What makes a perfect name for a theme park attraction?

February 26, 2019, 3:23 PM · With so many new parks, lands, and attractions opening around the world, let's talk for a moment about names.

What to name a new ride, show, or experience is just one of the many decisions that designers and managers must face during their development process. But what makes a name great? What boxes must a proposed name tick if it is to do its job of cementing the new attraction in people's minds in a positive way?

I wrote about the question of naming in my newspaper column this week, How long can the names of theme park rides and lands get?

As the title suggests, I go after what seems like the increasing length of attraction names, inspired by Universal Orlando's announcement last week of its upcoming Hagrid's Magic Creatures Motorbike Adventure. At least with that name, Universal avoided including the colons or exclamation points that inspired reader Rob McCullough's brilliant template for new theme park attraction names, "Every Name: Has Another Name - The Ride!"

For me, a name should reflect excellence in editing — it should communicate several things in as few characters as possible. It could declare a theme, establish an emotion, suggest a ride type, and, if applicable, connect with a franchise... all without revealing any spoilers. Doing that all without requiring multiple breaths to say it is probably impossible. But I love the names that try.

Haunted Mansion

One of my favorite attraction names is "Haunted Mansion." Playing off the well-known "haunted house," you know that you're getting ghosts and paranormal surprises on this ride. But the substitution of "mansion" communicates the ride's more upscale setting, both in decoration and storytelling. It's brilliantly concise.

What are some examples of attraction, land, or even park names that strike you as... well, perfect? And why?

Replies (11)

February 26, 2019 at 3:38 PM

Scream! That's what far too many people do on it, hence the exclamation point.

I'm waiting for the day when they start giving names to the queues you stand in before riding. Rebel Base Batuu: Hangar Experience prior to riding Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run.

February 26, 2019 at 4:44 PM

Oh for all that is good in the world, please don't give them any ideas like that! ;^)

February 26, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Men In Black: Alien Attack has a nice ring to it ;)
(...and yes, we had to fight marketing not to use THE RIDE at the end)

I think the fan hullabaloo about the "long" names for the new Star Wars & Potter rides is a bit silly. "Snow White's Scary Adventures", "Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure", and "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" are all mouthfuls, sure -- but audiences parse through that and just say "let's ride Pirates".

In naming a ride, we always consider three things: the "formal" name that fully explains what it is and who it's for, the "marketability" and how it will look on a sign or merchandise, and the "colloquial" that the guests will ultimately refer to. And all of those three things are "true" and needed, IMHO, especially in terms of communicating IP and communicating who is the attraction's key demographic.

HAGRID'S (needed for IP reasons, and will probably end up the most-used colloquial)
Magical Creatures (not crucial, but will clarify that it's not just a ride, there are also Beasts)
MOTORBIKE ADVENTURE (communicates the "ride" aspect, and will be the second-most used colloquial)

So people will say "Let's go on the Hagrid ride" or "Let's go on the Hagrid Motorbikes" -- but the use of Magical Creatures on the Marquee and Marketing makes it sound more like a full attraction with a story than just a coaster ride.

February 26, 2019 at 6:13 PM

I have many thoughts here –
I believe the best thing is to depend on the KISS method - Keep It Simple Stupid. Guests will shorthand attractions with long winded names by calling them something simpler and quicker. Heck – The Coca-Cola Company realized they had to act in the 1940s when they saw people referring to their product as Coke rather than Coca-Cola. In 1945 they trademarked Coke to protect themselves from some other company taking that name for their own.
My guess is parks give attractions long names knowing it will look good on a headline or marque sign, but also know the guests will just call it what it is. Very few guests ever asked me for directions to T-2 3-D: Battle Across time, Kongfrontation or MIB Men in Black Alien Attack. They wanted directions for T2, Kong and MIB. Long names can also lead to a lot of confusion. One of the most confusing and thus worst attraction names ever was ‘Twister... Ride It Out’ at USF. The name set up guests for disappointment. 'Twister' is synonymous with roller coaster, so people went in thinking they would be boarding a coaster. The phrase "ride it out" makes sense if you are thinking 'live through a horrible storm'. Most park guest at USF however took "ride" to mean, once again, a RIDE, not an experience. It was a pretty good special effects show about weather that I think a lot more people would have appreciated if it had been given a more accurate name.
My biggest beef with theme park ride and attraction names isn't how long they are getting. What bugs me is when a park takes the cheap and lazy route and gives an attraction a name and logo that has already been used for another attraction in its chain. I’ll never forgive the Six Flags Corporation for naming a second ride "The Great American Scream Machine." With a moniker like "THE" Great American Scream Machine, one would assume there is only ONE of them.
SeaWorld is about to make the same mistake in its San Diego park naming an upcoming coaster 'Mako'. Park enthusiasts will come expecting a clone of the ride in Orlando. That is not what they will get. Why not give the San Diego ride a unique name? All I can assume it they will save some cash by not trademarking another name or need to create new artwork for souvenirs and signs.
I just wish park Managers would be original and Keep it simple.

February 26, 2019 at 6:45 PM

Forgot to add: One other consideration with long names - the acronyms that fans will use in lieu of the long names. Definitely an issue when you are naming things like Alien Swirling Saucers and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor.

February 26, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Who the hell cares what the Hagrid rides name is, it makes no difference to anybody. Do you see anyone at your local Six Flags park saying "Hey lets go ride Superman Ultimate Flight!" or "Hey let's go ride Superman The Escape!"

February 26, 2019 at 9:31 PM

Wait till you hear the official translation of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure for Universal Orlando Resort's sizeable Latin American audience. Cervantes will turn in his grave over what that becomes in Espanol or in Portuguese!;) Though considering the fact that they're headed to Disney on dos costas para "Estar Wars" anyway....

February 27, 2019 at 3:44 AM

The worst must have been ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (had to look that one up). But in the end it doesn't mater. I loved that ride and called it Alien Encounter.
Move it! shake it! mousekedance it! street party is also a tong twister. Disney loves to invent new words and someone who is not native English speaking this is even more confusing.

February 27, 2019 at 8:45 AM

@Robert - I will never look at Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor the same way ever again!! ??

February 27, 2019 at 10:33 AM

I would love to be correct about titles and things--I really would. I'm fussy. And a Librarian. But even as a certifiable Harry Potter fanboy nutcase, I've never verbally referred to Diagon Alley as "The Magical World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley". In fact, I'll admit to just referring to all of the Harry Potter bits of Universal as "Harry PotterLand." I already think of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge as "StarWarsLand." "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" is just "Forbidden Journey."

These increasingly long names are getting ridiculous but I don't think there's too much harm in them. Just so long as the clueless Tourist doesn't get too confused looking for a "The Empire Strikes Back Ride" on a map or something.

The new Hagrid coaster doesn't have a great acronym and encompasses so much it's hard to pare it down to a title. I may start to think of it as "Skrewts Attack!" or something instead.

February 27, 2019 at 12:50 PM

Re: Robert

You might have accidentally opened a can of worms/pandora's box now as some might now wonder are they any park rides with even worst acronyms than those two...

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