Six Flags Magic Mountain will reclaim the "coaster capital of the world" crown from rival Cedar Point in 2011, with the park opening two new rollercoasters and overhauling an existing ride. The updated coaster, Superman: Escape from Krypton, returned to action on March 19. Was it worth the wait following the attraction's extended closure?
Excitement levels around the reopening of Superman: Escape from Krypton were probably slightly lower than they will be for the debut of the all-new Green Lantern later this summer. Nevertheless, the return of what was once the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the world has been highly anticipated - particularly as it features a significantly-altered ride experience.
TPT's reporter Jennifer headed down to Six Flags Magic Mountain to try out the revamped coaster - but, alas, the ride was closed due to the impact of recent storms. Thankfully, YouTube user Mason (aka RollercoastersRule1) kindly stepped in to share his views on whether the changes were for better or worse.
The revamped rollercoaster was originally known as Superman: The Escape, and was a major addition to Six Flags Magic Mountain when it opened in March 1997. Manufactured by Intamin, it is a launched steel shuttle coaster that was the second in the world to utilize Linear Synchronous Motors to blast its vehicles along the track. The first was Tower of Terror, a virtually identical ride at Australia's Dreamworld that opened two months earlier.
Image: Konrad Summers, Wikimedia Commons (license)
In its original configuration, Superman: The Escape featured two parallel tracks. Riders were propelled up to speeds of 100 miles per hour in approximately 7 seconds, with the train rocketing up a 90 degree vertical section. At the top of the tower, riders experienced weightlessness before plummeting back down into the station below.
Superman: The Escape closed suddenly in July 2010, sparking rumors of a major upgrade. These intensified the following month, when it was announced that Dreamworld would update its version, switching the trains to run backwards and renaming it as Tower of Terror II. Eventually, the LA Times was able to confirm that Six Flags would make the same changes to its ride and reopen it during the park's 40th anniversary season.
The most significant change in the newly-renamed Superman: Escape from Krypton is the switch in the direction of the ride's trains. Rather than being launched in a forwards direction, riders instead start facing a wall in the station. They are then fired backwards up to the top of the tower, meaning that they get a clear view of the ground as it rushes towards them during the descent.
Image © Six Flags Magic Mountain
Another major update in the new version of the ride is the addition of over-the-shoulder restaints, in place of the previous lapbar system. Mason says the new restaints make a significant difference: "These have to the most comfortable restaints I have ever felt!"
Though not strictly a change to the previous setup, Six Flags Magic Mountain has also begun to "race" the trains on the parallel tracks once more. This adds another dimension to the ride, and could make things even more interesting if, as expected, one of the trains is switched back to running forwards later this year.
Image: Jennifer Harbourn
In addition to the updated ride experience, cosmetic changes have also been made to Superman: Escape from Krypton. The coaster's track is now painted in classic Superman colors, with the top third being painted red, the bottom two-thirds in blue and the rails in yellow. Mason says of the new paint scheme: "The paint is what caught my eye as soon as I saw it. It just fits right in with the ride."
Taking to the skies
Superman: Escape from Krypton's initial launch sees riders rocketed up to speeds of 104 miles per hour, accelerating even faster than previously after new Linear Synchronous Motors were installed as part of the update. Mason was impressed: "The old Superman took 7-9 seconds just to get to the tower. In Superman Escape From Krypton, it takes 3-4."
With its incredible top speed, Superman: Escape from Krypton frequently hits the brakes at the very top of the 415-feet-tall tower. This can be seen in the video below:
Swapping the direction of the trains also makes a major difference to the start of the ride: "Having the ride backwards gives you so much more 'feeling' than the old Superman: The Escape! Taking off at an astonishing speed right out of the station and up the 41-storey tower gives you that tingly feeling in your stomach."
Previously, riders would only see an expanse of sky on their way up to the top of Superman: The Escape's tower. Now, the ride offers an amazing "birds eye view" of Six Flags Magic Mountain - at least for a couple of seconds. A "weightless" sensation takes riders' breath away as they prepare to plummet back down to the surface - making this a rare Six Flags attraction that really fits with its theme.
Image: Jennifer Harbourn
The experience of falling back into the station is transformed now that riders can see the ground rushing towards them. However, rather than rushing back into the tunnel, the ride's brakes now slow it down around 100 feet out - meaning that there's no headlong rush into the Fortress of Solitude's ice cave.
The move by Six Flags Magic Mountain to reinvigorate Superman: The Escape has paid off handsomely, with the simple act of reversing the train's direction making a real difference to the overall ride experience. Giving one of its most famous rides a makeover is also a fitting way to celebrate the park's 40th anniversary (although we do wish it wasn't so frequently forced to close the coaster by adverse weather conditions).
Image: Jennifer Harbourn
While Superman: Escape from Krypton is still a very short ride, it packs a lot of excitement into its limited running time. In the backwards version, the ride is no longer "over" when reaching the top of the tower, but instead offers the thrill of being able to see what's going on during the subsequent drop. On top of this, if the park does begin running one of the trains forwards once again, the re-ride value will be boosted significantly - effectively creating two distinct (if similar) rides.
Six Flags Magic Mountain looks well on course to reclaim its title as the "coaster capital of the world" from Cedar Point, with Green Lantern set to be a significant addition alongside the revamped Superman. The ball is now well and truly in its rivals court - and Cedar Fair will need to come up with something special to provide a fitting response.
You can read Mason's full thoughts on Superman: Escape from Krypton below. You can also view his videos of the ride in action via his YouTube channel:
"Superman: Escape From Krypton. What a wonderful and amazing ride to review! Having the ride backwards gives you so much more "feeling" then the old Superman: The Escape! Taking off at an astonishing 104mph right out of the station and up the 41- storey tower gives you that tingly feeling in your stomach. Its good to see the park racing the trains again as well.
Let's talk about the launch. Remember Superman: Escape, where it didn't even reach halfway up the 41 storey tower? No more of that nonsense - Superman: Escape From Krypton takes you straight to the brakes at the "tippy top" of the tower! It's so amazing that you get a birds eye view of Six Flags Magic Mountain for about 2 seconds.
The new LSMs that propel the train faster is what got me moving. The old Superman took 7-9 seconds just to get to the tower. On Superman: Escape From Krypton, it takes 3-4. When the train reaches the end of the ride, the LSMs slow the train down quicker as well. On the old Superman, you didn't slow down until the tunnel. You now slow down maybe 100 feet out.
The new paint job caught my eye as soon as I saw it. Yellow rails, blue and red track just fits right in with this ride. Also, say goodbye to mr lap bar - say hello to over-the-shoulder restraints. These have to be the most comfortable restraints I have ever felt. All in all, Superman: Escape From Krypton - a 5-star ride!"
What do you think of Superman: Escape from Krypton? Let us know by adding your own review and rating.
You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter.