EA Games partners with California's Great America with AFX Theater Overhaul

Some interesting news regarding the AFX theater and an explanation why Funhouse Express was not part of Haunt this year. First off, the AFX made its debut in 1994 with Paramount movie-themed attraction "Days of Thunder." Over the years, different shows had came and went, with the recent Happy Feet that made its debut in 2013.

We noticed Funhouse Express was not part of Haunt this year and that the AFX theater was closed. Now it makes sense and here's what's going on.

4D Holographic Experience Will Be Based on Popular EA Franchise

SANTA CLARA, CA – California’s Great America and Electronic Arts (EA), a global leader in interactive entertainment, are teaming up to create a first-of-its-kind guest experience at Great America. The dynamic new attraction will feature settings and characters from EA’s critically acclaimed Mass Effect™ videogame series developed by BioWare™ and will open next season in a newly renovated Action Theater. 

Riders will climb aboard motion-based seating and wear 3D glasses as they are taken on a thrilling adventure.  A live performer will curate the journey and appear to interact seamlessly with the next generation 3D visuals.  These elements will be integrated with motion seating, high tech sound and other 4D effects to create a truly compelling and immersive attraction.  Guests will travel through space to a distant planet, face off against bigger than life adversaries and ultimately help save the day. 

“Partnering with a world-wide gaming leader like EA will enable us to build an incredible user experience for our guests,” said California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “This combination of technology and creative videogame content is sure to usher in a new wave of entertainment innovation in amusement parks.”

“EA and BioWare are thrilled to partner with Great America and see one of our most iconic games turned into an exciting high-tech attraction,” said Patrick O’Brien, Vice President of Entertainment and Licensing, EA. “Having a partner who shares our commitment to thrilling our fans is extremely important to us and we look forward to building an attraction that will appeal to the Mass Effect fan-base and introduce it to many more.”


So while we don't know much more about this, AFX looks like it will be receiving an overhaul for the 2016 season bringing in modern tech as the existing equipment is very outdated. We aren't quite sure yet if this will be an interactive experience. Only time will tell.


California's Great America Haunt 2015 - First Impressions

Greetings! California's Great America kicked off their 8th Annual Halloween Haunt. This isn't a full on review, but just a look at some of the newness this season and our initial thoughts on opening night. Haunt brought us a brand new maze, Insanitarium (Also spelt as "Insanitorium" for some reason, both spellings mean the same thing).  Also new are 3 all new scare zones: Lockdown, Killer Clown Town, and Evacuate!.

Returning this year are the bonus Skeleton Key rooms, all being fresh experiences except Madame Marie's (which is just too classic and too cool to pull the plug on). We won't give any details yet on the Skeleton Key rooms, you'll have to experience it for yourself with the purchase of a Fright Lane pass.

We didn't catch the 3 returning shows but Nytewalkers, Academy of Villains, and our personal favorite, Blades of Horror are back! We'll be back again next weekend to check out what we missed last night.

Last but not least, the cool flame throwers are back again this year!

Now among the new stuff, we were actually a bit underwhelmed by a lot of things. One of the biggest things that disappointed us on opening night was the lack of monsters, both in mazes and in the scare zones. A good example was Toy Factory, where we walked the empty maze until the game room. We do want to give kudos though to the character in the Skeleton Key room in Toy Factory, they filled their role rather well! But another maze that did nothing was CornStalkers outside of the skeleton key room, and was perhaps the weakest maze of the Haunt. We even walked through 90% of Dia de los Muertos with just nothing but visuals/props.

Insanitarium, the new maze, was the highlight of the night though were a bit underwhelmed by the skeleton key. I guess it really depends on the person but the set up looked too good to have us desire something more to have happened. But the maze itsef felt like a worthy replacement of CarnEvil, as classic as that maze was.

As far as scare zones go, the most visually impressive one was Evacuate. It looked too good to only have just a tiny handful of characters terrorizing people.

Killer Clown Town was set up nicely but too long of a stretch for the few clowns running around. We also caught a glimpse of some street performers on stage right at the beginning/exit of Killer Clown Town, who were pulling off various moves with different skill toys (We saw a diabolo/Chinese yoyo on stage but didn't catch it in action) which creates a nice entry into the zone.

Lockdown, probably the least elaborate, was probably one of the best and most active scare zones as the characters there came out of nowhere and came sliding out in front of you.

Last thing to bring up is a mix of different things...Haunt was once known for it's unique area themed music (custom written for the park). Last night, the only remains of the custom music was the Toy Factory song and Dia de los Muertos. Also missing was Funhouse Express, one of our favorite movies to play in the aging Action FX theater.

This section of the park was rather dead with no show at all.

Haunt 2015 also introduced the highly debatable device among the Haunt fans: The "No Boo Lanyard." For $5, you can purchase this light up lanyard to keep monsters from messing with you. Other parks have done this including Six Flags. Fright Fest is technically not a separately ticketed event though so it makes sense, families with children may still be lingering in the park when Fright Fest begins. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom doesn't close and clear everyone out to reopen with a fresh crowd of people.

"No Boo" at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Haunt however is its own event. Great America closes down and reopens in "Haunt Mode." So basically...you're paying to get scared (Isn't that what Haunt's about?) but then you can pay to NOT get scared. Haunt isn't really an event that's meant for children, which is why the park has its festivities earlier in the day during normal operating hours for the young ones.

We will be back in the coming weeks to see if anything changes and to give things a second shot before giving our full on review but until then, opening night was a hit and a miss for us. Did you attend opening night? We'd love to hear your thoughts - highlights, lowlights, and general thoughts!


California's Great America Pre Haunt 2015 Update

We're just days away from California's Great America's 8th annual Halloween Haunt event and decided to take a visit to the park this past Sunday. It had been a long while since we visited the park on a Sunday (Excluding Coasting for Kids) and forgot how..."dead" the park really is. Sorry, that was a bad pun, I know :)

RIP former Haunt attractions

Crowds were sparse which meant that every ride was pretty much a walk-on. We were even able to take in some of our first rides of the season on Grizzly as the station was empty! We won't bring up dispatch times though, and we will not mention about why dispatch times are affected, no need to beat a dead horse. We will say that it was awesome to be able to walk right onto Gold Striker, often times being able to re-ride without leaving our seats!

A rare image of an empty Grizzly station, with no line behind at all!

An empty Flight Deck station. Sadly, the ride broke down as soon as we got seated.

Empty Gold Striker line, not going to argue this one!

Now, the juicy Haunt stuff. Let's head toward where The Gauntlet (RIP) used to be. New for 2015 is Lockdown. One of the first things you'll notice are large shipping containers stacked on each other in Orlean's Place. There's about 3 stacks and it looks like it could potentially provide some blind corners, setting up for the perfect jump scare! Lockdown will compliment the new Insanitorium maze (Replacing CarnEvil, again RIP). We are very excited to see the final production.

Lockdown, blind corners!

Our next venture was to check out the new Evacuate. This has to be one of the craziest-looking scare zones in the park. As you enter the County Fair section of the park you'll notice what looks like a traffic jam...strikingly similar to a weekday commute on 237 during rush hour. There are also cars lined up inside the arbor tunnel. We are curious to see how this all pulls off. Who would have thought that the park would have invested in a bunch of real vehicles for theming for a scare zone?

This looks like my commute home from work, especially on a Friday!

You know you're in a drought when....


Last of the new scare zones we made it through was Killer Clown Town. This scare zone takes place in the back loop of the original Planet Snoopy area. One can call this a possible spiritual successor to Gauntlet. We noticed that there were a lot of recycled props, giving a nod to the former Gauntlet, as well as several props from CarnEvil itself. I wonder if they'll play the CarnEvil song sans lyrics for atmosphere. Gone though is Jack. He was a Gauntlet favorite of ours, it was always fun watching guests come up only to have this massive Jack in the box pop up scaring them off.

Evil Clown Snoopy

Recognize any of these props?

Recognize these?

Recognize any of these?

Now, let's take a look at the rest of the park. A few noteworthy things: Toy Factory's sign is incomplete, currently reads "Factory." (Very similar to how Rip Roaring Rapids is just labeled as "Rapids"). Vortex is currently running a single train and running "ok." We've had smoother rides on it. Stand up coasters aren't particularly comfortable rides to begin with, especially with the corkscrews. Here's some random photos from around the park.

Haunt is hiring. If you're interested, be sure to drop them an email!

Vortex is down to a single train, just to forewarn you on those busy Haunt evenings.

Zombie High sign - I've always liked how they used the desks here.

Zombie High, soon to serve its students!

Pumpkins surround the Carousel Columbia reflection pool. Hopefully those flame throwers make a return!

Whelp, that's a wrap!


ACE and Thrills by the Bay makes a Splash at Waterworld California!

It's June, school's out, and the temperatures are starting to rise. You could always crank up the AC to stay cool. Or....you could visit Waterworld California in Concord, CA. WaterworldCA opened in 1995 with a decent collection of slides and attractions to start off. Throughout the years, the park has slowly expanded, but adding an even better overall experience to their park! Waterworld CA is situated right in the middle of a commercial/industrial zone and is set back behind some office complexes just off of Willow Pass Rd.

Thrills by the Bay joined ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts, Northern CA Region) for the 3rd annual Summer Splash event. Summer Splash was also a "Pre-Coaster Con" event, which happened to be taking place right here in the bay area this year. With this said, Waterworld went well above and beyond to provide a quality experience for us attendees. Our hats are off to Waterworld for pulling this off, and then some with added surprises!

Cliffhanger Speed Slides. Fun fact: These
two slides have the shortest waits in the park!

On the same tower are 4 serpentine body slides known as Hurricane. These
slides can pick up some good speed, especially the fully enclosed ones!

Attendees make their way toward the first part of the park tour.

We started off the day with a back stage tour of the park. This included going behind that wall situated at the back of the wave pool. We got to see how the waves are generated, as well as the filtration system that covers multiple attractions in the area. Word of warning: If you ever step back there (on an authorize tour, or if you work for the park) it is insanely noisy once the fans turn on.

Bill Werner and Al Garcia take us back toward the Wavepool. Just prior to the tour
there was a mini general Q&A session.

We make our way behind Breaker Beach wave pool's back wall

Filtration and chemistry system, and CO2 tanks are just part of what's back there.


Park staff explains the pool's filtration system

One of the attendees/friends representing our friends over at Great American Thrills :)

How does their wave pool generate the waves anyway? Well, there are a series of powerful fans that turn on, and valves that open/close pulsing the powerful blasts of air onto the water to generate a disturbance. Hearing the equipment running is almost rhythmic as you hear the pistons open and close the valves. The rhythmic pulses of air is what causes the waves to generate!

Behind these gates are what generates all of the noise when the wave pool
is running.

Powerful fans are responsible for generating the waves.

The group heads back out from behind the wave pool

The underside of some of our favorite slides: the Typhoon slide complex!

Next on our tour was being able to enter the Break Point Plunge construction site. If you're unaware, Break Point Plunge is a dueling Proslide Super Loop slide, utilizing the "Skybox" launch capsules. A Skybox launch capsule looks reminiscent of a shower stall (or if you want to be on the morbid side, looks like a coffin standing vertical).

Riders climb inside the capsule and the door is secured shut. Riders lean against a near vertical wall as their arms and legs are crossed. The countdown begins and the floor they stand on drops from right below their feet.

The trap door segment: the trap door is to the right and is in the open position

The outside/mechanical parts that open the
trap door

Skybox launch capsules provide a terrifying experience as you are nearly freefalling for a split second. At the same time, this technology actually provides a safer experience as riders can't dispatch themselves prematurely, accidently slip down the slide, or slide in an unsafe position. The slide is completely controlled by a control panel much like a regular amusement ride and the slide attendant won't dispatch riders until they are in a safe riding position.

We were so excited about the slides that wewanted to ride them as
they were in their disassembled state :)

A POV of the loop, dry of course :)

More attendees and Thrills by the Bay crew taking in their early rides in :)

Fiber glass sections were assembled to save time on costruction.

The concrete footers and foundation were poured last week and we can expect vertical construction to happen this week. Once vertical construction begins, slide assembly will happen fast! An interesting thing to note about the slide's layout: Both loops/helices are positioned to the left of the tower as opposed to the "Butterfly Configuration." This was to save space in the large vacant plot of land the park still has for expansion, for the purpose of future expansion. Very few parks in general still have undeveloped land that they can use and often have to resort to tearing out an older attraction for something newer. Others are forced to be creative and keep building things off of existing towers and empty into the park's lazy river.

Rebar for foundation work

Concrete footers were poured, going as far as 60 feet into the ground.
Note the descending columns off in the background toward the left.
This is where the duel loops will be.

Construction site

Overview of the slide segments assembled.

Can you tell we're excited to ride these when they open?

After the tour, we had a little bit of spare time before lunch so we took a dip in the lazy river. After doing a lap around, we headed over to the Luau Picnic Grove for our catered lunch. We were served your typical picnic food, but the food itself was really good! One can't go wrong with Nathan's Hot Dogs :)

This is what the backside of a waterfall looks like :)

And where there's waterfalls, there is always something hiding behind it :)

During this time, the park had a Q&A session where we learned several interesting things...Things such as that if it's too hot outside, the park will have light crowds. If it's cooler out, the park will have light crowds (naturally). There's a certain "magic tempurature" where the park will experience heavier crowds. We also learned about the unfortunate event of when one has an accident in the pools :)

Waterworld surprised us with complimentary
souvenir cups, good for all of the 2014 season

Q&A session

We were then surprised with our post closing ERT session not only being extended to an hour, but opened up 5 additional slides for us. The original offerings were Honolulu Halfpipe (Waterfun Sidewinder slide) and Tornado (Proslide Tornado). We also got to enjoy the rather intense family raft slide Big Kahuna and the Typhoon slide complex (a series of serpentine double innertube slides). We will have to say that the slides on the Typhoon tower are actually quite intense! Our favorite would have to have been the "Monsoon" slide where we felt some good forces, a pop of airtime, and overall out of control feeling all in total darkness!

Guests catch wall time on the Proslide Tornado

Thrills by the Bay crew taking on the lily pads, and very determined to stay on.

Little did he know he was about to slip right off the pad!

In line for an insanely fast ride on Big Kahuna

Fellow ACE members get ready to fly down BK!

BK utilizes a lift hill system to carry the heavy rafts to the top.

BK also provides great views of the rest of the park.

More attendees taking their ride on BK

Getting ready to slide down one of the Hurricane body slides

And, the event comes to a close - an hour after normal operating hours :)
 We would like to thank the staff at Waterworld including Al Garcia, Park Director of Sales and Marketing, for making this event happen, Bill Werner, Director of Maintenance and Construction for the wave pool tour, and the slide attendants who stayed after normal hours to run the slides for us! This is an event that we will never forget!

We put together a fun video showing some of the activities going on at the park!

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