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Monster Mansion comes roaring back to life at Six Flags Over Georgia

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Monster Mansion comes roaring back to life at Six Flags Over Georgia

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This past Thursday, Six Flags Over Georgia had a genuinely festive feel. A Dixieland band played while specially invited guests enjoyed a picnic lunch inside of this closed-to-the-public theme park.

“And what was the special occasion?,” you ask. Well, a quick look at the centerpieces on the picnic tables will probably give you a clue.

Monster Mansion Centerpiece
Photo by Papa Razzi

Yep, it was press preview day for the recently rehabbed Monster Plantation. Now officially renamed Monster Mansion, this SFOG favorite was still a day or so from its official re-opening. But the folks at Six Flags were so proud of the work that had been done to date that they invited reporters in to check this newly enhanced attraction.

Now I know that it may be hard for those who haven’t ever visited Six Flags Over Georgia and/or lived in this part of the country, but people around here just love “Monster Mansion.” They take great pride in the idea that this regional theme park has a Disney-quality dark with its very own catchy theme song.

Speaking of which, as part of the press preview, SFOG officials arranged for a group of local third graders to come in and perform the “Monster Mansion” theme song. Which – given that each of these kids also brought along their very own monster puppet to perform with – was kind of a cute number.

Monster Mansion Puppets
Photo by Papa Razzi

And once that was done, it was time for the speeches. Gary Goddard’s opening remarks was particularly touching. Given that he paid tribute to the late Al Bertino, the Imagineering legend (Best known to Disneyana fans as the inspiration for Big Al in “The Country Bear Jamboree”) who actually got Gary the “Monster Plantation” ‘s gig back in 1981.

You see, back in the late 1970s / early 1980s, Six Flags officials approached Al about coming to work for their company and possibly creating a couple of Disney-style ride for their theme parks. But Bertino (who had been retired from WED for several years at this point) demurred. Saying that he couldn’t possibly do all of that work on his on … But – that said – Al did know of one young artist & designer that that he’d worked with at Walt Disney Imagineering that Bertino might be willing to partner with on a project like that.

Thanks to Al Bertino’s generosity (as well as the extremely positive reception that “Monster Plantation” got when it initially opened back in 1981), Gary Goddard’s post-Disney career was made. And it was clear – from Gary’s kind words this past Thursday – that he remains grateful to this legendary gag man & Imagineer for suggesting that the Six Flags corporation take a chance on a then-young kid like Goddard.

Monster Mansion Face Sign
Photo by Papa Razzi

Then Gary went on to talk about how odd it was – nearly 30 years after the fact – to return to “Monster Plantation” … er … “Monster Mansion.” To revisit the attraction that he and his team put together in one very intense nine month period. More importantly, how thrilled he was that Six Flags guests had so enthusiastically embraced the dark ride that he & Al Bertino & character designer Phil Mendez had put together way back when.

As part of his remarks, Goddard talked about “Monster Mansion” ‘s origins. How Al had initially come up with the idea for the ride while playing with his granddaughter. This cute little girl turned to Bertino with a grimace on her face and said “I’m a big scary monster.” And – in that instance – Al saw this mix of sweet and scary in his granddaughter and thought: “Cute monsters. That’s an idea for a ride.”

Speaking of monster faces … As kind of a tribute to Al Bertino’s granddaughter (i.e. the real inspiration for “Monster Mansion”), folks who ride through this revamped Six Flags attraction are now invited to make their very best monster face. Which will then be captured by the Mansion’s newest resident – monster cameraman Papa Razzi – and made available for purchase in this attraction’s new retail area, the MonStore.

But now that the ribbon was cut and the speeches were done, it was time to climb into the boats …

Monster Mansion Boat
Photo by Papa Razzi

… and travel into the Mansion and see what the crew from Gary Goddard Entertainment had actually accomplished.

Monster Mansion Main Entrance
Photo by Papa Razzi

Longtime fans of “Monster Mansion” just marveled at the restoration work that had been done. From the bright new backdrops (which had been painted by a veteran Disney artist who’d worked on “Pocahontas”) to the theatrical lighting that’s now in place throughout this 25,000 square-foot show building, the Mansion & its monsters have never looked better.

Monster Mansion Interior
Photo by Papa Razzi

But in addition to preserving & restoring what had originally made “Monster Mansion” so popular with Six Flags fans, Goddard and his team also attempted to enhance the show. From that new state-of-the-art sound system to those new 4D effects that have been installed in this dark ride, there’s dozens of great new little touches that really up the quality of this show.

And nowhere is this more apparent that in “Monster Mansion” ‘s not-too-scary marsh sequence. With its new mist curtain entrance (Which features this projection of a giant monster who first talks with the Guests and then swallows their boat) as well as the fog that shrouds everything in this portion of the attraction, it’s a genuinely eerie area now. A vast improvement over what you used to find in this part of that Six Flags Over Georgia dark ride.

Monster Mansion Club
Photo by Papa Razzi

Mind you, for theme park history aficionados, the real treat of this “Monster Mansion” redo may be found in this attraction’s post-show retail area. For fully a third of the MonStore has been turned into this “Monster Plantation” mini-museum. Which features original concept drawings from the attraction that Goddard pulled out of his corporate archives …

Monster Mansion Concept Sketch
Photo by Papa Razzi

… not to mention some of the one-inch-to-one-foot scale maquette that Gary & Al & Phil had created back in 1980 to sell the folks at Six Flags on the idea of turning that theme park’s “Tales of the Okefenokee” dark ride into a monster-themed attraction.

Monster Mansion Museum Display

That’s the last little bit of this story that Disney theme fans may find intriguing. That – from 1967 to 1980 – Six Flags Over Georgia had a boat-based attraction that took Guests past scenes which depicted memorable moments from Joel Chandler Harris"Uncle Remus" stories.

Yep, more than two decades before Disney theme visitors were screaming their way down Chickapen Hill on Splash Mountain, SFOG Guests were floating through “Tales of the Okefenokee” and scoping out these elaborate scenes filled with robot figures that had been designed by Sid & Marty Krofft (You know? The guys behind “H.R. Pufnstuf” and “Sigmund & The Sea Monsters”?).

And while this dark ride may not have had the rich score of Disney’s “Song of the South” to draw upon, “Tales of the Okefenokee” did have its own somewhat memorable theme song. Which talked about how – when Mr. “ … Rabbit plays his little jokey -- he will fool Mr. Fox and Mr. Bear.”

Sound familiar?

Anyway … The “Monster Mansion” mini-museum in Six Flags Over Georgia’s MonStore does touch on the history of “Tales of the Okefenokee.” Which is yet another reason that – should you find yourself in this part of the country this summer – you should definitely make a point of dropping by this regional theme park and then check out this restored / enhanced attraction.

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