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Top 20 for 2012: Best new rides at theme parks around the world

Los Angeles Times staff writer

It already looks like 2012 will prove to be a good year for globetrotting ride enthusiasts as theme parks in Asia, Europe and South America are planning to roll out major new attractions.

> Photos: Best new international theme park rides for 2012

Theme parks around the world are preparing a highly anticipated slate for 2012 that includes record-setting roller coasters, one-of-a-kind attractions, pulse-quickening thrill rides and family-friendly themed lands.

Since it is still early, I'll update my Top 20 over the coming months as new projects are announced. Until then, here's my list of most anticipated rides for 2012:

1) Hong Kong Disneyland - Grizzly Gulch themed land

The Frontierland-like gold mining town features the Big Grizzly Mountain roller coaster. The runaway mine train ride begins with a twisting and turning backward decline before launching forward and upward around the mountain.

2) Dinosaur Land - Fourth-dimension roller coaster

Sitting in 360-degree rotating seats that straddle the track, riders will ascend a 250-foot lift hill before plunging at 80 mph into raven turns, vertical dives and half twists at China's Dinosaur Land. Built by S&S Worldwide, the as-yet-unnamed ride joins similar fourth-dimension roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California (X2) and Fuji-Q Highlands in Japan (Eejanaika).

3) Thorpe Park - Swarm wing coaster

The Swarm winged coaster at the United Kingdom's Thorpe Park will take riders through post-apocalyptic scenes of war and destruction when the $29.5 million ride opens in spring 2012. The Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Rider would be the second coaster of its kind in the world following the 2011 debut of Raptor at Italy's Gardaland.

4) Legoland Malaysia - New theme park

Legoland Malaysia will feature miniature Asian landmarks, including a 42,500-brick Taj Mahal and a replica of Malaysia's twin Petronas Towers -- which will become the tallest Lego model in the world -- when the theme park opens in late 2012. Geared toward children age 12 and under, the 76-acre Legoland Malaysia will include 40 rides, shows and attractions set amid six themed lands.

5) Jinling Happy World - 11 Inversion Coaster

The aptly named 11 Inversion Coaster at Jinling Happy World theme park in China will feature a record-setting 11 inversions, including a quad heartline roll, a double corkscrew and a pair of loops. The new ride bests two existing 10-inversion coasters: Colossus at Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom and aptly named 10 Inversion Roller Coaster at Chimelong Paradise in China. In 2012, Happy World will also debut the Seven Ring suspended coaster, which features a mere four inversions.

6) Hopi Hari - 10 inversion coaster

Instead of matching the world record for most inversions, the as-yet-unnamed 10 inversion coaster debuting at Brazil's Hopi Hari theme park finds itself in a three-way tie for second place. The Intamin coaster will feature a quad heartline roll and a double corkscrew.

7) Happy Valley Wuhan - Dueling wooden coaster

The new dueling wooden coaster debuting at Happy Valley Wuhan will include a one-of-a-kind camelback hill dubbed the “High Five” where riders banked at 90 degrees can extend their hands toward each other. Built by Martin & Vleminckx and Gravity Group, the wooden racing coaster will feature twin tracks filled with twists and turns. Four other coasters are expected to come online in May 2012 at the new Chinese park, including a pair of launched coasters and a Maurer Sohne SkyLoop vertical coaster.

8) Nurburgring - Ring Racer coaster

Originally set to open in 2009, the oft-delayed Formula One-themed coaster will reach speeds of 135 mph, making it the second-fastest coaster in the world behind Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates. Reaching its top speed in 2.5 seconds, the S&S Worldwide compressed-air-launch thrust coaster is expected to open in 2012 at Nurburgring motorsport race track in Germany.

9) PortAventura - Shambhala hyper coaster

PortAventura theme park in Spain plans to debut a record-setting mountain climbing-themed roller coaster in spring 2012 featuring a series of camelback hills, pitch-black tunnels and a water element. Named after the mythical Tibetan kingdom of Shambhala, the Bollinger & Mabillard-built ride will be the tallest (249 feet) coaster in Europe with the continent's longest drop (256 feet).

10) Europa-Park - Mythos wooden coaster

Germany's Europa-Park plans to open an elaborately themed wooden roller coaster in March 2012 that celebrates the Norse mythology of legendary heroes and supernatural creatures. The theme park's first wooden roller coaster will top out at 115 feet and reach speeds of 60 mph while navigating hairpin turns and airtime hills over a 3,500-foot-long track in the Icelandic area of the park.

11) Legoland Billund - Polar X-Plorer drop coaster

The new Polar X-Plorer roller coaster at Legoland Billund in Denmark will feature a vertical drop section of track that will appear to fall through broken ice. Riders on the snowmobile-themed trains are expected to encounter live penguins and Lego polar bears. 

12) Efteling - Aquanura water show

Built by the same team that created the Bellagio water show in Las Vegas, the 10-minute Aquanura nighttime spectacular at Efteling theme park in the Netherlands will feature dancing fountains, synchronized lights and fire effects set to music.

13) Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Wallace & Gromit ride

Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the United Kingdom will add a family-friendly Wallace & Gromit ride based on the British stop-motion animation characters. The waterfront amusement park hasn't announced if the attraction starring the eccentric cheese-eating inventor (Wallace) and his anthropomorphic dog (Gromit) will be an all-new ride or a retheming of an existing ride.

14) Park Asterix - Inverted coaster

The as-yet-unnamed inverted roller coaster coming to Park Asterix in France will feature a dive loop, a corkscrew and a zero-G roll. The Bolliger & Mabillard ride will have an Egyptian theme and an underwater tunnel.

15) Mirabilandia - DiVertical water coaster

Mirabilandia in Italy is expected to add a towering water coaster in 2012 called DiVertical, a classic shoot-the-chute flume ride featuring an elevator lift and a big splash finale. The new Intamin ride will be similar to Pilgrim's Plunge at Indiana's Holiday World, according to Screamscape.

16) Alton Towers - Nemesis: What Lies Beneath thrill ride

Riders will unearth a secret hidden for decades in an underground catacomb on the new thrill ride coming to the United Kingdom's Alton Towers in 2012. Nemesis: What Lies Beneath, an indoor dark ride based on the back story created for the original 1994 Nemesis inverted roller coaster, promises to combine heart-racing thrills with horrifying chills.

17) Toverland - Spinning coaster

Toverland in the Netherlands will add a family coaster with spinning cars that pull up to 4Gs as riders navigate a twisting and turning track. The new Mack coaster will be similar to Sierra Sidewinder at Knott's Berry Farm in California.

18) Universal Studios Japan - Wonderland kiddie land

Universal Studios Japan will open a new Wonderland area in 2012 themed as a town populated by Sesame Street, Peanuts and Hello Kitty characters. Replacing the former Land of Oz area, the Wonderland kiddie land will include a new family-friendly ride and character meet-and-greet locations.

19) Alton Towers and Gardaland - "Ice Age" 4D movie

Based on the third movie in the animated series, "Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 4D" will debut at special effects theaters at Alton Towers (United Kingdom) and Gardaland (Italy), sister parks operated by Merlin Entertainment.

20) Everland - New roller coaster

Everland officials have announced plans to replace Eagle Fortress at the South Korean park with a new roller coaster in 2012. The Arrow suspended-terrain coaster, which hasn't operated since 2009, is similar to Ninja at California's Six Flags Magic Mountain and Iron Dragon at Ohio's Cedar Point.

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