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Russell Meyer
Writer

Kings Dominion Announces Planet Snoopy in 2013

Published: September 12, 2012 at 9:15 PM

“Kings Dominion is breaking records again” was the tagline for today’s media event. While there was no indication from sources that this announcement would be the addition of another record breaking roller coaster or thrill ride, many were probably hoping for something a little more thrilling than what was actually announced with that tagline. Kings Dominion did announce that a multi-million dollar expansion to their kids area would be completed in the upcoming off-season and create the “World’s Largest Peanuts-themed Children’s Area.”

Planet Snoopy will be a complete revamp of the existing children’s area, Kidzville, and unify all of the children’s attractions under the Peanuts theme. For those who have been to Kings Dominion, Kidzville was created in 1997 under Paramount Parks’ management, and added a number of new attractions to the former Hannah Barbara themed children’s area. In fact, a few of the old attractions were not dramatically changed from their Hannah Barbara roots (Boulder Bumpers, Jeep Tours, and Treasure Cave, which has been closed this season) during the Kidzville expansion.

Planet Snoopy will feature 12 new and re-themed attractions, 2 new live shows, an expanded family care center, and an open air marketplace featuring fresh fruit and food. Based on conceptual drawings, it appears that there will be 5 brand new rides for the park, 3 flat rides, an elevated track-based ride, and a Peanuts-themed railway. The 3 new flat rides will include a teacup-style ride, a lay-down glider-style ride, and a spinning tugboat ride (Zamperla Rockin’ Tug based on the drawings). The elevated track-based ride looks somewhat similar to The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride at Islands of Adventure, but featuring individual spaceship-themed cars instead of long trains.

To make room for the new attractions, it appears that Space Port, Virginia Clipper, and Hot Rods will be removed along with Treasure Cave based on the conceptual map of the new area. Aside from the elevated track ride and Peanuts-themed railway, there doesn’t appear to be much expansion of the existing area’s footprint.

Park officials were clear to note the importance of having attractions and activities for the entire family, and creating exciting rides for young thrill seekers to enjoy before they’re ready to step up to the big rides is key to the park’s future growth. By refreshing and expanded their children’s area, Kings Dominion is introducing youngsters to the world of theme park rides, and is hoping to create future theme park fans. As the father of a small child, it’s always great to see parks make a concerted effort to target younger children and families, especially those that focus so heavily on bigger, taller, and faster. However, the billing for this media event was perhaps a bit much for a refresh of an existing area along with a few new small attractions. Additionally, by referring to the expansion as “record breaking” is a bit dubious in the theme park world, especially from Cedar Fair, a company that boasts a number of record breaking roller coasters. I don’t have an issue with parks touting the size or number or rides, but making up silly records is just a marketing trick.

Planet Snoopy is a much needed renovation of the aging Kidzville, and a welcome addition to Kings Dominion. It may not be the “record breaking” addition many fans would have wished for, but it should serve the park well, and entertain the next generation of theme park fans for years to come

Replies (26)

Tony Perkins

Published: September 13, 2012 at 4:46 AM

And no Snoopy dark ride? That's a fail.
James Rao
Writer

Published: September 13, 2012 at 6:27 AM

Thanks for the update Russell. And note that my venom in this post is definitely not directed at you. =)

I question the value of such efforts as these at our nation's theme and amusement parks. A similar "expansion" was made to my local stationary carnival, Worlds of Fun, a few years back, and I do not like the trend. In fact, I have been increasingly frustrated with the "divide-the-family" mentality of amusement park companies these days. The perfect park (which not even Disney has yet achieved) would provide a completely immersive and stimulating environment that families can experience together. While it is probably impossible to make an entire park that is all things to everyone at the same time, the goal should be to keep families together not tear them apart! Attractions designed for a specific segment of the population should be the exception, not the rule.

To digress, the Planet Snoopy expansion at Worlds of Fun just blew chunks in every possible way. The new rides they implemented (which look eerily similar to additions being made at KD), are so lame that even the littlest kids riding look bored and embarrassed. Plus, where is the shade? My goodness, some of the uncovered flats get so hot in the summer sun that there is more pain than fun involved in riding! And the fact that you have to split your group (send the older kids off with mom or dad to ride "big kid rides" while the littlest ones are forced to ride carnival quality spinners) is an abomination. The last time I visited WoF, I sat on various benches for an hour watching my daughter spin slowly on rides that were only slightly better than the .50 cent spinners found in local grocery store parking lots. It is unfathomable to me that park designers would opt for these cheap amusements rather than spend a little bit more money on attractions suitable for an entire family to share in together. Other than uber coasters, and high tech thrill rides, you should never have to split your group at a theme park. Planet Snoopy, and all the crappy little kid exclusive ride areas at parks across the nation, should be eradicated from existence. As I have said many times before, "Curse you, Red Baron Biplanes, curse you!"

For the sake of my family and friends in the great commonwealth of Virginia, I hope this KD expansion turns out better than the Planet Snoopy expansion at my home park.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 13, 2012 at 7:35 AM

"divide-the-family"? Let's not get carried away. Some of these rides are designed for toddlers and small kids. You might not fit in them. These kids need their own rides and not have to compete with adults especially when the parks are largely catered to adults. Those roller coaster have height minimums of 40 to 48 inches.

I've been on my share of carousels and spinners. They are exhausting. The kids love them and go on them over and over again. It helps to not have a long line since kids are not patient. They can't wait. A long wait invites a meltdown.

Disney is the exception for parks designed for adults. Even then, their newest thrill rides have height limits. The Cars ride have a 40 inch minimum height requirement.

One hour of exclusive attention for kids is too much for you? Oh well. The party shouldn't split, but I'm sure the young kids will have to sit out from riding the latest flume and intense roller coaster.

I didn't realize that Kings Dominion was taken over by Cedar Fair and they decided to transfer the Snoopy character to this park, which was originally at Knott's. I hope Snoopy and Charlie Brown goes to more Cedar Fair parks.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 13, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Anon, for the record, I like a good carousel as much as the next father of three. However, KD's carousel is in the Grove section of the park and will not be part of the Planet Snoopy expansion.

Obviously I am willing to sacrifice my time for my kids otherwise I would not have been ranting. My point is, why should I have to make any sacrifices at a theme park? Park officials should make every effort to implement attractions that are designed for the entire family, not for one specific segment of the family.

Furthermore, it is not about "fitting" it is about having a quality experience for the hard earned cash spent to make the trip. Sure I can fit on the Woodstock Tea Cups, but why would I want to ride it? It is a cut rate version of a normal tea cups ride, which is in and of itself a pretty lame experience. I can go to Disneyland and drag the whole troop on Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, and wow, those attractions are amazing whole family adventures! Is it wrong to want to see these regional chains try to expand their palates and endeavor to bring a bit of Disney or Universal to my home town?!

There is nothing at WoF's Planet Snoopy worth riding, and the KD version looks like a carbon copy. The only attractions in the kids' area worth a darn are the already existing Ghoster Coaster (a pretty stellar youth coaster), and Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (a shooting gallery ride). Imho, this expansion is a waste of time, space, and money. I understand that Disney and Universal style experiences don't come cheap, but there are decent cut rate versions of those experiences at regional parks across the nation. And I would rather see KD add one or two expensive dark rides or shooting gallery attractions that appeal to a broader spectrum of visitors than a thousand cheap, off the shelf, county fair rides.

FYI - the average four-year-old can meet a 40" height requirement.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 13, 2012 at 10:33 AM

There is Disney and everyone else. So Walt Disney created something special as intended.

You can't rely on theme parks to do things for the entire family. There are other activities that can be enjoyed.

Anyways, Disney hasn't exactly been keeping to its objective of late.

Ted Heumann

Published: September 13, 2012 at 11:43 AM

I agree 110% with James.
My only question is which state fair or church carnival did Cedar Fair buy these rides from?
James Rao
Writer

Published: September 13, 2012 at 11:56 AM

It is nice to meet a kindred spirit, Ted!

To be a total hypocrite, though, I would add that if KD was removing their kiddie area to add another uber coaster for the segment of visitors just known as thrillseekers, I'd be singing their praises right now!! =)

And, Anon, Disney does not hold exclusive rights on quality family experiences. Universal, Busch (Williamsburg more than Tampa), SeaWorld, and Herschend also do a pretty good job. Furthermore, even their "kiddie" areas are a notch or two above most regional parks.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 13, 2012 at 1:27 PM

"And, Anon, Disney does not hold exclusive rights on quality family experiences. Universal, Busch (Williamsburg more than Tampa), SeaWorld, and Herschend also do a pretty good job. Furthermore, even their "kiddie" areas are a notch or two above most regional parks."

Nice to know you're capable of backtracking.

Not sure why you turned this into an argument over nothing.

Yes, some parks have kids only rides. No, some parks do the whole family thing. Maybe you should take your business to where you prefer.

"My point is, why should I have to make any sacrifices at a theme park?"

See above and "To be a total hypocrite, though". And so it goes.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Interesting way to twist my comments, Anon.

The point of my "hypocrite comment" is that despite my desire to have regional companies provide more Disney/Universal style narrative attractions, I would rather see another coaster at KD exclusive to the thrillseeker crowd than a section of midway clunkers exclusive to three-year-olds. Who wouldn't? 80% of the people going to KD are thrillseekers, so why cater to the 20%?

My other point was simply that there are parks outside of Disney that are doing a decent job of providing family experiences...additionally they have "kiddie" areas (note the quotes which imply that the word "kiddie" does not signify its apparent meaning) that are not kiddie areas at all, but cater to the entire family - at least to a greater extent than Planet Snoopy.

To your point about taking my business elsewhere, I have not been to Worlds of Fun much in the last two years, and Kings Dominion even less (it's a bit farther away). As you said, I choose not to spend my valuable vacation dollars on lesser park experiences. However, that choice does not mean that I can't hope for those parks and their parent company to someday transcend the limitations of the stationary carnival.

And finally, you started the debate, I simply posted an opinion.

64.134.188.239

Published: September 13, 2012 at 4:56 PM

@James

"80% of the people going to KD are thrillseekers, so why cater to the 20%?"

That 20% is a part of your future 80%. Do you want them as future customers? Repeat visitation comes from establishing a pattern and drawing the customers back with appropriate attractions.

How many Disney visitors are first timers? They keep coming back because they love the experience. The experience continues because there is always something age and interest appropriate. This is how you develop loyalty to your product. An enjoyable experience that meets what the customer wants even as the desires change.

GG

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 13, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Good lord! That was a facetious question! I must be losing my writer's touch!
David Kirby

Published: September 13, 2012 at 5:40 PM

I know most of the Cedar Fair parks have been adding the tack Snoopy/space theme but do many young children actually know or care about who Snoopy is?

I'll agree with what others are saying regarding the dividing families concept. It seems like now, most regional theme parks build attractions either aimed at thrill seekers or really young kids. None of them seem to particluarly care about adults who don't ride extreme coasters.

Tony Perkins

Published: September 13, 2012 at 9:03 PM

James is right on this. If Cedar Faire is going to bother with Peanuts IP, then they should do it right with real immersive themeing. This is just lame with a big Snoopy statue in the middle of a spinner. It's lazy, cheap and insulting, even kids would know the difference.

And, yes, most kids know who Snoopy is. And their parents and grandparents know as well. Peanuts is one of the best IPs out there for theme parks to use, but Cedar just blows chunks with it.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 14, 2012 at 3:22 AM

Yeah, I have no problem with the Peanuts IP, but as Tony and others have said, the execution of that theme by Cedar Fair is an epic fail.

As for my 80/20 comment.... I've been doing some thinking... what kid becomes a lifelong fan of a park when riding a common midway spinner that is not discernible from the same spinner at any other park in the nation? If KD really wants that 20% to return when they are older, they need to build unique, narrative attractions that stand out from the crowd.

Therefore, I revise my 80/20 comment to this: "80% of the people coming to KD are thrillseekers, if you want the other 20% to care, you need to give them unique experiences that can't be found at every parking lot carnival and county fair across the nation."

Todd Houts

Published: September 14, 2012 at 7:44 AM

Cedar Fair has been adding the Planet Snoopy concept to their parks for several years now. I'm pretty sure they have done this consolidation in all their parks now expect Knott's Berry Farm (which has the older concept of Camp Snoopy), Michigan's Adventure (no explicitly themed area), Cedar Point (with both Planet Snoopy and Camp Snoopy), Canada's Wonderland (KidZville and Planet Snoopy), and of course King's Dominion (which currently has a small Planet Snoopy and Kidzville - but being combine as this article states.)

This is the first explicit criticism I've heard of the concept - but James raised some good points about the divide and conquer approach. My personal experience is that I liked the isolation at Worlds of Fun when I took my 2 year old god-daughter there. I felt like I could let her run a bit and not the normal paranoia of "stay right next to me". And the delight in her eyes at the rides made me love the whole concept. (And it actually let me send her parents off to enjoy the parts of the park I've done to death.)

However, if it were my own child, and I had to deal with the separation every time I visited - I'm not sure my delight would hold up. And James you nailed it when you asked: Where is the shade? To have built such an expansion without protection from the Sun is frankly inexcusable.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 14, 2012 at 8:30 AM

"80% of the people going to KD are thrillseekers, so why cater to the 20%?"

Because the 20% who are attending the park are not thrillseekers.

You already said that there are no alternatives to "Worlds of Fun" so they are making up for that by at minimum building a children's area. Is that a bad thing? Of course because you complain it is lame for yourself and your kid. Mere carnival rides; however, with my daughter of 3 years old, it is quite fun and she enjoys going on them over and over again. The slow Disneyland style family rides does nothing for her yet.

The point of parks like "Worlds of Fun" is you can bring them to a large amusement park and enjoy unlimited rides at affordable prices. Disneyland is terribly expensive and since the rides skew older, it was decided that we will bring her to the park when she turns 4. For the first 3 years of my daughter's life, we went to Knott's for Camp Snoopy and Legoland. SeaWorld added a children's section, which was a terrific improvement.

If "Worlds of Fun" is similar to "Six Flags Magic Mountain," it is better for you to not brings kids there. There is no point. The children's section is the only thing they will enjoy there and your children will hold you back from enjoying the thrill rides. I just see the children's section as a necessary component of an amusement park. It is there for the same reason that there's a Bug's Land in Disney's California Adventure. Even Disney Theme Parks don't do family rides so well. Nobody's perfect.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 14, 2012 at 9:21 AM

Anon, I really don't think I can state my case any clearer, so we may just have to agree to disagree. However (and I mean no disrespect), I would humbly ask that you reread my previous posts as you seem to have missed my point entirely.
Anon Mouse

Published: September 14, 2012 at 10:46 AM

James: I moved beyond the original discussion of "divide-the-family". I thought I addressed that. Were we not discussing your new point about 80/20? Both questions are completely different, yet you thought it was wise to relate them.

The difference in agree to disagree is you thought what KD did was dumb and cheap while I thought it was alright. The lack of rides to ride together as a family is a good point, but I thought I address that as well.

I suppose it isn't necessary to keep having you think I missed your point, when it is clear to to me that you hate what KD is doing.

Russell Meyer
Writer

Published: September 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM

I think there's a bit of overreaction here.

No regional park is going to be able to develop attractions like Disney and/or Universal. These local parks are going to get flat rides and smaller track-based rides in their children's areas. Even the big boys use flat rides for their children's attractions. What I do think that gets lost sometimes is the accessibility of these attractions for the entire family. It's one think to put your kid on a kiddie ride and watch them spin around a dozen times, it's another to sit right next to them and experience the ride together.

I think that is KD's goal with this renovation. They are getting rid of the older rides that only the little ones can ride, and replacing them with small flat rides that families can ride together. The idea is that smaller children would be more receptive to riding if they can do so with their parents/siblings, which in turn fosters the next generation of "ride warriors."

As much as many here want to think, there is a pretty significant percentage of guests to theme parks that have small children. I would say it's probably much closer to 60/40 than 80/20. These families need to have more attractions they can do together outside of Water Works. If you have a child under 42", the only attractions at KD you can do together as a family are Boo Blasters, Flying Eagles, Taxi Jam, and the carousel. That's not a lot of quality family time there, and with just one show, there's just not a lot of stuff to do as a family when you don't feel like getting wet.

These new attractions fill that void of rides that the entire family can experience together. Yeah, they're just glorified carnival rides, but it's something families can do together. Whether this is a successful renovation won't be know for a few years, but I do think KD's heart is in the right place. It's definitely not going to give a direct increase in park attendance, but what it may do is help plant the seed of visiting the park in the next generation of coaster fans.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 14, 2012 at 2:42 PM

@Anon - Previous to your most recent posts I already "re-addressed" my 80/20 comment....twice. Also, I don't hate KD, I just want them to be better. There is no reason why this park, in this location, should not be pulling 3.5 million visitors a year.

@Russell - I understand all the reasoning why these regional parks do what they do, but I also understand that filling a section of the park with carnival rides is a cop-out. Rather than invest time and money into building new and innovative experiences, they plop down a bunch of junk and say, "There, we're a kid-friendly park." And they rest easy at night. In the meantime, profits continue to erode, Busch Gardens continues to rack up the much larger attendance numbers, and people like me are left wondering, "What time was I supposed to leave this kiddie area and meet up with the rest of the family?" Cedar Fair needs to understand that kid-friendly, is not the same as family-oriented. The big money is in designing experiences for the whole family to enjoy together. I've been to Planet Snoopy here at Worlds of Fun several times, and while parents can ride some of the carnie rides with their kids, it is a tough fit, even for 5'7", 150 lbs me. Most of today's hefty adults don't stand a chance. And it is not fun. For anyone. It's boring, and even a bit embarrassing sometimes. I've been through it with all three kids, I know.

Again, if KD is spending X millions to add a dozen carnival rides, I would simply prefer they spend that same money to develop one or two high quality family experiences instead. Dare to be different. Just try it... and if it fails, then tell me I am wrong.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 14, 2012 at 8:05 PM

@James: You only addressed the 80/20 in response to "64.134", not to me, the person who you addressed originally. The approach that "64.134" took and you embraced is not something relevant to what I'm discussing. Regardless of whether the kids will grow up to like the park, they will still need a section of their own at their ages.

Sigh. Oh well. I suppose I can say you missed the point, but I won't keep trying.

Now, you say you don't hate KD, but you say Camp Snoopy blows chunks. How can KD be better if it is crappy out the door. You dislike their carnival rides. How can you go up from there? It is what it is. Even a new paint job won't fix it.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 14, 2012 at 9:14 PM

My comments on the 80/20 point stand. If you want the 20% to return, then give them things that are unique to your park, not run of the mill carnie rides.

As for KD (which I have been visiting almost annually since 1980), they CAN fix their kid area: rip it out and implement whole family experiences. The kids won't need "a section of their own" if the entire park is a place where a family can enjoy attractions together. That is the point I have been trying (and obviously failing) to make all along.

I'd love to keep trying to find new ways to make the same point, Anon, but I surrender. You win. Carnival kiddie rides rule.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 14, 2012 at 10:42 PM

James: I love how you keep trying to restate your argument to win it and to act like I don't understand you. I understand you fine. You just can't accept what they are doing with KD. Maybe you need to read the original post about why they are doing to Planet Snoopy at Kings Dominion. Just so you know.

As for increasing more family rides at KD, I think every single theme park should do that, but perhaps it should happen from the top down. The rides are getting worse from a roller coaster standpoint. We don't need yet another Giga or Mega coaster that's taller, faster, and more g-force. Lots of rides should reduce their height minimums. Exchange intensity for experiences. Since big expensive rides are budgeted for roller coasters and flume rides, this is where the action should be. In contrast, the kids rides are small parts of the amusement parks, which should not take much resources to design and build.

Based on what amusements parks actually do, roller coasters rule. Come on, let's not take it out on the kids.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 14, 2012 at 11:35 PM

I agree with the first half of your second paragraph. Completely. The rest of your post, not so much.

First off, it is not about winning a subjective argument it is about wanting parks to expand their horizons instead of repeating past mistakes. And I can totally accept what KD has decided to do, but that does not mean I am forced to be silent about my disdain for their same-old, same-old ride choices.

Secondly, I don't understand why you keep taking the stance that KD has no choice in the matter. Like they are who they are and nothing can change that fact. The folks at KD can do whatever they want with the millions they are about to waste. I prefer they spend those millions on experiences that transcend the ordinary.

Lastly, I don't get your coaster point at all. If you are trying to say that coaster parks can't offer family experiences, again, that is only because park designers get lazy. Rather than invest in new, innovative family attractions, park designers spend all their money trying to replicate Millennium Farce, then buy carnival spinners with their chump change, and call it a day. However, there is no reason why a Cedar Fair or Six Flags park can't have their usual uber coasters in an otherwise family oriented park. It is only the shortsightedness of greedy companies that is keeping stationary carnivals like Kings Dominion locked in a tragic cycle of repetitious failure.

Goodnight, Anon, it has been stimulating.

Anon Mouse

Published: September 17, 2012 at 12:47 PM

I am not saying KD has no choice. They do have a choice just like you do in not going.

You're complaining about the 20%, when the budget is on the 80%. That's why I said let the kids have their 20%, but fix the 80%, which include the roller coasters that are not family friendly. I didn't say roller coaster parks cannot be family friendly. I do not think I said that in any way. I said they must design the roller coasters to be more family friendly with low or no height requirements and instead offer thrills without the height and speeds that can limit the public who rides them.

Certainly, you're on the right path to say that replicating Millennium Force is the wrong approach, but they can do their family attractions from all angles.

You seem to keep suggesting carnival spinners is what I'M TALKING ABOUT when I haven't done anything to suggest this. The carnival spinners are being done for the children's section. They are not designed for you.

In your last big paragraph, you want to have it both ways. Decry carnival spinners for kids and still have the mega roller coasters for adults in a family park. The kid's carnival spinners are not going to take away the idea of a family park if it is already a family park. It will only add to it. It's the mega roller coasters that takes away from a family park because its ignores the kids. Most park rides are not designed for toddlers especially if you're not at Disney, Legoland, SeaWorld. Even there, the family rides are iffy for young kids like Haunted Mansion (scary) and Pirates (scary and water drop), and they might not even understand them.

I make a point of visiting theme parks that have a good children's section. It makes no sense to go to a park that have no rides suitable for my toddlers. I know some carnival spiners are gentle enough for the kids so they don't get whipped around. You'll be surpised at how intense the spinning rides are if they are designed for adults. And no, I try not to go on them if my kids wants to, but I had to when they are under 36 inches tall.

Yeah, it's been stimulating. Carnival spinner hater.

James Rao
Writer

Published: September 17, 2012 at 4:02 PM

I guess we are saying the same thing... We both want a perfect park that everyone can utilize in absolute togetherness. Where we differ is in the approach. No worries...the amalgamation of our ideas would make one fantasitic park!

And I don't just hate carnival spinners, I hate carnivals!

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