If you've been living under a rock maybe you haven't heard about some recent theme park blog drama going around. We aren't going to get into the specifics (because it's quite literally ridiculous) but what we do want to talk about is some of the reasons this may be happening.
Written by Gregg Condon
Before I get into the meat of this I just want to preface with this:
There are some AMAZING websites/social media accounts that are based in FL. Some I've been following personally for a VERY long time. These are websites that give their opinions in a non-biased way, that play by the rules, don't generally get involved in the drama and do a damn fine job of sharing the joy and love they have for theme parks. This article has NOTHING to do with them. =)
Drama between theme park websites is nothing new, heck, drama in all of the internet is something that is nothing new. Even though this website is only about 5 1/2 years old right now, I've actually been involved in theme park websites in one way or another since 2001.
My first Disney message-board was on Laughing Place, and also around the same time WestCoaster (because I actually like more than Disney, go figure). I eventually became a moderator on WestCoaster and on another site I won't name when they started their message-boards. I was also a moderator/admin/writer on MiceChat for quite a few years before starting this site 5 years ago. In fact, you can still see me in a lot of their YouTube videos including the most viewed video on their site ever, media day for Lex Luthor Drop of Doom at SFMM. (Yep, MiceChat's most viewed video has nothing to do with Disney).
But even with all of that history, for the most part, I get along with everybody that I worked with on those sites, and through them have developed some of my most cherished friendships.
Calico River Rapids POV with our friends from Theme Park Duo
There was a time however when the different Disney/Theme Park Websites in CA didn't get along. There was a very us vs them mentality that thankfully does not really exist in CA anymore (for the most part), and we are better for it.
No, it seems most of that drama has now shifted to the websites/blogs that are based in FL. Not ALL mind you, 90% of the websites are amazing and get along great.
And I think I may know at least part of the reason for this, so bear with me for a minute.
When we started this website we had some existing connections because I had written for those other sites, so we had kind of an advantage over some other start-up blogs. Heck, our first media day for Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain was actually the reason this site even exists as it didn't exist before that. You can read more of that story here.
I had PR contacts at Knott's and Universal Studios Hollywood that I reached out to pretty early on.
For awhile we were not included in media "events", which was totally understandable. We were growing our numbers via park updates and whenever a park would send us a press release we'd get them posted ASAP (something we still strive to do today). Because our thought was if a park was giving us a chance to essentially "prove" ourselves, then we should make sure we were being good stewards of that chance. And again, to this day we feel this way.
We also had a goal. When we started the site it was just around the time things were starting to move on Wizarding World Hollywood, and our goal was to be invited to that media event. I'm happy to say we met that goal.
But here is where the difference is between CA and FL. If this site were based in FL, we would have never been given that chance. There seems to be a disconnect in how parks handle media requests, even among the same park chain (this also happens with Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks, you'll see no media/press releases from Cedar Point and Six Flags New England on this site as an example, not by our choosing but because of the media standards those parks utilize).
In CA, due to the sheer number of theme parks and seasonal (Halloween) events, it seems that it's easier for a newer site to be included. Sure, we still have to prove ourselves, but it seems that parks/events are more willing to give a site a chance vs just relying on "numbers". (Disney is the exception here)
However, in FL, it's ALL about the numbers. We were probably 2 1/2 to 3 years old before we reached out to any of the FL parks, because we knew it was this way. And still, to this day, we've only been invited to media events at one park in FL (Busch Gardens). We have however been on the "press release" list for many of the parks.
And I think this is where the current issues are coming from.
In FL there is a "competition" factor at play. Everybody is trying to be "first". First to break a story, first to confirm a rumor, first to post that POV.
In CA, when we're all at media events, there seems to be a general camaraderie. Sure, we're all there to do the best job in promoting whatever park/event we're at and do the best for our followers, but we all kind of get along. I'm FB friends with people from a variety of websites. If another site has a great story/scoop, we'll share it. And people have shared ours as well.
I'm not going to sit here and say that the drama is 100% because of the spirit of competition that is seemingly happening in FL (and also, remember, I'm 2,500 miles away, so I'm only seeing the online component of this). You also have very strong personalities at play here.
But I think when you couple the strong personalities and the competition factor that seems to be at play then you get drama and not the "love and joy" of theme parks that I mentioned at the top.
And that's really the greatest issue at play here. Due to all of this drama that even Disney has had to address this week, we're losing the joy and love for theme parks. That's certainly why we do this.
And don't let anybody tell you any different ...
Written by Gregg Condon
Originally Published 4/19/17
We're now a few weeks into the new era at Disneyland after the opening of Galaxy's Edge. In addition, Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure had it's premiere last night.
And even with all of that, the inevitable comparisons have already begun with the usual suspects taking their side of Disney Good/Universal Bad or Disney Bad/Universal Good.
Seriously people, are you not entertained? Get over yourself and go ride and actually have some fun.
Aaaaanyway, here's a repost of this again. And we'll keep updating and re-posting this as long as we need to. - Gregg
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