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Posts tagged “behind the scenes

Busch Gardens’ Roller Coaster Insider Tour a Must for Thrill Seekers

If you’re looking for the ultimate thrill seeker’s dream – look no further than Busch Gardens WIlliamsburg, and their Roller Coaster Insider Tour.

For starters – you’ll get to ride to the top of Griffon, the park’s B&M Dive Coaster, via the emergency funicular. From 205 feet up, you’ll learn how the ride works and see some of the massive trains in the maintenance bay.

Then, you’ll head over to Alpengeist – where you’ll see how they transfer trains out of the maintenance bay – as well as how the magnetic brakes work.

From there, you’ll visit Verbolten – and get to peek inside the darkened show building. Trust me, it’s a treat despite being a bit dark.

Finally, you’ll end up at Loch Ness Monster, learning incredible facts about the world’s only interlocking loop ride and how one section of track is particularly special.

Still not sold? Check out this video from the park:

Did I mention you get to ride all the coasters after learning all about them? So what are you waiting for?!? To book the tour, visit www.BuschGardens.com for details!


The Arrow Dynamics Pipeline Coaster – This Week’s Throwback Thursday

Today’s Throwback Thursday is a rare gem!

Arrow Pipeline Coaster

Presenting the Arrow pipeline concept – a roller coaster that stood for many years in Arrow’s Clearfield, UT plant. However, it never made it into a park (although Intamin would make a similar design in Asia several years later).

This video shows the process of testing and some rare POV of the ride as well – anyone want to get in line to be the first riders? Don’t forget to check out our documentary project on Arrow Development by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook!


Insane Coaster Wars debuts new season, but still needs some off-season rehab

After filming all last summer, Indigo Films‘ “Insane Coaster Wars” debuted it’s third season last night – and I can’t help but comment on their latest “effort.”

The premise of the show, is a decent one – have people vote on specific aspects of certain rides, then rank them against other coasters around the world. Seems straightforward, right?

Experiencing a film date in St. Louis last summer.

At issue with most coaster and park enthusiasts (who make up a large number of the viewing audience) however, is the continued downgrade in quality of the traditional summer “coaster show” over the past few years. “Insane Coaster Wars” is just the latest in a string of low budget, low quality productions from powerhouses like the Travel Channel and Discovery. Just look at some of the reactions from last night’s debut:

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So what can this show do to make itself better in the eyes of it’s core audience? Read on:

 

1.) Stop hiring actors and talk to real “coaster enthusiasts”

Original screengrab by Dan Hower (who's also in the second row with Alyssa Schipani). Used with permission.

Original screengrab by Dan Hower (who’s also in the second row with Alyssa Schipani). Used with permission.

SPOILER ALERT: Television isn’t what it always appears. Multiple sources have confirmed to this website that the “coaster enthusiasts” featured in each segment are actually…wait for it…local actors found on Craigslist, hired for around $300 each.

Yup, Craigslist. Home to “Casual NSA Encounters” and apparently beautiful & young roller coaster junkies. Didn’t you wonder why those featured riders always seemed to speak really good english…in the middle of Taiwan and Costa Rica?

Those “friends from college” who “visit the park all the time” – it’s usually their first trip ever to these parks. Yet, the graphic in the lower third clearly says they’re “Coaster Enthusiasts.”

Last night’s episode featured two “coaster enthusiasts” who had never been to Kennywood – and in fact, had not been to a park, “in years.” True enthusiasts don’t take years off – they rarely take months off.

What’s even more ironic – if the production company wanted to save  up to $1200 per segment (and it’s obvious they do) simply stop hiring actors – just call on the local region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts – not to just fill the seats, but to TALK on camera. Not only are many of our members familiar with being interviewed – we’ll do it for FREE!

Some of the phrases that are used by these actors must also drive park managers nuts. Things like, “I felt like it was about to fly off the track,” or “I can’t believe I survived,” really make PR Managers have GREAT days. Simple rule to follow: Never mention death or dismemberment on TV when referring to amusement parks. You don’t say “bomb” at airports and on planes…

 

2.) Compare rides “Apples to Apples” 

Outlaw Run and La Avalancha? How are those two rides even remotely similar? (They do both loop, but they’re built completely different). The best way I can describe it – it’s like comparing apples to oranges. It’s as if the people in charge took suggestions from people who actually knew what they were talking about – then threw those papers up in the air, and randomly pulled out rides.

 

3.) Be wary of those who make money off parks

Robb Alvey – who was once the  “host” of the program –  has now been relegated to a “Creative Consultant” production credit off-screen (which is a major improvement in my humble opinion). That being said, his wife was featured on the premiere show as a coaster enthusiast, along with one of their friends. I’d call them non-actors, but both he and his wife have agents.

Now, doesn’t this scream nepotism to anyone else besides me? Then again, at least us true coaster enthusiasts know she actually is quite knowledgeable about the subject.  Too bad the producers edited her in a way that ensured she sounded just like any other clueless park guest.

Don’t even get me started on how his presence on the production team could directly influence his view count (and income) on his commercialized videos on YouTube…

 

4.) Allow park experts or bloggers to vote, not the general public

Let’s face it – most of these Craigslist actors (and indeed other park guests) don’t even know about the other rides they’re comparing, so how exactly can you compare them if you’ve never been on them…oh wait, isn’t that how the Mitch Hawker Poll runs? : )

 

Conclusion:

While the show did make some minor improvements and tweaks, it’s still the same copy / paste generic “coaster show” that’s polluted the airwaves for far too long. Yes, the POV is good, but it’s everything around it that just brings the show down.

If you’re looking to support a quality roller coaster / amusement park program, consider sharing our “Great American Thrills” concept with your favorite cable channel or production company. We promise the enthusiasts we feature – will actually know what they’re talking about:


“Lost Parks” Goes Vertical!

With every video we’ve produced so far in the “Lost Parks” series, we’ve aimed to add one piece of equipment to make them better than the previous episode. For instance, in the first three episodes, did you notice:

Pacific City – DLSR camera slider:

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The “nostalgic” intro shots, all done via the slider.

Luna Park – GoPro Hero 2:

Even though we measured, this trolley came way too close to being crushed!

Even though we measured, this trolley came way too close to crushing this camera!

Manteca Waterslides – Camera crane / jib:

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We won this in a Facebook contest – seriously!

And now, for our Santa’s Village episode, may we debut our latest addition…FLYING CAMERA DRONES!

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Andy’s “Little Bird” flying camera drone. Photo by ACE NorCal, used with permission.

Aptly named "Big Bird" who did most of the heavy lifting for the shoot. Photo by ACE NorCal, used with permission.

Aptly named “Big Bird” who did most of the heavy lifting for the shoot. Photo by ACE NorCal, used with permission.

Well, two to be precise, “Little Bird” and “Big Bird.” They’re proudly owned by Andrew Hansis, an ACE NorCal member, who couldn’t resist seeing what they could do for the Lost Parks series.

Turns out, it was a TON! Look for their shots in our latest episode – debuting December 9th, 2013!

For more info on the “Lost Parks” series – click here!


The People Behind “Lost Parks” and the Manteca Waterslides

Despite how it may look, there are many, MANY people who are involved in the production of “Lost Parks of Northern California.”

Without them, I would not be able to look as good as I do presenting it. With that, here are all the people it took to bring the Manteca Waterslides episode to life:

Al Garcia, Waterworld California: A big thanks goes to my longtime friend Al Garcia, who is the Marketing Sales Coordinator for the park. He gave us his personal stories of Manteca – in addition to allowing us to capture some unbelievable angles of the water slides in his park – including this particularly moist one. Visit his park (when it’s open) at: www.waterworldcalifornia.com

Roger Ross & Ryan Davies, California’s Great AmericaFor allowing us to film inside their Boomerang Bay water park and make that historical connection to the slides in Manteca, I am forever indebted to you both. Here’s hoping that we get to work together again soon, or maybe even catch a Sharks game together this season. Visit their park at: www.cagreatamerica.com

Mike Brown and the Entire Brown Family: Mr. Brown – thank you for giving us the opportunity to share your family story with us – and thank you even more for opening up to us about all the history you hold in your memories. I can always say that I hung out with the owner of the Manteca Waterslides, and bought him lunch, while we shared stories and went through old photo albums. We will wear our Manteca “Anniversary” hats with pride.

Debby Moorhead, Vice Mayor of Manteca: Debby was crucial to us tracking down and getting permission from the current owners of the slides, as well as a great interview and one of the few, genuine politicians we’ve ever met. Sounds like Manteca is THE place to be in the coming years…we can’t wait!

ProAM USA: There is no way we would have been able to capture some of the beautiful shots in this video without winning a Facebook contest from these guys. (Seriously, we actually won a Facebook contest and got a camera crane!) Our new DVC60 camera jib was put through it’s paces this episode and we cannot wait to see what else we create with it.

Oh, and we’d love to model some of your other products, by the way…

Robert Ingle: Those promotional photos of me in the slides “acting” were all captured by Robert – who’s got quite the eye for awesome photos. But, his real skill is to blend in so I don’t even realize he’s taking my picture. I think there’s a career for you at TMZ if you’re interested, Robert.

And for those of you wondering, it’s Robert’s face that closes out the first episode in the credit roll…

Taylor Evans: I’ve never had a script supervisor before – but if I ever can hire one, it would be Taylor. He kept me on track and motivated as best as the Costco hot dog I bought him for lunch. For such complex shots, he was able to let me relax and do my thing, while he made sure the script still made sense. He also was responsible for the “summer winding down” edit that we thankfully caught that day.

And finally, I’ve saved the best for last – and with good reason, too.

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Getting direction from Nicholas, with Taylor holding the sun reflector. (Photo by Robert Ingle)

I first met Nicholas Laschkewitsch a little less than a year ago – and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to partner with on this series.  We’re three episodes into this once “little” project – and he somehow continually finds ways to both amaze and astound me with his work, both as a cinematographer, video editor and field producer.

This, mind you – without any professional training or experience. Nicholas simply has an eye for good work – and I could not be more fortunate to have found him and work with him on this series. He is just as much responsible for the success of this series as I am in front of the camera and doing research. Here’s to many more fun projects with the best producer I could ever have asked for.

If you haven’t seen how all these people came together on this project – look no further!


Lost Parks Makes Major Connections!

Look who decided to give us a “like” on one of our behind the scenes shots from this past weekend:

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You can imagine my shock when I checked my Instagram feed this afternoon…

We’ll look forward to sharing more with you, Discovery Channel! But, we’d really like for you to come along for the ride with us! : )

Call us anytime – we’re only shouting distance away from M5i and the Mythbusters!


The Amazing People Behind the Scenes of “Lost Parks”

The forthcoming episode of the Lost Parks of Northern California was easily our most complicated – and yet it will be our most beautiful, too. But it’s not just me that makes it look good – it’s three talented individuals, Taylor Evans, Robert Ingle and Nicholas Laschkewitsch that make it (and me) look so good.

In addition – what you may not know – is that we’re not making any money on the project. In fact, we lose money on each and every shoot, whether from travel expenses, to material from historical societies – it all costs money. But, we think bringing these parks back to life is more about expanding our skills and more importantly, reclaiming our amusement heritage.

Without these folks behind the scenes, I wouldn't be able to complete this series!

Without these folks behind the scenes, I wouldn’t be able to complete this series! Photo by Ace Northern California, used with permission.

In addition, this upcoming episode would not have been possible without the efforts of the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Manteca, Debbie Moorhead. Without her connections, we would have never been able to get permission to film at the slides final resting place. In addition, her interview at the Chamber of Commerce was just spectacular and was full of incredible information…

Wrapping up the interview with Mayor Pro Tem, Debbie Moorhead. Photo by ACE NorCal, used with permission.

Wrapping up the interview with Mayor Pro Tem, Debbie Moorhead. Photo by ACE Northern California, used with permission.

I knew working on this series would mean making connections to make it all work – I just didn’t think it would be so much fun to do it!

Producer Nicholas and I with our new favorite tool, a ProAm USA DVC 60 camera crane. Thank you Facebook contests!

Producer Nicholas and I with our new favorite tool, a ProAm USA DVC 60 camera crane. Thank you Facebook contests! Photo by ACE Northern California, used with permission.

Now, we jest need some production companies to sit up and start taking notice! C’mon guys, let’s hear from you sooner than later!


Man Allegedly Loses $2600 at Carnival Game

This "Rasta Banana" was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

This “Rasta Banana” was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this dude 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.”

Really?

“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.


It’s a Small, Litigious World After All!

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!


“Ride at your own risk!”

The ornate, Orleans-inspired entrance to the attraction in question.

The ornate, Orleans-inspired entrance to the bumper cars that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

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?

Rue le Dodge at Paramount's Great America (2004)

Rue le Dodge at Paramount’s Great America (2004)

Yes.

Do I feel bad that she was injured?

Of course.

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?

Absolutely NOT!

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.


The Good, the Bad and the Illegal Coaster POV

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!


Bert the Conqueror – Faked and Poorly Researched

Those of you who are theme park or amusement park fans know that for many years, Discovery, A&E, History and Travel Channel would produce an onslaught of roller coaster and theme park programming right at the start to the summer fun season.

As a fan of these shows for many years, I am sad to report that these shows have been in steep decline in recent years, especially considering all the upgrades to picture quality!

The worst of these examples is “Bert the Conqueror” a show based on a premise similar to “Man vs. Food.” Consider they are from the same production company (Sharp Productions) it makes logistical sense.

Sadly, while MvF can get away with some bending of facts, “Bert” deals much more with a factual information-based industry. Simply put, this show fails miserably at it.

For example, in the show’s very first episode, Bert “conquered” the Cedar Point “Fearsome Foursome Challenge.” There’s only one problem…that challenge doesn’t exist. It was a complete fabrication to “attempt” to keep the conquering motif of the show, yet show coasters in the meantime.

Too bad they didn’t expect me to stand up and say they were wrong…

To prove my point, sust watch the segment I analyzed on one of my local parks, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Imagine how many errors they’ll rack up in a whole season…(egad!)


Another Step in the Road

Today is a good day – yet another step forward in the quest to see this concept go from simply blog to television show.

Ladies and gentlemen, the payments are made, and the bills processed – we officially own http://www.greatamericanthrills.net! Dare I say, this thing is looking more and more professional by the week.

Who knows, maybe some park PR personnel will actually call us back…

It should be noted, that we originally wanted the “.com” address. But at over $1600, it’s still way out of our budget.

Plus, we like .net – it has a nice feeling to it.

“Let’s Ride!”

– KMR