Over the past week or so, I've gotten a number of e-mails
from JHM readers about this year's Attractions Expo. People wanting to know more
about what it was like to wander the floor of the Orange County Convention
Center after the International Association of Amusement Park & Attractions
had taken over the place.
Photo by Jim Hill
Surreal doesn't even begin to describe this experience. I
mean, it's like someone took the world's greatest amusement park and then --
after lifting the thing up to 10,000 feet -- suddenly dropped it. So this amusement
park then shattered, with the individual pieces & components that made up
that park then bouncing into different corners of the floor of the OCCC's exhibit hall.
By that I mean, if you wanted wheels for your roller coaster
... or a new chain to drive your coaster ...
... or even a new ride vehicle for your coaster ...
... this was the place you wanted to be. Mind you, if you were
actually in the market for a brand-new coaster ...
... or an entire water park, for that matter ...
... there was someone there at this year's Attractions Expo who
was willing -- eager, even -- to sell you exactly what you were looking for.
But mostly, what you saw out on the floor of the OCCC's
exhibit hall were all of the parts that went into a successful theme park /
amusement park. Things like a selection
of rafts to use at your water park ...
... or the turnstiles that your guests have to push through
as they enter your theme park ...
... or even the safes that you'd need to hold all of your theme park's
Whether you needed character costumes for your theme park /
amusement park ...
... or a machine that will send soap-suds-snowflakes
fluttering down on your guests when they visit your park during the holiday
... it was all available for purchase this time last week at
the Orange County Convention Center.
I gotta admit that one of the main reasons I enjoy attending
/ covering IAAPA's Attractions Expo is the ironic juxtaposition of elements
that you find around every corner. Whether it's the super-serious people in
suits & ties who are obviously agonizing over which tilt-a-whirl they
should buy ...
... or the people who are blithely wandering this show's
aisles and suddenly find themselves surrounded by dinosaurs ...
... or being menaced by massive mechanical Yetis as they
make their way to the Men's Room.
At the same time, there are these moments where you wonder
how these people are able to get away with selling animatronic shooting
galleries where the central character is clearly modeled after one of the
automotive actors that you'd find in one of Pixar's "Cars" movies.
Or -- for that matter -- how Disney's lawyers allow vendors to
sell Audio Animatronic pirate figures while the theme song for the
"Pirates of the Caribbean" ride is blaring in the background.
But then again, it's not like The Walt Disney Company
actually has an exclusive when it comes to a lot of theme park technology. So
on the exact same day that the Magic Kingdom's new castle projection show,
"Celebrate the Magic," was being premiered for Guests at that theme park
... there was a company on the floor of the Orange County
Convention Center that was demonstrating how you could use this same sort of
digital mapping technology ...
... to radically alter the look of specific individual
buildings inside of your theme park / amusement park.
That was kind of a theme at this year's IAAPA Attractions
Expo. The number of vendors who were selling items that seemed very similar to
things that The Walt Disney Company had already done. Whether it was a
Princess-themed bounce house that seemed to draw a lot of its inspiration from Cinderella's
royal coach from that 1950 animated feature ...
... or an "Ice Age" -themed interactive dark ride
... which -- when you eyeballed its models -- seemed to
borrow an awful lot of elements from Disney's "Toy Story Mania!"
And speaking of Disney ... It was nice to see IAAPA acknowledge
Epcot's 30th anniversary by having Bob Rogers host a panel where veteran
Imagineers like Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, Rick Rothschild and Eric Jacobson got
to talk about what it was like to work on the design & development of that WDW
But in the end, IAAPA's Attractions Expo isn't so much about
the themed entertainment industry's past. But -- rather -- its future. Which is
SeaWorld Orlando used this occasion to unveil the new ride vehicle for its
opening-in-2013 "Antarctic - Empire of the Penguin" attraction ...
... and the folks from Silver Dollar City chose this event
as the appropriate place to reveal the cutting-edge car ...
... that Guests will get to ride in when they experience that theme park's outrageous new
wooden coaster, "Outlaw Run."
Me personally? I have to admit that I enjoyed the "SpongeBob
SquarePants 4D: The Great Jelly Rescue" press conference.
If only because this off-site press event then gave me an
excuse to go wandering around the Nickelodeon Suites Resort. Which is an
Orlando-area hotel that I've been dying to visit since it first opened back in
March of 2005.
I'll be sharing a lot of the photos that I took at this
Nickelodeon-themed hotel in a future JHM article. But -- for now -- that's a
little taste of what it's actually like to attend IAAPA's Attractions Expo. A
themed entertainment industry annual event that's fun, informative but also
Speaking of theme parks, what have you heard about new Star Wars attractions? Is the Star Wars theme park rumor true, or is it just a fan rumor?