Tag: Busch Gardens

The Other Side of the News OCT 2017

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Lots to share, so let’s dive in….

THE FORTUNATE SIDE EFFECT OF AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT

My heart goes out to the victims of the tragic Las Vegas shooting. Someone I personally know, a member of my congregation, was among those shot and has gone through multiple surgeries. It’s the third such case where I’ve known someone to be shot in a mass shooting incident – the others being the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and Luby’s cafeteria in Texas. I’ll be writing another post comparing banning guns versus gun control and why physical incidents like this strike more fear into the populace than perceived threats, like our current one for nuclear war.

Law enforcement was fortunate with this incident in that the gunman decided to shoot from that particular hotel at that particular target. If reports are accurate that he attempted to check into the Ogden in downtown Las Vegas during an 18-block wide music and culture festival a few weeks ago, or that he rented a room in Chicago overlooking the Lalapalooza festival (above photo, which personally bothers me as my good friend Lauren was attending with her husband and teenage daughters), the results could have been more catastrophic. As it is, with both the Mandalay Bay resort and the Las Vegas Village festival grounds being owned by the same company – MGM Resorts International, law enforcement’s access to facilities, surveillance, and assistance has been streamlined in a way that’s accelerated the pace of the investigation, a benefit that would have been lacking had he either shot from a non-MGM hotel (such as the Tropicana) or in one of the other festival locations.

MANAGEMENT CHANGES AT CEDAR FAIR

Matt Ouimett is taking control of the board and Richard Zimmerman will be the company’s new CEO. I wish them the best. This change looks primed for continued Cedar Fair expansion, but I can’t help but remember that the last time something like this happened at a major theme park chain (Six Flags), it didn’t necessarily work out.

FELD IS OUT OF THE ELEPHANT BIZ

While monitoring more than 20 zoos, aquariums, animal attractions, and sanctuaries in Central and South Florida during Hurricane Irma, there was one I couldn’t access on either its website or social media – the Ringling Center for Elephant Conservation. Entering the web address rerouted me to the Feld Entertainment homepage, where all mention of the elephant center has been removed.

I have since confirmed through multiple sources that Feld is now officially out of the elephant game and has sold its collection to White Oak Conservation near Jacksonville. Once the elephants have all been relocated, the Center for Elephant Conservation will close shop.

What does this mean? There have been well-founded rumors for quite some time that Feld has been in talks to be bought out by a larger company – Disney is the name that is most often mentioned – and that the elephants had been a sticking point in negotiations. If this is the case, I anticipate a buyout announcement within the next six months.

MERLIN DOES NOT WANT TO BUY SEAWORLD

Speculation has been running rampant throughout the media and investor sites that Merlin Entertainments has submitted a bid to purchase SeaWorld Entertainment.

As reported previously on this blog, Merlin is not interested in the entire company, but rather the two Busch Gardens properties and their waterparks. Although the land for SeaWorld-branded properties in San Antonio and Orlando is quite valuable – the recent settlement with the tax assessor shows the property value of the Orlando parks is around $170 million – a purchase of the SeaWorld-branded parks would place Merlin in a difficult spot as the company’s anti-cetacean captivity policy would conflict with owning the world’s largest collection of captive cetaceans.

The easy answer is always “stick them in a sanctuary.” But is that practical for Merlin, a company that has been working for eight years with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) to establish a sanctuary for its four dolphins from Heide Park and Gardaland? Meanwhile, those four dolphins continue to perform at the Nuremberg Zoo and the Genoa Aquarium.

HOLD ON A MINUTE….some late breaking info….one of Merlin’s Heide Park dolphins was shipped last year to ZooMarine in Portugal for breeding and swim with dolphin programs.

I don’t know what to say….I’m at a loss of words…I mean, doesn’t this go against everything Merlin says it believes about dolphins in captivity?

And that’s why Merlin shouldn’t buy SeaWorld as a whole and won’t. Those parks are going to the Chinese anyway.

See you real soon!

OBSCURE TRIVIA BREAK: B-movies and A-ttractions

It’s very appropriate that Universal Orlando is reopening The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man this Thursday with a complete HD upgrade.  After all, this marks the 50th anniversary of the famed web-slinger’s first appearance.  But sadly, another anniversary is being overlooked.  On Jan. 2 of this year, Jaws at Universal Studios Florida ceased operation in order to make way for something new.  The attraction opened in 1990, but Jaws made its first Orlando appearance much earlier than that.  Thirty years ago this Summer, filming began on the third Jaws film – in 3D  – right down International Drive at SeaWorld.

So although we won’t have the Jaws ride at Universal Orlando to celebrate this milestone, we can celebrate it with another film about other carnivorous fish attacking an aquatic park – in this case, the waterslides of Wilmington, North Carolina’s Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park.

Which brings us to ThemedReality’s first Obscure Trivia Break, for as hard as it may seem, the Piranha franchise can just as easily link the SeaWorld and Universal theme park chains as Jaws can.  Here’s how:

  • The original Piranha (1978) was director Joe Dante’s third film.  In 2003, he directed a 4D film R.L. Stine’s Haunted Lighthouse for Busch Entertainment Corporation, which played at the two Busch Gardens parks and at SeaWorld parks in San Diego and San Antonio.
  • The sequel, Piranha Part II: The Spawning (1981) was James Cameron’s directorial debut.  It was a far cry from the work he did on Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time (1996)  for the Universal Studios theme parks.
  • In the reboot of the series, 2010’s Piranha 3D and this year’s Piranha 3DD, the character of Mr. Goodman is portrayed by none other than Christopher Lloyd, who starred in both SeaWorld’s Haunted Lighthouse, as Cap’n Jack, and as “Doc” Emmett Brown in Universal’s Back to the Future: The Ride (1991) and its replacement The Simpsons Ride (2008).

There are plenty of other theme park connections, ranging from film tie-ins to Cameron at News Corporation parks in Australia and Mexico, Everland in South Korea, and Disney parks worldwide, David Hasselhoff’s legendary work for Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Elisabeth Shue’s performance in that Leonard Nimoy-directed thrill ride at EPCOT.

But I don’t really want to talk about all those.  I guess when it comes down it, we can all learn something from Universal and SeaWorld.  Don’t dismiss B-movies.  After all, there might just be some good theme park talent in there.  I mean, I recall a really horrible Korean-American film from 1985 called LA Streetfighters (later renamed Ninja Turf)…

la_streetfighters_poster_01…and one of the actors from that film went on to host the Thea Awards.

SeaWorld Parks and its Animal Spirit Guides

Twenty-five years ago this year, I interned in the Aviculture department at SeaWorld San Diego.  For those not in the know – it means I took care of birds.  And that includes penguins.  Now back in that day, the park was owned by book publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.  It had just undergone a major expansion, doubling its size with a new entrance, the world’s largest captive orca tank, and a huge larger-than-life map of the United States.  But for me, the best attraction was the Commerson’s dolpins, freshly arrived from the Strait of Magellan.

To see these beautiful four-foot long creatures, you would enter the old mermaid show building and watch a slideshow about the dolphins, their capture, and how all cetaceans descended from land-bound cows.  Then the screen and would rise and you would watch them swim.  Fast.  In circles.  Over and over again.  Until you got bored.  Or you could go in a different auditorium just to view them if you wanted to avoid the slide show altogether.

SeaWorld at that time followed traditional zoo and aquarium principles, with the central attraction being the animal exhibits with audio-visual presentations providing optional background information.  Once SeaWorld was purchased by Busch Entertainment, things began to change.

First, there was a thematic integration with animals and thrill rides.  At SeaWorld San Diego, Commerson’s dolphins were integrated into the Journey to Atlantis attraction and later into the Dolphin’s Plunge waterslide complex at the Aquatica waterpark in Orlando.  Likewise, rays were integrated into the queue for the Manta coasters and the Stingray Falls attraction at Aquatica’s San Antonio location, opening this Summer.

At the same time, animal attractions began taking on the theme of a human expedition to remote regions.  This includes such projects as Wild Arctic, with its helicopter flight motion simulator followed by a walkthrough of animal enclosures disguised as an Arctic research base, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Rhino Rally, a cross-country rally/safari experience containing both encounters with live animals and thrill ride components.

Starting last year, the parks began taking a different approach with animal interpretation.  Instead of human exploration to where the animals live, the new adventures places humans into the lives of animals themselves.  It began with Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.  A combination animal exhibit and ride, the rollercoaster portion of the attraction, designed by Intamin, takes its cue from the cheetah itself.  Although it contains a number of traditional coaster elements, such as scaling a tower and an inversion, the ride features 3 LSM launches and tight curves that mimic the way a cheetah hunts in the wild.  Sea World San Diego’s Manta, a Mack ride, will take a similar approach with multiple launches and twists, attempting to mimic the motion of the wild manta ray.

At Sea World Orlando, a pavilion dedicated to manatee rescue has been redesigned into TurtleTrek.  Inside, a 360 degree dome will envelope audience members in the life story of a sea turtle in a wraparound 3D experience.  34 Christie 4K projectors will be combined to create a seamless image in this latest project from Kraftwerk, a followup to their Bubble Theatre at Macau’s City of Dreams (showing Dragon’s Treasure).

When I was young and interning at Sea World, guests would take a moving walkway past a recreated Antarctic environment and see penguins swimming and rooking and moving about.  After, they could backtrack to a viewing platform and watch videos about the birds’ exciting lives.  Occasionally, we keepers would come onto the ice and kids would be happy to see the birds run around us begging for food.  There were always two rules – never look at the glass and make eye contact with the guests, and always wear a jacket to give the illusion of a freezing environment (even if it was actually 59 degrees inside).

SeaWorld Orlando is demolishing their Penguin Encounter.  In its place will rise Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.  It’s central feature will be a ride where guests will “experience the mystery and wonder of life on the ice through the eyes of a penguin, sensing the beauty and drama of their sometimes-dangerous habitat. Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin combines closer-then-ever animal connections with state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies for adventures that are different each time.”

A human in a jacket replaced by an animal spirit guide.

To learn more about SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, visit www.seaworldparks.com