attractions industry

D23 Expo 2015 Review: We had a blast!

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We’re back from the 2015 D23 Expo which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend and let me just say I had an awesome time! Being a first time attendee, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard so much about the event from previous years, and I must say it did not disappoint. With celebrities, panels, presentations, exhibits, previews, exclusive content, concerts, cos-play, signings, merchandise, giveaways, contests and much more, this event is larger than anything I have ever experienced. Almost to the point of being overwhelming.

We wanted to experience as much as possible at the event with an open mind, and we definitely accomplished that. Throughout the two days there (we skipped the third day as we didn’t see much we wanted to do), we overheard a lot of positive and negative feedback, and being in the events industry had my own two cents to add in as well. Looking across social media and message boards, you can find a giant range of comments saying it was terrible to it was amazing. It boils down to what the expectations of the attendee was and what actually happened. Sadly it’s the people who are negative that have the loudest voices and will be first to share an opinion, versus the people who had a great time who won’t voice it as loudly or at all.
Our goal is to give our unbiased, unfiltered views based on notes made during the event. Going in with no expectations other than having a good time gave a good starting point to review the event. Here is our review of the event, starting with the good, then the bad, and finally a wrap-up. Enjoy!

The Good

Badge Pickup: We didn’t get our badges mailed to use as we live outside the US, so we headed to the convention centre the day ahead to pick up our badges. It was quick, efficient and had no lines.
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StagePass Distribution: Thanks to this pass, we were guaranteed admission into the “A Goofy Movie” 20th Anniversary Reunion without waiting in line outside the theatre. We did wait in a long line to get the pass, but it saved us as the animation panel ran long so we sprinted to the panel and got there just in time to see it. Whew!
Presentations: Most sessions we attended were awesome, with one exception which we’ll get to later. We got into the Disney/Pixar Animation presentation as well as the “A Goofy Movie” presentation and both were filled with amazing surprise guests. Animation was hosted by John Lasseter and has guest appearances by: Dwayne Johnson, Ellen Degeneres, Ty Burrell, and Ed O’Neill to name a few. Goofy had Jason Marsden & Jenna Von Oy, Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy), plus videos from Pauly Shore, Wallace Shawn and a surprise Powerline concert with Tevin Campbell. Disney sure knows how to put on a show!
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Disneyland: The Exhibit: An amazing collection of past and present artifacts, props, videos and models from the park that started it all. So well put together and when we visited the line wasn’t too long which meant we could take our time looking at everything.
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Shanghai Disneyland Preview: This was a comprehensive overview of the amazing new resort currently being built-in China. With many unique attractions and Asian flair, this looks to become one of the most incredible Disney Parks on the planet!
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The World of Avatar Preview: Many folks have been critics of this concept for a while, but after seeing the model in person and hearing Joe Rhode speak so passionately about the details, we’re sold on this being a perfect addition to Animal Kingdom in Florida.
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Star Wars Land Announcement: Finally the cat is out of the bag, and it looks to become a giant hit! Taking a cue from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal and Cars Land at Disney California Adventures, the theme park wars continue to go full force. A full 14 acres of Star Wars sensory overload, look for this to become the most incredibly themed land in any theme park to date.

The Bad

Insane lineups and mass confusion as to which lineups people were supposed to be in: In order to get into the halls, there were three separate lines outside: D23 Gold/ Silver Members, General Admission and Ticket Sales. Problem was, the lines were not clearly marked so it became a treasure hunt to find which line was the correct one. The crowd control people seemed untrained, which is shocking as right across the street at Disneyland Resort they are masters at moving people.
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Badge scanning/ entry: Slowest staff ever. They need to get RFID badges to expedite the lines into the hall. There is no reason a venue of this size can’t have multiple entrances and quicker scanning to get in. Once in the expo hall, there were virtually no crowds for the first couple of hours, with the exception of lines for the panels & shopping. Meanwhile the lines of people outside were dying in the heat wave.
StagePass Distribution: There were 12 kiosks available but only four open for the most popular sessions (ie. A Goofy Movie), resulting in it taking over an hour to get the pass! We’re glad we got it, but there was no reason they couldn’t have used all the kiosks the distribute each option available to expedite the line.
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Food and drink: Simply not enough places to eat or get a drink. Lineups were insane (45 minute waits) and with no vending machines available, you had to line up for everything including beverages. We settled for Mickey Pretzels for lunch! Day 2 we brought our own Lunchables, snacks and drinks so we wouldn’t spend half the day in line for food!
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Shopping: Three separate locations with every long lines (reportedly 4-6 hours at some points). If you didn’t sleep overnight in line, it almost felt like there was no point in trying. Waiting hours to possibly buy something is not how we wanted to spend our Expo. In addition to the three separate stores, you would need to know which store the items you wanted would be located in and then wait in line hoping the item wasn’t sold out.We did get into the Dream Store with minimal line, only to find out what we wanted was in another store! Nowhere was a list of items available so you could make an educated decision. In addition, many people were clearly there solely to buy merchandise to sell for 5x the price on eBay, which is totally unfair to actual fans that just wanted the damn John Lasseter Rayne Spooner shirt (me, me, me!).
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Too many people: With the acquisition of Marvel & Lucasfilm, this event is quickly heading towards San Diego Comic-Con territory without the experience to do so. We wouldn’t be surprised if they announce this as an annual event soon as it’s such a cash cow.
Late Sessions: The Disney/Pixar Animation session started late for no apparent reason, and took over 45 minutes to load in. When you’re running a tight schedule to see as much as possible, timing can become a setback. Other sessions ran late as well.
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Star Wars Land Announcement: This happened right at the end of the Live Action presentation, not during the Parks & Resorts presentation as was expected. As all the parks fans were waiting for that presentation, the internet blew up with the announcement making everyone in line question what exactly we were waiting for now that the cat was out of the bag. Yes we got more details, however the WOW moment was lost.
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Ok, we’ve gone on long enough. To wrap up, events of this magnitude are difficult to pull off flawlessly, and they did a great job. This is a living, breathing event and sometimes things don’t go off as planned. There are typically hundreds of temporary staff that receive little to no training as to what their job will be and how to best make quick decisions without someone in charge being around. In addition, you have three crazy popular brands (Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm) with massive fan bases, all congregating in one place. Sometimes people don’t play well together and that can’t be controlled. As I said before, it’s all about setting the right expectations for  yourself.
 
Overall this was an amazing event that we had the greatest time attending. We got to see so many things we would never see anywhere else, and got to be the first to preview some amazing upcoming movies and attractions. In addition to the star power, being around so many fans brought such a positive energy that you can only really experience there. We had a blast and would definitely go back, thank goodness we have two years to rest up!
Did you attend D23 Expo…tell us about your experience! Would you go back, what would you improve/change? Leave a comment below!
 
 

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada Now Open!

Ripleys Aquarium Now OpenNow open, this brand new $130 million world-class attraction spearheaded by the Jim Pattison Group and Ripley Entertainment will have more that 5.7 million litres of water and will consist of 50 exhibits in nine carefully curated galleries showcasing a cross section of saltwater and freshwater environments around the world—starting with species from Toronto’s backyard, the Great Lakes Basin. Continue reading

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Artwork Roundup

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With the latest artwork release from Universal Orlando for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion, we figured we’d showcase all the exciting, incredible and amazing artwork released  for all the Wizards, Muggles and Mudbloods to enjoy! More images to come as soon as we get them!

Also, in case you live under a rock the complete details are listed after the images. Continue reading

Marvel and Hero Ventures Announce A New Super Hero Themed Entertainment Experience

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4D Motion Ride Is Centerpiece of Interactive National Tour Launching in 2014 by World Class Investor and Production Teams

August 22, 2013, Los Angeles, CA – Hero Ventures, a Los Angeles based entertainment company, announced today that it is teaming up with Marvel Entertainment to create “The Marvel Experience,” an innovative, traveling experience, featuring dozens of Marvel’s iconic Super Heroes. This attraction will appeal to a multi-generational audience and will leverage state-of-the-art interactive and multimedia technology, including a 4D motion ride and original 3D animated features, allowing fans to be a part of the action. The tour comes to life in 2014.
Founded by sports and entertainment industry entrepreneurs Rick Licht and Doug Schaer, Hero Ventures is dedicated to producing unique themed entertainment experiences. Solidifying the management team are Michael Cohl, former Live Nation Chairman and legendary live event impresario, along with his Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark co-producer and PRG founder Jeremiah “Jere” Harris, who will serve as lead producers. The team is rounded out by co-founding partner Jason Rosen.

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Initial “A” round investors include Oscar winning film producer and co-owner of the NFL’s New York Giants, Steve Tisch; Roy P. Disney and Shamrock Holdings; Guess Jeans co-Founders Maurice & Paul Marciano; WWE®; Vista Equity Partners President Brian Sheth; Ross Hilton Kemper and Enlight Media, among others. In addition, Tisch, Shamrock’s Stanley Gold, Maurice Marciano, WWE’s Basil V. DeVito, Jr. and Enlight’s David B. Miller will serve alongside Licht, Schaer, Cohl and Harris on Hero Ventures Board of Directors.
The Marvel Experience is a “first-person” Super Hero adventure in which audiences step into the Marvel Universe to become a part of the story and the action. Innovative tour elements include a one-of-a-kind, traveling dome complex the size of two football fields developed exclusively by Hero Ventures. In addition to the 4D motion ride and 3D animated features, other components will include digitally projected animation, motion-comic origin stories, virtual reality and holographic simulations, original merchandise and integrated social media touch points all carefully woven into the rich narrative story line.

“Hero Ventures is developing a themed entertainment concept that we expect will be a transformative, traveling destination that will deliver to fans and families an exciting, groundbreaking and unique experience,” says Marvel’s VP of Business Development, Sean Haran. The characters and stories of the Marvel Universe are beloved around the world by ages young and old as seen with the recent global box office records for Marvel’s The Avengers and Marvel’s Iron Man 3.

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“The dynamic creative elements we’re developing are going to enable anyone to feel like a Super Hero like Spider-Man or Captain America,” says Hero Ventures’ CEO Rick Licht. “We couldn’t be more excited about our partnership with Marvel. Kids and adults are going to be absolutely inspired, empowered and thrilled from start to finish, with an immersive experience that is not just memorable, but unforgettable!”

Among the creative visionaries behind this $30+ million production is an elite team of creative award winners of Oscars, Emmys, CLIOS, THEOS and other technical and animation awards to their collective credit.
“The Marvel Universe just keeps getting hotter, as seen by the massive world-wide box office and merchandise success of their characters,” says Michael Cohl. “We can’t wait to bring our Marvel vision to life in this first-of-its-kind event.”

ABOUT HERO VENTURES
Hero Ventures, LLC develops and produces live entertainment experiences that delight and surprise consumers through innovative technology. The Company has brought together the best creative and business minds in animation, interactive technology and the live event space to create unparalleled productions to share in new and unprecedented ways with audiences around the world. For more information visit www.hero-ventures.com.
ABOUT MARVEL
Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of over 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing and publishing. For more information visit www.marvel.com.

Roller Coasters: Bigger is not Always Better

We’ve got a fantastic guest article by Sally Stacey.  Sally loves roller coasters, travels around the world to ride them and even works in a theme park in the UK from time to time as a ride controller! She writes for a number of websites including Vision MX where she got herself a Contour helmet camera to record on-ride action when she gets the chance.

I absolutely love roller coasters and often travel great distances to ride these thrilling machines. These days I constantly marvel at how things have moved on since I experienced my first coaster back in 1977. In those days the corkscrew at Alton Towers was where it was at with thrill rides but coasters of this type are now rather tame in comparison to the complex masses of colourful metal that now propel their riders to ever increasing altitudes and speeds. Curiously, though, it not always the tallest or fastest rides that prove to be the best. A great coaster is produced when the perfect combination of elements result in the creation of a superlative ride experience. Bigger is not always better and now coaster manufacturers seem to moving away from creating more and more enormous constructions towards novelty, innovation and even playing tricks on the mind.

The Best

All coaster enthusiasts have their favourite rides and so there can never be one which is definitively the best but for me the greatest ride experience in the world is to be had on Maverick at Cedar Point in Ohio. At 105 ft this ride is diminutive in stature compared to many of the behemoths on offer but the 70 mph chase through sharp twists and inversions, the mid cycle launch and the ride’s layout combine to produce a compelling experience with no equal that I have found. Having constructed the 420 ft giant Top Thrill Dragster and the much heralded 310 ft Millennium Force, the park turned away from altitude and maximum velocity to commission a ride full of energy and surprises that may be small but packs a real punch. The construction of this ride seems to have turned coaster design in a whole new direction with some interesting results.

Maverick at Cedar Point, Ohio.  Photograph by Craig Lloyd via Flickr(CC BY 2.0).

New Innovations

Just as steel coasters saw a new breed emerge with the introduction of Maverick so have wooden coasters taken a new turn. Like their steel cousins wooden coasters were growing bigger and bigger but new rides built by Great Coasters International Inc (GCII) use twisting tracks, steep cambers and high speed station passes to generate the thrills. The new woodies use articulated Millennium Flyer trains to negotiate the track. These vehicles can cope with the sharp turns and certainly deliver a very comfortable ride. Wodan, the new coaster at Europa Park in Germany, is a fine example of a GCII ride and delivers full on thrills from start to finish. I love this ride and it doesn’t matter at all that it is neither the highest nor fasted woody on the planet.

Wodan at Europa Park, Germany.  Photograph by Gabriel Rinaldi via Flickr (CC BY 2.0) .

Mind Games

Things are now set to take yet another twist with Alton Tower’s new ride for 2013. Smiler will be a steel coaster with multiple inversions but that is not where the trickery will end. The ride is set to incorporate several features deliberately designed to confuse the mind in order to exaggerate the intensity of the experience. The cars will charge towards giant hypodermic needles and hypnotic spinning wheels with the accompaniment of lighting effects. These features will distract riders, diverting their attention from the drops and inversions thus making them more surprising and of greater intensity. Well that is the theory anyway! There are strict limits to how much G force a coaster is permitted to inflict on riders and so if you have reached that limit and cannot make the ride any more severe you simply have to make it feel like it is. I can’t wait to try Smiler which is scheduled to open in May 2013 and I shall try to smuggle a helmet camera onto the ride in order to record the faces of the guests which are often as much fun as the rides themselves!

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada Jobs

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Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has posted its first batch of job opportunities.  No entry-level jobs are posted yet, it’s mainly management positions. If you are looking for Marketing & Sales positions, here’s what you can apply for (if you’re qualified of course!):

 

  1. Director of Sales & Marketing – APPLY NOW ›
  2. Director of Human Resources – APPLY NOW ›
  3. Manager of Public Relations – APPLY NOW ›
  4. Manager of Events – APPLY NOW ›
  5. Manager of Sales – APPLY NOW ›
  6. Manager of Marketing – APPLY NOW ›

 

Here’s a link to the full job site. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any updates to the listings.


Theme Park Jobs: Summer's just around the corner

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As we sit here in chilly January, the summer season of rollercoasters, thrill rides and outdoor parks seems like it will never arrive. For those of us that live in colder climates with seasonal parks, this is prime time for getting a position in a park. Many seasonal amusement and theme parks have begun their recruitment campaigns for the summer. Don’t worry if you’re  lucky enough to live in a warm climate with parks open year round, they’re recruiting too as summer is peak season.

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If you’ve ever thought of working in a park, DO IT! It’s one of the best experiences you can have. You meet a lot of great people, get to work outside and best of all: go to a park every day! Here’s a listing of some parks that have started their hiring for the 2013 season and a couple of resources for amusement industry jobs. Let us know if we’re missing a resource our readers would be interested to hear about!

Canada’s Wonderland

Cedar Point
Darien Lake

Centreville

Playland

Calgary Stampede

Calaway Park

West Edmonton Mall (including Galaxyland)

King’s Island

Six Flags

Seaworld Parks & Entertainment

Walt Disney World

Universal Orlando 

Universal Studios Hollywood

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Six Flags to buy Seaworld Parks & Entertainment?

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In what is the worst news we’ve heard in a long time, we’ve learned that Six Flags may be interested in buying Seaworld Parks & Entertainment. While Six Flags builds great coasters and thrill rides, they are known for lacking the quality & themed experiences of theme park owners like Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Disney and Universal. Let’s cross our fingers that this deal doesn’t happen. Read the full article below: Continue reading

Back on Track: Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends, and happy “we get Black Friday now” to our Canadians!

It’s been quite a while since we last posted. Our apologies, we’ve been transporting our lives to another part of the country. All the way from Ontario to Alberta. We have a lot of things to catch up upon in the next few weeks. This week we’ll keep it simple and link to a few interesting articles about all the amazing, magical and fantastical developments in the theme park world. Enjoy!

Seaworld Antarctica Ride Vehicles from The Orlando Sentinal
Why Walt Disney World Matters in the Wizarding World from our friends at Spins The World
Universal Studios Florida MEGA Expansion from Orlando Theme Park News
Visiting Disney World at Christmas from Mice Age
Thanks for your continued support. We’re looking forward to bringing you the best in theme park news & views.