Beyond The Triple Corkscrew

This summer's new park rides rely on special effects as well as G-forces to produce thrills

Remember when roller coasters vied simply to be the tallest, fastest, and scariest, and a log flume ride was just a big splash? This summer amusement park operators are opening a string of attractions that combine elements of classic rides with dazzling new special effects. With these rides, almost all of which are tie-ins to popular movie and TV shows, "the art of storytelling takes a front seat," says James Zoltak, editor of the trade journal Amusement Business.

That's certainly the case with Universal Parks & Resorts (V ). The company is premiering Revenge of the Mummy rides -- based on The Mummy and The Mummy Returns films -- at its Orlando and Los Angeles parks in late May and June, respectively. Billed as the first "psychological thrill ride," the Mummy will take guests on a hunt for the evil priest Imhotep. Along the way they'll see real flames shoot over their heads, have computer-generated bugs run around them, and experience G-forces as their mining cart speeds forward and backward through a smoke-filled tomb. "It's like a great action movie," says Scott Trowbridge, a vice-president at Universal.

Not to be outdone, SeaWorld San Diego is opening the largest attraction in its 40-year history on May 29. Its Journey to Atlantis ride will take passengers to the mythical ocean city in Greek fishing boats, guided by dolphin spirits projected on the walls. Voyagers will experience a simulated earthquake, floods, fog, and water cannons before taking a 60-foot plunge into a lake.

13-STORY DROP. Walt Disney's (DIS ) big new attraction is at the three-year-old California Adventure park in Anaheim -- an updated version of the popular ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, at its Disney-MGM Studios park in Orlando. Visitors wander through a recreation of a 1930s-era hotel, littered with faux props from what's supposed to be a lost episode of the Rod Serling-produced TV show. In the story, five guests disappear after the elevator they are taking is struck by lightning. So in the ride, visitors are strapped into an elevator-like cabin that falls 13 stories.

For the younger set, Six Flags (PKS ) is rolling out SpongeBob SquarePants rides at parks in New Jersey, New Orleans, Montreal, Mexico City, and Arlington, Tex. In the attraction, SpongeBob is searching for a lost pickle to put on his Krabby Pattie sandwich. It takes place in a 100-seat theater where the seats move, air shoots at you, water is sprayed on you, and bubbles float by. You also wear glasses that allow you to see 3D projections of a half dozen SpongeBob characters. Some people may enjoy this experience more than being dropped 13 floors down an elevator shaft.

By Christopher Palmeri

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