Tuesday 28 July 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 28th July 2015

It's been a fairly quiet week for theme park news this week, I guess it is that time of year. This week we heard a couple of construction updates from the Orlando parks, with the most interesting being the one posted on Theme Park Insider. In this article they outline a theory about what the Wet'n'Wild water park at Universal Orlando, will be turned into once the park closes at the end of next summer, Hotel towers. This makes a lots of sense, as building up the hotel capacity at the resort is a must for the future, and it seems to be clear that Universal are not going to be adding a a new park in the tiny space.

We also heard this week that Universal Orlando has started accepting reservations for the new Sapphire Falls resort. The resort is due to open next summer.

Six Flags has become the latest theme park chain to ban the use of Selfie Sticks inside their parks. This is a good move, as from all reports they have really become a safety hazard, particularly in the U.S. parks.

Before this week, I had never heard of Beech Bend Park, in Bowling Green Kentucky. Unfortunately this week this little park made big news, when a kid's ride fell over mid operation. Thankfully the injuries noted were minor, and ambulances weren't required to attend. A very scary event, that could have been much worse!

Closer to home this week, we have seen the closure of the Dockside Tavern at SeaWorld on the Gold Coast. Renovation of this restaurant are certain to the complete redevelopment of the adjacent kids area into a Nickelodeon land. Most frequent visitors to Sea World have eaten at the Dockside Tavern, and particularly it's top level has always been a great place to watch the nearby dolphins in relative peace. It will be interesting to see what it becomes after these developments.

Finally, Disney has confirmed, that there are going to be details at the upcoming D23 Convention relating to their Parks and Resorts. All theme park enthusiasts are waiting with baited breathe to know if we are going to hear about the future of Hollywood Studios. We do know for sure that we are going to hear about Shanghai Disneyland, and 60 years of Disneyland (and specifically the Jungle Cruise). Hopefully this years D23 will live up to expectations.

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

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 21st July 2015

This weeks update is going to be 95% Disney, so just for balance, let's start off talking about Universal!

This week, Universal Orlando and Hollywood announced another maze for the upcoming Halloween Horror Nights events: Insidious: Return to the Further. If you are not familiar with the Insidious francise, the Further is sort of like a spooky smoke filled ghost dimension. It's perfect for a maze, and by the sounds of it this maze will feature elements from all 3 movies.

Now, let's get on with the Disney!

This week we saw a huge amount of detail about Shanghai Disneyland released. We finally have a clear picture of what is going to be present for opening day, and the line up looks spectacular. Particular highlights include the Tron Lightcycle, the new Pirates of the Caribbean and the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto ride inside the castle. It will be interesting how Disney's attempts to make the park feel authentically Chinese, will go. Regardless of how well it assimilates, this is a beautiful park in a huge market, so it should do well! Can't wait to see some point of views of the new rides!!

We also heard reports from Screamscape that the Star Wars Launch Bay attraction, could be soon featured at Disneyland and WDW's Hollywood Studios. These rumours suggest that we might see these attractions open before the Shanghai Parks open, which would be cool.

The big theme park news this week, is Disneyland in California had it's 60th Birthday. While diamond theme celebrations have been going on for most of the year at Disneyland resort, last friday was the actual big day for Disneyland, and by the sounds of it a huge crowd came out to celebrate it. On the whole it sounds like the event went well, except for the lack of phone/data/wifi signal in the overcrowded park. Everyone's eyes are on Disney now, as they will need to address these bandwidth issues before it imports MyMagic+.

However, let's not dwell on that, This was a day to celebrate Disney and theme parks in general. Disneyland was the first theme park, it was a new breed. It was more than an amusement park, and it's hard not to argue 60 years later that it was better than an amusement park. Although Disneyland will never be complete, and the park now looks very different to how it did in 1955, the park still has the soul that Walt (and 1000s of others) instilled in the park.

Congratulations to Disneyland on an amazing milestone. While people will argue about whether Magic Kingdom is better, or whether Universal is challenging Disney, no one can argue that Walt built something amazing. It can be duplicated, and challenged, but it certainly cannot be replaced. It's hard to imagine anyway that Disneyland won't be just as popular in 40 years time, for it's 100th birthday.

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

Sunday 19 July 2015

Dreamworld - ABC Kids World Review

Opening earlier this month, for the school holidays, ABC Kids World is an expansion of the former Wiggles World at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. This new area incorporates 4 of the ABC Kids brands largest locally owned Intellectual Properties: Giggle and Hoot, Banana's in Pyjamas, Play School and (of course) the Wiggles. We checked out this new expansion/addition yesterday, and gave it a bit of a toddler test.

First impressions, the new entrance, moved closer to the Mick Doohan Motocoaster and adding (I believe) a new garden bed, works really well. It certainly defines the area well, and makes the new Hoot and Hop attraction feel less plonked in the new land. The layout of it is really nice, and the extra little bits of styling really adds the the area.

The target age group is going to love this area, if they are familiar with the ABC properties. If they aren't, they are going to enjoy it just for the bright (really bright) colours.

The new attractions that anchoring the expansion are the Hoot and Hop, a Giggle and Hoot themed  Zamperla Jumping Star, and a Bananas in Pyjamas walk through Maze. This expansion has also rethemed the existing Pirate ship to Giggle and Hoot (it was Captain Feathersword's ship), and reused two existing structures for play zones, one that has play houses and blocks (which also features Dorothy's Beach Party in the morning), and the other that has beanbags and iPads featuring an ABC Kids Play School app. The remainder of the Wiggles land (The Big Red Car Ride, the Big Red Boat Ride and the Teacups) are mostly untouched, except for possibly a lick of paint.

They have also added a few colourful additions around the paths, an oversize art set as well as some oversize ice creams near the entrance.

As I mentioned at the start of this, we took our 2.5 year old to toddler test this new area. To give you a reference point, the last time we went she absolutely hated the Big Red Car ride. She loved it. The little play zones were a total hit for her. She loved watching the Hoot and Hop, and listening to Hoot singing, but there is no way she was getting on it. She did the maze (even though she doesn't like the Bananas). She loved both of the covered play zones as well!

Her favourite thing was, the giant ice blocks. She just loved running between them, and touching them all. We had to do that twice during the day.

The area isn't huge, and it isn't rich in attractions, but it's much better for the young kids than the impressive (but noisy and chaotic) Dreamworks Experience. Dreamworld have let this area have a bit more space between attractions, and it works to this areas advantage. We had a great time, and saw others enjoying it too. Suprisingly there were a lot of international groups enjoying the area on the day we went, that suggests that this area isn't reliant on knowing the characters.

Overall, a well executed expansion, and money well spent. It's obvious that Dreamworld hasn't spent a fortune here, but what they spend they did so very efficiently. With the recent changes, the Dreamworks Experience, the Corroboree re-theme, the enhancements to Surf Parade and now ABC Kids World, it really feels like Dreamworld is really getting itself back on track. Good work Dreamworld!

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 14th July 2015

It's been a very very quiet week in the world of theme parks.

Luckily there San Diego Comic Con was on over the weekend, otherwise there would be nothing going on for us nerds. While there was plenty about Star Wars the movie, SDCC didn't give us any information on the Star Wars lands at Disney parks.

Fortunately, there was one peice of theme park news from the event! The first maze for Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror nights was annouced: Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness. The maze will be based on the up coming Guillermo del Toro film Crimson Peak.

In other news, ThemeParkTourist, posted an interesting post in the last week, which attempt to connect the dots on the potential for a Marvel land coming to Disneyland Resort. While this is definitely still speculation, it is very interesting that Joe Rohde has been promoted to head up Marvel. I am a fan of Rohde's work, particularly in Animal Kingdom, so it is going to be interesting to see what he brings to this global role. Wait and see!

Today we have seen an announcement from WDW, that the upcoming International Food and Wine Festival is going to be expanding into Future World for the first time. While this isn't huge news, and the invasion isn't very large it is good to see this festival going from strength to strength.

There have been two removals from inside WDW parks as well in the last week. One is the removal of the Confederate Flag from Epcot's American Adventure. I'm not an American, so I'm not going to pass comment on this. Secondly, Disney's Hollywood Studios has removed the bust of Bill Cosby from their Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza exhibition. This isn't necessarily surprising given the news/rumors about Cosby over the last 12 months. Although Disney doesn't need a reason to rip things out of Hollywood Studios at the moment, you can understand where they are coming from with this.

In Canadian park news, Canada's Wonderland have released a video show the making of Wonder Mountain's Guardian, there 4D, interactive dark ride roller coaster that opened last year. Very interesting if you are into behind the scenes footage like I do.

In strange, and sad, news a WDW cast member died over the 4th of July weekend, allegedly from firing a firework from the top of his head. The man had played Gaston, among other characters, and it has been rumored that he stared in at least one of the Gaston YouTube clips that have been going viral in the last year. A sad thing to happen to anyone. If you haven't seen the clips of Gaston, here are a couple of good ones to get you started:
- Gaston arm wrestles 11 year old girl

- Gaston argues about the beast
- Gaston impressed by little girl

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

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Theme Park Nut News Update - 7th July 2015

It's been a big week for theme park news (considering the time of year), so let's get into this weeks Theme Park Nut News Update.

Firstly, starting over in Walt Disney World, we heard of yet another closure this week, with DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs set to close this year. This isn't really a surprise, with the overhaul of the whole area, and the fact that DisneyQuest has long been neglected as part of WDW's offerings. For those that haven't been, DisneyQuest was designed to be an "indoor theme park". For Australians think about Timezone on steroids. A mixture of simulator rides, and small attractions, alongside computer games of various types, over multiple floors. I visited once in 1999, which was before the decline in maintenance that signalled DisneyQuests death knell started. It was an interesting and different experience. While I totally understand why it didn't work as a chain, I think at it's prime it added something to WDW. Sadly that prime was a long time ago now. Whether or not your are excited about the NBA-theme restaurant that will replace it (I'm not), is kind of irrelevant, as something would have eventually replaced it regardless. Farewell DisneyQuest!

Even though this week had no closures at Disney's Hollywood Studios, we did have a couple of articles of interest from Theme Park Insider and Screamscape, on just how much of the park is closed or closing. We must be not far away from hearing concrete plans for this park. Even the new name would be interesting! I'm going to start calling Disney Florida Adventure if no one gives me a name soon. There was also an interesting article claiming that the new park will be called Disney's Hollywood Adventure, and includes other potential details of the park. I'm a little sceptical of this article, for one because Disney has moved away from the possessive apostrophe, and two there are lot of details that have been speculated over with no real official news from Disney. It's sounds great, but let's wait for D23 this year, to see if we get something official.

The Walt Disney company also load one of their legends this week, when animator and sculptor Blaine Gibson passed away aged 97. Blaine will be best remembered for his sculpting of the heads for many of the notable Disneyland attractions.

In Europe, we had an opening this week, at one of the best themed Theme Parks in the world! Efteling in the Netherlands opened their Baron 1898 themed dive coaster this week. This coaster is one of the most interesting openings of this year, and sets a pretty high bar for coaster theming from what I have heard. Well done to Efteling and all those involved. I would love to visit this park one day! It's totally on my list if I ever have another chance to visit continental Europe. You can check out a POV of Baron 1898 here.

Efteling has also announce that they will open a "new fairytale" in fairytale forest for "Pinokkio" at a cost of about €2 million next year.

In press news, I've got to congratulate Mekado Murphy on hitting all 4 WDW parks in one day. However, they deserve a kick in the pants for calling the Haunted Mansion "standard haunted house fare with a bit of technology thrown in". That's lifetime ban material right there, awful!

In local theme park news, Village Roadshow Theme Parks (owner's of Movie World and Sea World on the Gold Coast), this week launched a new ticketing model. The Village Unlimited Membership is a replacement for the VIP Magic Pass, with the biggest change that this membership is an annual contract billed on a monthly basis. At $9 a month, the membership, is only slightly more expensive than the existing Pass, but the contract nature of it is more likely to "hook" in guests which will be good for VRTP's bottom line. No longer will they have to renew, instead they will have to cancel their membership to stop the monthly membership. This will also smooth out the parks revenue stream over the year, which could be a good thing for their operations. No signs yet from the big competitor yet, if they are looking at a similar model.

Finally, one of the great theme park sites Theme Park Insider posted their annual Awards on the 4th of July holiday weekend. It's a very solid list of attractions, restaurants and parks winning the awards this year. The big surprise is in the best new attraction category where Justice League Battle for Metropolis, Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis beat out Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Robert Niles, editor of the Theme Park Insider, acknowledged that the ride suffered from it's early teething issues, and that if only ratings when it was in normal operation were considered there might have been a different result. However, to even be within spitting distance of Universal at the moment is a huge win for Six Flags. So well done to them!!

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