SFMM - 5/5/03 (Long)

Associated parks:
None

Thursday, May 8, 2003 9:31 PM
Thanks to non-rev tickets from US Airways to Orange County Airport, I was able to visit two of CA's main attractions: Knott's and SFMM.

As someone from the Pittsburgh area, I'm familiar with the SFMM vs. CP argument, and I have always recused myself from such squabbling until I could experience Magic Mountain and give a fair judgement. It's so easy to focus on the negative when it comes to corporate parks, a little too easy. In fact, it's hard to avoid. But a lot of interesting facets and unique aspects did shine at SFMM, which I appreciated on that fine May afternoon.

The Approach:
Coming off of I-5 towards Santa Clarita, as you round a hill, there is Superman and the Sky Tower looming in the valley. As impressive as this skyline is, it's impact is lessened by the height of the surrounding mountains.

Parking Lot:
$8.00 to park. Fair. A nice coaster model that resembles Colossus more than anything else above the toll booths was a cute touch. No crowds today. The parking lot was maybe a tenth full to capacity and the tram only had to make one stop. I'm not sure how many there normally would be on a busy day, but the tram operators made it sound like several. I do find it interesting that SFMM has this parking lot layout with a bulk of the spaces along side Colossus and Scream, while creating either a lengthy walk to the main gate or a quick trip on the tram (something CP could use if only on busy weekends).

Entrance:
The lattice-step entrance is a dead giveaway that, yes, this is THE Six Flags Magic Mountain (or California, whenever they decide to settle on one name, an inconsistency noted throughout the park) that's been a media darling in the movies and documentaries the world over. With a AAA discount and a quick pass through the metal detectors, it was off to wait at the entrance gates for the 10am opening. It was at this time that I noticed just one school group of about 100 kids. I'd say that no more than 2000 people were in the park at any given time.

The Park:
After running up to and riding X, I had the opportunity to walk around and take in this park built on a hillside. The theming is minimal, in fact in some areas like Samurai Summit, the park's idea of theming is oriental music and oriental sounding names of attractions. This isn't a problem in my mind anyway, since theming isn't a big concern in an amusement park meant for thrills. The topography is unique. It wears you down if you're not expecting it to be as demanding as it is. The rides, being hidden away in lush growth, are fun to discover. The layout of the attractions' locations are pretty evenly space apart and keeps the crowds dispersed throughout the park. The only exception to this was the Samurai Summit and Rapids Camp crossing, which had several closed rides.

The Coasters:
- Dead on Arrival: Ninja, Deja Vu, Flashback

- X - Longest lines of the park are of course at X, which I expected, but I still find it a little strange. For a coaster that should have a very narrow audience of only the most extreme of thrillseekers, it's the ride everyone from 8 to 88 wants to ride. This goes completely against the patterns one usually sees at new launched coasters, for example, like Xcelerator at Knott's and Wicked Twister at CP, where lines are surprisingly short because of the limited appeal. First ride of the day was in the front row, right side, outer seat. The wait was about 20 minutes with about 4 groups in front of me. I was surprised to see them loading the trains faster than what I expected (something similar to the long cycle of X-Flight). What slowed the line down was the one train operation, having to reposition the seats several times between the unloading station and the loading station, and the unloading station itself which only acts as a time-killer in a single train operation. OK, so now the ride itself.... Yes it does have that Arrow Shake, but who cares? The ride's restraints are so well designed to keep your head away from them, and the disorientation of the layout make the shakiness almost disappear and make it part of the out-of-control feeling. The highlight to me on this ride, besides the incredible first drop is the zero-gravity-roll-like hill after the turnaround. It looks wrong, first of all, but if it isn't the most disorienting experience on a coaster then I don't know what is. I loved X. The coaster works because of its speed, first and foremost. I can only imagine how all those little bumps along the way would be magnified by a slower train on any future smaller installations. The 4D's need the speed, and luckily Arrow and SF knew this. Definitely one of the best coasters ever built. A winner.

-Viper- Coming off of this ride I thought to myself, well it took them until 1990, but Arrow finally came oh-so-close to smoothness. The drop was smooth. The inversions were smooth, even the boomerang which I pleasantly discovered. The trims were annoying, yes. But, as it's been stated before, it's the transitions that keep it from perfection. It really can't be anyone's fault...they did the job at the time. It's not like there was one coaster back then that Arrow designed with flawless heartline transitions that anyone could compare it against. But regardless, Viper did little for me. It was good, but I didn't come off of if wanting more. It was so cookie-cutter and predictable. One highlight is the corkscrews at the end. It's Arrow's trademark and the hangtime through them wasn't as extreme as, say PKI's Vortex, but it was still there and still fun.

-Revolution- OK, what's to say that's not already been said? This coaster is awful with the rockhard horsecollars. I can't see why a corporate park like Knott's can keep their single-looper with lapbars only, and why SFMM feels that theirs, with a couple more turns and hills, can't. It's stupid and dumb, and I'll leave it at that. It really puts a black eye on this ACE coaster landmark.

-Psyclone- I have yet to ride Coney Island's Cyclone, so I have nothing really to compare this Coney Clone against. It suffers from Mean Streak Syndrome in that it looks impressive, and appears to be exciting, but instead it's slow and uninteresting. Nothing on this ride came out of hiding to say, hey! this is fun! It was just a monotonous trip around a wooden oval about 3 times. It's rough, but wooden coasters that are exciting are allowed to be. This wasn't exciting. Psyclone wasn't that psychotic, to say the least. It just has a slight case of ADD.

-Riddler's Revenge- This was the first coaster of the day that ran 2 trains but with one not being loaded. To see it in person is comical to say the least, and frustrating to top. Yes, the park is running on a skeleton crew at this stage of the season, but it still seems odd to the general public who don't understand Six Flag's asinine logic for this silly procedure. But to the ride, it's a good smooth, B&M ride with good pacing. After the midcourse brakes, there was too much track with little or no force between the 2 corkscrews, which really took away from a previously brisk pace. Good inversions, a fast first drop, and wonderful sensations of speed coming out of the giant diving loops were the highlights. Clearly the best stand-up coaster.

-Batman: The Ride- Surprisingly, this was my first Batman Clone, and I liked it. It is intense as others have said. It was a winning layout that has been milked several-fold and for good reason. The loop-zeroG-loop is just as fun as it looks and the s-turns/corkscrew finale is a lot of G's in a short amount of time. It's mass production and becoming the Kmart of inverteds is no problem at all. It's just a great ride.

-Colossus- Another Mean Streak Syndrome sufferer. It's a whole lot of nothing. Broad flat turnarounds with no laterals, no air off of the massive drops, no out-of-control finale into the station brakes. Just a leisurely trip around a huge paint-peeling, quasi-racing, has-been. Maybe with Scream down on the same midway, the crowds will pick up for this ride and encourage SFMM to put some rehab into it.....surrrre.

-Scream- Somehow you'd think a new ride would attract the crowds down into Colossus County Fair, away from X at least for awhile. But this B&M is a capacity monster that doesn't even need a bullpen queue. Crowds ride, leave, and don't stick around. It's a great ride that does have a bit of a shake in it at the bottom of hills and loops, but again, who cares? It's pacing up to the midcourse is dead-on, and the highlight is the zero-g roll. I still would like to know why the park planners and designers want a majority of their B&Ms to have the standard, forceless, and bland interlocking corkscrews. Are they really that great that everything from Kumba to Batman Knight Flight to Superman Krypton Coaster to Scream has to have them? This inversion group isn't that great. It looks impressive but the forces are weak and it's becoming a B&M cliché, if it's not one already.

-Superman: The Escape- This is another ride that should have longer lines than X, but sadly doesn't. I would think a coaster like this would have a wider appeal than the intense, aerobatic, X, but then I would be wrong. This is a fun quick ride that wins the record as the loudest coaster ever built. Good floating airtime and the anticipation on the way back down of when will the pullout start are clearly the highlights. At one time the launch and high speeds would've been the highlight, but in this age of 1-120 in 4 second launches, it seems weak. The airtime still gives the 'Big L' a plus.

-Gold Rusher- These old Arrow skid-brake mine coasters are appealing to kids. They love this thing, and for good reason. With most of the course hugging the terrain, there's no fear of heights getting in the way, and it has some good areas where it tosses you around to provide some thrill. And it's longer than some other mine trains. A good helix after the second lift is fun, and the surrounding forest only adds to the thrill by providing some suspense and surprise. A good family coaster.

-Goliath- This is the coaster of "meh," because that's how I felt coming off of it. Meh. It was good, but not great. The drop had minimal air, mainly due to the large radius and the lift chain slowing down, which only allowed the train to creep over the apex. No slingshot effect in the backseat because of this operation. Disappointing to say the least. The floater hill wasn't as powerful as I thought it would be. That was all made up by the helix after midcourse, which is as forceful as any helix on any coaster. But then before you know it, this short hypercoaster is over. I can't say that the whole package Goliath presents is a gem. It isn't. For its height, it's too short, and if a helix is really its only highlight, then how good can it be? Yes, the laterals are impressive, but that can't make up for an overall average ride that doesn't dominate as it should.

A special Freefall note:
I love Intamin 1st gens, so I always take the chance to ride one. SFMM's is clearly rougher than CP's but smoother than SFWOA's. If you expect the bumps at the end of the runway and in the upright mechanism, these things are more enjoyable. The perfect circular arc of the pullout gives some great G's that only be found on a 1st gen. It's great to see that parks are continuing to keep these overly-complicated machines in their parks.

Final Thoughts:
Six Flags Magic Mountain does offer a lot of coasters, and just like other 16 coaster parks, only 4 or 5 stick out as marquee attractions. Is this bad? Of course not. Especially since not every coaster is meant for the alpha thrillseeker (or is operating). X is the clear winner with Riddler, Batman, Superman, and Scream providing more than enough thrills for anyone. On a typical busy summer day, 14 adult coasters can take up an entire day, but with the crowds as light as they were Monday, the lack of diversity at this park really shines. There are few flats and few shows that can help kill time. Normally this wouldn't be a problem so it's not a major deal.

So does Magic Mountain shine? As a corporate park, yes, it shines in its own light. You can feel the commercial atmosphere everywhere and it is intrusive on the overall experience. The TVs, which never work right and are never viewable in any park anywhere, in queues and midways amplify this. But this is a major market park. Money's to be had, and the commercialization will never change. It shouldn't have to. But it should blend in better than it does at SFMM, a la Hersheypark. Regardless, every thrillseeker that wants to go to SFMM should and expect the expected. Nothing here will actually surprise you.
*** This post was edited by JCS290 5/9/2003 1:45:38 AM ***

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Friday, May 9, 2003 5:42 AM

the general public who don't understand Six Flag's asinine logic for this silly procedure

I don't understand it either. Is it to ensure that only full trains go out? I was at SFA last weekend, and Jokers Jinx had both trains on, but only one was loading until the line started to back up in the station house. At that point, they started loading both trains. Anyone know the purported reason?

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http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~bnoble/

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