What’s a Theme Park? What’s a Dark Ride?

Last week I introduced you to the haunted house project. Let’s talk about where this fits in to my larger plan!

I throw around the term “theme park” a lot. I say I’m building a theme park, and that this is the first step. What does that mean?

The short answer is that I’m building a land. I’ve written about lands before; briefly, it’s a collection of attractions. My ten-year goal is to produce and operate a space large enough to accommodate three to four dark rides, complemented by a performance space and plenty of thematic material between. So, not your Six Flags, and not even your Disneyland, but something like your Fantasyland (which is about 1/7th of Disneyland). No rollercoasters. No cotton candy. (But maybe some sandwiches!)

For some reason, I’m clinging to the idea of something like the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens[1]. I have not examined this idea with any kind of rigor to determine whether this is an accurate vision, let along a realistic one, but at least now we’re on the same page!

So if that’s what I mean by “theme park,” then what do I mean by “dark ride?” That’s a little easier, because my definition doesn’t really stray from the accepted one; Wikipedia puts it like this:

A dark ride or ghost train is an indoor amusement ride on which riders in guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects.

Yep! I see dark rides on a multi-dimensional matrix where performing Shakespeare in a proscenium theatre is at one end, promenade theatre (i.e. Sleep No More) is at another, and dark rides are somewhere in the middle.

The haunted house lives in this matrix too! I don’t plan for it to be especially narrative, and while the path is effectively linear, the setting is immersive, so there’s no one “true” experience. Future projects will slide around to different parts of this matrix, but we’ll talk about those later.

Now that you know where I am, and you’re here with me, we can get back to work. There’s maybe an hour or two left before my skeleton prototype from last week is all put together. It’s a cool introduction to mechanical engineering. I’m coming back to this gag for a better prototype soon, but I think it’s better from here to move on to a second, totally different one. More on this next week!

  1. I draw the comparison to the Museum of the Moving Image purely for scale. That said, there are some correlations between theme parks and museums that are worth considering…let’s talk about that another day.