Yesterday evening, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was kind enough to invite Great American Thrills™ out to the park for an exclusive preview of their latest entertainment offering – “Cirque Dreams – Splashtastic.”
This program is unlike anything we’ve experienced here at a Northern California park – it’s very glitzy and the production value is VERY high. If you were a fan of the “Marriott Era” of entertainment offerings at, say Great America, or the quality of shows that Disney parks offer – then this show will bring back good memories for you.
It also sets a very high precedent for entertainment offerings in the coming years at all the Bay Area amusement / theme parks. (I.E. You’re on notice!) Unlike many other shows at parks which are produced in-house, Cirque Dreams – Splashtastic is a partnership between Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Cirque Productions.
If you’ve ever been to a “cirque” style show before, you’ll see many of those elements in the program (we can’t really call this a show – it’s much more than that). The program features a showcase of talents, that as the park says, “…combines the grace, power and agility of our bottlenose dolphins and the amazing spectacle of of true performance artists…”
As you would expect, the entire program is themed with an aquatic flair to it. Costumes mimic sea life, actors are adorned with prosthetics to give them a more “fishy” quality and the entire amphitheater (formerly Dolphin Harbor Stadium) is adorned with colorful graphics strewn about the facility.
There are seven parts to the show in all, each with their own featured characters and skills on display. During pre-production of the show, nearly 300 acts auditioned to be one of those seven featured performances.
The pace is good and the program keeps moving for the most part with no real lag time. During the human performances, the dolphins show off their stuff as well, including a particularly entertaining dolphin hula hoop behavior that you’ll simply have to see for yourself.
The show was created, produced and directed by Neil Goldberg, an acclaimed Broadway director who also founded the Cirque Dreams troupe over 20 years ago. In other words, this guy knows what he’s doing.
“Our goal was to complement the personalities of the dolphins and performers through playfulness…and unparalleled showmanship,” said Goldberg. “It will be one of those unique, memorable entertainment attractions rarely experienced.”
I’ll be posting a full, exclusive interview with Goldberg later this week.
The only thing that I can find wrong with the show, is that it has a limited run – just from Memorial Day Weekend though August 11th. But in a way, that works – it makes it a limited engagement, so the performances are better and more special to those who witness them as spectators. It’s quality over quantity, and something that most parks would not think twice about.
I’ll be posting a full interview with the Creator and Director of Cirque Dreams Splashtastic, Neil Goldberg, later this week.
For now – get your plans in now and get out to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to experience this one of a kind piece of amusement park entertainment – it’s certainly worth the trip.
As always, Great American Thrills™ would like to thank those who made this post possible: Neil Goldberg, Nancy Chan, Lee Munro as well as the entire staff and crew of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Cirque Dreams – Splashtastic!
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If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this due just ran away with all the medals…
Henry Gribbohm claims that at a recent carnival he attended, he lost $2,600 playing a game called “Tubs of Fun.”
And you thought carnival barkers were good at stretching the truth.
In the game, contestants attempt to toss balls into a tub. Apparently, Gribbohm had been practicing the game at home for weeks before the fair – but when it was game time – the results weren’t so good.
Considering the game offers one of the largest prizes at the fair, it should have been fair warning that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Predictably, all of Gribbohm’s attempts failed.
But that didn’t stop him, no sir. According to Gribbohm, he kept trying to win back his money by going double or nothing, something that even a carnie wouldn’t dare try. (Especially considering that’s gambling!) He also claimed that because he was causing such a large scene and drawing in people, the operator of the game, “…promised me a Xbox.”
“He dropped $300 in just a few minutes and said he went home to get $2,300 more and soon lost all of that as well,” according to a local TV station.
“It’s not possible that it wasn’t rigged,” he said. “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.”
Understatement of the century there. You think they just give these quality items away?
Apparently, Gribbohm went back the next day to complain and the man running the game gave him back $600 – which at least validated his claim that he did spend wayyy too much money on a giant banana. Despite getting back $600 that he never should have, he still filed a report with the police.
Gribbohm said that he’s considering a lawsuit. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t win there, either.
That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.
Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).
The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.
After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.
From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.
I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.
Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.
To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”
We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.
So, in conclusion…
This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.
Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.
In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.
The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!
To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com
Gotta love this take on the famous “Stretching Room” in Disney’s Haunted Mansion. THis one is themed after the Batman saga and features Harley Quinn, The Joker, Poison Ivy and Batgirl.
Fun fact: The stretching effect is achieved two different ways at Disneyland and Disney World. One has the ceiling rise, the other has the floor descend. Can you identify which one is which? Leave your guess in the comments section below!
It’s official – our next lost park has finally been chosen!
“Do you know the way to San Jose…”
and the way to Luna Park?
Set your foam guns to “master blaster,” amusement park fanboys! Looks like you’ve got some new competition for stingiest park visitor. And this one plays for keeps, what, being a Dictator and all…
Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite twenty-something “threatening to nuke the U.S.” ruler, Kim Jong Un. From the sound of it, he knows quality amusement park traits.
Un was at a North Korean amusement park last year, where he took in the rides, the scenery and the crowds that were carefully staged to be there (probably at gunpoint).
But, he also lambasted the park for potential safety issues with their water slides, poorly maintained showering facilities, weeds growing out of the asphalt and even peeling paint on the rides.
First of all – who would have thought North Korea would even HAVE an amusement park. For most people living there, just getting food is a daily chore, let alone having FUN in the process.
Secondly – is this the first time we’ve seen a Head of State actually partaking in a thrill ride in front of the media? Who knows – maybe that’s why Mitt Romney lost the election – we didn’t see him on a coaster.
So, the inevitable question comes up – can we send Kim Jong Un to (INSERT ANY USA PARK HERE) to fix up some of our lesser maintained parks? Maybe we can call it a “goodwill” mission…
As I continue to upgrade the brand and it’s overall presence, I’ve made a major move in terms of my photography.
You can view my latest photos, download and even purchase them at: www.500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills
I was just featured on the BorrowLenses.com blog, giving away some of my Top Ten Amusement Park Photo Tips. (Hint – use a nice camera and have tons of patience!)
You can find the link to the blog post by clicking here:
Or using this hyperlink:
I’ve found myself becoming a bit jealous while working on the “Lost Parks” series. So many of the people we’re working with have first-hand memories of the parks we’re featuring. While history tends to skew towards the positive on these, it’s still a bit depressing to hear how awesome these places were – from those who experienced it first hand.
True, we did experience Pacific City’s “odious odor” quite by chance and dumb luck while filming at the site, but that’s about it.
And that’s when I realized it – I had a connection to my amusement past that I could still connect with.
You see, while I was having the BEST DAY EVER at Great America back in July of 1990, my Mom snapped this photo of me on Carousel Columbia’s upper deck. My Grandmother was somewhat cropped out just to my left.
With my Mother passing in 2004 to Leukemia, the near loss of my Grandmother this year and the launch of the brand, I thought the time was right to try and re-create this scene.
So, 22 ½ years later, I went to the park with a mission – to find that same horse and to see if it was even possible to re-create that photo.
Now, the odds were against me from the start. You see, every off-season the park removes all the horses to refurbish them for the next years’ abuse thousands of riders per day.
In addition, finding them all in the same order would be tough – surely they’d have been shuffled once or twice. Plus, fiberglass eventually wears down and requires complete replacement (I.E. trashed).
After scouting out the upper deck, it appeared my dream was dashed. No sign of the plastic pony I had been photographed on over two decades ago.
On a whim, I decided to head down to the lower deck, and take my chances there. Not thinking much, I waited for the ride to finish the previous cycle, and took a quick walk around the turntable before the ride began.
That’s when I spotted him. Sitting right there on the bottom turntable, next to the chariot.
Strip away the paint and jewels – and just look at the pose of the horse. It was clear, this had to be the one. It was still here, albeit with some more jewels and a new paint job.
Now, I know that these horses are models – they’re based off of molds that have been re-used countless times. But I also know that even molded horses are expensive to replace.
All that being said – at least in my heart, this was still THE horse.
At long last, I had found my connection to amusement park history. Now, the planning could begin to actually recreate the photo
So now, I get to move onto my next task…convincing the park to move it back upstairs…
As for those short shorts I’m wearing in the first photo? Don’t expect me to be wearing them when we try to remake this shot.
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; Its a world of hopes, its a world of fear; There’s so much that we share, that its time we’re aware…
“…its a small world after all!”
You might want to add, “It’s a world of lawsuits” to that refrain as well.
Late last week, Disney got an early Easter present, in the form of an $8,000 judgement against them for not being able to evacuate a man off the ride for over 30 minutes. (The ride itself is anywhere from 12-15 minutes long normally).
Considering how much other Disney lawsuits have been settled for, this one just might feel like a present to settle so low.
So, how did we get here? Well, back in 2009, Jose Martinez, found himself stuck in the final “room” of the attraction the day after Thanksgiving. As per standard operating procedure, Disneyland employees were able to evacuate all the passengers from the ride…except Martinez – who is confined to a wheelchair due to paralysis.
According to Martinez’s attorney, he suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, “…both of which became issues as he sat in the boat (with the song) playing over and over and over.” He added, “(Martinez) He was half in the cave of the ride and half out,” Geffen said. “The music was blaring. They couldn’t get it to go off.”
Apparently, Disneyland employes were unable to evacuate the wheelchair-bound Martinez and opted to try and fix the ride to get him back to the ride platform.
Now this is where I get to the litigious point of my article…
Martinez’s attorney continued, “This is a really important ruling not just for (Martinez), but for anyone that rides the rides at Disneyland — because they do break down often and they do not tell people.” Anyone who’s ever visited Disney Parks know that the ride operators are some of the best in the business. As SOON as a ride breaks down, announcements are made and cast members generally walk out to the attraction (when they can) to speak with guests and re-assure them that everything is okay.
The next quote finally broke me: “The court’s saying that this kind of injury is foreseeable and that (Disneyland) has a duty to warn people,” Geffen said.
Now, this ruling is significant – as you’ll remember previously that just a few weeks ago, I wrote about a similar lawsuit that was thrown out AND became part of case law. You can find that post here: “Ride at your own Risk!”
Ironically, the attraction – which was added in 1960, after the World’s Fair – was created in the hopes of spreading world peace via the youth of the world.
Apparently, it now should incite fear.
And really, Disney itself has played on this fear, which has made it more of a cult attraction that ever before. Remember these scenes from “The Lion King” trilogy? (Yes, they made three of them under Eisner’s rule)
And legally, we have to state that these clips of copyrighted material are being used under the “Fair use Doctrine” of copyright law, for discussion, criticism, education or parody. In this case, we’re using them as examples of Disney making fun of itself to educate the readers of this blog. We’ve even shortened the clip playtime to the smallest possible to make our point.
So beware, small world riders – you could find yourself in court the next time a ride song traumatizes you!
Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”
Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)
When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.
There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.
So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…
…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”
Now, the thrill of the chase is on!
In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…
The on-ride photo - a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…
The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.
Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.
Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…
So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:
Why not get the whole family involved?
Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?
Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!
The eyes tell the story!
Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!
I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)
Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?
No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!
Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?
(I certainly don’t think so!)
Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!
“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”
“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”
And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!
If you’ve gone around the site lately, you’ve noticed our new, spruced up banners.
Which one is your favorite? Be sure to comment below!
Special thanks to my employer, BorrowLenses for allowing us to take awesome camera equipment out on the weekends! All the photos you see below (except for the second to last one) were shot using BL equipment!
Wow – who would have thought there was a full-fledged amusement park behind the Vatican!
Well, no actually. But I couldn’t help but look at this photo and think it looked just like some of the park maps I’ve seen over the years.
What do you think? What would be the marquee attraction at Vatican-Land?
After over 55 years in business, “the Happiest Place on Earth” is no longer a playground for unsupervised tweens.
Disney yesterday, announced that they would no longer allow children under the age of 14 to roam the park without parental accompaniment.
At first, it SOUNDS terrible, borderline insane. I mean, how could a Disney Park ban KIDS? Wasn’t that the point they were built, so we could all be children at heart? But then, after reading into it a bit more, not only can I understand the move – I APPLAUD IT.
Consider for a moment, the last time you went to, say a Six Flags. Their marketing is heavily focused on the under 18 market, especially for season pass sales. Remember all those annoying tweens in the park – blasting their cell phones on speaker so that EVERYONE in line could hear their favorite song? Cutting in line, being generally “rebellious” (or at least what that generation thinks is rebellious?).
After you’ve just paid $119 per PERSON to experience the Disneyland Resort for JUST ONE DAY – do you really want to have that same experience?
I didn’t think so. And neither should you.
Let’s face it, some parents use amusement parks as a de-facto babysitter. It’s apparently a $600 investment (Annual Pass approximate cost) in sanity it’s much easier for the Mom and Dad to dump you off at an amusement park for the day, than deal with your pre-pubescent problems. This is exactly what Disney wants to stop, even if it means sacrificing a few Annual Passholders to Knott’s Berry Farm, a few miles up. “the 5.”
It’s rare that a park will turn down easy money (Holiday World in Indiana does it all the time by offering free parking, free soda and free sunscreen) but considering how much The Walt Disney Company made in the time it took you to read the word “DISNEY” in this sentence – they can afford to purge themselves of such a small (but noisy and noticeable) market group.
And hey, since you can’t dump your kids off at the park anymore, you’ll just have to buy a ticket for yourself and - GASP – try to enjoy a little together-time as a family. Ahhh!
Remember when that was the point of going to Disneyland?
Ever wonder why rides make certain sounds? Wonder why it takes a mechanic to “clear” a ride and restart it? In the next few posts, I’ll be highlighting questions people always ask me at parks – so you’ll be an educated park guest!
In it’s essence, the lift hill is the engine of the roller coaster. It give the cars the potential energy they need in order to complete the circuit. The greater the height of the lift, the more potential energy the ride has (I.E. the longer the ride can go)
Traditionally, the lift hill is at the start to the ride, angled at about a 20-25 degree pitch, and has a chain that runs along a trough built into the track.
Once you’re on the lift, you’ll hear the familiar click-click sound – that’s actually a brilliant safety device called an anti-rollback strip. Simply put, if the ride stops suddenly, or heaven forbid) the chain breaks – the car will simply rest in the position it was last in. It’s a similar principle to those common “zip ties” you might have laying around your home. They, just like a coaster – only roll on one direction.
These devices may also be placed at other key areas of the ride, where the chance of a rollback is higher (usually in a slower section of the ride – at the top of a hill)
There are some rides that either do no or cannot have these devices, usually because the action of the ride requires forwards and backwards motion.
So, the next time you’re on a ride – know that a century-old safety device is right under (or above you), making sure your train safely makes it up the lift and subsequent hills time and time again.
For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.
For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!
One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.
Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.
The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.
Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of wheels have eclipsed this number.
Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.
It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.
Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)
Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.
His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of
tuberculosis at age 37.
So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.
And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*
*Except the person sitting behind you…
A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:
The BEST Great America site on the planet, featuring the Sky Whirl triple Ferris wheel:
After observing and working in this industry for over 15 years, I’ve found there to be two types of people that enjoy amusement / theme parks in this country: those who visit to enjoy themselves with their friends and families; and those who visit the park to criticize every facet of the park or people who enjoy attractions that they do not.
I’ve dubbed them, “enthusiasts and enthusi-asses,” respectably.
I bring this up because there is an event occurring over the next few weekends along the Jersey shore that highlights this disparity within the ranks of those who consider themselves as “fans” of amusement parks – and has re-affirmed my belief in humanity.
First, a little background –
Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, with millions affected. Some of the most visible victims were the traditional, seaside amusement parks of New Jersey. When the first photos of the damage came in, the striking photo of a pleasure pier – with rides partially submerged in the surf – became one of the many iconic photos of the disaster. Several other seaside amusement parks, including Keansburg Amusement Park fell victim to the same fate along the East Coast’s shore.
It was a dark time for the owners of these traditional parks, many of which have been in the family for generations. With the storm still wreaking havoc, some people took to the internet to thank the hurricane for destroying certain rides, as if they somehow deserved this fate.
They never seemed to post anything about the families who had invested so much of their personal savings to purchase and install the rides; Let alone the incredible financial burden that was sure to follow.
A person who “enjoys” a specific hobby and who seems to only care about themselves and not others – I’d describe that person as an “enthusi-ass,” wouldn’t you?
So now, we come to the other side of the spectrum, to the “enthusiast.” Once the damage was fully accounted for and insurance issues resolved – the New Jersey region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided that they were not going to stand for stupidity. They took to the internet, not to flame, troll or degrade an already bad situation…
No – they sprang into action.
The region created a repeating event they dubbed, “Dig out the Wildcat.” Its purpose: to assist the family owned Keansburg Amusement Park in removing deposited sand around their Wildcat roller coaster.
People helping people. Via the internet. Not yelling or flaming one another.
What a novel concept.
What will happen in the small, family owned amusement park on the Keansburg shore over the next few weekends is proof-positive that there still are good people in this world. Over 20 people have expressed interest in the event.
Even better, that group of people – who share the common bond of enjoying amusement parks – can unite to help out the very people that allow them to enjoy life to the fullest.
They know that there’s no opportunities for rides, or the coveted “exclusive ride time,” no – they simply want to help out their fellow human beings.
True “enthusiasts” in every sense of the word. True enthusiasts talk with action. In this case, it’s with buckets and shovels.
At least now we can see the true enthusiasts use their hands for good.
I only wish that I could get out there myself and assist them.
Today was a victory for amusement parks and fans alike – the California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of amusement parks and ride operators, by throwing out a lawsuit against (then) Paramount’s Great America that involved their bumper cars.
At issue was the “assumption of risk” associated with going to an amusement park and whether or not one could sue a park if you were injured on a ride through no fault of the park. (I.E. the rides were maintained properly, but you still became injured.)
According to court documents, Smriti Nalwa, a local OB-GYN was on the “Rue le Dodge” bumper cars at Paramount’s Great America back in 2005, with her son, who was maneuvering the vehicle. To say you “drive” a bumper car is a bit of a misnomer…
Continuing through the court documents, near the end of the ride cycle, which generally lasts for about a minute, “(the) plaintiff’s bumper car was bumped from the front and then from behind. Feeling a need to brace herself, (the) plaintiff put her hand on the car’s “dashboard.” That’s when she realized her wrist was fractured.
The lawsuit originally claimed that the park was negligent in preventing injuries to riders and that the park knowingly operated a ride that caused injuries. A lower court found the park not liable, but upon appeal, the decision was reversed.
According to the dissenting judge in the original appeals case, “Low-speed collisions between the padded, independently operated cars are inherent in—are the whole point of—a bumper car ride.”
Even Nalwa agreed with industry experts and fans, when in her deposition said, “The point of the bumper car is to bump…you pretty much can’t have a bumper car unless you have bumps.”
The court found that while these impacts were not highly dangerous, but that sudden changes in speed and direction do carry an inherent risk of minor injuries. To change this portion of the ride would be eliminating the very character of the ride itself.
The dissenting judge continued, “Imposing liability would have the likely effect of the amusement park either eliminating the ride altogether or altering its character…the fun of bumping would be eliminated, thereby discouraging patrons from riding. Indeed, who would want to ride a tapper car at an amusement park?”
In a small portion of cases such as these, our understanding of technology and safety is improved. For instance, after several situations where people were falling or being pushed onto loading tracks in stations, parks installed the ubiquitous “air gate” preventing soon-to-be riders from falling or getting shoved into the path of an oncoming train.
But because the industry is self-policed (I.E. a “killer” ride no longer has the appeal of the 1920’s), most of these lawsuits have done nothing but drive up the cost of business and removed (or renovated for the worse) attractions.
People DO get injured at parks, yes. But they also get injured at home, in their beds and in the shower, too. Yet, you don’t see lawsuits from those events. Why should a park be any different?
Even the court said, “Head-on bumping was prohibited on the Rue le Dodge ride, a safety rule the ride operators were to enforce by lecturing those they saw engaging in the practice and, if a guest persisted in head-on bumping, by stopping the ride and asking the person to leave.”
What was not discussed in the court papers was the possibility of a pre-existing condition. For all we know, Nalwa could have already had a hairline fracture that was aggravated by riding the bumper cars. This is not unheard of, as a child with a pre-existing heart condition died on Mission: Space at Epcot in Florida several years ago.
So clearly, someone broke the rules, they rammed a car head-on. So how, exactly is that the parks’ responsibility? If you or a member of your family was rear ended on the freeway, would you sue the state for providing the venue for the crash?
Let’s face it, more people are hurt or die DRIVING to amusement parks each year than inside them.
So, did someone get needlessly injured?
Do I feel bad that she was injured?
Should the park be responsible for other’s behavior in the park, or even a pre-existing condition that Nalwa may have not been unaware of?
I applaud the decision of the California Supreme Court, because by making this decision, they have re-affirmed our right to have traditional fun, without needless lawsuits ruining it for everyone else.
First off, my apologies for the delay in updating lately. Unlike some others in the theme park fandom community – I actually hold down full-time employment in a separate career…
In only it’s fifth year of existence, California’s Great America has taken their “Halloween Haunt” from a paltry offering that used “long retired” mazes from other parks – to a bona fide, macabre extravaganza worthy of a separate gate admission.
After parking the car and meeting up with my group for the night, I immediately noticed the attention to theme and detail. Carousel Plaza was lit up (and so were the teenagers I was surrounded by).
In Hometown Square my fellow “scared-y cats” and I gathered, awaiting the Overlord (the de facto leader of the monsters) to rise up from the depths and “plug” all the fun activities for the evening (literally as if he was plugging a product on the Howard Stern show) as well as command his minions to go forth, “…and terrorize!” The ropes were dropped and the night of fright officially began.
Figuring the front mazes would be crowded at first, I made my way to the back of the park, where the familiar sounds of “Toy Factory” could be heard.
“Toy Factory” is set in it’s namesake – a not so abandoned factory inhabited by deranged dolls and other toys, who were more than willing to help unsuspecting guests join their ranks. Some of the best effects are found in the the strobe rooms, but if you’re claustrophobic – this is not the maze for you.
“Werewolf Canyon” was sadly at the bottom of my list this year, mostly because it was practically empty by all standards. While most of the mazes will will up nicely as we get closer to Halloween, I didn’t get one good fright out of the entire attraction – which is a sharp contrast from last years maze in the same location.
Next up was arguably the best of the mazes at this event, for several years now, “Cornstalkers”. Set in the back of the park, through the Picnic Grove and under the Grizzly, this maze had the best scares of the night, by far.
Not only does it feel like the longest of the mazes, but it’s use of open air and lack of soundtrack gives you the false sense of safety – which the talent in the maze use perfectly to their advantage. The addition of actors blending perfectly into the corn maize walls towards the end of the attraction adds to the suspense and fright.
“Madame Marie’s Massacre Mansion” is a new addition to the maze lineup this year. Built into it’s own building (ironically next to First Aid) “Mansion” is one of the best themed mazes I’ve walked through in quite some time. It also commanded the longest line of the night.
It was clear there was attention to detail at every level – it truly made you FEEL as though you were in a 1920′s (or so) mansion, that is, if you didn’t look up to the ceiling and see the shed you were actually in! This is in sharp contrast to most of the mazes at events like this, where it’s just painted particle board.
The effects were nothing short of impressive and the costumes were excellent, to boot. It’s clear that this maze took some serious investment to get it right – and in my opinion it was well worth the time and effort put into it. One can only hope we see it return next year.
Vegans beware! “Slaughterhouse Annihilation” just might make you sick. Based around an abandoned meat processing facility, this maze is one of the more gruesome of the bunch – and rightfully so. Expect to be thrown in a meat grinder in this maze at some point – and whatever you do – don’t show the pigs any fear!
“CarnEvil” is the reigning patriarch of the mazes at this event. Originally a maze down at Knott’s Berry Farm, “CarnEvil was the first maze to make it’s way to Great America when the Halloween Haunt debuted five years ago.
This maze is by far, the most light-hearted of them all, which attracts the multitude of fans to it. That is, of course, if you’re not afraid of clowns.
Built into the Rue le Dodge bumper car arena, “CarnEvil” is also a 3D maze – used to brilliant effect in the opening room. Just don’t walk too quickly or you just might run into a wall or three.
Herein again, I found the lack of talent inside to be the only disappointment. At previous events, it would have been impossible to throw a pie and NOT hit a homicidal clown. Instead, I was hard pressed to see more than 7-10 actors inside!
“Club Blood ReVamp’d” was sadly the one maze I was unable to get to in my time at the park. Though, from the scantily-clad zombie and vampire ladies that were going inside – I’m certainly regretting not making the time to get in!
As the night progressed and the temperature dropped, the scare zones (and the fog) only warmed up in terms of action. The purposely dimmed lighting certainly did its part as well. Nothing beats walking through the arbor arch at the back of the park and seeing about three feet in front of you!
“Blood Drums” is a high energy, outdoor show that’s best described as ”Stomp” meets “zombie apocalypse.”
Set in the premium venue at the park (directly behind the Carousel Columbia) “Blood Drums” is a 3-4 member band in full zombie attire that uses metal objects and “industrial tools” to create music.
If you’re into loud, ear-splitting music – this is definitely the show for you. If you’re not – steer clear, hombre. Many times, I found myself reaching to plug my ears, as the volume was up so high it physically hurt – and I was standing about 100 feet away from the stage. How the guests standing at the front of the stage are not deaf today, is beyond me.
In fact, the best music the team played during their set, again in my opinion, was when they TURNED OFF the backup bass and drumbeats – and simply played live.
“CULTure Pop” is in the Showtime Theatre – and can best be described as “The Hanging” without the blood, stunts or punch of the actual hanging.
Cedar Fair Entertainment certainly seems to have a fascination with pop culture, to the point of being painful to watch. Expect to see pop culture “icons” appear throughout the show, with many of them that just don’t work. Cedar Fair also seems to have a fascination with effeminate men playing the supporting role to the “straight man” in the show…go figure.
There were some good moments though, including a cameo by a hairy “Honey Boo Boo” and a dismissal of the band, “New Direction.”
But the lack of a “finale” (I.E. someone has to die at these types of shows) and several VERY adult themed dance numbers (We’re talking full on groping and humping!) really hurt the overall entertainment value, especially for an event marketed to kids ages 13+. Have your scantily clad ladies, that’s fine – but tone down the sexual overtones – it’s shock value and really does not add to the show.
But what REALLY shocks me, is something that’s completely out of the parks’ control – the lack of understanding about what these events are all about. I’m talking about how I lost count of the number of STROLLERS and CHILDREN who were clearly too young to be at such a mentally-intense event as this.
The park certainly does their part to curb this; warnings abound on park literature and signage. Heck, even the security guards were warning parents – but it didn’t seem to dissuade the “Parents of the Year” from continuing their march towards the inevitable child psychologist appointments.
So, overall – I see nothing but good things for this event in the future. While it may not have the star power of the original Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm, if it continues on this path that it’s on, I see no reason why it should not have the same staying power and clout as it’s namesake does.
If you have not already purchased a Season Pass for this park, what exactly are you waiting for? In addition to admission to Halloween Haunt (depending on the level of pass you purchase) you can receive free parking, free admission to Gilroy Gardens, as well as merchandise and food discounts in-park. (We saved $20 collectively on our dinner!)
Oh, not to mention Gold Striker, CGA’s first roller coaster in over a DECADE (yes, it’s been that long, people) and second wooden coaster!
- If you don’t like being scared – save yourself the trouble and don’t go.
- Friday nights tend to be a younger crowd than Saturday nights.
- Arrive at the front gate at opening to maximize your stay. You’re going to need as much time as possible to experience everything.
- Take on the outdoor mazes AFTER the sun sets, focus on indoor mazes during the twilight.
- Try to find the pockets of people and then avoid them – to keep lines to a minimum.
- Go in late September or early October to avoid the expected, larger crowds as Halloween approaches.
For more information, visit: www.cagreatamerica.com/haunt2012
Come experience the entire media day festivities for Six Flags’ newest thrill ride! Includes after-ride analysis, point of view video (POV) and even a Drew Carey laugh impersonation!
Great American Thrills was invited out to sample the BRAND NEW thrill ride at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – Superman, Ultimate Flight!
As you can tell from the uncontrollable laughing at the end – it’s that much fun, folks! Get out to Vallejo (probably really early to avoid the line) and get on this coaster!
No, that THAT type of POV pervs…I’m talking about roller coaster POV! (Sorry to disappoint you – but you DID read the blog subject, right?!?)
Have you ever watched roller coaster point of view video or POV online before? Lord knows I certainly have. Ever wondered why the videos are sometimes jolty or always start AFTER the ride has started? Today, I want to show you how to identify good coaster POV, bad POV and illegal ride POV.
You can watch the video here: http://youtu.be/UJ2GjHIOJvM
POV has been around since the dawn of the motion picture – but it really gained notoriety after it was featured in the 1950’s film “This is Cinerama.” It saw its greatest surge in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when Discovery Channel began featuring it regularly on Memorial Day. When Robb Alvey started producing on-ride videos from parks he visited, POV saw an even bigger surge. The internet is now awash with RIDE footage from thousands of users – thanks to cameras becoming smaller and more powerful. It’s become incredibly easy for anyone to film, well, anything. But does that make it right? Let’s find out…
Many parks have had to enact policies that discourage loose articles, especially cameras. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk will stop the Giant Dipper on its lift hill if operators see someone with a camera or cell phone trying to recording video. Expect a greeting and escort from security if you whip it out after the lift, by the way.
So, how do you stop this dangerous practice and keep your fellow guests safe? Simple – stop supporting it. If you see any of the tell-tale signs of illegal coaster POV, don’t keep watching it – unsubscribe from that user’s YouTube channel. You’ll keep admission process down and keep the line moving!