Theme Parks Do the Harlem Shake!

Just like lip dubs last year, the amusement industry is now hooked on doing the Harlem Shake. Even though it’s the off season, a few parks have already jumped on the bandwagon, and made videos set to the popular song.

Dorney Park made a video, set in the Steel Force station. It starts of like a normal dispatch procedure, but things quickly get out of control.

For a nice contrast, some Six Flags Fiesta Texas employees made one in the quarry pit, with Iron Rattler under construction in the background.

Update: SeaWorld San Antonion has joined the party, with a video featuring live animals to build up hype for the upcoming opening, when the park will reopen to guests daily, instead of just on the weekends.

Six Flags Great America’s video continues this trend, this time having the video set in the maintanence shop.

Overall, it’s nice to see parks staying on top of what’s hot, and using social media to the fullest.

Islands of Adventure Trip Report

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One of the parks I have loved and admired my whole life is Islands of Adventure, just the level of theming and awesome attractions shames other parks into hiding. I am very pleased to have visited it during my recent trip to Florida, and I hope you enjoy this trip report!

First Impressions:

Oh my gosh, how does this not beat Cedar Point every year for best theme park, this is a work of art! In my opinion, this is America’s DisneySea, because the level of theming and immersion in this park is as good as it gets!

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I had a really good time just walking through Seuss Landing. The creative team behind IOA really pulled out all of the stops coming up with gags and ideas for this land. Walking through there, really does make you feel like a kid again, and like you are in a world taken directly out of the works of the doctor himself.

Even the Cat in the Hat dark ride, which I wasn’t planning on riding, was just, well, fun. Even though it wasn’t the most intense, or technologically advanced, it was just a goofy, fun ride. Oh, and the fact that everything in the ride, and the ride op spiels rhymed like in a Dr. Suess story was a nice touch.

IMG_2101Disappointments:

I only really have one thing to gripe about, and for me it’s a big one; the water vortex wasn’t working. 😦 Besides the grand finale, the most “blown up” moment of that attraction is the water vortex effect. I’m sad to say, that after the wheel spun out of the way, I let out a sigh of disappointment as I saw a bare blue tunnel ahead.

Hogwarts Express Construction:

One of the ground breaking attractions under construction for the WWOHP expansion, is a Hogwarts Express train linking both parks. Now, Universal is being VERY sercretive over this, as I went so far to ask cast members about the 4+ cranes onsite, and they said “I don’t know, it’s magic?” Now I could’ve gone and been a real jerk and went on about “Are you sure it isn’t a London expansion, and a Hogwarts Express linking both parks?” But we were at the front of the line for Olivanders and we were going in.

Night-Time Spectacular Construction

Okay, while not really construction, this is a story worth noting. Multiple survey markers/buoys have been placed in the lagoon, and many of us believe that Universal might be trying to cash out on the epic-ness of IOA with a night-time show. Remember this is purely rumour, because these buoys could have other purposes.

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And now, onto the full report!

IMG_2120We started the day like most do, by making a beeline for the Wizarding World, Forbidden Journey only had a 10 minute wait, and it pained me that my family was rushing through the queue, while I was trying to enjoy the details, and figure out how effects were achieved.

Overall the attraction was great, but with all of the hype surrounding it, I felt it didn’t live up to the insanely high expectations I had going into it. I felt like to much of it felt fake, and staged, while it had no overlying story and not much interaction with characters from the films. That said, it is a great achievement for the industry, and is putting heavy pressure on rivals to step their game up.

Dragon Challenge, (Dueling Dragons,) was closed until 1 for some reason, so we waited in the longest line of the day; Olivanders. You won’t believe how many times I was asked, “What attraction is this?” and, “Where’s the ____ ride?” in that queue by some family behind us. I don’t even think they knew I was an enthusiast?
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With low crowds, we didn’t really have a strategy that day, so we went to Seuss Landing and did a few rides just because we could, then backtracked to the Lost Continent. We ate at Mythos, which by the way is the only and best place you should eat at the park. The food is amazing, and atmosphere is unmatched, and believe me when I say, that every good thing you have ever heard about this place is true.

We then experienced Poseidon’s Fury, which was good, except for the fact that the water vortex wasn’t working. Even though I knew the storyline, the thrill of exploration takes over, and it ends up being a very enjoyable, and unique experience.

We actually headed to the other side of the park after that, enjoying all that Marvel Superhero Island had to offer. While a lot of people find the atmosphere cheap and tacky, I feel that it worked for the story they were trying to tell. Hulk and Dr Doom were fun, but Spiderman really stood out, not just in the land or the park, but in the industry, because in my opinion, it does a better job than Forbidden Journey of making the world inside of the attraction seem real. There were more real effects, more real sets, and it was hard to figure out the secrets to the effects, where in Potter, you can see other ride vehicles and the mechanism behind it.

We worked our way back around the lagoon, walking through Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park. We weren’t in the mood to get soaked as it was only about 15 degrees Celsius at the park.

IMG_2236We made our way back to the Wizarding World. I rode both sides of “Dragon Challenge” next, (it will always be Dueling Dragons with me.) But, unlike many enthusiasts, I actually enjoyed Fire/Chinese Fireball more, because I have just discovered, how much I LOVE the corkscrew inversion on inverts. The exaggerated motion and slight pop of air and freedom of being pushed out of your seat make it the most enjoyable inversion in my opinion. Oh, and my sister and I lit up when the ride ops accidentally dispatched both sides at the same time, we almost thought they were going to duel, until they slowed down the other lift.

We re-rode Forbidden Journey and Spiderman after Dragon Challenge, then left the park to dine in Citywalk, and that was basically it! Be sure to check out my Universal Studios Florida Trip Report, and my work in progress Busch Gardens Tampa Trip Report!

Cedar Point vs, Six Flags Great America?

I has become obvious to me, that although the Six Flags Magic Mountain-Cedar Point rivalry still stands, a new rivalry is beginning to emerge; a Cedar Point-Six Flags Great America battle. Seeing as Great America is the closest non-Cedar Fair big-ticket park, it only makes sense that they’d be going at it.

From the 2011 to 2013 seasons, both parks will have opened their own;

  • Waterpark expansions

In 2011, Six Flags Great America opened Riptide bay, the first major expansion to their relatively new waterpark. Feature 4 capsule drop slides, a Proslide Tantrum, and a surf simulator, it’s a great add-on to Hurricane Harbour.

One year later, Cedar Point built a Proslide Octopus Racer, called Dragster H2O, as well as repainting many other slides to give the area a fresh new feel.

  • Night-time show 

2012 was a big year at the Point, as not only did they open their new waterpark mat racer, and Dinosaurs Alive, but the big new attraction is their night-time experience, Luminosity; Ignite the Night! Featuring live dancers, music, and new lighting packages on Power Tower, Giant Wheel, and Millenium Force. This new show really lights up “the point”

Meanwhile, Six Flags Great America has bounced back with their similarly named night-time show, IGnight: the Grand Finale, and it promises to be an exhilarating spectacle to end a day at the park. Many descriptions say it will include some pyrotechnics, and if they cheap out on them, I know I’m not going to be the only one disappointed.

  • Wing Coasters 

Although the B&M wing coaster model only made it’s debut a couple of years ago, they’re really starting to be a hit with parks, (and guests,) as for the 2012 season, 3 parks built new wing coasters, with one of the being Six Flags Great America with X-Flight!

But, in 2013, Cedar Point will open Gatekeeper, their record breaking wing coaster. This one will take records for world’s tallest, and fastest wing coaster, and is stealing X-Flight’s trademark key-hole openings, with zero-g roll fly-overs of the front entrance.

Who knows, if this trend continues, we may end up seeing the removal of Six Flags Great America’s observation tower, in favour of a Sky Screamer? Or maybe an up charge walk-through attraction? If anything, competition stimulates growth, and come on, wing coasters, night-time spectaculars and water park expansions all in three years? Sounds like a competition to me!

Parks in Need of Steel

After just hearing some of the big “New for 2013” coaster announcements, I took a quick look at some parks that I think are being neglected in terms of new steel coasters. Lets take a look at some parks that I think are desperate for new steel coasters;

Six Flags St. Louis

Face it, the park is dominated by wooden coasters, and don;t get me wrong, they’re great! But with the truth being that the park’s last steel coaster was a spinning coaster, and that the park’s best steel may very well be a Batman clone, this park is screaming for some new steel, (and no, a relocated boomerang doesn’t count!)

What STSL needs is a new, coaster with a bunch of inversions, (Chang would’ve done it,) and a mega or launch coaster. Plus, the park needs to beef up their line up to compete with Worlds of Fun, and Silver Dollar City, (especially with Outlaw Run.)

Kings Island

Although the park used to be Paramount’s flagship, since the Cedar Fair acquisition, the park hasn’t recieved a whole lot. Considering the fact that most other parks have each recieved 2 new coasters, and Kings Island has only gotten one, makes me think that Cedar Point has been the priority, and Kings Island has been left in the dust.

Truth be told, the park needs a coaster that no park should be without, a standard inverted coaster, (no, the Arrow Suspended coaster doesn’t count!)

California’s Great America

Yes, I know they’re getting a wooden coaster for 2013, but long term, this park has some tough competition, and needs some serious steel to make up for all those years of neglect.

Honestly, this park doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room on new coasters, because so many classes are covered by the park and SFDK. But I think a wing coaster would work here, or a mega, (if it can beat SKDK to the punch.)

More Theme Park Pet Peeves

The original Theme Park Pet Peeves post was so popular, I decided to make it an on-going series of posts. Take a look at 3 more, of my big theme park pet peeves;

  • Bad employees

Face the facts, a park’s employees can make or break a good day at any theme park, (or amusement park.) But bad employees, be it in custodial, vending, ride operation, management, or any other job at a park, it’s expected that they do their job well, with a smile on their face, and always be polite, and respectful to the park’s visitors.

A writer for another coaster site www.ultimaterollercoaster.com, had a rather disgusting incident with a Six Flags employee. When it comes to bad employees, his experience says it all.

Another thing, that is really the pet peeve side of this, is specifically bad ride ops. On any star attraction like Leviathan, Tatsu, or i305, having good ride ops can make the line move really quickly. But, having bad ride ops in the station could be catastrophic on a busy day. Having good train dispatch times can make a line move MUCH faster.

  • Un needed O.T.S restraints

Okay, maybe this is more of a manufacturer pet peeve, but there are loads of rides out there that have obtrusive over the shoulder restraints, where they really aren’t nessecary. Some of the latest examples are on i305 and Cheetah Hunt. Now, I’m sure these rides have OTS for a reason, (not just liability,) but come on, if Anton Schwarzkopf could do it decades ago, Intamin can do it now!

  • Tablets @ Theme Parks

When smartphones first got cameras, they all had low resolution, and were overall just bad. But, times have changed, and it is now easy to find a smartphone with a good camera, and I’m seeing people whip out their phones more and more at parks when it comes to snapping up a quick photo. But, since the
recent introduction of tablets, (built standard with cameras,) some people have started to bring them to parks as well. Now, I can see how people think this is a good idea. You can play games in line, plan your day, but in the end it comes back to the camera. I’m fine with someone holding up a 4 inch smartphone to shoot video of a fireworks show, but holding up a 10 inch tablet, just ruins the view for people behind it. For a show that takes place in the dark, having a large, illuminated screen being held up in the crowd just detracts from the overall experience. I’m sorry if anyone reading this likes to bring tablets to theme parks, and I hope you’re not offended, but this post is about MY theme park pet peeves.

Repetitive Coasters

After doing a little research, I’ve come to the realization that there are a few coasters that have extremely repetitive layouts, and I don’t mean coasters like Behemoth and Nitro where it’s basically out and back airtime. I mean that you do a series of manoeuvres, say a vertical loop a zero-g roll and a dive loop, then those exact elements are repeated in similar fashion, resulting in a layout that is loop roll dive, loop roll dive. See what I mean? Lets take a look at some repetitive coasters;

The first coaster I’m going to feature here is Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. When it was built, it was meant to be a bigger, better Sheikra. Many could argue the result doesn’t quite live up to those intentions. Additionally, keen riders will notice it’s repetitive layout. In short, the layout consists of you going through a vertical drop, an immelmen, and then to the midcourse brakerun. Here’s where things get repetitive. The next section of the layout consists of, wait for it, a vertical drop, followed by, guess what, another immelmen! Did B&M not see this when designing it? I would much prefer a coaster with a more varied layout, over something that just does the same thing twice.

Another coaster that I have noticied is repetivie in it’s layout is, (surprisingly,) Leviathan. B&M’s first ever giga coaster has a good layout, don’t get me wrong, but after riding it a few times I’ve noticed it’s layout is somewhat repetitive. After taking the plunge on the gargantuan 306ft drop, you go into an over banked turn/barrel roll, followed by a low high speed curve, then a large camelback hill, but then they do similar elements on the return run starting with a hammerhead turn, ( which face it is a glorified over naked turn,) then a high speed curve, and then a camelback! Sound familiar?

Don’t get me wrong, these coaster’s are still fun to ride. But I find it kind of odd how their layouts are repetitive. Know a repetitive coaster? E-mail me at purecoaster@gmail.com , or comment it!

Weird Coaster Lifts

Every roller coaster ever made needs some way to give the train momentum. Usually, that comes in the form of a drop. But, drops require height, and how do coaster trains reach that height? With lift hills! But, a bunch of manufacturers have said to themselves, “Does it have to be a hill” and have created some wicked ways of lifing riders to that first drop. Lets take a look, at some weird lifts:

Zamperla Volare Rotating Lift

One odd lift system I’ve encountered in my trips to theme parks is the spiral lift found on Zamperla’s Volare flying coaster. Instead of a linear chain lift, a central rotating structure makes contact with your car and pushes you up the spiral track.

Max RPM Ferris Wheel Lift

This lift hill, found at the shuttered Hard Rock Park/Freestyle Music Park, features a one-of-a-kind “ferris wheel lift.” Trains exit the station and enter their own little section of the wheel, then it rotates so you move around the centre and end up at the top. Once at the top, you are pushed forward out onto the running course of the coaster.

G-Force Loop Lift

I don’t think it gets any weirder than inverting ON the lift. On the Maurer Sohne created G-Force at Drayton Manor, riders are puled up the first half at the loop, and once at the top, you are set free from the lift and you finish the loop and go through the rest of the coaster’s twisted layout.

Which lift hill do you like?

First and Third Photo Credit RCDB

Universal’s Potter Madness

Back in 2007, Universal announced that they would be building a the first new “island” at Islands of Adventure. That island came in the form of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now Universal took this very seriously, and they worked tirelessly to make this accurately themed, even going so far as to collaborate with the book series author J.K. Rowling. The end result, is by far the new gold standard for theme park lands and attractions. In fact, the land’s biggest attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is often regarded as the world’s best dark ride, surpassing IOA’s own Amazing Adventures of Spiderman.

Now, in a surprising twist, Universal has announced the creation of two more Wizarding Worlds at Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Studios Japan. Both will feature the same high levels of immersion as the one in Orlando, and the famous Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. The Japan version will be the first to open, because no attractions need to be removed like in Hollywood due to space constraints.

Another point I find interesting is that not only does Universal plan on building these two new Wizarding Worlds, but greatly expanding the current one in Orlando. Rumours point towards this expansion actually linking Universal’s 2 Orlando parks via a Hogwarts Express train attraction that would go backstage from the existing Wizarding World to the supposedly planned Diagon Alley section replacing Jaws in the Studio park.

Is Universal going TOO far with Harry Potter? Now, I understand that it produces massive cash for them, but if it’s in every single Universal park, then it won’t be special. Like Jurassic Park or Revenge of the Mummy, they are just cookie cutter rides placed in each park, even the brand new park in Singapore! If Universal continues at this rate, we may see the Wizarding World being built into new parks like the ones planned in South Korea, and Russia.

Personally, as long as there is some differences between each Wiz. World, I’m okay with it. Like, if the one in Hollywood ends up being the exact same as the one in Orlando, (minus the dueling roller coaster,) I’ll be pretty mad! We’ll just have to see what Universal is going to do with this amazing concept.