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2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, day four, round one: Expedition Everest bracket

By Robert Niles
Published: March 20, 2009 at 7:10 AM
Welcome to day four of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

Yesterday, we had three upsets - with Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200, Busch Gardens Africa's SheiKra and Soarin' Over California from Disney's California Adventure all joining favorite Millennium Force in the second round.

Today features a match-up of two highly-themed outdoor coasters from Walt Disney World: sixth seed Expedition Everest from Disney's Animal Kingdom versus Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from the Magic Kingdom.

As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

Expedition Everest

It's another coaster battle in our next match-up, with Disney's Rock n' Roller Coaster taking on Alpengeist from Busch Gardens Europe.

We're off to the west coast for our next contest, as Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure takes on Orange County rival GhostRider from Knott's Berry Farm.

For our final match today, we return to Orlando, as Universal Studios Florida's shoot-'em-up Men In Black Alien Attack faces off against SeaWorld Orlando's drench-'em-wet Journey to Atlantis

Let's read your comments!

Readers' Opinions

From TH Creative on March 20, 2009 at 7:21 AM
The other day TPI regular James Rao offered up this post:

As Marty Sklar, the international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, once said, "We're in the business of telling great stories, and great stories never grow old. In the end, a roller coaster is just a roller coaster."

If you embrace Mr. Sklar’s opinion then you have to give maximum respect to MEN IN BLACK: ALIEN ATTACK. There is no denying that MIBAA maintains an airtight theme that supports a well-defined, coherent plot that could have easily become a sequel to the film from which it is licensed.

This innovative attraction blows the Atlantis log flume out of the water.

From Todd Houts on March 20, 2009 at 7:37 AM
Well, I just finally got my comments posted for yesterday and today's is already up...

For Expedition Everest vs. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - while I personally like BTMR better, I figured EE would take this one, and thus my vote. Plus the queue for EE (even with the non-working Yeti - which I'm yet to experience working) is wonderful. The Big Thunder queue is cramped and often hot, hot, hot.

I picked Rock 'n Roller Coaster at DHS as I think it may be the best coaster at WDW. On its own (especially if it were outside) it is nothing special, but the complete theming experience is simply awesome. I first rode Alpengeist last year. I'm sure in its heeday it was something, but it has been surpassed (IMHO) since then. Plus there was one transition between elements in the center that needed a few more feet of track. It was jarring and uncomfortable.

For Indiana Jones vs. GhostRider - as much as I love GhostRider (and I think it is an awesome woodie), between the immersive Disney theming (and the anonymous votes) I gave Indiana Jones the berth in my predictions. This is a time I definitely voted what I think WILL win versus what I think SHOULD win.

Finally, I find Journey to Atlantis mostly boring (except for the small surprise coaster element at the end). I really enjoyed MIB during my first rides last October, even though it has been matched or bested by several similar rides. (Most notably, Toy Story Midway Mania.)

From Brian L on March 20, 2009 at 7:41 AM
My picks:

Expedition Everest - I may have been whining about it the other day, but even with its Yeti-less flaw, its still better themed and just a better coaster with its inventive use of track switches.

R&R Coaster - Although i should have more local love for Alpengeist; the launch on R&R is great and always catches me off guard, even with that countdown.

Indiana Jones Adventure - Never ridden Ghostrider because i will never trust a wooden coaster ever again. You won't be able to talk me into it either. And I can't count how many neck/head aches i have gotten on any wooden coaster and eventually i just gave up on em.

Men In Black - Great theming. The que line is fantastic and just an overall better experience than the muffled Atlantis. Our audio-track must have been off because i didnt know what the hell we were running away from. They need to tighten up that storytelling in SeaWorld.

From 74.235.196.81 on March 20, 2009 at 7:45 AM
MIB "bested" by Toy Story?!

RUBBISH!

From Anthony Murphy on March 20, 2009 at 8:02 AM
How did Atlantis make it into these brackets? I feel like its one of the worst thrill attractions ever made! I guess thats my opinion.
From Derek Potter on March 20, 2009 at 8:14 AM
Everest got the win for me in the first match. Yeah the Yeti is screwed right now, but it's a good ride. The two rides are fairly similar to each other, but the Everest theming gives it the edge, even if the coaster track is generic.

Alpengeist is the better ride in the second match. I've ridden Rock and Roller Coaster several times...without the music at Kings Island. How is that you ask? Because Flight of Fear and Rock and Roller Coaster are almost exactly the same. It's an off the shelf ride with lights and music...woohoo. Alpengeist is a fun machine that does it's job well. Not my favorite inverted coaster, but certainly more substance than RnR

As much as I want to vote for Ghostrider, my vote goes to Indiana Jones. Lots of detail and theme. You could ride again and again just to look at things you've haven't looked at yet. One of the best Disney rides out there.

Went with MIB for the last one. The world seems to be filling up with laser tag dark rides, but MIB is one of the best...good fun.

From Scottland Jacobson on March 20, 2009 at 8:33 AM
Ah! No heartburn at all on this vote. All are easy picks for me.

Yes, EE gets lots of complaints on the Yeti, but the whole set up, the backwards double spiral (that still gives me butterflies everytime I ride), the drop after the track switches to forward again...it's smile inducing all the way. To me, Disney's best coaster yet. Although I always love BTMM, EE takes the cake.

I seem to be in the minority here, and admitedly I haven't ridden Alpengeist since 2003, but the Busch Gardens Europe inverted floorless is my #1 floorless that I've ever ridden. Sure, RnR is tons of fun - but it's too short for me to consider it "best ride." Alpengeist's first drop over the lake is just breathtaking. And the ski theme just cracks me up.

There are only 2 woodies that are worth it in my mind - Thunderhead at Dollywood (my #1 choice) and The Beast at Kings Island (my #2 choice). Indiana Jones is so amazingly themed, exicting and overall FUN. To me, it's a top 5 of all time ride. Ghostrider doesn't have a "ghost" of a chance.

And MIB!!?!? INCREDIBLE. I ride that over and over and over and over again everytime I'm at USF. What an awesome experience. I do like Atlantis, but sorry, it's sunk in this race when up against such an amazing attraction as MIB.

Thanks for not giving me heartburn today Robert!! However, I'm thinking that if I ever win the lottery, I'm treating a ton of TPI readers to a trip to Dollywood. I'm still bitter about Mystery Mine!!!! The Matterhorn!?!? C'MON!!!

From James Rao on March 20, 2009 at 9:06 AM
I am going to agree with other posters here: despite the non-working Yeti, Everest is still a better attraction than BTMR. I will exact my revenge on Disney's inability to fix the Yeti in a subsequent round (imagine, an animatronic that doesn't animate - *CHOKE*).

Alpengeist is maybe the best B&M inverted I have ever ridden, however the theming, while fun, is minimal, and the ride still fairly standard (the Patriot at my local park offers a very similar ride). I am going to go with RnR today because it has a stronger narrative that carries through the entire ride. Plus, I just like coasters in the dark. Incidentally, here is a picture of Xpress which is rumored to have the same layout as Vekoma's Rock N Roller Coaster, and here is Poltergeist which is the same as Premier Rides' Flight of Fear at King's Island & King's Dominion. The layouts are pretty similar, as Derek said, and honestly, both perfect for being indoors.

I have Indiana Jones going deep into the tournament, so it will definitely get my vote today.

As for MIB, I have never been of fan of the movies or the ride. In fact, it was a huge disappointment for me during my 2007 vacation. It seems to me as if every ounce of creativity went into making sure they nailed the theme (which they did), but then the designers forgot to make the attraction fun and addictive. However, I have heard so many people comment favorably about the attraction that I just have to presume I am wrong and that the day I rode it was just an aberration. I am anxious to revisit the park in 2010 and give it another chance. However, for today, I am going with SeaWorld's hybrid, Journey To Atlantis. Don't get me wrong, JTA is not a great flume/coaster, but it is a great attempt. The theming is substandard, the water part of the ride is just okay, but the last :30 seconds are a hoot, and that makes the ride good enough to beat MIB.

From Raul Araoz on March 20, 2009 at 10:17 AM
Here is the first big bracket. Time to create some arguments.

I was very disappointed with Everest. The queue is tremendous and the look of the mountain is great, but this is a best ride tournament. The coaster's layout is boring. Basically, you have a backward double helix. You have the best part which is the down-and-back hill and then you have a forward double helix. That is it. This ride needed more elements. Second, the theming is not that great. There are only four, briefly themed parts. The nicely designed temple you pass through the lift hill. The broken track at the top. The lazy shadow scene and the, admittedly great but, quick glimpse of the Yeti. That is not enough. The shadow effect is cheap and Disney uses it on the line for Splash Mountain. That scene could have been great and detailed, instead it is nothing. The backward element should have been themed. There is also that black moment when you return from the hill where a yeti arm or glowing eyes could have implemented. The ride has problems. Thunder Mountain, on the other hand, is the best mine train coaster in the world. The layout is fun with lots of banks and dips. The theming carries through the whole ride with a town, animals, caves, collapsing mines and has little details you pick up on when you ride again. It easily wins this round for me.

Rock n'Roller Coaster also wins the second round for me. Alpengeist is a solid inverted coaster. However, it has its' bumpy moments. Also, I feel Montu is much superior. RnR is a short coaster, but the theming and darkness help it immensely. It still has the best launch I have been on and the music is tremendous.

The third couldn't be less of a contest for me. I hate Ghostrider. The only thing it gave me was a migrane. I prefer Colossus and Rebel Yell. Indiana Jones, on the hand, is my favorite ride period. No attraction combines a dark ride and a thrill ride like Indy does. The theming begins the second you enter the building and doesn't end until you leave. It is bumpy but not as much as Dinosaur. The depth of details along with the innovative use of simulator tech. makes this a first class attraction.

The last pairing is the only one to give me pause. Atlantis is a unique ride in its' combination of coaster and flume. I personally feel the ride is well themed. I also love the idea that there are extra thrills after the main hill drop when everyone expects the ride to be over. However, there are two segments that are blatantly lacking theme. The one lift hill up the back, where you can see the passing cars, should be covered. Second, the coaster section should be themed. Those flaws convince me that Men in Black wins the round. IMHO, this is the best shooting ride of the three. Your score actually effects the outcome which Toy Story could have used. The competition element is exciting, the guns are the least painful to use and the theming is rich. Men in Black wins.

From Robert Niles on March 20, 2009 at 9:43 AM
Thunder Mountain's C lift is perhaps the most frustrating blown climax in the theme park world. With its build-up, the ensuing drop should be literally earth-shaking. Instead, the front car reaches at the bottom of the hill before the train crests. This... drives... me... nuts! It's a kiddie-coaster ending to what could have been a world-class themed thrill ride.

Personally, I would love to see Men in Black get out of this bracket. It's got immersive theming; it's a entertaining spinning dark ride, plus it has high re-rideability due to the video game element. It's my favorite attraction at USF, my second favorite at Universal Orlando and one of my Top 10 favorite attractions anywhere.

From Emily G on March 20, 2009 at 10:43 AM
Could only vote in two of the four as have only been to theme parks in Orlando and Tampa. I went for Expedition Everest and Men in Black.

Men in Black for the competition factor (its a while since I have been on Journey to Atlantis but dont remeber being very impressed) and Expedition Everest as although I love Big Thunder Mountain my love is mainly for nostalgic reasons. Expedition Everest I feel is the more exciting of the two even though it isn't the most thrilling ride.

Have experienced the Yeti and he is fab!

From Don Neal on March 20, 2009 at 11:26 AM
Rockin bracket today! Everest, Indy Jones, MIB, and RRC FTW!! :)
From James Rao on March 20, 2009 at 1:40 PM
The Yeti Backlash clarified: I want to make it clear that I LOVE Expedition Everest. I disagree entirely with any assertion that the theming and narrative power of the coaster are subpar. The attraction is, without a doubt, the best story-driven roller coaster I have ever ridden (Revenge of the Mummy is second). My whole crusade against Everest is strictly aimed at Disney's unwillingness to bite the bullet and close the ride down to make extended repairs to the Yeti's foundation. Without those repairs, the Yeti cannot lunge and in official Disney-speak is stuck B-Mode (strobe lights are used to simulate movement).

To borrow from Bill Murray in STRIPES, Expedition Everest without the Yeti is like a foot without a big toe. Or, in my own words, like cake without frosting.

The last time we rode Everest (in 2007), the Yeti was working just fine, and my two boys still talk about how cool it was. To them it was the exclamation point of the ride, and the highlight of the vacation (that and Tower of Terror, of course). When I go back in 2010, if my now 44" tall daughter is forced to watch Dance Club Yeti I will consider the trip to DAK a dismal failure.

Despite my crusade, though, I voted for Everest in its match-up today. The reason I voted for it is because even if you take the beast out of the ride entirely, it is still a better experience than BTMR.

That is not to say that BTMR is a bad attraction. On the contrary, it has excellent theming and is a fun ride for the whole family. With a max speed of something like 35 mph, BTMR isn't going to scare anyone, but the attention to detail along the course of the track should be eye-popping to everyone. However, BTMR does seem to slow down quite a bit from time to time, and just when it gets going nice and quick with a few real fun turns...it's over. And there's that pathetic last drop Robert mentioned in his comments. A total failure in design. Once Everest gets going, it does not let up until the end, and even when it stops in the early going, there is always some eye-candy to keep you entertained. If these two coasters were novels, Everest would be the Lord of the Rings, and BTMR would be The Hobbit. Both are excellent, but the LOTR is a is a fully realized saga while The Hobbit is, in many ways, a kid's book.

The Yeti wins today, but based on the way things are going, I am hoping it gets ousted by RnR in the next round. The early exit should be enough to get the attention of the powers-that-be at WDI.

John Lasseter, fix the Yeti now!

From Rocklin Terrell on March 20, 2009 at 12:29 PM
Despite James' wish to be erased from existence by calling out the Disney elite, I must agree with his assessment that the grade A-mode Yeti (in all its full motion glory) is not a luxury of entertainment but a necessity. I too agree that Everest is one of the best themed and story-driven rides ever created, but at the moment it is in an official injured reserve status. So Lasseter take your star player out of the rotation for a game or so, heal him up, and get him back out there in all his glory. Do it soon. Do it now.

BTW, Rocklin Terrell is not my real name. ;-)

From Robert Niles on March 20, 2009 at 3:00 PM
Many blow-outs today (at least so far), but I do hope that Disney folks who follow the tournament are noting the dissatisfaction with the Yeti situation. I do believe that Everest could be a contender for Best Ride in America if the Yeti were fixed.
From brian lochridge on March 20, 2009 at 3:12 PM
EE is what BTMR would have been if built today. Where BTMR fails EE excels.

MIB is hands down one of the most fun rides ever created. Fun being the key word.

Rock n Roller Coaster is a great example of the Disney Bias, Alpengeist is such a better ride.

From Russell Meyer on March 20, 2009 at 3:22 PM
Rock 'n Roller Coaster is extremely overrated. I can not believe it's leading over Alpengeist, probably one of the top 3 or 4 inverted coasters in the world. To say it has minimal themeing is ridiculous. It's possibly one of the most themed outdoor roller coasters ANYWHERE. The skis on the train, the one-of-a-kind in the world lift supports that are patterned after real ski lifts, the "ski jump" just before the Immelman, the shack with the lost skis after the MCBR, the snow-capped ground cover below the final helix, and the station and queue house themed to a ski lodge. MINIMAL THEMING, James Rao, I think not.
From Joshua Counsil on March 20, 2009 at 3:22 PM
Everest and MIB are shoe-ins for me, but I'm gonna upset the apple cart ...

Alpengeist over RcRC. Rockin' packs one mild punch at the beginning, then cruises into nothingness. The theme is weak (WOW - flashing lights and glow paint!) and the coaster loses all momentum after the vertical loop. I love Aerosmith, but Alpengeist is my choice for the better of the two (although RnRC will take it).

GhostRider over Indy. I think Indy is even more over-hyped than Rockin'. I cannot believe how beloved this attraction is. The effects are not anything to write home about. The thrills are lacking. Why does everyone love this ride so much? The boulder scene is about the only worthwhile part of the ride. But I digress ... Indy will take GhostRider, the bracket, and possibly the tournament. It's in my final four, despite that I find it to be rather mediocre.

From James Rao on March 20, 2009 at 4:34 PM
I like Alpengeist...I said it was my favorite inverted coaster. And yes, it is nicely decorated. I was not trying to rip it. I gave two reasons why I preferred RnR:
1) The story is carried from queue to conclusion.
2) It is indoors, in the dark. I like dark coasters, a lot.

And now I will give a third:
3) Alpengeist has no chance of beating Everest. And I want Everest to lose in the next round so WDI takes note.

Lastly, and please don't take this wrong: B&M inverts are becoming awfully common. Whether it is Alpengeist, or Batman, or the Patriot, they are fast approaching "dime a dozen" status and are all very similarly laid out. Now, B&M's offer a quality ride, everytime, so I am not complaining, but there is not much uniqueness anymore.

Again, we are splitting hairs here, Russell Meyer, I like Alpengeist, and I love B&M. But if there were only two coasters in a theme park, one being RnR and the other Alpengeist, and I could only ride one of them, I would ride RnR (and maybe that is just because the Patriot is 20 minutes from my house and I can ride it all summer long?).

From steve lee on March 20, 2009 at 4:32 PM
A Vekoma is beating a B&M. Why is it raining frogs outside?
From James Rao on March 20, 2009 at 4:28 PM
Two Vekomas are winning today (Everest and RnR )...but as long as it's not the Boomerang, I am okay with a Vekoma win.

And, Robert, I agree...Everest is brilliant, when it is not broken.

From 68.205.110.145 on March 20, 2009 at 7:00 PM
Alright, my opinions can be skewed because I have worked at WDW and specifically BTM, but I believe BTM is a better ride. I still live in Orlando, and I personally don't feel it is worth it (most of the time) to make it over to EE.

To add what the rest of you have written. What I consider is context. BTM is ever so slightly better themed than EE but it also better fits its environment which I feel is important to telling the story.

EE get points removed from its theming because you are able to see the building from the parking lot. It could have been awesome, and designed in 3D from all viewable angles like Splash Mountain (Splash has a building hanging out of the back of the mountain) and a beacon for the park (like Epcot's ball), but instead it looks like a mistake behind the tree of life to me.

Secondly, technology does not equal a better experience. EE special effects are way above BTM, but it's track and ride itself is way below. It's true you go backwards, but you do when you parallel park too. I just think BTM has a better re-ride factor.

The rest of the match-ups I don't feel strongly enough to comment on.

From Joshua Counsil on March 20, 2009 at 7:48 PM
Sigh. Rockin' and Indy move on. I really don't understand the love for these two attractions and the hatred for something like Soarin'.
From James Rao on March 20, 2009 at 7:58 PM
Soarin' won yesterday by a large margin. I like Soarin'. It's not perfect, but it is fun, original, and accessible for almost everyone. Those are all good qualities.

Keep in mind that in this contest we are trying to separate the best from the best. Through all the debates, we can't lose sight of the fact that we are absolutely lucky to have all these wonderful rides from which to choose!

Okay, I am done being nice....BRING IT!

From Raul Araoz on March 20, 2009 at 8:28 PM
Arghhh! Everest is going to win. My one-man crusade against mediocrity is failing. Where have my Svengali-like powers gone. I will get you next round my pretty...and your little Yeti, too.
From Adrian Walker on March 21, 2009 at 3:09 AM
MIB: AA vs Journey to Atlantis

Aaaaaaah!!! Don't make me choose!

Okay, well MIB has an awesome story, excellent queue line and the actual ride itself is the most reliable of all the shoot-em up rides.

Journey to Atlantis, while a great ride in itself, has too short of a coaster portion, I think there could have been more. The queue also looks severely outdated when compared to the rest of the park. Another awesome ride but just not as good in MIB.

MIB wins, although I feel wrong for choosing between them!

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