When you think of theme park attractions based on movies, maybe you think of Jurassic Park; at Universal or the entire suite of Harry Potter-themed attractions, or one of the beloved Disney rides that pay tribute to its stable of animated classics (“Alice in Wonderland, “Peter Pan” and even “Frozen”) You know, rides and experiences based on movies you love and cherish. But there's a flipside to every coin and on the opposite side of this baby are a bunch of theme park rides based on movies that nobody really cares about or remembers. Some of these rides seem fascinating and fun, others like cheaply tied-in after-thoughts. But one thing's for sure – that “Wayne's World” roller coaster would have been schwing-worthy.
Tomb Raider: The Ride
Drop Zone: Stunt Tower
How's this for a fun fact? There were FIVE drop towers themed to John Badham's forgotten 1994 Wesley Snipes thriller, “Drop Zone,” in various Paramount parks around the country. This is your classic drop tower attraction (built by Swiss manufacturer Intamin) but loosely themed to the Snipes movie somehow. Clearly, this was just Paramount trying to inject its parks with some much-needed IP (more on that in a minute), but stands as one of the more bizarre movie-based attractions ever. Also, not-so-fun bonus fact: after a horrifying incident at a Six Flags Kentucky park (we'll let you look it up), all of the Cedar Fair-operated drop rides were decommissioned and inspected. But now everything is hunky dory in the four remaining Cedar Fair drop towers!
Great Gremlins Adventure
Again: this is one of those attractions that, if I had access to a time machine, I'd surely visit. There were actually two (slightly different) "Gremlins"-based attractions in the world, one at Warner Bros. Movie World in Australia and one in Movie Park Germany in, well, Germany. (Only one of them had an appearance by ALF.) Both featured a pre-show that had classic clips from movies and television getting interrupted by Gremlins-related shenanigans, followed by a dark ride where you witnessed Gremlins causing a lot of mean-spirited havoc. While the ride looks like it was fun, you can't help but get the feeling that it was a missed opportunity to send up the entire theme park-attractions-based-on-popular-movies phenomenon, especially given the meta-textual brilliance of Joe Dante's "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Both attractions are gone now; in Germany, it was replaced with a coaster themed to Hugh Jackman's regrettable "Van Helsing." It's unclear where ALF went.
Two identical coasters called The Hurler opened in 1994 at Kings Dominion and Carowinds (then both owned by Paramount). They were themed around “Wayne's World” (the notoriously attention-shy Mike Myers even filmed a commercial for the attraction) and featured props and sets from the two movies. At one point, you even walked through a full-scale replica of Wayne's basement. (Yes, that's Tia Carrere with a Wayne walk-around character on the ride.) Supposedly, the area around the ride featured themed shops and food stations. Sadly, when Paramount sold the parks, the name remained but almost all of the theming was discarded. Later this month a hybrid wood/steel coaster called Twisted Timbers replaces the Hurler at Kings Dominion. Party on.
In 1999, a roller coaster opened at Paramount's Kings Island. It was dubbed Face/Off after the 1997 Nicolas Cage/John Travolta movie (also called “Face/Off”). But I cannot tell you just how this shuttle-style coaster connects to the movie or if there was any theming present beyond the name. (After watching several ride-through videos, it doesn’t look like it.) Our idea for the ride would have included a moment where Audio-Animatronic doves fly towards your ride vehicle, and another where there's a second train that comes up beside yours’ (separated, of course, by a thin mirror). Considering how cool a rollercoaster based on John Woo's movie could have been, this seems like it was fun but uninspired. The attraction is still operating to this day, but under a different name.
The Italian Job: Stunt Track
“The Italian Job”; remake was a terrible movie. It featured a bunch of movie stars and action sequences, but it is one of the more forgettable action confections from that period (which is really saying something). Paramount tried for years to mount a sequel and extend the franchise, but it never came together. But you know what did come together? A rollercoaster based on the movie! And it sounded really neat! The Italian Job: Stunt Track (known as the Italian Job: Turbo Coaster at one park) opened at Canada's Wonderland, Kings Dominion, and Kings Island, at the time owned by “Italian Job” studio Paramount. What's neat about the ride was that you actually got into ride vehicles that looked like the iconic Mini Coopers from the movie, but you were also actors in a movie (at the beginning of the ride, an unseen director yells “Action!”) There are even squibs that go off, water effects, and a mechanical helicopter that tries to impede your progress. Not only did it remind you of the movie it was based on, but it put you in behind-the-scenes of the production. The theme and execution looked spot-on. Sadly, they were all re-themed following Paramount's sale of the parks.
Volcano: The Blast Coaster
How do you design a theme park attraction around “Volcano,” the Tommy Lee Jones disaster movie where a guy melts in lava? Well, you build a rollercoaster, make most of it inside of a faux mountain, and call it “Volcano.” Boom, done, next. Volcano: The Blast Coaster, which replaced the even-more-baffling Smurf Village in the Safari Village section of Kings Dominion, opened in 1998 and was themed, ever-so-loosely, to the aforementioned movie. For a while, the thrill ride held the record for the highest inversion in the world (subsequently squashed in 2013 by a coaster at Cedar Point). This LIM (linear induction motor, which means that the coaster can just spring to life instead of having to climb a lift hill to gain momentum) coaster lost whatever loose theme it had when Paramount sold the park (weirdly, the movie is made by Fox). Now, it's just plain old “Volcano.” But you can still imagine Tommy Lee Jones trying to divert lava flow. The coast is toast, after all.
Days of Thunder
Pacific Rim 5-D
When Legendary announced their partnership with Universal Pictures, one of the things that the deal was contingent on was getting Legendary properties into Universal's popular theme parks. So far, that hasn't happened. But, an attraction based on Legendary's “Pacific Rim” did quietly open at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California in 2016. This is a real “Days of Thunder” situation, with a large, motion-equipped theater showing pared-down sequences from the movie while the theater seats shake and shimmy and occasionally water gets blown in your face (hence the “5-D” distinction). The mind reels with the possibility of what a “Pacific Rim” attraction could be, especially given how much of a theme park fan Guillermo del Toro is (I'll wait while you Google the photo of him and Ryan Gosling on the “Cars” ride at Disney California Adventure). Maybe if the sequel makes money, Universal will actually put the money and resources into creating an attraction for their parks.