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Photo TR: Coastin' Coast to Coast

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It would've been a real nightmare if you'd only gotten to ride Skull Mountain and Dark Knight! Glad everything worked out, and great pics as always.


In the past I didn't "get" Nitro, but I enjoyed it a lot more the last time I marathoned it. Turns out it's a front seat ride.

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Part Sixteen: Six Flags Magic Mountain

OK we are on the home stretch now folks. After spending a day flying back across the country (hooray for in-flight wifi!) it was time for the second California leg. We settled in to our moderately priced Glendale hotel room (one-third the price of Hollywood and 90% less chance of getting stabbed by a costumed character) and proceeded to see the sights. I'd visited Paramount studios back on my last trip and it was definitely the best of the "regular" (i.e. cheap) studio tours (although Warner Bros' deluxe tour is superb) so we headed there to get my brother his fix of movie history. The tour was basically the same as last time, although not much was filming since it was June and most TV shows were on hiatus. We got to see a few sets (Dr Phil, See Dad Run) but the highlight was definitely the backlot. It's amazing how many different areas they squeeze into such a small space - and even though it's been used for everything from car commercials to Seinfeld to Happy Endings, small changes are made all the time so the audience doesn't realise they're seeing the same thing multiple times over.


As for Magic Mountain, I went in with fairly low expectations and based on our visit, the park is probably better than its reputation suggests. It's certainly not as bad as SFA and while operations on some rides (Riddler's Revenge, Scream) were terrible, others were churning through riders like no tomorrow (Batman, Goliath). After rushing to X2 first thing we did end up picking up a Flash Pass, without which there's no way we would have managed to ride everything in one day (and even with the pass some waits were pretty long). It's kind of weird to be "reviewing" the most talked-about park on TPR, but anyway here are my thoughts on what the Mountain had to offer:

- Apocalypse: hard to believe it's only four years old but wasn't riding as rough as I'd expected. Probably the smoothest Six Flags GCI we rode on the trip, not that that's much of an endorsement. It had a station flyby AND fire, both of which make up for a slightly bouncy ride. SFMM locals might disagree, but I didn't think it was *that* rough at all!

- Batman: no idea why since they are basically the same ride, but the one at Great Adventure seemed more intense to me. Still a decent B&M invert.

- Colossus: line was 30 people deep and we still waited 20 minutes. Very big and long, surely they can do better than one train operation?

- Gold Rusher: perfectly serviceable family mine train. Not the most thrilling of rides but no wait either so I'm not going to complain.

- Goliath: pretty solid hyper with a surprising forceful helix. MCBR kills a lot of the momentum though.

- Green Lantern: I actually liked this one. Unpredictable, very forceful in spots and completely different from any other rollercoaster I've been on. A winner in my book.

- Ninja: better than Iron Dragon but not as good as Flight Deck. Literally got straight on with the Flash Pass so pretty happy with that.

- Revolution: I can recognise a coaster's historical significance and still think it's terrible, right? New trains might help this one out.

- Riddler's Revenge: Wednesday in early June. 2 hour posted wait. 1 hour with Flash Pass. 30 minutes in the mess of a station. But hilarious watching Southern Californians try to jump up into the seats rather than pulling them down to the correct height. And the best B&M standup I've been on.

- Scream!: the example used when someone argues that SFMM just don't care, and I tend to agree. Dumped into the parking lot, single train operation. At least it was themed. Takis is a theme, right?

- Superman: very similar to Tower of Terror at Dreamworld. Insofar as it is exactly the same. Another one-trick pony coaster that has a good enough trick that it doesn't need to do anything else.

- Tatsu: probably my favourite ride in the whole park, really liked how it interacts with the terrain.

- Viper: honestly don't remember much about this one, although the first loop is a pretty cool element.

- X2: another ride that wasn't nearly as rough as I'd expected. The controlled spinning is a fantastic feature and I'm surprised it hasn't been used much elsewhere (now that Arrow have done the hard work and gone broke developing it, of course!). We got on the first ride of the day, and my brother didn't know anything about the "4D" feature and was genuinely surprised (and a little panicked) when his seat started doing somersaults. Hilarious.


While, if forced to choose, I'd still pick a day at Cedar Point, Magic Mountain has a really good collection of coasters, no question. After visiting 20-odd parks and riding over 130 coasters in the trip, there were still new "types" of rollercoaster we hadn't encountered anywhere else. It would be great to see this park get their operations sorted because it could be a really awesome destination. Anyway, time for photos! I didn't get pictures of everything because even with the Flash Pass we were still kind of rushed, and frankly after photographing two dozen B&Ms in the space of a few weeks they all start to look the same.



It's Always Sunny in California! Here we are at Paramount Studios. This is the "regular" front gate, not the famous gate.


Dreams are made in these big beige boxes.


Pretty much any part of the studio lot can be used as a location. The building on the right might be a school one day, or a nursing home the next.


These cars are parked in Paramount's outdoor filming pool. If a movie needs to film in water, and the scene is too big for a sound stage, they fill the carpark with water and use this space. This is where Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments.


So this is the famous gate, from Sunset Boulevard. If you look you can see the 'H' from the Hollywood sign in the distance, next to Stage 4.


Part of the backlot. The building on the right is designed to look like the first few floors of a skyscraper, the idea being that the rest would be added digitally.


Which trash can would you prefer, Mr. Spielberg?


The footpaths on the backlot have lots of big holes in them, so trees/lampposts etc can be added, depending on what the production requires.


This is part of the New York backlot. If you watch Seinfeld you'll see a lot of this street.


This is what it looks like "inside" the buildings in the previous photo. Hollow behind the attractive facade. Sort of a metaphor for the entertainment business, really.


Stage 32 is the best stage.


Chiefly because it's where Community, one of my favourite shows, is filmed! Each stage has a board outside listing the TV shows and notable films which have used it. It was kind of surreal seeing stages that had been used by Frasier, Seinfeld and Star Trek. Community have taken the initiative and added themselves to this one.


I took this photo back in 2011, when I actually got to go and walk around the Community set (literally one of the most exciting things I've ever experienced). They dressed up the entrance to the sound stage as the outside of the Greendale campus, like I said earlier productions will use any part of the studio lot they need!


OK enough movies, time for some rides! Today we are at Magic Mountain. Or Montaña Mágica, as the locals call it.


It's a very "special" park that gets its own onsite Sheriff's Department.


First stop of the day: X2, with bonus lens flare.


More gratuitous lens flare. If JJ Abrams photographed rollercoasters it would look like this. In case it wasn't already obvious how far behind I am in this trip report, X2's lift chain was intact and the ride was actually running when we visited.


I genuinely liked X2 - fire, somersaults, onboard audio, wing seating - all kind of gimmicky on their own but somehow it all goes together here.


The speed of fear is 100 km/h, in case you're wondering.


Tatsu was coaster #150 for me, and I was pretty impressed. The ride interacts with the terrain really well, which definitely adds to the experience.


Revolution was only running one train. Damned if I was going to spend all day waiting to get both coasters in this shot.


At Magic Mountain, even the plants have graffiti!


Vic B, whoever you are, has attempted to immortalise himself (or perhaps herself?) in flora.


I don't want to dismiss Viper as your standard Arrow looper, but it does seem to follow the standard "loop, loop, corkscrew, batwing" pattern, with a few extra inversions thrown in for good measure.


That is one high loop though.


I have nothing else to say about this ride, instead I'll mention the lady who literally threw herself in front of a relatively short queue of people at one of the park's ice cream stands because she wanted a bottle of water. Right now, dammit! While on her cell phone. Yep, we were in Southern California for sure!


This tree is more thrilling than Revolution.


And the other half of the Tatsu/Revolution double I didn't want to wait for. Magic Mountain does have a very nice entrance plaza, once you get past the sniffer dogs and body scanners.


I think we ended up missing Full Throttle by about two weeks. I generally like Premier coasters, and while it would have been nice to get the credit we were flat out getting the rides that were already open.


I was disappointed to miss the photo op with these guys though.


The loop/top hat element is pretty cool. As much as I'm sure the locals would have liked something a little longer they still got a ride that is completely unique to their park, which is nothing to take for granted.


It was still a full blown construction site on our visit, and I was genuinely surprised to see the ride open a few days later.


Cactus = theming!


I didn't stop much in the kids area, but it did seem quite well themed.


Nice fountain. And it's actually working. Well done SFMM!


We waited in line with a few people who definitely could have used one of these!


This might be one of the best "entrances" to a queue ever.


One for the support structure enthusiasts, I guess. At least there's a train on the track.


Angry plant is angry. I'd be pissed off too if I had to live at Magic Mountain.


Superman was only running one side. Fortunately with Flash Pass we only had a one-train wait. I'm not a big fan of rides that have a loose story based around "escaping" from some peril, only to end up back in the same place once the ride is over. It should really be called Superman: Escape From Krypton and Subsequent Return.


The ride experience might be the same, but Superman is definitely more photogenic than its brother at Dreamworld. No giant grey tower here!


The not-so-rare Lex Luthor/Goliath double. While Lex Luthor wasn't included on the Flash Pass, the single rider queue made for a very short wait. Unsurprisingly the experience was very similar to Dreamworld's imaginatively named Giant Drop. Taller is not necessarily better when it comes to drop towers. Waldameer's X-Scream was only a third of the height but packed a bigger punch.


The sound my brain makes every time I see single-train operation on a B&M.


What happens when genitals encounter airtime on a standup coaster.


Bones: meet a poorly maintained GCI.


The sound theme park management make after they figure out how profitable front-of-line passes are.


Might be controversial but I liked this. Unpredictable and very different to any other ride I've been on. The forces are pretty intense, especially when the car isn't "balanced".


I am now 3 for 3 on coasters called Green Lantern, and all of them are pretty solid, in their own way. Let's not mention the movie.


Even if you don't care for the ride, there's no doubt it looks great.


Colossus seemed like it needs some serious attention. An 'Iron' conversion might be worth coming back for.


And so we come to the end of this update. One more to go - Universal Hollywood!

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I completely agree with your review of SFMM and its rides. I haven't been since 2010 and can't believe how many coaster line-up changes have occurred since then. Definitely time to give the park another go!

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I was really surprised how much my girlfriend and I both enjoyed SFMM, after hearing so much bad about it. One reason may be the most absolute perfect day you could imagine there... A cold, January day... Walk-on everything in sight, including X2 where we did not even leave the station at times and re-rode. We had one day there, so we were so excited to see it so dead.


My top ride at SFMM was easily X2... Nothing compares to that experience I have been on (Around 180 coasters?). My near-death experience on my last ride that night also made it more memorable (my harness popped up at the top of the lift causing me to go sideways in my seat and both legs on one side of the seat divider)... I seriously could have wiggled out if I tried, but I did not want to try that for obvious reasons. Needless to say, I was holding on quite tight for that last ride! I find it interesting how those harnesses will not lock down tighter throughout the ride. Wherever they lock in the station is where they stay during the ride. I think what happened with me is that the harness did not lock where it should have, and popped up when force was put on the harness to the next setting, which opened the two part vest quite a bit. Anywho...


I actually liked many of the rides most don't... Revolution we rode front seat and I loved it... My favorite Anton design (I have been on a few including the ones at Hershey, Dorney, SFoG, SFoT) and Ninja was fantastic... My top suspended coaster right behind Big Bad Wolf. All the others were in the middle somewhere. Viper was the worst of them all, and I generally enjoy arrow loopers.


Compared to Cedar Point, I would probably pick CP as well... If only X2 could be at CP, though... I think SFMM has a greater collection of "mid-card" attractions, while CP has more "high-card" ones... IMO, CP at the top end has MF, Dragster, Gatekeeper, Maverick and Raptor... While SFMM has X2 and Tatsu.


At the mid-card CP has Mantis, Blue Streak, Magnum, Mean Streak, Wicked Twister... While SFMM has Riddlers Revenge, Goliath, BTR, Ninja, Apocalypse, Scream, Viper, Intamin-Zac Spin, Superman, Colossus...


Both excellent collections, but I do prefer CP's a bit more.

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Part Seventeen: Universal Studios Hollywood

OK. Time to finally finish this trip report! Our last stop was Universal Hollywood, where we paid the big bucks for the VIP Tour. I'd done this once before and it is definitely the best way to see the park, especially for movie buffs like me. Our day started with the backlot tour, and I finally got to fulfill my dream of seeing the courthouse from Back to the Future up close (last time it was closed for filming... boo...). The VIP backlot tour includes everything on the regular tour (including the brilliant King Kong tunnel, sadly the dancing cars were closed), as well as plenty of time walking around various sets and stages, and a look into the incredible prop warehouse.


This was followed by a fantastic buffet lunch (best food I've found in a theme park anywhere) before our guide took us to all of the attractions and shows, with the all-important front-of-line access and special seating included, of course. My thoughts on the rides/shows:

- Transformers: this hadn't been open on my previous visit, and even though I kind of knew what to expect I was still blown away by just how great this ride is. The absolutely seamless integration of 3D screens and physical sets is very impressive (I even had to take my glasses off at one point to see whether some barrels that were knocked over were real or just on the screen!). Despite a posted wait time of 110 minutes our VIP passes had us waiting only 2-3 minutes, so we managed eight rides on this thing!

- Revenge of the Mummy: I am a big fan of Premier coasters and this is no exception, although I've always felt this ride ends a little too quickly and could use another 300ft of track to finish it off. Still the designers did a good job with a small space.

- Jurassic Park: man, this thing needs a refurb badly. T-Rex was covered by plastic wrap on my last visit and was just hanging there, lifeless, this time around. The drop and splash still work though, which I guess is the main thing.

- The Simpsons: Best simulator ride anywhere. That is all.

- Shrek 4D: yawn. Would have skipped this but it was part of the tour, presumably to give our guide a break. Maybe I'm a bit hard on this film, it's not bad but I saw it too many times at Movie World to really get excited about another viewing. And yes, it was exactly the same, from the pre-show right through to Donkey's algae-filled sneeze effect.

- Animal Actors: not a bad show, although the theatre was definitely undergoing some sort of refurb. Lots of plywood, which I don't remember from the last time I saw it.

- Special Effects Stage: for some reason I didn't see this on my last visit. Anyway, I thought this one was great, and it seemed like it had been regularly updated to include newer films, which is always a good sign for a theme park show.

- Waterworld: the movie was awful but this could well be the best theme park show anywhere. So much so that my brother made us go back and see it again. In true theme park fashion the acting is terrible and the story might be a little loose, but the effects definitely make up for it - never get tired of explosions, and the plane jump is very impressive.


Alright, pictures!


After getting back to our hotel room from an encore Disneyland visit at 1am, we arrived bright and early for our 8:15am tour!


At this point I'm geeking out (Back to the Future being the Greatest Film of All Time) about standing in the Hill Valley town square.


OK so the courthouse used in the movie burnt down and this is a replacement, but who cares!


Save the clocktower!


More Back to the Future nerdery.


We visited a set from a show I've never seen. This is not unlike my parents' living room, although they have a ceiling instead of studio lights.


More backlot. Nothing is being filmed because it's June and all the actors are in Cabo.


This is one of the better parts of the studio tour. The dry riverbed soon turns into...


...a tsunami of white water! I was hoping this would drown one of the more irritating tour participants, but no such luck.


If you were desperate and a housewife, you might live somewhere like this.


When Teri Hatcher gets into a rage on set, everyone stands back while she gets it out of her system.


This was a very cool set, despite War of the Worlds being a generally terrible film.


Fortunately, everyone survived and was able to climb down off the plane an orderly fashion. That's why there are no bodies lying around.


You don't have to be making a movie to use the Universal costume department. For the right price, you too can have a sexy lime green unitard.


The prop warehouse is really amazing to see. This is just the lamp section!


Need some skulls or bones?


You can even rent this guy for your up-and-coming sitcom.


Back in the park, more nerdiness. Best movie car of all time, followed by the Ecto-1 and the Bluesmobile.


Expect to see these popping up at Best Buy any day now.


The 'NBC Universal Experience' also had some stuff from other films, including a set from the magnificent and underrated stop-motion animated film Paranorman. So, go see it.


The Simpsons Ride is great, and captures the humour of the show perfectly. Every time I ride I pick up new jokes I missed the last time.


I wonder how long until The Simpsons Ride shows up in Tapped Out?


It was pretty busy on the lower lot, but the buff Mummy stilt walker was keeping everyone entertained.


See that 50 minute wait? More like a walk-on, thanks to our VIP passes. I'm sure we missed a pre-show of some sort, but with a zero wait time I really didn't care.


Jurassic Park! Broken dinosaurs aside, this is a superb flume ride.


Wet wet wet. Also very overexposed. The perils of using the 'auto' setting on your camera, kids.


Time to check out the new hotness! Well, new to me anyway.


Optimus Prime was available for photo ops today. Seriously how cool are these in-park characters? And they talk! Megatron was especially funny to watch.


Bumblebee can be a bit of a prima donna though.


I think this is the happiest I've ever been to have a front-of-line pass. VIP tour includes unlimited trips through the special queue, and the longest we waited was about 5 minutes.


Hooray for jumping planes and fireworks!


'Splosions make me happy.


And with that it was time to end our day at Universal and head to Citywalk for a screening of the ultimately disappointing Man of Steel.


Obligatory globe photo with lens flare to round out the report. I can't wait to head back once Harry Potter West is in, this park will head to a completely new level!


So the final tally for the six-week trip was 150 coasters at 22 parks. This includes 114 steel, 36 wooden, 7 boomerangs, 7 wild mice and 3 SLCs. We also drove 3000 miles, rode 15 log flumes, and incredibly only missed two credits because of closed rides!


Thankyou to everyone who has taken the time to read through this trip report, it's been a lot of fun putting it together. I'm now looking forward to my next adventure, which thankfully will require a lot less planning effort on my part, which will be the Scandi trip in June!

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