amusement parks

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!

From the Archives: Canada's Wonderland Logos

Canada’s Wonderland has switched ownership three times in its history. It was originally built by Taft Broadcasting Company and The Great-West Life Assurance Company in 1981, sold to the now defunct Paramount Parks in 1993 and has been owned and operated by Cedar Fair since 2006. With each of these acquisitions  new versions of the logo were created. Here are a few versions of the Canada’s Wonderland logo’s from park opening to present day. If we forgot to include any, drop us a line!Original_Canada's_Wonderland_logo Continue reading

Fastpass Weekly- Theme Park Design & Operations

Welcome to the first edition of Fastpass Weekly, a collection of interesting posts, videos and updates from around the web that we feel are so incredible and amazing we want to share them with you!

Each week, we’ll focus on a different theme that relates somehow to the wondrous world of theme parks. This is the ultimate collection of random things for the theme park fan 🙂

From the Making of Islands of Adventure to how to get a job at Disney if you’re not American, our inaugural collection of interesting things is focused on theme park design & operations:

If you haven’t read them already, here are some fantastic articles about The Making of Islands of Adventure from way back before the park opened in 1999.

A very interesting article about the lighting fixtures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

It’s all in the details

Thanks to Screamscape for pointing this out, here is some concept art for a proposed jeep ride for Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure

JPJeepRide
Ever wondered who helped bring to life Spiderman, Men in Black, The Little Mermaid, The Cat In The Hat and many other amazing characters in a theme park near you? The answer: ITEC Productions
itec productions logo
Jim Hill Media shares with us how Universal Creative turned “Jimmy Neutrons Nicktoon Blast” into “Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem”
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
If you’ve ever even toyed with the idea of wanting to design theme parks or entertainment for a living, take a tour around Thinkwell Group. They’ve created some of the most amazing themed experiences around the world, including the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London and many Cirque du Soleil shows.
thinkwell group
Feel like running your own theme park? Just apply to the University of Central Florida Hospitality Management Program with the Theme Park & Attraction Management Track. 
Are you an international reader whose dream is to work at Walt Disney World? It can happen with the Disney Cultural Representative Program.
culturalrep
Let us know how you like this section by sending us a note!

Theme Park Jobs: Summer's just around the corner

ryan reynolds adventureland

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.

park operations job
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

HCareers

 

 
 

Six Flags to buy Seaworld Parks & Entertainment?

Six-Flags-Logo Busch Gardens New Logo

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

"Avatar" jumps from 3-D screens to theme park experience at Walt Disney World

In one of the greatest announcements I’ve heard in a while from Disney Parks, they have announced a mega “Avatar” themed land for Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida. All the details are below in the official press release, although they are very sparse. There are no details on what type of attraction or attractions this will be, and they are simply calling it a “land” for the time being. It is a great fit for Animal Kingdom, and considering the movie was groundbreaking in so many ways, it opens the door for some amazing attraction possibilities. Will we see a 4-D film combined with a dark ride experience, or will Disney use a new type of technology never seen before like what Universal did with “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey“. I’m thinking it would be incredible for this attraction to exist indoors, as to make the illuminated glow forest an all encompassing experience. I remember seeing the film when it came out thinking what a breathtaking theme park experience it would be. What has me most excited is that the press release is saying “lands”, as in more than one! To be clear, these lands will exist in different parks around the world. One must remember these plans are all based on the assumed success of the 2 sequels coming down the pipeline, and let’s not forget they are always subject to change like with the Fantasyland expansion. This is a big play for Disney, the project is reported to be costing around $400 million dollars. “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” was a major risk for Universal to invest in (and reportedly cost around $265 million to build), and ended up paying major dividends in the end. Does “Avatar” have the legs to sustain the same amount of success for Disney. What do you think?

DISNEY, FOX AND JAMES CAMERON TO BRING AVATAR TO LIFE AT DISNEY PARKS
Long-term agreement will bring AVATAR themed lands to Disney parks, with the first at Walt Disney World in Orlando

BURBANK (September 20, 2011) – Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park.  With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.
“James Cameron is a groundbreaking filmmaker and gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creativity, technological innovation and delivering the best experience possible,” said Robert A. Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James’ talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney.”
“AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we’ll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we’ll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore,” said James Cameron.  ”I’m chomping at the bit to start work with Disney’s legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life.  Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality.”
The agreement announced today gives The Walt Disney Company exclusive global theme park rights to the AVATAR franchise and provides for additional AVATAR themed lands at other Disney parks. The other locations will be determined by Disney and its international theme park partners.  James Cameron, Jon Landau and their Lightstorm Entertainment group will serve as creative consultants on the projects and will partner with Walt Disney Imagineering in the design and development of the AVATAR themed lands.
“This exciting new venture combines the world of AVATAR with the enormous reach of Disney and the incomparable talent of Jim Cameron,” commented Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman.  “While Jim is bringing audiences further into Pandora with the next two chapters in the AVATAR motion picture saga, the theme park attraction will likewise bring a new dimension to the amazing universe he created.”
“AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures, and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney,” said Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We can’t wait to give our guests the ability to journey to Pandora and explore the incredible immersive world of AVATAR in person.”
In addition to setting a global box office record, AVATAR has been hailed as one of the most innovative and visually stunning movies ever produced. With its advanced motion capture and 3-D digital projection technologies developed by James Cameron and his team, moviegoers were able to connect with the world of AVATAR in new and engaging ways.
This new venture complements Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ strategic efforts to continue to invest in its core theme park businesses around the world while simultaneously expanding into other parts of the family vacation business.

Six Flags Magic Mountain takes terror to new heights

In what we can only predict will be the world’s most terrifying freefall ride, Magic Mountain announced they are building a double sided drop tower attached to the existing Superman Ride. This one looks amazing and really scary at the same time. We can’t wait to take a freefall on this bad boy!

LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom
The World’s Tallest Vertical Drop Ride!
Another one for the history books, Six Flags Magic Mountain, in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, announced today the world’s tallest vertical drop ride, LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom, will make its debut for the 2012 season. Named after one of DC Comics’ most dangerously intelligent super-villains and Superman’s greatest enemy, LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom will be an engineering phenomenon, attached to both sides of the iconic SUPERMAN: Escape from Krypton tower. Soaring at a sky-scraping 400 feet, LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom is slated for a spring 2012 launch.
Fearless riders will be seated inside floorless gondolas on two vertical tracks flanking each side of the SUPERMAN: Escape from Krypton tower. Passengers on the gondolas will be pulled to the top of the tower, experience a brief pause before being released and dropped at speeds of up to 85 miles-per-hour. After five seconds of freefall, the gondola will be stopped by a sophisticated magnetic braking system just a few feet from the ground.
“Six Flags is known world-wide as the industry leader in delivering world-class thrills, and Six Flags Magic Mountain is proud to be at the head of the pack, offering guests the biggest and the best,” said Bonnie Rabjohn, Six Flags Magic Mountain Park President. “We are excited to add another world record to our collection of record-breaking, first-on-the-planet attractions.”
Changing Magic Mountain’s legendary skyline, LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom will offer riders breathtaking panoramic views as they are lifted to the top of the tallest vertical drop ride ever built. Sitting eight abreast, riders will plummet 40 stories at an extreme speed before coming to a stop, all while the SUPERMAN: Escape from Krypton cars are blasted to the top of the same structure.
“Six Flags Magic Mountain continues to deliver powerful thrills to our guests year after year,” said Jim Reid-Anderson, Chairman, President and CEO of Six Flags Entertainment Corporation. “LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom is a tremendous addition and brings a new dimension of excitement to the park’s already remarkable collection of thrill rides.”
LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom is being manufactured exclusively for Six Flags Magic Mountain by Intamin AG of Switzerland.