Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #140 - So You Want To Go To The Middle East

Grab yourself a beverage or listen on your plane trip to the UAE, here it is. Joe is joined by Andrew Hyde and Alan to talk about Alan's massive, 16 day trip to the Middle East. They cover Dubai Parks and Resorts, IMG Worlds of Adventure, Ferrari World, HubZero, Global Village, Trader Vic's pants, being buzzed by a helicoper, quarter tanks of gas, and much much more.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick,  ParkscopeLane, and Sean.

YouTube Tuesday #23: ORIGINAL 1992 DVC Sales Video AND Disneyland Fun (1990 Disney Sing-Along #7)

That’s right folks, this week you get a double-dose of YouTube magic! And if you call in the next 5 minutes, you’ll get 100% more videos absolutely free! So what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on a chance of a lifetime!

In actuality, the DVC Sales video was short enough that we felt two videos were warranted this week. Enter one of our all-time favorites to the rescue, Disney Sing-Along #7, that’s right, Disneyland Fun! Nostalgia romp month continues!

Some highlights from our two videos this week:

·       Member Berries Moments: Member when Old Key West used to be The DVC Resort? Member when DVC pretended that “the magic starts with flexibility?” (Oh wait they still pretend that? Nevermind) Member Top of the World (footage within!)? Member when Disney used to pretend that transportation from Old Key West was “convenient?” (Oh wait they still pretend that? Bloody hell)
·       Goofy singing songs from Snow White never ceases to amuse
·       Member the old park strollers? I think they took some of the queue chains and steel posts and fashioned them into a serviceable model
·       Is it clever or coincidental that Disney set the music for the Park Open Morning Mini Marathon to Step In Time?
·       Member Roger Rabbit? Wait, member Roger Rabbit again? Now he’s…wait…there he is again…member ROGER RABBIT WAS FREAKING EVERYWHERE BUY OUR MERCHANDISE
·       Note THE definitive version of Makin’ Memories. An all-time classic
·       I think everyone who was young in the early-1990s will recall the nightmares forever of the Grim Grinnin’ Ghosts segment. The foggy Mansion. The spooky tree people. The menacing Disney villains. The Witch, Captain Hook, Big Bad Wolf, Maleficent…and Donald with a white sheet over his head. I’m not making that up

Line up at the curb
Come on everyone
Hear the excitement
The fun has just begun!

As your Disney friends
Come dancing down the street
This sure is a show
That can’t be beat

For music and color
And laughter it brings
Toes’ll be tapping
When everybody sings

You’ll hear shouts of joy
As all your troubles fade
At the wonderful
Disneyland Parade!

And of course the beautiful rendition of “When You Wish…” at the end, transposing a moment of heaven that every child wished they had in 1990. Could anything be more celestial? 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Regional Theme Park Industry 101, Part 1: What?

Here on Parkscope and across the Orlando/Cali-centric theme park internet spaces, most pieces revolve around the existence of the two primary chains (Universal and Disney) and their year round operating facilities. There's good reason for this economically: They are the highest performing parks in the World, have huge customer bases who grit their teeth for any announcement, no matter how small, and thus generate ad income, views, replies, and all the usual things necessary to motivate individuals to keep working on writing pieces about them. The market, has, ostensibly, spoken.

What isn't so well understood is the regional amusement/theme park operations in the United States. That's not to say that there isn't knowledge about it out there. There are a lot of people who know that the primary players are Herschend, Cedar Fair, Six Flags, SeaWorld, and Palace Entertainment. But how did those become the primary figures? Why are the parks the way they are? You know, centered around roller coasters instead of big dark rides? Why aren't there more parks being built? This series will attempt to inform you as best we can.


First off, let's make something perfectly clear: the regional theme park scene is an evolution of the regional amusement park scene. In many cases, these parks which were born out of the trolley parks of the late 19th century. Cedar Point, Lake Compounce, Six Flags New England, the deceased Geauga Lake, and Kennywood were literally these sorts of facilities. Kings Island, Elitch Gardens, and Adventureland in Iowa, meanwhile, are more spiritual descendants who are the result of their traditionalist fore bearer being consumed and eliminated. However, that these parks are regional in scope rather than national is not entirely what was desired by their creators. And that is an extremely important part of the story around which everything else rotates.

The basic summary of the genesis of the theme park industry that you'll read almost anywhere is that after the success of Disneyland, several attempts at copying came and went rather quickly Freedomland is generally a prime example. Depending on the narrative being pushed, either everyone else ever failed from that point because none of them had the success of Eisner-era Disney's growth, or there was an explosion of parks and the story basically ends there because no one saw through the maturation and consolidation periods of the industry in written form. The parks we recognize today as being Six Flags' properties consist of three purpose built Six Flags facilities under the vision of the Wynne Family (Over Texas, Over Georgia, St. Louis), who also has significant financial interest in two of them. Cedar Fair has never constructed a new gate, buying and selling parks over the years beginning with the acquisition of Valleyfair in 1978. Those two operators, in spite of only being responsible for actually producing 4 parks into existence, represent the present operations of 25 "dry" parks with 20 separate founding groups. Add in the parks they've shuttered in the last 15 years (Astroworld, Geauga, New Orleans), and all three of those were constructed by 3 more entirely separate founding groups. If that wasn't enough, Six Flags can claim 4 more branches on their family tree thanks to their water park division.

2 operators. 27 different founders for their parks. How did this happen?

To answer this, we need to go back in time to the boom. 15 of the 25 dry parks owned by Six Flags and Cedar Fair were constructed between 1961 and 1975. 11 of those opened between the years of 1971 and 1976. This is a period of growth in the theme park industry we will simply never see again representing a paradigm shift of amusements away from urban cores to suburbia along with the white people fleeing the inner cities. The idea of following these crowds was, of course, part of the attraction - parks sought to be built near large shopping and residential developments and with excellent access to interstates, but with enough mass as to make them effectively impossible to NIMBY from noise complaints and the like. And virtually every one of these parks was built with the promise of becoming the new Disneyland with Disneyland like attendance and effects to the local economy.

The problem is, of course, that none of these parks were as successful. Disneyland had an incredibly prime location near Los Angeles, guaranteeing it great weather for much of the year. Most parks built in this era didn't have that benefit. Many of those which did have good weather - Busch Gardens California and Texas, for example, or Marco Polo Park near Jacksonville, FL - found their real estate being more valuable for other developments, and they closed up in short order. Most parks were in areas with strong winters, making them seasonal propositions who are deeply challenged at attaining enough revenue in a limited season.

These parks didn't necessarily fail because they lacked intellectual properties that were recognizable to the public or because they lacked innovative and themed attractions either. Most featured large indoor rides or walk through attractions which were actually quite impressive for the time, and the likes of Hanna Barbera and Looney Tunes were regularly licensed for use at these facilities. KECO, the developers of Kings Island, Kings Dominion, and Canada's Wonderland, was in fact a branch of the media company Taft Communications, who used the parks to promote programs appearing on their slates of networks as well as leveraging their position to gain promotion via television productions. The Brady Bunch famously nearly died on Kings Islands' Racer while filming an episode at the park. The parks weren't bad, and they weren't "glorified carnivals". They generally had a theme or series of them and stuck to them. They ranged from Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days (Worlds of Fun, Kansas City), the Li'l Abner comic strip (Dogpatch USA), to, well, America (Great America in California and Illinois).

The simple reality is that most of the parks were developed by businessmen who simply didn't understand the theme park industry. The costs of development were as high or higher due to the inflated valuation of land acquisition and labor costs compared to places like Central Florida, making the parks equally or more expensive to develop initially and costly to maintain in their opening state in perpetuity. The sheer volume of cash burn in the theme park industry, something that was well outside the knowledge base of many institutional investors with real estate or entertainment backgrounds who entered the space, drove many an aspiring operator who hadn't outright failed at turning an initial profit off: Marriott (Great America) and Harcourt (SeaWorld) are probably the most well known examples of such corporations. Other park operators (Carowinds, for example) simply came nowhere near to the marks suggested because of a combination of poor attraction choices, wrong/still developing market, or poor timing (The OPEC Oil Crises of 1973 and 1979 also overlaps this time period).

Spending untold sums of money for upkeep on legacy attractions while locals demanded constant updates was a serious concern and challenge for the new themers. While Disney had made its name with family friendly indoor attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, early attempts at copying that success for the regional operators simply hadn't panned out. What was panning out was the roller coaster, and it was a mighty fine time to start investing in those. Arrow's development of tubular steel track in 1959 directly led to a number of huge innovations in coaster design. While Disney was afraid to install large thrill rides, regional parks looked at the cost/benefit ratio and realized that building inverting roller coasters was the only rational path for them. They had already generally buried their traditional park competition at this point, and the markets demanded that the thrill ride space be filled. And it was: New and Huge won the day, with Dinn/Summers and RCCA constructing massive wood coasters and Arrow and Vekoma building enormous twisted steel creations. Mind you, most of it sucked, but was huge and drew.


In Part Two, we get into the "How?" - The rise and fall of Six Flags, the ascendancy of Cedar Fair, private capital ruining everything, and some guys with a cave.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

YouTube Tuesday #22: Disneyland: a Day at the Happiest Place on Earth (1993)

A Day at the Happiest Place on Earth is a very special item for me. This video was released in 1993, when I was 7 years old. Our family visited Disneyland that year, and I was just old enough to ride everything and have the absolute time of my life. On the way out, of course, we bought this video tape, which acted as a “This year at Disneyland” type of video souvenir. Of course, back in the day, Disney would make different videos with original content, whereas now they practically either copy what they did last year or simply leave the same version on the shelf for five years. But make no mistake, these videos were heaven on earth before the YouTube generation. This was LITERALLY the only place to get ride-through coverage of attractions in video form, save your own personal home movies. So every time we see a ride-through of Pirates or even Snow White, we giddied with excitement! This video particularly stood out because Fantasmic! was not yet a year old, and it was mind-blowing to everyone in all the right ways. Getting home to watch the video, we were astonished and delighted to see the extended video coverage of Fantasmic! at the end of the presentation, which helped us relive our joy and wonder from our trip. I adored this video and practically wore it out. I was surprised to find it in such good condition when I finally digitized it a few weeks ago.

Rather than write several paragraphs on each of these vacation planning early-1990s videos (I practically said most of what I had to say in our last installment), I’ll go over the highlights of the video:

·       It always makes me smile when Mickey knows everyone’s name, including Cast Members. As a symbolic entity he always shared certain similarities with Santa Clause, and in this case I always felt him as the omni-benevolent overseer of Walt’s theme parks. He can walk the park and know everything that’s going on and he knows everyone’s name instinctively. And he’s not above self-deprecation! Notice how he laughs at himself when he tells the CMs there’s five minutes until park open but realizes he only has four digits on his hand!
·       Quite a bit of this video is a nostalgia romp (check out the original DL parking marquee), but an underrated aspect of this is the fact that we get to see all the old Costumes! I think the old parking costumes are my favorite. Would you like fries with that?
·       It makes me smile whenever we hear Jack Wagner’s soothing tones. He makes all the park announcements throughout this video, including park close. Most unexpected: he makes the opening safety announcement for Fantasmic!
·       For whatever reason, the voiceovers for the attraction characters in the video are just horrific. The replacement voices for Disney direct-to-video sequels are better. That sounds NOTHING like Jose! Paging Dan Castellaneta!
·       Is Goofy guilty of copyright infringement for literally stealing all the skipper’s jokes on his ride through the jungle? I’d get sued for that. But his mosquito veil is hilarious and causes him to hit the little kid in front of him with his binoculars multiple times.
·       This video has a lot of strange examples of characters riding certain attractions that don’t really make sense thematically. Roger Rabbit on Big Thunder Mountain? I guess? Pluto on Space Mountain? Maybe? Chip and Dale on Mansion? Did they get lost coming from Toontown? At least Smee and Hook on Pirates of the Caribbean makes sense. Hook even complements them on such a “splendid job of pillage and plunder.”
·       The Splash Mountain segment has the most hilarious example of anti-continuity in the whole show. First Brer Bear is the only character in the log, with 4 Guests sitting in front of him. Then Brer Fox suddenly pops in when they go into the main show building. Then they both disappear. Then they come back seated in different positions. Then Brer Rabbit appears in the boat going down Chick-A-Pin, and the Guests have all vanished! Then Brer Bear and Brer Fox get off the ride and curse that “next time we’ll get that Brer Rabbit.” He was sitting in your log! How incompetent of a cartoon villain do you have to be?! And then for some reason Mickey’s standing at the exit and forces them into the Country Bear Playhouse! What is going on?
·       Yes, the SKYWAY’s here too and gets some great photo coverage from many parts of its ride path! And it’s the old super-technicolor Small World!
·       A good tour of the Fantasyland Classics (sans Toad, how dare they), but what the hell background music is being played through the Pinocchio and Snow White segments? That music has absolutely nothing to do with the source material? Why aren’t they just playing the original music content? IT’S DISNEY’S MUSIC! Am I missing something?
·       We get a very cool tour of the new Toontown and a peak into every attraction (except for Roger Rabbit, which possibly hadn’t opened yet), including the fully-working Jolly Trolley!
·       That Matterhorn ride is good but has some hilarious fake screams. Like Rollercoaster Tycoon-level bad. But seriously, that ghostly fingerprint of Harold as we ride past is LEGIT.
·       The old Tomorrowland tour is great, but like the last video I wish it was longer in hindsight. We do get to see the old Autopia, the old Subs, PeopleMover, Star Jets, the old Space Mountain Speedramp entrance, and the old TLT, complete with character dancing! And Launchpad McQuack!
·       In the Space Mountain footage, WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT LIFT HILL? It’s 100 times better than the pre-1998 lift hill we had. Why didn’t they just do THAT?!
·       Remember those “Mickey in the weeds” t-shirts from the 90s that were as ubiquitous as the “thinking Mickey” cups? Me too.
·       MSEP gets some good footage here, but again, WHAT IS THIS MYSTERY MUSIC? This is not the music of the parade! And furthermore, what the h is Prince John dancing to? That’s not Disney appropriate!
·       The extended Fantasmic! coverage is the E-Ticket of this video. They practically go through the entire show, albeit in a cliff-notes version. But seriously, in the days before YouTube, this was absolute heaven. You could WATCH FANTASMIC! IN THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME. WHENEVER YOU WANTED! WOW!
·       Remember to order your Day at Disneyland by calling this now-long-out-of-service number! Operators were standing by but they’ve been abducted by Doc Ock and the Sinister Syndicate. Due to the recent unpleasantness caused by Doc Ock and his gang of villains, we will be closed until further notice, or at least until Spider-Man can make our city safe again. 

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

YouTube Tuesday #21: 1993 Walt Disney World Vacation Planner

But seriously, “Wo-ho, Wo-ho, A Piwates Wife For Me” is just adorable.

Back in the day, Disney Vacation Planning videos combined all sorts of presentation elements to make you DROP EVERYTHING AND GO TO DISNEY WORLD RIGHT NOW YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!! For whatever reason, many of these elements are lacking in modern Disney Parks videos. But for whatever reason, the early 90s videos did a better job of showcasing everything at the resort, rather than just the most profitable elements. They showed an opportunity to relax and have a vacation. They showed options for all walks of life, not just the core demographic. And they use phrases like “fun is the only thing Mickey takes seriously.”

My favorite part about these videos (besides the EPCOT Center footage obviously) is the music. They are special, barely-recognizable BGM versions of classics from Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Journey Into Imagination, and Spectromagic. You really have to listen to hear them, but they’re there in full glory. And they’re tuned in such a way to make you FEEL like you’re in a more relaxed era, where the best way to spend an afternoon is to sit at the Dixie Landings food court, and the best way to spend an evening is to golf or go ride World of Motion. There’s literally no pressure. No Fastpass+ to make. No advanced dining or character reservation to run to. Just relaxation and fun.

Notice how Disney by this time still wasn’t afraid to be authentic. I mean, just look at how many REAL PEOPLE they interview! And you can tell it’s authentic. These people are not being fed lines. Especially the British guy who rhapsodizes about the Country Bears (saying pithily they’re “a bunch of bears dancing and singing”) or the teenagers who literally can’t remember what they saw in the costume warehouse portion of the Backlot Tour, or the woman who says Space Mountain “hits the ceiling” (whatever that means). And the Cast Member interactions are authentic too. You can tell they’re not actors. And it makes all the difference. A short rundown of some random musings:

·       I love seeing a lot of the old footage and costumes. The skippers with their old costumes and using real guns. The (real) old video footage of Mansion and Space. The Old Tomorrowland (though we don’t see much of it outside of the Speedway, Space, and Delta Dreamflight), and of course Mickey’s Starland.
·       This is the point in history when Disney Animation still considered Rescuers Down Under a classic. Also, Goofy and Donald are considered “fairy tale characters.”
·       There’s an interesting Roger Rabbit sighting riding Thunder of all things, maybe he got lost on the way back from Griffith Park?
·       As expected, there is some absolutely choice EPCOT Center footage. Everything from the Rainbow Tunnel to Mesa Verde. And a tour of the countries before all the margarita wagons. Le sigh.
·       There’s a quick tour of MGM in the Superstar Television/Monster Sound days, where half the appeal of the Backlot Tour was Residential Street and Ernest’s house.
·       I want to go to Pleasure Island again. Right now. Take me. Especially since apparently the entirety of Orlando can get shoved in front of the West End Stage for the New Year’s celebration.
·       The exploration of the hotels is quite welcome and quite a contrast to today’s tourist brochures. Notice how much they play up the sailing and motor-boating aspects. And they’re very quick to point out that Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans, and Dixie Landings are “light on your pocketbook.” And the Disney Inn!
·       They actually mention the non-Disney property hotels! Swan and Dolphin and the Hotel Plaza are featured in short segments.
·       Remember kids, Disney had villas/condos before there was the Disney Vacation Club. It was called Disney’s Village Resort, right where Saratoga Springs is currently.

And remember to fly with Delta, kids! Remember when Disney had such strong ties to sponsors, and when Disney cared about advertising with them? What happened to that? Now it's "presented by Siemens...we think?...we guess? Did they pay for this exhibit?" But here we actually get TESTIMONIALS from customers on why Delta Airlines is so spiffy. Be Our Guest, indeed!

For the next few weeks we’ll be taking a break from roller coaster specials and featuring the old 1990s Disney planning videos. So we hope you enjoy a nice nostalgia romp. Or, conversely, you’ve been warned.

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Parkscope Unproffesional Podcast Hour #139 - Accio Christmas

Joe and Lane are joined by Banks Lee from Attractions the Show to discussion Super Nintendo World permits, Walt Disney World parade taping, Sunset Seasons Greetings at Hollywood Studios, Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's, The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, Celestina Warbeck, and the holiday offerings at Gaylord Palms!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick,  ParkscopeLane, and Sean.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Permits Filed for Super Nintendo World at USF; Construction Begins Early 2018

In a bit of late breaking news WFTV reports permits have been filed for demolition and construction for Super Nintendo World. Demolition of KidZone starts early 2018.

We will have more as news breaks.

YouTube Tuesday #20: Ultimate 10 Thrill Rides (2000)

Top 10 lists are REALLY fickle. Especially when we’re focusing on the theme park industry, which has a new “best thing” du jour every year and twice on Sundays. This little gem comes to us from the far-off land of the Year 2000. These were the coolest thrill rides (well, at least according to TLC) in the world at the time.

It’s interesting to see which ones would still make a Top 10 list today (I’m thinking probably the top 2, maybe still #4 as well) now that we’ve been privy to the flowing sands of time and a thousand new paint jobs. It’s also interesting to play Joe’s favorite game with specials like this, “guess which rides are still standing!” Or at the very least, which rides are still in their original incarnations. Some rides have been taken down. Some have been moved to other locations, some have new paint jobs, some kind of run backwards or whatever. It’s another worthwhile nostalgic look at the past.

In all seriousness, how would you structure a Top 10 thrill ride special? The structure presented here is not bad: they try to have as much variety as possible, so there’s one stand-up, one water coaster, two inverted (both very different), one flyer, one hyper, one giga, one Woodie, one freefall, and one reverse freefall. Besides being a Rollercoaster Tycoon fan’s wet dream, that’s a good amount of variety for a Top 10 list.

Or, would you stack your favorite rides on it, regardless of what kind? I’m sure there would be more than one giga or Woodie, right? But then you have to push out some quirky rides that might bear mentioning. Would you include themed non-coasters like Spider-Man or Tower of Terror? Certainly they would qualify as thrill rides, yes? And what’s the deal with having Buzzsaw Falls rather than Atlantis? I guess Buzzsaw is more roller coaster-y, but it wasn’t really that interesting of a ride.

This special is also noteworthy for the whacked-out elements it has to try and keep the material entertaining, as if the Top 10 thrill rides on the planet weren’t interesting enough. Among the more bizarro elements are the insane desire to have the feature riders be as random as humanly possible (we go from a team of ACE-ers in the first segment to, I’m not kidding here, the American Superstars female dance troupe. Aesthetics?) as well as the straight-out inexplicable tags and adjectives they give to each ride (Volcano is dubbed the “ultimate hot coaster.” Not sure how big the field is in that category). (Thinking more about the feature riders, I have this hilarious image in my head where all the feature riders come together at the end of the show and perform a finale number, Country Bears style, with Ric Turner doing a chorus line with the American Superstar dance girls). Also, take a shot every time the narrator makes a terrible pun. Here’s the hit parade:

“The Riddler STANDS for Revenge!”
“This water ride delivers a helping of H2-WHOA”
“Volcano is the hottest ride in Virginia”
“If you don’t roll with this ride, you’ll come up snake eyes”
“This is the coaster you’ll love the most-er”

It’s unfortunate that TLC went through a cringing “hip and edgy” phase at the same time that Disney decided to flog that horse. Seldom it works. But next time, how about letting the “ultimate 10 thrill rides” speak for themselves, huh TLC?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast - Fata Morgana Memorial Episode

Alan, Lane, and Alex discuss Orlando trips, yet another Halloween Horror Nights 27 review, Volcano Bay, what happens when you have a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket (aka Pandora), Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mine Blower impressions, the state of the Busch and SeaWorld parks, Alex visits the new Owa Park, Six Flags over Georgia is actually amazing, Lightning Rod, Lane’s Europe trip, Oktoberfest and Olympia Looping, Efteling and Symbolica, Stroopwafels, Diggerland, Fall Fun Fest, and MORE.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

YouTube Tuesday #19: The Greatest...Thrill Rides

Now we’re getting serious. In week two of our three week roller coaster not-exactly-holiday-themed marathon, we present one of the classic roller coaster documentaries of all time. “The Greatest…” was a very popular (for TLC) series of “best of” documentaries at a time when people just loved them some cable documentaries. In this installment, we get to see the roller coaster installment of the series, since we knew for darn sure we were going to get one.

The Greatest Thrill Rides is an all-time classic coaster doc. It is very much the “thrill ride” version of the all-time classic Funhouse. Like its dark ride compatriot, this doc seeks to comprehensively take the viewer on a journey of discovery (…and awareness?...) though the past, present, and future of thrill rides. Like the best cable docs, watching a show like The Greatest Thrill Rides is like adventuring through a thrill ride museum, studying the best of the history and excitement of thrill rides the world over. It’s one of those features that you would show someone if you could only pick one thrill ride show, because it covers all the bases in the limited time it has to thrill you (blah blah blah!).

The past is covered through the occasional references to Russian ice slides and switchback railways. The present is explored through a whirlwind “best of” tour of the greatest thrill rides on the planet circa late-1990s. To be fair, the top of the lists are pretty bad (I won’t spoil them for you, but woof), but of course they cover all the late-1990s crazes, from inverted coasters to woodies to stand-up to hyper. Each one is given a quick feature and an obligatory post-ride interview with the Ric Turners of the world.

The next segment is focused on the creation of the coasters, and the construction. These features will be familiar with those of you who have been keeping up with our weekly YouTube output.

And then halfway through, the show does a complete 180. Because it’s not about roller coasters anymore. We’re going to the malls and arcades, and to the Vegas strip, and to Universal. Because we’re going to talk about the thrilling simulators which are just the bees knees these days (how many times do you think I can use the words “thrill” or “thrilling” in this article? I think at least a few more times). These, we are reminded, are called “immersive thrill rides.” Cue the Gary Goddard cameo appearance.

What’s cool about this segment is I have absolutely no idea what most of these rides are, or were. Were these simulators in malls or traveling exhibits? The narrator says there are more than 70 of these exhibits around the country…I don’t even remember this being a thing. Was this a feature at large malls like South Coast Plaza or the Irvine Spectrum back in the day? Did they have changing movies? If so, how often did they change? Did you get to choose your adventure like that enormous POS basement bench simulator at the Excalibur in Vegas? Over the course of a few seconds, we see simulator movies of: riding Revolution at SFMM, traveling through a collapsing mine, driving down a Mad Max-style desert road, a haunted cavern, a funhouse, a giant roller derby obstacle course thing (I don’t even know how to describe that one except to say it looks like a first-person view of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time sewer level), a trench, a large building, a pleasant Calabasas side road, a “street race,” a mountain, a pre-Spider-Man drop off a building, and Days of Thunder at Kings Island.

But when we get introduced to simulators, of course we have to explore the 1990s Vegas simulators! That’s right, for the first time on a theme park doc, we get an extended sequence featuring In Search of the Obelisk, Race for Atlantis, and Star Trek: The Experience! This has to be my favorite segment of the show, since I love love love me some Vegas simulators. My brother and I spent many a vacation visiting these rides constantly, since we weren’t yet old enough to gamble this was the next best thing. And we actually get to see some behind-the-scenes action! The IMAX camera for In Search of the Obelisk, some real 3D models and a feature for the HUGE 3D glasses for Atlantis (with an interview with Rhythm & Hues!), and a tour of the bridge and the simulator cabins for Star Trek! This makes me happy, since Star Trek: The Experience was one of the most mind-blowing attractions anywhere in the world when it opened in 1998, Disney or otherwise. I always wished they could have moved it to Universal after it closed. It’s that cool. And the Star Trek museum! Absolutely fantastic. The Transporter Room to this day is one of the greatest-ever pre-shows of all time.

And lastly of course, we get the future. And the future is not only Universal Studios but video games. And I’m not just talking about Sega Rally Championship or another one of those you’ve seen a million times. Ladies and gentlemen, I present….Vertical Reality. That’s right. Vertical Reality. At 43:12.

How many of you remember this one? It’s a 25 foot-tall freefall tower in front of a giant shooter game. When you shoot someone else, you go up. When you get shot, you drop. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN?! What happened to this idea besides the predictable number of lawsuits?

We end the show with an exploration of what this show considers the “ultimate thrill ride.” I don’t know what TLC’s obsession is of going out into the real world and saying the “future of thrill rides” is something we’ve been able to do for decades (like bungee-jumping and sky-diving). But anyway, this particular show’s idea of the ultimate thrill ride is Air Combat USA, a really for-real Top Gun simulation where participants actually get to shoot at each other. In real planes. Driven by Air Force pilots. That’s cool. I wonder if it’s still around? *Does a quick Google search* Hey it’s still around! And it’s in FULLERTON??!! How did I not know this when I was living in Anaheim? And it’s only…$1,700! And you save $50 when you book two people! That’s so cool!

And FYI, Alan Schilke (the guy who always interviews with Arrow D) just wants to throw out there at 51:30 that the “ultimate thrill ride” or roller coaster is one that can turn you independently in the car in any position at any time along the track. Direct quote: “if you can change the rider’s position relative to the car, it’s almost like a fourth dimension.” These words are actually said. In 1997. Isn’t that spooky? Nay, isn’t that…thrilling? (ha! I did it!)

Tune in next week for the conclusion of our three-week roller coaster fest, and one of my favorite all-time thrill ride specials!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Parkscope Unproffesional Podcast Hour #138 - 2 Pirates 2 Caribbean

Nick, Sean, and Joe break away from a busy week to discuss the news of Universal's new hotels, some small rumors, Sean's impressions on Pandora, Sean's thoughts on Volcano Bay, and Sean's wrap-up for HHN27. Then we answer your questions from Twitter!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick,  ParkscopeLane, and Sean.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

YouTube Tuesday #18: Scream Machines

Arrow-Batic sighting! Arrow-Batic sighting at 57:20! Thought I had to mention that for all you pre-2000 coaster fans.

But first, a quick special announcement: starting this week, we have a three-week roller coaster theme for YouTube Tuesday. Scream Machines will be the first of three of TLC’s most popular roller coaster specials from the late 90s. Won’t that be fun! That is all.

This is when TLC really started to get serious about talking roller coasters. Once they got a few coaster notches on their docu-belt, they started really letting it fly (the next two weeks will feature the two coaster specials that really made TLC a must-watch destination for coaster fans).

Much like our Coastermania feature, this special is geared to talk about the craziness of roller coasters. We follow (again) some ACE members around and talk to them about why they like coasters and why we like coasters and why we like to ride them.

The late 90s was right at the tail end of the epic decade-long coaster wars (which never really end, but the 1990s were extra intense). The big blockbuster coasters of the late 90s are featured here, such as Millennium Force (though technically 2000), Goliath (ditto), Superman, and Stealth. This special can be hilariously dated because the narrator claims that amusement parks have to fill the seats because “it’s hard to convince folks to visit when admission prices are starting to climb above $40!”

We get some good coaster psychology and lingo here. We of course start by talking about how coasters are an adrenaline rush, that thrill rides are like a drug, etc. We follow around the ubiquitous ACE-er Ric Turner (who I guess is contractually obligated to be in every 1990s coaster special) and explain why amusement parks give ACE and coaster enthusiasts some ERT: because they are the “super-users” and influencers who will (theoretically) say such great things about the new ride as it opens.

Then we get into a surprising amount of coaster lingo. We learn about protein spills and code yellows. We learn how similar a launched coaster effect is to an F14 carrier landing, and what happens to the body during a blackout/greyout. We also get a cool side-by-side comparison of a Space Shot and the ejector seat training tower for the Navy.

The narrator then brings in a couple of behavioral psychologists (one of them has an eye patch! Seriously! If I were his patient I would BEG him to start our therapy sessions with “How ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR you feeling? I would lose it!”). They explain how coasters are designed to keep your brain in constant sensory overload, and that these surprises lead to euphoria when the coaster is successfully conquered. They also discuss the different types of screams (there’s 4 of them!) people use while riding coasters and how it relates to real life communication.

In one of the more interesting segments, the psychologists strap a woman with electrodes to monitor her heart rate and force her on Goliath. It’s a damn good thing she didn’t mind that much.

We have a few interviews with coaster designers who, in a departure from most coaster specials, actually talk about the tempo of the ride, and the psychological tricks they use to make the ride seem scarier. The anticipation of the first drop. Placing objects (or wooden infrastructures) near the track to make it seem like the ride’s going faster. The head choppers. The point is to straddle the line between terrifying people and getting them to come back. There’s also an interesting piece of rider narrative here that, though most coasters are un-themed, designers still approach coasters as a story, with the rider as protagonist, and every drop and loop a dramatic story element. It makes heroes out of everyone on the ride when the coaster is conquered. And that’s a nice lead-in to the IOA segment.

So I don’t know if they have this anymore, but apparently back in the day IOA had a “coaster stress management” course for coaster phobics. We follow some of their stories as they go through the class. And then the first coaster they go on is Hulk! Jeez, talk about a trial by fire! Some of them are predictably wetting themselves.

We then go into the Arrow Dynamics segment and the “FUTURE OF COASTERS!!!” segment now becoming all too familiar for these shows. We follow Arrow engineers as they help design the very strange Tennessee Tornado looper for Dollywood, then talk about the future of thrill rides which are, say it with me, CyberSpace Mountain, Universal, simulators, blah blah being successors to coasters. “But nothing will ever replace the real WHOOOOSH you get on a coaster!”

We talk about how “in the future, coasters will go 200 mph and will be 800 feet tall and yada yada” until we get to…ARROW-BATIC. It’s here! We finally found it!

Like the ThrustAir 2000 and the flying coaster, the Arrow-Batic was a ubiquitous “coming soon!” coaster through many coaster specials in 1999 and 2000. Arrow-Batic was, to paraphrase, sort of like an earlier version of Intamin ZacSpins like Green Lantern: First Flight. It featured two or three rows of overhanging cars that, because it was so compact, could perform many maneuvers that inverted coasters couldn’t, like diving down 90 degrees! Oh and flips and other stuff. It’s good that one of our specials finally turned up this old chestnut!

But wait, it gets better! Following Arrow-Batic we get even more ridiculous nonsense that never made it off the drawing board. Like Vekoma’s Cliff-Hanger Tilt, which stalled the coaster train on a platform and would tilt it straight down. Or how about Vekoma’s Hammerhead Stall (!), which…is basically an Intamin Impulse coaster except with standard above-the-rail trains and straight vertical towers and…trains shaped like airplanes. You can’t make this stuff up! Anyone ever heard of these? Now you have!