Introducing the 2012 Theme Park Insider Best Attraction Tournament

January 3, 2012, 2:25 PM · It's time again for the annual Theme Park Insider Best Attraction Tournament!

The tournament will tip off tomorrow, but today I'd like to lay out the first round for you, and let you know how this year's tournament will run.

Unlike in past years, the first round this year will not be head-to-head match-ups. Instead, we're going to be voting on the "best in class" for several categories of theme park rides and shows. Once those are selected, the winners will face off in head-to-head match-ups to determine our winners.

Yes, winners. As we did the last time we ran a Best Attraction tournament, we're going to declare winners in four brackets: Best Themed Ride, Best Live Show, Best Animation Show and Best Roller Coaster. Attractions were selected for inclusion in the tournament based upon the average reader rating in Theme Park Insider's attraction listings, with editor's discretion as a tie-breaker. Deciding which was a "live" show and which was "animation" was tough. Basically, I went with "is a live actor involved?" to decide, but even that I violated in a couple cases to get more natural match-ups.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Our top seed and first-round bye winner

There's one attraction that didn't fit comfortably in any category, so it gets a first-round bye: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which also happens to be the top-rated attraction on the site. I'd thought about including Forbidden Journey in the "motion base" category, but I already had five candidates for that field, and FJ is such a unique ride that it didn't really feel like a good fit in that category, anyway. (We have a limit of five options per poll because of the vote tool we're using.) Plus, being the top-rated ride on the site ought to come with some privilege, I think.

Because the name of the site is "Theme Park" Insider, we have many more themed attractions listed on the site than roller coasters, so that's going to be our largest bracket. The two show brackets are our smallest, which surprised me a little - I always think of animatronic shows when I think of theme parks, but I was a little taken aback when started ranking attractions and found how few such shows are still in the parks.

No matter, though, we still have 138 attractions in this year's tournament, including all your top favorites on the site. That said, we originally had 139 in the tourney - sorry, Jaws - so any subsequent attraction closing announcements might trim the field further over the next month.

Also, many of the participating attractions exist in multiple parks. Just go with whichever version you consider best when voting - if I want you to consider a specific version, I will let you know on the day of the voting.

Voting in each contest will be open for 24 hours, and anyone who reads the site may vote - you don't need to be a registered member of Theme Park Insider. Fans of various attractions are encouraged to use Facebook, Twitter or whatever else they feel like to encourage other people to come to the site and vote for their favorites.

First-round contests will run each weekday between now and February 16, holidays excepted. On Feb. 17, I'll publish the brackets for additional rounds, taking us up to the tournament championships the last week in March.

I hope that everyone will enjoy the tournament as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Here is the first-round schedule (attractions are listed in no particular order - I was cutting and pasting a lot...):

Jan 4- Themed coaster (Revenge of the Mummy, Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Rock n' Roller Coaster)
Jan 5- Flume ride (Splash Mountain, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Journey to Atlantis, Timber Mountain Log Ride)
Jan 6- Tower of Terror (The four Disney Towers of Terror face off)

Jan 9- Narrated ride (Kilimanjaro Safaris, Jungle Cruise, Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour, Great Movie Ride, Sorry, Jaws)
Jan 10- Playground (Camp Jurassic, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, Tom Sawyer Island, Curious George Goes to Town, Shamu's Happy Harbor)
Jan 11- B&M Mega/Giga (Apollo's Chariot, Raging Bull, Six Flags Over Georgia's Goliath, Intimidator, Diamondback)
Jan 12- Boat ride (Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, Living with the Land, Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage)
Jan 13- Intamin Accelerator (Xcelerator, Top Thrill Dragster, Stealth, Kingda Ka, Rita)

Jan 17- Arcade dark ride (Men in Black Alien Attack, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, Toy Story Midway Mania, Monsters Inc Ride Go Seek, Lost Kingdom Adventure)
Jan 18- Wooden roller coaster (Lightning Racer, The Beast, Apocalypse, Prowler, Thunderhead)
Jan 19- Animatronic show (Country Bear Jamboree, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, The American Adventure, Carousel of Progress)
Jan 20- Tub flume ride (Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, Kali River Rapids, Grizzly River Run, Universal Studios Singapore's Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, Holiday World's Raging Rapids)

Jan 23- Animal show (Sea Lions Tonight, Pets Ahoy, Clyde and Seamore, Blue Horizons, One Ocean)
Jan 24- B&M Inverted (Afterburn, Nemesis, Montu, Raptor, Dragon Challenge)
Jan 25- 2D movie (Impressions de France, Walt Disney One Man's Dream, Reflections of China, O Canada!)
Jan 26- Indoor track ride (Haunted Mansion, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Spaceship Earth, Peter Pan, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
Jan 27- Live musical (Festival of the Lion King, Aladdin, Finding Nemo: The Musical, Beauty and the Beast, Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue)

Jan 30- B&M Flying (Manta, Tatsu, Air, Superman - Ultimate Flight)
Jan 31- High-speed indoor ride (Test Track, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mission: Space)
Feb 1- 3D movie (Mickey's PhilharMagic, Terminator 2:3D, MuppetVision 360, Captain EO)
Feb 2- Wooden Mega/Hybrid coaster (Voyage, El Toro, Texas Giant)
Feb 3- Stunt show (Waterworld, Lights Motors Action, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular)

Feb 6- Animal exhibit (Turtle Reef, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Shark Encounter, Wild Arctic)
Feb 7- 4D show (Shrek, Tough to Be a Bug, Spellbreaker)
Feb 8- Other Intamin coaster (Bizarro, Millennium Force, Maverick, Volcano: A Blast Coaster, Cheetah Hunt)
Feb 9- Illusion show (Mystery Lodge, Turtle Talk, Laugh Floor, Poseidon's Fury)
Feb 10- Single-screen simulator (Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, The Simpsons Ride, Soarin' Over California, StormRider, Back to the Future)

Feb 13- Demonstration show (Universal's Horror Make-up Show, Special Effects Stage, Lights, Camera, Action Starring Steven Spielberg)
Feb 14- Other B&M coaster (Griffon, SheiKra, Dominator, Riddler's Revenge, Incredible Hulk Coaster)
Feb 15- Motion-base ride (Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Curse of DarKastle, Transformers: The Ride, Dinosaur, Indiana Jones Adventure)
Feb 16- Night show (Fantasmic!, IllumniNations, World of Color)

Replies (13)

January 3, 2012 at 2:37 PM · Sounds great!
January 3, 2012 at 2:47 PM · Looks real good so far. There's a lot more categorization than I think there needs to be...e.g. wood coasters/hybrids. But it's okay, because that gives more rides a "chance" to not be overlooked. I'll be voting in most categories, using my own likes and dislikes and what I've read to help in the categories where I have not experienced all candidates. If I've only been on say, one out of five, I'm not necessarily voting for the one I've been on/to.

Bring 'em on!

January 3, 2012 at 10:25 PM · Aww crap. Star Tours against BTTF. For all us Star Wars fans,

January 3, 2012 at 4:13 PM · Sounds fun! Looking forward to breaking out the Y-E-T-I song and dance once again!!!
January 3, 2012 at 8:00 PM · Sounds really good.
January 3, 2012 at 10:18 PM · As soon as I saw the headline, I groaned. The last couple of years' tournaments meant about as much to me as the back-story of Hulk. I gotta say, though, that this year's tournament layout looks much more interesting and even-sided. Nice job.

Excellent Tokyo DisneySea reports, fresh tournament ideas... you're on a roll, Robert.

January 3, 2012 at 10:25 PM · What I like about this format is that every first-round match-up means something. With each vote, a title is on the line. I think that's pretty cool.
January 3, 2012 at 10:25 PM · Oh, and thanks, Dominick. I went on a Simpsons clip YouTube spree.
January 4, 2012 at 2:08 AM · It's looking good!!! I only have one problem...will mine be the only vote for the Great Movie Ride?? (I can't help being a sucker for sentiment!)
January 4, 2012 at 5:10 AM · Surprised Harry Potter not in the Motion Based rides, Feb 15th
January 4, 2012 at 6:48 AM · The tourney has evolved over the years just like the parks we love to attend. Many Kudos to Robert for the time and dedication he gives to this tourney and this site.

Thanks Robert!

January 5, 2012 at 2:01 AM · On January 9th, this site will witness a MASSIVE get-out the vote effort.
January 6, 2012 at 5:03 PM · This looks amazing, plus it will kill my winter :). I'm going to have a tough time deciding between the B&M coasters. I only have one recommendation. I know its your tournament and all, but as a lover of night time shows and I see that you can put 5 of them down, is there a way you can add "Wishes", and "Magical" into the mix in that vote? I think adding the Mk and dland shows would put a little spin on it.... just a recommendation I'm throwing on the table. From being a night time show nerd lol.

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