Wednesday, March 10, 2010

With a Wolf Howl...

I was sitting around thinking... what would be a good follow up after Prowler? Well what about its anti-thesis, the OTHER wooden coaster at the park, Timber Wolf? Its amazing how quickly it's been pushed out of the lime light.

Several coasters at the park have interesting stories, however I think Timber Wolf has one of the best. First though, I think we need to go back in time just to imagine how BIG Timber Wolf was at its time.

The year is 1989. NINE years have gone by since the park has added any new coaster. The last coaster was Orient Express (that's like going from Mamba to Prowler without anything in between). To really take us back one only has to look at the prizes for the winner of the "Name the Coaster" contest, Four round-trip tickets anywhere Brantiff flies (anyone remember the blow dryer add on at KCI?) and a 32-volume set of encyclopedias from Encyclopedia Brittanica, yeah encyclopedias anyone remember those?

Quite frankly back in the "olden days" of 1989 (laughter I hear laughter) there was NO internet, no google, no ebay, if you wanted to do research you went to the library, and used an encyclopedia. Home computers existed, but only 15% of the US population had one in their home. Forget about Gigabyte hard drives, CD Roms or Adobe Photoshop, no way jose. Monitors, mouses and HARD DRIVES were all "extras". It was quite a different world, and really highlights how much has changed in the world in the last 20 years.

So let's go back to coasters, Timber Wolf as I mentioned is known for many things, especially its advertising campaign. When I was a kid I would look forward to the new Worlds of Fun commercial every spring highlighting the park's newest attraction. Timber Wolf's amazing commercial still sticks in my mind.

Timber Wolf won several awards for marketing and advertising, and i'ts easy to see why!

Another important aspect of Timber Wolf's advertising was what everyone remembers about Timber Wolf. The wolf is unique in park history for being the old ride who's name was chosen as part of a "name the coaster" advertising campaign. Fans of all ages could register their favorite potential coaster name through the JcPenney Optical Department, registrations would need to be in by December 9, 1988. Back during the summer Brandon Stanley at the park allowed us to borrow the LONG list of potential names for Timber Wolf.

While the final six finalists including Timber Wolf, (actually Timberwolf in the list), Mad Dog, High Anxiety, Rattler (appropriate?), The Maniac, and IT. There were several quite off the wall names including The Chicken Flyer, Cruisin' for a Bruisin' The Big Mean Thrashing Machine, Around the World in 80 Screams, American Lightening Bug, Rollersaurus, Johnny Apple Speed, Hurls O Fun, Old Time Hair Raisin Hoopen Roller, Green Gobs of Green Gorilla Grunt, EXT Offspring, and my favorite... One Heck of a Toothpick.

There were also some colossal surprises, remembering these print offs are from 1988 (on the green and white stripped printer paper no less) some other options including The Boomerang, Big Bad John, Banshee, The Phoenix, Shivering Timbers, and some of my favorites Millennium Force, Phantom's Revenge, Apollo's Chariot, The Legend, Maverick and this one ALMOST got it, Magnum Force. Why is this so surprising? These are names of REAL coasters that opened after Timber Wolf. I think the park is missing out on a serious money maker. Lease The List out to parks looking at building new coasters. It has some great ideas!

While the advertising was running heavy, so was the construction of Timber Wolf. Timber Wolf was the 6th coaster built by Curtis Summers and Charlie Dinn and it was five years in the planning, with the original idea of a wooden coaster coming to a front in 1985. For five years the Hunt Midwest staff rode over fifty different coasters, picking and choosing the best parts of many to incorporate into Timber Wolf. Construction was visible already by November 1988, and by the time it was all done Timber Wolf featured 4,230 feet of track, 680,000 board feet of lumber, 15 tons of nails and 80,000 bolts. Here's a few looks at the Wolf under construction.

First some concept art. Amazing how big the lift hill looks for only being 100 feet tall.

The beginning of vertical construction. To the left is the bottom of the first drop.

The lift hill takes shape. Notice the lack of structure on the main lift? Wooden structure had to be added a few years after the fact.

Looks like Santa showed up to help with construction too!

Timber Wolf, as far as I am aware, is the earliest opening coaster in park history, having an official opening day for April 1, 1989. However, the "unofficial" opening was the day before and from my limited knowledge was part of a radio promotion. (Someone please correct me if I a wrong!)

Lets take a trip back then to March 31, 1989.

I REALLY like this photo. Not only can you FEEL the excitement, (it reminds me in some ways of May 1, 2009)

As familiar as it seems there are so many things in this photo that are different from the way they are now too. First off we have three of the themed characters, Sam Panda, Daniel Coon and PJ Panda leading the procession. Up front is also a park ambassador. Now this is somewhat personal, but I love the fact that he is wearing the same uniform that I wore when I first worked at the park a few years later. Red shirt, blue shorts (or pants) and red handkerchief around the throat.

Behind is the crowd headed for a ride on the Timber Wolf, and behind that is the Scandinavian section, complete with Gypsy wagon :) If you look in the VERY back you can even see Tot's Yachts (Boat Tank then) in the very very background. Fjord Fjarlene wasn't there then, it was the River City Rampage in Americana.

You have to wonder what prompted the General Manager at the time, John Hudacek to wear a sky blue suit. John Hudacek was the last GM of the Hunt Midwest run, he was replaced by Daniel Keller in 1995.

There's Jack Steadman, helping cut the ribbon of his newest baby.

The VERY same year Timber Wolf went on to further Worlds of Fun history, it was rated #2 in the world! Timber Wolf would rank #2 in 1990 too. At the time the park considered that they had reached the pinnacle, especially with another Curtis Summers/Dinn opening the next year (1991), Mean Streak. Timber Wolf would exceed everyone's expectations and hit this landmark...

#1 in the world!!!! I personally loved this sign, it stood at the corner of Worlds of Fun Ave and Parvin Rd for many years.

So GM John Hudacek goes from a blue leisure suit to wolf ears? Seriously if you see a pair of these babies on Ebay snatch them up. Also, has anyone noticed a trend in GM's with mustaches and Worlds of Fun coasters?

I have no idea who these people are (probably ACER's) I am including it as it shows the original restraints. A single lap bar, a single seat belt. Quite different then what we have today.

Look ma! No trim brakes!

I figured I would end with another commercial break. This one from 1990! I think there are a few people around here that may have been in this commercial. If you were let me know!


Todd said...

Excellent Report!

I would really love if the park would start selling those hats again.

Slarti said...

LOL! I remember that first commercial! Scared the snot out of me at the tender age of 12.

Mike Koder said...

If I remember correctly the March 31 day was a media preview. I worked there that day, I was on the Cotton Blosson, as they had most of Americana open for the event. WOF was good at media previews, I remember working a game on Beat Street and having many TV anchors play (for Free) when they opened that section (Rockin Reeler, and Skyliner).