Saturday, July 26, 2014

Look... Up in the Blue Sky!

Written by: Jeff C.

On July 20, 2014, the Washington Post Magazine rated the roller coasters at Six Flags America.  I'd like to share it with you, but the Washington Post has it behind their paywall.  The park in Maryland has a very bad reputation.  From personal experience, it is one of the filthiest, worst maintained, and least properly themed parks I've ever visited.  However, it's highest rated coaster is Superman: Ride of Steel.  There is another version at Darien Lake, but I've only ridden the one in Maryland.  

The rating is correct.  The initial drop is worth a ride... once.  Even though the oddly tiny cars give adults the added thrill of nearly toppling over the restraint bar, there's almost nothing else here.  Note: two riders have fallen off the Darien Lake version which resulted in one death. 

It's a steel coaster with a lift hill to that one big drop, two other hills and two banked circles.  Here's the track in order:
Preview by Yahoo

It's painted red and blue and the ride vehicles have the Superman logo on them.
Superman – Ride of Steel - Wikipedia, the free encyclope...
Superman – Ride of Steel is a steel roller coaster located at Six Flags America amusement park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Ride of Steel is an identical model that...
Preview by Yahoo
That's it.  Six Flags America has one of the greatest heroes of all time with a rich backstory and does nothing.  It is blatant that it was built on the cheap.  See for yourself in the ride-on video:
There's plenty of steel.  Hope you enjoyed staring at the lampposts and the patchy grass.

It seems far-fetched that Disney could acquire a DC Comics character license, but who would have thought they would team with MGM, Lucas, Henson or Cameron and obtain Marvel?  Let's rework Superman: Ride of Steel with some Blue Sky imagineering.

The ride vehicle is essentially a fly-along with Superman or perhaps the rider has climbed aboard the Supermobile.
Preview by Yahoo
It wouldn't take much to restyle the cars to an open cockpit version of this rendition.

The load area is effectively unthemed although a picture of the superhero is placed on its exterior.  That is to tell the audience that it's a Superman attraction rather than showing them with storytelling elements.  The queue is a series of unadorned switchbacks.  Why not give the riders a glimpse of his homeworld of Krypton?  An enclosed area could pipe in the ominous rumblings of the planet's explosive doom.  The load area could be themed to his adopted home of Earth and Smallville in particular.  Just make sure the attendants stop running around spraying each other with squirt guns and focus on guest safety.  Smallville is pleasant enough, but eventually Clark Kent must fulfill his destiny,  The former Kal-El must fly away.

If possible, the old-fashioned chain lift could be upgraded to a linear induction launcher like the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, but the slower chain lift can add the element of suspense-driven anticipation.  Another element of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster that Superman: Ride of Steel desperately needs is a soundtrack.  How can you not add something like John Williams's majestic Superman theme?  
Preview by Yahoo
Imagine Star Tours or Temple of the Forbidden Eye without a John Williams score.  Pretty dull.  The trumpet blare at the 40 second mark could be timed to that first monster drop with the soaring strains accompanying the first hill.  

The first banked circle currently circles little.  There is some gravel in the center to look at and you can also enjoy the chain link perimeter fence by turning your head the other way.  It should not break theme.  Put a barrier wall along the outer perimeter, then decorate it and the center consistently.  Decorated with what?  Well, how about snow, ice and fog with a forced perspective model of the Fortress of Solitude in the middle?
Fortress of Solitude - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Fortress of Solitude is the place of solace and occasional headquarters for Superman in DC Comics.[1] Its predecessor, Superman's "Secret Citadel", first appear...
Preview by Yahoo
The ride vehicle performs a high-speed flyby before heading up, up, and away again over the second hill.  

On descent, another banked circle lies ahead, but it's not empty either.  It's Metropolis and you're on patrol keeping it safe from supervillains.  The skyscrapers peak out from low clouds which also enables the forced perspective illusion by not letting you see the ground below the track.

The Man of Steel isn't one to forget his roots, so it's back to Smallville for a visit as you return to the station to unload.  Now, there's an attraction I'd enjoy experiencing again and again.  Don't forget to buy something at the Smallville general store as you exit.

-Jeff C. 

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