Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dark Rides & Ghost Trains

All pictures are from The Imaginary World's dark ride catalog page


A dark ride or darkride is an indoor amusement ride where riders in guided vehicles travel through specially-lit scenes that typically contain animation, sounds, music, and other special effects. The name can be misleading, since a dark ride does not have to be dark - it is simply enclosed, as not to be illuminated by any sunlight, just by artificial means. (Disney's It's a Small World is an example of a brightly-lit dark ride.) Nevertheless, most use special lighting to achieve theatrical effects. Selective use of darkness is advantageous because it helps hide the mechanisms of the ride and because it can increase the visual drama of the experience.

The first dark rides appeared in the late 19th century, and were called "scenic railways" and "pleasure railways". A popular type of dark ride, commonly referred to as an Old Mill or Tunnel Of Love, used small boats to carry riders through water-filled canals. Leon Cassidy of the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company patented the first single-rail electric dark ride in 1928. Historically notable dark rides include Futurama at the 1939 New York World's Fair and Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

Modern attractions in this genre vary widely in their use of technology. Smaller-scale rides often feature the same sorts of simple animation and sounds that have been used since the early days of the genre, while more ambitious projects can feature complex audio-animatronics, special effects, and unconventional ride vehicles.

In the United Kingdom, dark rides with a scary or ghostly theme are called ghost trains, although that term is more often applied to the simpler midway or mobile funfair type of dark ride rather than modern hi-tech dark rides. Notable UK dark rides include 5th Dimension at (Chessington World of Adventures) and the Duel (formerly the Haunted House) (Alton Towers), both developed by The Tussauds Group; and the Ghost Train at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

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