Strap in for new adventures at Southland theme parks

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

There’s a lot more than pixie dust swirling through the air at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as construction crews, earth-moving excavators and towering cranes work on several theme park rides set to debut this summer and beyond.

The headliner is the $100-million Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, scheduled to open June 3 at California Adventure. The elaborate dark ride will take visitors on a family-friendly musical underwater journey based on “The Little Mermaid,” the 1989 animated movie.

The Anaheim park will also reopen a kiddie coaster with a new Goofy Sky School theme at the same time.

California Adventure visitors should be forewarned that the construction dust won’t settle until 2012, when the 12-acre Cars Land and the main entrance makeover are completed.


Across the way at Disneyland, the long-anticipated reboot of the classic Star Tours motion simulator attraction also is set to open June 3, with riders experiencing 54 possible story lines resulting in a different beginning, middle and end for each journey.

On May 27, the music-centric Mickey’s Soundsational Parade is to make its debut on Disneyland’s Main Street USA with dancers, drummers and two dozen Disney characters.

Southern California’s other theme parks are planning a series of new attractions to counter Disney’s continuing $1.1-billion expansion project.

Six Flags Magic Mountain will reclaim the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” title in mid-June with the addition of a first-of-its-kind ride in the U.S. The Green Lantern vertical coaster will feature suspended trains that rock back and forth on the straightaways and rotate head over heels as the cars plunge over freefall drops.

The Valencia amusement park reopened the revamped Superman: Escape From Krypton shuttle coaster in March with new trains that rocket riders backward at 100 mph.

The 301-foot-tall WindSeeker will change the Knott’s Berry Farm skyline when the $5-million spinning swing ride debuts at the Buena Park theme park in late June or early July. WindSeeker will carry 64 riders in twin-seat gondolas to the top of the tower, where the ride’s metal arms will extend at a 45-degree angle and spin at 30 mph for one minute.

At Legoland California in San Diego County, the new Star Wars Miniland renders epic battles, iconic cityscapes and massive machines in an intimate 1:20 scale. The new “Star Wars” attraction, which opened in March at the Carlsbad park, uses 1.5 million Lego bricks to build a visual timeline stretching from the first film in the series to the latest television cartoons based on the space fantasy.

On Memorial Day weekend, SeaWorld San Diego will launch a new Shamu killer whale show after the death of an animal trainer in 2010 at its sister park in Orlando, Fla., forced a reworking of the signature attraction.


The conservation-themed “One Ocean” show will feature fountains, underwater imagery and orcas performing in unison against a new backdrop of giant LCD screens.

The most jaw-dropping new ride of 2011 belongs to San Diego’s Belmont Park. The Octotron, which opened in January, simulates a looping roller-coaster experience over an undulating track.

Sitting two abreast in roller coaster-style seats, riders control the forward and backward direction of the spinning car as it rotates around a circular course. The easily nauseated need not apply.