Monday, March 31, 2008

Theme Park Economics

Here at the Coaster Blog, we like to focus on the entire theme park guest experience rather than the business side of things.

But, it's hard to ignore the business side when the American economy is heading downhill.

With rising gas prices and pretty much the cost of everything else rising as well, it's going to affect the way we visit parks this summer.

Don't believe me?  Check out this report from CNN and then talk about it in the forums.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Weekend Theater - This guy isn't much of a "Big Shot"

I have no idea if this is for real, but it is funny. Viewer discretion is

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I want to be a tycoon again!

I was watching the excellent recreation of Pirates of the Carribean on Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 today and it made me miss the game.

Unfortunately, I don't own a NASA Computer, so I was never able to get the most recent version to run with enough speed on my PC.  Most other people felt like I did, so RCT3 left people with a bad taste in their mouth.  But I still really like the idea of being able to create the park of your dreams within the confines of your computer.

It's hard to believe that the last version of Roller Coaster Tycoon came out in 2004.  Time certainly does fly.  But that got me thinking....

Has computer and gaming technology advanced enough for the creators of this game to give it another shot?  Is there any chance Atari can convince Chris Sawyer (the mastermind behind the original Roller Coaster Tycoon) to come back and give us the definitive version of the game?

I want to be a Tycoon again!  Don't you?

Talk about it in the forums.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cartoons That Should Be Theme Park Rides - The Jetsons

Over the years, theme park designers have come up with some great attractions based on our most beloved cartoons.

The Walt Disney Company, of course, has made a mint developing rides based upon their animated films.

But, we also have attractions based upon Scooby Doo, Shrek, and in a few months, The Simpsons.

We're starting a new series on the blog about Cartoons That Should Be Theme Park Rides.

First up, is the Hanna-Barbara classic - The Jetsons.

You could have a lot of fun with this attraction, especially if you based a dark ride upon the flying cars that we saw in the show's famous opening sequence.

An attraction like this would have a lot of opportunity for excellent special effects since the cartoon is set in the future. You could also come up an interesting storyline based upon the characters.

I guess the only problem is that anyone born after 1980 probably doesn't know this cartoon.  Most likely, a park would never green light an attraction that doesn't have a high Q-Rating.

We'll probably have to wait for some movie studio to make a "live action" version of  "The Jetsons" before an idea like this would even be considered.

But if any casting directors are reading this... my vote is for Scarlett Johanson to play Judy Jetson.

Talk about this in the forums.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Unless you live in Florida or California, winter is the time of year when you can't go to the amusement park.  The gates are closed, the attractions are covered with tarps and riding a roller coaster is nothing more than a December daydream.

But now that the ice has thawed and the snow has melted.... it's time to get out to the parks once again.

I'm not sure if other people feel this way... but I prefer visiting theme parks in the spring and the fall.   The temperatures are cooler, the crowds are lighter and the staff seems to be in a better mood.  They're happy in the spring, because the season has just begun and everyone is still excited about working at the park.  They're happy in the fall because there are only a few more weeks until they can STOP working.

I was checking out some opening day pictures, and it's always great to see the parks on day one of the season.  Everything is fresh and clean, the paint is new and the rides are tuned up and ready to roll.

I'm glad the 2008 season is finally here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How much is too much information?

Today I was looking ahead to summer and wondering about possible amusement park trips.

There are a ton of places that I'd like to visit.... mostly smaller, non-chain parks along the east coast.

Most times, when I plan a trip like this, I learn everything I possibly can about the park. I check out info on all of the rides, places to eat, shows and local attractions. I make sure that I become an expert on the park and the surrounding area.

But now that I'm looking ahead to Summer 2008, I'm thinking about taking a different approach.

I'd like to visit these parks for the first time without doing any reconnaissance.  I want to walk through the park gates for the first time and experience it like normal people do. I want to explore a park and be surprised by what I see.  I want to experience a roller coaster without watching an on-ride video on YouTube first.

But then again, there are certain perks that you get from being an expert on a new park. If you do your homework, you can learn about queue trends, good places to eat, shows to watch or skip, and even mundane stuff like which bathrooms are the most convenient.  By doing a fair amount of research, you can maximize the fun you have during your day.

If you're really lucky, you might even get to meet up with some locals who can show you the ins and outs of the park personally.

The internet makes it easy to find out as much information as possible... but I guess the question I'm asking is can there be too much information and can it spoil the genuine surprises that a park has in store?

Talk about this in the Forums.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bring It On Six Flags!

Last year, I had a chance to sit down by the field during a Washington Redskins game and I was literally 20 feet away from the Redskins' dance team.

I love football, but it was difficult to stay focused on the game. Clinton Portis was rushing for a touchdown right past me, but it was hard to look beyond the "First Ladies of Football" and concentrate on the game.

Now the same damn thing is going to happen when I visit Six Flags.

Mark Shapiro's theme park chain is holding auditions for the First-Ever Professional Theme Park Cheerleading Team, the Six Flags Thrilleaders.

This new dance team will be directed by Tony Gonzalez, who was the Cheer/Dance Choreographer for the "Bring It On" movie series. (I'm not a huge Kirsten Dunst fan, but she was brilliant in that flick. Thank God that TBS runs the movie every 12 hours.)

The press release says that the "Thrilleaders will captivate Six Flags guests with their explosive, high-energy routines and act as Ambassadors of Thrill throughout the Six Flags family of parks."

At first glance, this strikes me as a really strange idea. Why would a theme park chain need an NFL-style dance team? How does a dance team fit in with a regional theme park?

But then I read that the Thrilleaders will also participate in various community, charitable and corporate events. So, they'll be an extension of the Six Flags giant marketing arm.

The auditions for the team are in April. If were were still doing the weekly podcast, I'd see if we could send EB to try out. Yes, its going to be a co-ed dance team and I think he'd have a good chance at making the squad.

It will be interesting to see how this idea is received. You have to give credit to Six Flags for trying out new ideas. BRING IT ON!

What do you guys think? Talk about it in the forums.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Toy Story Mania is almost ready for primetime!

One of the most anticipated rides for 2008 is Toy Story Mania opening at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's California Adventure.

Our friend Arthur Levine from had a chance to get a sneak peek at the new attraction at the Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale.

(Lucky dog!)

The attraction seems to be truly groundbreaking and will bring the whole dark ride shooter concept to a whole new level.

Click here to read his his report!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The numbers are in....

Last week, the Themed Entertainment Association and Economics Research Associates released their Attraction Attendance Report.

If you're interested in the business side of the amusement industry, it's a pretty interesting read. It's also fun to read if you're only interested in why the lines were longer at your favorite park.

There are a couple of interesting items in the report, but one that has my head spinning....

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is #1 in attendance for 2007 with 17,060,000 guests.

Wait a second.... if you divide that by 365 days, that means that the Magic Kingdom averaged 46, 739 guests per day. Is that even possible? I always thought that a crowded day at the park was when 25,000 people were in attendance.

I was also surprised to see Busch Gardens Europe beat out Cedar Point in pure attendance numbers. Although, BGE's attendance did jump 12.5% with the addition of Griffon. But Maverick wasn't too shabby of an addition either.

In the world of waterparks, I was also surprised that Disney's Typhoon Lagoon beat out Blizzard Beach in guest numbers. I suppose it could be because of the addition of Crush N' Gusher, but I always thought that Blizzard Beach was the more popular of the two.

Did anything in the report surprise you? Talk about it in the forums!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Theme Park Diversions - Part 1 - Sea Raycers

There aren't many things that can pull me away from the Magic Kingdom. But one diversion that I have to try every time I'm in Orlando is piloting a Sea Raycer on the Seven Seas Lagoon.

For around $30, you can commandeer your own boat for 30 minutes of fast-paced action.

You don't really go that fast, but because the crafts are small, it seems like you're really moving along quickly.

Plus, the sights can't be beat. As you skip along the water, you can see Cinderella castle, Space Mountain, The Grand Floridian, the Contemporary Resort, the Monorail system as well as other Disney watercraft.

It always surprises me that people sleep on this activity. Just doing it once gets you addicted!

Have you tried the Sea Raycers? Talk about it in the forums.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not that type of fever.....

As much as I wish I could report that my absence last week was due to me livin' it up like Travolta.... unfortunately, I had a different type of "fever".

As CoasterBoy might say, my "fever was hotter than Kingda Ka's fly-wheel on a July afternoon!"

(OK, maybe I'm still a bit feverish... I would have never written that if I were well.)

Anyway, I'll try to get back on track this week with some regular blog updates.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fascinated by Fascination

I'm a sucker for carnival games.

I don't go nuts like some people who spend $100 to win a giant bear that's only worth $7.50.  

Instead, I play because I like the challenge of trying to beat the game.

Because prices have gone up on admission, food, drinks and souvenirs, I don't play as many games as I did a few years ago.  However, on a recent trip to Knoebels, I found a game that grabbed my attention and monopolized my time.

Fascination.  The game is simple and very, very addicting.

Fascination was all the rage in the 1950's.  You couldn't go to any amusement park in the United States without finding a Fascination Parlor.

The thing that I like about the game is that you can play for hours without spending a whole lot of money.  It's a very social game because you can sit with friends and talk trash as you win and lose.  It also provides a nice break from riding and eating during your theme park day.

Plus, if you're lucky, you might even walk away with some prizes.

Sadly, there are only around a dozen places where you can play the game these days.  Places like Cedar Point, Hersheypark and Kennywood removed their Fascination Parlors to make room for new attractions.

But you can still visit traditional amusement parks like Knoebels and Indiana Beach and spend a few quarters trying to beat all the other players in this fast paced game.

I wish more parks had games like this.

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