Stray Bird Strands Coaster Riders and Other News | Other Orlando

  • Uh, oh. Did you hear about this one:

    Roller coaster riders at a major amusement park are left hanging upside down for almost 20 minutes.

    What in the world happened?

    A small bird landed on a safety device, tripping it off to stop the ride in mid-air.

    Not scary enough for not-so-easy riders?

    They all were stranded high up: 100 feet in the air.

    Or about a ten-story building…if you fell to the earth.

    All happened at the Happy Valley Amusement Park in Beijing, China.

    The Happy Valley park describes the ride on its website as "facing down, you can experience the feeling of flying like a bird."

    No comment needed about that.

    No one was seriously injured.

    But no surprise: there were reports of nausea and dizziness.

    If this makes you wonder about the safety of coasters back here in Orlando or elsewhere…we have some good news there.

    Actually, a lot of theme park news about coasters not in China but right here in Orlando.

    Updates on new ones coming soon, etc.

    Not only what is news these days…but also what you can expect to hear more about in the near future…but let’s start with coasters.

    Safety, that is.

    How safe are coasters for all you buyers of Disney World Tickets, Universal Studios Orlando tickets and even LEGOLAND tickets?

    Safety questions are obvious

    The latest statistics turned up only a handful of minor injuries and or coaster-related illnesses while at the parks.

    Though you can’t help but be sympathetic to those Beijing riders stuck high in the air for exactly 18 minutes, according to news accounts…

    Hard to believe that a mere little bird did that…But it should help you realize why coasters are mainly safe to ride…at almost any speed…and all the safeguards built into today’s rides…

    Down to earth, the latest figures we saw about local coasters:

    There were less than a dozen reported incidents, according to state of Florida records.

    Most also involved older riders.

    And riders with pre-existing physical conditions that perhaps should have made them stick to less active events and reconsider thrill rides.

    One case involved a 71-year-old who reported feeling somewhat ill after riding the “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.”

    Another impacted a 75-year-old man who complained of pain and tremors in his right arm after leaving “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” (both were Walt Disney World Resort).

    On “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a 43-year-old woman with a pre-existing condition had a seizure.

    At Disney's Animal Kingdom, a 69-year-old man riding “Expedition Everest” felt chest pain and dizziness after riding.

    At Typhoon Lagoon, a 27-year-old woman suffered a laceration while riding “Humunga Kowabunga.”

    At Universal Studios Florida, a 21-year-old woman had motion sickness on the “E.T. Adventure.” And a 66-year-old woman felt dizzy on “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.”

    No incidents were reported on rides at LEGOLAND.

    All minor ailments involving only a handful of incidents over several months.

    After millions and millions of riders got happily off (and we won’t repeat the numbers that show there’s more danger from bathtubs than roller coasters).

    News from the coaster world

    As for updates on new coasters…

    Some more news came out about Universal’s King Kong attraction: the ride vehicles for “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” will be…to say the least…humongous.

    They will be 40 feet long. They will weigh 17 tons. Carrying 72 people.

    The vehicles will not be on a track, however.

    When you ride it, you won’t see any tracks or rails.

    This will be Universal’s first trackless ride.

    Drivers of the vehicles will tell various stories. Making the ride a different experience for repeat guests.

    The drivers themselves were identified. Believed to be for the first time. And they make for an interesting assortment.

    “Jinks” for one is an ex-con. From New York City, of course.

    Look for the attraction between Jurassic Park and Toon Legoon.

    An opening date has not been given.

    Snakes alive everywhere

    Busch Gardens’ own Cobra’s Curse will be known for its huge hissing snake. Nothing new in details about that 80-foot monster with four-foot-long fangs.

    But we find that he (or she) won’t be alone.

    New details show that while standing in line, you will pass an enclosure with four species of deadly snakes. They are described as “pretty” but deadly.

    "This is going to be the prettiest, most elaborately themed snake habitat that you've ever seen," said Jeff Hornick, regional director of design and engineering for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which owns the park.

    Don’t worry too much because the snakes are safely behind an eight foot wide window.

    “Cobra's Curse” will be in the Egypt section of Busch Gardens. But its path will be a thrilling location in itself: over and under the train ride at very close levels.

    Line-agitated riders will be glad to know they will wait in an air-conditioned queue.

    The story line is that you are back 2000 years ago. When a snake king ruled. But villagers demolished his temple.

    An angry snake now returning with a vengeance is the threat to riders.

    Ride delays should not be overly long since the Cobra can handle 1,000 people an hour.

    What it will be like to ride the Cobra

    What to expect: spends up to 40 miles an hour.

    Some backwards action. And a free-fall at the very end.

    Who is the ride catering to: It has a 42-in height restriction, but Busch officials say it should be fine for entire families of all ages.

    Meanwhile, Mako’s track topped out at 200 feet. It is the fourth roller coaster at SeaWorld, joining Kraken, Manta and Shamu Express, a junior coaster

    The Mako shark served as inspiration for the ride.

    Some details match the physiology of a real Mako shark. The animal and the ride vehicle has five gills, whereas most sharks have six, for example.

    New details show the coaster will be unusual on that it will have no shoulder restraints. It will depend on individual lap guards to keep riders on board.

    The importance of that?

    "This allows for everything above your waistline to be free. You can lean forward, you can lean backwards and you really get to experience the freedom of the weightlessness," a spokesman said

    Riders will sit four across. Each train will have seven cars, making for 28 passengers per train.

    SeaWorld has touted the ride's "air time" along with it becoming the longest, fastest, tallest roller in Orlando.

    Seventy-three miles-an-hour, if you want to be reminded.

    That floating sensation is "what every coaster fan covets," said Chris Kraftchick, regional representative for the Florida Region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

    Mako's seat design is a good choice, he said.

    "Basically, as you're navigating the hills, you're allowed to float up and down and you're not really being jammed into some steel bar or overly padded seat," he said.

    Like riding a real shark

    Magnetic brakes and polyurethane wheels cut down on friction, which will help deliver a smooth, shark-like experience, designers said.

    Mako will be the centerpiece of a new shark-based land. It will have an ocean floor/shipwreck theme,

    "We relate what we're doing here to nature and to reality. So you can feel like the Mako shark as you're gliding through the reef," said Mike Denninger, vice president of theme-park development. "The coaster is going to be completely smooth. It will be fast, but when you make these turns, you're gliding through the turns."

    An opening date for the thrill ride and its land has not been announced.

    This will mark the first major addition to SeaWorld Orlando since opening the Antarctica

    And new at Disney

    As for Disney itself, nighttime is getting more attractive these days.

    And the coaster there will be running then as well.

    After dark used to be bedtime at Animal Kingdom.

    Let the animals sleep. Give them a rest.

    But that’s all changing as new attractions are coming to life.

    Beginning the evening of April 22, you’ll be able to see the elaborate “Rivers of Light.”

    It’s just in time for the park’s birthday. And Earth Day as well.

    Kilimanjaro Safaris will then include a sunset effect.

    Also a new “Tree of Life.”

    There will be entertainment and parties added to the Harambe Village and Discovery Island areas as well.

    “Rivers of Light” showings will go on daily after sunset.

    And Animal Kingdom’s closing time will be later.

    Existing rides such as Expedition Everest roller coaster will operate into the evenings.

    What this will do is throw light on Animal Kingdom’s reputation as more than just a half-day park.

    Actually, that meets the original concept of the park.

    It was intended not as a place where guests go from ride to ride.

    “Rivers of Light” is said to be an original story using water screens, animal spirits, floating lantern and floating lanterns. Live performers are also part of the show.

    "Rivers of Light" eventually will have FastPass and dining-package options. But it won’t have any fireworks.

    One good question:

    If you want to see the animals after dark, will they be visible?

    Disney says yes.

    There’s apparently a lot of nocturnal activity among them…similar to humans.

    Disney says the entire park’s atmosphere will feel authentic.

    But the view will be different, partly to encourage daytime visitors to return at night.

    More than Orca news

    Whales have been in the news at SeaWorld but prices as well.

    SeaWorld earlier introduced a new price structure, It switched out a system with two different prices for online tickets, depending on the day of attendance, and replaced it with just one cost — $79. Tickets at the gate still cost $99.

    SeaWorld also introduced an annual pass that it says offers $400 monthly benefits. It also tosses in a year's worth of visits to Aquatica. Cost to Florida residents: $168.

    The SeaWorld ticket includes parking, and has no blackout dates.

    News from LEGOLAND

    Legoland Florida Resort is going to expand with the development of 24 acres. It’s the new Legoland Beach Retreat.

    Several expansions were announced, including a new Ninjago Land.

    The beach retreat marks the attractions first significant growth beyond its original opening.

    “This kind of expansion is something special … where we've kind of moved over the road to expand the resort into different areas," said Adrian Jones, the resort's general manager.

    There’s been what park officials call a “huge demand” since a 152-room hotel opened last year.

    Present hotel accommodations will be doubled as part of the expansion.

    Other announcements included the new "Lego Nexo Knights 4D: The Book of Creativity" movie.

    Also new:

    Legoland Night Lights fireworks display and plans for a new theme-park land, Lego Ninjago World.

    The 13-minute, 4-D movie is inspired by Lego's new toy franchise and television show. It is the story of five young knights battling the evil Jestro and the Book of Monsters. That is set to open May 26.

    The park's “Night Lights” is a new summer offering on Saturdays and Sundays from June 18 to July 31. The fireworks display will be themed around the Ninjago line.

    The updated fireworks display is also the park's attempt to attract even more families for the new Ninjago World. It will be built on the north end of the park between Lego City and Coastersaurus.

    The world is expected to open early next year.

    The park will have extended hours until 8 p.m. on weekends with fireworks.

    Parking costs going up

    Finally, not a very exciting subject, but the prospect is you may want to pay more for parking at Disney.


    Less distance to the parks.

    The news from Disney is that it is testing a program where you pay more for a spot closer to theme park entrances.

    It costs an added $15.

    Regular parking is already $20.

    But in this case, at least, Disney is looking to Universal and SeaWorld for inspiration.

    Both already have upgraded parking options.

    Regular parking for cars in Universal's garage is $20; preferred parking is $30. It has valet parking that ranges between $20 and $50.

    SeaWorld parking is $18; its preferred parking is $23.

    No news about any extra charges for new coasters, however. ###