Our original plan for today was to get to Warner Bros Movie World in time for opening, but we decided on a relaxed morning instead after arriving into our hotel somewhat later than expected. Though this cost us some park time it was nevertheless the right decision given how hard it was to get out of bed even with the later wake up call. The morning was uneventful, though Megan was somewhat confused by my pointing out a pirate in the breakfast room, or as I subsequently clarified, a man who fries a prane. What can I say? It seemed funny at the time.
By the time we arrived it was obvious that queues had built for all the major attractions, so rather than join one right away we decided to spend a bit of time walking around the park for some photographs. With that task completed we deposited our various possessions in a ten dollar all-day locker and headed for our first ride.
The newest coaster in the park is Green Lantern (#2102), a S&S El Loco installed just three months after the competition opened a Maurer Skyloop. It is clearly visible from the nearby motorway at all times of day and night thanks to an enormous illuminated logo on the structure, an effect achieved using a locally manufactured video screen fitted with numerous banks of green LEDs. The result is very bright indeed, though enthusiasts should be aware that it can appear to be invisible in photographs taken with a fast shutter speed.
As we walked through the waiting area we were able to read various placards which featured drawings, biographies, and vital statistics from the various characters in the DC Comics series. We also had a clear view of the trains, which featured a themed facade and four seats per row rather than the usual two. My slight sense of trepidation metamorphosed into anticipation at the sight of lap bar restraints, which promised a fairly decent ride rather than the box ticking exercise that I'd anticipated.
The ride began with a turn out of the station and a fast lift hill bringing our car to the top in just fifteen seconds. From there a brief turnaround and tiny climb led to a beyond vertical drop whose slow entry gave a wonderful sense of anticipation. This was followed by a climb, a reverse banked turnaround, and a block brake leading to the best bit of the ride, a gentle roll followed by a second of coasting upside down, a drop, and climb out. A final block brake led to a descending barrel roll and a turnaround back to the station.
The overall experience was as close to perfection as anything I've ridden from S&S. There was a slight shudder as the train negotiated the track, but the lap bars meant that it really didn't matter much. The pacing and overall length were just right, and the two inversions were genuinely fun rather than repetitive fillers built to score a pointless world record. The icing on the cake was the on-board sound system, which played a fully choreographed track with a dramatic pause just as the train crested the top of the lift hill. I liked the ride a lot and would be tempted to label it as one of the best in Australia were it not for the truly dreadful operations.
Green Lantern was built to run six cars at once with each block section requiring approximately twenty four seconds, giving a theoretical capacity in excess of one thousand guests per hour in optimal conditions. To achieve this it has a double loading station and an extra block in front of the lift hill so that two cars can be dispatched together. There should be ample time to unload and load four rows of four passengers without stacking, but this can only be done when boarding is handled efficiently.
Today guests were being held some distance away from the air gates until after all disembarking passengers had left the station. The operators would then count off exactly sixteen people and assign them to specific rows, which they would then double check. After a brief chat break, during which the two recently dispatched cars would arrive at the final brake run, they would remind all those waiting to buckle their seat belts before pulling down on the lap bar. Only then would they open the gates, let passengers sit down, and perform a mind-blowingly slow restraint check.
These ridiculous procedures meant that two trains were going out every five minutes at best, less than twenty percent of what the ride should have been capable of. It is worth noting that operations accelerated to something approximating to German fair speeds when the queue was being drained after the park had closed for the day, suggesting rather strongly that the inefficiency during regular hours was simple laziness.
The park's infamously neurotic loose article policy was very much in evidence on Superman Escape. An operator was visually checking everyone for items in pockets at the queue entrance, and this rule was even being applied to those that were zipped shut; we saw someone being told that they needed a locker for the folded park map in their back pocket. This insanity was made all the more comical given that we were queuing for a ride that exits through a gift shop; one wonders just how many action photographs are sold to guests whose money has been stored elsewhere.
There was a three quarter hour wait to ride, as the single operational train was being dispatched around once every six minutes. The delay gave us the chance to enjoy several repeats of the safety video, which explained that it was important to pay attention to the rules even if you are a frequent traveller. Most of the instructions and pictures were generic, but it was at least moderately entertaining to see the restraints demonstrated by passengers dressed in elaborately formal clothing. In a strange omission, the video did not indicate whether the various actors were instructed to store their high heels, cuff-links, and designer hats in a locker.
There was no preferred seating available, but this didn't bother us when we were assigned to the back row of the train. From this location we had an excellent view of the collapsing subway station theming that makes up the first half of the ride; flickering lights, a partially lit staircase that used to have a gushing water effect, a bank of lockers with doors swinging open and shut, and two crashed police cars. In due course the voice of Christopher Reeve was heard on speaker; don't worry folks; there's only one way out of this mess. Moments later the hydraulic launch motor did its thing and we accelerated out of the building.
My favourite feature of the ride by far was the top hat element, which was negotiated with a delicious pop of airtime. The drop from it twisted into a low turn, an airtime hill, and a tight turn back through the station building. One probably shouldn't think too hard when riding a coaster, but nevertheless this felt a bit disjointed to me; why was The Last Son of Krypton pushing us back into a building that he'd just rescued us from? Whatever the case, Kal-El quickly returned us back to the outdoors with another turn, an airtime hill, and the final brakes.
It's hard to fault Superman Escape; the ride is fast, forceful, intense, and well themed. The only thing that I'd change (apart from improved operations) would be to make it longer, as the high speed section of the ride lasts just thirty seconds. That said, the easiest fix for a short coaster is a second lap, and we decided to go for one. Pure luck meant that we were assigned to the front row, and the physical sensations from that location felt pretty damn good.
At the start of the 2012 season the park closed down Lethal Weapon The Ride, its extended model SLC, for extended maintenance. It reopened a few months later as Arkham Asylum Shock Therapy with new rolling stock from KumbaK with overhead lap bars, soft shoulder straps, and seat belts in place of the original shoulder harnesses. The difference made by the new train is phenomenal; in simple terms, it has turned what used to be a horrible endurance contest into a moderately enjoyable roller coaster that is actually fun to ride. The train still shakes and bounces around like a tennis ball in a washing machine, but the flexibility of the restraints and the wonderful lack of head-banging means that this really doesn't matter much.
The operators on duty today were managing to inject a little bit of good humour into enforcing their loose article policies; Everything should go in that wonderful storage bin on the far side of the platform. If you like it, I built it myself; if you don't, then it came from Ikea. Unfortunately, the paranoia continued; It doesn't matter if your pockets are zipped, buttoned, or velcro'd; they must be empty. During loading one of the operators became agitated at a design feature of my shorts and was on the verge of having restraints released until I pointed out that what she was looking at was an integral part of the fabric. Then, as we were waiting to dispatch, another announcement was made to someone standing part way down the exit; I'll need you to go all the way down to the end of the ramp; I can't run the ride until that area is clear.
The vast majority of the special effects on the Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster were not working today, including the swinging blades in the dark ride section and almost all of the animatronics. There was also no fog in the main hall, making it feel like a trip to the disco rather than something that could be considered spooky. That being said, the coaster was running very well indeed, maintaining a sense of rambunctiousness well beyond that of the typical wild mouse, and efficient loading kept the wait time manageable.
We'd expected to find Road Runner Rollercoaster down for its annual maintenance, as indeed it was, but we'd somehow missed the fact that the Looney Tunes River Ride had been completely removed, its building recycled for Junior Driving School. We were at least twenty years too old to appreciate this, so instead headed for the Wild West Walls flume. While we waited to ride we were treated to some live entertainment in the guise of a small child belting out slightly garbled children's songs at the top of her voice, notably row row row your boat gently down the street; her slightly embarrassed father said that it was past her nap time and she was probably a little loopy.
The ride began with a gentle float through some sparse theming leading to a small lift. A small turntable at this point released us onto a backwards drop with an airtime hill and a surprisingly wet splashdown element. The float that followed was short and featured only rudimentary theming on the way to a hard stop reversing mechanism, which released us to float through a beautifully themed western town. An entrance into the Rio Bravo Mine led to a themed lift followed by a ninety degree turntable and the final drop, which delivered a thorough soaking.
The last major attraction of the day, apart from coaster repeats, was Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D, a superb target shooter that replaced the fairly uninspired Batman Adventure. The various scenes in the ride were composed from animatronics and 3D projections, and all the targets were clearly visible thanks to bright lights on each. The family friendly nature of the attraction was emphasised by the targeting beam on each gun, which allowed even the youngest riders to achieve a decent score.