Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It is a Flat world after all?


Flat rides.  What are they you may ask?  Why do they matter you may ask?  Well to start a Flat ride is a ride that is FLAT, and is not a coaster.  (Scandi) Scrambler, Zulu, Cyclone Sam’s, Flying Dutchman, these are all prototypical flat rides.  The two new rides for 2017?  Condor (Falcon’s Flight) and Troika (Mustang Rider) are also both flat rides.  That might answer the "why they are important right now" question, but how about next year, or the next?   Let's be honest, people come to theme parks and amusement parks for one major reason.  Coasters.  Lots and lots of coasters.  People LOVE coasters, people are always asking when the next coaster will be added, what do you see advertised when you see Worlds of Fun?  Patriot, Mamba, Prowler.  COASTERS.

However, one cannot live on cake alone.  People don’t just come to parks and ride coasters, and often enough the coaster itself might be the first ride, but chances are the second, third and so on rides are the… flat rides.  They are the ones we ride over and over and over again because we all love them (well, some of them). Flat rides are thrilling in their own right, they make some of us puke afterwards, and some sick to their stomach just thinking about them… Which is how flat rides have received their second moniker… Spin and Pukes. 

So what does all of this have to do with Worlds of Fun?  Quite a bit.  Worlds of Fun has since almost day one been absolutely blessed with flat rides.  A few years after opening in 1977, the park decided to double down on flat rides and add, not one, but two.  Two years later came two more.  Why?  They were and are cheap, and of those four added in 1977 and 1979, many still love Zulu and Bamboozler of which both still operate in the park. 

So since flat rides have made such a huge impact on the park, I figured let’s do a feature on a few of the more memorable ones.  We can tell a few stories we may not have told yet, and then we can also look at the two newbies too.

Here is an interesting fact, that until two years ago every flat ride that opened with the park in 1973  was still operating.  Scrambler, Finnish Fling, Flying Dutchman and Octopus.  Of course, the removal of Octopus in 2014 ended that streak.   Of the four, they are all interesting in their own right, but since a recent conversation about Octopus with a friend of mine gave me the idea for this editorial I figured we would start there.   (Plus, I did cover all of them in detail in an editorial for the 40th Anniversary, its here: 9 Old Rides)

The conversation in particular was in regards to the color changes of Octopus over the years.  So lets talk about Octopus, a ride that had literally been every color of the rainbow.  Octopus was manufactured by Eyerly Aircraft Co, a company founded in Salem, Or. In the 1930’s to produce equipment to train airplane pilots.  By the 1940’s they were producing amusement park rides instead of training equipment, and by the 1950’s and 60’s their rides were a staple in parks and fairs across the country.  The Monster and Spider are their major hits, but all of the “-O-“ rides are theirs too. When Eyerly went out of business the rights to the rides and parts was purchased by Oregon Rides, which while still in business, the company is supposedly caught up in a family squabble causing parts to “their” rides to become difficult to obtain.  This explains, at least partially, why Octopus was eventually removed.  Additionally, and sadly I might add, this isn’t the first time, by a long shot, that a family squabble has caused not just rides, but in many cases whole parks to vanish into history.

Octopus is also interesting because like another flat ride, that is still operational in the park, it had been moved three times, and had three separate, different names, and who knows how many color changes.  In 1973 it opened with the park as the Oriental Octopus, it was painted all black and located where Bamboozler is today.

Octopus in its signature "Tomato Plant' color scheme in Pandamonium.

Now take a deep breath because here we go.  In 1983, the Barnstormer, a Bradley & Kaye tower plane ride was removed from the Aerodrome section of the park due to high winds.  The next year, 1984, Octopus was re-painted to red and black (often referred to as the tomato plant color scheme), and moved up to the Aerodrome to take its place; it was also renamed for the first time to Tailspinner.   Three years later, in 1987, when the Aerodrome was re-purposed into the “new” Pandamonium! Tailspinner remained known as Tailspinner but was re-painted once again, this time to the signature six-color Worlds of Fun balloon color scheme.  It wasn’t until 1994, that Tailspinner, though it hadn’t moved, was renamed a third time, to just Octopus, and re-painted once again to the tomato plant color scheme (red and black).  By this time Octopus had been repainted three different color schemes, had three different names, and been moved twice, but its story wasn’t over quite yet. 

 Octopus in its final home in Scandinavia.

In 1997, with the renovation of Pandamonium into Berenstain Bear Country Octopus was removed from the park.  At this point, it was unknown to onlookers whether Octopus would ever return to the park.  The answer to that question would come the next year in 1998 when Octopus was re-installed in the park, this time to a new, third location, Scandinavia.  This final move made Octopus, to date, the only ride at the park to operate in three separate themed sections in the park.  When re-installed, the cars were re-painted (yes again!) to lime green, while it also believed many of the cars were replaced.  Of course, Octopus would end its final run at Worlds of Fun in 2014, and it along with Krazy Kars (which was removed the next year in 2015) would leave the park with not nine original rides as I wrote about in 2014, but seven instead.

Way back in 1997 when I started, that’s where I would have ended it, facts, dates, and locations.  However, I have learned over the years that history isn’t only about what, when and where, but how those changes affect all of us.  So let me add some personality to this story.  I rode Octopus, when it was Tailspinner in 1987, the year Pandamonium opened, I was almost 10 at the time.  Saying I hated it would be the understatement of the year, I had taken a chance on an “unknown” ride and it would leave me fearful of trying new things again for several years.  Why the ride I took a chance on couldn’t have been Zambezi Zinger I will never know. Though I would finally “suck it up” and ride Octopus again many years later, I never shared any particularly positive experiences with Octopus and didn’t shed a tear when it was removed.  The same friend that inspired me to write this editorial, WAS upset to see the park remove it, unlike me he had many wonderful memories of Octopus and spoke at length at how much he disliked the various color changes of the ride over the years.

Singapore Sling on the left, Whirligig on the right, but the same ride.

Another flat ride that shares a similar, if not conjoined story with Octopus is a ride that IS still operating, Bamboozler.  Like Octopus it started in the Orient, but on the other side of the pavement from where it is now, where the entrance to the Orient Express would be located.  Bamboozler wasn’t known as Bamboozler in 1977 though it was originally named Singapore Sling.  When Orient Express claimed the territory in 1980, Singapore Sling was moved, to Americana, where it was renamed Whirligig, and was located across from the then Screamroller.  Whirligig would be the first of three rides in what has become a relatively-speaking “cursed” location, as the pad would later on be home to Omegatron and then Thunderhawk.  However, its stay in Americana wouldn’t be long, as Whirligig would again be kicked to the curb by a new ride, this time Omegatron in 1986.  It was only then that the ride that we all know and sometimes love, Bamboozler, the vacant space left by Octopus a few years prior. 

Singapore Sling with its original entrance, and next to it the Express entrance, notice how they are one in the same.  It appears the Sling queue line was enclosed for Orient Expressions gift shop.

Personally, I love these types of stories, because its proves such a great historical point, one thing cannot happen without it affecting many other things in the long run.  A great example?  The entrance to Orient Express, a tiny A-frame structure that we all think of as built for Orient Express?  It wasn’t built for Orient Express at all, but for Singapore Sling.  It was spruced up a bit, but still re-used from its original intention. Personally, I think Bamboozler never gets any love whatsoever.  It’s not an original ride, it was added five years after the park opened, its been pushed around, renamed, all in the name of the brand new rides (of which none of them are there anymore, ironic?) But here is one more interesting factoid.  Except for the two original flat rides from 1973, Bamboozler is the oldest non-original flat ride still operating in the park.  Bamboozler turns the ripe old age of 40 this year, right along with me… I feel your pain.  

Think of how many of us have any mechanical object still working that many years later?  You might.  Usually it’s called a classic by now though.

Side by side Chance Trabant (same model as Wobble Wheel) and Chance Wipeout (same model as Cyclone Sam's)

The amazing thing is that every overlooked flat ride has its own unique story.  Wobble Wheel, the ride added the very same year as Bamboozler (1977) was removed after the 1993 season, but what makes Wobble Wheel’s story so unique is that it was literally replaced by almost the exact same ride, Cyclone Sam’s in 1995!  They are so similar that many believe (in error) that Cyclone Sam’s IS Wobble Wheel.  Let me settle that urban legend here and now, Cyclone Sam’s IS NOT Wobble Wheel. Sam’s was a brand new ride in 1995, but it is basically an updated model extremely similar in design. Wobble Wheel being a Chance Trabant and Cyclone Sam’s a Chance Wipeout (both manufacturd by Chance Rides of  Wichita Ks.). It’s a great story that a ride was replaced by its own virtual twin.  Of course Sam’s was also historically important as it was Hunt Midwest’s last addition to the park, soon afterwards (as in months) they would sell the park to its current owner, Cedar Fair.

Original press release photos from 1977

In the 16 years that Wobble Wheel operated at the park, it would be joined by several spin and puke worthy cousins that many of us still know quite well.  Zulu, which in a unique flat ride twist in that it not only has the same name, but same location as it did almost forty years ago when it was added in 1979.  However unlike Wobble Wheel, and Bamboozler, Zulu was manufactured by a German Company, Huss Rides (pronounced more like “whose” not “us”)  Huss Rides is still around manufacturing flat rides, and manufactured the two “new” rides for 2017, Falcon’s Flight and Mustang Runner.  Zulu is pretty much what you see is what you get, its an old stand by that everyone loves.   Ride operators at the park loved to give it and Octopus its own mash up name when Octopus was Zulu’s next door neighbor, and its ride complex was often referred to as Octa-Lu.  I always remember it as not only the ride I won’t ride (something about the name Spin n’ Puke…) but as the ride that has the awkward Schwartzkopf twin, that is the same, but its not.  Both are given the same model name “Enterprise”, but though the Schwartzkopf version was the first introduced of the two, the Huss version is the more common.  As an interesting factoid the Highland Fling at Six Flags St. Louis is the closest geographical Schwartzkopf version of the Enterprise, once again “like” Zulu but not quite.

 Wing Ding is about center left in this photo.

Of course one of the most interesting flat rides also happens to be Worlds of Fun’s shortest operating ride in the parks existence.  Wing Ding.  Most, other than geeks like me who have nothing better to do, have never heard of the thing.  It was added the same year as Zulu (1979), but unlike Zulu it was removed from the park only three years later.  The funny thing about Wing Ding is I am not sure which part is the more interesting story, the ride while it was at Worlds of Fun, or what happened to it after it left Worlds of Fun, because folks if you made it this far you are about to read something no one (or okay maybe the two or three we have told) has known.  UNTIL NOW. 

 The Fly-O-Plane at Lake Winnie.

First a little background on Wing Ding, it was manufactured by Eyerly Aircraft Co. (same company as Octopus), it’s most commonly referred to as a Fly-O-Plane, and as far as I am aware there is only one operating in the country at this time, at Lake Winnepesaukah near Chattanooga, TN.  Suffice it to say it is an incredibly rare ride.  If you are familiar with a May Pole you have the basic idea of the way this ride worked. Eight “planes” are attached via medal sweeps to a center hub.  When the ride rotates a coiled wire would wrap around the center hub, lifting each attached sweep and plane into the air.  Once airborn each plane could spin independently itself.  The way everyone remembers it?  Human being in a tiny spinning tin can.  As in jammed into a tiny little metal space that vaguely looks like a plane, that spins, at sometimes crazy speeds.  It is probably one of the reasons flat rides are also called spin and pukes.  There is probably a good reason the restroom in what is now Planet Snoopy is where it is.  Besides being memorable for ALL the wrong reasons while at the park, it’s also been incredibly memorable for its “urban legend” of what happened to it after it left the park.  Urban legend says that Worlds of Fun its it’s haste to remove Wing Ding, neglected to remove the “Worlds of Fun” in the ultra iconic, PARTRIDGE FONT before selling Wing Ding to a fair circuit.  The ride didn’t cause any undue “dangerous” havoc at the park itself, but did at some point on the fair circuit, and since that point every ride removed from the park has been scrubbed of any PARTRIDGE FONT logo going forward when it left the park. 

So did that all really happen?  Well.  Maybe.  What I can tell you is that unlike every other defunct Worlds of Fun ride that has been located after its removal from the park, Wing Ding can still be identified to this day (ok, last year), by the fact that it still carries the “Worlds of Fun” logo on it.  Yes that’s present tense.  Because Wing Ding still exists. 

Yes this is Wing Ding, sitting on a trailer in some field.

No I won’t tell you where it is.

When Orient Express was being removed, Omegatron was going with it.  

Of course not every ride that gets removed from Worlds of Fun goes to another park, many do, but not all.  Many go to the great scrapyard in the sky.  For those that have witnessed the actual removal of a ride, or even worse the actual action of throwing of said ride into the junk trunk or dumpster, you know it’s a very sobering scene.

Original press release for Omegatron in 1986

Another great, memorable flat ride went that way.  It was called Omegatron.  Omegatron was added to the park in 1986, and if you remember it replaced Whirligig (now Bamboozler) near the exit for the Timberwolf.  It, along with EXT that came around 1983, were part of a “1980’s vision of the future” additions, both ride AMBASSADORS wore the same costume, white “buck rogers” type top, with the EXT logo and Omegatron added below it.  Omegatron like many other Worlds of Fun rides was state of the art, it was the Vekoma prototype Skyflyer,  I believe there may be one operating somewhere in the world, it like Wing Ding is incredibly rare.
Omegatron is at about 1:00 into the video

Omegatron is probably remembered for two things, its signature whine, those of us that remember are probably either vividly remembering it, or possibly humming it to their best ability right now….  For those who weren’t alive for Omegatron (can we trade?), or even for those who just want to remember it there is a great YouTube video of Omegatron operating.  The second memorable thing about Omegatron was the change.  As in both the sound of falling change, and what it was used for after it was collected.  See AMBASSADORS at EXT (Screamroller) and Omegatron and elsewhere, were very well behaved Worlds of Fun minions, that was until they got of work when they threw great parties where Pepsi and Kool-Aid were served… You can all believe that right?  That all your loose change went to buy… Pepsi.  Lets just leave it there.

‘With a new flat ride pretty much every four to five years at maximum it would be another decade before another one came around, and it would be historic, Cyclone Sam’s, mentioned previously replacing its almost identical predecessor Wobble Wheel in 1995.  Cyclone Sam’s was unique to the park in that it was an outdoor ride, that was themed and ran indoors, but probably more interesting it was also the last addition by Hunt Midwest to the park. 

Cedar Fair, the new owners would jump right in and start making their mark on the park right away.  Almost every choice they made in the first few years had resounding impacts in the park, even today, some good some not so good.  But this isn’t an editorial about Cedar Fair.  One thing Cedar Fair has historically not really been known for is its abounding additions of flat rides, one only has to look at Cedar Point to see that.  And from 1998 until a little over a decade later, 2009 Cedar Fair’s additions to Worlds of Fun were almost entirely ALL coasters, so much so I like to refer to that time period as the “Coaster Decade”.  But again, this editorial isn’t about coasters either.

There was ONE flat ride added in that first Cedar Fair decade, and that was in 2002 with the addition of ThunderHawk, another Huss Ride, known more commonly as a Top Spin, and one in which Worlds of Fun tried to do something untried once again.  Worlds of Fun attempted to take a flat ride and make it a water ride.  It was a great idea, actually fairly revolutionary, but one that like so many revolutionary ideas, it just didn’t work that well.  (EXT as a stand up anyone?) For the last few of its years in the park Thunderhawk stood idyll more than it actually operated.

Before we continue to go forward lets go back twenty years ago before we look at the now.

In 1997, I wrote a letter to Worlds of Fun in regards to park history… I received a letter, park history timeline and a Mamba promo photo (that was actually Steel Force but that’s another point) I still have all of them, but an interesting point I will never forget was a comment made in the letter by then Public relations manager Whitney Howland, that history is always being made.  No truer words were ever said, because Mamba is now almost 20 years old, and by any definition historically important.  Why am I bringing this up?  Because, hopefully, in another ten or twenty years we will be talking about 2017, not as the upcoming season, but how it fit into the next ten to twenty years of Worlds of Fun history. 

Same ride?  hmmm.... Bounce-A-Roos on the left, Kopter on the right. 

So the two “new” rides, Huss Condor and Huss Troika (Falcon’s Flight and Mustang Runner), aren’t really new are they?  That’s the argument many people are using is that Worlds of Fun (or Cedar Fair) is adding banged up, used old rides to the park and calling them new.  First off, buying classic rides that are used is not necessarily a bad thing and can, in fact be a VERY good thing. Second, unlike going to a used car dealership these rides will be for all intensive purposes new.   Third, this is by FAR not the first time this has happened.  Obviously, Steelhawk was used but how about Rockin’ Reeler and Skyliner?  Both of those were and are used.   How about not even a new ride to the park being marketed as a new ride?  That’s a very old amusement park trick.  Move a ride around, give it a new name and call it new.  

This is my last story for you today, and it starts in 1977 once again.  1977 saw several new rides and additions, Singapore Sling, Wobble Wheel, and the third ride that was “new”?  Bounce-A-Roos.  Yes, that jumping kangaroo ride in Europa.   See in 2014, I wrote an editorial called “9 Old Rides” about the nine operating original rides from 1973.  But really, there weren’t nine original rides in 2014,  there were actually TEN.  In the ultimate game of switch-a-roo, Worlds of Fun took one of their original rides, a kiddie ride named Kopter.  They chopped off the very top “helicopter” theme, added a Kangaroo head, moved it from Scandinavia to Europa, and here is the kicker… MARKETED it as a new ride.  Clever.  What is even more so is that most of us fell for it, for years.  So how do we know you might ask?  I had a good suspension several years ago when I was studying park maps and noticed that Kopter ceased appearing on the map in 76 and a similar ride, Bouce-a-Roos showed up in 1977.  Once we had a Bounce-A-Roos car though, and split the head off (because transporting a nine foot kangaroo isn’t easy), the writing was on the wall… or the car so to speak.  The car underneath the head was still there, mostly.  The paint was pealing but it was bright red, and that obviously it had experienced some serious cosmetic surgery.  It answered the question, and left me with one more… if you were Hunt Midwest and you were moving a ride to Europa, and you had full creative control of what it would look like…. WHY KANGAROOS?

So in the last seven pages we have looked at many of the major and many minor players when it comes to Worlds of Fun’s flat ride collection, rides and attractions that are often overlooked but I firmly believe form the bedrock to the park’s ride collection, and set the park apart from its Missouri family members by offering an exceptional flat ride lineup.  Historically speaking, while the park’s oldest coaster is only twenty eight, there are two flat rides that are almost twice that age, and another that is only a few years younger, meaning anyone that has an interest in park history, its an oversight to miss the most important and oldest members of the park’s family.

1 comment:

Matt8 said...

Great post- I love reading your posts and am fascinated by WOF's history.