Warner Bros. Movie World

*record scratch*

*freeze frame*

Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Well, I’ll tell you.

It all started with the Big Bang theory. And no, I don’t mean the sitcom, but hey, while we’re on the subject of trash TV, let me explain myself.

I love the show Ancient Aliens.

Seriously, I do. If you haven’t come across it, it’s a documentary series on the History Channel that explores the idea that extraterrestrials visited Earth in the ancient past and played a vital role in humanity’s development. Now, I have learned over the years that proclaiming your love of Ancient Aliens will very quickly tell you who your real friends are. For some reason, a lot of people get really offended at these sorts of hypotheses. I’m not sure why. It’s not like you have to buy everything they’re saying. I don’t. But I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to indulge your imagination and ponder all the what ifs raised in each episode—things like ancient gods actually being flesh and blood extraterrestrials, or the Maya being an alien race from the Pleiades, or the existence of pyramids on Antarctica. It’s healthy to suspend skepticism now and again. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Every time they have David Wilcock on with his conspiracy theories and stupid douchebag hair, I want to smack the shit out of him too. My point, however, is that a little bit of imagination is a beautiful thing. It keeps us guessing, mindful, receptive—perhaps even humbled—to the wonders of that enormous cosmos out there.

And that brings us to the concept of parallel universes.

For those of you with better things to do with your time than marvel over Giorgio Tsoukalos’s magnificent hair, the idea of parallel universes basically boils down to this: our reality is not the only reality. This universe coexists with infinite others, and within those other universes are alternate dimensions and realities. Somewhere out there is a universe where the Nazis won WWII—and somewhere else is a universe where Hitler was accepted to art school and Nazism never happened. Somewhere there is a universe in which the dinosaurs never went extinct, a universe that saw 9/11 thwarted, a universe where November 8, 2016 was not the day the United States took a massive shit upon its dignity, set it on fire, and then let the Saturday Night Live sketches write themselves.

From our perspective, that means there is theoretically a universe where Disney failed, or where we are still doubling over in pain and/or laughter at that ridiculous triple helix on SFFT’s Rattler, or where no coaster enthusiast is ever a catty twat on the internet.

Scientifically speaking, the concept of parallel universes has to do with quantum mechanics and other things way beyond my ability to explain. Ancient Aliens has entertained the notion that extraterrestrials inhabit a parallel universe and that they have the ability to cross over into our reality. There are also stories out there of people who claim to have inexplicably wound up in one of these alternate universes for a brief period of time.

Hogwash, you say? Complete and total baloney? More sniggering remarks that for some reason comprise a heavily swine-based vocabulary? Well, you can put a lid on it (a Ziploc or aluminum foil would work too) because I will prove to you that crossovers between universes are decidedly, unequivocally real. I will prove to you that there is an alternate reality out there, and that’s because I experienced it myself.

That alternate reality was Warner Bros. Movie World.


Warner Bros. Movie World is one of four parks located within ten miles of each other along Australia’s famed Gold Coast. I suppose you could say the Gold Coast is Australia’s Orlando. In many ways, it sure does feel like some alternate Orlando universe: their Sea World is spelled as two words, not one; they still have a Wet’n’Wild; and while the place is teeming with tourists, they aren’t the race of baboon shittingly maniacal, Trump loving white trash that one tends to encounter in Florida.

And, of course, like Orlando and many other places, the Gold Coast has its token movie-themed park.


At first glance, it may not seem that unusual. After all, if a movie-themed park has its name spelled in an art deco font at the entrance, how different could it be?

Well, dear readers, I think you’ll have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.


::excuse to put in sorta-kinda-Toto-lookalike photo yes mmhmmm you’re welcome::


And that’s because walking through this gate will make you question the reality you thought you knew. It will take you to a place that seems both familiar and foreign, a place where not everything is as it seems, a place that will challenge your beliefs and convictions. And, perhaps most perplexingly of all, it is a place that will defy the laws of physics, deceive your spatial perception, and bend time.

The latter it does by having some of the worst theme park operations known to humanity.


And the first test is here.

Do you remember the part in Interstellar with the all-water planet and how its proximity to a black hole distorted time so that one hour there was equivalent to seven Earth years?


In this queue, one train dispatch interval is equivalent to one New York to LA flight beside a screaming toddler.


In brightest day, in blackest night…well, it doesn’t matter. All the evil shall escape your sight and that power ring will be loooooong depleted of its charge by the time you make it onto the train.

It started normally enough. Green Lantern Coaster opened in 2011, and we proceeded towards it in standard ride-the-credit-Richard-doesn’t-have-first-even-though-Megan-would-rather-ride-the-Intamin-but-sheesh-that-boy-gets-fidgety-if-we-don’t-do-it-his-way-so-alright-already fashion. We joined the queue and walked past some cutout figures of good guys and bad guys. Where else had I seen that kind of cheap & cheerful superhero theming that no one actually pays any attention to whatsoever?


Ah, yes. Have a Six Flags Day and all. Except we were in no danger of that here.

Or were we?

The queue wasn’t moving. Had the ride broken down? No, there was a train going up the lift. Perhaps I’d been zoning out? Maybe the queue was moving and I just hadn’t registered it, the same way I don’t absorb the words sometimes when I read?

But no, this wasn’t like the time I was trying to get through a chapter about the historiography of shareholder value ethos on Wall Street the day Wildfire was announced (I’m really sorry to say that I’m not making that up). When we finally reached the station, I was a) not sure what day or even month it was anymore; b) curious to see what they wrote in my missing person report; and c) more flabbergasted than I was when I learned that mushy peas are a thing.

Would you like to know how we go about fighting evil with this Green Lantern?

  1. Two trains, seating eight each, roll into the station.
  2. Restraints unlock, riders disembark, riders proceed down the exit ramp.
  3. Trains sit empty.
  4. Trains continue sitting empty because there isn’t anyone lined up behind the air gates.
  5. Ride Op 1 comes over to the head of the queue, opens the barrier, counts off the 16 guests it will take to fill the trains, and assigns each of them a row.
  6. The other two trains that were on the course are by this point stacked on the brake run.
  7. Ride Op 1 double checks the number of people he’s let through and where he’s placed them.
  8. Ride Op 1 begins chatting with Ride Op 2, who is at the controls. It is a pleasant chat. There is laughter.
  9. Ride Op 3 joins said chat.
  10. Trains remain empty in the station.
  11. Trains remain stacked on the brake run.
  12. Casual chat continues.
  13. Richard and I share A Look.
  14. Richard and I begin counting how many flags might be around.
  15. Ride Op Roundtable concludes.
  16. Ride Op 1 announces to guests in the air gates that they must buckle the seat belt first, THEN pull down the lap bar. Got it? Seat belt FIRST, lap bar SECOND? Okay? You guys got that, right? Okay.
  17. Air gates finally open, guests proceed to train and do up their restraints.
  18. Restraints are checked with all the efficiency of Windows installing updates.
  19. Trains dispatch.
  20. Stacked trains roll into the station.
  21. Repeat.

Let me tell you, it takes less time to follow a 21 step instruction manual from Ikea—and that includes all snack, drink, and crying-cause-you-fucked-up-three-steps-ago breaks. Of course, if I were a supervillain like Parallax, this is exactly the kind of guy I’d like to be up against. Why, I could paint the whole world yellow, develop and release a superbug that infected everyone with jaundice, personally unscrew and replace every lightbulb on the planet with a yellow one, and be reclining on a beach in Mexico sipping a golden margarita and listening to “Yellow Light” by Of Monsters and Men before even Ryan Reynolds realized this film was a terrible mistake. Hell, I wouldn’t have even had to do that. I could have just waited around for 2016 to happen and lapped up everyone’s fear then.

Stop exaggerating, you’re probably thinking. Okay, fine. Parallax wouldn’t have had to wait until 2016. Parallax could have just as easily feasted off fear when a train derailed a mere month after our visit.

But anyway, as we stood there bemoaning our lack of foresight in bringing some Velcro orthopedic shoes and a couple bags of Werther’s Original for the next few decades ahead, there was something particularly irksome in the fact that we were enduring all this for an S&S El Loco. At least with a 21 step Ikea manual, your headache at the end comes with a sense of accomplishment and a reasonably priced coffee table. But the cranial (and shoulder and spine) trauma that would follow this 21 step bungle would carry no reward except a ticked box on a list nobody cares about and further justification that El Crappo is a better moniker for this ride type than El Loco.

But all was not as it seemed.


This wasn’t an El Crappo.

We boarded the train and instead of the usual two ratcheting rocky nubs that bore into your shoulders like the way a 9-5 office job crushes your happiness down a dismal slump towards ennui, there was…a lap bar.

And instead of listening to my mind’s usual El Crappo album of expletives, more expletives, and existential questions peppered with expletives on why I bother with this hobby, there was…an onboard soundtrack.

And the latter didn’t catch my ear solely because I was gushing gratitude over its playing the safety spiel on the lift hill, which probably took about six days off the dispatch interval. Nor did it catch my ear because I happened to get a strong whiff of grease with it as we took to the lift, which instantly dispelled my frustrations and centered me in all the sensory details of the moment (hey, some people swear by lavender and yoga for that sort of thing; some people lie and swear by lavender and yoga for that sort of thing because they regret spending $30 on a yoga mat that will spend all but the first two weeks of January rolled up in a closet; I swear by the smell of coaster grease baking on a lift as I pat for reassurance the zippered pocket containing my Excedrin. Whatever puts you in your happy place, y’know?).


No, it caught my ear because it synced with the ride action as meticulously as Jake Tapper’s facial expressions correlate with the viscosity of Kellyanne Conway’s fountain of bullshit.


At the crest of the drop, both the train and the music slowed. We seemed to hang for a few dramatic seconds over the precipice. It actually felt like there was a holding brake up there, even though there wasn’t. Such was the power of the soundtrack, though. We know how strongly music can influence mood. It’s why I’ve never been able to listen to the whole of “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, a song so wretchedly dreary and boring that pharmaceutical companies ought to be using it to sell depression medication (“If I lay here, if I just lay here, will you lie with me and let these dismal monotones persuade you that life is bleak and heavy so ask your doctor to try Cymbalta today?”). It’s why I once heard a radio host comment how it was impossible for “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People not to put you in a good mood (remember that one? The song with whispers of Columbine in it that was some toe tappin’, finger snappin’ good fun?).

In the case of Green Lantern, the slow crest over the drop matched the decrease in the music’s tempo. It created a mood of suspense and did more to amplify the anticipation of the forthcoming drop than even the round of Aussie swearing accompanying it (which is saying something, because Aussies are exceptionally good at verbally capturing a moment).

The increase in velocity on the drop came with an increase in tempo. We fell into the beyond vertical drop with a peppy techno beat in our ears, and for the first time on an El Loco that somersaulting sensation was appreciable. Of course, noticing this could have just been because I wasn’t engaged in my usual futile El Crappo battle of protecting my clavicle, but if Usher can sing about nonconsensual sex atop the sticky dried piss and fecal bacteria rioting upon every surface in a nightclub with the voice of an angel, then I think you can understand why music enhanced the ride experience.

Music was only part of the equation, though. There were two other components that led to my epiphany that an El Loco need not be an El Crappo. The first was the lap bars. The second, surprisingly, was the block brakes. Normally we see blocks as necessary evils—they’re crucial for safety, but they often rudely interrupt a ride’s pacing. Not so here, though. S&S designed a layout that works with the blocks. Two elements in particular work better at slower speeds:

1) The overbanked turn: On our second ride, I had a righthand outside seat. When the whole train tilted to the right after the first block and I could very much feel my rear tilting out of the seat with it, well…let’s just say I would completely understand and totally not judge if a bacteria culture from Usher’s syphilis shack was indistinguishable from one taken from the seats of the train that derailed.

2) The prolonged upside down section: Following the overbanked turn, the track twists around to invert the train, but instead of righting itself immediately, the train remains upside down and continues in a straight line for a few seconds. Let me tell you, hang time sure is marvelous when your shoulders aren’t mashed into an OTSR.

And then, of course, there was the finale—that slowly unfurling zero-G roll into the rapid fire horseshoe turn that was what it always should have been: fun. No more nasty clonk to the head. Just…fun.

Mix in a soundtrack that syncs flawlessly with the pacing and agility of those elements and you have one greatly perturbed Megan, and not just because I found myself confronted with a truly fun El Loco, something I didn’t think existed, especially after the shade of red Steel Hawg had colored my shoulders the previous summer (although to be fair, Steel Hawg was already at a disadvantage simply for existing at Indiana Beach). No, I was perturbed because I had to concede that Richard’s insistence that we get his new credit first wasn’t the worst way we could have begun the day.

Actually, I’ve digressed. We didn’t head for the coasters right away when we arrived. Instead, we opted for a photo run before dumping everything in a locker because Warner Bros. Movie World has what must be one of the most neurotic loose article policies in the industry. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Let’s look at some positives first because this park has plenty of them. At the top of the list:



…and theming.  (The WB Kids section is particularly well done.)

If there’s one thing movie-themed parks do well, it’s providing embarrassing reminders that I used to consider Cedar Fair parks as “theme parks.” Oh yes, those were some unenlightened times, folks. I’ve since realized that calling a couple of barrels and wagon wheels on a slab of concrete a “theme park” is taking the piss,* but it’s still worth a cringe.

*okay, yes, there are exceptions. The Western town at Knott’s is terrific. And all those trashcans at California’s Great America are extraordinary. So many small portraits of the park within the park itself—my god, it’s simply brilliant. So profound. So meta.

Anyway, Warner Bros. Movie World is no exception to the genre.


And while it does have its token Western town, it extends well beyond that.


The heart of the park is its covered Main Street. It features all the pastels and neon of classic Hollywood, except instead of drug addicts and vegans, there’s a Ben & Jerry’s (but not to worry, the prices at that Ben & Jerry’s will ensure you get just as cleaned out as if you’d gone to Whole Foods and met your dealer in the parking lot afterwards).


See? Authentic American experience all the way.


At the end of the street is this park that provides ample shaded seating where you can watch the afternoon parade, hold a Chunky Monkey cone in one hand and your emaciated wallet in the other, and film your children joining the daily Looney Tunes dance party so you can embarrass them with it on social media when they’re old enough to hate you for it.


At certain times, the space also functions as a reminder to take your birth control.


Of course, it couldn’t be a movie park without a stunt driving show. Unfortunately, our timing was off for both performances of Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 today, so I can only show you Richard’s 2009 photo. I bet they caught the bad guy, though. I know this because they are doing the driving on two wheels thing. I’m not sure why law enforcement doesn’t use this in the real world. It’s always the most effective and not at all ridiculous looking way to catch a criminal.


Just like this is the most subtle way to sneak up behind a wascally wabbit.


The theming even extends to the parking lot, and it’s not just for show, either. For instance, this themed sign serves a practical purpose because it cautions you that a) your headlights might be on and b) everything in this godforsaken country is out to kill you.

Now, I should point out that not all the theming is on point.


For one thing, I’m pretty sure an all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta, and dessert buffet wasn’t what Rick had in mind when he predicted the beginning of a beautiful friendship (although it is most assuredly what I had in mind when I saw the sign in the window).


And it’s really not a true Tijuana experience without the murders, seedy alleys, 24 hour pharmacies, and the constant fear of getting kidnapped, is it?


Then there’s this. I mean, come on. In what America would this be realistic? Where are all the guns? Why is the police car not flipped over and on fire amidst a protest? Where are all the Republicans trying to blame Muslim immigrants while ignoring the real issues? I just…I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine an America where the GOP doesn’t have circjerks on the regular with gun lobbyists and white supremacists. Such an absurd universe couldn’t possibly exist…could it? I mean, until a few minutes ago it had seemed inconceivable that an El Loco could be good, so…?

And then, a few minutes later, I had my first encounter with a loose articles policy more neurotic than a Woody Allen trope, and I didn’t know what was real anymore.


Escape from what? This plane of existence and everything I thought was reality? Because that’s sure what it felt like.


First of all: yes, it is the best coaster in the park. I won’t leave you in suspense on that verdict.

I, on the other hand, had to wait in suspense on that verdict. Then I waited in boredom. Then annoyance. Then I was hungry, so I began mentally compiling a list of things we’d need at Tesco when we got home and that’s how the hope that Tropicana might still be on sale became the most exciting thing in my life at that moment.

I said earlier that we dumped everything in a locker before riding anything. We opted for a $10 all day locker so we could photograph and ride as we pleased. I’m pretty sure there are single use lockers as well, but if you’re planning on riding a lot, it’s easier—and cheaper—to go for an all day locker and be done with it. Normally I’m reluctant to part with my fanny pack since it makes me look so chic and fashionable, but I knew it was the right choice when, as we approached the entrance, Richard said, “Hmmmm, they don’t have the wand today.”

“The wand?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “Last time I was here they passed a wand over you to make sure you weren’t carrying anything.”

“Are you serious?”

“As serious as I was when I told you how they ordered me last time to remove a single tissue from a zipped pocket.”

“But…I wasn’t sure about believing you then,” I said.

“When have I ever lied to you?” Richard asked indignantly.

“You tell me I’m beautiful even when my face is covered in pimples. Surely you understand my skepticism.”

At that moment, I received two things: 1) A Look from Richard, and 2) truth staring me in the face as harshly as the bathroom light reveals my pores’ indefatigable zeal to look as awful as possible.

The attendant at the entrance noticed a park map in the back pocket of a man in front of me. The back pocket. You know, the one you sit on. The one on which your full body weight rests. The one where something flat and small like a park map will be pinned down, and even if it somehow defied the odds and slipped out, who cares because it’s just a piece of paper. Well, the attendant cared. “You’ll have to put that in a locker,” she informed him. When he finally stopped laughing at such a ridiculous statement and realized he couldn’t ride until he forked over some change to store that single piece of paper, he did what any sane person would do: he threw it away. One wonders just how much waste results from park maps tossed away like this in a year.

Entry to the queue required passing marks on both an oral and visual exam. We were first questioned if we had anything in our pockets, which I presume was a formality to make the ensuing scrutiny of the hip/groin area less awkward. It was clear she had been trained to look for the outlines of objects tucked into pockets—outlines like the dangerous rectangle of a park map. Or the sinister bulge of a wadded up tissue in a zipped pocket. Or maybe an object that, you know, is actually worth noticing. But I guess you can’t be too careful. After all, a falling park map might give someone a paper cut and gosh, that would be horrific.

Anyway, the attendant let us through once she was satisfied we weren’t smugglers. Let me tell you, if they’d spent even half as much time training their staff on efficient operations as they had on sniffing out renegade slips of paper, Superman’s throughput would have been like this:

Instead? Well, here are the numbers:

  • Queue time: 45 minutes
  • Trains operating: 1
  • Ride time: ~1:40
  • Dispatch interval: 6 minutes

Six. Minutes.

The funny thing is that the story behind the ride is that you’re in a collapsing subway station and you need to evacuate. Like all transportation services, Metropolis Rapid Transit has an emergency action plan in place for this sort of thing. Here it is:

Metropolis Rapid Transit Emergency Evacuation Plans Manual

  • Stay calm and await instructions from the designated ride attendant.
  • Your evacuation train will arrive at the loading platform. It will arrive empty because it already discharged its prior load of evacuees at a different platform.
  • Stay calm and do exactly what the ride attendants tell you to do, which will be nothing.
  • No, really. Your evacuation train is cleared, ready, and waiting; the designated ride attendant is standing at the head of the queue, but you are to remain in place doing absolutely fuck-all for a further twenty to thirty seconds.
  • Pay attention when the attendant finally begins counting off riders and assigning them rows in the train.
  • You may wonder why this part wasn’t done while the train was transporting other evacuees. Do not worry. This is normal behavior.
  • The attendant will momentarily halt the queue to ensure her row assignments have been followed.
  • You may wonder again why you are losing these precious few seconds to a task that seems like it should have been completed while the train was transporting other evacuees. You may find these thoughts distressing. Do you best to remain calm.
  • By this point, you might be listening to the fourth or fifth repeat of the safety video, which asks that everyone pay attention, even frequent travelers. Be prepared to ponder if they’re being ironic or not.
  • Pay attention when the attendant returns to his/her post and calls out for single riders and any other groupings that may be needed to fill the train. Always be alert—your vigilance may be your ticket to an early escape.
  • You may have conflicting thoughts at this stage. Your perfectly reasonable assessment that all of this could have been done while the train was transporting other evacuees may be alleviated by the ride attendant’s admirable effort to fill every seat, but beware: this clemency will likely be short-lived.
  • You may notice that there are no air gates. Instead, there are actual doors. Please remain calm even as you a) peek through the cracks at the train that’s sat empty for a good two to three minutes at this stage, and b) realize that the reason for not lining up behind these doors earlier can’t possibly be safety related since a floor to ceiling door is a rather effective barrier from entering the ride area, the awareness of which thereby eliminates the last acceptable explanation for something that is starting to feel like a deliberately performed farce. Again, these are normal and perfectly commonsensical thoughts.
  • The doors will open to the loading platform when all preparations are complete.
  • You’re dead because the station already collapsed.

I’m kidding, of course. You’ll have already succumbed to an apoplectic fit well before the roof caves in.

So why did we put ourselves—twice—at the mercy of a transit operation more inefficient than SEPTA Regional Rail?


Because DAMMMMMNNNN, that’s why.

Superman Escape is both dark ride and coaster, and the two are brilliantly linked. It’s not one of those coasters where the ride and theming are separate entities and you forget all about the latter as soon as you board the train, and then there’s no mention of it again until you’re exiting through the gift shop. Take Raging Bull, for example. On-ride, you’d never know it was supposed to be themed to a raging bull, mostly because raging bulls typically don’t trim their levels of rage three times in a 70 second period, but at any rate, it doesn’t matter. Large coasters can get away with this sort of thing because their main draw will always be the track layout itself, not what’s around it. Besides, creating a totally immersive experience for a hyper or giga coaster would be a gargantuan challenge (not that I don’t hold out hope that someone will someday Psyké Underground-ify a Mack spinning megacoaster…someone do this. Oh god, please someone do this). An Intamin accelerator like Superman Escape therefore doesn’t need theming to be a good ride.

But it does have theming. And, far from being a jumble of props decorating the trackbed, this theming works so well with the nature of the ride that you’d think the storyline came first and the coaster was designed around it rather than the other way around. And just what in particular, you may wonder, links these two so effectively?


Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s—


It’s Super Planking Man!

Yes, it’s Super Planking Man, strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities that influenced mortal men to lie facedown in ridiculous locations because cat memes weren’t enough. Super Planking Man, who can change the velocity of a train from 0 to 62 in 2 seconds and bend frowns upside down into stupid grins with his bare badassery. And who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth and justice because that’s what you need to do against the new American way.


But really, look at it.

Every time I caught a glimpse of this thing going around the track, I did a double take because it looked like the train was shedding some vital piece. Of course, being from Intamin, this is not an entirely unreasonable assumption, but no matter how many times I saw it, I had to pause. My thoughts repeatedly performed the same two-step dance all afternoon, which went like this: what the—oh right, tee hee. You have to admit, it looks kind of funny—yet it is such a clever way to tie theming to the physical ride sensation that, much like Richard’s endless supply of corny puns, I can’t help but like it.

If you actually manage to reach a train despite the Metropolis Rapid Transit Emergency Evacuation procedure, the earthquake will commence exactly the way it would in real life: with the voice of a guy who sounds like he should be talking you through how to program the remote control to your new Xfinity TV. “Attention! Attention!” he chirps. “The earthquake tremors are increasing. Move the train to Metropolis Station, and then make sure your TV is set to HDMI 1-Cable input.”

Overacted Generic White Guy Voice 1 then gives way to Overacted Generic White Guy Voice 2, who says he’s from maintenance and that there are reports of severe tremors in the main subway. He performs all this with the sort of delighted lilt that children use when playing pretend, so you can be assured you’re in the worst possible hands for this emergency because you know he’s going to abandon his post as soon as Mom comes out with the Fla-Vor-Ice pops (I think that’s also the same Overacted Generic White Guy Voice that exclaims that something’s about to blow with about as much conviction as a woman on a diet vowing to eat just one brownie). The scenery accompanying the medley of voices, sirens, and crash sound effects includes flickering lights, water gushing down a stairwell (which was not turned on today), and an elaborate display of two police cars collapsed through a jagged hole with their red and blue lights flashing upon a tangle of wires and debris. By far the best effect was a wall of lockers toppling forward, metal hinges screeching and doors banging into each other, because I could imagine with horror all the dangerous park maps in them.

By the time you reach the launch track, one of the Overacted Generic White Guy voices informs you that “Tunnel collapse is imminent! Eight seconds to cave in.” Apart from the fact that a) I don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to do during an earthquake than calculate the exact second of my death and b) we’d have had a hell of a lot longer than eight seconds if we hadn’t farted around so much earlier, I was overjoyed: no matter how many times I experience it, those few seconds of looking down an Intamin launch track—seeing that straightaway opened up before you, watching the magnetic antirollback fins retract, feeling the train roll back to lock into place, tensing your whole body as you wait for it—well, as far as endorphins go, that ranks right up there with puppies.


(Speaking of which, here’s something to break up all this text.)

I was still half convinced the next thing I’d hear would be the Xfinity guy teaching me how to screw the coax cable into the RF connector, but instead, there was Superman telling us not to worry: he had this.

And then he pushed us to safety.


By push, I of course mean some hydraulics and cables made a convincing impression that the fiberglass model planking behind the train was really the Man of Steel himself.


And for the next few seconds, I stopped thinking about inept operations and Tesco and cable installation. Some people—celebrities, humblebrags, and liars, mostly—like to prattle on about meditation and how it’s helped them “cultivate mindfulness.” Never mind the fact that the original mindfulness guru was a guy who founded a religion that’s based on doing nothing for hours at a time as a cover for being a deadbeat dad (I’m serious.  Go read up on Buddhism if you don’t believe me). The point is that forcing yourself to focus on nothing but the present moment is supposed to make you happier. For some reason, this is supposed to involve a lot of breathing, obsessively measuring that breathing, and not making any attempt to come up with a different verb than “cultivating” to describe this activity.

Screw that.

Few things are better at reminding you of the right the fuck here and now than an Intamin launch. It’s this triad of suddenness, speed, and intensity that makes me feel so alive and happy, just so unbelievably happy, because all my senses are consumed by the feeling that I’m flying. Any on-ride photo set up on the launch track will invariably feature me with the stupidest, most unflattering grin on my face that I would normally worry about being preserved for eternity in someone’s souvenir collection, except here no one buys any souvenirs because their money is stowed far away in lockers.


So anyway, Superman pushed us away from danger.

It was glorious.


There was airtime off of this (or there would have been if the force of the launch hadn’t pressed the restraint into my thighs).


There were gray-out spots in these low to the ground turns.


There was this ejector airtime hill (well, a teasing of it; again, restraints).


Then Superman pushed us back into the danger.

No, really, that’s what happens. I’m not really sure why he would blast right back into the building he just saved us from. Maybe he was trying to impress a girl. Guys do stupid shit for girls all the time, like grunting loudly at the gym or being crocodile appetizers or being from Ireland and inviting me into their life.

But I’d bet he was trying to make up for being a little small in the footprint department (if you know what I mean). Superman certainly isn’t winning any awards for size. And yeah, the action finishes a bit, er, prematurely.


But it’s one hell of a ride while it lasts.


Smooth, powerful, forceful, and fast: one mighty fine Intamin, all things considered.


Not smooth, too powerful, too forceful, and not over fast enough: this.


In 1995, Vekoma passed up a prime opportunity to market their then-new SLC with the moniker Movie World chose: Lethal Weapon: The Ride. Truly there has never been a more appropriate name for one of these things, but in 2012 it was overhauled and emerged with new trains and a new name: Arkham Asylum—Shock Therapy.


And the thing is, that might actually be a better name for it.


See, after I escaped the asylum, I didn’t feel quite right. I was full of doubts. I didn’t feel fit for reintroduction into society. Something shocking happened there. Something changed me.


I…I…well I…I wanted to go back. To the asylum. I wanted to go back to the asylum. I needed to go back to the asylum.

The first step in treating any mental health issue is realizing you need help. We were standing in line for Green Lantern when it happened. The afternoon was drawing to a close and we were assessing how to spend our remaining time.

“Is there anything else you want to do?” Richard asked.

Admitting your weaknesses, admitting you need help can be hard. I was silent a few seconds as sanity and insanity tried to wrest control of my voice. To this day, I’m still not sure which one won.

“I really want to ride the SLC again,” I said.

Silence. How could there be words? How could there be any way to prepare for such a statement? The look Richard gave me was enough to communicate the gravity of the situation. I had said the unspeakable, I had professed the unthinkable: I had just renounced one of the pillars of coaster enthusiasm. I was a disgrace to the high moral standards and the sanctity of this hobby; I had dishonored the intelligence, tact, and refinement of that enviable class of people known as coaster enthusias…oh crikey, I really was delirious.

“No, I’m serious,” I declared. “It deserves a second ride.”

No one in their right mind willingly rides an SLC more than once (or even once, for that matter). What was I doing? No, I belonged in that asylum. I bravely looked into Richard’s eyes. It was a defining moment in our relationship. Would he remain by my side? Or would he make me fight my demons alone? Would he—oh, God forbid, no, no, no—would he abandon me to the American health care system?

No, he decided. He couldn’t be that callous and cruel. Couples who endure SLCs together stay together.


We dutifully returned to check ourselves in. The straitjackets were fitted, the treatment began, and within seconds we were laughing maniacally, convulsing with hysterics, and reveling in a condition that I’m pretty sure is classified in the DSM5 as “Side Splitting Amusement at Valiant Turd Polishing Endeavors-itis.”

Because guys, being serious—it was still shit. But it wasn’t the level of shit it normally is. Like, if you consider a normal SLC to be of, say, a post-Indian curry level of shit, then this was more of a probably-shouldn’t-have-had-a-second-bran-muffin sort: a pretty regular level of shit, but not as messy. Much more manageable. More of the hanging-out-and-browsing-Reddit-on-the-phone type than the fainting-onto-the-bathroom-floor-because-you-ate-green-peppers-you-idiot-and-now-your-guts-are-a-roiling-satanic-hellfire-and-yes-that-really-happened-to-me-once type.

The reason you don’t need to wonder afterward just how many painkillers/whiffs of Febreze are safe to ingest at once is the KumbaK trains. The usual SLC restraint is a claustrophobic monstrosity whose only redeeming quality is providing a sturdy support for mashing one side of your head into as you make a futile attempt to stabilize your skull (even though you might question why you’re even bothering to protect a brain that ought to have known better than to put you in this situation in the first place). The Arkham Asylum restraints, on the other hand, are open and free—and rather unsettlingly so. The only over the shoulder components are two fabric belts. They attach to an overhead lap bar. The belts do conform to your body when you pull the bar down, yet they still seem so flimsy.


The Vekoma restraints were suffocating; the KumbaK ones almost induce vertigo, especially when you’re ascending a lift that doesn’t have a platform beneath it like the B&M inverts do. There’s a real sense of vulnerability there.


But don’t let the novelty fool you. Beneath it is that shuddery, jerky, bouncy, shaky catastrofuck we all know and love.

You will still be pounded from side to side and back and forth and up and down like a seesaw riding a yoyo when you hit the base of the drop.


You will still go smacking into the seat back before the third inversion as hard as Republicans slam doors to logic and reason.


You will still automatically tense up as the train twitches its way through the inline twists because the last thirty seconds have given you the muscle memory of an athlete who’s trained for years.

But you’ll do it all with a sense of incredulity because this time, it’s enjoyable. Sure, “enjoyable” is a purely relative term in this situation, but to be able to relax and laugh at how dreadful an SLC is instead of focusing all your energy on defensive riding—well, you can’t deny that’s a mighty big improvement, can you?



It’s like this scene in The Simpsons where the Very Tall Man turns the tables on Nelson: the infamous bully has been knocked down a few pegs.

And it wasn’t just the absence of the ear/temple/skull beating tactile experience that was different. Oh no, this bad boy was a multisensory experience.

My first SLC was the Great Nor’Easter at Morey’s Piers, and I made myself ride it again and again until I could get through the whole thing with my eyes open (look, I was 9, I didn’t know any better). I was so proud of myself when I finally did it, and Arkham Asylum felt a lot like that: for the first time in ages (actually, probably since that victorious ride at age 9), I got through an SLC without my eyes half closed in a wince.

And sound? Usually I ride these things with one ear pressed into the side of the restraint, so everything sounds muffled, like being underwater. But here? None of that. We could truly appreciate the full auditory range of our various stages of hilarity, from snickers to full blown guffaws.

So yes, it pretty much is the earthquake that Superman’s saving you from next door.


And yes, a calcified turd can only be polished so much.


But you know what? I do not regret our second round of treatment. The KumbaK trains have turned something that used to make you cry tears of pain into something that makes you cry tears of delirious laughter. I know that sounds too strange to be true.


But I promise you there is a universe out there where this is real.

And if that’s still unnerving, then just look look up at the wheels and see how close they are to the track rails when you ride.

Some things never change :)


Here, however, things did begin to change. I should note that only two people were operating the SLC, and they made checking into that asylum as bureaucratic as if they worked at a real one. (You know how a real mental health facility would never admit you until you were rid of any potentially dangerous objects? At Arkham Asylum, dangerous objects included snaps sewn into the pockets of Richard’s shorts that required halting all operations until he could prove that something that was only detectable by staring intently at his junk region was not a weapon like a loose park map or tissue. It’s not just the ride itself that’ll make you laugh; trust me, you’ll need some humor to help you through those 7-8 minute dispatch cycles.)

At Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster, though, time seemed to regain its normal pace. The low capacity Mack mouse wound up having just a 15 minute queue. We shaved off even more time by gladly accepting the invitation from the girls ahead of us to take their place so their group wouldn’t be split between two cars, which was a kind offer not because it got us to the ride faster, but rather because one of the girls had a case of BO that could have competed with the entire middle school boys’ locker room. Sure, it meant I was in the back row and my view was obstructed, but I’m fairly sure I would have passed out anyway if I’d been downwind of her. Swings and roundabouts, really.


So Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster serves up one heck of a spooky sandwich.


No, really. Like, the queue is spooky.


And the cars are spooky.


The beginning of the ride is spooky. (I don’t have an on-ride photo, so I Googled the word “spooky.” I was not disappointed.)




The end of the ride is spooky (this was one of the most satisfying Google searches of my life).

But the middle is like some of the sandwiches I see at Tesco: like I can see the two slices of brown bread so I know it’s a sandwich, but what the hell is this prawn mayonnaise thing that’s going on between them?


But, unlike a Tesco sandwich, which rouses the few vestiges of USA pride I have left because I don’t know where the fuck you Irish people got the idea that “prawn mayonnaise” is an acceptable sandwich filling (goddamn I miss Wawa), the part between the spooky ends is agreeable.

It begins with a dark ride bit through a dungeon. There are skeletons, ghouls, monsters, a “ruh-roh!,” the usual cast of characters. Unfortunately, many of the effects were turned off for our rides, like the swinging blades on the ceiling. There is, however, a mirror toward the end of this section, so depending on which coaster enthusiasts are in your car, this could easily make up for the missing effects.

Up next is an elevator lift that does the sideways tilty thing, a backwards drop, a turntable to rotate the car to face forward, and then you pick up the storyline at the next logical place:

The disco.


Let’s use this photo called “Megan says ‘fuck it’ on taking night shots of Christmas lights” to represent what you see during the ride. Now imagine the Scooby Doo theme song is playing on repeat. Add some electric guitars. Throw in a little bit of fog. Lasers.

Guess what? You’ve got yourself a spooky coaster. Apparently.

Now, imagine all of that going on around you while riding a mostly trimless Mack mouse.


This coaster was a feisty little badass. The hairpins weren’t trimmed and the drops were merciless. There wasn’t a nasty brake on the climb out of the drops, which made the turns that followed sharp and fierce—the kind of sharp and fierce that could be described with my favorite coaster enthusiast cliché of having “good laterals” or “nice laterals” but no, NO, I will not degrade myself like that. The darkness amplified the sense of speed; the audiovisual effects were as disorienting as they were delightfully campy. This mouse was not the tedious box tick that’s befallen so many of its brethren. It was the wild, aggressive, and fun ride it was meant to be—some badassery if there ever was some. Spooky badassery, in fact.

Well, okay, maybe it’s not that spooky…that is, unless you begin to wonder what Twilight Zone episode you’re in when a Mack mouse has a higher hourly throughput than the other coasters.


But hey, at least the other coasters had a higher hourly throughput than this.


Yeah. Oh well.


No fireworks today, I’m afraid.


Not that it came as a shock, since Movie World is one of those awesome places that publishes attraction maintenance closures on its website well in advance. Glad it was this one and not Superman.


But I have a big, purple, Mack-alicious feeling I’ll be back for it soon enough :)


Over in Winslow, the spooky Twilight Zone feeling began to dissipate.


(Kind of.)


That’s because we were about to learn that no matter where you go, you will always find reasons to question the worth of the human race.


Let’s take a quiz:

You are a ride operator on Wild West Falls directing guests to boats. A mother with two young boys is next in line. She is holding the smaller of the two, who is whimpering that he doesn’t want to get splashed. You ask the mother to set the boy down so you can measure his height. The mother snippily replies that the boy has already ridden this ride earlier today, implying that there is no reason to get him measured, but at least for your shift, you have not seen them come through this queue. What do you do?

a) Gently but firmly tell the mother you are required to measure the child.

b) Take notice of how much the boy is whimpering and ask yourself if it supports the mother’s statement that he’s already ridden today

c) Say, “Today? Oh, okay” and let them through

Our ride operator chose option C.

But okay, let’s pretend you also chose C (which you didn’t…you didn’t, right?) because you’re new on the job and struggling with the confidence to assert your obligations as a ride attendant. You let them through and direct them to the boat. At this point, the little boy starts SCREAMING, shrieking that he doesn’t want to ride, and trying to climb out of the boat. What do you do?

a) Refuse to let the boy ride. It’s common sense that a panicking child could injure himself or others if he tries to jump out of the boat while it’s moving, and letting him ride would be a flagrant safety violation. It might anger the surly mother, but bullying parents be damned— safety comes first.

b) Do absolutely nothing.

Our ride operator chose option B. Whether this happened due to apathy, fear, or a lack of training, we don’t know, but it doesn’t matter: if you’re going to be a ride attendant, whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to stand up to cruel parents like this woman.

At the other end of the spectrum was a little girl who threw a different kind of fit: screaming and stamping of feet when her mom said it was time to ride something else because they’d done Wild West Falls so many times. Earlier she’d been happily serenading the queue with covers of songs containing her patented I’m-missing-my-nap-time-right-now-and-also-yelling-is-fun lyrics such as “Row, row, row your boat gently down the street.”

Then again, perhaps she was just practicing for an audition to give Wild West Falls a theme song. Seems about right for a park that couldn’t have come up with anything lamer for this gorgeous purple beast if they’d tried :)


The thing is, while you may not row, you do float down a street of sorts. And while I may be poking a little fun at Movie World’s expense, this ride is honestly very well done. Its theme is exactly as it sounds. Your boat meanders through canyons, a Native American camp, and under a railroad bridge. There’s a lengthy section through old Dodge City with saloons, tombstones, a livery stable, the works. There’s music, sound effects, some turntables and a backwards airtimey drop to keep things interesting (and to give you a damp ass for the rest of the day).


There are a couple of cow skulls, and since I have precious few photos of this ride, here is a photo of actual alive cows because cows are wonderful, and I love cows, and I wish I had a pet cow, and one time in Wisconsin a whole herd of cows came over to the fence where I was standing to greet me and it was a really great day. 


The finale is this splashdown from the exploding Rio Bravo mine made all the more spectacular by a series of water jets going off in succession when the boat hits the bottom.


Now armed to face the midday heat with freshly moistened asses, Richard and I moved on to our final attraction, Justice League 3D. A shooting dark ride, I think its premise was something about the Justice League needing your help to fight evil (I mean, what else would it be), but as usual with rides of this kind, I was more focused on hitting as many targets as possible without thinking about what I was shooting at. While this practice makes me qualified to work at many police departments across the United States, it nonetheless comes at the expense of absorbing the storyline.


What I can tell you, however, is that you get some snazzy 3D glasses because the targets are a mix of physical objects and on-screen images. The guns have laser beams coming out of them that are always visible whether you’re shooting or not, making it easier to aim for the targets. By the end, I had the highest score in our car and one hell of an aching pointer finger, which, you know, made me feel pretty rad about my stellar crime fighting abilities.


I was hoping that being an honorary member of the Justice League would entitle me to the six pack abs and DD-cups its other members have, but alas. I guess not everything changes in alternate universes.


The only other ride of note at Warner Bros. Movie World that day was Batwing, an S&S Space Shot that lost out to roller coaster re-rides on our priorities list.


Sorry, S&S, but the siren song of that SLC was too powerful to resist.

And with that, our day at Warner Bros. Movie World drew to a close. What a strange day it had been: this was a place where operations distorted time, a place where a piece of paper was a deadly weapon, a place that redefined the meaning of the word ‘spooky.’ In this world, I rode an SLC twice because I wanted to. Because I wanted to! Who was I in this world? What a weird and wonderful place, this park.


We darted in for one more ride on Green Lantern before leaving. Time seemed to speed up again because now the ride operators were hauling ass, which was surely due to our crossing back over into our own dimension and definitely had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it was past 5:00.

By the time we were on our way to dinner, things seemed back to normal. Richard and I were discussing food options and had just decided to go with Red Rooster when—no. No, it couldn’t be.


It couldn’t be!


I turned to Richard slowly. “What…what year is it?” I asked in a shaky voice.

We looked at each other. And then we knew. We suddenly knew. The hopping across time and dimensions; the mysterious paranoia over common, everyday objects; our wholly inexcusable and uncanny enjoyment of an SLC—someone was playing with us.

And we knew. There could only be one logical explanation: