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!