Editorials

From time to time, the staff of Theme Park Adventure wish to speak their minds about various topics regarding the themed entertainment industry. More often than not, it will be Rick West, who founded TPA in 1994. Rick serves as a Creative Director/Show Writer for the themed entertainment industry and never is shy when it comes to sharing his opinions. Here, other TPA staff members may also share their perspectives with you…

Wes Craven – Bringer of Monsters and Nightmares

Nightmare on Elm Street Movie PosterNovember, 1984. My grandfather and I were in the restroom of the Crest Theatre in San Bernardino, California after seeing Madman. When I noticed in the newspaper that the movie (it had become a sleeper/cult classic of sorts in the early ’80s, playing with other horror films around the country long after its initial release) was playing at the Crest, I asked my grandfather to take me – and away we went. As we washed our hands, my grandpa asked if I wanted to stay and see the movie that Madman was playing with as a double-feature; something or other about Elm Street. Neither one of us really knew much about it, but figured we’d give it a shot; if it sucked, we’d leave.

That second-thought film was indeed, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and for the next hour and a half, we sat silently in that theater, completely transfixed by what we saw on the screen. We left the Crest that evening buzzing about this new monster – with a charred red and green sweater, crumpled fedora, and a blade-tipped glove that slashed his victims in their dreams as they slept. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we’d just witnessed the birth of one of horror’s most iconic characters – Freddy Krueger.

Wes Craven’s career was a good one – and he unleashed an impressive list of terror on moviegoers that includes The Last House on the LeftThe Hills Have EyesSwamp ThingThe Serpent and the RainbowShockerScream, and Red Eye, to name a few. His films were mostly all received very well by horror fans, and the character of Ghostface from the Scream series arguably has become the most famous mask in cinema since John Carpenter’s Halloween. In my mind however, what towers above all else is the Gloved One – Freddy. And this is where we can easily bridge Craven’s world to that of themed entertainment.

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Star Wars and Disneyland – This Isn’t the Park You’re Looking For

Bob Iger D23 Expo 2015

Disney CEO Bob Iger Announces Star Wars Lands at D23 Expo 2015

It’s been a much-talked about rumor among fans and industry folks for quite some time: that The Walt Disney Company has been planning a massive Star Wars expansion for Disneyland. After all, the company dropped $4 billion on the Lucasfilm universe in 2012 – it only seemed to be a matter of time until its theme parks were heavily populated by Stormtroopers, Jedis and odd aliens from galaxies far, far away.

This past weekend during the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Disney’s chairman and CEO, Bob Iger, announced to a crowd of nearly 8,000 hard core fans that yes, the world of Star Wars is coming to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. In Anaheim, the 14-acre expansion will be in the backstage area of the park, likely behind Mickey’s Toontown and Big Thunder Ranch. It’s very possible that even the Team Disney Anaheim building (you know the one – it’s been looming large next to the 5 Freeway in all of its yellow and green maligned glory since 1995) may be razed to make way for this new expansion in the years to come, since the company has recently purchased sizable new lots adjacent to the Disneyland Resort for its further evolution in Orange County. The exact footprint and what will be cleared remains the point of much speculation at this point online.

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It’s a Small World Fire at Disneyland Sparks Deep-Seated Fears

small-world-fire-1

Small World fire image by sincerelymollie/Instagram

Red-hot flames lashed out, threatening to devour that what was so revered – so beloved by so many. Glowing embers flickered and rose into the darkness like brightly-lit fiber optics. Horrified and curious onlookers were kept at a safe distance as firefighters started to douse water on the fire before it could spread and do irreversible damage.

I’m not talking about the fire at It’s a Small World this past weekend at Disneyland. I am talking about the morning of May 27, 1911 at Coney Island. Just past 1:30 AM on the park’s opening day of the 1911 season, fire broke out in the depths of a brand new attraction ironically named Hell Gate. By dawn, Dreamland at Coney Island had been reduced mostly to smoldering piles of ash and rubble as news quickly spread and the masses came to gawk at its ruins.

Fire has always been a great threat and fear when it comes to attractions or iconic locations. Whether we talk about seaside boardwalks, Las Vegas hotels, or famous theme park attractions – fire is a subject that conjures deep-seated fears for both owners and fans.

“Dude! It’s a Small World is on fire at Disneyland!” is a phrase that nightmares are made of. Yet, that’s what I heard shortly after 9:30 PM on Sunday night, as we were finishing an evening spent at nearby Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s a major fear that’s always lingering in the back of one’s mind, but rarely ever manifests itself. Hearing it said aloud was jarring, regardless of how “prepared” we think we are in our thoughts.

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Letting the Air Out of Luigi’s Flying Tires at DCA

luigi-flying-tires-dcaIn summer of 1961, a new attraction opened in Tomorrowland at Disneyland – the infamous Flying Saucers. The idea was unique – think of the way an air hockey table works – and you’re sitting on top of the puck. Single riders would sit on their own saucer vehicle, which kind of also resembled a bumper car – and once the air pressure from the large platform base built up below them, the vehicles would begin to kinda-sorta hover. Depending on the direction guests leaned, that’s the direction the saucers would bounce and skid. It was noisy, and by multiple accounts from former Imagineers over the years, the Flying Saucers were one big headache from start to finish. And that finish came quickly in Disneyland years – the ill-fated attraction only lasted roughly five years before it was ripped out for something different; that something different was the first Tomorrowland Stage, which is now Tomorrowland Terrace.

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Bahooka Drama Continues: WHERE is Rufus?

bahooka22Talk about a whale of a tale! In March of 2013, Bahooka, one of Southern California’s oldest and most beloved kooky tiki restaurant/bar establishments closed its doors for business, sending sentimental shockwaves throughout the fan community across the U.S. and beyond. While the details of what transpired between family members remain vague, there is one certainty – those left with control over Bahooka simply didn’t want it anymore, and so, the property was sold.

Shortly after the sale, word came that a new owner would be renovating Bahooka as a Chinese Restaurant, which prompted tiki fans far and wide to ask exactly what would happen to the establishment’s most famous resident – Rufus, a huge, carrot-eating, nearly 40 year-old Pacu that had became a celebrity over a period of decades at the location.

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Santa’s Village in Skyforest to Reopen?

sv32In 1955, a theme park opened in Southern California where families could go and spend a fun-filled day together riding unique attractions, eating delicious baked goods and food, and loading up on whimsical souvenirs including a photo with the big guy himself! We’re not talking Disneyland however – we’re talking about Santa’s Village, in Skyforest, California!

For decades, so many SoCal residents grew up visiting that magical place in the San Bernardino National Forest – and since the park’s closure in 1998, so many of us have looked back on Santa’s Village with utmost fondness and growing nostalgia.

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A Call For Enrichment and Education Within the Themed Entertainment Industry

Themed Entertainment Show Writer / Creative Director Rick West

Show Writer / Creative Director Rick West

I have written about the themed entertainment industry, attractions of all kinds, and the men and women behind them for more than 20 years. I have seen a lot in the past two decades, from the opening of Luxor in Las Vegas with its groundbreaking Doug Trumbull attraction trilogy to the modernization of the San Diego Zoo with high tech habitats such as Hippo Beach and Polar Bear Plunge. I’ve watched Six Flags Magic Mountain build and open some of the biggest scream machines on Earth, and have been around to cover both the original opening day and re-dedication of Disney California Adventure.

Throughout my travels, I have been fortunate enough to interview some incredibly influential individuals for Theme Park Adventure, from Marion Knott to Marty Sklar. Always awed by their accomplishments and life stories, the history of the theme park industry has always been near and dear to my heart; often times, more exciting and engaging than the present. Not because the now isn’t exciting – it is, and it is my own profession – but hearing about how the pioneers did things from scratch with a vision and elbow grease… those stories and events capture my heart, and truly shaped the industry we all love and cherish today.

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T2:3D – ENDGAME LA

Terminator 2:3D at Universal Studios Hollywood

The first time I saw T2:3D – Battle Across Time was not in Los Angeles, but rather, in Florida at Universal Studios there. The impact and impression it left on me was deep, and as a theme park fan, it was one of those plateau moments when your jaw hits the floor and you know that you’ve just witnessed a true step forward in “E” Ticket experiences.

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