Dark rides help define the heart, soul and character of a theme park. Personally, one of my favorites was The Phantom Theater, created exclusively in 1992 for Kings Island.
Recently I got a chance to chat with President of R&R Creative Amusement Designs Rick Bastrup on what it was like to create this one-of-a-kind attraction.
“Kings Island wanted something to replace the Smurfs Enchanted Voyage at the end of the 2001 season,” recalls Bastrup. “We discussed several ideas, but ultimately decided on the Phantom Theater. A lot of that had to do with the popularity of the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Phantom of the Opera’ which was extremely popular.”
Even though Smurfs Enchanted Voyage was a boat ride, Kings Island decided it was too much upkeep and maintenance to keep a boat flume attraction running properly. Once the Phantom Theater concept was agreed upon, the building was gutted and it was decided they would use an omnimover-style system similar to Disney’s Haunted Mansion, which was also developed by Morgan Manufacturing.
From there, Rick Bastrup and his team wrote the script for the Phantom Theater, designed all the figures and sets, and storyboarded everything based on the track design by Morgan Manufacturing. In addition, AVG created all 30 of the animatronic figures and dozens of special effects for the ride.
“I wanted this to be a family attraction from the beginning,” explained Bastrup. “It’s not in my DNA to create something that’s truly frightening.”
“Our story was this was a vaudevillian theater where all these performers, stage hands, ushers and even audience members back in the 1920’s. After they decided to close down the theater, everyone refused to leave. So, in essence, all of the characters were phantoms and not really ghosts.”
Prior to creating Phantom Theater, R&R Creative worked on Adventure Express at Kings Island, which is a mine train style coaster with a few indoor dark ride scenes. During the same year (1991) when Phantom was being designed and built, R&R was also creating the Yosemite Sam’s Gold Rush Adventure for Six Flags Over Texas.
Many of the character voices heard in Phantom Theater were that of veteran actor Richard Doyle, who appeared in many movies such as “Air Force One” and even had a recurring role on the sitcom “Cheers.”
Want to see the final product? Click on this link and take a scene-by-scene journey through Phantom Theater as our coverage continues. Many thinks to Rick from R&R Creative Amusement Designs for these exclusive photos of the creation of such an iconic attraction. Make sure to follow Theme Park University on Twitter and like our Facebook Page for the latest updates!