The Kid Think column in the March 1997 KidScreen (‘Theme parks are tops on kids’ vacation agendas,’ page 8) said it all: kids are crazy for coasters and theme parks in general. Can all of this real-life yowweeee and looping craziness be converted to an on-line environment? This month, we look at the best shots from Canada’s Wonderland and Six Flags.
Greg Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites raising a ruckus in cyberspace.
* * *
-Paramount Canada’s Wonderland
The entrance to the Paramount Canada’s Wonderland Web site is worrisome. The logo, overpowered by a ton of white space, just d’esn’t have the punch it needs. If the goal of any theme park site is to encourage frenetic freaking out, this site is a little behind.
The New in ’97 section highlights recent additions to the park, the newest of which is the Drop Zone. The visuals don’t do it justice they’re too few and too focused on the little, tiny people and don’t capture the thrill of falling 23 stories at 60 m.p.h.!
You definitely don’t get the impression that a lot of truly exciting things happen at the park. Splash Works, the water theme park with the 32,000-square-foot wave pool, appears sooooo bland because few of the people pictured seem to be having fun.
The vast majority of ride descriptions have no movie downloads only a few pictures of kids screaming for their lives and ride details that are largely text-based. Kids especially want to see what to expect when they arrive.
Another thing you won’t find is a lot of emphasis on Paramount properties. This is definitely a missed opportunity, considering that other theme park sites use a lot of visuals that promote their properties.
Moving on, one encounters a somewhat neurotic focus on selling season passes (evident everywhere), repetitive menus and a map of how to get to the park, which is horrendously out of focus.
Glimmering on the bright side are links to nearby hotels, which help when planning a stay, and educational programs for school groups, such as a presentation on prosthetics worn by Star Trek character look-alikes and a roller coaster building contest. The latter are cool for those on a learning vibe, but even together, these features aren’t enough to offset the lack of promotion of FUN.
And Park Trivia did you know there are 10,000 metric tonnes of limestone at Wonderland? will be interesting to some visitors, but not to most.
With too much text and not enough action, this site will probably encourage most people to head to Disneyland.
Overall rating: too chatty (6 out of 10)
-Six Flags Theme Parks
‘So big! So fast! So close!’ boasts the Web site. So true! These Six Flags parks are very exciting places, and it’s easy to tell, right from the home page! Batman, Bugs Bunny and Taz are all here, and each one firmly plants FUN in your mind.
Your site cruise begins with the option to choose the Six Flags location nearest you. Each park description is incredibly simple in format and conveys a ton of highly relevant, exciting information.
In the Wild Safari Animal Park section (part of the New Jersey location), you get pictures of giraffes and white tigers! (Large words like ‘gestation’ and ‘vertebrae’ might require mom and dad’s help.)
The Ticket Info and Directions area offers admission prices in a nicely laid out format and a great map of how to get the family to the park. And the Calendar of Events is very, very, very clear it would be virtually impossible to go to a Six Flags on the wrong day.
The Perfect Day Planner, which lets you create a customized park directory, is a most awesome planning tool. Simply select the topics that interest you, from rides and attractions to dining and shopping, click the search button, and it returns with the activities best suited to your request. That is a top piece of work.
But let’s not forget the rides. There are piles of wicked pictures and downloadable videos of people flying through the air (on rides), and each uses highly compelling descriptions like ’20 stories [high], 65 [m.p.h.] and backwards.’ Add to that the fact that almost everything has to do with brands and characters from either DC Comics or Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes, including Batman, Robin, Bugs Bunny and Daffy, and nothing can stop you from jumping in the car.
The Six Flags site makes the theme parks seem awesome. (They’re gutsy enough to compare themselves to the mother of all theme parks, Disneyland!) Entirely comprehensive, a master at building anticipation and a cinch to browse, this is one great site.
Overall rating: buckle up (9.25 out of 10)