Cedar Fair Dark Rides: Past, Present & Future
Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet has announced plans earlier this year for their chain of parks to get a dark ride in the near future. As we told you back in April, Ouimet says that we should eventually see dark rides in all Cedar Fair parks. While this is no new category of entertainment for the theme park operator, it’s become more scarce in parks as other new attractions [like coasters for the coaster crazies] have been added over the last decade. We’ve seen Kings Island’s notorious collection with the history of the Enchanted Voyage eras, Phantom Theater, Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Castle and, currently with, Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Cedar Point had a good long run from their dark rides with the Earthquake ride [1965-1984] and the Pirate Ride [1966-1996], but we know it’s a Coaster Nation (see what we did there) and we’re all living in it!!
With the current era of Ouimet in place, adding some rides that are more inline with guests that have pedestrian, closer-to-the-ground taste in attractions is a great way to further stimulate more ridership from guests. With the Guardian ride opening at Canada’s Wonderland last year and Voyage to the Iron Reef being added to Knott’s Berry Farm this season, it’s time to unleash more of that Goodness throughout the rest of the portfolio. While we speculate on what will go on plots of land at Cedar Point and Kings Island within the next two years, let’s have a look at some of their memorable dark ride attractions of the past and present.
Smurfs Enchanted Voyage in Hanna-Barbera Land [1984-1991]
This one was lots of fun for us 80’s kids who loved seeing “The Smurfs” on NBC’s Saturday Morning cartoon roster. When you saw them up-close at Kings Island, it was a great thrill and not to mention the fantastic air-conditioned building that you enjoyed while being out of the sun! The ride had guests sit in boats that ran on a track in water and the exterior of the building was a color, silhouette mural of a forest. The concept of the ‘Voyage‘ has been compared to Disney’s “It’s a Small World” as the Smurf ride showcased the Smurfs in all seasons of the year. The scenes also show the lil’ blue guys (and Smurfette) minding their Smurf Village and trying to eradicate Gargamel and his cat Azrael’s plans for their demise. It was a popular ride for the 8 seasons that it ran in the Hanna-Barbera Land section of the park and was a great concept to operate as Hanna-Barbera further claimed their crown as the “Sultans of Saturday Morning“.
Near the ride was a “Smurfs Goodies” food stand which served the famous blue “Smurf Cones” and there was the Hanna-Barbera gift shop which had a vast array of Smurfs merchandise. Looking back now, this was the tip of the iceberg when it came to Kings Island and it’s sister parks emphasizing trademarked ventures.
During the Paramount Parks era, many films and other trademarks were used for rides, attractions and merchandise around the park. While it appeared to have succeeded with the Paramount era, there’s no way we see Cedar Fair going this route for any feature attractions outside of the Snoopy & Peanuts gang licenses. But Boy, Oh Boy; it was great to see cartoon friends come to life, even though it was always scary seeing Gargamel! But don’t take our word for it. See the video below of the entire ride featuring a kid that was way more spooked than even we were!
Days of Thunder [1994-1998]
Ah, Yes. The Paramount era of Kings Island was a Grand one back in the 1990’s. Lots of people had their opinions of some classic rides being re-themed to Hollywood movies, TV shows and the like but we found it to be fun. A Good Element of fun was the Days of Thunder ride located near The Racer in the Coney Mall section of the park. When you stepped into the Theater, you sat in one of the ride simulator seats and got ready for a wild ride. Once the gentlemen started their engines, you felt the rumble and the seat started to move and soon you were rocking and reeling with the motions of the race cars. It was quite the experience and was a good way to play to the Nascar fans who have a vested interest in the sport and ride.
This was an exciting way for a Paramount franchise to get new life after being in existence for a few years (“Days of Thunder” starring Tom Cruise was released four years prior). There was also a go-kart style track that guests could pay extra to drive on and ride against other guests; which was real popular. The building of the ride has since been renamed a couple of times to accommodate different themes from the likes of James Bond, Hanna-Barbera and Marvel’s 7th Portal comic series. Currently, it is called Action Theater and features Dinosaurs Alive! 3D and have had the motion-sensor seats removed from the theater. Could Cedar Fair bring the building back to it’s original operating use in the next few years???
Pirate Ride [1966-1996]
Cedar Point’s Pirate Ship enjoyed three decades of existence near the Blue Streak (and later Raptor) and stayed in business 12 years after the park’s Earthquake ride shook for the last time. The ride took guests through the building on a boat and showcased scenes of pirates up to no good (including one that was chasing a woman around a barrel). There were sea creatures that were inhabiting the scenes as all features of the ride had a neon color glow to it. It was quite good fun but some portions of the ride showcased some of it’s mechanics and techniques, like the tentacles of the octopus moving with strings and the strings were visible.
The creativity of the Enchanted Voyage and Phantom Theater were best quality in these categories but the Pirate Ride was still a great experience! You gotta love being greeted by a full sized ship in water as you approach the building (now this is all reminding me of Ohio-based Jolly Pirate donuts and the treasure chest box they put the donuts in!) One would think that Cedar Fair would re-use that area for another dark ride adventure but then you’d have to consider the large plot of land that was cleared where the Good Time Theater building was. A record-breaking roller coaster would be quite sweet but that may be what Cedar Fair wants us to think, all the while they are planning a cool dark ride. Hmmmmmm…….
Voyage to the Iron Reef [New in 2015]
Knott’s Berry Farm fans are treated to numerous good things in 2015. The legendary Calico Mine Ride has been overhauled with such features like animatronic upgrades [including a miner actually finding gold] while maintaining the ride experience that has been world renowned for 55 years. That is an example of keeping the old-school, beloved dark ride that keeps a park’s original charm while focusing on careful modernizations. Meanwhile, the 4-D, interactive dark ride experience has been evolving in the industry and Knott’s has that for you too with Voyage to the Iron Reef, which debuted this year. Using approximately 600 feet of track and going through six scenes and the story lines for the ride showcase a great creativity of the Knott’s and Cedar Fair team. Guests will be captivated by it and will enjoy the use of 3-D glasses, shooting lasers at enemies and feeling like they’re in the middle of a calamity that can only stopped by them. Who wouldn’t want to feel like Super Mario! With all of the creativity and publicity the ride got for Knott’s this year, it’s clear to see why Ouimet wants one in every park eventually. Having a modern dark ride shows that the whole family can enjoy a good time and yet, it’s action-packed in ways that thrill seekers can appreciate.
With the rumors running rampant that Cedar Point will be adding a Dive Coaster for it’s next big attraction, enthusiasts could speculate on an elaborate dark ride that is world class, ground breaking and even record breaking. I’ve noticed Cedar Point fans mentioning how they miss attractions like the Pirate Ride and other rides they could enjoy as a family. Could it be that the Valravn is a true attraction coming soon to The Point and it’ll be a Big Bad 4-D Dark Ride!?!?! We don’t know yet, but on July 23rd, Cedar Point’s Communication Guy Tony Clark tweet-teased about “#CP2016”.
But take this as you will: when Ouimet was asked by the Sandusky Register this month if Cedar Point will be granted a dark ride or a dive coaster in 2016, he hinted that the open land where the Good Times Theater was would be a pumpkin patch!!
Of course, this was our reaction……..
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