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May 5, 2008

King of the Theme Park Graveyard: Round one, day one

Here are today's opening match-ups in the tournament. Please select the rides you miss most, or that you would most like to have had the chance to ride, based upon these descriptions and the rides' reputations.

We continue to need photos for these old attractions, as well as others in the tournament. Please e-mail graveyard [at] themeparkinsider.com and many thanks to the TPI readers who have sent in photos already.

Back to the Future (Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood)
Just closed last year, these attractions, based on the popular Michael J. Fox movies, placed you in eight-passenger flight simulators, made up to look like the film's DeLorean time machines. You "flew" in front of a massive, Imax-style screen, as you chased bad guy Biff Tannen through time to reclaim his stolen DeLorean.

Back to the Future at Universal Studios Hollywood

Soap Box Racers (Knott's Berry Farm)
This Arrow coaster featured four side-by-side tracks, upon which you "raced" other riders, all in coaster cars fashioned after Soap Box Derby racers. Top speed was only 30 mph, but fans said that this ride fired your imagination at 100 mph-plus.

Horizons (Epcot)
This GE-sponsored Omnimover ride stood on the site of the current Mission: Space. Horizons offered a early '80s view of the future, after first taking a look back at visions of the future from the past. Highlights included the orange-scented farm of the future as well as the then-innovative opportunity to choose your own way to travel back to the 20th century (by land, sea or space).

Horizons at Epcot

Cranium Command (Epcot)
Loaded with late '80s pop culture references (Hans and Franz, anyone?), this mix of film and animatronics taught you about the central nervous system, through the eyes of a young boy. Literally. The show's still there, in Epcot's Wonders of Life pavilion, but shuttered indefinitely. Like the hypothalamus ("blink, blink, breathe, breathe, day in, day out, never a 'thank you,' never a 'job well done'") it just doesn't seem to earn much respect.

Cranium Command at Epcot

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom)
Well, it wasn't 20,000 leagues - just a lap around the old Fantasyland lagoon - and your Jules Verne-inspired subs never did descend under water below window level, but many riders loved this tour recreating scenes from the classic Walt Disney live action film. Poor hourly capacity and inaccessibility to wheelchair guests ultimately doomed the ride, and Disney filled in the lagoon, which is now the site of a Pooh-themed toddler play area.

Drachen Fire (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
Here's TPI's Russell Meyer's take: "The coaster was a pretty cool ride with some of the most unique combination of elements on any coaster ever built. You went up the lift and straight into a corkscrew (kinda like the one after the first loop on Anaconda), and a high speed dive into a trench. Then you went into the Batwing (or cobra roll as it is known now). Then you went through the MCBR, and before 1994, there was a diving corkscrew (later removed for a straight piece of track) and up through a cutback (kinda like a dive loop) and through a final corkscrew before ending with a vicious 540 degree helix into a trench."

Journey Into Imagination (Epcot)
Yes, this ride still exists. But it ain't the same. Fans clamored for the original dark ride from Epcot's Imagination pavilion to be included in this tournament. It's initial replacement, the universally despised Journey Into Your Imagination, remains the lowest-rated ride in Theme Park Insider history. But the original, with its impish Figment animating the journey, provided a welcomed touch of Disney whimsy in a Future World that was just too... educational for many early Epcot Center visitors.

Adventures Through Inner Space (Disneyland)
Hop aboard your Omnimover "Atom-mobile" and prepare to be shrunk down to molecular size by the Mighty Microscope for a journey through the human body. This Tomorrowland ride, on the site of what is now Star Tours, was sponsored by chemical company Monsanto, which pitched its many products the unload area. Looking back, the ride screams "cheese," but when I was a kid, I totally, completely and utterly bought in. And adored every moment aboard.

Readers' Opinions

From Bradley Robertson on May 5, 2008 at 11:36 AM
Even though Soap Box Racers was my first coaster, it pales in comparison to BTTF. 20,000 Leages and Journey were also no-brainers. I don't remember Horizons or Cranium so I sat those out.
From Dan Rosenberg on May 5, 2008 at 11:47 AM
I didn't even know Cranium Command existed. Thats scary. I never got to go on MK's 20,000 leauges but I do remember seeing it once. What year did it close?
From Lee Mak on May 5, 2008 at 12:01 PM
I wanna say that 20K leagues closed in 1993 or 1994.

Go Figment, look at those numbers!

I am very surprised at Horizons...not my first choice, but want to see how this does down the line against other graveyarded rides.

Marty McFly and Doc Brown are kicking some serious sea-bass right now; why did they get rid of that ride? So much for the "power of love"

From Bradley Robertson on May 5, 2008 at 1:19 PM
"why did they get rid of that ride?"

Because Universal wanted to theme it with a show that jumped the shark years ago, but can bring in more money because of cross marketing. Almost makes you wonder if they had a hand in getting the Simpson's movie to come out after years of talks that one would happen so that they could still be the park where you "ride the movies." Sorry for the rant, but I think they could have chose something else instead of adding a third ride based on a cartoon, Jason Bourne maybe?

From James Rao on May 5, 2008 at 3:28 PM
I loved the BTTF movies and the ride and hated to see it go, so it would have earned my vote, but since I never rode that Knott's Berry Farm ride, I did some research and checked it out on Youtube. It looked like a neat attraction, fairly original and fun. I gave it my vote, though it was more out of pity than anything else!

No way I could take Horizons since it was replaced by one of my favorite attractions, Mission:Space. I mean Horizons was interesting, but seriously.... I would much rather have Mission: Space. Anyway, Cranium Command was/is a great hidden gem....I do hope someday Disney comes to their senses and gets the Life Pavilion back up and running...

20k Leagues has sort of been replaced, so I don't miss it much, however Drachen Fire is just gone...nothing replaced it. That spot in the park is just a place for concerts now. So sad to see a coaster just die like that...

Journey Into Imagination was and is a lame attraction, Figment or no Figment.

From Robert OGrosky on May 5, 2008 at 3:58 PM
Cranium Command is superior to a boring ride like Horizons!!!!!!!!!!! Wake up people and lets turn around this travesty!!!!!!
From Robert Niles on May 5, 2008 at 4:25 PM
I really thought that the underdogs would rule today.
From Derek Potter on May 5, 2008 at 4:45 PM
Voted for Drachen Fire. I got to ride it a couple of times and liked it, although it was rough for a young steel looper.

A history tidbit...the story goes that it was originally
supposed to be designed and built by B&M, but the company had too many projects at the time to build a coaster for both Busch Parks. Kumba was built for BG Tampa, and the Williamsburg contract was given to Arrow. The elements in Drachen Fire were very similar to what would be in numerous future B&M designs, leading many to believe that Arrow used the design that was initially created by B&M, and applied Arrow technology to it, causing design incompatibilty from the start. Arrow's center of gravity was always the center of the train, while B&M's center is the heart of the rider. Arrow's rigid trains accounted for much of the roughness. Had it been wholly designed and built by either Arrow or B&M, it may have withstood the test of time.

Here's a youtube of Drachen Fire. Company promotional video POV

http://youtube.com/watch?v=s7e3hbVWRJQ


I'm sure that BTTF will win the match with Soap Box Derby. I voted for Soap Box Derby from a historical perspective. There's no questioning the significance of Back To The Future though. In fact, I would probably say that BTTF would win the whole thing, except everyone around here has mouse on the brain.

I never rode either one of the other two rides, so I didn't vote for them. I probably won't be voting in a lot of these contests. For one, I never rode a lot of them, and I'm not sure I can get interested in another Disney lovefest.

From Manny Barron on May 5, 2008 at 6:59 PM
Back to the Future is by far the best ride in this tournament. It is hard for me to believe that it's not there anymore. It is the ride that put Universal on the map and with a good refurbishment should've been left standing as a classic. None of these extinct rides can stand up against BTTF and say they had a bigger impact on riders or that they had such a fanbase. I look forward to another Back to the Future blowout in the second round.
From Scottland Jacobson on May 5, 2008 at 10:44 PM
Wow! All my picks were at the low end of the vote!

Soap Box Racers was awesome! I rode that a multitude of times. BTTF was a great ride, but really got quite jerky with time.

And Adventure Through Inner Space is already losing?? I thought for sure that would be a top contender! "You're smaller than an atom!!"

*sigh*

From Marc Ricketts on May 6, 2008 at 12:27 PM
Wow! This is another Toad beating Tatsu moment for me. I forgot most of the Imagination ride, past and present, 5 minutes after getting off, but can still vividly recall riding ATIS in 1982 despite a state of mind which I will not elaborate on at this time and place.

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