That's the topic for my Orange County Register column this week — It's true - some park-goers really do want a ride to break down.
Before we go on, I need to point out — as I do in the Register piece — that rides almost never actually break when then "break down." These are the controlled shut-downs that happen when something happens that prevents the ride from operating normally.
Sometimes it's the weather. Sometimes it's a crying child. But sometimes, it really is a mechanical failure, such as the time I watched an animatronic bear pee his pants. But show failures such as that aren't nearly as exciting for some fans as a ride breaking down and forcing an evacuation, or as managers prefer to call them, "in-show exits."
That is the crowning moment for the theme park geek. As a fan, I've only been part of one major evacuation, which I guess speaks to the reliability of most theme park attractions, given the tens of thousands of rides I've likely been on in my life. But as a Disney cast member? Yeah, I saw a few.
Fortunately, not one of the breakdowns or evacuations I was part of as a cast member or a guest involved an injury to other visitors. Which makes it easy for us to look back, laugh, and share funny stories about the evacs (sorry, "in-show exists") we've experienced. I've linked several of my favorites in this post. (You'll find them all in Stories from a Theme Park Insider, by the way. /plug) But I hope that you will share a favorite memory or two of yours, in the comments.
What was your most memorable theme park attraction breakdown moment?Tweet
It was also interested this happened during our "Marcelina to Magic Kingdom" tour so we had earpieces with a cast member tour guide speaking in our ears. She was a little embarrassed her charges were caught in a shut down with her on the ride with us!
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Disneyland): This happened when I was really young, so my memory of it is a bit hazy. From what I remember, we got stuck in the train crash scene and had to walk backward through the entire ride to get out. I remember it being really neat to see everything, but I don't remember specifically what all I saw.
Blue Streak (Conneaut Lake Park): Easily the most harrowing evacuation I have experienced. As I was at the park for a private event, the park kept running the ride even though it was a torrential downpour outside with lightning in the distance. Eventually, it got too wet for the brakes to stop the train, so they had to shut off the lift and get us off there. Evacuating this ride was an obstacle course: Jump to a platform a short distance away, climb down a rickety ladder, run through the mud under the the ride back to the station, ascend a wooden staircase with cracked steps, and try not to slip on the wet tracks while crossing to the exit ramp.
Goofy's Sky School (Disney California Adventure Park): The least exciting evacuation I've had to do...just exit the car and climb down the ladder to the station. The best part about this was that everyone whipped out their cameras as soon as we stopped despite the ride being in full view.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Disneyland): The most interesting evacuation, as we got to see quite a bit of backstage area. Our train was stopped on the second lift, so after evacuating we went along a path into the mountain, through a backstage corridor that emerged at the bottom of the first lift, then along the track back to the station from there. It was very interesting to see the cave with the lights on, and surprising how simple some of the effects actually are.
New Revolution (Six Flags Magic Mountain): My most recent evacuation, this happened during an ERT session at an event and ended our ERT early. One of the trains got stuck entering the station, so the train I was on stopped at the far end of the brake run. In order to evacuate us, they had to bring out a ladder and have a mechanic climb all over the train to manually release one restraint at a time. Interestingly, the park collected personal information of all on the train.
At all parks except Conneaut Lake, I was compensated with one or two exit passes for the inconvenience (SFMM also gave the event organizers a stack of exit passes to make up for lost ERT, so I ended up getting a bonus one there). I actually never used mine from Thunder and still have it as a souvenir.
We were stuck on Pirates for over an hour. 4 boats away from the ride exit. With a 1 year old. I was 8 months pregnant with a full bladder. I can laugh about it now but it was a rough night!
They had to pull our boat backwards to get to a spot we could jump off then walk through a long backstage where all the ride floats (from the parade we just missed) were parked.
We were involved in a crash at the bottom of the drop. The boat in front had become wedged and we crashed in to the back at speed. There were quite a few minor injuries ranging from minor abrasions to some kids with large bumps on their heads.
It took over 20 minutes to get us off and we were walked through the back of the ride. Some remained to get medical attention.
We got a free fast pass for our troubles (WOW).
Was evac'd off Expedition GeForce, stopped on the lift hill, then they finally got the train to go over. They couldn't get the catch car back down to pull the other train out of the station. So we were evac'd by step ladder at the brake run.
That's the best I've got LOL.
We also got stuck on Mystery Mine at Dollywood at the bottom of the first lift hill. They simply evacuated us through a side door in the shaft and walked us across the landscaping back to the main path.
During Rocket Rods' brief tenure at DL, we got in the single riders line and surprisingly got to ride together. The ride stopped in some random area for several minutes, then started again. When we got back into the station they asked us if we wanted to go again due to the malfunction. We did and the ride stopped again - and they let us stay on. This happened every single time and by the 5th time around, we were done.
And although not a breakdown, I did get to experience a rollback on Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point.
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