Thursday, December 8, 2022

Building a Seminal Dark Ride from the Bones of the Classic Universal Monster Movies

Making the MagicConceptsBuilding a Seminal Dark Ride from the Bones of the Classic Universal Monster Movies

Editor’s Note: There are a lot of visionaries who have ideas for dark rides or themed experiences but nowhere to share those ideas. Theme Park Magazine features these ideas – some illustrated and some not – in a new “Concepts” section. This is the first submission for this new section.

A Dark Ride Idea by William Mullins

Concept: Dark Ride
Target: Universal Studios
Theme: Monsters from Universal Movies
Images: Non-illustrated Stock Photos

What might a dark ride rooted in the great cinematic traditions of the original Universal monster movies look like? I’m glad you asked, and I genuinely hope Universal Studios is still considering the creation of such a ride at its new park in Orlando. Either way, I offer one fan’s vision for an experience that would serve as a thrilling anchor of a monster-filled theme land.

Imagine a dark ride at the heart of a park that captures the creepy excitement factor of Halloween Horror Nights while filtering the narrative of the experience through a set of unique Universal properties, like their classic monster movies. This atmospheric ride should preserve the ambiance of the vintage silver and black films while still delivering the intensity of theme park rides modern audiences expect.

The Universal Monster Dark Ride Begins

I envision an enormous Gothic castle resting on a rocky plateau with a shadowy mountain situated close to the backside of the massive structure. Riders would enter a queue at the base of the castle’s plateau and board conveyances at the end of a hallway lit by wall-mounted torches. As the ride begins, they would find themselves in a tunnel filled with ancient Egyptian artifacts and, most notably, several empty sarcophagi. At the end of the tunnel, they would emerge into a chamber in which Imhotep looks into the mystical pool that he uses to experience visions in the original Mummy film. The riders would see themselves and their vehicle inserted into a series of harrowing scenarios in the pool (events that may or may not occur during the ride). They would pass underneath the pool and emerge on the other side of a wall of mist, only to find themselves surrounded by coffins in a barren, dirt cellar where vampires sleep but begin to stir.

A Sense of Dracula…

Next, they would rise upward through a shaft that would deposit them into a library through means of a secret entrance behind a massive bookcase. The library is stacked high with leather-bound books and filled with ornate furniture, covered in wine glasses filled with red liquid and other objects that might hint at the presence of Dracula. They would see the dark, intimidating mountain peaks rising close behind the house and see a full moon in what appears to be the sky above. They would move from the library into a large dining room and see the Wolf Man scratching at bay windows, trying to break in and attack them.

Beware of the Devil Hounds and Blood-Hungry Vampires

From the dining room, the riders would move into a harrowing scene in the great entry room of the castle. They would navigate across a huge marble floor toward one side of an arced, double staircase that rises to a second-story landing, behind which massive windows would yield a stunning view of the moonlit mountain spires/peaks in the background. Devil hounds would pursue them en route to the grand steps. Narrowly escaping their canine pursuers, they would rise to a landing, only to be chased again by vampire brides.

The riders would accelerate across the landing into a room on the opposite side, avoiding blood-hungry vampires as an overly brave monster hunter rushes to intervene on their behalf. Their vehicles would enter a lab, in which they could see a cylindrical water tank in the center of the room. Within, guests see the Creature from the Black Lagoon raging against the chain that entraps him. As they enter a lift and rise to the castle’s attic, the riders would see the creature breaking loose from the chain and climbing out of the tank.

Dracula Battles Frankenstein’s Monster and The Mummy

Upon arriving at the attic level and entering, the vehicle would make its way across a massive open space with exposed beams high above and pillars with torches mounted onto them. The attic would become a battleground scene, with Dracula and his minions fighting against Frankenstein’s Monster and The Mummy.

As the riders narrowly averted being destroyed in the epic battle taking place in the attic, they would exit the attic onto a platform that lowers them to the plateau below via a rope and pulley system that Dr. Frankenstein is sufficiently kind as to activate for them. They would see the Wolf Man through a window on the way down, scrambling up to join the battle royal. Upon reaching the bottom, they would take a satisfying ride along the back side of the giant mansion, allowing them a closer view of the mountains towering behind it.

Imagine the impact of such a ride on a warm, moonlit Orlando night. It’s just one person’s vision of what a classic Universal monsters’ dark ride could be. It sounds like a lot of fun to me, though. What do you think?


Will’s poetry, short stories, and guest blog articles have appeared in Half Tones to Jubilee, Riverwind, REAL: The Journal of Liberal Arts, Limestone, Cyclamens and Swords Magazine, Scrittura Magazine, California Quarterly, Off the Coast, On the Veranda, Orange Coast Review, Salmon Creek Journal, Ripples in Space, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Thrive Global, Submittable’s Guest Blog, and the Institute of Internal Communication’s Guest Blog. He resides in the coastal film production hub of Wilmington, North Carolina.


Do you have an idea for a dark ride, themed ride, or themed experience that you’d like to share? If so, email the editor of Theme Park Magazine, Joe Tracy, at jtracy@themeparkmagazine.com and share your idea for possible publication. Here are our Writers Guidelines.

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