It is expected that the aforementioned parks will have removed all DC and Looney Toons logos, characters and names by the 2005 season, as Six Flags themselves, and not the individual parks, held the rights. However, Walibi Lorraine (formally Walibi Schtroumpf) will likely keep the rights to the Smurf characters, as they held them long before it became a Six Flags park.
But these parks haven’t always been Six Flags owned…
It began in 1975, with the opening of a small park in Belgium called Walibi Wavre. The years tumbled on, and by 1991, the Walibi Group was one of the largest amusement park operators in the continent, having acquired Walibi Rhöne-Alpes, Walibi Flevo, Bellewaerde Park, and a multitude of water parks and other attractions across Europe.
And so, in 1998, Premier Parks jumped in and purchased the Walibi Group. They had acquired the Six Flags chain earlier that year, creating one of the largest amusement park chains in the world. Great, right? Surely now they had an unsurpassed domination in the world of amusement parks, everything would be on the up? But as we all know, things didn’t go quite to plan, and Premier Parks began an uphill struggle to fight their most dangerous opponent… Themselves.
Various tactics were tried. Some worked, some didn’t. For instance, Warner Bros. Movie World theme parks were built in Germany and Spain. Former Walibi parks were redeveloped and christened as Six Flags parks, in a bid to boost their popularity. New acquisitions were made across the continent, especially water parks. But it was this gargantuan size that brought Premier Parks, now renamed as Six Flags, to its knees. Its greed and hunger for more and more growth was going to cost it its entire European division.
Besides, Six Flags have never exactly had a stellar reputation when it comes to theming and park maintenance, have they? This was another obstacle. Six Flags’ “cheap thrill” style might have a chance in the UK, where we have all been desensitised to quality and hygiene thanks to my beloved Tussauds, but it doesn’t wear so well in countries such as France and Belgium. The countries that are used to parks such as Disneyland Paris, Parc Asterix, and Futuroscope generally don’t appreciate having walkways covered in filth, and rides set in dreary, un-landscaped empty fields. Here we have a situation where Six Flags did a Disney; they didn’t do enough cultural research. And as such, they paid the price. Literally.
So what can we expect from the parks of the company formerly known as Six Flags Europe in the coming years? The biggest change will hit Warner Bros. Movie World Germany. Unless they manage to get a separate license from Warner, the park will have to do some major re-theming, re-branded, and re-marketing, as they will have lost the rights for the subject matter of almost every ride in the park.
Other than that, most redevelopment will concern the various DC Superheroes and Looney Toons areas and rides in the parks. As Six Flags have practically never gone beyond a fancy name in terms of theme association, very little work will need to be done. And I’m sure most LT kiddie flat rides could be easily changed with a dash of paint to similar, but non-copyright breaking characters. Or Smurfs, if they get real desperate.
But in fact, the most interesting developments could come from somewhere outside the parks. As we don’t yet know who the mystery buyers are, it is impossible to guess whether they will wish to hold on to the parks. We could see a situation where the parks are sold off separately to the highest bidder. Alternatively, the new owners could decide to stabilise the parks financially, before selling them off together making a profit on their investment of $200 million. But this is all speculation. Things may become clearer when the new owners have been revealed.
The only Six Flags European park not to be included in the deal is Warner Bros. Movie World Madrid, which Six Flags only part-owns. This park only opened in 2002, with the most impressive opening line-up of any new European park in the past ten years. Despite not being as successful as hoped, it still makes enough money to keep in the Six Flags roster without any complaints.
So the future looks interesting for the Walibi Group, to say the least. Surprisingly, many of the original board members from before the Six Flags fiasco remain in senior positions at the company. Provided the new owners give the reformed Walibis some independence to run their parks, they now have a potentially awesome arsenal at their disposal: one of the largest, most popular theme park chains in the continent.
Just like it was all those years ago.
Now, if only Warner Brothers would buy the old flagships back...
Its good news that Six Flags haven't sold MW Madrid, though. Its a great park, and some of its best rides would be unusable if it was no longer a Warner park, not to mention all the great theming. Fortunately, its unlikey that SF will ever drop its managing interest in MW Madrid, because they have to put so little money into its operation, they're better off keeping it.
Not only so many Parks being sold off for so little but explains as to why WB in Australia has so much hassles of having DC characters and related paraphanelia in the Park.
As a little inside information as being one of the original cast members that helped set up and open Warner Bros Movie World here in Australia the cost of the Park to build was inexcess of $365 millinn so $200 million is cheap.
Have a very good friend within the ranks of WB Germany so will confer with him to see if I can gain an insiders view on the situation.
- Warner Bros. Movie World was constructed on the location of an older German movie based theme park that closed due to lack of guests. It even incorporated some elements of the orginal park, e.g. the movie history museum.
- Warner Bros. Movie World Germany was constructed, operated and owned by Warner Bros. originally and only LATER sold to Six Flags Europe. Therefore the licenses / rights for the different characters/movie themes (Looney Tunes, Batman, Gremlins, Never Ending Story) for this park are not held by Six Flags Europe but by the park itself. In fact Six Flags had to sign a special contract clause when they bought the park from Warner which forced them to continue to operate the park as a movie based park and continue themeing new rides to movies. That is why the free fall tower ended up being called "Wild Bunch" (after a movie).
Warner Bros. Movie World Madrid is a different topic.
Sorry about the ownership though, I genuinely wasn't aware of that.
I never said anything regarding the European parks...I was referring simply to the fact that Premier is selling off the parks and I think I know why...they aren't making money cause they were built under the Eisner school of park development (and yeas, dammit, I KNOW Eisner never worked for Six Flags, I mean they're cheap and unreliable...oh, just forget it!)
But you are right: Warner Bros. Movie World was a totally new park when it replaced the rather odd and failed park operated by Bavaria that was there before. To be honest some infrastructure, the street set based on the German tv-series "Marienhof" and the movie history museum,, housed behind that set, are the only thing I can think of that got reused.
Pesonally, I think a Universal take over would be both feasible and fantastic. They've been looking to branch out a lot more lately, so adding a bunch of reasonably well-maintained parks to their roster would suit the bill. Not to mention how easy it would be to convert Movie World to fit Universal's specifications, thus eliminating the need to build that hugely expensive German park they were planning a couple years ago.
And it could be true. After all, NBC don't have anything to do with the amusement park industry...
Anyway, now Warner have entered the theme park ring again, does this mean that they might not license rights out to other park companies as freely as they do currently? I doubt giving the rights to Universal Orlando would cause too many problems for Europe, but you can never tell with the entertainment companies and their half-brained excuses.
As the WB are fairly boistrous in this sought of thing as when a new aquisition has taken place they usually let the people know. RE AOL.
But having worked and still have many respectable contacts within WB and the WB Studio Store outlets My understanding is WB do not want to tie up their monies in hard assets such as Theme Parks as they are far to draining on the almighty $.
As Warner Bros Movie World here on the Gold Coast Australia was only built to last 5 years max as was a tax right off for WB in the US. As what the park makes in a year $ wise WB Global pretty much makes in a 24 hour period.
This looks like its gonna drag on for a while now. Do we have a new DisCast on our hands, I wonder?
AND, as the Warner contract was negotiated for the park back when Warner sold it to Six Flags, I suspect that the plans are already there to keep the license going. Quite simply, Palamon have proven in the past with their excellent track record that they aren't stupid enough to just ignore this situation.
And if the management of Movie World haven't got the guts to inform anyone of the situation, then its their fault for being so damn lousy at their jobs.
What is your relation to the park, or the theme park industry? I'd be interested to hear.
And yep, it looks like Movie World is gonna lose its Warner license, but not by choice. It appears that either Warner doesn't want to renew the license, or Palamon don't see it as a worthy investment. However, there should be a huge plug of money over the coming years. Actually, it looks quite promising.