Tuesday, November 7, 2017

YouTube Tuesday #18: Scream Machines

Arrow-Batic sighting! Arrow-Batic sighting at 57:20! Thought I had to mention that for all you pre-2000 coaster fans.

But first, a quick special announcement: starting this week, we have a three-week roller coaster theme for YouTube Tuesday. Scream Machines will be the first of three of TLC’s most popular roller coaster specials from the late 90s. Won’t that be fun! That is all.

This is when TLC really started to get serious about talking roller coasters. Once they got a few coaster notches on their docu-belt, they started really letting it fly (the next two weeks will feature the two coaster specials that really made TLC a must-watch destination for coaster fans).

Much like our Coastermania feature, this special is geared to talk about the craziness of roller coasters. We follow (again) some ACE members around and talk to them about why they like coasters and why we like coasters and why we like to ride them.

The late 90s was right at the tail end of the epic decade-long coaster wars (which never really end, but the 1990s were extra intense). The big blockbuster coasters of the late 90s are featured here, such as Millennium Force (though technically 2000), Goliath (ditto), Superman, and Stealth. This special can be hilariously dated because the narrator claims that amusement parks have to fill the seats because “it’s hard to convince folks to visit when admission prices are starting to climb above $40!”

We get some good coaster psychology and lingo here. We of course start by talking about how coasters are an adrenaline rush, that thrill rides are like a drug, etc. We follow around the ubiquitous ACE-er Ric Turner (who I guess is contractually obligated to be in every 1990s coaster special) and explain why amusement parks give ACE and coaster enthusiasts some ERT: because they are the “super-users” and influencers who will (theoretically) say such great things about the new ride as it opens.

Then we get into a surprising amount of coaster lingo. We learn about protein spills and code yellows. We learn how similar a launched coaster effect is to an F14 carrier landing, and what happens to the body during a blackout/greyout. We also get a cool side-by-side comparison of a Space Shot and the ejector seat training tower for the Navy.

The narrator then brings in a couple of behavioral psychologists (one of them has an eye patch! Seriously! If I were his patient I would BEG him to start our therapy sessions with “How ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR you feeling? I would lose it!”). They explain how coasters are designed to keep your brain in constant sensory overload, and that these surprises lead to euphoria when the coaster is successfully conquered. They also discuss the different types of screams (there’s 4 of them!) people use while riding coasters and how it relates to real life communication.

In one of the more interesting segments, the psychologists strap a woman with electrodes to monitor her heart rate and force her on Goliath. It’s a damn good thing she didn’t mind that much.

We have a few interviews with coaster designers who, in a departure from most coaster specials, actually talk about the tempo of the ride, and the psychological tricks they use to make the ride seem scarier. The anticipation of the first drop. Placing objects (or wooden infrastructures) near the track to make it seem like the ride’s going faster. The head choppers. The point is to straddle the line between terrifying people and getting them to come back. There’s also an interesting piece of rider narrative here that, though most coasters are un-themed, designers still approach coasters as a story, with the rider as protagonist, and every drop and loop a dramatic story element. It makes heroes out of everyone on the ride when the coaster is conquered. And that’s a nice lead-in to the IOA segment.

So I don’t know if they have this anymore, but apparently back in the day IOA had a “coaster stress management” course for coaster phobics. We follow some of their stories as they go through the class. And then the first coaster they go on is Hulk! Jeez, talk about a trial by fire! Some of them are predictably wetting themselves.

We then go into the Arrow Dynamics segment and the “FUTURE OF COASTERS!!!” segment now becoming all too familiar for these shows. We follow Arrow engineers as they help design the very strange Tennessee Tornado looper for Dollywood, then talk about the future of thrill rides which are, say it with me, CyberSpace Mountain, Universal, simulators, blah blah being successors to coasters. “But nothing will ever replace the real WHOOOOSH you get on a coaster!”

We talk about how “in the future, coasters will go 200 mph and will be 800 feet tall and yada yada” until we get to…ARROW-BATIC. It’s here! We finally found it!

Like the ThrustAir 2000 and the flying coaster, the Arrow-Batic was a ubiquitous “coming soon!” coaster through many coaster specials in 1999 and 2000. Arrow-Batic was, to paraphrase, sort of like an earlier version of Intamin ZacSpins like Green Lantern: First Flight. It featured two or three rows of overhanging cars that, because it was so compact, could perform many maneuvers that inverted coasters couldn’t, like diving down 90 degrees! Oh and flips and other stuff. It’s good that one of our specials finally turned up this old chestnut!

But wait, it gets better! Following Arrow-Batic we get even more ridiculous nonsense that never made it off the drawing board. Like Vekoma’s Cliff-Hanger Tilt, which stalled the coaster train on a platform and would tilt it straight down. Or how about Vekoma’s Hammerhead Stall (!), which…is basically an Intamin Impulse coaster except with standard above-the-rail trains and straight vertical towers and…trains shaped like airplanes. You can’t make this stuff up! Anyone ever heard of these? Now you have!



    Ric Turner is an Imagineer now. No, really. Also he has a great pinball collection.