Tuesday 28 October 2014

Tail Spin @ Dreamworld

In late September Dreamworld opened their brand new thrill ride, Tail Spin. The ride, a Gerstlauer Sky Fly replaced the aged Reef Diver flat at the end of the Ocean Parade. The ride itself stands 22 metres tall, and has a throughput of 240-360 riders per hour.

Overall, the ride is a step up from the unpopular Reef Diver, without question. However it does show a disturbing trend in Australia's largest theme park. That is the tendency to favour "cheap" flats over any other type of ride. While I am a fan of flats in general, I think Dreamworld has now reached the maximum number of flats that a park can sustain without starting to be criticized for it.

But why wait, when I can rant about it now!

Don't get me wrong, Dreamworld has some great flats. I am a huge fan of The Claw, I think it is one of the best rides in the park. However, when your last 4 additions are flats (well, Buzzsaw is a coaster, but it's a very flat-like coaster) some questions have to be asked. As a consumer, it is hard to see why they have added two flying flats (Pandamonium and Tail Spin) in a row. I'm sure there will be some that haven't even realised they are different rides.

Enthusiasts tend to champion coasters over flats. Dreamworld has 5 coaster. However, Buzzsaw, is a single loop coaster. Tower of Terror (as good as it is) is just a straight up and back. Mick Doohan's Motocoaster is wildly unpopular, mainly because it is to big for kids, and a bit lame for the tweens. That just leaves a very good kiddy coaster, and Cyclone as the only true full circuit coasters.

What about dark rides? Realistically Dreamworld has one, the Big Red Car Ride in Wiggles World. I don't know a grown person who's ridden it without a toddler.

Dreamworld had one amazing Drop tower in the Giant Drop, so it doesn't need to go there again.

They have a raft ride, and an aged flume ride. They lack any kind of interactive ride (although they do have a walk through). They do have a drive yourself Model-T Ford ride, but I'd be surprised if many people even knew that was still there.

In terms of flats, they have 5 majors, and a number (rough count of 6 or 7) kids flats. What will Dreamworld put in next? If it's a flat, I'm going to scream.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Rick's Cafe - Movie World

In the last couple of years, Movie World has revamped it's major sit-down restaurant Rick's Café. It has turned it from a mixed buffet, into an all you can eat Pizza-Pasta-Salad and Dessert meal. Earlier in the year we had a look at this revamp. We aren't big on sit down meals in Theme Parks, so it took us a while to check it out. Having been to both the old and the new, I can say it is definitely an improvement.

At the old Rick's your choices where somewhat limited to a handful of particular meals. They were okay food wise, from memory, but not outstanding. The actual buffet space was very small, and was easily crowded. The deserts were below par in the old Rick's. And drinks had to be purchased individually, which was always a little difficult.

The new Rick's has opened up the space nicely, and focuses on a large selection of Pizza, with a few additional options for the younger crowd. The pizza was nice, it wasn't amazing, but it was a good as you'll find at an all you can eat pizza joint. The serving seemed to keep speed with the crowd, so there was always options to choose from. The dessert selection was massively improved, simply by adding a soft serve machine. I'm not fancy, I don't want much more than that.

You could add on an all you can drink soft drink for 5 dollars, which is cheaper than you can buy soft drink anywhere in the park.

The only negative was the salad. There was so little salad on the day we went, with such little variety that it really doesn't belong on the sign in my opinion. You couldn't eat just a salad lunch here, you would have to have something else.

At $25 for all you can eat and drink, Rick's Café is surprisingly good value in a park that charges way way to much for food and beverage ($4 for a churro?). Think of it like this, you can get a soft drink and a soft serve ice cream for just under $20. If you are going to eat in park, it's a good deal, even if you don't plan to stuff yourself silly.

My problem is that I find it hard to go to buffet and not stuff myself silly. A big danger in a theme park is being unable to ride because of to much food. That is the only other major problem with the new Rick's Café, and that is only an issue if you lack self control.

If you've been there before, it's definitely worth checking out the new(ish) Rick's Café.

Is a rebrand on the cards for Disney's Hollywood Studios?

There is one thing that is clear in the theme park developments in Central Florida in the last 6 months. Something is happening to Disney's Hollywood Studios. The original "half-day" park has seen closure after closure on a scale that has been rarely (if ever) seen at Walt Disney World. Friday's official confirmation of the removal of the Sorcerer's Hat from the middle of the park, has led to some pretty wild speculation about what is happening to this park. One particular rumour has peaked my interest in the last day, that they are going to rebrand the entire park. I've been thinking about both the likelihood and the reasoning for this to occur, but to be honest I can't decide if I like the idea or not.

Certainly, DHS has lost anything that tied it to it's original Studio theme. Without Studio facilities, Animation Production or a fake Studio tour, it is now a park that is themed to what it used to be. Other people would call this, a collection of attractions with individual settings, but no over aching theme. Having said that, I'm not sure that needs to be true to it's roots. I don't know that consumer's would ignore the park because of it's lack of Studio credibility. Let's face it, Epcot is not a Community of Tomorrow, and while we are nit picking Islands of Adventure isn't really made up of islands.

One suggestion for the rebranding of DHS would be to change it to Disney's Hollywood Adventure. This would forever twin the park with Disney's California Adventure. Personally, I dislike this idea. It would be a costly sideways move for the Florida park, which for me would weaken the DCA brand. Surely, the differentiation of DCA from the Florida parks is a positive for the Disneyland Resort. If Joe Public starts to see the Florida Parks as the same parks as Disneyland Resort plus two more, this will hurt Disneyland. That would be a shame for Disney, as they have fought so hard to strengthen DCA's reputation in the last 5 years.

While it isn't unheard of for a Disney park or resort to be rebranded, this would be the biggest change to the WDW Resort since the addition of Animal Kingdom. This would be a big deal. This is more than the name change from Disney-MGM Studios to DHS,  or EuroDisney to Disneyland Paris. Both of those had clear reasons for the change. The motivation for rebranding the 8th most popular theme park in the world here would be, because the brand it's had since opening sucks.

Having said that I don't understand the motivation for the change, doesn't mean I don't think it will happen. I hope I won't be Disney's Hollywood Adventure, but there could be a million other ideas floating around. All Disney has to do is find a theme that covers Star Wars, Pixar, Muppets, Fantasmic, Twilight Zone and Aerosmith. How hard can that be?

And what does it mean to the possibility of a 5th gate, if DHS becomes almost a new park in terms of branding?

Personally I'm excited for the overhaul. I am happy that there will be increased Star Wars presence at WDW. I want expansion and to maximize the amount of potential guest time in this park. If that means shutting 25% of the park, as they have now, then so be it. However, do I think a rebranding is a good idea? Only if they can come up with a more specific brand that incorporates their current intellectual properties. I think Disney's Hollywood Adventure is a bland and generic brand who will not appeal to more people that the current Disney's Hollywood Studios.

If they did rebrand it though, I'd still go to the park. So who am I to say it shouldn't happen?