April 4, 2013, 1:31 PM · Tokyo Disneyland – Sincere congratulations need to go out to the marketing staff of Tokyo Disneyland for the amazing job that they did. While there were no new rides added and Star Tours was down for most of the year during its upgrade to 2.0, somehow the marketing staff was able to cram more than 2 million more people through the gates than the year before…now granted, last year was not a very good year with a nuclear meltdown and a tsunami and then many months of recovery, but only resulting in a 1% overall attendance drop last year. I mean it helps to have the best theme park in the world, but still…good job marketing staff.
Epcot – In a park that is a little short on rides and has an overabundance of restaurants, who is also feeling the neglect as all of its local sister parks get (or are at least theorized to be getting) a large new land, one might consider the prospect of construction starting to be a very good thing. Except it is not for a ride. Nor is it for fixing up an existing ride. Nor is it for reopening an abandoned pavilion or part of a pavilion that was quietly closed years ago. It is for a restaurant. A Moroccan restaurant with indoor and outdoor waterfront seating. Excuse me if I don’t sound that excited about it. I wonder how long it would take, considering two meals a day, to eat at each restaurant in the World Showcase? A year? Six months? Longer than it took for Universal to construct Transformers? Is my point clear yet? Okay, moving on…
Disney’s Animal Kingdom – More fencing is going up and they are starting to move dirt around to build the Festival of the Lion King a new home. I do have to wonder if they are going to make it better than the more or less temporary facility that they had for the original show? You can plus quite a few things if you build an entire theater for a specific show. Maybe more animatronics…maybe some indoor waiting areas…maybe a larger seating area…maybe more intricate acts that use special features of the new building (flying harnesses and trap doors)…maybe…maybe…
Paramount Park London – This park, that is boasting to be the third largest park in the world after they get finished with it, has suddenly been stalled because of a rare breed of jumping spider. While the company has, of course, talked about how they are going to loving move the spider colony away and relocated into a wildlife preserve, I have a different answer.
Living Under A Rock – Just in case you were living under a rock for the last week, the sequel to Finding Nemo has a name: Finding Dora.
Obits - On a more somber note, we have lost two people this week that have had real impact in the entertainment world and directly related to themed park properties. Richard Griffiths died over the last week due to complications with heart surgery. To this crowd, he is probably best known as the actor who played Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter’s uncle. We also lost Jane Henson, Jim Henson’s widow, and Jim’s biggest early collaborator and one of the main reasons why the Muppets took off in the first place.
Universal Studios Florida – Just in time to allow everyone to reschedule their vacations for next year, we finally have the rough date the London side of Harry Potter will open: July 2014. This goes to show that Comcast would much rather have more people in their parks enjoying their rides than saving a little bit of money by not working the construction crews to death. I almost feel bad that I cancelled my cable subscription years ago to stick it to Comcast…something that I certainly don’t suggest that anyone else does, because SOMEONE needs to pay for all of these expensive ride additions.
Disney Infinity – In the same week that Disney shut down LucasArts, the Star Wars gaming division, we get a new look at Disney Infinity.
Star Wars: The Old Republic – Since LucasArts is in shut down mode, I thought it was important to let everyone know why I haven’t been returning emails or getting much sleep. I have become hopelessly addicted to this game. Since the game became free to play, they have made much more money with people buying in game items, that while not necessary, seem to help out quite a bit. I was able to get through Level 31 completely free, and only recently bought a subscription because the friend that got me started wanted to trade items, something that is not allowed for free members. This game is not a traditional MMORG like Warcraft, but is very story driven, where you need people of different abilities to help you on quests from time to time. There are four beginning classes of light side as well as 4 for dark siders, with complete different story lines for each. I could easy gush about this game, but you are just going to need to try it for yourself to understand. The only bad thing about the game is that it is not instant gratification. The game requires a decent computer with 25GB of free space, and a 18GB-20GB initial download, so get your computer going before going to bed some night in the near future and it will be ready in the morning.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach – Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic opened this past week. I can’t tell if it is bad videography, bizarre storytelling, or what the issue is here, because, while I like Wallace & Gromit, I just don’t understand what they are trying to do here. Maybe a better video would make it more understandable, but I couldn’t find any others. Part of it is that they are playing the theme song during the ride, so you lose the narrative of the ride…assuming there is a narrative of the ride.
Knott’s Berry Farm – Coast Rider is nearly finished with construction only needing to finish up the station and the transfer tracks. While this is not the marquee ride that we were expecting, this is placeholder enough to hold us over until they finally get the plan and budget for the “big one”. And by “big one” I mean something that would be the tallest roller coaster in the world and not of the same design of Kingda Ka, since they already have Xcelerator at the park.
Six Flags Magic Mountain – Six Flags has just released the theme song to their currently under construction Full Throttle roller coaster. I know that all things are derivatives of the things that came before it, but sometimes it shows a really shocking lack of talent and creativity. This song is as if the members of AC/DC, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Metallica (but way back before they completely sold out and had only partially sold out), had just stolen Pink Floyd’s car and had gone out cruising, but were too lame to find anything really cool to do. It is such a poorly conceived derivative that it makes starring in that piece of crap Rock of Ages movie look like a good career move. I think I am going to be a lot nicer to Justin Bieber after being subjected to this…this makes me think the Biebs might have talent somewhere…maybe in his other jacket…
Lost Parks of Northern California – It is always nice to see some historians really getting down to important work. My hat is off to Kris and his team, and please let us know when you have more episodes.