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 ...
... 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 ...
... 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.
And I ain't (sea) lyin'.
Hey, Tuck ... let me just say that your response to my somewhat admittedly snippy post was pretty awesome. You rarely see that kind of calm, rational response to comments that you rolled out there. You somewhat humbled me and, frankly, made me feel like a bit of a troll. Not that you're off-base ... maybe I needed that.
I can sort of see how you'd think I'm speaking like my opinion is the only one that matters. What I'm really more going by is the overall conglomeration of feedback that I get from spending the majority of my day reading about, talking about, and thinking about Disney World. I have a lot of friends in WDI, so I hear a lot of insider rumblings ... not necessarily "rumors" or "insider information" ... just rumblings. Also, I won't say which one, but I mod at one of the big Disney discussion boards out there, so I sort of feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the guests, as well.
But one thing I will agree with, and something that people tell me a lot, is that the opinion of the online Disney fans is not necessarily that of the average guest. So I'm probably skewed in how I view things ... perhaps as biased as you are, but just in a different way.
Spaceship Earth has been roundly panned over it's refurb. I'd say 80% of the feedback I've seen, even from sources within the company, has been negative. Or at least it's of the "LOVE the first half, HATE the second half!" variety. Apparently, the guys who run WDI for WDW are stuck in this whole "interactive" concept, but they just don't get how to execute on it. I mean really ... I don't consider that SE ending to be interactive. It's just boring.
But anyway, great response and you're right ... I do tend to speak like my opinion is the be all/end all and, of course, it isn't. Sorry for coming off like a jerk (I'm really not). You did pick up on one thing, though. I'm VERY passionate about Disney (and my "home" park in particular). I've read just about everything ever printed on Walt Disney (and Disney in general) and I do feel like I have a pretty good idea what the core principles of the company are supposed to be. I DON'T feel like WDW management is getting it at all and I sincerely wish some of the higher ups (i.e. Lasseter, Iger, etc.) would get them in line.
Oh, and by the way ... for the most part, I do respect the front-line CM's. I think there are far too many these days who don't "get it" at all, but that's not their fault. They've never been trained properly or, in many cases, they never should have been hired in the first place. You're OBVIOUSLY not either one of those cases, though, and you CLEARLY care a great deal about your job. I know it must be horribly frustrating for you to have to deal with that every day and half the reason I complain about WDW management so much is so people like you can be freed up to do your jobs properly and not have to spend all day apologizing for their boneheaded decisions.
The issue, IMHO, is about perception vs. reality. If Disney feels it simply MUST be "ALL theme park things to ALL audiences" then it has to compete in coasters, kiddie rides, food, hotels, animatronics, landscaping, you-name-it. If they really followed that POV throughout their dealings, Animal Kingdom would have been a better-than-Seaworld fish park instead of a dry-land animal park, and they'd have advertised it as "more splash than the other guys!" and spiralled in as they'd have deserved.
Having said that, and, clearly, thinking that is NOT the way to go, we DO see Disney saying, with that hip-hop-yuppie advertorial in another article on this site, they are trying to appeal to ALL demographics and ALL audiences--from families to young hipsters to...oh, wait: Did Anyone else who got this year's free Disney vacation planning DVD notice the utter ABSENCE of older guests in the pitches therein, unlike past versions? Oh well....
But the subject of coasters is a touchy one because, other than merry-go-rounds and cotton candy, the roller-coaster is probably the most iconic ride/attraction variety of all amusement parks, let alone "theme" parks of the more modern era. Let's remember that we've all heard stories (true, btw--I've seen 'em) of models of mountain-style coasters behind several of the EPCOT World Showcase pavilions out at WDI--A Mt. Fuji behind Japan, an "Alp" in Germany or a proposed Swiss paviliion, a "Rocky Mountain" at Canada, a Mont Blanc in France--all of which probably morphed into Everest of course. What with LIM Coasters popping up at parks all over, themed music for special coaster versions (recent re-do's of California Screamin' to offer multiple soundtracks at DCA) and the spread (which took a LONG time, didn't it?) of indoor coasters in the wake of Space Mountain, there's a lot of competition in the coaster arena--so maybe Disney does indeed have to compete.
My point is that maybe, just maybe, Disney sees (and should see) coasters as an element--important but not all-important--in the LARGER menu of attractions they offer. A part of the experience that certain ages and guest profiles look for, but as long as there are SOME that are first-class, not a thing they have to be the famous-for-coasters-place about. IF SO, that's wise. If they got in a "coaster race" with everyone else, the net-net result would be to make the WDW experience more LIKE the other experiences instead of what it is--unique. That doesn't mean that older rides like Space Mountain can't have a good rehab-re-do once every 20-30 years or so, and it doesn't mean they shouldn't do new coaster-type attractions when they fit--as Everest and its lines give proof of.
I'm just saying....a "Coaster War" is what the other guys do to give them a SINGLE focus to stand out in and get famous for. What DIsney does, when it does what's right and part of its "magic" soul, is a more "holistic" overall experience with MANY "points of light"....some of which are great coasters and most of which are just plain great family fun.
There's a story with video today about the new Universal coaster planned for opening January 2009. Here's the link to the local Orlando TV station's page with the story and their video for those interested: