Despite being the least efficient mode of transportation available today, people can’t get enough to these damned amusement park rides. I myself enjoy being flung around by steel monsters quite a bit, but truth be told I much prefer rides as they are depicted in films.
The reason for this is simple: since they aren’t going to build a whole amusement park ride just for the film they go find one that already exists, then they proceed to make it look 10 times more awesome than it really is by adding cool elements or characters to it. The result is a ride that is just too fun to exist. The following are those rides that set the bar up high, as well as their less-awesome real world equivalents.
6. Wally World’s “Whipper Snapper” in National Lampoon’s Vacation
I don’t know if it’s the movie-long anticipation, the slow motion victory run in the parking lot, or that big moose thing – Wally World just seems like the most awesome theme park ever. The best ride in the bunch has to be the Whipper Snapper, the steel coaster that flips the Griswolds around during their day of bonding/hostage taking at the park. It’s the combination of both horror and satisfaction on the entire group’s faces that really does it for me; after going through days and days of road trip hell for a few hours getting scared shitless on some rollercoasters, it’s nice to see them actually enjoy it.
In reality, anyone can visit Wally World by taking a trip to Six Flag’s Magic Mountain right outside of LA and take a ride on either the Colossus – which was the wooden coaster in the film – or of course Revolution – which is the real name of the Whipper Snapper. Personally, I have only driven past this place (undoubtedly the worst ride of an amusement park is driving by it), but I hope to spend a day there at some point. No doubt it won’t be as fun as I imagine; unless you are visiting the park with Chevy Chase during its closed season, it’s just not going to be the same.
5. Waterloo’s Waterslides in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Much like the Griswolds at Wally World, this is more about whom you’re with than what the ride is like. Ever go to a water park with someone who has never been to a water park before? It’s fun; it’s a lot of fun actually. The reason why is that you get to relive your own amazement by watching theirs. This is exactly why we have kids, so life doesn’t get boring.
Now, imagine going to a water park with someone who doesn’t even know that they exist, someone from the 1800s, perhaps. Also, imagine that this person is Napoleon.
I don’t know if I was incepted by this scene or not, but I just feel in my heart that the real Napoleon would have been a big water park guy. Obviously we’ll never know because damned if I can even find a phone booth, let alone turn one into a time machine – but if you’re up to it you can always don the uniform and head over to the Golfland-Sunsplash Waterpark in Mesa Arizona, which is the location of this Waterloo park. It looks like the same deal you see in the movie – minus the whole French emperor aspect.
4. Price Amusement’s “Terror Incognita” in The House On Haunted Hill
Okay, this would kind of depend on your definition of “awesome.” Ask yourself: do you enjoy thinking you are about to die? If the answer is “no,” then here’s another question: do you enjoy the relief of not dying enough to undergo the sensation of thinking you are about to die? I guess what I’m really asking is if you’re the kind of person who might describe the movie Flatliners as “inspirational” – and if the answer is “yes” to any of this, then you’d probably enjoy the Terror Incognita. Why, you ask?
For those of your at work, what the rollercoaster does is simulate not one, but two different accidents, giving the rider that lovely feeling that you get right before you die – only without the dying. Say what you want about this movie, which I personally thought was so-so, but that’s a freaking awesome ride idea. Maybe I’m sick, but I would totally ride that thing again and again, which – in a way – I actually have. What Lisa Loeb is screaming on is actually The Hulk at Universal Studios Florida, and it’s absolutely awesome. No, there is no elevator or faked crash – but the rollercoaster itself is just as fun.
Not really surprising that a Universal film would think to shoot their amusement park scene at Universal Studios – but it takes some balls to show your star rollercoaster crashing. What does bother me, however, is that there must have been a lot of disappointed people showing up to the real coaster expecting that awesome elevator – it’s like if a ride was shown having knarly laser robots only to have no such thing in real life…
3. Wonderworld’s “Alien Attack” in Beverly Hills Cop 3
Seriously, picture walking around Universal Studios with your little shit kid tugging at you asking where the robot ride is – I have to imagine that this happened a lot to parents visiting the park after this movie came out.
Well – I guess you could just tell the kid that Eddie Murphy killed all the robots before puppeteering a corpse.
Murder spree aside – that looks awesome; you just can’t beat robots shooting at you. Wicked laser effects too, right? If only those things actually existed where this was shot at the Universal Studios Hollywood Earthquake ride. The rest of Wonderworld, however, was shot at California’s Great America in Santa Clara. I find it funny that Universal Studios in Hollywood had so little rides that they had to outsource their amusement park scene – in fact, having actually worked at this park, I can tell you that they still have only one coaster.
That being said, the Studio Tour ride in which I worked, which includes Earthquake along with King Kong and Jaws, is well worth the visit. The movie sets alone are amazing – you can actually be in the presence of (and if you’re lucky, actually touch) the sets from classics like Psycho, Jurassic Park, Harvey, Spartacus, and of course, Beverly Hills Cop 3.
2. Pacific Playland’s Zombie Coaster in Zombieland
This is, like before, not really about where you are and more about whom you’re with. The people you’re with being zombies, of course.
You know – there’s a Men In Black ride in the aforementioned Universal Studios in Florida where you get to shoot at aliens as you ride around, and I recall going on it and thinking to myself, “wow, did they really manage to screw this up?” They had, they really had. It was only after seeing this film did I finally see what that ride should have been like. Imagine a first person shooter where you get to fling around on a metal track with a shotgun wailing on zombies – it’s the American dream.
This bloodbath of a ride, in real life, is actually called “Go Bananas!” which is strangely fitting; I would personally qualify what happens in that scene as ‘bananas’, amongst several other adjectives as well. The park itself is the Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta Georgia.
In fact, both Zombieland and The Walking Dead were shot almost entirely in Georgia, which really doesn’t say very good things for that place.
1. The Bazooko Circus Merry-Go-Round in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
Of all the ways you can stack up these behemoth steel towers and push people at high velocities, all the ways you simulate explosions and floods, all the money you can toss at putting together a mind bending thrill – none of it compares to the simple combination of a merry-go-round and alcohol.
It’s simply diabolical if you ask me – put a bar at the center of a spinning room and stick the whole thing in the most psychotically colorful and noisy environment imaginable. It also doesn’t help if you happen to be on mescaline.
I really can’t count the ways I love this film, but if I had to, this scene would be far up that list. The Bazooko Circus seems just too insane, too cruel to be a real place – and throwing in Dr. Thompson and Gonzo into the mix is like pouring gasoline on a fire. The kicker is that – not only is The Bazooko Circus and the merry-go-round real, but it’s just as crazy as you think it is.
Get your ass to Vegas and check out the Circus Circus hotel and casino that borders the south strip, there you will find the Horse-A-Round bar, which is exactly what you see in the film. The actual book doesn’t even hide this, calling the casino by its actual name.
Having personally visited this place, I can absolutely confirm that it is, as the late doctor put it, “What the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.” It’s that insane.
Also, for all you Tupac fans, it should be noted that it was this casino where, after exiting, he successfully faked his death to protect himself from the Illuminati.