filled with shows or attractions that are equally as popular, if not more so.

Down with Complacency 7/25/05

I’ve been following the rumors on this story for quite some time, and it appears that things may finally be getting off the ground. Islands of Adventure is still recognized as one of the best parks in the world, and was just recently topped by Tokyo Sea Disney in the 2005 Theme Park Insider Awards. Part of that small slip in popularity is because the park has remained stagnant for a number of years. The last major addition to the rather “new” theme park was The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man, which is still the best attraction in the world according to the same awards. While Universal has done a great job of promoting its 1-2 punch of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure to financial success, grumblings are growing louder as park guests are becoming bored with the unchanged line-up at the new park. Rumors have been flying over the past few years about a potential Van Helsing Robo-Coaster, B&M flying coaster, and even a hyper-coaster, but the location remains the same: the area between the Jurassic Park River Adventure and the Flying Unicorn coaster. It appears that Universal may be finally doing something, and the impetus might stem from the success of the Revenge of the Mummy attractions at the Florida and Hollywood parks. While this new attraction will likely not be completed until 2007, it looks like it will be a big one, and may coincide with the likely release of Jurassic Park IV. A jeep adventure using a ride system similar to Paramount's Italian Job Stunt Track and Revenge of the Mummy has been the most logical rumor for such an attraction, but one has to wonder how Universal will sell an attraction that could be very similar to Revenge of the Mummy, which is less than ½ mile away. Hey, at least Universal is recognizing that the park needs something new soon, and is not going to take 4 years to get something built, ala Disney's Animal Kingdom and Expedition Everest.

On the Outs
Reuters 7/27/05

McDonalds, long time partner of Disney, has decided to make a long-term commitment to rival Dreamworks Animation SKG. McDonalds and Disney are nearing the end of a 10-year partnership, and with the box-office numbers of recent Disney films slipping, and the future with Pixar uncertain, McDonalds needed to make a move. Chief rival, Burger King, has caught up in recent years with kids meal deals with Fox (Star Wars and Fantastic 4), and was already close to a deal with Dreamworks Animation. Could this be the end of another major Disney partnership? Probably not, but it is unlikely that McDonalds, or any other restaurant for that matter, will ever sign a long-term promotional agreement with Disney. Fast food is already having a tough time with health conscious America, and increasing competition, and restaurants cannot afford to promote films like Tarzan 5 3/8: The Search for More Bananas. Expect non-exclusive contracts with escape clauses, and the end of one restaurant being the home to one movie studio’s products.

Readers' Opinions

From TH Creative on July 28, 2005 at 5:53 AM

From the Associated Press

"LOS ANGELES - NBC Universal is in talks to buy the privately held live-action film studio DreamWorks SKG, according to news reports Thursday. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Thursday that Universal was considering acquiring the studio founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. The New York Post first reported the talks on Wednesday."

NOTE: It makes no reference to the animated film division of Dreamworks -- a publicly traded company.


From Russell Meyer on July 28, 2005 at 6:18 AM
It's really not that surprising. Two of the founders of Dreamworks, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg have lost interest (I think that David Geffen actually sold his way out of Dreamworks a couple of years ago, and is no longer in the entertainment business). The original plan of the company was to be a small market-niche entertainment company, and the successes that Speilberg has had with the film aspect of the company has more than met the expectations set by the founders. They've gotten back more than 10 times their original investment, so as far as they're concerned, they don't really care what happens. Currently, the entire company is Steven's baby anyway. Throw in the fact that Speilberg no longer needs his own studio for artistic freedom (he could get a $100 million budget for a film about paint drying), the purchase is not really a surprise. Dreamworks was mostly spawned out of Universal, and now that the founders no longer have the need for the young entertainment goliath, they can pawn the operational costs on someone else, Universal.
From Cameron Rust on July 28, 2005 at 4:19 PM
There will be a children's Howl-O-Scream show in the Abbey Stone Theatre this fall, probably the Storytellers from LotD. The new show for the Abbey will be Irish themed, but not necessarily dancing-oriented. I don't really know what other type of show could come in that is "Irish-based" as IT already has singing, dancing, and music. Also, a new Imaginique-style show will replace Imaginique. The show will be of the same nature, and have the same creator (Neil Goldberg) but with a different name.

Also, being one of those so-called "Groupies," I can say that I'll be glad to see the show go, as it has had the longest run of any show in that theatre's history. One of the driving factor's for that show's popularity was that people described it as "Riverdance" which it is anything but. The air-conditioning also has alot to do with it.

From J. Dana on July 28, 2005 at 10:52 PM
Dreamworks Animation (around $4 billion) is a publicly traded company and will not be included in any way in the Universal purchase. Dreamworks was once a shining star (American Beauty and Gladiator), but it can't buy a hit/award these days. It's latest attempt--The Island--has fizzled fast. The animation division is four times as valuable as the live-action division. With no long-term hits on the horizen, Dreamworks is actually no more than a single name: "Speilberg." A big name, true, but still, Dreamworks' total asking price--according to the Dailies here in L.A.--is a little over one billion. That may sound like alot, but it's more like Speilberg, Geffen and Katzenburg are jumping off this sinking ship...take the money and run. All I can say is this: What, exactly, is Universal getting? Speilberg already does films for all studios, not just Dreamworks. Katzenburg runs the animation division (not part of the deal), and Geffen is a music mogul, but Dreamworks music has been sold. So, Universal is spending a bundle on....NOTHING!!! This is one of the DUMBEST and MOST ASSANINE decisions EVER. Hey, Universal, I've got some swampland in Florida to sell ya...oh, wait--you've already got that.
From TH Creative on July 29, 2005 at 6:58 AM
In other news "Lachlan Murdoch, a son of Rupert Murdoch and a possible heir to his father's leadership of News Corp., resigned his executive position with the company."

Peter Chernoff is now the front runner to replace Mr. Rupert Murdoch. That's interesting because Mr. Chernoff was under consideration as a potential replacement for Michael Eisner at Disney. Seems like Mr. Chernoff gambled and won.

From Kevin Baxter on July 30, 2005 at 1:53 PM
Yeah, DreamWorks can't buy a hit nowadays. Meet the Fockers was a HUGE failure at almost $280M!!! Shark Tale, which was released prior to the split, made over $160M domestically. Collateral made over $100M, the cheap Anchorman made more than $84M and the also-cheap Terminal snagged more than $77M (and made more than $100M beyond that internationally). So how exactly are they falling apart when their Shrek 2-fueled 2004 was MAJOR for the studio, and they have only released two films this year: the deserved bomb known as The Island and the MONEY-MAKING Ring Two??? Sheesh. More on this later...

(Oh... kudos to McDonald's for dumping the up-and-down Disney license. The chain is simply too big for crap like The Emperor's Newer Groove: Electric Boogaloo, while they wait for the next Pixar film. Still, this could be a boon for smaller chains. If Disney was smart, they'd try to get something going with the Yum chains - Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, A&W and Long John Silver's - and do something different with each one. Hey, the Muppets were already involved with both Pizza Hut AND Long John Silver's!)

As for IOA... first off, Spidey wasn't their last "big" project, since it opened with the park. It's damning enough just to say they have only opened two attractions since the park opened in 1999 - StormForce and Flying Unicorn - and neither are worthwhile.

Personally, I think it is stoopid to focus on such a major attraction when the park needs something NOW! The flying JP coaster with the pteranodon "cage" was a perfectly acceptable idea and the cage sitting next to the famous JP Discovery Center would have been a nice addition to the lake's skyline.

But I don't think the ride will seem too much like Mummy. First, there'll be no backward section, I'm sure. Second, it'll all be outdoors (or mostly). Third, the Italian Job trains have a little movement to them, whereas the Mummy coasters don't. So really the only similarity I see is the act structure: the first act is Discovery and the second act is Escaping. Who knows about the third act, since it isn't really all that obvious in the Mummy rides. I assume it will just be Success, since I don't see a T-Rex blowing up or getting eaten by another one.

Still, it took a year for Premier to build Paramount's version, so why would it take two for this? If Universal started NOW, they could have it done sometime next year. This clearly isn't as complicated at Mummy. And if there isn't a building - or much of one - then this is little more than a regular coaster with major theming.

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