We can all remember a visit to an attraction that captured our imagination. Be it our first visit to a theme park or the first time on an unforgettable ride.
By Adam Sandy, President of Business Development, Ride Entertainment
I write about attractions industry trends for Blooloop when work and family allow. However, this spring when I sat down to write, I didn’t feel like there were a ton of trends to discuss. So, I went looking for some good news, some optimism.
Our friends across the industry came into it in different ways. But no matter who I seem to talk to, there is more than just a passion for it. There is also a memory that inspired them or an attraction that captured their imagination. It could be a road trip with the parents or a first kiss on a dark ride. Or when someone takes their children to a storybook land for the first time.
Attractions that capture the imagination
So, I spoke with some thought leaders from around the industry and asked the following:
“As we look to the future and imagine opening day being exciting once again, many people are thinking about the attractions that captured their imagination. Can you share one interesting attraction that you saw as a kid that did this? Or one you experienced as an adult that inspired you?” Here are there responses:
Pia Adlivankin, Managing Director, Linnanmäki Amusement Park
“I have always been a tremendous coaster fan. When I was 12 years old, we went to Disney World in Orlando. We stood in line for Space Mountain for almost two hours. When we finally got to ride, it was the most exciting experience of my life. The speed, the darkness and the surprising turns were just exciting. I went straight back in line for another two hours.
“During my youth, we travelled a lot as a family and we would always visit many amusement parks. I guess that stuck with me. I continued to travel to many different amusement parks around the world with my own children. Luckily my daughters enjoy thrill rides as much as I do.
“Getting the opportunity to work at Linnanmäki Amusement Park in Helsinki was a dream come true. The park had for years planned to develop a big thrill ride. I was very excited to participate in this project.
“In order to develop the best possible ride, we asked the best ride providers in the world, such as Intamin, Mack Rides, Premier Rides, S&S and B&M, where their best rides were. For 18 months we travelled to many wonderful parks and tried the best rides to see what captures the imagination. What we learned was, for example, that the best features on thrill rides were not necessarily all the inversions, but the air time hills.”
“Based on our experience of the best features of the best rides, we asked the best ride providers to design a plan for our dream ride. We got many great offers but chose the one we liked the best by Intamin. Two years later, in June 2019, we opened a double launch coaster, Taiga. This has a great Intamin signature top hat and four inversions. It has a fantastic speed of 106 km/h (66 mph) and a length of 1,104 m (3622 ft).”
“I know I am a bit biased. But since I was strongly part of designing a ride with all the features that I love the best, I must say that Taiga is the best.
“For me, an attraction needs to provide unexpected elements to capture people’s imagination. Taiga is utterly unique and it is perfectly fitted to a hillside terrain. So you cannot see the full ride before you are actually on it. The ride has only a lap bar, so riding it gives a sense of flying through the air. It has perfect speed but is very smooth. And it has an amazing top hat where you can see the whole city of Helsinki.”
Lucaz Ferraz Castagna, Founder, ZIX Entertainment
“In times like this, we really need to believe in our dreams. More than ever. My dreams and passion for theme parks helped survive a very difficult childhood and adolescence. We must hold on to our dreams and goals. We should remember that this too shall pass and we’ll get out even stronger.
“I was always that kid that dreamt awake. I can’t count the number of times I digressed during class and lost a whole hour in my thoughts, I get inspired for the craziest things.
“My earliest inspirations came from my hometown amusement park called Tivoli Park. It operated in Rio from 1973 to 1995 and had amazing rides. In particular, I remember a carrousel with rockets in the centre that would move up when the ride started moving. I could swear I was flying.
“Also, I remember their flume ride which was basically a small oval-shaped channel with a single drop. The magic was in the fibreglass rocks that turned that drop into a mountain and the hairpin turn on top of the ride into a tunnel.”
Bringing back a classic
“I remember looking at the roller coaster Montanha Espacial (A Vekoma Whirlwind MK-1200) and dreaming about climbing the lift hill and looking at the motor and chain up close. When the park closed, in December 1995, I put in my mind that I would find those rides. Remember, there was almost no information online back then.”
“It took me six years and a lot of emails and phone calls (including to Vekoma). With a lot of work and some good luck too, of course, I found it disassembled and left to rot in the back lot of a small park near Rio. I managed to get another park in Brazil to buy it and refurbish it. The coaster still runs today at Mirabilandia.
“12 years after Tivoli Park closed, this babe was back up and in operation. And guess what? I did climb the lift hill.”
Erik Beard, Managing Member & General Counsel, International Rides Training
“Roller Coaster at Joyland Park in Wichita, Kansas was the first real roller coaster I had ever seen and it was jaw-dropping to 6-year old Erik. This behemoth was the scariest ride I could ever imagine. I watched my father and my younger brother take a ride absolutely certain they would never return.
“I remember vividly watching the train ascend the lift hill all the way into the sky before dropping straight down at a speed that no one should ever travel. And I remember staring, transfixed, watching each train as it went around. Until Dad and my brother returned, both wearing huge smiles.
“I couldn’t believe that they had made it. My dad explained that it only looked scary, but that it was really fun and he asked if I wanted to go. I trusted him, but I just couldn’t get up the gumption. I was very happy to stand on the midway, though, just watching it for a while longer until my Mom got sick of waiting with me and insisted we move on. I’ve regretted not riding ever since.”
“A year later I rode Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom and never looked back. But I never got back to Joyland before they closed and I never actually got to ride Roller Coaster. But it was the attraction that got my undivided attention and captured my imagination as a kid. It has stuck with me to this day. By the way, this “monstrosity” of a coaster had a 23 m (76 ft) drop and a top speed of 80 km/h (50 mph).”
Jessica Naderman, Director, Park Operations, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company
“If you grow up in Cincinnati, Ohio, then you know and love all things “Cincy.” As a kid, you hear stories of the Big Red Machine, one of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled. You most likely have attended Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (the largest in the United States). Or enjoyed a German dish of goetta.
“Of course, you have been fed Skyline Chili since the day you could walk and most likely have been heartbroken by the Bengals on more than one occasion. And I am pretty sure almost everyone who grew up in Cincinnati has had a season pass to Kings Island. It is just as much a part of the fabric of the city and region as the professional sports teams and uniquely spiced chilli served over spaghetti.”
“I eventually rode The Beast in the early ’90s and this was the attraction that captured my imagination. It is where I found my love for rollercoasters and my passion for this industry. I started working at Kings Island in 1998. Oddly enough, my childhood friend had gotten a job working at White Water Canyon. She told me how cool the job was and explained that she got to squirt people all day. She said, “you should get a job here.”
“I worked a season at North Pie, a collection of kiddie rides. During the offseason, I received a letter from Kings Island regarding rehiring processing dates. Well, this was easy enough! I just had to show up to the park on one of those dates with my documents, and I had a job. Great!”
Working on The Beast
“The day I went to process, the HR rep helping me looked up and said, “you’ll be returning to North Pie.” This time (being more experienced), I said, “No, I do not want to work in North Pie. I want to work at The Beast”. She looked at me uncertainly and informed me she didn’t know if that was possible. Then she walked away.
“When she reappeared, two men were following behind her. She informed me, “these are the Rivertown Rides Area Managers, and they said you could work at The Beast this summer.” I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited. I was going to get to work on the world’s longest wooden rollercoaster. The crown jewel of Kings Island.
“My time operating The Beast gave me some of the best memories of my life. It was 1999, and I was on the 20th Anniversary Crew. Back then, The Beast had skid friction brakes and six blocks, 3 of which overlapped. The skid friction brakes made the train feel like it was gliding through the course.
“The control operator had to manually apply brake sections to park the train in the station due to the braking system. We added and subtracted the trains on and off the track and ran the safety block check test every day. It was an awesome responsibility. It was my ride.”
Part of history
“When you work on The Beast, you feel like you are a part of history. In the control booth remains a piece of mounted track, with the inaugural crew members’ names engraved on it. From time to time, an original crew member would ask to come in to look at the engraved track looking for their name (it was a cool experience).
“Operators interact with the carpenters who built and maintain the ride daily. My favourite carpenter’s son was born early one morning during the ride’s original construction while he was building the second lift.”
“The Beast is a brilliantly designed ride. It is a terrain coaster and I do not think I truly appreciated its design until I worked the ride. Closing each night, The Beast crew was the last in the office due to the nighttime popularity.
“It was magical working the platform at night. The excitement and energy were contagious. However, there was nothing better than sidetracking the trains and calling communications to declare, “The Beast is in bed” after a long day of work.”
Patrick Kling, Associate Art Director, Experience Design, Nickelodeon
“Long before I experienced attractions with complex ride systems and epic storytelling, I experienced a unique experience that captured by imagination: The Haunted Shack at Knott’s Berry Farm. Nestled in the heart of the park, Guests queued in switchbacks and were led on foot through a rustic… well, “Shack.” A corny tour guide would guide guests from room-to-room. They would pull guests out of the audience and place them in the middle of large-scale optical illusions.
“With cleverly angled walls, ceilings and floors several gags were pulled off, mostly flawlessly. Water going uphill? No problem. A person sitting down in a chair that they couldn’t possibly get out of? Absolutely. Your entire family standing slanted next to a slanted broom? That’s an everyday *Haunted* occurrence.
“I remember visiting the Haunted Shack as a child like it was yesterday. And I was one of the lucky few who got selected to take part in the experience! I climbed up a wall onto a chair that was magically floating against the walls! No magnets, no attachments hidden, just cleverly utilized and manipulated gravity.
“Now as a designer, I can pick out several reasons why it was such a favourite. For starters, nothing is more exciting than yourself, or a family member going up to be the centre of attention. And becoming a part of the experience.”
An authentic experience
“The Haunted Shack was shuttered in 2000 several years ahead of smartphones. Imagine how instragramable this experience would be considered today!
“The parlour tricks and optical illusions at this scale were incredibly wholesome and fun! It is one thing to hold an optical illusion in your hand on a paper or on a mobile phone. But to actually step INTO an optical illusion is a whole other level of wonderment.
“Finally, the experience was authentic. The Haunted Shack opened in 1954. It was inspired by the Mystery Shack at the Calico Ghost Town attraction in San Bernardino. It didn’t have fancy technology, but it did have compelling visual tricks! We can see that now that practical optical illusions make for some of the best effects on the most legendary attractions in our industry.
“While the shack is long closed, it lives on in our hearts, minds and YouTube. I think there is much to learn from its simultaneous simplicity, and complexity to pull off wonder for a young and impressionable Patrick Kling.”
Juliana Delaney, CEO, Continuum Attractions
“The first thing you need to know is that I’m half-Dutch. So, I spent my childhood not only being brought up in beautiful Yorkshire but also with family in Holland outside of Amsterdam.
“Where I started and my love of this industry started because I was taken as a child to De Efteling and also a miniature town and village near the Hague called Madurodam. As a child, I was always taken every year to the same two parks. You might think that has a lack of imagination by my family. But it was because I loved them so much and because they enjoyed them.”
“Therefore, they created lasting memories for me and these attractions really captured my imagination. I am so old it was the early iteration of De Efteling. There were interactive toadstools and interactive chickens that laid eggs. It was a magical fantasy world where even my grandparents or parents who were taking me seemed to vanish. It was almost as I was there on my own.
“I still have a little egg that came from De Efteling that popped out of the chickens. I just remember it as this magical place.”
Magic and fantasy
“And the same for Madurodam, which predates all of the Legoland modelling. It was beautiful, it was like a play world on a huge scale to a child*. The fact that it was that magic, fantasy, interaction, and that other-worldliness. It was as if you had stepped into another world where everything was right and fun. There was nothing bad there.
“Those two sites I must have returned to over and over again. And when I had children I took them as well. The lessons I learned was that you’ve got to win people’s hearts as well as their minds. If you build something and it stays there, then you’ve done your job. It’s not about how much money is it, is it a good value, is it interactive. You’ve got to win it with your hearts.”
“Those attractions are still here, being really emotional about it, forgetting about all of the spreadsheets, they’re in my heart.
“The only other time when I felt like that was when I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Florida. I was a huge lover of the books and an avid watcher of the films as well. To genuinely step into that world brought back all that emotional raised heartbeat feeling of being somewhere different, magical, other-worldly where everything else disappeared. If you went somewhere that was special.”
Bringing worlds to life
“I remember hearing how the Universal designers talking about how JK Rowling looked at every rooftop tile and how the chimney pots would look. And I realized, to win people’s hearts and take them into a magical place you’ve got to bring the story to life.”
“I think De Efteling, Madurodam and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios are all brilliant stories. They are all well-told and the detail helps you to step into that story. The attractions there really capture the imagination. I actually bought a wand at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It sits in my home office sits next to my original yellow plastic egg, which I must have got when I was five or six.
“I’ve got an office at work that is filled with every bit of paraphernalia from projects that I have been on. But my two most precious things are my egg and my wand.”
Anya Tyler, Design Engineer, Skyline Attractions
“Fresh out of college I landed a job with Dreampark, working on master planning and waterpark play structures. A few months into the job, I went to Singapore to oversee construction of a water play structure at Resorts World, on Sentosa Island, right next to Universal. I spent two different trips over there totalling about seven weeks.
“While I was there I had the opportunity to spend some time in Universal Studios. It was my first time being in a park outside of the USA, and my first time being in a park for work travel.
While I was in the park I walked towards the Shrek Castle and took in the view from the arch leading up to it. An inscription on this arch bears the words “Far, Far, Away” and I was struck by the castle. I was so used to seeing a Disney Cinderella castle that when I saw the Shrek castle it was such a different and yet amazing concept.”
Princesses and castles
“I’m a Disney princess at heart but [there was] something about the Shrek structure, it became my new favourite castle that I want to be the princess in. The way Universal creates worlds is amazing; that land really transported me far, far away.
“It was here in this theme park across the globe I was aware of my extreme gratitude for my chosen career and dream coming true. On challenging or stressful days, I try to get into the mindset I was on that day and see the bigger picture. I remember the fun and amazing park experiences I am working to create for someone else. And the gratitude for doing something I love.”
Joshua Liebman, Director of Business Development, Amusement Advantage
“There are many attractions that have inspired me and captured my imagination. The one that I can remember standing out the most was when Wicked Twister opened at Cedar Point in 2002. I was in high school at the time and my interest was growing significantly as a coaster enthusiast. This was a time when nearly every major ride manufacturer was introducing new and exciting prototypes.
“I visited Cedar Point on opening day for the first time that year. And I was among the first public riders on Wicked Twister.
“The fact that it was a launch coaster in a non-continues circuit got me thinking. What would a coaster look like if it launched, left the track, and then safely reentered? My fascination with this idea occupied my brain for months; I remember my drawings, the research online, discussing the feasibility in online forums (yep), and continually refining this idea.”
Inspiring a new prototype
“I made a series of mockup drawings of how “retractable up-stop wheels” would allow the ride vehicle to land safely on a toboggan-like track (which, now that I think about it, was most likely influenced because Wicked Twister was built next to Disaster Transport, an indoor toboggan coaster), knowing that it wasn’t likely to land in the exact location.”
“The idea of the retractable up-stop wheels morphed into a wheel mount that would be sturdy enough to allow the up-stop wheels to act as the standard wheels as it would safely land on a toboggan track (with shock absorption), coast on the toboggan for a healthy distance, and ultimately reset in a long straightaway, allowing it to enter a standard braking system and re-enter the regular track.
“Naturally, the launch and jump would need to be indoors to protect it from any weather-related elements.
“It’s been 18 years since I mocked up this prototype based on this exciting new Intamin double-spiral LIM launch coaster. While we still haven’t seen a jump coaster yet, the amazing new concepts that have been developed since then leave hope that it’s in the pipeline one day. And if it does, I’ll be the first in line. Big thanks to Intamin and Cedar Point for letting my imagination run wild!”
Background image Taiga coaster at Linnanmaki Park, courtesy of Pia Adlivankin