IAAPA 2014 Round Up

All photos by Theme Park Review

The floor at IAAPA 2014 recently closed as this year's offerings were nothing groundbreaking or massively innovative but instead a ton of cool new train designs for coasters and a bit more of a shift in focus away from coasters towards dark rides. Following this year's big announcement by Six Flags that they will be installing a number of dark rides based around the Justice League characters there was a hum around the Sally Corporation booth for the reveal of what the animatronics will look like, so I'll kick off with that stuff.

The star of IAAPA 2014 of what everyone was tweeting about is this Joker animatronic. As a self proclaimed non-fan of superhero stuff I can't say I'm massively excited for these rides but I am a lover of dark rides so I always love when I see big, industry leading chains investing in them. The animatronic is extremely detailed and will provide a much more immersive ride experience than the chain's current offering of Scooby-Doo shooters with their 2D cut-out theming. I do love that they've kept the cartoony/comic book colour palette, but sadly I feel the motion leaves a lot to be desired. Of course we can't expect everything to be up to Disney/Universal standard but considering the astoundingly fluid movements of the recent dwarf animatronics for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train coaster in New Fantasyland one can't help but feel that Sally have done nothing to step up the mark industry-wise. Ignoring the wider perspective, though, these rides are a massive leap forward for Six Flags in the dark ride sector. The ride vehicles are being provided by Oceaneering, of The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman fame, which will hopefully provide a thrilling ride alongside a solid narrative flow. I look forward to riding one of these in 2016!

Next up is kind of a weird one, B&M have decided to dive into the exciting world of family coasters! I can't help but feel that the combination of their distinctive chunky track with a family style layout could prove to be slightly oxymoronic. To me B&M coasters are beasts; the biggest and the baddest. The sound they make has been nicknamed the 'B&M roar' for god's sake, these are not playthings for children. I'd be interested to ride one and see how they compare to say Vekoma or Mack (who in my opinion make the best family coasters) but for now I'll remain sceptical.

What would IAAPA be without the reveal of a few new train designs? First up we have the steampunk inspired chariot intended for Twisted Colossus, the RMC reboot of the beloved duelling woodie Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain. RMC love a lavish train design and this one is no exception. The drastic clash of gold and purple is so tacky it's good and the rounded chariot style front allows the coaster to simultaneously retain its noble heritage and move forward stylistically. I love it.

The second big reveal are the trains for the other announcement by Six Flags of the 4D Free Fly Batman coasters. Built by S&S these coasters are a smaller, family version of the bigger 4D coasters such as X at Six Flags Magic Mountain. I like the sleek design of these and the restraints look like they will be comfortable but it's a bit upsetting to see that no artistic license has been taken to make these trains unique. The Batman brand is one that I feel would be easily transferable to themed rollercoaster trains and it is unfortunate that S&S and Six Flags have not grasped this opportunity, especially as elaborate train designs appear to be very much in vogue at the moment!

Another trend rearing its head in the visitor attractions sector is a revisit to the nostalgic, and Gravity Group have pounced upon this by presenting an old fashioned Switchback coaster with a modern twist - this coaster is a wooden shuttle! I know last year we saw a launched woodie featured that everybody got excited about but never came to fruition but I really hope we see a few of these popping up. They seem perfect for boardwalk/pier style parks or any park that has an area themed to old fashioned funfairs. 

Merlin exhibited a model of their investment in Orlando. The attraction consists of an eye, a Madame Tussauds and a Sea-Life Centre. In my opinion it won't stand out. Anyone who has been to International Drive will know that the whole road is littered with extravagant facades, big unusual buildings a loud colour schemes. Nothing about this model appears exciting to me. This may of course be down to the fact that I'm sick to death of Merlin but I can't help but find their brand a little bland compared to the big, loud American facades found in Orlando.

Finally, White Water West showcased an innovative move in the world of waterslides with this interactive flume. Guests ride in boats with buttons that react with coloured rings on the inside of the slides. You hit the buttons to rack up a score and a giant scoreboard reveals your points once you plummet into the pool at the end, awesome! This slide also features an app where you can keep track of your score, etc, so it really is a move into the 21st century. I can't help but feel the use of an app in something like a waterpark where one doesn't have their phone to hand is a little bit pointless, but nonetheless it's something totally different and exciting for the world of waterparks.

So that about rounds up anything worth mentioning from IAAPA 2014. Like I said, nothing mind-blowingly awesome was announced but all good steps in the right direction and some exciting new concepts that I would welcome into my home parks. I'm loving the fact that crazy and detailed train theming is now becoming more of a thing, I'd love to see someone give RMC a run for their money in that department! 

What did you guys think of the IAAPA 2014 floor? What were your most anticipated announcements and how did they hold up to your expectations? Comment below, I'd love to have a chat!