theme parks

March 16, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

Enhanced Big Thunder Mountain ride adds thrills to Disneyland favorite

Guests ride the train cars on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain ride. (Disney)
PERSPECTIVE My youngest son’s first roller coaster was Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. He had just turned four, proudly towered an inch or so over the 40-inch minimum, and jumped on with a wide smile. He loved it – as much for the excitement of the ride itself as for the realization that he had now passed an initiation of sorts, from toddler-hood to full-blown boyhood. While he may have been among its younger passengers at the time, his joyful experience was hardly unique for the beloved Frontierland ride, which after a lengthy refurbishment officially reopens St. Patrick’s Day. A cheers (with green beer) indeed! Actually it will be green tea for my son who is now 12 and whose roller coaster palette has broadened quite a bit since he first boarded the Disney train. Much to the horror of Disney […]
Jan. 09, 2014 | 5:00 a.m.

Marvel Experience first look: Touring attraction to feature ride, games

Concept art for the touring attraction The Marvel Experience. (Hero Ventures / Marvel)
Marvel Entertainment has unveiled a first look at its upcoming touring theme park attraction, The Marvel Experience. The concept art (check it out above) reveals a maze of connected dome structures, designed to resemble a mobile command center for S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel Universe espionage and law enforcement agency, recently popular thanks to “The Avengers” and the TV series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” The touring dome complex, which will span two acres and reach more than six stories high, will offer superhero fans a 4D motion-based ride featuring an original adventure, exclusive 3D animated features, digitally projected animation, motion-comic book origin stories, holographic simulations and an array of interactive games. “Our guests will be interacting directly with multiple Marvel superheroes, as well as members of S.H.I.E.L.D., as they take their place in the Marvel Universe,” said Doug Schaer, COO of Hero Ventures, the live entertainment company […]
Nov. 28, 2013 | 11:01 a.m.

Disneyland’s holiday tweaks twinkle with seasonal magic

A woman sports Christmas-colored Mickey Mouse ears as she awaits "A Christmas Fantasy Parade" on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The scattered nature of Southern California’s expansive urban grid is never more noticeable than during the winter holidays. While lights festoon certain streets and artistically ambitious homeowners create over-the-top front-lawn tableaux, Los Angeles still lacks the central pedestrian thoroughfares that make Christmas so enchanting in cities like New York and Chicago, London and Paris. This means that, as with so many other things, we have to drive to Christmas. Or at least Anaheim. The new trend in open-plaza shopping may offer more local town-square seasonal activities — the Grove and the Americana have tree-lighting ceremonies and nightly “snow” fall, while Pershing Square and Nokia Plaza host skating rinks. But none of them beats the faux Main Street that started it all. At the resort the mouse built, Walt Disney’s nostalgic imagining of Americana has become more crazy festive with each […]
Nov. 06, 2013 | 11:32 a.m.

Thor invades Disneyland with new Treasures of Asgard exhibit

The God of Thunder himself, Thor, was on hand to greet us as we walked through a passageway to Asgard in a new exhibit at Disneyland. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)
In time for this weekend’s release of “Thor: The Dark World,” Marvel is bringing the magic of Asgard to Disneyland in a new exhibit fit for the gods. Thor: Treasures of Asgard is now open as part of the park’s Innoventions display. The exhibit features “artifacts” from Asgard, including the helmet of Loki, the swords of Heimdall and Lady Sif, the mask of a dark elf and even the book that contains the history of Yggdrisil, the world tree that unites the nine realms of Asgard. See photos of some of the artifacts in the gallery above. We assume that Thor needs his hammer Mjolnir, and other famous objects like the Casket of Ancient Winter may be too dangerous to be on display. As part of the experience, participants are told by Odin, ruler of Asgard, about the joint undertaking […]
June 15, 2012 | 8:06 p.m.

Disneyland’s new Matterhorn: Snow white sights, abominable sounds

The Matterhorn's snowmen make abominable noise. (Disneyland)
Steps away from the honking traffic jam of humanity crushing into the grand opening of Cars Land on Friday, Disneyland quietly welcomed back one of its icons – the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The Swiss-Alps themed ride was the park’s first roller coaster in 1959 and has been undergoing much-needed minor repairs and refurbishment during the last six months. The most notable alteration is completely cosmetic, and instantly recognizable – the mountain simply looks better, much brighter and sharper. Despite global warming, more snow has fallen over the venerable Matterhorn. It pops, and frankly, is a considerable improvement over its former battered and worn appearance. Extra snowflakes and frost won’t be the only change visible on the peak’s ridges. After a lengthy absence from the park, real mountain climbers return to the 147-foot mountain and will begin scaling the slopes that separate Tomorrowland and Fantasyland (just as the […]
June 06, 2012 | 11:41 a.m.

Review: Universal’s ‘Transformers’ ride sophisticated, satisfying

Transformers ride (featured image)
How’s the new ride at Universal? Los Angeles Times television editor Martin Miller is our guest reviewer.  There is only one measure of a marquee amusement park ride if you have children, and that is whether the parents hear “Can we go again?” before you hit the ride’s gift shop. Moments after stepping off Transformers: The Ride – 3D, which opened Memorial Day weekend at Universal Studios Hollywood, both of my sons – ages 12 and 10 – fired off the question. No hesitation, no cold feet, no concern for their safety (or their parents’) as I remember a couple summers ago from my older son after tangling with Knotts Berry Farm’s GhostRider. The Transformers reaction was immediate, utterly certain and completely enthusiastic. After declaring their interest in at least a repeat, if not three-peat, of the experience,  other family […]
June 06, 2012 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Transformers’ taking new shape with Universal ride and fourth film

tranformers-ride2a
This post has been corrected. See the note below for details. Film critics who put down Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies by calling them theme-park rides in disguise won’t change their mind after hopping on Transformers: The Ride — 3D at Universal Studios, but they might have a dramatically improved opinion of theme-park rides. The $100-million ride, which officially opened May 24, is being hailed as a game-changer by the reviewers and bloggers who cover such things (yes, there is quite a bit of room on the Internet), and even rivals at Disney Imagineering have, in private, acknowledged that the shiny new kid on the block is pretty impressive and possibly, well, transformative. Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, opening this month, has been the big theme park story this summer due to the scale of the project and […]
Feb. 02, 2012 | 6:42 p.m.

Transformers: The Ride 3D primed for Super Bowl spotlight

Optimus Prime in new ad for "Transformers: The Ride 3D" (Universal Studios)
If you tune in to the Super Bowl on Sunday you’ll see a parade of commercials for Hollywood’s upcoming heavy-hitter hopefuls (“The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “John Carter”)  but two even bigger box-office brand names — “Transformers” and “Star Wars” — will be selling something beyond the silver screen. “Star Wars” is back in a Volkswagen ad (after last year’s super-popular tiny-tot Darth Vader spot) while the massive space robots from Michael Bay’s film franchise will be bringing their unique version of heavy-metal combat to a pre-game, 30-second ad for Transformers: The Ride 3-D, which opens in May at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Here’s a snippet that, if you think about it, is a promotional teaser for a commercial about a ride  based on a movie created around a toy line. The ad will also introduce the website PrepareForBattle.com, where fans can check out tie-in videos or […]
Oct. 25, 2011 | 2:56 p.m.

Alice Cooper haunts Universal Studios and ‘Dark Shadows’

Alice Cooper Halloween Horror Nights (featured image)
Every Halloween is a career moment when your name is Alice Cooper. This particular October is especially notable for the veteran rock star — he’s back with a new album, an attraction at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights and a recently completed cameo in Tim Burton’s upcoming “Dark Shadows,” which features the singer as himself in all of his gory glory. “This is my season,” the 63-year-old singer said with a satisfied grin during a recent visit to Los Angeles. “Welcome to the nightmare, all over again.” “Welcome to My Nightmare” was the name of Cooper’s 1975 concept album that delved into the nightmares of a child named Steven. That vintage vinyl moment is echoing now at Universal Studios Hollywood, where this year’s elaborate Halloween attraction includes a “Welcome to My Nightmare” maze with music and imagery from that album and others by Cooper. Halloween Horror Nights runs through Monday […]
Sept. 21, 2011 | 6:39 a.m.

Cameron: Disney’s ‘Avatar’ land to look, feel, smell like Pandora

Avatar (featured image)
When James Cameron’s “Avatar” hit theaters in 2009, many moviegoers were so dazzled by the lush, 3-D world of the alien moon Pandora that they wanted to step right inside. Now the Walt Disney Co. is aiming to offer that kind of experience to its theme park patrons. Disney’s Imagineers are working with Cameron, his producing partner Jon Landau and studio 20th Century Fox to bring the fantasy world from “Avatar” to its theme parks, beginning with a multi-attraction themed land at the Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Fla. Though the attraction is still in its earliest development stages, Cameron has clear ideas about what he’d like any Pandoran land to include, which he shared in an interview on Tuesday. “I definitely want to do a flight attraction of some kind,” the director said, citing the “Soarin’ Over California” flying […]
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