The collaboration between amusement parks and movies is totally natural... Until things get weird. Since their inception, amusement parks have used rides to carry guests through their favorite stories and fairytales. Disney brought the concept to new heights with his original Fantasyland dark rides, and the rest is proverbial history. Now, it's almost inconcievable to operate a major amusement park without at least some movie tie-ins. Studios open their own parks, while independent operators license characters to bring their stories to life.
Once in a while, though, things just don't jive... Here, we've collected a countdown of the seven downright oddest film-to-ride translations. From ultra-intense experiences built around family films, to family rides themed to ultra-intense movies, things just didn't line up quite right in these rides. Have you ridden them? Did you have any inclination that things were a little off?
7. SAW: The Ride
It was, of course, odd to hear that Thorpe Park in England had partnered with the gory and grotesque Saw film franchise to build a roller coaster. And while the ride is fantastic, it does prove to be an odd pairing. After a grisly industrial queue suited for a haunted house, the ride begins with a brief dark ride portion recreating some of the more famous tricks and traps from the movies as the coaster cart dives and twists to narrowly avoid each one. A stretched out in-line twist dramatically spirals over the corpse in the bathroom from the first movie.
The ride then exits the showbuilding and engages with a 100-foot tall vertical lift hill, followed by a 100-degree (that’s more than vertical) drop toward spinning saw blades below. The nimble Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter proved another unusual choice when Revenge-of-the-Mummy-style indoor dark ride might be more obvious, but it ultimately works. The relatively short experience includes an Immelmann loop and a dive loop before it’s over. Somehow, SAW: The Ride works altogether, but it’s an unusual concept to base a mostly-outdoor coaster after a horrific and gritty R-rated torture film.
6. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Mr. Toad is a character in the beloved novel The Wind in the Willows. Disney interpreted his story into a double feature called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (a package film with two separate segments: one with Mr. Toad, and a second with Ichabod Crane and the tale of Sleepy Hollow). When Disneyland opened in 1955, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was one of its original classic dark rides in Fantasyland, set among Snow White and Peter Pan (later adding Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland). That said, Mr. Toad has always been the odd man out with Fantasyland’s other dark rides retelling classic fairytales.
But Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is just a strange creature. Placed into buggie motorcars, riders are set loose into the passages of Toad Hall. They crash into the library, burst through the fireplace, and nearly knock over suits of armor before making their way out into the streets of London where the chaos continues. Ultimately, the cars pass through a bar where a bartender tosses beer into the air, then continue on to a courtroom, where a judge sentences them to prison. Then the ride takes a sinister turn.
The cars round the corner en route to the jail and are struck by a train. After a few seconds of darkness, riders emerge in hell. Yes, hell. Fiery red caverns in the shape of the Devil, pitchforked demons, steam, and even Satan himself. A dragon coughs onto riders, who then round the corner and exit.
To be clear, neither the film nor the original story sends Mr. Toad to hell, making the ride’s finale even more unusual and nonsensical. Even if Mr. Toad is an unusual choice for Fantasyland’s fairytale setting, his Wild Ride is one of Disney’s most fabled and beloved attractions. And by our count, the only one to send riders to hell and back.
5. Backlot Stunt Coaster
When Paramount’s Kings Island debuted The Italian Job: Stunt Track in 2005, it represented a future for family coasters. Parks were saturated with mine train style rides, and the evolution of the family ride would need to happen soon. Casting riders as stunt car drivers in the finale of The Italian Job and its famous MINI Cooper chase sequence, the ride was perhaps the first launched family coaster in the world.
Aboard ¾ scale MINI Coopers (complete with decals, headlights, mirrors, license plates, and even working doors), riders were launched to a respectable 40 mph and into a minimalist parking deck, spiraling up and around through a triple helix (just as you do in real parking decks). An unusual take on the classic “first hill,” the ride then sent the train slaloming between roaring police cars, through an overbanked turn, down a set of stairs, and to the ride’s big moment. Stopped in an industrial shipping yard, a helicopter armed with dual machine guns rose up and opened fire, striking barrels of “gasoline” and spraying riders before a second round of gunfire lit the gas in an explosive plume and blasted riders into a dark tunnel, only to burst out of a billboard and splash down in a Los Angeles concrete aqueduct under queuing guests.
The ride was indeed a fantastic evolution of the family coaster that had tremendous opportunities to signal a new genre of ride – launched, themed, and detailed, but appropriate for families and park budgets. When Cedar Fair purchased the Paramount Parks chain, they quickly de-themed any movie-based rides, and Italian Job: Stunt Track became the generic Backlot Stunt Coaster. On-board audio was disabled, effects died off one-by-one, and the charming MINI Cooper trains were painted over, losing their doors, mirrors, decals, windshields, and lights to become vaguely car-shaped blobs. Today, of the three clones of the ride, Canada’s Wonderland’s has it the worst, not even bothering to stop at the helicopter mid-course brakes since not a single effect there works. Either way, folks are liable to wonder why the generically named ride just so happens to exactly recreate the finale of The Italian Job.