Saturday 2 November 2013

Pineapple of the Damned

Last night was the first Pineapple of the Damned event for Halloween hosted by SlaughterFX. It was hosted at the Big Pineapple, a tourist attraction at Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. Overall the night was better than I expect, and showed great potential. I hope  that it proved popular enough to continue in coming years.

Firstly the setting. There is no question that the Big Pineapple has seen better days. In it's heyday it was one of Australia's most famous "Big" things  (alongside the Big Banana). But since the highway moved and the Pineapple changed hands a few times, it has fallen into disrepair.

While that is a sad thing for locals, this made it a great setting for a haunt. There was a lot about this event that had potential. Not all of it was realized, but for something that is just starting out, you could really appreciate the effort that was put was in.

The event centred around the Damned Train ride that took guests out into the spooky pineapple plantation. It used the existing Big Pineapple train and took guests past serial killers, zombies, werewolves, Randy werewolves, dinosaurs, robots, Jason and chainsaw maniacs. There was a lot going on here, and there wasn't any sense of story, but there was certainly a deal of effort put into a number of the set pieces. Special mentionnof the non-randy werewolves that looked really cool. The whole trip was narrated (a little painfully) by Driver Dan, who was having a great deal of trouble getting the train going at various points of the tour. It was lame, and it was silly, but everyone on board was up for it. Most of all it was fun.

In addition to the train ride,  there was a haunted walk through, which was better than I expected. It wasn't a fright nights maze, but it was better than a run of the mill spook house. There was plenty of pop culture scares, zombies, Freddy, Silent Hill nurses. Lots of flashing lights and props to move through. One moment of hilarity when one of the scare actors, used the catch phrase 'Get out of my section'. Section? How odd! Takes you out of the moment when something like that happens.

In general the actors across the night were good. They were committed, but broke character a little to easily at times. You could tell they were doing it for the fun. I don't think many were getting paid, which makes them more impressive in my book.

The organization wasn't very good at all. Guests were kind of on the honour system, you could have easily walked in and done both the train and the walk through without paying. The ticket lady, although lovely, didn't know where things were. Things weren't well signed or organized. That was okay for the crowd that was there, as everyone was in the right spirit, but they need more organizers outside the attractions next year.

There also could have been more atmosphere outside the attractions. Some music and lighting would have made a huge difference. The "bar" was very awkward, but it might have got a bit busier later in the night. They should have  done something with the Pineapple itself, it's only a few shadows away from being a jack-o-lantern.

Was it worth 38 bucks? No it wasn't. Was it as intense as fright nights? No it wasn't. Was it better than I expected? You bet it was. Does it have potential as a new event? Absolutely! I think this year was an underground hit. With a bit more planning and structure, a little story to the haunts, this could be a great Halloween tradition for the Big Pineapple.

For me it was an A for effort with a C+ for execution. However, this is the first event, execution is only going to improve. Definitely worth a look if it comes back in future years.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Sea World July 2013

So this weekend we took advantage of the offer for VRTP pass holders to bring a friend for free in July, and hit up Sea World!

While I did take some photos, I haven't had a chance to go through them yet. Here are some notes on the day.

Polar Bear Shores is fully closed while construction for the cub enclosure happens at the south end of it. They have built a temporary hut at the front of the attraction showing Cub Cam. The new structure looks like it will be really cool.

The Storm coaster looks great. The huge metal supports now have boats strewn around the bottom. Let's hope the internal theming lives up to the hype!

The land reclaimed for Wild looks vaguely the same. Maybe a little less water.

Seal Harbour is coming in to its own. We saw seals playing, fighting, swimming and sleeping. The weather appears to make s big difference with seals.

Was it just me, or did Jet Rescue previously stop in the cave in the middle of the track. Because it doesn't at the moment!

Also change on the free refill front. Frozen Coke is no longer part of the deal. Soft drink only. You can still get paid frozen refills on the bigger cups.

And that's all the big news!

Sunday 23 June 2013

Top Ten Australian Rides

A recent post on the Theme Park Tourist blog has inspired me to do my Top Ten Australian theme park rides. We do have some amazing rides in Australia, and while they do not approach Disney/Universal on scale, I like to think we punch above our weight.

So here we go, my Top Ten Australian rides:

10. The Cyclone
A tough choice for the final position, but I had to go for a classic, The Cyclone. Dreamworld purchases it from Lunar Park Sydney in 2001, and during it's 2 minute journey has a reverse sidewinder and a vertical loop. It is starting to get on in years, but it still provides grrat thrills.

9. Wild West Falls
Hands down the best water ride in the country, WWF is a long meandering cowboy story with a thrilling and soaking conclusion.

8. Jet Rescue
A motorbike coaster themed to a jet ski rescue of an injured seal. Theming and thrills with a little bit of heart. This is the best ride at Sea World, a park focused on marine conservation.

7. The Claw
So theming isn't always done well in Australia, and Dreamworld's The Claw is a great example of that. This ride is themed to a giant red claw. This ride gets points for being unique in Australia and for great thrills. Plus being upside down 11 stories high.

6. Green Lantern Coaster
Movie World's brand new El Loco comic book themed almost car park coaster is an unquestionable hit. While the theming, beyond the queue, is not of the Movie World standard, the thrills are  undeniable. The steepest drop in the southern hemisphere and several inversions plus an iconic LED display and high capacity, means this coaster clearly wipes the floor with Dreamworld's Buzzsaw.

5. The Giant Drop
Once again theming is done away with for thrills, but when you have (or had up until last year) the tallest drop ride in the world, who cares. This one is truly for the brave. With drops on two sides of Dreamworld's gigantic Tower, you eiyher get beautiful views over the Gold Coast hinterland, or even better views to the amazing coast. You can see Surfer's from the top! And then you plummet back back to earth. I can vouch for riding day or night, both are beautiful and scary for different reasons.

4. Justice League Alien Invasion 3D The Ride
A dark ride! A pure stand alone dark ride. This shooter from Sally Corp is not Australia's first dark ride, but it is our only current one. Only Scooby and Superman which have dark ride elements compare. This is our first interactive shooter! And it is fun from start to finish. It's not perfect and the name is a total mess, but it is a wonderful addition to Movie World's line up.

3. Tower of Terror 2
Dreamworld's signature ride is also its best. A recent revamp has turned the car around so that you are now shot backwards out of the dark disco tube and then you climb up Dreamworld's iconic tower facing the ground. One of the tallest coasters in the world, although some question its status since it doesn't do a circuit,the Tower of Terror is a must do if you are visiting Dreamworld. I tell people that a ride on TOT2 goes like this, scary, fun, scary, fun, over. I only wish that the car got closer to the top of the tower. These days you are lucky to make it half way up.

2. Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster
My second choice might surprise a few people, at least my first choice shouldn't surprise anyone. Let me make a case for why Movie World's Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster should be number two. Firstly it is one of our only true family coasters, most of our coasters are thrill machines or kiddie coasters. Secondly, it has tonnes of theming set in a spooky castle from the rather awful Scooby Doo movie. It has an good dark ride sequence at the start and a short one at the end. It is our only fully enclosed coaster. Sure it's not the Rock'n Rollercoaster,  but critics that call it a wild mouse in a shed aren't really being fair to it. It has a vertical lift! It has a backwards drop and it has laser and smoke effects covering its wild mouse section. It is one ride I never miss when visiting Movie World. My only complaint is that they took out a great dark ride to make way for it. If only Gremlins could have lived in the same park as Scooby. Overall the Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster scores strongly for thrills, originality and theming.

1. Superman Escape
The only Australian coaster to make the top twenty of Mitch Hawker's Steel Coaster Poll (at #16) is without doubt the best ride in the country. It's not our tallest or fastest, but with great thrills and a perfectly matched theme it's very hard to beat. The internal of the ride is themed to a subway, when an earthquake hits. In the dark ride section you see walls collapse, flooding water pooring down and crashed cars. It looks dangerous until you hear Superman tell you he'll get you out of there fast. Superman fast. And boom your slow dark ride turns into an Intamin Accelerato. You are launched 0 to 100 km/ h in 2 seconds. You are quickly cresting the top hat and than whipping through this wonderful coaster layout. Superman brings you right back down to the ride gift shop, for a safe escape. The gift shop doesn't do much trade though, as all the riders have to leave their wallets in lockers before the ride. However, this is one of the best coasters I've ridden, and an easy choice as the best ride in Australia!

Sunday 2 June 2013

Sea World June 2013

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my best wife in the world got us passes to the Big 3 VRTP parks for my birthday. This weekend was our first opportunity to check out Sea World!! There are big things going on at Sea World at the moment, so it's definitely worth a look.
For the moment, I'm going to call it Seal World.
It was our first opportunity to check out Seal Harbour which opened earlier this year!
This multimillion dollar area plays host to 9 Seals and Sea Lions. It includes a centre island with great views into the different pens.
Some have been calling it Seagull Harbour, since it can be hard to tell that the seals are there at all, at first glance.
But they are! We saw 6 different Seals and Sea Lions swimming in the 10-15 minutes we were there. Most of the time they were enjoying the warm sun. Doesn't he look happy?
Just as happy is the bench in the middle of the centre island!!
The big news of the last 12 months at Sea World is that we were going to see two new attractions in the next two years. A water coaster themed to a great Storm, and the mysterious Wild attraction. It appears we have already see the Wild attraction move from 2014 to 2015, but it will still be interesting to see what this. New attractions can only mean one thing for Sea World....
Closures. The park is so small, that construction, particularly in the middle is bound to close a few attractions. Ray Reef was closed.
The Viking's flume was closed (and dry). Jet Rescue was also closed when we visited, but I am told it's been open at other points in the operation. Anyway, back to the good news! Guess what is missing from the following photo...
That's right! An enormous volcano! What was the Bermuda Triangle has been completely demolished to make space for the new Storm water coaster. You can probably see some of the first uprights are already in place.
And we are starting to see some concrete trenches as well!
Work is coming along nicely, both inside and outside the former Bermuda Triangle ride building. To be honest, it's not much of a build anymore. It's more of a roof with a couple of partial walls.
 Most of the area really looks like a construction site.

 Lots of work left to do.
Inside the "building" is also a war zone.
 Most exciting, you can see a definite trench for coasting in!
And the trench doesn't stop just because the building does. No sir!
Let's move over to what is the supposed site for Wild! The story I had heard before going to Sea World is that they are reclaiming land out of the main lagoon for Wild. There is definitely land being reclaimed on the back of (what is currently) Dinosaur Island. It appears that there has been a large push in from both sides of the lagoon. Here is the view from the front of the park.
You can see quite a lot of dirt has already been moved, and also a decent size of dirt to go. Here a couple of views from the back of Dinosaur Island. You can really see that this gap has narrowed significantly already.
We are yet to hear official word on what wild is. Rumours have included it being called "Congo Island" with live Hippos, Crocodiles and Gorillas. This may be one or multiple attractions, we will just have to wait and see!!
 On other interesting Sea World news!
Free refills!! For $10 you can buy a (small) cup, which you can use for free refills of soft drink and (most) frozen drinks at 4 locations within the park. The cup holds 375mL, but has a very cute design. You are given an arm band to signify that you bought that cup that day, and it is fairly seamless getting your cups refilled. I only had one staff member who decided that I wasn't worth speaking to since I was only getting a refill. I'm looking at you Castaway Bay guy! Everyone else was very happy to do it.
To be honest, I don't know if it is new, but this is awesome! Crazy coloured M&M's! While a few colours had run out, it was cool to see all the different options. $4 for 100 grams. Buy 200 grams and you get 100 grams of Brown M&M's for free. No one loves Brown M&M's.
We also checked out the Spongebob Parade, which has changed since last time I saw it. Gone is the Plankton float, and with it went the whole story. It's now essentially a SpongeBob greatest hits show, which is still entertaining, but not as good as it was.
And because it is Sea World, here is photo of an inaccessible Pirate Ship being overtaken by a slow monorail!!
It will be very interesting to see the changes in Sea World over the next 12 months!!

Sunday 26 May 2013

Justice League Alien Invasion 3D The Ride - The Review

As I said in my last post, I got my first ride on Movie World's new Sally Corp dark ride shooter Justice League Alien Invasion 3D The Ride. I really enjoyed it! I was lucky enough to ride with my 9 year old nephew. He had no idea what to expect, so he was amazed. I have ridden the Buzz Lightyear ride at Magic Kingdom, so I had a good idea what it was like. While I tried to explain to my nephew, he really couldn't understand until we were in it. It is truly a one of a kind ride in Australia, and Movie World should be applauded for being so bold.

So knowing that I enjoyed the ride, here are a few criticisms of the ride.

Firstly, I'm sad about the removal of the Batman Adventure ride. It was a classic, and could easily been updated with a new ride film. I can only think that the cost of running it was to high to maintain that attraction.

Secondly, that is one of the worst attraction names I've ever heard. Too Long and confusing.

For me the pre-ride was mixed. The hall of justice looked cool but only as cool as Wayne Manor did before it. The preshow was good but hard to see and hear. Especially for little ones. Cyborg looked cool but my nephews didn't know who he was. If you were riding the ride without someone who new the story, it would be very confusing.

The ride itself was great. The practical elements worked better for me than the 3D screens, but none of it was bad. I thought the graphics could have been better, you definitely knew when you were at a screen. However, a couple of the other effects were impressive. Green Lantern towards the end was super cool. It was a lot of fun!

Overall I give it an 8.5 out of 10. It's an attraction Movie World sorely needed, after loosing batman and LTRR, but also a ride that their competitor wouldn't have had the balls to add. Movie World deserve credit for this addition and Sally Corp deserve praise for a world class ride.

Australia has so few rides with world class theming, it's a great day when you get to experience a new one!

Saturday 25 May 2013

Movie World and the best wife ever!

I have written on this blog before about how awesome my wife is at buying presents for me which feed my theme park addiction. Well, it was my birthday recently and you'll never guess what my wife did. She bought us VIP passes to the Big 3 parks owned by VRTP, Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild!!

This means we get a whole 14 months of theme park visits!

Plus she organized a very special trip with my in-laws and my nephews, which was awesome!! I got my first ride on Movie Worlds new Justice League ride, and my wife got her first ride on Green Lantern! It was an amazing day and something I will never forget.

Monday 25 February 2013

Disney Castles - The problem with Shanghai's Enchanted Storybook Castle

Today on my blog I'm going to have a rant. This is entirely my own opinion. You have been warned.

Every Disney Theme Park resort that has been or is currently being constructed contains their own Magic Kingdom style park. Each of these parks are unique, even though they have distinct similarities. At the centre of each of these parks is a castle. These castles act as the centre piece and unofficial icon of their parks.

It is very well documented that when Walt designed Disneyland he wanted a 'Weenie' at the end of Main Street to pull crowds into the park. He chose Sleeping Beauty's Castle as that centre. When designing the Magic Kingdom at WDW they decided they wanted something bigger and more extravagant, and thus Cinderella's Castle was built.

So far so good. Two parks with two unique  beautiful centerpieces.

Then came Tokyo Disney. From what I understand of the planning of Tokyo Disneyland, they were very short on time and basically cut out what they saw as the best parts of the first 2 Magic Kingdoms and stuck then in one park. So Tokyo Disneyland got an exact copy of Cinderella Castle. This in my view was the first mistake.

When it was time to build Disneyland Paris, WDI made what I think was a half good decision. They recognized that the castles they had built in the US had been European in style and they would be less unique in Paris. So they built 'Le Ch√Ęteau de la Belle au Bois Dormant'. A new bigger version of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Hardly revolutionary thinking. I guess there must only be 2 Disney movies that have castles in them. That makes sense, you only ever see 2 Disney princesses. Right?

So Disney again got the chance to build a Magic Kingdom park in Honk Kong. And they built... a carbon copy of Sleeping Beauty's Castle from Disneyland. The claim was that it was cheap.

For those keeping score it's 3-2 Sleeping Beauty over Cinderella.

When I heard that Shanghai Disney was really going to happen I was over the moon. My first thought was, is it finally going to be 3-3? Then came the rumor that it would be a brand new center castle. Brilliant! A new iconic movie castle. Maybe from a Disney classic? Or a modern movie. Personally I was hoping for Princess Jasmine's palace from Aladdin. Sure it's not Chinese but how popular are the European castles in the two US Parks.

Imagine my disappointment at discovering that the new castle would be an Enchanted Storybook Castle and that all the princess would live there. What a failure. Talk about design by committee. Death by a thousand cuts. I can't believe that WDI couldn't come up with something better than that. I'm sure it will look cool, but it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't make me want to visit the park. It is the kind of generic bland theming that belongs in a steel coaster amusement park.

I'm sure there will be lots of amazing aspects to this new park. It makes me sad that with such a big investment that something so simple kills my excitement for it. It's too late for Shanghai. But next Magic Kingdom wherever it is built, let's hope we get a new iconic and specific center castle.

Thursday 14 February 2013

SeaWorld Orlando to add Madagascar

The interesting theme park news from the last few days is that the company that owns SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa have purchased the rights to use DreamWorks' Madagascar in their parks in the Orlando area. This is interesting on a number of fronts.

Firstly, Universal have traditionally worked with DreamWorks in a number of parts of the world. This includes Shrek in all of the Universal parks, and even a quite popular Madagascar ride in Universal Studios Singapore. Now we have their cross town rivals buying IP rights from underneath them.

Secondly it shows that not only are DreamWorks happy to play the field to get best value for their content. Not only that, but they are not simply bundling all their IP into one basket. This is an intriguing move. This gives them immediate value for their property but it means they will only continue to get returns while each piece of IP remains current.

Interesting from an Australian perspective as we have just seen an ugly IP switch between our two major chains. The IP for Nickelodeon was not wanted by Dreamworld who held the rights to it up until 2011. They wanted to switch to DreamWorks. Rival Sea World bought out the rights to Nickelodeon, leaving Dreamworld in the lurch for a number of months. Dreamworld was forced to remove all Nickelodeon branding and retheme Nick Central to a generic "Kid's World" until the rights for their DreamWorks Experience was available. Having said that they finally opened a wonderful area dedicated to Shrek, Madagascar  and Kung Fu Panda. Without question the best themeing Dreamworld has added in many years.

Could we see this kind of situation happening in the US or Singapore? Probably not. However it does make you wonder if parks will continue to invest the same way if the next big movie might be sold to their competitors.

Friday 8 February 2013


So it is DCA's 12th birthday today. Lots of people are very excited that, as this is a park that has added a number of fans in the last few years.

An innocent comment by a DCA fan on Twitter has sparked some debate over the popularity of two of the Disney parks. The claim was that DCA is now the best 2nd gate. Being the pedant and party pooper I am, I immediately said, what about Tokyo DisneySea, Islands of Adventure and EPCOT.  Clearly DisneySea is in a different league.  IoA's ranking seems to depend on your theme park religion.

So let's simplify. What is the best US Disney 2nd gate today?

This is a very contentious issue.  My personal view is EPCOT by a nose. For me there is no doubt that 10 years ago it was EPCOT hands down. But DCA has massively improved over that time, while EPCOT has been on a noticeable slide. My view is based on which I'd rather go to, since I haven't been to either in a long time.

It is close. EPCOT is a better structured park and is more unique, but has weaker attractions. Whereas DCA doesn't have a great layout, but has a strong set of attractions.

I'd love to to know what other fans think. Which park is better DCA or EPCOT?

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Seal Harbour at Sea World

So in August last year we brought you news of a new planned Seal area at Sea World. Sea World has had an excellent show starring their Seals and Sea Lions, but there was not a permanent display for them inside the park. Initially slated to open before Christmas last year, and then reportedly to open on Boxing Day, we finally got a glimpse of this area in mid January.

Seal Harbour officially opened on January 25th. Reports that I had heard from the soft opening period were that the area was big and well designed but only held a handful of Seals. Hopefully more seals have been brought in now the area is up and running.

I look forward to seeing this area as they are beautiful animals and a fitting addition to Sea World's current lineup.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Tony Baxter quits WDI

In the biggest news of this year, Imagineering legends Tony Baxter has resigned from WDI. He will continue on in a consultative role, but there is definitely going to be a huge hole left behind.

It was particularly interesting to read the leaked memo that was sent out to his fellow imagineers. It shows that he was deeply unhappy with some of the directions the company has taken, which really means something from a 47 year veteran.

If you want to check out some expert opinion on this huge story, I highly recommend this story from  @ProgressCityUSA.