Hi! I am new here, and saw that this ride hasn't been reviewed yet. I had heard about it years ago, but hadn't had a chance to ride it until this year.
Great themeing in the queue, keeping with Busch Garden's tradition. The scenic rooms like the big trees, the library and the castle grotto were great. My negative would be the building theme stops beyond the front of the building.
Not to compare it to Spiderman, but much like Spiderman you want to ride it over and over...for me I like to do that just to figure out "how did they do that?"
Show Writing: 4
It very clearly had a story, and that story was pretty good.
A motion-simulator ride vehicle on a track like Indiana Jones & Spiderman...height limits and health restrictions.
Thrill Factor: 3
It was fun & thrilling, but it might not scare you like the lift hill of Griffon.
Cycle Time: 4
It was a good & long attraction, much more worth a long wait than a 2 min coaster ride.
I think this ride by far has the longest life at Busch Gardens. It is certainly their most theme & story driven ride! It also benefits from a thrill (can't say it is boring) that will help it survive longer too. Plus given Busch Garden's tendency to keep rides around for a long time...it will be here for a while.
I was lucky enough to ride this prior to Spiderman, and so I actually really enjoyed it and think it doesn't get enough credit really. It's an impressive dark ride.
I disagree with many of your judgements, however. I feel it has a wide demographic, it's not particularly reridable though I suppose for the dark ride genre it is, and I don't think its narrative is conveyed very well at all.
Narrative is very hard to convey on a ride. Most people just wan't to sit down and enjoy theme park attractions on a very, very casual level with little engagement. So in ways, trying to interest people with pre-shows and detailed narratives switches people off. There's a fine balance, and rides need to tell narrative in such a way where it either doesn't matter too much if you don't follow the story, or the story is blatantly obvious. Both this and Spiderman flow too quickly to convey narrative, but are lucky enough to be pretty and visceral enough to keep people entertained regardless of the narrative - but it does make you wonder what purpose the narrative even serves.
I think that, at the very least, narrative serves as a unifying element. If the audience understands it, it ties the experience together. If they don't, it can be confusing. I don't like rides with drops, so whenever I go to parks, I let people ride the big rides and then ask them how they liked it. The one that seems to get the most confused remarks is Journey to Atlantis at SeaWorld Orlando. Almost without exception, friends have said, "I don't get it... there is this lady yelling at you before the drop, and then you go down the drop and there is other stuff, but it doesn't seem to go together." So I am not sure if they tried to tell too much story or if it just isn't tied together... but it seems like people don't talk about whether it was or wasn't fun... but rather, go straight to the fact that they were confused about what they saw and heard. I think that a good story doesn't draw attention to itself -- it just ties the experience together enough that you don't question it... I agree that there is such a thing as too much of a detailed narrative.
Pleasure Island at Disney World had an extensive narrative. I went there many times and didn't even realize that the area had a narrative at all. It just seemed like a collection of buildings. Apparently there is a lot of narrative there, but you have to read plaques and piece it together (or ask employees, who had a whole binder detailing how each building came to be like it was, according to the story about a man named Merriweather Pleasure).
I think that much of what people respond to is the visceral nature of rides, but perhaps there is a "sweet spot" with story (not too much and not too little) that leaves people satisfied that what they saw and heard made "sense"...(and it probably is best if it makes sense even if you are an international visitor who doesn't speak the local language). I am not sure how you would guage if you were using too much or too little story (or if it was cohesive enough) while designing a ride... Maybe that is the million dollar question! I wonder how you could figure out if you were trying to tell too much story or not telling enough before the ride is even built -- so that you could fix it...
Steve Alcorn talks often about the difficulty in telling the story on a ride that passes by quickly. Familiarity with the story beforehand goes a long way. I think the answer is in seeing what the perception is for different attractions, like you said, Holly. Like Pleasure Island, most stores, restaurants... in a highly themed park have a backstory that most people may not realize at all, and even more than might be realized on a highly themed ride. Big Thunder Mountain sort of has 2 backstories - one for the original site of the mine/mountain, and another for the actual ride path, based on when the lost mine was found again, and you are experiencing as you go through.
I had the opportunity to work on the press days for the opening of Little Mermaid and re-opening of Star Tours, at Disneyland. In a back hallway of Star Tours, there is a poster that explains all of the characters involved in the attraction, to give the ride ops more backstory info. Most attractions like this also have very thick notebooks for them to reference also.
Deeper backstory enhances the experience, whether guests get it all or not. The experience (putting the guest into the story) is what it is really al about.
That's so cool that you got to work on the ride openings, Wok!
On a ride like Star Tours, it probably really counts to have all of your ride ops really know the backstory and "secrets". I got to go on Star Tours pretty soon after it opened in Florida and listen to a panel with some of the designers on it, and it was interesting to hear about all of the details that they put into it... but the more impressive thing was following a group of hyper-enthusiastic fans through the attraction. I got put on the ride with them 3 times, and it was funny to hear them joke around, but also neat to see them pick up on tiny details.
For example, the designers had told us that the model of the "Mighty Microscope" from an old Disneyland attraction was in one of the scenes. But I couldn't figure out what scene it might be in until I heard one of the fans holler out in his deepest voice "MAGNIFICATION!" in the middle of the ride, as we hurtled through the center of a ship. Then I knew that I was not only surrounded by Star Wars fans, but deep Disney fans, because he used the same tone and intonation that you can hear on audio recordings of the now extinct attractions that they took the microscope from. Disney, in most cases, does a great job of making a show that will work of the general audience, but also throwing in some deep detail that only the uber-fan will know about (for example, I hear that there are Jack Skellington props hidden in the attic scene of the Haunted Mansion, though I still can't quite locate them, even after seeing photos). For anyone who wants "more", they usually put some details in to reward the person who is really paying attention 🙂
That kind of reminds me of when Universal opened up the Mummy ride at both Hollywood and Orlando. After reading a back-stage preview of the ride from TPR, they found that there was a hidden golden E.T within the gold treasure room.
Since reading that article I've been to Florida and kept my eyes peeled for any similar artefacts in the same room. After a second ride I spotted in the top left corner of the room, a large golden gorilla to indicate the long lost king kong ride that the mummy replaced.
It's definitely the little details like this show the parks care about enthusiasts or large fans of a particular genre. The golden gorillas presence did not seem out of place at all within the room, however one without prior knowledge would deem it out of place.
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