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The Best Paramount Rides


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I’ve been a little nostalgic about the Paramount Parks era recently. There’s no arguing that Cedar Fair has brought us some great coasters, but I can’t help but miss the times when Paramount was adding super unique, well-themed rides to their parks across the continent.

 

To start us off, I’m going to reminisce about two of my favorite attractions in amusement park history:

 

 

1.Tomb Raider: The Ride

 

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In 2001, Paramount’s Kings Island announced a $20 million “immersive dark ride experience.” Given I was only 9 years old at the time, I didn’t follow construction or speculation on coaster enthusiast forums, so when I arrived at the eerily gorgeous cave entrance of Tomb Raider: The Ride in spring of 2002, I had no idea what to expect—other than a “spiritual battle of fire and ice.” Suddenly (okay, maybe it was quite slowly), I was walking through the best themed queue I'd ever seen, and then, after a fun preshow, the giant circular cavern door rolled away.

 

I remember, clear as day, the reveal of 3 endless stadium-style rows of seats. The beat of drums. “Ah, so it’s a motion simulator,” I thought. Then, I noted the orange shoulder harnesses—“but does it go upside down?” I took my seat, the harnesses ratcheted down (yes, it was a crotch-buster), and I looked out into the darkness before me. The restraints were checked, the loading ramps lifted away, and the flood lights dimmed. Oh shit.

 

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I’ll never forgot the grandeur of the goddess sculpture illuminated in front of me. I had never seen anything like it before, especially not this up-close and personal. I was shocked as the whole theater, or whatever this thing was, began to rise...and then plummeted! We all screamed. (I’m a screamer.) Suddenly, we were catapulted back up nearly 100 feet in the air, face-to-face with dripping stalactites. The rest of the ride experience was a blur: a terrifying and wonderful series of flips and dives, being thrown into my harness and pushed back into my seat, then finally hanging upside down over a boiling pool of lava. Then, it was over, and I would never be the same. (Jk...but not really.)

 

As we unloaded the ride vehicle, I looked up and recognized the structure of a top spin—an absolutely massive one. Black, and coated in fog. It was quite the sight to see.

 

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Over the years, I remember the ride experience being tamed down a bit, but the indoor themed experience was still special and thrilling. After Cedar Fair took over, I was one cycle away from experiencing the “crazy Crypt” with the super intense flip sequence, and then later I got to ride the Ferris-wheel-in-a-box cycle, which I still enjoyed (for almost completely nostalgic reasons). But I’ll never forget the magical, immersive experience that Tomb Raider: The Ride was. I’d give up any other attraction at Kings Island to have it back.

 

 

2. Italian Job: Stunt Track

 

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In August of 2004, Paramount announced a pair of Premier launched coasters for Kings Island and Canada’s Wonderland themed to one of my favorite action-thrillers, The Italian Job. (Would I have Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron’s babies? Yes.) At this point, I was starting to follow online coaster discussions, and I remember the reception to these announcements being a bit cold. The coasters had less-than-impressive statistics, and Kings Island’s version was replacing a beloved antique car ride and their FLYING SCOOTERS!!! Given I was a budding preteen coaster enthusiast, I didn’t really care about those types of attractions at the time—I was just pumped to ride in those super cool-looking red, white, and blue mini coopers!

 

I remember waiting almost 2 hours for my first ride on the Italian Job. Holy cow that was an excruciatingly slow-moving line. But after riding it, I formed my opinion that still holds firm today: Italian Job: Stunt Track is one of the most underrated coasters anywhere.

 

Sure, it only goes 40mph and it’s biggest drop is barely 30 feet, but man, that launch into a tight triple helix is the best kind of doozy, and the dark tunnel finale is a total blast. I love coasters with quick, sharp transitions that toss me into the air, and Italian Job is full of them. Add in a fun show scene midway through the ride, complete with FIRE, and you’ve really got a special experience. Now that I live in LA, I appreciate the quirky theming even more. Too bad the drifting effect of the mini coopers in the announcement never came to fruition—what ever happened to that?

 

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Regardless of enthusiast reception, the rides must have been somewhat successful, because Paramount added another one to Kings Dominion the next year.

 

I was devastated when Cedar Fair took over and stripped these rides of their coolest theming features: most notably the details on the mini coopers and some fun sound elements. I suppose we can’t blame CF for the removal of the splashdown effect—I believe that disappeared years before they came into the picture. Regardless, I still think these coasters are really fun and unique, and they’re some of my favorite overlooked attractions in each of their respective parks.

 

 

That’s all I’ve got for now, but there are numerous rides from the Paramount era that I really appreciate and/or miss. What do you guys think were some of the best Paramount Park attractions?

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-Volcano, no question, no explanation needed.

-Flight of Fear with the original Outer Limits theming in the queue.

-Hurler and the whole Wayne's World areas. Yes, the Hurlers turned into barely-rideable coasters later in their life, but me as a teenager though it was super cool and loved the fast turnaround right after the first drop.

 

I was originally going to say Sky Pilot and it's KI twin, but then realized they were pre-Paramount.

 

That's about it. I still lament the de-Hanna-Barbera-izing the kids areas went through under them though.

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I was always intrigued by Kings Island's Tomb Raider since I was blown away by Talocon and Tomb Raider looked to take the theming to another level.

 

But of the ones I rode, my favorite would probably be Afterburn even though it isn't really a themed experience.

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Too bad Tomb Raider didn't last long. This one I might have ridden.

One of the very rare enclosed top spins it was, yes?

 

p.s. Flat rides always rock, when they're enclosed!

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I wasn't a big fan of TR:TR, because I love wild Huss Top Spins, and TR was far from wild, and as for the whole "themed" element of it, I felt like the queue, and area surrounding the ride, was a lot better than the execution on the actual ride itself. I do still wish it had been given a longer life though, as it was better than nothing, which is what's there now.

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I never got to experience a Paramount Park as a Paramount Park (Carowinds 2018). But Kings Island's Tomb Raider always looked awesome. I've enjoyed Top Spins (without working fountains) and I love some good theming. I hope KI eventually reuses that building with decent theming. And as a Star Trek fan, I wish I got to experience BORG Assimilator instead of Nighthawk.

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And as a Star Trek fan, I wish I got to experience BORG Assimilator instead of Nighthawk.

 

The colors were cooler and the Borg Sphere was a nice bit of theming, but otherwise, it was just as awful then as it is now.

 

Carowinds really got shafted by Paramount, but somehow they got Top Gun/Afterburn out of it, so it wasn't a total loss.

 

And for Kings Dominion, the launch coaster trifecta of Volcano, Flight of Fear, and Backlot Stunt Coaster are/were awesome (Sadly, I never got to ride Hypersonic.)

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I'm curious as to why Kings Dominion got a budget version of the Italian Job Stunt Track compared to the other two.

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I've been on both the KI and KD versions, both in their heyday and recently, and don't remember a difference. If anything, KD's still had more functional props as of last year. The fire effect and helicopter movement, both worked on the KD version, while the KI version just had you sit there while stuff was supposed to happen.

 

If you're referring to the two Tomb Raiders, then I absolutely agree that KD got the budget version. That said, theirs lasted a lot longer.

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Tomb Raider was awesome when it was running as intended, and then, was not awesome for the most part of the Crypt portion....until they put it in IDGAF mode in the last year it operated, and it flipped like any other crazy top spin would.

 

Super interesting to hear stories from ride ops about the gusts the gondola threw at the building walls, how it e-stopped itself a bunch, and many more I am too lazy to collect from around the internet.

 

The Italian Job coasters are fine, but the super low capacity deters me from them. I skipped KD's and haven't been on KI's in such a long time. I'm not sure I'll call it a mistake a KI, but they left a lot of the current plot of land unused, and it's such odd spots of land I'm not sure much could go there. It had a lot of potential.

 

I'm happy Paramount took a lot of risks and really wanted to be first to market - Vekoma's Flying Coaster, Hypersonic XLC Volcano, SoB, Flight of Fear, Tomb Raider, Top Gun/Afterburn, SplashWorks, Fear Fest...

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If you're referring to the two Tomb Raiders, then I absolutely agree that KD got the budget version. That said, theirs lasted a lot longer.

Also true, though Kings Dominion's was different enough and marketed as a a different experience. Theirs lasted longer because of, well, physics, I presume. Firefall probably gave us Talocan, so I'm sure that makes a lot of European guests happy.

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I've been on both the KI and KD versions, both in their heyday and recently, and don't remember a difference. If anything, KD's still had more functional props as of last year. The fire effect and helicopter movement, both worked on the KD version, while the KI version just had you sit there while stuff was supposed to happen.

 

If you're referring to the two Tomb Raiders, then I absolutely agree that KD got the budget version. That said, theirs lasted a lot longer.

I’m curious when you visited; the fire effects worked for me at Kings Island all last year.

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I was at KI during the Haunt, October 4 and 5. I believe I rode it on the 5th. I could have possibly just had a glitched run where nothing worked.

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The Tomb Raider ride was so much fun when it first opened, it was well themed, had a pre-show, it really felt like a major attraction. I still think a modern (and working) version of that ride could go into a Universal park tomorrow and totally work, it was that well done.

 

Speaking of paramount era attractions, anyone remember the Days of Thunder and James Bond simulator rides? Looking back on it they were probably pretty terrible as far as modern simulators go but in 1994 the technology was pretty new to me and they were always a lot of fun.

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The Tomb Raider ride was so much fun when it first opened, it was well themed, had a pre-show, it really felt like a major attraction. I still think a modern (and working) version of that ride could go into a Universal park tomorrow and totally work, it was that well done.

 

Can I petition for this, or...?

 

Seriously though, given Universal’s lack of non-coaster thrill rides, something like this could be a unique new attraction for them. Maybe themed to The Thing? (Yes, I am pipe-dreaming.)

 

Speaking of paramount era attractions, anyone remember the Days of Thunder and James Bond simulator rides? Looking back on it they were probably pretty terrible as far as modern simulators go but in 1994 the technology was pretty new to me and they were always a lot of fun.

 

My first Paramount simulator experience was Spongebob Squarepants 3D, which I actually remember being quite fun. I’d have loved to see the James Bond film, though.

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