Greetings, as I write this while on an airplane towards Walt Disney World. There will be Docking Bay 7 meals, resort hotel updates and oh yes, plenty of Germany Pavilion's famed caramel corn this week, but don't expect details on the new nighttime show Epcot Forever in this bad boy because I am going in with a Friday Night Lights-esque clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose perspective. I am, for once in my life, completely in the dark. I have no idea what the replacement for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth includes, how the music sounds or why everyone kept tweeting at me about kites, but I'm amped to find out in the next forty-something hours.
In the meantime, we're recapping a weird theme park week packed with well-overdue thrills, but tweet me @CarlyeWisel if there's anything you want me to check out while I'm on the ground at Disney World today, from Epcot International Food & Wine Festival desserts to those new automated PhotoPass kiosks and all the fun stuff in between.
IT'S BEEN A WEIRD, WEIRD WEEK FOR THEME PARK BUSINESS
In case you weren't shocked as I was on Wednesday, Six Flags lobbed a massive buyout offer over to Cedar Fair, who rejected the $4 billion offer only days later, according to a double-scoop by Reuters.
It makes sense; as Robert Niles puts it, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is rumored to have cost $1 billion; here, Six Flags was rounding up over a dozen properties to be just four times that of two lands. I didn't realize just how well Cedar Fair stock was doing — surging 13 percent earlier this year according to The Motley Fool, and deeming Six Flags' offer as an underestimation makes sense.
Still, the implications would have been deeply interesting. Cedar Fair owns 11 amusement parks throughout the US and Canada, including Knott's Berry Farm, Kings Island, and Cedar Point — the latter two comprising somewhat of a roller coaster pilgrimage for thrill-seeking Ohio-bound fans — as well as numerous water parks and two of Schlitterbahn's Texas locations.
In tandem with Six Flags' 26 parks throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico, the merger would have provided so much combined market share amidst regional parks, possibly towering in stature alongside Universal's four global theme park resorts and The Walt Disney Company's six.
DISNEY'S SKYLINER HAS AN ACCIDENT
And then there's Disney's Skyliner. The new gondola transportation system, which connects 4 resort hotels with Walt Disney World's Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios theme parks, endured an accident on Saturday during its first week of operation.
Truly, it's a bummer this happened so soon into Skyliner's debut and a wonderful relief that everyone made it off safely. Unlike most of my loudmouth rants, I'm not going to say much else — for further details I recommend the Orlando Sentinel's thorough reporting — but knowing how highly Disney values safety, it's so deeply unfortunate to have this happen, especially while celebrating its debut. Still, this won't deter me from going on next time when it's back up and running, and, if everything proves to be safe again, I hope it won't stop you from riding either.
THE EAST COAST RISES
Move over Florida, because the New York City metropolitan area is bringing over a hundred new rides in the coming year.
LEGOLAND New York announced that it will open its colorful doors on July 4, 2020, bringing over two dozen attractions and rides to its new Goshen, New York amusement park. Though the company operates nine locations worldwide, this LEGOLAND will be largest-ever, complete with an exclusive new Miniland, which seemingly shrinks guests down to the size of Minifigures, the customizable toys that can be created and traded inside LEGOLAND parks (it might remind you of Disney World's Toy Story Land). Annual passes and admission are already on sale for the 150-acre park, which is located 60 miles from New York City, and the hotel will open in 2021.
If you're more into year-round surfing, SpongeBob roller coasters and a fabled long-in-the-making opening, New Jersey's American Dream is just your thing. (Yes, the ill-fated Xanadu is finally happening!) While the entirety of the three-million-square-foot mall is set to open in phases over the next five months, Nickelodeon Universe indoor amusement park will open on October 25 — in just two and a half weeks. While many would be quick to judge the project as yet another urban mega-mall following the trend of somewhere like Hudson Yards, this one's packed with roller coasters, wave pools and other eye-popping, record-setting features you'll want to make a special trip for.
As the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere (sure!), the 8.5-acre Nickelodeon-themed will include record-shattering rides like the tallest indoor spinning drop tower and an indoor coaster with a 122-foot drop — and that's not all. The DreamWorks Water Park's 40 waterslides, a 1600-foot-long water coaster and cabanas designed by Jonathan Adler (what!) will debut later this year.
If you're like "cool, cool, yeah, whatever, indoor pools are gross," the amount of slides overlapping in and around each other is something only a RollerCoaster Tycoon obsessive could have imagined and I'm dying waiting to see it in person. There's also a Madagascar rainforest and Shrek's Swamp and an indoor body slide with a 142-foot drop — making it the world's tallest — along with a 1.5-acre wave pool. An acre and a half!!!! Man, I love this stuff.
If it seems similar to Mall of America, there's good reason: they're both owned by the same company, Triple Five. But this one's poised to be so much more massive. From a food hall helmed by VICE's Munchies to potential helicopter drop-offs from the Hamptons, this thing's gonna be an absolute behemoth, and we can't wait.
HOT TIP OF THE WEEK
If you're not following @UniversalORL, you're doing it wrong. While the feed serves its guests well with customer service DMs, daily park hours and informative banter, it's best when the account is off its rocker, like it's had three drinks at CityWalk's Margaritaville and stumbled into Islands of Adventure ready to party and post memes without the approval of an executive.
I have no idea who runs this account but it brings me an unfathomable amount of joy during the week — especially when the parks' other account, @HorrorNightsORL, kicked into high gear when the spooky season began. Delightfully unhinged and precisely what you wanted an autonomous theme park social media account to be but didn't know until it appeared on your feed, it shines even brighter when both accounts converse, playing out like a sibling rivalry where one is obsessed with Halloween and the other cannot frickin' wait for Christmastime.
Yes, it's a marketing account, but they even do that well. They just do it so well. SO WELL! It's so refreshing when a brand actually does social media right, and that crown so clearly belongs to Universal Orlando Resort. Here's just a few:
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!:
- Tokyo Disney Resort's attendance numbers just hit a record high.
- Bob Iger + Jimmy Kimmel = heaven.
- If you want to know more about Force Friday without dealing with crowds, this one's for you.
- Nothing makes me happier than Disneyland's Gay Days. Nothing!
- Behold: a perfect Harry Potter joke.
- You should read everything Todd Martens writes, including this take on Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
- The backside of cake castle >>>> The backside of water
- Okay fine it's not theme park related but my editor at SYFY WIRE is now friendly with Joe Manganiello AND I AM VERY JEALOUS.