Disney Water Park Competition

The Real Story Behind Miss Adventure Falls

Disney Water Park Competition in A New Facebook Live Event

Disney water park competition just got bigger as Typhoon Lagoon at Walt Disney World opened Miss Adventure Falls today. We’ve got a great Facebook Live event available for you to see here. Check it out! And be sure to Like the page, because there’s more to this story.

The first part of this story behind Miss Adventure Falls coming to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon lies in Typhoon Lagoon’s arrival in the first place. Our tale speaks of the efforts Dick Nunis put behind trying to bring a surfing experience to Walt Disney World. That effort began when the resort opened in 1971, when the competition was Florida beaches.

Disney Water Park Competition
While the wave machine is not working, this is the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village. Looking out to the island you can see the wave machine. Time Magazine Photo.

When that didn’t work out, it was only a matter of time before River Country opened in June of 1976. This was the first themed water park ever established, and it had a great feel to it. It was the quintessential old “swimmin’ hole.”

Disney Water Park Competition
Disney’s River Country, illustrated in Disney’s Annual Report when it opened.

But there were several problems for River Country–access to it was one issue. Size was another, especially compared to a competitor that opened up in May of 1977, Wet ‘n’ Wild. Now Disney water park competition was real. That park, built by George Millay–who created Sea World–came with plenty of thrills and was much bigger than River Country. In time, Wet ‘n’ Wild would become known by most as the father of all water parks, given its multiple fiberglass-style slides and wave pool.

Disney Water Park Competition
Wet ‘n’ Wild created the image of winding fiberglass slides.

If that wasn’t enough, another competitor, Gary Larson, announced that he too would build a water park that would attract people off of 192 just like Wet ‘n’ Wild had captured the market on International Drive. Named Water Mania, it too would have slides and a wave pool.

Dick Nunis was not about to let another competitor come into town. Moreover, he wanted to make sure his wave pool had real waves–not just the bobbing kind. So just as Gary Larson was ready to sign for the loans to build himself a water park, Disney pulled the trigger and announced Typhoon Lagoon. Suddenly the banks got scared, and became uncertain as to whether they would underwrite another water park in town. That forced Gary Larson to scramble to get the funds to build that park.

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A photo of Water Mania’s wave pool in the early days.

Water Mania opened, but would struggle for some 5 years until Gary made a move that sent Disney heads spinning. We’ll cover that in a future Facebook Live event. Today, Water Mania and Wet ‘n’ Wild have closed its doors. But in the interim, Disney went big with another water park, Blizzard Beach. And SeaWorld opened up Aquatica. The question is, with these big water parks, is there room for another? We’ll soon find out because big competition is coming in Universal’s Volcano Bay. There is some serious competition on its way.

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Volcano Bay under construction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Disney at Work Souvenirs

Disney water park competition can teach us a lot about how we view our competitors. And those can be souvenirs you can take back to your own business. Consider the following:

  1. Do you have competition? How do they compare to you?
  2. What do they do better than you do? What you do better than them?
  3. How do you keep competition at bay or from keeping up with you?
  4. How do you have to keep evolving in order to stay ahead of the competition?

We’ll have more about this tale of competition at the water parks in the weeks to come, so be sure to be sure to “Like” our Facebook page. Also sign up to follow Disney at Work on Twitter. In the meantime, head out to Typhoon Lagoon and enjoy Miss Adventure Falls. Here’s a look at the attraction:

Miss Adventure Falls

Miss Adventure Falls is a great family raft ride. It brings to life the story of Captain Mary Oceaneer, a treasure-hunting heroine who got stranded with her pet parrot at Typhoon Lagoon years ago by a rogue storm. It takes guests and their rafts up to the top, so they don’t have to walk their way up there. You pass by a cute animatronic parrot named Duncan. He guards many of the treasures in the boat (look for the contract Ariel signed with Urusala in the background). The ride goes in and out of tunnels and passed icons–perhaps collected by Mary. She is a member of S.E.A., which stands for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Many of those members make up the comedy improve team that was once The Adventurer’s Club.

Here are more photos and a video:

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Entrance to adventures on Miss Adventure Falls. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney Water Park Competition
Captain Mary Oceaneer. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney Water Park Competition
Mary is a member of S.E.A. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney Water Park Competition.
This map is the first fictional version of Typhoon Lagoon I’ve ever seen. It includes familiar places like Placid Palms and Snail Landing. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney Water Park Competition
Mary’s Parrot, Duncan, has left his tracks along the queue. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney Water Park Competition
Console for running the slide. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
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Guests are hauled to the top in rafts. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney Water Park Competition
Duncan the Parrot looking out for the guests. Photo by Disney.
Disney Water Park Competition
Idols found along the slide experience. Photo by Disney.

Here is a video Disney released:

Definitely check out this new attraction–and check out our Facebook page so you’ll know when we go live with another story in this series about Disney water park competition. Meanwhile, here’s a puzzle piece:

Shark's Reef post mortem. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Shark’s Reef post mortem. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I thought Miss Adventure Falls would go in the footprint of this attraction. Turns out that it went elsewhere–between Shark’s Reef and Crush ‘n’ Gusher. This photo, taken the day after opening of Miss Adventure Falls, shows crews on the site busy at work. Doing what? Not sure. My guess is that the construction contractor put attention on building the water slide in time for Spring Break, and put deconstruction off on this. But what will it become? That’s a great question for another blog post!

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