Theme parks have to simultaneously satisfy two different audiences: People who are nostalgic for attractions they experienced in their youths, and tourists on the hunt for newer and bigger thrills. When to update or replace an aging ride is a constant question for amusement parks. Some attractions feel dated after a decade or less. Some remain timeless after a century of operation.
That push and pull is even more pronounced when a ride is based on a movie or TV franchise — because then it’s not just the attraction that has to remain popular, the intellectual property it’s based on has to as well. Some franchises linger in the public consciousness for decades; others, even some really popular ones, might fade into obscurity. (Or a company might wish a franchise would fade into obscurity for a variety of reasons.) If you’re a theme park and you have a big roller coaster based on one of the obscure (or controversial) ones, well, you might have a problem on your hands.
For example, Universal Studios Orlando recently announced they were closing a whole batch of attractions in their park, including a Woody Woodpecker roller coaster, a Shrek & Donkey meet and greet, and a playground called Fievel’s Playland, based on the animated movie An American Tail.
An American Tail was a fairly large box-office hit in 1986 (although its sequel, Fievel Goes West, was not just a few years later). So it wasn’t a left-field choice for a themed playground when it opened at Universal Studios in the early ’90s. But that was 30 years ago, and American Tail hasn’t done much since then; just a handful of video games and a couple direct-to-video sequels. It’s kind of astonishing that playground remained open this long.
But while Fievel’s Playland might not be long for this world, there are quite a few other theme park attractions based on movies that are as old (or much older) that are still going strong. Here now, a tribute to these rides and their baffling longevity.