Tuesday 30 June 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 30th June 2015

It's the last update for the first half of 2015! And, it's been a pretty quiet week.

Partially because it's the middle of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, there hasn't been a log of big news this week. So let's start at home in Queensland, where winter school holidays have just started. Which is the perfect time for a kid's attaction to open.

And that's just what Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, has done, opening ABC Kids World last Saturday. This expansion/re-theme of Wiggles World, combines ABC Kids staples of The Wiggles, Play School, Banana's in Pyjamas, and  Giggle and Hoot. While the space isn't huge, this is a great little addition to Dreamworld, and will be great for the pre-school set. We'll be testing it out with our toddler in a few weeks time, so stay tuned for a review of ABC Kids World.

But if you can't wait, here's an ad:

There has also been a little bit of news this week from Disney, but most of it revolver around Selfie Sticks. Firstly on Wednesday last week, there was a report that California Screamin' at Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort, had to be stopped mid run after a rider pulled out a Selfie Stick. The Sticks have been banned from being taken on rides as loose articles at Disney Parks for some time, but they have continued to be a menace in the parks according to staff. Not surprisingly, this incident was followed by the announcement that as of today all Disney parks world wide would prohibit the carrying of Selfie Sticks. The Sticks can be checked at the front gate, and picked up on exit. Personally, I'm for this. I can't see anything good coming from having these sticks in the park, and while Disney is traditionally lenient on carrying objects into parks, I think they have made a wise choice to block Selfie Sticks.

We also saw in the news today that Disney is going to close the Animation Pavilion in Disney's Hollywood Studios, as part of the re-making of this park. For me this is a bit sad, because it really marks the removal of the last "Studios" part of studios. However that isn't unexpected, since we already know that this park is going to rebranded with a new name in the near future. I hope they plan on putting the Animation Academy into another part of Walt Disney World, because I think that is a very cool and unique attraction.

But its not all closures and restrictions for WDW this week, with Captain EO returning to Epcot. Who knows how long it will stay this time, but I'm sure some fans will be glad to see it's return.

News.com.au this week ran a story by photojournalist Seph Lawless, touring the closed down Six Flags New Orleans 10 years after Hurricane Katrina closed the park. The photos of this are pretty epic, and definitely beautiful in it's own creepy way. Very interesting to see! You can see why the site has been used for filming of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World in the last couple of years.

The saddest theme park news of the week is that another of the riders in the horrible Smiler crash at Alton Towers 3 weeks ago, has had to have a leg amputated. Vicky Balch was one of 5 injured riders, who had gone through 7 operations in the last week to attempt to save her right leg, but this was sadly in vain.

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

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - June 23rd 2015

So, I missed my blog last week! June is a horrible time at my work, and to top it all off the whole house has been sick. That just means, a two-week action packed news update this week!! Let's get into it.

Just over two weeks ago, we got our first look at the Epcot's new Frozen ride 'Frozen Ever After'. I'm deeply disappointed that they didn't go with my name for it: Frozstrom. Anyway, the ride itself is the same ride system as Maelstrom that it is replacing, only with a whimsical Frozen overlay. No new songs, but new lyrics to existing songs. It will be a popular ride, no doubt, and if the effects discussed in the article are effective it'll be great. The tough thing will be whether the existing Maelstrom ride system can cope with the influx of visitors.

It's a tough gig pitching your rides purely at a single I.P.. I know Frozen is popular, and it will be for the next ten years, but there is an undercurrent of anti-Frozen from parents that may work against this attraction. However, it should still be more popular than Maelstrom. I like Frozen, so it doesn't worry me.

Universal Studios Orlando has had a mixed bag of news over the last week. First, they gave us some details of the new Sapphire Falls resort. They also celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It did reset the standard for themed lands, so it's great for it to be celebrated in this way. Two weeks ago we brought you the news of the new Volcano Bay Water Park at USO, and now we have the the kicker to that announcement, the confirmation that Wet 'n Wild will close at the end of December 2016. This is mixed news. Sure it's a closure, but it frees up some very useful land for Universal. Not quite big enough for a third gate, but certainly room for another pair of resorts.

Tragic news last week from Six Flags Magic Mountain, where a 10 year old girl was airlifted from the park, after becoming unconscious after riding the Roller coaster Revolution, and subsequently passed away. The coroner has stated that the girl was not injured on the ride, and her death has been put down to natural causes from a pre-existing medical condition. Our thoughts go out to the family of this poor girl at the awful time.

In Australian Theme Park news, Sea World has officially announced that the rebuild of their kids area will be a fully fledged Nickelodeon Land. The land will also feature a Zamperla children's coaster, which will be the first of it's kind on the Gold Coast. The land is expected to be open for the September school holidays.

We are also only 4 days away from Dreamworld opening their new ABC Kids World. in time for the June School holidays!

And a final tidbit this week, from the Parkz forums. Movement has been spotted at the Green Lantern site for the first time since the accident in March this year. This doesn't mean anything directly, it could be a lengthy process of testing, particularly if the issue was a design flaw rather than an issue with maintenance, however it is good to see some action taking place.
For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next week, Cheers!

Saturday 13 June 2015

TEA/AECOM 2014 Attendance Data - Statistical Analysis

Last week saw the release of the the annual TEA/AECOM Attendance Data for 2014. I thought it might be a bit of fun to pull apart some of the data and see if we can see any particular trends from the data from the last few years of these reports. I'm a professional nerd, so this kind of thing is right up my alley. As a quick summary, we have growth in general and good news for both of the major chains Disney and Universal. We also have a couple of anomalies, including an outstanding park debut and a park disappearance. There is also a bit of bad continuing bad news for Disneyland Paris and the two U.S. SeaWorld parks. Let's get into it!

Park Attendance

Since the start of the TEA/AECOM Theme Park Attendance data reporting, Disney has dominated the rankings. Particularly, the Magic Kingdom park which has easily topped the park rankings each year. This year is no different. The Magic Kingdom park is surging towards having 20 Million guests annually, and the only real competition at this stage is coming from Disneyland and the two Tokyo Disney parks. Let's break this down by looking at a couple of graphs, the first graph shows the Attendance for all the Disney Parks globally, plus their nearest rival Universal Studios Japan.

This graph shows that all the Disney parks are doing well in terms of total attendance. Certainly Magic Kingdom isn't going to be unseated, but it's lead over the next 3 Disney parks is not enormous. You should also notice that the two Tokyo parks had a flat year this year, but with the huge growth the previous year, they remain in a very strong position. The biggest growth on this graph though is the Universal Studios Japan line, which of course saw the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2014. You can see with this additional growth, that the top Universal park is about average for a Disney park at the moment. Which is a great showing for Universal, if you know your history of theme parks.

We should note a couple of things in this graph. Most of the Disney parks in this graph are flat to slightly improved, except for two Disney parks that seem to be going downhill quickly. We'll see more on this when we view the growth rates, but those two parks are Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios in Paris.

Now let's look at the opposite graph, which is all of the Universal Parks, along with Disney's top performer Magic Kingdom:

For me this graphs shows two things distinctly. Firstly that Magic Kingdom as a park compared to any non-Disney park is an unfair comparison at the moment. If any parks are going to catch MK, it's most likely to be Universal Studios Japan or one of the Universal Orlando parks, but even that is decades away (barring something catastrophic). Secondly and most importantly for Universal all these parks are moving in the right direction. Even Islands of Adventure being flat this year is a good result, given what opened next door at USF. While Singapore has been slow to grow, it is still a young park find it's feet in a very different tourism landscape. Look out for Universal Studios Hollywood, particularly in 2016, as I don't know how it grew as much as it did in 2014 with half of their park shutting down for construction.

Let's have a look at the rest of the top parks for 2014, compared with the top Disney and Universal parks:

Firstly, we should note, that it is Disney then daylight, then Universal then more daylight, then everyone else. Ignoring that, there a couple of interesting changes this year. Firstly, the debut of Chime-long Ocean Kingdom into the Top 25 parks in it's first year in operation is truly stunning. This park in Hengqin, China (near Macau) opened with a staggering attendance of 5.5 million guests. To put this into perspective this dwarfs even the second year figures for both Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Singapore. It will be interesting to track where this park goes in the future.

Also to be applauded is Songcheng Park, that has put on a massive spurt of attendance in the last twelve months. You can see that most of the European parks were flat over the last 12 months. It is a little hard to tell on this graph, but it was yet another bad year for SeaWorld California and SeaWorld Florida.

One mystery in this years results, is the total disappearance of Yokohama Hakkeikima Sea Paradise in Japan, which has rated well in previous years polls, but is completely absent from the 2014 report (not even making the top Asian parks list). If anyone knows what happened to this park this year, please let me know.

Park Growth

I think it is worth viewing the graphs for growth rates for the individual parks as well, as this does start to show a few patterns of it's own that aren't as clear in the Attendance graphs. Firstly, let's look at Disney Parks Compared to the top two Universal growers Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Orlando:

A couple of clear trends stand out here. Firstly, no Disney park came close to growing at the rate of the Universal Parks last year. USJ and USO clearly beat the pants off Disney in this respect. The more alarming trend to me was that although a lot of Disney parks had strong growth in 2013, all of those had weakend growth in 2014. That doesn't mean they are about to crash into negative territory and shrink next year, but it would be a concern to have a brand wide trend to that effect.

There are two parks that are in a very concerning position, who for the second year running shrunk significantly. That is Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios in Paris. You might have trouble seeing the Disneyland Paris line on this graph, and that is because it is smack band on the line of Walt Disney Studios. Now that may be a reporting issue that they are only getting resort wide attendance patterns, however, it is concerning that the shrink is continuing for the Disneyland Paris resort. This isn't a statistical cheat (like in 2010 when WDS had massive growth, of about the same amount that Disneyland Paris lost), this is really a resort that is having some troubles. And this isn't a solely geographic issue, as there was growth in two of the other European major parks this year (Europa Park and Tivoli Gardens). Disney must be watching this very carefully.

Let's look at how Universal has performed, against Magic Kingdom and Disneyland:

There is some great news here for Universal, not all of which is expected. There was huge growth in two parks, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Orlando. This is not surprising as both have opened Wizarding World in the past two years. It is interesting though to compare these growth changes to the growth of Island's of Adventure in 2010 and 2011. It's hard to fault USJ for this, as it was coming base, so it would be tough to get a 29% growth for two years in a row. It's still a really good result. The surprise for me, is Universal Studios Hollywood. This park seems to grow ever 2 years, but for the life of me I can't understand why it has grown in 2014. It concerns me with the openings happening in 2015 (Simpsons) and 2016 (WWoHP) that they are already having 10% growth. Even Islands had a little bit of a dip before they opened WWoHP. I guess this is just a different market, and people were still keen to see an almost empty park in 2014. I would not have predicted that.

As mentioned earlier Islands of Adventure was flat last year, but that is not necessarily a bad result considering it's neighbors' opening of Diagon Alley (although it's hard to know what effect the Hogwarts Express running Park to Park has had on these figures). I think Universal would like to see a little more movement in Singapore, but to be honest they haven't been investing as heavily there either. Singapore is going to be a slow burn, so look for it in about 5 years time.

Let's look at all the other parks, compared to the best that Disney and Universal had to offer:

When looking at this graph, it is a bit of mixed bag. There is still an overall trend for growth, particularly in Asia, but it's very patchy. Most impressive is clearly the Songcheng Park, who has embarrassed everyone with their percentage growth over the last 12 months including Universal Studios Orlando. Good solid growth from Tivoli Gardens and De Efteling at around 6 percent as well.

What happened to Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise? They are just gone, no value this year.

The big losers are Nagashima Spaland, and the two U.S. Sea World parks. I wouldn't be so concerned with Nagashima Spaland as this park seems to have a pattern of small shrinks followed by large growths. However we are seeing not just a decline in the attendance at SeaWorld Florida and SeaWorld California, but a steeply accelerating decline. It would be a huge concern that these parks are declining in growth markets, which can simply be attributed to the Blackfish documentary. While it's unclear whether the Blackfish effect is only temporary, but another year of sustained shrinkage for either of the SeaWorld parks would be very bad news. SeaWorld Florida is facing an uphill battle, since competition for the non-Disney segment of a Florida vacation has hotted up with the expansions at Universal Orlando, and the opening of Legoland Florida near by. I'll give it another year before I make a terminal prediction, but I'll say that I suspect SeaWorld Florida is being checked out by doctor's as we speak.


As Disney and Universal have dominated the theme park world in the last 30 years, they have created a new beast called a theme park resort, which of itself should be analyzed. The king of theme park resorts is undoubtedly Walt Disney World, and given it's head start and available land, no one will likely ever be able to challenge that. However, in the last 20 years, Disney and Universal have also grown there own 2 park resorts throughout the "Disney Decade" and the Universal Orlando Expansion. So let's take a look at how these reports compare to each other statistically, firstly by viewing total park attendance grouped by Resort:

So Walt Disney World is beating everyone by a mile! They now have over 50 million park guest per year, and they are growing. But this isn't really a fair comparison as they have 4 parks, and the other resorts only have 2. Let's have a look at how this graph changes when we even the playing field:

When we look at the Per Park attendance of the 5 major theme park Resorts, we start to see that this isn't as clear as it first seemed. On an Attendance Per Park basis, Tokyo Disneyland Resort is clearly the most popular theme park resort in the world. Yet again, it seems hard to turn this trend around. Tokyo Disney is very much a juggernaut, that looks like it will only be stopped when people are no longer able to move inside the parks. Tokyo DisneySea has long been the best "second" park of a Disney Resort (it's hard to beat a Magic Kingdom at it's own game). When you combine this with the cult hit of Tokyo Disneyland itself, it's a tough combination to beat.

It is also interesting that Disneyland Resort and WDW are now almost equal on a per park basis. This is due to the strong growth at Disney California Adventure in the last 3 years and the solid numbers for Walt's original park. WDW has capacity for more growth as all 3 non-MK parks are going to be enhanced in the next 5 years, so I would expect it WDW to pull away again from Disneyland Resort, but not for a few years.

The pattern is particularly clear in the other two resorts. Universal Orlando is booming, and Disneyland Paris Resort is busting. It's still an uphill battle for Universal Orlando, but it's as strong (and rich) as it has ever been, and it's buying really good I.P. to use in the next 10 years. To get a better look at the pattern of these two resorts, let's have a look at the Attendance growth of all of these resorts:

This graph shows that even with it's substantial lead, Tokyo Disneyland Resort had a quiet year this year. However, with the huge growth the year before, we still can't say it's a bad year. Growth is still strong for Disneyland Resort and WDW, even if it is a bit slower than the previous years. Once again, the story is clear for Universal Orlando, eveything is going great and they just need to find ways to keep the balls rolling. Disneyland Paris Resort on the other hand, while it didn't shrink as fast as the previous year, it's still shrinking alarmingly.


Overall the world of Theme Parks grew in 2014, and that is good news for all of us. The winners this year are clearly Universal Studios Japan, Universal Orlando Resort, Songcheng Park and Chime-long Ocean Kingdom, with outstanding growth in attendance. The losers this year are clearly the two U.S. SeaWorld parks, and Disneyland Paris Resort. In terms of overall attendance Walt Disney World resort and it's flagship park Magic Kingdom have a practically insurmountable lead, but special mentions should go to the parks of the Tokyo Disneyland Resort that are again strong this year. Interesting to watch in 2015 will be Universal Orlando, who will have had a full year of their WWoHP, and Universal Studios Hollywood who are opening Springfield U.S.A. amidst the shadow of their own WWoHP in 2016. We also wait to see if anything can save SeaWorld Florida in the next 12 months.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - June 9th 2015

This week has been a very mixed bag for theme park fans. We started with bad news in the U.K., and ended with some exciting news for Universal's U.S. parks. Let's get down to the business of this week's Theme Park News Update.

Probably the biggest news this week was the two train collision on The Smiler at Alton Towers in the U.K. This is a huge accident, because it looks as if it's cause was not mechanical failure as much as it was either Human or Control System error, and because of the severity of the injuries. The issue occurred at 2pm last Tuesday when a full train of riders ran into a valleyed empty test train, causing severe injuries to the riders at the front of the of the train. The ride had been closed, and the riders in the accident were the first to run the track that afternoon. It appears they had been held at a block brake before the empty test train, but where somehow released from the brake.

The English press aren't exactly the best at balanced and level reporting, so it is hard to pick out what information is correct. I'm looking at you in particular Sky News (that interview is one of the worst pieces of garbage journalism I have ever seen). One article in The Telegraph had a very interesting interview with one of the riders in the accident, even if the headline of the article has been since dismissed as rumor. Tragically reports in the last few days suggest that the worst injured rider has had to have one leg amputated above the knee because of the accident. One of the other front row riders has been said to have two broken legs. Our thoughts are with those who were injured in this horrible accident.

Alton Towers was closed completely for most of the week, and opened on Monday with 4 coaster remaining shut (Oblivion, Enterprise, Spinball and obviously The Smiler). Owners Merlin Entertainment have also closed Saw: The Ride at Thorpe Park, and Dragon's Fury and Rattlesnake at Chessington World of Adventures.

As bad as the accident on the Green Lantern at Movie World was earlier this year, at least it was clear that there was some kind of mechanical failure. This feels so much worse as clearly this could have been avoided and this poor woman would still have her leg.

In less horrific news, we also saw early this week the TEA/AECOM 2014 Theme Park Attendance Report released. You can read analysis of this data on a number of sites including Theme Park Insider. If all goes well, I'm going to post some of my own analysis in the coming days, so stay tuned.

We also saw confirmation that the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood will open in May or early June of 2016. Given the huge surge in guests with the opening of the previous 3 Wizarding Worlds, this is a very exciting time for the original Universal park.

In other excellent news for Universal Hollywood and Orlando, Sanrio (the company that brings you Hello Kitty amongst others) has announced that it has signed a partnership deal to bring "interactive Sanrio retail shops" to these resorts. Although it is not an attraction announcement, there is still potential here to add something great to the Universal parks.

The weirdest news this week for me was the announcement of an NBA themed restaurant at Disney Springs, the revamped version of downtown Disney. Why is that weird? Well Orlando already has an NBA themed restaurant at Universal's City Walk. Not surprisingly one day after the new restaurant was announced at WDW, Universal announced the closure of their NBA themed restaurant.

And I'm not sure this is news, but there was also a bush fire that was close to but off WDW property this week.

In Australian park news this week, we had two Parkz updates of note from Sea World and Dreamworld. Firstly, at Sea World Parkz checked out the recently opened Creatures of the Deep. Secondly at Dreamworld, we saw construction progress of the Wiggles World expansion/conversion into ABC Kids World.

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

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 2nd June 2015

Let's start this week's Theme Park Nut News Update at home where Sea World on the Gold Coast yesterday opened Creatures of the Deep exhibit, the replacement for Dinosaur Island, spread across two locations towards the front of the park. From all reports, the animatronic creatures look impressive and the effects work as well as in the predecessor attraction. If you want to take a look, a number of local pages have been reporting on it including AusParks.com.au and Parkz.com.au. But the best coverage so far is in the following videos from thethemparkplace.com:

This week we've also seen the opening of the newest version of the Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 show at WB Movie World. This would be version 2.3 or 2.4 if this was an application. The show had to be severely cut earlier this year after a rather heavy accident occurred in that version of the show. This opening is really the re-birth of the show after that accident, and reviews of it have been relatively positive so far.

Let's go to somewhere we don't visit often on the theme park updates very often, Vietnam. We've seen the first real peak this week of the new Ocean Park that is under construction, which has imported a number of coaster directly from the infamous Hard Rock Park. If you don't know the story of Hard Rock Park, it is worth reading about as it is one of the great failures of the modern theme park industry. Most theme park fans have been interested to see where their wonderful and unique coasters were going to end up. It certainly sounds like they will have a good home in Vietnam, let's hope this new park has better luck than Hard Rock Park.

Staying in Asia, Screamscape this week posted two local news videos of the progress at Shanghai Disneyland. Worth a look, this park is going to be amazing.

This week also saw Tokyo Disneyland Resort hit by a large but not devastating earthquake. There was a few very interesting tweets by @tdrexplorer, including this amazing video as one of the shocks was happening. Thank goodness there was no significant damage or loss of life. This is. sadly, the risk for being in this part of the world.

Heading over to Orlando, Universal Orlando have announced their own long rumoured natural disaster, the Volcano Bay water park.  It is exciting to have the details of this finally come out, and most exciting since we actually called the name of this new park back in March! The new water park will open south of Cabana Bay Beach Resort and is likely to well surpass the Universal owned Wet 'n Wild located nearby. Whether this is will be the death of Wet 'n Wild, only time will tell.

This week SeaWorld in Orlando announced that it will opening a new B&M hyper coaster, Mako in 2016. Named after the faster breed of Shark, the ride will be the tallest and faster coaster in the Orlando area. You can see a preview of the ride here.

Finally, two news stories on Walt Disney World to round out this update. Firstly, Hollywood Studios revealed changes to the Great Movie Ride this week, with the most notable change a reduction in the live spiel that is delivered as part of the ride. The jury is still out as to whether this has had a significant impact on the attraction.

Theme Park Insider this week posted a story following on from a tweet from @turkeylegjeff about a survey on burst pricing for Walt Disney World. In essence the proposed change would mean that each individual day at the resort would be prices differently. This would essential push up prices on busy days, with the hope of spreading demand more evenly. The drawback to this kind of system is that guests would have to purchase tickets for exactly the days they wish to enter the parks. This of course is only being investigated by Disney, and nothing is confirmed. It is still interesting to think about.

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