by Andrew Rybarczyk
This weekend at an off-season event, Cedar Point officials hinted that they were strongly considering a dark ride in the near future and possibly even one for next season. Anyone attending Cedar Point knows that this is one piece that has been missing since The Pirate Ride set sail on its final voyage in 1996. The dark ride has evolved since then from simple scenery lit with theatrical lighting to the more modern day equivalent that adds many elements of interactivity. Many parks have been really trying to one up each other with what constitutes a classic dark ride. Some of my personal favorites are Men in Black from Universal Orlando and Gobbler Getaway at Holiday World. So when I heard this news, I began to contemplate where I thought Cedar Point should go with this proposed dark ride. Why not honor the legacy with a reinterpretation of the most themed ride ever placed at Cedar Point, Disaster Transport?
Looking back at Disaster Transport, many will say that nothing is truly being missed in its destruction. The ride itself was a mediocre roller coaster and possibly even a lower end bobsled coaster. It was fun to go on to maybe scream your brains out in the dark, escape the heat in the air conditioned queue (when on, otherwise avoid it like the plague), or to be used as a starter coaster for the family. In recent years, those were the only real reasons to ride but let's go back a bit to when the ride first debuted as Disaster Transport. In 1990, Disaster Transport got a huge renovation that tried to make it into the Space Mountain of the Great Lakes. Anyone who reads Avengers may be able to draw some humorous comparisons with that as well. I had never ridden Avalanche Run, but I did ride DT in those early years. What blew me away as a child was the queue line itself. All the stuff going on while you waited, including robots, moving repair bays, video storylines and black lights just fascinated me. Over the years as the ride's wait time declined, Cedar Point cut the queue down further and further each year. First they cut most of the middle and made Disaster Transport in 3D, which basically meant you bought glasses and walked through painted hallways made of corrugated metal. Then eventually they cut the whole beginning and had you enter right into the final room, the Repair Bay. Even at the end, it was a far cry from the glory it once had.
The story in this tricked out queue was that you needed to be evacuated to Alaska because of some impending disaster that was striking the entire world. I believe with a few tweaks, this story can be used to create a pretty cool dark ride featuring those interactive features found on rides like I previously mentioned. Disaster Transport: Return to Alaska could be set in the same general universe as the original ride. This time though, you are not trying to escape "disaster" but also fight back against it. Using your ships unique laser guns, you have to fend off space invaders, incoming asteroids, and all other sorts of obstacles in your way with your goal of once again finding safe haven in Alaska. The ride vehicles themselves could use totally new configurations but the same general color scheme and logos used on the first. If you integrated ride mechanics like those found on MiB or Cat in the Hat, you could even have the car spin and have a voice-over yell "We're losing control!" Most importantly, the ride ops need to bring back the neon orange jumpsuits when you board the car and you definitely need to return to Alaska at the end.
Cedar Point is no stranger to reviving old names as in the most recent case of Shoot the Rapids. Why not revive an old concept again with Disaster Transport that people who have attended Cedar Point for years are familiar with. With this format, you can also better tell the story and have people understand it better through interactivity. I think it also gives the park the opportunity to take what many consider to be a failure and re-write its legacy a bit into something that families and enthusiasts can enjoy for years to come.