Six Flags, What Were You Thinking???
I mentioned this briefly in my April 1, 2000 Trip Report for Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom but was so shocked by it that I figured it deserved a page of its own.
It seems that one of the things that Six Flags is doing for the 2000 season is to provide the customary park map and information guide as a pull-out section in a small comic book. I picked mine up at Kentucky Kingdom but I have been told that similar booklets are being distributed by the other Six Flags amusement parks, with custom covers for each park.
The comic book is a neat idea, as Six Flags uses DC Comics characters (Batman and Superman, for instance) and the Warner Brothers cartoon characters (such as Bugs Bunny) as their park mascots. So a comic book is one unique way to introduce park customers to these characters right at the front gate. Not to mention that it provides customers with something to read while they wait in line. I read mine while I was waiting to get my season pass processed.
The first half of the book is a Batman and Robin comic. It's not much of a story; apparently the Riddler has some caper planned, and to keep Batman out of the way, he has concocted a series of riddles to send the Caped Crusader on a wild goose chase all over the park. It isn't a particularly compelling story, but the riddles are designed to keep the children guessing.
The riddles take the Dynamic Duo to Six Flags, then lead to the Merry-Go-Round, to a water ride, and finally to a roller coaster. Which leads to the panels seen here, where we see our heroes boarding a specially rigged roller coaster car. Batman suggests that there is one thing that he and Robin have which the Riddler does not: Common Sense! And that is where this sequence begins.
Now, I have never been much of a Batman and Robin fan. I do remember seeing episodes of the Batman television show in which it was emphasized that Batman is a crime fighter, so much so that even though no police officer in Gotham City would even think to write a ticket for his distinctive automobile, he was always careful to put a nickel into the parking meter to "set a good example." So he is a common sense hero who likes to set a good example for the law-abiding members of the public even as he fights notorious criminals. Batman and Robin are, after all, the Good Guys here.
But while I am not a Batman fan, I am a roller coaster enthusiast, and I am a student of ride safety. I also have a certain amount of common sense myself, and I have to wonder just what Robin thinks he is doing in that third panel!
Here's a closer view of the third panel. We can clearly see that Batman is seated on the right-hand side. But there is absolutely no doubt about it. Robin is clearly standing on the left-hand side, his cape flapping in the breeze. At least he's holding on to the grab bar. "Just hang tight?" That's good advice in this case, Batman!
Note: This has been fixed. Refer to the update at the bottom of this page.
So much for leading by example! Standing up on a roller coaster not specifically designed to accommodate standing riders is probably the single most dangerous thing a rider can do, and for that reason almost every park gives a specific warning to roller coaster passengers to not stand up during the ride. A standing rider's center of mass is higher than that of a seated rider, and if that center of mass is above the sidewall of the car or above the seat back, that rider can be easily thrown from the train. Furthermore, most roller coasters employ lap bars to secure riders. A rider's lap is formed by the horizontal position of his thighs; by definition, a standing rider has no lap, and cannot be secured by a lap bar. People who stand up on roller coasters are in grave danger. People who stand up on roller coasters have been killed by this dangerous practice.
And yet, in a comic book distributed at the entrance of Six Flags amusement parks, we see Robin himself, Assistant Crime Fighter, Action Hero, and Trusty Sidekick, standing up on a roller coaster. Six Flags Theme Parks is showing their lead Hero in a clear violation of standard park rules, not to mention in defiance of ride physics, and in clear opposition to what any ride enthusiast, ride designer, ride maintenance man, or ride safety expert will tell you is nothing more than common sense.
Which makes Robin's comment here all the more ironic, don't you think?
Believe it or not, there is more. The rider misbehavior is not limited to Batman and Robin. The other half of the comic book features the misadventures of Elmer Fudd and of course his nemesis, Bugs Bunny.
Note: Six Flags has since replaced this with another comic. Refer to the update at the end of this page.
This time around, Elmer has packed up to take a vacation at the ol' hunting gwounds Footnote 1. Much to his surprise, the space is now a Six Flags amusement park. Bugs Bunny is nibbling a carrot beneath a billboard hawking season passes, and so decides to have a bit of fun with Elmer.
Of course, the wacky hijinks ensue. Bugs and Elmer engage in a bit of slapstick, a bit of physical comedy, and some bad puns and sight gags. Not nearly as good as the classic cartoons, but what can you do with a half-dozen non-animated panels? Bugs grabs Elmer and stuffs him into a bumper car. Midway through the ride, poor Elmer gets punted skyward, over the...uh-oh, it's another roller coaster.
Elmer lands head-first in the lead car of a speeding coaster train. Bugs is, of course, already there, dressed as a train conductor. Clearly Elmer has a few seconds to regain his balance for the next frame, 'cause look what he's doing...
That's right, he's following Robin's example. He's standing up, facing the rear of the train. And this is a more wide-open train than the one Robin was standing in. Dare I say again how dangerous it is to stand up on a roller coaster?
It turns out that Elmer doesn't have a chance to get tossed out of the coaster by the ride; Bugs takes care of that by bodily tossing him off of the train such that he lands on the platform of a merry-go-round. The interesting thing here is that a brass-ring dispenser is pictured. To the best of my knowledge, no Six Flags carousel is equipped with a brass ring dispenser. Carousel ring dispensers have become extremely rare, partly because the steel rings (and the brass ones, for that matter) are expensive to replace when park patrons walk off with them, and partly because of the potential for injuries as people try to grab the rings while sitting on moving horses. In any case, Bugs gets a chance to crack a couple more jokes, then he misses the brass ring and catches Elmer by the nose instead, flinging him out onto the midway.
At this point, Bugs and Elmer get onto the log flume, and this time it looks like Elmer stays aboard for the whole ride...but Bugs leaps off early. Remember what I said about people getting off of rides that aren't quite finished yet. A basic foot chase follows, where Elmer demonstrates that running in the park is not such a great idea, as he trips and lands head-first on a High-Striker, rings the bell and wins a prize...a cute little plush "Bugs Bunny" figure.
You know, I like Bugs Bunny cartoons just as much as (if not more than) anybody else. And I understand that most people, even very young children, have the brain power to know the difference between real life and the violence of a Saturday Morning cartoon. I didn't think it was a particularly good comic book, but then, how many ways can you have Bugs terrorize Elmer at Six Flags? But can it possibly be in the park's best interest to show their headlining characters engaged in the sort of behavior that at best gets people ejected from the park, and at worst gets people killed? Honestly, before I even opened the comic book, I figured it would be filled with subtle and not-so-subtle advice on how to behave properly in an amusement park. Imagine my shock and surprise when I opened it up and learned that quite the opposite is, in fact, true!
I began by asking just what Six Flags was thinking when they came up with this comic book. Apparently they simply weren't thinking. Somebody came up with a neat idea for the park guidebook, and a team of comic artists did a couple of Six Flags-related comics. But that's the point...the comic book was drawn by comic artists, not ride safety consultants, which almost certainly makes for a better comic book Footnote 2. I don't know if it is because somebody at Premier Parks (Six Flags' parent company, which is now in the process of renaming itself "Six Flags Theme Parks") noticed the same thing that I did, or if it is because a number of people (myself included) pointed out the errors in the comic book, but...apparently some time in June...the comic book was changed. I have not been back to a Six Flags park since my trip to Darien Lake on May 20, 2000 (it just hasn't worked into my schedule), but I have obtained a park map and comic book from Six Flags Geauga Lake Footnote 3.
First of all, the offending panel in the Batman and Robin comic has been changed. Notice that in the new version, Robin is clearly sitting down in the coaster car. Looking at the composition of that frame, you can see why the artist showed him standing in the earlier version...he shows up better when standing. But in the new version, he is performing his other duty as Comic Book Hero, that of Model Citizen. It has long been Batman's operating philosophy that even in the pursuit of supervillains, he and Robin should always behave in accordance with applicable rules, that they should not compromise in their quest to be good, law abiding citizens just because they are fighting crime. They are, after all, Professional Good Guys!
Panel from the original version of the Six Flags comic book.
The new and improved version. Notice that Robin is sitting down now!
But that's not all! Also in the updated comic book, the earlier Bugs Bunny cartoon has been completely replaced. The new version begins with Elmer attepmting to take a nap while supervising the Six Flags parking lot. A sign proclaims that there is "wots and wots of woom!" which is ironic considering that earlier this season Six Flags Geauga Lake made the news because they had more customers than they had parking spaces when the season started. Anyway, Bugs shows up, rehearsing a show and keeping Elmer fwom getting any sweep. Er, keeping Elmer from getting any sleep. Doggone it, he's got me doing it now. Anyway, the usual wacky hijinks ensue, but this time Bugs and Elmer refrain from chasing each other on the rides, chasing instead through theater backstage areas. If anything, any injuries Elmer suffers can be attributed to his own lack of care as he runs through off-limits, hazard-filled backstage areas. Six Flags has left us ride safety people with nothing to complain about, and while an alert stagehand might take offense at the implication of backstage hazards like coils of rope and falling sandbags, it's hard to argue with the images that imply that a lack of care...that is, attention to the wabbit he is pursuing rather than to where he is going...can wead to accidents!
The important thing is, Six Flags has corrected the problem. They are no longer showing their cartoon stars engaged in unsafe riding behavior, and they still manage to have the requisite amount of cartoon violence. They even managed to work in plugs for the Six Flags properties in Holland and Mexico. Score one for ride safety!
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
/^\ _ _ _*** Now open every day! *** /XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____ /XXXXX\ /XXX\ _/XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX _/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX
Footnote 1: Elmer's words, not mine!
Footnote 2: I do know of at least one ride safety specialist who is also a darned good comic-style artist, but he is the exception, not the rule...
Footnote 3: I guess it's officially Six Flags Ohio but personally I think that is terribly non-descriptive and that nobody knows where Six Flags Ohio is. But it's been Geauga Lake for better than a hundred years, so that name...with or without the Six Flags tag...is well-known. [Footnote 4]
Footnote 4: Doggone it, they've gone and changed their name again. They bought the old Sea World park across the lake, combined the two together, and now they call it Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. More syllables, harder to say, harder to remember, and now, the park actually extends almost all the way around Geauga Lake. Geauga Lake is still there (that big wet thing in the middle of the park) so for clarity, I'll just refer to the park as Six Flags around Geauga Lake and be done with it. Who knows what they'll be calling the place next year! [Footnote 5]
Footnote 5: Here we go again. In March of 2004, Six Flags sold the park in Aurora, Ohio, whatever they were calling it, to Cedar Fair. Cedar Fair, L. P. immediately changed the name of the park...again. The new name for the park is...Geauga Lake. Tell me again why they went through all that name-changing hassle...?
Go back to Ride Technology and Safety
back to Dave's Adventures...
Or just go back to Dave's page.
You can also go back to saferparks.org from here.