Weekend Update - Disney's Little Mermaid, Enchanted forrest, Dollywood
by, 07-15-2011 at 11:21 PM
It's the weekend! Time for one of our famous virtual getaways. Uncle Rixter is away on vacation in Orlando this week, but Dusty and Fishbulb are here to share a delightful collection of parks and rides with you.
First up is a bit of a tease on what we can expect from Disney World's Little Mermaid ride. Disneyland's version of the attraction has already opened, but there are a few surprises on the way for the Magic Kingdom. Then we're off to the Enchanted Forrest theme park in Oregon for some folksy fun. And we finish up with a hey howdy hey at Dollywood in Tennessee.
New Clues About Disney World's Little Mermaid :
There's nothing we like more than a good mystery. Lucky for us, Alain Littaye of the Disney and More blog, is a master at hunting for clues, especially when they come from Imagineering. This week, Alain delves into a recent video produced by Disney about Florida's version of the Little Mermaid attraction.
Recently, Imagineer Chris Beatty presented a video which showed off some models, renderings, and shots of construction of Florida's Little Mermaid attraction. This video reveals new details on what we can expect to find.
First, take a look at the video. Then we'll "stop time" to have a better look.
The editing in the video was pretty quick. Let's slow things down to our own speed.
The rendering below shows what is probably an early concept drawing for the exterior of the attraction.
I feel the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom version of the attraction will be the better of the two attractions, not only because the budget will be higher than the DCA version, but also because WDI Imagineers will have much more room available than they had at DCA. This will allow them to build the "perfect" attraction with Eric's Castle, a long fully themed queue, and much more.
Here's a great overview shot of the entire Little Mermaid area.
This simple elevation drawing shows where the entrance of this highly themed queue will be.
Another highly interesting new rendering is this one showing the ride boarding room. Even if the galleon is still at the beginning of the ride (as it is at California Adventure as well), it's obviously an enhanced version. It looks to be themed to the inside of a cave with what appears to be a rear projection effect of the sea and seagulls.
Here's a really interesting still showing off elements of the interactive next-gen queue.
WDW guests can expect a long and well themed queue, going from the cave that you see below to right under the castle, and even under the castle kitchen with another scene called "captive lobsters". In that scene - and if WDI plans haven't changed - guests will see the bobtail dog from the movie standing near "captive lobsters" waiting to be cooked by the castle's cook. The dog and the lobsters will probably be audio-animatronics and guests will also see the shadow of the cook, up the stairs leading to the castle kitchen.
Let's move to the model shots.
The one above really shows off the scope of the project area and how large the show building, queue, mountain and castle are.
The video also includes some shots of ride scenes model like this one for the "kiss the girl" scene... which look just like the DCA version.
...as well as others showing WDI Imagineers working on the Little Mermaid model.
Alain would like to remind us that he now has a Tokyo Disneyland app for the iPhone which offers stunning images of Disney's most amazing theme park. The app is currently at the sale price of just 99 cents. Alain tells us that the price may be going up soon, so check it out today! TDS Wallpapers HD on the iTunes Store
Knott's Preserved co-author, Eric Lynxwiller, sent us two articles today. The first is to a magical little storybook park in northern Oregon. The photos are narrated in Eric's own words.The Enchanted Forest is a little, mom and pop Storybook Land and then some. It started off small, but with a lot of love grew to hold entertainment options for the whole family. A stone's throw from the 5 freeway in northern Oregon and just a few miles outside of Salem, the Enchanted Forest was a treat.
I knew from the moment I walked up to the main ticket booth (which looked a lot like the seven dwarfs' cottage) that I would adore the place. The staff was incredibly helpful, friendly, and so generous with their time. They told me all of the attractions we should visit and sold us on a flat admission fee option with a few separate ride tickets on the side.
We visited on a drizzly Saturday in May and the crowds were light. Signs pointed us toward the giant fairy tale castle to the left and we entered Storybook Land.
The moat was guarded by an alligator and several turtles as well as a jovial sentry.
The castle was a mini-maze of peek-ins and tongue-in-cheek sight gags. If I had just paid money to visit this castle and then leave the Enchanted Forest, I would have walked away satisfied. That singular experience totally turned me into a giddy kid again and I was ready to explore the rest of Storybook Land.
Dare to step down the throat of this witch and you'll wind up face to face with the animated shrew herself, large, green and mixing potions for Snow White. Pay attention to the details in the next vignette and you'll catch the face in the Magic Mirror come to life.
A half dozen other fairy tale characters inhabit this Enchanted Forest and each one is completely charming in its creative, homespun manner. I give great kudos to the founder of the park Roger Tofte and the entire Tofte family for designing and constructing this fabulous playland for families and, like me, we kids-at-heart.
But wait! There's more! After Storybook Land opened in 1971, the Tofte family kept building and expanded their park with a new land, Western Land! Its Haunted House walk through opened a year later, in 1974. The new land was topsy turvey and nothing was quite plumb. The town took a cue from Knott's Berry Farm and utilizes peek-ins to give the place character and humor.
The peek-ins were wild. Don't pass up on the details either. The town's museum was a gag paradise of creative captions. The shooting gallery was just as charming.
My partner and I enjoyed the little village but headed out of town. Just up the hill and around the corner was the Haunted House, a sinister walk-through attraction filled with darkness, triggered scares, and great sight gags with haunting and humorous effects. Walk at your own pace; your eyes may never adjust to the home's inky darkness. That alone was unsettling, but the easily triggered screams, monstrous blasts, and the thought that someone in black could be lurking behind a corner kept me at a quick pace.
The park's Haunted House rocked! And it really did give me the chills. Creepy!
Other rides awaited out attention and we took off in search of more adventures. We rightly passed on the kiddie rides and ran toward the Flume Ride next.
The ride was unique, a combo flume ride and roller coaster built into the side of a hill, it definitely pays tribute to Bud Hurlbut's design for Knott's Berry Farm's Log Ride.
The next attraction on our list was Ice Mountain, a breathtaking ride down the icy slopes of the majestic Swiss mountain which shall not be named here. Honestly the roller coaster was a thrill despite any comparisons to other mountain-themed coasters. If it weren't for the plexiglass shell protecting riders, the Ice Mountain ride vehicles come so close to rocky ledges, trees, tracks and more branches, that I could easily see the brush with danger as the thrill of this tightly-wound roller coaster.
Let's also heap some praise on the Challenge of Mondor, a shooting gallery dark ride running on a trackless system. I'd never been on such an attraction and was amazed how drawn I was to the question of "which way next?" Of course I couldn't tell which corridor my little ride vehicle would take or spin toward as I aimed my pistol at mildly animated evil doers in this fantasy world. The attraction scared the child in the car ahead of us so badly that he lept from the vehicle and went running through the dark ride in order to escape from whence he came. Its chamber of monsters weren't so scary but I did dig that ride system as well as the creative soul the Tofte family put into building it out.
In fact, it's the palpable heart and soul of the park that drives me to write this article. I want to call the Enchanted Forest "the little park that could." I think every northern Oregonian has visited the place in his or her youth and the Toftes are royalty for what they've accomplished through their own hard work. I wonder what the park would be like if they had that little extra something that Walter and Cordelia Knott had, a boysenberry or chicken dinner, to turn their hillside into a nationally recognized theme park. Then again, it's the homey-ness of the place that I adore. That and the fact that it was clean, creatively-designed, entertaining for kids and adults, and staffed with ultra-friendly locals who cared about the park and its guests.
There's still the fairy tales and mazes in the English Village.
Goodbye Enchanted Forest! We'll be back! And I hope ya'll make it to Oregon to explore the Enchanted Forest for yourselves.
DOLLYWOODEric get's around. This time, Mr. Lynxwiler takes us to world famous Dollywood. You'll be surprised just how high quality the attractions here are.June was quite a month. Not only did my partner Phil and I finally make the trek to the Enchanted Forest in Oregon, we also got a chance to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
I canít really describe Pigeon Forge, the city right next door to Dollywood. Iíd definitely wind up insulting somebody in my description of the place, so Iíll likely just avoid the topic. Instead Iíll say we were glad to be out of Pigeon Forge and at the gates of Dollywood.
We got in line to have our photos taken for our pre-purchased Annual Passes!
Stepping up to the turnstiles at Dollywood, we were surprised to practically have the place to ourselves. It was a Sunday morning and the crowds were nonexistent.
First things first, Phil and I headed toward Thunderhead, the parkís new and incredible wooden roller coaster. It was not a brief trip, but was quite surprising for its speed and tight banks. Itís a mighty fine roller coaster and we rode it over and over again during our two days at Dollywood.
The Mystery Mine roller coaster is a dark ride and roller coaster combo. Itís got a Scooby Doo flair to it and humorous vignettes.
Thatís the Mystery Mine track on the left and Thunderhead in the distance.
Those cuddly Vegetables received their own attraction in Dollywoodís County Fair. The Sideshow Spin is for kids as are most of the rides in the County Fair.
Along Timber Canyon are other rides and eateries. Thatís the Mystery Mine roller coaster in the distance.
Beaver Creek Boat Float:
The Beaver Creek Boat Float. Itís the simplest thing ever! Float a little floatie thing in a trough of rushing water. It was brilliant! The kids loved it and I wanted to play in it too. Watching things float in a stream is cool and this simple idea won me over instantly.
The River Battle attraction came out of nowhere yet was really cute. To go from the eerie thrills of Mystery Mine to the cartoon world of River Battle left me in a thematic stupor. Yet Iíll still heap high praise on River Battle for the engaging, action-oriented amusement of it. Instead of passively sitting in your barge, riders have to actively turn their crank to shoot their onboard water canons. Yes, Iíve seen it in other parks, but Iím really happy to have seen it here in Dollywood where the rides arenít for couch potatoes.
Thatís River Battle in the foreground and Mystery Mine in the background.
Perhaps the highlight of our trip to Dollywood was Adventure Mountain. It was unlike anything weíve encountered at other theme parks and we were shocked to get harnessed into the climbing and balancing act. We had to walk through a multi-point inspection to check every strap and grip in our harness. Phil and I were bound into our uniform and, with our overhead tether, we were tied to the mountain itself. No need for railings on those upper floors as thereís no way one can possibly fall or untie oneself from the rigging.
The Blazing Fury was quite the kiddie coaster. Since itís tied into a dark ride, the best seats are in front to view the storyline and character action. Donít get your hopes up to high though, as Blazing Fury is at its heart a kiddie coaster with minor storytelling action.
The exit to Blazing Fury and its circa-1986 rockwork.
We hit the Tennessee Tornado roller coaster and then the Blazing Fury dark ride and roller coaster. The Tornado was a thrill and nearly caused me to black out. That rarely happens on roller coasters so I knew it would soon be time to eat and recharge.
The Wings of America Theater showcases the nationís native and noble birds. We didnít catch the full show but liked what we did see.
The gift shops here were really incredible. The variety of goods was inspiring. Really, there was something for everyone and the souvenir stores went well beyond the typical plush, logo mugs, and T-shirts.
We headed for a new adventure, the Mountain Slidewinder. Itís a big trek to the top of this mountain, and once at the peak, your group is weighed and paired with an appropriate selection of riders. These free-sliding rubber bobsleds could easily flip the flume if theyíre not weighted properly. It took a few minutes for the two of us to find our bobsledding partners, but we made it onto the ride and totally loved the experience. The Mountain Slidewinder is a wet one. Thankfully we had left all our goods and the camera in a nearby locker. After riding it once, we had to go back and ride it again. Then after that, we had to climb those stairs once more just to take photos of what we had accomplished.
The view from the top of the Slidewinder mountain is blocked by the surrounding forest, but once in a while, you can get a vista worth appreciating. The Barnstormer swings is in the distance.
I truly enjoyed Dollywood ó much more than I expected to. The rides, food and themeing worked for me on many levels. However, I wasnít too pleased by the Jukebox Junction and Adventures in Imagination lands. They ran together and felt, sorry Dolly, rather flat and cheap. Instead of an immersive experience, everything in those lands felt temporary like a backlot set.
The Dolly Parton museum was worth the visit. Sorry, no pictures allowed, but she did have costumes from her films, including nearly everything she wore in ď9 to 5,Ē and ďThe Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.Ē
A replica of Dolly Partonís family church was worth a visit:
We stopped at the Grist Mill to buy snacks. I couldnít resist the baked goods.
The Barnstormer is new to Dollywood as of 2011. It was very well designed with a thrill ride attached to a small kiddie playground. I appreciate that whatever Dollywood does, they keep the whole family in mind.
Looks like Dollywood is also taking steps to improve their coaster standing. Just a guess, but these foundations look like the beginnings of something coaster-ish to me.
Big thumbs up for Dollywood! What a wonderful place.
And we'd like to thank Eric for two wonderful articles today! Folks, if you don't know Eric, he co-wrote an absolutely fascinating book on the history of Knott's Berry Farm titled, Knott's Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott's Berry Farm. It is on our short list of must-have theme park books.
HOLD THE PRESSES!!!!! We have some VERY exciting news. The long awaited MiceDeals site (from the folks who bring you MiceChat) has finally launched TODAY! MiceDeals will bring you fantastic deals and offers on hotels, restaurants, theme parks and entertainment offerings in Southern California and Orlando. The service is currently in beta with periodic offers, but will soon offer an exciting new deal every day! Check out today's MiceDeal HERE
Might we also suggest that you explore:
- MiceTube - Introducing MiceChat's new channel on YouTube. Kevin Yee and MiceChat Sarah have been uploading entertaining videos weekly, along with many other of your MiceAge and MiceChat favorites.
- Dateline Disneyland which is packed with great news and photos from the Disneyland Resort.
- Orlando Parkhoppernews and photos from Disney World and Orlando area theme parks.
- In The Parks offers news, updates and tips from Disneyland and other Southern California offerings.
- SAMLAND - Your weekly look at some interesting tales from Disney history.
- And you'll always find something of interest on the forums or MiceAge!
- MiceDeals - You won't want to miss out on these great deals for Orlando and Anaheim!
And that brings us to the end of another funderful update. Rixter will be back with exciting new stories to tell next week. Until then, we'd like to thank the folks who contributed on this week's column:
- Your Editors - Fishbulb and Dustysage
Our special thanks to Rixter for letting us fill in this week. We hope he had a wonderful vacation!
It is readers like you who make MiceChat such a special place.
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