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Park News/Comment

ParkHoppin’ with Paul Ruben

New Disney Delights

Early December saw half the world’s media, or so it seemed, descend on Florida’s Walt Disney World to chronicle the unveiling of ‘New Fantasyland’ at the world's most popular theme park, the Magic Kingdom.

I can’t imagine anyone was disappointed. As I stood at the entrance to

New Fantasyland, pictured here, I’m thinking that here is Disney doing what Disney does best. Its attractions tell stories, and they do it with detail unrivalled in other theme parks. In building New Fantasyland, which lies just beyond the existing

Fantasyland in the shadows of Cinderella Castle, Disney has clearly followed the wise advice of the inventor of the Polaroid instant camera, Edwin Land. During a 1977 Polaroid shareholders’ meeting he said: “There’s a rule they don’t teach you at the Harvard Business School. It is, if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing to excess.” Disney has done that. It has built more castles. As well as the iconic Cinderella Castle, the Beast’s Castle from Beauty and the Beast, and Prince Eric’s Castle from The Little Mermaid now feature in New Fantasyland.

The theme park pioneer has also loaded up on princesses, each a beauty in her own right. They will soon be gathering for daily meet-and- greets in the Princess Fairytale Hall. If I

remember correctly, they will include Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Kate Middleton and Beyonce.

One thing has me puzzled, however. The Orlando Sentinel quoted Jay

Rasulo, Disney’s chief financial officer who was parks and resorts chairman when the project was first approved, acknowledging “There are many days that Fantasyland was an uncomfortable place to be.” Added Disney parks chairman Tom Staggs: “We listened to our guests, and we heard that they adored Fantasyland. But they didn’t always enjoy the experience of experiencing Fantasyland.”

Both were referring to the crowding within the park, so a primary focus of the expansion is added capacity. For example, Disney has doubled the number of Dumbo rides (to two, or 32 elephants), and added soft play to the queue line area. Children love it. But won’t that draw even more guests? Here’s the conundrum. New Fantasyland is so beautiful and so magical that, while it will add capacity, it is sure to attract more visitors which will only add to the overcrowding. Disney can’t win for winning. There is also a beverage battle going on in Orlando, and I’m not talking Coke versus Pepsi. In New Fantasyland, guests will be anxious to try LeFou’s Brew, a frozen apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow, topped with a passion fruit-mango foam Since it debuted in 2010 at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter have been lining up for Butterbeer, the sweet non-alcoholic butterscitch drink that has now sold over five million servings. I’ve tried both, and prefer Budweiser. But the best part, the absolute heart of New Fantasyland, will be the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, scheduled to open in 2014. Set on rolling countryside, it will take guests into the “mine where a million diamonds shine” while navigating 31ft and 41ft drops. Its patented train of vehicles mounted in cradle-like pivots allow them to sway independently as they swing around the track. It will be unique. Racing over the 1,900ft of track, it will even give visitors a glimpse inside the dwarfs’ cottage. It’s sure to be smooth and comfortable. I, for one, can’t wait to ride.



After a 10 year wait, the German theme park Phantasialand has been given planning approval to expand by 8 hectares – a third short of the 12 hectares it originally requested. The extra land will be used for the construction of a waterpark and a third hotel in Brühl near Köln (Cologne).

Singapore’s island resort, Sentosa has entered into a two-year co- operation agreement with the classic Copenhagen institution Tivoli. The two venues will compare notes on best international tourism practices, participate in employee exchange programmes and other initiatives starting with the Sentosa Flowers festival from February 9 to 17 (marking Chinese New Year), to which Tivoli contributed a presentation. This is not the first time the Copenhagen park has entered into a foreign partnership. Until 2007 it licensed its name to a Tivoli-branded park in Japan, and had earlier explored the possibility of establishing a park in Poland.

Merlin Entertainments is to open a Madame Tussauds in Prague. The waxwork attraction in the Czech capital will open in late 2013 or early 2014 as the sixth Madame Tussauds outlet in Europe and one of 15 worldwide.

Matthäus Ziegler, the 29-year-old who attempted to take control of Fort Fun amusement park in Germany before financial irregularities emerged, has been has been sentenced to almost four years (three years, 10 months) in prison after he confessed to his role in a multi-million euro fraud. His mother and co-conspirator were given a two-year suspended sentence at a December court hearing in Arnsberg. As a result of Ziegler’s dealings, Fort Fun and a well-known ride manufacturer are reported to have lost more than €6 million. After the scandal emerged last spring, ownership of the park reverted to Compagnie des Alpes.

The Danish amusement park Sommerland Sjælland, about an hour from Copenhagen, is to add a number of new attractions for 2013 including a Laser Maze by Funovation, a 10-mete custom-themed Totem Pole tower ride from EOS and a Kidstream kid-powered train. The season kicks off on May 18.

Planning permission has been approved for England’s Lightwater Valley amusement park to develop 106 woodland lodges and sports facilities. The plans submitted by RPS addresses a number of concerns raised after an unsuccessful application in 2008. Such a diversification strategy is viewed as essential to the survival of Lightwater Valley, which suffered tough trading conditions in 2012 due in part to the weather. The lodges are expected to open in spring 2014. Located in North Yorkshire, the park is part of the Heritage Great Britain group, which also includes facilities at Lands End, John O’Groats, Needles Park on the Isle of Wight and Snowdon Mountain Railway and Summit in North Wales.

According to German press reports, a new Center Parcs holiday village will be built on the 73-hectare (180-acre) site of a former ammunition depot in Leutkirch, Allgäu. The park is scheduled to open in 2016 and as, with all other Center Parcs outlets in Europe, waterpark facilities will form an integral part of the offer. Local officials have pledged financial and promotional support.

Floortje Bertus has joined the French themed entertainment design

and engineering specialist Tejix as its new representative for Asia. Based in Hong Kong, Floortje will be well-known to many industry representatives in Europe as a former IAAPA Europe program manager and as daughter of Jeff Bertus, formerly the association’s vice-president in Europe.

Audiovisual specialist Electrosonic has announced the promotion of Paul Taylor to the position off sales manager for its cultural entertainment and leisure business in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Paul replaces Rob Smith, now EMEA general manager of service.


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