Last week the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) held its annual expo in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center, drawing thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and special guests to show off the latest innovations in themed entertainment. Amidst hundreds of booths sat impressive exhibits and new products, big and small, that could soon show up in a theme park. From plush prizes and tasty treats to high-def video games and elaborate animatronics, the 2012 IAAPA Expo produced plenty of interesting sights.
Let’s take a photo tour around some of the more eye-catching items on display throughout the show’s 4-day run, offering a sneak peek and the future of amusement parks and attractions…
Sculptures and Themed Environments The star booth at this year’s event was from Daniels Wood Land, a company specializing in elaborately themed sculptures and environments. Artist Javier Soto took me on a quick tour around their impressive displays, which featured many Disney-inspired touches. Daniels Wood Land creates impressive tree houses that rival themed areas seen in theme parks. Their Jungle Cruise-inspired skipper girl was a big hit. The jungle theme continued with a carved 3D version of Disney’s famous Jungle Cruise poster. The interior of the tree house seemed to draw inspiration from the Jungle Cruise, Swiss Family Robinson, and other adventures. Daniels Wood Land also displayed an impressive array of shooting galleries, like this one with a pirate theme. Yarrr. (That bird and shrunken head sure look familiar…) From adventure to the frontier, this wild west bear sure looked like he stepped right out of a jamboree. This shooting gallery featured a rusty ol’ car with a unique personality that would fit in a sleepy town off Route 66. Elsewhere on the show floor, Advanced Animations featured an impressive dragon animatronic figure… …that deserves a closer look. Another show-stopper was the haunted house setup from Pale Night Productions, featuring many of their killer creations. Inside, a 3-room haunted house was filled with creepy props and animated displays. A bit of fog and low lighting were only needed to make this one of the best sights at IAAPA. No live actors were necessary to scare many an attendee. More haunted attraction products were on display nearby from other companies as well, bringing a bit of Halloween to November. The Scare Factory always displays an unusual assortment of over-the-top animatronic scares, this year featuring an ominous dragon. A lunging wolf scared this picture-taker just moments after this shot was snapped. The most scare-inducing prop was this seemingly innocent coat rack, which flung open to reveal a ghoul inside. Food Beyond the biggest sights, one of the most popular topics at the IAAPA Expo is innovation in food and drinks. Coca-Cola debuted their now-popular Freestyle machine a few years ago at this show. Today they have thousands placed in restaurants around the country. Dippin Dots has bounced back from bankruptcy with a new owner, introducing new flavors and options. Moving toward a trend in slightly healthier amusement park eats, the Quick n’ Crispy fryer produces tasty treats with less grease. Though not actually fried, these French fries were just as good. Mini donuts are always popular… …particularly when they’re made on the spot. Jelly Belly had a large presence featuring a jelly bean mascot. Games The video game section of the IAAPA Expo seems to grow each year with more high-tech offerings. A number of high-definition shooters took the floor this year with spooky themes. Dark Escape 4D puts gamers inside a darkened booth, donning 3D glasses, and shooting through a zombie invasion. But bright lights, bursts of air, and loud noises produce scares throughout. Definitely a hit for the Halloween crowd. This prize game features a unique overlay on the front window adding animations and depth. Pac-Man Smash takes air hockey to the next level with an unexpected onslaught of pucks. Somehow the popular fraternity pastime of beer pong has been turned into an arcade game. Stern showed off its newest pinball machines, X-Men and AC/DC. But there’s a newcomer to the pinball scene now, Jersey Jack Pinball, who has landed the excellent license of Wizard of Oz for their first machine. Featuring a rainbow of LEDs and intricate animated figures, this fun new table is a welcome addition to the pinball world. It even has a crystal ball showing video clips from the film that tie in to the gameplay. The popular Big Buck Hunter has received an HD upgrade, also with the addition of camouflage-clad girls between levels. Speaking of girls, the IAAPA Expo isn’t without its share of “booth babes.” These lanes were popular. This boxing game seemed to always have a crowd of photographers around it. No games section would be complete without an assortment of plush prizes. The Toy Factory featured some favorites from recent years… …and a few new licenses, including Gremlins, Frosty the Snowman… …Beetlejuice… …Trick ‘R Treat… …Jason, Freddy, ET… …and Despicable Me 2, offering a preview of the upcoming sequel. Rides But of course the biggest focus at the IAAPA Expo is on the ride innovations. SeaWorld Orlando unveiled its trackless Empire of the Penguin ride vehicle. Though most of the world’s biggest roller coaster companies are in attendance, often revealing details about their newest major projects, it’s fun to look at the smaller attractions on display. Who would win in a cart race: Sonic the Hedgehog… …or Fred Flintstone? Towering over the middle of the show floor was this wacky and wild ride from Zamperla. Upside down and around she went, leaving many an IAAPA attendee a little woozy. Outside, a giant Ferris wheel towered over the exterior portion of the show. The Soaring Eagle zip line was among the most popular (and noticeable) rides. Only at IAAPA will you find two men in business suits riding a zip line, casually discussing business. Jetlev provides an opportunity to strap on a backpack and soar above a lake, propelled by strong streams of water. Instructors initially use a remote control to vary the thrust, preventing any accidents.
That’s just a small sampling of the many exciting, unique, and sometimes puzzling sights found on the IAAPA Expo floor this year. The show will be returning to Orlando for many years to come, always bringing an assortment of new and unusual entertainment and products that may soon be available for enjoyment at your local amusement or theme park.
More photos from the IAAPA Expo 2012: