Saturday 27 May 2017

News Update - End of May 2017

It's been pretty much the biggest month in the US theme park industry for the last few years, and to be perfectly honest for personal/professional reasons, I've been sitting on the sidelines. No excuses, time for a news update to round up all the thing that have happened over the last few weeks of May 2017.

Pandora: The World of Avatar
Over the last month we have seen the previews, soft opening and finally the dedication of Disney's single biggest investment on a single land at WDW resort: Pandora: The World of Avatar. The land is Disney's response to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,  and their first real attempt to match that level of immersion. And it is spectatular. Anchored by two new rides, the Na'vi River Journey and Flight of Passage, the land sets a new standard for theming in a Disney park. The bulk of the criticism around this land is about the relvance of Avatar as an I.P., and how well it thematically fits into Animal Kingdom. It's always going to be hard to match perennial behemoth of Potter for relevance  (except if you are Star Wars). The real question is whether people will want to visit Pandora. For now the answer appears to be a resounding yes, but for an investment this large we will only know for sure in 5-10 years time.

Volcano Bay
I dont usually cover water parks on this blog, but when Universal Orlando claim it as a 3rd gate, I have to make an exception. Volcano Bay is described by Universal as a water theme park, and it certainly has pretty comprehensive theme with a standalone I.P.  This park has both started it's previews and opened in the last week. And it looks pretty cool! I'm taken with the layout, organization and theme more than the slides,  like I said I'm not one for water parks. This is much more than a replacement for Wet 'n' Wild, which Universal closed at the end of last year. However, with a sudden hard opening on a park full of innovations there are going to be some problems. The biggest for Volcano Bay have been issues with the TapuTapu virtual queuing system. But all in all it looks like another great success for Universal. Is it worthy being considered the 3rd gate of Universal Orlando? No. Will I keep covering it on this blog? About as much as I cover Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. For me a well themed water park, is still just a water park.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout!
Over on the west coast, Disney California Adventure opened it's latest attraction Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout. I would have called it a brand new attraction, but of course it isn't new at all. This ride is a complete re skin, inside and out, of the Tower of Terror. You can see a number of
reviews and POVs online now thwt show how th ride system has been repurposed quite successfully for the Marvel universe. Now doubt it'll popular short-term , but again it's the medium term which should be the test for this I.P.

In other news while all these openings have happened :
- Happily Ever After fireworks debuted at Magic Kingdom
- First attendance reports from Dubai Parks and Resorts are disappointing
- SeaWorld has expanded it's license for Sesame Street
- Halloween Horror Nights have announced a house based on Stephen King's The Shining

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

Monday 1 May 2017

News Update - 1st May 2017

As I said in my Pandora update, it's been a couple of weeks since my last update, and even though it hasn't been a super busy period, there is plenty to cover. So here is another Theme Park Nut News Update.

Earlier in the month Disneyland Paris celebrated its 25th anniversary. We detailed some of the additions to the park for the celebration last month, so you can check that our if you wish. Staying in Europe, Efteling has announced that there brand new dark ride Symbolica will be opening on the 1st of July. This highly anticipated dark ride looks like it will be an absolute gem, and a great addition to a park that is already known for it's dark rides.

Sea World Orlando has announced plans for a new River Rapids ride in 2018. This park continues its transformation towards a "thrill and animal" park, rather than purely an animal park, as it struggles to survive in a crowded Orlando market.

At Universal Orlando, it was announced a couple of weeks back that Island's of Adventure would hold a new night time seasonal show for Christmas projected onto Hogwarts Castle. This area of the park is already a site to behold at Christmas, and it's perfectly suited to Christmas celebrations, so this makes a lot of sense for Universal. On the other coast Universal Studios Hollywood reported a 60% jump in attendance compared to last year, due to the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (despite the Easter holiday period falling into the second quarter this year unusually).

For all the ultra-rich followers, Club 33, the exclusive members only club at Disneyland, is now coming to Walt Disney World in Orlando. There are no details as to where this Club will be based, but you can expect a pretty extravagant (and expensive!) restaurant to be opening sometime in the next 2-3 years. But most of us, will never see it.

Also at WDW (and much more relevant), is that we got a whole lot more details about Star Wars land as this year's Star Wars celebration kicked off in Orlando. Most particularly we heard that the land is going to be based around an outer-rim space port on the edge of the unknown region. The other major bit of information was that there will be some level of user control in the Millennium Falcon ride, and that guests will be treated different by the in-land characters on the basis of their performance on this ride. Disney is really betting on the kind of deep immersion that has been popular with the Potter franchise at Universal, so let's hope they can pull this off in Disney style.

Probably the most exciting for me this month was movement of one of the projects that has been rumored for a couple of months. Last week contractors were named to build a Gondola transportation system between Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and two resort areas (the Caribbean Beach and Art of Animation resorts). While it's no monorail, this will add plenty of transport capacity between these resort locations, which is great for those planning future trips to one of those resorts (Go Art of Animation!!).

And 'tis the season to open the new Dining Plan Off-season offers for this year, which can be a major saving for people that can take advantage of this offer.

And don't forget that this month we also will start seeing the soft-opening and previews of Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

At Disneyland Resort in California, we got the first sneak peak inside the Collector's Fortress, as details of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride come out. There is no question that it looks cool, but I want to see in 5 years time whether it is going to be as popular as the Tower of Terror was (it might well be, since the sequel to GotG looks like it's going to be a big hit).

Over the road as Disneyland itself, Pirates of the Caribbean celebrated the opening of the latest Pirates movie by have Johnny Depp doing a shift as Captain Jack Sparrow. This would have been a pretty unique treat for the park goers, as he was not only greeting guests outside the park, but also did a stint inside the attraction. Very interesting stunt, but still just a stunt.

Tokyo Disneyland is preparing for it's 35th anniversary. Highlights include the return of the It's a Small World ride, along with the normal anniversary stables, a new daytime parade, and a new nighttime projection show.

Tokyo DisneySea this week opened up their new ride re-theme, the Nemo and Friends Sea Rider, which replaces the Stormrider 4D attraction. This Pixar retheme shrinks guests down to Nemo size for an ocean adventure that looks like a lot of fun.

Over in Abu Dhabi, we got the first concept art of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi park, which for Australians, this is Movie World on steriods. It features a similar set of IP's as the Australian park (DC Comics, Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo), but with (seemingly) a much larger canvas to paint upon.

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