Coming up, Big Moves in the Right Direction. We’ll talk about Disney’s pride collection, Pirates of Speelunker Cave, the Summer Celebration at Busch Gardens Tampa, and how attractions are using TikTok. All that and more on this episode of GT TP in 30.
Coming up, Big Moves in the Right Direction. We’ll talk about Disney’s pride collection, Pirates of Speelunker Cave, the Summer Celebration at Busch Gardens Tampa, and how attractions are using TikTok. All that and more on this episode of GT TP in 30.
Philip: From our studios in Los Angeles and Tampa, this is Green Tagged Theme Park in 30. I'm Philip and I'm joined by my co-host Scott Swenson.
Scott: Hello, hello, how you doing Philip?
Philip: I'm alive still, and look, I took out my Christmas decorations.
Scott: I was going to say, now you're decorated for Halloween, so you're right on schedule.
Philip: I'm ready and it's a rotten pumpkin, so it's very accurate for the time.
Scott: Apropos, yes.
Philip: Well, speaking about the time, I don't know what's accurate. So, Pride's coming up.
Scott: I was going to say, we have a month comping up, a whole month coming up.
Philip: Yes, an important month, and Disney has released their first look at some of the Pride collection. I'll read from the D23 article on this, which says:
QUOTE: As part of Disney’s longstanding history of supporting LGBTQIA+ organizations and charities around the world, including GLSEN in the United States, The Walt Disney Company has announced that they are donating all profits from the new Disney Pride Collection sales from now through June 30, 2022, to organizations that support LGBTQIA+ youth and families. This includes merchandise from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.
Philip: And here's the other key here.
QUOTE: Since 2018, Disney has been celebrating Pride with vibrant collections—and this year marks the debut of new branding for the Disney Pride Collection, dreamed up and designed by members and allies of the community, for members and allies of the community.
Philip: I will just say it's a very big difference. You can look at the pictures at the link in our show notes, but previously it used to just be really just rainbow stuff and you would just kind of take it that it was Pride if you knew what you were looking for. But it's one of those things where you could see it and it could just be a rainbow, but you know it was for Pride, that previously was the design. Now the design is very, it's very different, it's very distinct that all of these things are very much Pride. Also, it's a lot more like Disney supporting Pride in the design. I just think that given the timing of this, it is just interesting timing how they are donating all the proceeds, and they're making this new design reveal just following some of the stories that we had talked about previously with kind of the political nonsense the company is getting into. So what do you think, Scott?
Scott: Oh, I think this is great. I mean, keep in mind I'm old enough to remember when "Gay Days" at Disney was celebrated with people wearing red shirts. I remember back in the day when I would go and it was something that was not officially sanctioned by the parks, but they allowed it to happen and they would actually put signs warning guests out front that you may see same sex couples celebrating and enjoying Disney while you're here. I also remember at that time to get a rainbow mouse-ear pin was like finding gold. So, I think it's great that it has moved, and I credit Disney for moving from tolerance to support and acceptance, and this is clearly the next step. Yes, there was some political malarkey that went on that may be fueling this. But you know, I don't think they've ever been anti just based on who works at Disney, and I say that with love in my heart because I know most of them or many of them. I think that this is a great way to show that progression and the next steps. I also think that acceptance is something that is becoming more and more popular at a younger and younger age.
Just recently I had a friend of mine whose son came out at 13 and they just sent me a picture and a thank you note, because I talked to him about coming out and all that, of he and his boyfriend going to their first dance together. So, here's a 13-year-old going to his first dance with his boyfriend. So, it shows that there's nothing for Disney fans and Disney Key families to be worried about anymore, nothing to be concerned about. I think Disney is being very, I won't even say progressive, but with the times. They are recognizing that this is no longer a taboo and they are embracing it, and I love the fact that more than anything, they're putting their money where their mouth is. So yeah, I love it, yeah.
Philip: I do definitely think this is the right move. I think Disney did a good job in this instance. It kind of seems like they've made a complete about-face and it seems like this is a good job. It's a good thing for them to be really tying together the concept of Pride and also Disney, where it's not just like what you said, Scott, it's not just like a rainbow with Mickey like, it's definitively Disney supporting pride. Also, the donations, I think this is like a step in the right direction based on a little bit of tripping previously about this, but I do think this this this was done... Whoever executed this did a good job.
Scott: Agreed and even if it was because they didn't do the best job in the past, it shows they're learning, and they're willing to adapt. So again, you have to praise steps in the right direction, and this is clearly one of them, yeah.
Philip: Well, speaking of steps in the right direction, I'm not sure if this next story is the right direction or not. I think we'll talk about it. Tokyo Disney has launched Disney Premier Access and essentially that's kind of what we have over here with Lightning Lane, but it's just at Tokyo. The new digital service will be available for a fee that's about $15 US Dollars and will allow guests to select their preferred time and make reservations to experience certain attractions. Initially, it will be Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland, and it'll be Soaring in at Tokyo DisneySea.
Scott: Again, it seems right in line with what Disney has been doing. It's another velvet rope, and I think they just have to introduce it to a new culture. Now, culturally speaking, Philip, do you think this is going to be a challenge?
Philip: I actually don't because I feel like, and maybe I just don't know enough because I'm not as enmeshed in the Tokyo Disney fan culture as I am here, it seems like here there's still some kind of hold ups by some people that feel really invested in the parks, the fans really do, and they kind of feel like they, I don't want to say privilege but I do feel like there's a little bit where people have expectations of what their Disney experience is in the US. I'm sure it's like that, but I'm sure it's not to a degree because these parks are newer, they're not, you know, actually owned by Disney. So, it's a little bit different there. I also think it's a little bit more common in these areas. I remember paying for velvet ropes for almost everything when I went to do my tours previously, way before we had Lightning Lane. So, overall, I'm not sure, I don't think it'll be as crazy, but I do think it's a continuation of the trend where Disney will definitely roll it out at all of their properties kind of culture by culture.
Scott: Yeah, I just wondered how it would play there because I would imagine the same thing, but I know very little about the culture in either of these parks. It makes sense, it seems in line with what Disney is doing, and it seems like they're having success with it. So, more power to them.
Philip: I will say, maybe this is anecdotal, but just to kind of paint the experience. The last time I was there, and I went there specifically to see Halloween, I waited 4 hours for the parade, and they started lining up people for hours ahead of time and they had everything divided into little squares, and they actually even sell little mats that you can sit on and they're the size of the square you're assigned. So, you're assigned squares, they start seeding people 4 hours ahead of time, so I got there for hours at a time, and I got my little square. Everybody had like umbrellas and camping gear basically, and like nobody was complaining. So, we were going to wait in the sun for four hours for a show and nobody was complaining, they were all like, "yeah, this is what you do." So, just based on that I'm like, I don't really think anybody is going to say, "oh, this is like a little bit extra to get, you know, to get a reserved time for this." You know, like if I could have paid $15 to not have to wait four hours for the parade, I definitely would have done that.
Scott: Oh yeah, I mean four hours’ time is well worth 15 bucks. I just read an article not too long ago about the Disney Dessert Buffet at The California Adventure, and The World of Color, and they said that's the best way to actually get your best viewing. The desserts are meh, but it's all about getting seating and the best viewing of the end of night show.
Philip: Let's get off of Disney for a little bit, we'll definitely come back to it.
Scott: We can say nice things about Disney, that's... Rock on.
Philip: I know. So, moving on to a different chain here, Pirates of Spelunker Cave has opened at Six Flags over Texas. On May 14th, the new attraction, Pirates of Spelunker Cave opened, and it puts guests in the middle of a pirate-themed treasure hunt, foiled by original characters called Spelunkers. The state-of-the-art boat ride replaces the Yosemite Sam and Gold River Adventure, and it is a re-imagination of one of the park's first attractions The Cave that opened in 1964 and operated until 1991. My thoughts on this is, I'm so looking at the pictures, I’m so excited for this. This reminds me of the ride that we have here up at Magic Mountain. I just think it's good, I'm happy that we have the introduction of dark rides and theming and story-driven experiences into Six Flags. Maybe that's just me, maybe I'm too much into Disney, so I'm like, "where are my themed elements?!" But I would argue that the overall trend is going towards themed experiences, and I think that if a part does not have them, they're really leaving alot on the table.
Scott: I agree with you 100%, and I think this is actually Six Flags return to themed experiences. Over the years, and through the owners, they have changed their focus significantly and now it sounds like they're getting back. They're kind of recognizing that it's not just about the teens, it's not just about the coaster riders, it's about families. I think they're recognizing, again, that money can be made when you offer attractions within your parks that are family based, that families can do together so you don't have to divide and conquer, everybody can do it at the same time. So, I think this is, I agree with you, I think this is very exciting. Is not new to Six Flags parks, they used to do it a lot more. Even this article says it's a reimagining of The Cave which opened in '64. So, the idea of taking it and making it a theme park, more of a theme park mentality versus an amusement park mentality, I think is great. The other thing I find exciting about this particular story is they're creating original IP. They're creating original characters again, and not just apeing what is on television. So, I give them a great deal of credit for that.
I know there are some other parks that are not Disney and Universal that are also creating some original content. Kings Dominion has a new area, there's a whole bunch of new stuff that is original content, themed. Is it the level of theming that they do at Disney? No, it's not, but it is an attempt and it is a way to incorporate things other than just thrill rides into their overall park offering, and I think that's really important. All the stuff that I've seen with new areas like this, from the folks online, is they actually quite like the fact that, "oh look, the trash can is themed." It's not themed to the NTH degree, but it has a different wrap and looks different than the other trash cans in the park. So, they are embracing that sense of difference. Also, by doing this kind of theming, it creates the illusion that there is more product because the product is more diverse. So, I think that's a really smart approach as well.
Philip: OK, well, Speaking of someone who is maybe taking assets and creating new things out of them, our next story is that Busch Gardens Tampa has a new event called Summer Celebration.
QUOTE: "Summer Celebration makes its debut at Busch Gardens Tampa from May 27-August 7, 2022, with a fireworks spectacular, extended hours, live entertainment, and the return of free beer samples. Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the park’s new Summer Celebration, with entertainment that includes the return of “Cirque Electric” acrobatic and stunt show; the new “Gwazi Beats” music and dance show featuring drumming, dancers, and stilt-walkers; and the return of “Turn It Up!” ice skating show at the Moroccan Palace Theater."
Scott: Yeah, and this is great. Again, I'm biased, going to be totally transparent, I worked there and was very much involved with Summer Nights when it first started, which is the predecessor to Summer Celebration. I was also just recently there listening to the park president talk about this event and what it will entail. The coolest thing I think is, they've taken a lot of mini-events that we've done in the past, plus added a few more mini-events that they've done since I left seven years ago, and they are making this massive umbrella so that guests can come back throughout the Summer and experience something different, something new, without having to completely rebrand everything. So, Summer Celebration is, the way I look at it is, it's sort of like a seasonal park within a year-round park format. It gives them the opportunity to say, "summer is the time to come out to Busch Gardens and have a great time." This will include, for example, some of their concerts they'll do Spanish language concerts which target the Hispanic community in and around Tampa. They will have country artists, they'll have contemporary Christian artists, so the music is all over the place, it's kind of like what the old mini-festivals used to be. They're bringing back some shows, which is great, I think. Turn It Up was a very popular ice show, and during COVID had to go away. The fact they're bringing it back and using summer as a launch pad for this, I think that's great. I haven't seen the new shows, so I'm going to assume that there's some excitement.
I'm just thrilled to see that A, they're taking a big umbrella to make a bunch of little things a big thing. I think that's really, really cool. And B, that the focus is shifting back to live entertainment at Busch Gardens, because Busch Gardens was going very much the way, sorry, we just talked about Six Flags, but very much the way that Six Flags had gone for the last few years, and that was shying away from live entertainment, putting more and more focus on the thrill rides. Now I think we're seeing that pendulum swing back a little bit, and we're getting more and more live entertainment. Obviously, coming from a live entertainment background, I'm biased, I state my bias fully, but I'm very excited to see that the entertainment department is still very viable, very valid, and they're going to continue to expand the product mix. It's clear that the park is embracing it because they're putting money behind it, they're putting money and interest behind it. So, yeah, I'm excited. I think it's the right move.
Philip: Yep, I really agree with all of that. I also want to highlight that I do think this is going to become a trend where you take something that's a little bit nebulous, like winter and Christmastime, summer, and spring and you wrap this umbrella over it that's like Summer Nights, Spring Days, Winter Fest, you know? Then you use that umbrella as a way to bring in different types of entertainment. I'm not sure that I love it, because I do like storylines. So, I do kind of like the idea of when you have Howl-O-Scream, and you have the sirens taking over and it's a themed story-driven piece. So, just my personal preference, but in terms of the trend, I think this is the trend, and I don't think the trend is bad, I think the trend is good. I think it brings back live entertainment and at least it is tangentially related, so I'm a little bit OK there's not like a main character that's leading it.
Scott: So I will tell you, I think Halloween is going to be the one that holds onto specifically being Halloween-themed. I think it's because the guests have been trained to expect that, and that's what they gravitate towards. They want that kind of storyline, they want that villain, they want that character to hate or to be turned on by, because quite often the Halloween characters are quite sexy. You mentioned the sirens from SeaWorld.
The other thing that I think is interesting is I have a couple of different clients that, the reason they went more winter than Christmas is so that they can actually extend into January because that's now become a shoulder season. So, they want to make sure that they can start and have something around the Christmas holidays, but they can actually extend past that into January so that they can get over the doldrums, they can get over the hump. One example, I didn't work on it but they are one of my clients, Space Center Houston does an event called Galaxy Lights. Because it's not Christmas, because it is lights and all of them are space-themed, it very naturally ties over into the beginning of January. So, when everybody kind of going, "well, the holidays are over, now what?" They can still keep the light shining bright. I think that's why the Franklin Institute did that as well with their Franklin Frost event, they specifically did nothing Christmas, and everything was trained winter.
Philip: Yep, I do agree. Speaking about this umbrella, right, if it is an umbrella, you can swap in and out the Christmas activities, you know? If it's a Winterfest thing, and we saw that here with some of the Los Angeles things where there was Santa was available, but up until Christmas Eve, right? So, it kind of makes sense where, even though it's an umbrella event that was open through January, then instead of the Santa character then you had the winter polar bear stuff. You can switch people out, which allows you to say, create that layer of FOMO. Say, Santa is only going to be here for this month, so if you do want to see Santa, you have to come now. But then, oh now if you're coming in January then you can come for the polar bears
Scott: I think this kind of event, this sort of, we'll call it mini-events under a big umbrella, I think that has only become possible in the last couple of years, and that's due primarily to the way that theme parks now market. So much of their marketing is now done via social media, which is immediate and short and quick, and you always have to have something new to talk about. They're spending less and less time, effort, and money on these gigantic marketing campaigns for, here's a Latin music festival, here is an extreme sports festival. Because, again, the way that that marketing has changed, the way that audiences have changed in the way that they listen, either via TikTok or Instagram or whatever, they always want something new, they need new content all the time. So, instead of saying, let's invest a huge amount in all of this stuff, the nice thing about Busch Gardens is they already have all of these brands, they already have all of these logos, they can just pop them up on social media when that particular element is taking place under their big Summer Celebration.
The other thing that they wanted to do with this is they wanted to make sure that it wasn't just people coming out at night, because Summer Nights was a misnomer, and this is a celebration of the entire season by using all of these little parts and pieces to make it happen.
Philip: Well, that's a perfect segue into our next two stories, which I'm going to combine together and kind of summarize. But basically, each story has to do with the marketing that parks are doing specifically on social media, and even more specifically on TikTok. One is from Disney Fanatic, and it's called Disney adults are on the rise as Disney World becomes a top destination for Gen Z, and the other one is from BlooLoop and it's Gen Z and TikTok a game changer for visitor attractions. So, both of these are opinion pieces, and we're going to kind of combine them together to talk about them.
I will read excerpts from the first one to kind of set the backdrop.
QUOTE: "Forbes recently shared a list of the top travel destinations by views in the app, and Walt Disney World came out on top as the number one most viewed destination on TikTok. With over 8.6 billion views on the app, it is no surprise that the Walt Disney World Resort has seen crowds that seem to surpass even pre-pandemic numbers.
What’s more, the majority of those 8.6+ billion TikTok views have come from Gen Z, with an estimated 60% of TikTok users falling between the ages of 16 and 24. Millennials are the next most common generation spotted on the app, with 26% of users ranging between the ages of 24 and 44, and young millennials specifically combined with Gen Z make up 80% of the total users on the app (when considering those between the ages of 16 and 34)."
Philip: So, then each article kind of goes on to give examples of how the different theme parks, not just Disney, but people and museums, etc. have used TikTok. We talked about this as well, we've brought up stories of Tik T.O.K campaigns previously. So, I will say, we just started a Tik T.O.K accounts for the Haunted Attraction Network like maybe over a week ago. At this point it was right before our previous recording, so a little bit more than a week ago, and I will say the overall trend that, I have heard this from someone else and I do agree with it. I think the overall trend is that we used to have cable TV and everything was consolidated and bundled, and then we have streaming and streaming kind of leeched the value from cable TV because it was more convenient for the user and it was a wider amount of content. Then we saw everyone trying to jump on the bandwagon of streaming, so that's when we started to see a bunch of media companies put a massive amount of investment into creating original content, and that kind of really capped out, I think last year with Netflix I think was 17 billion, and then you had Apple and Amazon, and all these people putting money into original content for their platforms. Now I think we're seeing, with the rise of Tik T.O.K, I think we're going to see value kind of leave streaming as well, because Tik T.O.K is just as addictive as Netflix, but they don't have to spend any money on content creation, and I think that's to Scott's point. Users are putting in this content, and it turns out that individuals can be pretty creative, and it also turns out that other people just like watching regular people, just in a not overly produced way for a minute or more.
Scott: Oh yeah, so I will admit that I had a Tik T.O.K account before, I didn't use it enough, so they basically eliminated my account. But I have a brand new one and I have very little content on it, but I'm going to continue to build more and more. By the way, I did get somebody contact me through Tik T.O.K that has started following me and then specifically sent me a note saying, "I'm not a creepy stalker, I'm a huge fan of your work on Green Tagged and a Scott in the Dark. So, I just want to let you know. Thank you and I'm following you now." The cool thing about Tik T.O.K, and I will admit, I do not fall into this category generationally, but I will say... in fact, my bio statement is, "too old for this, but I'm still here." The idea is, I'm going to continue to try and make a strong effort to keep producing new content, because by following and being followed people can comment, people can respond, and people can make content that is either parallel or different to mine. I think it's that interactive quality that makes it so addictive, is the fact that you know not only can you flip through, you don't have to have an attention span, you can flip through and see everything from someone carving bamboo in an Asian country to the newest thing going on at Walt Disney World, to a cute dog that just fell off a couch, you know? All of this just happens right after one after another, you can comment on it, you can interact with it, and you know, as Philip says, it doesn't cost a ton. If you can inspire other people to create content for you, it's to the point now where that's where people really start to believe the content, they start to believe the information, because it's not coming from the company, it's coming from the people who are experiencing the product.
If you're looking for my TikTok it's HauntDaddy13, so find me, I'll be there.
Philip: Of course, we have seen the kind of the rise of influencers. We've been talking about influencers for a while, quite a while, I feel like it's been forever we've been talking about the whole concept of unbundling and influencers with the rise of the Internet and social media, blah blah. I just think that now it's becoming a little bit more, as you see the... I want to say like th e social media apps become a little bit more advanced because you know the algorithm for Tik T.O.K is definitely more advanced and it's more captivating, I think, than even Facebook was back in the day. Then just looking at the usage numbers is just crazy for some of these apps. I also definitely think that with this particular medium that theme parks are in, that video makes a lot of sense because it's something that you know you need to see. I think that's a big piece of it, pulling back that curtain. We were just talking about this earlier, you know you can read in a press release, like we read you the press release for Summer Nights, right? Or we could have just showed you on the Tik T.O.K we could have showed you a clip of the Cirque, we could have showed you a clip of the ice-skating thing, and that is, I think, the power that attractions have for this kind of stuff. You can get so much more across when you go back into live entertainment, and I think that all works together to make it a good intersection.
Scott: And what's really cool is if you follow somebody on Tik T.O.K, we're going to assume that you kind of know a little bit about their point of view, because you've seen what else they've posted, and if it's complementary to your point of view, you know that they're going to show you what you'd want to see if you went to this attraction anyway.
Philip: Yeah, yeah.
Scott: So, it is sort of unintentionally curated if that makes any sense at all. Granted, the algorithm helps significantly as far as the curation goes, but if you're following somebody and you know, "well gosh, I always like what they show." Then you can trust that they're going to show you what you would like to see if you go to Disney, Universal, Six Flags, the Flower Show, the fair, out to dinner, because anything is fair game on Tik T.O.K. I find myself getting trapped in it, now, and what I've also discovered, and I've seen other people doing this, I will get stuck in multiple forms of media simultaneously. So, like I may have television playing in the background, the moment it goes to a commercial I go to my Tik T.O.K account, I slide through my Tik T.O.K account, and then a notification comes up from my Instagram account, then I go there, then the commercials are over, so I go back to television. So, it's one of those, let's just keep those media lines flowing and you've got to make sure that there's interesting content that is posted regularly. That's the important thing.
Philip: Yeah, I think we could definitely do a whole show on like what theme parks could do to maximize this kind of thing because just thinking about that, like I as a content creator, and we're primarily a podcast, I know it may sound simple, like we've made TikTok, oh, congratulations guys, you successfully did what billions of people have done. It's more than that because we're thinking about adding video elements to a production process and thinking about how you're going to go add that too. It's a lot of extra money and time from a budget standpoint as a content creator, but I do think that even the test stuff that we have done has been going very well, just in the testing. But yeah, this definitely could be a whole topic about just how you could encourage this type of thing at your attraction.
Scott: Well, there's low-hanging fruit, and I think the most obvious is, always make sure that there's a place. If people are going to do video, if they're going to create video content or Tik T.O.K content, make sure there is some sort of placement that tells people who are watching it where they are. It doesn't have to be a logo, but something that is iconic to you, and make sure that it's something that can only happen in your attraction or at your theme park.
That's my tidbit of information because now we are out of time. You know we call ourselves Theme Park in 30 and we've gone over just a smidge, but that's ok. On behalf of Philip Hernandez, I'm Scott Swenson, this is Green Tagged Theme Park in 30. Thank you so much for watching or listening and we will see you, or be talking at you, next week.
For over 30 years, Scott Swenson has been a storyteller, bringing stories to life as a writer, director, producer and performer. His work in theme park, consumer events, live theatre and television has given him a broad spectrum of experiences. In 2014, after 21 years with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Scott formed Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC. Since then he has been providing impactful experiences for clients around the world. Whether he is installing shows on cruise ships or creating seasonal festivals for theme parks, writing educational presentations for zoos and museums or directing successful fund raisers, Scott is always finding new ways to tell stories that engage and entertain.