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Get ready for Central Florida's coming coaster war

Get ready for Central Florida's coming coaster war

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As you enter SeaWorld Orlando, it's really hard to miss the thing.


Photo by Robert Bish

That enormous construction wall that's been erected around the front of this theme park.


Photo by Robert Bish

Not to mention the rumble of heavy equipment, as that behind-the-scenes construction team clears brush and continues site prep.

 
Photo by Robert Bish

" 'Site prep' ? Site prep for what?," you ask. Why, for Central Florida's worst kept secret. SeaWorld Orlando's next coaster. As you can see by the size of the construction site ...


 Photo by Robert Bish

... we're talking about a real behemoth here. a thrill ride that you'll be able to spy just as soon as you enter this theme park.

"But ... But ... But ...," you sputter. "The Busch Entertainment Corporation has just spent millions on the construction of Aquatica. Why would SeaWorld Orlando need to build a new coaster now if they've literally just opened this brand-new water park?"


 Photo by Robert Bish

The answer to that question is easy. Aquatica is meant to help drive attendance at SeaWorld Orlando during 2008. This new coaster is being built because Busch Entertainment is looking ahead to 2009, when "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" will be opening at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.

Make no mistake, folks. That upcoming addition to the Universal Orlando Resort has all of the other big theme parks in the Orlando area spooked. Hell, even Disney knows that it's going to have to step up its game in order to compete with Potter. Which is why the Mouse is now reportedly revisiting its plans for revamping WDW's Space Mountain.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Where once this Magic Kingdom thrill ride was just supposed to receive some new cars and retheming during its upcoming redo ... Now that this Space Mountain's revamp is sure to be compared to what Universal plans to do with to Dueling Dragons (i.e. Fold all sorts of new story elements & effects into this IOA thrill ride so that this attraction will then themed around the Triwizard Tournament from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") ... The Imagineers are now supposedly thinking about throwing a whole lot more money at this 33-year-old indoor coaster ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... Which -- FYI -- is currently slated to close in January 2009. So that Space Mountain can then undergo an 18-month-long transformation. After which this new-and-improved thrill ride will then be promoted as one of the centerpiece attractions for WDW's 40th anniversary celebration.

So no matter how you look at it, the next three years or so are going to be a great time for all us thrill ride fans who live and/or visit in Central Florida.


Photo by Robert Bish

And I ain't (sea) lyin'.

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  • Has anyone considered the possibility that Disney simply doesn't care about its competition?

    I mean ... why bother when clearly EVRYTHING you put in these parks looks, sounds and feels like nothing more than blatent attempts to manipulate you into going home and purchasing DVDs, toothbrushes, PJs, colored poptarts. Etc.

    Bottom line ... Disney is more focused on taking your money thru the internet, itunes, and at the DVD rack at Wal-Mart. And why not? .... people pay for it.... thus ... the reason they can't afford a trip to Florida to begin with. Once they break further into the internet and telecommunications market ... they will not only own the content .. but also the delivery method.

    The main target audience for Disney is still the kids ages 5 to 12 of the "I want it now" generation and their parents who more and more these days just want to find anyway to keep them happy. They are not a demanding bunch. They are just as happy in a playroom with their favorite toys while watching CARS on DVD as they are standing in line for PeterPan's Flight ... if not more.

    And this is the crowd that Disney has "determined" thru extensive research needs a Nintendo DS to keep them busy while on vacation and prefers their DVDs in a single disk set because two requires getting up from the couch.

    Disney increasingly wants to give us an all or nothing option ... give us ALL your money and ALL your time ... and we will give you ALL our products.

    They want to to believe Disney is a "way of life" rather than simply good entertainment. I mean ... why worry about what new rides are 1500 miles away when you can have your entire home themed Disney style. Even the Disney brand PAINT on the walls? THIS is what Uninversal, Sea World and Six Flags do not have.

    Face it ... the only real reason to remain in the theme park business is simply to "want to" for the sake of it ... because there are better ways to make the money from the masses.

  • IMO, all of the state side theme park companies should be ashamed of themselves. Just take a few minutes to look at the level of detail put in at Disneysea in Tokyo. Or check out Siam Park compared to the new Aquatica. We are being left behind, because American companies will not get off the dough to produce quality, innovative attractions that will draw people for years and years. They want to build it cheap and increase hourly capacity, that is the bottom line. We'll have to wait and see what happens with Harry Potter @ Universal. Like "jables" said, it will probably look awesome for a few years and then diteriate like all of the other attractions there.

  • Rluke, I'm not so sure I can agree with such a cynical post.  Yes, I'll agree, Disney is well-diversified, and between High School Musical and Hannah Montana, the theme parks don't necessarily need to be the big bread winners right now.  But the truth is, the theme parks are such an exciting venture from a business standpoint.  In the industry, you profit on the hotels, the theme park admission, the food, and, as Jim Hill made a big point of a few weeks ago, the merchandise.  Add it all up and you've got tons of avenues, each of which is turning a profit, not to mention the fact that the profit margin you're making on theme park admission or a hotel room is significantly higher than on a DVD purchase.  So, between the areas for profit and the actual profit margin, the potential within the theme parks is huge.  That alone is a strong enough reason to be in the theme park industry, but it doesn't end there.

    I know that kids are in love with the Disney Channel, and are dying to do whatever it takes to see a High School Musical ice tour or a Hannah Montana concert.  Now this could be a misguided statement, because I don't have the market research, but I honestly have to believe that if you asked kids what they think of when you say Disney, and one of the first things they'll say is Disney World.  It's called brand management, and honestly, nothing improves the brand image better than a well-run theme park.  Which transitions us right back to the essence of this discussion, which is whether or not Disney is effectively managing their theme parks.  

    But in response to your post, Rluke, especially as a 20 year old with a pipeline dream of one day running a theme park, I refuse to agree that the only real reason to be in the theme park business is just for the sake of being in it.

  • What about the Simpsons Ride?  Isn't that supposed to be a thrill ride as well? A thrill ride with characters that appeal to adults of all ages? Listen, I love Disney, but I'm 27.  I grew up with the Simpsons.  I am not a roller coaster guy, but I'd bite the bullet once to see what Universal has in store for Homer.

  • Universal has a few projects queued up.  The Simpsons Ride, which from my understanding is simply a Simpsons-themed motion simulator that takes riders on a wild tour through "Krustyland" is set to open in the next few weeks.  The Harry Potter section will be opening in late 2009/early 2010.  There's also a rumored roller coaster that Lance over at Screamscape has been talking about a lot that will run right across the front of the Studios, obviously garnering lots of attention from the general public.  That's rumored to be opening around the same time as the Harry Potter section.  That's three pretty major attractions in the next two or so years.

  • Yes ... It is cynical ... and unfortunate ... becasue I am from southern california... I had been to Disneyland anually since basicaly birth. Sometimes more than once anually ... and twice in my lifetime have decided to do the annual pass. Im 36 now. I make arround 40K a year ... live in Las Vegas ... which is only 250 miles from the place.... and I have not managed to be able to take my Family of four to Disneyland in almost 3 years. Why? ...

    There are a lot of reasons ... all of them have to do with money. But we also have every Disney DVD released. Including all of the platinum editions and pixar films. At $16 - $22 a piece... the cost of three of these will get one ticket into the park. Yet .. we have the movie insteads ... some them still in their plastic wrappers.

    Now ... the median income in america is roughly $35K a year ... with only the top 15% of the nation (or something like that) making more than 20. WIth most people not living "locally" to either Disney resort ... I have to believe that "most" people in america are not going anually... or once in a while, or EVER. To the majority of American families ... a trip to Disneyworld may be a once in a lifetime or once in a childhood event.

    So ... while theme parks represent an "exiting" business venture ... it's not the most profitable.

    From the top level ... when you can take the same amount of money it takes to develope, build and maintain something like "Everest" and instead write a check to Johnny Depp, let him do what he does for a couple of hours ... and make a billion dollars in less than a year ... all without having the risk of anyone complaining of back problems, headaches, or other unexplained injuries ... what product are you going to focus on?

  • Interesting that you mention Johnny Depp, he owes a lot to the parks.   In my opinion the Pirates of the Caribbean films will come and go (attention is already waning, look at the attendance of the P+P party) BUT people will be lining up to ride Pirates of the Caribbean for the next 25 years.

    If Disney were so obsessed with making cash in the short term they would've kept open their 'straight to DVD' sequel department.  

  • The new roller coaster at Universal Studios (not IOA) is more than rumored at this point--permits have been filed.  Yesterday, Screamscape mentioned a possible retooling of CityWalk as well, which sounds like a smart move to keep that venue fresh.  If only PI had done the same 10 years in.

    Probably worth mentioning that in addition to Aquatica and the manta ray coaster, Sea World is also partnering with two new Mariott hotels to be built on I-Drive just south of Aquatica--apprently they will basically be de facto "on-site" hotels.  So even if the new water park is more of a double than a home run, SW seem serious on becoming more of a "destination."

  • I don't know what ticks me off more, the fact this article does nothing but spoil the magic of Space Mountain and report everything Screamscape has been telling us for months or everybody using this to pile on the Mouse like a free-for-all.  Look I'm obviously biased but I've also grown up in central Florida and gone to all of these parks countless times and I'm here to say the mouse is more worried about Sea-World and even that's only slightly.  

    Universal having Harry Potter is a big deal?  After seeing what they could do with Jurassic Park I'm not exactly worried.  Shoot they made a ride out of the Mummy that was about as long as the Barnstormer and about as thrilling.  Not to mention the huge punch to the spine the HULK is and the fact they are replacing an already popular ride with another one (Simpsons).  And how does the Jaws ride still exist?  I remember seeing someone spit gum on the shark one time it's so lame.

    The only ride that impresses me at Universal is Spider-Man and I partially believe that's because not everything they made could suck so badly.  What does Harry Potterland have coming anyway?  Two refurbished rides that are just rethemed but are still the same rides and a future flying car that's at best 50-50 of being cool.  I'll believe it when I see it from the creators of "Poseidon's Temple" BLECK!

    P.S. Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor and Spaceship Earth are great, stop the hate Pickstar!  And what E-Ticket are you talking about?

  • If you think Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and Spaceship Earth are "great", then we have absolutely no basis for conversation. I'm speaking English and you're speaking Swahili.

    You're right ... you're terribly biased.

    And I would think the E-Ticket would be obvious to such a Disney fan ... how many other rides besides 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea have been replaced by a playground??

  • Oh and for the record, I'm not bashing Disney. I'm bashing Disney WORLD.

    I actually think a sizeable portion of the company is back on the right track. But for whatever reason WDI and management at WDW are still throwbacks to the "Bad Old Days" of Paul Pressler and his extraordinary bean counting abilities.

  • Pickstar I actually admire your passion for seeing Disney improve so I'm going to try to translate from swahili to english for your comprehension:

    One of the things I've had to learn while working for Disney is that my opinion is not always the only one out there.  For example; I actively HATE the Dinosaur ride at DAK.  I find it lame, sluggish, too scary, too dark, clunky, and boring.  However on several occasions I've been shocked to find people who not only enjoy this ride but also consider it among their favorites.  It's even more surprising when it's kids but it has happened.  What I've learned from this is that just because I hate it doesn't mean it's a bad ride.  Now frankly the opposite is what I see in your writing all the time.  You come off appearing to believe that your opinion is the only correct one and anybody who says otherwise is wrong.  There are times when I agree with you; (WDW merchandise and the Hall of Presidents come to mind) and times when you say stuff that just doesn't click with myself and lot's of other people.  Perhaps you think of it as people speaking swahili but the fact remains your opinion isn't shared by everyone (except on merchandise) but yet you write like it is.  

    I mean you can say you don't like the Laugh Floor all you want (you were "that guy" weren't you?  It's ok to admit it) but that's not going to change the opinion of all the thousands of people who go through it everyday and enjoy it.

    Does this make me a hypocrite when it comes to Universal?  Probably.  I just can't help but be saddened by the deep disappoint I've felt with those parks ever since they opened.  I grew up on movies like Jurassic Park, E.T., Jaws, Ghostbusters, the Mummy, Back to the Future and Marvel comics.  The fact I've only really enjoyed one ride they've ever created makes me really worried for Harry Potterland because I don't like being disappointed in attractions I've dreamed about...  

    And of course I'm biased.  I write all the time about working for the company!  Not really a shock there.  Want me to talk trash then let's discuss the punch to the face that's the Stitch Escape or how the Dino area of DAK should just be wiped from the planet.

    Or better yet since you love WDW management let's talk about how I spent one day explaining to twenty people why we don't carry any Incredibles merchandise or discuss why they have CMs walking the hard floor at WOD handing out baskets because they think it might raise the "Items Per Transaction" average a few decimal points.  I have no problem with you bad mouthing WDW management, just remember to get in line behind the cast members. ;)

    Oh and I thought you were talking about 20,000 Leagues but I wasn't sure because I never really considered it an E-Ticket.  :Shrug: I miss it too but my sister rather appreciated the playground when she had her kids down in January since it was closer to food.

  • Tuckenie, I'm sorry you think we're just out bashing Disney, but honestly, we have to face the facts.  One fact is that Disney is not spending on Disney World like they should be.  The WDW parks have been amongst the top five attended theme parks for years, so based primarily on that reputation, the higher-ups are neglecting the Orlando parks.  They give Disneyland the full Space Mountain revamp but have been so reluctant to do the same at WDW.  They're pumping 1.3 BILLION into DCA and cutting corners at WDW to save costs.  As long as Disney keeps neglecting the WDW complex, the Universals and the Sea Worlds are going to keep catching up, little by little.

    I'm a huge Disney fan, and unless something drastic changes, they'll always be the #1 place in my heart.  But that doesn't mean I'm going to blindly support them.  I say what I do because I'm worried for them, and because I know that the Monsters, Inc. attraction and the Spaceship Earth revamp are not going to attract the GP the same way Harry Potter and water slides through dolphin pools will.

  • Hey, as long as Florida's SM is getting its own Michael Giachinno soundtrack, I'm stoked! Having finally gotten to experience the California rehab this past summer, I'm considering bringing my ipod with me to Florida in May and pushing play on that track while I ride.

  • Tucci314 I don't think you're out to just bash Disney.  I just think that people should give credit when things are done well so as to demonstrate how bad things are when done poorly.  I totally agree the WDW managment has a lot to be ashamed of, including the torching of my beloved Journey Into Imagination and the downright blasphemy going on in the Tiki Room.  And believe me nobody knows about the cost cutting better than cast members.  There are stories I'm not allowed to share but I could shock you with details you wouldn't believe for the #1 tourist attraction on Earth.  And yes I want that Space Mountain revamp badly.

    If you look back at my original post I said the one Disney is scared of is Sea World and that's because they're starting to get it.  That it's not just about the big E-Tickets but it's also about having the smaller entertainment attractions and shows to back it up.  This is something Universal has never understood or done well.  While I think Harry Potter will indeed attract more people to Universal I can't help but think it's only a matter of time before it'll be just as effective as the area was before the refurbishment.

    Now Disney is starting to pour money in and often not getting credit for it but they have four parks and can't just close everything down for construction at one time.  The money just doesn't exist yet and the economy is looking to be close to collapsing.

    And yes I can't wait for the SM rehab.  It helps to have your current E-Tickets be up to date and awesome too...

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