Tuesday 31 March 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 31st March 2015

Lots happening in Theme Parks this week.

In California, Springfield U.S.A. has soft opened at Universal Hollywood. There is a lot of a little details that's been added to the area compared to it's Orlando sibling, but you can't help notice the little Wizard Village that keeps popping into the background. It's a distraction in what is otherwise a great area. My only other complaint with the area is that there are more of the restaurants for characters that don't exist in the show. That only bothers real Simpsons nerds like me, but still I feel that it's a fair point. With so many good in show restaurants and shops, it's a little distracting to have the random additions. They are still well done, just not in theme for me. I digress.

This week saw a collection of Tech geeks descent on Universal Orland for NBCUniversal's Hackathon. I can call them geeks because I'm a developer myself. The contestants were set challenges from the modern theme park environment and winner's were announced at the end of the week. It's a really interesting initiative, and a great way for Universal to attract great talent.

At Disney World, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto has opened at the Polynesian Resort. This is more than just a bar, with specialty drinks, novelty glasses and special effects for particular orders. While I think the people waiting for 3 hours were totally nuts, I can see how this place will be a popular destination at the resort. It goes to show, that a little bit of theming can make a bar a ridiculously popular attraction.

In Australian Theme Park news, we are coming up to the Easter holidays, which is essentially the start of Autumn here in Australia. This is not the time when big rides are normally launched. And so it is this year..

However, Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast is bucking the trending opening two new attractions this week. Firstly, Professor Bogglesworth's Illusionarium has opened in the centre of the park, as well as their brand "new" kiddie coaster Bug Run down next to the Redback. It's hard to tell that it has opened, since the only sign that I've seen is literal signs on the Sunshine Coast highway that has appeared in the last week. It's still exciting that this little park is continuing to grow. And I've got to say the theming on the Bug Run does look pretty cute. I'm pretty sure that my little girl will love it in a year or two's time.

As for Dreamworld, the biggest news is that the Buzzsaw has reopened this week after it's unexpected maintenance. It has added some new retrofitted seatbelts to the attraction, just to beef up the safety a little bit. In light of what has just happened with Green Lantern, I don't hear anyone complaining.

At Sea World, the first pieces of their up coming creatures of the deep exhibit has arrived. We only have seen a few back of house photos, but it doesn't sounds like it will take to long for this to come together. We'll keep an eye on it.

For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next week, Cheers!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 24th March 2015

Things have been a little bit quieter in Theme Parks this week. That's good news if you consider the Green Lantern incident last week. I'll come back to that in a minute, but first lets look at a bit of international news from Theme Parks this week.

This week was saw the gathering of the greatest theme park minds in one place for the TEA Gala awards and summit. The awards themselves were announced late last year, so this was more a showcase of the winners than anything else. I won't cover it in much detail, but if you are interested have a look around as there is some great coverage.

Theme Park Insider had a great article this week dampening the expectations around the newly announced "second" park to be opened by the owner's of Universal Studios in Japan. This is going to be an interesting park, but I think Robert it correct to water down expectations. This isn't going to be Islands of Adventure Japan. It's not even going to be near their other park, and it is going to cheap (relatively speaking). I am still intrigued.

Over at Walt Disney World, two interesting events this week Firstly there was a flyover by the Blue Angels at Magic Kingdom. There was no point to this, but it sure made for some cool photos. The second event this week was the announcement Innoventions West at Epcot is going to close.

Returning to the Green Lantern incident from last week, the forums on Parkz.com.au have given an amazing side to this story, where a user called "ThrillSeekerNoMore" has posted her story of being one of the riders on the derailed car. If you have been following this incident, it is worth reading her story as it confirms a couple of aspects that were rumoured. There were injuries. Her father had broken ribs and a punctured lung. Also, the initial responders were not sure what was keeping the car on the track. You cannot help but feel how close these poor people came to a tragic end. I hope they all bought lottery tickets.

For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next week, Cheers!

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 17th March 2015

What a huge week in theme parks we have had this week.

The big news for Australian Theme Park fans was the Green Lantern accident that left 13 Movie World patrons stranded on the ride, requiring rescue from Queensland Fire and Rescue authorities. One car has been confirmed as having an "issue with a wheel", while another was emergency stopped on the Life Hill. Firstly, can I say that we should all be very thankful that there have been no major injuries from this incident. From my understanding of what has occurred, the 6 riders who were in the car which had a wheel (or possibly multiple wheels) dislodged, were incredibly lucky. There was every chance this car could have completely flipped off the track and plummeted to the ground. This was a serious mechanical failure, and will no doubt close this ride for some months.

Secondly, we should applaud the ride ops and Rescue crews, who from what I have seen did an excellent job of securing the riders and preventing them for further risk.

There is going to be a major investigation into this incident, and I don't want to speculate as to the potential cause. I also don't want to fan the media inferno that has erupted from this incident. I don't want to be too flippant about it either, but mechanical failures happen. No one plans for them, indeed they do everything the can to prevent them. If nothing else this serves as a healthy reminder that even a controlled risk (like a roller coaster) is a risk. If there has been any issue with the maintenance or monitoring of this ride, this will be exposed in the post mortem that will occur. Rest assured steps will be taken to fix the issues.

Would I ride Green Lantern again when it was fixed? Absolutely. I've ridden it many times in the past, and it is a wonderful ride. Now that it has been shown that no major injuries occurred, my hope is for a speedy yet thorough investigation, that finds a clear and resolvable fault.

For the best Australian theme park coverage, you have to check out the parkz.com.au website. There article on this incident is one of the best I've read, and their forums were among the first to report the incident.

This has been a bad year for Movie World after this incident, and the accident in the Hollywood Stunt Driver show. Hopefully things start to come around for them in the next few months.

One thing that it does expose about Movie World, is how light on the park is for attractions. Having this sudden extended closure, has brought into question the timing of  other maintenance in the park, in particular the other headline roller coaster, Superman Escape. With (potentially) the two best coasters out of commission at the same time, the park is looking very empty indeed. This shows that this park needs to build it's attraction base in the next few years, if it wants to continue to be competitive.

Ironically, it was just a few weeks ago that we were making the same statements about Dreamworld, who had to suddenly shut their Buzzsaw ride after a comparatively minor incident.

In other Theme Park news this week, it was a officially announced that as part of the invigoration of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, the park is going to have a brand new name... again. The park formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, will soon have a brand new name. I don't want to be that guy that says I told you so, but we told you that this was on the cards about 5 months ago. If I was a betting man (and I'm definitely not), I would be putting money on Disney Hollywood Adventure. While I think he name itself is quite bland and safe, that is what I am expecting from Disney at this point. Prove me wrong Disney, prove me wrong.

Staying briefly in WDW, in the Magic Kingdom two fan favourite foods have swapped places. Disney has swapped the locations for Dole Whip and Citrus Swirl, in an attempt to ease congestion. You might not think that's news, but if you queued in the wrong place for one of these, you'd be mad.

Busch Gardens Tampa have announced that they are closing the Serengeti Railway to make way for their 2016 coaster addition. It's believed that the track is going to be quickly re-routed to make room for a Mack family coaster of some kind.

In Universal Orlando, Kongstruction continues at great pace. One big rumour that came out this week is that Volcano Bay (name may not be correct), the new water park that is going to be added to Universal Orlando may open as soon as next year! This would be a massively fast development, even if it is merely moving slides from Universal's Wet N' Wild water park.

Wired had an interesting article earlier this week about Disney's $1 Billion Bet on Magic Bands. If you are anything like me, it's worth a quick read.

For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next week, Cheers!

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 10th March 2015

Here is a quick update from the last week in theme parks.

Walt Disney World announced two anticipated expansions this week. Soarin' at Epcot is officially adding a 3rd theatre, although that was kind of obvious since they had already started building it. The long rumoured 3rd track is being added to Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Both of these expansions will add much needed capacity to headline attractions at these two parks. It is funny that both of these rides have a greater demand on the east coast than the west coast where they both originated, but DCA is a very different park these days to compared to any of the WDW parks.

Speaking of DCA, Disney has announced that the remodelled Condor Flats will reopen as Grizzly Peak Airfield on the 20th of March. The retheme includes replacing Taste Pilots Grill with Smokejumpers Grill. Whether there will be any difference other than the name, no one is sure. However, we don't have long to wait!

Earlier in the week, LEGOLAND California opened their latest addition - The Lego Death Star. There is nothing that I don't like about that sentence. Nothing.

On the west coast, we have a construction update from LEGOLAND Florida from Orlando Park News. There is a lot of little work going on over there, but I'm most interested in the LEGOLAND Hotel being constructed.

Orlando Park News also gave us an update from Epcot where the Frozen makeover of Norway is underway. WDW also announce the closure of Pirates of the Caribbean for an extended maintence this week. This could mean a number of things for the ride, but a maintenance that long must be good news.

There was also a video on YouTube this week of Fury325 at Carowinds in North Carolina going through it's first test runs.

In Australia it has been pretty quite. At Dreamworld Zombie Evilution  has closed, to be re-opened as a pure scare maze on the 2nd of April. There is continual rumbling about the Eureka Mount Mine Ride, but we still have nothing official on this.

In an update to last week's story about Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast, there have been further updates to the Pub building this week, now showing a sign on the front "PUB OPEN EVERY DAY!" That certainly clears up people who wouldn't have known what that building was for, but it's a touch tacky in my book. However, it is clearly only a temporary measure. I'll keep my eye on this for you.

Finally this week, the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour has announced as part of it's 50th anniversary that it will be spending $1.6 Million on a new Water Park for the complex. While it's not going to be as huge as the Gold Coast water parks, it will be a great addition to one of our Australian Big things! And if you want to know more about Australia's big things, you should check out my friend Fee's blog the Big Things of Oz! Actually, you should check that blog out anyway because it is super cool.

For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next week, Cheers!

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 3rd March 2015

What a massive week of Theme Park news!!

Firstly, at Universal Orlando, there was some good news, some odd news and some bad news. The good news is that the world's worst secret, that King Kong was being added to Islands of Adventure, has been (accidentally) officially confirmed! The odd news is that the Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts closed suddenly this week for 3 days, and we aren't sure why. The bad news is that ticket prices are going up to US$102 for both of the Universal Orlando parks. This was widely expected, and yet again puts UOR in the middle of the WDW day ticket prices (cheaper than Magic Kingdom, but more expensive that Epcot, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom).

Speaking of their cross-town rivals, there were some great photos this week of where the hat has been removed from Disney's Hollywood Studios. We also got a peak at the new improvements to the hub at Magic Kingdom, and a video of some of the work going into Pandora at Animal Kingdom.

Disney had a little more grief on the West Coast this week, where a fire broke out very close to iconic attraction It's a Small World. Thankfully no damage was done, and no one was injured in the incident.

In the UK, the proposed Paramount London park has added the I.P. of Aardman Animation to the there stocks after signing a memorandum of understanding this week. This along with the BBC rights deal earlier announced, should give this park a good collection of properties to use, especially for the younger generation.

In Italy, a video has been posted on Youtube showing test ride of the new coaster Oblivion: The Black Hole. Worth a look!

In Australian park news, something interesting has been happening at Aussie World over the last few weeks. Late last year the operators of the park gave up the rights to use the Ettamogah Pub as theming for the oversized pub at the front of the park. It's a sad thing, as the Pub itself was the icon that started the roadside attraction in the first place. The interesting this is that Aussie World have had to go extreme lengths to remove theming from the building. Initially they just removed the car from the roof, and painted over the sign, but after a further challenge from the holder's of the I.P. rights they have been forced to paint over large parts of the exterior of the building. Just this week I saw them painting over the poem on the side of the pub. Soon there will just be a large generic building at the front of the park. As I said, strange!

Staying on the Sunshine Coast, but only JUST related to theme parks, Jeff the largest dinosaur of the Palmersaurus attration at Coolum caught fire last night. Tragic for all dinosaur lovers, but funny because it happened to Clive Palmer. If you don't know who Clive Palmer is, look him up because you wouldn't believe me if I told you about him.

Anyway, here is Jeff:

Nothing major is going on at the Australian major parks at the moment. We've been teased a little by Dreamworld about the Mine Ride, but nothing official appears to be happening.

For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next week, Cheers!