The countdown is on as we march out of 2010 and towards A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow in 2011, let’s take a look at some of the biggest things to happen in the theme park world in 2010. For the most part it was a huge year that ushered in a new era in the way we see theme parks and the amusement industry both good, and bad. These stories aren’t necessarily the top stories from Behind The Thrills, just the top stories that shaped our year here on the site and we feel the amusement industry.
10.World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure-Scoffing at the idea of a water show, many were blown away by what Disney could do with a few fountains, the endless library of Disney Films and of course the wonderful music. Shows filled to capacity during every performance, and it had many in Florida hoping and planning on where they would do a similar show at Walt Disney World. And for the first time during the holidays, DCA had to close due to capacity.
9.Universal Singapore Opens-The home of Hollywood comes to China as Univesal Singapore opens to rave reviews. The area is said to be full of great themeing and amazing attractions, with more to open in 2011. The studios seems to give the Universal chain the biggest competition to the beloved Universal Orlando resort. This park is home to many beloved attractions and several one of a kind attractions such as the one that has Steven Spielberg hitting you with a Hurricane in New York City. Yeah, we want to go too!
8.Summer After Dark-Many parks always have increased promotions and shows during the summer, but this year seemed to have a record number of parks breaking their necks to get people to not only come to their parks in the day but to stay when the sun went down. Disney brought out their “Summer Night-tastic” that saw the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade and special fireworks, Busch Gardens Tampa saw their Summer Nights program amped up to include the huge stage production Kinetix. Sea World Orlando kicked up their Sea World After Dark program, Busch Gardens Williamsburg pulled out all the stop (and became our favorite of the summer) with Illuminights showcasing hundreds of lights, new shows, and nightly fireworks. Cedar Fair also brought tons of lights to their parks with “Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular” and “Rock Band Live”.
7.HHN XX: 20 Years of FEAR-So how do you take the past 20 years of what has become the largest Halloween Event in the Country up a notch? You show the driving force behind the past 20 years, the one reason for all the death, blood mayhem and madness. FEAR was a huge icon and pushed HHN XX to it’s highest approval ratings ever. It also pushed the crowds to the limits and paid homage to the past. Many hardcore fans seemed disappointed by the notions that their favorite Icons were actually rooted in this Mesopotamian Tree Demon. Universal shed some light on to the past of HHN with a special upcharge event every Thursday showcasing chats with creative, art of the past, and concepts of what could have been. One such concept was that the Icons would all be in cages, tortured and punished for sins of their past as a lonely dark haired “emo” girl named Cindy took her revenge. No one quite understood why the departure from Cindy to FEAR.
6.Howl O Scream 11:Revenge Rocks- Coming off of the heels of one of the most successful and innovative years with “House of Vayne” Busch Gardens Tampa reveals Sylvie, and the concept that “Revenge Rocks”. A dark haired “emo” girl seeks revenge on those who have wronged her by cutting off their…finger. A catchy series of songs, a live stage show featuring the cutie on the commercial, and special meet and greets were what we got. Several new scare zones, and slightly new spins on all the same old houses. For me personally, this year’s event was a dud save one little house. Alone was a new concept, for BGT, in that they sent people into the house…alone and sent them on an adventure of terror. The house was a huge success, and chances are that the house will return again this year. It’s anyone’s guess if it’s going to follow the BGT tradition and be recycled for a few years, or if it will have an all new house behind the up charge name.
5.Dueling Intimidators-The same park chain, the same coaster name (sort of) but two completely different coasters. First you have Intimidator at Carowinds, a 232′ foot tall B&M Mega Coaster that emulates the speed and attitude of NASCAR Racing Legend Dale Earnhardt. The coaster opened to rave reviews and still operates unchanged to this day. Then you have Intimidator 305, a 305 (ha, clever name!) foot tall Intamin Giga Coaster that emulates the speed and attitude of NASCAR Racing Legend Dale Earnhardt. The coaster opened to people blacking out after the intense first drop, so Trim Brakes were put on the drop which made fans go APE. Now dubbed “Intrimidator” the coaster went on to have numerous complaints of “gray outs” and complaints of being too rough. After the 2010 season the park decided to renovate the turn after the track in an attempt to kill that pesky gray out effect.
4.Disney’s Year of a Million BLEH-Disney just can’t get a break. First they have quite a few bus crashes that puts the Department of Transportation down their necks, then no one really cares about the stuff they bring back. Captain EO was great for about two months, and the MSEP brought back some nostalgia, but everyone else was wondering about a different kind of magic. The kind that a certain Boy Wizard casts down the street from the mouse house. Sure they announce that they’re going to have Star Tours 2…in 2011, and the Fantasyland expansion is going to be great…if you like Princesses. Attendance is down from last year, and overall attendance at Disney World is flat while attendance at Disneyland is up. And new for 2011? Your memories. That’s right, nothing new from their imagination…just your memories.
3.Legoland Florida-Talk about a hit out of left field. Not too many people expected to see the site of Cypress Gardens given life again. Even less thought it would come in the form of a brand new theme park based on Legos. Much to the dismay of coaster enthusiasts everywhere, the legendary Starliner which was saved from abandonment was not part of the new plans. The park is going to be the largest Legoland in the world (until the new one opens a few years later) and will incorporate the beauty of the old Cypress Gardens with the fun and family draw of Legos. Will it be enough to draw people into the middle of nowhere between Tampa and Orlando? Polk County is hoping so, as they intend on building a brand new highway directly to the area.
2.Death of Dawn Branchau-That cold day in February the world heard the news that no one ever thought could happen. A Shamu Trainer was killed by one of the whales at Sea World. How could it happen? This is SEA WORLD! In my eyes there is no better place for animals than Sea World. Of course organizations like PETA (who have their own agendas in mind) was all over it and brought to light every single thing that could be spun negatively, and spun it so bad that there never was a hope for the Orlando Marine Park. Since the attack there has been no trainers in the water with the whales during shows, OSHA has levied heavy fines against the park, lawsuits have been filed, and the Believe show will be retired. This person is blaming that person, this person is blaming the whale, PETA is calling to free the animals. How anyone can try to place blame on this unfortunate accident is baffling. People are in the water with these huge animals, trained, but animals none the less. They’ve taken an animal that not many people knew too much about and made it arguably one of the most recognized animals on the planet. How do you prepare for an accident of this magnitude and not contradict every single thing you’ve ever said about it? That’s the task in Sea World’s lap. To move on while keeping the dignity of not only the animal, but also the trainer who died doing what she loved (according to friends and family) and making sure another unfortunate accident will not occur again.
1. Wizarding World of Harry Potter-This one was almost number 2. In fact I’ll call this a tie between the two, because while 2 changed the world’s way of looking at theme parks, this one changed it all over again. No one knew what to expect when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, not even Universal. The creative minds that put together the attractions, the shows, shops and even atmosphere hit it dead on. The only downside? The size. Crowds have been lining up all Summer just to get in to the area. Stop and think about that for a minute. People have been in a theme park filled with rides and they’ve been waiting for two and three hours just to get into a section of the park. With the help of author J.K. Rowling, Universal made waves with a star studded premiere, T.V. Specials, even trailers at the beginning of movies. The area was a huge hit from everything from the premiere ride (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) to even the merchandise, and even the drink of choice. Butterbeer is the only drink in recent memory that people have lined up for hours to get a taste of without having any inkling of what it is. And it can only get better.
During soft openings I got a chance to briefly chat with one of the creative team and asked about anything else that was going to happen down the line. A smile was all I got. Seasonal events are most likely first on the agenda starting next Halloween. What better place to do it? Along with the possibility of Christmas events, new items and of course incorporating the last two movies into the area. And of course there is the ever spreading rumor of the expansion. At this point it’s not “will it happen?” it’s “when will it happen, and what will they do?”.
So 2010 may not have been the best for the rest of the world, but for Theme Parks it was definitely one to remember.