By Robert NilesOur goal with this year's Theme Park Insider Tournament is to show our many friends throughout the United States some of the cool attractions and theme parks elsewhere in the world. Most theme park fans in the U.S. know about the big Disney and Universal parks outside America, but there are some other great parks in Asia and Europe that should earn a place on fans' wish lists to visit.
Published: March 7, 2014 at 12:21 PM
Germany's Europa Park is one of those. The second-most popular theme park in Europe, after Disneyland Paris, Europa Park is owned by the Mack family and the park serves as a showcase for Mack Rides products. One of those is Blue Fire, a Mack megacoaster that debuted in 2009.
It's not the tallest or fastest coaster in the park (wait a minute....), but it's a peppy launched coaster that features a vertical loop, twisted horseshoe roll and a heartline roll. Let's ride:
Blue Fire's opponent today is the park's tallest and fastest coaster, and one of the few non-Mack rides in the park. The Mercedes-Benz-sponsored Silver Star is another Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, topping out at 240 feet and with a top speed of 79 miles per hour.
Climb aboard for your virtual ride:
Okay, it's decision time. Which of these coasters should advance to the next round?
By Robert NilesKing Kong is set to make its return to the Universal Orlando Resort. The great ape, star of movies from the 1933 Fay Wray original to the 2005 Peter Jackson blockbuster, once made a home at Universal Studios Florida, before the Kongfrontation ride closed in 2002 to make way for the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. When Kong returns, it will be to Universal Orlando's other theme park, Islands of Adventure.
Published: March 7, 2014 at 11:40 AM
We've known for some time that Universal Creative designers have been kicking around ideas for the Return of the Kong. As a result, theme park fans for months have been spreading rumors about a new Kong ride in one of the parks or the other. But ideas are worthless until they become reality. Lots of "blue sky" attraction ideas never make it to development. When parks start filing for permits with local authorities and start hiring contractors to develop the plans, that is when an idea become a project worth reporting as fact. That is when parks are putting real money behind an idea.
We appear to be at that stage now with Kong. Universal Orlando filed a permit application with the City of Orlando this week for a demolition project to clear space for either the new Kong attraction or possibly for a fifth hotel on the Universal Orlando property. We don't know for certain which project this permit represents, but we've heard from enough other sources within the industry to confirm that both projects are happening.
In addition, multiple Universal team members have reported seeing markers that suggest impending demolition work around the old Triceratops Encounter space in Jurassic Park, which is the land next to which industry sources have said a new Kong attraction would go. Frankly, space seems tight on that side of Jurassic Park with the show building for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey encroaching into much of that land's old empty space, which is why we've been skeptical of rumors that Kong would go in on that site. (Oh, please don't let this just be a Kong-topped polercoaster.) There's more space for a new attraction on the other side of Jurassic Park, near the new Cabana Bay hotel.
Universal lost the original version of the Kong animatronic attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 when the soundstage that housed that encounter on the park's backlot tour burned in a major fire at the studio. Universal ultimately decided to replace that attraction with the film-based King Kong 360/3D encounter, directed by Jackson, which opened in 2010.
With demolition on schedule soon, construction on Orlando's new Kong attraction, whatever and wherever it turns out to be, could begin once Diagon Alley opens to the public this summer. And development of the fifth hotel should be expected to begin not long after Universal wraps up its fourth hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort later this spring.
Expect this as the new normal at the Universal Orlando Resort. As one major new attraction development wraps up, a new one will begin. As one new hotel opens, construction will start on the next. Meanwhile, new developments continue to begin over in CityWalk, too, beyond the new restaurants and shops that Universal Orlando already has announced for this spring and summer.
What are you hoping for in a new Kong attraction — or a new hotel — at the Universal Orlando Resort?
By Robert NilesThe Walt Disney Company has introduced, or at least popularized, many of the great ride systems that define dark rides today: omnimovers, motion simulators, motion-base vehicles. And in 2000, Disney welcomed a new "trackless" ride system to its Tokyo Disneyland park, with the introduction of Pooh's Hunny Hunt.
Published: March 6, 2014 at 11:30 AM
With a trackless ride system, visitors' ride vehicles can move around a themed space in seemingly unpredictable patterns. Designers can create multiple paths through which riders can experience an attraction, increasing the appeal of coming back to ride again and again. On Pooh's Hunny Hunt, different ride vehicles get to linger with different ride elements in several of the rooms of the ride, allowing for a more intimate experience than one can get on a never-stopping chain of slow-moving ride vehicles.
Last year, Disney went back to the trackless system in debuting Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland. The winner of the 2013 Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best new attraction, Mystic Manor was an instant hit, with on-ride videos winning raves from fans all over the world.
Today, in the Theme Park Insider Tournament, we're asking you to select one of these two wildly popular rides to advance to the next round of the tournament. Here are the on-ride videos:
Tokyo Disneyland's Pooh's Hunny Hunt:
Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor:
European theme park fans will get to experience a Disney trackless ride of their own this summer when Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remi debuts at Walt Disney Studios Paris. As for American theme park fans? Well... flights leave daily to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris?
By Robert NilesBased on the thousands of reader ratings that Theme Park Insider readers have submitted over the past couple years, it's clear that our readers love Bolliger & Mabillard roller coasters — especially B&M's hyper models. Tall, fast, smooth and offering plenty of airtime, the B&M hyper appeals to fans who want a thrilling physical ride experience without head-banging restraints or stomach-churning inversions.
Published: March 5, 2014 at 11:09 AM
A theme park pretty much guarantees itself a hit when it installs a B&M hyper. But, so far, there's only one theme park in the world that's gone for a sequel, offering its fans two B&M hypers.
That's Canada's Wonderland, in Toronto, and its two B&M hypers face off today to determine which will be North America's sole quarterfinalist in this year's Theme Park Insider Tournament, which features top theme park rides in parks outside the United States.
Our vote today features Behemoth, a 2008 hyper that reaches 230 feet with a top speed of 77 mph.
And the opponent?
It's Leviathan, opened in 2012, with a height of 306 feet and a top speed of 92 mph.
Time to vote! The winner advances to the semifinal round of the roller coaster bracket.
Tomorrow: Back to the dark ride bracket for Mystic Manor versus Pooh's Hunny Hunt.
By Jeff ElliottIslands of Adventure – King Kong – While this should still be classified as a rumor, it looks like they are going to start digging behind the Thunder Falls restaurant any day now. As of a couple of days ago, trees have been marked, presumably deciding which ones will go and which ones will stay. There have also been trees marked around the Triceratops Encounter.
Published: March 5, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Disney’s California Adventure – The line for Soarin’ are going to act twice as long for the near term. They have one of the two theaters closed for rehab.
In other news, this park just turned 13 and managed to not burn down or have some kind of weird tragedy happen to it. I’m sure some of you are amazed that it wasn’t turned back into a parking lot after the first ten years, but it looks like Universal has learned from Disney.
Universal Studios Japan – This video is a couple of months old, but it shows the progress that they are making on Harry Potter Land
Epcot – According to the latest rumors (as in we won’t know if this is anywhere close to the truth until we see shovels in the ground) Imagineering has been working on some idea that would bring Frozen to the Norway Pavilion, with the intention of replacing Maelstrom. Just Blue Sky designs at this point…but it is nice to see them thinking about it. Disney was very quick to react to how popular Frozen has been. The characters from Frozen have seen crazy long lines since their first appearances at the parks.
Disneyland – I know this is old news, but I fear that if it is not mentioned here, it doesn’t exist. Thor: Treasures of Asgard opened up right next to the Iron Man exhibit in Innoventions.
Captain America – This Innoventions exhibit should open on March 7th in the general area of Thor and Iron Man.
Big Thunder Mountain is getting ready to open back up after a 6 month rehab that actually lasted 14 months. Cast Members should be performing on-ride testing by March 7th and it should open up to the rest of us by the end of March.
Tomorrowland Star Wars – Chalk this one up to a rumor, but there is talk about knocking out the Autotopia and Subs to put in a large Star Wars Land with a Speeder Bike attraction on the spot that Autotopia currently occupies.
Here is another installment in the Every Role is a Starring Role series:
Disney’s Magic Kingdom – Seven Dwarves - It looks like they only have a few final finishing touches to put on this ride. So it will open in time for Christmas.
Universal Studios Hollywood – Apparently the Terminator 2 building had enough room in it that the Despicable Me attraction will have two different pre-show areas and two different theaters. After the show, both theaters will dump out into the same Minion Dance Party and then into Super Silly Funland.
Here’s a Harry Potter Update for the West Coast:
Star Wars Weekend @ Disney’s Hollywood Studios – There has been a plus and a cut. The good news is that it will run for an extra week, from May 16th to June 15th on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The bad news is that the Hyperspace Hoopla has been cancelled. We have not forgotten you Hoopla!!
Busch Gardens Tampa – Falcon’s Fury – We have new video and a rare look inside of a drop tower.
Six Flags Great America – We have new videos for the new Goliath coaster from Rocky Mountain Coasters
Kings Island – Banshee has coaster cars on the track and the retheming of Flight Deck to The Bat is progressing well. If the public likes this change, then you can expect the names all of the rides in the park to change every few years.
Knoebels – This park has already announced what they are installing for the 2015 season, and steel is making a comeback. The new attraction will be called Impulse, a steel looping Zierer Tower Coaster.
Jazzland – In a prime candidate for the news of the unfathomable, a new proposal has been submitted to turn the former Six Flags New Orleans site back into Jazzland. Consider me very skeptical at this point. Considering how much Six Flags hated being there and how quickly they hit the door, I wouldn’t consider this proposal anything other than a wild dream until the shovels are in the sand.
Sochi Park – Showing a remarkable burst of speed right when it counted, Sochi Park at the Olympic Village in Russia just barely - crap we missed it…
Dollywood – Firechaser Express should start testing soon.
Lost Parks of Northern California – Santa’s Village – This is the ongoing history series by ACE of Northern California.
Star Wars Universe – It looks like we’ve gained access to some of the first footage from the new JJ Abrams Star Wars movie.
Ride of the Week – I have never seen a full video post of this ride, so it is going to get the first Ride of the Week for 2014: Sum of All Thrills at Epcot
The 2014 Theme Park Insider Tournament: Sesame Street: Spaghetti Space Chase vs. Sindbad's Storybook Voyage
By Robert NilesIt's March, which means that it is once again tournament time!
Published: March 4, 2014 at 3:57 PM
One of our goals with the annual Theme Park Insider Tournament is to draw your attention to some of the great attractions at theme parks around the world you might not know from a personal visit. Unfortunately, many of those great attractions end up as sacrificial lambs, knocked out of the first round by more familiar attractions in the United States.
We've been running tournaments each March since 2008, so you've had plenty of opportunities to vote for attractions in the United States. So this year, we're going to help ensure that the spotlight remains on those other great attractions outside the U.S. by limiting the field to those rides.
We have selected eight dark rides and eight roller coasters from theme parks outside the United States for this year's Theme Park Insider Tournament field. They include some of the world's top-rated rides, as judged by Theme Park Insider readers. Since we're trying to focus on unique attractions, they do not include dark rides that share the same name or substantially similar ride experience as "sister" attractions in the United States, even if they might be different than the U.S. versions.
So you won't find Disneyland Paris' version of Pirates of the Caribbean or Tokyo Disney Sea's Indiana Jones - Temple of the Crystal Skull in this year's field. But you will find some wonderfully unique attractions that, we hope, might inspire you to dream about — or perhaps even begin to plan — a trip abroad to visit some of these gems.
Concerned that you don't know enough about these rides to make a decision? Don't be. Each day, we'll post links to those rides' Theme Park Insider attraction listing pages, so you can read more about them and see what other Theme Park Insider readers have said. We'll also try to provide on-ride video for the rides, too, so you can take at least a virtual trip on each ride before voting. Then just pick the one you'd want to go on first if both that day's rides magically appeared at your nearest theme park.
We'll start the tournament today on the dark ride side of the field. Since I'm late posting this today, we'll open the voting on this match-up for 48 hours,
Here are the first-round votes, and when they'll appear. We will alternate each day between the dark ride and roller coaster brackets. The winners of each bracket will face off at the end for the overall title of best theme park attraction outside the United States.
So let's get the tournament started, shall we? Today's match-up features two dark rides aimed at kids, but with plenty of appeal for grown-ups, too.
Universal Studios Singapore's Sesame Street: Spaghetti Space Chase offers a wacky hurtle through space, where you will help Elmo, Big Bird, and their Muppet friends to defeat the evil Macaroni the Merciless as he plots to steal the world's spaghetti reserves. Now, if you're wondering why the Sesame Street characters are in a Universal Studios theme park, let's note that SeaWorld/Busch Gardens only has the U.S. rights to the Sesame Workshop characters. In Asia, those rights belong to Universal, which is why you'll find Sesame Street in Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Japan.
And the opponent?
Tokyo DisneySea's Sindbad's Storybook Voyage takes you on a gentle musical adventure through the legendary character's epic voyage, from his home port to Mermaid Rocks, to Rukh Island, the Cave of the Giant, Palace of the Sultan, Land of the Monkeys, Whale Straits and back home. This indoor boat ride is based on the Persian legend and includes a theme song composed by Disney Legend Alan Menken, "Compass of your Heart."
Time to vote!
By Jacob Sundstrom[Editor's note: When Disney announced it would run another 24-hour party at Walt Disney World and Disneyland this Memorial Day, Jacob Sundstrom was inspired to write about his experience working the first "One More Disney Day" party, on Feb. 29, 2012.]
Published: March 3, 2014 at 11:57 AM
I left early to get to work that night. We had been full warned that it was going to be a madhouse around the park, particularly as guests got off of work and headed to the park. I assumed the whole thing was overblown — who really wants to spend a whole night at Disneyland, anyway? As it turns out, upwards of 60,000 people do.
Cast members greet guests at 6 am, the start of the first One More Disney Day. Crowds were manageable most of the day, then got crazy that evening. And, of yeah, do you remember that "Modern Family" was filming in the park that day, too?
Traffic was backed up all the way down Ball Road. It had clogged up the 5 freeway and turned the area surrounding the Disneyland resort into some sort of southern California traffic nightmare. One More Disney Day had started that morning, but it really hit top gear that night. I parked my car in the Ball Cast Member Lot, which is located directly next to the Mickey and Friends Parking Garage. I was fortunate.
Most cast members park in the Katella lot, which means they need to be shuttled to the front gates by buses. The buses, of course, had to drive all the way through the congested mess to get to their final destination, causing god only knows how many cast members to be late for their shifts. Or maybe they were the lucky ones. When I clocked in for my Fantasmic! shift and walked out in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean I was put to work immediately.
“Quick, move those strollers to the front of the River Belle Terrace.”
“Help me take down the extended Pirates queue.”
“Remind those guests that they’re in a standing area.”
“We need to put up the seating ropes.”
I never stopped moving. When I got my first break at 8 p.m. I plopped down on a chair in the break room above the River Belle Terrace and looked around at the cast members I was working with. We had survived summer. We had survived Christmas together, but the looks on their faces said it all. None of us were really prepared for the chaos happening in the park that night.
We had all worked busy nights before, most of us had worked dozens of them. It wasn’t the amount of people that made it a madhouse; it was how early they got there, it was how late they knew they would be staying. Guests often camp out early for Fantasmic! on busy nights, but to have a nearly full seating area before 8 p.m.? That’s unheard of. And these guests were in it for the long haul.
They had blankets and strollers and more blankets and backpacks. They thought it would be okay to leave their blankets and backpacks unattended while they enjoyed the rides. They were mistaken.
Having one person guard a spot for a show is not a great idea. On a night when the park will close due to reaching capacity? It’s a suicide mission. As guests become more frustrated with their surroundings, they become less likely to accept someone engaging in this kind of behavior. On a slower night, guests might let it go — when it’s packed? You’re going to hear about it. Playing peacemaker between guests screaming at each other is one of the scariest things a cast member will ever have to do. I was called some awful things when I worked at Disneyland, but it was easy to displace that frustration. They weren’t mad at me, they were mad at a rule or a situation. But when guests are upset with one another...it’s unpredictable — and things are much more likely to escalate to physical violence.
The one situation I witnessed did not come to that, but I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest the entire time I tried to resolve the situation.
Things calmed down once the seating area filled up. “The next show is at ____” became the spiel as cast members tried to direct guest flow throughout New Orleans Square. Surges of guests came and went and cast members dealt with the capacity crowd admirably, from what I saw. What made the last part of the night so tough was how simple things got in the middle. I became accustomed to my throat being sore, to answering guest questions and to speaking very loudly when trying to disseminate direction information to throngs of guests.
But after the final show of the night, the crowd didn’t dissipate. I was supposed to get off of work at midnight. They asked if I could stay on a little longer and I agreed. I wanted to help my lead team, I wanted to help the other cast members that were staying. An extra half hour became an extra hour which became an extra two hours.
I stood at the top of the hill that leads down to the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean for nearly two hours directing guest flow, something ordinarily done only at the beginning of a night working the show. After a while you lock into a routine — you hardly notice your aching feet and your tired voice. And then you are told you can go home.
It was one of those nights where you get in your car, drive home and lie in bed, but can’t sleep. The adrenaline of the night is still pumping through your veins and you can’t disengage the part of your brain that is constantly thinking about the job. Did I take down the ropes in C Section? Did I clock back in after my lunch? Did I check the C-Wall? Are we throwing up a block after the show?
The One More Disney Day was undoubtedly the hardest day I ever had in the two years I worked at Disneyland. It was exhausting, it was trying but ultimately, it was fulfilling. I’d love to go back to one of the Disney parks to experience this day from a guest’s perspective; I only hope that the guests in attendance remember how much hard work the cast members are doing in order to make their experience a great one.
Have you ever worked at a theme park? We're always looking for funny, touching or insightful stories from former park employees. Please email email@example.com if you'd like to share your story on Theme Park Insider.
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