Soarin’, at Epcot is one of mine and my wife’s favorite attractions. However, with wait times for this popular attraction frequently reaching 2+ hours, it’s one those attractions that is best enjoyed with a Fastpass.
Recently, a couple of ideas came to me about how the wait times might could be decreased and throughput maximized. These ideas focus around two different, but similar strategies the first utilized by a few roller coasters, the second borrowing an idea from Carousel of Progress.
Like many attractions, Soarin’ seems to struggle with loading/unloading of passengers in a consistent and timely manner. Some of this can be attributed to the usual issues related to guests and the many things they bring with them as well as seat belts and just getting everything set. On occasion, it might be operator or mechanical/ride-related, but this is usually rare. Regardless, this would seem to be an area for potential improvement. So, the question came to me, how would you optimize loading/unloading in a more efficient manner?
Both ideas involved creating more than one load/unload area for the carriages (seats), but how to do this. My first thought involved building a (huge) pivoting arm that would move the carriages from a load position/room to the projection room. There would be two load rooms, one to the left of the projection room, the other to the right, where guests would stage and load or unload. Carriage A on the left side would load while carriage B is positioned in front of the screen. When the film finishes, the carriage would move back to load position B and carriage A would move into the theater, when finished, it would reverse and then repeat.
The only problem with a strictly left-right movement compared to the up-down of the current mechanism would be the sensation of ascending to “fly” and then the descent on finale’. Another issue might be if the arms are connected and the carriages move together, how would an emergency evacuation work? If there were an emergency, both carriages would need to return to the load position quickly and independently. I still think this could be done with a set of pivot arms, but it might be best to go another route.
The need for independently movable carriages, led me to think maybe an overhead roller-coaster type track would be a better solution. There would still be two load rooms left and right of the screen, but they would be self-powered(?) and move into and out of the projection room on their own. The rail would ascend to the screen, appropriately timed with the start of the film, then descend upon finale’.
Alternatively, and in order to better accommodate the three rows, the lift rail could be vertical or at a steep angle in front of the screen and the rows would just be lifted and rotated into position, similar to the way 4th dimension roller coasters work, where there is a separate rail that controls the position of the seats.
Taking this just a step or two further, another option for what might actually be a smaller footprint than the existing designs in California and Florida, would be something similar to Carousel of Progress where the carriages would rotate from load/unload to the projection room, then lift into position. A quad system with 2 screens and 2 load/unload rooms that would rotate left-right or turn every time.
In general, either of these ideas would speed up throughput and ride capacity greatly since one carriage would always be in front of screen while the other was unloading and re-loading. But, the question comes to mind, how long is this really, and what is the time between? The film itself is reportedly 4 minutes, 17 seconds long, and the estimated unload/load time is between 3 & 5 minutes. This equates to each screen cycling every 9-1/2 minutes, or 6.3 times per hour. Having two load positions would shorten the time between the film showing significantly and, in theory, allow for slightly double the amount of riders per hour per screen.
Obviously, neither of these solutions could be applied at Epcot nor any other existing installation without some major reconstruction, but they could be utilized for future installations of the same or similar attraction.
Side-note: Right about the time I finished writing this up, I read a couple of allegedly confirmed rumors from two different sources that said Disney is planning to build a third theater for Epcot’s Soarin’ to help alleviate some of the long wait times.
An interesting bit of news that came out of Disney in the last week regarding two new “Ultimate” tours. The first, aimed at families with young kids, called “The Ultimate Day for Young Families – a VIP Tour Experience”. The second, designed to appeal to “thrill seekers” called, “The Ultimate Day of Thrills – a VIP Tour Experience”. Read more about it here:
The really interesting part of this for me is, these new tours offer an experience very similar to an idea I had in 2009, when rumors of something that was being developed, called “Disney’s Night Kingdom”. My idea was very similar in that it would give guests access to all 4 parks, but exclusive and after the normal hours. This new experience/tour they’re offering takes place during regular hours, and is limited to specific attractions at just 3 of the parks, oddly leaving Epcot out of the fun. I’m not suggesting that Disney stole my idea, but I do find it interesting that they’re offering something like this. Now, if I can just come up with the $299 they’re asking for this, I’ll be glad to give it a go.
Now, I don’t want to sound like That Guy who screams that he was ripped off by a big corporation, but after going back and reading my thoughts, maybe they did at least use some of my ideas, here’s a few excerpts…
Supposedly, Disney has been looking at new ways to generate more revenue, and reach the more affluent clientele who have a lot more disposable income and think nothing of dropping $10-50K for a lavish, and exclusive vacation. Obviously, the new Four Seasons and Waldorf Astoria hotels will help address some of this by giving these more affluent guests luxury accommodations. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, March 28th, written by Scott Powers, there may be another level of accommodations the affluent will be able to stay in if the plan to allow private homes on-property moves forward.
Rumours have been floating around that Disney wanted to create something on a similar caliber that would give guests with deeper pockets looking for an exclusive experience on Disney Property.
So then, the question comes up, with these more affluent guests coming to Walt Disney World, what then can Disney offer them that would meet their expectations and draw some of the cash out of their deeper pockets to give them the kind of experience they would expect and cherish?
So, how can Disney offer this kind of exclusive VIP experience to the affluent 1 percent visiting without upsetting the other 99 percent?
Why not offer something akin to an all access, to ALL PARKS hard ticket event? Let’s call it “The Ultra Keys to the Kingdom tour” or maybe, “Disney’s Night Kingdom”. Call it whatever, but make every park, or most every park open to only those guests willing to pay the extra bucks, allowing them to ride the most popular rides, and throwing in a few extras here and there like their own personal guide to take them wherever they wanted to go, and within limits, ride whatever they want, as many times as they want.
Coincidence? Probably, but click the link below to see my full concept from 2009, if you’re interested.
The 2013 attendance estimates were recently released by TEA/AECOM at: http://www.teaconnect.org/pdf/TEAAECOM2013.pdf
Below are the top 12 U.S. Parks:
|1||Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+6.0%||18,588,000|
|2||Disneyland, Anaheim, CA||+1.5%||16,202,000|
|3||EPCOT, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+1.5%||11,229,000|
|4||Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+2.0%||10,198,000|
|5||Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+2.0%||10,110,000|
|6||Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim, CA||+9.5%||8,514,000|
|7||Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL||+2.0%||8,141,000|
|8||Universal Studios Orlando, Orlando, FL||+14.0%||7,062,000|
|9||Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, CA||+4.0%||6,148,000|
|10||Seaworld Florida, Orlando, FL||-5.0%||5,090,000|
|11||Seaworld California, San Diego, CA||-3.0%||4,311,000|
|12||Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, FL||-6.0%||4,087,000|
Disney parks topped out the top 6 this year, with California Adventure edging Universal’s Islands of Adventures, followed by the other two Universal parks in Florida and California respectively. Overall, Universal and Disney both had a good year, with the most significant gains at parks where new attractions have opened in the last year. Meanwhile, it was a rough year for Seaworld and Busch parks, with attendance slipping for all of the bottom 3 in the list.
Taking a deeper look at the last 4 years since the downturn in 2009, Universal Orlando has averaged an attendance growth rate over 10%, while Disney parks in the same market and time frame have managed just 1.35% average growth. In this 4 year period, Disney has grown just over 2.6 million in attendance, while Universal has almost doubled that with over 5 million. Mind you, Universal isn’t even close to unseating the WDW parks in the top 5, but they are making some significant gains in attendance with the attractions they’ve added in the last few years, leaving no doubt that they are serious about those parks. And, they should be, the Orlando market has grown steadily over the last 4 years at an average of 2.5%.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.