IAAPA Update: Crisis management, dueling coasters and 4D-shooter shows

November 18, 2010, 10:49 AM · ORLANDO, Florida - Are few observations from the 2010 IAAPA Attractions Expo:

When news breaks, fix it

I've visited Holiday World the past two summers, but I had to travel to Orlando to actually meet Pat Koch and Paula Werne in person. (Go figure!) Werne, the park's public relations director, talked about crisis communication in a morning session today. As always, her advice to other publicity professionals was spot-on.

In talking publicly, "spin will only leave you feeling nauseous," Werne said. Always tell the truth in a crisis, and never speculate.

Echoing the advice of Marty Sklar and Mickey Steinberg from yesterday, Werne urged attendees to answer, "I don't know, but I'll find out" when asked for information that they don't have.

"It's really important to take the emotion out of a situation," Werne also said. "No matter who or what causes a crisis, preparation will help you get through it and minimize damage to your brand."

As someone who covers theme park news for a living, I wish that more park PR reps would follow Werne's advice, and offer the facts they have in a situation, rather than trying to spin or obscure the information. Eventually, the news does get out - we have too many well-connected people here in the Theme Park Insider community (and you are part of our community, too!) - and one of us will get the scoop, eventually. Better for the park to get that information out here, up front, and without compromise. It's amazing the goodwill that simple honesty will elicit, even in the worst situations.

New coaster from The Gravity Group

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending some time at the booth of our readers' favorite wooden roller coaster designer, The Gravity Group. (Their Holiday World coaster, The Voyage, won our Best Theme Park Attraction in America tournament last spring.) Engineer Michael Graham talked me through the new racing/dueling coaster that The Gravity Group is designing for Happy Valley in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Here's a simulation:

The 3,800-foot ride is a collaboration with Martin & Vleminckx, and is scheduled to open in fall of 2011. Its signature moment will be a racing camelback banked at ninety degrees, dubbed the "high five."

The Gravity Group's 'high five' moment

When 4-D meets a shoot-'em-up

I find interesting the life-cycle of attraction technology, how rides and shows start in theme parks and eventually scale down to make their ways into family entertainment centers and shopping malls. You couldn't walk 30 yards on the IAAPA show floor this year without running into a booth hawking a 4D show. Most of these aren't intended for major theme parks - they're designed with minimal footprints, to fit into malls and FECs.

But I love to see when vendors mash-up amusement technologies. Alterface's booth caught my eye this year, with its mash-up of a 3-D movie, motion simulator and shoot-'em-up ride.

Alterface's 5Di Interactive Cinema

The theater at IAAPA is meant for FECs and malls - it featured just nine seats (saddle-shaped stools, really) that bucked and swayed as we played a western-themed shooting game. I racked up a score of just over 13,000 points, good for second place in the theater. What really impressed me was the use of the ride's photo system to project the picture of the high (and low) scorer on the theater screen, so they could enjoy a moment a triumph (or scorn). That's a nice, social touch that should help encourage re-rides. It's one thing to see that you're a high score, but it's even more exciting to know that everyone else is seeing that you whipped 'em, too.

Alterface does design a larger version of its 5Di Interactive Cinema for theme parks, too, and sells interactive technology to be used on other companies' track rides, as well.

Replies (10)

November 18, 2010 at 1:06 PM · Excellent article. I loved all three mini-stories, but I especially enjoyed the duelling coaster. The concept had many unique elements: the 90-degree high-five, namely, plus the first drop. I've never seen a duelling coaster that allows one cart to start off with a lead right off the first drop. That adds an interesting dynamic.
November 18, 2010 at 2:59 PM · The "High-Five" - what a simple, but excellent idea! One of those design decisions that makes you wonder - why didn't someone think of that sooner!? (I guess Dueling Dragons - or whatever it is now called - offers a variation on that theme).

I wonder how long will it be until they design it so the trains run in opposite directions so you can do a real "High Five!" ;)

Did the Gravity Group folks mention if there are any plans to bring the "High-Five" to a US park?

November 18, 2010 at 5:46 PM · Yea Dueling Dragons, does "footsie" :)
November 18, 2010 at 8:15 PM · Although the "High Five" looks great, I wonder how much stress will be on the tracks in that area? And after awhile, how bumpy will it become?

Bobby, formaly known as Bob & Robert!!!!!!!

November 18, 2010 at 8:18 PM · The shooter show reminds me of original plans for Frontierland in Disneyland, that included riding a "horse" in front of a movie screen. Without the shooting though.

Thanks for the updates, it's all so fascinating!

November 19, 2010 at 4:25 AM · Love the idea of the 'High Five' element but watching the video throws up an awkward problem.... The fact that one side starts with a lead because of the design means that as far as I can see the two cars will never be at the 'High Five' element at the same time, rather negating the point of the element? On the anmation one car was clearly way ahead of the other all the time through the whole course. In fact when the animation switched to the second track there was no sense of it being a duelling coaster at all because you were always ahead of the other car. I guess you could resolve the problem by setting one track off slightly ahead of the other so that they reached the elelement at the same time but as it stands it looks like it's a duelling coaster that will be perpetually out of synch... Please tell me someone has already thought of that and that the animation is wrong.....
November 19, 2010 at 8:25 AM · I have dealt with Paula on several occasions, usually online requests. She definitely fits in with their whole philosophy at Holiday World. She's courteous, quick, and just a nice person.

I missed Paula my last trip too. The ironic thing is that people kept telling me, you'll probably see Pat Koch roaming the park. I did - she was tidying up a napkin/utensil/condiment station outside the Plymouth Rock Cafe in the Thanksgiving area of the park. That's what it's all about to be a family-owned business.

November 19, 2010 at 11:30 AM · I hope the dueling coasters with the High Five idea doesn't end up being a structural nightmare due to stress.

But I think I'm in the minority when I say that I'm starting to get a little worried about 3D/4D shooters in theme parks. I like MIB, and the Monster's Inc. one in Japan. They fit better than most others... I'm not a big fan of Toy Story Mania even though I love the TS Franchise. The structure of going from level to level reminds me too much of a videogame rather than being immersive. There's more of a relevant story in both MIB and Monster's Inc.

I guess I like creative applications of the shooter aspect like in Monster's Inc., or a working story like in MIB. Buzz and TS on the other hand are too straight forward shooters with barely a beginning, middle, and an end.

November 19, 2010 at 11:43 AM · I too saw what David said earlier, about how the trains did seem to not be so much dueling since one was clearly in the lead the whole time. The coaster did look like fun, but even on all those really cool over and under back and forth transitions the two tracks were doing, it would be better if the other train were a little more in view.
November 20, 2010 at 4:20 AM · I've actually been on an attraction incredibly similar (or possibly the same) as the 4D shoot-em-up you mention in the article.

That was in an arcade in a mall in Dubai and was very entertaining, much more fun than the standard fare at an arcade.

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