Gazza

Parkz USA Updates 2011

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Well, I've been back in the USA for a few weeks, and visited a few parks, some were revisits, a couple of new ones, and a couple of parks where I didn't bother taking any photos :P I wont be doing full trip reports since I did that last time, instead I'll just stick to the new stuff, starting with Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens. 0821-88_Cheetah_Hunt_DSCF6580.JPG http://www.parkz.com.au/photos/US/Tampa/Busch_Gardens_Africa/1488-Cheetah_Hunt/page1.html I got a couple of rides, once in the front, once in the back. Front is better, because like Superman, thats the only way to get airtime off the top hat (well, whatever that figure 8 thing is that dominates the skyline) My first ride was a 30 minute wait, the second over 90 minutes due to one of Florida's afternoon summer thunderstorms coming through. So two trains get loaded at once, one train rolls foward straight into the launch without stopping. The 2nd one gets held behind and launches unexpectedly. But its more of a gentle push, and like Surfrider, it sounds like a washing machine motor. So you get enough speed to get around a wide turn, but it finally picks up when it tears down the launch and up into the top hat figure 8 thing. At the top it loses all speed and piss farts around doing the figure 8. You then drop down, get your photo taken, and get going again doing twists and turns over the savannah. Except its not that fast and its all pretty drawn out, so you kind of just go along casually in and out of trenches PS the theming budget ran out at this point, so no pretty trenches like on the first launch. Its all concrete, chainlink fences and metal retaining walling. No, they didnt even have the money to paint the concrete brown, or put army camouflage over the fences (or even make them timber fences) Ah well, better luck next time eh. You then do that barrel roll into the MCBR...You can just imagine how the design meeting went down over in Switzerland at Intamin HQ when they were nutting out that part... "I have eet! We vill send ze arrt line roll into ze brakes". Yay. So then it gets kind of cool when it drops down into the canyon where Rhino Rally goes through, plenty of quick transitions, sort of like a toned down Jet Rescue in a way. One final launch sends you over an airtime hill with a bit of kick, and from there its more causal twists and shallow elevation changes into the final brakes. So overall, it was "Good" and "Fun", but SheiKra is still the best thing there.

Edited by Gazza

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Time for another addition to this. With the announcement of Green Lantern at Movie World I thought I'd give my thoughts on another Green Lantern, the one at Six Flags Magic Mountain. This was a ridiculously short visit...2 hours. Basically, I was on the way up to Santa Barbra, and had other commitments. I didn't even get to friggen ride Tatsu ;) But it's OK, I've been before and will undoubtedly return anway. On the plus side, I finally got to ride Ninja, missed it on every visit to date due to it being closed. But before we get into Green Lantern, here's a pic that will make Dreamworld visitors weep: 0917-88_Superman_Escap_SEMAX.jpg That's how high Superman: Escape from Krypton, Launches. Every time. I didn't get to ride though, owing to the time constraints. Would've been nice to go that high, but at the same time, I can say I've had 50-60% of that experience at DW :P But anyway, Green Lantern: First Flight. 0917-88_Green_Lantern_DSCF6766.JPG The ride kicks major arse. If you want something that really tests the limits of intensity, this is for you. Strongest G's of everything I've ridden, and for the length of ride its perfect. Its not the longest ride out there, but it is relentless the whole way through. I doesn't make your stomach queasy, but...well, watch this POV (not mine)

he reactions you can hear from the guy are literally what I was like on the ride. You know how when you go through a loop or at the bottom of a drop on a coaster the Gs are through your bottom? Well here, you can be headfirst or face down experiencing this. And you constantly alternate between postive and negative. It's just crazy. The ride is super effective at emptying pockets: http://www.parkz.com.au/photo/US/Valencia/Six_Flags_Magic_Mountain/1448-Green_Lantern/1,7,5194-Green_Lantern_lost_items.html Whilst queuing, somebody's phone was flung from the ride on the final hump. And it wasnt a case of it just dropping out of the ride, it was like when somebody tosses a tennis ball to a dog. Thankfully guests aren't allowed in the area behind this element! On my ride I waited a bit over an hour. I got an unbalanced run, since I was by myself on my side, and two heavier guys on the other. When the op came round and stapled my harness a bit further I knew I was in for trouble. The ride itself was basically a bit of a blur, it was difficult to actually keep track of what point of the ride you were at, but I got about 4 flips total through the course, plus a bonus one when we were back in the loading dock (it just kind of decided to) The leveling device is basically a bar that presses down. There is an inverted triangular frame on the axles on each side which hold the seats. The two outer points of the triangle have small wheels on them, so When the bar presses down, this forces the hypotenuse of the triangle to be level too and the car can then move foward to the unload. Well, its supposed to do that. But when the car is particularly unbalanced, and you are sideways, all it ends up doing is catching one of the wheels on only one point of the triangle, and then the thing can be forced to spin the wrong way and actually partially invert again instead of leveling. The ride computer obviously picks up this is happening , and the leveling device immediately retracts, and then tries again. It Repeated this process about 4 times until it finally caught the right way and we could get off. I'm not sure if they are actually supposed to let cars go out unbalanced like this (Judging by reports from other versions)...probably because of this issue. But being SFMM, the staff probably are a bit blasé about it. Was it better than X? Yeah bugger it, I liked it more :D though X still has its wonderful first drop. Also, check out our pics of Road Runner Express. It's like a long lost younger cousin of WBMWs version. Edited by Gazza

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More pics, this time from Six Flags over Texas. I flew into Dallas - Ft Worth. Had a couple of days there, enough for a couple of evenings at the park, and to see some local architecture I was interested in. Turns out they were having their 13th consecutive 100 F + day, so needless to say very hot, and not fun considering I had only one change of clothes due to delayed baggage. But, heres the first round of pics from the park. 1003-88_The_New_Texas_G_DSCF6305.JPG New Texas Giant http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Arlington/Six_Flags_Over_Texas/rides/762-Texas_Giant.html Sorry Nemesis, you've been dethroned. This coaster is just ballistic, perfectly smooth, and has heaps of airtime. It has some cute Texan theming, such as a chicken coop (with sound effects) for non riders, cadilac themed trains, and an oil derrick that shoots fire (Not working on my visit) I wouldn't mind one of these in Aus...All the visual appeal of a wooden coaster, with none of the maintenance issues. Mr. Freeze http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Arlington/Six_Flags_Over_Texas/rides/759-Mr_Freeze.html A decent coaster...Sort of a a one trick pony that's not, and packs a decent punch into a small space. I'm unsure when/why they repainted the track from light blue to red...Was there a plan to retheme it to Superman or something at one point? The loading station is a sight to behold....Two tracks on sliders, with a loading dock on each side. One track slides across to the loading dock on one side whilst the other is lined up with the launch and cycling. When the other train is done running it slides across to the loading dock on its side, and the other train slides across to launch. Great way to increase capacity. La Vibora http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Arlington/Six_Flags_Over_Texas/rides/756-La_Vibora.html I hated this piece of crap. Should be renamed "La Vibrator". Everytime it went through a block brake it just violently bashed into the guardrails.

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Six Flags Over Texas, Part 2. 1009-88_Park_Scenery_DSCF6321.JPG There's a few of the minor attractions I didn't ride, as well as general park scenery. Browse on from here: http://www.parkz.com...otos/page6.html The full index of attractions is here: http://www.parkz.com...ags_Over_Texas/ My personal favourite: 1009-88_Fish_Food_Dispe_DSCF6325.JPG As for the other coasters. Flashback Last time I rode one of these was at the end of 2003 just before Wonderland closed. To be honest, the roughness I can deal with...Its more doing 6 inversions in a very short space of time which makes this not fun. Mine Train A typical arrow mine train, so it has a bazillion lift hills and doesn't go very fast. But it was a nice ride with lots of twists and turns, and it was very long. The point I realised I liked the ride more than I thought I would was when the track passed through a a short indoor section in a full blown western saloon full of mannequins. Mini Mine Train Random, but this coasters saving grace was a clack clack sprinker that was left on, that wet riders as they went through. This was no accident, as the ride op tells you of its presence as you depart the station. Runaway Mountain It's basically a layout similar to this, in a giant shed which is 100% dark inside, so pretty cool, and pretty comfortable. It is nice to see a ride where they have truly let it be dark, since there is no knowing what lies ahead at all (And I didn't know the layout by heart or anything before riding, so it was all unexpected) That said, this ride would be amazing with Scooby style lasers. Superman: Tower of Power Glad I rode this. It ran a combo tower cycle, which I was unaware of until I was on the thing. So what happens is it start off like Batwing spaceshot, with a launch to the top. But instead of reversing quickly and doing the downwards slam, it just slows and drops say 1/4 of the way down. It then gets raised slowly to the top, and then launches downwards like Supreme Scream at Knotts. The plus of this cycle is you get a full height drop rather than a part height one like on Batwing, the negative is that it comes at the expense of pacing. So I think I prefer Batwing. 1009-88_Superman_Tower_DSCF6326.JPG Texas Chute Out Bleh, so now I dont care that the one at Adrenaline Park will never open. You go up, stop for a few secs, you go down, not particularly fast. 20 seconds tops. I stepped off thinking "Was that it?" 1009-88_Pandemonium_DSCF6344.JPG Oil Derrick Always feels like a gamble at SF wether the observation tower will be open. This was no exception...Walked past once, closed. Walked past half an hour later, open. Good because it meant I got shots of most of the coasters with no real effort on my part. 1009-88_Oil_Derrick_DSCF6327.JPG Batman the Ride Typical B&M invert, so in other words very good. My favourite part (And a few rides at this park had them) was a plaque over the ops booth with 3 words: "Sense of urgency". More parks need to have these. It's nice when ride attendants work quicky, keeping queues moving, and certainly, the crews at SFOT work a bit more efficiently than the ones at SFMM. 1009-88_Batman_the_Ride_DSCF6341.JPG Shock Wave Old and rusty...Looks like its ready to fall apart, but I didn't when I rode so that's all that matters. Ran pretty well though, and bonus points for having lapbars. 1009-88_Shockwave_Shockwave2.JPG Judge Roy Scream It sits on a plot of land separate from the rest of the park, accessible via a ped underpass. It's location means I took far more photos the necessary, including some from my hotel room. The ride was dead and had no queue, so a walkon. Was ok I suppose, nothing really noteworthy to be honest. 1009-88_Judge_Roy_Screa_DSCF6364.JPG Titan Arrgh...Only two hypers ridden, and both more or less the same layout. That said, its a solid, intense ride, with very strong Gs in the helix. Cant help but think it should have had a couple more hills in the mix. The MCBR is still a car crash and basically stops the train dead. Rode this at night too, with no real queue, so win there! 1009-88_Titan_DSCF6302_stitch1.JPG Pandemonium More of a 'turning' coaster rather than a spinning coaster..It doesn't go silly like Dragons Fury at Chessington, which can be a good or bad thing depending on who you are. It is a nice layout though. Also, comfort wise it is more refined than the Maurer version though...The straightening mechanisim at the end of the ride is a friction wheel that spins the car around, rather than a bar the car bashes into. However, waiting to proceed to this part, your car sits on the block brake, and they don't seem to lose their momentum, so its like spinning on an office chair for a minute in the one spot, which could make some queasy. Had a good WTF comment from the members of the GP i was riding with (Or maybe it was just because they were Texan)...."We're facing backwards, and we started off facing fowards...They must have an odd number of cars" :wacko: Not sure about the thought process there. 1009-88_Pandemonium_DSCF6289.JPG Yosamite Sams Gold River Adventure A nice kids boat ride, much like LTRR, but with smaller boats. I believe the story followed Porky Pig having his gold stolen by Yosemite Sam, with Bugs Bunny being the sherrif. The scenes looked well done, and in the end Yosamite gets blown up. The next update can be by request...What do people want to see first? A water park? Or a couple of new coasters? Edited by Gazza

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^I'll be getting to that in more detail later, but I reckon Forbidden Journey is my new favourite attraction...so much depth to it. If only they had done a better job at making sure you didn't see other ride vehicles. Ok, Shamu Express: http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Orlando/SeaWorld_Orlando/rides/709-Shamu_Express.html 1011-88_Shamu_Express_DSCF6437.JPG With that out of our system, Lets check out a couple of newish, and big coasters in Orlando, Manta and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. MANTA 1011-88_Manta_m14.jpg I love B&M Flying coasters, and this is no exception...Intense pretzel loop and a good mix of elements. It also spent a good amount of time 'high up' like Tatsu, above trees and so forth, so it did give a proper feeling of flight. The wing dip is really cool too. It looks better in the back, since at the front you can only see the jets barely beginning to fire. The queue is indoors through an aquarium, lots of nice rockwork and mosaics, and water effect gobos (Correct term?) with a room where there is glass above you. They actually blow air on the surface to keep it moving so you don't see concrete and bricks of the aquariums above surface maintenance/feeding area. What was curious was the way they exaggerated queue times. It always seemed to say 55 minutes or so. However, the queue building was posted as having an occupancy of 400 people, and it was half full most of the time, so that's 10-20 minutes worth of people, max :wacko: ...Which is what it turned out to be. Anyway, its a very nice way to wait for a ride. Only 2 negative points. -They used Comic Sans MS for the rides signage...Why why why? Looks cheap and cartoony on an otherwhise well themed ride. -And following on from the last point, on the bit of track from the Corkscrew, to the MCBR and onto the water splash, you go straight over the filtration plant for the manta aquarium and a back of house area...Most of the ride is beautifully landscaped, but why not make an effort to disguise this, or put it somewhere less obtrusive. On the final brakes you come back through this area. Some screeing along the access platforms would have gone a long way. HOLLYWOOD RIP RIDE ROCKIT 1011-88_Hollywood_Rip_R_hr18.JPG Unfortunatley not as good as Manta, owing to the fact that the ride is rougher than an SLC. Yeah, there is no head banging, but the size of those seats and the bear hug harness means you just get jostled all over the place. There is a marked difference between the front and back seats. Go to the front and it's bearable. Back rows and it's horrid. The front row is the only real way to get air of the drops. On my rides I did Daft Punk (Stronger), Limp Bizkit (Rollin') the and the "Chicken in a bread pan picking out dough" song for the lulz. None of the music really took me, and when I was on the ride I forgot the secret codes to put in for the hidden song listings. At the end of the ride the soundtrack cuts off rather than fading out, and the characters that host the ride say something to the effect of "Wow, great take, those expressions you were making were awesome"...The ride has an onboard camera system that films you, and the story of the ride is that you are filming a video clip. You can buy it at the end, but I didn't because my video just made it look like I didn't want to be there. As for the ride, the layout is pretty good, despite having a crapload of brake runs, and you get some little bits of air as mentioned. Special mention goes to that crowd surfer element that attempts to tip you out of the train. Who said lateral g forces were a bad thing? So I'm excited for that outside turn on Green Lantern...It's just cool when a ride feels 'unstable' and gets you out of your seat a bit. The drop tuning element was pretty bad since that just gave the train an opportunity to shake more. Also have to mention the loading system. Universal now has a system on some rides (Rockit, Potter, Dr Dooms) where harnesses get checked, and then the op taps with an RFID wristband to basically say "Hey, these riders are checked and safe". This eliminates the need for thumbs up, and works well in situations where things are happening quickly (Eg Potter and Rockit) or where the control booth does not have a clear view of the entire load area (Dr Dooms). When the vehicle has been "tagged" it then is over to the controller to dispatch when they want to.

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nice stuff Gazza . I went on a ride in Grona Lunds in Sweden which was like Green Latern at Sfmm very fun indeed. as always dude you trip looked fun great to see some pics

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Thanks mate, yes did enjoy myself, plenty more to come though... Starting with part 1 of Aquatica Overall, its an allright park. I think of it as 'nice' version of Whitewater World...That is, with lush tropical gardens rather than drought tolerant ones, and sandy lounge areas. The standard of the slides is much the same as the water parks here, but I'll get into that in a sec. But first things first, the place isn't the fishy paradise the marketing would have you believe. You've got the Commersons Dolphin tank the Dolphin Plunge slide goes through, with an underwater viewing area smaller than the one in Penguin Encounter at our SW, and on the lazy river there's this 4m long cave section which has a glass aquarium on one side....Thats it. Pics onwards from here: http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Orlando/Aquatica/photos/page1.html So how were the slides? Taumata Racer 1020-88_Taumata_Racer_DSCF6499.JPG Best slide in the park. I preferred it to the BRO because the start tubs are waist height, so you just lean fowards into it, rather than doing a full leap foward into the slide onto your belly and fearing that you'll clip your head. And of course, the milisecond accurate timing system is great, and still a sorely missing feature on the BRO. The continuous drop gives you some awesome speed, making it very much like the Olympic 100m sprint of water slides (Basically everyone will finish under 10 seconds) I also very much liked this one because I won every race I did, but hey, it when the majority of visitors are from the UK or places where these type of slides are unavailable, it's inevitable. Bottom line is, local experience here in Aus helps, and it's hillarious hitting the finish line when everyone else is just starting to go down the drop. Omaka Rocka 1020-88_Whanau_Way_Om_DSCF6484.JPG Shit. I was looking foward to this one because its a new type of slide for me. But basically, the ride has been horribly neutered with 3 fibreglass speedhumps on the way into each funnel. So instead of sliding around in the funnel like a half-pipe, you kind of just bumble in, hit the water gathered in the bottom, turn left (or right), continue on (possibly spinning backwards if you're lucky) And the non funnel sections were tamer than Screamin Right Handers at WWW! Whanau Way 1020-88_Whanau_Way_Om_DSCF6482.JPG Pretty good I guess, but hey, we've all ridden this type of slide and know what to expect. HooRoo Run 1020-88_Hooroo_Run_and_DSCF6519.JPG Brutal, because it goes so fast, and the raft flipped spontaneously when it it hit the splashdown pool. I was sort going "hey, this is nice and fast.....blerewhgrkerhgrekjrkewrwefdwe cough cough cough". All happened so quicky, and thankful i didn't get injured. Also, like most of these slides, it's limited to 3 riders, so the line moves slowly. Walhalla Wave Well, this one takes 4 passengers, so somewhat of an improvement, but still, nothing on the fast moving line you get when Mammoth Falls runs at full tilt with a grouper. Somewhat of a new slide type for me...I've never been on an enclosed family raft slide. Was "OK", the lighter loading and wide turns meant not a lot of wall riding. But I didn't die on this one, so bonus points for that! Part 2 coming soon!

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Texas Chute Out Bleh, so now I dont care that the one at Adrenaline Park will never open. You go up, stop for a few secs, you go down, not particularly fast. 20 seconds tops. I stepped off thinking "Was that it?" Batman the Ride Typical B&M invert, so in other words very good. My favourite part (And a few rides at this park had them) was a plaque over the ops booth with 3 words: "Sense of urgency". More parks need to have these. It's nice when ride attendants work quicky, keeping queues moving, and certainly, the crews at SFOT work a bit more efficiently than the ones at SFMM.

The one at adrenaline park (the old Skyhawk from Wonderland) has now been removed, along with the bungee tower. The vomitron, slingshot and bungee tramps are still there though - think this is because of the end of lease that occurred a year or so ago. Had a hotel room overlooking it last night while i was down working at the GC 600... so got a good look at it's replacement - a SEGWAY racetrack! :facepalm: As for the "sense of urgency" signs... i think we'd need some stronger wording and perhaps even a cattle prod for some of our ops...they're completely oblivious to their queue times... they need their supervisors to challenge them to drop their queue time without compromising safety... if Disney could do it i don't see why we couldn't...

and water effect gobos (Correct term?)

Yes

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As for the "sense of urgency" signs... i think we'd need some stronger wording and perhaps even a cattle prod for some of our ops...they're completely oblivious to their queue times... they need their supervisors to challenge them to drop their queue time without compromising safety... if Disney could do it i don't see why we couldn't..

Actually, on Titan there was a sign (With accompanying cartoon graphic) that said these exact words: SPEEDY SAYS: Speed and safety is the key, watch us beat the clock, and see how quick we can be! (In the station there is a clock that begins counting down when the train pulls in, so ops know how long they have to dispatch to avoid stacking)

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Aquatica - Part 2 Time to finish this park. Latest photos begin on this page near the bottom: http://www.parkz.com...otos/page4.html Dolphin Plunge 1023-88_Dolphin_Plunge_DSCF6534.JPG So this is the parks flagship attraction, and gets huge lines. I rode it once, very first thing and settled for that. It looks really cool for spectators, but from the riders perspective it doesn't really work for a few of reasons... -Its a fast slide, much like the enclosed river rapids slides at WnW, so you get a lot of water in your face going through the clear section, and you go through so quick its a case of blink and you'll miss it. -There's only 4 dolphins in the pool, so the odds of one actually being near the slide are low. -The slide is dark, so the burst of sunlight coming through the clear section also makes it hard to see. -Water tends to not be perfectly clear, so its a 'blue out' anything more than a couple of meters outside the slide. -Two single person slides, so low capacity. If I were doing one of these I would. -Do it through tropical fish or something, so at least there would be a sense of going through a world of life, and thereby eliminating the chance of not seeing anything. -Do it as a raft slide with those in-line 3 or 4 person boats (Like on the Mach 5 sidewinders at WnW), so the slide has higher capacity, and because it would naturally be a bit slower, so more to see. Cutback Cove Didn't go In because wave pools are boring (Except for the one at Typhoon Lagoon) Big Surf Shores 1023-88_Big_Surf_Shores_DSCF6493.JPG Ditto. Kookaburra Cove 41813_122059331182465_2648_q.jpg Walkabout Waters 1023-88_Walkabout_Water_DSCF6505.JPG Anybody can go in there, so I had a go at one of the body slides for the fun of it. It was ok. Roa's Rapids 1023-88_Roa_s_Rapids_DSCF6497.JPG Basically its like a lazy river you swim through rather than sit on a ring, much like the one at the Homebush Aquatic Centre. Was pretty good actually, I loled because nobody there seemed to be a confident swimmer, and they had big racks of life jackets to use. Never would need that in Australia! Fountains, sections of wavy floor that would kick up waves and splits and merges in the river kept things interesting. Solid. Loggerhead Lane 1023-88_Loggerhead_Lane_DSCF6523.JPG A normal lazy river, with a tropical fish grotto, which wasn't terribly big or exciting. It could be a challenge to get a free ring at times. Tassies Twisters 1023-88_Loggerhead_Lane_DSCF6535.JPG According to the signage "It's a beaut"....No, "It's beaut" or "It's a beauty" <_< These two slides were located in an island in the middle of loggerhead lane for some sort of unknown reason, so you had to queue to get a raft into the river, and then queue again for the slide. Seemed impractical to me, so you'd have to muck around a bit getting on and off. I think the Proslide version (As seen with the Little Rippers) is superior to this version. On the proslide version it has the 'corkscrew core' feature that spirals rafts out the middle exit quite effectivley and quickly. On this version the exit tunnel comes off at a hard 90 degree angle, and the slide has a circular inner wall. So many rafts, in particular the doubles, have to manually push themselves around to the exit, since it doesn't really slope down to it. That said, its still a really fun slide. I'll also make a point about the parks pre recorded safety announcements. They are done in an Australian accent, but you can clearly tell it's an American doing it because it sounds slightly 'off'. So the male voice sounds like an exasperated bogan, and the female voice sounds like the marsupial mouse from the Blinky Bill cartoon. After a couple of hours in the park I had lunch and left, because it was fast filling with people and I couldn't be bothered queueing for anything.

Edited by Gazza

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Hogsmeade Village, in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter @ Universals Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL 0126-88_The_Wizarding_W_5.JPG Time to get this all done before I head off on my next trip in a few days. Pics begin on this page: http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Orlando/Islands_of_Adventure/photos/page16.html I'll review the rides later, but lets just focus on the general area. Its very well themed and detailed, with things like small animatronics in the shops and windows, plenty of actors for photo ops and to watch short shows, and nice music. Everything a themed area should hope to be. It is also very crowded, and the main street curves the other direction to the rest of the paths in the loop around the park, so I accidentally found myself walking the wrong way a couple of times. I didn't really buy any souvenirs, but I did try a few of the foodstuffs. They were 'a bit' expensive, (Bear in mind this was when the AUD was at parity, so I can imagine for domestic visitors the prices would have seemed totally obscene by comparsion) but things like the choc cauldron cakes were excellent. Fizzing Whizbees from Honeydukes were nothing special though....It was just cheap compund popping chocolate pieces in flavours similar to clinkers. I did quite like the Butterbeer too. I stuck to the frozen variant because I dont really like carbonated drinks. The frozen version is nicer anway, and has a layer of marshmallow fluff type stuff on the top. Sort of a caramel/butterscotch/shortbread/creaming soda sort of taste. I never saw the wand show at Olivanders because it seemed like too much of wait for something so simple...Time better spent racking up rides on Forbidden Journey.

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Now, for the rest of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 0126-88_Harry_Potter_an_Last.JPG PICS! http://www.parkz.com.au/photos/members/page536.html from the bottom of the page and all pages numerically after it. I didn't ride Flight of the Hippogriff. Dragon Challenge was as good as ever, lucky I got to ride it before they stopped dueling it a few weeks after my visit. Once upon a time Hungarian Horntail/Ice Dragon it was my #1 coaster, but I have ridden stuff like Nemesis and Texas Giant since, which has pushed it down a bit. The theming is not as good as it used to be, and the skull filled caverns and hallways with dramatic music now just have floating candles and are much quieter. Cant complain about a 5min wait queue though! But, now for a spoiler filled review of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Basically, the ride system works by having 4 seater benches on the end of a robotic arm. This robotic arm sits on a base that follows a track through a building. Normal dark rides have you following this track. The next step up might spin the vehicle (Eg Buzz Lightyear) The next step up might tilt the vehicle a bit (Eg Indiana Jones, Spiderman) This ride literally lifts you up and town, tilts, sways and flips you around like nothing else. So anyway, you head into an entrance at the bottom of the rocky hill the castle sits on, and there are lockers for loose items. It is very crowded down here, and there can be a wait for the lockers, so travel light if you can. From there the main queue starts, through the dungeon tunnels. A staircase takes you up to a single rider queue, but for at least one ride be sure to go through the main queue to see the full story. Normally many rides have an extensive zig zag switchback section under a roof or shade sail. Here however you go through the castle greenhouses, and you can even see stuff like some screaming baby mandrakes in pots. So you can potentially do a lot of queing in this bit, but fortunatley the queue hadn't spilled over to this section. The whole greenhouse has been rusted and has a real victorian style to it...Very nice. You then enter the castle and follow some hallways and pass through Dumbledores office. The room is a semicircle shape and the queue goes back and forth a couple of times, giving you a chance to hear what he has to say. He welcomes you to the castle, but warns that things aren't always as they seem. The queue then continues to the defense against the dark arts classroom. Up on a balcony you see a door open and close by itself, and Ron, Harry and Hermionie appear from under an inivisbility cloak, and tell you that as part of your visit to Hogwarts you will be having a 3h lecture with Prof. Binns about the history of Hogwarts. They feel this is too boring, and offer to take you to a house quiddich match instead, by flying you there. Rons carelessness with his wand causes it to snow in the classroom (a similar system to the snow in main street at MW at white christmas) Once they have spoken they duck under their invisibilty cloak again and the door opens and closes by itself again as they sneak out. This section also has the queue zigzagging up and down the length of the classroom. Next you head through some more hallways (with talking portraits) to the Gryfindor common room. Here a number of portraits are arguing about who is better at the sport of quiddich. One of them brags about how good he is at flying enchanted benches, and does so by moving from his own frame, to another painting on the wall of one of the enchanted benches, strapping himself in, and going for a fly! Finally you approach the loading area. 3 queue lanes come together (Child swap, single rider, standby). They actually cross over, and the attendant sorts people into the 3 lanes. At the end of the hallway an animatronic sorting hat on a shelf gives his safety poem, with memorable lines such as "These benches aren't safe if you're too small, you must be more than goblin sized...42 inches tall". The ride grouper is the most on the ball park employee you will ever encounter, simultaneously juggling the 3 queues. First they will grab a group of 4 from the main queue, if its a group of 3 (or a group of for example 7) they will grab a single rider. If its a pair, they try and get another pair, and if not, 2 singles go through. (The moral of the story is that the single rider queue works REALLY well) They seemingly never let a bench go out without 4 people onboard, to the point that a bench nearly went out with a seat empty, and they got a whole group to get up and run to the next one to make sure the numbers worked out. So, in the station its basically a bit long room themed to be like the "room of requirement", with a continuous stream of 4 seater benches moving through (think of what happens when you board haunted mansion or Buzz Lightyear at Disneyland). You walk to one end of the station (against the direction of benches, walk around a U turn, step onto a slow moving conveyer belt, step foward onto a faster moving one, and then turn around and sit down in your bench. Cleverley, the back wall of the station is mirrored, except for a thin slot that the end of the robotic arms can pass through, so the whole ride mechanisim is hidden from view. The harness comes down easily, and a ride op with an RFID wristband taps your bench to let the ride system know it's safe to dispatch. The loading station is very long (obviosuly to give heaps of buffer for even the slowest guest) because obviosuly any sort of stoppage breaks the flow of the experience for those out in the ride itself. You spend a good 30 secs moving along sideways before you approach the end of the station. You see Herminonie up on a balcony, and she tells you to shout the word "Observatory" before tossing some floo powder at you. At that moment you leave the station and pass into a fireplace in a puff of green smoke. Immediatley you are tipped onto your back by the robo arm, and face up to a giant elongated screen that shows footage of travelling up a chimney. The image on the screen moves along with the ride vehicle at the same speed. Finally you are spat out into the observatory tower, and your bench moves along, swaying from side to side past a giant bit of 19th century astronomy equipment. Out the windows you can see the rest of the castle, and this is where it gets cool...You 'fly out the window' where Ron and Harry meet you on their broomsticks and tell you to follow them. All this is done like a simulator, with a dome shaped screen surrounding your ride vehicle making it fully immersive. The ride vehicles on this attraction never stop moving, so there are sets of 6 dome shaped screens, mounted on a carouse, facing outwards. Each bench matches the speed of rotation of the carousel, moving along in tandem. This has allowed them to included projected sequences, without needing to stop each bench in front of it. Anyway...you fly up and see Hagrid...he has lost his dragon, but Ron and Harry tell you to hurry up and follow them to the Quiddich pitch. Right at that moment Hagrids dragon swoops in and begins chasing everyone. your bench sways and banks to avoid it, but it comes around for the attack, you get knocked sideways and crash into a wooden building. At this point you peel away from the projection dome and move back into a real life set. Out the window you can see the dragons giant wing flapping and hot embers drifting down, your bench tilts up to face the celing, and as you move throug the building holes are progressiley ripped in the roof by the claws of the dragon. You reach the end and an animatronic dragon sticks his head through the wall and blows a bit of warm steam right in your face (The nature of the ride means they can move the bench right up close to the theming) You then drift off into the forbidden forest, with spiders dropping down all around you, and you feel little spits of water. Aragog appears (A giant spider), again right in your face). In a crevice you can see hermionie (video projection), she tells you the forbidden forest isn't safe, and to watch out for the whomping willow. At this moment you are lifted up and face the roof again, and you are right up at the whomping willow, which tries to whack you with its branches. Eventually it does and you get knocked across (rather comically) into the Quiddich pitch. This is where the 2nd projection dome carousel begins and you are right in the middle of the match. Harry and Draco Malfoy get into a fight on their brooms, bumping into each other. The distraction causes ron to let through a goal, causing groans from the crowd. Immediatley, dementors start decending from the sky and attacking (Hectic day at Hogwarts I guess!), one of them starts chasing you and Harry, and you wildly fly at high speed trying to get away. The dementor knocks harry off his broom and as a result we all plunge into a hole, into the chamber of secrets. This is where you transition from the projection domes to the real life set, and its a really cool transition. Basically, the image on the screen 'stretches' away at high speed, giving the impression you are falling really fast. The moment you get in this room an animatronic dementor leers violently at you, and then another! Next you travel along sideways past the dead skeleton of the basalisk (which for some reason blows steam out of its skull). Your bench spins around to face a corner of the room where you can see the dark mark floating in the air on a fogscreen, you then turn around and another dementor leers at you. You feel a rush of cold air and a heartbeat in the back of the seat. You then see another fog screen in front of you which shows the faces of everyone on the bench....Your soul is being sucked out. Your bench turns around again into the 3rd and final projector dome carousel. Harry appears on his broomstick and uses the patronus spell to banish the dementors. As a result the chamber of secrets begins to cave in, and you get some classic motion sim action as you dodge falling rocks. Your bench tips a fair bit side to side as you make some sharp banks. You make it out safely and fly back to the castle and in through the front doors. Again, a pretty good transition from the projectors to the real world. Basically they have built a giant half door, and as you move along the rotating dome screen moves behind this and the door overlaps.The last image you see on the screen is the door, and it all happens so quick that it merges together. Anyway, you arrive in the great hall, (a very large scale scene!) and a couple of video screens through archways show crowds of students clapping and cheering. You then pass through another cloud of green smoke, and travel back down the chimney network, back to the chamber of secrets, where you can unload. Overall, its the best ride I've ever been on, and dethrones Spiderman as my favourite. The real life set scenes in the ride are awesome, and has that real sensation of the ride feeling like being in a dream (The same feeling you get on Pirates of the Carribean near the start when you arrive in that vast scene with the ship shooting cannonballs).....Will have to wait a week to see how Transformers at USS compares. Bad points: -Projection domes had dark luminosity. I guess they wanted to make it fit in with the fact most scenes are dark and mostly unlit, and hence not wanting to shock your eyes, but still, it made it a bit hard to see. -Perhaps skewed a bit too much towards the projection dome carousels. With a ride system this expensive and with its level of capability, it could have spent more time heaving you around near misses with theming, and less time being a quasi motion simulator. -I'd love to say they were perfect and you could never see the robotic arm system, giving riders the impression they are actually flying....But they didn't do this well enough in parts and it kills the magic a bit. The fact is in the first scene in the observatory you can see the other benches, and that is without craning your neck or anything. If you ride in the middle seats and look dead ahead the whole time, you can avoid it a bit, but there are still a couple of points where you cross sightlines and can see the bench ahead. To their credit, they do set off the onride photo in the forbidden forest, to make one such instance less of an impact, but in chamber of secrets, you can see the group ahead having their souls sucked out before it happens to you, and this is a bit sloppy. I reckon in the Hollywood version of this ride they need to make the sides of the benches bigger to avoid distractions from the left and righ, and consider doing something adding extra movements, like tipping the bench to face the roof at the points where it crosses sightlines, so it basically prevents you from looking straight ahead.

Edited by Gazza

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