Written by Joe Lane
Published: July 6, 2004 at 9:14 AM
Photography is a fundamental element in any family vacation--and this is no less true than with theme park vacations. Families that very rarely make trips to the parks or first-time park-goers are usually the folks with the cameras, snapping shots of family members in front of attractions and meeting characters.
Theme parks realize this. That's why they make sure not only to offer lots of opportunities to take photos by suggesting ideal photo spots or neat visual treats, they also sell a great deal of camera and film merchandise in their parks. For Busch Gardens Tampa and Sea World Orlando, Fujifilm is the main sponsor, while Kodak is featured at both WDW and Universal.
There's another side to theme park photography: the on-ride photo. It's a common element in most theme park thrill rides--offering nice photos in a safe manner. The cameras get positions and angles that most people couldn't. It's also much safer to have the park take the photo for you instead of trying to frame yourself with your own camera while your coaster goes into a zero G heartline roll.
It's tough to say which theme park first thought of on-ride photos--or which attraction was the first to feature the element. It does make for an excellent addition to any ride. Some folks don't even realize their picture's been taken until they see the monitors at the ride exit. This often makes for some of the best reactions. It is noticeable, however, that folks don't often purchase on-ride photos. Those that do, do so for a variety of reasons: it might be their first time on the ride, or the ride itself is brand new, and they want to commemorate the event. Maybe they collect on-ride photos, or they liked the way the picture came out. Maybe they bought it as a souvenir for themselves or a family member or friend.
There are fourteen attractions in the Central Florida area that feature on-ride photos. At Busch Gardens Tampa, guests can have their pictures taken on the three major coasters, Montu, Kumba and Gwazi. At Sea World Orlando, there's an on-ride photo op for Kraken. There are six attractions throughout the Disney resort, including Splash Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Test Track, Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster and Dinosaur. Universal Orlando has four with The Incredible Hulk, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Men In Black Alien Attack and Revenge of the Mummy.
I originally wanted to feature a complete price listing for each attraction, but this proves a difficult task, as photo prices are apt to change without notice. There's also sales tax to be considered. So instead, I've opted to tell you where and when the photos will take on the attraction and give you an idea of what you can get with your photo.
The Incredible Hulk: the cameras are set up just after the brake station during the second portion of the ride--they're easily spotted on the left side of the coaster heading back to load/unload. The pictures feature individual rows, and a graphic design overlays the photo so that everyone appears to be in the front seat of the 'gamma sled'.
Jurassic Park River Adventure: the photo op happens right after the encounter with the T-Rex, during the drop. The picture is suspended from the ceiling, but because of the angle of decent, practically takes the photo straight on. It's difficult to see the camera, what with the mist and the lights and the falling. The picture features the entire boat.
Men In Black Alien Attack: during the ambush scene of the attraction, when the two vehicles take separate paths down an ally. The camera is difficult to spot, but is somewhere straight on, near the lead alien, and takes a photo of the entire car. During proper ride operation, you can even have your scores printed out along with your photo--extra incentive, especially if you've broken your personal best record--or your friend's best record.
Revenge of the Mummy: this photo op takes place after the fake unload station. It snaps during the mine cars following decent, is on the right side, and frames the entire car.
One good thing about Universal Orlando's on-ride photos is that the sizes and pricing are the same all across the board. A standard 5x7 with four wallets runs an average of $18.00, while and 8x10 goes for roughly $17.00. The price can be considerably more for a framed 8x10. The attractions also feature wallet-sized keychain photos for $20 bucks. Of the four attractions, Hulk is the only one to feature a $22.00 tumbler with your photo on it.
Walt Disney World
Splash Mountain: a staple of them park on-ride photos. The photo snaps right at the grand finale drop into the briar patch and snaps the entire log. Unlike its cousin at Disneyland, WDW's Splash Mountain takes its photo on the left side of the flume instead of the right.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin: the Buzz photo-op was added after the attraction originally opened in the Magic Kingdom. Your ride vehicle will lock in place after defeating the evil Emperor Zurg so your picture can be taken. It frames the entire vehicle.
Test Track: the photo-op comes during the barrier test, with the camera above and slightly to the right, catching the entire vehicle. If you look at the photos afterwards, you can find a hidden Mickey in the upper right corner as a couple of coiled cables.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: when your elevator car makes its first stop behind the Hollywood Tower sign, looking out over the park, chances are this is when your photo will be taken, although the strobes simulating lightning make it difficult to tell which is effect and which is camera flash. The entire elevator is shot.
Rock 'n' Rollercoaster: the Aerosmith-themed coaster will take your picture during launch. It will take your photo from the right and features two rows per portion of coaster.
Dinosaur: the Animal Kingdom dark ride also has a on-ride photo. It happens during the third encounter with the Carnotaurus, when the fierce dinosaur appears on the right side above the Time Rover. The shot frames the entire vehicle.
Pricing and sizes around the Disney parks are difficult to keep track of. Most of the attractions feature reduced prices for buying additional 5x7s, 8x10s and posters. Prices can range anywhere from about $13.00 for a 5x7 to about $23.00 for a poster. Test Track sells only 5x7s at $13.00, with a reduced $10 for an additional 5x7. Rock 'n' Rollercoaster features a few special items, including a faux CD case with two wallets for $29.00, magnets for $10, and a set of four postcards for $20. There are a wealth of frames available. Generic Mickey frames can go for roughly $20, while other WDW frames can go for a little more. Most of those can be found in the stores around the resort. Some ride-specific frames can only be purchased at the attraction in question, however.
Kraken: the only attraction in SWO to feature an on-ride photo. Kraken snaps its shot from the right side of the coaster per row immediately after the first giant loop. 5x7s go for $10. Framed 5x7s and 8x10s go for considerably more--up to $23.00 (it's a really nice frame). The attraction also features wallet-size keychains: 2 for $15 and 1 for $11. They also feature snow globes with your photo inside for $15.00.
Busch Gardens Tampa
Montu: the on-ride photo op occurs after the first loop of Montu, when your coaster starts to head underground. There are cameras on both sides that take shots of each row, two seats in.
Kumba: for the life of me, I cannot remember the exact location of the camera op. However, I know it to be early on in the ride, just after the first loop. The camera set up is designed to give a nice view of the entire row from nearly head-on.
Gwazi: I had actually forgotten that Gwazi has an on-ride photo set up, but it does. The cameras take the shot from the left side of both Lion and Tiger, although Lion is more of a head on shot and Tiger is more of a side on shot. Where in the ride is actually a mystery, but the cameras are easy to spot on the ground. The shot features two rows of each section of coaster.
BGT's prices are a little more consistent compared to WDW's. 5x7s on their own go for about $9. There's a reduced price for buying two. There are no 8x10s available for any of the attractions. Keychains and snow globes ($15.00) are also available and range in price depending on the attraction. Kumba offers no snow globes but does have a series of special packages that offer a certain number of photos or keychains and reduced prices.
Hopefully you will find this information helpful--maybe even insightful. Granted, Florida is the only place in the world that offers on-ride photos--there are opportunities on attractions just about everywhere. If you do decide to visit the parks in the Sunshine state, however, at least you'll have an idea of what to expect. Keep on ridin'!