June 2006Subscribe: in a reader, e-mail, , or
By Robert NilesTraditionally, thrill ride fans measured the intensity of their favorite rides three ways: tallest, fastest, longest. But over the past decade, theme park thrills have added a fourth dimension.
Published: June 30, 2006 at 9:52 AM
Not height, not speed, not length, but the pressure exerted on one's body. With twists, turns and sharp acceleration, even a relatively low speed ride can exert force on the body three, four and even five times the force of gravity.
Witness Rock n' Roller Coaster at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Walt Disney World, where yesterday a 12-year-old boy died. Authorities have yet to determine the cause of death, but in 2000 the ride was the scene of a non-fatal incident where a rider suffered bleeding in the brain.
High G forces and circulatory problems provide a potentially fatal mix. Put someone with a congenital defect, or even a bad case of high blood pressure, on a high G force ride and aneurysms and stroke can result. Such preexisting medical conditions led to the death of two riders in the past year on Disney World's Mission: Space, another high G force ride. On Mission: Space, the peak G force is much lower than on Rock n' Roller Coaster, but it is sustained for a much longer period of time.
Yes, theme parks could do more to warn their visitors of the danger of high G attractions. Parks should urge people with high blood pressure to avoid these rides, as they already warn or ban people with heart, neck or back problems, as well as pregnant women. And I'd love to see parks publicize the G forces exerted on their rides, along with the time that riders are exposed to that force.
To that end, I'm asking registered Theme Park Insider readers today to help us collect that information. If you know the G force of a particular ride, please browse to it in our listings, then click the [Update this description] link to add that information to the ride's description.
But the tragic number of deaths at Walt Disney World over the past years, many linked to high G force attractions, might signal the end of the development of such rides in the theme park industry. Unlike heart or back conditions, or pregnancy, most people at risk for the type of ailments exposed by high G rides do not know that they are at risk, severely undercutting (but not negating) the effectiveness of stronger warnings.
The theme park industry already is moving away from the high thrill arms race of the past decade. Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro has declared that his company, the industry leader in that arms race, is done with record-setting, high-intensity thrill rides, and will instead look to recapture parents with kids by offering more family-friendly rides. Talk to theme park designers, and they express their excitement not for new ways to throw riders' bodies around, but for new ways to engage their minds.
The near future of the theme park industry lies not in thrills, but interactivity. Smart theme parks are looking for new attractions that engage riders, empowering them individually, or collectively with the other riders in their vehicle, to alter or determine the effects and outcome of the ride. Theme park managers, like their counterparts in the movie business, have learned that repeat visits create blockbusters. And that the video game generation craves attractions that they can control.
Rides like Disney's Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Universal's Men in Black Alien Attack, and Legoland's Fun Town Fire Academy and Splash Battle represent the future. And with insurance rates for high G force attractions sure to rise in the aftermath of this most recent death, that future might be coming to a theme park near you sooner than anyone might have expected.
By Pam ShueNews just broke that a 12-year-old boy died on the Rock N' Roller Coaster at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Walt Disney World. The boy was declared dead while en route to Celebration Hospital after the 11:30 am (ET) incident. Park officials said the ride was operating normally, but the boy was not responsive when his train returned to the station.
Published: June 29, 2006 at 12:36 PM
Update: Authorities have identified the boy as Michael Russell, 12, of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Information released at a press conference said that the boy appeared in good health and had not complained about being sick before the ride.
Update 2: The boy had a congenital heart defect, discovered during an autopsy on Friday. Additional tests will be performed to confirm the exact cause of death. The boy's father, Byron Russell, an Iraq War veteran who was part of the 5th Special Forces Group from Fort Campbell, Ky., performed CPR on his son until paramedics arrived.
By Robert NilesAugust 19 is the official last day of operation for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? at Disney-MGM Studios. The interactive game show's been on the block for months now, following both the cancellation of the prime-time version of the show and the shuttering of Anaheim's installation of the attraction.
Published: June 28, 2006 at 9:17 AM
Once the show's closed, Disney will start converting the space into a new Pixar-themed dark ride, described in much detail recently by Al Lutz (following a tip from a French website that uncovered a Disney patent application key to the new attraction.) The ride will also debut at Disney's California Adventure, where it will run in Paradise Pier, in a space previously occupied by counter-service restaurants. Look for a late 2008 debut for the rides.
By Jason GoldsmithBye-Bye LeMans Raceway. Hello new attraction. According to the latest press release on the Busch Gardens Williamsburg/Europe website, they are officially getting rid of LeMans Raceway to make way for a new attraction. Of course, they don't tell you anything about the attraction; just that "details coming soon."
Published: June 27, 2006 at 11:07 AM
[Editor's note: We covered the local planning approval process for this new attraction back in March.]
By Robert NilesSeveral readers have been writing up their early-summer theme and amusement park visits by submitting trip reports to Theme Park Insider's discussion board. I wanted to highlight two:
Published: June 27, 2006 at 10:59 AM
These are two smaller theme parks (fewer than two million visitors a year) that don't get the full attraction-by-attraction listings on Theme Park Insider. But folks always are welcomed to submit trip reports on such parks. These reports help guide other readers to the worthy attractions at other locations that are too small to get into the main listings.
By Robert NilesAn accident Friday shut down Volcano: The Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion in Virginia. A train stalled after launching from the load station, rolling back slightly, then leaving 15 riders stranded on the track of the Intamin suspended coaster, where they had to be cherry-picked by local emergency personnel. Two people were hospitalized for their injuries, a boy who was treated and released for a leg injury and a man who suffered more serious, unspecified injuries.
Published: June 24, 2006 at 3:25 PM
High-speed launch coasters, such as Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka, have had problems before with debris-spewing launch failures, but as I understand Volcano (I haven't seen it in person), the mechanism there is different. Haven't heard a report yet about how long the ride will be down, so I'll defer to our readers in the area to submit an update.
By Robert Niles[* Update, March 24, 2010: Folks continue to come to this article below from 2006 via the Google archive search, so let me bring you up to date. Six Flags sold a few of its smaller parks back in 2006, but not Magic Mountain. Six Flags Magic Mountain remains part of the chain, is not for sale and doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Published: June 22, 2006 at 4:33 PM
Visit Theme Park Insider's Six Flags Magic Mountain for the current attraction line-up, reader ratings and reviews, as well as links to fresher news and discussion threads.]
* * *
June 22, 2006 - Six Flags announced plans Thursday to sell or close six of its properties, including the chain's once-flagship park, Magic Mountain, in Valencia, Calif.
In a press release issued after the U.S. stock market closed Thursday, Six Flags announced that it would sell the properties, to either a single buyer or multiple buyers, or that it might sell or redeploy the properties' attractions, to clear the land for real estate sale.
The six parks on the block are Magic Mountain, Elitch Gardens in downtown Denver, Colorado, Darien Lake near Buffalo, New York, Wild Waves and Enchanted Village outside Seattle, Washington and the waterparks Six Flags Waterworld in Concord and Six Flags Splashdown in Houston.
Long-time TPI readers are familiar with our coverage of Six Flags' financial struggles, and we predicted some of the parks would be going back in January. With Paramount Parks already selling out to Cedar Fair, one wonders what company will be able and willing to mount a bid to purchase the Six Flags parks. Real estate sales, alas, seem the most likely result for most of the parks. Magic Mountain, obviously, is the most viable park among the six, but Cedar Fair already has a Southern California park, in Buena Park's Knott's Berry Farm. The land underneath Magic Mountain would be worth many millions, even in SoCal's stalled real estate market, if no theme park company is willing to add this roller coaster haven to its portfolio.
Six Flags shares plunged, losing nearly a fifth of their value in after-hours trading, following the announcement.
Update: A comment I've made in a couple TV interviews since the story broke: It'd be ironic if Magic Mountain were sold off for real estate development, given that real estate development is the reason the park was built in the first place.
Magic Mountain was not always a Six Flags park. Its builder and original owner was the Newhall Land Company, the developer that built many of the communities around the park. Newhall Land thought it needed a big attraction to lure families over the pass from the San Fernando Valley into the Santa Clarita. So it contracted SeaWorld's designers and built Magic Mountain.
How ironic, now, that the park might fall victim to the success of the real estate market it was built to inspire.
Update (9/27/2006): It looks like Magic Mountain will not close in 2007, at least.
By Joe LaneChildren and their parents were present at Islands of Adventure this Thursday for the grand opening ceremony of The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. Sporting red and white cat hats and other Seussian-style paraphernalia, the group paraded through the middle of Seuss Landing with a cast of characters, waving banners in celebration of the event.
Published: June 22, 2006 at 4:26 PM
The ride signifies a kind of completion of Seuss Landing since Islands of Adventure opened to the public in 1999. The original ride, themed after the Dr. Seuss story The Sneetches, was designed to be a ride vehicle on a high rail style of attraction, with the ability to bump the vehicle in front of you. After about a year and a half of development and construction, the newly redesigned attraction is now ready to ride.
Many have said that the Trolley Train Ride, while not a major addition to the park, is a fine compliment to the brightly colored, wonderfully wubbulous island of Seuss Landing. It's a small element that adds to the overall theme of the area, enhancing the overall atmosphere. There are even things you can see only from the twenty foot heights of the train.
In a way, the Trolley Train Ride is an asset to Seuss Landing much as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority is an asset to Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. It's a slow, tame ride that features a lot of audio and visual stimulus. Because of this, the ride is perfect for young children and their parents, as well as Seussophiles of any age. The multiple stories integrated into the attraction means there's a lot to see.
Guests who board the left train will be treated to an audio assault of sounds as the narrator mentions passing objects and asks the passengers to make sounds, all inspired by the Seuss book Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? . The train enters the Circus McGurkus cafe before passing into a Star On Sneetch machine with an assortment of visual elements. The ride then travels out to the Sneetch Beach before coming back in to the load/unload area.
Guests who board the right train will listen to an audio narration inspired by And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. The train will pass through the Sneetch Star Off machine before circling the Caro-Seuss-el and out to Sneetch Beach before returning to the load/unload.
By Robert NilesOne of the frequently asked questions I get e-mailed (and that we get submitted to the Discussion Board), is how does one contact someone at a park he or she's visited about lost and found, a complaint, a compliment, a job, etc.
Published: June 21, 2006 at 11:23 AM
Theme Park Insider, is, of course, an independent consumers' guide and has no relationship with any theme park or theme park company. But I'm happy to pass along contact information when I have it.
So to keep all those phone numbers, addresses and websites in one place, I've created a wiki page for How to Contact Various Theme Parks. Please feel free to add to or correct information on that page, with any numbers or addresses that you've used to contact the parks in the past.
Let's do keep the contact information listed there restricted to "official" contacts, that is, people authorized to have contact with the public about such things. (In other words, don't submit the e-mail address of your buddy in accounting!) And we're not looking for press and publicity office contacts, either. They're not set up for customer relations stuff.
But if you know a number or address that will get your comment or request to someone at the park who can help the public, please submit it! Thanks.
By Robert NilesA 4-year-old girl suffered foot injuries on Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster at Universal Studios Florida yesterday. It was the sort of accident that's too common with young kids at theme parks, and a reminder to parents to be extra vigilant with your kids on and around theme park rides.
Published: June 20, 2006 at 9:01 AM
The girl's foot became wedged between the coaster and load platform when she was getting off the ride. Little feet can find their ways into the smallest of spaces. (Trust me on this. I wouldn't go on an escalator for years after my foot got caught in one at the Topanga Plaza mall when I was 5.) From the anecdotal evidence we've collected here at Theme Park Insider, kids are at greatest risk on theme park rides when they are getting on or off the ride vehicle. And especially when they are exiting, as the trepidation of getting on a new ride's been replaced by the carefree exhilaration of having ridden it.
So please take a look at our theme park safety tips. And parents, do not hestitate to just pick up and carry your small kids onto and off theme park ride vehicles. I'm happy to hear that the girl will be okay. [BTW, to our friends at the Sentinel, you needed eight staff writers to cover this? ;-) Was someone from Trib corporate visiting, so everyone wanted to get out of the office?] And that the ride checked out and is reopened today. Let's all do what we can to keep our kids safe at the parks this summer.
By Robert NilesDedicated theme park fans love the first day of passholder preview for any new attraction. It's your first chance to experience a fresh new ride, while collecting bragging rights for getting on that ride before anyone else. Unfortunately, those benefits come at a cost -- you'll often end up waiting longer in the queue for that ride on its passholder preview day than anyone will have to wait for that ride ever again.
Published: June 17, 2006 at 11:53 PM
Hence the two-hour wait Saturday for Splash Battle, the new aquatic shoot-'em-up at Legoland California. I doubt anyone will encounter such a long wait for this clever little ride, at least after the non-passholding public gets its shot at it next weekend. With a more reasonable wait time, this Pirate-themed attraction from Preston & Barbieri will demand multiple rides from eager kids, and probably more than a few parents.
Up to four passengers ride in each boat, which runs on a track above the water in Legoland's new "Pirates Shores" themed land. You sit back-to-back, in rows of two, with each rider manning his own water cannon. The serpentine track brings each boat in range of other boats on the ride, as well as spectators watching from the shore. This is no one-sided battle, however, as the spectators are armed with water cannons of their own, which they use cheerfully in soaking each passenger on the ride.
The grown-ups, of course, provide the biggest, and most tempting targets. Being the first day of public operation, several of the cannons failed to work, however, including those on a few of the boats. Perhaps the problem will turn out to be nothing more than an opening day glitch. But if this turns out to be persistent, it threatens to cripple the appeal of what otherwise promises to become one of the highlights of a visit to the Carlsbad, California park.
Pirate Shores also features a pair of water playgrounds, including the massive Soak N' Sail, which reminded me of the similarly designed water playground at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando. (Click the link for my review, from last summer.)
Bring a swimsuit and a change of clothes if planning to visit these play areas, as a light misting is not an option. Soak N' Sail dumps water by the hundreds of gallons -- throughly soaking anyone present. Kids loved it, but this is strictly a water park-style attraction, and not something to be experienced in one's "normal" clothes.
Pirate Shores opens to the public on June 21.
By Pete BrechtI was just looking at the press release that Cedar Fair put out last month when they announced the purchase of the Paramount Parks (PDF), and one thing in particular really jumped out at me: Geauga Lake's anemic attendance figures. Last year they only had 700,000 visitors! Compare that to the numbers for Cedar Point and Kings Island (both in the 3-million range), and it got me to wondering if Cedar Fair is planning on hanging onto Geauga Lake in the long term.
Published: June 14, 2006 at 2:14 PM
[Editor's note: Cedar Fair also announced today that it will raise up to $250 million through public offering of its limited partnership interests, in an effort to help pay off part of the Paramount Parks acquisition costs.]
Geauga Lake's completely redundant in terms of market coverage, and it's by far the largest physical property in the whole chain at more than a square mile. It's nearly twice the size of Cedar Point, their flagship property! I have no idea what real estate goes for in that part of the country, but a square mile of property anywhere near a major city is usually worth a pretty good chunk of change.
Geauga Lake has some really good rides (in addition to a couple of clunkers), so why not sell the land and relocate all of the good rides to other parks in the chain? Carowinds and Great America could use some help in the ride department, that's for sure. They could even leave the water park open since water parks tend to draw more of a local crowd anyway. The bottom line is that the vast majority of people who go to Geauga Lake would just switch to Cedar Point or Kings Island if Geauga Lake were closed. Where else are they going to go? Kennywood near Pittsburgh is about an hour and half from there, but so is Cedar Point. Which park would you rather go to?
By Robert NilesEl Toro, the Intamin woodie coaster with steel mega-coaster specs, officially debuts to the public Monday at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.
Published: June 11, 2006 at 7:11 PM
The coaster boasts a 188-foot lift hill, 176-foot initial drop and a top speed of 70 mph. The initial drop's angle of 76 degrees is reported to be the steepest of any wooden coaster in the world.
As always, readers' reviews are warmly welcomed, on our El Toro page.
By Gareth HLast night I was fortunate to meet and discuss with one of the designers of Universal Studios Florida's new summer show for 2006.
Published: June 6, 2006 at 1:02 PM
During our conversation I managed to slip in a few questions about the new show, and also about the idea of the spheres.
This show, the largest of its Kind in the United States, will incorporate projections on to Spheres, from Within & from units placed on buildings around the lagoon. It will also feature a laser show and pyrotechnics, all fully co-ordinated with other to provide the biggest show in the world.
They have never before used 4 spheres so this is also a first for the company. The Barges that the spheres are located on are fully movable (Although they are held tight on the lagoon as the slightest movement will ruin the entire show). This means that they can be moved for future shows and events, such as Halloween Horror Nights. Bear in mind that the show's can only be performed at night as you need darkness for the effects.
The show is planned to start on July 1st. Before this they have to provide permanent power to the fourth barge, once this is done they will be able to test everything once the park is closed in the evenings.
Just out of interest, a smaller version of this set up was used at the London Eye (A very big wheel, located on the Thames River in London, offering fantastic views of London), a much smaller version was used in Las Vegas, as well as others
From our discussion this show should be worth the entrance fee alone, can't wait!
By Jason GoldsmithHas anybody seen this new site that SeaWorld has put out? It's a stand up comedian penguin joking on Shamu. I think it's a great advertisement scheme. Check it out and post what you think.
Published: June 5, 2006 at 11:01 AM
By Robert NilesAfter watching Jaws: The Musical, I had to find out more about the crew that put the video together, and how it came to be. So I fired off some questions to the video's director, Jaws skipper Colin Peterson, who graciously provided a speedy response.
Published: June 4, 2006 at 10:34 PM
Theme Park Insider: Why did you do this?
Colin Peterson: Well, first off there's an awards show that Universal puts on every year around this time called the Golden Clicker Awards. The purpose of this event is for the attractions to compete to make the best short film, all the while making fun each other and working at Universal.
TPI: When did you decide to do this, and how long did it take to put together? How and when did you film?
Peterson: Actually, the Clicker was up for vote this year at the attraction (Jaws) and the musical won by a landslide. That was in January. A script was written by Kristi Foster and we began shooting in April...at 6:30 in the morning--as all of the work had to be done before Jaws went operational. So there were many early days, but we pulled through it. It was shot on my Sony HVR-A1U High Def camera. And capturing/editing took about...32 hours.
TPI: Did you get the okay from Universal management before you started? If not, when did they find out about it and what was the reaction?
Peterson: For the Clickers, you don't really need approval from the management. However, our manager at the time, Dan Gurwitz, was more than happy to participate (which doesn't happen that often). Really the only approval that took place was during a screening process that occurred at the deadline to submit--the manager in charge watched all the videos to make sure that there wasn't any scandalous behavior or any cursing. But besides that anything goes. Actually, most (if not all) the managers loved it! I've received comments from all over the park about how great they think it is, "The best clicker in the history of clickers", and so on. I even heard that Bob Gault (UO CEO) thought it was funny.
There has been some concern over the video by some of the management, as it has started to become more popular. So the movie might not be up on YouTube for much longer. But we'll see what happens...
[Editor's note: Seriously, Universal -- Not only should this be running on YouTube, but you ought to get a half-hour special on one of your NBC Universal cable networks showcasing the whole Golden Clicker contest. You'd have every irreverent film student in America busting your doors trying to get hired at Universal Orlando. Don't you want to beat Disney for top-quality employees? You'd win a lot of love from viewers, too. -- Robert]
TPI: Do you think that the video will help attract more visitors to Jaws? Or were you not thinking about that?
Peterson: Truthfully, I wasn't thinking about putting this up on YouTube at all...but it was suggested and sounded like a great idea. I'm just so happy that so many of you have enjoyed it. We had such a great time making it; it's really a joy to think that 'other people' besides the Jaws crew find it funny. And as I said before, it's bringing a lot of attention to Jaws...which is good. We don't want to be closed again. I know for a lot of the other kids, working at the other attractions wasn't as fun.
TPI: What's your background? What made you want to direct a short film like this? Have you done other videos before?
Peterson: Really, film is my passion. I've been doing shorts and making stupid films since I was...11? Whatever the case, I've been making all sorts of movies, and have made many in the past. I did a lot of film work in high school with a group of friends (1337 Productions) down in my home town of Deerfield Beach, FL. I actually went into college thinking that I was going to major in film, but after experiencing the people and some of the classes in the program I changed my major...to philosophy, go figure.
What made me want to take charge of this project was because I've just been itching to get back into film again. And this opportunity just presented itself. I love theatre, and since I was such a promoter of the musical idea I felt that I would do the best job (which isn't saying that there isn't film talent at Jaws other than me...not at all! This project was just screaming for me...I had to answer).
TPI: What's next? Are you still at Universal? Do you want to get into film/video as a career? Or something else?
Peterson: As far as future endeavors: I'm still working at Jaws seasonally...hell, I've always been seasonal. But since I've been there for 2+ years, the other kids recognize me as 'old school'. I'd love to do this for a living, editing mostly (my true passion). Currently, I'm doing some freelance work: weddings, photo montages, etc. But it pays the bills. By the way if you in the Orlando area and need a cameraman, editor...nothing wrong with some shameless self-promotion (at least that's what my grandfather always says...). But that's pretty much it. I just love making films. And I'm truly thankful for all the hard work that so many of the skippers put into making the Clicker this year. Also, all of the messages that I've been getting from complete strangers about Jaws The Musical are fantastic, I appreciate it so much. Thanks again.
By Carey Lynn HoltsclawWith countless rumors popping up around Dollywood’s 2007 addition, the park has created a new website to add fuel to the fire:
Published: June 4, 2006 at 8:51 PM
The website will feature a new video every Friday explaining the story behind the "Mystery Mine", as well as concept artwork and other information culminating with an official announcement on July 7th.
While very little is known about the attraction at this point, a Sevier County newspaper, The Mountain Press, reported that Dollywood in March had filed papers to the Pigeon Forge Planning Commision for construction of a new 121-foot tall roller coaster. The ride is said to send guests careening through an old mineshaft, with a vertical drop over a broken trestle.
By Jason LesterIt seems the crazy skippers at Jaws at Universal Studios Florida found something to do while the ride was closed for a few months!
Published: June 3, 2006 at 4:23 PM
By sandra johnson[Editor's note: Since the name of the site is Theme Park Insider, we welcome park employees to converse with our online community. Here is a post from a SeaWorld employee (confirmed, by the way), which I've rerouted here from the discussion board. Welcome, Sandra.]
Published: June 1, 2006 at 12:42 PM
I work at Seaworld in Orlando, Florida as a Scenic artist and would like to share some new and exciting news. In 2008, we will have a brand new water park located across the street from the main park. Also, the Shamu show was just revamped and with a brand new look and new name, it is now called, Believe. Also, Happy Harbor just re-opened and it now has a roller coaster (mostly for kids) and two other really cute rides.
If you haven't visited our park in awhile you will be pleasantly surprised to see what we have done. Seaworld is constantly improving the park for our guests and we are the only park in Orlando where our guests can just walk in and see a show without standing in long lines. Our park is a hands-on animal park and Seaworld strives to be the very best.
My areas to maintain are Journey To Atlantis and Kraken and I love re-painting the murals and graphics at these two areas. I hope you all get a chance to visit our park soon!
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