Saturday, August 28, 2021

Pints with Parkscope: Das Boot Episode - Bad Social Media, Fat Phobia, and Horror Nights

Joe drove to Columbus to be with his parents and Mike is drinking away a hurricane. Today's topics include Universal Studios Hollywood's very bad, very dumb, fatphobic tweet; the public backlash to perceived "fatphobia" at Universal in attraction design and test seats; and some more talking about Halloween Horror Nights

Monday, August 23, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #218 - Disney Genie and Laughing Lane (Plus HHN30) with Hastin and David Daut

Well, Disney, ya finally did it! After lots of rumors, speculation, and angst, the stateside Disney Parks have announced Disney Genie and Fast Lightning Lane products. This week Joe is joined by Hastin and David Daut to discuss the new products, our thoughts, our worries, and where the puck is going with the Disney Parks. Then we switch gears to discuss HHN30 and David's first trip to the event.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Pints with Parkscope #1 - NBA Experience

This coming September will be the 8th anniversary of our podcast.

Eight. Years.

Since then we've had marriages, births, and moved all over the place. One big change is also our lack of time. As you might have seen the podcast has gotten more and more infrequent over the years as the gang just can't get together as much as we used to. Look, when you have a job, a house, a wife, and a kid you just don't have the 90 minutes to sit down on Skype and talk about theme parks.

So lets try something new. For the next month or so I'll do a weekly 15 minute (or so) show covering one topic, just long enough to finish one drink. Hence the "pints" part. But don't think this is glorifying drinking, I'll be having water, tea, and coffee too! My goal is to have a new episode up every Friday or so.

Our first episode is about the NBA Experience, from Iger's power grab after NBA City left to closure. We'll talk about all the weird points in this attraction's life, what went wrong, could it have worked, and my thoughts on a replacement.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #217 - Halloween Horror Night 30 Hype

We're back baby! Joe! Mike! Ann! We're all slightly tipsy as we discuss Halloween Horror Nights 30 and tackle some "questions" from the UOAP Facebook group.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

First Track Pieces Arrive for Epic Universe

Saturday was a major milestone in the Epic Universe project as bioreconstruct discovered newly delivered track to the future site of the park.

Initial speculation was around this being for the Donkey Kong coaster but after some digging it was discovered to be Yoshi track by Sansei Technologies.

Universal announced in March progress on Epic Universe was restarted after a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first attraction-related development on the property. 

Additive vs Exclusive Theme Park Add-Ons

Over the past few weeks DisTwitter has been up in arms over Disney's After Hours Boo Bash. The first event offered after the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020, Boo Bash is an evening event for guests to ride rides, grab candy, see characters, and get some unlimited snacks. It's also NOT Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, the long offered popular event that offers fireworks, parades, and more. For many Boo Bash seems to be a weak offering, cutting many popular entertainment options, and also raising the price. For others it's a "lol shut up people will still pay for it"... commentary? Trolling? I'm not sure.

Anyway, the worry is Boo Bash is in and MNSSHP is out. I don't think this is the case as the After Hours events are an already established brand offering low capacity for high prices so guests can ride more rides. With Disney, at the time of the event announcement, still controlling the number of guests in the parks, no fireworks, shifting the Halloween event to After Hours in nature made sense. MNSSHP has a certain amount of name brand recognition where if it was offered with reduced offerings it would tarnish that brand. I find hand wringing over the death of MNSSHP, or that Disney is just going to jack up prices and offer less, to be unfounded.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Bend the Bao Chinese Counter Service Coming to CityWalk Orlando

Several weeks ago the former Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar closed for a new concept. Well, this week we got our first hints of what the new venue could be.

The old look has been refreshed to a colorful design featuring the signs of the Chinese Zodiac. Well... Park Rumors on Inside Universal found this trademark:

So looking at the news it appears Bend the Bao will be opening in the old Fusion location. This will likely be a fast-food Chinese restaurant with outdoor seating. So what will the menu look like? Well, Universal Orlando has not offered Chinese food yet (Comic Strip Cafe does not count). Except for ONE time.

The Starcourt Food Court at HHN29 featured a Chinese section. The menu included pot stickers, bao buns, and wonton chips. So based on previous options, and the name, we should expect a Bao-focused menu with other small plate options. I'm hoping we see more fresh, Szechuan offerings such as Gonbgao Jiding (kung pao chicken) and other lighter Chinese dishes.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #215 - #DefendTheShed

Low-fi theme park podcast to chill and vibe to this week as Joe and Sean discuss their big mega Memorial Day trip through Ohio. Join us as Sean discovers Hoof Hearted, the magic of the Flight of Fear preshow, Mystic Timbers, Jacobs Field, Melt, Steel Vengeance, Maverick, Ballpark Mustard, and more!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Ending UI Won't Fix Cedar Point's Woes

In the last week, ripples went across the internet theme park/amusement park fan communities to Cedar Point announcing that it would be increasing its wages to $20 an hour, a virtually 100% increase over 3 years ago. This was shocking to many observers of the industry.... but not us at Parkscope. We here at Parkscope have been beating the drum for a while about the disastrous way in which many regional amusement and theme parks were opting to staff. There's an entire article written back in 2017 about this exact topic, and I assure you, very little has changed except for one key difference:

Parkscope: How Is Theme Park Labor Market Formed? How Park Get People?

See, back in 2017, there was no pandemic, and without a pandemic, international travel could happen without any serious barriers. Visa workers could come to town, and in fact, Cedar Fair made it clear in their quarterly statements to shareholders that they would expect to rely on J-1 visa employees to staff the park. Those people do not exist in 2021. In spite of this clear and obvious issue for Cedar Fair's staffing, attention has primarily turned to Unemployment Insurance, a popular target of the Republican Party.

Let me first be clear: Is unemployment insurance a potential threat to getting people "back to work"? Yes. It is. Especially when it comes to people who might be waiting to get a higher paying, higher skill position like they used to have but feel compelled due to a lack of UI to do something in the meantime like work retail. But that's also largely theoretical. We at Parkscope prefer facts. Facts, I'm told rather consistently, don't care about feelings. So where do we find facts? We find them with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #214 - Ride DLC

On this week's podcast, Joe and Alan discuss CDC's lifting of mask mandates for vaccinated people, what that means for the theme parks, and how we perceive discomfort with rapid changes. Then we dive into the WEB Shooters featured in Disney's WEB-slingers attraction and how it could work or go really, really wrong. Then Joe discusses his trip to Hersheypark and Alan talks about his trip to Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. Finally, we close out the podcast discussing theme park operators, changes in operations, attracting guests, and attracting guests in a post-COVID boom.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Book Review - Boundless Realms by Foxx Nolte

There's no other themed attraction on the planet that has created so many rumors, fan mythology, and intrigue than the Haunted Mansion. The facade in Disneyland was completed years before the ride opened and caused countless rumors of a ride so scary people died of freight. But what about the Walt Disney World variant? Why are guests talking about floating lights, poles in the ground, or ghostly child spirits on the ride when it opened with the park?

Boundless Realms, by Foxx Nolte of the amazing Passport 2 Dreams site, covers the origins of the Disney-ified Haunted House ride with a special interest in the Walt Disney World version of the attractiopn. Whereas most themed entertainment books look at concept art versus what was built, Boundless goes into a multi-faceted approach looking at the Mansion. 

Foxx easily blends American history, first-hand accounts of the attraction, second-hand reporting, original design intentions, and more to give us a walkthrough of WDW's Haunted Mansion. The book never dives too much into one given field at once, instead, it samples views as needed. A great example being The Stretching Rooms - here Foxx looks at original design documents to find that an elevator was planned, why it was changed (the answer might surprise you!), where that elevator ended up, the alternations made to the mansion for this change, and her own first-hand reports of the rooms themselves. 

Using her unique position of working at the Mansion along with her honed research skills to pick apart the mansion in new and unique ways, Foxx is not interested in answering popular fan questions as much as she's answering questions right in front of our eyes. Besides the affirmation Stretching Room questions, she posits and answers dozens more. What time frame is the house from? Why was it redesigned? Why were there so many alterations to the attic? Why does the ghost host say "shh... listen"? Listen to what?

The book is like walking through the attraction with half a dozen experts that span themed design, history, mechanical engineering, operations, and more. The feeling created is a slowed down, extended ride-through of the attraction scene by scene, moment by moment. A curtain rod that blends into the background on most ride-throughs turns into swooping bird of prey imagery. After reading this book the Mansion changes, the subtle noise of the Doombuggies speak the secrets of the house. 

While the majority of the book is covered in this scene-by-scene format there are also extended appendix sections that include notes on human and animal imagery in attractions, a short dissection of Phantom Manor (short as in it's not a full book on its own), a history of the sinister portraits from the portrait gallery, and a look at four attractions that took inspiration from the Mansion. The appendixes themselves can constitute a full blog post on their own and should not be missed.

Foxx sums up the book best in this line from Appendix E, "After decades of thought and thousands of rides I've realized that it isn't the scale of the Haunted Mansion that makes it so special. If ambition and scale were guarantors of excellence then the Mansion would have been long surpassed by such impressive, cutting edge extravaganzas as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. That's an amazing ride, but it isn't the Haunted Mansion". This book is the deep dive in the X factor that makes the Mansion tick historically, thematically, mechanically, and which drives guests to become obsessed with it. Boundless is as much as a tome of the historical record for design inspirations as it is about the day-to-day realities of being a ride at the Magic Kingdom.

Boundless Realms is the perfect book for people who read websites like this, love the Haunted Mansion, or love seeing how American culture shaped the first few decades of Disney parks.

Boundless Realms is available at book stores online. The book was reviewed with a purchased copy.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour- #213 Lock Down Baby

Hey duders, this week Joe is joined by an above-average Disney nerd, Danny! We discuss the return of the Disney College Program, Project Kiwi, WDI R&D, ops vs creative, the Disney Wish, and Disneyland's reopening. Then we dive into Danny's ride on the Jurassic World VelociCoaster!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #212 - Boop Card

Trip reports a-hoy as Sean returns from his first visit to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood. Then Alan discusses his mega Nevada trip including leaking bathroom light fixtures, resort fees, Freemont Street, fainting in a Chi-Fil-A, and the incredible Omega Mart in Area 15! Plus Alex listens in and Joe grabs a spot of tea.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast - Hope For Tomorrow Memorial

Alex and Alan both go to Texas but to do extremely different things and experience a world where the pandemic is treated as though it's imaginary. Some parks we think aren't good got acquired! California parks are reopening! Thrill as Alan defers to the people of Anaheim as to determine what's best for them!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #211 - The March 2021 News Episode

Joe and Sean rejoin and discuss the news of the past few weeks! We talk Horror Nights news, WDW's 50th, Epic Universe, Disneyland, our upcoming trips, and more.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #210 - Super Mega Trip 2021

We're back! Joe just got back from a huge Orlando trip with his sister Rachel, so she's on the podcast this week! We go through everything we did on the trip including firsts for Rachel such as ALL of Universal, Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, Slinky Dog Dash, Homecomin', and more! We discuss the delights, the triumphs, the pitfalls, and the disappointments of the trip PLUS our thoughts on Flower & Garden and Mardi Gras.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Epic Universe Construction Full Steam Ahead

Last May we did a post about Universal's new park, Epic Universe, not being cancelled or paused. While construction on the project has continued, it has been at a snail's pace and not at the same speed we imagined. Last summer a majority of the project team was let go on a Friday in the summer and the park was given to senior leadership to shepherd through this tough time.

This morning Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has confirmed the project is full steam ahead now.

The project will take several months to re-ramp back up as contractors and project team are re-assembled per a statement from Universal.

Some internet talk has hinted the project was to fully restart soon as the construction work on Universal Studios Bejing wraps up.

Epic Universe, never given a formal opening date, was expected to open in 2023. It is likely now to open in 2024.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast: Covid Memorial Episode


Alan and Alex discuss Kentucky Kingdom's acquisition by Herschend, Discovery Cove and Universal Orlando visits, Pigeon Forge, and trying to escape confrontation about leaving the house once in a while...

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #209 - Toad Gets Owned

Joe gets a G&T, Sean talks about the Jungle Cruise, we contemplate the name of the show, and discuss what is coming in the future. PLUS we discuss all the video coverage of Super Nintendo World, from Mario Kart to Yoshi Adventure to the interactive elements. Sean and Joe also ask the questions about why an unbuilt or demolished attraction always garners more interest than something built.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #208 - Lost Vegas


Welcome to the Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour, your #1 Yusuf Islam and folk podcast! In this week's episode, we discuss Disneyland canceling annual passes and the future of that program before doing a deep dive into Las Vegas' lost history of themed entertainment. We discuss how Vegas ended up in the position it found itself in the 80s, the Mirage, free entertainment, lost attractions, closed parks, where things went wrong, and more.