Written by Joe Lane
Published: June 22, 2004 at 8:48 AM
Theme park fans really enjoy talking about the best of the best. Rides that are imaginative, fun, thrilling--these are the attractions and shows that captivate our minds--that keep our interest in theme parks fresh. Perhaps the only thing more enjoyable than talking about your favorite ride is ragging on the ride that done you wrong. I'm talking about real stinker attractions or shows that appear to serve no gratifying purpose other than wasting space.
The Park Listings/Top Attractions here on TPI feature the top 25-rated attractions out of the hundreds listed on the site. Also included is a top ten listing of up and coming attractions--rides and shows that haven't gotten a minimum vote on the site but are getting nice reviews. And just below that, we have the ten worst attractions.
The list fluctuates as votes are tallied. Currently, Viper is number one on the list. The Six Flags Great Adventure coaster reportedly suffers in two areas: length and roughness. Apparently, the wait is sometimes too long for a ride that runs too short--and gives its riders a violent trip to boot. After a total of twenty-five votes, the ride currently sits at a lousy 3-Weak.
Of course, it's tough to automatically call this coaster a bad ride simply because of its low score from a small number of votes. What help back the system up are the User Comments. A lot of folks say the ride is painful, but there are one or two who still give the coaster a respectable nod.
Some folks can make error judgments in what makes a bad ride. One also needs to take into consideration the target audience an attraction may be intended to appeal to--like Disneyland's it's a small world, for example. The ride currently has an overall score of 7-Good, but TPI realizes the variations in younger audiences--that's why some attractions have ratings for kids and toddlers (which, incidentally, rate small world an 8 and 9, respectively).
It's not that us older folk are completely oblivious of what kids may or may not enjoy. Take, for instance, another contender on the top ten list of worst theme park attractions: Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies at DCA. The attraction in question is bumper car-style, themed after the Disney/Pixar film A Bug's Life. Instead of taking the power from the ceiling, like traditional bumper cars, these vehicles take their low voltage current from the floor. They also move at half the speed of a regular bumper car, making the ride less bumper than car. The attraction garners a 3-Weak after sixteen votes, and actually rates at a 5-Average for kids. Some parents commented their little ones enjoyed the ride, while other folks feel that even the kids won't get a kick out of this attraction.
In sixth place on the list is Innoventions at Disneyland. This attraction is more of a display showcase, featuring futuristic products and such. Many folks view this as a marketing exhibit and an overall waste of space at DL. It rates a 4-Mediocre with only 17 votes, but the User Comments speak for themselves. Meanwhile, Innoventions at Epcot, on the east coast, rates a 6-Fair. One could contribute the difference to a use of practical space. Epcot has the room to amiably accommodate the exhibit, while the Innoventions at DL is more filler. Disneyland's Tomorrowland is already suffering from a poor stage presence in terms of design and attractions (check out the three part photo essay Tomorrowland, Then and Now at SaveDisney.com to see the difference for yourself).
Story sometimes plays a major roll in a good theme park attraction--there's a strong connection between theme and atmosphere regarding this aspect. While some rides can succeed in thrills alone, others rely on the story to help their popularity. A bad example would be R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This is a 4-D attraction, so all it has to go on is story to begin with--it's the sole driving force behind this attraction. Ironic how a successful kids novelist like R.L. Stine can write a script for an attraction that, story-wise, doesn't produce positive results. User Comments also attribute the poor story to half-hearted acting and bland humor. The attraction rates a 4-Mediocre, which is actually one point short of the 5-Average that the BGT version holds.
An attraction's old age alone can be its downfall. Some rides are timeless, and age well like a fine wine--the nostalgia stays strong and the effects are convincing even today (if but a little hokey). Others, not so much. Take for instance Python at BGT, currently number five on the TPI worst ride list. The 1977 coaster features a double corkscrew--at the time, this was state-of-the-art. Many folks cite the ride's old age for its roughness and shortness. It has been completely outdone by its evolved cousins Kumba and Montu.
Then there's the Swiss Family Treehouse at the Magic Kingdom--a simple walkthrough attraction depicting rooms in the faux tree of the Swiss Family Robinson. The attraction has been around since 1971--a clone of the original at Disneyland which opened in 1962--two years after the release of the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. One of the reasons the treehouse suffers is its connection to such an old film--the younger generation can't identify well with the attraction. That's just another reason why the DL version was overhauled in 1999 to coincide with the release of Disney's Tarzan. Incidentally, both treehouses rate a 4-Mediocre, so theme has little to do with it.
So we can infer several things from these selections. A ride has to have a decent length to it. It needs to be comfortable--ergonomically-minded. It needs to have some excitement to it--to make it worthwhile and enjoyable for people of all ages, be it in design, execution or theme. It needs to be sensible--to have meaning other than simply existing to take up space. A good attraction can also benefit from a strong story, plot, or credible acting. And in most aspects it needs to be current and fresh.
Out here in the Central Florida area, there are a few attractions that I personally feel fall into the category of a bad ride. I'd be quick to say the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway is an attraction that we can do without--the space can be used to build at least two attraction for the Magic Kingdom, but I'm apt to remember that a lot of the little ones enjoy being able to drive on their own. The ride, however, is the second-lowest rated attraction at MK (Swiss Family Treehouse is number one).
The recent incarnation of Journey Into the Imagination With Figment at Epcot rates pretty low on my personal list--especially compared to the original attraction, which I feel was much more imaginative than the garbage Disney stuck the public with after the integration of the Imagination Institute theme.
Here's something different: Poseidon's Fury at IOA. Here's an attraction that's new and different, fresh, and features some truly remarkable theme park effects. Yet the complex nature of the new version, along with an unimaginative storyline, make this experience not worth two trips.
It's time to hear you folks sound off. What is the worst ride ever built--and why? Better yet--what makes a really bad ride? Share you thoughts! And keep on ridin'!