Disney D23 Announcements – Star Wars Land, Toy Story Land and More!

What a weekend it has been for fans of Disney and theme parks in general. Disney hosted their D23 Expo in Anaheim and by now I’m sure most of you have read about what’s coming to the parks. Before I share my thoughts with you I’d also like to wish you all a Happy International Rollercoaster Day for yesterday. Whatever that even means. I wasn’t aware of such day but now I am, so next year I’ll try to actually ride a rollercoaster on Rollercoaster Day, unlike this year when I pretty much sat on the sofa reading all the D23 news!

So talking of D23. Quite a few announcements weren’t there? If you haven’t seen the news I recommend you heading over to the Disney Parks blog to read all the finer details and also check out The DIS YouTube channel to watch the talks themselves.

To me it felt like Disney told us so much and so little at the same time.


The plans for Star Wars Land in both parks look great, if a little bare bones at this stage. I’d hazard a guess that Disney haven’t actually finalised plans for exactly what we’re going to be getting yet. The concept art though did do a cracking job at creating a theme and tone of how the lands will be. There’s concern about the placement of both of these lands but I think once we start to see more concrete details about what is happening people will be impressed.


Avatar Land and the new additions coming to Animal Kingdom look like they will definitely help flesh out the park. I’m a big fan of this park (I think it will look incredible after dark) and I do think it requires a full day to see it properly, however it does have the ‘half day tag’ so adding night-time attractions should hopefully help it shake the tag.


Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios looks good if not mind-blowing, but we were told that the imagineers are using Carsland as a reference in terms of the level of theming and immersion. Honestly, I’m on the fence a little. I’m not sure the actual theme lends itself to the rich environment that is Carsland, but I wouldn’t like to underestimate the imagineers and what they can create. I do think the Slinky coaster has the potential to be a great family ride. A highly themed family coaster will be an excellent addition to the park and I’m hoping it’s going to be more Big Thunder than say Primeval Whirl, although I suspect I may be a bit disappointed on that one, but we shall see. 


Finally there was more talk about the controversial Frozen attraction at Epcot. An attraction that seems to have gone down like a ton of bricks, however if you have a listen to the latest podcast from The Season Pass with the legendary Tony Baxter, you may well start to feel more positive about what is coming. There’s an essay that could be written on Epcot and it’s attractions but I do think this will be a positive addition for the park.


Away from the US parks and over in HKDL construction is underway for the Iron Man Experience. And I am wondering if this is going to essentially be Star Tours but with an Iron Man theme?


If that’s what’s coming I’ve got to wonder the thought process behind using simulator technology that has moved on so much since Star Tours. Perhaps its budget.  Or perhaps the imagineers can and will create an insanely good ride anyway with this tech. Watch this space. 

All images copyright of Disney.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster to Undergo Major Enhancements

Whilst theme park fans are waiting for Disney to announce Star Wars Land at D23, Universal sneakily announced a piece of interesting news themselves yesterday. The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands Of Island is to close on September 8th 2015 as it’s about to undergo a major enhancement. So far all Universal are saying is that we’re talking storyline, new trains and a more immersive ride experience.


The internet was quick to point out that this may signal that Universal have handed the Marvel rights back over to Disney, but I think this might be a stretch. For me, Hulk is essentially a good ‘themed’ coaster for the first half and then a pretty rough and generic coaster for the second half. Hopefully we will see that addressed to make it a more complete ride experience.

The most interesting information about this Hulk re-boot came from Jim over at Pixels At The Parks and it’s looking like we’ll be receiving new B&M trains without OSTRs (which is a world first for a B&M coaster with inversions) and also a new launch. If you remember when the ride was built, B&M were not responsible for the launch, however since then they have gone on to do their own launched wing coaster – Thunderbird at Holiday World.

It’s great to see Universal making changes to Hulk. In many parks this coaster would probably still be a headliner, but over the years at Universal it’s began to look a bit tired amongst their stellar line up attraction, so fair play to them. I’m looking forward to getting back to Orlando to try this out once it’s done.

Image copyright of Universal.

Nemesis turns 21

1994 was the year for rollercoasters in the UK.

We got Nemesis at Alton Towers, the UK’s first inverted rollercoaster; The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the then tallest fastest rollercoaster in the world…; and finally Shockwave at Drayton Manor which was and still is the UK’s only stand up coaster.

From the outset Blackpool Pleasure Beach were going full throttle with the hype for the Arrow designed, The Big One. I remember seeing so many TV spots talking about the ride. Already a coaster fan, I couldn’t quite believe we were getting a ride of this size in the UK. It looked phenomenal. But not as phenomenal as this…

Alton Towers had been working on something all together different which was about to land in the form of B&M designed Nemesis, the UK’s first inverted coaster. Unlike the Big One which apart from looking massive, looked like a regular coaster, Nemesis looked like a different beast entirely.


Alton created a back story about unearthing a creature during a dig, and cleverly themed the coaster around the story. It was a stroke of genius. The media and public got on board and awareness of Nemesis went through the roof.


Add the super clever marketing to the fact that most of the general public in the UK will have at that point been unaware of inverted coasters, and you had an instant hit on your hands.


As you can see I’ve posted a few scans from the Nemesis comic which was sold at Alton Towers in the early years of the ride. I like the comic, but I love seeing the old adverts and pictures of the models used in the advert.



Everything about Nemesis just worked. The ride was and still is sensational, even at 21 years old, and despite installing a great selection of coasters after Nemesis, Alton have yet to beat it. Nemesis really is a one off classic.

Upcoming Disney Attraction Rumours

It’s Disney’s D23 Expo event in 2 days time with the rumour mill about what announcements are coming for the parks and resorts in full flow. Over the past few days I’ve read two interesting posts from The Disney Blog and Micechat, both outlining what potentially may be coming to the original Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


I’m going to talk about the west coast to begin with as things seem a little more concrete (don’t quote me on that). It would appear that Star Wars is en route to Disneyland, and it’s arriving in the form of a whole land, rather than one attraction.

As many of you know space is tight at Disneyland so to make way for the new Star Wars area it’s looking likely that its goodbye to ToonTown. Now I’ve never been to Disneyland in Anaheim so my opinion is simply based on being a fan of Disney parks in general, and having visited their Orlando and Paris offerings. But to me having one land dedicated to one franchise in a  ‘magic kingdom’ style park (and I know they have done this in Hong Kong with Toy Story Playland, but that’s another conversation…) in my opinion just doesn’t feel right.

Toon Town

I’m much more of a fan of an original immersive land that contains appropriate attractions. An example of this would be the Indiana Jones Adventure being in Adventureland. When you think of Indy you think of adventure, you think of exotic jungle locations, and this works perfectly with Adventureland making it a great home for an Indy attraction. You could argue from a location perspective the Indy films, in comparison to Star Wars, simply don’t have as memorable locations that could be used to create a rich immersive themed lands (I’m not sure the temple of doom would go down to well…). However none of the existing lands at Disneyland are actual places, more lands that evoke a feeling of place or time. (Toon Town actually is debatable here but it’s back story and theme based on the animated cartoon characters means it get’s a pass in this context) Star Wars land I suspect is going to draw on a place or places from the film, so whilst it’s still not a real life place, it is a place that exists on-screen outside of Disneyland, and that I think will be jarring in contrast to the other lands. One minute you step off It’s a Small World and the next step foot on the Death Star.

A while back there was talk of more Star Wars being added to Tomorrowland (to sit alongside Star Tours) but this idea seems to have been vetoed. Whilst I think Tomorrowland has many issues with theme across both US parks, I do think Star Wars can belong in these lands, however I wouldn’t want the lands to be taken over outright by the franchise. Which I guess there lies the issue.

Ever since Universal created a hugely successful IOA land around Harry Potter, franchise lands seem to be the only option. A conversation about franchise lands at Disney (I’m thinking Carsland, Toy Story Playland, A Bugs Life, the upcoming Avatarland, hell even the new Ratatouille ride has its own themed Paris mini land) is to be saved for later, but I do think that in adding a whole Star Wars land to Disneyland someone takes a little bit of the magic away from the place. Don’t get me wrong, the end result and attractions will likely be fantastic, but I can’t help but feel that I’d like a Star Wars land to sit somewhere else.


Across the road at California Adventure, which already has the lovely looking but still a franchise land – Carsland, it would appear a second franchise land is about to drop by in the form of a Marvel Land. When I think of the Marvel movies, wonderful locations are not what springs to mind (unless they draw from Thor and GOTG) so I suspect what we may see here, according to the part of the map earmarked for this, is a re-theming of the current Hollywood land with added Marvel. And this in itself doesn’t bother me so much, but why not keep the Hollywood Land theme and add Marvel attractions? By calling it Marvel Land, it potentially restricts that area to only Marvel themed attractions. I know in building these franchise lands they are ultimately trying to create the most immersive environments possible, but I’ve never not felt fully immersed when walking down Sunset Boulevard towards or away from Tower of Terror, wishing that the whole land revolved around the Twilight Zone. I enjoy the fact that we have the wonderful themed street that is Sunset Boulevard and at the end of it we have the appropriately position Hollywood Tower Hotel which contains the fantastic Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (controversial statement – this is the last ever truly phenomenal attraction Disney has built). This may not have been the best analogy but I think you understand what I’m saying.

Anyway enough of the west coast and lets talk about the Magic Kingdom. It would appear that the recent New Fantasyland addition hasn’t quite set out to achieve what Disney had in mind, so with the 50th Anniversary coming up they (at long last) may be looking to install a new people eating e-ticket. Now, this may or may not astound you but the last time the Magic Kingdom receive a bona fide e-ticket was in 1992 with Splash Mountain. And the rumours are saying it’s going to be placed close by in Frontierland, perhaps meaning it’s goodbye to Tom Sawyer Island.


I have no problem with losing Tom Sawyer Island as it’s an attraction I rarely visit, however I would be disappointed if the attraction eats into the Rivers of America somewhat. However the most interesting aspect of this rumour is that we’re now going to have three e-ticket attractions all in the same area. I’d argue that the Magic Kingdoms two most popular attractions are already there, so in adding a third it’s going to mean this area of the park will be very crowd heavy. With that in mind, I know Pirates and Jungle Cruise are classics, but honestly, I’d like to see a new modern attraction dazzle in Adventureland.

At the moment it’s all just rumour but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I imagine Disney will want to do something special for their 50th anniversary and I think the Magic Kindgom deserves a new world-class attraction.

DHS-09-16165 SWW Airport Duratrans_Grievous_ETB.indd

Finally Hollywood Studio’s (new name TBC) is closing attractions down like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s a widely known best kept secret that big changes are taking place, but who knows what they are yet. Could the studio’s be seeing more than just Star Wars weekends and also now a full land? Probably. Will there be a Carsland clone? Possibly. Will we get Marvel? Not likely due to Universal. But how about giving Hollywood Studios something completely original and making it a global draw for WDW. Wouldn’t that be nice?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

All images copyright of Disney.

Walt Disney World 5 Day Hopper Pass

Anybody remember these?

WDW 5 Day World Hopper Pass

For those of you who don’t, this was the ‘Walt Disney World 5 Day World Hopper Park’ pass. It was from my first trip to WDW back in 1994 and as you can probably tell by the torn area of the bottom left hand side, it is made of cardboard and unlike later tickets, a cast member had to literally clip the ticket to admit you entry rather than any scanners or machines being used.

Apart from the fact that you had to get your photo taken (which even back then I didn’t like) I have a fondness for this ticket in terms of the design. The typography and colours used have that retro WDW feel that I’ve always appreciated and just the sheer size of the ticket made it difficult to fit in wallets, purses, bags etc, without it being bent, which intern made it  a bit awkward (especially when if the bottom/top was torn your ticket was void) but I quite like that about it. It’s certainly more interesting than the later credit card sized tickets with the usual Disney characters on them.

WDW 5 Day World Hopper Pass T&Cs

As you can see on the back of the ticket the 5 day world hopper pass gave you admission to 3 parks, Magic Kingdom , EPCOT Centre and the Disney-MGM Studios (no Animal Kingdom at this stage) for 5 days, and from the first day of admission you then had 7 days consecutive admission to Typhoon Lagoon, River Country, Discovery Island and Pleasure Island. All for just $143. This is obviously a kids ticket, but even still, for a similar ticket today you’d be looking at considerably more damage done to your bank balance.

I was 10 when I first visited WDW and I can still remember it vividly today. I’ve been a few times since then, and its always a great place to go to, but nothing will ever beat the excitement and anticipation of that first visit. 1994 was obviously pre-internet so my knowledge of what was in the parks came from short segments on TV, travel brochures and the odd park map I’d seen from friends who had been. I was already a fan of theme parks before my trip but WDW was and still is on another level.

New Cedar Point Dive Coaster Leaked?

Yesterday images leaked that look to have confirmed the rumours that Cedar Point’s next ride is indeed going to be a B&M dive machine/coaster. And a pretty big one at that too. We’ve seen a few of the smaller dive coasters open in recent years, Krake at Heide Park and Oblivion The Black Hole at Gardaland, but size wise, Valravn looks to be joining the bigger models currently found in the two Busch Gardens parks.


I’ve been on the first dive coaster, Oblivion at Alton Towers many many times and it still packs a punch. Naturally due to it’s length it leaves you wanting more but as a prototype ride its still a must do attraction at Alton. The only other I’ve ridden so far is Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa and what a ride it is. Nothing beats sitting on one of the outer floorless seats with no track above or below you as you’re left dangling before you drop 61m down and back up unto the giant immelmann loop. I know people say dive machines are a bit of a one trick pony but Sheikra rides brilliantly and is definitely in my top 5 coasters.


The specs for Valravn aren’t out there yet but from the leaked images you can see there’s three inversions this time, the staple big immelmann loop, another smaller immelmann loop after the second smaller drop, and what looks like a corkscrew type element.

The trains are likely to be floorless and hopefully they feature the longer rows of 8 or more found on the bigger dive machines. Having no track above or below you on the outside seats really creates a sensation like nothing else. Well, I suppose thats the wing coaster effect but I’ve yet to ride on one of those.

Looking likely to open in 2016, I’ll be keeping watch as Valravn goes up!

Lightning Rod at Dollywood

Coming to Dollywood during 2016 is Lightning Rod, the worlds first and fastest wood launch rollercoaster.

Have a look at this!

Built by RMC, who are doing some insane things in the coaster world right now, this looks absolutely superb.

  • 73 MPH top speed
  • 165- foot drop
  • 90+ degree banked breaking wave turn
  • 90+ degree outside banked top hat
  • high-speed airtime hill
  • non-inverting half loop
  • 12 airtime moments
  • quadruple down

For anyone not familiar with the above rollercoaster talk, in a nutshell, it means it’s pretty incredible.


When RMC introduced looping wooden rollercoasters a few years ago it pretty much blew my mind. Never in a million years did I think we would see inversions on woodies, but now they’ve gone and added LAUNCHES. Not only that but looked at this messed up element. I mean, this is going to feel pretty damn weird if you ask me. The 45- outwardly banked turn on Mumbo Jumbo by S&S at Flamingo Land felt strange, and that’s taken at a relatively slow speed, but this thing is likely to be going full throttle through the element which will be nuts.


As someone who considers himself a rollercoaster and theme park enthusiast I’m a bit ashamed to say I’ve only really done the UK parks, Orlando parks, and Disneyland Paris and Asterix in France. And in terms of woodies I’ve only ridden the Blackpool Pleasure Beach coasters, the SBNO Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa and Tonnerre De Zeus at Park Asterix. Tonnerre De Zeus was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a coaster so I really need to venture a bit further a field to parks where some of the classic woodies are and try them out.

All images and video have been taken from the Dollywood website.