Imagineering an American Dreamscape, a Book Review

Imagineering an American Dreamscape by Barry R. Hill, a Book Review

The history of Disney Parks and larger regional amusement parks, like Cedar Point and Six Flags, have been well-documented. But what about the other theme parks? The ones that helped usher in the idea of themed entertainment or were part of the 1970s amusement/theme park revival? How does the growth of regional theme parks fit into the landscape of the history of theme and amusement parks? With Imagineering an American Dreamscape: Genesis, Evolution and Redemption of the Regional Theme Park, author Barry Hill shares a well-written and well-presented history of America’s theme parks. One that is sure to intrigue and take you on a wonderful stroll down memory lane of your favorite local park. Or parks.

Why Do You Need to Read This Book?

Contrary to popular belief, theme parks didn’t start with Disneyland in 1955. The term theme park was born with the opening of Walt’s nascent park, but the idea of theme parks had existed in a few parks prior to Walt’s creation. Barry wastes no time jumping into the history of parks by exploring pre-Disneyland, Walt’s influences, and, then, the major players, like Angus Wynne, Busch, Randall Duell, and so many others.

I’ve been a Disney park fan for most of my life and a self-styled Disney historian since the mid-1990s. After being on an award-winning podcast for years and writing weekly histories of Disney, I started to wonder how we got to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. What about other world-class parks like Universal and Busch Gardens Tampa? Where did they start and how did parks change over the years?

And why do so many people know so little about theme park history?

Look at that: almost 100 pages dedicated to an index, notes, a bibliography, and other important background information!

If you’ve ever visited a Six Flags park, Cedar Point, Kings Island, Holiday World, Great America, Hersheypark…or so many others, then this book is a treat. Barry takes the history of theme parks seriously and offers a condensed story of how the parks came to be, evolved, survived, and, in some cases, quietly slipped away.

If anything, this book will afford Disney fans the opportunity to broaden their perspectives and understand the larger tapestry of theme parks that exist outside of Disney and Universal. For most of the parks presented, Barry takes us back in time to wander the opening season of the park to look at the design and early attractions. It really is a stroll down memory lane.

What’s Inside Imagineering an American Dreamscape?

Barry ruminates on the successes and failures of so many parks and the forces behind the parks. When Barry talks about Carowinds (Charlotte, NC), he shares the inside story of E. Pat Hall, the Charlotte-area business man who planned to bring a Disneyland-style resort to the booming city. Massive plans included a short-lived monorail and hotels. The looming energy crisis changed everything, as it did with Taft, Marriott, and other regional parks. Some survived, some were bought out, and some just languished.

Obviously, Barry can’t cover every park, but he does share the ones that influenced the themed industry more than others. My only complaint about the book relates to the lack of maps and photographs to illustrate the work. Barry addresses this in the book by directing readers to his website: Rivershore Creative.

Randall Duell and the Duell Loop: the Ultimate Theme Park Designer

We also get an inside look at some of the most important people in the theme park industry. Barry spends pages discussing Randall Duell, the architect responsible for the modern theme park. Duell was able to take the successes of Disneyland and translate them into early Six Flags parks. He became the most in-demand designer and is responsible for being able to integrate thoughtful design, architecture, and theming.

After the main sections of the book, Barry introduces us to Mel McGowan and Rick Bastrup. Both are McGowan is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Storyland Studios; Bastrup is President and Head Designer of R&R Creative Amusement Designs. Both offer salient chapters on Duell and other theme park design legends. McGowan and Bastrup share the stories as fans and industry insiders.

In all honesty, Imagineering an American Dreamscape is almost the story of Randall Duell. The warp and weft of the theme park industry is ingrained with so many of Duell’s deft touches and ideas. I’m so glad Barry presented the book in this way.

So, yes, you should grab this book. And, yes, you will enjoy it. Barry has written a work on a staggering subject and he has distilled it to the most important concepts and people. You will learn something from Barry’s work, regardless of your prior theme park experiences.

What is your favorite regional park? Mine is Kings Island.

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

IAAPA 2017 Video: Amusement Park Rides and Food

IAAPA 2017 Video: Amusement Park Rides and Food

IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions holds its annual conference in Orlando. Well over 30,000 people attend the conference and visit the trade floor. IAAPA is an amazing place to see the latest in rides, VR technology, amusement park food, tickets, arcade games and more! 2017 was my third year covering IAAPA and I enjoy it more each time. Where else can I talk to the world’s best roller coaster designers and run into Imagineers and theme park celebrities?

And get to eat Beaver Tails!

Check out my IAAPA 2017 video:

I visited my favorite coaster designers: Bolliger & Mabillard, Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC), Great Coasters, Intl. (GCI) and Mack Rides. I also wandered the floor checking out all of the new VR (Virtual Reality) machines and I rode a Crazy 8s coaster that earned my 123 coaster credit.

By far, the Garner Holt Productions display of their new living history animatronic was the most impressive moment. It is amazing how lifelike the character was.

Did you get to visit IAAPA 2017? Have you ever been to IAAPA?

Don’t forget to stop by my YouTube channel to subscribe and leave a comment! I post weekly videos about Disney, Dollywood, Carowinds, theme park history, roller coasters and Disney books.

Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point: Food and History!

Trying out the Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point

Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point was on my list during my last trip to the theme park. It’s a local chain in Northern Ohio and this is their first season at Cedar Point. My first visit to Cedar Point last year was rained out when a storm blew out the power on the causeway. There was only power in the front part of the park; I was only able to eat at Pinks during that visit. I was looking forward trying some of the signature food at Cedar Point and I was very excited about this new venue.

The Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point is located in the Planet Snoopy area of the park. It’s in the former Joe Cool Cafe building.

Image courtesy CPFoodBlog

You can see the changes made to the building to offer a more grown-up dining experience. Black metal awning replaces the shingles. The porte-cochere (of sorts) was removed, giving the building a more streamlined entrance. Also, the dining bumpout was removed and they now have patio seating with umbrellas. Overall, it’s a significant change to the feel of this side of the Planet Snoopy area and blends in so much nicer with the historic Great Hall and the surroundings.

Inside the Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point

Behind the check-in desk and near the doorway to the restrooms is a fantastic mural by Jake Kelly representing logos from Cedar Point’s history. Right off the bat, you understand that the Melt Bar & Grill celebrates the history of the resort. It’s going to be so much more than just a theme park eatery.

The mural, alone, is worth checking out. Just wait till you see the rest of the restaurant.

Along the walls are photos and other memorabilia. You’ll want to spend time investigating them after your meal. My only complaint is that the spot lighting on the photos and prints makes it almost impossible to get a good photo. And sometimes you might want to interrupt other diners, but don’t.

This was one of the oldest Cedar Point maps on display. It was amazing to see the changes.

There is a lot of concept artwork featured for different attractions and signs. You never see a lot of concept artwork outside of Disney circles, so it was very exciting to see all of the Cedar Point art. Do you remember any of these?

It’s actually kind of amazing that Cedar Point kept all of this ephemera in their warehouses. I do hope that guests will take a few moments to stroll through Cedar Point’s history.

The Food at Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point

Obviously, you’ll be getting food at the restaurant. Gourmet grilled cheese has become extremely popular over the past few years, and this is a perfect addition to Cedar Point’s lineup of offerings. Kids will still have a good time at this more grown-up restaurant..

The Monte Cristo at the Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point. Yum!

The choices on the menu seemed insurmountable: Mighty Macaroni; the Dude Abides; Hot Italian; the Cleveland Cheese Steak and more. I finally decided on the Monte Cristo, since it’s a dish I’ve had often at Disneyland and I know how it should taste.

Monte Cristo (honey ham, smoked turkey, Swiss, American, crispy battered & deep fried, powdered sugar, berry preserves for dipping)- $10.39 Half; $13.79 Whole

I was not prepared for how good and filling the sandwich was going to be. The best theme park food has always been at Dollywood, hands down. The sandwich at Melt Bar & Grilled was superb. The berry preserves were perfect and put the Monte Cristo over the top. Overall, the food offerings at Cedar Point, besides Pinks and Melt Bar & Grille, were simply average. I wonder why it takes an outside vendor to make a worthwhile food offering.

I wish that Walt Disney World would offer a restaurant with a historical perspective like this somewhere on property.

Have you tried Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point or any of their other locations?

Looking for a book on Cedar Point’s history? Check out Images of America: Cedar Point.

Waldameer Park, a Visit

Waldameer Park, a Visit

Waldameer Park, located in Erie, Pennsylvania , opened in 1896 and is the tenth oldest amusement park in the United States. It was the middle leg of my Kennywood – Waldameer – Cedar Point trip and I was looking forward to experiencing this historic and unique park.

Waldameer offers free parking and free admission; you pay for each ride separately.  As of this writing, you can buy an unlimited daily pass for $36.00. Waldameer does not accept cash inside the park and you can only use a credit card to pay for food and souvenirs. Everything else requires a wristband or the Wally Card.

There are booths all over the park that will allow you to buy a Wally Card or add value to one. Each Wally Point is equivalent to one dollar, which makes the transactions simple. With each ride costing 1.5, 3.0 or 4.5 Wally Points, it’s fairly simple. Basically, one ride on the Ravine Flyer II is going to coast $4.50, unless you buy the all-day wristband. I’m  an ACE Member (American Coaster Enthusiasts) and there is a special discount on the all day wristband for ACE Members.

There are currently 33 attractions in the park (including the water park) with enough variety for everyone in the group. My goal, of course , was to wrangle the three coaster credits for Ravine Flyer II, Steel Dragon and the Comet. I also wanted to experience a few of the unique attractions.

Based on Waldameer’s history, I was excited to experience the entire park. Sadly, my visit was fairly rainy, but I was still able to experience most everything. After quickly orienting myself, I headed to Ravine Flyer II, the park’s signature and very famous coaster.

Waldameer Park: The Ravine Flyer II

Ravine Flyer II has a history that is directly connected to the original Ravine Flyer, which had crossed Peninsula Drive. Sadly, a teenager fell from a stopped train in 1938 and was killed. Reports stated that the wooden track had been damaged from the heavy rains and the wheels had become stuck. The young man was standing up to make sure another train wasn’t coming when the train he was on moved and he fell. The Ravine Flyer operated from 1921-1938 (check out this article about it, here).

Still, the Ravine Flyer II, which opened in 2008 and was completed by The Gravity Group, is a stunning coaster that’s a lot of fun and offers several surprise elements. It’s definitely worth the $4.50 and worth the trip to Waldameer, alone. There are plenty of other great attractions at the park, too.

I had to get this shot of the Ravine Flyer II from the Sky Lift.

Waldameer Park: Steel Dragon

Steel Dragon is a spinning coaster that was built by Maurer Söhne in 2004. The track layout is similar to a crazy mouse coaster, like Exterminator at Kennywood and Primeval Whirl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was a lot of fun and more enjoyable on the second ride, once I was more familiar with the layout. Each car hold four people, who ride back-to back. Theoretically, it’s a different ride each time.

Waldameer Park: The Comet

The Comet was built in 1951 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It was designed by Herbert Schmeck. Unfortunately, the coaster was getting some refurbishments and wasn’t operating.

It’s a great looking coaster and I can see how it was the centerpiece of the park for many years. Especially if you could rent one of the picnic pavilions right next to it.

Waldameer Park: The Whacky Shack

I was not prepared for how amazing the Whacky Shack was going to be.

The Whacky Shack is a wonderful Bill Tracey designed dark ride. It was built in 1970-1971 and is a shining example of the evolution of dark rides from the Laff in the Darks to the more modern Disney dark rides.

You do ride in in vehicles that travel along a track as you pass by various stunts. Some things do jump out at you, but most of the stunts are static. I loved it from the first few moments and enjoyed my second ride, as well. Along with Ravine Flyer II, the Whacky Shack is a must do!

Check this POV video of the Whacky Shack:

Waldameer Park: Pirate’s Cove

Pirate’s Cove is a Bill Tracey walk-through funhouse. Similar to the ones that you see at state fairs and traveling carnivals. It’s only one of three left in the United States. It was fun and terrifying at the same time. The terrifying moments for me all came at the expense of my senses. The rooms that seemed crooked, the barrel mazes and the deceptively simple dark maze. I will gladly admit that I yelped quite a few times and I can see how these attractions were so popular. It was exhilarating to walk through it.

An example of one of the stunts in the Pirate’s Cove.
Sometimes its a one, sometimes it’s a two—and sometimes it’s a pirate!

I’m always thrilled to run across attractions that showcase the changes and evolution of theme parks. Waldameer offers some wonderful attractions that can only be found at a smaller park.

Waldameer Park: The Rest of the Park

There are a lot of other attractions that deserve attention at Waldameer, as well.

The Park offers several flat rides, including the Spider (one of my childhood favorites), a Music Express, Dodg’ems, Tilt-a-Whirl and more. You need to take the Sky Ride (3 Wally Points) to get a great over view of the park.

Waldameer actually lets you bring in dogs on leashes! How cool is that?

Yes, they did have a scary clown trash can. But Waldameer is a beautiful park with lots of trees and landscaping.

There are also sculptures scattered all of the park of children playing.

I highly recommend a visit to Waldameer if you find yourself in Northern Pennsylvania. You can do the park in just a few hours, but it does offer some experiences that you won’t find elsewhere.

Have you had a chance to visit Waldameer Park?

Why Disney Fans Need to Visit Kennywood!

Why Disney Fans Need to Visit Kennywood!

Kennywood (nope, no relation to Kenny Rogers), an amusement park located outside Pittsburgh, has always been on my wish list. People asked me why I wasn’t visiting a Disney park whenever I mentioned going to Kennywood. Over the past two years, I’ve expanded my travel to include regional parks, like Dollywood, Carowinds and Holiday World. I’ve discovered that the smaller, regional parks offer such a unique experience, that you have to enjoy them as is. When I decided to visit Kennywood, I reached out to their PR team and was provided a complimentary ticket for my visit.

Let’s talk about why every Disney fan needs to visit Kennywood.

So, why do Disney fans need to visit Kennywood?

Kennywood is an 80 acre park that opened in 1898. (Disneyland is about 85 acres and opened in 1955.) So, right off the bat, Kennywood is one of the oldest parks in America. Not only does it have historical importance, but it features one of the oldest operating rides as well as several rides that are the last of their kind.

Disney fans should visit this Pennsylvania amusement park because of the rich tapestry and history that permeates every nook and cranny. The DNA of every amusement park lives here, and we wouldn’t have a Disneyland without the likes of Kennywood and other 19th and 20th century parks. We are very fortunate that Kennywood is alive and well!

Historic Rides at Kennywood

Doused in history, Kennywood is one of the few parks that celebrates its heritage. Kennywood offers a catalog of forgotten flat rides and beautiful wooden coasters, like: the Old Mill; the Turtle; the Jack Rabbit; and the Kangaroo.

Built in 1901, the Old Mill has gone through quite a few changes while retaining its historical fabric (the same year Walt Disney was born).

So, why is The Old Mill important?

Well, water rides, such as the Old Mill and Tunnels of Love were the predecessors to modern dark rides and water-based rides, like: it’s a small world; Pirates of the Caribbean; and Frozen Ever After. Granted, the Old Mill never had the technology of the Disney classics, but it was still the first step towards them. Over the past 100 years, the Old Mill has had several face-lifts and is currently themed to Garfield’s Nightmare. Although it’s out of fashion, the Garfield overlay still makes it a fantastic dark ride.

Despite the Garfield overlay, the attraction is still a must do!

Noah’s Ark is a walk-though dark attraction that can be compared to a fun house. It was built in 1936 and received a remodel in 1996 and 2016. It’s a lot of fun and very hokey. It’s the last of its kind in the world, so it’s another must do. You can see the evolution of animatronic figures, spoofs and designs through this attraction. I discovered that I do not have sea legs and I would not make a good captain of  sailing ship.

Yes, you walk through the mouth of a whale and trod upon its squishy tongue.

Classic Flat Rides at Kennywood

Kennywood is home to many classic flat rides, including the Whip, the Turtle, the Kangaroo and the Bayern Kurve. This was my first experience on a whip and it is a lot of fun.



Kennywood managed to keep the older sign for the attraction!

I rode the Tumble Bug at Kings Island and the Turtle brought back fond memories—until I started getting dizzy! But it was so much fun to see the caterpillar-style ride in action.

Built in 1962, the Kangaroo is also the last of its kind. It is so much more fun than it seems or should be.

The classic flat rides were the mainstay of amusement parks and World’s Fairs throughout the first half of the 20th century. You can trace the development of these rides into the modern classics of today. You can even find examples of these rides at Disney parks, like the Dumbo attraction.

Classic and New Roller Coasters at Kennywood.

Kennywood is home to six roller coasters with a great mix of classic wooden and modern steel. At the time of this writing, Kennywood is the only amusement park in which I adore every roller coaster. Many parks will have a random Arrow or Vekoma that’s simply too painful to ride. Here, the wooden coasters are a treat and the steel coasters are smooth and fun.

That being said, there are three wooden roller coasters that were designed by coaster legend John A. Miller that should be experienced by everyone.

The Jack Rabbit opened in 1921 and offers a design template that most of the park’s coasters would follow—literally and figuratively: the terrain. The Jack Rabbit is a wonderful coaster with plenty of airtime that can be enjoyed by the whole family (especially with a 36″ height requirement).

The Racer was the second coaster with that name at Kennywood. Both were designed by John A. Miller and the current one opened in 1927. It’s a Moebius Loop coaster, which means there is only one track for both cars. It’s very unique and still a great ride.

Thunderbolt started life in 1924 as the John A. Miller-designed Pippin. In 1968, it was redesigned somewhat but kept most of the bones of the Pippin. Like the Jack Rabbit, it makes judicious use of the terrain and incorporates a mid-ride lift hill.

The deceptively small profile of the Thunderbolt.

The three classic wooden coasters are examples of what Disney wanted California Screamin’ at DCA to emulate. Sadly, Disney just can’t make a very good coaster. Disney fans need to experience roller coasters at other parks.

The park also offers three steel coasters that are well worth the experience: the Exterminator; the Phantom’s Revenge; and the Sky Rocket. All of the steel coasters are fun without being overwhelming (like Fury325). Exterminator is similar to Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom, except it’s in the dark!

Park Grounds and Historic Buildings

Kennywood is filled with historic structures that hearken back to the earliest days of the park. The Parkside Cafe is one of the original buildings in the park and is still in use today.

The Kennywood Pagoda sells ice cream, Dole Whips, sausages and more. The dragon heads on the building are from the Old Mill ride vehicles.

Shaded walkways and green spaces greet the guest at every turn. I felt like I discovered a treat around each corner of the park; whether it was a flat ride, statue or fountain!

You saw the transitional areas of the park and how it grew organically. Unlike modern theme parks, Kennywood grew as the times and needs changed. Fortunately, the historic fabric of the park is still everywhere.

The Olde Kennywood Railway offers undeniable ties to Disney. Besides being a train, it is from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. There’s no direct tie to Disney and that fair, but the 1939 Fair had major design influences on Disneyland and EPCOT Center. Fans of history need to ride the train; it’s a minor Kennywood history ride! (Check out this article about the fair and EPCOT Center.)

The photo above was taken from the Noah’s Ark attraction. You can see see attractions and buildings from the 1920s to the 2000s. It’s quite a treat to experience the history of Kennywood, even for a first-timer.

The Golden Nugget Dip Cone was a treat, along the lines of the Dole Whip at the Magic Kingdom. The ice cream had a very unique (and creamy) flavor. Served on a double header cone, it’s the perfect treat on a warm afternoon.

Kennywood says goodnight as you head out of the park.

The entire Kennywood experience was wonderful. I’ve known about the park for more than ten years and now I wish that I’d visited sooner.

Special Kennywood Ticket Deals for ImagiNERDs!

Click on this link and use the promo code ImaginerdingSBlog17 to receive a discounted ticket price to Kennywood!

FTC Disclosure: Kennywood provided a media ticket for my visit. They asked that I live-post on social media and create at least one article on my site. Kennywood did not reimburse me for any food, travel or souvenirs. I wholeheartedly support Kennywood and the opportunity to visit free of charge did not influence my review.

Legoland Florida: Everything is Awesome!

Legoland Florida: Everything is Awesome!

I made my first visit to Legoland Florida recently and I have to admit that it wasn’t what I expected! Of course, I was ready to add the four coaster credits, but I also wanted to check out historic Cypress Gardens. In exchange for my visit to Legoland I was given media passes to attend for the day.

Is the Central Florida theme park worth a visit?

Legoland Florida is heaven for anyone under ten or anyone that loves Lego bricks. There’s a lot to do for fans, including checking out all of the Lego sculptures. I only spent a day, but it was a great way to experience many of the rides (some I was too big for).

Legoland Florida Video!

Check out my video! It features an overview of the park and what to expect during a typical visit. (I could have watch the kids piloting the boats at Boating School all day!) I know I say that the park is cute a lot, but it really is!

Legoland Florida Thoughts

The Lego fan is going to love seeing all of the Lego sculptures throughout the park. There was Lego food, Lego people, Lego animals, Lego cars and so much more.

Ninjago and Lost Kingdom Adventure were two dark rides that the whole family will enjoy. Ninjago was a dark ride shooter, like Toy Story Mania except that you use your hands as the controller. It was really pretty amazing and a great next step in interactivity.

Legoland Florida Roller Coasters!

Legoland does have four coasters, but I only was able to ride three of them during my visit. Coastersaurus is a wooden coaster with new Mini-llenium cars that are made for young riders. Anyone over 5′ 11″ is going to enjoy the ride, but you will need to cushion your knees. It’s a classic wooden coaster that offers some great airtime.

Flight School is a standard suspended coaster, like the Great Aerial Chase at Carowinds. It’s a junior coaster that offers a bumpy ride for grown-ups. But kids do seem to love it.

The mouse coaster was closed, so I guess the means that I need to make a mother trip.

Dragon was a complete surprise and is much fun. The first half of the coaster is a dark ride. It transitions into a short, but fun coaster for the second half.

I recommend that families with children under ten spend the day at Legoland Florida. It’s a quick 45 minute drive from Walt Disney world. Lego fans will have a great time, since there are some amazing Lego displays.

Have you visited Legoland Florida? What do you think about the theme park?

FTC Disclosure: A media ticket was provided for the purpose of visiting and reviewing Legoland Florida.

Disney Parks News: Star Wars, Toy Story Land, Pandora, Soarin’ and Iron Man coming

Disney Parks News!

Not that we didn’t know about a lot of this, but it’s always great to get some official confirmation and artwork!

Leave a comment and tell me what you’re most excited about!

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Announces New Lands, Entertainment and Experiences at D23 EXPO 2015

Star Wars, Toy Story Land, Pandora – The World of AVATAR, Soarin’ and Iron Man among new experiences coming for guests

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2015) – Today, Disney announced a line-up of new attractions and entertainment coming to its theme parks around the world during the D23 EXPO 2015 in Anaheim, Calif.

Stark Tower in Iron Man Experience Coming to Hong Kong Disneyland Ð Stark Tower joins the Hong Kong skyline in the Iron Man Experience attraction coming to Hong Kong Disneyland in late 2016. This first-of-its kind, E-ticket attraction will include a storyline that takes place in the streets and skies of Hong Kong as guests take flight with Iron Man on an epic adventure that pits Iron Man, along with guests, against the forces of evil. (Disney Parks)

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek gave 7,500 lucky fans a behind-the-scenes look at what’s to come.  He was joined by Imagineers working on these projects as well as legendary filmmakers James Cameron and Jon Landau who shared new details about Pandora – The World of AVATAR including the names of the land and E-ticket attraction – AVATAR Flight of Passage.  Fans also got a chance to see Marvel legend Stan Lee in a cameo appearance where he posed as an unsuspecting fan during Iron Man’s dramatic entrance.

Among the many announcements Chapek shared were new and enhanced Star Wars experiences coming later this year to the Florida and California theme parks, plans for a new Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and more details on Pandora—The World of AVATAR, which is already under construction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Chapek also shared that Soarin’ Around the World will make its U.S. film debut at Epcot and Disney California Adventure taking guests to new places around the world.  Additionally, fans got a preview of exclusive video of the first Marvel attraction planned for Disney parks, coming to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2016.

“From Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration to the anticipation of Shanghai Disney Resort, we’re in the midst of unprecedented growth and expansion around the globe,” said Chapek. “With these new announcements, we continue our legacy in creating innovative attractions, worldwide entertainment, and magical lands that take our guests into the worlds of stories they love.”

In addition to these announcements, Chapek talked about the exciting news announced earlier in the day by Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger for plans to bring Star Wars-themed lands to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland park in Anaheim.  Each 14-acre land will transport guests to a never-before-seen planet with two signature attractions, including a customized secret mission on the Millennium Falcon and an epic Star Wars adventure that puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle.


Details on each of the projects include:

Star Wars Enhancements & New Experiences

From a new Star Tours adventure to Star Wars Launch Bay, from a new Jedi Training Academy to “Season of the Force,” soon guests will be part of both new and enhanced experiences at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue– Later this year, Star Tours will include a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving guests a new adventure in the Star Wars galaxy.
Star Wars Launch Bay Coming to Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort — This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind the scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings. Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park. (Disney Parks)
  • Star Wars Launch Bay– This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings.  Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park.  Also atDisneyland park, Star Wars Launch Bay will share the space with the reimagined Super Hero HQ, featuring opportunities to meet and take photos with super heroes like Captain America and Thor, as well as experience the returning Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries.  Both experiences will be available for guests later this year.
  • Jedi Training Academy— A favorite of younger fans is reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series “Star Wars Rebels.”
Season of the Force Coming to Disney Parks — This new seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both coasts. In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations and more. Guests also will be thrilled to climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At DisneyÕs Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies. (Disney Parks)
  • Season of the Force– This new seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both coasts.  In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations and more. Guests also will be thrilled to climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.


Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida

The reimagining of Disney’s Hollywood Studios will take guests to infinity and beyond, allowing them to step into the worlds of their favorite films, starting with Toy Story Land.  This new 11-acre land will transport guests into the adventurous outdoors of Andy’s backyard.  Guests will think they’ve been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys that Andy has assembled using his vivid imagination.  Using toys like building blocks, plastic buckets and shovels, and game board pieces, Andy has designed the perfect setting for this land, which will include two new attractions for any Disney park and one expanded favorite.

Toy Story Land at DisneyÕs Hollywood Studios in Florida — The reimagining of Disney’s Hollywood Studios will take guests to infinity and beyond, allowing them to step into the worlds of their favorite films, starting with Toy Story Land. This new 11-acre land will transport guests into the adventurous outdoors of AndyÕs backyard. Guests will think they’ve been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys that Andy has assembled using his vivid imagination. Using toys like building blocks, plastic buckets and shovels, and game board pieces, Andy has designed the perfect setting for this land, which will include two new attractions for any Disney park and one expanded favorite. (Disney Parks)
  • Family-friendly roller coaster– All on the back of Slinky Dog, this coaster will zip and zoom, plunge and coast as it takes guests on a fun, toy-filled adventure throughout the new land.
  • Alien saucers attraction– The famous little green aliens from the movie will take guests around for a spin in their very own flying saucers.  The music, lighting and sound effects add to the flurry of action, while “The Claw” looms over.
  • Toy Story Mania!– Guests glide into the Toy Story Midway Games Play Set  and take aim at 3D objects in a variety of fast-paced games, with an expansion that adds a third track to this popular attraction.


After Dark at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Pandora – The World of AVATAR

As part of the largest expansion in the park’s history, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will immerse guests into the world of Pandora, and the entire park will transform after dark with new nighttime entertainment experiences, offering guests longer days than ever before to experience this one-of-a-kind theme park.

“Rivers of Light” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Ð Expected to open next spring, “Rivers of Light” will be an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. “Rivers of Light” will magically come to life on the natural stage of Discovery River, delighting guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (Disney Parks)
  • “Rivers of Light”– Expected to open next spring, “Rivers of Light” will be an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. “Rivers of Light” will magically come to life on the natural stage of Discovery River, delighting guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris– This popular attraction will be extended for a new nighttime adventure next spring, where guests will travel through the African savanna amid the magically extended orange glow of the setting sun and discover two species new to the attraction: African wild dogs and hyenas.
AVATAR Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom — This E-ticket attraction, the centerpiece of Pandora, allows guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world. The spectacular flying experience will give guests a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage. (Disney Parks)
  • Pandora – The World of AVATAR – Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests will journey into the magnificent world of Pandora at this new AVATAR-themed land – a world that includes floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and the winged creatures known as Banshees, giving guests a transformational experience they will never forget.
  • AVATAR Flight of Passage – This E-ticket attraction, the centerpiece of Pandora, allows guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world. The spectacular flying experience will give guests a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.


Soarin’ Around the Worldin Florida and California

Next year, guests at Epcot in Florida and Disney California Adventure in California will journey to far-flung lands and fly above some of the world’s most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders when the new Soarin’ Around the World makes its U.S. debut.

Iron Man Experience Coming to Hong Kong Disneyland Ð When Tony Stark brings his Stark Expo to Tomorrowland at Hong Kong Disneyland, guests will be able to take flight with Iron Man on an epic adventure that pits Iron Man, along with guests, against the forces of evil. This first-of-its kind, E-ticket attraction will include a storyline that takes place in the streets and skies of Hong Kong. Set to open in late 2016, the experience will also include an area where guests can meet and take photos with Iron Man. (Disney Parks)

Iron Man Unveiled for Hong Kong Disneyland

Iron Man landed at D23 EXPO today for a special appearance, and soon Hong Kong Disneyland guests will have the opportunity to meet and take photos with the Super Hero himself. Set to open in 2016, Iron Man Experience will be the first Marvel attraction at any Disney park, taking guests on an epic adventure over the streets and in the sky above Hong Kong.  The adventure will begin at the new Stark Expo where guests board the Iron Wing to take flight and battle Hydra alongside fan-favorite Avenger, Iron Man.

What are you most excited about? Leave me a comment!

Book Review: Secrets of Disney’s Glorious Gardens

Secrets of Disney’s Glorious Gardensby Kevin Markey. pp 144 2006.

With the propagation of the HGTV show, My Yard Goes Disney, I thought it was an appropriate time to look at the 2006 release of the Secret’s of Disney’s Glorious Gardens. When I first read about this book, I had high hopes; one of my all-time, favorite books is Dee Hansford’s the Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort: A Photographic Tour of the Themed Gardens of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and other Resort Areas (1988). The Gardens of Walt Disney World is a spectacular look at the Walt Disney World Resort from 1988 and offers unparalleled images that have never been captured before or since. But this review is not about this title.

The book offers three, distinct realms: an intro to Disney garden design; a how-to-primer for gardening; and a handful of simple gardening projects that are supposed to bring Disney into your yard. From what I have seen of the My Yard Goes Disney promos, Secrets does not create as bombastic a scene nor does it offer projects that are out-of-reach of the average home owner. In other words, if you are interested in creating a garden that looks like it is from the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, then this book has a lot to offer.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Walt’s Idea Blossoms
  • Lands of Plenty
  • Setting a Mood
  • International Flora
  • Trade Secrets
  • Behind the Scenes

Here is the list of the projects/tips that are provided: entry arbor; creating effective edges; ghostly growth (inspired by the Haunted Mansion); garden container; water works (floating garden); Japanese gardens; portrait plantings (like the Mickey at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom); hanging baskets; sculpture gardens; attracting butterflies; organic pest control; and caring for roses.

How about we let some images do the talking?

This is a perfect book for anyone wanting to make their garden areas more Disney-like, without going overboard or destroying your property values. The projects are simple and the information presented is clear and aimed at the amateur gardener. If you have more gardening experience, you will still find inspiration from the photographs and the generalizations about perfecting that Disney look.

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Book Review: Theme Park Design by Steve Alcorn

Theme Park Design: Behind The Scenes With An Engineer by Steve Alcorn. 224 pp. 2010.

This book is a must-have for anyone interested in the engineering side of theme park design.

Steve Alcorn is the co-author of Building a Better Mouse, one of the few books to take an insider look at building a Disney attraction. He formed Alcorn McBride in 1986 and the company has become the leader in show control, lighting, audio and video equipment for the theme park industry. Steve also teaches a class about theme park imagineering. You can find more information at Imagineering Class.

Spread over 50 chapters, Steve takes us through every step of theme park design from an engineer’s perspective, making this book very unique. The Walt Disney Imagineering books favor the artistic side of Imagineering while Steve shows us everything that has to happen once the designs are set. After reading Theme Park Design, you will garner a monumental sense of what it takes to design and construct an attraction.

Steve has a great style and he is careful to steer us away from jargon, overtly-technical terms and engineering play-by-play. Often, Steve will start out with a  description of a specific engineering tract and slide into an anecdote about EPCOT or another theme park attraction. I would say that those were the hidden gems of the book, but Steve is so affable that the entire book has a friendly, charming and excited tone. It is obvious that Steve loves what he does and wants to share it with the world.

Not only do you see the amount of people it takes to imagineer an attraction, but you get a glimpse of all of the different disciplines involved. For example, Steve spends a good amount of time describing and differentiating the various jobs/titles that are used in building an attraction (project engineer vs. system engineer or directors vs. producers). It is surprising how much information Steve is able to relate on such a personable level.

Anyone looking for an insider’s perspective about working in the theme park field must read this book. Especially if you are looking for a career in the industry; Steve offers a chapter about what he typically looks for in a potential candidate. Take his advice seriously–he is someone who hires in the industry and works with the big names in themed design.

Plus, how you you go wrong when you read that Steve’s favorite dark ride is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

I received a copy of this book for review purposes.
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Book Review: The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology

The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology by J.P. Telotte. 232 pages, 2008.

The Mouse Machine was a book that I was very excited to start reading. With a lot of books, you have a certain notion of what to expect between the covers; at first, this book disappointed the theme park fan inside me. When I really got my teeth into it, I realized that this is a work geared towards two types of people: Walt Disney (Company) enthusiasts and animation/film buffs. The theme parks are covered, but in the audio-animatronics area, mainly. Most of the work is dedicated to covering the advances that the House of Mouse created or stumbled upon during its sojourn into popular culture.

Obviously, several high points in the Company’s history take precedence: sound, color, multi-plane and special effects are all covered in great detail. The book takes a while to get going and I was tempted to put it away several times; I am glad that I continued. After the first several chapters, you get used to the academic style and start to enjoy and think about the concepts. Telotte’s intent was to create a work that showed how the technological leaps were not only to heighten the art form, but also acted as a link to technology and popular culture.

The aim of this book is to follow the company’s lead in this regard, to offer a selective look at some of those, often-unseen–or unconsidered– technological supports or developments that, in film, television, and the theme parks, have been crucial to the success of the Walt Disney Company and, at times, also a clue to its limitations.
–pp. 2-3.

Ub Iwerks and Walt garner special focus, but Telotte also looks at the other pioneers in the various film departments. A lot of time is spent in looking at the development of the animated shorts–how they changed the industry technologically and artistically. Telotte does seem to have a fondness, not only for technology, but for popular culture. The other major section of the book concerns the development of special effects for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also looks at the development and similarities between 20,000 Leagues and The Black Hole. He offer his thoughts on why the first was a success and the latter, a failure. When Telotte discusses the major technological advances of the company, he does hit all of the milestones of the animation and film development. In the chapter on the theme parks, the focus is on a few of the modern attractions, like: Dinosaur, Alien Encounter and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Most of the seminal theme park attractions are mentioned in passing or as antecedents with nothing more notable than as technological steps. Telotte tries to show the reader how society accepts the technology of the theme park attractions as part of the show instead of just as technology.

The chapter titles give a good impression of where the title takes us:

  1. Sound Fantasy
  2. Minor Hazards: Disney and the Color Adventure
  3. Three Dimensional Animation and the Illusion of Life
  4. A Monstrous Vision: Disney, Science Fiction, and CinemaScope
  5. Disney in Television Land
  6. The “Inhabitable Text” of the Parks
  7. Course Correction: Of Black Holes and Computer Games
  8. “Better than Real”: Digital Disney, Pixar, and Beyond

There is much more to the work than I could cover in a review. Telotte advances many thoughts and concepts that lead to more critical thought about the company. Comparing what Telotte has written to the majority of the Disney literature and you find a competent and exciting work–you just need to get used to the writing style. Most works cover just the people and the art, while we see another side of the company through The Mouse Machine.

Bottom Line: This book is for the animation/film and Disney Company enthusiast. The tone is very heady and academic; most theme park-only fans will not find much of interest. Overall, Telotte adds a very solid work to the body of knowledge on the Walt Disney Company. I am glad I have the book and it adds new perspective to how we think about the monumental progress that the Walt Disney Company is known for.