The Walking Dead and a history of the Hollywood theme park ride

The Walking Dead: The Ride is bringing white-knuckle zombie terror to Thorpe Park...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Film scholars and pundits have long claimed that the double-hit of Jaws and Star Wars propelled the Hollywood blockbuster into the realm of thrilling theme park rollercoaster. It’s no surprise, then, that attractions across the globe have embraced film and TV back, building rides based around some of the most popular big and small screen franchises going.

The latest to add to the list brings the white-knuckle terror of The Walking Dead to a rollercoaster. Housed at Thorpe Park, The Walking Dead: The Ride, will take guests hurtling through eerie, dark tunnels featuring recreations of some of the The Walking Dead’s most iconic scenes and a replica of the show’s prison tower. It’s the newest addition to Thorpe Park’s Year of The Walking Dead events for 2018, which also includes: The Walking Dead Living Nightmare Extreme, a live-action maze; Zombie Hunt, a fight for survival in the woodland outskirts of the resort; and Fright Nights, a Walking Dead-themed season running over Halloween.

The Walking Dead is following in some illustrious footsteps when it comes to theme park attractions. From Saw to The Simpsons, there’s a long history of rollercoasters based on entertainment icons. Here’s a ride-by-ride look back at some of the big hitters…

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Jaws: The Ride (1976 – 2012)

Originally opening in 1976, just one year after the release of Steven Spielberg’s record-setting blockbuster, Jaws: The Ride took a boat full of tourists on a gentle trip through the town of Amity… before scaring the life out of them when a giant animatronic shark emerged from the water and exploded in a ball of flames. Sadly, Universal Studios Florida closed the ride permanently in 2012 to make way for a new Harry Potter attraction. Diehard Jaws fans can still visit the Amity Village at Universal Studios Japan, though.

Star Tours (1986 – present)

This Star Wars motion simulator ride first launched in Disneyland in 1986, before moving to Tokyo Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Park in Paris. It became such a staple at Disney resorts that it spawned a sequel ride, Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, with C-3PO and R2-D2 on a mission to return a spy to the Rebel Alliance. As an interesting piece of trivia, the original Star Tours was originally going to be based around Disney’s 1979 film The Black Hole. Plans were quickly scrapped when the budget ballooned to $50 million.

Back To The Future: The Ride (1990 – 2016)

Fans of the beloved 80s classic had the chance to step into Marty McFly’s shoes and pursue Biff Tannen through time in Back To The Future: The Ride. Serving as a mini-sequel to Back To The Future Part III, it features the voice talents of trilogy stars Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson and had Steven Spielberg onboard as a creative consultant. Alas, all of the Back To The Future rides (it was housed at Universal Studios resorts in Florida, Hollywood and Japan) are now closed, making way for replacements in the form of The Simpsons and Despicable Me.

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Peril (1993 – present)

The Indiana Jones films are rip-roaring rollercoaster adventures in themselves, so a theme park ride was a natural fit for the big screen archeologist. Guests hop onto a mining train (shades of Temple Of Doom, there!) before heading backwards through a lost temple. Located at Disneyland Park in Paris, it’s been a staple for 25 years, and was given a major refurbishment back in 2014 to incorporate real stone design structures.

T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (1996 – present)

If you thought James Cameron departed the Terminator series with 1991’s Judgment Day, then you’ve clearly never experienced T2 3-D: Battle Across Time. Reuniting Cameron with cast members Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick, Battle Across Time was a fresh Terminator story that sent riders hurtling through time in the war with Skynet. Originally opening at Universal Studios Florida in 1996, it moved to Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan, where it’s still running today.

Jurassic Park: The Ride (1996 – present)

Steven Spielberg’s classic dinosaur-theme-park-gone-bad blockbuster is an obvious match for a rollercoaster. It’s such a no-brainer, in fact, that work began on it concurrently with the original 90s movie before it debuted at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1996. It’s been so popular – thanks to its animatronic dinosaurs and memorable splashdown finale – that other versions opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.

The Simpsons Ride (2008 – present)

Replacing the Back To The Future rides at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood in 2008, this simulator takes guests into the heart of Springfield as Sideshow Bob breaks out of prison to seek revenge on the Simpsons. It packs a lot into its 12-minute running time, featuring appearances from 24 of the show’s regular characters. Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria and Kelsey Grammer are all on hand to lend their voices.

Saw: The Ride (2009 – present)

Thorpe Park is no stranger to horror. Prior to its Walking Dead attractions, the resort launched Saw: The Ride in 2009. Themed around the grisly horror classic and its myriad sequels, riders get to experience a close call with two swinging pendulum blades before plummeting down a near-vertical drop. Billed as the scariest rollercoaster in the world, Saw: The Ride is complemented by Thorpe Park’s annual Fright Nights Halloween celebrations.

Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey (2010 – present)

Located at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this motion simulator takes guests through a tour of iconic Potter sequences such as a Quidditch match and a battle against the chilling Dementors. Why is this an essential visit for Harry Potter fans? Pretty much the entire cast of the film series – from Daniel Radcliffe to Michael Gambon – reprise their roles for the ride. It even won a Golden Ticket Award for Best Dark Ride for a five-year stretch between 2011 and 2015.

Battlestar Galactica: Human vs Cylon (2010 – present)

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot revived interest in the dormant TV series to such an extent that it eventually spawned this theme park ride. Opening in 2010, Battlestar Galactica: Human vs Cylon is unique in the fact that it’s essentially two rollercoasters nested together. The idea is simple: jump onto the grey inverted track if you’re a Cylon, head to the red sit-down track if you’re human. It’s still running today, but you’ll need to head to Singapore to try it out.

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Transformers: The Ride (2011 – present)

Located at Universal Studios resorts in Florida, Hollywood and Singapore, this takes inspiration from the blockbuster robot franchise by pulling riders through a series of 3D scenes on motion-mounted platform vehicles. The attraction’s storyline revolves around the Autobots trying to keep the AllSpark out of the hands of the Decepticons, and has some true Transformers royalty involved with Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) lending their voices.

Iron Man Experience (2016 – present)

Marvel’s first theme park ride arrived in January 2016 at Disneyland Hong Kong, but you’ll have to make do with a Robert Downey Jr soundalike to guide you through an alien invasion. Still, this is the kind of theme park fun Marvel fans will lap up – digitally dress yourself as Iron Man, visit the Stark Expo and learn the history of the company, then hop into a 3D motion simulator to take to the skies with Tony Stark.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (2017 – present)

A theme park ride based on a TV talk show? Yes, this is real, and you can find it at Universal Studios Florida. The 3D motion simulator takes guests from backstage at Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, winding through the streets of New York and passing landmarks the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building. Fallon pitched the idea for the ride himself and was initially rejected – it was only after his version of The Tonight Show became a big hit that he was given the greenlight to launch in 2017.

Pandora – The World of Avatar (2017 – present)

Developed by James Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment company, this attraction was unveiled at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in May 2017 after years in development (it reportedly cost an eye-watering $500 million to complete). Set after the events the Avatar films, ther 12-acre attraction has two major landmark rides taking guests into the skies and waterways of Pandora – Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

More information and ticket details for The Walking Dead: The Ride can be found here. You can purchase a £49 Thorpe Park Annual Pass – pay for a day, come back for a year – here.