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September 2008

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New ultra roller coaster for 2008: The 'Wall Street'

By Robert Niles
Published: September 29, 2008 at 10:58 AM
Theme Park Insider readers love their roller coaster drops, right? Well, then check out this out:

Dow chart

That's the U.S. stock market's Dow Industrials average for today. With a nasty 400-point drop in five minutes, followed by an immediate rebound, then another 200-point drop.

Talk about some wicked airtime! Man, I hope those lap bars were well padded. ;-)

Let's make this an open thread, to talk about the stock market, the economy, the mortgage mess, or whatever else might be affecting your love for theme parks and ability to go visit them.

Personally, I think a lot of people in Washington and on Wall Street are operating under the delusion that what we have is a liquidity crisis, a crisis of confidence. I think what we have is a solvency crisis, due to banks abandoning sound lending principles. They gave too-large mortgage loans to people who would never be able to repay them, under the assumption that housing prices would rise forever, making the borrowers' inability to earn enough money to make those payments irrelevant. (They'd just refinance against the rising home values.)

That's a great Ponzi scheme, until you run out of borrowers suckers. When we did, prices stalled, pushing some borrowers into foreclosure, leading prices to decrease, pushing more into foreclosure, causing prices to crash. Then the value of the securities backed by those mortgages crashes, as well. Leading us to where we are today.

What does this mean? Well, home equity loans paid for a heckuva lot of Disney World trips over the past six years. With those gone, life's gonna be tough for theme parks that don't have compelling new rides and aggressive discounts or deals to offer a cash-strapped market.

Comments (13) | Archive Link

Vote of the week: What is your favorite special event at Walt Disney World?

By Robert Niles
Published: September 26, 2008 at 10:25 AM
Thanks, again, to Tim W for the topic of this week's vote.

Universal Orlando launches its 2008 edition of Halloween Horror Nights tonight, and last week we voted on our favorite elements in theme parks' special Halloween events.

Walt Disney World doesn't have an annual scare-fest, like Universal and many other theme parks, opting instead for its more family-friendly "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party." But how does that event rate compared with Disney World's other special events?

That's the topic for this week's vote. What is your favorite Walt Disney World special event? Some are "hard ticket" after-hours events (e.g. "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party"), and others take place during the regular operating day and are included in the price of your ticket (e.g. "Star Wars Weekends"). And some take place during normal operating hours, but require extra tickets for full access ("Epcot International Food & Wine Festival").

Tell us, in the comments, why you picked the one you did, and why others ought to give it a try, too.

Comments (15) | Archive Link

Face New Phobias at Wild Adventures

By Micha Froehlich
Published: September 26, 2008 at 10:24 AM
Valdosta, GA- Are you scared of the dark? Do heights make your knees shake? Does the sight of small critters make you scream? Wild Adventures dares you to face your fears at this year’s Phobia. With an all-new haunted village, phobia shows, and friendly frights, everyone can enjoy the Halloween season at Wild Adventures, beginning September 27 through November 1.

Several improvements and changes to this year’s haunting season will focus on family-friendly attractions as well as a consolidated Scare Zone. The return of a theatrical show and a creature show, even the youngest adventurer can take part and enjoy this event.

New to Phobia is Hatterville. No longer a quaint little farming village, the inhabitants of Hatterville have been brought back to life by the self-appointed Mayor Hatter. The beady eyed mayor saunters around the village in a black silk top hat, luring in new residents. Scare Zones in Hatterville include Carnival of the Macabre, Dominion of the Dead, Mummy House, and the Hatterville Hotel. Visit www.phobiaevent.com to reveal the tale behind the village.

If mayhem, madness and motorcycles get your heart pounding, watch the Globe of Terror. The stunt show features a 16-foot round steel cage with high speed motorcycle stunt drivers speeding inside. Big-air freestyle jump is also a part of this heart-stopping show.

Be careful where you step in the Black Forest. The only way out of Hatterville, the foreboding forest abounds with human-like trees and vines. Beware, many people mysteriously disappear within its boundaries.

Conquer your fear of critters and nocturnal animals at Creepy Critters, a phobia show. Learn amazing facts about these nocturnal creatures that play when the rest of the park is asleep. In the mood for Halloween romance? Bumpkin Patch is the story of cowboy love as the hero falls in love with the sweetest ghost to come back from the dead. Watch as the kooky cast sings and dance in this graveyard-come-to-life romance.

Even little ghosts and goblins can enjoy Phobia with family-friendly activities. The Spooky Hayride will take you on a strange ride through Wild Adventures with unexpected twists and turns along the way. Come see the park like never before. Little ghosts and goblins can visit the “haunted” Boo House featuring cheerful puppets, talking flowers and just the right amount of excitement. Halloween doesn’t have to be all scary!

Phobia returns to the park for its fourth and biggest year yet. The event begins September 27 and continues until November 1 with the haunted activities included in park admission. Regular admission is $45 and Junior/Senior admission is $40 and both include a Second-Day Free. Discount coupons are available at participating Wendy’s restaurants. Due to the event, some rides will be operating on a limited basis.

For more information on Phobia, visit www.phobiaevent.com. For more information on any of the park’s activities, please visit www.wildadventures.net or call (229) 219-7080.

Micha Froehlich is the Public Relationa Coordinator at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, GA.

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What's new at Walt Disney World? Not much, for a change

By Robert Niles
Published: September 25, 2008 at 10:29 AM
Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel attended yesterday's PR event at Walt Disney World to promote the resort's upcoming new attractions and filed his report (quoting yours truly, BTW).

So what do Disney fans have to look forward to? Well, we already knew about American Idol at Disney's Hollywood Studios. What else?

How about... a fairy-themed meet and greet?

Uh, or a bowling alley at ESPN's Wide World of Sports?

Or, uh...

(Crickets chirping.)

To be fair, it's not like Disney is doing nothing in 2009. Work proceeds on a multi-billion-dollar theme park expansion... at Disney's California Adventure on the west coast. And Disney's opening up land for hotel and timeshare development in Florida, as well as expanding the Disney Cruise Line. And there's that fifth (premium-priced) theme park coming, too.

But the company's not got any new rides on the drawing boards for the existing four Walt Disney World theme parks. That's a first since Animal Kingdom opened a decade ago.

I mentioned Universal's new attraction for 2009, Hollywood Rip, Ride and Rockit and 2010's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter when I talked with Scott. Not to mention SeaWorld's Manta roller coaster, opening next summer. So it's not Disney's competition is taking a year off, like the Mouse House appears to be.

Will that hurt Disney's attendance in 2009? Or will free birthday tickets keep the turnstiles spinning?

Comments (20) | Archive Link

Hard Rock Park files Chapter 11; closes for the rest of the season

By steve lee
Published: September 24, 2008 at 7:56 PM
Well, we'll see how this one goes. Hard Rock Park has filed for Chapter 11 and closed for the duration of the 2008 season. They claim they'll reopen for the 2009 season, but there's little more hard information available other than that.

I still really like this park (I was just there again on Sunday), so I sincerely hope they manage to bounce back. They opened at a pretty bad time as far as the economy goes. Maybe things really will be able to improve to allow them to return next year. Time will tell, I guess.

Comments (25) | Archive Link

Disney takes its name off Wide World of Sports complex

By Robert Niles
Published: September 24, 2008 at 10:51 AM
The news is out today that Disney is taking its name of the Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World... in favor of branding the complex to its subsidiary ESPN.

Disney spokespersons said that renaming the complex the "ESPN Wide World of Sports" will help it to draw more than the 1.2 million spectators it did last year.

From my point of the view, the rebranding makes sense. I never felt that the Wide World of Sports complex, with its baseball stadium, basketball arena and other sports fields, was much of a draw for the average theme park visitor. What it was perfect for, though, was sports fans, for whom ESPN is just about the most powerful brand going. The sports complex hosts spring training baseball, an NFL training camp, minor league baseball and a variety of college and amateur sports events.

It's not a sport-themed park. It is a sports park. Bag the Disney name, go with ESPN.

Comments (10) | Archive Link

Vote of the week: What's the best part of a Halloween event?

By Robert Niles
Published: September 19, 2008 at 2:24 PM
Over the next few weeks, Universal, Busch, Knott's, Six Flags and other local theme and amusement parks will open the 2009 editions of their after-hours Halloween events, led by Knott's Halloween Haunt and Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. [Note that I'm talking about the events for grown-ups this week, excluding kids' Halloween events, such as those at Disney and Legoland.]

Many elements, beyond the parks' "normal" attractions, have helped make such events so popular with theme park fans:

  • live shows, with their mix of gore and humor,
  • haunted houses and mazes, for up-close scare opportunities,
  • scare-actors, roaming the streets to surprise you,
  • the crowd itself, with no kids and more of a "party" vibe.

    Tell us about your favorite Halloween event element, in the comments.

    Comments (10) | Archive Link

  • Get into Disney free on your birthday

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 18, 2008 at 12:58 PM
    As part of its 2009 "Celebration" promotion campaign (replacing the "Year of Million Dreams" that lasted two years), Disney announced today that it will offer free admission to visitors on their birthdays next year.

    Here are the details, from the press release:

    To receive free admission to one of the Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks on your birthday in 2009, guests must bring valid ID including proof of birth date. Guests who already hold a valid multi-day ticket they will use on their birthday may choose from other birthday treats instead, however, no cash refunds or credits will be given. To register your birthday and find out more details, visit www.disneyparks.com.

    So there's no one-day credit on your multi-day pass if you want to use it on your birthday. (So... if you have a no-expire option on a WDW ticket, just leave it in your pocket and pretend you don't have it, okay? Save the extra day for another time.) I see this being a bigger deal in Anaheim, though, where people can pop over to the park easily on their B-day.

    The upside for Disney? Who wants to go to Disneyland by themselves on their birthday? Celebrants likely will bring along the family, who'll pay to get in. Plus, they'll net the cash spent in the park on food, souvenirs, etc.

    Still... a free Disneyland ticket. That's a sweet deal.

    Comments (29) | Archive Link

    Six Flags Great America announces water ride for 2009

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 18, 2008 at 10:06 AM
    Splash Battles appear to be the hot new water ride model making its way into theme parks across the country.

    Legoland California debuted its version two years ago, with Dollywood adding River Battle this spring. And next season, Six Flags Great America, north of Chicago, will join the trend, opening Buccaneer Battle on the old Deja Vu site.

    Buccaneer Battle, like similar rides, put riders in boats armed with water cannons, which riders can aim at targets throughout the ride, as well as at riders on other boats. For Disney fans, it's like Buzz Lightyear, but on a water ride instead of a dark ride, and with the goal not of a high score, but of getting others absolutely, soaking, dripping wet.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Behind the scenes at Halloween Horror Nights

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 17, 2008 at 9:01 PM
    A note for Halloween Horror Nights fans: Universal Studios Hollywood is posting a series of behind-the-scenes videos about the making of this year's Halloween event.

    The second episode just went up, with two more to follow.

    The media preview for HHN at Universal Orlando is a week from Friday, with Hollywood's following on Oct. 3, so it's getting to be that time.... Anyone scared yet? ;-)

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    Follow Robert's Twitter feed

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 17, 2008 at 4:02 PM
    Here's another way for you to get the latest news from ThemeParkInsider's Blog Flume, as well as my other online sites: A Twitter feed.

    If you are not familiar with Twitter, it's an online service where people post short updates on what they are doing, which are delivered to friends and fans who subscribe to their feeds. And if you are familiar with Twitter, well, I apologize for wasting your time with that last sentence. ;-)

    In addition to Twitter, you can keep track of what's up on Theme Park Insider through our RSS feed and our weekly e-mail newsletter.

    Archive Link

    Coming soon: Theme Park Insider's SeaWorld/Manta photo contest

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 16, 2008 at 10:48 AM
    Want to win two tickets to SeaWorld Orlando, plus front-of-the-line access on Manta, the park's new Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster opening next year?

    Theme Park Insider is ready to hook you up.

    Here's what you will need to do: Post a photograph of Manta's main track being shipped from Ohio to SeaWorld Orlando the week of September 29. You must be a registered Theme Park Insider member, posting under your real name, and post your photo(s) to TPI's Manta page.

    When the track hits the road, we'll let you know, so keep checking the Blog Flume on Theme Park Insider's home page. You must post when and where you took the picture when you submit it. I will select a winner at random from eligible entries. (You can post multiple photos, if you'd like, but I'll count only one photo per person as an entry.) To be eligible, a photo must clearly show the track. And, of course, Employees and contractors of Busch Entertainment Corporation and Niles Online, and their families, are not eligible. The contest will close at midnight the day the track arrives at SeaWorld Orlando.

    Here's the route the track will be taking, so get ready: Rte 32 West out of Batavia, Ohio to Interstate 275 South … I-275 south to I-75 South to Florida … I-75 south to the Florida Turnpike … Florida Turnpike to Interstate 4 … Interstate 4 to the Beachline (SR 528) … Beachline to SeaWorld Orlando.

    The prize package includes:

  • Two admission tickets to SeaWorld Orlando (valid for one year).
  • Front-of the-the-line access for two people for a ride on Manta (opens summer 2009). If the winner visits SeaWorld Orlando before Manta opens, s/he can choose front-of-the-line access on either Kraken or Journey to Atlantis.

    You are on your own for transportation and other expenses. They are not included in this prize. Thanks to BEC for providing the tickets and front-of-the-line passes. Get your cameras ready!

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

  • Dollywood to add new action play area for 2009

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 15, 2008 at 9:15 PM
    More new attraction announcements for the 2009 season:

    Dollywood has announced an interactive new attraction for 2009, and I mean interactive in an old-school way. Adventure Mountain will feature three distinct obstacle courses, including rope trails, net ladders and swinging bridges. It's designed for visitors 44 inches and taller, though there will be an additional play area, called Camp Teachittoomee (sound it out), for kids ages 2-6.

    At Six Flags Over Georgia, the big development for 2009 will be a revamping of the park's Monster Plantation ride, which will get a rethemed storyline, new music and some new characters in becoming Monster Mansion.

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: What is your favorite roller coaster element?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 12, 2008 at 11:46 AM
    Yeah, I know the site's name is Theme Park Insider, and we talk about a wide variety of topics here, from dark rides to live shows, and table service restaurants to readers' favorite junk food. But this week, I'm saying to heck with the theme stuff and turning the vote over to our hard-core roller coaster fans.

    So what is your favorite roller coaster element? Sure, some chickens shut their eyes as soon as the brakes release in the station and can't tell one element from the rest. These are the folks who think that "Cobra Rolls" are a type of sushi.

    This week's vote, alas, is not for them. It's for you readers, with better inner ear function than mine, who treasure every moment, every twist and every element on a roller coaster's track. Pick your favorite, from the classes of elements below, and tell us why you picked what you did, in the comments.

    Here are the options, with short, simplistic explanations for those who want them. Note that I've combined several similar elements into single options. Some are the result of different manufacturers using different names for what are essentially the same thing, others are combined because the elements are similar enough that I felt like I would be splitting hairs keeping them separate.

  • Batwing/Boomerang/Cobra Roll - A double inversion, with one facing the other, returning you in the direction from where you came.
  • Corkscrew/Heartline Roll - Any twisting inversion around an imaginary axis. The broader ones are corkscrews, the really narrow ones heartline rolls.
  • Drops - Straight-ahead, high-speed drops down a hill. No inversions or twists involved.
  • Dive Loop/Immelmann - Half a vertical loop leading into, or out of, a twisting curve.
  • Helix - A turn of more than 360 degrees, usually in a horizontal plane.
  • High-Speed Launch - In lieu of a traditional lift chain, the use of a magnetic or hydraulic to propel a coaster instantly from a standing start to full speed.
  • Interlocking Corkscrews - Two corkscrew elements, with one going through the other's axis.
  • Interlocking Loops - Two vertical loops, with one going through the middle of the other.
  • Spinning Cars/Seats - Adds additional motion beyond just riding along the roller coaster track.
  • Top Hat - You launch up, crest a narrow hill, then drop back down. A la Top Thrill Dragster.
  • Traditional Vertical Loop - Just what the names says. The train flips through a straight-ahead, upside-down loop.

    Comments (25) | Archive Link

  • Cedar Fair attendance up 3 percent

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 10, 2008 at 11:37 AM
    Amusement park operator Cedar Fair reports that attendance and revenue at its theme parks both increased by three percent this summer over last.

    Here's the news release announcing the data. And for those of you with accounting degrees, too much time on your hands, a deep interest in the business of theme parks... or all of the above, here is the link to Cedar Fair's latest 10-Q report from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Many analysts were worried that a softening economy and higher gas prices this summer might hurt theme park attendance. I had guessed that a weak dollar would lead to more international tourists heading to Orlando, replacing U.S. tourists who would opt for visits to regional parks over the Central Florida ones, keeping attendance solid at any park with a new attraction or decent promotion this year.

    Looks like Cedar Fair parks, including Cedar Point and Kings Island, have been doing okay (with the caveat that I haven't looked through all of the 10-Q, in case something bad's lurking in there).

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    Walk in the Parks at Six Flags a Success

    By Anthony Murphy
    Published: September 10, 2008 at 10:38 AM
    This last weekend, September 6th and 7th, Six Flags held their first annual Walk in the Parks event at their theme parks across the US. I happened to be in attendance at the Six Flags Great America's Walk in the Parks on September 7th.

    For those of you unfamiliar with this event, it was a fundraising effort by Six Flags to raise money for Cure Kids Cancer, an organization of hospitals across the US that fight childhood cancer. To be specific, the major hospital that belongs to this group in the Midwest is Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, one of the top children's hospitals in the United States. We were asked to register by paying a fee of $25 and then trying to raise as much money as we could possibly can. I set a goal for $150 which I easily hit.

    When the day came, every participant got a bag, a shirt, and a bunch of goodies like a bracelet, a knex set, and a little box of honey bunches of oats. We were also given a number for the walk that I wasn't really sure what we were supposed to do with it, but it had a little tear off part that allowed us to give to the ticket sales to have $5 go to the Cure Kids Cancer. We were treated at the beginning to as much cold drinks as we liked and Krispy Creme donuts. Bugs and the Gang were out in full force thanking everybody for their support. There were also people registering for the first time and I bought some raffle tickets with the money going to the overall total for the Cancer Walk.There were alot of families there, especially with cancer patients. I actually have heard of one family from the Super Jake Foundation which was a foundation in memory of their 3 year old that passed away a few years ago from cancer. They wore capes and every kid who was undergoing cancer medication or was in remission, they wore a cape too. It was very touching for my group made up of a 22 year old and two 19 year olds. The topping to this sentimental cake was having the representative child of the Six Flags Great America Walk in the Parks sing the national anthem (quite good). I believe he is in remission so there were some really nice success stories of the day too.

    The actual walk had us start at the iconic carosel and took us around the park once and then ending in Hurricane Harbor for the finish and a celebration. At the end, there were the same kind of cold sports drinks from the start and bagels from Panera. The final event was supposed to have entertainment, but there was a tally result and prizes given out. Not a big deal since the two children representatives were there to thank everybody especially the little girl who just was diagnosed with cancer at the end of last spring. To the top three fundraisers (which doesn't include me) was two tickets to the American Music Awards, a Wii, and two free 2009 Season Passes. The raffle included a Batman Electrical Guitar, A large stuffed elephant, a digital camera, and a Chicago Bears BMX bike. I won the camera, but the photos with this report are not from them :)

    From there we were told to exit the park via Hurricane Harbor and then we could reenter the park with all other patrons.

    For the most part, I was very impressed by this event. I got a little worried since their goal for all the parks together was a million and ended up dropping it to 200,000. SFGA, which was supposed to raise 10,000 after the cut raised 14,000! I really think Six Flags dropped the ball on advertising for this event since the only way you would know it really existed is if you had been to the park prior. I was especially worried because up to a week before the walk, there were only a handful of people walking. It ended up working out OK and there were about 300 people on a beautiful Sunday Morning. The other big concern I had was that there was no discount on tickets for doing this event. I was under the impression that you would have gotten an amount of money off, but that didn't happen. However if you raised more than $100. you got a free ticket and I am a Season Pass Holder so no biggie.

    Anyway, I was very impressed and wish it lasted longer, but they also had the High School Cheerleading Competition that day (go Notre Dame!)so SFGA is good at multitasking. I would highly really highly recommend this event to all you theme park lovers out there. It was a perfect day and a great cause. Just be on the lookout for it! I will hope that Six Flags really put out alot of PR for this event next year. I think they could have made the million easily between the parks.

    For more information or to give more! Go to: Walkintheparks.org

    Comments (1) | Archive Link

    Coney Island's Astroland joins the theme park graveyard

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 8, 2008 at 7:42 PM
    I know that I am late on this, and, frankly, I don't have much to say about the specific situation. But I thought that I should note the closing of Astroland at Coney Island in New York.

    For people who are not from and have not visited New York, "Coney Island" is not a single amusement park, a la Disneyland or Cedar Point, but a boardwalk district that over the years has included several separately-ticketed parks and attractions. Astroland, which opened in 1962, was one of the more popular, home to the historic Cyclone roller coaster. The coaster will remain open, as it is a landmark operated by the city. For that matter, the investment company which owns the land the park sits on says that it will bring new rides to the park site next year, so there will be something operating there.

    But it won't be Astroland. Granted, this was not a popular park, at least not when compared with those from Six Flags and Cedar Fair, much less Disney and Universal. It wasn't among the most-visited theme parks in the country, and its attendance never was large enough to merit being including in the park listings on this site. I've visited New York several times since I started Theme Park Insider back in 1999, and I've never had any desire to go see Astroland, or anything else at Coney Island. Yeah, a lot of people older than I feel nostalgic about the place, but, to me, there's just so much more I'd rather see when I'm in New York. And I'm a professional amusement park fan. ;-) That doesn't say much good about what Coney Island has become, IMO.

    Astroland's hardly alone. Many parks lie in the amusement graveyard: Opryland, Boardwalk and Baseball, Busch Gardens L.A., just to cite a few I once visited. And many folks seem ready to consign Hard Rock Park to that list. Why does a theme park die? Let me count the ways:

    1) Lack of capital

    This seems to have been Astroland's problem. To make it in the theme park business, it's best if you own your land, as well as lot of commercial land around your park and have enough bucks in the bank to run the place despite a lean year... or three.

    Theme park fans demand new attractions of a frequent basis. You'd better be prepared to invest in a major new attraction every three years or so, with minor new attractions and promotions (give-aways, discounts, festivals, etc.) to keep the turnstiles moving in other years. This business can make companies rich. But, as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money.

    2) Zoning

    Having land to expand won't help you if your local government won't let you do it. Why do you think Walt Disney was so keen to get the Florida legislature to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District and place it under Disney control? Ask a fan of Six Flags New England. I worry for SeaWorld San Diego in this regard. That park could be putting through another million-plus visitors a year if it had a couple of B&M coasters (Kraken? Griffom?), but local authorities long have clamped down on any development that they see as straying from a vision of the park as purely an educational center.

    3) Bored or indifferent owners

    Hmm, do we want a theme park, or a shopping mall? (Goodbye, Opryland.) A theme park, or a larger brewery? (Buh, bye, Busch Gardens L.A.) The end of Michael Eisner at Disney can be traced to the fury unleashed by Web-connected Disney fans when they saw that company becoming indifferent to its theme parks, in the mid-1990s. It's hard to raise the money to pay for expansion, and play politics with the local zoning board to approve it, if you don't care... or have another part of your business to which you'd rather attend.

    I hope the folks in New York figure out something to do with Coney Island. But they need to find someone who cares enough to throw some money at Coney Island and stick with it over complaints from others, including politicians, business leaders and residents who'd rather not see things change, even if for the better. If that happens, maybe I'll make it down that way next time I'm in New York.

    Comments (6) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Which classic Disney film needs to move to Disney World?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 5, 2008 at 4:47 PM
    Thanks, again, to Theme Park Insider reader Tim W for the idea behind this week's vote.

    Despite the large number of Disney films represented by attractions at Walt Disney World, there are a few classic films which haven't gotten a proper ride yet at WDW. I browsed through BoxOfficeMojo to find the top-grossing Disney films of all time (adjusted for inflation) and offer the top six without a corresponding Disney World attraction for your consideration.

    Yes, "Lady and the Tramp" is represented by a restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. And Sleeping Beauty has the castle at Disneyland. But those are not Disney World attractions, so they're in the poll.

    Which would be your pick as the best candidate for a WDW ride? Keep in mind that I'm not asking for your favorite film - we're looking for a conversation about which film's characters, plot and setting would make for the best theme park attraction. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

    Comments (20) | Archive Link

    Who is behind the anti-Universal billboard campaign?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 5, 2008 at 10:59 AM
    There's been lots of big media attention in Central Florida over the past few days about Universal Orlando's ad campaign for Halloween Horror Nights.

    Specifically, a mothers' group is complaining the billboards put up around the tourist corridor are too graphic and disturbing for young kids. "This year, I find the billboards truly unacceptable to our community," one mom was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel (see story linked above.)

    My initial thought when reading these stories was... "you've got to be kidding." This 'protest' is simply going to give Universal Orlando a ton of free publicity for HHN. I wonder if it is real?

    So I Googled "Erin Heston," the mom quoted in the Sentinel piece. Turns out she's... a PR agent. Her personal website now redirects to a parked domain page, but search-engine caches of PDFs from the site show that she is a "communications consultant" and was a PR rep for Enterprise Florida, "a public-private partnership serving as Florida’s primary organization devoted to statewide economic development."

    (Erinheston.com was first registered on Aug. 30, 2006, according to NetworkSolutions.com and expired on the same day this year, which is why the domain is no longer active.)

    So, if this is the same Erin Heston, and I couldn't find any records for another one in Orlando (using a variety of online people searches), we've got a PR campaign from a professional PR agent, who once represented an economic development organization, that's resulting in a ton of free pub for an event that's a huge economic boon to Central Florida in what used to be a pretty slow time of the year.

    Astroturf? Or blowback? Either way, I'm sure that UO is loving the attention.

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    DCA's Vineyard Room closing

    By Brandon Mendoza
    Published: September 5, 2008 at 7:49 AM
    I am disappointed to say that the only DCA fine dining restaurant, the Vineyard Room, will be serving its final meal on September 29th, 2008.

    There hasn't been a replacement named yet, but personally, I'm a little saddened that this place didn't make it to the new & updated DCA. I enjoyed the service at this place much more than the Blue Bayou. The food was delicious, and compared to Wineries outside of the Disneyland Resort, the pricing was great. Did I mention that the service is unbelievable? They took care of you, but weren't annoying in anyway. I'm not hating on the Blue Bayou, but I wasn't impressed with the actual food and service at the Bayou. Love the atmosphere, but when I eat, I'd rather have great food when I spend that much money as well as have great service.

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    New construction photos of SeaWorld's Manta coaster

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 3, 2008 at 3:19 PM
    SeaWorld Orlando today released photos of factory construction of the Manta track, being prepared for the B&M flying coaster's debut at the Orlando theme park next year.

    Okay, these could be pictures of new municipal sewer pipes being built, for all I can tell, but as the season winds down for many theme park fans around the country, I know that pictures of fresh rail keep many readers happy and warm during their downtime. Enjoy.

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    Bravo, Six Flags

    By Robert Niles
    Published: September 2, 2008 at 6:27 PM
    I know that many Theme Park Insider readers share a frustration with people who jump lines in the theme parks, as well as with the killjoys who insult anyone who doesn't immediately get-the-heck-outta-the-way when Mr. Attitude wants to go someplace.

    Haven't you wished, just once, that these jerks would get what's coming to them?

    Well, Six Flags Great America has granted your wish. For today, at least. From the Chicago Tribune:

    A Winnetka man was charged with disorderly conduct after he allegedly grabbed and pushed a 14-year-old who clapped when the man was ejected from a ride at Six Flags Great America last week, police said.

    Making this incident all the more special... this wasn't some clueless teenage kid the park tossed and prosecuted. It was a 53-year-old man from the lily-white, rich-folk Chicago suburb of Winnetka. (Well, at least it was when I lived in Evanston. And the racial slur he allegedly used against a ride operator sure didn't help win him any benefit of the doubt from the park, I suspect.)

    The Trib story quote the suspect as saying that he was "having a bad day."

    Well, thanks to the news of Six Flags' prosecution of this fella, my day just got a whole lot better.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

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