by John M. Urban
Building off the success of Universal Studio’s Harry Potter theme park, Disney and The Mystery Writer’s of America (MWA) have announced the creation of a new Orlando theme park attraction based on the works of leading popular mystery writers.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened at Universal in June of 2010, has been an enormous success. Universal expanded the Harry Potter theme park in late 2011 and again in 2014, adding Dragon Challenge, a pair of inverted roller coasters, a new family roller coaster, and a 3D dark ride/simulator based on Gringotts Bank. Well over $200 million has gone into the 20 acre site and it has become one of the prime revenue generators in the lucrative Orlando.
Disney’s partnership with MWA is seen as a needed response to what is a highly competitive business.
MWA Land of Mystery will be built in two phases, the first will involve re-purposing some existing rides, the second brand-new phase set for completion in late 2016.The MWA theme park is located in the north east corner of Epcot and when launched next month it will feature rides and attractions capturing the worlds of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, Elmore Leonard’s Jackie Brown, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and Robert Parker’s Spencer, all as part of Phase-One construction.
The Agatha Chrtisie ride is a remarkable reenactment that takes you on a captivating experience aboard The Orient Express with Inspector Hercule Poirot.
Robert Parker readers likely know that the author was a huge fan of roller coasters, and he certainly would have enjoyed the one bearing his name as it climbs a peak modeled after Bunker Hill, dives down into a double twist that resembles Boston’s Sumner Tunnel and passes other sites, familiar to readers, with 3D images of Spencer, Susan and Hawk.
(The Spencer Coaster)
The Disney Imagineers were able to create outdoor environments for almost all of the exhibits. For example, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is featured with a zip-wire that takes you over a re-creation of New Jersey with depictions from the Meadowlands to Trenton that incorporate live action scenes below featuring the characters of Plum, Morelli, Ranger, Grandma Mazur, and, of course, an exploding car.
(Disney’s Janet Evanovich Zip-wire takes you above the world of Stephanie Plum)
Disney believes that its biggest attraction will be the Stephen King Cyclone Coaster, a modern, exceptionally fast roller coaster that is modelled to look like a remnant from an old Maine theme park featured in one of King’s first books. According to Disney’s spokesperson, Wendy Pan, “We’ve had some people refuse to get on the ride because they fear that it’s run-down, but looks can be deceiving, and once people ride on the Cyclone they come back again and again.”
Fans of Michael Connelly will be pleased to know that Disney is blending both the Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller series. When asked about the ride, Connelly told the LA Times, “I’ve taken the ride many times myself and I couldn’t be happier with the level of verisimilitude established by Disney.”
(A 12-minute ride through the scenes of Micheal Connelly’s books via a simulation of Mickey Haller’s Lincoln Towncar)
(Patrons waiting in line at the Disney/MWA Lincoln Lawyer Ride)
Some readers will be disappointed that their favorite authors aren’t included. For example, Chandler, Hammett, and Poe were, in the eyes of Disney, too dated. In addition, Ian Fleming’s James Bond won’t be there either, as the intellectual property rights were previously committed. But that’s not to say that more writers won’t be added as plans for the park expand.
According to the Orlando Sentinal, one such author is Dennis Lehane who confirmed that his agent is in discussions with Disney. The Sentinal reports Lehane as saying, “We looked at Mystic River, but the execs at Disney shied away from the content. The same for Shutter Island. But we figured out a way to make it work.” Lehane, who has long credited the Hardy Boys as an early influence, is said to be releasing a young-adult series in 2016 coinciding with a new Disney attraction by the same name.
A James Patterson ride is currently being designed and Disney watchers expect that this will be a marketing centerpiece. James Patterson himself was brought in to work with designers on every detail. Patterson, who resides in Florida, spent a full morning with Disney architects and several Patterson co-writers have moved to Orlando to finalize the particulars.
News reports indicate that several planned rides were replaced due to Disney’s extensive consumer research. Two examples of this turn-about resulted when Disney’s marketing department excluded Robert Crais and Carl Hiaasen after focus groups revealed that customers struggled repeatedly when attempting to pronounce the authors’ names. Crais wasn’t available for comment, nor was Hiaasen, who is reportedly working on a re-release of his book Native Tongue.
According to Disney’s EVP for New Project Development, Jim N. E. Cricket, they were even able to work in a dynamic ride for new independent writers. A double cyclone coaster was created in partnership with Amazon in which riders sit on a flat car shaped like a Kindle Reader. A back rest comes up for support, belting you in, and in seconds you are shot out at 60 miles per hour, passing real-time cover images from the Amazon Best Seller list.
In addition, we are pleased to announce that under a special agreement between the Mystery Writers of America and Disney, for a limited time only, Disney is opening its entire park to any reader of Write On The Water who brings a printed out version of this April 1st blog posting.
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