Thoughts In Line - Blogish
A blog of sorts - thinking out loud about things in the amusement industry - not everything is on video.
There was a time when I would walk up to a cotton candy stand in a park and ask the person wearing a silly little hat for a cotton candy. The confectionary wizard would take a paper tube and whirl it around a machine of warm, hair thin, sugar and a tasty treat was presented to me. It was a great way for me to close out the day at a park. Now, more often than not, I see colorful bags of prepackaged wads of this same stuff hanging in shops. Who knows when this stuff was made, crammed into bags like live chickens in crates off to slaughter. The same stuff kids can actually buy at big box stores. Cotton candy is meant to to be fresh, light and fluffy - not balled up. Part of the amusement park experience is interacting with the environment; even with the person in the silly hat. If a park is not selling cotton candy today it's my belief it's because of the presentation. Do kids even know what the stuff is hanging back there? Do they think it's decoration? Do they think it's a "special" treat? Part of the joy of cotton candy is the fresh presentation that lights up kids eyes. For a theme park chain or park with deep pockets... what price can you put providing this classic interactive guest experience? Maybe you can attract more guests with honey; or a low wage worker with a silly hat and a smile.
The Weather Is Nice In Here
Touching on enclosed rides as opposed to dark rides... I actually had a small influence on an indoor scrambler being installed in my local park. Granted, it featured a short ride cycle; I was still proud. Inspired by rides at Miracle Strip Amusement Park; which had an indoor Scrambler and a Trabant... featuring lights and music. One of which had mirrors around the interior walls; I too miss these rides. Many park goers have fond memories of rides like the Mind Scrambler at Pavilion, Gyrosphere at Seabreeze, Shake Rattle and Roll at Six Flags Over Georgia and Whirlpool at Knotts.
Of course I am a fan of indoor coasters. I've been privy to Winja's at Phantasialand, Revolution at Bobbejaanland and Eurosat at Europa. All these rides were designed to be indoors. I dreamt my local park would buy Chaos from Opryland when it went defunct. I also had the crazy (albeit silly) notion Z-Force would have been incredible indoors. I'm thinking of rides like The Rat at Lightwater Valley, The Exterminator at Kennywood, or the Defunct Star Chaser at Kentucky Kingdom; fun enclosed coaster designs. My guess is that even an enclosed Wacky Worm done right can be a great experience.
I believe most indoor rides are easier to maintain not being exposed to the elements. Flat rides are not as expensive as roller coasters but I also believe most any decently run ride in a building helps with guest retention when the weather is unpleasant. Granted there's heating and air conditioning costs to consider. When a guest is comfortable they might stay longer, consume and spend more. With today's technology of lighting, screens and lasers even an indoor scrambler or Tagada can take you to other worlds.
Almost every major ride has a pre-recorded safety message or stated message by the ride-op before boarding... Basically safety directions on how to enter, secure yourself and exit a ride.. Since 1987 I've heard many unintelligible messages - Thankfully this observation is improving with time. It's for safety - it needed to. It's especially odd when it's so unintelligible it's humorous, when the automated message is playing over itself (ill timed) or when guests don't even know which side to exit the ride vehicle.
That New Coaster Smell
Many times when a new roller coaster opens it has much fanfare. With that, we guests often get to enjoy, lighting, music, fog and so on. As the years pass, these add-on's often go to the wayside; likely in the name of operational costs. However, in my mind, there are guests experiencing the ride for the first time. Why should a guest - 10 years after opening - receive experience secondary to those who visited the ride opening year? Also, why should fans of a ride experience a decline in the attraction? Pyrotechnics, Fog and audio are part of the rides lore. Granted, this doesn't happen everywhere there are plenty of rides that keep their mystique and maintain rideability. On the other hand, I'd rather lose special effects than see a park close due to operational costs. Therefore I want to give a thumbs up to the parks that somehow keep it going. I encourage visitors to applaud managers or ride ops when they feel a park really tries to "keep it themed" - they appreciate it.
Too often I experience music being too repetitive in a queue. A longer audio playlist, maybe 2 hours, should fit the bill or even a streaming music service. Granted, I don't know the logistics or cost but the same one hour play list seems weird to me. While waiting for Nemesis at Alton Towers, the audio back-story plays on occasion broken up by ambient sounds and ride theme music. Disney parks also do great in this area... Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure especially. I think the original Tower of Terror classic playlist rises to the top of the list. Universal Orlando rides often have cool backstories for the attraction for rides like Spiderman and Hulk. I remember when Six Flags played old Looney Tunes cartoons on queue TV's which passed the time. Some smaller parks I've heard where they might just tune into the local radio station.
I excitedly hope to write about ride attraction music and theming another time.
Theme parks and amusement parks are not carnivals, I feel people at the game booths shouldn't have to act like carnies. Yelling at guests to play is a brash tactic; thankfully, parks have seemingly improved in this area in the last two decades. It seems games areas are being reduced in size so there are fewer options. Major rides may have entrances and exits near these areas. Six Flags Over Georgia is good at this, while people are waiting for their friends and family- there's lots to do. Games placed in the center of midways instead of some out of the way corner also work so barkers don't need to call guests over. It's attractive for parks to get guests to play, there is great profit in it. Especially if they have prizes guests want.
I tend to accept coasters as they are and suggesting any change is weird for me. I'm a long time fan of the Beast at Kings Island and always will be; maybe that why I'm passionate about it. To me, there is something cathartic, primal, fun about it.
Since my first ride in 1987, I always wondered why the long break run in the first half of the ride isn't tunneled? The roof, some side supports are there, it would fit the style, it might be good for marketing: "The Beast Gets Darker" - I don't know. Actually it might place it as "the wooden coaster with the most tunnels in the world"; if those are bragging rights worth seeking. Instead of experiencing a long necessary process in which the train's speed is decreased, maybe tunneling that section can turn it into into an additional (granted minimal) thrill. If that brake area is covered it could help with maintenance too. Just a thought.
So Much Fun
My first amusement experience was a walk through fun house at Coney Island called The Magic Carpet... Though I see the implied risk (trip hazards) of walkthrough attractions one cannot deny a good "permanent" walk through fun house or haunted house. I wish this classic experience was still regularly found at parks. I've experienced attractions like Noah's Ark at Blackpool, Skaersliden at Tivoli Gardens, Ghost Ship at Morey's Piers, Lusitga Huset at Grona Lund and Spokhotellet Gasten at Liseberg. They are unique, interactive, tactile and a great way to bond with family, friends or a date. Often in America we find these as portable attractions at carnivals and fairs... which bring their own unique history. At European fairs some fun houses are on a whole different insanity level - where watching people navigate the course poorly draws crowds!! I digress, as a starting attraction fun houses can be quite perfect for kids before venturing into the darkness of haunted houses or the heights of thrill rides. More importantly fun houses and haunted houses often bring laughter to a park. There is a wonderful, (not traveling) Mirror Maze in Gatlinburg I have visited more than once. When I see families there it reminds me how cool these permanent attractions really are.
Kudos to Hersheypark for Laff Trakk an indoor roller coaster with a fun house theme, touching on a couple of my points on this page..
You'll just have to take my word for it.. I never had a forum to express ride idea's prior. In the late 80's before I knew of suspended coasters I thought up the idea using enterprise cars as the suspended coaster vehicles as inspiration because they which hang and swing. Through the program No Limits I created an outward banked turn, downward barrel roll and extreme spinning wild mouse coasters before any were produced in the real world. In my minds eye I even imagined a shared track spine as seen on a portion Full Throttle at Magic Mountain.
My current unrealized idea I also designed in No Limits 2 years ago is a varying experience coaster. The idea is after the train leaves the station a "switch track" engages which can take guests on a variety of finale's after the vehicle passes a block break. The finales might be the actual motion a vehicle traverses (hills, inversions, turns) or maybe themes. Toward the end of the ride the vehicle traverses another block break / switch track to align the vehicle with the station. If a Ferris Wheel lift coaster, a tilt coaster or a switch track launch coaster can be built, anything is possible.
I have been "lucky enough" to ride some historic flat rides. Though I am not necessarily a fan I knew one day they'd be gone. Rides, like the double Ferris Wheel, Rotor, Zipper and Loop-O-Plane don't always agree with me for one reason or another but they have their place in amusement history. However, there are two (non spinning) flat rides that are disappearing from the scene.
Firstly, haunted swings (bug houses, mad houses or whatnot); a rarity to behold. A ride in which guests sit still in a "vehicle" whilst the room rotates around them that stems from the Victorian era. This "attraction" is fit for all guests and one of the few where guests can close their eyes on to not feel the "ride". I think all the antique ones are gone but there are a few contemporary versions still active, I am especially a fan of Villa Volta at Efteling and Hex at Alton Towers. I recently learned of Spuk Haus at Tanus Wonderland. I got to ride Frontier Meeting House at Hersheypark and Blackbeard's Revenge at Carowinds before they closed in 1989 and 1999 respectively.
Speaking of Carowinds.. Outside of Missing White Lightinin' and Thunder Road next on my list is the Wild Bull. A Bayern Curve attraction that was invented in the 1960's. Yes, the same style ride as the one formerly at Kennywood (which I rode many times). Great Adventure, Kings Island, Cedar Point, magic mountain and a handful of old school defunct parks had one. It's my favorite flat ride and it's disappearing. It has some minimal roller coaster properties so I understand my interest. I'd love to see a modern version. Maybe larger, faster? I got experience Skyline Express possibly a one of a kind similar ride with two helices. Word is Knoebel's will be installing one for the 2023 season. The last one I got to ride was the Berserker at California's Great America, where we know this park will be closing.