The BLOG FLUME -- A Bad Day on the Mummy
Universal Orlando pulls out all the stops to say, "It wasn't our fault" after a guest death. Eisner's two-year exit plan is a no-go. Hong Kong tops off the new Disney park. And Georgia rattles some swords.
Written by J. Dana
[Editor's note: We kick off 'Persister,' our search for a new Blog Flume columnist, with the gentleman whose TPI column the Blog Flume replaced -- J. Dana. He's back, rested and ready with a busy news day.]Tweet
Disneyland's Thunder Mountain isn't the only theme park coaster having problems, it seems. Apopka, Florida's Jose Valadez, 39, this week succumbed to Imhotep's curse, literally, on Universal Orlando's Revenge of the Mummy-the Ride. The wheelchair-bound guest fell onto the tracks, hitting his head and apparently aggravating his already diseased liver condition. He died a day later at Orlando Regional Medical Center. He was trying to board the front-row of the ride when, apparently, he fell in front of the stopped vehicle and hit his head on the tracks.
But get this: Michael Rinehart, lead investigator for the Florida state Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection, said his agency probably would not conduct an independent investigation. In 2001 the major parks agreed to report hospital-visit injuries to this agency. Big deal. Disney and Universal routinely sweep this stuff under the rug. When's the last time we heard about them owning up to an accident and paying out. And what's up with the flimsy plastic "guard arm" to prevent this from happening? Did it give way? Universal assures us they are conducting their own internal investigation, even though they have already stated, "the ride did not malfunction." (Isn't that deciding the conclusion before conducting the investigation?) Valadez's wife, Paula, says she has no plans to sue. (Ignore that hacking sound, it's just me laughing up a lung). Every trial lawyer in the state has probably contacted this lady to "offer condolences." At $125 per hour, of course.
Hong Kong taxpayers can at long last see the results of their hard-earned money: the blue turret has been fitted-among much fanfare and Mickey Mouse partying, of course-atop Sleeping Beauty's Castle. The new park is set to open in either late 2005 or 2006 (in other words, they'll drop that drawbridge at the end of 2006). So, will this be a Euro Disney Flop or a Tokyo Disney success? I'm thinking it'll fall somewhere between, but more on the success side. Especially since Disney isn't actually ponying up the cash, and they're not relying on snobby French sensibilities for attendance.
"The Walt Disney Co says it expects to announce a new chief executive by next June after a search that will include both inside and outside candidates to replace Michael Eisner, who is retiring in 2006." Hmmm, methinks Eisner's two-year plus planned lame-duck session didn't sit well with board members and investors. I love this line from the story, though: "'He will continue to be the CEO until such time the board determines it is appropriate for a new CEO to take office,' Mitchell said." I think the prevailing thought with board members is that it's appropriate to get the joker out of there before a full-scale mutiny forces their hand. When it comes to money and profits, no one's too big for the boot. Maybe Eisner and Dan Rather will share a boat into the sunset.
This is Disney's next, last hope of a successful movie year. Dropping mostly bombs on us so far this year (Around the World in 80 Days, the Alamo, etc.), Pixar's latest will surely be Disney's biggest film of the year. Look for theme park character meet-and-greets, along with super-hero Halloween costumes (even before the film opens). I still think the no-cuddly-animals thing might hurt this film. But what do I know?
I'm sure we all remember thinking, "Huh?" when Disney put up $8 million for an un-written series of books by horror-meister Clive Barker (Was that a pin-headed thing to do?-darn puns) for development into films and theme park attractions. The central germ for this series is "Abarat, a magical realm composed of 25 islands. Each of the islands represents one hour out of the day, with the mysterious 25th island being where 'Time Outside of Time' supposedly exists." The books are coming, albeit slowly-but that matches Disney's usual theme park building schedule, so, I guess it's all on time.
Who'd a thunk that renaissance fairs were such big business in north Georgia? At $70 million, it doesn't look to compete for thrill-seekers, but this theme park will be a nice side visit for two groups of people: 1) Tourists driving I-75 towards Florida and 2.) theme park lovers who've tired of Six Flags over Georgia. Oh, and that third group of people: renaissance fanatics-"No swords allowed on the Log Flume, sir."
Closed last year, Central Florida's famed "first" theme park, Cypress Gardens, is set to open a new, improved alternative on Nov. 18. New owner Kent Buescher has rechristened the storied park as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, and has installed new thrill rides (coasters) and is putting together a brand new water ski show. There's just one thing this guy hasn't put in, though, that can mean the difference between success or failure--an interstate. The Gardens' locale in an out-of-the-way spot in Winter Haven has made it a not-so-must-see attraction in years past. Buescher reinvigorated an amusement park in South Georgia, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. For now, anyway. Good luck!
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