Everyone makes mistakes… But multi-million dollar ones?! When a theme park decides to invest in a new attraction, there’s very little they can do to guarantee that ride’s success. No amount of money or branding can promise you’ll make a fan favorite. Whether it’s risky technology, a questionable theme, or living in the shadow of a grander predecessor, we’ve collected eleven of the most famous flubs in the theme park industry, along with dates, costs, and even video evidence that they existed. Most are gone, but a few are still around, “delighting” visitors today.
Not all were bad! Some were just victims of their cirumstances. But, have you had a go on any of these flubbed additions? Were we wrong? Were some of these great attractions judged too harshly or even taken too soon? Tell us in the comments. And for select attractions, don't forget to check out our "In-Depth" coverage for the details and lore behind some of these unique attractions.
11. Son of Beast
Location: Kings Island (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Cost: $20 million (+ $10 - 15 million in renovations)
Lifetime: 2000 - July 2006; 2007 - June 2009 (8 years)
Video Evidence: Point-of-view video
Full Story: Lost Legends: Son of Beast
The Story: In 1979, Kings Island in Ohio took the world by storm, unveiling the massive roller coaster, The Beast. Covering 35 acres, the twisting, terrain-riding wooden coaster is infamous for the way it snakes through the Ohio park's forests. In fact, you famously can't see any more of The Beast than the track you're currently on - it's all hidden below the tree line and within tunnels. Even today, The Beast remains the longest wooden roller coaster on Earth at a staggering 7,359 feet and a ride time over four minutes.
When movie studio Paramount bought Kings Island in 1992, they brought a penchant for cinematic attractions (one of which is further along on this list) and that most dreaded feature of the entertainment industry: sequels. Sure enough, the new millennium brought a new kind of creature when the park announced Son of Beast, which would be the world's tallest, fastest, second longest (leaving the length record to his father) and only looping wooden roller coaster in the world. Sound good?
Why It Failed: Plagued even during construction by broken contracts, bad press, and a time or two when portions of the coaster... well... fell over, Son of Beast was off to a rotten start. When the ride opened, it was the first (and so far, only) wooden coaster to top the 200 foot height level, clocking in at nearly 80 miles per hour. And yes, this is before manufacturers began developing those new smooth-as-glass hybrid wooden coasters that top the popularity charts today. Son of Beast was an aggressive thrill ride with unstoppable force and deafening fury. Its signature wooden loop proved to be the sturdiest and smoothest moment of the truly intense two-and-a-half minute ride.
In July 2006, a structural failure in the ride's massive double-helix allegedly sent a jolt down the track, injuring 27 riders. The attraction was closed for the rest of 2006, re-opening in 2007 with new, lighter trains and without the signature loop (whose removal had more to do with the new trains than the safety of the loop itself). The ride continued to hammer away at guests until 2009, when a woman claimed to have suffered a burst blood vessel in her brain from the ride's violent experience. It was shuttered once again, leaving the roller coaster community to speculate as to its future. Some expected the ride to re-open as is, while others believed new trains and serious re-tracking could do the job. By 2009, super-smooth conversions to old wooden coasters were in the pipeline for Six Flags' roughest rides, so rumors of a similar treatment for Son of Beast ran rampant.
Ultimately, the ride never re-opened. It was standing but not operating from 2009 - late 2012 when it was knocked down for good. Its spot is currently occupied by the highly praised Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster, Banshee. The coaster itself may not be well-loved or remembered, but it set a new standard for what a wooden roller coaster could do, and was sincerely an engineering marvel. The story of Son of Beast is so awesome, we wrote a complete in-depth feature on its unbelievable rise and staggering fall – Lost Legends: Son of Beast. Lesson to be learned: the sequel is never better than the original. No matter how big its budget.
10. Light Magic
Location: Disneyland Park (Anaheim, California)
Cost: $20 million
Lifetime: May – September 1997 (4 months)
Video Evidence: YouTube
The Story: What exactly was wrong with Disney’s follow-up to the fabled and beloved Main Street Electrical Parade? Well, there’s half the answer – no parade could ever fill the shoes of the Disney classic, so Light Magic wasn’t a parade. It was a “streetacular,” made up of four huge float-like stages, which would glide down Disneyland’s parade corridor in total darkness. At key points along the route, the stages would stop and magically light up revealing classic Disney characters, projection, twinkling fiber-optics, music, and dancing fairies.
Why It Failed: The idea of stages that suddenly burst into light was clever, but choose the wrong spot and you’d see nothing but dark, motionless floats moving by. The fairy costumes made specifically for the “streetacular” had upturned noses, pointed ears, and harsh eyes that scared children.
And perhaps most egregiously, a very special “exclusive premiere” presented to Disneyland’s rabid annual pass holder population (costing $25 per person) turned out to be nothing more than a dress rehearsal for a parade that was not quite ready. Poor word of mouth meant Light Magic ran for only a few months, becoming a “$20-million dud” in the eyes of the Los Angeles Times. It lasted through the summer, promised to return in 2000. It never did.