The rise and fall of Footrot Flats Fun Park
We're going back in time to visit a West Auckland theme park that didn't last the distance. Plus, Shortland Street's 30th, Jacinda's trip to the US, and everything else you may have missed...
Kia ora and welcome to The Spinoff Weekend. Growing up in 80s Whanganui, my friends would often head to Auckland for their school holidays. There, they’d head straight to West Auckland’s Footrot Flats Fun Park. I never got to go, but I feel like I’ve spent a bit of time there lately anyway. This week, I’m telling the story of the rise and fall of a fun park that was supposed to become “the Disneyland of the Pacific”. That’s below, plus, we’re celebrating Shortland Street’s 30th anniversary with a huge content bomb, following Jacinda Ardern’s trip to the US, and much more. Grab a freshly brewed cup of Coffee Supreme and relax. Welcome to the weekend.
-Chris Schulz, senior editor
Some say it was the name, or the constant theme changes. Was it when the animals moved in? Or was it the council putting up rent and rates charges? In the 1980s, a West Auckland theme park was, some claim, “bigger than Rainbow’s End”. It had roller coasters, go kart tracks, a bungee jump, laser tag and it’s very own themed restaurant. At Footrot Flats Fun Park, a generation of kids enjoyed what was supposed to become “the Disneyland of the Pacific”. At one stage, it even had lions, tigers, chimpanzees, camels, baboons and cockatoos who learned how to swear. So what happened? Why isn’t it there now? Read our deep-dive into the park’s fortunes here.
Thirty years! Shortland Street has done what few TV shows have managed to do and survived three decades on screen. All week, we’ve been celebrating that achievement, unveiling viewer complaints, ranking every single season, charting the ever-changing scrubs, arguing that it’s our most important show, and debating who the most successful alumnus is. Alex Casey has been in charge of putting it together. “I have fallen completely and irrevocably back in love with Shortland Street over the past few weeks,” she says. “Delving into the 30th birthday of our national soap has been a chance to examine its legacy — and its mistakes. Hopefully we can do it all again for the 60th.” You can read all of our Street Week coverage here.
How has Shortland Street stayed on air for so long? Showrunner Oliver Driver tells podcast The Fold it all comes down to staying in tune with audiences. Listen here.
From our friends at Coffee Supreme: It feels like we’re all spending more time at home at the moment. Naturally, this means keeping your mug topped up and rocking your slippers during those online meetings (yeah, we see you). Having your favourite oat milk, peanut butter or chocolate within reach can be a real day-maker. Not only do Supreme have your coffee needs taken care of, they’ve also made keeping your pantry shelves stocked super easy with their free shipping and next day delivery. Grab your favourite pantry bits here.
Jacinda Ardern has jetted off to America, taking in major political meetings, late night talk shows and speaking at Harvard. Soon, she’ll meet US President Joe Biden. Yet, wherever she’s gone, Ardern’s been asked one thing: how do you deal with mass shootings? “Gun law reform was discussed,” Ardern said after meetings at the Capitol. “There was an interest in hearing about New Zealand’s experience and a chance for us to hear the perspectives of legislators here.” Will it help the US change? Maybe, says Gun Control NZ co-founder Philippa Yasbek. She says Jacinda’s meeting with Biden will need to focus on the “horrific toll of gun violence on the parents or relatives or friends who have lost loved ones – moving it beyond the political”. Read Toby Manhire’s full coverage of the PM’s trip here.
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On a recent episode of a podcast, influencer Jordan Simi had this to say: “Shout out to South Auckland, where there was an all girls school there and you would look at them and think, is that a girl?” Spinoff writer Sela Jane Hopgood happens to be from McAuley High School and says Simi’s comments, which he defended as “a joke”, are familiar. “If you attended McAuley, you were labelled a bulldog. You were barked at if you were spotted in your school uniform out in public. Students from other schools mocked us saying we looked manly or for having legs with big taro calves. I lost count of how many times my school bus had its window smashed by a rock from another school student.” She has advice for those who might find Simi’s comments hurtful. Read it here.
Through a career spanning close to three decades, Icelandic post-rock superheroes Sigur Rós have graced stages and accumulated accolades in all corners of the world. Now, five years since they last visited Aotearoa, they’re returning for one very special performance at Auckland’s Spark Arena. Playing material from their deep and beloved back catalogue alongside works from their forthcoming new album – the band’s first since 2013 – this is certain to be one of the most special evenings of music that you’ll ever have the chance to experience. Sigur Rós perform at Spark Arena on Saturday, August 6, 2022. To learn more and to purchase tickets, click here.
Everything else we loved reading this week…
Ray Liotta, the great character actor from Goodfellas, has died at the age of 67. The Ringer pays tribute to his stellar career.
Is Tom Cruise the last of a dying breed? In this (paywalled) New York Times feature, ahead of Top Gun 2, it’s argued that he might be the last action hero.
You should start thinking about your retirement now, suggests Reweti Kohere in this story about avoiding financial surprises once you turn 65.
What’s happened to Nothing Trivial, Super City, Insider’s Guide to Happiness, and almost every other TV show made here in the past 20 years? A case is being made for another streaming service featuring only Aotearoa content.
After another mass shooting in America, a familiar headline from mock news site The Onion started doing the rounds. Rolling Stone interviews the creator.
Coke Zero is outta here, and Stewart Sowman-Lund couldn’t be happier.
British band The xx make quiet, considered indie-rock. Front man Oliver Sim is about to release his solo record, and he shocked fans with his latest single, which reveals that he is HIV positive. He spoke to NY Times.
Finally, it’s a massive weekend for television, possibly the biggest of the year. After Atlanta and Better Call Saul bowed out this week, the fourth season of Stranger Things has returned to help save Netflix from despair, and Obi-Wan Kenobi has debuted on Disney TV+. Get watching! I know where I’ll be…
That’s all from The Spinoff Weekend. You made it all the way to the end, so here’s a podcast for you. The entire Spinoff team seemed to be listening to Dead End: A New Jersey Political Murder Mystery this week. Enjoy, and see you same time next Saturday!