And don't let anybody tell you any different ...
Written by Gregg Condon
Originally Published 4/19/17
Updated 2/28/19 because Galaxy's Edge. =)
Look, I get it. Your favorite park is Disney, or it's Universal, or it's Cedar Point, or it's a Six Flags park. You think Disney is too crowded (OK it might be) or that Universal uses too many Screenz (maybe they do) and Cedar Fair and Six Flags don't theme their coasters (what's the point when they're going 70 mph). So for ALL of these reasons and more, you'll only visit one theme park chain.
But why? It's probably the greatest time in the history of theme parks to be a theme park fan. They are all trying to one-up each other and it's AMAZING.
In the 90's and early 00's we had the great coaster wars. Amusement Parks from, well really Illinois to New Jersey were trying to one-up each other with taller and faster coasters (California and the West Coast somehow got left out of this). But that didn't do anything for fans of Disney or Universal parks.
Disney was the king of the themed environment for decades. Not only themed rides, but lands around those rides. A recreation of New Orleans for a Pirates themed ride. Old west themed lands. Castles. World's of "tomorrow" that never really came to fruition (but that's a whole other article).
But the fact is, Disney was the top. Even after Universal Studios Florida opened Universal was really second fiddle to Disney and it seemed that's where they were destined to stay.
And then in the late 90's and into 2001 Disney built a couple of parks that weren't quite as successful as they probably should have been, because Disney was trying to save some money. Disney was always the "first offer" when it came to franchises to create themed environments for (yes, even Potter) but they were famously hesitant to give up any control when it came to the final say over what was in their parks.
And it is for that reason JK Rowling found the perfect partner to re-create her Wizarding World of Harry Potter ... and then everything changed.
On May 10, 2010 the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Islands of Adventure and thus started the theme park war that we now see ourselves in.
No longer would off-the-shelf mouse coasters themed to Dinosaur parking lots or twisty roads in the Santa Monica Mountains be enough. Swing rides that looked like oranges, gone. Special effects shows featuring crappy war movies, gone.
But the impact wasn't just for Disney. It opened up a whole new era for Universal Studios across the world which has probably benefited the Hollywood Park more than any other.
Just look at the timeline for Disney and Universal just since Wizarding World opened:
Unknown opening as of this time: Tron Coaster (MK), Guardians of the Galaxy (Epcot), Marvel Land (DCA), Nintendo Land (USF/USH), Secret Life of Pets (USH)
And these are just the highlights, and that's just in the US, so much has been done at all of these parks since 2010. And we're just getting started.
In addition to these attractions at Disney and Universal, the other park chains are starting to catch on to themed rides and environments. We've seen the Justice League rides at Six Flags parks. Coasters with themed elements like Mystic Timbers at Kings Island, Cobra's Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
The complete re-do of Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm. Interactive dark rides at Legoland. Even smaller parks like Glenwood Caverns are opening themed rides that fit their parks.
And of course for the coaster fans we've seen the complete re-imagining of classic wooden coasters thanks to Rocky Mountain Construction, the continued success of B&M Hyper Coasters and the infusion of newer manufacturers (to the US) like MACK and Gerstlauer. Parks like Lagoon are even building their own coasters.
As I said, it's an AMAZING time to be a Theme Park Fan.
Sure, there are always there are those who will find fault with anything. Guardians of the Galaxy Tower, Volcano Bay, World of Pandora, Soarin' Around The World, duplication of rides at Six Flags. There is not ONE attraction opening up at any park that is beyond critique. No matter the chain, theme, ride system, fan-base ... inevitably somebody out there is going to hate it, or at least give the perception that they hate it.
But now that the theme park war is almost a decade old it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, with all of the rumors going around with Tron coming to Magic Kingdom, Guardians and Ratatouille coming to EPCOT, NintendoLand coming to Universal, more Potter coming, Marvel and of course Star Wars Land there is going to be more choice than ever.
For those of us that can look beyond what company is creating what environment and enjoy lots of different things at different parks, it's absolutely amazing. For those that continue to support only one company while still criticizing everything that company does you are likely going to be continually disappointed.
IP's aren't going anywhere. Screenz aren't going anywhere. Overlays of existing rides to fit what's new and hip aren't going anywhere. Synergy is where it's at. And why not. When you have franchises that are pulling in BILLIONS of dollars every year at the Box Office it's no surprise that corporations want to capitalize on that with attractions and most importantly, merchandising.
So you can either continue to be disappointed with the highest quality attractions theme parks have ever created or just go with the flow and enjoy the ride ...
A word or two on being an enthusiast...or an enthusi-assholes.
I'm writing this today after hearing and seeing some rather nasty behavior among our own community. In fact, having witnessed it in person, it is degrading to so many people - including yourselves who are doing it.
Let me be clear here: The majority of our community are well behaved. They know not to do stupid shit such as 'selfies' on ride, or their own private POV videos for YouTube, etc. They're smart enough to figure out that they cannot jump over a fence to get their hat when it is dropped off on a ride.
Or are they?
Recently I've seen reports from close friends & other people that behavior at some of the enthusiast events is... deploring. No, I take that back, it's downright rude, arrogant and cruel. Of people getting pushed out of their way because somebody was racing to get on the waiting train FIRST. Even when broadcasts of "We're holding the train for you" were being heard, they still pushed somebody out of the way.
And then rude, cruel comments on the operating crew of a particular ride for not moving fast enough for their own liking. Insulting operators, being belligerent towards them, and degrading them.
Believe it or not, those people are earning a reputation in the theme park/hospitality industry. They might think they're anonymous... they are not. And for those who think they're immune to the consequences: Wake up time. You're not.
Let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR here: Ours is a secret society that has no secrets. Everybody in this business, from the park operators to the ride ops to the enthusiasts SEES AND HEARS EVERYTHING. There are no secrets. And names do get passed around. Your facebook comment about a park or their management? It's seen. It's passed around. It's shown to others.
This isn't to mean there's a big, beautiful conspiracy going on, but let's face it: Gossip fuels the business. Whether it is a new coaster going up at (Choose your park here) or somebody is doing something at (Choose your park here), everybody hears the gossip by the time the "SEND" button is pressed on a mobile device. And it gets around like wildfire; entire websites are set up to discuss the latest rumors, gossip and such.
And if you think for one second that a given person's rude criticism of a park or a ride isn't seen by management - you're wrong. Parks and their staff read up too. Every crack made at a park is watched (Even I've been hit with this shit stick before) and is discussed.
Not to mention: Your name is attached to it - and is seen. Nothing is private in the digital age - nothing. You trash one enthusiast's view - odd are, people are watching. There is <ZERO> trust between media forms.
All of this bad behavior is getting around, it is seen, it is being discussed. Parks see the assinine behavior and attitude, and it is NOT working in our favor. In fact, it's putting a bad image in their heads. And as a whole, we will be the ones to suffer.
We, the majority, are being punished by they, the minority.
It's time to stop this. It is time to put the bad boys/girls out to pasture - and to let them know: Your bad attitude, bad behavior, and personality defects aren't welcome here. We're a community that goes for decades in any direction, and the misbehavior of some will not be tolerated by the majority.
We are a group of people who all love and cherish the same thing: Parks & their rides. It is what draws us together every year for our vacations, our rest, our relaxation. And for many events too - whether group led or park led. At the same time, a small group of enthusi-asses are jeopardizing our good times the parks give us. It's time to take a stand, tell these people to stop their bad behavior - and to distance ourselves from them. We do not need to lose what we have because of their asshole actions and thoughts towards parks - as well as towards our own community.
R.D. Dewberry 9/13/18
From the mind of the Editor ...
Hey there Park Journey readers, hope you are all well on this fine late Spring day. It's been awhile since we've done any opinion pieces on the site, and really, we don't usually do them unless there is something that's really weighing on us. Today's topic is something I've been playing around with in my head for awhile but a few recent events have urged me to put finger to keyboard this morning.
Written by Gregg Condon
We're all fans of things. If you're reading this you're probably a fan of Roller Coasters, Theme Parks, Disney, Universal, Von Roll Sky Rides. Maybe you've followed us since day 1, maybe you're relatively new to Park Journey. Maybe you found us through a park update, a YouTube video, coverage of Star Wars Celebration, Halloween stuff. Maybe we even tweeted from the wrong twitter account while at a Hockey game once (it's totally happened) and you thought, "hey, these guys seem cool".
The point is, something you are a fan of brought you to this website, and that's pretty amazing. And we thank you for that. =)
But what happens when your "fandom" takes a turn into "fanatic" and you end up taking it to a whole other level? That's the kind of thing that's brought us here today.
Specifically, what's happening right now in Star Wars fandom.
Let's take a journey back, the year is 1977, I'm only 2 years old, most of you reading this are probably not even born yet (although, we do have a pretty awesome old bear audience ... you know who you are). A new science fiction movie is taking the world by storm.
But this wasn't just a sci-fi movie like 2001 or Flash Gordon, this one was different. And from this spawned an entire universe of toys, shows, movies, books, comics, conventions, theme park rides, theme park lands and millions (billions) of fans.
So many fans that there is apparently a group of fans that feel they "own" Star Wars and if there is something they don't like they feel it is their mission to basically shit on the franchise, and on anybody who doesn't see things their way.
Look, it's ok to be a fan. Even to be fanatic about something. But when your fanaticism begins to impact the enjoyment of others who enjoy the same thing, something is very, VERY wrong.
And as we all know, this isn't just a problem in Star Wars fandom. We see it all the time with actual fights at sporting events. The DisneyTwitter hashtag isn't used as a term of endearment as it should be. There are factions of theme park fans.
Why? Isn't this supposed to be fun? Isn't something that brings joy to billions of people whether it be a movie, a ride, a theme park or a sport be something we should all embrace? If you don't like it, fine. You are totally free to state your opinion.
But sadly, sometimes not liking something turns ugly. As recently the amazing Kelly Marie Tran has had to delete her Instagram account. Not only was there a group of people who were so vitriolic about their hatred of The Last Jedi, it even went to the level of attacking Kelly's race and heritage.
This is when I look at my own fandom of something and wonder how I can love something so much that people with such hate apparently "love" too?
Personally, I'd love to sit down with Kelly Marie Tran, George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Ron Howard, Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams and tell them how much Star Wars means to me. How many rough times in my life the series got me through. How I put the movies on when I'm sick because I can close my eyes, listen to the movie and still see it as I'm watching.
How when I have family tragedy and I need a break I can put on any one of 10 movies and be instantly transported to another galaxy and have a respite.
How I wish I could sit with Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen and let them know that there were people who enjoyed the movies they were in. That the hatred that turned them both away from movies is not the way every fan feels.
But sadly, often times the loudest voices are the most angry.
In a world that's so filled with ugly politics and ugly war and ugliness in the way we treat each other, we should be looking to things like Star Wars, or Disney, or whatever makes you happy as our escape from these things.
The things we love shouldn't be a part of the bad of this world, the things we love should a part of the good of this world. And we should all remember that the good in this world FAR outweighs the bad.
Be good humans ...