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Tuesday theme park news round-up: Who's ready for a theme park Hunger Games?

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Published: November 12, 2013 at 6:14 PM

In this week's fake theme park news, hundreds of news outlets hyperventilated over the idea of a "Hunger Games"-themed theme park being built. It's the latest example of how too many news organizations cannot or will not distinguish between a theme park attraction and an entire theme park. (Google "Harry Potter theme park" sometime.) The story emerged after Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a Wall Street conference call that the studio has been "approached in two territories about potential theme park opportunities" for the film franchise.

Who knows who those parties might be, and what they might have in mind? After all, does anyone really want to spend time in Panem?

But let's not let that stop the rumors. Hey, what if Disney secretly has a deal with Lionsgate? And what if MyMagic+ was simply the groundwork for reducing the entire Disney World vacation experience to a massive reenactment of the Hunger Games? C'mon, it's not too farfetched. As we wrote last night on Twitter, you said that you'd "kill" for those hard-to-get Cinderella's Royal Table reservations. What if Disney gave you the chance to prove it? ;^) Have you been to a summer morning rope drop recently? How far are we now from just rounding up 24 "tributes" from the families gathered at the park's entrance and just letting 'em fight it out over four Midway Mania Fastpasses?

Probably closer than we are to seeing an actual Hunger Games attraction in a major theme park.

In real theme park news, Aquatica Orlando's revealed the name for its new water slide for 2014: Ihu's Breakaway Falls. The park said today that "the drop slide will be the tallest, steepest and only multi-slide ride of its kind in Orlando. The slide is named after Ihu, Aquatica Orlando's colorful gecko."

On the west coast, SeaWorld Parks also announced today's birth of a baby dolphin at SeaWorld San Diego. That means... cute baby animal photo!

Baby dolphin

Back to Disney, we already know that we won't be seeing the Marvel characters at Walt Disney World anytime soon, thanks to Marvel's old deal with Universal Orlando. But here's another place you won't be seeing the Marvel characters anymore: casinos. In a reported effort to avoid charges of hypocrisy, Disney -- which long as lobbied against the expansion of gambling near Walt Disney World in Florida and is unique among major players in the cruise industry by not offering gambling on any of its ships -- is putting a stop to future licensing deals for Marvel characters on slot machines and lottery tickets.

Also from Disney, we're hearing from insiders that Animal Kingdom's Avatar land, slated to open in 2017, actually will open in stages, a la New Fantasyland.

Finally, we now have a better idea of when Walt Disney Studios Paris will open its new Ratatouille-themed trackless dark ride. In a radio interview last week, Disneyland Paris President Philippe Gas revealed that the attraction will open sometime in late June or early July. Now, who's ready to fight to be the first in line?

Readers' Opinions

From James Trexen on November 12, 2013 at 6:47 PM
I can live with a phased New Fantasyland opening, but opening Avatar Land in stages is taking things too far. It's not like Cars Land opened in phases with Radiator Springs Racers still under construction.This tidbit better be false.
From Jo M on November 12, 2013 at 6:56 PM
I VOLUNTEEEEEEEEER! I volunteer as tribute!
From Robert Niles on November 12, 2013 at 7:15 PM
What we don't know about Avatar is if what we've heard so far will be split into phases, or if that is just phase one.
From Phil B. on November 12, 2013 at 8:55 PM
You know, I consider Walt Disney, "the man", to be one of THE greatest showmen ever to present a story. He had an extremely high level grasp of delivering whatever story he wanted to tell across multiple mediums. He understood the dynamics and principles of story telling. He pushed technology forward to enable his stories to be told in a more realistic manner. His attention to detail and quality has set the standard for an entire industry to follow. And the high bar he set as it relates to theme parks in regards to immersive story telling has been the blueprint to which all others looking to compete on that level has followed for decades. He understood, and obsessed about the high quality show he presented the public when they walked "on stage" as active participants in the stories he told at his park. All that being said, I can't imagine he would ever sign off on this approach of "phased openings" of an entire new land. If we've learned anything in the last several years from Potter and Cars, it's that a completed land makes far more of an impact in a park as opposed to letting half of it continue to be an unsightly construction sight for 18+ months. New Fantasy Land is very pretty, and I have no doubt TSDMT will be a big draw and crowd pleaser once it opens, but the overall impact of that entire land as a grand expansion has been lost amidst years of extended phased opening. For people who don't obsess over theme parks like we do, who don't read the blogs and websites every day, that only go once every few years and know nothing of lightening fast DVC construction as opposed to the feet dragging pace of new attraction construction, it doesn't matter to them. They're happy to stumble across something new after not checking in for a few years. For them, most of what we check up on day in and day out, is good enough for them since they only check in when they're planning a trip. Unfortunately, being good enough, seems like it's just that, good enough. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and anything worth having is worth the wait. The concept of delayed gratification is so foreign to people as a concept in this day and age, and it's sad to see it seep into the Disney business model. It's obvious Avatar opened in phases will allow the park to push more people through the turnstiles earlier on, allowing the park to create more revenue selling tickets, merchandise and concessions. Business is business and the bottom line is what counts most for a multi billion dollar, global enterprise eagerly looking for their ROI. It's just sad to see a company that once prided itself on immersive story telling and grand presentation, fall short of their celebrated standards just to start cashing in 12 months earlier on a project.
From 98.85.101.33 on November 12, 2013 at 9:30 PM
Avatar opening in phases continues the long tradition of new lands opening slowly or half finished at Animal Kingdom.

When the park opened Asia was not finished until the next year and the Rapids ride still feels unfinished.

The petting zoo train still needs to be finished.

When Animal Kingdom opened a year earlier then Islands of Adventure and still had less to do and less ready at opening it convinced me that Disney lost their magic because they were chasing dollars instead of dreams.

From 173.66.184.216 on November 13, 2013 at 5:00 AM
So, first phase in December of 2017, and then the rest of Avatarland by 2040? What a complete joke.
From N B on November 13, 2013 at 9:07 AM
I am starting to think the movie rights grab for themed lands is becoming ridiculous.

There are only a handful of movie franchises that would make a great land and remain timeless. Most of those movies have Spielberg or Lucas' name attached with a score by John Williams, although JJ Abrams is cranking out some great films lately.

I am just glad Disney never got their mitts on Potter due to their own stupidity.

From David Ackerman on November 13, 2013 at 1:13 PM
Avatar in 2017? Bet that the first 4 phases will be restaurants and gift shops. Actual ride may make it by 2060 or 2070.

Remember vaporware? I think we are seeing vapor attractions.

From Chris C. on November 14, 2013 at 7:24 AM
The misunderstanding over whether its a theme park or part of a theme park has to do with Universal's piss-poor marketing, which dates back to the "Universal Escape" fiasco and contrasts with Disney's skillfully executed nationwide marketing campaigns. When WWoHP opened, Universal confusingly presented it as a "theme park" or "theme park within a theme park." The end result is front-of-the-line CM's having to deal with confused tourists asking for tickets and directions to the Harry Potter theme park. It undermines the potential the rest of the park and resort could have gained from the heightened interest in visiting Universal Orlando for Potter. People still say they're interested in seeing Harry Potter, and not the rest of Universal. The fact that it will now be extended between two theme parks will further add to the confusion.
From David Ackerman on November 14, 2013 at 4:43 PM
Can't see Disney with a Hunger Games land or park. What would the restaurants sell?

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