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Meet Knott's New Manager, Disneyland's Splash Woes, DCA Construction Progress

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by , 02-16-2012 at 09:21 PM


Knott's Berry Farm is experiencing a resurgence of maintenance and care. Disneyland wades through its last remaining off season days. Disney California Adventure has made major progress. Yes, all is normal here in the Parks, but certainly no less exciting. This week we sat down with the new General Manager of Knott's Berry Farm to chat about all the recent changes in the park and what we can look forward to in the future. We'll also show you what's new at the Matterhorn and we ask why Splash Mountain is in such a sorry state. And not to worry, there will be dozens of glorious Cars Land and Buena Vista Street construction shots for you to enjoy. Here we go!




Knott's is rapidly changing its ways. Gone are the days of rotted wood, shabby signage and poor guest services. As February rolls along, the park is going through some interesting changes. We'll show you what's going on as well as share an interview with the man behind a lot of the progress, General Manager Raffi Kaprelyan.

KNOTT'S MARKET PLACE:
While it has been open for a while, the IceCream shop recently added new sponsor signage. It is now sponsored by Dryer's ice Cream.




It's a little sparse on the inside, but super clean.


Yes, they've got bubblegum flavor

SKY CABIN:
As stated in previous articles, the Sky Cabin is finally up and running again. We are so happy that Knott's saw fit to preserve this classic experience.




All shiny and clean.


You can get a great view from the top of the tower.




By the way, Ghostrider is open again too.


A CONVERSATION WITH KNOTT'S GENERAL MANAGER, RAFFI KARPRELYAN:
Maintenance work is a common sight in the park these days and a new spit-and-polish attitude seems to be the new status quo. Who is responsible for the recent sea change in the way Knott's is run? We've got a very special interview for you today with the new General Manager of Knott's Berry Farm. We think you'll appreciate his candid responses about the historic park which is now in his hands.


MiceChat: Most of our readers probably don't know your history. They think that you are new to Knott’s. But you've actually got a history with the park and the entire Cedar Fair company, don't you?





RAFFI: I started in '79, in Janitorial at Knott's. Actually I was working for Bud Hurlbut at the time, father of the Mine Train and Log Ride. I applied for rides, but I couldn't work for rides, I was too young. So they said well we have an opening for somebody to clean up the park, before it opens to the public for the day. I said, "Sure I'll take it." When I turned 18, I was hired into operations. I worked my way up through the company and stayed on after Cedar Fair purchased the park. In 2006, while I was Vice President of operations, Cedar Fair purchased all of the Paramount parks. That's when they sent me up to run Canada's Wonderland park as general manager. I stayed there for a while, but they have moved me back down here, to where it all began for me.

MC: So you were a Knott's guy from the beginning!

RAFFI: Yes, I went up to one park, then came back.

MC: When you returned, what was your impression of the park? What did you feel you needed to tackle first?

RAFFI: I came back with a lot of fond memories. And, when you go away, run another park, you get a very different perspective. I tried to take what I had learned and apply it here. Knott's Berry Farm has a lot of wonderful things going for it. I wanted to try to enhance the good points of what we have here.

MC: The Disney Fan community was very excited to hear that Matt Ouimet (beloved former President of Disneyland) has become Cedar Fair's new CEO. We are eager to hear how this will benefit Knott's. Can you tell us what the both of you might have planned for the park?

RAFFI: I can't get into all of the different plans we have for the park just yet. What I can tell you is that Matt is committed. He understands Knott's and the Southern California Marketplace. He likes Knott's and i believe he will give us what we need in order to take it up a few levels.

MC: Are you going to enhance what's already here? Is that the direction you are going to take?

RAFFI: That's one part of it. However, we are going to continue to add more attractions. Whether it's a show attraction or a ride attraction, we will be doing things to continually grow. We want to draw good attention to ourselves. In the past, that has been a little difficult. But with Matt's help, I know it will be happening.
Matt also recognizes the rich heritage that this park has.

MC: What makes Knott's so unique in the Cedar Fair family is the strong ties it has to the community and its rich theme park history.

We can't tell you how many times we have spoken with fans who reminisce about the glory days of Knott's Berry Farm and the rides like Kingdom of the Dinosaurs, Tijuana Taxi, Knott's Berry Tales. They want to know; are any of those types of fun-for-the-whole-family rides coming back?

RAFFI: Absolutely! we are always looking at what we did in the past, how it worked, and how we can apply it to what we want to do in the future. Dark rides are big in the industry right now, and we have been talking with a few manufacturers about that possibility, just feeling things out.

MC: Another thing that Knott's has going for it is the famous Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner. Are there plans to restore and preserve that Orange County classic? After all, if it weren't for Mrs. Knott's Walter never would have built a Ghost Town or the rest of the park for that matter.

RAFFI: We want to renovate the entire restaurant and market place and bring it into the 21st century. But not at the expense of the history that is already there. We don't want to touch the menu or the recipes. Matt even went so far as to talk to Marion Knott about that and how best to modernize things without losing the homemade touch.

We understand the importance of not fixing what isn't broken. There have been many discussions about improving the food in the park. One thing that we have all agreed on, though, was not to touch the chicken dinner. Some people suggested making the cut smaller, we said 'No, it stays exactly as Cordilia had it.' Nothing will be changed or touched!

MC: After Kingdom of the Dinosaurs closed, Knott's went through a really bad period where the park focused only on building coasters. So what is Knott's now? A theme park or an amusement park?

RAFFI: You know, we are a little bit of both at the moment. We have a little bit of everything. The good side to that is that you can appeal to a broader group of people. But at the same time, the focus is lost, muddled. We have the thrill seeker attractions, the family attractions, then the kiddie attractions. One thing we first need to make clear is our marketing message so that people know what we offer.

Cedar Fair is a very thrill driven company. When they acquired the park, they added what they knew. Now, be that as it may, it has enhanced us. We have more coasters than we did before. Knott's had coasters before Cedar Fair, but not to this degree. At this point, I think we are in the right spot in that regard.

MC: I also wanted to ask you about the Log Ride and Mine train. They are truly the heart of the park. Do you foresee the both of them getting the much-needed, top to bottom renovations they deserve? Making them like new again?

RAFFI: We have been talking about that. It's interesting that you say, "Like new." because it's a debate we are having right now about how to update the two attractions. We are trying to consider the right balance to strike. We want to go back and make the rides right, but we don't want to remove the feel that they both have right now.

MC: You don't want it to become outdated but you want it to be nostalgic.

RAFFI: Right.

MC: But you ARE planning major renovations for both the log ride and the mine train?

RAFFI: Yes.

MC: What do you think makes Knott's tick?

RAFFI: The people. It sounds cliche but you can't go anywhere else and find a group of people that have such a genuine affection for a park. I think that enhances the little buildings and the interactions with guests. The people we have are what make this park.

You can say that the Mine Train and Log ride are the heart of the park, or even the Calico Railroad. But without the guy doing the spiel on the Mine Train or the engineer driving the train around the park, you have nothing. That's what brings it to life.

I grew up through the ranks. I understand that as a ride operator, for instance, you can make somebody's day or not. That's why I have always said, our gem is our people. You saw that at the Train event last month. None of those people came to work because it was work. They had a genuine desire to be here. Going into the round house you saw how passionate the engineers were and how happy they were to share that with you.

MC: That really was great. Some of them were even surprised that people wanted to see what they were working on.

RAFFI: It was a lot of fun.

MC: Ok, well, Haunt. I have to ask you about Haunt. We are HUGE fans and you've got an amazing team of folks who plan and work this event. AND, this is an extra special year coming up as it is the 40th anniversary of the Halloween Haunt. Tell us what you've got planned?

RAFFI: If I told you, it would take away the surprise.

MC :Oh c'mon.

RAFFI: We want to have something with impact and as you said we have a great team involved.

MC: Can we be the first to know?

RAFFI: As soon as we can tell you something we will.

MC :Okay, Okay. You also have Christmas and the other seasonal holidays. Will there be improvements coming?

RAFFI: We want to continue with what we have that works and improve on it. We may even do more.

MC: With Harry Potter coming to Universal, and Cars Land opening up just down the freeway, do you think Knott's is going to be able to compete in the market?

RAFFI: You know, I think so. No, I know so! We are very different from those parks. We have history, and if you market it correctly, we will be able to benefit from the people already in the area and use that to our advantage. But when it comes down to it, you are only in competition with yourself. If we are the best we feel we can be, then that is all we can do.

MC: Just think, before all of these rides, Knott's was pulling in mile long lines with just a chicken dinner. Do you think that Knott's has enough to attract guests on it's own merit and compete in the now crowded Southern California attractions market?

RAFFI: No question. But we would be silly not to try and benefit from the increased crowds.

We are such a different park than Disney or Universal. We have thrills, family rides, kiddie rides, and history. We have something unique to offer. The history lends it an authenticity that we don't want to lose.

MC: You can create new without losing that. The fans get that, they understand that. But the trick is to maintain what is good without losing what made it good to begin with.

RAFFI: We have so many assets here to take advantage of. We just need to utilize them the best way we can.

MC: okay, one last question. What is going on with the music? You have Ace of Base playing in Ghost Town and music that just doesn't fit. Our fans would kill me if I didn't tell you that we don't like that.

RAFFI: (Laughs) Okay, Okay, that's me, that was all me. You know, there is a reason.

MC: We figured there had to be a reason, but we just don't get it.

RAFFI: It's something I came across when I went up to Canada's Wonderland. When I got to that park, as you recall, it was owned by Paramount. They had area music playing from Paramount films. It gave the park a really dull feel. We decided to address the situation. We looked at music from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. We picked music that was upbeat and happy and we started playing it and it had a tremendous effect. The new music we used there gave the park and the employees and even the guests a sort of, psychological lift. We could walk around the park and spot people here and there dancing along to the music.

When I came back to Knott's I wanted to give the same boost of happiness to the park. I used the technique that works so well for me at Canada's Wonderland.

MC: But why not use thematically appropriate music in the different areas. Country music in Ghost Town, Latino rhythms in Fiesta Village, things like that?

RAFFI: You are a theme guy, I get it, I understand. But I am very interested in making people happy. At Knott's, when people come through the gates they want to escape, they want happiness. The music may not fit thematically, but people react to it. They are happy.

MC: Well, Raffi, we really appreciate the time you have taken to speak with us. Please, keep us posted on what is coming to the park and for Haunt's 40th. We've seen a growing fan base for Knott's and we wish you lots of success in your new position here!

RAFFI: Absolutely. It was a pleasure. We hope to see you soon.



TIMBER MOUNTAIN LOG RIDE:
Timber Mountain Log Ride is still under refurbishment and is nearly ready to go. Here are some recent exterior shots.

















The waterfalls are currently running, the flume is still being worked on.



SNOOPY'S BOUNCE HOUSE:
The topper for Snoopy's bounce house is currently out for annual cleaning.




CHARLESTON CIRCLE:

Here we are at Charleston circle. New cafe furniture is arranged around the fountain. Not exactly comfortable, but beautiful. They have hung baskets with fake flowers on the posts for now, but they will soon be replaced with actual blossoming baskets.





Maybe they will build a coffee shop nearby. This would be such a lovely spot to sit and people watch.




Fake flowers for now, real flowers later.




Shiny and new.


The fountain is ready for water now.





MYSTERY LODGE POND:
There is also some railing work being done near the pond at Mystery Lodge.





GHOST TOWN:
Here is Ghost town. Filled with History both real and fabricated. For instance, now would be a great time to go check out the original Wisteria vines near the stroller and wheel chair rentals as they are about to really begin blooming. This small stretch of vine covered arbor is the last surviving bit of the original entrance to Ghost town.











Main Street resurfacing has been completed and looks great. It has the right feel. Thank goodness they didn't opt for blacktop.


Enjoy a meal at the Ghost Town Grill. Real flowers too.




At the end of Main Street the progress ends.
More in the future we presume.




The Ghost Town Playlist:
It is no secret that we have major issues with the musical choices played in the most richly themed portion of the park. While strolling though Walter Knott's original western creation we heard the following incongruous music.



  1. JUMP (for your love) - Pointer Sisters
  2. Keep on Truckin' - Eddie Kendricks
  3. Feelin' Stronger Every Day - Chicago
We love ya already Raffi, but it sure wouldn't be hard to find some upbeat western music to play instead. After all, it's worked well for Disneyland for 57 years.


TWOGETHER IS BETTER - DISCOUNT TICKETS:
Knott's is running a special February deal: “TWOGETHER IS BETTER”

This campaign offers discount admission, entertainment and even some unique dining options.

Anytime during the month of February, receive park admission for only $34.99 each when you buy two tickets. Season Pass Holders can bring a friend for only $24.99 during the month of February.

Knott’s Berry Farm will also be teaming up with the American Heart Association for “Knott’s Has Heart.” Guests will be asked if they would like to send a special Valentine to Charlie Brown for an additional $1, $5 or $10 donation. Proceeds from this special Valentine will go directly to the Orange County American Heart Association to assist them with their ongoing medical research and education efforts.

Weekend activities for “Twogether is Better” include a brand new show called “Love Is In the Air, Charlie Brown.” In which the Peanuts Gang tries to figure out whom to invite to the Valentine’s Day Dance. Will Charlie Brown get the nerve to ask the little red haired girl?

Cupid’s Craft Corner will be set up in Camp Snoopy as well. Children under 11 can create special tissue paper bouquets, paper Valentines and Peanut’s coloring pages for the ones they love.

Knott’s will also be offering some special “Twogether is Better” food deals including “Double Dawg Love” at Pink’s and a chocolate dipping station in Ghost Town.

You can find more information and buy tickets at knotts.com






Dusty has an exciting project to share with you. One of the most collectible Disney theme park books of all time is Disneyland Paris From Sketch To Reality. Sadly, it has long been out of print and now goes for about $500 used and well over $1,000 in new condition on Amazon.


Here's a current look at the book prices on Amazon (Yikes!)

Author, Alain Littaye, never completed the Collectors Edition run of 2,000 books. And that's where MiceChat steps in. We are going to help the author print the last 730 copies of the English edition of the book. Best of all, if you pre-order your copy of the book before we send it print, you'll be entitled to buy it at its original price.


We are so excited to be involving you in this little adventure. Read all about the book and find out how you can reserve your very own copy of Disneyland Paris From Sketch To Reality - HERE.






Disneyland is enjoying a wonderful off-season lull. Wait times are averaging 15 minutes throughout the park during the week days and a lazy calm has settled in.





Shutterbug alert: the trees in the hub are beginning to bloom.


MAIN STREET:
Here on Main Street a lot is changing. You can see things are happening behind the construction walls at Carnation Cafe and there are new charging lockers available on Center Street.


Canopies are being reworked






Across the way at the locker rental, you can now charge your computers and cell phones...


for a whopping $2 an hour. The days of finding outlets in the park are numbered.


MATTERHORN:
The Matterhorn continues its 6 month refurbishment.





New sculpting is taking place in some sections.










BAYOU BASH:
The Mardi Gras Bash is currently going on in New Orleans Square from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. during the following dates:

  • February 10, 11, 12
  • February 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
  • February 24, 25, 26
  • March 2, 3, 4
  • March 9, 10, 11








SPLASH MOUNTAIN WOES CONTINUE:
A while back, we took a ride through Splash Mountain and were surprised to see a few animatronics not working. It seemed that the figures in question, Brer Rabbit on the railroad above the flume and the vultures at the base of the last lift hill, were simply turned off because their locations made routine maintenance difficult (complicated by OSHA rules regarding ladders and worker safety). We decided to give it a few months to see if the problem would work itself out. Turns out things have gotten worse. This isn't Walt Disney World bad yet, but it's well on the way if things don't turn around quick.









Not only are those figures still not working, but one has gone missing.



Brer Bear hangs precariously and inexplicably over the water in this scene while the beer Fox figure is missing.




The Brer Rabbit animatronic above the flume in the first show scene is still frozen in place.


The vulture on the left still has no mouth motion.
(flash used on this pic with permission from other riders - all from our group)


Surely there was time between then and now the park could have closed the attraction for a day to get these key show elements going again. Now, with Brer Fox missing along with the neglected figures, we are heading down a dangerous path of becoming complacent and accepting sub-par show standards. This just isn't up to Disney quality folks. Especially since it has been in this condition for months and is getting worse as time goes on.



Hang in there. Hopefully help is on the way soon.




Compas books will sell its last paperback on March 31st to allow a new West Coast location for Earl of Sandwich to move in.








La Brea Bakery counter serve is still down for refurbishment and expansion while the cafe remains open.






The Comminucore weekly guys are celebrating their 5th anniversary (week that is) and rap to celebrate the occasion. They've really pumped up the fun on this one. Enjoy!







BUENA VISTA STREET:
We are not ashamed to say that the Buena Vista Street development project is one of our most anticipated Disney projects. There is something really magical about the creation of this deeply themed environment where once there was a giant metal hubcap and a tile mural.




































CONDOR FLATS:
Condor Flats is getting ready for today's debut of the "Minnie's Fly Girls" show. It's too bad they couldn't fix the Soarin' sign though.




Yep, still broken








GRIZZLY RIVER RAPIDS:

Grizzly River Run is down for refurbishment. It is not scheduled to return until Saturday, March 10th.










CARS LAND:

Here we are at Radiator Springs as the town gets ready to welcome crowds this Summer. June 15th is the proposed opening date for the major expansion. Worries linger, however, due to the low to moderate capacity of each of the rides and how they will accommodate a million pass holders and even more day guests. Regardless it looks great.








This is the side you see from Paradise Pier. Looks pretty good, even though the transition from Radiator Springs to ocean bluffs is a difficult one.















Luigi's Flying tires close-up! There are some initial worries that slow loading time, short ride time, and a learning curve to pilot these tires will be problematic for this attraction.


Here is a shot from the tires arriving on the freeway. We always thought they floated there.

Cozy Cone Motel Cafe:

This little eatery location is looking better all the time.






PARADISE PIER STORES:
The facades of the Paradise Pier stores is blending more and more with the nicer themed Boardwalk games.









THE LITTLE MERMAID PAVING PROJECT:

The paving near mermaid continues to take its time.







GHIRARDELLI:
There is progress occurring at the Ghirardelli location in Pacific Wharf.





Soon, you'll be sipping soda by the seashore.





We would like to congratulate our good friends at Universal Studios Hollywood on their recent achievement. Universal Studios Hollywood’s King Kong 360 3-D, received the International 3D Society’s Lumiere Award at its 3rd Annual Creative Arts Awards ceremony in early February 2012. This prestigious award, was the first ever presented to a theme park ride and recognized “King Kong 360 3-D” for its creative and technological achievement, demonstrating significant impact and innovation in the world of 3-D.

So should the International 3D society start polishing next year's award for Universal too with the arrival of Transformers? Let's hope so.


And that should do it for this week's update!



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We'd like to extend huge thanks to today's contributors: CaptPhoebus, Fishbulb and Dustysage. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact Dusty today.


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Updated 02-16-2012 at 11:06 PM by In the Parks

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Comments

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  1. Stinkerella's Avatar
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    Thanks for a terrific update. I visited Knott's in January for the first time since since 1995 and my heart was broken just a bit. Had trouble understanding why coasters seemed to be plopped without thought given to the theme of the areas they are in. While I understand the lure of thrill rides I don't agree with the process of "just put it over there because there's room". It is hoped that new management follows through on respecting the history of the park while updating it. By the way, the $20 Sunday brunch at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant is fabulous. I believe it's only offered in January, but was apparently not marketed well because the room was only half-full. Snoopy even drops by for a visit to the delight of everyone. As for the music.....it needs to be delegated to someone who knows what they're doing. I don't want to listen to Ace of Base while I'm immersed in historical theme. Excellent reporting MC. Keep asking the hard questions.
  2. Irving's Avatar
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    I just rode Splash Mountain this tuesday, and I can swear that Brer Fox was there pulling Brer Beer, but after reading this....I am not sure anymore, mind can be playing tricks.
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