2013 is rushing to a close, as every year always does. As we look on to the “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” that promises to shine on in 2014, let’s first take a look back at some of the biggest stories of the past twelve months that happened in the amusement industry. From triumphs, marvels, and even tragedies, 2013 was a record breaking year in announcements, events and attractions all over the amusement industry. But what amusement attractions had the biggest headlines? Here’s our list of the top 13 amusement industry stories of 2013.
13-Limited Time Magic at Walt Disney World and Disneyland
Limited Time Magic was a great sounding idea from Disney parks. Each week, a specific park on both coasts would get a miniature celebration, each focusing on something a little different than the last. Some of the ideas were great, such as the Long Lost Friends Week, where guests could see costumed characters that make rare appearances in the park.
Check out Long Lost Friends Week at The Magic Kingdom:
Other great ideas included a villain celebration for Friday the 13th, and even the Monstrous All-Niter that gave 24 hours of Disney fun. Most of the limited time magic celebrations fell short. Cupcakes, and new T-shirts ended up being the majority of the line up for Orlando, while California better ideas and celebrations. While the idea of miniature celebrations every week sounded great, the execution left something to be desired.
12-Goretorium Closes under a year after opening
It was supposed to be the Disneyland of horror fans, the one wonderful place where horrible things happened year round. Headed by Eli Roth, Goretorium opened with much fanfare in September of 2012. Director Eli Roth, who wrote and directed the Hostel films, had huge plans for Goretorium, including making a chain of year round haunted attractions in several cities around the world.
See the Grand Opening of Eli Roth’s Goretorium:
After bad reviews, and what seemed like terrible business decisions by the managing team, Goretorium was closed not even a year after it opened. The attraction had tons of hype around it, building up to the opening, but fell short after being opened a few months. Reports rolled in about the owners refusing to pay contractors and actors, which eventually lead to the company filing for bankruptcy, and closing just two days shy of it’s one year anniversary.
11-Legends Dark Amusements: A Haunting in Old Town
With every end, comes a new beginning. Legends Dark Amusements brought a year round haunt back to Orlando with “A Haunting in Old Town”. The haunt opened right around the beginning of the haunt season in 2013, and features an ensemble cast with veterans from many Orlando haunts, including Terror on Church Street, Halloween Horror Nights and Howl O Scream. The new haunt is opened year round, and will eventually feature seasonal changes, and upgrades.
Take a tour of Ashdown and Sons:
The haunted attraction features state of the art animatronics, and screens mixed with good old fashioned haunting and stalking. While the effects and props are amazing, it’s the actors that pull everything together. The haunt is dark on Mondays, while the Ashdowns dig up new victims, but is open Tuesday-Sunday from 7-11p.m.
For more information about A Haunting at Old Town, visit the official website by clicking here!
10-Falcon’s Fury/Pantopia at Busch Gardens Tampa announced
Busch Gardens Tampa announced that not only will they be building the world’s tallest free standing drop tower, standing at 335 feet tall, but it will be the only one that will push riders into a face down position before dropping them back to earth. Parks like Six Flags Great Adventure will attach a drop tower to the world’s tallest coaster, Kingda Ka, but Falcon’s Fury will be the tallest drop tower not attached to another coaster.
If that wasn’t enough, Busch Gardens Tampa will also revamp the Timbuktu area and bring the legendary animal inspired world of Pantopia to life. Featuring designs inspired by the animals of Africa, and several family friendly rides, with Falcon’s Fury as the centerpiece, Pantopia will be a huge new land.
Both Falcon’s Fury and Pantopia will be open in early 2014, and will have guests falling flat on their faces from the dizzying heights. The tower joins the already huge line up of coasters and animal attractions at Busch Gardens Tampa.
For more information, including tickets, visit the official Busch Gardens website by clicking here!
9-Antarctica:Empire of the Penguins opens at SeaWorld Orlando
What waits for you in the frozen depths at the bottom of the world? We figured ice, cold and snow, but who would have ever thought you would find the warmest family story of all time? That’s exactly what SeaWorld Orlando has brought to life with the all new immersive, interactive and cold new attraction. Antarctica is not only a ride, but it’s also a penguin habitat, and an amazing new realm, complete with it’s own drink found only in Antarctica.
Take a walk through Antarctica:
Of course, the biggest attraction is the penguins. You venture onto a ground breaking trackless ride system that takes you into the world of the penguins on an interactive, animated adventure. The ride actually gets colder, the deeper into the habitat you go. Once you journey through Antarctica, you are emptied out into the huge new penguin habitat where you are closer than ever before with the best dressed birds in the world. The best part, the actual temperature is a chilly 30 degrees year round.
8-Aquatica San Diego completes SeaWorld water park trifecta
SeaWorld has been on a roll this year with all of their parks. The park chain is getting ready to celebrate 50 years of education, animals, and entertainment by bringing guests closer to the sea than ever. 2013 saw the chain open up their 3rd Aquatica waterpark, at SeaWorld San Diego. The opening comes barely a year after the opening of Aquatica San Antonio, and complete the SeaWorld trifecta, giving an Aquatica waterpark at every single SeaWorld park.
Take a tour through Aquatica San Diego:
The chain bought the existing Soak City, owned by Cedar Fair, and built the Aquatica park on the existing structure that was already there. Of course the park was given the signature Aquatica look, and some unique one of a kind Aquatica experiences, like the all new Flamingo habitat.
The park has already announced a new attraction for 2014, which will give guests the chance to race down side by side with other guests on an all new twisting mat slide. In fact, every single Aquatica park will get a new attraction in 2014. Aquatica San Antonio will get an all new free flight aviary, and Aquatica Orlando will get the daring Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, which will drop riders down over 100 feet.
For more information on all three parks, including tickets, visit the official website by clicking here!
7-Halloween Horror Nights 23 at Universal Orlando brings terror to life in groundbreaking ways
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando is an institution of epic proportions. The creative minds have been working for 23 years to develop not just haunted houses, but immersive stories that bring terror to life. This year was no exception. While fans may have been balking at the odd line up, including a return to the world of The Walking Dead, once the gates opened and the screams started…they were left somewhat speechless…as they were too busy screaming.
The houses included a line up of film inspired houses with Cabin in the Woods, The Walking Dead, Evil Dead, Resident Evil and An American Werewolf in London.
Check out full walkthroughs of every single house, and relive the madness of HHN 23 with our video playlist below:
While Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood also had a great year with their intellectual properties, Halloween Horror Nights Orlando had people picking up their jaws off the floor after walking through houses like An American Werewolf in London. The house used puppets, and had the input of the film’s director and writer John Landis.
Watch the full hilarious Q&A with John Landis:
Halloween Horror Nights also continued the investigations with their Legendary Truth interactive game in the parks and online. The games had fans pitting their wits against each other, and banding together in Legions of Horror to figure out puzzles and progress to the next stage of the story. The next stage of the story was revealed on the final night of the event, and will actually take the story out of Halloween Horror Nights, and make the terror last all year long. It is just one of the amazing elements that Universal is doing to keep the fans guessing, and keep them waiting with baited breath all year long.
For more information about Halloween Horror Nights, including tickets, visit the official website by clicking here!
6-Transformers defends the day while the Simpsons destroy your diet at Universal Studios Florida
It was an amazing year for Universal Orlando, all the way around. The park took an old building, destroyed it and opened a new attraction in less than a year. Transformers is not a new concept for Universal theme parks. The attraction opened in 2011 in Singapore, 2012 at Universal Studios Hollywood, but for 2013 the excitement was at a fever pitch for the all new attraction in Orlando. It brought huge walking Transformers characters to life, both on the ride and in the park.
Watch all the grand opening excitement and interviews of Transformers:
If that wasn’t enough, the park also opened the all new Springfield area to compliment the Simpsons ride. The new area features Fast Food Boulevard, with iconic restaurants from the show, as well as a new flat ride. The new area brought the show to life in new ways, mostly by bringing the flavor of the show to life. It’s something that no park has done before, by simply letting the food dictate the atmosphere. As odd as that sounds, it is amazing.
Watch this interview with Chef Steve Jayson on how all the flavors and food was created for Springfield at Universal Orlando:
The area takes the level of detail up yet another notch at Universal Orlando, and gives other parks something more to strive for as even food gets immersive.
5-Outlaw Run and Iron Rattler pushes the limits of wooden roller coasters
Wooden coasters aren’t traditionally the most thrilling attactions in the world. They have always been tons of fun, but never the white knuckle scream machine that steel coasters have become. Until now. Silver Dollar City was the first, followed by Six Flags Fiesta Texas that takes the out and back out of the wooden coasters and put the white knuckled thrills back in them. Outlaw Run mixes steel and wood to do what was once thought impossible. The ride takes riders over the edge at 81 degrees in the first drop, and then head over heels three times as they push guests through a barrel roll. While Iron Rattler pushes the limits as well, we have to give this one to Outlaw Run.
For more information, including tickets visit the official Silver Dollar City website by clicking here.
4-Death on Texas Giant at Six Flags over Texas
In a tragic accident, a woman died after she fell from a turn while riding the Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas. Eye witnesses claim that the woman wasn’t secured, which lead to her falling out of the coaster train. However, as many have pointed out, the coaster uses a hydraulic locking system, which prevents the lap bar from coming up during the ride. It’s quite possible that the woman, who was overweight, simply did not fit into the coaster, and slipped out. An investigation is still pending and lawsuits against the park have been filed. The coaster did reopen in September, after new padded lap bars and seat belts were installed on the coaster.
3-Universal Orlando expands park, resort and dining offerings..expands The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Orlando made history in 2010 when it opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. It was unlike anything that Disney or the rest of the world had ever done, or seen. It was almost single handedly responsible for the huge profit and attendance increase at Universal Orlando. It should come as no surprise that the park needed not only more attractions to keep up with the huge crowds, but also more dining options and even hotel options. The park will be opening the huge new Cabana Bay Beach Resort in 2014, as well as the first stage of many in the expansion of CityWalk, the resort’s entertainment and dining district. The resort will be opening new venues in 2014 alone, with many more rumored to be on the way.
Check out the huge announcement:
If that wasn’t enough, the park will also be opening the all new expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Diagon Alley. The new area will compliment the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, and will connect the two areas via The Hogwarts Express.
Check out the announcement below.
The new area will be located at Universal Studios Florida, and will feature a Gringott’s Bank attraction as well as all the shops and restaurants that fans know and love from the Harry Potter books and films.
2-My Magic Plus gets delayed
Disney has seen the future of it’s parks, and it lays around the wrists of it’s guests. All new My Magic Plus has been a very hot topic this year, mostly because of the delay that the parks have faced because of the project not being entirely ready, and from what some say…safe. The billion dollar project (yes billion with a B!) has hit many snags, from the changing of park gates and even attraction Fastpasses. The idea is to streamline the entire experience for guests by making it easier for people to spend money and plan out their vacations up to months in advance by linking it all to bracelets that guests can purchase and accessorize. The problem is that actually implementing this system into a huge structure takes time, and many tests. The biggest worry comes from fans that say it could have a reverse affect, as fans book Fastpasses in advance. The concern is that it could be booked so far in advance, that guests who try to get a Fastpass in the park, or need to wait in the stand-by line, could be left waiting in huge lines with all Fastpasses booked for the day. Still, with all the problems that could be in store for Fastpass, what it could mean for the park could be amazing…if it ever gets off the ground.
For more information about My Magic Plus, visit the official Walt Disney World website by clicking here!
1-Blackfish, the “psychological thriller” causes “copy and paste activists” to rally against SeaWorld
This has been easily the biggest theme park story in the past three months. The “documentary” Blackfish (that bills itself as a psychological thriller…their words, not ours) tells the story of the whales at SeaWorld and the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau. It was released in theaters, then cut and edited for television where it was broadcast by the film’s distributor CNN Films. The network news company took a step away from the news and instead went after the popularity of such shows like Whale Wars. What resulted was a flurry of people taking to the internet to search for any mention of SeaWorld, and Blackfish. If anyone was unlucky enough have any mention of SeaWorld, they were inundated with negative feedback and comments about how terrible SeaWorld is, and how all the whales should be freed. The fervor reached a fever pitch when “activists” started online petitions for some of the bands that were slated to perform at the annual Bands, Brew & BBQ festival. It started slow at first with Barenaked Ladies backing out at the urging of their fans and because “we watch movies too”. Soon after Willie Nelson, Heart and others bowed out, all citing “anger at SeaWorld’s practices”. This comes after bands such as Willie Nelson had played the venue for years. Is it really a matter of anger at SeaWorld or is it more giving in to thousands of people claiming to be fans?
Regardless of your opinion of the matter, the hype around the movie has propelled it into the forefront of public consciousness, and has pushed SeaWorld into setting the record straight (click here) after they had hoped to quietly weather the controversy and storm. While many protested at the gates, it has not stopped any of the SeaWorld parks from reaching capacity over the holiday week. What impact the backlash from the film has had on attendance will not be seen until later next year, when the annual attendance reports are released. Over the past few years, SeaWorld has taken a quiet step away from Orcas, and have instead focused on the impact we have on the environment, and what the general public can do to help. Attractions like Turtle Trek and Antarctica push strong messages about family, and conservation.
There were so many huge things happening in the theme park industry the past year. Several other huge stories include Disney changing their Disabled Pass policy, the huge year at Knott’s Berry/Scary/Merry Farm with the huge additions and attractions, and the massive announcements from Six Flags. Other great attractions and announcements include Gatekeeper at Cedar Point, The announcement of a new resort and coaster at Dollywood, and of course the mega Poler-Coaster coming somewhere to a city near you…possibly.
What do you think were the top stories of 2013? Let us know in the comments below, but keep it friendly and respectful.
Thanks for following along with Behind The Thrills during the past year, it’s been a lot of fun. Be sure to follow along with us on Twitter @BehindThrills in 2014 for even more theme park adventures!