The BLOGFlume—High Hopes

Disneyland's 50th, Hydra: The Revenge, and a Six Flags shocker.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: May 4, 2005 at 7:59 PM

Disneyland’s 50th Just Around the Corner
Sun Sentinel 5/4/05

Mouseketeers unite! The Disney marketing machine is ramping up to get as many of you into their parks over the next 18 months to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. From new rides and shows to fresh paint and touch-ups to some old favorites, Disney is truly pulling out all of the stops to put on a show that most fans could have only dreamed of when this birthday bash was announced months ago. I have to admit that I was also a skeptic, and transplanting attractions and celebrating Disneyland around the world seemed rather corny, but this event may have been the best thing for Disney theme parks since Walt Disney World. In one massive effort, Disney has been able to revitalize parks that have sorely needed it (Disneyland Paris), further bolster parks that were already huge draws (EPCOT), and spruce up the original Disneyland where it was beginning to show its age. What is surprising, though, is that Disney is expecting more of a rush on its Florida parks than its California parks. With at least one new attraction at every park, Orlando could steal some of the spotlight away from the guest of honor. Perhaps it’s Disneyland’s smaller capacity, or maybe it’s the higher density of all things Disney in Orlando, but the party that should be happening in California is really happening in Florida. Not only are the Orlando parks unwrapping a whole slew of attractions this week (Cinderellabration, Soarin’, and Lights, Motors, Action), but even more new attractions for the parks will probably be ready before the end of the celebration (Expedition Everest, an attraction on the 20,000 Leagues site, and a new Star Tours movie).

Is this a bad move for Disney? For true fans of the Disney empire, Disneyland should play host to their own party, but for just about everyone else, Orlando is just fine. Not only are there more hotels, more parks, and more opportunities to spend you hard earned Disney Dollars, but also it provides a better chance to take on its fiercest competitors head-on. Universal and Sea World appear to be laying low this year, in expectation of gathering a few extra guests in response to the celebration without having to do a thing. However, my guess is that most visitors to Orlando may have a hard time fitting everything in at Disney with all of the new attractions, and the crush of crowds expected to flood the parks, forcing guests to spend more time than normal to get to see everything. It is possible that guests will get annoyed with the crowds at the Disney parks, and move over to Universal or Sea World, but it would not be surprising if Walt Disney World has a tremendous year.

Hercules Slain
The Express-Times 4/4/05

A wooden giant was torn down, and in its place arose a giant steel beast. Dorney Park has debuted its newest roller coaster, and in doing so has created a myth that will be talked about in coaster forums for weeks. While it was once considered one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world when it was first built in 1989, Hercules quickly deteriorated into one of the roughest woodies in the country. Dorney Park felt a change was needed as lines dwindled for Hercules, and decided to tear down the mythical hero, and replace it with a mythical beast. It appears that Hercules had finally met his match, as Hydra: The Revenge has been born. When it was first announced, it was thought that Hydra might be the first coaster in the United States to break the 7-inversion barrier. Instead it brought a new type of inversion, the Jo-Jo Roll. This new inversion flips riders upside down just after the train leaves the station. In all, the floorless coaster does reach the 7-inversion plateau, but does so along one of the most unique courses of any roller coaster on the planet. It definitely is not the tallest or the fastest coaster with a 105’ drop and a 53 MPH top speed, but it traverses its 3198 feet of track with a gracefulness that is rarely seen on a coaster. Those who have been on the new coaster already (not me unfortunately) have applauded its smoothness and the incredible hangtime of the Jo-Jo Roll. However, those who are looking for the speed, intensity, and high g-forces will probably not find it in Hydra. The $13 million investment may not draw the uber-thrill seekers away from Kingda Ka, a mere 2 hours away, but the unique layout and smooth ride should still keep the turnstiles moving at Dorney Park. Hydra is a perfect compliment to the already solid coaster line-up of Talon, Steel Force, Laser, Thunderhead, and Wild Mouse, and I’m pretty sure Hydra’s victim, Hercules, will not be missed.

Business Wire 4/4/05

I had to read that article twice, because I couldn’t believe it, but it does appear to be true. I’ve been bashing them since I began writing the BLOGFlume late last year, but it appears that Six Flags has actually been able to make a significant improvement in the first quarter of 2005. The park chain had a revenue increase of 21.3% over last year, and an attendance increase of 25.1%. Six Flags attributes a lot of its success to a greater number of operating days over the Easter holiday (spring break), even though Easter came really early this year. They also stated that their Mexico City park contributed heavily to the first quarter success, especially with the completion of the new Superman El Ultimo Escape, a Morgan hypercoaster, late last year. It will be interesting to see if Six Flags can continue its momentum through the rest of the year, as many of its US regional parks will be reflected in the second quarter earnings statement. While the delay of Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure cannot be helping the bottom line in New Jersey, the other parks are looking for promising seasons with a number of minor, mostly waterpark, improvements. While Daniel Snyder was probably smart in not selling off his share of ownership in the theme park chain, he might just want to keep his hands out of a pot that just may be heating up from ice cold to tepid.

Readers' Opinions

From Pete Brecht on May 5, 2005 at 6:36 AM
Maybe I'm missing something, but aren't virtually all of the Six Flags parks closed the entire 1st quarter of every year? The only ones that I can think of that would be open at all then are Magic Mountain and the one in Mexico that's mentioned in the article. I would think that their 1st quarter numbers are a drop in the bucket every year, so who cares if they've improved over last year's 1st quarter? The second and third quarter are pretty much the entire theme park season for Six Flags.
From Robert OGrosky on May 5, 2005 at 11:11 AM
Im looking forward to Hydra as it seems it will be a excellant ride and i have never been to this park before, so i cat wait til my visit this August!!
As for SF, the first quater means little as few parks are open and last year was so bad it doesnt take much for things to be better, lets see how the reports are in Nov and see how they did for a true test,
Though my crystal ball see's SF already talking about bad weather hurting attendance and revenue,
From Derek Potter on May 5, 2005 at 6:04 PM
I have never ridden a bad B&M coaster. Their reputation is at this point pretty much impeccable when it comes to quality, so I'm sure that Hydra won't cease to impress.

It's great that Six Flags saw a first quarter increase this year. That shows promise, but remember that their operating hours...and operating costs, are low in the first quarter. We will see what happens when the rubber meets the road during the summer. They may see better numbers than they did last year at that time, but we will see if they can get rid of some of that red ink when the competition comes out to play. I've seen some pictures of the new Golden Kingdom area around Kingda Ka, and I must say that I was very impressed. There is some great theming, the best that I have seen in a Six Flags park. If Golden Kingdom is indicative of what we will see from them in the future, than Six Flags has a bright future....assuming that they can learn the trade of customer service. The only question is how well Kingda Ka will run. I hope for the best.

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