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Q&A with Tony Baxter, plus a rant

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Published: January 27, 2008 at 4:06 PM

I submitted this Friday, then got hypnotized by the rain the LA area or something, because I then forgot to approve it until I saw it in the queue this morning. [slaps forehead]

Anyway, Arthur Levine over at About.com this week posted an interview that he did last year with Tony Baxter of Walt Disney Imagineering. No scoops in it, but Baxter does talk a (very) little smack about Spider-Man, and promises that WDI's got something better in the works. (Midway Mania?)

Which reminded me... it's been nine years now since Spider-Man opened at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Isn't about time that someone in this industry debuted something better? Nine years is too long for one ride to reign supreme. I get enough more frustrated when I think that Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean probably remains the best all-ages dark ride in the business. And that ride is older than I am! (And, for the record, I ain't young....)

I know that theme park rides can be hideously expensive, but so are motion pictures, and studios have produced plenty of industry-altering ones over the past four decades. Theme parks make great jack, too, so lack of income can't be an excuse.

Where is our next-gen musical, interactive, animatronic family ride? Where is the combo Robocoaster/track ride with alternate narrative elements? Why don't more coasters have custom music soundtracks? All of this is technologically possible, right now. The only thing keeping us out of these queues are theme park managers who won't green-light the concepts into designs.

Okay, so maybe Six Flags and Cedar Fair are undercapitalized right now. But they've never been the creative leaders in this business. And I know that Disney's had its management turmoil, and Universal its uncertainty over ownership. But those are past. Pardon my rant, but I want to see Disney, Universal and Busch taking it strong at each other for theme park industry creative supremacy.

Please, don't skimp on Harry Potter. Or California Adventure. Or whatever else the Big Three might envision to compete with those new developments. Let's see more cutting edge ride tech, and fresh stories, that together will get more people excited about theme parks.

Readers' Opinions

From Chris Wilkes on January 28, 2008 at 4:59 AM
I was expecting some actual talking shi* about Spider-Man. Glad to see Baxter's admission that it is a great ride and a base point they're attempting to improve upon... but again, as mentioned in the actual article, it has been 9 years... C'mon Disney!
From Mike West on January 28, 2008 at 10:03 AM
I'm just unconvinced that anyone at the helm even has a clue as to what a good new attraction would be.(Though I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with "The Mummy").I am amazed that Expedition Everest came about in such dismal creative times. It's nothing short of miraculous when you think of the fiascos like the "new tomorrowland" or as I say Ghost-Town-land.
From Bradley Robertson on January 28, 2008 at 10:27 AM
I've never quite understand the appeal to Spiderman. I think it's an okay ride, but it's also one I am willing to pass up if the line is longer than 15 minutes and I don't have an express pass. After riding The Mummy at USF this last Halloween I think that has got to be the best dark ride right now in central Florida, even though it is usually considered a coaster. However, I realize based on most online forums I am in the minority, and as long as there is some ride out there that is prompting designers to make them bigger and better I'm okay with that.

Hopefully this supposed project will show up in the next couple of years.

From Robert Niles on January 28, 2008 at 12:18 PM
I love Florida's Mummy, too, as well as Everest. But both those build on coaster technology. Men in Black comes close to what I'm looking for in an all-ages interactive attraction, but the theme needs to be more family-friendly. (I have high hopes for Midway Mania.) And I love to see creative, low-tech ideas such as Legoland's Fun Town Fire Academy. To me, those are the most innovative new attractions over the past decade. But we need more.
From Greg Shilton on January 28, 2008 at 2:37 PM
I am still waiting for a non-interactive dark ride that transports us to another world, that is lengthy, and that has the abilitiy to stay fresh and fun, exactly like Pirates and Haunted Mansion. The two best dark rides out there, in my opinion.

I'm hoping we get that with the Little Mermaid ride coming to DCA. *crosses fingers*

But, the only problem with Little Mermaid is it isn't a fresh new concept. It's a movie. Don't get me wrong I am extremely stoked for this ride, but when are we going to get something that has NOT been seen before, just like Pirates at that time.


Well, I can always hope.

From kevin jones on January 29, 2008 at 9:14 PM
I cant wait to see what sally corp is doing with the knights in white saten the trip ride at Hardrock park
what news we have heard it should be great.

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