Friday 3 January 2014

Movie World - January 2014

Yesterday I had a very uninspiring day at Movie World. In retrospect it was a bad time to visit the parks, however it give me a view of the park that I rarely experience. I also experienced the down side to the Fast Track system that Movie World implement during the school holidays.

The park was as busy as I had seen it during the day. I've only seen more people there for Fright Nights. Waits were very quickly over and hour for all the major rides. We saw Scooby Doo peak at 120 minutes before we left. What it proved to me was that this park can't handle that volume of people. It is probably 2-3 crowd drawing attractions short of where it needs to be for this size of crowd.

The biggest irritation of the day was Fast Track. Not the people with Fast Track, but the way the queues were altered to deal with them. The trouble with these passes is that none of the queues were built with this in mind.

The best of the bunch should have been Justice League, which has an inside split in the line, however the crowd yesterday was so big, they had to use the outside overflow queue. Which meant both fast trackers and normals had to wait outside in steaming heat, so the entry could be controlled, and switched between the two queues. The outside staff member was letting people in so slow, that only half the internal queue was used, while the overflow queue was completely full. We waited 1 and a quarter hours between the two queues (the posted wait was 45 minutes). When we eventually rode we had screen failures (videos playing incorrectly, audio not lining up, and one hilarious Windows desktop on it's side. I've rode it 3 times now, once it was perfect, but ever since, no good. I wouldn't wait more than 20 minutes for it next time.

Superman had the same issue. The fast track integration point was at the front gate, which meant that the people where queued outside in the sun. We didn't ride Scooby, but it looked like the same setup.

The Green Lantern had a different setup. The Fast Trackers queued at the ride exit and loaded from the other side. This worked okay except the loading was slow because staff had to decide when to Fast Track and count out the people. Even though there was 6 cars running, and 4 platform staff, it was the slowest loading I have seen. We only queued for 35 mins (posted wait of 50 mins), but we saw at least 4 cars stop hard because of the full station.

We did walk straight into the 4D movie, Journey 2 the mysterious island. It was a long 4 hours to only cover 4 rides.

Queues as long as they were that day make you consider the quality of attractions and how long you'd wait for them. For instance, I love the Scooby Doo coaster, but I would only wait 30 minutes for it. This isn't the haunted mansion or splash mountain. To be honest, only Superman is really worth waiting an hour for. When you have enough time to value the rides, you also consider the value of having annual passes. If I, as a total theme park nerd, am rethinking getting passes next year, then normal people must do the same. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but there must be a measurable cost to having days that busy. I'm not suggesting limiting numbers, what I believe the park needs is more crowd sponges to even out the crowd.

Thursday 2 January 2014

2013 Year in review - Australian Parks

It's been another interesting year to be a theme park fan in Australia. We didn't have the big openings of 2012, but we did see a couple of changes of note. Let's take a quick tour of our parks, and see what changes have occurred.

Firstly Sea World, the park with the most changes this year. Early in the year, Seal Harbour opened, at the back of penguin point. To be honest, I'm not sure anyone noticed. I thought it was a great addition. I love the animals and the stylish enclosure. I also liked it because it allowed me to get a sneak peak at what was meant to be the second big opening of the year, the Storm Coaster. This opened for the school  holidays in December, to mostly positive reviews despite opening late. There was clearly great effort on the external theming, which is always a plus in my book. I haven't had a chance to ride this yet, but what I hear riders get absolutely soaked. The big surprise for the year was the birth of Polar Bear cub Henry, which has turned out to be a big hit. This surprise caused a number of VRTP projects to be delayed, including the storm coaster, while an enclosure was specifically constructed for mother and cub.  There has been great progress  on the future Wild project, as the fill in part of the main lake to house a number of yet to be confirmed wild animals. Likely to be Gorillas and crocodiles. That will be a project to watch this year.

Next, over to Movie World. After big years in 2011 and 2012 with the opening of Green  Lantern and Justice League, and the retheme of Arkham Asylum, 2013 was a quiet year for Movie World. We saw a new version of the stunt show, a new 4D movie and a refresh of Ricks restaurant, and that's about all. The Halloween and Christmas events were big hits. We know there is work going on for a new Kids Driving attraction in the show building of the former Looney Tunes River Ride, however it was delayed massively by the arrival of Henry at Sea World. We now have no idea when it will be finished, but I'd guess second quarter this year would be the plan.

To Dreamworld which also had a smaller year after a big 2012. The DreamWorks Experience opened it's last ride, Pandamonium, on Boxing Day 2012, so this was the focus of the start of 2013 for Dreamworld. The middle of the year saw the closure of AVPX, alien laser tag, which has been redesigned as Zombie Evilution, zombie laser tag. In the end of the year we saw a retheming of the Australian Wildlife Experience to our indigenous  Australians. With sponsorship from the state government, this will be a positive addition  for the park. We also saw a new version of the Tiger show open in the final quarter.

Without a doubt the biggest Australian theme park news this year came from Adventure Park in Perth, Western Australia. This little park stumped up 12 million for a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter similar to Saw – The Ride at Thorpe Park, called The Abyss. This is a huge investment for the park, and we are hopeful it has paid off. Sadly they were in the news again not long after the opening of their new ride,  when Halloween  fireworks set fire to the  parks iconic, but out of style, castle.

Amusingly, this addition, plus the construction of Wet 'n' Wild  Sydney, has caused a little panic from our big gold coast parks. As these two openings occurred our TV screens were plastered with state government tourism adverts for the Gold Coast as Australia's Theme Park capital. Just like all theme park fans, my view is that competition is good and drives improvement. We've always had competition   between our Gold Coast parks, it's good to see some regional competitions well.

So that wraps up 2013 in Australian theme parks. A quiet but surprising year! Let's hope for big things this year in preparation for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.