Monday, January 02, 2012

But Do You Actually Visit the Theme Parks?

The local news channels love to cover any little happening at Disney and the other theme parks, even if it's as small as Mickey farting. If it's a slow news day, you'll get breathless promos and break-ins to shows: "Live coverage! A dozen children are under mental evaluation for trauma. Tune in at 10 for an indepth analysis of the length, smell, and decibel level." I guess with the Casey Anthony trial over, they have to grab their news where they can get it.

Unfortunately, this means blowing the tiniest incidents out of proportion and doing some very sloppy research. Last night, Universal had a breakdown on both Revenge of the Mummy, which is a combination dark ride and roller coaster, and the classic E.T. dark ride. Breakdowns are routine. Rides don't run on magic and pixie dust and sunbeams. They're mechanic behemoths that have glitches regularly. It's not at all uncommon for guests to have to be evacuated from those rides if it's more convenient to take them off than to force them to wait for a fix. The only thing odd about yesterday's incident is that two rides in the same park both broke down and needed evacs on the same day and within the same time frame. The malfunctions were so minor that both rides reopened shortly thereafter.

Being a slow news day, the TV stations went to town. You'd have thought that hundreds of people were in grave peril, danging by their fingertips and praying the fire department would rescue them in time before the sweat from their terror caused them to slip and plummet to their bloody deaths. My favorite was WESH 2 because it was painfully obvious that the reporter didn't know the first thing about Universal and was likely relying on a combination of rumor and Wikipedia for her report.

The first thing that made me bust a gut was when she claimed that the poor souls on the rides had waited multiple hours in line to get on them. Uh, on January 1? At Universal? Anybody with even an ounce of theme park savvy knows that January 2 is the start of the off season, and people are already bailing in droves on January 1st. Even at the busiest times, multi hour waits at Universal are rare because everyone's next door at Islands of Adventure clamoring to see Harry Potter.

But the thing that made me use Tivo to go back and make sure I heard it correctly was when she claimed that ironically, Revenge of the Mummy is located in the building that used to house E.T. Say what? Mummy took over Kongfrontation's old location, while E.T. has resided in its present spot in the kids' area since for ever. All I can figure is that she or her writer pulled up Wikipedia or some other online source, read that the Mummy replaced E.T., and missed the small but very relevant point that it happened at Universal in CALIFORNIA. Yes, dear, you're reporting the news in ORLANDO, and you just made yourself look like an idiot to anyone who knows even the most rudimentary facts about Universal.

When I became the Orlando Theme Parks Examiner for, I just assumed that I should have annual passes for all the Central Florida parks and, better yet, actually visit them so I'd know what I'm talking about. Apparently the TV news stations don't feel the same.

Speaking of theme park knowledge, I'm putting together some ebook theme park guides. My first guide is about Walt Disney World, but it's more of an insider's view than an actual "This ride is here, that show is here" tour of the park. I hit on things like common ticket scams and other Orlando con jobs, where to find coupons for location attractions, things to do for free, and the like. The next ebooks will be more in the traditional vein, and I promise that none will claim that the Mummy replaced E.T.

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