Specific Type: Steel, Launched, Looping
The 1920s were the good old days for California's beach side amusement parks. In the Roaring Twenties, the classic American amusement park was in its prime, and what had started on the other side of the country had migrated to the West Coast where it thrived as boardwalks appeared up and down the shores. When Disney Imagineers were planning out the second park for
the Anaheim Disneyland Resort complex in the 1990s, Disney's California Adventure, they were inspired by the traditional Pacific boardwalks. The park would be themed around significant pieces of the Golden State's past and the state's most photogenic locations, and the traditional boardwalks of the past would have to be included. Wanting to revive their excitement, Imagineers set out to create Paradise Pier. They got all of the ingredients together: a ferris wheel, carousel, and swing ride... But more than anything, a classic amusement park needs a classic wooden coaster. Disney likes to put a twist on tradition though, so instead of a woodie, plans were drawn up for a ride resembling a wooden coaster, but in reality a completely different experience. Launches, an inversion, and steel tubular track set California Screamin' apart from any traditional wooden ride, giving it a twenty-first century sensation combined with an old-fashioned layout more comparable to a wooden coaster than anything else.
Disney has always been known for creating new family-oriented rides while other parks deliver their thrills by going for the extremest of the extreme. The existing Disneyland park next door was home to rides like the eighty-foot tall Matterhorn Bobsleds and the thirty-two-mile-per-hour Space Mountain while local competition such as Valencia's Six Flags Magic Mountain drew their fans with 255-foot subterranean drops and 100-mile per hour speeds on rides like Goliath and Superman: the Escape. However, the new ride for Disney's California Adventure was not going to be a small or tame ride by any means. Intamin AG was asked to design the coaster, and Intamin had the qualifications necessary, with experience in designing record-breaking mega-looping twisters and the
world's tallest and fastest launched coasters along with the traditional family coasters and mine trains. Intamin and engineer Werner Stengel's company Ingenieur Buro Stengel GmbH combined their talents to design a ride with average speeds, a below-average height and an outstanding length to appeal to any and all guests. A launch would be included in the experience to start things off with a bang, but the fifty-five mile-per-hour speeds would be achieved in a gradual four seconds through the use of a Linear Syncronist Motor launch, half of which would travel uphill in a section of track meant to resemble a traditional lift hill. And although two major hills would only reach a maximum of just over 100 feet in altitude, Disney would partially enclose the hills to comfort riders uncomfortable with any kind of heights as well as to hide the surroundings of the park from view.
The final product was anything but small: at 6,072 feet long, California Screamin' became the world's eighth-longest steel coaster, just behind Millennium Force and Fujiyama when it made its debut on February 8th, 2001 as the first major new coaster of the new millennium. Records were also set by the new star attraction of Disney's California Adventure in the financial department when the coaster's final price tag reached some sixty million dollars, compared to an average ten million for a major coaster. The only more expensive rides ever built up until that time were a handful of Disney's own rides and Universal Studios attractions. But in the end, the coaster paid off. Despite a rocky start for the new Disneyland Resort theme park, the crowds would eventually flock to experience Disney's interpretation of the classic Californian charm. With the traditional wooden coaster feel and a centerpiece of a vertical loop forming a circle of the Mickey Mouse insignia, California Screamin became a photogenic icon of the new generation of Californian Disney thrills. Walt Disney had brought a futuristic dream of a family experience to life nearly five decades before, and now Imagineers had successfully brought an inspiration from the past into the present just across the street.
Every thirty-six seconds, one of California Screamin's sunburst-decorated red, yellow, green, or purple trains is sent on its way from the station after over-the-shoulder restraints are secured. The flat Intamin track curves around L-turns to the right and left before reaching the launch track where the real action is set to begin. With a strip of sleek Linear Induction Motor-adorned launch track straight ahead and the park's central lake surrounding, the train parks itself to prepare for blast-off. When the ride finally launches from zero to fifty-five miles per hour, onlookers get a display of the lake erupting just behind the train as it speeds down the launch straightaway and begins the first climb. Continuing to accelerate, riders are propelled up the first diagonal incline as partial tunneling rushes past on the left. Seconds later, and the train is at the top of the first hill and immediately starting back down with a plunge down a partially-tunneled first drop not much steeper than the climb up. The track banks forty-five degrees to the right at the bottom of the plunge while threading between upper and lower layers of track, then rises and continues to curve the ninety degrees in a clockwise direction. A short blocking straightaway follows, but the speed goes unhindered.
With the Maliboomer complex to the right, the track begins banking to circle around three sides of the tower complex, then dives as it goes. The direction of the curvature reverses and sends the train around ninety degrees to continue the dive back to the ground over an upcoming drop and under the pullout of the first drop. Despite excess speed, the train begins a second major 'lift' hill launching riders to the top 110-foot heights in a partially-tunneled structure. It's over the top, and then the track plunges at an appreciable steepness while twisting forty-five degrees to the left. The teal rails send riders to the ground, then up into another turnaround section curving 215 clockwise degrees. Following a straightaway, the track plunges to send passengers into the centerpiece element: California Screamin's vertical loop. The 360-degree vertical maneuver turns riders upside-down while tracing the bottom circle of the Mickey Mouse symbol attached to the support structure of the parallel second major hill. During night time, a light display enhances this central display of action. With a climb, the train enters another block-braking segment before venturing into a third partially-enclosed plunge.
At the bottom of the descent, the 'tunnel' ends and the track pulls out under the drop from the first turnaround. The coaster banks to the right to begin tracing the perimeter of the first far turnaround section around Maliboomer. On the outside of the curve, California Adventure's other Paradise Pier rides fly past: the Golden Zephyr spinning ride, Orange Stinger swings, and Sun Wheel Ferris wheel. After 215 degrees, the track banks in the opposite direction for a forty-five degree curve leading towards the first hill. Passengers are taken under the complex support structure for the initial 'lift' just before entering this coaster's grand finale. And what would be more fitting for a finale than some serious rabbit-hopping action reminiscent of the classic wooden coaster? The steel track dips, then rises over the first hop as the loop passes by out to the right. Another hop follows, sending riders just slightly out of their seats, and a third hop enters block brakes before a quick dive to the left leading to the final brake run. All good things must come to an end, and the ride on California Screamin' does that with a right-hand curve back to the station area.
California Screamin' may not be the most extreme of the extreme, but it follows in Disney's tradition of dreaming up new experiences for a wide age range to enjoy. The Disney's California Adventure signature attraction also accomplished its mission in successfully bringing a taste of the classic boardwalk to Disney's own world.
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