Top 5 Themes We Need To Retire

One of the most exciting parts of a new ride being constructed is anticipating what the theme will be. Will we be taken into an epic fantasy world we've never seen before? To some distant planet? An amalgamation of two existing themes to create something brand new? The opportunities are endless, and that infinite pool of creative options is one of the reasons I adore theme parks so much, there's no telling what they'll come up with next. 

Which is why it's so frustrating when we see the same tried and tested RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 theming package themes rolled out over and over again. Yes, there's some safety in the familiar, but in a world where we're always looking for the next new thing it can be frustrating when an attraction opts for a theme we've seen done to death. Today I'm counting down my top five themes I think we should retire, for one reason or another.

No, I'm not talking country in a Dollywood sense. I mean when a land or ride is themed to a country, and uses iconography from that country to construct the world we're transported to. Firstly, I have beef with any theme that simply replicates something that already exists in the real world. Long-time readers here will be familiar with my phrase 'theming fatigue' - where you see something magnificent in the real world but your theme park brain defaults your reaction to 'ooh, nice theming', even though it's not theming, it's real. This is kind of that but in reverse. For me, theme parks should be about transporting us to places beyond our imagination, not taking us to a fibreglass and concrete version of a real place that actually exists. And yes, I understand that maybe we don't all have the means to travel the world to see these places for ourselves, but is a fake Venice really a worthy replacement of the actual thing? I don't think so, and to me it feels creatively lazy. 

If you can add a twist to it then I'm all for it. London, but under attack by aliens. Paris, but a steampunk version. Los Angeles but everything is neon. There are ways of doing it and still making it fantastical, but when it's literally just 'here's a recreation of the Pyramids of Giza, enjoy' it always leaves me a little cold. 

Don't get me wrong, I love me some wild west theming. Frontierland at the various Disney parks is always one of my favourite themed lands, I adore Slagharen and Dollywood and Silver Dollar City are some of my favourite parks in the world. But do we need any MORE Wild West themed rides/lands? I think not. It's been done to death, and between Disney and Herschend I'd actually argue it's been perfected, so why do we keep seeing this theme crop up over and over again without anything new or interesting added? At least with Hong Kong Disneyland's Grizzly Gulch they added the bear backstory to give it some semblance of differentiation. I just don't think we need to see more Wild West themed things, I feel like as a society we've moved on from it. 

I guess the argument is that it can be done fairly cheaply because all you need is wood, barrels, crates and cacti? But I digress. I think with the advancements in tech we've seen in recent years and the more cost effective ways of world building in theme parks that are now available, price/cost saving shouldn't be an excuse for not thinking a little more outside the box. 

Look, I'll say it. I don't think there is any way of doing a dinosaur/pre-historic theme without it feeling like a Jurassic Park IP rip off. And when Universal Studios exists where you can actually visit the properly licensed themed land and listen to the soundtrack without cringing and wondering which dodgy website the park downloaded the music from for free, what is really the point? 

Plus, you don't just see this in theme parks. Every zoo, family fun farm and activity centre in between has some variation of animatronic dinosaur trail experience thing. Over it.

Of all the boring, dry, local, low-key, un-exotic things you could theme your land or attraction to, why you'd ever go with a farmyard theme I don't know. Excusing Wilde Hilde at Schwaben Park for being uniquely fabulous, it just seems such a dull, run-of-the-mill thing to theme a ride to? Like really, how much intrigue can we squeeze out of a barn, some hay and a few cows scattered about? It's not whimsical, it's not fantastical, it's not exciting. It's a Saturday morning with your kids when you can't think of anything better to do. And yes, whilst a singing mad chicken ride IS the exception to this rule, I can imagine it growing quite tedious after the initial 'wtf?' factor wears off. 

Like seriously, pigs and cows? You didn't even want to go a little more exotic with, say, some jungle animals. You want to stick with barnyard farm animals. I do not get it. 

I will caveat this with the fact that YES I rode Movie Park Studio Tour last year, and YES, I loved it. So I am a hypocrite. Good, I'm glad we got this out of the way. But my god, the 'movie set' theme is just absolutely bizarre isn't it when you think about it. I've always found it funny that Universal Studios originally had the tagline of 'ride the movies' and created attractions the centred us in the action of the film narrative themselves whereas MGM Studios did the whole backlot thing but made it extra dry. Big, ugly warehouse soundstage 'theming' with a faint undertone of old Hollywood. Being transported INTO your favourite movie is one thing, but to be 'on set' like it's the most exciting thing in the world is something else completely. I feel like the 'magic of movie making' was something nobody was every actually intrigued or interested by, Michael Eisner just told us all we were fascinated with it and we just went along with it. And as the theme park trickle-down of ideas goes, that meant we ended up with a bunch of Disney rip-off movie-set themed rides that took that weird, awkward theme and simply did it worse. 

I think now, especially with the plethora of YouTube content and the fact that we're also constantly making our own 'movies' on the daily, the 'magic of movie making' is more non-existent now than it ever has been, so please, no more 'behind the scenes at the movies!' rides for the love of god.


So there you have it, who knew I felt so passionately about themes I have a vague distaste for. What are some themes you'd rather see the back of? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat! And don't worry, it's not all negative - I'll be following this up with a 'themes I'd love to see more of' post very soon!

Talk later xoxo,