Yesterday Busch Gardens Tampa Bay welcomed the media on a hard hat construction tour of Pantopia complete with an up-close view of the stunning new Intamin drop tower Falcon's Fury. Touring with Mark Rose, Busch Gardens Tampa’s vice president of design and engineering, Jeff Hornick, Busch Gardens Tampa’s director of design and engineering and Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Park & Entertainment’s® corporate director of theming, we learned a great deal about the story behind Pantopia (which you can also read about at length below) as well as the creative process that has gone into bringing this new realm to life.
Busch Gardens Newest Land - Pantopia™ Welcome to Pantopia™, Busch Gardens® Tampa’s fully remodeled land, which boasts elaborately-jeweled theming and features thrilling rides and attractions, sensational new dining options, exciting entertainment, shopping, a renovated indoor theater and more.
Located in the heart of Busch Gardens, the centerpiece of Pantopia™ is Falcon’s Fury™, North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower. The one-of-a-kind ride stands at 335 feet and takes riders soaring straight down. Like its bird of prey namesake, at the ride’s highest point, riders will pivot 90 degrees in midair to a face-down dive position. An instant later they’ll plunge 60 mph straight down.
Step Inside Pantopia™ Your arrival in Pantopia™ through the Key Gate will be just as majestic as the time you spend here. In a time long forgotten, a strange and mystical Key Master dropped from the sky at this very spot. If you look carefully, you can still see the remnants of his hot air balloon. Once inside, the legendary doors of Pantopia™ tell the rich history of the travelers that have come before and who are currently residing in this land. Travelers to Pantopia™ can explore these doors and learn the history of the residents.
The excitement builds as you make your way through the Transportation Plaza, where its caretaker has created kinetic sculptures from the tuk tuks, trucks, planes, bikes and wagons other travelers have left behind. Discover Botanica nestled amongst Pantopia’s™ lush and vibrant surroundings. This oasis of intricate botanical sculptures captures the flowing patterns of animal feathers, fur and scales, representing all the elements of Busch Garden’s newest land.
Finally, make your way to The Sitting Place, a modern-day watering hole where twinkling lights and lanterns line the trees that shade garden revelers looking to rest a while. Discovered by an eccentric Italian carpenter who specialized in carving woodland animals into unique chairs and stools, The Sitting Place was once an oasis where animals and humans gathered.
The Treasures of Pantopia™ The Painted Camel Bazaar is run by a fun-loving family of merchants and offers wandering travelers all the treasures of Pantopia™. This marketplace houses a collection of colorful awnings and found objects, including apparel, souvenirs, jewelry, toys and plush items, not to mention the best in Falcon’s Fury™ merchandise. The original proprietor traveled alongside the shop’s signature monkey, creating an unforgettable image that was captured for all posterity by a nomadic sculptor who once wandered through these crossroads.
From frozen delights and exotic versions of fan favorites to a dramatic outdoor grill, dining options abound throughout Pantopia™. Explorer Frosty Krystallos crashed his plane into an old shed a few years back. Satisfied with his new home, he simply rebuilt the shed as Lynx Frozen Treats, painting it with icy blues and whites. Now he crafts delicious snow cones, smoothies and other sweet and salty treats for any hot, thirsty traveler who happens by.
Dining options heat up with the Dragon Fire Grill. Inspired by the legends of the Komodo dragon, the Dragon Fire Grill showcases ribs, sausages and kabobs that tame the ravenous appetites of hungry travelers. Then, step inside the large dining area of Pantopia™ and sample some of Mama Marac’s most popular recipes, including baby back ribs or chicken fettuccini Alfredo. Famished wanderers will also find specialty salads, hot and hearty sandwiches, delectable desserts and a complete kid's menu.
The tale continues with the Twisted Tails Pretzels. An artisan baker once came to the crossroads of Pantopia™ and never left. He adopted and cared for two lemurs that were often seen sitting back-to-back with their tails entwined. Inspired by the shape of the lemur’s tales, the baker started making the “pretzel.” Now this baker has expanded his skills to include other delicious treats, always using exotic, colorful and flavorful salts and sugars. Find the signature entwined lemurs in Pantopia™ and stop in for fresh-rolled pretzels and breads, featuring pretzel sandwiches, pizzas, pretzel dogs and an expanded assortment of craft beers, as well as other beverages and snacks.
The scent of fresh Kettle Corn will fill Pantopia™ daily. Be sure to explore this topsy-turvy structure decorated with a mesmerizing mosaic of plates and bowls and topped by an assortment of sticks and shiny mirrors, silverware and coins. Drop in and enjoy a phenomenal display station where kettle corn and other flavored popcorns are popped fresh daily. While you’re there, pick up other guest favorites like turkey legs, potato twisters or chicken strips, or quench your thirst with plenty of refreshing beverages!
Take the Dive in Pantopia™ The centerpiece of Pantopia™, Falcon’s Fury™ is the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America, standing at 335 feet. At the ride’s highest point there is an element of surprise. Like its bird of prey namesake, riders pivot 90 degrees in midair to a face-down dive position. An instant later they'll plunge 60mph straight down with speed and power like they’ve likely never experienced before.
After you feel the fury, the excitement continues as riders feel the “sting” of The Scorpion's terrifying 60-foot drop and 360-degree loop, all at incredible speeds. As long as anyone can remember, a band of marauding salvage artists have made a yearly pilgrimage to Pantopia™ to add their treasured findings to the sinuous scorpion sculpture that stretches across the entrance to its namesake coaster.
Fashioned from an old sailing ship by a retired captain with passionate dreams of flight, the mighty Phoenix soars through the sky with its red, shimmering wings spread wide. This giant pendulum of a ride swings and turns several full loops, creating speed changes, rocking motions and relative weightlessness for passengers.
Slow things down with the Grand Caravan Carousel. Courtesy of a benevolent Bedouin leader, guests to Pantopia™ will marvel at the luxurious, layered tapestries and tenting as they whirl around and around on a festive caravan carousel.
Finally, the entire family can follow along during Opening Night Critters, a theatrical “tail” that features both domestic and exotic animals in the newly-renovated Pantopia™ Theater. A couple of stage hands haphazardly find themselves in the spotlight as the human stars in an all-animal production. They quickly discover that working with these animals isn’t as easy as they had originally thought. Try as they might, they can’t get their costars to cooperate and when nearly all hope is lost, their kindness and compassion is rewarded when everything falls into place for a fun-filled, furry and feathered finale.
For more information, visit FalconsFury.com.
Pantopia is a total reimagining of the park's Timbuktu area and while many of the structures will feel familiar to returning guests, the revamped realm's new prop package coupled with a vibrant new color palate will make this land stand out as brand new!
Paint work on the gateway to Pantopia has already begun!
Seeing as this is a hard hat tour, we were wearing these stylish hard hats.
Are you the Gatekeeper?
Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Park & Entertainment’s® corporate director of theming gave us great insight into the concepts behind Pantopia and all of the incredible story details that have been brought into this melting pot of a realm.
When it comes to new projects for any of the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks, Brian and his team like to draw from real life props to create their unique prop packages for the parks.
Did you know that SeaWorld's creative team often paints watercolors of different designs instead of using computer animation to further the artistic interpretation?
Each of the new shops, kiosks and dining options in Pantopia will have an associated backstory. Lynx Frozen Treats is one of many locations with an awesome story behind it!
This will be the other gateway to Pantopia located near the Timbuktu Theater (by Jungala).
Pantopia will be home to a series of storied doors belonging to the many permanent residents of the realm, and this is one of those sets of doors.
So much detail to take in!
But this is what you're really wanting to see, right?
You've got fins to the left. Fins to the right. And you're the only bait in town.
For those of you familiar with the plot that Falcon's Fury now occupies, this queue structure once belonged to the Sandstorm flat ride which will be relocating to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania very soon!
Fun fact: The crane is sitting atop a temporary platform that covers the bases for the smaller kiddie flat rides that occupied Timbuktu previously. But don't worry! Those rides will be returning once the crane is removed from the construction site!
Work on transforming many of Timbuktu is happening at a rapid pace!
This will be a much brighter land when Pantopia is complete!
Soon to be serving snow cones and slushies!
No matter which way you look at it, this beauty is intimidating!
Painting has begun on the carousel cover to match the new theme it'll be receiving...
The new cover will look something like this!
eff Hornick, Busch Gardens Tampa’s director of design and engineering was the next to lead our tour, sharing with us details on the ride's many mechanisms and most importantly...
A first look at the brand new test seat!
Looks comfy right?
The same clip mechanism you'll find on Cheetah Hunt's seats. Again, nerdy stuff.
Thinking that Kelly looks much better in the Falcon's Fury test seat than either Robb or I! :)
Mark Rose, Busch Gardens Tampa’s vice president of design and engineering pointed out the fact that several structures from Timbuktu had already been demolished to make way for a more clear view of Falcon's Fury when entering Pantopia through the main gateway.
The Desert Grill will be getting a major facelift too...
All of the colors are inspired by spices and foods of the region. Also notable is the addition of a quick service stand to the left of the main entrance to the venue.
The former Sultan's Arcade will be getting a totally new purpose too...
Welcome to what will become Twisted Tails Pretzels, a new pretzel and craft brew venue similar to the Pretzel World venue at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
And this is what Twisted Tails Pretzels will look like when it is complete.
More details throughout Pantopia including The Painted Camel, a bazaar set up by a familiar face from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's past... Akbar, host of the former Akbar's Adventure Tours experience is the proprietor of this revived storefront, setting up shop in Pantopia after his startup bazaar failed to gain a toehold in Egypt.
Previously unannounced was the inclusion of the Timbuktu Theater in the development of Pantopia. The theater was once home to a live dolphin show but was remodeled in 2003 to become a 4-D theater playing host to R.L. Stine's The Haunted Lighthouse, Pirates 4-D and Sesame Street Lights Camera Imagination 4-D! over the last 11 years.
Officially announced today is the news of the theater's newest purpose, hosting a new variation of the park's extremely popular Critter Castaways show formerly featured on the aviary side of the park. This new construction on the backside of the theater is for a brand new, air conditioned facility for the animals to rest in between shows.
When replacing the former 4-D theater, it was realized that in order to optimize viewing potential for the new stage show the seating needed to be raised.
I'm almost as excited about this new theater development as I am for Falcon's Fury!
No, seriously. I was THRILLED to hear news about this venue!
This former game booth will actually be repurposed to become a brand new Kettle Corn stand.
Mark Rose pointed out that Sahara Snacks will be retired in the coming weeks to make for a more open view of Falcon's Fury from this side of Pantopia.
Seriously, this thing looks amazing! We can't wait to come back and ride it this Spring!
And always a nice little bonus when walking the park is the chance to get to play with these's plastic mold machines!
Thanks again to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for hosting us for another incredible event! We can't wait to experience Pantopia and Falcon's Fury later this year!
Wow this makeover is looking fantastic. What a difference a little color can make to enhance the overall experience. Kudos to the Busch Gardens team and the hard they're putting into this. This is why I have been a pass holder for nearly 16 years because they are such a top notch theme park.
I absolutely love the amount of details they are putting into this new area. The whole back story is a little too elaborate in my opinion, and the name is strange, but I'm sure it will look awesome once it's complete.
Top 10:1. The Voyage2. Outlaw Run3. Millennium Force4. SkyRush5. Maverick 6. El Toro7. Fahrenheit8. Storm Runner9. Thunderbird10. Powder Keg
About Falcon, that sounds terrifyingly good. I'm only a little bit disapointed there won't be any announcement before the drop. It's not matching the "storyline". I would have imagined like a Falcon's scream echoes in our ears, and why not a symbol that lights up on the ground, just as if the falcon saw a prey and then diiiiiiiiives!
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