Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hong Kong Disneyland Expansion Announced

Hong Kong Disneyland announced aggressive expansion plans today for three new lands to be built at the park, which will increase its overall size by 23%.

The projects will be built over a five year span, at a cost of around $465 million dollars. Disney will be funding almost all of the expansion project, but will now hold a larger stake in the park at 48%, up from the previous amount of 43%.

The announcement comes after a couple years of intense negotiations between the Hong Kong Government and Disney, and I'm sure glad that they were able to work something out! This little park surely needs the new rides and attractions.

Let's look at what they're adding:

Here we have Toy Story Land. This looks to be a close copy of what is going to be going into Walt Disney Studios in Paris pretty soon. The area will contain three rides for families, a 25 meter tall parachute jump tower themed to those famous green army men, a 'U' shaped shuttle coaster ride themed to RC Racers, and a Slinky Dog themed flat ride.

The land looks to be adorned with plenty of Pixar characters and prop recreations from the Toy Story movies, and will contain the usual assortment of amenities you'd find at a Disney park.

Here is Grizzly Trail, themed to an abandoned mining town named Grizzly Gulch. It will feature what sounds like a big E-Ticket roller coaster ride named the Big Grizzly Mountain Coaster. From the art it sorta looks like it could be a clone of Expedition Everest, especially because the description mentions traveling backward, but at the same time the track is shown flying around the whole land so it could also be more spread out a la the original Big Thunder Mountain Rides. Plus, in the map of the expanded park you can see the layout of the ride and it's quite different from Everest. I'm sure more info will leek soon on that one.

The land also contains food and merchandise locations, and a large water play area that looks like a lot of fun! It's like a mini-land themed around one big attraction, though, which is sorta like the last area:

Mystic Point. The home of mysterious forces and supernatural events taking place deep inside uncharted regions of the rain forest. The big deal here is Mystic Manor, which sounds like a new age Haunted Mansion of sorts - but it features trackless vehicles. It's said to contain animatronic characters, with plenty of audio and visual effects and a story line based around an adventurers collection of artifacts, a magical music box, and a mischievous monkey. Interesting!

As a big fan of the Haunted Mansion this attraction is my most anticipated of the bunch.

You can also dine at the Adventurer's Club which is the other large building inside the land, as well as explore the ancient ruins lying around that provide guests with tricky optical illusions.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for construction to start!

A Freestyle Music Park Giveaway Contest!

NewsPlusNotes is proud to present our readers with a fun Freestyle Music Park giveaway contest! To help celebrate their grand opening, Freestyle Music Park, located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has provided us with two (2) tickets (valid throughout the 2009 season) and two (2) tee shirts to give away!

So how do you enter? Simply identify the five Freestyle Music Park rides and attractions featured in the photos below. Make sure you use their new names! All entries that correctly identify all five rides or attractions will be entered into the random drawing. One first place winner will receive the two free tickets, and two second place winners will each receive a tee shirt.

Contest entries should be e-mailed to contest@newsplusnotes.com. In addition to your answers, please include your name and a preferred e-mail address where you can be reached should you happen to be one of our lucky winners. (Names and e-mail addresses will not be used for any purpose other than this contest.) Only one entry will be accepted per person. If you submit multiple entries, only the first entry we receive will be evaluated. All entries must be received by Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Okay, here are the 5 photos to identify!

Mystery Photo #1:

Mystery Photo #2:

Mystery Photo #3:

Mystery Photo #4:

Mystery Photo #5:

Remember to send your entry to contest@newsplusnotes.com with your name and e-mail address. Good luck! Winners will be notified on July 8. We will reveal the full photos as well as the names of our winners as soon as all three have been confirmed. (Please note that if your name is drawn and we are unable to reach you within a reasonable amount of time, an alternate winner will be selected.)

In addition to the contest prizes, Freestyle Music Park has also provided us with a number of discount cards good for $5 off up to six admissions to the park. If you are interested in obtaining one of these discount cards (regardless of whether you enter the contest), please e-mail Carol for details. Available while supplies last!

Again, good luck to everyone who enters and many thanks to Freestyle Music Park for enabling us to have this contest!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Battlestar Rising

The Sentosa Theme Park blog has a new video that features very recent construction photos from Universal Studios Singapore. These photos are from that video, and we can see that some major progress has been made on the Battlestar Galactica dueling Vekoma designed roller coaster.

Red track is now up and the lift hill supports have reached what looks to be their peak. I'm so intrigued by this ride!

This shot is very Dueling Dragons-ish, no?

I really like the idea that one track is an inverted ride while the other is a sit-down coaster, it will really make both sides of the ride totally different experiences.

Check out the video on the Sentosa Theme Park Blog.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You're A Good Ice Show, Snoopy Rocks

Sometimes having tons of information at your fingertips is just distracting, and sometimes it's a real blessing. An instance of the latter took place yesterday when I was able to read Dorney Park's twitter that they would be having a sneak preview of their new Snoopy Rocks! On Ice show yesterday evening.

Away from my desk I flew, having just enough time to get to the park and snap some photos before the first show ever took place inside the new Good Time Theatre.

What's this? A preview just for moi?!

But wait y'all, you know we have to cover some history here before we jump into the new show. This wouldn't be one of my stories if I didn't include at least some background!

When you think of Ice Skating and Snoopy, you'll probably land somewhere near Knott's Berry Farm - and for good reason (which we'll get to), but Snoopy and Ice Skating really goes back to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, located in Santa Rosa, CA.

Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts gang, opened the ice arena back in 1969 and it quickly became known as "Snoopy's Home Ice." The arena features the Warm Puppy Cafe as well as a Snoopy gallery and gift shop.

The entrance to the new theater's plaza, formerly a big picnic tent

The Beagle himself started appearing in traveling Ice Shows in the early 1970s, and it wasn't long before Knott's Berry Farm opened their own Snoopy themed show in the park's Good Time Theater in the early '80s. The park has created a slew of new shows for the Beagle to star in over the years, including the ever popular Holiday themed presentations.

With the passing of Mr. Schulz, Knott's renamed their theater the Charles M. Schulz Theatre in the year 2000 and premiered the last Ice Show that its creator worked on, "Snoopy's Fabulous 50th on Ice." The shows remain popular today, and the park has continued to premier new productions every few years.

Nice landscaping around the area as well

Dorney Park isn't the second park to feature a Snoopy Ice Show though, as back in 2002 Cedar Point premiered the same show in their Good Time Theatre, which was converted from their IMax location. The production was a hit with guests of the Point and they as well have been debuting new shows since.

So here we are, back at present day, and Dorney Park is finally ready to premier their much anticipated show.

This is what we're here for, folks, and he Rocks!

Dorney's Good Time Theatre is really the park's 'next step' in providing awesome family live entertainment for guests at the park. Previously, shows only took place at the park's Center Stage, and while that's still true, that location's fancy new sister is much appreciated at the park.

Seriously, it's really big inside!

The theatre itself is a massive, 18,000 square foot, air-conditioned building that's located near the park's main entrance area. The addition cost $5 million and seats 600 people per show - so this is unlike anything we've ever seen at Dorney Park before now.

And as for the show, well, it rocks! It's a high quality production filled with a nice selection of musical tunes, great performers, and plenty of neat effects.

OMG it's really him!!

Oh, and did I mention Snoopy is in it? The famous beagle made his debut to a cheering crowd, and since we all know he loves attention that must have been welcomed. Families packed the theatre for the inaugural performance, and everyone seemed pleased with the production.

Gooooo team! Lots of outfit changes in this show

Since the show is currently in sneak-peek mode, not all the sets and effects are up and running, but even without them the lighting, music, skaters, and characters really come together to grab your attention and hold on to it. The show lasts just about 30 minutes, a perfect length for families with smaller children with smaller attention spans.

The gang's all here!

Sorry for the blur, they just wouldn't stay still

There are some neat effects during the show as previously mentioned, like a rain curtain that falls across the length of the 60 ft stage for the above scene. It drew plenty of Ooos and Ahhhs from the crowd!

It's a great big world out there

And there's a neat section that takes place under black light as well during the Halloween themed section. Spooky!

Wait am I in church?

Much of the music is really upbeat and will have your toes a tappin' along with the score. Did I mention the performers are really talented? I hadn't seen one of these shows since at a Busch Gardens a long, long time ago and didn't realize I'd see so many spins and jumps. The park obtained some great talent for the production.

All the ladies love Snoopy

I can imagine that other Cedar Fair parks that do not have an Ice Show would be interested in adding something similar, it sure looks to be a smash hit with the family sector.

The grand finale features the whole cast

I look forward to seeing the show again once it is 'officially' open to see what additions they have made. Like I said, it's not even totally complete yet and is very impressive!

I'll leave you with the above photo, and to be as corny as possible I'll summarize that Snoopy Rocks! On Ice looks to make quite a splash this summer! Ack! Get it!?

Daily Spin 6.28.09

© 2009 Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver has confirmed that their signature woodie, Cyclone, may be down for the count this season. Park spokeswoman Connie Moore told the press that the coaster is undergoing extensive maintenance in an effort to get it back into prime condition for its 70th birthday next year. Apparently the original intent was to complete the work in time for the 2009 season, but things simply fell behind schedule and it is now unknown whether the coaster will run at all this year. The Denver Post has the full story.

After receiving more than 800 suggestions for the new name of the former "Little Laser" kiddie coaster, Dorney Park has narrowed the pool down to five and they want your input! You have until 4 p.m. on July 4 to place your vote on the park's web site (lower left-hand column). The contenders are Little Lightning, Kiddie Hawk, Kiddie Coaster, Slightly Possessed, and Steel First.

A couple weeks ago, while analyzing the inaugural brochure to come out of Freestyle Music Park, I noted the irony of the park being located on "Hard Rock Parkway". Apparently that won't be a concern for any future brochures, as the Horry County Planning Commission has approved a proposal to change the road's name to "Fantasy Harbour Boulevard". According to this article, the park's new owners sought the change and there were no objections from any of the other property owners on the street.

In a rather amazing coincidence, MySanAntonio.com chose yesterday of all days to republish this story about Six Flags Fiesta Texas's infamous Rattler. (You know, the same ride I covered in Part 3 of my Fiesta Texas TR literally a few hours beforehand.) The article, which was originally published in 1999, outlines the coaster's troubled history and the scores of allegations, injuries, and lawsuits which led to its many "surgeries". Agree or disagree with the author's slant, at least the article gives some perspective on how we ended up with the current incarnation of this ride.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dorney Park Haunt Is In The Air

I stopped by Dorney Park today to check out the park's new ice show, Snoopy Rocks On Ice (Which you would already know if you followed us on Twitter!) and happened to notice that the facade for Scream Works is being transformed for The Asylum.

I took the above shot just a few weeks ago because I had a feeling that since Scream Works is history that the facade would bite the dust soon.
And here we have a shot from a few hours ago. I love the new theme that's starting to show, although they clearly are not done. I also love that they added the entrance room to give the facade more depth.

And again here's the banner that's hanging next to the work area - can't wait to try it out this fall!

Beech Bend Pays Tribute to Michael Jackson

It seems the entire world has been affected by Michael Jackson's untimely passing, and the amusement industry is no exception. Beech Bend Park, home of the Sea Dragon swinging ship that once operated at Michael's Neverland Ranch, has been inundated with phone calls and visits from fans who wish to pay their respects by riding this piece of history. A memorial has actually formed at the base of the ride, which is rumored to have been Michael's favorite.

To pay tribute to Michael and honor all of his adoring fans' requests, Beech Bend will be offering free admission and complimentary rides on the Sea Dragon for one night only, Sunday, June 28, from 5-7 p.m. They also welcome additional contributions to the memorial. What a nice gesture!

Instant Theme Park: Just Add Quarry (Part 3)

Editor's Note: This post is the third in a three-part series covering my recent visit to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 as well!

Before we dive headfirst into our last themed area at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, let's get something straight right now. A few weeks back when I published my significantly less tardy (though not as perfectly aged) Schlitterbahn TR, I proclaimed myself a newfound water park enthusiast. So I'm sure that more than a few of you are wondering why all of my magnificent White Water Bay photos have gone MIA. There's a simple explanation for that: White Water Bay was closed the day of our visit! [Apparently we're really good at that.] So there. I will tolerate no finger pointing, and I will entertain no accusations that I have grossly misled you about my quest to become boogie boarding champion of the world. Word is bond!

Since I have no White Water Bay TR to speak of, I will let you chew on the following fun facts instead. Yummy! [Not to be confused with "Yummy Yummy Fruit Salad". I have no idea what the heck that even means. Seriously.]

  • Fiesta Texas's water park made its debut a few short weeks after the park's grand opening in 1992.

  • It has gone by three different names during its brief 16-year history: The Ol' Waterin' Hole (1992-1998), Armadillo Beach (1999-2005), and White Water Bay (2006-present). Why the identity crisis? Personally, I don't see what was wrong with the original name.

  • White Water Bay's wave pool, Lone Star Lagoon, is shaped like the state of Texas. Don't mess with it.

  • Forget about 10-gallon hats! Texas Treehouse, a 5-story interactive water play structure, features a 1000-gallon cowboy hat which periodically dumps its watery contents on unsuspecting guests. Everything really is bigger in Texas!

  • They call it a "lazy" river, but names can be deceiving. White Water Canyon features whirlpools, rapids, and waterfalls, all as you wind through a series of cliffs.
In my previous post, I alluded to the fact that every "theme" park known to mankind features an area themed to the wild west. Except that I didn't "allude" to it so much as I flat out stated it. 'Cause it's true. (What is with this innate fascination with cowboys, saloons, and tumbleweeds, anyway?) The requisite western area at Six Flags Fiesta Texas goes by the name of Crackaxle Canyon.

Hackneyed or not, Fiesta Texas has managed to take the traditional wild west theme and kick it up a notch. Visually speaking, Crackaxle Canyon is easily the most impressive area of the park. Each and every ride, attraction, and building is brilliantly themed, and the quarry wall provides a magnificent and highly appropriate backdrop for all the action. It's everything a themed area should be.

Unlike other areas of Fiesta Texas, Crackaxle Canyon has seen few significant changes through the years. This is likely due to its location within the park, backed up against the quarry wall on one side and bordered by neighboring themed areas on all others. This lack of development has no doubt been a contributing factor in preserving the original theming.

As far as "big" rides go, Road Runner Express is as new as it gets in Crackaxle Canyon. This family favorite, which made its debut in 1997, has its own claim to fame: It was the last Arrow mine train ever constructed. [Single tear...I heart mine trains!]

If you think back to those classic cartoons where the ever nefarious Wile E. Coyote is on a mission to destroy his arch-nemesis the Road Runner, you'll have a good sense of how this ride is themed. Weaving up and around the quarry wall and tangling with its neighbor the Rattler on numerous occasions, Road Runner Express delivers an action-packed ride with all the herky-jerky goodness of your typical mine train.

Across from Road Runner Express is the Sundance Theatre, one of the many uber impressive entertainment venues at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. You know a park is all about live entertainment when they hand you a daily show schedule at the entrance! But I expected no less from the park which has won Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award in the "Best Shows" category for 10 consecutive years.

Sadly, we did not have the opportunity to enjoy any of Fiesta Texas's major productions during our visit (although we did catch bits and pieces of some of the smaller shows). It was a short day, and I simply couldn't manage to squeeze a show into my riding/tweeting/photographing schedule. It's a shame, but sometimes you just have to pick your battles. Something tells me they aren't in need of my seal of approval!

Are those stairs drooling? Gross...

We may be in the wild west, but there's no need to worry about robberies on this train! Whistle Stop treats its passengers to a leisurely, scenic journey that takes them around the perimeter of Spassburg and right through the quarry wall.

Few things could make this scene more visually stunning. I suppose if they added three waterfalls that cascade off the top of the quarry wall, that might look pretty freakin' sweet. Oh wait, they already HAVE those! I even see evidence that they exist. So why the heck weren't they turned on?! I feel cheated! I've been deprived of the full Fiesta Texas experience!!

Seriously, the waterfalls really do exist, and I sincerely hope that they were simply turned off on the day of our visit as a cost saving measure due to the light crowds. It would be an absolute crime if they were removed altogether, and an equally appalling crime if they were not removed and Six Flags has simply chosen not to use them. But I have hope that they are alive and well, for they were drawn on the park map! And if it's in print, it must be true...

In terms of this park visit, my regrets are few. But the biggest one has got to be the fact that we took a pass on the Gully Washer. This rapids ride, whose water is tinted a beautifully gory shade of red for the park's annual Halloween Fright Fest event, is one of Fiesta Texas's signature attractions and its setting is bar none. Nestled among the rocks and trees, weaving alongside the quarry wall and beneath the very structure of the Rattler, Gully Washer has a natural visual appeal that other parks can only hope to manufacture for their rapids rides.

If it weren't for that whole "being soaked all day" thing, I would have been first in line to challenge these rapids. But water and electronics don't mix, so I was forced to take every precaution to keep my various high-tech reporting gadgets safe and dry. [The truth of the matter is that I'm a ginormous wuss when it comes to being wet all day. But that's a rather embarrassing admission for an enthusiast, so let's just stick with the "high-tech gadgets" excuse. Okay?]

And last but not least: The Rattler. The poor, carved up, misunderstood Rattler. This coaster's reputation precedes it, so I was under no illusions about what I was getting myself into. While en route to Fiesta Texas, I administered the following stern briefing in the car.

"Look, here's how it's gonna go down. This coaster is going to be miserable. It's going to be miserable and disappointing, but we're gonna suck it up. We're gonna sit in the FRONT seat of a car, apologize in advance to our spines, and get it over with. And that will be that."

So you can imagine my reaction when, during our first lap around the park, we arrived at the entrance to find the notorious "This attraction is temporarily closed" sign hanging dejectedly beneath that signature serpentine logo.

"Nooooooooooo! Why is it closed?!! This is so unfair. I'll never be in Texas EVER again! This thing better open by the end of the day or I'm gonna cry. I'm gonna throw a temper tantrum! I'm gonna call up Mark Shapiro and tell him that he now owes me two ice cream cones!!"

Yeah. Y'all know what I'm talking about.

"Please come ride me. Please! I was built to thrill! I'm not such a bad fellow!"

That was the moment when I realized exactly how much this particular coaster intrigues me. It was simultaneously the ride I was dreading the most and the ride I was anticipating the most. Fortunately (or not?), it did open later that day. I squealed with delight when I spied an empty train making a test run as we waited to board the Whistle Stop. [See above. Sorry, no sound effects.]

"Do you see it? Do you see where they chopped FORTY-TWO FEET off my first drop?! Oh, the humanity!"

I came. I saw. I rattled. When the train finally came to a stop--a freakishly abrupt, organ-crushing, ejection quality stop--I found myself sitting on the brake run in what could best be described as a stunned silence. What the heck was that? This coaster has no personality!

My husband was a bit more vocal on the matter. In the most calm, cool, overdramatic way imaginable, he slowly turned to me and asked, "Did the people who designed this coaster have any idea what they were doing?" I told him that's not really fair, considering that Rattler has probably been reprofiled more times than our combined number of years on this planet. But he has a point: This coaster was lost in translation.

"Look how picturesque I am! I was built to dominate this skyline. Why, oh why have they ruined me?"

In an unprecedented act of masochism, I immediately got back in line for another spin because quite frankly, I just didn't "get" it. I sat closer to the back the second time (bad idea), but the experience was very much the same. Not necessarily terrible, mind you. There are definitely some bright spots to this coaster, particularly in the latter half of the course. And to be perfectly honest, it wasn't anywhere near as uncomfortable as I had expected. Rough in spots? Yes. Son of Beast caliber? <expletive deleted> no!!

"Help me, Mark Shapiro! You're my only hope!"

The problem with Rattler is that it has quite literally lost its identity. Since I never had the opportunity to experience this coaster in all of its raw original glory, I can't speak to whether the rounds upon rounds of modifications were truly necessary. But they sure didn't do a lot for the ride experience. This coaster is now in need of a different kind of help, a la the Texas Giant treatment. Surely there is something that could be done for it that would split the difference between comfort and thrills!

Top ten contender or not--and sadly, we all know the answer--Rattler has taken up a special place in my heart. Consider me emotionally invested! I'd love to see Six Flags partner up with a company that can go back to the drawing board with this ride and figure out how to fix it the right way. It's such a unique coaster, with its terrain-based layout and proximity to the quarry wall. And it is massive to boot! With all those things going for it, Rattler should be awesome. Period. And it could be...with a little TLC.

Before I wrap this up, I need to give a shout out to my peeps at Six Flags Mercado. Continuing in the fine tradition of all the other friendly park employees we encountered during our visit, this team went out of their way to hook me up with a much desired souvenir park map from a few years ago, and then gave me a 25% discount on my entire purchase because they felt bad for making me wait so long! [Little did they know exactly how long I was willing to wait...] Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the "new" Six Flags.

Met the most intriguing older man at the park. Magnificent dancer, he was. Swept me right off my feet. Shhh....Don't tell my husband!

I'm a tough critic. I bust Six Flags' chops about many things, not the least of which are brochures, ride names, and their ever-inflated ice cream prices. But there's a term for that, folks. It's called "tough love". This chain is on the upswing, and the better they get, the higher I'm going to raise the bar.

Aside from a few minor annoyances, I had a fabulous time at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. And I liked what I saw. The fresh paint, clean midways and restrooms, and friendly employees were telltale signs that this park--and indeed, the entire chain--is destined for bigger and better things. I was also pleased to see that a great majority of the fabulous theming I've read so much about is still very much intact. The "new" Six Flags would be wise to build upon that solid foundation and use it as a model for the rest of their parks. Fiesta Texas stands as proof that a little theming can go a long way!

For even more Six Flags Fiesta Texas photos, check out our public album on Facebook!