Children's Fairyland, the mid-century storybook theme park that inspired Walt Disney and where Frank Oz got his start

Oakland, California is home to a real gem of a storybook theme park. Located next to Lake Merritt, Children's Fairyland has been delighting families of young children since 1950. As the story goes, Walt Disney himself visited Fairyland in 1955 and soon after built Disneyland, incorporating ideas he learned at the park. He also hired Fairyland's first director, as well as one of its puppeteers, to work at his new amusement park in Anaheim.

While Disney's parks went the commercial route, Fairyland turned into a nonprofit after many years of being managed by the city. It remains the charming, lakeside mid-century park where no adult is allowed in the park without a child** and no child is allowed without an adult.

How do I know all of this? Well, I'm excited to share that I've started working with Fairyland. When I first moved to the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, I lived across the street from Lake Merritt and, as a childless young person, I often wondered what was going behind the giant (Old Lady in the) shoe. I remember devising ways to get in, eventually waiting until I had a baby to pass through its gates for the first time. When my daughter (who's now a teenager) was little, she and I visited many times together. Believe me when I say that it's a great thrill for me to be on the "inside" of this Bay Area institution.

Bert, Fairyland Master Puppeteer Lewis Mahlmann, and Frank Oz in August of 1970. Read the rest

Two Bit Circus bringing a high-tech micro-amusement park to downtown L.A. in early 2018

This is huge, awesome news. In early 2018, experiential entertainment company Two Bit Circus will open the country's first micro-amusement park in downtown Los Angeles. The company's founders Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman will house the high-tech park (that will have an old school carnival feel) inside of a former power plant in Lincoln Heights. The entrepreneurial duo are hoping it will be the first in a chain of such parks that will use technology to bring people together to play. Read the rest

WATCH: Slide for 1/3 of a mile on world's longest waterslide

New Jersey's Action Park is legendary for crazy rides, and now it has a water slide that's about one-third of a mile long. Above: a ride by park employee Jasosn Mulder, including a mid-air corkscrew flip. Read the rest

It's back: looping water slide returns to New Jersey

The Cannonball Loop originally opened at New Jersey's Action Park in 1985, but then shuttered after a week amid safety concerns (caution trolling more likely). This image is of a 90-foot prototype in testing in Missouri.

"The central challenge facing any vertical looping water slide design is friction - caused by skin, bathing suits or riders who slow themselves down with their hands or feet. Without enough speed, you won’t make it through the loop.

Sky Turtle solved the friction problem by eliminating the human variable. Riders are enclosed inside an aluminum alloy-framed capsule that maintains constant contact with the flume via replaceable foam runners."

The 1985 loop:

Vertical looping water slide, long thought impossible, in test phase [LA Times]

via Seth Porges (@sethporges) Read the rest

3D printed model of Coney Island's Luna Park

Sideshow veteran/artist The Great Fredini 3D printed a sprawling 1:13 scale model of Coney Island's early 20th century Luna Park, and my friend Ronni Thomas made a short documentary about the project!

From the press release:

The project garnered worldwide attention last summer, when Kahl raised over $16,000 on Kickstarter to build a “bot farm” in support of the endeavor. A year later, he has 3D scanned hundreds, if not thousands, of Coney’s denizens and visitors who will be featured in the installation. The show will include hundreds of 3D prints comprising over 10,000 hours of print time and the installation will fill an entire gallery of the museum’s newly reopened space.

“Luna Park has a special place in history, a witness to the society being transformed by technology. These are the themes that are relevant to us today as our world undergoes the third industrial revolution,” said Kahl. “This piece is also about a deep love of Coney Island as the cultural melting pot and showcase for presenting cutting-edge technology as entertainment.”

Read the rest

Art: compacted cube of demolished amusement park

Artist James Dive's "Once" consists of a 4 x 4 meter cube of demolished and compacted amusement park. A closer look reveals midway prizes, lights, tickets, garishly-painted metal scraps, and other mementos of old time carny fun. I'm just waiting for the bits to begin creaking back into shape like at the end of the movie Christine. "On View: James Dive’s “Once” for “Sculpture by the Sea(Hi-Fructose) Read the rest