Friday 30 December 2016

2016 Year in Review

This year has been a massive year for theme parks both good and bad. To be honest, I've been watching most of it from the sidelines as, in real life, our son was born in May and we've hardly slept since. However 2017 is a new year, and I'm already working on how to get a bit more blogging done in the new year. Without any further ado, here is a 2016 theme park round up!

In short, internationally it's been a year of massive openings. In Australia it's been a year of tragedy and closures.

Let's start overseas.

Any year that a Magic Kingdom opens is automatically a big year in theme parks. In 2016 it was Shanghai Disneyland. The second Disney park in China after Hong Kong, this is the biggest Disney build since Tokyo DisneySea.  The park is anchored by a handleful of new or reimagined attractions most notably a brand new Pirates of the Caribbean and the TRON Lightcycle Power Run. This is a great park but we probably have to wait another 6-12 months to know just how well received it will be by the locals.

In the U.S. there were two big openings for Universal theme parks, one on each coast. WWoHP at Universal Studios Hollywood was an almost complete copy of the original WWoHP in Oralndo. Not surprisingly this had been a winner for the Hollywood park, which was already increasing in attendance before thos enhancement.

In Orlando, Islands of Adventure opened Skull Island: Reign of Kong. This attraction is based on a portion of the Hollywood studio tour however it has been massively scaled up. Once again the reaction was very positive, with the only real negative being the "adult" nature of the ride. While not the scale of Diagon Alley, this is yet another hit for Universal Orlando Resort.

CityWalk at UOR also added a pretty insane restaurant this year, with the opening of Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. I haven't heard a bad word about this place, and certainly the pictures of this place look amazing (although some have said their menu was designed for Instagram).

Over at Walt Disney World there has been a mixed bag this year. Epcot opened Frozen Ever After as a replacement for Maelstrom in the Norway section of World Showcase. This has, not surprisingly, been incredibly popular. Over at Animal Kingdom, their brand new show Rivers of Light failed to actually open. Due to open on April 22nd, it was announced om April 5th that it wouldn't open on time. In it's place a smaller show connected to the luce action Jungle Book movie was thrown together. Rivers of Light is still expected to open some time in 2017.

Over in the U.A.E, a brand new multi-park resort opened. Dubai Parks and Resorts consists of three theme parks and one water park: Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, LEGOLAND Dubai and LEGOLAND Water Park opened December 18th. While all the LEGOLAND parks are cut from the same fabric, Motiongate and Bollywood are brand new park concepts. It'll take a while to know how popular this new resort will be but initial signs are positive, particularly for tourist flows from Southern Asia and Europe.

In Australia, boxing day 2015 brought the retheming of the Cyclone rollercoaster into the Hot Wheels Sidewinder and the opening of the motorsport precinct at Dreamworld. Later in the year Dreamworld opened Tiger Cub Kindy as a temporary attraction while Tiger Island was completely refurbished. The new improved Tiger Island has improved stadium seating for viewing the Tiger Behavioural Presentations. Dreamworld also refurbished their Ice Cream Parlor this year. This park actually had gone through quite a rejuvenation this year before the tragic events of October, which we'll  discuss in a second.

At Movie World they opened the brand new Doomsday Destroyer ride and DC Super Villains Unleashed precinct in September this year. This opening represents probably the most detailed themed area in Australian theme parks and a real plus for the Gold Coast park. The area it replaced was largely wasted space since the closure of the show stage, so it is great to have it filled with a quality attraction (even if I think it's strange that is separate from main DC attractions). Movie World also added Australia's first VR Coaster experience on Arkham Asylum this year, altough Dreamworld very quickly followed this up in the Motocoaster.

Movie World's sister park Sea World had no major openings this year but similar to the other parks went through a rejuvenation program this year including opening a new and improved central plaza. The parks are starting to look very nice ahead of the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

On Tuesday 25th of October a tragic accident occurred on the Thunder River Rapids ride that resulted in the horrific death of 4 Dreamworld guests. By some miracle 2 children on the same raft as the victims survived this accident. The accident appears to have been caused by an empty raft getting stuck at the bottom of the conveyor belt that returns rafts to the load/unload station. Tragically a second raft with 6 passengers struck this raft and was flipped backwards; spilling it's passengers onto the partially submerged conveyor belt mechanism. Dreamworld remained closed until December 10th, while investigations and safety audits were conducted. Not surprisingly the Thunder River Rapids and Rocky Hollow Log rides have been permanently closed and removed from the park map. Dreamworld has been taking time to reopen their major thrill rides, most of which did not reopen with the park.

Dreamworld and the other Gold Coast parks have all safety audits. We believe this is the reason why Sea World decommissioned their log flume Vikings Revenge at the end of this year.

We hope that after this horrific event and the subsequent safety clamp down across the Australian theme park industry, that we never have to have a tragedy like this in Australia ever again.

There are certainly things to be excited about in Australian parks in the next twelve months. Dreamworld is going to open a Lego store at the front of the park, which was due to open in November this year but is now expected in the new year. And of course we are very excited for
Movie World's new hypercoaster (or near hypercoaster) which is under construction at the front of the park. It hasn't been officially announced but we are expecting a Mack looping Hypercoaster similar to the Flash coaster in China. From the teaser poster we expect this to open in September 2017.

Hope that all you fellow Theme Park Nuts have a safe and happy New Year. Let's hope for a bigger and better 2017!

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


  1. Nice recap Dan, and definitely a super busy year for your fam!! You make me excited to check out movie world (apparently there is a vegan bakery across the hwy too!) I didn't even know the 2018 Commonwealth Games were on the Gold Coast - oops, definitely be crazy busy then! Happy 2017!

    1. Thanks Fee! I feel slack for not blogging but mostly i feel tired!! Movie World's coaster coming this year is going to be huge from the rumours. Pretty exciting! Awesome about the bakery too! Happy new year to you too!!