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Park News

ParkHoppin’ with Paul Ruben

Rockit Man

When Universal Studios Orlando opened its Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster last summer I was there to savour …er, report on, it. Both, actually, in that order. This new coaster from Maurer Söhne was to be unique. World's tallest vertical lift. Check. Three first-ever manoeuvres. Check. Comfortable X-car trains. Check. Select your own ride soundtrack. Really?

My ride soundtrack has always been the screams of other riders. The louder the better. It's music to my ears. But before departure I'm expected to use a personal touchpad mounted on the ride vehicle to make my music selection. Hmm ...I'm thinking. What if I choose Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence? Then maybe I can hear the other riders. Nope, not an option. How 'bout a rendition of Far, Far Away? The farther the better. Not an option either. Looked for a version of Elton John's Rocket Man (Rockit coaster, get it?), perhaps performed on tenor tuba and calliope. But that was not one of the offerings. Universal missed a trick. OK, then maybe they list my favourite group, Moishe Pippick and the Five Urinators singing I Can't Get Over a Girl Like You (So Answer the Phone Yourself). Out of luck again.

I finally give in and select some head-banging music that blared at me (at 90 decibels) throughout the ride. It was difficult to ignore. See me smiling in the photo? The music hasn't started yet; it's a generational thing. With cameras mounted throughout the coaster's layout, these images can be combined with the soundtrack. That way, guests are able to purchase a specially edited take-home

version of their experience in the form of a music video and share it with their family and friends. I understand the appeal of this. I now have one, but I would have paid double for a mute button. There's an untapped retail opportunity. The Rockit is smooth, fast, and thrilling. Except for the not-so- thrilling multiple mid-course brake runs, that is. They disrupt the pacing of the ride. I understand the need for block brakes throughout the layout of a multi-train coaster. I don't like block brakes. But I dislike rear-end collisions even more. Block brakes are a necessary evil, but did you ever notice? The world's top-ranked coasters have all their block brakes at the end of the ride, not in the middle. I loved Rockit. It's an entertaining ride, and it stands out within the park. It looks like a ride. Most of Universal Studios' rides and attractions are within buildings. Rockit incongruously roars out of a building facade, which is almost as eye-catching as the 167ft vertical lift hill, almost as eye-catching as the world's largest (136ft high) non-inverted loop, almost as eye-catching as the sleek X-Car trains that race by. From the ground you can't even see that cockamamie touchpad. If you’re in Orlando for IAAPA Attractions Expo, be sure to ride it for yourself; you know, while you’re checking out Harry Potter next door at Islands of Adventure.


Drayton Manor at 60 A family success story

Drayton Manor Theme Park managing director Colin Bryan (centre) with sons William and George (left) and niece and nephew Helen Pawley-Tuft and Edward Pawley, all of whom are general managers at the park

As it finishes its 60th anniversary season, Drayton Manor is a very different park to that founded by George and Vera Bryan after they transformed a run down central England estate in 1950, but one thing remains – it’s still owned and operated by the Bryan’s and their immediate family.

Franz Mack 1921-2010

Franz Mack, amusement ride entrepreneur and founder of Europa-Park, died on October 3 at the age of 89. Together with his sons Roland and Jürgen, Franz was the driving force for the opening and continued success of Germany’s largest theme park. In 2006, he was honoured by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) as a member of its Hall of Fame. Franz Mack was born on March 7, 1921, as the

fourth son of Heinrich and Theresia Mack, marrying Liesel in 1948. The same year he and his brothers Hermann and Willi took over the responsibility of their father's company. Founded in 1780, it had become famous for the construction of stagecoaches and carousels and was later relocated to the beautiful Black Forest town of Waldkirch, Baden-Württemberg.

The Mack company product range included caravans, catering trailers and special vehicles required for travelling rides. As the company began manufacturing theme park attractions, numerous innovations, including the steel Wild Mouse and Swiss Bob Run, were sold all over the world. Europa-Park opened its doors in 1975 in Rust near Freiburg. Together with Mack Rides, the two family businesses employ over 3,100 people. Thanks to his passion for technology, numerous rides at the park bear the hallmarks of Franz Mack. Among others he designed the dark coaster Eurosat (opened in 1989) and the spinning coaster Euro-Mir (1997). Franz was a proud grandfather of five grandchildren. His wife Liesel passed away in 2004 but today his sons Roland and Jürgen together with his grandsons Michael and Thomas manage the Mack companies Europa-Park and Mack Rides, both highly respected enterprises within the amusement industry. “Our father was a great role model for all of us until the last days of his life," says Europa-Park managing partner Roland Mack. "He had character attributes such as humbleness, diligence, endurance, sincerity, emotionality and frankness and thus deeply influenced our family and our company.” The funeral took place on October 7.


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