Europa-Park, The Happiest Place in Germany

By Sam Vlas

Today on Disney Avenue, we talk about a well-known European theme park. It isn’t Efteling, it isn’t Disneyland Paris… Europa-Park is the subject of today’s article. Always wanted to take a trip around Europe? In Europa-Park it’s possible in a day! There are even some Disney connections to be found. Continue after the page break and let’s go on a journey…

Europa-Park opened in 1975 in Rust, a small village near the city of Freiburg in south-west Germany. Its main purpose, still to this day, is being a showroom of the attraction manufacturer Mack. The Mack family still runs the park and is the most successful family-owned amusement park in the world. The family still lives right next door and they can always be found in or around the park and its resorts.

Europa-Park’s theme is, of course, Europe. The park is divided into thirteen (!) themed areas, each representing a different European country, showcasing its history, culture and blatant stereotypes. I have been to Europa-Park, so this will be my view on the theme park as a whole. Starting with the overall quality…
The park is home to a very impressive collection of roller coasters, about 11 in total. They vary from kid’s coasters, to gigantic steel coasters, to water coasters and to one heck of a wooden giant. It’s also home to a variety of dark rides, which, to me, are the ultimate source of hilarity. It’s here where the Disney connections are found and it’s here where you will fall off your chair laughing. Let’s run through a few of them.


The first real dark ride of Europa-Park was the “Geisterschloss” (which means Ghost Castle in German), located in the Italian area of the park. As you can see in the video above, you may spot some veryfamiliar scenes. Some scenes may come from a certain estate located in a certain park in America… This will be something you’re going to see a lot in Europa-Park’s dark rides (and other European park too): shameless Disney rip-offs! This is a product of the time in which these attractions were built. There wasn’t a Disney park in Europe yet, and almost no one made the Atlantic “jump” to visit an American Disney park, so European parks could just copy certain things without having to worry about accusations of plagiarism. This was common practice in the early days of the industry. And “Geisterschloss” (and “Piraten in Batavia”, which will be next) are prime examples of that.

(Note: Though not very clear, Geisterschloss has a backstory. It’s about the famous Medici family, who made a pact with the devil to live in prosperity, but was ultimately cursed. Throughout the ride you can spy some elements that refer to the demise of this family, if you can look past the corny Halloween displays…)

Piraten in Batavia:

“Piraten in Batavia” is the next stop on our journey. I don’t think I have to explain where this idea came from…  It’s basically the same as with Geisterschloss: basic idea of a Disney ride, drenched in corny displays. Corny is the word that sums these dark rides up perfectly. Though not very original, the dark ride’s scope is enormous and everywhere you look there’s something to see. I may sound quite harsh on these rides, but get this right: they’re loaded with atmosphere.

Schlittenfahrt Schneeflökchen:

I’m sure you will love this one. This is the BEST dark ride I’ve ever been on, just the sheer quality, the immense scope, the animatronics, the moving backstory, the tear jerking soundtrack, all of it is fantastic! Are you ready? Let’s go then…

“Schlittenfahrt Schneeflökchen”… If you haven’t already noticed, this is absolutely one of the most hilarious rides I’ve ever been on. It’s so bad, it’s good. It’s the only ride where I bought my on ride photo of (and yes, there is a photo taken of you during this blasphemy). This is the basic idea of this ride: take out a park bench, put it on a pallet, put that on a moving chain, stuff a room full with left-over children’s toys, grab a 1995-midi sound file of your old keyboard and let the magic happen… They couldn’t be serious with this. You absolutely have to see this in person; it’s a life changing experience.

Europa-Park is home to around six different dark rides, one cornier than the other, but let me get this straight: Europa-Park is a wonderful park, with a stellar coaster collection, there’s at least one of every type of ride to be found here, not to mention the beautiful hotels. All of this I will cover in a future article. I’ll just let these colorful images sink into your brain and please tune in next time as we explore more of Europa-Park.

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Disney Avenue Podcast Coming Soon

By Keith Mahne

You may have noticed a lack of content the last few days here on Disney Avenue and there is good reason for that. We are working on a spectacular podcast that I know you will love. We already have special guests lined up and are working on creating an enjoyable and fantastic experience for you. Continue after the page break to hear the new intro…

Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

The RCA System Communication Center

By Keith Mahne

In 1969, RCA sent out a press release for their planned involvement in the new  Walt Disney World project. The “focal point of WEDCOMM (Walter E. Disney Communications Oriented Monitoring and Management System) would be the RCA System Communication Center, open to the public as a highlight of the Tomorrowland area of the new Theme Park.” RCA planed to bring a new high-tech “System of Systems’ that would link computers, telephones, automatic monitoring and control devices, mobile communications, and television together.” Continue after the page break for more insight into the extravagant RCA System Communication Center…

Let’s take a look at the plans that RCA announced in 1969 as the Walt Disney Company made public much of its initial planning for Walt Disney World. Below you will see the actual RCA press release that was part of a press kit given to the media in 1969:

RCA was planning to create an innovative computer and communications infrastructure that was to be the heart of the Walt Disney World resort. Some of the goals for the system included tracking events throughout the resort, providing news and previews of activities over special television channels in the hotel rooms, and a closed-circuit television system designed to train employees. Everything would be linked together including administrative, financial, and operational functions. Another benefit to the system was the ability to build guest profiles “to assist the staff in progressively improving their service to return visitors.” Sound like something you’ve heard before? It was hoped that the RCA System Communication Center would open as a display in Tomorrowland.

As you can tell, this was a very ambitious plan that, unfortunately, vanished quickly. Before it did, RCA knew it needed to educate guests on what exactly a computer was. To do this, RCA was going to produce a show designed by John Hench tentatively titled Alice in Computer Land. However RCA sold its computer division to Sperry Univac, which later became UNISYS, and decided to sponsor a different attraction, Space Mountain.

Eventually, Sperry Univac went on to sponsor another attraction based on a revised version of Hench’s concept that would later appear in Epcot. The attraction was the infamous Astuter Computer Revue, that premiered with the opening of Epcot on October 1, 1982, in the CommuniCore East building.


The Astuter Computer Revue was just one part of the Epcot Computer Central area that also included the much admired and extremely missed SMRT-1 (Smart One), an interactive robot who would play guessing games with guests. You could also find the Compute-a-Coaster that allowed guests to virtually assemble and ride a 3-D roller coaster, Great American Census Quiz, and other exhibits that have long faded into the abyss of Disney World history .

The RCA System Communication Center was so far ahead of its time that the closest thing in comparison is just now being utilized by the resort in the MyMagic+ system. Although the RCA System Communication Center never became a reality, it was surly an ambitious, futuristic plan that would have been a perfect fit inside Tomorrowland.

We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at Oh, and please don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

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Maybe a Fifth Gate for Walt Disney World Won’t Be a Theme Park…

By Sam Vlas

A couple of days ago I was browsing another excellent site about themed entertainment design “Entertainment Designer” and I came across an article about a future theme park in Pleasant Grove in Utah. It’s called “Evermore” and it’s everything but a normal theme park. I immediately thought that this new kind of park would be excellent for a Fifth Gate. Curious? Continue after the page break…

“Evermore” is, according to the owner, an adventure park. You can regard it as one big outdoor theatre play that you step into. The back story of Evermore takes place in Victorian England and features six big themed areas where different parts of the story are played out. There is a rural village, a forest, a factory, a small town and some other areas. Each area is home to a wide array of characters, who can tell stories about the area that there in or of a major event that is affecting the greater world. There are a few big attractions (mainly story-based, like dark rides) but they’re not the focus of this park. I highly recommend you to check this project out.

As I was reading the description, something occurred to me. Maybe, if a Fifth Gate to Walt Disney World actually gets built, it wouldn’t be a traditional theme park, but rather an “adventure park”. The story possibilities are practically endless. Some random ideas that just pop up in my head:

·         A large chunk of remote jungle with a large temple in the center. You (along with a small group of other people) are escorted into the temple, but then your tour guide disappears. You have to cooperate with the other people to solve puzzles, explore the temple and its grounds and find a way back to the camp. Maybe this can be the ultimate Indiana Jones experience that Walt Disney World deserves.

·         You come across a small village where a tragic event caused the disappearance of everyone living in it. It is up to you to search for clues and solve the mysteries. Some Sherlock Holmes-type stuff going on here.

·         On Imagineering Disney, I found another great concept for such an adventure park. A time travelling adventure that takes all evening and includes dining as well, called “The Villa Tempus”. You can find it here:

There are so many different types of experiences present in Walt Disney World and if they really want to be on the cutting edge of the themed entertainment industry, I really hope they would consider a (albeit higher priced) new type of experience; something that takes you on a “real” adventure with a beginning, middle and end. This type of innovation in entertainment can really put Walt Disney World on the map again, after the Harry Potter-frenzy of the nearby Universal Studio’s.
What do you think? Is there room in Walt Disney World for an “adventure park”? Maybe there’s an other type of experience that you would like to see? Elaborate in the comments.
 Until next time, adventurers!
We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at Oh, and please don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

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Change is Good…Sometimes

By Lindsey Allmon
The Disney parks we stroll through today are vastly different than the ones I teetered through as a toddler, as well as worlds away from parks that Walt Disney carefully constructed with his team. Yet as the times change, so must the parks. Some changes are good, and others leave something to be desired. Continue after the break for a list of some of the best, and worst, changes to the Disney Parks…




ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
As I mentioned in my introductory article, this was the most terrifying thing I experienced in my childhood. I cried like a baby and I refused to ever take part in it again, opting for the much tamer Carousel of Progress. The premise of this attraction was a demonstration of a teleportation machine that goes horribly wrong, producing a terrifying Alien that wreaks havoc in the lab. The attraction was replaced by Stitch’s Great Escape in 2004, much to my happiness.
The Verdict: Good!
While Stitch’s Great Escape is not the best attraction to ever grace the Tomorrowland landscape, the change is immensely more kid-friendly than its predecessor. While the horror junkies may be bitter about the change I can confidently say it was a smart move on Disney’s part.

Journey into Imagination
One of the most iconic Disney characters that didn’t get its own movie is the adorable Figment. He brought imagination to life with the help of Dreamfinder. The experience was colorful, creative, and endlessly entertaining. However, in 1999 Disney did a revamp and removed both Dreamfinder and Figment from the ride, replacing them with Dr. Nigel Channing, a character borrowed from Honey I Shrunk the Audience, and renaming the attraction Journey into YOUR Imagination. Not to worry though: After an uproarious response from Disney patrons, Figment was reintroduced to the ride in 2002 and has been present ever since.
Verdict: Terrible.
Every time I have set foot on this ride since 1999 I have been extremely bitter. The original was whimsical and interesting, the true embodiment of imagination. The introduction of Nigel Channing turned the ride clinical and almost too scientific. Even after Figment was reintroduced, Nigel doesn’t embrace Figment like Dreamfinder does, instilling the idea that imagination is more of a nascence than something to be embraced. The entire attraction seems contradictory to the purpose it once served. Long story short, I wish I could go back to the nineties.

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Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Based on Walt Disney’s adaptation of The Wind and the Willows, this ride is one of the original rides from when Disney World opened. The attraction featured two different tracks so you could enjoy two entirely different wild rides. Though the ride was primitive decoratively I fondly remember being jerked around the track squealing as the car nearly ran into a wall before quickly jerking in another direction. The ride was certainly wild for my six year old self. The attraction was replaced in 1999 by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a similar style attraction that replaced vintage cars with honeypots and a scary devil with Heffalumps and Woozles.
Verdict: Ehhhhhhhhh….
I have mixed feelings about this change. On one hand, I have a love for the original ride, and I have indeed seen the film this ride is based off of. However, I do know that I am one of the very few people born post 1990 that has seen it. As time passed, the lovely Mr. Toad has faded into Disney history. While the original I believed deserved to have a face lift, Mr. Toad doesn’t really resonate with the current generation while Winnie the Pooh certainly does.
Food Rocks
Every once in a while there is something absurd that you just love. Kind of like the obsession with jelly shoes in the 1990’s or cronuts now a days, sometimes something crazy worms its way into your heart. That is certainly the case with Food Rocks. The show was set up as a concert for good nutrition that was crashed by a junk food band. The show featured parodies of Queen, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, and even some artists parodying their own songs like Little Richard. Silly, catchy, and rather hilarious, Food Rocks was the star of The Land Pavilion…well, at least until Soarin showed up. The show had a ten year run from 1994 to 2004 and was briefly replaced by Kitchen Cabaret before being transformed into Soarin.
Verdict: Bad move.
Food Rocks was entertaining and had educational value. While I love the fact that Soarin found a home in Disney World, Food Rocks should have found a new place within the Land Pavilion.
We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at Oh, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

Designing A Theme Park With No Experience…Is It Possible?

By Keith Mahne

Today’s article is a little bizarre but its a dream of mine for a long time. Before I give you the low down, I ask you…can someone that has no idea how to run or design a theme park get together a group of professionals and design one for a city in need? Continue after the page break before you answer that question…

You see, Six Flags New Orleans, an abandoned theme park in New Orleans, Louisiana, that has been closed since just before Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005 and is currently owned by the city of New Orleans, is in dire need of a redevelopment plan. Six Flags had previously owned the park since March 2002, but after assessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the related exorbitant expenses of repairing the damage, sought to terminate their 75-year lease with the city, beginning in July 2006 and finally succeeding in September 2009. The park is located in Eastern New Orleans, in the Ninth Ward of the city, off Interstate 10. Despite various announced plans to redevelop the site, as of 2014, it is still an abandoned amusement park in extremely poor condition. Recently, on May 29, 2014 a plan was proposed to tear down the park and rebuild a new more modern amusement park in its place; whether the new park would be managed by Six Flags was not discussed. The site has become a well-known urban exploration destination.

To give you a little background, the park first opened under the name Jazzland in 2000, operated by Alfa Smartparks (later Odgen Entertainment and now known as Palace Entertainment but owned by a Spanish company called Parques Reunidos). Rides included the Mega Zeph, a wooden roller coaster track built on a steel frame to prevent termite infestation and withstand hurricane force winds. The Mega Zeph was inspired by the old Zephyr roller coaster at the closed Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park that was located next to Lake Pontchartrain by the University of New Orleans. The original intent was to rebuild the Zephyr but it was a smaller roller coaster so that idea was scrapped in favor of the current larger Mega Zeph. Other rides included a junior steel coaster called Rex’s Rail Runner, a wild mouse steel coaster, and a common steel shuttle looping Vekoma boomerang rollercoaster called a Zydeco Scream (there are well over a dozen of these identical coasters in parks nationwide). The park had a Log Flume and a Splashwater falls ride called Spillway Splashout. In addition, the park had common amusement park spinning rides and a Carousel Merry Go-Round. The park was not profitable, as Alpha Smart Parks specialized in running water parks and smaller amusement arcade centers. In 2001, the lease was put up for sale and in March 2002, Six Flags purchased the lease, though the park’s name did not change that year.

In early 2003, Six Flags upgraded the park and renamed it Six Flags New Orleans. The park added more shaded areas, as well as many new flat spinning rides, and re-branded the park to the Six Flags “it’s playtime!” theme that included a dancing old man, Mr. Six.

They added a used inverted looping B & M coaster that was named Batman: The Ride (though different in design from the rest of the B & M Batman coasters) and another multiple looping coaster called The Jester brought from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. A water park which would be included in the admission (like Six Flags Parks such as Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags America for example) was in the planning stages in early 2005 and going to be announced at the end of August. However, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, which put those plans along with the continued operations of the park in question. The last day the park operated was August 21, 2005. Weekday operations had ended a couple weeks before due to the fact schools start early in August in the New Orleans area and end in mid-May. The park was scheduled to open August 27 and August 28, as usual, but once Katrina was forecast late on Friday, August 26 to directly hit New Orleans, the weekend opening was canceled in order to prepare for the storm and begin evacuations.

The park grounds are located on a low-lying section of Eastern New Orleans, with a 6-foot earthen flood berm running along the perimeter, creating an artificial basin. As such, this area was badly flooded in August 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After the park’s drainage pumps failed during the storm, the berm retained the combination of rainwater and sea water overflow from Lake Pontchartrain caused by Katrina’s massive storm surge, submerging the entire park grounds in corrosive brackish floodwater to a depth of 4 to 7 feet for over a month. Due to the extensive water and wind damage received, the park was closed indefinitely with no plans to reopen.

Initial damage reports by Six Flags inspectors stated that the park buildings were 80% demolished, all of the flat rides (except for one which was being serviced off-site at the time of the storm) were effectively destroyed by long term salt-water immersion, and both the wooden track and steel superstructure of the Mega Zeph were likely damaged beyond repair. The only large ride to escape relatively unscathed was the Batman: The Ride roller-coaster, due to its elevated station platform and corrosion-resistant support structure.

In April 2008 Southern Star Amusement Inc. proposed to take over the site lease from the then-owner Six Flags, promising to expand the park to over 60 rides (more than double its pre-Katrina size), complete a water park that Six Flags had been planning, and add an RV park. Southern Star Amusement Inc. pledged to open the park as Legend City Adventure Park, with 60 rides in place, including a new water park by the summer of 2009 if the city approved the lease takeover, with the campground to follow. However, on September 27, 2008, Southern Star Amusement stated on their website that they would no longer be trying to revive Six Flags New Orleans. They did not comment on what situations influenced their decision, but it is speculated that the extensive recycling and removal of rides and current economic situation were key issues.

In 2011 the Paidia Company made a competing proposal to re-open the park as Jazzland, for the first time since 2002. There were scheduled plans for the park already made, including newly designed themes for the park, a water park, and a studio movie back-lot. The themes of the park included re-using some existing rides. “Sportsman’s Paradise” would include the existing Jester coaster, but would be moved to another area of the park and re-painted. Ozarka Splash and Mega Zeph would be restored. Zydeco Scream was salvageable, but would have to be removed to make room for other plans. The Muskrat Scrambler coaster sustained too much damage from Hurricane Katrina and would have been removed. These plans were progressing for some time until the next proposed plan, the Jazzland Outlet Mall, was put forth to the city of New Orleans.

In August 2011, the city of New Orleans called for proposals for redevelopment ideas for the site. Eight entrepreneurs stepped forward to suggest turning the property into everything from a power plant, a theme park, or even an outlet mall. As of November 29, 2011, the city of New Orleans had chosen two of the proposed projects: an outlet mall and a green theme park. On March 6, 2012, the city of New Orleans gave the green light to build Jazzland Outlet Mall to Provident Reality Advisors and DAG Development. The proposal was for a 400,000 square feet upscale outlet mall and entertainment boardwalk on the former theme park site, costing $40 million for part of Phase One and using some of the existing rides from the theme park. Construction would have taken between three and four years to build. During the planned period of due diligence and pre-construction, in March 2013 the development plans were abruptly called off. The developer cited competition from the planned expansion of the nearby Riverwalk Marketplace to include an outlet mall, making the Jazzland Outlet Mall concept unviable.

Now, the city is back to square one with only a few movies using the property for filming.  During the summer of 2013, portions of the park were being filmed for the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes until mid-August. The park will also be used to film portions of the movie Jurassic World with shooting scheduled for this month.

So knowing all this I ask you again…can someone without any knowledge of how to run or design a theme park bring a group of professionals together to do a pro bono job until possible funding is acquired? I know the city is dyeing for something to be developed on the land. I also know that if done properly it would be successful as New Orleans’ primary means of income is the tourism industry. New Orleans has been trying to present itself as a more family friendly destination and not just about Bourbon Street and partying. Bringing in a few big names in the industry would surely open the pocket books of the city and state as well as investors. Just like Walt and Herb Ryman did that weekend long ago, designing what Disneyland would be and look like for Roy to bring the bankers on Monday, my hope is it wouldn’t be that difficult to get a Tim Delaney figure in, design something extravagant and send a proposal to the city. I use Tim as an example as I believe his concept drawings are astounding like the one below.


One of my favorite Tim Delaney Concept Drawings

I would love to hear your feedback on this. Maybe you do know these answers or are even a professional who is willing to give it a shot. Either way, I believe we could do something amazing here and I hope fate is on our side. What a dream come true that would be!

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