Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy 40th, Magic Kingdom!

Forty years ago tomorrow the Magic Kingdom, part of the greater Walt Disney World, officially opened to guests.  A lot of folks would rather ignore their 40th birthday, but after all those years of creating magic memories for millions of visitors, the Magic Kingdom's special anniversary is happily being celebrated.

While the park has changed quite a bit over those forty years, there's still plenty of original attractions to be found.  The Enchanted Tiki Room, Dumbo, Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents, Jungle Cruise... there's plenty of original magic to be found.

The future of the park is as bright as ever, as the large Fantasyland expansion is well underway with a phased opening planned to start late next year.   The greater resort, which has expanded to four theme parks, two water parks, more hotels than I can count, and almost every other recreational activity out there, has plenty planned for the future, too.

Here's to another forty years - I have a feeling the park will look just as great at 80!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 Euro Attractions Show Recap

The Euro Attractions Show just wrapped up in London, sort of a smaller version of the large IAAPA Attractions Expo that is held in November in Orlando.  In recent years more and more manufacturers are showing at the European trade event as a lead in to the larger American version, which means more photos, models, and industry goodies for us to take in.

In fact, this year's EAS had the largest number of exhibitors ever, and over 7,000 attendees.

While I haven't seen any shocking news come out of the show this year, there is a nice photo review with some juicy tidbits posted on CoasterForce.  It's worth a read, especially if you are interested in some rumors and news for European parks (details on Alton Towers' plans for next year, anyone?).

The general consensus seems to be that some business was done at the event, which is great for both suppliers and the parks - oh, and us, too!

A Blast From The Past - A Tribute To Ron Toomer

Arrow Development was formed in 1947 to tackle difficult mechanical engineering tasks. When a nearby community asked the company to build a carousel for a city park, Arrow officially became an amusement park supplier. Arrow was there at the birth of the steel coaster industry, developing and fabricating the tubular steel track for Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Ron Toomer joined Arrow Dynamics in 1965, his first job was working on the water flow for Pirates of the Caribbean. Next up Toomer began his long history of working on roller coasters with the very first mine train, Run-A-Way Mine Train at Six Flags Over Texas.

In the next decade Arrow built nearly a dozen mine trains throughout the US and one in Canada. In 1974, Toomer and a colleague discovered a practical way to turn coaster riders up-side down. Circular loops on coasters had been done before,but Toomer's idea was to build a series of close to the ground corkscrew spirals made with tubular steel track. They built a full-scale prototype to use for testing, but both were a bit worried about putting people on it due to the extreme G forces.

After a bit of research, using an accelerometer to compare the G forces of an old wooden roller coaster to the prototype, the first rider, a company employee took a spin on the prototype and the rest is history. The first corkscrew , the Chicago Loop opened at the now defunct Old Chicago Amusement Park in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The park may only be a fond memory for many, but the coaster is still operating at Canobie Lake Amusement Park in Salem New Hampshire as the Canobie Corkscrew. A number of Corkscrews have been built over the years, including Knott's Berry Farm, Opryland, Worlds of Fun & Geauga Lake.

The success of the corkscrew was followed in 1977 by the giant clothoid loop, which was independently developed by several designers. After that Arrow looping roller coasters popped up all over the place, with each getting loopier than the last. In 1978, Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Loch Ness Monster opened, featuring the world's first interlocking loops. On the non-looping side of the industry, Ron Toomer designed Gemini a twin-tracked racing coaster, Cedar Point's third Arrow ride, which opened in 1978. This coaster originally ran six trains giving it a higher capacity than any other coaster in history.

The suspended coaster was the major innovation of the 1980s. The prototype, the Bat operated at the press conference in 1980 and opened in 1981. Unfortunately, it was short lived, operating sporadically until 1983 and being removed from the park in 1984. After some major re-engineering, nine more suspended coasters opened between 1984and 1993, five of which are still operating today.

After slightly over twenty years of service, Ron Toomer became President of Arrow in 1986 and multi-loopers again became "The Thing" with Arrow leading the charge. In 1987, Vortex at Kings Island opened as the world's 1st coaster with six inversions. And in 1989, Shockwave, the world's first seven inversion coaster, opened at Six Flags Great America.

At the pinnacle of his career, Ron Toomer designed the first roller coaster over 200 feet tall. Dubbed Magnum XL-200, this steel monster opened at Cedar Point on May 6th 1989. Still a crowd favorite today Magnum helped prove the sky's the limit!

Ron Toomer retired from Arrow in 2000, after 35 years of innovative designs that continue to thrill season after season. We first met Mr Toomer in 1999 and had the opportunity to chat with him at Cedar Point's Coastermania, when he was the keynote speaker in 2009. Our conversation was about the state of the industry today and how much technology has impacted the designing of rides. He mentioned how he used to design coasters using #2 wire (not coat hangers as the popular urban legend goes,) He also debunked the fact that he had never ridden a roller coaster. He said even though he suffered from motion sickness, that he had ridden enough to know how the rides should feel. We will miss Mr Toomer's wit and wisdom, he was one of the true pioneers in the roller coaster industry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Holiday World Announces Additional 2012 Ride

Even after announcing the world's longest water coaster for next season, Holiday World still had another planned new ride up their sleeve.   Just today the park revealed that they will be adding a new 65 foot vertical swing ride to the park's lineup next year.

© Holiday World

The new ride doesn't have an announced name yet, but the park has explained that it will replace Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, a Spider style flat ride that has been at the park for 33 years.  Both rides have a 36 inch height requirement, meaning families will still be able to enjoy the new ride together.

Sounds to me like icing on top of the 2012 cake!

Take a Spin in the Ford Lego Explorer

Promotion for the soon-to-be-opened Legoland Florida is in high gear - literally with the park's latest creation.  A full sized Legoland Florida Explorer, created from more than 380,000 Legos recently debuted at the Ford Chicago assembly plant.

The vehicle, which took over 2,500 hours to create, will be the centerpiece of the new theme park's Ford Driving School attraction.  Kids will be able to "experience the fun and responsibility of driving their own vehicles" at the attraction, but at a top speed of 3 mph.

Legoland Florida is on schedule for a October 15th grand opening.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manta's Growing at Sea World San Diego

Sea World San Diego first announced plans for the park's new coaster for 2012, named Manta, back in February of this year.  Since then they've been hard at work clearing the space for the ride, and pouring footers.

Now, in some photos the park has shared on their Facebook account, we can see that after much work the ride now has several supports in place:

Due to some rather stringent height restrictions that the park has to deal with, much of Manta will stay close to the ground - this is quite apparent in the photo above.

The ride is being designed by Mack, and will feature two LSM launch systems to send trains up to 43 miles per hour over the 2,835 feet of track.  The park  promises more updates in the future, and it sounds like track is set to be placed soon!

Arrow Legend Ron Toomer Passes Away

Yesterday the Amusement Industry lost another legend, at the age of 81 Ron Toomer died peacefully in his sleep after a battling cancer for four months.

Ron was born on May 31st, 1930 in Pasadena California. He was an Army veteran, and worked as a mechanical engineer for several companies that did design, development and manufacturing of components for the NASA Apollo space program.

Of course we all knew Ron Toomer for his contribution to the Amusement Industry and advancements in roller coaster design with Arrow Development. Ron's very first assignment with Arrow was working on Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

Ron discussing his coaster designs, including his famous bended wire technique!

His first roller coaster project was the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Over Texas. Ron has been credited with 93 steel roller coasters and he was involved with many non-coaster rides over the years. Ron was most proud of his contribution in development of the Corkscrew.

Ron is survived by his wife, Betty of 54 years, four children and their spouses: Gregory and Christie Toomer of Darien, Ga.; Carol and Jeffrey Thornton of Bedford, Texas; Gary and Alana Mitchell of Keller, Texas; Christopher and Kristi Toomer of Parker, Colo. and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Martin United Methodist Church in Bedford, Texas. Flowers or cards may be sent to the church at: 2621 Bedford Road, Bedford, Texas 76021.

Ron Toomer was a true legend and he will be miised. This week's Blast will be a tribute to Ron.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Aerial Antics: The Wooden Warrior

It is pretty amazing to see how tightly coaster designers, the Gravity Group in this case, can squeeze a coaster in around existing objects at a park. With Quassy's new Wooden Warrior, the park was able to use largely unused space for the ride, yet still have the ride hug the existing park:

If you look carefully at the "before" image on the top, you can actually see that when the aerial was taken footers had started to be poured.  Then, in the "after" image on bottom, we see the completed ride getting ready for it's Spring debut.

I do believe I need to stop by Middlebury, Connecticut next Summer!

Wild Rivers Irvine: Closed For Good

After 25 years of operations in Irvine, California, Wild Rivers water park has closed for good. The park, which sat on leased land, has been threatened with closure for several years now, but this time it appears as though its for real.

The park has been rallying fans to get another one year lease extension, but as of now that hasn't panned out.  The land the park sits on will be used for a large apartment complex, as well as a few other mixed use development projects. 

Owners of Wild Rivers are working with the city to possibly lease some land on the edge of Great Park, allowing them a reopening of 2013.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Frightening Fun: The Haunts of 2011 - 1

It's that time of year again... the leaves are starting to change, temperatures are cooler, the days are shorter - and what do parks do with those extra hours of darkness - Halloween celebrations of course!  Like last year, NPN will be taking a look at haunts around the country to see what devilish new attractions are being offered.

It appears as though a lot of changes are being made to Six Flags Fright Fest events across the board for 2011.  Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is advertising their event as "all new," filled with new levels of fear.

This year there are haunted attractions with titles such as Scrapyard of the Dead, Slaughterhouse Pig Farm, and Shipwreck of Horror, among others.  There's plenty of entertainment as well, such as the family friendly Super Spooky Sea Lion Show.

Bigger, Better, Scarier?  Seems so!

Last season's debut of Nights of Horror at Coney Island's Luna Park must have been a success, because the event is back again this year and it means business.

This year in addition to all the park's rides and attractions are the Coney Carnival haunted house as well as the Cudie Farm haunted mazes.  Both sound quite sinister and it seems that the Coney Carnival is having quite a problem with disappearing guests!

Scream Zone and the Cyclone are not part of the event, which is focused on just Luna Park.

Worlds of Fun is extra creepy this time of year, when The Haunt takes over the entire park.  The 2011 season features nine different haunts that'll scare you to pieces... over and over again.

This year's big new attraction is London Terror - based off the quite popular and significantly gory maze that originated at Knott's Halloween Haunt.  A good idea should be shared, right?

All the evil that London could produce are focused on creating havoc in this maze.  Jack the Ripper, anyone?

Add the new attraction to returning favorites such as Blood Shed and Lore of the Vampire and you have yourself a great sounding event!

This years marks the first time that Morey's Piers will be holding Terror on the Boardwalk, their all new event.  Inspired by the success of their summer-season haunt, Ghost Ship, they've expanded with two new haunts.

CornStalkers and CarnEvil are both names we've seen before, but not for haunts at Morey's.  Both will be presented in addition to an intensified Ghost Ship, sure to get your blood pumping more than ever before.

On top of the mazes many of the rides and attractions on Mariner's Landing will also be open during the event.

Wild Waves' annual Fright Fest will be returning again this year, ready to scare droves of visitors to the theme park.

Brave visitors can take a tour of the Scream Factory haunted house, where someone is always watching you.  If you'd like a little VIP service, try booking a Haunted Hut - where you get your own space for the night, an included meal, hot chocolate and more.

And make sure not to miss the wave pool dance party, quite a unique offering.  When you're done dancing and getting scared, you can still take a spin on many of the park's rides.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Showing Off Buena Vista Street

Art from the Disney Parks Blog

Disney California Adventure has reopened their updated Blue Sky Cellar preview area, this time focusing the exhibits on the parks new entrance area, Buena Vista Street.

The amount of detail going into the new section is stunning, especially when compared to the generic entrance buildings that have flanked the park's entrance since opening.  Even the costumes for the cast members in the shops, food, and other service locations are highly representative of the period, which reflects Los Angeles in the 1920s and '30s.

To check out a very full photo report from the reopened Blue Sky Cellar, click over to the Magic Eye blog.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jack Falfas Involved With Rye Playland's Future?

The citizen committee that was tasked with evaluating the 12 proposals that were submitted for the future of Rye Playland has released their report - aptly titled "Reinventing Playland Park for the 21st Century."

In the end, the committee found that really only three of the proposals held enough water to be recommended for future review.  Deep within the report (available at this link) are further review and commentary from the group on each of the proposals, including ones from Central Amusements International, LLC and Standard Amusements, LLC.

What's interesting about the latter proposal is that Standard Amusements, LLC appears to be helmed by none other than former Cedar Fair COO Jack Falfas.  His group would technically be a non-profit using a large hedge fund as investment backing, and lists a $10 million investment in Playland that could include what sounds like a water park to help generate attendance.

Another of the top proposals was from CAI Parks, Zamperla's park management arm.  These folks have nicely transformed Coney Island over the past couple seasons, adding many rides and bringing the crowds back.  They propose to lease the park from the County, and replace current rides with newer ones, I'm sure from the Zamperla catalogue.  They also would bring in a new mini-golf course, and update Kiddie Land with "interactive lazer games and 4D movie theater."  Finally, a $2 million water park would be added.

The final proposal recommended for further review was from Sustainable Playland, and would see the area house a new "great lawn, athletic fields, redeveloped ice casino, continuing amusement park and beach, additional water activities and restaurant."  No more specifics than that were released in the report.

The actual proposals from these companies are not available to review, only the committee's synopsis of them.  As far as the future, the County's executive board will now consider the recommendations, moving forward with just one, a combination of several, or even possibly rejecting all and starting over.  That decision should come in early 2012.

Unfortunately, due to the timing of the final decision and a budget deficit for the County next year, this means that closing the amusement park for part or all of 2012 is now a possibility.  Not a final decision at this time, but definitely on the table as the park's attendance continues to plunge, creating huge costs for tax payers.

It is encouraging to see that the three top submitted proposals, as determined by the public committee, all involve keeping Playland as an amusement park.  Whether CAI or the Falfas-involved Standard Amusements get to move forward, or even neither, it is nice to see that the amusement park concept is still a priority.

Dorney Park To Feature Dinosaurs Alive in 2012

The dinosaurs are invading! At a meeting with the local township, Dorney Park revealed that they are planning on opening Dinosaurs Alive at the park in 2012.

A photo of the similar attraction at Kings Island

The attraction will feature a 2,100 foot long path covering 3.3 acres in the woods located behind Steel Force's station, currently where the Backwoods Haunt attraction is located.  Along the path will be about 37 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, several of which can have their movements controlled by guests.

The area will be an up-charge attraction, though the specific amount has not been revealed by the park.  Dorney plans to reveal details and more information on the attraction at a later date - which makes sense as this wasn't an official announcement.

Kings Island opened the first Dinosaurs Alive attraction at a Cedar Fair park this summer, and since we've seen both Cedar Point and Kings Dominion announce similar attractions for next year.  Judging by the number of dinosaurs and length of the walking path, Dinosaurs Alive at Dorney Park will be the smallest one of the four.

Also of note from the meeting was that the park got approval to modify their height ordinance with the Township to allow replacement of taller rides to not count against their total limit.  Essentially this means that Stinger will replace Laser in the count, and not push them closer to their maximum amount of tall rides.

The park also received the okay to expanding their parking lot to the 6.75 acres of land they purchased earlier this year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Blast From The Past - Viper At Six Flags Great Adventure

In 1994 Six Flags Great Adventure decided to add new coaster in the spot which was once occupied by their Togo Ultra Twister. Ultra Twister operated from 1986 to 1989, when it was shipped west to Astroworld as part of the Six Flags ride rotation.

Construction began in the fall of 1994 and after several delays, the Togo mega heartline coaster dubbed Viper, finally opened in June of 1995. Standing 89 feet tall and reaching a top speed of 48 miles an hour, the coaster had two inversions; a dive loop after the first drop, and then a heartline roll.

Viper was the world's first roller coaster with a 360-degree heartline roll. Its appearance was unique with Steel rings coiling around the track, encircling most of the track for themeing and providing structural support in the heartline roll.

Viper's three trains resembled a snake, and were colored light green and orange. There were four cars per train, riders were seated two across and each train seated 16 passengers. Initially, lines were long, but soon the rides popularity began to fade, due to the rough restraints and many mechanical problems.

Viper was SBNO (standing but not operating) most of the 1998 season. Financially troubled Togo went out of business which made getting parts almost impossible. Viper sat idle from 1999 to 2001 and was even removed from the park maps and guides during the 2001 season. Six Flags Great Adventure had planned to remove Viper that year, but was unable to find an attraction that would fit the land occupied by Viper.

Viper reopened in 2002 after the train and the train’s restraints were modified. Unfortunately, the modifications were not improvements. The ride was still rough and unreliable. For the 2004 season Viper opened as a one train operation.

The 2004 season would be Viper's last; Six Flags Great Adventure had grown tired of the ride's massive amounts of down time, its high maintenance costs and the fact that Viper's popularity was zilch due to its extremely painful ride. Viper was demolished in June of 2005 along with a few other rides, to make room for the park's huge 2006 project.

Viper was as interesting to ride as it was to watch the train snake the rides course. Unfortuantely, for me, while it was a very unique ride, it was not reridable. The rides replacement has been a huge success, does that station look familiar?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Six Flags Over Georgia On My Mind - Part 3

The last major area of Six Flags Over Georgia that we've yet to explore is Gotham City.  As the area's name would imply, Batman rules here, though plenty of his villain friends are in town as well.

The entrance to the section is just past the U.S.A. area, down the hill and under the park's railroad tracks.  This makes for a nice entrance, and secludes the section from the main part of the park.

After entering Gotham City one of the first attractions guest see is the Crime Wave, a wonderfully themed wave swinger.  The ride's name is a great pun - I'm a fan of a good pun - on both the villain characters that adorn its colored panels, and the wave-like motion the ride creates.  The ride was added to the park in 2004, having been moved all the way from Japan.

The oldest attraction in the area, from before it was even themed as Gotham City, is Mindbender.  This coaster opened in 1978 and at the time featured a silver paint job.  Since Gotham City didn't exist, the area was a kind of add-on to the U.S.A. area.

While much of the ride isn't visible from inside the park, it's still a great example of why Schwarzkopf coasters remain so highly regarded today.  The ride features two vertical loops, and a third loop that's really a highly banked helix.  In the end, the ride is just a lot of fun and a treasure for the park to have.

Six Flags Over Georgia's Gotham City has always appealed to me as one of the better themed Batman areas that 'old' Six Flags created.  While so many parks have Batman themed rides and attractions, few have areas that take the theme outside those rides, at least more than some light theming.  This Gotham City is the opposite of that.

All of the buildings and common areas of Gotham Cit are pretty run-down in appearance, and quite frankly look dirty.  But that's a good thing!  This is exactly the goal of the theming and, well, it works.

In addition to the buildings, there are numerous themed signs around the area to provide even more atmosphere.  I'd love to see what kind of circus would visit Gotham City!

The other star attraction in Gotham City is Batman The Ride, which features a beautiful outdoor queue that juts right up against Mindbender's final turn.  The path is covered in tall trees, masking much of the ride's layout from view.

And naturally, the dark station features the Batman icon, glowing above the loading area for the trains.

Batman was recently painted and now has some nice blue track atop dark supports - a very appealing color scheme.  The ride is intense as all the other Batman clones, quick and to the point.

That about wraps up my visit to the park, hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Green Lantern Arrives at Movie World Australia

Warner Brothers Movie World, located in Australia, has announced the addition of a new coaster, named the Green Lantern.  The ride appears to be an El Loco model provided by S&S Worldwide.  The park is advertising the ride as having the steepest drop in the Southern hemisphere.  Previous installations of these rides have featured beyond vertical drops of up to 113 degrees.

The park has also released a bit of a teaser video from the ride, including some animation of the coaster:

It also seems that the ride might use a new style of train, which would allow for eight passenger cars, doubling the ride's capacity.  Additionally, as seen in some of the art released by the park, these new trains only feature lap-bar restraints - both changes could greatly improve the ride experience.

The Green Lantern is schedule to debut this December, which marks the start of Australia's Summer season.

Avatar Themed Land Coming To Animal Kingdom

I always questioned if Disney World's real answer to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the Fantasyland expansion, which while great looking, never really compared equally for me.

Now, with a surprise announcement on the Disney Parks Blog, I think I see more clearly what Disney has planned to fight the good fight with the wizard:  Avatar and James Cameron.  They just announced a "long-term creative partnership" with Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment, the creators and distributors of Avatar, to create theme park lands and attractions based on the film.

Avatar will take up home in its own land in Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park, with construction possibly starting in 2013, and a potential opening of 2017 - so Avatar fans needn't book their flights to Florida quite yet.  An obvious question is whether or not the Avatar area will replace the land once destined to be Beastly Kingdom... another is if Joe Rhode, a lead designer of the entire park, is on board with the project.

While "Avatar Land" will first open at Animal Kingdom, that will be the first of several.  Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, promises that the areas will be complete, including attractions, entertainment, shops, food and more as a fully immersive experience.

At first thought Animal Kingdom seems an unlikely place for the Avatar area, but if you consider the visuals of Pandora (the moon Avatar takes place on), like the shot above, it starts to work a bit better.  I still feel like there's a bit of a stretch in there, but according to the Disney Parks Blog "Animal Kingdom is a great fit for this project because it was created to give guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in new ways. Disney’s Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR."

Avatar grossed an amazing $2.8 billion worldwide after its 2009 release.  There are currently two sequels planned to the film, creating a trilogy.  Those films are expected to be released in 2014 and 2015, so the films will still be quite relevant when the land opens.