The annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo is taking place this week in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center bringing together many of the biggest names in themed entertainment and amusement park design.
The industry-only event is not a gathering of theme parks like Disney, Universal, or SeaWorld but instead the ultimate event for the companies and contractors that work with these iconic parks to show off their wares and do plenty of business.
It’s easy to only focus on the big roller coaster news that come out of the show, such as this week’s announcement that the 520-foot “world’s tallest” Polercoaster is supposedly coming to Florida (pending plenty of up-in-the-air details). But the IAAPA Expo features far more than just those big rides, debuting video games, interactive attractions, and new food creations.
Below is a look at some of the most unique and interesting new products and rides unveiled at the 2013 IAAPA Expo.
The most impressive of new products shown off at this year’s Expo is from the ride makers at Triotech. In recent years, Triotech has returned to the show each year with variations on 3D movies they like to call 5D, 6D, and so on, adding motion seats, fans, and other in-theater effects. But this year they’ve taken that concept to an exciting new level (12D perhaps?) with what amounts to a ride-in-a-box.
A vehicle strongly resembling that of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Orlando is set up on an oval-shaped track flanked by two 3D projection screens. Riders are armed with 3D glasses and guns to blast away at hoards of zombies attacking from both sides while the vehicle spins wildly between them.
It’s among the most impressive setups I’ve ever seen at this convention, a true ride in a small footprint. Triotech says it’s just a small demo of the potential of this system, able to be installed practically anywhere. Though this demo is the official premiere of the technology, they say there’s already one set up in Canada. It’s somewhere between a ride and a video game, much like Disney’s Toy Story Mania, impressive and a whole lot of fun.
While on the subject of big rides on the show floor, Zamberla also has set up a wild spinning attraction that twists riders around and upside down repeatedly while twirling around a central core. It’s not for anyone with a weak stomach.
A surprisingly large spinning car coaster is set up on the show floor by Rides 4 U, showing they too can set up a ride just about anywhere, given enough space. Roller coasters aren’t necessarily just for big parks anymore.
And outside, a two-person zip line through the skies grabs plenty of attention with its regular launches that come to quite a loud brake-powered stop at the bottom.
Another big site on the show floor this year is a colorful twisting climbing wall that looks like it was made of building blocks.
And those looking for a thrillingly tall experience straight out of the movies can try Zeroshock’s Freefall Stunt Jump, sending people plummeting onto a cushy airbag below without any kind of harness.
Beyond the big attractions, the IAAPA Expo offers a chance to chat with companies who create animatronic figures, props, and other elements of famous attractions worldwide, working with the big names like Disney and Universal.
Garner Holt Productions just announced a huge update of the Calico Mine Ride at Knott’s Berry Farm following their successful Log Ride update. More than 50 new animatronic figures will be added to the classic attraction. At the Expo, they’re showing off a few animated creations that seemed quite familiar.
(Looks like number Johnny 5 is very much alive!)
Kern Studios is showing off a few of their famous Mardi Gras figures. They work with Universal Orlando each year for their Mardi Gras celebration.
SimEx Iwerks is the company behind many of the world’s most popular 4D films inside and outside of theme parks, including the SpongeBob show at Orlando’s Nick Hotel. New to their licensed line-up is an upcoming 4D movie based on “The Simpsons.”
It’s clear “The Simpsons” is still a hot property, not only from this upcoming 4D film and the recent Springfield additions to Universal Studios Florida, but also with smaller companies, one of which is showing off a unique couch photo booth that can be set up at any amusement park, mall, or any other public place.
LifeFormations is displaying an impressive feat of animatronics technology with a fluidly moving figure that operates solely on digital pneumatic movement. That means each of the cylinders inside this figure operates very simply, either in open or closed positions. This cost-saving mechanic often results in jerky motions but LifeFormations has found a way to make it perfectly smooth and lifelike.
They have worked with Universal Studios to create Donkey puppets from “Shrek” for Orlando and other fairytale elements for Singapore as well as some Sesame Street figures. They’re also currently working on a secret project for Shanghai Disneyland.
Haunted attractions are always big at the IAAPA Expo, with Pale Night Productions once again offering a small walk-through exhibit this year featuring some of their newest vampire-inspired props, including a particularly surprising coffin that features a screaming video pop-up in the window as the coffin suddenly bounces around. An animated figure also spits a stream of mist after biting down on a victim.
Take a walk through their exhibit in the video below.
Video: Pale Night Productions haunted walkthrough at the IAAPA Expo 2013
Halloween Productions features startling video-based effects, also featuring a small walkthrough hallway of surprises.
Those looking for some spooky servings of drinks shouldn’t miss the coffin bar.
John Bundy Productions lends shows off some macabre magic.
Scare Factory returns with their usual array of massive and impressive animated props, adding a new Egyptian take on the haunted shooting gallery they debuted two years ago, refined from the original.
Video: Haunted Egyptian shooting gallery from Scare Factory at IAAPA Expo 2013
Shooting galleries are a popular product at the IAAPA Expo, featured in a variety of sizes and themes. The most impressive continue to be offered from Daniels Wood Land, this time featuring a variety of real-feeling guns across a wild west theme. Their products are always distinctly Disney-inspired.
A unique spin on the shooting gallery this year is a Zombie Graveyard arming people with paintball guns.
There’s even an outdoor portable trailer “Redneck Saloon Shootout” on wheels.
The shooting theme continues into the video game section in a variety of ways. From Raw Thrills, new games based on Alien Armageddon and Duck Dynasty (a variation of Big Buck Hunter) are popular additions to the arcade lineups.
Also from Raw Thrills, shooting takes to the streets with the new Batman game, placing players behind the wheel of the Batmobile while battling the Joker and other baddies in a tremendously fun twist on the typical arcade driving game. And at the Expo, a Batgirl booth babe helps to draw some extra attention.
Epic street battles continue in Sega’s new Transformers: Human Alliance video game, guaranteed to be popular in arcades with big robots battling with big action.
Shooting also takes to the skies with the impressive new wrap-around dome screen in Namco’s MachStorm dogfighting game. It’s not a flight simulator, but a fast-paced arcade air battle across multiple real life cities (and more booth babe attention).
Among new smaller scale shooting games shown off at the IAAPA Expo is Plants vs. Zombies – The Last Stand, only a prototype for now but still simple fun.
Namco also offers Deadstorm Pirates 4D, an arcade shooting adventure that’s not unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean game at DisneyQuest.
Water-based shooting games seem to be a new trend, shooting real streams of water at animated screens.
Jetpack Joyride arms players with jetpack hand joysticks controlling retro graphics in a side-scrolling adventure.
And even a fun little Happy Halloween ball shooting game offers some seasonal fun.
Other kinds of shooting games include themed basketball with licenses like Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man.
Namco’s Pac-Man Zone at the Expo is filled with new games based on the increasing popularity of the classic video game character, including new HD retro versions of the game and even air hockey.
Shooting a game of pinball is always a source of fun, with Stern this year displaying their newest machines based on Metallica and Star Trek.
Industry newcomer Jersey Jack Pinball is back with their Wizard of Oz machine, this time in finished form after showing off a prototype last year. It features a lot of unique lighting and animation across a fun table that captures the spirit of the beloved film in its 75th anniversary. They’ve also added the ability to use headphones to better hear the audio clips corresponding to the gameplay.
Jersey Jack has secured the license for The Hobbit, which they’ll be showing off in pinball form next year.
If shooting photos is more of your thing, then See Innovations’ Selfie Booth may be of interest. It’s an interesting spin on the popular photo booth concept literally giving control of the picture taking to people via a handheld remote, then letting them instantly upload their photos to social media networks.
Outside of shooting games, Skylanders Cloud Patrol brings a swiping game to bigger arcade screens based on the popular Activision property while Monster Factory offers a fun new spooky matching game.
And after winning tickets from many of those redemption games, fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can look forward to turning them in for some new plush toys.
Another potential big ticket prize is offered from Peavey with new guitar licenses including the Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, Marvel, and The Walking Dead.
Inflatables are always big at the IAAPA Expo, with one of this year’s biggest new play areas being The Spooky Mansion, complete with inflated zombie hands bursting from a graveyard.
Inflatable Depot consistently improves their colorful bubbly kids’ play area, all white with bright LEDs illuminating its unique features.
And after all that fun stirs up a big appetite, the IAAPA Expo always offers some unique treats to eat and drink.
Coca-Cola returns this year with their Freestyle machines, which first debuted at the show a few years ago. This time they also revealed some new diet and sugar free frozen flavors coming soon.
Chilly Ribbons has created a unique take on shaved ice that they’re calling “shaved snow.” Creamy shavings of naturally flavored frozen treat. It’s not ice cream or yogurt, but something new that’s quite refreshing. It was already available at Walt Disney World during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival at the China booth and their conveniently portable booth setup leaves them hoping to sell many more at amusement parks and malls in the coming months ahead.
A final interesting new product and a great way to cool off on a hot day in a park is the Mist 360 fan. It’s a particularly enjoyable take on the standard water mist-spraying fan that disburses a fine mist from high overhead, not leaving anyone wet but instead gently refreshed. All theme parks need these.
More photos from the 2013 IAAPA Expo in Orlando:
(Photos by Michelle Moss, Ricky Brigante, and Michael Gavin)