Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Atlanta Vacation Pt. 3: Six Flags Over Georgia (MONSTER MANSION)

Good morning!

Well, I have to tell you one of the best part of the trip was getting to go to Six Flags on Saturday. I thought I would be impressed by all the crazy rollercoasters there, but wouldn't you know it, the sparse occasions of vintage rides were pretty much the highlight of the trip. Now, ONE rollercoaster, the Great American Scream Machine almost scared me into a coma as I lifted off my seat under the insufficient seeming harness, barrelling around the rickety track of the turn-of-the-century-Coney-Island-style, but more because I thought the car might actually veer off the track and into the Georgia pines. My favorite attraction, however, was a completely unexpected treat called "Monster Mansion".

Rae recommended this ride in a comment before I left last week, and inveterate traveler/fellow woman of kitsch taste that she is, I singled MM out as one of the first things we needed to stand in line for! Online, "Monster Mansion" is defined as a "dark ride" style attraction. According to this article, a dark ride is "an indoor amusement ride where riders in guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects" (see more here). Did you know there was a technical name for these "house of horrors", "tunnel of love" style attractions? You do now.

We stood in line for what seemed like a very long time, and while I usually am pretty placid about queueing for something I really want to do, my nerves were getting a pretty good work out as "flash pass" holders kept being bumped to the front of (a very long) line. "Angel!" one tackily tattooed young woman in a neon pink halter and way-too-short-shorts-for-a-person-of-her-size shouted to a fellow flash pass holder at a particularly crucial junction of my patience being tried. "ANGEL, COME ON! COMMMMMMEONNNNN! SIT NEXT TO ME!" she bleated to a traveling companion who was outside getting a lemon ice (which are fantastic, btw, if you go to Six Flags, get one). Angel, still outside the confines of the attraction, handed off her ice to a goateed dude in a bucket hat, slumped poutily for a moment, and then took her sweet time going around the side of the attraction, up the gang plank, all in slow motion speed as a hundred pairs of eyes in the regular line stared. It was wrong, I tell ya! But eventually, we got to the front.

I hate you, FlashPass. (source)
For the Monster Mansion ride, you get in a Mill Chute style boat outside, and then float along throughout the attraction. The EERIENESS of floating along on a boat, through this dark, enclosed space, even past these sweetly goofy, Showbiz Pizza style animatronics, is what really enchanted me about the ride. It was a lot like when I visited the wax museum in Kentucky...I'd read about wax museums, seen pictures of them in books, read about people going to them....but there's something so surreal and dream-like about the lights going up on a darkened room and these stock-still wax figures of famous people standing motionless in a historical setting. Ditto on the boat ride...while I conceptually understand "ok, you get on a boat, it rides you through all these little displays, and you come out of the tunnel at the end", something about the actual experience of it was so thrilling on a basic level that I came out the other side going, "THAT WAS AMAZING. HOW AMAZING WAS THAT?!" in spite of being at least two decades older than the target audience.

The current ride features a "humans welcome" monster picnic, followed by a scary trip to "the swamp", where humans are not allowed, but your boat takes you anyway. This has been the theme since the early eighties', but when the park opened, the ride was still an Old Mill style boat ride, just through Old South plantation style folk tale dioramas:
The 1967 ride (source)
"Tales of the Okefenoke" was the original name of the Joel Chandler/Uncle Remus themed attraction that opened along with the park in 1967. There was some hubbub about how "Okefenoke" predates Disney's Remus-themed "Splash Mountain" by twenty years, but let's not squabble. That ride, and all  displays that went along with it, were scrapped in 1980 to introduce "Monster Plantation" for the 1981 season. I love imagining the creative meeting they had there."Well, what are the kids into? Monsters? Ok, we've got...we can get a bunch of monsters, and put them in the old Plantation themed attraction." "Yeah, plantations, dude, what were thinking there-- plantations are definitely out." "Short-sightedness. How were we to know. We'll call it....'Monster Plantation'. " "Is there a way to get around the whole 'plantation' thing? We may want to distance ourselves from the negative connotations, I mean, it's not exactly a 'good' word in 1980..." "No, we've already made up the sign. And it doesn't make sense unless you call it 'Monster Plantation', because otherwise, why is it on a plantation?" "WHY IS IT ON A PLANTATION PERIOD?" And so on.

It does not look anything like this concept art, really, in real life, but how cool is this illustration?!
"Monster Plantation" went on for  twenty seven years, before common sense prevailed and the ride was renamed "Monster Mansion" (which is a way better name, hello, probably second only to Maniac Mansion in simple, alliterative naming convention gold). The characters and the theme remained intact, but were updated where they were down around the heels a little from almost thirty years use by the original creative team from "Monster Plantation", including creature designer Phil Mendez. I was like, how much really goes into re-hauling an animatronic theme park attraction? Welllll, since you asked.....Wikipedia can tell you:

Monster Mansion follows the same basic plot and premise as the original Monster Plantation, but infuses the attraction with modern technologies, effects, and storytelling techniques. During the renewal, every single one of the 99 original characters were re-built from the inside out, including new mechanics, fur, and renewed costumes based on the originals. Eight new characters were added, and all original murals were discarded and new murals, designed by Disney Animation production designer Phil Phillipson, were installed. Every light and speaker in the building was also replaced.

Dang! That is a lot of work, son!

In spite of Angel, in spite of the Flash Passes, in spite of the wait, I have to say, the minute I got in the actual ride, I was having a ball. THIS IS MY FAVORITE ATTRACTION AT THE PARK. Thus, you know I had to get a souvenir shirt:

How cute is this shirt? In the MONSTORE (ahahaha, crack me up, won't you), you can get little mementos of your visit to the Monster Mansion.  And thankfully, they had kid sizes so I didn't end up in a whale of garment. I will wear this shirt with pride! And I hope I get to go on more "dark ride" style attractions in the future. I've never been to Disneyland, but maybe it's time to pack up the DeSoto and gooooo! :)

Have you been on a ride like this before? What kids' ride that you had low expectations for turned out to be magical in your adult years? Any formative experiences with scary/awesome boat rides? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow! Til then.

PS: The little girl describing the original Okefenoke ride is worth watching this entire promo video from 1967. "Everybody was chasin' everybody!" Also, see footage of the current ride here.


  1. haha, i'm glad it lived up to my recommendation! i remembered LOVING IT but wasn't sure why really. we went in 2005 I think so it's been a while. is the firehouse ride there, or is that at dollywood? it is the same kind of thing, a boat through creepy outdated scenes.

    1. I haven't been to Dollywood! Can you believe I'm a redblooded Tennessean and have never stepped foot in one of our most famous amusement parks? I need to fix that with the quickness. And when I do, I will certainly look out for the firehouse, that sounds creepy/awesome!

  2. Ha! I love it! I don't know why I've never been to Six Flags, but if I ever go I'm making a B-line for Monster Mansion/Plantation!!
    I adore rides like this. My favourite rides at Disney World as a kid were the Haunted Mansion and Mr Toad's Wild Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World. Those were literally the only ones I'd go on. Over and over and over and over. My poor parents!
    Since I live so close to Dollywood, it was always a summer trip...and in grade school the typical end of year field trip. I loved the Old Mine ride and the Blazing Fury (I bet that's the one Rae's thinking of!). Sooooo good! There's something about those animatronic animals and people that gets me every time!

    1. I haven't been to Disneyland, but I will definitely make those must-see's when I do, someday! I love these kinds of rides with boats and animatronics. So quaint but totally awesome!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...