Monday, September 29, 2008

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Busch Gardens Williamsburg 1994

This week Sabrina takes us back to 1994 with a brochure from Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

New for the 1994 season was Land of the Dragons, which will be joined this year by a second children's area themed to Sesame Street. Also take note of the photo of Enchanted Laboratory - I loved that show.

There's Drachen Fire with it's soon-to-be-removed (at the time) corkscrew element. Well I guess that's a silly way of putting it since the whole thing has been melted into cars or something at this point.

The theming and level of detail put into the park is really wonderful, always has been.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg also always understood that diversity among park attractions was important. Their live shows are fantastic, and they added things like a 4-D theater long before most parks.

This park was pretty great back in '94, and has expanded greatly since then. So has their separate gate waterpark, Water Country USA - one of the largest water park's on the East coast.

Thanks Sabrina!

Six Flags Georgia Monster Mansion

© Elissa Eubanks 2008 / Access Atlanta

Access Atlanta has a nice article on the modifications being made to Six Flags Over Georgia's Monster Plantation dark ride for 2009.

They interviewed designer Gary Goddard and got the scoop on what passengers can expect to find next year when the ride reopens as Monster Mansion.

Check out the article here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Scott + Carol Present: Kings Island Haunt Review

Editor's Note: I'm please to announce that Scott & Carol Holmes will now be covering their travels through photo reports on NewsPlusNotes. Scott & Carol are extremely well traveled, and have been involved in the Amusement industry for quite some time now. I'm please to welcome them, and look forward working with them in the future. Their first article on NPN is below, a preview of Kings Island's Haunt.

The “kick off” party for the Haunt at Kings started with a ride in an ambulance. Not just any ambulance, this one is called the Party-Medic Ambusine. It has a siren, and all the flashing lights required for emergency transportation. Rolling through Nickelodeon Central with everything turned on, Scott found out that the powerful sound system was indeed strong enough to drown out the siren.

Quickly delivered to the Rakes-Helbig Memorial Home, where we donned our gowns, (“the opening goes in the back”) and we were ushered through the kitchen to the waiting room to see the doctor only to find the buffet. Wait staff circulated in wheel chairs while patients aimlessly wandered around with plates of cockroaches and other tasty treats.

Dr. Helbig worked the room, checking heartbeats and trying to project an attitude of calm amongst all the despair. New this year is the “Fright Feast,” an all you care to eat buffet in the “home,” with an escort to Urgent Scare before it opens to the public.

Characters from the various haunts visit you as you dine, to wish you bon app├ętit.

All of the sudden a chorus of unearthly screams and howls punctuated the festivities. Swarming in unison, monsters of all types covered the windows, pounding on the glass and voicing their displeasure. One of the patients unfortunately opened the door and the monsters took over the institution. Chaos ensued, and they only left after selecting and kidnapping an unfortunate victim. The rest of us were escorted to Urgent Scare for its premier opening.

Urgent Scare is best experienced under crowded conditions, because the theme is a virus outbreak wildly out of control. People with bullhorns tell you to go in various directions and ecohazard-suited workers quietly point the way with direction wands and glow sticks, refusing to answer any of your questions. Assuming you make it past the infected people wandering outside, inside it only gets worse.

The air is permeated with the sound of respirators and heart monitors beeping, groans and moans, and the occasional scream of fright. This is a huge maze, and well populated with many characters. It is easily one of the best of the Haunt attractions, and is much improved with a crowd. For the press preview, it was okay, but doing it a second time with crowds added a great deal to the atmosphere.

Kings Island has not rested on their laurels with the 2008 version of the Haunt. Even more monsters, additional attractions, and a new show help keep your night a “frightfull” evening. Dead Awakening is back, in all its grisly glory.

The new “Jezebel” is a particularly polished performer during her numbers, but the dancers are also outstanding and the music really rocks. There have been a few changes to the show but it easily holds its place as a top tier show amongst the Halloween attractions. It is a nice place to rest your feet, but not the shadowy recesses of your mind. We enjoyed it so much we saw it twice.

The popular Massacre Manor has returned for 2008. It is themed as a property for sale and hosting an open house. It starts with normal looking rooms, but that soon changes. You meet a pleasant girl who welcomes you to her home. A major feature is the many pictures of traditional family scenes. As you progress through the house, the pictures on the walls become macabre; the pleasant scenes are drenched in gore.

The former inhabitants of the house soon demonstrate why the price was reduced to “below” market value. They direct you into dead ends, and then evilly laugh at your plight. One character operates a table saw dismembering a corpse. The nice girl who greets you at the front door changes into a grisly, knife wielding maniac. The carnage continues until you are chased out of the house by the girl who is drenched in blood and still carrying the knife.

The Worksite is a new for us maze at Kings Island. While it is nice to see orange barrels somewhere else than on the highway during our travels, these hide many types of creepy characters.

After you experience this maze, you will lock your doors while traveling through other construction sites. A new way of looking at a common experience, just don’t speed through it. A couple of pointers, stacks of tires are not your friend! And don’t try to open the door to the porta potti; you don’t want to go in there either! After you walk through, we are sure you will agree.

Cemetery Drive takes advantage of the wooded park area next to the Eiffel Tower. The burlap walls allow ample opportunity for the characters to cut through and get ahead of you and get the especially squeamish yet again. We have no idea how of them many there were, but we did recognize a couple of them after they got us a second time. With fog so thick you have to be careful you don’t fall over a tombstone, sometimes you are feeling your way through this maze. Which gives them even more time to circle around you and scare you into going the wrong direction.

The new show for 2008 is Ghouls Gone Wild and is located in the Festhaus. More fun than scary, the delicious irony of watching a werewolf sing Duran Duran’s “Hungry like a wolf” is another wonderful excuse to rest for a while.

The former star of “School of Rock” has the lead in this show as a slightly sarcastic and semi-friendly witch. Everyone’s favorite monster appears, and the indoor pyrotechnics make sure no one rests their eyes during the performance. The group therapy lines are hilarious, and every body becomes one big happy family during the performance.

Moving on to Red Beard’s Revenge, it was easy to see the improvements for 2008. They still talked like pirates and they had left treasure everywhere throughout the haunted house. There were lots of heads inside, and many of them talked to you as you passed by their spots. A soundtrack of sea ditties helped you move along, and the words brought forth memories of pillaging and terror. The background music was slightly reduced in volume to make the scares more effective. The “victims” still asked for help as we passed, they still were long past saving. The lighting adjustments made great use of hiding actors in the shadows, and they would shout just before you could see them. Some of them were positioned on the floor, so even when they called out, it was difficult to make sure exactly where the noise originated because they are below your line of sight.

Tombstone Terror-Tory has returned for 2008. You still start by riding the train into the woods, hearing the legend, and then get off at a temporary station deep in the woods. Then you wait in the queue where it is deathly quiet, so much that you can hear the guests ahead of you screaming in the woods. When it’s your turn, you slowly pick your way back to the park through the haunted portion. The scareactors all have southern accents as you encounter a few scenes of backwoods justice. A few grisly scenes, some with live actors, entertain you along the way. It was especially unnerving to greeted by name as we passed one of the characters on the trail. Hello back to you, it was so dark we couldn’t tell who you are. Thanks for not scaring us too badly.

Cornstalkers is more of a traditional scare area, with bales of hay, some farm equipment, and the people dressed in cornstalk ghili suits which blended in quite well with the backdrops. They rustled a lot when they moved, but they were very adept at knowing when to pause before you turned around. The sound of people screaming on Invertigo provides an aural backdrop to the maze.

We then experienced Club Blood. It was easily the best of the haunted houses for 2007, the "bloody" plastic sheets that you had to push through accentuated the creepy feelings that sank deep into your consciousness. The scareactors in this attraction were definitely set on eleven, making sure every guest received multiple scares inside. A strong dance beat and pulsating strobes combined with “dead” exotic dancers in cages with their manic energy lived up to the club scene.

It seemed like there were even more characters than last year. A great selection of tunes, revealing costumes, and suggestive scenes make this a good time. This maze is all about eye candy. When you go, make sure to take your time and closely examine the toilet scene, it has several layers of carnage to enjoy.

As a final thought, even old rides rise from their graves at the Kings Island Haunt. Here several of the characters from the much loved Phantom Theatre are showcased on the karaoke stage, with the soundtrack playing in the background. Other rides had tombstones scattered through the park. Our last look as we departed was the piercing eyes of the skull, just inside the turnstiles. We’d also like to say thank you to Mike for allowing us to become a part of NewsPlusNotes.

Haloween Horror Nights 18 Review

© 2008 Orlando Attractions Magazine

Orlando Attractions Magazine has become a great one stop source of Halloween Horror Nights 18 at Universal Orlando coverage.

They have reviews of the mazes, along with a nice photo gallery showing off the event. There are also videos of some of the scare zones here, and also video of the media show that took place just before the event opened. You can count on the fact that Bloody Mary made an appearance at the media event...

Universal kept saying that HHN 18 was going to be their best ever, and they certainly had reason for their claim.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dorney Park Haunt Review

Tonight was the first ever Haunt at Dorney Park! Bad weather today - but the rain held off for the four or so hours that I was at the park, so that was nice. Surprising crowd given that bad weather - the Haunt must be quite a draw already.

Got there a little before the Haunt attractions started to open to check things out. I noticed that they changed out the souvenir photo shop and made it a Vampire Photo location. Great idea!

Like I've seen that they are doing at other park, when the monsters head to their respective Haunts they move in 'packs' like a mini parade of sorts. Here we see Vampires heading up to Club Blood - I think it's cute that they gave them umbrellas being vamps and all.

Okay first up was Doctor of Doom. I must say that I do not get why they did not just change the name? The actual haunted house was physically the same but totally repainted and with all new props - it really is a brand new house.

That said, it's not bad. They had a ton of clowns in there and without giving anything away there's some good scares to be found. This one is in blacklight and 3-D - which I like a lot because it makes everything more disorienting and it is easier to be scared. Overall a nice fresh take on an existing house - but change the name next year!

They have a funny little game set up next to Doctor of Doom for the Haunt as well. I believe you have to knock the head off a clown with a ball.

So the covered up box in the entrance plaza contains an electrocution prop. In the above photo you can see how the box fills with smoke after the guy gets zapped. Here's video:

I've seen this prop elsewhere and tonight the guy wasn't thrashing around like they usually do. Hmm.

Kill Hill was a nice surprise for me. I was rather worried that since the house was a children's one during the day it would be lame at night. Not so, as it was packed with monsters that I think actually gave the best scares of the night.

Also, maybe it's not new but the whole house is different than I remember. It seemed repainted totally inside and had stuff that I didn't remember in Boo Hill before.

CornStalkers was interesting, but the scares didn't really work. Again tons of monsters in this one as well, Dorney really held true to their desire to have 300+ actors for this year.

The problem was that the path was too wide, pretty much at all times. No fault of the designers was that the fog kept blowing out of the path tonight making scares extra hard.

The props, tricks, and special effects along CornStalkers are really fantastic, though. I won't spoil any of those, but they were pretty good. Oh, and the toilet seriously almost got me in the eye. Go through and you'll see what I mean.

Club Blood - easily my most anticipated Haunt for this year. I have to say that it by far has the best sets and props inside. It also had a lot of pretty ladies in little outfits. Very low on scares in there, but the place is total eye candy - and I don't just mean the ladies. There's so much to take it, the sets are pretty elaborate compared to the other houses.

It also always had a smaller line than the other houses, probably because of it's out of the way location. My personal preference is toward elaborate sets and eye candy, so this is probably my favorite of the new houses.

Terror Square turned out very nicely. They expanded upon the sets they had up last weekend tremendously - there's so much to see going through this one as well.

Perhaps I was used to the Fright Zone of years past which was pretty much fog and three tombstones - this year the game's changed. Terror Square had a church, saloon, even a cave that adventurous people like myself could crawl through. Add to that tons of demented cowboys, lots of skeletons, and a ton of other authentic props and you've got a winner.

The Fright Zone that used the same walkway as Headstone Hollow now does was nothing compared what's there this year. The fog is still intense, and there's still tons of monsters, but now you have smaller paths to follow and an almost insane amount of coffins and gravestones in your path.

And now that it's been improved so much you can really enjoy just how long this scare zone is. It takes a while to get from one end to the other - especially with all those monsters in your way.

ScreamWorks had a totally insane line so I skipped it tonight. I'm not sure if it was redone inside or not - the queue was out onto the midway and I arrived at the house at the end of the night and couldn't do the wait. I'll head in there soon, though.

I also got to go into General Jack's Side Show Bizarro, but didn't see any of the acts or really check it out fully. The park had their media/private party event tonight and it was in this area for several hours. When it finally did open I was ready to head out of the park, so this will have to wait as well.

A general suggestion to the park: make sure you're on top of who's working the doors at the haunted houses. Some keep the line moving nicely, others were letting lines back up for no reason other than being distracted or talking to people. That's frustrating and not needed - and sadly I saw this over and over tonight.

That said, tonight was the first night and these things do get worked out, I know!

Overall The Haunt was really great and I'm so happy that Dorney Park was finally able to expand Halloweekends to meet the market demand for a more mature, scary event. Now go make plans to visit The Haunt!

Thorp Park's Dylan Update

© Thorpe Park Mania 2008

Thorpe Park's new coaster for 2009, currently called "Project Dylan" has had it's lift and drop completed, along with the ride's first inversion.

Thorpe Park Mania has a full update that shows this and more, including the building for the inside portion of the ride going up.

I hope more American parks build these in the future! (cough cough Silver Dollar City cough)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Daily Spin 9.26.08

If you were wondering about any of the details of Disney Park's new "What Will You Celebrate?" campaign, I suggest Kevin Yee's article on MiceAge. It gives a lot of great details - for instance, did you know that instead of free admission on your birthday you can also have group fastpass tickets or a gift card for merchandise worth the amount of a ticket?

If you want more information on the closing of Hard Rock Park this article is a great read. There's a lot more detailed information, including some interesting (and scary, really) financial numbers.

Sort of on the same topic, struggling theme park operator Six Flags Inc has been 'downgraded' by Moody's Investment Services once again, taking their already 'junk' status even lower. Things continue to not look good for the future of the company as it is.

Six Flags Over Georgia is offering to give owners of a Hard Rock Park season pass a free ticket to the park - but only if they hand over the HRP season pass for good. A nice offer by Six Flags - but what if Hard Rock does open next year and makes the existing season passes valid again?

Work quickly continues on Sea World Orlando's new Manta coaster. The 'track switch' is now up, along with more supports. Orlando Rocks has a great selection of photos.

Six Flags New England Update

© SFNE Online 2008

It's been a while since we heard any news out of Six Flags New England, aside from their Superman transformation announcement.

SFNE Online has a park update that can fill in the blanks regarding what the park has been up to. It looks like another flat ride, Time Warp, is being removed, they're already starting work on Superman, and the park is all decked out for Fright Fest.

The site is also reporting that Superman the ride will not have modified trains for next year, but the park has actually ordered new ones. That's great news!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hard Rock Park = Closed.

Hard Rock Park has closed for the year and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as per the notices posted on the park's official website.

The rock'n'roll theme park is trying to make it clear that this is not the end of the road for them, but that they will open again in 2009 after they emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings.

This is pretty sad news, but not really unexpected as word of the park's serious financial struggles has been around for a while now.

Hopefully the park's intentions prove to be true and the place can open again next year. As we've all discussed before, they will need to make some changes in order to be a viable entertainment option in their market, but it could work if the right balance of price vs. product is reached. At least I think so.

Skeletal Remains Found at Fiesta Texas

In what sounds like a good Halloween PR stunt - but isn't - human skeletal remains were found yesterday near the quarry wall at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

How strange! The remains were found right at the bottom of the rock wall - Fiesta Texas was built in a former quarry so it has huge rock walls lining one side of the park. An autopsy will be performed today to determine the cause of death, and police said it looked like they remains were six to twelve months old.

I think I'm going to file this story under 'weird.'

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Original Hershey Storm Runner Animation

It's a bit of an 'unofficial' looking animation, but it's real and still cool to see. And I really like the ride and didn't see it on YouTube so I figured I'd put it on.

I can't remember for sure, but maybe this was released by the park before the name contest was over?

New Horror Nights Video

Universal Orlando has posted another great video on their webpage for Halloween Horror Nights 18. This one gives you a look behind the scenes of one of the houses, plus there are shots of art, costumes, and lots more that makes this a must watch for any fan of the event.

Plus, I love the above shot of Dr. Mary before she went nuts and turned into Bloody Mary!

New Disney's California Adventure Art

© BFJen 2008, via MiceChat

An attendee of Disney's recent "Earmarked Conference," which is held for selected travel agents posted this wonderful photo trip report on the MiceChat forums.

As part of the conference, guests were part of several presentations, one of which featured new and updated concept art for several of the changes going on at Disney's California Adventure.

Here's the link to the post, but you'll have to scroll down quite a bit. Disney really puts on quite a show for the travel agents!

The Silly Symphony Swings actually look very nice, I was worried about those. The changes to the Little Mermaid dark ride building are stunning as well.

Europa Park's 2009 Mystery

© 2008

It's not clear yet exactly what kind of roller coaster Germany's Europa Park is building, but we do know that it's said to have some sorta of 'world's first' aspect to it. The park has been doing some serious teasing on their website for some time now, releasing all sorts of interesting graphics that don't really give us much info.

The ride has now gone vertical, even though it hasn't been fully announced yet. There are a bunch of photos over in this Theme Park Review thread that show the start of a nice high-turn element and what looks like launch track.

Hopefully the full details of this ride will be announced soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Carowinds 1986

I've always featured older (and newer) brochures on NewsPlusNotes because, well, I love them. One of our longtime readers, Sabrina, has been kind enough to offer a peek at her collection - which I must say is quite impressive!

Thus, Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight is born, a new ongoing series on NewsPlusNotes. First up is an older Carowinds brochure. So many thanks to Sabrina, and enjoy!

Wow a park just used "ain't" on the cover of their brochure! Haha...

New for 1986 was the Frenzoid, which oddly enough just recently reappeared at the park after being removed for a while. Also love that photo of White Lightnin'.

The water park used to be called Ocean Island, and there were Smurfs at the park. All things considered, though, this was a pretty cutting edge park in '86.

Wouldn't you love to get into a park for those prices these days? That's also a pretty sweet photos of White Lightnin' over the wave pool, too.

Thanks again to Sabrina - we certainly look forward to seeing what else her collection holds!