2005, that most mocked of parks, The American Adventure, intends to
enter a new era. From now on the park is to concentrate more on
providing a day out for the whole family. Good for them. The question
is, how to achieve that. The family audience is notoriously demanding,
as it is so difficult to find attractions that have genuinely universal
it turns out, The American Adventure has come up with a truly novel
solution. Rather than invest in a range of spectacular dark rides, or
mid-range coasters, the park has decided that the best way to take the
emphasis away from the thrill rides is … to get rid of them. Or more
precisely, to leave them standing, but not open them. Imagine the joy of
the average family, who drive up to the park for the first time, see the
imposing silhouettes of the Missile (Vekoma boomerang) and Nightmare
Niagara (Log Flume), buy their tickets, then find that those rides are
closed. “Hurrah” they will cry, “that will allow us to stay
together as a group and enjoy the… er… other attractions, if we can
find any that are actually open”.
Oxford University’s team of elite lexicographers ever get around to
producing a dictionary for the amusement industry, the word “Family”
would surely need a volume all to itself. An abbreviated version might
read something like this:
ride intended to appeal to children, teenagers, and adults in equal
ride that in practice bores children, teenagers, and adults in equal
ride on which the seats are large enough to allow parents to ride
with the chid.
ride designed to be a fully-fledged thrill machine, but which turned
out to be far less thrilling than expected.
or theme park containing a range of rides that will provide
excitement and/or thrills to persons of all ages.
or theme park containing rides suitable for children up to a maximum
of 10 years old, and some benches for their parents.
or theme park that has run out money, and cannot afford to buy new
thrill rides, or maintain the few that they still have.
or theme park that used to build thrill rides, but which has seen a
nearby rival overtake it in popularity.
what makes the perfect family ride? How do you create something that
will appeal to the four main age groups, namely children; teenagers;
young adults; and the group often coyly referred to as “seniors” or
any strong physical exertions would alienate the youngest and oldest
categories, while the opposite would bore the mid groups, making the
“family coaster” an extremely difficult balancing act. One thing
that we need to accept is that the parks themselves simply cannot be
trusted to tell us what is a “family coaster” and what isn’t. All
too often, the term is used to describe something no more exciting than
a Pinfari Super Dragon, whereas Alton Towers’ bizarre assertion that
Air was designed for a family audience is one of the few things about
the ride to be truly breathtaking.
Most comical of all, Flamingo
Land’s chief “family coaster” is a Maurer Wild Mouse, a ride that
normally pushes the upper limit of how intense a family ride can be, but
which is “tamed” through the use of trim brakes so powerful as cause
the average rider a pretty severe bout of whiplash. Yes folks, when a
theme park starts using the word “family”, it should be taken in
much the same way as an estate agent using the word “cosy”.