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Cedar Point introduces Mantis' replacement: Rougarou

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 18, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Cedar Point has announced the name of its replacement for Mantis, the Bolliger & Mabillard stand-up coaster that will close at the Ohio park next month.

Rougarou will replace Mantis' stand-up trains with new floorless cars. Themed to a werewolf-like creature from French folklore, the refurbished coaster will have a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

Concept image courtesy Cedar Point

"Rougarou is going to be a fantastic addition to our coaster lineup and our guests are going to love it," Cedar Point vice president and general manager Jason McClure said in a statement. "With the swampy waters below, the vibrant colors of the supports and track, lighting and other effects, it will be a ride like no other at the park."

The track stats? A 145-foot-tall first hill, a 180-degree turn to the right, then a 137-foot drop toward the water at a 52-degree angle. Then a 119-foot-tall vertical loop, a 103-foot-tall dive loop, a highly-banked 360-degree turn and the world's first inclined loop on a floorless coaster, angled at 45 degrees. The ride wraps up with a 360-degree flat spin, several turns, and a figure-eight finale. Here's the concept POV:

Rougarou will open next spring.

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Is Diagon Alley really a game-changer for the theme park industry?

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Universal Orlando's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley clearly sets a new standard for themed entertainment environments in the United States. No other theme park land in the country so thoroughly infuses its space with all the elements that transport visitors into its narrative.

But, when we look back at Diagon Alley in several years, will we see it as an outlier — an excellent space that remains far above all other theme park lands, or will we view it as a game-changer — a development that inspired theme park companies to rethink they way they develop their lands, to emulate what Universal Creative did with Diagon Alley?

Diagon Alley

We won't have the answer to that question for many years. But we will be able to see clues along that way.

Disney and Universal already have several new themed lands in development. Even Six Flags, not typically known for creating immersive environments, is developing a themed dark ride for two of its parks. If nothing else, the continued success of Universal's Harry Potter lands has made business case to multiple companies for the expansion of themed environments in parks. But is Potter's influence to be limited to the finance sheet, or will it have a creative influence on the industry, as well?

Let's start with the Big Cheese: Disney. Construction has begun on the Avatar land at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Star Wars Land remains in early stages of development. And Disney announced last week, that it will be bringing its newest franchise, Frozen, to Epcot's World Showcase.

But can Disney create a truly immersive themed environment, a la Universal's Diagon Alley? That question came up in a recent discussion about Star Wars Land. Disney creates consistently well-themed and finely-decorated environments, but it also rarely misses the opportunity to ensure that every element in its theme parks is, ultimately, themed as "Disney." As one commentator wrote, "The first time you see Micky Mouse dressed as a Jedi or R2D2 with mouse ears you are out of any environment that Disney created -- the immersion is gone no matter how well themed the rest of the area is."

Can Disney resist that temptation? You don't see Minions wearing wizard robes in Diagon Alley, after all.

Disney has come close in Japan. Triton's Kingdom in Tokyo DisneySea creates a wildly immersive undersea space, but it offers standard midway kiddie rides. The Society of Explorers and Adventurers' Citadel comes closer, but lacks the scale of Diagon Alley. In the United States, Disney's best attempt at a truly immersive environment might be (my beloved) Tom Sawyer Island, but that's likely due more to the hassle of getting over to the island via rafts keeping Disney from hauling characters over there than due to any thematic discipline on Disney's part. (Plus, it's the stage for Fantasmic! in Disneyland, as well, which does rob the island of a bit of its uniqueness at the end of the day.)

Disney's next big theme park project will be Frozen, and anyone hoping for a Diagon Alley-level of immersion is certain to be disappointed. Why? For all the complaining about the presence of Frozen compromising the theme of World Showcase's Norway pavilion, let's not forget to look at this from the opposite direction — hosting a Frozen attraction in Norway compromises the immersiveness of Arendelle. It's supposed to be a mythical kingdom. But it can't be if Disney insists on tying Arendelle into a pavilion themed to a real-world nation.

We've discussed the challenges Disney faces in creating an immersive environment for Star Wars Land (Darth Goofy notwithstanding). So Avatar might be Disney's best attempt at meeting Diagon Alley's standard. But with so many of the company's fans apathetic, if not hostile, toward the Avatar project, will the company be able to resist the temptation to do something to win over those fans that would dilute the immersiveness of Pandora? ("Hey, I never knew that the Na'vi had princesses. Look, Daddy, it's Na'vi Elsa!")

We haven't heard of any major new projects coming from SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, but the company's latest two attempts at creating immersive environments haven't gone well. Sure, SeaWorld Orlando's Antarctica dazzles with its snow and rock formations in Central Florida's heat, but choosing to theme a land to the most inhospitable environment on Earth doesn't exactly endear people to a project. People want to see the penguins, and by making Antarctica so authentic with the bitter cold of its viewing area, SeaWorld ended up driving visitors away from the land's prime attraction. Over at Busch Gardens Tampa, Pantopia breaks up the beige monotone of its predecessor, but you can't create a thematically immersive land around a 300-foot drop tower. Ultimately, any such land is still going to end up looking like a carnival. (And that before we get into the whole delayed opening and missed summer after Flacon's Fury failed to open on time.)

It's heartening to see Six Flags make another attempt at themed entertainment, and with its partners on the new Justice League rides, Six Flags has given itself an opportunity to deliver its best themed ride ever. But Justice League is a ride and not a land. Perhaps if it succeeds, Justice League might inspire and enable Six Flags to keep moving in this direction.

Of all of Universal's competitors, the company that does the best job of creating truly immersive theme park lands might be Legoland. But Legoland faces the same problem with its themed environments that Disney faced with Cars Land in Disney California Adventure — human beings aren't part of the environment. Our presence destroys the sense of immersion. Human beings are part of the world in Avatar, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. They're not in Cars or Legos sets. Sure, Lego can do what it did at the end of The Lego Movie and bring us into that world as its shapers and creators, but that eliminates the "specialness" of the environment, and reduces it to a super-sized version of the play room at home. That's nice, but it's not like going to the "real" Diagon Alley, is it?

Finally, let's not forget Universal itself. Will Universal follow its own lead and create another land with the level of thematic cohesion and immersiveness it brought to Diagon Alley? We will find out as we learn more about the King Kong/Skull Island land under construction at Islands of Adventure. Perhaps it might take another land on the level of Diagon Alley to prod Universal's competition to spend the money necessary to compete at this level. Or, phrased another way, it might take Universal seizing more market share and more tourism income from another Diagon Alley-like land to convince Universal's competitors to step up. In the long run, it is up to us, the theme park consumers, to determine whether Diagon Alley remains an outlier or a trend-setter. Let's flip the message that Ray Kinsella heard: If we come, they will build it.


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Will 'Frozen' kill Epcot?

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 16, 2014 at 9:26 PM

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens its 16th edition of Howl-O-Scream

Russell Meyer

By Russell Meyer
Published: September 16, 2014 at 11:07 AM

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Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 15, 2014 at 10:07 PM

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Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

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The Week Ahead: Disney and Universal schedules for September 15-21, 2014

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM

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Insider's Update: Universal's heading in One Direction

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 13, 2014 at 10:14 AM

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Vote of the Week: Apple Pay, MagicBands, cards, or cash?

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 12, 2014 at 5:19 PM

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Disney makes it official: Frozen is taking over Epcot's Norway ride

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: September 12, 2014 at 10:22 AM

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