Spider-Man in Niagra Falls

Going through some old email archives this weekend and came across an email I had written sending out an article I’d stumbled across about Marvel’s Adventure City at Niagra Falls. Who knew?

A little googling came up with a video of the Spider-man ride from there, which is like some bizarro world craptacular version of the absolutely brilliant ride here at Universal Islands of Adventure. Video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdSM5LZz54c

Harry Potterland at Universal

Went to see Harry Potterland at Universal yesterday. (Okay, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter…really?) The detail that went into building the place is amazing! Take a look at the pics I posted to see. You definitely step into the world when you get to the land, which is something I’ve felt about most of the work done at Islands of Adventure.

I’ve seen very little of the attractions yet. The line for the Forbidden Journey ride was two hours long at 7PM, so I’ll skip that until the crowds get shorter. Ditto on the rather annoyingly small Ollivander’s Wand Shop show and the Honey Dukes/Zonko’s shop. I really don’t feel like waiting in long sweaty lines to shop. I’d feel different if I was a Potter fanboy, I’m sure. I did hear where they said J.K. Rowling insisted the shops be small to be more authentic. Really, J.K.? Have you NEVER been to a theme park in Florida? It’s hot. Blisteringly, annoyingly, pass out from the armpit smell hot. Air conditioned space is like a Patronus spell when you’re surrounded by starving Dementors. Those shops NEED to be bigger.

From Harry Potterland at Universal

We ate at the Three Broomsticks restaurant, which is really the re-themed Enchanted Oak, which used to be one of my favorite places at IoA. And here is my biggest beef. Enchanted Oak felt like an Inn in the Shire. It was kind of welcoming, with lots of little booths and a distinctly positive magical feel. The Three Broomsticks is kind of…dingy. It feels like a dungeon inside now. It’s much darker. Lots of antlers hang on the walls. It’s not really someplace I feel like slouching about for a nice meal. The food is pretty much the IoA cloned menu of ribs, chicken, or ribs and chicken, along with some British flavor. Natasha had the pasties and wasn’t enchanted. I had the ribs, which I’ve always thought were quite good. The Hog’s Head brew was quite good — nice, mild beer in a collectible mug. Butterbeer is suitably sweet, like cream soda with butterscotch in it. Ultimately though, Three Broomsticks just isn’t someplace I’d want to spend a lot of time. I mean, it’s kind of nasty in the movies, isn’t it? It’s one saving grace is that they back porch is covered in tables with umbrellas over them, and that same porch has a great view of the castle.

From Harry Potterland at Universal

Again, not a huge Potter fan, so you might feel differently about Three Broomsticks if you own a wand. =) Hey, I’ll admit it, if there was a Death Star restaurant, I’d eat there…lots…

There was a great choir of Hogwarts students performing with their singing frogs. Very catchy, upbeat, musical show. And you can get your pic taken with them afterwards.

From Harry Potterland at Universal

Ultimately, Potterland is amazing work. If you’re a Potter fan, get your time turner and get there yesterday. Or maybe find some way to travel into the future, when the lines are shorter.

Disney to Release “Toy Story Midway Mania” as Wii Game, No Need To Go To Disney Anymore

When I first rode “Toy Story Midway Mania” a few months ago, I was really underwhelmed. I mean, it’s a good ride, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t get off going, “Wowee zowee! That was something I’ve never seen before!” You know that feeling — when you step off say, “Mission:Space” at Epcot and you’re like, “Holy CRAP! I’ve just been in friggin’ SPACE!” And at the time, I said to a lot of people, “It just feels like a Wii game.” And now it is one.

From Midway Mania

Yes, I like Wii games, but I don’t go to theme parks to play them. When I go to a theme park I want to have that “Mission:Space” or “Soaring” experience, where I get to do experience something, I get to have a rush of emotion and experience I can’t possibly recreate at home. “Midway” just feels like an annoying way to play a video game — what with the spinning and long waiting in lines with sweaty tourists. If I wanted that, I’d wait an hour to play Wii Sports with my air conditioner turned off and a packet of liverwurst open in front of me. And then when I played I’d have my wife spin my recliner in random directions between levels.

Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for the folks who put together these rides. It’s hard and it’s expensive. There’s no question in my mind that it’s an incredible challenge if you’re trying to make something a game and interactive and entertaining and also make it a big enough experience that people walk out thinking, “I may never do that again in my life. That was incredible.” And maybe Midway isn’t meant to be that kind of experience. But it’s hard for me to accept that you would build anything nowadays in a theme park that wasn’t that for someone at some level of thrill.

My suggestions? For Midway — it needs a better story. The game is fun, but where’s the “Buzz has been stolen by the evil carnival owner and the only way for me to get him back is to score high on these games and win him!” And then where’s the total twist on that, where’s the point where I won Buzz, but the evil carnies realize what I’m up to and I have to throw baseballs and pies to escape the carnival before we’re all caught. Just a blue-sky, not perfect. But I really feel like there needs to be a more emotion-grabbing resonance somewhere. The story that comes first and engages me in the game.

Maybe they’ll give away some liverwurst free with the Wii version.

Harry Potter Attractions At Universal Orlando

Universal Studios Orlando used to be a fun park. I still really enjoy visiting Universal Islands of Adventure. But both parks aren’t aging well. You can tell there just isn’t much updating going on.

So this story about a new Harry Potter-Land at Universal is a great sign for the park. It might actually make me renew my annual pass.

I really hope they level the stupid newspaper character land at Islands of Adventure!