Tuesday 21 February 2017

News Update - 23rd February 2017

It's time for another week's news update!

Last week we told you about Disney theme park tickets going up. This week it's Universal's turn! Universal Orlando raised 1 day single park tickets to US$110. The OCRegister this week did an article on whether the Tickets and Passes for Disneyland and WDW represent "good value" for the entertainment they deliver. This is genuinely subjective, but it's hard to expect the recent rises are going to have any effect on the number of people through the gates, so I suggest they still are good value.

Over at Walt Disney World, we've seen interesting rumors about the return (in a way) of a previous attraction the Skyway. However it won't be an attraction in a park like the original Skyway, the rumor says it will be a park-to-park transportation that might link up the International Gateway rear-entrance of Epcot to the Studios park. That would be an awesome addition, as one of the biggest problem in WDW is the ability to park hop quickly!

At the same time this week, we heard that Disney's Hollywood Studios could be adding a BB-8 meet and greet sometime this April, which would be super cool!!

Over at Universal Orlando, there has been very quiet testing of a new technology in conjunction with their Express Pass system, Face Recognition. The system they call "Photo Validation Technology", is being tested in a couple of locations, and good help aid with Pass security within the park!

Theme Park Insider reports this week on another new phenomenon (for theme parks at least) that has started at Shanghai Disneyland, ticket scalping. The tickets being sold in this case, are FastPass tickets, which can then be used to see an attraction faster than the standby queue. The process seems awfully complicated, they need to get a family worth of passes, and then you have to go on the ride with the scalper pretending to be part of his family, however it doesn't breach any rules strictly. No doubts Disney will attempt to stamp out this from happening as soon as they can, but in such a big popular park (over 1 million visitors per month!!) it will be hard to change quickly!

In Dubai this week, apparently the Cloudy with a Change of Meatballs River Expedition opened at MotionGate Dubai, however I haven't yet heard from anyone who has ridden it. If you follow Theme Park Insider this week, you would have also seen an interview with Mycotoo, one of the designers of the MotionGate Dubai theme park.

Over in Germany, Movie Park Germany (which for the Australians reading started life as an almost exact clone of Warner Brother's Movie World), provided a sneak peak at their new attraction, a triple launching MACK coaster themed to the Star Trek series. Star Trek: Operation Enterprise will open for the park for their summer season, however it isn't yet clear whether it will have much more than a name to represent the Star Trek theme. Star Trek has always been a little bit of an awkward IP for theme parks, so it will be interesting to see if this attraction will draw much interest for this German park.

That's it for this week's News Update . For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next time, Cheers!

Friday 17 February 2017

News Update - 16th February 2017

It's been a short week since my last news update, so let's jump into a short theme park nut news update!

Firstly, ticket prices are going up at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. This seems to happn 3 or 4 times a year at the moment, so no one is really surprised.

At Disneyland Resort we had an announcement this week of the opening date for the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disney California Adventure. Mission - Breakout, the re-theming of the Tower of Terror, will open on May 27th. This is the same day that Walt Disney World is opening Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Staying on the West Coast, Disneyland also announced this week that the Village Haus restaurant is getting a temporary Beauty and the Beast overlay for the opening of the live action Beauty and the Beast movie. While it's definitely not a clone of Be Our Guest, it has been reported they will be serving the grey stuff. If you are in the area, try the grey stuff; it's delicious (or so I've been told).

Up the road at Knott's Berry Farm various park icons are turning pink for a cure for Breast Cancer. Supreme Scream and the Calico Mine Ride will be lit pink up until March 5th to support  Susan G. Komen Orange County. Check out the Knott's website for ways that you can support this worthy cause!

This week there was a Fire in the park structure at Disneyland Resort. Thankfully no one was injured and the blaze was quickly put out. This made it totally okay for @disneylandcats to post the tweet:
In Australia, protest this week interrupted the Dolphin show at Sea World on the Gold Coast. While I can understand the point that they were making, that no animals should be in captivity, I think that they are a bit misguided targeting our Sea World park, which has reasonably large facilities (by international standards) for their Dolphins, and has a record of assisting and rehabilitation local marine life. Personally I think that Zoos and Marine parks that do a good job of looking after their animals have a positive effect on the environment by increasing public awareness and empathy for these animals. That is my personal opinion only, and I understand not all will agree.

That's it for this week's News Update . For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next time, Cheers!

Friday 10 February 2017

News Update - 11th February 2017

Well it's a little late, but better late than never. Here is another Theme Park Nut News Update.

The big news this week is all about opening dates! We have had two massive pieces of news out of WDW this week, where we go an official opening date for Pandora: The World of Avatar, and (perhaps more excitingly) we have finally got at timeline for Star Wars land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Pandora will open to the public on May 26th (the day after Volcano Bay!) but it is expected it might soft open in the weeks leading up to that date. For me, Star Wars land is the more exciting project, and we found out this week that is due to be opened in 2019, which for Disney is actually pretty rapid. Disney traditionally moves at a snails pace with new development, while this isn't exactly rapid, it's probably a year sooner than a lot of theme park enthusiasts were predicting. 

And to add to the opening date news, Disney announced that Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom will finally open on February 17th, of this year! This was scheduled to open April last year, but has been delayed multiple time for production reasons. This week we were treated to a preview, which you can watch online, of the new show which looks really impressive.

At the Magic Kingdom the long running Wishes firework show will be ending on May 11. A new night time show Happily Ever After will start on the next night May 12th. Wishes had been running at the Magic Kingdom since 2003, when it replaced the original fireworks show Fantasy in the Sky which started in 1971. WDW released a teaser for the new show on YouTube this week.

This week the Madri Gras celebrations started for this year at Universal Orlando, with it's usual bluster and fun. The event runs through to March 23rd.

Universal Orlando announced this week a deal up until the end of May, which gives 2 free days (within a week) when booking a 2 day pass. This gives an added incentive to visit the parks right up until the opening of the new water park Volcano Bay on May 25th. Entry to Volcano Bay is not included for this deal, but the fact that it overlaps with the opening period suggests that crowds at the resort that week are going to be very large! We also saw a little bit more detail this week on the Tapu Tapu devices, which will be used for queuing inside the brand new water park. Theme Park Insider did an article comparing the Tapu Tapu device and their capabilities with the Magic Bands used an competitor WDW. There is a little doubt that the new devices will be great in the water park, but so far they don't have the wide reaching capabilities of the Magic Bands. It will be interesting to see how these devices go when the park opens in May.

Over in Universal Studios Japan, planning and construction is starting on the Super Nintendo World, which will open in the park in 2019. This week Theme Park Insider, had a chat to the Creative Director of USJ Steve Tatham about everything Nintendo. While he couldn't leak anything about the project that hadn't already been a approved by PR, it is a great little interview that shows just how serious Universal are about this Nintendo world, which is awesome news!

Over in Paris, Disney has made a play for complete ownership of the Disneyland Paris Resort, by buying a share of the parent company back from a Saudi prince, taking their ownership up to 87.5% of the entity. They also offered a reasonable share offer for the remaining shares, in the hopes of getting full control of the resort. The last movement like this by a major chain occurred in Japan, where Universal's owners Comcast, bought out the remaining shares of the USJ resort to take full ownership. They then followed this up by investing pretty heavily in the resort, which has shown very high attendance over the last few years. Let's hope that the Walt Disney Company wants to re-invest in Disneyland Paris Resort.

In the strangest news this week, there was a major drug bust on the grounds of the Legoland Windsor resort in the UK. The plants and equipment where found in a derelict shack, outside the boundary of the park (but still on land that is owned by Merlin, which owners), by maintenance staff and then reported to the police. To make things even more confusing the Legoland park is very close to Windsor Castle, which is the royal residence of the Queen and her family. It was stated in the article that this derelict shack was not accessible from the Legoland park, and could only be accessed from Crown land (meaning land owned by the Royal family/State). Who knows what that really means, but funny news none the less!

In Australian news, Parkz.com.au has had a brutal shut down of the Gold Coast Bulletin, for it's reporting of badly researched and incorrect information about the upcoming Hypercoaster at Movie World on the Gold Coast. In a week where fake news, and real journalism was a focus of mainstream news, with the suggestion that "real" news can only be reported by journalist, it's nice to see a the enthusiast community calling out professional journalist for failing to report true and accurate information. Let's be clear, the Hypercoaster is going to be massive, but it will NOT be taller than Dreamworld's Tower of Terror.

That's it for this week's News Update . For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next time, Cheers!

Thursday 2 February 2017

News Update - 2nd February 2017

It's time for another week's News Update!

Last Friday, at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast we saw yet another ride incident make the headlines with an E-Stop on Giant Drop hours after it's reopening  Riders were stuck at the top for a period of about 5 minutes, as a safety sensor was tripped. No riders were in any danger at any point during the incident.

We are now at a stage that no matter the what the nature of the ride incident at an Australian park, it is going to make the news. This is somewhat understandable for the general public given last years tragedy, but can be frustrating to theme park enthusiasts who understand a safe Emergency Stop is actually a good thing. This is the ride operating as desired, with safety sensors functioning as you would want; detecting an anomaly and shutting down the ride. An emergency stop is designed to stop an accident from occurring, so each time on of those happens, and the riders are safely and easily removed from a ride, this should be good news! Parkz.com.au followed up this week's incident with on an article about how safe Theme Park Rides are, and of course the answer is they are very safe. You are far more likely to be killed by being struck by lightning, than you are being INJURED on ride (let alone killed).

Just to show a different perspective on the issue, this week Theme Park Insider showcased some memorable breakdowns. It's true that a lot of Theme Park fans treasure the unique experience of a ride evacuation, and (as long as no one is hurt) they often make for great stories.

In Orlando, Walt Disney World has finally announced that July 2nd would be the closing day of DisneyQuest. It was announce, almost two years ago, that the "indoor Theme Park" was going to be replaced with a basketball themed restaurant and bar called the NBA Experience. There is no word yet on when the NBA Experience might open.

Across town this week at Universal Orlando, thousand of Harry Potter fans gathered to take part in the annual Harry Potter Celebration. This years celebration was made all the more poignant, with the passing of John Hurt, who played wand-maker Ollivander in the Harry Potter film series, only a few days before the event. There was a touching moment when a number of fans raised their wand's outside the Ollivander's in tribute to the late actor.

In slight more off beat news this week, a patent application has been uncovered this week from the Disney company of a trackless ride where the ride itself responds to emotional queues from riders. What Theme Park Insider have dubbed, the emotional roller coaster, responds to bio-metric sensors and cameras tracking the rider, and the ride or entertainment responds using "emotion/attention determination software" to give an enhanced ride experience. This really is a fascinating idea, where a ride could respond to you, or change the ride experience depending on what you think or feel. Imagine being able to alter a ride like the Tower of Terror, which has random drop sequences, so that the way the drop sequence play out responds to how the occupants of the ride are feeling.

And finally in some good news from Dreamworld this week, Saturday saw them open their brand new Lego Store. The first official Lego brand store opened on the edge of the park, with access from both inside and outside the park. The store is anchored by 10 life-size LEGO models including several 'Dreamworld-inspired' models including a tiger, koala and didgeridoo. Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson said it was hard not to be happy with the turnout to the opening day, with a queues "out the door and into the carpark".

That's it for this week's News Update . For more Theme Park coverage, follow me on Twitter @themeparknut. Until next time, Cheers!