By Robert Niles
We've got two more Bolliger & Mabillard favorites for your consideration today in the 2014 Theme Park Insider Tournament. We're returning to Europe for today's tournament vote, where you can choose between roller coasters in England and in Spain.Tweet
Alton Towers' Nemesis was Europe's first B&M Inverted coaster, debuting in 1994. Nemesis is especially notable for its many trench and tunnel elements, features included on the ride to accommodate height restrictions at the park, but which have helped create a unique experience among Inverted coasters, giving Nemesis the feel and visuals of a terrain coaster. Let's take a ride:
Port Aventura's Shambhala debuted in 2012. One of the ever-popular B&M Hypers, Shambhala offers a 256-drop on a coaster that's just 249 feet tall, made possible by some underground trenches of its own.
The coaster hits a top speed of 83 mph. While Nemesis brings you close to the ground to heighten the sense of speed (and ignore the often-lousy English weather), Shambhala celebrates the Spanish sunshine with wide-open, sky-views.
Which one would you ride first, if you had that choice?
By Robert Niles
While The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has enriched theme park owner NBCUniversal by driving new attendance to the Universal Orlando Resort, it's merchandise sales that's really helped make this land an industry-altering hit. Harry Potter has driven substantial increases in per-guest spending at the Universal Orlando Resort even as it's attracted millions of new fans to the resort. And if there's one item that best symbolizes Potter merchandise, it's the witch's or wizard's wand.Tweet
Millions of Harry Potter fans have lived the wizarding fantasy by buying a wand at Ollivander's in Universal's Islands of Adventure. Universal had to cheat the Potter canon by creating an Ollivander's in Hogsmeade, as that iconic storefront stood in Diagon Alley in the Potter books and films. Now that Universal's building its own Diagon Alley, it should surprise no one that the park's put an expanded Ollivander's right in the middle of the new land. Let the Hogsmeade branch be the satellite that Universal's backstory claims it to be, the Diagon Alley Ollivander's will be the flagship store for all Potter fans' wand-wielding needs.
Concept art courtesy Universal
But Ollivander isn't the only wandmaker in the Wizarding World. Potter fans know that Gregorovitch is Ollivander's great rival, the one-time owner of the Elder Wand that plays such as prominent role in the final Harry Potter book and films. And plans call for Gregorovitch to have a presence with a storefront in Universal's Diagon Alley, as well.
In short, if you've ever wanted a magic wand from a Harry Potter character, Universal will have created plenty of places to sell you one.
The new Diagon Alley Ollivander's will feature three rooms for the "wand chooses the wizard" presentation that's been entertaining young Potter fans and their parents over at Islands of Adventure since the original Wizarding World opened in 2010, which should help reduce the often-long waits for that show. There will be some space inside the building for a queue, as well, to further help reduce the crowds in the intentionally cramped quarters of Diagon Alley. Have you bought a wand at Ollivander's? Did you (or someone in your family) get to be part of the show? Tell us about it, in the comments.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley opens this summer at Universal Studios Florida.
The 2014 Theme Park Insider Tournament: Journey to the Center of the Earth versus 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
By Robert Niles
We're halfway through the first round of the 2014 Theme Park Insider Tournament, and we hope that you've enjoyed this opportunity to learn a little more about some of the world's top theme park attractions located outside the United States. Before we get to today's match-up of two popular dark rides from the world's best theme park, let's review the results to date:Tweet
Dark ride bracket:
Roller coaster bracket:
Today, we're back in the dark ride bracket to feature two amazing attractions from the Mysterious Island land at Tokyo DisneySea. Dominated by the iconic Mount Prometheus, Mysterious Island is the literal centerpiece of DisneySea, the park Theme Park Insider fans have selected as the world's best for the past two years. Inspired by Jules Verne novels and sharing a steampunk-inspired look, Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea might be the two rides in the tournament most poorly represented by online videos.
Before we go any further, let's clarify that Tokyo DisneySea's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is not a clone of the submarine ride that ran for many years at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. You'll find a duplicate of one of the old Nautilus ride vehicles moored in the lagoon at the center of Mysterious Island, but the ride itself is a dry dark ride that simulates an underwater adventure in a deep sea diving bell.
On board, you're sitting on one of three two-person benches inside the submersible, each with its own window. Using your joystick, you can control the lights that illuminate some of the mysteries awaiting your discovery in the deep. You're searching for the lost continent of Atlantis, and along the way, you will encounter a ship's graveyard in "Kraken Reef" and a surprise encounter in "Lucifer's Trench." Hey, with a name like that, nothing possibly could go wrong, right?
We mentioned that online POV videos don't do today's rides justice. That's because both are exceptionally dark, relying upon lighting effects and the element of surprise for much of their appeal. Anything less than top-quality professional video equipment fails to capture adequately the lighting contrast on these rides. (My attempt to film 20K was rubbish.) And you'd need some really slick editing to deliver the full effect of the ride's surprises. So we'll offer a short promotional video of 20K from DisneySea, which includes a bonus of rare off-ride footage that reveals a bit more about the attraction's ride system.
Journey to the Center of the Earth has stood atop the Theme Park Insider rankings as the world's top attraction for several months now. Like 20K, the attraction is a masterpiece of stagecraft, using light, sound, heat, and motion to create a multi-sensory experience. If in 20K you explored the depths of the sea, in this attraction you will explore the depths of the Earth.
Traveling through caverns within Mount Prometheus, walking past oozing lava in the queue, you come to Captain Nemo's underground laboratories, where you can see the sketches of the wonders that await you even deeper inside the Earth.
You'll then board a "Terravator" to descend to the expedition's base station, where you will board an eight-passenger mining vehicle to travel through the tunnels bored by previous explorers. You'll descend into crystal caverns and encounter a giant mushroom forests filled with bizarre creatures before an earthquake knocks you off course. A lightning storm nearly finished you before you emerge into the heart of the volcano, where a giant lava monster awaits.
Imagine if Expedition Everest's Yeti not only worked, and it was a freakin' ninja of a monster. The encounter of with the monster provides the highlight of the ride, a rapid-fire combination punch of effects that culminates with the volcano's eruption launching you out of the mountain for a high-speed ride around the caldera of the ancient volcano.
Sure, it's the same ride system as Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers, but Journey to the Center of the Earth feels nothing like those tame experiences. Again, here's the park's promo video, which omits the encounter with the monster.
You can't go wrong with either of these attractions, of course. But it's time to vote.
By Robert Niles
We've heard that Disney has posted an audition notice for a theme park entertainment role playing the character Thor.Tweet
Thor at Disneyland in California. Photo courtesy Disney
At Disney's Hollywood Studios. That's right. In Florida.
[*Update: Now others are saying that while the audition was posted for DHS, the actual location of the character would be on the cruise line, where Disney does have the rights to use Marvel characters. Potentially interesting discussion and analysis follows, regardless.]
If you've been following Theme Park Insider for awhile, you might remember that Universal Orlando holds a perpetual license to the Florida theme park rights for the Marvel characters it features at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Universal made this deal with Marvel years before Disney bought the comic book company, and Disney's coveted those theme park rights ever since making that deal.
The Universal Orlando deal is why Disney's "Avengerail" monorail skin promoting the Avengers movie could not run on the Epcot line at the Walt Disney World Resort. That graphic included characters for which Universal holds the exclusive regional theme park rights, so it couldn't be shown inside any non-Universal theme park in the area. Since the Epcot line of the Disney monorail goes into that park, the Avengers graphic had to stay on the Seven Seas Lagoon monorail lines, instead.
So why would Disney be posting an audition notice to bring Thor to Disney's Hollywood Studios?
Disney's already featured Thor in a meet-and-greet in the Innoventions pavilion at Disneyland (see photo above), where Disney's also been promoting other Marvel characters. Universal let its deal for the Southern California theme park rights to Marvel characters expire before Disney bought the company, so Disney's clear to use the Marvel characters in its parks in Anaheim.
Maybe the Florida notice is just a mistake. Or, if not, here's a theory. It's been well-established that Universal retains the theme park rights to the Marvel characters it has been featuring in Islands of Adventure. However, Universal cannot add additional Marvel characters to that land without permission from Marvel — which means permission from Disney, which, one can reasonably presume, is not forthcoming.
That leaves the Marvel characters not featured in Islands of Adventure, including Thor, in a bit of limbo. Does Universal's contract prohibit their inclusion in any other area theme park? Or can Disney go ahead and use those characters at Walt Disney World without infringing Universal's deal? We haven't heard a straight answer from sources inside both Disney and Universal about that.
Perhaps that question remains in dispute. If Disney wanted to push that issue, a character meet-and-greet would be the least costly way to do that. Let's play game theory and look at the possible outcomes.
If Disney brings Thor to Hollywood Studios and Universal does not object, Disney's presumably free to bring other non-Universal Marvel characters to Disney World. If Universal does object, and the matter ends up in court, Disney could be liable for a financial judgment in Universal's favor, but that would be the only expense. Disney wouldn't also lose the expenses of developing and building a theme park attraction. The cost of duping a Disneyland Thor costume and paying a few cast members in entertainment to portray him are next to nothing on Disney's bottom line. But if a judge or jury rules in Disney's favor, again, it's free and clear to start bringing those non-Universal Marvel characters to Disney World.
Maybe Disney's decided to take that risk. Maybe Disney and Universal have an understanding on which company owns which theme park rights. Or maybe the whole thing's a mistake that soon will disappear. But we've heard that the audition notice was posted. And that would suggest that things are about to become quite interesting regarding the Marvel characters in Florida theme parks.
By Krista Joy
The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade made it's debut today at Walt Disney World. It is the first new daytime parade to come to the Magic Kingdom in more than ten years. It is nothing short of amazing to observe this grand gala, which includes spectacular, state-of-the-art floats starring characters from favorite Disney stories, plus colorfully costumed performers on stilts, pendulums and swings. The supporting cast of performers dance along in elaborate outfits and give out high-fives while Disney’s most famous characters wave from high atop the elaborate floats. The original musical score is dreamy and upbeat.Tweet
A family and a newlywed couple were picked to be Grand Marshals - and they kicked off the parade in a beautiful convertible antique looking car. Then the first float goes by to celebrate the "tale as old as time".
Belle and the Beast share this float with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.
Whatever you do, don't take your eyes off of this one as it goes by. Tiana and her Prince rotate on a "lazy Susan" type of a platform with none other then Anna and Elsa on the other side! I almost missed getting a shot of them - but aren't they beautiful? This is Anna's coronation dress - and today was the first time we have ever seen it in a Disney Park. Her meet and greet in Epcot has her in her classic dress.
Next comes a huge mime, who draws some laughs ahead of the Snuggly Duckling - "Tangled" float.
Flynn Rider and Rapunzel from Tangled sail in an ornate longship in search of another “best day ever.” Watch for easter eggs hidden throughout this giant float.
An under-the-sea jubilee starring Ariel, Sebastian and an enchanted ocean ensemble from The Little Mermaid atop a sparkling music box is up next!
Much to the delight of the crowd, Ariel pulled out a "dinglehopper" and showed it off proudly!
She (of course!) combed her hair with it as well.
Not far behind, there are spinning seahorses!
Peter and Wendy from Peter Pan come next, soaring through the sky aboard a pirate galleon .
Yes that is Captain Hook SWINGING on a giant anchor!
The rainbow sparkling in the sun was an amazing sight.
Always in hot persuit of the Capatin - Tick-Tock the Crocodile follows close!
Next up is a troupe of Scottish dancers preceding Princess Merida herself, who is atop a giant bagpipe.
Her triplet "bear" brothers turn their heads and pop in and out as they go by!
Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (face characters) wave their wands...and have concerned looks on their faces.
The music gets a bit "darker" and the crowd cheers as Maleficent as a clockwork dragon is wrapped in battle with Prince Phillip and his mighty Sword of Truth! (The kids around me got a little bit frightened.)
Maleficent is surrounded by eerie henchmen on stilts.
The dragon breathes fire and the crowd cheers even louder. This is an amazing sight to see!
The raven is close as well - and he stuns you with his 12 foot wing span!
The giant tail waves as it goes by.
Things become happy and bright again as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs come along.
Bubble girls pave the way for Pinocchio.
This float is like a 2 for 1 - because the circus is right behind Pinocchio with Donald, Daisy, Dumbo and more in tow!
There is so much movement and merriment that you can't get it all in one photo!
The grand finale comes with high-flying fun as Mickey and Minnie approach in a giant hot-air balloon.
Plan ahead for this parade and login to My Disney Experience. There, you will want to reserve access to the FastPass+ section. You may want to see this parade more than once on your next trip. (I know I can't wait to go back and see it again!) You will celebrate the stories you know and love in a whole new way as this parade winds its way through the streets of Magic Kingdom park every afternoon at 3pm. The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade is a thrilling sight-and-sound spectacular. You won't want to miss it!
Keep reading: March 2014 Archive
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