One year, three new attractions. That in itself is something to scream about. A variety of logistics often limit theme parks to one, perhaps two, key additions per year. But it's Scooby's return as top dog that's every bit as tasty as the Great Dane's Scooby Snacks.
For kids of the '70s, it's a return to the heyday when classic Hanna-Barbera characters like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound were the honey of the kids' eyes. But attending Kings Island for the first time for my 7th (or was it 8th?) birthday, I was all about a Scooby spotting.
And there he was, along with his pal, Shaggy, in one of the scenes of the Enchanted Voyage, a boat ride amid animatronic displays of Muttley, Snaggle-tooth and all the rest.
It was a simplistically magical ride, remaining so even as I aged. And, to a lesser extent, even after the Smurfs took reign over the Voyage in 1984 until they were smurfed out in 1991.
A coworker tells me that the closing of the Enchanted Voyage ruined his childhood. The ride's shuttering definitely closed a chapter on that childlike innocence. Enchanted Voyage's replacement, Phantom Theater (1992-2002), attempted some kiddie chills, but the heart of the ride had been washed away.
How fitting then for Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle to rise up in the very locale where I first witnessed the panic-stricken pup. It's a nod to Kings Island's past -- and to my own past as well. (And yes, I know it builds on the big-screen success of 2002's live-action Scooby-Doo. Just let me revel in my own nostalgia for a moment.)
Within the castle walls, Mini Mystery Machines transport riders through 18 different scenes. As ghosts pop up from behind headstones and cobweb-laden furniture, riders use their "Fright Light ghost blasters," which look like Day-Glo green foghorns, to zap the apparitions and rack up points. (Hint: Aim for the blue lights.)
There's a smoldering jubilation at seeing some of the more noted specters, phantoms and spirits from the original animated series. And there is a perverse pleasure in helping Scooby with his ghost-busting.
Sadly, the ride doesn't fully embrace 3-D animatronics, using just a smattering throughout. Instead, it relies heavily on wooden cutouts to set the stage, which flattens the overall experience. But there's still a smile in seeing Scooby and Shaggy up to their old tricks and in their rightful home. At six minutes, Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle is an entertaining enough diversion, but my heart sailed away with the Enchanted Voyage.
My stomach, rather than my heart, got the best of me for this year's big thrill ride, Delirium. In short, I chickened out. At the bottom of a pendulum rests a ring of 50 outward-facing suspended seats. As the ring begins turning at eight revolutions a minute, the contraption begins swinging back and forth reaching higher with each arc. At its tip-top point, riders dangle at 137 feet in the air with enough hang time to make Michael Jordan proud.
Standing and watching as the Roller Coaster Enthusiasts braved the first ride, I tested out a variety of expletives to denote my opposition to and innate fear of Delirium. The more it lurched, the more I quaked.
My sidekick, in a random act of bravery (or stupidity, take your pick), deftly strapped himself in. His description, a bona fide thumbs up, left me to imagine being a human tetherball. He said, had I gone on, I would have been fine. I know that. I psyched myself out with my occasionally intense fear of heights.
At some point I'm sure I'll gladly be coerced onto Delirium. And until hell freezes over, I'll stick to the remnants of my childhood.
Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you?
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