An 'Amazing Race' around the world of theme parks?
Published: October 2, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Let's get ready to race!
This show should be the cool, fly-around-the-world version of the race, not the lame, drive-around-country family-edition version. So we're talking about international theme parks here. Like the original, this theme park race would start and end in the United States, and make no intermediate stops inside the country. Since it's easier on your body clock to fly west, we'd also start on the west coast, fly around the world to Asia then to Europe, and end on the east coast. The obvious choices for starting and ending points are Los Angeles and Orlando, since those are the top two theme park markets in the United States.
It's unlikely that both Disney and Universal would agree to cooperate with a show that also featured the others' theme parks, so we're looking at including one or the other. But neither chain offers enough destinations to provide the 10 or so stops that the show would need, so parks from other owners would need to be included, too.
Here are a couple of potential 10-stop itineraries that come to mind:
Season "D": Disneyland, Tokyo Disney, Lotte World, Hong Kong Disneyland, Ferrari World, Europa Park, De Efteling, Disneyland Paris, Alton Towers, Walt Disney World
Season "U": Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Japan, Ocean Park Hong Kong, Universal Studios Singapore, Ferrari World, Port Aventura, Europa Park, De Efteling, Alton Towers, Universal Orlando
The idea is to feature the world's most popular theme parks, at least for the initial go. So that would put the show's stops in the Far East and Europe, since those are where the popular parks are. To break up a long travel leg, let's throw in an intermediate stop on the Arabian peninsula, which is developing some interesting parks, too. (Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World is included in both itineraries above.)
Each episode should play in three acts: a travel leg to get to the park, then a first, followed by a second, challenge within the park. At the end of the each episode, the final contestant to complete the second task would be eliminated. But there should be some drama in the first two acts of each episode, too.
Challenges in a theme park race show shouldn't simply involve riding rides. Ideally, the should require more complicated tasks that the various contestants need different amounts of time to complete. Maybe they have to do some job in the park: driving rafts, performing in a parade, filling buckets of popcorn, feeding the dolphins, etc. Or they could require some guest-focused task: finding "hidden Mickeys," scavenger hunts, and the like. Whatever the challenges, they should include a mix of those that require the demonstration of skill, and those that require the endurance of some good ole public humiliation. And the focus should remain on showing the most interesting and unique elements of the park being visited in that episode. This is, at its heart, a travelogue as much as it is a game show.
One of fans' frustrations with The Amazing Race is that as many eliminations as not seem to be determined by who gets the bad cabbie. That certainly seemed to be the deciding factor in this week's Season 23 premiere episode, when a bad cab ride put the team that ultimately was eliminated so far behind that it couldn't catch up. (I don't think that constitutes a spoiler for anyone who hasn't watched the episode yet, since it describes roughly half the episodes in the freaking series.)
Placing the show inside theme parks eliminates much of the need for taxis, as there won't be any driving around in cities. But contestants still would need to move between the parks and the local airports. To put more of the competition in the contestants' control, let's propose that they use public transportation wherever possible. Only when there is no reliable mass transit or airport shuttle option should contestants be told it's okay to use cabs on this leg of the trip. (I'm thinking Ferrari World here. Or maybe getting from Disneyland to LAX.)
One of the fascinating behind-the-scenes elements of The Amazing Race is timing the flights between cities. Ideally, you want contestants to have options on when and through which connecting airports to fly, so that some contestants can get a time advantage over the others. But you don't want the time advantage to become so extreme that those other contestants are effectively eliminated before they even get to the destination. Producers earn their money devising a procession of destinations that satisfies both needs.
When I flew from Singapore to Tokyo nearly two years ago, I hustled off the plane and through customs, catching a shuttle bus from Narita Airport to Tokyo Disneyland with just about one minute to spare. If I hadn't hustled so quickly to get off the plane and into the customs queue, I would have had to wait an extra hour for the next shuttle, or tried to navigate the Japan Railway system to get to Tokyo Disneyland. That is exactly the type of situation you'd want to arrange to create drama for an episode's first act, as contestants hurry to get to the park first.
The first challenge in the park would be the "second act" of each episode. Since elimination's not on the table, we'd need some other way to create drama in this act. (On Survivor, the winner of the first challenge usually gets some reward.) Here, perhaps the winner of the first challenge could get the opportunity to influence the other contestants.
Here's my idea, one that further reinforces the "theme park" theme of the show: Each contestant is given one "line skip" and one "breakdown" pass at the beginning of the game. The contestant who wins the first challenge in a particular park can play one of those passes. If he or she plays the "line skip," that contestant can select another contestant to "skip the line" and immediately join him or her in starting the next task. If he or she plays the "breakdown," that contestant selects another contestant who will have to serve a time penalty at the end of that task. If the winner of the task has already played his or her passes, the second-place finisher gets the chance to play a pass, and so on. (But you can't play a breakdown pass on someone who's already completed that task and moved on.)
Imagine the possibilities for mischief with that scheme in play!
Finally, to further differentiate this from The Amazing Race, instead of ripping open envelopes at clue boxes, contestants in our theme park race could get their clues by tapping an NFC-enabled cell phone to a check-in stanchion. The clue would then appear on their phones. (Product placement opportunity!)
I could see the show with individual contestants, or with teams. The show could be produced with parks' cooperation, but if parks didn't play along, perhaps if enough people contributed to a Kickstarter or watched ads on the show, it could happen as a (very expensive) guerilla Web production.
Hey, I'd watch this. (Let's not kid ourselves. I'd love even more to host!) What about you? Would you like to see an all-theme park Amazing Race? What destinations, challenges, and other elements would you like to see in such a show?