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March 2010

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. Pirates of the Caribbean

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2010 at 10:51 AM

It's time to pick the second finalist in the Best Themed Ride bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers. Two notes: We're voting on the Disneyland version of Pirates here, not the Orlando one. And I should note that Spider-Man is the last non-Disney attraction standing outside the roller coaster bracket. Will it be a Disney sweep today?

1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

vs.

5. Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Tomorrow, we crown the winners of the Best Roller Coaster, Best Themed Ride, Best Theme Park Movie and Best Theme Park Live Show titles!

Comments (40) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror vs. Haunted Mansion

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2010 at 10:00 AM

It's time to pick the first finalist in the Best Themed Ride bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

vs.

6. Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: We complete the Best Themed Ride finalists, with 1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. 5. Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean.

Comments (32) | Archive Link

What would you do? Building a new roller coaster at Holiday World

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2010 at 9:51 AM

If you didn't see the debut of this series last week, take a look at that piece to see what we're doing here.

Holiday World's The Voyage will compete tomorrow at 11am Eastern for the Best Roller Coaster in America title. When you think about it, that's a pretty impressive position for a ride at a theme park which hasn't cracked the annual Top 20 in attendance, and stands on a county road in rural southern Indiana.

But Holiday World draws a crowd from far beyond its humble Hoosier home. With two other award-winning coasters (The Raven and The Legend), as well as family-friendly service and free parking and soft drinks for all, Holiday World has elicited powerful loyalty from a growing collection of fans.

So how do we repay Holiday World for all it's provided?

Hey, we're theme fans - we get greedy and ask for even more! :-)

Since Holiday World's three-for-three on its roller coasters, why not make it four-for-four? When I lived in Indianapolis, the park was known as "Santa Claus Land," owning to its location in Santa Claus, Indiana. Visitors enter the original "Christmas" section of the park first when they enter, reaffirming that Christmas remains the original holiday in this world.

And yet... there's no signature, world-class ride in the Christmas section of the park. Wouldn't a "Santa's Sleigh" roller coaster make a delightful addition to Holiday World?

Of course!

So... now where should they put it?

(Sound of record screeching.) Ohhh.

Welcome to the ongoing challenge facing any theme park manager: Site placement. Where do you fit a new attraction within the park? Can you squeeze it between existing facilities? Do you replace existing rides? If so, would they provide an adequate "footprint" for the new attraction? Is there any room for expansion beyond the current park boundaries? If so, can you obtain that land, and will the local authorities allow you to use it for your park?

Site placement challenges have affected design decisions at many of the industry's iconic attractions. Remember the stretch room in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion (which is competing in the Best Themed Ride bracket later today)?

Disney's Imagineers didn't put that in there simply because they thought it a cool effect. They didn't have the space for a haunted house attraction on its site in the park's New Orleans Square, but they did have room for a show building behind the earthen berm which surrounded the park. But they needed a way to get people from the park, under the berm and into the building.

Enter the stretch room, an elevator which allows guests to descend to an underground passage, through which they walk under the berm to the Mansion show building.

Here's a somewhat out-of-date Google Maps aerial view of Holiday World. (The view lacks The Voyage and the Thanksgiving expansion. Click for a full-screen view.)

And here's a close=up of Holiday World's official park map (click to see the full version, on Holiday World's website):

Not a whole lot of room there in Christmas, eh?

So this brings us to this week's "What would you do?" What would you do about building a new world-class attraction at Holiday World?

Is "Santa's Sleigh" feasible? Could it be shoe-horned in the space along the southern edge of the park, wrapping around the edge of Holidog's Funtown? That would require placing the entrance somewhere along the currently wooded slope just past Kringle's Banquet Hall. A very tight fit. And what about those support buildings north of the County Road? (You can see those on the Google Map.) Those very likely are not expendable. What do you do with them?

Create underground facilities? Maybe if you have Disney's annual budget. Remember that we're dealing with a privately owned, family-run park here. I imagine that the Koch family doesn't have the Blackstone Group's multi-billion-dollar capital reserves. Creating an underground tunnel system to service all of Holiday World ain't gonna happen, so don't bother proposing it.

What about pushing Christmas forward? Not on the calendar (I wish), but by moving the front gate west into the parking, allowing additional space for a new coaster, or maybe a dark ride "Santa's Sleigh" attraction?

Interesting, but where do you park those cars on a busy day? Remember, Holiday World doesn't charge for parking, and I don't see it building a multi-level garage with that money, even if it did.

Ah, but all that space south of the road? What about that? I'm assuming that if it were easy for Holiday World to obtain that land, and permission to use it, it would have already. Maybe I'm wrong, but until someone tells me otherwise, I'm calling that land off-limits.

Or do you just say forget it, and take my daughter's less expensive suggestion: Create a "Hanukkah" section and throw in a spinner ride called "The Dreidel"? (My daughter, like her father, is a bit, uh, silly at times.)

So... what would you do? Develop one of these ideas and order Santa's Sleigh? Build a new coaster with a different theme elsewhere in the park? Tell us your idea, in the comments, with as much detail as to make your idea so compelling that park president Will Koch will jump away from his computer and yell "We've *got* to do this!" :-)

Comments (25) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Fantasmic! vs. Finding Nemo - The Musical

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2010 at 9:00 AM

We continue, picking the second finalist in the Best Live Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

1. Fantasmic!

Fantasmic!

vs.

12. Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Finding Nemo - The Musical


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: We move to the Best Themed Ride bracket, with 2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror vs. 6. Haunted Mansion.

Comments (9) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Festival of the Lion King vs. Lights! Motors! Action!

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2010 at 7:21 AM

Good morning! It's time to pick the finalists in the Best Live Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King

vs.

15. Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Lights! Motors! Action!


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: The other half of the bracket, with 1. Fantasmic! vs. 13. Finding Nemo - The Musical

Comments (10) | Archive Link

What's new on the discussion board: Universal Singapore, RRR music codes and Busch Gardens questions

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Here are the top new threads on the Theme Park Insider Discussion Board from the past week:

Adriel Tjokrosaputro offers an in-depth Universal Studios Singapore Soft Opening - Trip Report

Ben James starts an entertaining Things I learned from EPCOT thread.

Speaking of Epcot, Adam Guillette asks about Epcot - World Showcase Parking

Thomas Grimme asks for an up-to-date list of Music Codes for Universal's Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit. (Please add to it if you know others!)

Even though we now know the official opening date (June 18), Domenik Jost gets the discussion going over The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter soft opening date.

If you'll be visiting later this summer, you might be wondering When is the best time to book a September trip to Universal?

Alvaro Reyes asks What kind of bags or backpacks I am allowed to take to Orlando theme parks?

Caroline Davis revives a classic debate by asking which are The Best Six Flags parks?

alice fred asks Where to get Six Flags discounts?

Dana Truong asks about the Six Flags Gold and Platinum Flash Pass, and which one's the better to buy.

Jake Jones offers a detailed Busch Gardens Tampa trip report

While we're talking about Busch Gardens in Tampa, laura breemer asks about the Least sickening coaster(s) at BGA?

Busch Gardens Williamsburg fans, Jesse Saywell invites you to speculate What will replace Big Bad Wolf?

And finally, Joshua Counsil embarrasses me.

Comments (1) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Terminator 2: 3D vs. It's Tough to be a Bug!

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2010 at 10:47 AM

It's time to pick the finalists in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

3. Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D

Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D

vs.

7. It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom

It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Tomorrow morning: We start in the Best Live Show bracket, with 3. Festival of the Lion King vs. 15. Lights! Motors! Action!

Comments (13) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Mickey's PhilharMagic vs. Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2010 at 9:37 AM

It's time to pick the finalists in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description and video of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

1. Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

vs.

12. Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room

Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up, the other half of the bracket: 3. Terminator 2: 3D vs. 7. It's Tough to be a Bug!

Comments (10) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Millennium Force vs. The Voyage

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2010 at 8:50 AM

We're picking the second finalist in the Best Roller Coaster bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

You can click the links below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers. Or just click to watch the on-ride video. (By the way, a big cheer to the PR staff at each park. In my experience, these are the best two parks in the country for providing official POV of their roller coasters.)

1. Cedar Point's Millennium Force [Intamin Giga/Mega]

vs.

5. Holiday World's The Voyage [The Gravity Group]


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: We switch to the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket, with 1. Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom vs. 12. Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room.

Comments (36) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Apollo's Chariot vs. Griffon

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2010 at 7:34 AM

Good morning! It's time to pick the finalists in each bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament. Let's get started with the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description and video of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

2. Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg [Bolliger & Mabillard Mega Coaster]

Apollo's Chariot

vs.

6. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon [Bolliger & Mabillard Dive]

Griffon


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up, the other half of the bracket: 1. Cedar Point's Millennium Force vs. 5. Holiday World's The Voyage

Comments (13) | Archive Link

Here's the schedule for the rest of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament

By Robert Niles
Published: March 29, 2010 at 8:27 PM

Allow me to offer another thank you to everyone who has voted in this year's Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament, and especially to those readers who've sent messages to friends and colleagues to get out the vote.

We've finished the second round and are down to the final four attractions in each bracket. Here's the schedule for the rest of the tournament:

Tuesday, March 30

Best Roller Coaster Bracket

  • 11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT - 2. Apollo's Chariot vs. 6. Griffon
  • Noon-6pm ET, 9am-3pm PT - 1. Millennium Force vs. 5. The Voyage

Best Movie or Animated Show Bracket

  • 1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT - 1. Mickey's PhilharMagic vs. 12. Enchanted Tiki Room
  • 2pm-8pm ET, 11am-5pm PT - 3. Terminator 2: 3D vs. 7. It's Tough to be a Bug!

Wednesday, March 31

Best Live Show Bracket

  • 11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT - 3. Festival of the Lion King vs. 15. Lights! Motors! Action!
  • Noon-6pm ET, 9am-3pm PT - 1. Fantasmic! vs. 13. Finding Nemo - The Musical

Best Themed Ride Bracket

  • 1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT - 2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror vs. 6. Haunted Mansion
  • 2pm-8pm ET, 11am-5pm PT - 1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. 5. Pirates of the Caribbean

Thursday, April 1

  • 11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT - Best Roller Coaster Final
  • Noon-6pm ET, 9am-3pm PT - Best Movie or Animated Show Final
  • 1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT - Best Live Show Final
  • 2pm-8pm ET, 11am-5pm PT - Best Themed Ride Final

Friday, April 2

  • 11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT - Best Show Final
  • 1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm ET - Best Ride Final

Monday, April 5

  • 11am-7pm ET, 8am-4pm PT - Tournament Final

Comments (6) | Archive Link

The end for Hard Rock/Freestyle Music Park?

By Robert Niles
Published: March 29, 2010 at 2:25 PM

The once-anticipated South Carolina theme park appears to have run its last ride.

So sayeth the lawyer.

Anyone still care enough to react?

Comments (23) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Millennium Force vs. The Beast

By Robert Niles
Published: March 29, 2010 at 1:59 PM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament concludes with a contest from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description and video of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

1. Cedar Point's Millennium Force [Intamin Giga/Mega]
(Round One: Defeated Cedar Point's Raptor)

Cedar Point's Millennium Force

vs.

8. Kings Island's The Beast [Charlie Dinn Wooden]
(Round One: Defeated Cedar Point's Maverick)

Kings Island's The Beast


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Thanks for voting, everyone! This concludes round two. I will post the Round Three match-ups Monday night, and the third round will begin on Tuesday morning.

Comments (9) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Revenge of the Mummy vs. Haunted Mansion

By Robert Niles
Published: March 29, 2010 at 12:25 PM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

3. Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy
(Round One: Defeated Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure)

Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy

vs.

6. Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
(Round One: Defeated Universal Studios Florida's Men in Black Alien Attack)

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: From the Best Roller Coaster bracket, 1. Millennium Force vs. 8. The Beast

Comments (24) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: It's Tough to be a Bug! vs. O Canada!

By Robert Niles
Published: March 29, 2010 at 9:59 AM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

7. It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom
(Round One: Defeated Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom)

It's Tough to be a Bug!

vs.

15. Epcot's O Canada!
(Round One: Defeated Epcot's Impressions de France)

O Canada!


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: From the Best Themed Ride bracket, 3. Revenge of the Mummy vs. 6. Haunted Mansion.

Comments (13) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Sea Lions Tonight vs. Finding Nemo – The Musical

By Robert Niles
Published: March 29, 2010 at 7:21 AM

Good morning! Hope everyone had a great weekend. We're wrap up the second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament today, starting with a contest from the Best Live Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

5. SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight
(Round One: Defeated SeaWorld Orlando's Blue Horizons)

Sea Lions Tonight

vs.

13. Finding Nemo – The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom
(Round One: Defeated SeaWorld Orlando's Pets Rule!)

Finding Nemo – The Musical


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: From the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket, 7. It's Tough to be a Bug! vs. 15. O Canada!

Comments (10) | Archive Link

New NASCAR-themed roller coaster, Intimidator, debuts at Carowinds

By Russell Meyer
Published: March 27, 2010 at 11:19 AM

CHARLOTTE - Given the popularity of NASCAR in the United States, it seems surprising that until this year, the only NASCAR themed coaster was Speed in Las Vegas. This year, that changes, with the opening of Intimidator at Carowinds on the North Carolina/South Carolina border, and Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia.

Intimidator at Carowinds is the first to debut this season (Intimidator 305 will officially open next week). Carowinds' new coaster, designed by Bolliger and Mabillard, is touted as the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster in the southeast. The ride features a 232-foot hill, 211-foot first drop at 74 degrees, 7 additional drops, a “panoramic u-turn,” “diving spiral,” and top speeds approaching 80 miles per hour. The coaster features B&M's 2nd generation hypercoaster trains with “stadium-style” staggered seating arrangement accommodating 32 riders per cycle. At optimal performance, Intimidator can handle up to 1,600 riders per hour.

As one would expect from a B&M creation, the coaster is incredibly smooth with long stretches of airtime at the top of each of the 8 massive hills.

If a coaster fan were to design a layout for the perfect B&M hypercoaster, it would probably look something like this creation. It features some of their best elements, like Nitro's turns (Six Flags Great Adventure), Goliath's quick start (Six Flags Over Georgia), and the extreme airtime of Apollo's Chariot (Busch Gardens Williamsburg). Add in the well-executed theming around one of the most popular and legendary NASCAR drivers, Dale Earnhardt Sr.,and Carowinds has themselves a sure-fire hit on their hands. With no inversions, this coaster will be more accessible than many of the other coasters at the park, and the Intimidator theme is sure to bring in NASCAR fans wanting to experience the legend that is Dale Earnhardt. Members of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) were on hand to open the new coaster, including his oldest son, Kerry Earnhardt.

The entrance to the attraction features a number of plaques and signs commemorating the career of the late driver, including a replica of his famous #3 Chevy that is prominently displayed in front of a board that highlights every one of the driver's 76 career NASCAR race victories.


The theming is continued in the queue, which, not surprisingly, is similar in style to one of Cedar Fair's other vehicle-themed roller coasters, Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point.

The coaster trains themselves are designed to resemble the black #3 car with the front looking like the front end of a real race car.

As riders exit the station up the lift hill, the announcer proclaims the most famous words in motorsports, “Start your engines.” Unfortunately, there are no theming elements along the course of the coaster's 5,316-foot long track. Given, there aren't too many coasters that do feature a lot of theming along their course, but some billboards, replica cars, and the like at the bottom of the hills could have created a more complete experience. Nonetheless, regular guests and uber-NASCAR fans alike should find the experience both immersive and exciting.

Comments (13) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Mickey's PhilharMagic vs. Reflections of China

By Robert Niles
Published: March 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

1. Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
(Round One: Defeated Epcot's Circle of Life)

Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

vs.

9. Epcot's Reflections of China
(Round One: Defeated Mystery Lodge at Knott's Berry Farm)

Epcot's Reflections of China


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Have a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday to wrap up Round Two. We'll get started in the Best Live Show bracket with 5. Sea Lions Tonight vs. 13. Finding Nemo – The Musical.

Comments (10) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Festival of the Lion King vs. Universal Horror Make-up Show

By Robert Niles
Published: March 26, 2010 at 11:57 AM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Live Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom
(Round One: Defeated SeaWorld Orlando's Believe)

Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

vs.

11. Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show
(Round One: Defeated Dollywood's Sha-Kon-O-Hey!)

Universal Horror Make-up Show


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up, from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket: 1. Mickey's PhilharMagic vs. 9. Reflections of China

Comments (9) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror vs. Indiana Jones Adventure

By Robert Niles
Published: March 26, 2010 at 9:55 AM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios
(Round One: Defeated Soarin' Over California)

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

vs.

7. Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure
(Round One: Defeated Toy Story Midway Mania)

Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up, from the Best Live Show bracket: 3. Festival of the Lion King vs. 11. Universal Horror Make-up Show

Comments (17) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: The Voyage vs. Mystery Mine

By Robert Niles
Published: March 26, 2010 at 7:56 AM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

5. Holiday World's The Voyage [The Gravity Group]
(Round One: Defeated Top Thrill Dragster)

Holiday World's The Voyage

vs.

13. Dollywood's Mystery Mine [Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter]
(Round One: Defeated Thunderhead)

Dollywood's Mystery Mine


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up, from the Best Themed Ride bracket: 2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror vs. 7. Indiana Jones Adventure

Comments (13) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. Splash Mountain

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2010 at 2:00 PM

We wrap up Day Two of the second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a contest from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
(Round One: Defeated SeaWorld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis)

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

vs.

8. Splash Mountain
(Round One: Defeated Disneyland's Space Mountain)

Splash Mountain


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Thanks, again, for voting today! Tomorrow morning, we'll get started with a match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket: 5. Holiady World's The Voyage vs. 13. Dollywood's Mystery Mine

Comments (26) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: El Toro vs. Griffon

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2010 at 11:45 AM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each coaster, along with ride video and comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

3. Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro [Intamin Wooden]
(Round One: Defeated Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath)

Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro

vs.

6. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon [Bolliger & Mabillard Dive]
(Round One: Defeated SeaWorld Orlando's Manta)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: In the Best Themed Ride bracket, 1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. 8. Splash Mountain

Comments (23) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Waterworld vs. Lights! Motors! Action!

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2010 at 9:52 AM

The second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a contest from the Best Live Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with show video and comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

10. Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld
(Round One: Defeated Katonga)

Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld

vs.

15. Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
(Round One: Defeated Aladdin)

Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: We go to the roller coaster bracket for 3. El Toro vs. 6. Griffon

Comments (19) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: American Adventure vs. Enchanted Tiki Room

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2010 at 7:55 AM

Let's tip off today's second-round match-ups in the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a contest from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with show video and comments from other Theme Park Insider readers. Remember that we are voting on the original Disneyland version of the Tiki Room, and not the very different Walt Disney World version, in Florida.

4. Epcot's American Adventure
(Round One: Defeated Hall of Presidents)

Epcot's American Adventure

vs.

12. Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room
(Round One: Defeated Walt Disney: One Man's Dream)

Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Wanna know the best way to keep up with the tournament, so you never miss a vote?

Next up: Two attractions that pulled big first-round upsets - 10. Waterworld vs. 15. Lights! Motors! Action!

Comments (15) | Archive Link

It's official: Harry Potter opens at Universal Orlando on June 18

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2010 at 7:38 AM

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure will open - officially - on June 18, just making Universal's announced deadline of "Spring 2010."

Hogwarts Castle at Islands of Adventure

No word yet on a soft opening in advance of that date, though a Universal spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel that people who bought Harry Potter packages starting as early as May 28 would get the access they were promised.

Universal also confirmed details about the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which will take place in Hogwarts Castle. The queue will be part of the attraction (and so, no Universal Express access, at least initially) and begin the dungeons of the castle.

Universal confirmed that you are Muggles for this one, and will see talking portraits, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore's office,a qudditch match, dementors and the Forbidden Forest. You'll ride on "enchanted benches" (i.e. the Kuka robot arm) and get the safety spiel for the ride in the Gryffindor Common Room.

More details in a video and text press release from Universal:

The Story

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey draws you into the excitement and chaos of Harry's life. As you venture through Hogwarts castle, you meet Harry, Ron and Hermione who convince you to skip a planned lecture and follow them. Upon taking their advice, you travel by Floo powder, and begin the adventure as you soar over Hogwarts, narrowly escape a dragon attack, have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow, get pulled into a Quidditch match and more.

"Guests will experience firsthand a completely new adventure featuring the iconic characters, amazing creatures and recognizable locations they've only read in the books or seen in the films," said Thierry Coup, creative director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Location
The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey experience starts as soon as you walk through the gates of Hogwarts. Within the towering Hogwarts castle, you explore a truly magical place. You journey through iconic locations taken from the films and take in the extraordinary detail of each scene. They include:

  • Dumbledore's office: Here, you meet the Headmaster as he welcomes you to Hogwarts
  • Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom: Where you first meet Harry, Ron and Hermione
  • Gryffindor common room: You meet three additional characters who prepare you for your journey
  • Room of Requirement: Here, with hundreds of floating candles above, you take your seat on an enchanted bench and begin the Forbidden Journey
  • Other locations: In addition, guests will pass through the Dungeon passageway and hallways of Hogwarts where they will have the chance to see hundreds of wizard portraits from the films, including several magical talking portraits created exclusively for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the four founders of Hogwarts. Guests will even get a glimpse of the Sorting Hat.

The attraction's newly created ride system envelops guests in filmed action scenes and moves those scenes with them as they travel through the ride, allowing more time in the center of the adventure and with their favorite characters. This fusion of robotic technology and filmed scenes has never been achieved until now. In some cases, technology had to be invented to achieve the highest level of guest experience. The combination of pioneering, state-of-the-art technology, innovative filmmaking and surprises around every corner make this attraction the embodiment of the Harry Potter book and film series—and the future of theme park entertainment.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Quick Facts

  • Storyline: As you venture through Hogwarts, you meet Harry, Ron and Hermione, who convince you to skip a planned lecture and follow them. Upon taking their advice you travel by Floo powder, and begin your adventure as you soar over Hogwarts, narrowly escape a dragon attack, have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow, get pulled into a Quidditch match and more.
  • First-ever combination of advanced robotic ride system technology with innovative, immersive filmmaking
  • Award-winning composer John Williams oversaw the creation of the attraction's score
  • The queue includes the following Harry Potter book and film elements: Headmaster Dumbledore's office, Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Gryffindor common room, Room of Requirement, and the greenhouse; talking portraits including the Fat Lady and the never-before-seen four founders: Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw; the Sorting Hat, the One-Eyed Witch statue and the Mirror of Erised
  • Duration of ride: The full attraction experience, including the queue, takes about an hour
  • Number of scenes in the attraction: 12
  • Characters (featuring Harry Potter film talent): Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid and Draco Malfoy
    • You may also catch a glimpse of Fred and George Weasley, Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom

Comments (32) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Fantasmic! vs. Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

By Robert Niles
Published: March 24, 2010 at 1:53 PM

We wrap up today's second-round match-ups in the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with today's contest from the Best Live Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers. Fantasmic! runs on both coasts, and although the Pirate Island show runs only in Orlando, SeaWorld runs similar sea lion and otter shows at its other parks.

1. Disney's Fantasmic!
(Round One: Defeated Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue)

Disney's Fantasmic!

vs.

9. SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island
(Round One: Defeated Cirque de la Mer)

SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Would you like to know whenever we post new votes?

Thanks for voting today! Coming up tomorrow morning: 4. American Adventure vs. 12. Enchanted Tiki Room

Comments (12) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Terminator 2: 3D vs. MuppetVision 3D

By Robert Niles
Published: March 24, 2010 at 11:46 AM

Round Two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with today's match-up in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each show, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers. Both these shows run in Florida and California, so I suspect that we'll have more readers who have seen both of these shows than for some other match-ups in the tournament.

3. Terminator 2: 3D
(Round One: Defeated Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor)

Terminator 2: 3D

vs.

6. MuppetVision 3D
(Round One: Defeated Shrek 4-D)

MuppetVision 3D


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Would you like to know whenever we post new votes?

Next up: 1. Fantasmic! vs. 9. Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

Comments (26) | Archive Link

What would you do? Marketing Shamu

By Robert Niles
Published: March 24, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Part of the fun of being a pro sports fan lies in second-guessing your team's management. Whom should your team draft? Which free agents should it try to sign? Who should start, and who should never get up from the bench?

Fans clog phone lines to talk radio shows and fill discussion forums with their opinions. Newspaper columnists clear forests to offer theirs. Playing along like you're the owner/GM/coach not only lets fans feel more engaged with their favorite teams, it helps whip up attention to them. Sometimes that attention is good, sometimes it's bad. But let's not forget that the opposite of love isn't hate (or criticism) - it's indifference.

In that spirit, I'm starting up a new weekly feature: "What would you do?" The idea is to get Theme Park Insider readers talking about how they'd address a specific challenge facing a specific theme park or company. It's your chance to play park president!

Let me lay down one important rule, however. When an NFL general manager takes the sleeper pick in the draft you've been telling everyone that they should take, you don't get to sue the team, claiming it stole your idea. Same principal applies here. Any suggestion you offer on this site is fair game for any theme park to take and implement. So if you're in the development business and have something you want to pitch to a park, this isn't the place to do it. (But any pro in the business should know that already.)

(That said, I'll say this to the theme park managers who read the site: In the unlikely event that any of us comes up with a truly unique idea, and you actually like and implement it... hey, take care of my reader, okay?)

I'll be introducing some fun challenges over the next few weeks, but I'm starting today with an excruciating one that's been on my mind recently.

What to do about Shamu?

Laughing Shamu
The "Laughing Shamu" character. You'll see why I chose this photo of Shamu in a moment. Read on.

Last month's tragedy in Orlando created a public relations nightmare for the SeaWorld parks. To its credit, I think that the PR team there handled the situation well, a thought shared by others. But SeaWorld found itself in a doubly difficult situation, from a public relations perspective. Not only had a killer whale been involved in the death of a SeaWorld trainer, but also that killer whale was SeaWorld's primary brand ambassador.

In reality, none of SeaWorld's whales are named Shamu. The whale in this incident was Tilikum, one of dozens of orcas at the various SeaWorld parks. But SeaWorld, over the years, has promoted its killer whales with the collective name "Shamu," rarely distinguishing them by individual names to casual visitors.

So to that casual visitor, the orca in the tank in front of you *is* the world-famous Shamu. That creates a powerful brand identity for visitors. But it comes at great risk. These are, after all, wild animals. What happens when one, such as Tilikum, does something that leads to tragedy?

After Dawn Brancheau's death, SeaWorld stopped posting to the Twitter account that it had created in Shamu's name. The parks closed the killer whale shows temporarily, and I haven't seen nearly as many SeaWorld ads around various media as I used to. Chatter on its Facebook and other Twitter accounts turned to other animals and shows.

Shamu, SeaWorld's primary brand ambassador, effectively has disappeared. Not only did SeaWorld suffer a tragic loss, now it doesn't have its primary brand ambassador around anymore to help it recover.

How can SeaWorld avoid this problem, without sacrificing the brand value it's invested in creating the Shamu character?

That's my question for you today: What would you do about Shamu?

Here's my solution: It's time to retire the perception of Shamu as an actual killer whale and to reimagine him as a pure character. Start referring to the park's whales, in shows and park publicity, using their real names every time they are seen. Retain Shamu, instead, as the fictional animated character who serves as the "host" of SeaWorld. (SeaWorld's already created an animated version - see above. Now you see why I selected that image?)

This would individualize the park's whales to a wider audience, which (frankly) I think they, as living creatures, deserve. And it also insulates the Shamu character and brand from the "real" whales' actions and behavior. As a character, Shamu remains under SeaWorld's complete control.

Shamu as a pure character also opens new promotional opportunities to SeaWorld. Shamu can have a voice, allowing him to communicate directly with SeaWorld's audience. The Twitter account could return. Ideally, I'd love to see the Shamu character as the animated host of a Web series of nature films, produced by SeaWorld. Each piece could be introduced by an animated short, in which Shamu explains to young SeaWorld visitors what they're about to see in the film. The film series also could help SeaWorld create a new visual connection for the public between the work it does with its animals in the parks and those species' existence in the wild.

Get aggressive with this idea, and SeaWorld could do a time buy on a related cable channel, using the advertising time to both promote SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, as well as its various brand partners, such as Southwest Airlines, US Bank and Lowes. That deal not only would increase the visibility of the films, it also would increase the value of SeaWorld's in-park sponsorships, as they then would include commercial airtime on SeaWorld's cable shows. Disney's written the script for how cable TV can serve as a promotional channel for theme parks and their characters. But that doesn't mean others can't do it, too, even if on a lesser scale.

As a character, the "world-famous Shamu" can walk the park, not just to be seen, but to touch and hug young SeaWorld visitors. The connection with the brand can become *stronger*, and without risk.

These changes couldn't happen today. It's still too soon after Dawn's death to implement any campaign that emphasizes the Shamu brand. But, as capital-intensive businesses, theme parks must think in the long term. Even after what has happened, millions of fans still love Shamu. And SeaWorld. By thinking about these potential changes now, SeaWorld can be ready to implement them when the moment is right.

So, what do you think? What would you do about Shamu?

Comments (12) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Apollo's Chariot vs. Incredible Hulk Coaster

By Robert Niles
Published: March 24, 2010 at 9:56 AM

Round Two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with today's match-up in the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each coaster, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers. If you've not ridden one or both of these coasters, you should consider any other coasters of the same make and model that you have ridden when deciding which to support. (You can click the description links for a list.)

2. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Apollo's Chariot
(Round One: Defeated Kraken)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Apollo's Chariot

vs.

7. Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure
(Round One: Defeated X2)

Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Would you like to know whenever we post new votes?

Next up: 3. Terminator 2: 3D vs. 6. MuppetVision 3D

Comments (15) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean vs. Curse of DarKastle

By Robert Niles
Published: March 24, 2010 at 7:30 AM

It's time to tip off Round Two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament. We'll start in the Best Themed Ride bracket.

You can click the links or pictures below for a full description of each ride, along with comments from other Theme Park Insider readers.

5. Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean
(Round One: Defeated Kilimanjaro Safaris)

Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean

vs.

13. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of DarKastle
(Round One: Defeated Expedition Everest)

Busch Gardens' Curse of DarKastle


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Would you like to know whenever we post new votes?

Next up: 2. Apollo's Chariot vs. 7. Incredible Hulk Coaster

Comments (42) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction schedule: Round two

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 7:23 PM

Here's the schedule for the second round of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

Wednesday, March 24
11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT: 5. Pirates of the Caribbean vs. 13. Curse of DarKastle
1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT: 2. Apollo's Chariot vs. 7. Incredible Hulk Coaster
3pm-9pm ET, noon-6pm PT: 3. Terminator 2: 3D vs. 6. MuppetVision 3D
5pm-11pm ET, 2pm-8pm PT: 1. Fantasmic! vs. 9. Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

Thursday, March 25
11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT: 4. American Adventure vs. 12. Enchanted Tiki Room
1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT: 10. Waterworld vs. 15. Lights! Motors! Action!
3pm-9pm ET, noon-6pm PT: 3. El Toro vs. 6. Griffon
5pm-11pm ET, 2pm-8pm PT: 1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. 8. Splash Mountain

Friday, March 26
11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT: 5. The Voyage vs. 13. Mystery Mine
1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT: 2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror vs. 7. Indiana Jones Adventure
3pm-9pm ET, noon-6pm PT: 3. Festival of the Lion King vs. 11. Universal Horror Make-up Show
5pm-11pm ET, 2pm-8pm PT: 1. Mickey's PhilharMagic vs. 9. Reflections of China

Monday, March 29
11am-5pm ET, 8am-2pm PT: 5. Sea Lions Tonight vs. 13. Finding Nemo – The Musical
1pm-7pm ET, 10am-4pm PT: 7. It's Tough to be a Bug! vs. 15. O Canada!
3pm-9pm ET, noon-6pm PT: 3. Revenge of the Mummy vs. 6. Haunted Mansion
5pm-11pm ET, 2pm-8pm PT: 1. Millennium Force vs. 8. The Beast

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Splash Mountain vs. Space Mountain

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 2:55 PM

Thanks to everyone who has voted in this year's Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament. We've come to the final contest of the first round, a great match-up in Best Themed Ride bracket.

8. Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

vs.

9. Disneyland's Space Mountain

Disneyland's Space Mountain


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Later tonight, I'll post the schedule for round two, which begins Wednesday morning at 11 (8am Pacific). Thanks again, everyone, and remember to keep getting out that vote for your favorites!

Comments (12) | Archive Link

A sneak peek at Universal Studios Hollywood's new 4-D King Kong

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 2:43 PM

When our beloved Impressions de France went down in the Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament last week, Laurie wondered if it was time for Disney to film another version of the show, both to have a more modern print as well as more modern fashion by the folks in the show, which was filmed in the late 1970s.

Nah, I said. And not just because I think the show's just fine as it is. I suggested that Disney should wait until it could do a 180-degree high-definition production, possibly in 3D. Hey why not go geek with the film technology here, to last another generation?

Which got me wondering: Could someone actually do a 360-degree, totally immersive 3D film for a theme park?

Today I got my answer: Yes.

And you'll get to see it in July, when the new King Kong attraction opens on the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour.

I was one of several online writers invited to a preview of the new Kong film, which is in production in an airplane hangar in Playa Vista. Universal Creative show producer Valerie Johnson-Redrow walked us through the hangar, where Universal's built a full-size mock-up of a Studio Tour tram, and surrounded it with two massive curved screens.

King Kong mock-up stage

We climbed aboard, put on 3D glasses, and took a seat. What we saw today was simply a rough version of what will premiere this summer. Texture layers need to be applied, and the film we saw was shown at 30 frames per second, instead of the 60 frames per second that visitors will see, Johnson-Redrow said.

Nor did the mock trams have any motion effects. In Kong, each of the four tram cars will park on its own platen, a plate with airbags under each of the four corners. The airbag technology will tilt and rock riders, like in Universal's Earthquake show, but with a more natural feel than Earthquake's hydraulic lifts provide, Johnson-Redrow said.

And yet... wow. Remember those speed tunnel effects that you often see on theme park dark rides? You know, like in the old Tron tunnel on Disney's People Mover?

Think of that effect, except instead of streaks of light flying by, you're speeding through the jungle on Skull Island.

In full-color 3D.

With 3D velociraptors running alongside, snipping at your car.

Then, three T-Rex attack, chomping the raptors while thrashing the tram with their heads and tails. Johnson-Redrow said riders will smell "dinosaur breath" and feel dino slobber as the T-Rex attack.

From the right side of the tram, Kong appears. He slams into one of the T-Rex, which backs into the tram. A second T-Rex moves in on Kong as a third... what's that dino doing?

He's attacking the car at the rear of the tram! And to your left, you'll see a fifth tram car (there are only four on the tour in real life) plunge into a bottom chasm. (Kong director Peter Jackson, who is serving as creative director for this show, is filling that tram with digital images of family and friends, Johnson-Redrow said.)

The battle is on, and eventually the rest of the tram is sent over the edge, as well, caught by vines as Kong and the T-Rex continue to fight, often bounding over the tram.

"Kong is going to get up close and personal with everyone on the tram," Johnson-Redrow said. "That's the beauty of doing this in 3D. Before, we couldn't build two state of the art animatronics, so Kong appeared on only one side of the tram. Now, you'll see him on both sides."

Sitting in the middle of a tram row, the visual effect is compelling. I felt myself swaying back and forth with the film, even though the tram mock-up never budged. Unlike other attractions on the Studio Tour, the seats on the tram sides won't be the best ones here. You'll want to sit toward the middle of the tram to avoid seeing the screen edges and to get the full immersive effect.

Kong will debut in a new building currently under construction at Universal Studios Hollywood. It's not in Kong's old location on the back lot, but up the hill a bit, so that the attraction will not interfere with other productions.

Visitors will be given 3D glasses when they board the tram. When they arrive at Kong, they will pass through a 180-foot darkened tunnel (to allow riders' eyes to adjust from the sunlight) before arriving on the Kong stage. Jackson will greet the tour on-screen in a short pre-show, before the Skull Island sequence begins.

Universal's not given a specific opening date yet, other than "July."

Don't know about you, but I can't wait.

Comments (11) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: American Adventure vs. Hall of Presidents

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Day Four of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with the final first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both of these shows, we've got attraction descriptions linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

4. Epcot's American Adventure

Epcot's American Adventure

vs.

13. Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom vs. Disneyland's Space Mountain

Comments (13) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Sha-Kon-O-Hey vs. Universal Horror Make-up Show

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Day Four of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with the final first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both of these shows, we've got attraction descriptions and show videos linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

7. Dollywood's Sha-Kon-O-Hey

Dollywood's Sha-Kon-O-Hey

vs.

10. Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show

Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Epcot's American Adventure vs. Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Comments (11) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Incredible Hulk Coaster vs. X2

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Day Four of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with the final first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, we've got attraction descriptions linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

7. Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure

vs.

10. Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2

Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Dollywood's Sha-Kon-O-Hey vs. Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show

Comments (11) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Mickey's PhilharMagic vs. Circle of Life

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Day Four of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both of these shows, we've got attraction descriptions linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

1. Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

vs.

16. Epcot's Circle of Life

Epcot's Circle of Life


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure vs. Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2

Comments (6) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Aladdin vs. Lights! Motors! Action!

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Day Four of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both of these shows, we've got attraction descriptions linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

2. Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure

Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure

vs.

15. Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom vs. Epcot's Circle of Life

Comments (17) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Revenge of the Mummy vs. Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 8:02 AM

Day Four of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a match-up from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, we've got attraction descriptions linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

3. Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy

Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy

vs.

14. Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure vs. Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Comments (7) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: The Voyage vs. Top Thrill Dragster

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2010 at 6:55 AM

Good morning! We're going to wrap up round one of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament today, starting with a match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, we've got attraction descriptions linked below, as well as two on-ride videos for you to watch here. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

5. Holiday World's The Voyage

vs.

12. Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy vs. Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Comments (17) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Cirque de la Mer vs. Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 2:57 PM

We wrap up Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with with a first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, we've got attraction descriptions and video linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

8. SeaWorld San Diego's Cirque de la Mer

SeaWorld San Diego's Cirque de la Mer

vs.

9. SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Thanks for voting today, and we'll see you tomorrow morning at 10 Eastern (7am Pacific) for the final day of the first round, starting with Holiday World's The Voyage vs. Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster.

Comments (4) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Expedition Everest vs. Curse of DarKastle

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a first-round match-up from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, we've got attraction descriptions linked below. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best.

4. Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom

vs.

13. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of DarKastle

Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of DarKastle


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: SeaWorld San Diego's Cirque de la Mer vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

Comments (40) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Griffon vs. Manta

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

(Frankly, this sounds like it would have been an awesome 1960s Toho Studios monster flick.)

If you haven't been on both these rides, we've got attraction descriptions linked below, as well as two of Theme Park Insider's best on-ride videos ever for you to watch on this page. Take a look, then decide which one you'd like best. Or, if you've ridden these models at other theme parks, consider them when making a decision.

6. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon

vs.

11. SeaWorld Orlando's Manta


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom vs. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of DarKastle

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: It's Tough to be a Bug! vs. Carousel of Progress

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both of these shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

7. It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom

It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom

vs.

10. Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon [Bolliger & Mabillard Dive] vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Manta [Bolliger & Mabillard Flying]

Comments (17) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 9:55 AM

Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a first-round match-up from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure

vs.

16. SeaWorld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis

SeaWorld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis


Note that we are voting on the SeaWorld Orlando version of Journey to Atlantis and not the very different rides with the same name at the SeaWorld parks in San Diego and San Antonio.

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom vs. Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Comments (12) | Archive Link

New photo, video of Legoland water park under construction

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Legoland California today released photos and video of the construction of its new Legoland Water Park, which will open this summer:

Legoland water slide, under construction

Sure, it's just a video of a bunch of people putting stuff together. But isn't that what playing with Legos is all about? :-)

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Apollo's Chariot vs. Kraken

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament continues with a first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions and on-ride video linked below, and read the comments, before voting. (If you have been on these models at other parks, you can consider them when deciding which of these rides to support.)

2. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Apollo's Chariot

Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Apollo's Chariot

vs.

15. SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken

SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis

Comments (17) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Festival of the Lion King vs. Believe

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 8:26 AM

We're continuing Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both these shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting. (If you have seen Believe at one of the other SeaWorld parks, you can consider it when deciding which of these attractions to support.)

3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

vs.

14. SeaWorld Orlando's Believe

SeaWorld Orlando's Believe


Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Apollo's Chariot [Bolliger & Mabillard Mega Coaster] vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken [Bolliger & Mabillard Floorless]

Comments (8) | Archive Link

Robert on the radio, and other morning notes

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 7:10 AM

If you've been a fan of the Cast Member Stories I've been telling here on Theme Park Insider, (and, yes, they're returning after the tournament), then please listen in on Cosmic Reid's Starlight Cafe on magicalmouseradio.com today at noon Eastern Central (1pm Eastern, 10am Pacific), as I'll be reading one of my stories on the show. If folks like it, I'll be a regular feature over there on Mondays.

Also, I wanted to let you know that we are in the overtime period for the Beast vs. Maverick match-up, until noon Eastern this morning (9am Pacific), so please vote, if you didn't during regulation on Friday.

Finally, I also wanted to draw your attention to TPI reader Adriel Tjokrosaputro's in-depth trip report from Universal Studios Singapore's soft opening last week. Great stuff there from Adriel!

Comments (1) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Walt Disney: One Man's Dream vs. Enchanted Tiki Room

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2010 at 6:55 AM

Good morning! Let's fire up Day Three of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

It's a match between a tribute to Walt Disney and what might have been Walt's favorite show. If you haven't seen both these shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

5. One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

vs.

12. Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room

Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room


Remember, we're voting on the Disneyland original version of the Tiki Room here, not the very different Walt Disney World version.

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. And please consider subscribing to our Theme Park Insider Twitter feed for immediate notices when we open new match-ups for voting.

Next up: Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Believe

Comments (6) | Archive Link

Tournament weekend update

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Thanks to everyone who's voted, Tweeted, posted to Facebook or otherwise participated and spread the word about this year's Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

Well, it looks like y'all threw me a curve with the tie between Kings Island's The Beast and Cedar Point's Maverick. So we're going to overtime on Monday morning, at 10am Eastern, 7am Pacific. It'll be a two-hour overtime. Note that this is an overtime, and not a revote. So if you've already voted, you won't be able to vote again. I'll simply reopen the poll then for people who missed the original voting window.

Speaking of those voting windows, based on both popular demand and the fact that the new voting tool seems to be holding up, I'm extending the voting window for the remainder of the first round to four hours for each match-up. We'll go to six-hour windows for the subsequent rounds. (You can see the new match-up times on the PDF tournament bracket.)

The idea remains that this is a tournament, with individual games that I hope people will come see on the site as they happen throughout the day.

We've had a mix of blow-outs, close battles and even upsets so far. (Impressions de France... *sniff*) And I'm hoping that as you spread the word, we'll have more great comment threads going on each match-up as the tournament continues.

Thanks again to everyone and I'll see you on Monday morning!

Comments (7) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: The Beast vs. Maverick

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Update 2; March 22, 7am: We're in overtime now, and the poll is re-opened for those who have not yet voted.

Update 3; 9am: Congratulations to our winner: The Beast!

We're going to wrap up day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both these rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

8. Kings Island's The Beast

vs.

9. Cedar Point's Maverick

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Thanks for voting today and yesterday. We'll see you back on Monday for eight more match-ups in the Best Theme Park Attraction tournament's first round. Have a great weekend!

Update: A tie?!? Wow. Hadn't anticipated that. Thinking through the possibilities here, I think the fairest thing is... overtime. Monday morning, we'll have a two-hour overtime period starting 10am Eastern (7am Pacific). Be there for the first OT in Tournament history!

Comments (19) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Pets Rule vs. Finding Nemo - The Musical

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 3:41 PM

We're kicking off evening number two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

4. SeaWorld San Diego's Pets Rule

SeaWorld San Diego's Pets Rule

vs.

13. Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Last match-up tonight will be from the Best Roller Coaster bracket: 8. Kings Island's The Beast [Charlie Dinn Wooden] vs. 9. Cedar Point's Maverick [Intamin AG Custom]

Comments (6) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: MuppetVision 3D vs. Shrek 4-D

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM

We're continuing day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

6. MuppetVision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

MuppetVision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

vs.

11. Universal Studios Florida's Shrek 4-D

Universal Studios Florida's Shrek 4-D

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

We'll be back at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific, with a match-up from the Best Live Show bracket: 4. SeaWorld San Diego's Pets Rule vs. 13. Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Comments (15) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Indiana Jones Adventure vs. Toy Story Midway Mania

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 11:40 AM

We're continuing day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

7. Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure

Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure

vs.

10. Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney's California Adventure

Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney's California Adventure

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Next up is the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket, with 6. MuppetVision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. 11. Universal Studios Florida's Shrek 4-D

Comments (17) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Fantasmic! vs. Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM

We're continuing day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

vs.

16. Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue

Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (8) | Archive Link

What's new on the discussion board: Orlando trip planning, and what you've learned from theme parks

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Taking a quick break from the tournament to show you this week's round-up of top new threads on the Theme Park Insider Discussion Forum:

- Brady Allen asks when is the best time to book a trip to Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights?

- Alvaro Reyes wants to know if 1 day is enough for Universal Studios and IOA using xpress passes?

- B Koen is looking into a trip to Walt Disney World and asks if he should use Travel Agent or WDW online?

- Steve Ward wants to know Has anyone actually stayed in the Cinderella Castle Suite?

- Audrey C has started up another discussion asking about the latest Weight Restrictions on Orlando-area theme park rides.

- "IT geek" and theme park fan Sandro Giometti asks about iPhone Apps for the Orlando Parks

- Mike Gallagher asks What Acts Have You Seen At Amusement Parks?, and lists some of the bands he's seen perform.

- Nathan Baldock checks in from the UK to ask How far will you travel to get on a ride?

- Tyler is planning to visit Six Flags and wants to know Should I get a gold flash pass?

- David Sutter asks Should Six Flags help restore New Orleans Park?

- And finally, Anthony Murphy started a great thread: What I learned from the Magic Kingdom. Check it out.

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Impressions de France vs. O Canada!

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 9:40 AM

We're continuing day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

2. Epcot's Impressions de France

Epcot's Impressions de France

vs.

15. Epcot's O Canada!

Epcot's O Canada!

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Next up is 1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. 16. Universal Studios Florida's Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue

Comments (12) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: El Toro [Intamin Wooden] vs. Goliath [Giovanola Mega]

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM

We're continuing day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

3. Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro

Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro

vs.

14. Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath

Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Next up is 2. Epcot's Impressions de France vs. 15. Epcot's O Canada!

Comments (2) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean vs. Kilimanjaro Safaris

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2010 at 7:33 AM

It's time to start day two of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament, with a first-round match-up from the Best Theme Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

5. Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean

vs.

12. Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Next up is 3. Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro [Intamin Wooden] vs. 14. Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath [Giovanola Mega]

Comments (16) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Mystery Lodge vs. Reflections of China

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 4:59 PM

We wrap up the first day of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

8. Mystery Lodge at Knott's Berry Farm

Mystery Lodge at Knott's Berry Farm

vs.

9. Epcot's Reflections of China

Epcot's Reflections of China

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Thanks for playing along today, everyone! We'll get started again at 11am Eastern/8am Pacific tomorrow with Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean vs. Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Comments (9) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Thunderhead vs. Mystery Mine

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 3:59 PM

We continue the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

4. Dollywood's Thunderhead [Great Coasters International]

Dollywood's Thunderhead

vs.

13. Dollywood's Mystery Mine [Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter]

Dollywood's Mystery Mine

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (7) | Archive Link

Universal to announce next week when Harry Potter will open

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Yes, I realize that this is a story about an announcement of an announcement. But Universal Orlando confirmed today that it will announce the opening date of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during a live webcast on March 25 at noon Eastern Time. It will also reveal details about the land's signature Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.

To promote the webcast, Universal today also released a teaser video on Facebook.

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Haunted Mansion vs. Men in Black Alien Attack

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 12:59 PM

We continue the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

6. Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

vs.

11. Universal Studios Florida's Men in Black Alien Attack

Universal Studios Florida's Men in Black Alien Attack

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did. After this, our next vote will be up at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific.

Comments (24) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Katonga vs. Waterworld

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 11:59 AM

We continue the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't seen both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

7. Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga

Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga

vs.

10. Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld

Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (6) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Millennium Force vs. Raptor

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 10:59 AM

We continue the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Roller Coaster bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

1. Cedar Point's Millennium Force [Intamin Giga/Mega]

Cedar Point's Millennium Force

vs.

16. Cedar Point's Raptor [Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted]

Cedar Point's Raptor

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (12) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. Soarin' Over California at Disney's California Adventure

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 9:59 AM

We continue the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Themed Ride bracket.

If you haven't been on both rides, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

vs.

15. Soarin' Over California at Disney's California Adventure

Soarin' Over California at Disney's California Adventure

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (11) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D vs. Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 9:00 AM

We continue the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

If you haven't been to both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

3. Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D

Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D

vs.

14. Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (9) | Archive Link

2010 Best Theme Park Attraction: SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight vs. SeaWorld Orlando's Blue Horizons

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2010 at 7:58 AM

It's time to kick off the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament with a first-round match-up from the Best Live Show bracket.

If you haven't been to both shows, please click through to the attraction descriptions linked below, and read the comments, before voting.

5. SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight

SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight

vs.

12. SeaWorld Orlando's Blue Horizons

SeaWorld Orlando's Blue Horizons

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

Comments (9) | Archive Link

Vote of the week: Which film from the Disney Renaissance needs to become a new attraction at Walt Disney World?

By Robert Niles
Published: March 17, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Thanks to TPI reader Tim W for this vote suggestion, which I'm running a couple days early to avoid the onslaught of Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament votes:

Tm writes: "A while back, i posted a discussion about which disney film should be turned into an attraction at Walt Disney World. It was made into a vote of the week and became about the classic Disney movies. Fantasia became the winner of the first poll, followed right behind by Mary Poppins. So in this poll, I'd like to know what you guys think about the films from the Disney Renaissance Era."

Let's hear your thoughts, in the comments.

By the way, I'm testing a new poll tool here today, too. So please let me know if you have any problems with voting, as well. Thanks!

Comments (23) | Archive Link

The 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction tournament schedule

By Robert Niles
Published: March 17, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Here is the schedule for the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament. Match-ups are in two-hour windows, starting at the times indicated below. If you click the tournament link just above, you can download a PDF of the bracket (which included the start times), if you find it easier to see that way.

Times given are Eastern and Pacific. Everyone else has to do the math.

I've mixed up the four brackets, instead of doing one bracket per day. That was a coin flip - so I'll justify it after the fact by saying this helps emphasize the variety of the tournament. Really, though, I have no idea if that's going to be a good idea. If it isn't, then I'll change for the second round, which begins Wednesday, March 24.

It's GOTV (get out the vote) time, folks. Pick the match-ups where you really, really want to see a particular winner, and get out the vote for that time. Just send people to the Theme Park Insider home page. All match-ups will be posted here, to the Blog Flume.

It'll be fun, folks. I hope everyone's looking forward to it!

[Crosses fingers. Hopes for the best.]

*Update: We've extended the voting window to four hours, starting with Monday's match-ups. New times noted below.

Thursday, March 18

  • 11am-1pm ET, 8am-10am PT - 5. SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight vs. 12. SeaWorld Orlando's Blue Horizons
  • Noon-2pm ET, 9am-11am PT - 3. Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D vs. 14. Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
  • 1pm-3pm ET, 10am-Noon PT - 2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. 15. Soarin' Over California at Disney's California Adventure
  • 2pm-4pm ET, 11am-1pm PT - 1. Cedar Point's Millennium Force [Intamin Giga/Mega] vs. 16. Cedar Point's Raptor [Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted]
  • 3pm-5pm ET, Noon-2pm PT - 7. Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga vs. 10. Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld
  • 4pm-6pm ET, 1pm-3pm PT - 6. Disneyland's Haunted Mansion vs. 11. Universal Studios Florida's Men in Black Alien Attack
  • 7pm-9pm ET, 4pm-6pm PT - 4. Dollywood's Thunderhead [Great Coasters International] vs. 13. Dollywood's Mystery Mine [Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter]
  • 8pm-10pm ET, 5pm-7pm PT - 8. Mystery Lodge at Knott's Berry Farm vs. 9. Epcot's Reflections of China

Friday, March 19

  • 11am-1pm ET, 8am-10am PT - 5. Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean vs. 12. Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • Noon-2pm ET, 9am-11am PT - 3. Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro [Intamin Wooden] vs. 14. Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath [Giovanola Mega]
  • 1pm-3pm ET, 10am-Noon PT - 2. Epcot's Impressions de France vs. 15. Epcot's O Canada!
  • 2pm-4pm ET, 11am-1pm PT - 1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. 16. Universal Studios Florida's Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue
  • 3pm-5pm ET, Noon-2pm PT - 7. Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure vs. 10. Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney's California Adventure
  • 4pm-6pm ET, 1pm-3pm PT - 6. MuppetVision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. 11. Universal Studios Florida's Shrek 4-D
  • 7pm-9pm ET, 4pm-6pm PT - 4. SeaWorld San Diego's Pets Rule vs. 13. Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • 8pm-10pm ET, 5pm-7pm PT - 8. Kings Island's The Beast [Charlie Dinn Wooden] vs. 9. Cedar Point's Maverick [Intamin AG Custom]

Monday, March 22*

  • 10am-2pm ET, 7am-11am PT - 5. Walt Disney: One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios vs. 12. Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room
  • 11am-3pm ET, 8am-Noon PT - 3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom vs. 14. SeaWorld Orlando's Believe
  • Noon-4pm ET, 9am-1pm PT - 2. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Apollo's Chariot [Bolliger & Mabillard Mega Coaster] vs. 15. SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken [Bolliger & Mabillard Floorless]
  • 1pm-5pm ET, 10am-2pm PT - 1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure vs. 16. SeaWorld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis
  • 2pm-6pm ET, 11am-3pm PT - 7. It's Tough to be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom vs. 10. Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
  • 3pm-7pm ET, Noon-4pm PT - 6. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon [Bolliger & Mabillard Dive] vs. 11. SeaWorld Orlando's Manta [Bolliger & Mabillard Flying]
  • 5pm-9pm ET, 2pm-6pm PT - 4. Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom vs. 13. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of DarKastle
  • 6pm-10pm ET, 3pm-7pm PT - 8. SeaWorld San Diego's Cirque de la Mer vs. 9. SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

Tuesday, March 23*

  • 10am-2pm ET, 7am-11am PT - 5. Holiday World's The Voyage [The Gravity Group] vs. 12. Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster [Intamin AG Accelerator]
  • 11am-3pm ET, 8am-Noon PT - 3. Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy vs. 14. Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure
  • Noon-4pm ET, 9am-1pm PT - 2. Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure vs. 15. Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • 1pm-5pm ET, 10am-2pm PT - 1. Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom vs. 16. Epcot's Circle of Life
  • 2pm-6pm ET, 11am-3pm PT - 7. Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure [Bolliger & Mabillard Sitting (Launch)] vs. 10. Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2 [Arrow 4D]
  • 3pm-7pm ET, Noon-4pm PT - 6. Dollywood's Sha-Kon-O-Hey vs. 11. Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show
  • 5pm-9pm ET, 2pm-6pm PT - 4. Epcot's American Adventure vs. 13. Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
  • 6pm-10pm ET, 3pm-7pm PT - 8. Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom vs. 9. Disneyland's Space Mountain

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure

By Robert Niles
Published: March 16, 2010 at 9:14 AM

Sixty-three entrants are in - and, now, one to go. The final nominee for the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament, the number one seed in the Best Themed Ride bracket is...

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Spider-Man opened with Islands of Adventure in 1999 and immediately won praise as the world's most advanced theme park attraction. Blending flight simulator technology with a traditional track ride, 3-D film and stage effects, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man redefined what a themed ride could be, elevating a concept first expressed by Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure to the next level.

You're riding with the staff of the Daily Bugle in publisher Jonah Jameson's new SCOOP vehicles, tracking news that the Statue of Liberty's been stolen. (Forgive me an insider's moment here, but as a journalist, I have to give Spider-Man's designers huge bonus points for portraying the convergence of print and video journalism - something that was very cutting-edge in 1999.) The Sinister Syndicate's used its anti-gravity gun to swipe the statue, and Spider-Man's joined you in the chase.

One by one, Spider-Man fights the Syndicate's bad guys, Electro, Hydro-Man, Hobgoblin and finally, Doc Ock. In the final battle, Doc Ock attacks your SCOOP with the anti-gravity gun, setting up a 400-foot plunge off a skyscraper.

But, of course, Spider-Man saves the day.

With so much rich detail in each scene, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man rewards repeat visitors - you can't possibly catch all the detail in a single ride on this attraction. Despite the ride's immense popularity, its immense expense has kept it from being duplicated throughout the industry. A second version of the ride debuted at Universal Studios Japan in 2004. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of DarKastle (the 2005 Theme Park Insider Award winner for Best New Attraction) runs a similar system and the Transformers rides that will debut at Universal Studios Singapore in 2011 and Universal Studios Hollywood in 2012 are said to similar to Spider-Man, as well. But that's it.

The bracket's set, and tomorrow I will publish the schedule for the first-round match-ups. Let's hear your thoughts about The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, as well as your tournament picks, in the comments.

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New photo of Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure at Universal Studios Singapore

By Robert Niles
Published: March 15, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Universal Studios Singapore released some new attraction photos in advance of its opening on Thursday. I've added a few to our Universal Studios Singapore reviews pages. But the one I wanted to draw your immediate attention to was this one, which solves the mystery of the side-by-side flumes at Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, which I raised in my trip report from Universal in Singapore last month.

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure at Universal Studios Singapore
Photo courtesy Universal Studios Singapore

It's a tub rapids ride?! Not a row-by-row boat ride, as in Florida and Hollywood? Now the name makes sense, doesn't it? Anyway, it's an interesting touch that should make Jurassic Park in Singapore an even wilder ride.

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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

By Robert Niles
Published: March 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Theme Park Insider readers have rated Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios as the top seed in the Best Live Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic! opened at the then-Disney-MGM Studios in 1998, following the original Disneyland version of the show, which has been playing on the Rivers of America in Anaheim since 1992. (A third version will open at Tokyo DisneySea next year.) Fantasmic! presents highlights from many classic Disney films, in live action and animation projected on water screens in front of a massive outdoor stage. Mickey Mouse provides the focus for the show, as it's his dream that brings together all these classic Disney moments, culminating in his fiery battle with Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent.

The Walt Disney World version of the show plays in Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, which was built for the show. The other big difference between the two versions has been the frequency with which it plays. Until last year, when the schedule was cut back, the Disney World version played nearly every night, unlike the California version, which plays only during summers and holidays.

The shows differ in a few other ways: The Disney World version plays a few minutes longer, due to additional clips of villains. And the final character flood takes place on Steamboat Willie's steamship, instead of on the Mark Twain, as it does in Disneyland. To me, the Mark Twain's always been more visually impressive than the smaller Steamboat Willie ship, but the Florida version fits better within the theme of the show. A black-and-white Mickey piloting Steamboat Willie's boat makes sense. Mickey on the Mark Twain... not so much.

Despite playing in a massive theater (with room for more than 9,000 visitors), Fantasmic! remains a tough "ticket" most nights, making various dining packages at park restaurants that guarantee a Fantasmic! seat popular options. This show's enduring popularity made it an obvious top seed, but in which bracket?

The show's use of recorded voices and programmed effects would suggest it might be an animated show, but with dozens of live character actors and technicians bringing the show to life each night it plays, ultimately I placed it within the live show bracket. The show's use of pyro and water screens also makes it a difficult one to film, but I've embedded the best version I've found on YouTube to date for your Monday-at-work time-killing pleasure:

Please tell us your thoughts about Fantasmic!, and its chances within the Best Live show bracket, in the comments.

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Vote of the week: Which theme parks do you wish you could visit in 2010?

By Robert Niles
Published: March 12, 2010 at 11:57 AM

Last week, I asked which theme parks you were planning to visit (or already had visited) in 2010. Here are the top 25 parks from results, with the percentage of Theme Park Insider readers who said that they were planning to visit that park:

1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom 37%
2. Universal Studios Florida 35%
3. Universal's Islands of Adventure 33%
4. Epcot 33%
5. Disney's Animal Kingdom 33%
6. Disney's Hollywood Studios 33%
7. SeaWorld Orlando 20%
8. Disneyland 16%
9. Busch Gardens Tampa 16%
10. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 13%
11. Disney's California Adventure 13%
12. Cedar Point 12%
13. Kings Dominion 8%
14. Kings Island 8%
15. Hersheypark 7%
16. Universal Studios Hollywood 7%
17. Knott's Berry Farm 6%
18. Carowinds 6%
19. Dollywood 5%
   Six Flags Magic Mountain 5%
21. Six Flags Great Adventure 5%
22. Holiday World 4%
23. Alton Towers 4%
24. SeaWorld San Diego 4%
25. Kennywood 3%

Not planning to visit any parks in 2010 4%

A few interesting notes, comparing these results with the annual Top 25 attendance figures you can find on the right side of the page:

  • The Universal Orlando parks appear to be drawing more visitors in 2010, which I suppose is to be expected with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yet Universal Studios Florida still appears to be attracting more visitors than Islands of Adventure, where the new Harry Potter land will be located.

  • The California theme parks are way down in this survey. I don't think that's because attendance will be down at those parks, indeed, initial reports have them rising in 2009 and remaining strong this year. But these results support the claim that the California parks' attendance is swelled by multiple repeat visits from locals, rather than a larger number of visitors from outside the area, as go to the other parks in the survey. Remember, we just asked if you were planning to visit a park, not how many times you were planning to visit. Annual attendance data is based on unique daily turnstile clicks, not unique head count.

  • Kings Dominion and Carowinds are looking up this year, which reflects anticipation of their soon-to-debut "Intimidator" roller coasters, I'm sure.

    So let's get to this week's vote. Alton Towers was the only non-U.S. park to crack the Top 25, a reflection of the fact that more than 75 perent of Theme Park Insider's readers live in the United States. And many of those who live elsewhere come to the site looking for information on U.S. parks.

    But today I'd like to ask about parks outside the United States. Yes, I know that airfare costs make visiting foreign theme parks difficult, if not impossible, for many Theme Park Insider readers. But what if that weren't the case? What if the world's airlines announced a "fly anywhere in the world for $400-a-person, round-trip" sale? What theme parks would you want to visit then?

    So that's the assumption for this week's vote. You can fly anywhere in the world for $400 a person, round trip. You've got to pay hotel, ground transport, admission tickets and meals as always - no fantasy discounts on those. And you can take as many of those $400 trips as you want this year. (But your employer isn't giving you any extra vacation time.)

    Where would you want to go? Obviously, with these conditions and assumptions, I'm trying to dissuade you from clicking all the options. But I am giving you the opportunity to pick more than one park, if you'd have the money and time (and inclination to visit), given these conditions. You can click to read about most of these parks at www.themeparkinsider.com/reviews:

    Please tell us more in the comments about which non-U.S. theme parks you've dreamed of visiting.

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    Legoland California starts its 2010 Miniland 'census'

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 12, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Just like the U.S. Government, Legoland California is conducting a census. In honor of the official 2010 U.S. Census (and to encourage people like you to fill out and return your census forms), Legoland's dispatched its Master Model Builders to go out and count how many Lego "people," live and work (okay, just stand around) in the park's Miniland. (Photos provided by Legoland California.)

    Counting the people in Legoland's Miniland

    Legoland's also deployed six Lego "census workers" in Miniland, and challenged visitors to find them. Here's one:

    Legoland Census Bureau

    The Legoland Census Bureau figures will remain in Miniland until July. The park will release its census results later this year.

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    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Cedar Point's Millennium Force

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 12, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Theme Park Insider readers have selected Cedar Point's Millennium Force at the top seed in the Best Roller Coaster bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament, which begins Thursday.

    Cedar Point's Millennium Force

    Installed in 2000 (and thus, the name), Millennium Force takes riders up 300-foot lift hill for an awesome view all of Cedar Point, as well as much of the Ohio coast. Look quickly, though, because you're about to fall down those 300 feet, just yards from the edge of Lake Erie. Barely missing the lake, you then bank into a sweeping right turn that leaves you with a breathtaking feeling of flying over the treetops.

    From there, it's all about speed and airtime, as Millennium Force swoops and dips up and down the Lake Erie shore. Come ride with us:

    Millennium Force was Intamin's first coaster to be dubbed a "Giga." A second Giga, Intimidator 305, will open at Kings Dominion this spring. (Interesting to note that Cedar Fair's other "Intimidator"-themed coaster for this year, at Carowinds, will be a Bolliger & Mabillard Mega - the second seed in this year's Best Roller Coaster tournament bracket.) Intamin Megas - essentially the same design as the Giga but with smaller (gee, only 200-foot) drops) - include Bizarro at Six Flags New England and Superman - Ride Of Steel at Six Flags America.

    So far, you've ranked Millennium Force as the best roller coaster at the nation's top theme parks. Can it survive head-to-head match-ups in the tournament to claim the title of the Best Roller Coaster in America? Tournament voting starts Thursday. You've seen the bracket now, so let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

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    Keep celebrating Mardi Gras with Universal Orlando's Jambalaya recipe

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 11, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    Even though we're long into Lent on the calendar, Mardi Gras continues to roll on at Universal Studios Florida. So, to remind folks about that, and because I love cooking shows, here's Universal Orlando's top chef (and multiple Theme Park Insider Award winner), Steve Jayson, with Universal's Mardi Gras Jambalaya recipe:

    Here's the recipe, in case you want to copy and paste:

    4 T olive oil
    3/4 c Andouille sausage (1/4" slice)
    1/4 c Tasso ham, diced
    1 T minced garlic
    1/4 c diced onions
    1/4 c diced celery
    1/8 c diced green pepper
    1 c diced chicken breast
    1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
    2 T tomato puree
    1/4 black-eyed peas
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 t cayenne pepper
    1/2 t oregano
    1 t rosemary
    1 t thyme
    2 c chicken stock
    3/4 c dry white rice
    1/2 c bay shrimp

    1. Heat oil in a 4-qt saucepan
    2. Add the ham and sausage and saute until crisp
    3. Add garlic, onion, celery and garlic and cook for 5 min.
    4. Add chicken and cook 5-7 min., stirring constantly.
    5. Add black-eyed peas, tomato, puree, seasonings, shrimp and rice. Stir thoroughly.
    6. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
    7. Cover. Cook until rice is tender (approx. 45 min.)
    8. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

    My family likes to start with a baguette and some Brie before the spicy Jambalaya, though I have to say I'm partial to flavor overload by going with some roasted garlic on the French bread.

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    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 11, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    Theme Park Insider readers have voted Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom into the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament as the top seed in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

    Mickey's PhilharMagic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

    Even though the title is "Mickey's" PhilharMagic, Donald Duck's the star of this 12-minute 3-D musical review, which plays in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland Theater. As the show begins, Donald's unpacking the instruments for Mickey's orchestra when he decides to try on the Big Cheese's famous sorcerer's hat from Fantasia.

    And then, everyone say it with me now, things go horribly wrong.

    The instruments spring to life, Donald loses control and soon we're flying through a musical medley of famous songs and scenes from top Disney animated films. Eventually, of course, Mickey returns to retrieve his hat and save the day. And Donald? Well, he gets his with a tuba blast into the theater's back wall.

    Donald Duck in Mickey's PhilharMagic

    Directed by "Oliver and Company" and "The Prince and the Pauper" director George Scribner, Mickey's PhilharMagic debuted in 2003. The portrayed for the first time on screen computer-animated versions of many Disney characters. Disney's Imagineers used archival recordings for much of the dialogue in the film, with character's original voice actors returning to supply much of the remaining dialogue.

    Mickey's PhilharMagic also plays at Hong Kong Disneyland, with plans for the show to arrive in Tokyo Disneyland next year. Rumors are flying that once Captain EO finishes its run at Disneyland that the show might finally make its way to California, too.

    So... is Mickey's PhilarMagic the best theme park movie in America? We'll soon find out. Voting begins in the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament one week from today.

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    Disney to sell annual pass good for all its U.S. theme parks

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 10, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    The Walt Disney Co, confirmed today the rumor that it would start selling a combined "Premier Passport" good for admission to all its' U.S. theme parks, at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California.

    The Premier Pass will sell for $700, plus tax, and including admission and parking at all six theme parks, two Disney World water parks, and admission to DisneyQuest at WDW, plus subscriptions to annual passholder publications.

    The passes go on sale at the parks tomorrow. If you happen to be one of those hard-core Disney fanatics who own premium passes to both parks, you'll be issued a Premier Pass with an expiration date of the last of your two passes to expire. (Someone out there is smiling at their timing on this one, I'm sure.)

    The pass also includes food and merchandise discounts, but you can't use a DVC discount to get a lower price. Nor are there child passes at a lower price. Kids pay the same as adults.

    As far as I remember, this is the first time that the Disney Co. has issued admission media to the general public that covers parks on both coasts. When I worked at Disney World, each summer and winter, we'd get free one-day, park-hopper tickets that were good at all the Disney World parks and Disneyland. We'd joke that someone with more money that any of us had could use that ticket to spend the morning hitting all the Disney World parks, then hop a flight to the LA area and wrap up the day at Disneyland.

    Now... some folks out there finally will have a single ticket that allows them to do that. Airfare not included, of course. :-)

    A previous version of this story was submitted by a Theme Park Insider reader, who copied an Orlando Sentinel story in its entirety. This is a violation of Theme Park Insider's Rules for Writers, so that version of the story has been removed and the reader has been banned from the site. Sorry, hate to be a jerk here, but I have to have zero tolerance for that. So, please, please, please, phrase what you write in your own words, and provide links to your sources instead of copying text.

    Update: It's been years since I had to enforce the no-plagiarism rule, and, you know, I've decided that banning people (actually, just deleting memberships) for that is stupid. I'll save that for people filing false reports or harassing others. (Which, frankly, rarely happens around here. TPI readers rock.) I still won't allow duped content on to the site, but the right thing to do is delete it, warn the reader and move on. So, my apologies.

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    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: The Bolliger & Mabillard Mega Coaster

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 10, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    By far, the most popular roller coaster model among Theme Park Insider readers is the Bolliger & Mabillard Mega Coaster. In fact, the reason why I implemented the rule for this year's Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament that only one installation of any model would be included was because of the B&M Mega. Without that rule, five of the top 10 coasters in the tournament would have been B&M Megas.

    While I love the B&M Mega, too, a tournament that reduced to voting on which Mega was the best Mega just didn't seem that exciting to me. So I made the call, and today we reveal which of America's B&M Mega Coasters received the highest average rating from Theme Park Insider readers, and thus, a spot in this year's tournament.

    First, though, let me note the irony that even though the B&M Mega is Theme Park Insider readers' favorite coaster model, the B&M Mega is not the top seed in the roller coaster bracket. That honor, obviously, was won by another manufacturer, which I will reveal on Monday Friday. (Though, I suspect it should take you folks about 0.3 seconds to guess what it is.)

    So... the second seed in the Best Roller Coaster bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament is...

    Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

    Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, in Virginia.

    Featuring a 210-foot initial drop over a pond, followed by a series of 100-foot-plus drops that yield superb airtime, not to mention excellent views of the James River region, Apollo's Chariot offers a smooth ride, blending high-speed thrills with outstanding visuals. The open car design on the B&M Mega enables those sweet views, and Busch Gardens made full use of that potential with an excellent site placement.

    Of course, no discussion of Apollo's Chariot would be complete without its, uh, rather notorious 1999 opening ceremony (there's some good POV of the initial drop here, too):

    Okay, maybe Fabio "lashed out" at the park, but by leading to him being whacked in the face, Apollo's Chariot immediately endeared itself to a generation of fans who couldn't stand the male super-model or at least the hype (at that time) surrounding him.

    Other B&M Megas include Kings Island's Diamondback, Six Flags Over Georgia's Goliath, Six Flags Great Adventure's Nitro and Six Flags Great America's Raging Bull.

    Uodate: Starting tomorrow: The number one seeds!

    • Thursday: Best Movie or Animated Show
    • Friday: Best Roller Coaster
    • Monday: Best Live Show
    • Tuesday: Best Themed Ride
    And a week from Thursday, first-round voting begins!

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    Theme parks and the legality of publishing visitors' video: Part two

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 10, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    I wanted to draw your attention to a story yesterday in the Orlando Sentinel about an attempt by SeaWorld and the family of Dawn Brancheau to prevent video of the orca attack which claimed her life last month from being shown to the public.

    The Orange County Sheriff's Department has surveillance video of the incident, and might have video from tourists on the scene, too. Normally, under Florida law, material that sheriff's deputies collect in the course of an investigation becomes public record after the investigation is complete. And the sheriff's office already has gotten multiple requests for the video.

    But, remember, SeaWorld has a legal ace up its sleeve here. Remember our discussion from earlier this year about the legality of posting theme park photos and videos online? Despite the fact that theme parks technically prohibit publication of images photographed or recorded within their parks, I wrote then that parks "absolutely love viral promotion from their guests." The only time that parks would take legal action to enforce their copyright and prevent an in-park photo or video from being publishing would be if it "portrays the park in a negative light."

    You better believe that SeaWorld's going to exercise that here. The sheriff's office might be legally obligated to release the video after it complete its investigation. But SeaWorld's copyright claim on that video should be enough to prevent anyone who obtains that video from republishing it - online or elsewhere.

    There is a "fair use" exemption to copyright law that might allow news organizations or even individual bloggers to publish a screen grab, or maybe even a very short excerpt from the video. I wouldn't do that, though, and I hope that no other news organization covering the theme park industry would, either. Let's allow Dawn's memory, family and fellow trainers some dignity.

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    Free Disney tickets for volunteers program wraps up

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    The Give-a-Day, Get-a-Day promotion that Disney was running for its theme parks has ended. Disney announced today that's it has reached its cap of 1 million volunteers getting a free one-day ticket to Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks, so there will be no more sign-ups.

    The announcement means that you can no longer sign up for a volunteer activity to get a free ticket (though, of course, volunteer agencies are almost always happy to accept your help anyway). If you're already signed up and registered for an event, I'm told that you are good to go and should receive your voucher as scheduled.

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    What's new on the discussion board: Orlando vacation trip planning, cheap eats and 4D

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Here are the top new threads from the past week on the Theme Park Insider Discussion Board:

  • Sandro Giometti delurks to ask about theme park crowds and trip planning for visiting Orlando in April.

  • Don Neal crunched the numbers on his family's theme park vacation for this year, then explains How Disney seduced me away from Universal...

  • Anthony Murphy asks about your favorite Cheap Eats at Disney World.

  • And if you're looking for an even cheaper alternative for lunch and dinner, we've also got a question about Bringing food into Disney?

  • Drew Horsefield asks Whats Next? in roller coasters.

  • Nick Markham takes a look at the Texas Giant rehab and warns that Cedar Fair Better Watch Six Flags Closely.

  • Sarah Tish asks 4D - is it a must see?

  • And finally... hey, it's been a while since we had a knock-down, drag-out over Harry Potter World, er, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

  • Archive Link

    First look at new Ferrari World roller coaster

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Just got my first look (via an e-mailed photo) of the GT Racing Coaster at the new Ferrari World theme park that's opening in Abu Dhabi in the back half of 2010.

    Here's the background on the coaster, e-mailed by my source:

    The GT rollercoaster is a racing coaster, which will send two competing rollercoaster carriages sprinting along twisting parallel tracks on a race to the finish line. Each coaster car is a replica of a Ferrari F430 Spider. This is one of twenty rides and attractions featured at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

    Okay, if I can go to Singapore, can I get myself invited to a journalism conference in the UAE this year, too? :-)

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    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Theme Park Insider readers have voted The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios into the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament as the second seed in the Best Themed Ride bracket.

    Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

    Tower of Terror opened in 1994 and won the inaugural Best Ride in America Tournament in 2008. It continues Disney's tradition of reimagining traditional amusement park ride systems as the basis for an immersive storytelling experience. (Other versions, with a different ride system, stand at Disney's California Adventure, Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris and Tokyo DisneySea. Only the California version includes the Twilight Zone theme, however.The Paris version has a different name and the Tokyo one a different theme, however.)

    On Tower of Terror, a simple drop ride becomes the richly detailed Hollywood Tower Hotel, where on October 31, 1939, a bolt of lightning transported a wing of the hotel into The Twilight Zone.

    (And by "Twilight Zone," we mean the classic 1960s television series, and not the realm of asexual teenage vampires.)

    In a trick of creative video editing, Twilight Zone host Rod Serling sets up the story for us in the hotel's library, before we head into the hotel's boiler room, where we'll board the elevators that will take us to the site of the lightning strike... and perhaps, into The Twilight Zone itself.

    The ride features multiple series of drops from the top, rewarding frequent riders with a fresh experience each time. With a variety of theatrical effects, copious visual references to various Twilight Zone episodes, and mix of light and dark drops, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror elevates (sorry, terrible pun, but I just couldn't resist) the simple amusement park drop ride into a true narrative experience.

    That's why Tower of Terror is widely considered one of the best theme park attractions in the country. But is it the best? Tell us your thoughts about Tower of Terror, in the comments.

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    Universal Studios Hollywood gears up for the return of King Kong

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 8, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Last night during the Oscars telecast, I saw the first promo commercials for the return of King Kong to the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.

    Take a look, if you missed it:

    The previous Kong attraction was destroyed during the backlot fire at Universal in 2008. Here's what Universal says about the new version, which will open in "late June/early July" according to the latest estimate from the park:

    Guests will don special glasses as they enter a darkened soundstage aboard the Studio Tour trams and will be transported - via the magic of Surround Digital 3D projection - deep into the dark heart of the world of Skull Island. They’ll survive a close encounter with a swarm of monstrous bats, only to be confronted by the terrifying presence of Kong himself. Suddenly, an enormous, ravenous 35-foot tall dinosaur will challenge Kong and guests will feel their trams jolt, roll and shudder as they find themselves caught in the middle of a ferocious showdown between the great ape and the giant lizard.

    Thoughts?

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    What are your favorite, 'perfect,' theme park attraction moments?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    I've been waiting for Impressions de France's spotlight day so that I could start a discussion I've been wanting to get into.

    Part of the reason why I love Impressions de France so much is that it contains one of those rare, "perfect moments" for me as a theme park fan: When we see the Eiffel Tower and the theme from Saint-Saens' Organ Concerto begins. That rousing finale, culminating with the timpani blasts as the curtain closes and the host strides toward the Eiffel Tower in middle of the frame... wow, it's just a perfectly composed moment, when perfect visuals and sound come together to force an emotional reaction from its visitors.

    So what are your perfect theme park moments? I'm not asking for personal moments (e.g. "the time my kid rode on a roller coaster for the first time without throwing up"), but rather elements from theme park attractions that you find perfect in composition and effect.

    Here are three more "perfect moments" for me:

    - On the Haunted Mansion: "There's always my way...." And, boom!

    - The original IllumiNations: As the first notes of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue sound and the spotlights turn to America. (I so miss this version of the show.)

    - On Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean: As you float by Old Joe on your way through the Blue Bayou, the restaurant chatter fades into gentle banjo licks, which melt into... silence. A brief, perfect moment of stillness, before the impending storm.

    Chills. Every one.

    Please tell us about your top theme park attraction moments, in the comments.

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    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Epcot's Impressions de France

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 8, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Voting in the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament starts next week. But before then, we have seven more attractions to introduce, and welcome to the tournament field. Today, we honor Epcot's Impressions de France, the second seed in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket.

    Epcot's Impressions de France

    Long-time Theme Park Insider readers will remember that I've been championing this film for years, having written in 2008 that 'Impressions de France' is the best movie ever made for a theme park. Here's what I wrote about the film then:

    The twenty minutes that most theme park films get simply isn't enough time to tell a nation's story. So you're left with a simplistic, overly earnest work that tries to charm like a puppy in a pet store cage.

    Epcot's Impressions de France wins by refusing to play this game. No traveler ever really learns the story of a nation. At best, he or she absorbs a few instructive impressions about the land he or she has visited. And that's what Impressions de France offers -- impressions.

    Impressionism, of course, is France's gift to art. By eschewing narrative for impressionism, director Rick Harper played on France's home turf. And he also created a work that would not grow stale after a few viewings. Effective impressionism reflects the viewer as well as the artist, allowing a work to change and develop in a viewer's eyes over the years, as that viewer brings something different to each encounter with the work.

    Impressions de France takes us on a visual tour of the nation, set to the music of French classical music composers, including Debussey and Saint-Saens. The film closes with Saint-Saens' Organ Concerto, as we rise up the Eiffel Tower - a moment that remains, for me, one of the most thrilling in any theme park.

    Impressions de France is the work of producer Bob Rogers and director Rick Harper, seen here in front of the Impressions de France storyboard, in a photo provided by Disney Legend (that's an actual title) Marty Sklar:

    Bob Rogers, left, and Rick Harper

    Obviously, I'm thrilled that Theme Park Insider readers have embraced this film, too, and voted it to a number two seed in the tournament. I'll try to keep my campaigning for it to a minimum going forward. :-)

    Oh, whom am I kidding? I love this film. Please share your thoughts about Impressions de France, in the comments.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Which theme parks are you going to visit in 2010?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 5, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    Many of the top Texas theme parks are opening this week, the first wave in this year's seasonal park openings. So now's a good time to ask which parks you're likely to visit (or have visited already) this year.

    Hogwarts Express at Universal's Islands of Adventure
    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's debut this spring promises to draw visitors to Universal's Islands of Adventure.

    And I suppose it's also a good time to remind folks looking for tips on budgeting, saving money and buying tickets about our new How to get the best deals on theme park tickets page, which incorporates the best advice from our series on those topics last year.

    So where are you headed in 2010? Let's try not to make this a "wish list," but instead, a list of those parks for which you've already begun to make plans, or have completed a visit already this year. If you think there's less than a 50/50 chance that you'll visit, don't check it. And if you're not planning to go anywhere this year, please check the final box in the list.

    Now that you've checked your list, tell us in the comments which park you're most looking forward to visiting this year, and why. Thanks, again, for reading Theme Park Insider, and let's have a great year at the parks!

    Comments (31) | Archive Link

    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 5, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    With less than two weeks to go to the start of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament, we're up to profiling the top two seeds in each bracket. Today, we put the spotlight on Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure, the second seed in the Best Live Show bracket.

    Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure

    This will be the final season for Aladdin, which debuted in California Adventure's Hyperion Theater in December 2002. (Toy Story - The Musical will take its place next year.) During its nearly eight-year run, Aladdin's been called a "must see" by many visitors, and the show was California Adventure's first big hit.

    The 45-minute show follows the plot of the Disney animated film, reprising five songs from that Academy-Award winning score - "Arabian Nights," "One Jump Ahead," "Prince Ali," "Friend Like Me" and "A Whole New World" - and adding a new piece, "To Be Free," also composed by Alan Menken.

    If you've seen the movie, you know that much of the film rests on Robin Williams' stream-of-conscious riff on pop culture references as the Genie. Wisely, Disney's frequently changed the script of this show, and allowed the actors to play Genie to ad-lib off the audience, keeping the movie's spirit alive in the stage show and keeping it fresh over the years.

    Here's a clip of the show's finale, to give those who haven't seen Aladdin a taste of what the show offers:

    If you've seen Aladdin, here's your chance to tell those who haven't all about the show, in the comments.

    Comments (12) | Archive Link

    Captain EO: A Tribute at Disneyland

    By M. Ryan Traylor
    Published: March 4, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    On February 23, 2010, to a tremendous opening day crowd, Disneyland brought Captain EO back to Tomorrowland. After the recent death of Michael Jackson, fans of Captain EO have been begging for its return. Now he is back, in its original format. The main thing about “Captain EO: A Tribute” is that is just that: a tribute. On the Thursday after opening, I was able to make it down to Disneyland.

    The print is the same, and though the inn theater effects are slightly altered, it’s just like sitting in the theater 20 years ago. Amazingly, it’s nice to know that a Lucas-produced film has not been modernized with new special effects and alternate scenes.

    If you have never seen the film and don’t know the story, Michael Jackson is Captain EO, who with his rag tag band of alien creatures travels across the galaxy to find and alien queen and deliver a gift. This gift is in the form of a song that will change the world, from a dark, gloomy, evil world to one that sings and dances in a 80’s version Munchkinland.

    But how long will this attraction last? The film attraction originally played throughout the 80’s and 90’s during the pinnacle of Jackson’s career. But, as with most attractions, the time comes for an update. No other film-based attraction has had such a following as this. However, the excitement for this film may have already diminished. Tuesday’s opening crowd saw a Tomorrowland packed to capacity. The Thursday morning crowd was very light. I was able to get into the first show of the day with only a 2/3 full audience.

    I doubt HISTA will return after this run. Disneyphiles have been asking for “Mickey’s Philharmagic” to come to Disneyland, along with “The Laugh Floor”. Personally, I would love to see Philharmagic play in this space.

    Captain EO has returned, but his stay may not be that long. After he succeeds in his mission of increasing attendance through the peak of the summer season, I expect to see him leave and the theater to be remodeled to hold one of the two above attractions.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    Universal Studios Singapore opens on March 18

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 4, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore just announced tonight that Universal Studios Singapore will open to the public at 8:28am on March 18, 2010.

    Universal Studios Singapore front gate

    Universal's calling this a soft open, and same-day tickets will not be available. If you want to go, you'll need to buy tickets in advance, either on Universal Studios Singapore's website or over the phone.

    Earlier: The Theme Park Insider's tour of Universal Studios Singapore

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    New details emerge on Six Flags' Texas Giant renovation

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 4, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Six Flags Over Texas yesterday revealed new details about its $10 million renovation of the Texas Giant roller coaster.

    As rumored, Texas Giant is getting a steel infusion, making the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. wooden coaster a more modern hybrid. Unlike wooden/steel hybrids such as Holiday World's The Voyage and Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro, however, Texas Giant will run on an entirely steel track when it reopens for the 2011 season.

    Six Flags is calling it an "Iron Horse Coaster" track, and it involves bolting 40- to 53-foot lengths of steel I-beam to Texas Giant's existing wooden support structure. With the steel track in place, the new Texas Giant will stand 10 feet taller than its old 143 feet and run faster, to a top speed of 65 miles per hour. It will also featured a 79-degree first drop, steeper than El Toro's, and incorporate several 95-degree banked turns.

    Is this enough to get you to make a trip to Six Flags Over Texas for the park's 50th anniversary in 2011? What do you think about the trend toward steel hybrids in wooden mega-coasters?

    Personally, I'm cool with designers using whatever materials, tools and methods available to create unique track designs and ride experiences. I never cared much for the whole wooden vs. steel thing, anyway. Let designs evolve and judge them on their own merits, rather than trying to enforce old classifications for the purpose of continuing silly debates.

    I'd also like to see Six Flags reclaim some of the inertia the chain had back in its heyday, during the 1970s. (Remember, at one point, Six Flags was just as big a deal as Disney in theme parks. Maybe bigger.) Eventually, the chain needs to offer more dark rides and immersive experiences, but a fresh, family-friendly (i.e. no inversions) coaster hybrid could be a step in the right direction.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 4, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Theme Park Insider readers have voted Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D as the third seed in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

    Universal Studios Hollywood's Terminator 2: 3D

    Subtitled, "Battle Across Time," T2:3D is a production of director James Cameron's studio, Lightstorm Entertainment. Cameron, the director of "Avatar" and "Titantic," as well as the Terminator films, co-wrote and co-directed this attraction, which the New York Times called the most expensive film every made on a cost per-minute basis when it debuted at Universal Studios Florida in 1996.

    Terminator stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick reprise their roles in the film, which arrived at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1999. (It also plays at Universal Studios in Japan, but isn't on the line-up in Singapore.)

    First released between the theatrical films T2: Judgment Day and T3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator 2: 3D plays in two parts. You're on a tour of Cyberdyne Systems, where the company's PR director introduces a promotional video in the pre-show's "reception area." But Sarah and John Connor interrupt, to let you know that they're, well, about to blow up the building so maybe you'd better high-tail it out of there.

    The Cyberdyne flack pooh-poohs the disruption and ushers you into the theater for the main show, presented in 3D. Needless to say, a series of increasingly complex Terminators show up, the Connors attack and lots of stuff gets blown up.

    The attraction blurs the line between movie and live show, with its limited use of live actors. But the bulk of the narrative, as well as the effects and thrills, come from the movie, so that's why you'll find Terminator 2: 3D in this category. Each version of the show is the same, but the Hollywood version earned a higher reader rating on the site, earning it the bid. (Personally, I think Hollywood has a cooler-looking building exterior.)

    What do you think of Terminator 2: 3D? Please share your thoughts, in the comments.

    Comments (14) | Archive Link

    'Cute and cuddly, boys. Cute and cuddly'*

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 3, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    SeaWorld San Diego is streaming a live webcam from inside its Penguin Encounter exhibit.

    From 9am to 5:30pm (Pacific Time) each day, you can watch the penguins swimming around. (SeaWorld says that it replays the footage each night at midnight. I'll take SeaWorld's word for it, since I ain't staying up to check.) Here's the link to the Penguin Cam page.

    *Okay, I know it's a DreamWorks reference. But it works here, okay?

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    What's new on the discussion board: Designing a new roller coaster, and old attractions moving around

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 3, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    Sorry I'm a day late with this, but here is this week's round-up of top new threads on the Theme Park Insider Discussion Forum:

    - Will Walt Disney World's monorail become a Tron-O-Rail?

    - What elements would go into your ideal roller coaster, if it were going into a Central Florida theme park? A reader gets that conversation going for a project in his college marketing class.

    - Speaking of roller coasters, Sarah Meeks asks for some information about Alton Towers' new Thirteen.

    - And Eugene Koh gets a debate going on whether Islands of Adventure's Incredible Hulk Coaster has gotten too rough.

    - Anthony Murphy starts a round-up of the various rumors speculating about where Kentucky Kingdom's rides will end up within the Six Flags chain.

    - Finally, Tim W asks what other readers think about Walt Disney World's Summer Nightastic, and the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade this summer.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 3, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy joins the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament as the third seed in the Best Themed Ride bracket.

    Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy

    Revenge of the Mummy is our defending champion, having won last year's Best Ride in American Tournament. (Makes you wonder what the top two seeds in this bracket are, huh? Hmmm....) The fusion dark ride/Premier Rides roller coaster also won the 2004 Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction of that year.

    Clearly, Theme Park Insider readers like this ride.

    If you're not among those who've ridden, here's the deal: You've entered the soundstage of the new "Mummy" film, walking among some of the props brought to the set. The crew's a bit skittish, though, with many believing that the production is cursed. Mummy star Brendan Fraser appears on screen to assure us all's well and we board our carts for a tour of the set.

    And, then, say it with me now... something goes terribly wrong. Those mummies you see? Actual tourists, victims of Imhotep. A missing crew member tries to warn us away, but then Imhotep's upon us, offering us a choice of riches or eternal suffering.

    Hey, that loot looks pretty nice... but no! Too late; it's into the soul-sucking vortex we go, on a swift roller coaster ride through the darkened mummy's tomb. And just when you think the ride is over...

    It isn't. :-)

    A shorter, modified version of Revenge of the Mummy plays at Universal Studios Hollywood and a third version of the ride will debut soon at Universal Studios Singapore.

    What's your take on Revenge of the Mummy? Please share your thoughts, in the comments.

    Comments (14) | Archive Link

    Mickey's Silly Symphony Swings approaches completion at Disney's California Adventure

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 2, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Disney's posted a video of Mickey Mouse being installed atop the Mickey's Silly Symphony Swings at Disney's California Adventure.

    Mickey's Silly Symphony Swings is the old Orange Stinger waveswinger ride, rethemed to match Paradise Pier's new look and feel... and to add Mickey. The ride is themed to the 1935 animated short The Band Concert, where Mickey tries to conduct an orchestra playing Rossini, only to have Donald Duck hijack the performance. Oh, what the heck, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here it is (you clearly can see the inspiration for the swing ride at the end):

    Mickey's Silly Symphony Swings opens May 29.

    Comments (16) | Archive Link

    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 2, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Six Flags Great Adventure's El Toro gets today's attraction spotlight, as readers' pick for the third seed in the Best Roller Coaster bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

    Six Flags' Great Adventure's El Toro

    Built in 2006, this Intamin wooden coaster boasts a 176-foot initial drop, at steep 76 degrees - the steepest drop among wooden coasters. El Toro delivers plenty of airtime, too, with its three 100-foot-plus hills. Throw in the crushing G forces of its s-curves at the end of the ride, and you're talking a physically extreme experience. But one that riders praise for its smoothness, too.

    Check out some of the comments from Theme Park Insider readers:

    "Huge airtime, outrageous drops, awesome turns... the list goes on and on."

    "The smoothness on this WOODEN coaster is incredible, the airtime is awesome, the drops are cool and scary, and its worth riding over and over and over again."

    "This ride has the most wicked airtime I have ever experienced in my entire life. Front seat is great but if your brave enough and want the real challenge do the back seat."

    Six Flags couldn't provide an official POV [on-ride point of view] video for the ride, so I instead offer this recreation from a YouTube user, made with Roller Coaster Tycoon. This is actually better than a POV video for showing you the layout of the track, even though the simulation sacrifices the airtime "jump" you get cresting the hills:

    We're getting down to the big names, now. How will El Toro fare when voting begins in two weeks? Let's hear your thoughts, in the comments.

    Comments (9) | Archive Link

    2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 1, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Theme Park Insider readers have voted Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom as the third seed in the Best Live Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

    Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

    Unlike many other theme park shows based upon animated films, Festival of the Lion King doesn't retell the story of the 1994 Disney hit "The Lion King." Instead this show is, well, a festival, a musical review of songs from the movie, accompanied by acrobats, puppets, animatronics and even a slew of kids plucked from the audience.

    Playing at nearly 30 minutes, the show takes place in a massive covered arena, with the audience divided into four sections, surrounding moving set pieces that play in the middle of the arena. Simba, the Lion King, watches from one perch, as dozens of performers swarm into and out of the arena in waves.

    More than a decade after its debut, Festival of the Lion King remains one of the more popular attractions at Disney's Animal Kingdom, drawing large crowds and long queues during most of the year. That popularity has propelled Festival of the Lion King to a high seed in this year's tournament, but can it push the show to a tournament title?

    We'll find out when voting begins in two weeks. Until then, please share your thoughts about the show, in the comments.

    Comments (10) | Archive Link

    Is Singapore a realistic vacation destination for Americans?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 1, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    So is Singapore (A) a far-flung, exotic location or is it (B) a reasonable tourist destination, within the reach of many visitors?

    Before last week, I would have answered "A" without hesitation. Now, after having made the trip myself, I'm leaning "B".

    Let me tell you about my trip to Singapore.

    Singapore, from the river

    The flight

    First, getting there. I flew Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles via Tokyo, a round-trip ticket that cost me $1,350, including all taxes and fees. Sure, that's not a cheap ticket, but you should also know that Singapore Airlines is a frequent winner of "world's best airline" awards, and rightfully so.

    Economy class on Singapore Airlines feels like first class on a U.S. domestic flight:

    • Movies, TV shows, music and video games on demand at your seat, at no extra charge
    • Frequent full meal service
    • Complimentary drinks, including wine, beer and mixed drinks
    • A pillow and blanket for every seat
    • For families with babies or toddlers, the airline provides bassinets, as well as baby food, bibs, wipes, diapers and bottle preparation

    Here's the dinner I had on the inbound flight between Tokyo and Singapore (clockwise from upper left):

    • Chicken meatballs and salad
    • Cheesecake for dessert
    • Broth for the Japanese cold noodles
    • Water (I could have had wine and coffee in these two cups, but I drink as much water as I can on airplanes)
    • The noodles (with wasabi)
    • Panko-breaded shrimp with vegetables in curry sauce over rice
    • A rice cracker
    • Roll and butter

    Singapore Airlines meal

    That was one of three meals that I had on my trip from LA to Singapore (plus a "snack", which offered a choice among items such as a barbecue chicken bun, vegetarian wrap sandwich, a banana, a large bag of potato chips and a full-size Hershey bar). Same number of meals, but an entirely different selection, on the way back.

    Another American, who sat next to me on the flight back, told me (not entirely joking), "I'll never be able to fly on a U.S. airline again after this."

    Also on the way back I watched "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Up in the Air," "Couples Retreat" and in honor of the one-hour Japanese layover, "You Only Live Twice." Figure $10 a pop for the movies, plus the food, the drinks and lack of nickel-and-dime charging in general and that $1,350 ticket, while expensive, certainly delivers more value for the dollar than any other airline ticket I've ever bought.

    The city

    A former British colony, Singapore's been called "Asia for Beginners." I'd also call it the Orlando of the Far East - that is, if Orlando were larger, cleaner, with generally friendlier people, overall better service and a convenient public transportation system.

    Singapore is an independent city-state located on its own island at the tip of Malaysia, in the southeast corner of Asia. Its essentially layout, as a port based on the Singapore River, will be familiar to any Londoner. (Singapore River = Thames, but with nightlife.) The river itself is the city's social and tourist hub. Walkways run the length of the river on either side, connecting the various quays (wharfs, to an American), which now house not shipping docks, but a variety of restaurants, nightclubs and shopping malls. Think of CityWalk or Downtown Disney, except located along a river that stretches for miles.

    Clarke Quay in Singapore

    In the early evenings, you'll find Singaporeans jogging along the pathways before returning later for dinner. (Located near the equator, Singapore's weather in February is much like Orlando's in summer - hot and humid. If you want to exercise outside, you do it in the evening. I can't imagine visiting in June or July.)

    Food, more than anything else, defines Singaporean culture. The cuisine here, a blend of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian food, is simply delicious... and ubiquitous. I had to cry "uncle" and stop eating after a day - I was simply too full from the chicken rice, curries, satays and other temptations I was packing in. Given that it's in Singapore, I suspect that Universal Studios Singapore might challenge Epcot's title as the world's top theme park for foodies. The initial line-up? Dim sum, butter chicken, laksa (a loaded noodle soup), chicken rice, pad thai, yakatori, New York strip steak, oysters Rockefeller, bratwurst, turkey legs, fish and chips... and, yeah, hamburgers and pizza.

    To work off that caloric consumption, and to fight jet lag, I suggest a walking tour of the city. I set off from my hotel east along the Singapore River to the harbor. I saw the point where Sir Thomas Raffles first landed in Singapore, establishing the British Colony.

    Sir Thomas Raffles statue in Singapore

    Then I made my way to the harbor, where stands the "Merlion" - the symbol of Singapore, which means "Lion Island." (As far as anyone can tell, there aren't any lions on the island and never have been, but an early settler thought he saw one, so, there's the name.)

    The Merlion in Singapore Harbor

    After a stop for water and a smoothie, I continued south into Chinatown, where I picked up a few souvenirs for the family.

    Chinese New Year in Singapore
    You'll find decorated trees such as this throughout the city during the Chinese New Year holiday.

    Singapore's Chinatown

    From there, I hopped a ride on the city's MRT subway to Vivo City, a massive western-style shopping mall at the southern tip of the island, from which you can catch a S$2 bus ride over to Resorts World Sentosa on Singapore's Sentosa Island.

    Universal Studios Singapore isn't the only attraction on Sentosa. (Here's my write-up of my tour of Universal.) In addition to the adjacent casino, you'll find a marine theme park called "Underwater World" (think, well... you know), two golf courses, a nature preserve, a butterfly park, beaches, hotels and spas.

    Like I said, the Orlando of the Far East. I must admit that I missed what many friends recommended as the best attraction in Singapore: Night Safari. This is the Singapore Zoo's attraction that some industry insiders say heavily influenced Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

    I'm trying to make Singapore sound accessible to Americans who, like me, hadn't visited Asia before and might be put off by the thought. Your biggest expense will be the flight. I found western-style hotel rooms readily available during Chinese New Year (one of the busiest tourist seasons of the year) for S$150-200 a night (US$115-154) - relatively cheap for a major city in the high season. Restaurant prices were 10%-30% percent less than comparable prices in LA, once you figure in the exchange rate. (Western chain prices, though, were about the same as in the U.S. once you figure the exchange rate.) And the one-day ticket prices for Universal Studios will run between S$32-72 (US$25-55), with adults visiting on weekends paying the high end and seniors visiting during the week paying the lowest price.

    That said, there certainly travel veterans out there who dismiss Singapore as too western, and too "easy" a location. Asia for Beginners, they sneer.

    Well, beginners have to start somewhere, or else they'll never try anything new. Sure, Singapore's filled with western-style amenities. But it's still Singapore, located on the other side of the planet from the United States. You'll get a stamp in your passport, sit with people who speak other languages (in addition to Singapore's official English, mind you), and gain the confidence that you can take and enjoy a trip beyond your native nation's borders.

    Would I go again? Heck, yeah. I want to see Night Safari and Universal Studios in full operation. I want to pace myself better with the food, and see some of the rainforest beyond the city center.

    Of course, now that I've seen that Asia is an accessible vacation destination (with planning and saving ahead, of course), all those theme parks in Japan seem pretty enticing, too. And I hear there's a bunch of new roller coasters going up in China.... Maybe I'll just have to plan several more trips!

    Comments (13) | Archive Link

    Keep reading: February 2010 Archive



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