Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tale of two music theme parks

Two music themed parks were being discussed over the last couple years. One was the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This park actually opened in the spring of 2008, then was hit hard by the recession. It closed for that season a month early, as the company went into bankruptcy, and the park was sold off to another theme park company which reopened it as Freestyle Music Park

The rides were themed to various rock songs and bands. For example there was a Led Zeppelin roller coaster, which had input from the surviving members of Zep. There was a dark ride called "Nights in White Satin" themed to the Moody Blues song from my own youth. Six areas of the park were themed to various rock eras like "British Invasion" and "Born In The USA."

Another proposed theme park was to be made in Eloy, Arizona, between Phoenix and Tuscon, and it was to be called Decades Music Theme Park. As you can see from the link (if you find it interesting to look, that is), not much has been posted on this since 2008. I looked around and couldn't find any confirmation that it is either being built, or has been cancelled. The last thing I was able to find was a message board post that suggested that it wouldn't happen in Eloy, and if it happened at all, it would be closer to Phoenix, which is now the fourth or fifth biggest metropolitan area in the United States. The park was originally slated to open in 2012, but that looks to be unlikely as far as I can tell.

Music as a theme for the park is, in my opinion, sort of thin. It's like saying "Superheroes" are the theme then putting a Batman coaster, and a Superman Coaster, and maybe a Spiderman coaster around the park. Neither of these lends itself to an overriding story or environment. (Well, I could probably come up with something for the "superheroes" idea, but music is harder. I used the "superheroes" idea because that's sort of what Six Flags Great America does - just sticks coasters here and there with a "superhero' label on them, whether or not they fit any overriding theme.)

In my view, you can't just say "we're a Music theme park" and hope for the best. You have to get more specific. Maybe your guests are entering a futuristic record label, where you can "meet" various acts and experience something about their lives and their music via an attraction, be it a thrill ride, a dark ride, or a show. But it's hard to force the theme into the attraction when it is mismatched. Disney never really tried to force something just because it sounded good. They thought it through. I know some will disagree, saying that attractions like Test Track and The Seas With Nemo are forced into the overall theme of Epcot, and I'd have to agree except to say that Epcot's pull is strong enough and the attractions are good enough to overcome that limitation to a degree. They aren't the best, but they still entertain guests.

So when we think about our overall theme, we need to think about it either in terms of some strong overriding story (think of Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter) or in terms of a really interesting and fun environment (think the Old West, or the city of Tomorrow...). We're not looking to re-create the Magic Kingdom, but something original. But let's take the lessons from these apparently failed theme parks and from Disney's success when we determine what it is.

No comments: