Big Plans for a New Year
2019: The Large Park Preview

By Chad Emerson

With the amusement industry continuing to see strong attendance and revenue growth, it’s not a surprise to see many of the industry’s large parks and resorts debuting major new attractions in 2019.  From ground-breaking technology to signature new rides, large parks have big plans for the year.  In this issue, The Large Park Report will highlight several of the most anticipated additions.

That Far Away Galaxy Arrives in Orlando
Almost any conversation about new 2019 theme park experiences likely begins in Central Florida as the Walt Disney Resort introduces a new Star Wars-themed land at their Hollywood Studios park.  While Disney has dabbled in Star Wars before with its popular Star Tours simulators, their new “Galaxy’s Edge” addition is likely to rival any new industry addition since Universal brought Harry Potter’s world to life with their Wizarding World attractions.

The Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars land at Walt Disney Resort will have two major attractions. Artist concept only ©Disney/Lucas Film.

The new Star Wars land, which will also have a Disneyland version, is slated to include two major attractions as well as extensive interactivity and authentic set design.  This seems to be the new standard that Wizarding World really emphasized:  expanding the detailed theming beyond just the rides and their queues and into almost every aspect of a new “land.”  At least one former Disney official has shared that almost every sightline from every angle in the new land will be Star Wars-centric, so you won’t end up with visuals from other parts of the park that disrupt the immersiveness of the Star Wars experience.

The first signature ride will be based on guests piloting the Millennium Falcon on an interactive mission.  The ride is planned to be the most sophisticated simulator-type attraction in amusement industry history with claims that the advanced graphics alone require more computing power than ever built for a theme park experience.  The other signature attraction will allow guests to experience a battle between the First Order and the Resistance through trackless ride vehicles.  Disney officials have suggested that this will be one of the largest attractions Disney has ever built.

Not unlike Wizarding World or Disney’s Avatar-themed land at Animal Kingdom, Galaxy’s Edge will also introduce food and beverage innovations distinctive to the new land.  Perhaps most anticipated though are the equivalent of next-gen “streetmosphere” additions throughout the land where Disney may use new technologies to replicate light-sabers and hologram experiences.

Authentic set designs are part of Walt Disney Resort’s Star Wars land. Artist concept only ©Disney/Lucas Film.

Record-Breaking Coasters
Meanwhile, the Six Flags stable of parks is planning to break multiple thrill records in 2019.  Highlights include:

The world’s first racing launch coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  The ride will be the park’s 20th coaster which Six Flags is also claiming as a world record.

The world’s fastest launch coaster is at Six Flags Great America.  Reaching speeds near 80mph in less than two seconds, Six Flags is also claiming the coaster will introduce both the fastest inversion in the world and the highest double inversion in theme park history.

The world’s tallest and fastest spinning pendulum ride is at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.  The record thrills will be 17 stories tall with speeds approaching 80 mph.

Tigris at Busch Gardens is being unveiled . The ride is the tallest launch coaster in the state and features three launches. Photo credit: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

The world’s largest loop coaster is at Six Flags Over Texas.  The 100-foot-tall attraction will also include a face-to-face design which means some guests will experience the 360-degree loops while riding backwards.

More Thrills in Florida 
With so many of the industry’s largest parks and resorts located in the Sunshine State, each year some of the newest and most innovative attractions debut at Sea World, Busch Gardens and Universal Orlando.  For starters, Busch Gardens will unveil Tigris, the tallest launch coaster in the state that features three launches including a backwards launch with speeds reaching 60 mph and heights climbing to 150 feet.

Eastward up Interstate 4, Universal Orlando has announced that a new Harry Potter-themed coaster will replace the existing Dragon’s Challenge coaster in its Islands of Adventure park.  While many presume the ride to be an extension of the Hogsmeade section of that park, Universal has released few details as of press time.  The coaster is anticipated to open in 2019 and give Potter fans a thrilling new reason to visit the Wizarding World.

Meanwhile, in an interesting strategy, SeaWorld Orlando’s signature 2019 offering will have nothing to do with a marine-life theme.  Instead, the park is debuting what it is billing as an authentic version of Sesame Street where guests can experience one of the world’s most well-loved streets while enjoying new attractions.  Whatever the strategic reason for this pivot, SeaWorld’s decision to focus on the Sesame characters and the famous neighborhood where they live might simply be a one-year break from marine themes or could foretell a potential creative re-positioning of this Central Florida icon.

Finally, LEGOLAND Florida is making its largest capital investment since opening with the debut of LEGO Movie World.  The new park area will feature two new attractions and a massive new Lego-themed playground.  And, continuing the trend of including immersively-themed areas even outside the rides, LEGO Movie World promises to offer extensive character experiences and environments from the popular namesake movies.

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