ThrillRide! Random Notes  

 

 

 

 

Jan. 13, 2008

Just a heads-up: From Monday, Jan. 14 until the following Monday, I'll be away in China on business (it will be my first trip to an Asian country and lemme tell you, I am jazzed). So for the next week, there will be no updates. We're flying in and out of Hong Kong, yet sadly, I don't think there will be time to even pop into HK Disneyland. But I might get lucky and sample some of the local amusement offerings. Either way, I'll share some of the experience when I'm back on American soil.

In the meantime, feel free to revisit an old Ride Review. And/or waste some of your hard-earned holiday bonus on a thrill ride photo or MegaWorld souvenir! And/or join RideWorld and get active on the boards! And/or just have a really nice week and check back in after the 22nd.

Till next time!

-Robert

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Jan. 8, 2008 (9:00 PM-ish)

Even out here on the West Coast, it's a chilly time to be thinking about water parks, but I received today a press release from Busch Gardens' Water Country USA, in Williamsburg, VA, announcing their 2008 addition, and it's kinda nifty:

2008 WILL ROCK AT WATER COUNTRY USA
Water Country USA Announces New Area

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (Jan. 8, 2008) – A tidal wave of change is heading toward
Water Country USA as the Williamsburg water park debuts “Rock ’n’ Roll Island” in 2008. Rock ‘n’ Roll Island will feature three slides, a lazy river and a children’s attraction all themed with rock-and-roll culture from the 1950s and ‘60s.

Rock ’n’ Roll Island’s main attraction will be a 33-foot-tall slide tower named “Jammin’ Juke Box.” Three body slides will shoot from the top of the tower, each themed after a popular rock-and-roll dance – the “Funky Chicken,” “The Hully Gully” and “The Twist.” The slides will be nearly 200 feet long and spill riders into a 9,000-square-foot pool. For the little ones, Rock ‘n’ Roll Island will feature a new children’s slide called “Little Bopper,” and the entire island will be surrounded by a 700-foot-long lazy river.

“I think Rock ‘n’ Roll Island will be a guest-favorite in 2008,” said Mark Pauls, vice president for Water Country USA. “The addition of Rock ‘n’ Roll Island continues Water Country USA’s commitment to fun in the sun with new slides, a cool pool and great music.”

Total construction will take several months, and photo-updates of the renovation will be posted periodically on the park’s Web site, www.watercountryusa.com.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Island will open when Water Country USA opens for the 2008 season May 10.

Water Country USA is a Worlds of Discovery park. Other Worlds of Discovery parks include SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas; Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Fla. and Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Va.; Discovery Cove in Orlando; Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa. near Philadelphia; Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park in Orlando; and water park Adventure Island in Tampa.

I guess calling that 9000-square-foot pool the "Sea of Love" would have been a bit too risqué, but it sure cries out for it, dontcha think?

-Robert

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Jan. 7, 2008 (evening)

A little sad news this time: Joyce Carlson, one of the people responsible for Disney's legendary "It's A Small World" attraction, recently passed away at the age of 84. Along with working in Disney's animation department, where she was an inker for "Cinderella," "Peter Pan," "Lady and the Tramp" and "Sleeping Beauty," among others, she became an integral part of the Imagineers, helping to create the first model of "Small World," a major hit at the 1964 World's Fair. She also crafted many of the singing dolls for which IASW is beloved by millions.

In her 56 years of service to the Mouse House, she became the first woman to reach the 50-year milestone and earned the title of "Disney Legend" when she retired from full-time work in 2000.

Here's a great obituary at the Los Angeles Times; register if you're not already a member - it's well worth it.

When I was a young 'un growing up in Southern California, Disneyland was a second home. And no trip was complete until the end of the day when we'd take a last ride on "It's A Small World" before heading out the gates. These days, I can't say it makes my pulse race like Space Mountain, or Indiana Jones, but it will always be a sentimental favorite, as I'm sure it is for many of you, too.

-Robert

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Jan. 2, 2008 (evening)

Happy New Year, dudes and dudettes! I hope everyone had a fun-filled holiday season and a promising start to the Oh-Eight. Mine was pleasant, if relatively subdued. I didn't hit the big party at Universal Studios Hollywood, but from the looks of things (photos courtesy of Universal CityWalk), they rocked it in plenty good:

"Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it."

Thousands gathered at Universal CityWalk's New Year's Eve Countdown Bash for live music from band "Fast Times," DJ's spinning. The evening culminated with a spectacular fireworks show and thousands of pounds of confetti at midnight.

"People! I am NOT Slash!"

Giant guitars always make me feel warm and happy.

So do rockin' fireworks.

This could very well be worth checking out next year.

On a another local subject, this past weekend the Los Angeles Times' Calendar section featured a full-page, full-color ad for Six Flags Magic Mountain and their X2 coaster revamp. Click here to check it out. Note this claim: "The new X2 coaster, opening this Spring, is even more intense than its world-class predecessor." That's a bold statement; "new coaster" is a bit of a stretch. But I'm willing to cut them some slack as long as the audio-visual tweaks they've been promising really make a difference. I can imagine that a light-show-filled tunnel around one of those wild camel-hump backflips would be pretty sweet, at night especially. And with a $10 million price tag for the retrofit, you gotta believe that will pay for a whole lot more than new trains and a paint job. Hope springs eternal.

-Robert

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Dec. 24, 2007

Before I get to the maudlin year-end stuff, I need to give props to a great friend of RideWorld/ThrillRide, John Sutherland, who is fighting the good fight to keep Seattle's Fun World afloat. Why won't the city listen, indeed?

Okay, so I know Thanksgiving is traditionally the time of year to give thanks, but the very end of the calendar seems appropriate, too. Therefore, I just want to thank everyone who's been visiting the site, purchasing photo prints, etc., and writing to say nice things about the recent relaunch. Your support is appreciated more than I can express in words and if I haven't replied to a recent email, please be patient; the holiday doings have kept me busier than I'd like and I'm still catching up.

Also, I'd like to publicly thank Chris Godsey of RideWorld for the many years of support he's given to both me and the coaster enthusiast community at large. There simply wouldn't be any ThrillRide without him, and not just because of the site hosting, or any technical hoo-hah. He was the one who encouraged me to bring the site back into action in 2003 and he and his lovely wife Natalee have been great friends ever since. No news made me happier this year than hearing about the birth of their daughter, Caroline. I sure do hope I get to meet her soon.

I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season and a great new year, and if luck is on my side, I hope I'll see some of you at an event or two in 2008.

Take care, be well, and rock on!

-Robert

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Dec. 19, 2007

If you're anything like me, and I'm guessing you are, you love big, mindless action-sci-fi-thrills-aplenty-special-effects-laden summer movies. Which is why I highly recommend seeing "I Am Legend." Not because that movie is super-good (it's okay), but because the trailer for "The Dark Knight," the "Batman Begins" sequel, is playing in front of it. And that trailer made half the theater cheer louder than anything that followed. Looks very, very, very promising.

Which makes me hope that the several Six Flags Dark Knight dark ride/coasters opening this summer as well don't disappoint. From what we're hearing, the preshows will be cool, but the rides themselves... are we looking at a bunch of Skull Mountains? Or are they going to go for the gusto and do it up right? We'll see.

Which also makes me wonder about what impact the long-awaited "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" will have on any potential new rides based on the franchise. Isn't it about time for another stateside Disney park to get something as righteous as the DL's Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye? We'll see.

Since I'm dwelling on this topic, I just wanted to share a news/rumor about the upcoming "Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins" flick, the next chapter in the Terminator series. Check out this item at CHUD (a great movie news site) for some intriguing teasers on T4. Are there some folks already pondering another attraction along the lines of Terminator 2: 3-D? We'll see.

And speaking of rides based on movies, there was an item posted at Screamscape today, a link to a story at MalaysiaSun.com claiming that Nicolas Cage, star of the "National Treasure" movies, wants Disney to turn that property into an attraction of some sort. I dunno... I'm sort of hoping someone has the stones to build Leaving Las Vegas: The Ride. But I'm not holding my breath.

-Robert

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Dec. 16, 2007

As regular visitors noticed, we had a little server downtime this past week. But the gremlins seem to be banished for now, so this coming week should see an update or two.

Anyhoo, this is what you would have read on Dec. 10th, old but still happy news:

Even though Kennywood's Gold Rusher wasn't the greatest dark ride ever, we were all sorry to hear it was being shuttered this past summer. But sure enough, a park as cool as the "Special K" (home of the extra-sweet Exterminator coaster-dark ride) could be counted on to add something tasty in its place. Here's the press release that just arrived today:

Kennywood Amusement Park Announces Ghostwood Estate - New Dark Ride for 2008!

West Mifflin, PA – Kennywood began its gift giving on Saturday, December 8, by announcing specifics of its new ride for 2008, a state-of-the-art dark ride named Ghostwood Estate, to attendees at the Great Ohio Coaster Club holiday party in Columbus, Ohio. Though the coaster fans were the first to hear the official announcement, rumors of the ride were already finding a home in cyber space and beyond.

The eight room haunted house replaces the Gold Rusher, which was retired this past August. “Ghostwood Estate is clearly an indication of Kennywood’s commitment to dark rides,” explains Jerome Gibas, Kennywood General Manager. “It combines the newest technology available – a trackless conveyance system with cars programmed and monitored by a computer and includes over 200 interactive targets and numerous CGIs (Computer Generated Images).”

Guests will be armed with blasters, developed by LaserStar, Florida. The blasters provide guests the opportunity to compete with others in the vehicle by targeting haunted characters throughout the estate. Each vehicle is also equipped with four individual scoreboards.

Designing all haunted effects is Halloween Productions Inc. (HPI) of St. Louis, MO. Kennywood first became accounted with Larry Kirchner, HPI president, in 2001 when it purchased three walk-through Halloween mazes as a base for its now hugely successful Phantom Fright Nights. Jeff Checcio, Director of Maintenance Administration, says of Kirchner, “He’s extremely talented and knowledgeable – certainly one of the founding fathers of today’s Halloween industries.”

The $2 million project is expected to be complete for Kennywood’s opening in May of 2008.

Psyched!

-Robert

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Dec. 9, 2007

I didn't realize until today that if you google "Skycoaster," the link to ThrillRide's ride review is the first to appear. Which almost explains the fact that once in a long while, I'll receive a query email from an amusement park, usually from Asia or some other distant locale, asking for purchase details.

By far the most interesting of these emails arrived a couple of days ago, from a park in Pakistan. That's right, Pakistan. The next time you're planning a vacation getaway in Karachi, be sure to stay at the Dreamworld Family Resort. If all goes well, they'll have a Skycoaster soon, to join their other attractions, like the Sand Buggies: "Males and Females are truly loving the wind blowing through their hair & sand flinging all around them while they speed around at 60 km per hour on the purpose built circuit giving the feel of a desert."

(FYI, here's the official Skycoaster site.)

-Robert

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Dec. 6, 2007

A good friend of mine made me aware of two recent online articles that are worth noting. First, there's a Washington Post story, titled "On Thrill Rides, Safety Is Optional." Then there is a commentary up at Tom Paine.Common Sense, "Cost of Doing Business."

I'm always torn when I read things like this. Accidents at amusement parks, especially those that involve serious injury -- or worse, fatalities -- seem especially cruel; no one wants to think that anyone ever suffers at "The Happiest Place On Earth." But the tone of both of these pieces, like so many we've read before, seems out of balance.

Take this quote from the WP story: "...critics say, supermarket shopping carts feature a more standardized child-restraint system than do amusement rides, which can travel as fast as 100 mph and, according to federal estimates, cause an average of four deaths and thousands of injuries every year." Shopping carts? Really? When was the last time you saw a shopping cart with locking over-the-shoulder harnesses?

Then there's this quote from the Tom Paine commentary: "If the number of unnecessary deaths and injuries is small enough that it costs more to put in safety equipment than to pay the costs of litigation with the victims and lobbying the legislature, then the deaths of a few kids is simply written off as a cost of doing business." Perhaps if the author of this piece had written "...to put in more safety equipment..." I'd be slightly less disgusted. Either way, the picture this paints is a roomful of accountants figuring that an extra seatbelt is an unjustifiable expense, even though "a few kids" will die without them.

Is the safety record of traveling carnivals less than sterling? Sure. Should there be more government oversight of amusement parks? Perhaps. I'm not going to argue that the industry as a whole is perfect, or that the corporations that own and operate theme parks aren't focused on profitability. But to imply that any deaths or injuries are just considered "the cost of doing business" strikes me as repulsive. The people I know who own and work at amusement parks would be sickened to be accused of this kind of thinking.

To those in our government who claim to be working hard to save lives, I can only offer this advice: go after the tobacco companies and gun manufacturers. Once they've reduced the average annual number of deaths attributed to cigarettes and handguns to four, then they can focus on amusement parks.

-Robert

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Dec. 4, 2007 (past my bedtime)

While digging around through my files for the "ArrowBATic" info below, I came across a whole bunch of clippings I haven't looked at in years, including this newspaper story from 1985 (Click to enlarge):

Autoworld, the Edsel of the Six Flags family"Six Flags Waaaah?!" I know, me too, I'd hadn't thought about this sad disaster of an "amusement" park in a long, long time. Like maybe decades, even. There is of course a Wikipedia listing, but the whole pathetic tale is best described here.

Here's something to think about: Every Six Flags-branded park with "World" in its name has come and gone: Auto World, Astroworld, Worlds of Adventure... weird, isn't it? (No, it's not so weird, really. Astroworld had a pretty good run, after all... I'm just kinda groggy right now.)

Does anyone else out there have any personal recollections of visiting Auto World? I'd love to hear 'em. Drop me a line.

 

-Robert

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Dec. 3, 2007 (evening PST)

I know everyone is excited about Indiana Beach's Steel Hawg, their 2008 addition from S & S Worldwide, one of our favorite purveyors of wicked fun (Thrust Air 2000, etc.). The company's first "El Loco" coaster, a truly bizarre-looking machine, promises to rule, and may finally get me to this park. Haven't yet had the chance to visit, but between Steel Hawg and the Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain, I'm really itchy.

More than one person has commented on how the El Loco concept seems to bear some family resemblance to the old Arrow "ArrowBATic," an inverted small-footprint coaster that never got off the drawing board. I went through some old files and found some early ArrowBATic renderings and stuff.

There were two proposals for the ArrowBATic: a tamer, family-friendly model, with no inversions, and a much more lip-smacking "extreme" version.

ArrowBATic vehicle - sweet, right?

This is the five-passenger car, with theater-style seating. I dig the "bird of prey" theming.

For wusses, but cool nonetheless

Above is the "family-friendly" concept, with a 900-degree spiral, two "flying S-curves," a diving down-drop, a 90-degree banked wave, and two floater hills. Not bad at all.

But below are two renderings of the rock-n-roll version.

The extreme version - sweeeet

More coaster hotness

This bad boy would feature a 90-degree vertical drop, a 160-degree-banked wave, a "double-inverting heartbeater," three floater hills, and two inline rolls.

Since S & S gobbled up Arrow, I would presume someone over there still has this concept sitting in a drawer. Let's hope that the Steel Hawg is a hit and spawns an inverted variation akin to the ArrowBATic.

-Robert

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Nov. 29, 2007

Seems like after Halloween, the holidays come fast and furious right up until the new year. I'm still recovering from a big Thanksgiving feast and the Christmas season is already in high gear.

Universal Studios Hollywood just kicked things off with a big Xmas tree-lighting ceremony and the debut of their “iFly Hollywood,” a pretty wicked-looking upcharge attraction. Here's the iFly press release:

“IFLY HOLLYWOOD” TAKES OFF AT UNIVERSAL CITYWALK LAUNCHING L.A.’S FIRST INDOOR SKYDIVING WIND TUNNEL, FEATURING TRANSLUCENT CHAMBER AND 360-DEGREE PANORAMIC VIEW OF CITYWALK

Universal City, California – Universal CityWalk takes “extreme” to a new level with the introduction of “iFly Hollywood,” L.A.’s first ever indoor extreme sky-diving wind tunnel elevating “sky-divers” to new heights of up to 30 feet and suspending them mid-air at wind speeds of more than 125 miles-per-hour and affording them a 360-degree panoramic view of the landmark pedestrian promenade.

Housed in the world’s tallest and most technologically advanced indoor vertical wind tunnel, “iFly Hollywood” breaks new ground as the only facility to be constructed out of one solid sheet of clear acrylic, adding a totally new open air dimension to the free-fall sport.

The “iFly Hollywood” experience replicates the extreme sport of sky-diving by employing two colossal electric fans, the equivalent of over 800 horse-power, to give guests of all ages an authentic and intense free-fall sensation.

Certified sky-diving instructors provide individualized training prior to each sky-diving adventure that focuses on safety and a series of hand signaling to communicate within the wind tunnel. Guests will don authentic sky-diving sports gear, sans parachute, and become acquainted with sequences of awesome aerial body maneuvers to elevate the sky-diving experience. Each ”iFly Hollywood” flight session equates to one actual sky-diving jump. Participants are presented with a Certificate of Completion following their flight.

For additional information and details on pricing and special package options, visit www.iFlyHollywood.com. Information about Universal CityWalk can be found at www.CityWalkHollywood.com.

Even Santa and his better half got into the act:

"Hey, Rudolph! Check me out, dude!"

I want to do this bad

And here are a couple of pix of the tree festivities, which also honored our local heroes:

Pretty...

Kaboom!

Props to James Disney for coming up with witty remarks in his image alt tags... mine are not so witty... *sigh*

Universal Studios Hollywood paid tribute to the firefighters who saved lives and homes during the recent Southern California wildfires by dedicating this year’s holiday tree-lighting ceremony to their heroic efforts and announcing an offer of free admission to all Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officials, Paramedics, Red Cross Employees and 911 Personnel, good through December 21, 2007. The lighting of the theme park’s towering six-story Christmas tree marked the official start of the festive holiday season at the Entertainment Capital of L.A. and served as the backdrop for the announcement of this timely gesture of gratitude.

Photo credit: David Sprague, Universal Studios Hollywood


From "The Walt Disney Intellectual Property Violation" Files:

One of my favorite sites to just explore is the righteous Roller Coaster Database. You can always discover some odd ride or amusement park you've never heard of. During some recent tooling around, I came across a couple of things that just made me shake my head.

First, there's this theme park in India that sports a pretty interesting photo on its home page. Calling the park "Dizzee World" is bad enough, but dudes, have you ever heard of Photoshop? Perhaps retouching the stolen image to remove the gigantic Mickey Mouse® head on the coaster would be a good, if still morally reprehensible and illegal, idea.

Then there's this sign for a Russian coaster that apparently never opened. Note the "typeface" used on the lower left. Looks vaguely familiar, doesn't it? "Trademark Infringement: The Ride."

Last, here's my favorite, an indoor roller coaster in Taiwan. Hey, if you're going to pilfer the name, why not grab a reject spaceship model out of the Imagineering dumpster, too?!

-Robert

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Nov. 27, 2007

Lemme start off by saying thanks to Lance over at Screamscape for helping to let y'all know that the site is back up and running. Thanks, amigo! Even without the plug, Screamscape rules.

Second, please bear with me while I play catch-up with some of the goings-on in our world for a bit, like mentioning how sorry I was to hear that Six Flags Great Adventure was finally putting Batman & Robin: The Chiller out to pasture. I don't know all the ins and outs of the technological issues that sealed its fate, but it's too bad that something couldn't be done to get it up to code, as it were. So in honor of its early passing, I've restored the old Ride Review, which you can revisit here, lousy little gif pictures and all. There's a 1997 interview with Jim Seay, head of Premier Rides, at the bottom. Brings back many memories.

I did get to ride the dynamic duo with the revamped trains, sans head-bashing over-the-shoulder restraints, just once. Good times. I'll miss them.

Last, a friend just sent me this link. I guess it was part of the promotion for "Must Love Dogs," that 2005 Diane Lane flick. Silly flash fun for those that must love dogs.

-Robert

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Nov. 25, 2007

Hola, compadres!

For better or for worse, here it is, yet another version of ThrillRide! Hard as it is for me to believe, we're in the eleventh year of this site's on-line presence. Granted, a lot of that time has seen many periods of inactivity... like the last couple of years, pretty much.

I won't bore you with a long-winded history of what's been going on in my life. Suffice to say that I relocated from New York to Southern California in July of '06 and have been out here working full-time since February of this year. I'd been itching to relaunch the site for awhile and finally started getting around to it about four months ago.

Along with a new look, here's the site's new structure: This, the Random Notes page, is where you'll find most of the updates: news, ramblings, whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it'll be a link to something I found interesting. Like this. We'll see how it all evolves.

The Ride Reviews section is almost unchanged from its last incarnation, but there will be new reviews in the not-too-distant future. (I can't tell you how psyched I am to be living back in the land of year-round theme park action. And I'm literally ten minutes away from Universal Studios Hollywood, which rocks pretty hard.)

Just in time for Christmas, there's the ThrillRide Photo Shoppe, where you can purchase a framed print or mini-poster for that special thrillseeker in your life.

Last, there's MegaWorld, The Theme Park That Never Was.

(Plus, there's an easter egg hidden on the site... just a goof, but if it proves popular, I'll add more.)

To all of you who've kindly written to me over these many months of quiet, thanks so much for keeping in touch and checking in to see if the site was ever going to be updated again. I hope your patience is properly rewarded.

And don't forget to visit RideWorld, and sign up if you're not already a member! I was able to attend this Spring's West Coast Bash, held at Six Flags Magic Mountain (and ably co-hosted by Theme Park Review) and it was sweet. ERT on Tatsu and X was predictably awesome.

That's it for now!

-Robert

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