Sunday, February 17, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #163 - Flight of the Na'vi-gator

Alan and Joe talk about Cedar Fair's earnings call, their plans for their parks, mistakes with smaller parks, and the removal of Volcano: The Blast Coaster. Then we dive into our recent trips to Orlando! Joe talks about his adventure to SeaWorld, Jiko, Animal Kingdom After Hours, and Universal. Alan discusses his long weekend at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Then we give our final reviews of Pandora - World of Avatar, the price of theming, the importance of good rides, and more random thoughts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #162 - Secret Fudge and Failed Communist Tomorrowland

Joe, Alan, and Alex are freezing their asses off! This week's topics:

  • Jurassic Park coaster update
  • Gwazi RMC rumors
  • Hersheypark's Chocolate Town updates
  • Kings Island's International Street Updates
  • Kings Dominion and Volcano
  • Complain about Disneyland's Tomorrowland
  • SeaWorld San Diego and Orlando rumors
  • Trip Reports
    • Alex goes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Kings Dominion, and Six Flags Over America then some alpine coasters
    • Alan visits Graceland and Dollywood

Friday, January 18, 2019

Jurassic Park Coaster Layout (Project 791)

Chip Skambis from WFTV has provided the first layout of the Jurassic Park coaster.

The coaster's first show scene is light blue and on the left, the load/queue will be the red shape. At this point we expect the coaster to launch south and enter the "spaghetti bowl" of inversions and tight turns. The coaster will then hit a second launch over the red shape and in front of the Discovery Center. There the coaster will wrap around near Hogsmeade and return, over the water, to the old Triceratops Encounter plot.

What is interesting is the coaster will go around the queue in what could be an extended show scene to close out the ride. We are not as clear with this part of the ride.

Chip also reports the construction and building timeline for the ride is 18 months, placing the ride in a summer or fall 2020 opening timeframe.

The coaster is expected to be built by Intamin or Mack Rides and will be the fastest ride in Florida (pending the final speed of Gwazi's RMC make over).

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Jurassic Park Coaster Construction Update (Project 791)

Today construction walls were been spotted around the old Triceratops Encounter area in Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure.

A new rollercoaster has been a long standing rumor for this location, with our own sources and Orlando Park Stop hearing it will be a launched steel coaster themed to Raptors. The development of the land will include a new coaster that will span the width of the land, queue, and a new permanent Raptor Encounter meet and greet area that will increase capacity.

The coaster is expected to be built by Intamin, though some report it could be a Mack coaster too. Unlike the Potter coaster this will focus on thrills and resemble rides like Maverick at Cedar Point and Taron at Phantasialand. We expect the ride to be among the fastest in Orlando and will incorporate criss-crossing track, inversions, and large coaster elements.

Approximate location of the new coaster. Coaster will mostly take place on old Tricertops Encounter plot with an out and back element infant of the Discovery Center and behind The Watering Hole bar.
Per Quint on Inside Universal if plans remain the same Raptor Encounter will move to the old Jurassic Park River Adventure extended queue by mid February. Additional information from Midway Mayhem and Orlando Park Stop says the carnival games will move north, opening up the pathways for more construction walls.

The new coaster has not been confirmed by Universal, but we expect it to open in late 2020 or 2021. We discussed this project and several others on this week’s podcast.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #161 - The Official Disney Podcast of Hot Topic

OG crew time with Joe, Nick, and Mike this week. We talk the latest rumors at Universal Orlando, Polercoaster, and The Google Assistant Ride. Then we close it up with Mike's long thoughts on the future of Walt Disney World, the long term aspects of aiming for an upper upper middle class customer, the possible declining registrations of runDisney, and more Voodoo Donuts love. Stay to the end for positive takes!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

As Good As It Gets

"Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding." - Bill Bullard

Theme park discussion on the internet is primarily centered around the relationship of Disney fans to Disney parks or those parks which are geographically adjacent to Disney parks. There is then a natural myopia that results from this - with such a limited frame of reference, fans burn out and confuse their familiarity with the Disney product with enormous declines in the industry as a whole. More often than not on spaces like Twitter, I find myself engaging with people who are upset with the state of the theme park industry. The parks are too heavily reliant on intellectual property, too reliant on screens, pricing out the middle class, too many festivals or festivals that bring out the "bad crowd", and on and on and on.

I'm going to say something that has been said before by others, but needs be said again - this is the best time in history to be a fan of outdoor amusements. Yes, including theme parks.

This isn't a conclusion I've come to lightly. I'm not pretending there aren't issues with Walt Disney World's monorails. I'm not telling you that the Jimmy Fallon ride is a classic - I haven't even been on it. But what I am not going to do is pretend to you that Disney's American parks (and their direct competition) are the whole of the theme park industry and that they (the parks) and it (the industry) peaked specifically at the same exact time that its loudest detractors conveniently were children making their first trips.

Let's start with Disney - Disneyland's Pixar Pier redo basically got negative marks across the board. Fair enough. Their upcoming Marvel stuff seems to have the problem of not being better than Universal's Marvel stuff, so naturally Disney fans are going to have to be mad about that (Why? Good question. Ask them). Star Wars? Oh, it's going to be terrible because people will want to go there. It's just gonna be too good and unnaturally occupy space in the park, and not at all because the parks are intended to resemble specifically what they were when the commentors first went, but because of some kind of quote asserted to come from Walt through Tony Baxter or something like that. It's never about what Star Wars will be in 5 or 10 years to the parks or the industry, just about what it will be opening week.

But I digress: this isn't just a thread about Disney parks. Ultimately, I can't change anyone's perception of them. If you haven't gotten over Horizons and World of Motion by now, you never will. No, this is about the industry. You want to know what things are happening in the industry?

Unprecedented construction of indoor themed attractions are happening. You want high tech dark rides? We're getting those with Sally's Justice League rides, with 6 opened in the US. You want auteur stuff? Meow Wolf's retheme of a dark ride at Elitch Gardens is a real thing and actually happening for 2019, producing the first thing that approaches "high art" in the genre. "Flying Theaters" a la Soarin' are proliferating like mad, whether its as standalone attractions in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, or Minneapolis, or in the Merlin theme parks. Where Disneyquest failed, others are succeeding: Legoland Discovery Centers are all over the US and Canada, each with 4D movies, shooting dark rides, and spinners. Lionsgate will soon join the fray in New York City, and that's not even mentioning the explosion of escape games and LARP (Live Action Role Play) with places like Evermore Park in Utah. A whole year round theme park new facility will open in New Jersey (Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream in the Meadowlands).

Too much of an American focus? Then feast your eyes on the likes of Symbolica or the new shooting dark ride going into Walibi Belgium. Check out Derren Brown's Ghost Train or Can-Can Coaster at Europa Park. Oh, and then there's new parks. Literally hundreds of them, from Ireland to the Middle East and of course China. Not just the two latest Disney parks, but entire theme park chains like Chimelong and Magic Valley with giant theming pieces and expensive dark rides. Batman, the first "Strong Arm" attraction to open outside a Universal Park, just opened at WB Movie World in Abu Dhabi. Land of Legends in Turkey had Cirque founder Franco Dragone involved; Cirque Du Soliel has a theme park of it's own coming on-line in 2020 in Mexico. Speaking of Mexico, XCaret got the Applause Award for overall excellence in the industry; they've got a whole pile of facilities south of Cancun to explore.

And then there's roller coasters. You know - possibly the most fundamental building block and anchor of theme parks. They are better now than ever. Wood coasters invert with regularity. Steel coasters offer incredible and exciting forces while being smoother than ever. There are multiple coasters exceeding 100 MPH top speeds; coasters with 14 inversion, coasters that spin both freely and powered. Car designs like never before. Layouts that were once only the creations of teenagers on programs like NoLimits are being translated into real life. Not since the early-early 20th century (like 1900-1914) has there been growth like this in amusements.


Like any other fandom, being a pessimist or highly critical is something that people will find makes them look different or exceedingly intelligent. The way in which we interact on the internet also places a real value on the ability to generate web traffic. Getting "clicks" becomes a goal in and of itself; constructive thought isn't necessary. Rhetoric and emotional appeals matter a lot when it comes to media, and constant negative energy seems to be great at pulling in return visitors ready to feast on a buffet of depression and rage. In the world of theme parks, nothing generates traffic to begin with like Disney, with Universal well behind. This isn't inside baseball: there's probably as many Disney sites and Facebook groups as there are dedicated to all the regional parks combined. That's the power of that brand. Anyone who doesn't cover them primarily is going to have a serious challenge covering server costs, much less garnering a paycheck from theme park content.

Why am I saying all this? Because talking about how terrible and bad things are is encouraged by the way that we reward people on the internet with attention and money. Spend any amount of time on Youtube looking at things that interest people under the age of 50, and you'll invariably be directed to watch Ben Shapiro "destroying" some debate opposition, or the Angry Video Game Nerd playing crappy video games with special effects backing it. We enjoy watching someone else get dunked on, and the social media age provides the opportunity for anyone to dunk on anything without any barriers to entry. Paralyzed by a lack of meaning in any other facet of their lives, the cottage industry of hating but intaking mass media seems to grow endlessly with ever louder and more intense takes being required to take market share.

The volume of this expansion is unprecedented, and it is unlikely to ever occur again in the lifetimes of any living people due to demography. It isn't hiding: it is incredibly obvious and well documented by global theme park fans. In this world - the Disney park fandom - to admit that there is a world outside Disney and a universe of things to explore is to admit that the basis of its exceptionalism for where the negativity is derived is a lie. After all, to say that this is the low point is to say that we've descended significantly from a peak; this appeal to exceptionalism is an argument for tradition and nostalgia. Without that exceptionalism being reinforced, the would-be champions of righteousness would likely lose large segments of the audience that validates them entirely.

It is of the utmost important to never, ever suggest to the audience that what they are doing is inherently a waste of time. The audience wants reinforcement: "tough love" is OK, "no/less love" is unacceptable. Since the audience sources the critics in this instance, many are true believers themselves unwilling to self-examine their relationship to the parks. Doubling down on a lie is often easier than admission of the truth both from the perspective of what generates viewership as well as what makes their own lives easier. It is ultimately up to the audience itself to expand their awareness and seek out new and better media.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lets Talk About Universal's Fantastic Worlds

During the writing of this article Alicia Stella and Robert Niles have both covered rumors about the third park. This article was written independently of them and I have not listened to/read their coverage at time of posting as not to take any of their information without credit. I look forward to checking out their coverage once this is published and I hope you take the time too.

Since the buyout of Blackstone from Universal Parks & Resorts by Comcast the resort has been looking to build a third theme park (not counting Volcano Bay here, sorry). An additional theme park and resort area makes logical sense for Universal, they are developing a unique product that challenges, remains fresher, and is more affordable than what Disney offers. We'll cover a little bit of the history of this expansion along with our expectations for the new park.

In December 2015 Universal lead a weak astroturf opposition group against the proposed SkyPlex complex. For a resort located two miles away the questions asked were odd: sightline issues, traffic increases that were not proportional to the size of the project, light pollution, and more. The SkyPlex group responded seriously and in jest, with local supporters of the project chuckling about Universal not even showing up to the local government hearing about SkyPlex. As the SkyPlex crew got their approval a late breaking bit of news came out of GrowthSpotter that Universal was re-purchasing 475 acres of land for a massive expansion. Now the questions and opposition to SkyPlex made sense, their questions were to set a precedent prior to finalizing any property purchases.

In February 2018 Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts sat down for an interview with CNBC to talk about the 2018 Winter Olympics and 2017 tax cuts. During this interview Brian confirmed that the tax cuts have jump started the 3rd park and resort expansion plans. Shortly after the interview land preparation started, with mass grading of land and the installing of new retention ponds.

Late October 2018 Orlando Business Journal's and friend of the site Rich Bilboa reported the first road plans for the new property. These plans come from permits and plans filed by Universal to the local government.

The new plans show a large traffic circle and roads connecting Universal Boulevard to the new property. The large grey plot in the middle of the plans appears to be a parking lot and toll booths for the new park. In my prior article I speculated Universal could develop the southern property immediately like they did the northern property with a CityWalk, resorts, parking garages, and theme park. These plans show that I was wildly optimistic here, they're going the basic route of one theme park and attached parking lot. Said park will be located to the left of the parking lot with backstage areas attached via the northern part of the new roads. Comcast has constantly stated they want to add more on site rooms and even after the new Endless Summer resorts open they will not be at their desired room total. With the new property being located so close to the Orange County Convention Center it would be wise to open the new park with at least one high end resort. Below shows an overall view of the size of the land and proximity to other points of interest along I-Drive.

But enough about roads and parking, what will be in the third park? I will take some inside information, informed speculation, and a little bit of wishful thinking to layout and best describe the new park. Based on various trademarks it is possible the third park will be named Universal's Fantastic Worlds with a theme of large lands based around various worlds. If Islands of Adventure used highly themed lands then imagine Fantastic Worlds to combine multiple mini lands into one "world"; a Harry Potter "world" would be both Hogsmeade in IoA and Diagon Alley in USF combined, for an example of the scope. Mass grading of land has begun with dump trucks of dirt transported to the site daily but we are years away from an opening day; don't expect this third park to open before 2021 with a more likely date being 2022 or later.

So, what will be IN the park? Let's look at several rumors and ideas for the likelihood of each being in the new theme park. For consistency and brevity I will be referring to the Universal Orlando Resort's third park by the rumored name, Fantastic Worlds, or FW for short.


The big boy of speculation, Nintendo's partnership with Universal was announced in 2015 with groundbreaking for the new land taking place last year in Universal Studios Japan for opening by the 2020 summer Olympics. Japan will be receiving two rides with their Super Nintendo World: an E-Ticket Mario Kart thrill ride and a family friendly Yoshi dark ride. Universal Studios Hollywood has also started construction on their own Super Nintendo World with the expectation they're receiving something similar, or at least the Mario Kart attraction.

It's an open secret Orlando's Super Nintendo World was planned for the Animal Actors and KidZone area of the park (minus E.T. Adventure) but those plans changed once the third park became a priority for the resort and Comcast. Super Nintendo World in FW will expand upon the USJ land by adding the rumored Donkey Kong attraction to form a mini-world of Mushroom Kingdom and Donkey Kong Island. Mushroom Kingdom would featured the existing attractions from Japan while DK Island will feature a supposedly upgraded Donkey Kong coaster concept. Mushroom Kingdom appears to have one large gift shop complex and one counter service food location, we know less about Donkey Kong Island but a shop, food location, and maybe a kids climbing concept will be included.

What about other Nintendo properties? Will we see Hyrule or any of the areas featured in the Pokemon games appear in FW? At this point it's pretty clear Universal is working on Legend of Zelda attractions and Pokemon attractions but rumors have placed these in the two existing parks (reportedly Zelda in Islands and Pokemon in the KidZone plot).

Likelihood: It's a lock and will be the focal point of the park.

Jurassic World

Universal Studios Hollywood is in the process of adding new scenes and updating their Jurassic Park ride into Jurassic World attraction and Universal Studios Beijing will have a brand new Jurassic World attraction itself. So will we get a Jurassic World area in Fantastic Worlds? Hell, it even has World in the title!

If you asked me this summer I would have said "yes" but I am now firmly back in the "no" camp. The Jurassic Park in Islands of Adventure coaster is back on track after a questions this summer and some birdies have told us Jurassic World is flat out not in the cards for the new park. Too much is being spent in the existing land with just not enough credibility to back up adding it to the new park.

Likelihood: Probably not.


Isle of Berk, How to Train Your Dragon
DreamWorks was purchased by NBCUniversal in 2016 and so far has seen little inclusion in the parks outside of additional walk around characters. Universal Studios Hollywood opened a new mixed use theater with a KungFu Panda attraction but that can easily be swapped out for a new experience as the park sees fit. 

With rumors of Shrek 4-D's days being numbered DreamWorks feels like a natural fit for the new park. Several "worlds" could be offered such as; Far Far Away (Shrek), Isle of Berk (How to Train Your Dragon), Valley of Peace (Kung Fu Panda), and all the locations of Madagascar. Out of all of those choices Berk seems the biggest slam dunk with the areas beautiful vistas and many opportunities to ride a dragon.

Making the new park the DreamWorks park while letting the "studios" get Illumination films seems like a smart way to reboot which animated films appear in the parks.

Likelihood: Take it to the bank.

Illumination Entertainment

So if DreamWorks ends up at Fantastic Worlds, what about Illumination Entertainment? Well, I think Illumination will stay in Universal Studios Florida for the foreseeable future. With Shrek 4D closing it makes sense to build another Illumination attraction in that area to make a small "kids area" at the front of the park. The Secret Life of Pets going to Islands of Adventure rumor is still around too and the concept of adding a transition between the streets of Marvel to the cartoons of Toon Lagoon makes too much sense.

But, Minions.

Universal Studios Beijing has a whole Despicable Me land, a Minion cruise ship with a roller coaster and the standard 4D ride. Would this come to Fantastic Worlds? I don't see it because we already have Minions in Universal Studios Florida, splitting the attractions between parks without a larger context like how Harry Potter is split between Islands and Studios using the "Hogsmeade" and "Diagon Alley" subtitles.

Likelihood: Probably not, but if there was one to get wrong it would be this.

The Wizard of Oz


Ok fine I'll elaborate.

Wizard of Oz, or more specifically something based off the musical Wicked, is a frequent rumor pushed by Jim Hill. I like Jim but this has never been more than a rumor or a light plan, just like how Lost Continent won't be replaced by a Whomping Willow spinner and Chamber of Secrets walk through. Jim has pushed Wicked something in the parks as a replacement to Marvel Super Hero Island (not going anywhere), a Wicked show replacing Blue Man Group (not going anywhere), and more. 

Wicked has spent years in movie development hell with no sign of exiting. Any depiction of Oz based on the classic movie would need approval from MGM Studios, that's likely not happening. Going generic could work, but would that work as a whole World? I'm skeptical. Everything leans towards The Wizard of Oz being very unlikely at opening. Once a film version of Wicked is released and turns out to be successful and popular I can see something opening in the parks. But not at opening, and not necessarily in Fantastic Worlds.

Likelihood: I miss the Great Movie Ride too, but no. 

Classic Monsters

Van Helsign ride layout. Not location is where Forbidden Journey ended up being, between Unicorn and JPRA.

Attractions based on the classic Universal Monsters have been on and off the stove for years. Originally Islands of Adventure was to receive a Van Helsing ride, based off the 2004 movie, where Forbidden Journey ended up going. Universal Studios Hollywood had their classic monsters walk through maze. And now, if rumors turn out true, Fantastic Worlds will have their own World dedicated to monsters.

The plans as we understand them revolve around the original Van Helsing ride concept with a large village surrounding it. This would be a good location for shows, a coaster, and more based on the monsters. While I feel confident this is coming to the park it also feels like the first thing that could be cut if cost overruns occur. Because of that I'm tossed on it happening.

Likelihood: 50/50

Fantastic Beasts

A Ministry of Magic ride is rumored to be coming to Universal Studios Florida, but that plan seems to have been put on hold. We've heard something Potter is coming to the new park, so what if its a Fantastic Beasts era ride through all the Ministries of Magic around the world? You jump between all the locations using the floo network to catch and apprehend Grindelwald.

Likelihood: Likely, Potter is successful in the other parks, why not bring the rest of the Wizarding World to the new park as a lock in of success?

This is all I wrote till the night of December 12th. Then this came out in the morning.

So, yeah, I've blown past three scoops and now I'm just hitting publish. It's Fantastic Worlds. It's going to be awesome and it's coming sooner than you think.