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Robert Niles
Editor

The Month in Reviews: Let's Take Another Look at 2015's New Theme Park Attractions

Published: May 23, 2015 at 7:21 PM

Time for my Phil Keoghan impression: "Nine states. Twelve theme parks. Thirteen new attractions. Theme Park Insider readers, you are the winners of an Amazing Month!"

Let's recap the new attractions that we've reviewed in the past month on Theme Park Insider. Eventually, your ratings of these and all the other attractions that have debuted since July 1, 2014 will determine the winner of the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction of the year. But while we await more rating submissions, I will offer my ranking of the seven attractions I visited in the past month. After that, I will offer a "wish list" ranking of the other six attractions that Theme Park Insider writers reviewed this month.

I ranked the attractions I'd seen by how much I want to experience them again. Then I ranked the ones I hadn't seen by how much the descriptions and video of those attractions made me want to go see them. If you've been on any of these new rides or seen these shows, follow the links to submit your own ratings and reviews.

1. Paint the Night
Disneyland
Reviewed by Matthew Gottula

Paint the Night

With an infectiously upbeat soundtrack that includes riffs from the classic Main Street Electrical Parade theme "Baroque Hoedown," Paint the Night finally gives Disneyland a worthy successor to that iconic parade. Illuminated with modern LED technology and played at a brisk pace that never lets the momentum slow, Paint the Night won me over immediately and has me craving another opportunity to see it in person.

2. Justice League: Battle for Metropolis
Six Flags Over Texas (and soon, Six Flags St. Louis)
Reviewed by Robert Niles

Finally, a shooter ride that would be a world-class dark ride even without the game play. Filled with a mix of great animatronics, 3D screens, and practical effects, experienced while riding a motion-base vehicle, Justice League doesn't quite match Universal's Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man for show quality, but it's in that neighborhood, which should thrill theme park fans as much as all those coasters for which Six Flags is usually known. Throw in the fun game play, and Justice League is a must-ride.

3. Disneyland Forever
Disneyland
Reviewed by Matthew Gottula

Disneyland Forever

Disney's new fireworks show defies recording. If you live life through a screen, Disneyland Forever will challenge you to put away that phone or tablet and take a moment to look around with your own eyes and be present in what might be the most immersive, large-scale multimedia production ever attempted in a theme park. Forget watching this in a YouTube video. You need to experience this show in person, and from multiple places within the park.

4. Voyage to the Iron Reef
Knott's Berry Farm
Reviewed by Robert Niles

The best shooter ride in Southern California will lure me back for several more attempts at a better score. Iron Reef gives Knott's its fourth world-class themed attraction, following the refurbished Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride, and the ever-awesome Mystery Lodge. Budget-conscious Disney fans, take note!

5. Twisted Colossus
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Reviewed by Robert Niles

At this point, long-time Theme Park Insider readers likely know that I'm more a dark ride fan than roller coaster fan. But I love getting the chance to experience unique moments on coasters, and as the world's longest hybrid coaster and the first Iron Horse retrack in Southern California, Twisted Colossus offers plenty of those.

6. Thunderbird
Holiday World
Reviewed by Robert Niles

How is Thunderbird number six on this list? I loved that ride! But this just goes to show how deep and competitive this year's line-up of new attractions has been. America's first launched wing coaster is Holiday World's first all-steel coaster and a worthy tribute to the vision of former park president, the late Will Koch.

7. World of Color - Celebrate!
Disney California Adventure
Reviewed by Matthew Gottula

World of Color - Celebrate!

This year's new coasters offer some great drops, but none as big as the one between numbers six and seven on this list. ;^) The latest edition of World of Color is a good show, honoring the history of Disneyland and the legacy of its founder, Walt Disney with a line-up of musical numbers hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and played on the show's iconic water screens. But this a good show that replaced a great show, and suffers by that comparison. Sure, I'd like to see it again, but I'd like to see the old World of Color return even more.

Now let's move on to the rides I haven't experienced yet. Give me a Star Trek transporter, and this is the order in which I go to see them:

1. Wicked Cyclone
Six Flags New England
Reviewed by Samantha Glavin

My experience on Twisted Colossus made me want to go to Massachusetts to compare that ride to Wicked Cyclone in person. With its multiple inversions and airtime hills, Wicked Cyclone sounds like the type of wild ride that any coaster fan would enjoy.

2. Fury 325
Carowinds
Reviewed by Russell Meyer

Fury 325

Okay, we're going back more than a month for the opening of Carowind's recording-setting Giga coaster, but I'm always up for a ride on a new Bolliger & Mabillard creation.

3. Laff Trakk
Hersheypark
Reviewed by Russell Meyer

Laff Trakk

Spinning coasters aren't always my thing — I prefer my coasters to travel in a straight line, thank you — but Hersheypark's tribute to funhouses of the past appeals to the theme park geek in me.

4. Rougarou
Cedar Point
Reviewed by James Koehl

Rougarou

Cedar Point's conversion of the stand-up Mantis into a floorless coaster definitely merits a visit on my next trip to Cedar Point, but doesn't inspire me to make a special trip.

5. Tempesto
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Reviewed by Russell Meyer

This Premier shuttle coaster won't overshadow Williamsburg's other coasters, but should provide some nice thrills for fans willing to endure the low capacity and resulting waits.

6. El Diablo
Six Flags Great Adventure
Reviewed by Bobbie Butterfield

A relatively straight-forward loop-de-loop (well straight-forward, then back again!), El Diablo looks like a fun second-tier ride for thrill fans who've bagged the park's top attractions and looking for another experience to round out their day.

We're not done yet! Next month, Universal Studios Hollywood debuts its Fast & Furious - Supercharged encounter on the Studio Tour, a star-studded 4D experience that promises to challenge some of the top entries on this list.

What's been your favorite new attraction of the year, so far? And what are you most looking forward to riding?

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Robert Niles
Editor

Post-Mortem: Three Things Disneyland Could Have Done Better at the 24-Hour Party

Published: May 23, 2015 at 11:49 AM

Disney's wrapped another 24-hour party, but the most memorable part of this year's event for many fans will be the massive crowds, waits, and confusion that left many fans frustrated and angry throughout the day and into the evening.

Disney24 Crowd
The early-morning 24-hour party crowd at Disneyland. Photo courtesy Disneyland

Disneyland closed to new entrants around 1:50pm yesterday, due to the large number of people in the park — many waiting already on the parade route for that evening's public debut performance of the new Paint the Night electrical parade. About three hours later, Disneyland closed to re-entries, meaning that no one could enter the park.

When Disneyland has closed due to capacity in the past, visitors have been directed to Disney California Adventure instead. Yesterday, however, as crowds filled the esplanade between the parks, Disney slowed, then stopped, the flow of guests through the checkpoints on either side of the plaza, effectively closing access to California Adventure by people who wren't already inside the checkpoints.

That, in turn, created a massive backup of guests waiting to pass through the checkpoint — lines that extended well into Downtown Disney on one side and down Harbor Boulevard on the other.

Disneyland began to clear out after the parade and the debut performance of the Disneyland Forever fireworks, at 9:30pm. But even as fans online watched live feeds showing the park's crowd diminish to moderate levels, the gates remained closed. No one could enter the esplanade, or Disneyland Park, until after 2am, when Disneyland began admitting guests from California Adventure. Several minutes later, Disney opened Disneyland to new entrants once again, for the first time in about 13 hours.

Fans online vented anger at Disneyland for keeping fans waiting in massive lines outside the park while entire lands within it appeared vacant, as shown in photos posted by fans inside the park to social media. Rumors flew that Disney management had ordered the park gates closed for the remainder of the event, no matter what the crowd situation. Ultimately, after the second and final showing of Paint the Night, at 1am, Disneyland relented and reopened its gates.

Obviously, the kickoff of the 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration during a 24-hour party was going to be a popular event. But no one, inside Disney or its fan community, wants anyone to experience the frustration that thousands of fans did yesterday.

Could Disney have done anything better? Here are three ideas:

Paint the Night

1) Run more showings of Paint the Night

People began claiming space on the parade route by 9am. With just two showings of this well-reviewed new parade scheduled, fans rushed to the park early to ensure that they could see it. Perhaps if Disney had scheduled more than the usual number of showings for the parade, people would have had the opportunity to plan to see later shows, reducing the crush for the first one. Yes, Disneyland was going to hit capacity at some point yesterday afternoon. But with two or three additional shows after the initial run, Disneyland might have been able to reopen the park earlier, getting people out of the lines and into the park, while not overwhelming the parade route.

2) Make it official that California Adventure was closed

Some fans wondered why Disney seemed so reticent to make it official that the resort's second gate was closed to new entrants when it was essentially impossible to get there to get in. If Disney was concerned about disappointing fans with two closed parks, well, plenty of fans ended up disappointed anyway. One wonders if a public acknowledgement that both parks were closed to new guests would have dissuaded more people from trying to come to the resort in the afternoon and early evening, reducing the crush of people in Downtown Disney and on Harbor Boulevard.

3) Don't do so many things at once

A 24-hour party, the start of the Diamond Celebration, and the debuts of Paint the Night, Disneyland Forever and World of Color - Celebrate. That's five promotions in one event. That's a lot, especially for Disneyland, which is always a popular draw in Southern California. Disney probably could have gotten away with kicking off the 60th during a 24-hour party, and might have been able to throw in the World of Color debut, as that happened over at California Adventure. But debuting two new shows at Disneyland at the same time sealed yesterday's fate. Disney probably could not have gotten away with debuting the new parade and fireworks at a later date without complaint, given how they are so closely associated with the 60th. But a soft opening a week or so ago, at least for Paint the Night, could have taken some of the pressure off yesterday's event. Disney likely would have had to run more than two showings of the parade yesterday, anyway, but anything that would have reduced yesterday's crowd would have helped reduce the frustration.

Were you are the Disneyland Resort yesterday? Please tell us about your experience and share your suggestions.

More Coverage:

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Robert Niles
Editor

Disney 24-Hour Party Crowds Lead to Frustration at Disneyland (*With Updates)

Published: May 22, 2015 at 4:09 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

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Published: May 22, 2015 at 3:51 PM

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Editor

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Published: May 22, 2015 at 7:46 AM

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Writer

'Disneyland Forever' Takes Fireworks to Dazzling New Heights

Published: May 22, 2015 at 7:15 AM

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Matthew Gottula
Writer

Disneyland Recharges its Electrical Parade with Paint the Night

Published: May 22, 2015 at 1:12 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

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Published: May 21, 2015 at 6:21 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

First Look at Wizarding World of Harry Potter Merchandise from Universal Studios Hollywood

Published: May 21, 2015 at 1:00 PM

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Matthew Gottula
Writer

World of Color – Celebrate!: A [Somewhat Spoiler Containing] Review

Published: May 21, 2015 at 1:58 AM

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Samantha Glavin

Wicked Cyclone Storms into Six Flags New England

Published: May 20, 2015 at 7:45 PM

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Russell Meyer
Writer

Laff Trakk Debuts at Hersheypark (*Updated)

Published: May 20, 2015 at 7:44 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: Now in 3D

Published: May 20, 2015 at 6:24 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Six Flags Magic Mountain Makes the Old New Again with Twisted Colossus

Published: May 20, 2015 at 2:19 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

An Insider's Look at Disney's New World of Color - Celebrate

Published: May 19, 2015 at 10:28 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Universal Studios Hollywood Promises Wizarding World of Harry Potter News on June 2

Published: May 19, 2015 at 1:08 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Six Flags Challenges Disney, Universal at Their Own Game with Justice League: Battle for Metropolis

Published: May 19, 2015 at 11:01 AM

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Jacob Sundstrom
Writer

Where to Eat: Dinner at Epcot's Restaurant Marrakesh

Published: May 18, 2015 at 9:12 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

An Insider's Look at Disneyland's New Parade - Paint the Night

Published: May 18, 2015 at 12:01 PM

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John Ramey
Writer

Weekly Top 10: The Things That Theme Park Employees Block Out While Working

Published: May 18, 2015 at 8:31 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

An Insider's Look at Disneyland's New Fireworks Show - Disneyland Forever

Published: May 17, 2015 at 3:24 PM

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Rick Bridger

Attraction Spotlight: The San Diego Zoo

Published: May 17, 2015 at 10:58 AM

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