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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

Theme Park News: The newest high-tech rides and world's craziest coasters debut

By Carlye Wisel
Roller Coaster

Theme park costumes! Ride technology reveals! Harmonies?! Yes, it's all part of this week's explosion of new noteworthy news. There's too much to discuss, so let's just get into it, shall we?


IAAPA Expo 2019 — the best little theme park convention that you probably don't know about — just wrapped, and the display of what new technology and body-hurling innovations you can expect to see in parks in the coming years was better than ever. The annual event, put on by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, is essentially a private carnival held within a convention center, only instead of teens working a bad summer job, it's businessmen and women who really, genuinely want you to try out their bounce houses.

IAAPA showcases a mishmash of new VR experiences, wax hand-casting, tiny robotics, and Beavertails, but is also an incredible way to see what's coming around the bend where theme park design is concerned. Even with its show-stopper, a kooky spinning ride called NebluaZ that'll fill you with a specific kind of panic-anxiety that comes from getting *too close* to rear-ending a car, the thing everyone's talking about this year is the Hamster Wheel.

A company called SBF-VISA Group built a tiny demo coaster within the convention center with a rotating circular vehicle, and it looks exhilarating! It looks relentlessly intense! It looks ... painful!? Theme park vlogger Tim Tracker was stupefied by it, and even the dudes from Coaster101 seem flummoxed, which is the exact reaction I crave from people who spend all week riding rides. Even if it's ideal for those who love the feeling of falling backward down a flight of stairs, I want this to be the new standard for "Crazy Mouse" style coasters like Primeval Whirl and Goofy's Sky School. Just strap me in, toss me down a track to do 10 somersaults, and I'll feel like I've gotten my money's worth!

Most of the other major amusement park news — aside from last week's LEGO drop — came by way of ride vehicle announcements. Yes, like a veritable car show but for roller coasters, the four vehicles unveiled at the Florida themed attraction convention were the biggest newsworthy highlight.

SeaWorld Orlando's Ice Breaker, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's Iron Gwazi, and SeaWorld San Antonio's Texas Stingray, which features its eponymous sea creature on the train's front, were all on display. Still, if I'm keeping it real, the vehicles aren't that thrilling; what they'll do is. Iron Gwazi is set to be the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world, Texas Stingray will be the longest, fastest, and tallest wooden coaster in Texas, and Ice Breaker will have the steepest beyond-vertical drop in Florida — two states with steep (literally!) competition — meaning plenty of record breakers are coming SeaWorld's way in 2020.

Carnival Cruise Line also debuted vehicles for its Mardi Gras mega-ship's "roller coaster at sea" — yes, Shaq was there, because nothing makes sense anymore — and it looks absolutely thrilling and downright terrifying? As someone who has no problem watersliding around the outskirts of a Disney Cruise Line ship, I should be chill about the matter, but something about being able to flap your arms around from that high up while over the ocean is too much for me to comprehend, especially considering I still don't know how cruise liners float. (How do they float?!)

Either way, the future is bright as 2020 shapes up to be a mega-year for new coasters cross-country.


Earlier last week, Hong Kong Disneyland debuted new in-park outfits for Anna and Elsa, the sisterly leads of Frozen II. The only problem, though, is that the costumes (debatably, I cannot stress this enough) gave away a few details of what happens within the film. There was a small kerfuffle about blogs and social media accounts that shared those images, until a veritable s**tstorm of Twitter mania set in late last week when Disneyland and Walt Disney World also swapped in the fresh looks the day the film opened.

There are a few other tangential things tied to that controversy, but the main debate remains: Is revealing a new princess costume at the start of a film's opening weekend OK? Some don't see the big deal, citing the fact that they wouldn't have noticed any "spoilers" unless people pointed them out, while others were utterly disappointed to have any of the film spoiled for them by others on social media. (A friend noted this weekend that she wasn't able to see the film yet ... because … she was at Disneyland. Fair!)

I've heard fans compare it to Rapunzel having a meet-and-greet with her short brown hair the day Tangled opened, and others dismiss the controversy as mere fan overreaction, but either way, the entirety of the situation is pretty funny, in that the only entity at the center of possible Disney spoilers for the long-awaited sequel is Disney itself.

Fancy a look at the costumes? Head to Disney Parks Blog to see 'em in full glory. (They're beautiful!) Beware if you have not seen the film sequel yet — though you likely have, given the record-breaking number of tickets sold this past weekend.


Disneyland may be in full magical holiday mode, but don't be sidetracked by the glimmering lights for the next 10 seconds, because they just unveiled a dueling-pianos show at the Golden Horseshoe and ... it's perfect?! I say this as I devour a four-piece meal of crow because yes, I complained when they got rid of the venue's previous entertainment, but this replacement at Disneyland featuring Disney music — even some jams from attractions like Carousel of Progress and Journey Into Imagination!!! — is what every theme park nerd like myself drools over. Fantastic job, whoever put this in the parks!!! Fantastic job!!!!


- PSST - DON'T SNOOZE ON THEME PARKS THIS BLACK FRIDAY! Many of the smaller regional parks will have deals going down on annual passes, so keep them eyes peeled!! ?

- Please don't check on my sanity when I obviously go through with this.

- Who wants to start the petition?

- Your daily dose of heartwarming Disney news.

- Love this Orlando Sentinel story about a fourth-generation pyrotechnic expert's new Magic Kingdom fireworks show. (The kicker: She's a millennial!)

- This new Disneyland memorabilia auction is dAnGeRoUsLy timed during holiday gift shopping!!!

- Disneyland After Dark events were announced for this winter and spring!

- Galaxy's Edge: now GRAMMY-nominated!

- I don't like to be self-promotional, BUT! if you wanna hear me gab about more theme park mania, there are three places to do so this week. I'm on Touring Plans' podcast dropping all my insider-y info on Rise of the Resistance (with spoilers!!), Inside the Disney Vault talking about Country Bear Jamboree, or drop into Podcast: The Ride to hear me do a solid hour on Downtown Disney Starbucks West (really) as part of their massive Downtown Disney District Ordeal series. SO MUCH THEME PARK SO LITTLE TIME!