This is gonna be a weird ride. Alcohol or a purring cat might help get you through.
THE BUCKET LIST
One day in my youth, I was at Disneyland, strolling through Old Fantasyland, when I was shoved to the side by cast members as the Anaheim Fire Department’s ladder truck made its way to the center of the pathway to rescue riders stuck on the Skyway. They had already been dangling there for two hours and this was the only way to get them down. The truck would make its way up and down the line in Fantasyland and Tomorowland over the next few hours in order to retrieve every single passenger from every single bucket.
On the evening of President’s Day 2019, the Bayside Skyride (originally called the Atlantis Skyride as it conveyed diners across the water from the park to the Atlantis fine dining room to enjoy fine dining meals of whale blubber and shark eggs) at SeaWorld San Diego was hit by a gust of wind estimated at around 50 mph and shut down. 16 riders, including children were suspended for hours in the chilly night air. What made this different from the old days of the Disneyland Skyway was the fact that a ladder truck couldn’t just drive underneath each bucket – at SeaWorld, almost all the riders were stuck over water.
So what happens if there’s a breakdown with the most high profile gondola system of our time – the Disney Skyliner, opening soon at Walt Disney World? Well, according my intel, the gondola system is actually a series of different cables, creating four or five different lines. It all depends on the number of drive wheels installed. So, if my calculations are correct, EPCOT to Riviera Resort is either one or two distinct lines, depending on whether or not the cables terminate at the 45+ degree turn located near the Boardwalk Resort. Other individual lines are Riviera to Caribbean, Art of Disney to Caribbean, and Caribbean to Hollywood Studios. And if I’m wrong, they weren’t thinking about this issue.
Why is this important? Because the fewer cables there are, even in a straight run, the fewer people might get stuck during a breakdown. – one short stretch might stop while the connecting one is turned into a loop so that those riders can just be pulled into the closest station.
And a breakdown will happen. The Oakland Zoo uses an almost identical gondola system from Doppelmayr/Garaventa to transport guests up a hill to its new California Trail area. The day after the exhibit’s grand opening, the gondola system suffered a “digital glitch” and stopped operating for half an hour, stranding about 80 passengers in the air and another 100 at the top of the hill, waiting for a way down.
Those stuck in the gondolas had something nice that, from the artwork I’ve seen, Disney’s passengers won’t. On the interior side of the gondola is a large grate open to the elements, through which cool San Francisco Bay breezes can come through. Without air conditioning, and with the likelihood that there’s no such large vent, we’ll eventually be seeing some interesting interviews on the news with riders who were stuck on the Skyliner in the sweltering heat and humidity of a Central Florida summer.
SIX FLAGS AND FIVE STARS
The over-borrowing, low return on investment, and huge debt pileup of Chinese real estate developers like Dalian-Wanda Group and Zhonghong Holdings have placed new worries and restrictions on the Chinese real estate market. To open parks in China, Comcast and Disney partnered with government owned companies, who are the majority owners of the Universal Beijing and Shanghai Disney resorts, respectively,. Six Flags took another route, by licensing to and advising its Chinese partner, which has led to substantial delays on its Chinese parks.
Jim Reid-Anderson, CEO and Chair, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation:
Our international agreements continue to be a significant contributor to revenue growth as revenue approached $42 million in 2018. It would have been approximately $15 million higher if not for a fourth quarter adjustment to reflect delays in some of the China Parks opening schedules caused by recent macroeconomic events that many companies are experiencing and from which our partner is not immune. The delays result from three main areas.
First, the economy in China is experiencing a general malaise due to global trade tensions and the lowest pace of GDP growth in almost 30 years. Second, new policies and regulations have reduced the volume of real estate transaction, our partner’s primary business and made it more difficult for private companies to obtain loans. Third, recent turnover of government officials in Chongqing and Nanjing has caused development plans to be temporarily paused until the plan can be reviewed and re-approved by new leadership.
“…recent turnover of government officials in Chongqing and Nanjing has caused development plans to be temporarily paused until the plan can be reviewed and re-approved by new leadership.”
THIS IS AMERICA
We have one political party.
The Republican Party.
There are few elections.
If you vote, it’s because your’e a party member in good standing.
Your mayor is chosen for you.
Your city council members are chosen for you.
Your county board of supervisors, state assembly members, Congressmen, Senators – all are chosen for you.
As long as their actions don’t upset their superiors or violate America’s strong anti-corruption laws, these lawmakers are given broad range to make their decisions.
Your President is Donald Trump. He was chosen for you too. Then he was given a lifetime appointment.
There is no Facebook. No twitter. No Instagram. Well, they exist, but they’re blocked. And if you can access them, and are caught using them, you face arrest.
Instead, you use social media designed with the government’s input and fully monitored by the government – Trumpbook, Tiffer, Ivankagram.
You have freedoms. But those freedoms come with a price.
If you’re caught littering, you lose your privilege to travel.
If you protest something, you’re sent to a “re-education center.”
SIX FLAGS CEO BOTCHES MEETING WITH FLORIDA GOVERNOR
For over two years, Six Flags has been in talks to purchase Fun Spot Orlando.
Last month, during a Visit Florida reception in Tallahassee, Six Flags CEO and President Jim Reid-Anderson approached Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss the permitting process.
DeSantis noticed that Reid-Anderson was holding a plate of fish tacos, which disgusted him as he neither cares for wildlife nor Mexicans. He immediately stopped progress on the Six Flags Orlando project, because he felt disgusted, and because he could.
THIS IS AMERICA
….IF AMERICA WERE CHINA
AND NOW AN ADVERTISING BREAK:
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OUT AND IN
IMAX Corporation has shut down all its virtual reality gaming centers at a substantial loss – they were opened with a $50 million VR fund established by the company. But that’s technically not the end of IMAX VR centers. Just one day after the company filed with the SEC that it would be shutting down the IMAX owned enterprise, Dreamscape Immersive opened its first high-end VR center in Los Angeles. Among Dreamscape’s investors are AMC Theaters, Fox, Warner Bros, Viacom (parent company of Paramount), MGM, Westfield Malls, Steven Spielberg, film composer Hans Zimmer, and that $50 million IMAX VR fund. It’s a lot safer for a company to be just an investor than a financier-owner-operator in such a volatile new industry.
THERE’S A PLACE
According to Richard Zimmermann, President and CEO of Cedar Fair, the company’s current collection of thrill rides is strong enough that the company can “space out our larger investments in new rides and attractions over a longer period of time, while our near-term investments will increasingly focus on interactive and immersive family attractions, special events, concerts and outdoor gathering spaces.”
Over in the twittersphere and in a number of of groups, hard core theme park fans are a bit perplexed at this strategy. But, as I reported on this blog in 2017, it’s something that’s been in the works for a number of years, driven by Season Pass sales (see my article here on festivals and events and how they’re used to market season passes).
One interesting part of Cedar Fair’s strategy is utilizing rides and attractions as part of a placemaking process tying together a central theme. The company is doing this a number of ways, concentrating on the historic themes of its parks or their locations.
At Knott’s Berry Farm, Bigfoot Rapids is being rethemed as Calico River Rapids, tying it through scenic elements and a new storyline with the historic Calico Ghost Town area. Through new animatronics from Garner Holt, it will now become a third story-driven “dark ride” attraction in the land, joining the mine train and the log ride. At Cedar Point, an area that once housed dinosaurs will become a new Western-ish town with an interactive adventure that carries its changing storyline throughout the season and the years – this is version 2.0 of Knott’s Ghost Town Alive.
Even new coasters are playing a central role in the creation of new thematic environments. At Canada’s Wonderland and Carowinds, they will be the centerpiece of new lands themed to the Yukon and Blue Ridge Mountains, respectively. Each of those lands presents new themed retail and dining opportunities, along with new opportunities for themed festivals and events, which, again, helps sell season passes.
THE MAIN EVENT
YOU KNOW HOW TO WHISTLE, DON’T YOU STEVE? YOU JUST PUT YOUR LIPS TOGETHER, AND BLOW.
SeaWorld Entertainment has a new CEO, Gus Antorcha, the former COO of Carnival Cruise Lines. The ThemedReality unpaid interns were sitting around recently eating pizza and playing LEGO Harry Potter, so I decided to turn off the TV and put them to use doing something productive – comparing the employment contracts of Antorcha and the prior permanent CEO, Joel Manby. The contracts are publicly available on the US Securities and Exchange Commission website, included with the company’s financial filings. Although the salary and bonus structure is different for each CEO, we won’t be discussing that here, because we found a few more interesting things that piqued our curiosity.
We’ll start with the non-competition clause, which states that the CEO cannot conduct business of any kind with a direct SeaWorld competitor either while employed or within a number of years of leaving the company.
For Manby, that meant conducting business of any kind that could benefit a SeaWorld competitor within 100 miles of a SeaWorld park. For Antocha, that restricted area has increased to 300 miles.
There is also a list of core competitors that the CEO is forbidden to do business with during this period – Disney, Universal, Six Flags, Merlin, and Herschend. A new company has been added to the list for Antorcha – Parques Reundios. We’ll see how that fits in with our ThemedReality prediction from last year that SeaWorld and Parques may be looking to merge.
Most interesting is a new provision in the contract which did not exist for Manby. I couldn’t tell you if this was included by SeaWorld’s lawyers or if it was done at the insistence of Antorcha’s, but it is a clear response to the recent SEC and Department of Justice investigations:
Nothing in this Agreement shall prohibit or impede Executive from communicating, cooperating, or filing a complaint with any U.S. federal, state, or local governmental or law enforcement branch, agency, or entity (collectively, a “Governmental Entity”) with respect to possible violations of any U.S. federal, state, or local law or regulation, or otherwise making disclosures to any Governmental Entity, in each case, that are protected under the whistleblower provisions of any such law or regulation, provided that in each case such communications and disclosures are consistent with applicable law. Executive understands and acknowledges that an individual shall not be held criminally or civilly liable under any Federal or State trade secret law for the disclosure of a trade secret that is made (i) in confidence to a Federal, State, or local government official or to an attorney solely for the purpose of reporting or investigating a suspected violation of law, or (ii) in a complaint or other document filed in a lawsuit or other proceeding, if such filing is made under seal. Executive understands and acknowledges further that an individual who files a lawsuit for retaliation by an employer for reporting a suspected violation of law may disclose the trade secret to the attorney of the individual and use the trade secret information in the court proceeding, if the individual files any document containing the trade secret under seal, and does not disclose the trade secret, except pursuant to court order. Moreover, Executive is not required to give prior notice to (or get prior authorization from) the Company regarding any such communication or disclosure. Notwithstanding the foregoing, under no circumstance will Executive be authorized to disclose any information covered by attorney-client privilege or attorney work product of any member of the Company Group without prior written consent of Company’s General Counsel or other officer designated by the Company.
AND NOW THIS:
Oh boy, we’ve run out of time. But did you know there’s plenty of additional material on the ThemedReality Facebook Page and exclusive content and early access for ThemedReality Facebook Group members? Posting in the group on February 23 is a bonus The Other Side of the News piece on a Chinese government theme park being built at a Trump resort. Membership is free. Click on the group tab on the Facebook Page and just ask to join.