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Everything posted by jzarley

  1. Read the book...never saw the movie. I think that Viacom/Paramount had hoped "Congo" would be their answer to Jurassic Park...didn't quite turn out that way. I think it's also debatable that either FaceOff or Drop Zone were "themed" to anything...yes, the rides took on the same names as a few Paramount films, but there really was no theming involved. The Paramount Parks at that time definitely seemed to confuse "naming" and "theming" sometimes :-)
  2. Well, then good thing then that "MGM" hasn't been part of that park since 2008 :-)
  3. This has been a common business model of airlines and hotels (the latter refers to it as yield management) for years. I'm actually surprised more parks & zoos haven't moved to this model sooner.
  4. I believe the Marvel wrapped monorail only ran only on the resort route, thus never technically entering one of the parks. I read in the Orlando Sentinel at the time that was Disney's way of honoring the letter of the Universal agreement (if not the spirit...) The article on themeparkinsider where the agreement was linked was actually about how WDW is promoting "Guardians of the Galaxy" in the parks on the premise that that particular "family" was not used at Universal, therefore that IP is not covered by the contract: http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201406/4061/ I sincerely doubt Disney has the ability to "terminate the agreement" at its will whenever it pleases...while any signed agreement can be undone, it usually takes copious amounts of cash to do so if the other party is not in agreement. And it's true that the agreement didn't specifically mention the possibility of the sale or dissolution of Marvel, it didn't specifically NOT not mention it either...so, if that was the only legal argument I think that one would be contestible (for that matter, Universal has changed hands three times since the agreement was written...from MCA to Seagrams to Vivendi to Comcast...) If Disney was so motivated (financially and otherwise) I'm sure they could find a way to terminate the agreement, but I don't agree with the assertion they can just wave a (magic <g>) wand to do so. Otherwise, on a related note, why pay Paramount to buy back the film distribution rights to their own film property (Indiana Jones)? Why not just unilaterally decide to terminate the contract on their own? (That would have certainly been the cheaper option :-) I do agree with you that Disney probably doesn't see a compelling reason to force the Marvel issue right now...after all, Universal is helping cross promote a Disney owned franchise, and Disney didn't even have to pay to build the attractions...a pretty good deal all things considered :-)
  5. So, I know there have been a lot of posts regarding that while Disney now owns Marvel, they can't actually use the characters at WDW due to an agreement Marvel made with Universal (well, MCA) many years earlier that protects Universal's rights to use the IP in their Orlando parks. While the existence of this agreement is pretty well known, I had never actually seen the agreement before seeing a link to it posted recently on themeparkinsider.com: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1262449/000119312510008732/dex1057.htm I'm not a fan of reading legal contracts generally, but if you can get thru all the legalize, this one is pretty interesting!
  6. Totally agree! I don't think I've ever laughed so hard as I did in that ride! It was such a simple concept, but really effective in its delivery. (Granted, it was just some special effects in the dark...and you didn't even move, but was a hoot.) Another simple (and somewhat similar concept) that I thought worked very well was a ride at Carowinds that was supposed to be the inside of a ship...you sat on a flat bench in the center of the room, and the outside walls moved around you. You absolutely felt like you were turning upside down, even though you never actually moved. It was wild! (Does anyone recall what that ride was called...I probably rode it around 1992 or 93...no idea if it's still there or not...)
  7. Yeah, this is the one that really stuck out with me. I know Sea World had mentioned the timing of Easter for the attendance fall off in the latest reporting quarter, but the TEA report estimates attendance for the 2013 calendar year...I wonder if the same claim was made for Easter of 2013? I wonder how much of the decline can be attributed to bad PR from the "Blackfish" documentary and how much can be attributed to management structural challenges since the Blackstone spin-off? It's not unusual for Blackstone to load up a company with quite a bit of debt prior to a spin off then let management deal with it (they recently did the same thing with the spin off of La Quinta hotels). Having to deal with balance sheet issues like that can throw even the best managed companies off their game... (No real knowledge one way or another...just ponderin')
  8. TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) has come out with their annual report of worldwide park attendance. And, yes--these numbers are unofficial and not validated/supported/confirmed by any of the parks or chains. But nonetheless, I always find it to be interesting reading... http://www.teaconnect.org/pdf/TEAAECOM2013.pdf
  9. No one should go into PR thinking it's going to be all grand openings and ERTs :-) The measure of a good PR person isn't how they handle the good news (that's easy, and anyone can do that)...it's how they handle the bad news. I think Don comes off as very credible, forthcoming and calming in these types of situations...all characteristics that show he's a good match for the role
  10. I can't speak for anyone else, but I am not "bemoaning" the choice of attractions...I'm commenting on the speed to market of Universal's delivery of new product compared to Disney (regardless of what form that product takes). Is Disney's target demographic thrill seekers? Of course not--the products they introduce (eventually) are ideally suited for their target audience. I don't think anyone is saying that they're not. It's more of a comment on Universal's ability at project management success, and the fact that from a creative, technical and (especially) project management standpoint, Universal appears to be firing on all cylinders right now. I think their success from a PM and CI standpoint is really the standard to emulate right now. And, with a 25+ year professional career in project development, management and delivery I feel very "qualified" to say that Universal has seemed to have found a formula for success. It's hard to argue with their results.
  11. ^ I would add CompuServe to that list as well...I remember having a "discussion" with a CompuServe programmer in a bar near their HQ in the mid-90s who was convinced no one could ever do "online stuff" as well as them!
  12. I think Disney Imagineering really needs to take a critical look at their creative project development process and possibly learn a few things from Universal. The "Jaws" attraction gave its last ride at USF on January 2, 2012, and now just 2.5 years later Universal is (almost) ready to open what is arguably the most advanced and interactive theme park experience EVER (not to mention--opened Transformers & Springfield during that same span!) I love Disney...always have & always will--but they have to be seriously considering their whole project management process when looking at what their biggest competitor is doing a few miles down I-4. As far as that goes, I'd even go as far to say Disney could pick up a few project management methods from the "inferior" seasonals--SF & CF.
  13. Personally, I'm not a fan (nor am I very good) at the "shoot at stuff" dark rides. (The only one where I actually felt like I understood the cause & effect relationships was Toy Story Mania at DCA...otherwise to me it just always feels like I'm randomly pressing a button and sometimes things happen & sometimes they don't...) However, I think the real value of this attraction is the ability to fairly easily swap out the software (either for special events like Halloween, or permanently). Similar to the value of the FX theaters that were introduced into all of the Paramount Parks back in the mid-90s. For that reason, I imagine we'll see a version of the "Guardian" (probably minus the "mountain" reference) show up at a good number of CF parks over the next few years. While waiting in line for The Beast over the weekend, I was wondering if the old "Tomb Raider" show building might be a good location for this ride in the not too distant future...
  14. Yes! Discovery Cove is a very cool experience that is well worth the money. The dolphin interaction is amazing, but it's only part of the experience. From the moment you arrive, you truly feel as if you are on a tropical island; there is no sign of any kind that you are in Orlando, Florida. The lazy river varies from three to eight feet deep and requires you to swim through it (life jackets are available for those who cannot swim), and has some cool underwater photo ops. You can also experience swimming in a saltwater pool with stingrays and ocean fish (for which I HIGHLY recommend bringing a good waterproof camera), or just relax on one of several beaches. All food and beverages are included in the price of admission, even alcohol if the adults in your party are interested in that. I cannot recommend Discovery Cove enough. Do it; you'll be glad you did. I have to agree with jcgoble3 100%! The single best day I've spent in any park (and I've spent a LOT of days in parks over the years) was at Discovery Cove! (Even though hand feeding the rays creeped me out a little :-))
  15. Ok, I had the quote wrong in the earlier post, but the point remains the same... :-)
  16. To quote Arthur Carlson..."I swear to God, I thought turkeys could fly."
  17. ^ No, from the time of opening ('99 maybe?) IOA was always a separate gate from Universal Studios. Did you visit Universal Studios Hollywood as a child? If so, you might be remembering that...the Jurassic Park ride at USH is pretty much identical to the one in at IOA...
  18. I use Fidelity, but that's only because I had gotten a stock grant and options from a former employer and they had set me up with a Fidelity account to manage the benefit. After I was fully vested (and eventually left the company), I just kept the Fidelity account. I've found it really easy to use and move things around in the portfolio (although, I think "portfolio" is probably an overly generous description when talking about my limited investments <g>).
  19. I have 20 shares in FUN that I bought several years ago. I realized over the weekend that I have some cash sitting in my Fidelity account that came from several quarters of dividends that were paid from a utility company that I own, so I was seriously considering buying 10 shares or so of Disney. However, Disney stock is $80+ right now which is pretty high historically (their 52 week low is in the neighborhood of $60), so it seems a little expensive in comparison right now. I'm waiting for a down day in the market where it drops somewhere in the $70s before buying. I also considered buying Sea World...their stock is somewhat depressed right now due to recent financial results (as well as the bad PR from "Blackfish"), so I thought it might be a good buying opportunity. I'm also considering Comcast...while it's being held back somewhat now by the planned Time-Warner Cable acquisition, I think eventually that deal will raise the value. (Not to mention all of the investments they're pouring into the Universal parks right now :-)
  20. I bet the ticketing confusion issue is a big concern for Universal as well. My guess is that they'll probably have self-service kiosks, staffed ticket booths, and hopefully even satellite guest services desks at both stations to deal with "impulse" ticket up grades to multi-park (and the enivitable "issues" that will arise...) Based on the content they have now on their web site, I'm sure they'll have a LOT of signage at the gates and all over the parks explaining the necessity of having a multi-park ticket to be able to experience Hogwart's Express. Unfortunately, however, I've learned over the years that people tend to selectively ignore signage :-) I was making reservations at Royal Pacific for my planned trip in September and needed to call the res call center to take advantage of a special offer I had been sent by Loews that wasn't available online. While I was making the hotel reservation, the call center agent reminded me no fewer than four times that everyone in my party would need muli-park tickets to experience Hogwart's Express "and the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter." Even though I told her a few times that I fully understand that and would be purchasing my multi-day/multi-park tickets at a later date online, she did her best to get me to buy the entire package while I was on the phone with her :-) My point is, that it seems that call center agents have already been trained to explain (then explain again...and again...and again) the ticket requirements for experienching Harry Potter in its entirety. That's not to say that there still won't be people who miss the message, but from what I've seen so far, they definitely seem to be trying to be proactive and address it.
  21. USA Today featured a "behind the scenes" look at Diagon Alley in today's Travel section: http://www.usatoday.com/experience/america/theme-parks/diagon-alley-gringotts-wizarding-world-harry-potter/9125149/ The detail in themeing looks absolutely amazing (as we were all pretty much expecting...) I'm really curious about the "running through the brick wall" effect when entering Diagon Alley...I'm assuming some sort of holographic effect, but considering the crowds they're expecting it makes me wonder how this will work from a capacity standpoint. I'm also hoping they're investing well (in systems, staffing and training) to make the ticketing process as efficient as possible when moving between the parks on Hogwarts Express. In the past three trips to Universal, someone in my party has experienced some sort of issue with a multi-day, multi-park ticket. Last time it was me...the gate reader was indicating all three days had been used, even though the review at guest services showed that I had only used the ticket two of the three days. Guest Services was able to straighten it out, but it took almost 45 extra minutes, so we completely missed the early opening of Hogsmeade. Some system issues are enivitable, but I'm hoping they have planned adequate resources for that component of the "guest experience" to make sure they're the exception and not the rule...
  22. Don't count on anything until the park announces the date. The 7DMT at MK just had its Media Day 10 days ago, yet at that event the opening date was announced as May 28 and all signs arfe poining toward very few if any soft opens before that time. Like I said...it's just speculation on a fan site. The only thing I'm "counting on" is that it's open by September 26th :-)
  23. According to an update this morning on ThemeParkInsider.com (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites...present company excluded, of course :-)), Universal has started sending out invitations for a major press event to be held June 17-20. So, the speculation now is that the public grand opening will be Friday, 06/20. I scheduled a trip to Universal in late September...hopefully that will give the crowds a chance to calm down after the busy Summer season...but before the busy Halloween season starts :-)
  24. Thanks for the very complete & objective review of your experience! I wonder when (or even *if*), the additional FPs (over the initial three) will be available to book through the mobile app? That definitely seems like the next iteration that makes the most sense as opposed to adding more kiosks (which adds not only hardware expense, but also the labor expense of staffing them...)
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