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Favourite Ride

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  1. Disney's Hollywood Studios https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/disneys-hollywood-studios (For more pics) Last but not least from my November trip. I ended up here on a couple of the days through park hopping. For the thrill seekers, the park probably has the best lineup at Walt Disney World. Plenty of new stuff to see here. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance An amazing attraction. I don't think there is much that comes close in terms of being a true start to finish immersive experience with a strong storyline. Haunted mansion is great for instance, but they still whack you on an escalator at the end of the ride for example. Big Thunder is pretty, but no story right? Harry Potter is a great ride, just make sure you stay looking straight ahead! But this, its so well thought out from start to finish. You begin in a reistance base, carved out in some caverns on the edge of the settlement, full of supplies and munitions. The first preshow tells you that you have to get off the planet since your current location is no longer safe. A cute BB-8 Animatronic whirls around in a concerned manner. You then head outside and board a transport ship. It's like a mild simulator ride, (not too strong since everyone is standing up), anyhow your craft is intercepted by the first order in a space battle, and you are dragged into the shuttle bay of a star destroyer. The doors open, and you are in a completely different location, the massive void of the shuttle bay! It's real wow moment, up there with that moment on POTC where you turn the corner into that huge battle. And you turn around and there your ship is, parked against the wall. From there you are taken into custody hustled down into holding cells and locked inside. Kylo Ren and General Hux try to interrogate you, but are distracted and wander off to deal with other issues. In that moment, some unseen allies come to your rescue, and burn a hole in the wall to bust you out. From here its into your next ride vehicle, a trackless transporter. From then on, the fun really starts. You start sneaking off through the corridors of the star destroyer, but within about the 30 seconds you are spotted by some storm troopers and they open fire. This is where the Disney magic really shines, with actual laser shots ricocheting around you, holes being blown in walls etc. From then on its several minutes of running for your life through different battle scenes. At one point you are darting around like mice under the legs of an AT-AT, at another point Kylo ren sticks a lightsaber through the roof and tries to cut you up. The only real downer was that on all my rides the last couple of scenes were running in B mode. None of the huge moving laser guns were working, so your vehicle sort of just moves back and forth erratically, seemingly dodging ghosts. The final scene had no Kylo Ren animatronic, so you just see him hovering outside in his spaceship before getting shot down, and you head to the escape pods without the rushing air effect of being sucked out into space. And then of course its a wild finale where your vehicle drives into a simulator pod meets freefall ride and evacuates out of the star destroyer, crash landing on the planet. What makes this cool is the unload area is actually outdoors, so the whole thing is wrapped up in a neat little package and you are back to where you started. Did this 3 times. Ah well, maybe when i return to one of the parks it'll all be going. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run I've done this back at Disneyland when the 'soft' opened their version of Galaxy's Edge and Rise wasn't ready yet, and then Covid happened and here I am finally seeing the rest of it in 2023. A huge recreation of the Milennium Falcon sits out front And you make your way through a well themed, but some what lifeless workshop themed queue. IMO they should have made it more like star tours with more things moving, though the soundtrack is quite humorous in this area if you listen in. And then after walking through a gangway, you board the faclon. On one ride, just before closing i had the most odd experience where I had an entire pod to myself. The ride is an on the rails shooter, with a bit of steering ability, and of course all your motion simulator fun, as you go off flying to steal some coaxium from another planet. A couple of of players shoot, a couple shoot and a couple do mostly nothing except hit one button at the right moment. So I got to take on the pilots position, with everything else being done on auto for you. Slinky Dog Dash Possibly the gentlest LSM launch in existence? The theming is quite fun, they have actually got this whole sub narrative that what you are riding on is a roller coaster kit owned by Andy, so the queue is scattered with spare bits of track and supports, as well as a lot of oversized toys. The first launch goes into a horseshoe turn and helix. Stops at the 2nd launch, which is themed a bit like a launcher on a hotwheels set. From there is a floater hill, a bunch of very mild bunny hops that would be right at home on a Japanese jet coaster, finished off with an S bend. When you are waiting on the brakes, squeaky penguin sings to you with his microphone, which was a nice surprise you dont see from the queue. This thing can get painful queues, but I tended to try and ride it later in the day and waited like 30-40 mins on both rides. Alien Swirling Saucers This is the same ride as Maters Junkyard Jamboree, several turntables interconnected so you move in a double figure 8 pattern, with some mechanism below the floor allowing your car to move from one turntable to the next. What is also cool is that your car is connected to the turntable by a springloaded tow bar, so your car drifts and swings wildly from side to side, not unlike the classic whip rides. Good fun. The "pizza planet" in the middle of the ride is a nice detail. Now why dont they have an ACTUAL pizza planet at Disney, it would be a license to print money Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy Fine for kids, but its Disney so its still decent. Imagine an animatronic Lighting mcqueen with a projection mapped eyes and mouth. Hey greets the crowd, moving about on his podium. He then demonstrates his speed, with a panoramic racing simulator on a giant screen behind. But his arch rival hacks in to try and beat him, but of course McQueen prevails. Tower of Terror Still excellent. As the prototype, this one actually has a section where your vehicle moves from one lift to another through a brief dark ride scene, with some cool optical illusions. Paris still wins out in terms of sheer intensity of the ride programme, and probably Tokyo has the best preshow. Rock n Roller Coaster Some embuggerance with this one, as it kept bloody breaking down. Surprisingly, one of my favourite things about this is how the whole loading area is themed. The preshow has you watching Aerosmith recording in their studio, and they invite you to join them at their concert via stretch limousine. When you step out the back door of the studio, you are in an alleyway, and your limousine is waiting in a multi level car park, but the theming is so immersive, eg the operators booth is inside the cashiers office, the secondary control panel is on the call box, there’s all sorts of other details like a motorbike being fixed, and even a low clearance height bar above the track where it leaves the station. The launch is powerful, and its a smooth, frantic layout full of positive gs, with a sea serpent roll, a lot of helices, and then a surprise corkscrew at the end. Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway This one is fantastic. You head into the chinese theatre, ready to watch a short film featuring Mickey and Minnie on a road trip, (Hmm reminds me of how the gremlins ride started out). On the way, they meet goofy driving a train, and an explosion on the train in the cartoon creates a real explosion in the theatre, creating a smoking hole in the wall that leads to the cartoon realm. You are invited to pass through, and inside, everything is done in the art style of the cartoon, with scribbled details on the walls, 2d props etc. The ride vehicles are a train of trackless pods behind a locomotive driven by goofy. Shortly into the ride your cars become detached from the loco, spinning out of control through a number of projection mapped scenes, often taking different routes. On the way you keep encountering Mickey and Minnie in peril. One scene had you caught up in a tornado, with very strong winds. Another was in a big city, where a jackhammering worker causes everything to shake. An impressive moment is where a room has faux rockwork and looks like a jungle, but when you return to it, it has transformed into an underwater environment. There’s also a nice moment where you end up in a dance studio run by daisy duck, and all the vehicles waltz side to side in unison. But, the quality of the graphics was something else, it just looks so bright and crisp, like a blacklight painting come to life, and they have managed to incorporate other moving props into it seamlessly. Did this a couple of times. I ended up timing it to try a few of the food items at the park. The Totchos from Woody's Lunchbox are a big ole bowl of carbs. Chilli con carne with corn chips and potato gems. But i think the 'blandness' of the corn chips overpowers everything. And i was sure to have booked in a drink at Oga's Cantina. I was recommended to try a Fuzzy Tauntan, which was rum and a few other sour flavours, but the foam on top actually made your lips go numb, like as if it had Lignocaine in it or something. The other drink i had was like a juice blend with coloured boba balls floating in it. They had a theatre showing newer Mickey Mouse shorts. Since when did it become like Ren and Stimpy? Overall, I think the park has one of the best ride lineups at Disney, and a mixed bag in terms of Immersive theming. Star Wars and Toy Story are great, but the rest of it is generic city streets and backlot theming, with a fair bit of the latter being under renovation. *****************************
  2. Busch Gardens Tampa - 12/11/23 https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/busch-gardens-tampa (Plenty of photos) 3rd time back to this park, which remains one of the best rounded in the US, with pretty decent theming, impressive coasters and a good collection of Animal exhibits too. Perhaps the one thing that has gone backwards is the operations. Previously Busch parks were usually pretty rock solid with operations, but this time around you'd encounter one train ops and sluggish speeds which kind of surprised me! Arriving at the Moroccan themed entrance: Its right there next to the entrance, so of course I started off with Iron Gwazi Wow, what to say, this ride is crazy. More intense than my previous favourite, Hakugei, but IMO more imaginative than Steel Vengeance. Pretty wild how they have made a hypercoaster out of what was once a pair of 28m high dueling coasters, and it almost looks bodgy how they have added extra steel tubes to hold up the ride. Once the muck around of the loading is done, a steel drop and turn out of the station leads to the huge lift. The first drop is out of control, being slightly steeper than vertical, a true freefall. From there you come up and up onto a huge outward banked hill, down and around an up to another apex, followed by a roll that spirals towards the ground. The pace continues with a quick flick into an overbanked turn, and then an element I wasn't really aware of, a drawn wave turn that crosses over the front of the station. The rest of the ride is a bit lower (relatively), banking and dipping around, really throwing you out of your seat. Frequently you look at the messed up looking track ahead and wonder how on earth the train is going to get through it with the speed it is carrying, but somehow does. The finale really shines, with a zero g stall, and then an airtime hill where it has double humps at the top, perhaps the most agressive airtime in the ride. A couple of turns later and you hit the brakes with plenty of speed. So there you have it, its neck and neck between this and Velocicoaster. Continuing around the park, I grabbed a ride on Tigris, another one of those Premier SkyRocket coasters. Turns out I've been on half of the ones operating worldwide, Ill recycle my review from the one at Sarkanniemi: A punchy launch, really fast vertical twist, good pop of airtime as you transition at the top, then a fun heartline roll. The 2nd half rapidly picks up speed as you dive down again, with more air in the non inverted loop. So despite looking quite simplistic from the outside, it's quite forceful and varied. I disagree that it is anything like Buzzsaw. Continuing around, it was time for Falcons Fury Along with Ikaros, would be my favourite dark ride. There's nothing like being slowly rotated to face the ground, and then freefalling, seeing it rush up towards you. It was telling though that it was virtually a walk on all day. They probably overbuilt the thing, with capacity for 32 people, so would take time to actually get enough passengers to cycle it. I had hoped to ride the new Serengeti Flyer, but every time I went by it was closed, and I don't recall seeing it operate all day. The other new coaster I had to ride was Cobras Curse, a unique Mack Spinning coaster with short little 2 car trains where everyone faces the same way. Also had a nifty conveyor belt loading system (Wouldn't it be great if Scooby got this!) The queue goes through a well themed queue with an archeological exploration theme. The ride has a vertical lift like scooby in front of a giant cobra statue, with some cringe audio, but what was interesting was they figured out a way to keep the platform level as it ascends (though it does shake a bit as a result). It's a ride of 3 parts. The first third is forwards with a first drop and couple of quick turns. The next third is backwards around a couple of helices, and the final 3rd has actual spinning, through 3 horseshoe turns in a row. I think it must have the energy efficiency of a brick though, its a large drop, but it seems to run out of momentum after a few turns. There's a 2nd lift to give it a bit more height, but even after that its slowing down by the end. The ride does look great, and integrates well with the theming, but perhaps a bit mid overall. By that point I was just about around the park so it was time for a few re-rides on some old favourites, starting with Montu Get out there and ride some of these older B&Ms, they really keep their pace up, and alternate between hard pulling inversion and hard pulling turns. Montu is extra interesting, with a few elements sunk into trenches, themed like Egyptian ruins. Cheetah Hunt So it wasn't until it was pointed out to me that the first element is supposed to be like a giant tree that a cheetah is jumping in and out of. I think maybe at the early stages it was meant to be an actual themed tree, but of course the reality of budgets means it is what it is. A decent launch coaster, but perhaps a bit more drawn out and less intense than the others, since a lot of the ride is this big long run with shallow drops in and out of trenches, though there is a slalom, barrell roll and airtime hill towards the back of the layout that amp it up a bit.. I think the likes of Taiga, Toutatis, and even our Superman Escape eclipse it. SheiKra Was my favourite in the park last time, and probably still is, with its huge scale, hang time through the elements, and just the sense of fun with such a large group of riders screaming together in the front row, with kids on the ground being soaked by the water splash. Kumba Still holds up, with its non stop elements perfectly sequenced to flow into each other, and runs pretty well still. Scorpion Another ride type you should get out and see while you can are these old schwarzkopf looping coasters. They were ahead of their time, with fun well designed layout and lots of intensity. Always wondered why Arrow sold more rides than these guys. There are plenty of bad arrows, but no bad Schwarzkopfs. Serengeti Express Train One thing I have never done until now. It's quite a long ride, and the only way to really see the animals on the open range section up close (Rhino Rally is long gone, and I wasn't gonna fork out for one of the safari tour feeding experiences) As the day wound to a close I checked out a few of the Animal exhibits, wish I had allowed more time for them, since they are genuinely excellent, and typically slightly off the main paths which makes them a quiet escape. And a couple of night rides on Iron Gwazi, fully warmed up. Wahooo! And a few more photos....
  3. Disney's Animal Kingdom https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/disneys-animal-kingdom Back to Disney, this time Disney's Animal Kingdom. I ended up heading here in the late afternoon on a couple of my days at WDW. I've been here before and it doesn't necessarily take a huge amount of time to see the park regardless. For the time that I had I didn't really take an issue with skipping over Kilimanjaro Safaris and Kali River Rapids for example. Of course, my main target was Pandora - The World of Avatar. You can spend ages wandering around and admiring the detailed theming. Here is when it really pays to visit in the evening, since you can enjoy the land after dark where it really puts it's lippy on. Satu'li Canteen probably has the best food in the parks too: I started off with Flight of Passage, a ride known for its huge queues, but somehow I was through in 30 mins! The queue is well themed from start to finish. In particular the avatar research lab has a massive amount of detail, right down to seemingly living blobs that move around inside their containers. And of course an avatar in a tank that is kicking and moving as it floats in its sleep. A long preshow explains the whole concept for those who don't know much about the Avatar universe. Basically Pandora is an alien planet inhabitied by the Na'vi. They have bred clones of the Na'vi called "avatars" that humans can control via a neural link, allowing humans to better explore Pandora.... ...and even take part in riding on Banshees, a flying creature that Na'vi ride for fun. The ride is like a much more intense version of a flying theatre. There's no gentle soaring over landscapes here. You are wearing 3D glasses, and diving, twisting and moving quite aggressively the whole time, apart from a brief breather halfway through where you stop in a cave and those little flying jellyfish spore things land on you. Felt on par to me to those simulated flying sequences on Harry Potter and the forbidden journey. The rows of seats are even able to drop a few meters, allowing for actual freefall moments during the ride! And the graphics are spectacular, and very colourful. The seat looks a bit like a Zamperla Disko seat, with some extra vibrating seat pads, and even some inflating air bags to give the feeling the banshee you are riding is breathing. A great trick is done to transition you into the ride film. Your seat has tiny little led strobes that flicker right in your eyes, and as they do this they quickly open the door in front of your seats, play some more flickering lights on the dome screen and then wham, you 'wake up' in the world of Pandora. Na'vi River Cruise is the other attraction. Suprisingly this thing had a longer wait whenever I looked. It's a pleasant well themed dark boat ride through scenes from Pandora. But I guess the thing for me was, the ride scenes and theming are just like what you have already seen out in the main park, with the difference of a few screens showing animals scurrying around and some additional moving things overhead. Though it does come good in the end with a dancing singing Na'vi priest lady. And the queue is quite beautiful, seemingly built by the Na'vi, and full of artefacts. As for the rest of the park. Harambe Marketplace is food district the park opened. Again, the food here is great if you actually want something proper with a bit of flavour. I think i had some Chicken flatbread thing with tahini. They certainly got the developing country vibe right, love the meta copyright infringement. Expedition Everest is fun as always, and quite pleasant at sunset. Dinosaur is a motion based dark ride with exactly the same layout as Indiana Jones, but something about it doesn't click for me. I think it's because is so homogenous from start to finish. You are riding around in a jeep in a dark jungle looking for a particular dinosaur just before the asteroid wipes out the dinosaurs. But it's the same thing the whole way through. Twist and turn then stop, the onboard computer IDs a dinosaur next to the track, nope its not that one, twist and turn some more, another dinosaur, nope not that one either, etc etc repeat that for most of the ride. It eventually reaches a crescendo at the end. You know how on Indinana jones you dive underneath a boulder. On this one you dive under a giant T-Rex head that lunges at you (Clearly inspired by the ending of Jurrassic Park River Adventure!) They took out the Spinning Coasters, but they still have that Dinorama area. The gift shop is worth a look for how zany it is inside. Tough to Be a Bug I did for old times sake, and because the posters in the waiting area is funny. The show is presented like a cabaret of different bugs on stage. Creative use of 4D effects in the cinema, with stink bugs and poisonous bugs shooting at you, and even ones that sting. The other ride I had wanted to do (I've managed to miss on previous visits) is the wildlife express train, but it closes quite early in the afternoon. Ah well, guess I'll ride it in a few years time. And thats Animal Kingdom.
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