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Scoping out the competition: Six Flags Great Adventure

Scoping out the competition: Six Flags Great Adventure

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As we eagerly await our trip to Walt Disney World this August, my 7 year old daughter and I decided to whet our theme park appetite with a trip to our local Six Flags park, Great Adventure in nearby New Jersey. It's not quite Disney World, but the weather was warm and the park was having special mid-week hours because of Spring Break, so why the hell not?There would be no thrill rides for me this time around. It's always a thrill to see my daughter on kiddy rides and she loves to meet the Warner Brothers characters. I checked out their website and saw that a new kid's area, Bugs Bunny National Park, was open and I was curious to see what they had added. There's also a gigantic wooden coaster under construction that I wanted to see.

Great Adventure has been around for some time now, and I have memories of grade school trips and excursions with my mom and dad to this old park in Jackson, NJ. Like most of us Disney fanatics, I'm a theme park nut. I enjoy spending the day walking around a good park. The inevitable comparisons to the Disney parks always pop into my head. Even though most Six Flags parks certainly have a way to go to reach the level of theming and magic we all experience at WDW or Disneyland, they have a certain charm to them. In recent years I've especially noticed a definite attempt by the chain to tap into that Disneyesque magic, whether it be through more elaborate theming or adding more Warner Brothers characters to certain areas of their parks.

Last year for instance, Great Adventure added an entire new area called The Golden Kingdom. Within the Kingdom is an area called Balin's Jungleland. Essentially a children's area, with an assortment of midway rides, Jungleland has become one of my favorite "lands" outside of a Disney park. They've swayed me by adding heavily to the theming, and by featuring a white tiger habitat as the focus of this new land. There is a tiger show, which we have yet to catch, but looks intriguing.

Here you can see one of the tigers resting in his little world.

There are also two enormous tortoises.

Photo by Chris Barry

The whole land is surrounded by tall bamboo plants and features a sort of temple ruins theme. Here you can see some theming that seems very Animal Kingdom-like to me.

There are woodcarvings of animals on many of the posts.

The highlight of the kids section is a five story play area with a vast assortment of slides, nets to climb, instruments to bang on, and bridges to cross, all also well jungle themed.

Even the standard kid rides are plussed up with the jungle theme.

They even have their own version of Dumbo.

We enjoyed Balin's Jungleland last summer with the whole family. This time, with just my daughter and myself, I could focus more on the details of this great addition to Great Adventure. Kudos to the designers for going the extra mile to really give the area a cohesive theme.

We were both looking forward to the new Bugs Bunny themed area, Bugs Bunny's National Park. I have to say it was a bit of a letdown for me. They had hit a high note with The Golden Kingdom and Jungleland.Once again, fairly standard amusement park midway rides were just sort of placed in an open unused area. No big theme going on here. There were a few nice touches. I like the Bugs and Daffy topiaries. Tip of the hat to the Disney horticulturists, of course.

Photo by Chris Barry

The carousel consisted of great vintage looking Warner Brothers cartoon posters. Some of my favorite classics were well represented.


This was also the place to meet your favorite Loony Tunes characters…

…or catch them in "We Got the Beat," an 80's music themed show.

Hearing Tweety sing "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" to Sylvester was a bit rough, but my daughter seemed to get a big kick out of it. The things I'll sit through for my kids!

We hadn't seen the afternoon parade the last time we were here, so we made sure to see it this time. Now, as a spoiled Disney veteran at 7 years old, I think Samantha was expecting a little more than a few busses and some superheroes, but overall we both enjoyed the attempt.

It was good to see some "B List" Looney Tunes characters in the parade like Speedy Gonzalez…


…and Marvin the Martian and his dog.

Some members of The Justice League made an appearance...

…as did the Batmobile itself.

I understand you can meet the Justice League characters this year, a welcome addition for comic fans young and old.

I also noticed a few new things here at Great Adventure that were definitely influenced by a certain mouse's theme parks. First off was their newly retooled version of Fastpass called Flash Pass! I'm sure Mickey's lawyers took a long look at that name.

Next was, Brunch with Bugs, where you can have breakfast accompanied by Bugs Bunny and his pals. Hey, when an idea works, an idea works, right? We've been to the Pooh breakfast, the Princess breakfast, maybe next time we'll go to the Bugs Bunny breakfast.

All in all, we had a great 7 hours at Six Flags, Great Adventure. My daughter was in no rush to leave. Balin's Jungleland is certainly worth checking out. It's good to see a theme park besides Disney pay attention to the whole picture, and not just drop a ride on some concrete or an empty lot. I wish they did a bit more with Bugs' National Park.

I'm also glad they are really pushing the Warner Brothers stable of characters in their attractions, shows and gift shops. They are hard to come by on television these days. If it weren't for the Six Flags parks (and my DVD and VHS collection) my kids might not even know who Bugs, Daffy and Porky Pig are. Impossible to fathom, when I compare their childhood to mine. I watched Looney Tunes on a daily basis. That explains a lot, I think.

Our trip certainly got us in the mood to visit our favorite theme parks in Walt Disney World this summer. Samantha said to me after touring the various kids areas, "Daddy, they don't have any dark rides here, do they?"

(My 7 year old is using the term dark rides. I consider that a small personal triumph.)

I responded, "No sweetie, we'll have to wait until Disney for those."

She pressed on, "Well, how come they don't have dark rides here?"

As I thought about the many levels of answers to that question, the best I could come up with was, "Well kiddo, some things have to stay special to Disney don't they?" She agreed and wanted to know if we could come back to Great Adventure a lot this summer. I told her we would. Maybe I'll even consider a Season Pass. After all, life can't be all about fairy tales and pixie dust can it?

Now if Six Flags could only build a monorail, and a castle, and a pirate ride and some cool mountain rides, and a whole area of international pavilions and some really nice hotels, and a few manmade lakes and rivers, and maybe they can pipe in some of that magic happy gas I seem to inhale as soon as I cross through the turnstiles in Florida. What do you think?

Like I said, some things have to stay special to Disney don't they?

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  • Glad you and your daughter had fun Chris. And I think you explained it to her perfectly, some things will always remain to Disney. And yes, well done on getting her using the term "dark ride." :P
  • (Leaving aside the obvious "And *who* always had good things to say about Six Flags?" Disney-history association...)
    Keep in mind, unlike Disney's built-from-the-ground-up parks, many Six Flags are converted former local parks, which already had their own theme attractions.

    As for original "pure Warner" themed rides, apart from a few nominally-themed coasters in their domestic parks, those tend to be more toward Six Flags' MovieWorld franchises overseas (Europe, Australia), which are more an amalgam of recycled Six Flags and Universal Studios hits--
    (Ie., those still hoping to flog the "Does Disney have Harry Potter rights?" urban-legend, sorry, a quick viewing of MovieWorld's webpages will neatly answer that question.)
  • "Ie., those still hoping to flog the "Does Disney have Harry Potter rights?" urban-legend, sorry, a quick viewing of MovieWorld's webpages will neatly answer that question"

    Let's remember MovieWorld is in Australia.

    Let's also remember that there is a big difference between the rights to the movie property and the rights to the book. There's nothing that says WB can't have one but not the other (leaving it to Disney or whatever). See the James Bond series for more on where book v movie rights can come into play. Sony was ready to re-launch their own James Bond series just because it bought the rights to ONE book, but it was wisely abandoned. Only "Never Say Never Again" exists to tell that tale.

    When I look at MovieWorld, I also see Shrek as one of their properties... isn't that Universal. I mean, it's the actually Shrek 4-D ride, so clearly that's being licensed in the interest of getting Shrek IP into the Australian market? So, clearly, just being at MW doesn't mean HP can't be tied into Disney.

    Do you have a better source for calling the "Disney/HP association question" an urban legend, beyond MovieWorld (which, to be honest, I don't see HP there but I'll keep looking)?
  • At my local Six Flags, Marine World, they just opened Tava's Jungleland, which sounds very similar to Balin's Jungleland.  I haven't checked it out yet, but now I might just have to go to check it out.
  • I've been impressed with the amount of live entertainment that Great Adventure has been putting in the park. Last time I was there, they had jugglers and stilt-walkers right behind the entrance all day, circus performers in the carnival themed area, safari guides in the Golden Kingdom, superheros over near the Batman rides, and looney tunes characters everywhere. They even had live DJs entertaining the people waiting in the lines for Kingda Ka and Nitro.
  • With all the great movies and characters Warner Bros.
    has you think they could come up with some great dark rides?

    They only hesitation about having a dark rid, that i can think of, is the fire that happen in 1984 at the NJ Six flags.

    Do other Six Flags have dark rides?  Is the lack of dark rides at this location simply because of the fire?
  • SirScooter, the Denver Six-Flags doesn't have dark rides either.  I think it has more to do with what DerekK mentioned, that most of the Six-Flags Parks are converted parks built by others that went under.  Here it was Elitch Gardens, which floundered when it tried to move from its beautiful suburban location to the heart of the city.  Six-Flags quickly bought it, and aside from the batman flying thing, and the little toon area, there is little to indicate that the park is owned by Six-Flags now.  To add dark rides would take some serious innovation, cash flow, and good ideas, and I don't know if Six-Flags is at the point where they feel they need to invest that much to get people interested.  They're doing well enough without taking up the commitment of building an involved dark ride.
  • Our own Six Flags New England was a bought-out longtime local favorite (darn, can't remember its maiden name) with water-park nearby...Before the market for homegrown parks dried up, and it needed the "reliable" corporate transfusion of Superman-themed coasters.
  • Derek

    Six Flags New England wads originally known as "Riverside."
  • I love Great Adventure, as I live in marlboro, NJ. It's about 30 minutes from GA.
  • PingBack from http://adventure.lib7.com/2006/05/25/poseidon-remake-will-sink-without-trace-says-star-of-the-original/
  • On the http://www.halloweenproductions.com  they have there 2006 promo reel and it talks about them doing one of there 3-D black light dark rides with Batman/Superman/JLA as well as Loony toons.  A google search found that Grant Morrison is involved: "Other projects in the pipeline include writing a new JLA Dark Ride for Six Flags. "

    And considering the supposed success of the Scooby Doo ride from Sally corp, I think more parks will be taking up through the dark in the future.  At least I hope so.

    note: Sally Corp. has a deal to develop dark rides with Marvel characters.
  • Looking at those pictures, two thoughts went through my head.  Gee, those characters are cute.  And, copy Disney much?  Flying elephants?  Come on...there are so many creatures in the animal kingdom to choose from.  Speaking of Animal Kingdom, they totally ripped off some theming of AK.  I'm so pro-Disney that I'm biased, but it's so obvious that they copied the Mouse.  I'm disappointed.  I had been to Six Flags New England twice before I moved to FL, so I didn't have WDW experiences to compare it to.  One you go Disney, you won't go back.  At least for me.  
  • The "dark ride" haunted house at Great Adventure which burned and trapped and killed people turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of trailers all linked together...with no or very few emergency exits. I remember going through it and walking endlessly in straight lines. It was dark, but certainly not a dark ride. I don't think they'll ever have another haunted house, but they can certainly build a dark ride or two and not stir up any unpleasant memories.
  • I really dislike Great Adventure. If I were to go to a local amusement park, it'd be Dorney Park.
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