Theme vs Thrill
Both is not an option.
There are many great debates in the world of theme parks but this is the greatest. Do you prefer giant themeless thrill machines or small well themed family rides. Do you love well themed atmospheres or do you crave a midway with iron machines all around you. Do you want Millenium Force or Forbidden Journey. Theme or thrill.
Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.
From Mike Seary
Posted September 17, 2011 at 3:46 PM
A perfectly themed ride is thrilling to me. A ride without theming is just a piece of industrial machinery with a seat bolted to it.
I would go theme-rides like Splash Mountain have thrill but in my opinion would be great even without the adrenelene rush. And while I won't go on a roller coaster if had no thrill, a good theme can make the ride seem scarier than it actually is. Space Mountain is a prime example of this.
Theme and thrill at the same time
It looks like the general consensus is theme, hands down. However, if this is the case, then why does it seem like highly themed attractions are a dying breed? I'm pretty sure it's because it costs more than some twisted metal scream machine, and the parks would easily dish out for cheap thrills, over theme, but then wouldn't they realize they need the theme? So I think your real question is, why doesn't theme make a strong comeback?
From Mike Seary
Posted September 17, 2011 at 8:41 PM
I think because "big T" themed attractions tend to require quite a bit of originality, inspiration, and innovation to keep fresh, otherwise they are going to simply be measured against other similar (and likely more successful) attractions that came before.
You want to take a roller coaster to the next level? Just make it faster than the other guy - engineering task. You want to make a themed ride that rises above the rest? You are gonna need an engaging "story", artistic direction, sets, and constantly evolving technology. Only the big guys can pull it off, and even then it takes time and money. Worth the wait though, IMHO.
From Mike Seary
Posted September 17, 2011 at 8:47 PM
Exactly. Case in point - UOs Revenge of the Mummy is one of the most hum-drum looking roller coaster layouts you will ever see.... WITH THE LIGHTS ON. Throw in all that theming and innovative tech (backwards/track switch/turntable) and you have a really engaging experience. Disney's Tower of Terror would be just another drop tower if not for the spot-on theming. I couldn't agree more with your Space Mountain example.
This is soooo easy...of course, theme! It's why places like Disney and Universal annually beat out places like Cedar Point, Carowinds, or Six Flags. A big reason is escapism. Theme parks do their best to shut out the outside world. People love that. The taller the ride, the easier that barrier is broken.
From James Rao
Posted September 18, 2011 at 3:42 AM
The good thing is, we don't have to choose!
That is like asking which is your favorite child. I can love a good themed attraction. I can love a good thrill attraction. There isn't a limit on how much you can enjoy. I've been on some heavily themed attractions that I thought were lame. I've been on some strictly-thrill attractions with little or no theming that I thought were incredible.
I say theme. Soemthing as simple as Peter Pan or E.T. can be waaaaaaay better than some plain roller coasters or ferris wheels.
I agree with James; I'm glad we don't have to choose! If it were to come down to someone saying I have to choose between two rides and one would be destroyed and the choices were El Toro and the Haunted Mansion (I consider El Toro the most thrilling ride I've ever been on and Haunted Mansion one of the most well themed), I would have a little trouble. Obviously, I'd choose the Haunted mansion because of its wide fan base (myself included) and it's a classic, while El Toro is still new and no where near as cherished.
I like rides like Tower of Terror and Forbidden Journey and such that combine great theme with great thrills. I don't think a ride is really great unless it somehow combines aspects of both theme and thrill, and I would hope that most people agree.
I'll take themes over thrills any day.
Thrills for this rider.
From Dan S
Posted September 19, 2011 at 2:55 PM
No Brain-er ! Theme for sure. Every themed ride at Disney World, no matter how UN-thrilling is more entertaining then the more thrilling rides at plain theme parks. Just to make my point clear ; Does anyone else agree with me that they would rather ride Splash Mountain ( a lesser thrilling ride) then, for example the Behemoth at Canadas Wonderland ? I know the Behemoth has roughly 200 feet on Splash Mountain, but i enjoy the themed Splash Mountain more. Not to mention the Line up is way more interesting.
Theme. I notice that when I recommend rides to people, I talk more about those that have an amazing theme and story rather than the thrills. Though I do love the thrills, there is just something about losing yourself in the story.
It seems that theme is the general consensus. I kinda figured this since the site is much more about places like Disney and Universal then Six Flags and Cedar Fair. Anyway the current score is 8-1 but make it 8-2 since I have to say I prefer thrills to theme. While I can definitely appreciate theme and think theme is great to me the best part of a park is a good rollercoaster. I love thrills so much and have a passion for rollercoasters.
I have to vote for theme. Proper themeing can elevate a rather pedestrian ride into something to be ridden time and time again.
I vote thrill because I love rides like
The Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure
This is like Sophie's Choice for many enthusiasts, myself included.
If I HAD to chose, I'd chose theme. Tower of Terror is NOTHING without the theme. The thrill alone wouldn't have made this one of my favourite rides.
Theme all the way. I haven't visited a Six Flags parks in over a decade just because they have almost no theme. They were starting to turn this around with their IP acquisitions such as Thomas, Terminator, etc, but then they ripped them all out so I find no reason to go. And their DC Comics and Warner Bros. cartoons themed rides are quite lacking and tacked-on in my opinion.
Looks like final score is 11-3 for theme.
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