Thursday, October 31, 2019

Classic Darkride Round-Up

Old-school amusement park haunted house attractions, or darkrides, are one of my favorite things, so I figured that for this Halloween, I'd share a collection of pictures of ones that I have visited while looking closer at the finer points of each one. Let's jump in!

Starting off with one of my favorites, and for good reason... the Waldameer Whacky Shack is one of the best classic darkrides anywhere. Beginning with the memorable recording that repeats over and over in the queue (Hello, Earthlings!), almost every scene, designed by the late Bill Tracy, is original to the ride. The playful fa├žade is a classic example of the creativity that Bill Tracy brought to the table in the design of dark attractions; it's altogether original, yet the twirling eyes somehow hint at the spooks that are found inside. The Whacky Shack will also turn 50 years old in 2020.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to have visited both of the best remaining Bill Tracy darkrides in the country today, the aforementioned Whacky Shack and this, Trimper's Haunted House. As far as darkrides go, this one uses an interesting mix of visual tricks and purposely scary scenes. It is a ride that has been constantly evolving over the years, but it has maintained the majority of its Tracy stunts remarkably well. Like the Whacky Shack, Trimper's Haunted House is two stories, but the Haunted House has a very long track length that gives the ride a five minute run time.

Compared to the two examples above, Knoebels' Haunted Mansion and Black Diamond have relatively un-inspired facades. However, the content that is found inside both of these attractions is far from mundane. Both were designed in-house by the park, and both form two sides of the equation for a perfect darkride: Haunted Mansion specializes in many theatrical techniques, with expert use of diversion and lighting, while Black Diamond is a heavily themed and detailed (I probably rode it five times this year, and I noticed some new effects every time) hybrid darkride/roller coaster. Both are stellar and among my all-time favorite park rides.
Laffland at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park in New York is a little off-the-beaten-path, but the trip is worth it. This is the textbook example of a classic Pretzel darkride - the cars even still have those big pretzel-shaped counterweights on the front. After seeing the slightly run-down appearance of the rest of the park when I visited in 2017, I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but boy was I surprised; Laffland is chock full of vintage stunts, most all of them in perfect operating condition. There's even a large assortment of car-activated "noise makers" that add the most down-home of sound effects. 60-some years old, Laffland is a gem that I can't recommend enough.

 Finishing off this list is one of my local rides, the Devil's Den at Conneaut Lake Park. Like Laffland, it's a Pretzel creation, except this ride runs solely on gravity, with a chain lift and small dip utilized for the cars to gain momentum. The stunts inside are mostly modern, but they are all hand-built tableaus that are very detailed and thought-out, especially considering how fast your car whips around the turns!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Conneaut Lake Park's Abandoned Toboggan

Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania was home to a Toboggan portable roller coaster for a number of years in the early 2000s. For those not familiar, a Toboggan is a flat ride made by Chance Rides that involves a vertical climb through an enclosed tube in a small coaster car, after which riders spiral around the outside of the tube to ground level. At this point in the ride, there are a series of small dips, which the guests traverse before returning to the station. From 2002 to 2006, it ran at Conneaut near the lakefront. In 2007 and 2008, Conneaut Lake Park didn't open, and when the park reopened 2009, the Toboggan didn't, so it was abandoned and left to rot at the same location through 2013.
 In 2014, the Toboggan was collapsed into its "trailered" position (as it is a portal model) and moved to the Conneaut Lake parking lot, where it sits to this day. In 2018, my dad and I made the walk back to it to take some pictures of the ride. Although it appears to be in a state that will not allow it to operate again, it's cool to see this relic of amusement history past nonetheless.
 Much of the track is stacked haphazardly on an adjacent trailer to the one with the lift tube. 
 Seen here is the ride's sign, light bulbs intact!
 Some plant life is starting to cover the ride.
 One of the cars (and maybe more) remain in the tube.
 I hope you have enjoyed this unique look at a Chance Toboggan!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Epcot "Transformation" - What to Do?

We're upgrading to the "big time" theme parks for a break from typical programming here on Bayern Kurve Blog today, but I hope you find this insightful!

Epcot is the most original theme park ever built, and it's really the most different theme park ever built. Although I never even was close to experiencing it in its original form, I have seen pictures and videos, and the wonder that its early visitors felt is truly astounding to me.

With that being said, Epcot is currently undergoing a massive transformation to ready it for its fifth decade. Major cosmetic changes are going to be done to the park's center, attractions are being debuted and updated, and a new experience is coming to the old Wonders of Life pavilion.

However, there is much debate over these expected changes, mostly involving the question of what the theme will be for the Epcot of the future. Will it be purely based on Disney characters? After all, it seems as if every piece of promotional material that Disney puts out for the park's future includes something to the extent of making it "more Disney." Heck, even Spaceship Earth will have its focus changed from communications to storytelling. (I'm fine with this; they just need to do it right! i.e. no intellectual properties)

Another extremely notable change will occur at Epcot's former Universe of Energy pavilion, with the addition of a new Guardian's of the Galaxy roller coaster. Herein lies the death of the original Epcot. Before the closure of Universe of Energy, there was just enough left of the original "edutainment" focus for so-called "purists" to give the park a passing grade. With the replacement of one of the park's original attractions with a roller coaster - of all things - the park's focus will fully be shifted.
Full disclaimer, I love roller coasters, but Epcot isn't the park for them!
 With all of the changes soon taking place, the Disney company will likely give careful attention to aesthetic details to please the die-hard theme park fan, and I'm excited to see those. After all, the overall feel of a theme park is greatly caused by such little things. Once again, though, I wish that I had gotten to see the original Epcot, but the state of the park today and the in the future is such a different place from what it was 25, 30 years ago. In the end, like all Disney theme parks, Epcot will remain a pleasure to visit, but I simply pray that with carefully implemented balance, Epcot can retain a proper focus for the future.

Meanwhile, World Showcase will simply continue doing its thing for the foreseeable future. Perhaps no other theme park area as ever sparked as much debate as Future World!
Our planet has drifted through the universe...
I apologize for the rambling nature of today's post, but I hope that you were able to gain something from it!