Growing up in a small town near Atlanta, my first theme parks memories all come from Six Flags Over Georgia as a kid. My first dark ride anywhere was Monster Plantation and it blew my 6-year-old mind apart.
Six passenger boats floating along a canal past 107 animatronic characters. To this day it stands as the largest amount of robotic characters to be used in a dark ride outside of a Disney park. While a bit cheesy, the ride has always had this charm to it that I’ve always found endearing. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but Monster Plantation meant a lot to me growing up as I became fascinated with how theme park rides worked.
I can still vividly remember having dreams (and sometimes nightmares) about Monster Plantation growing up. There wasn’t a kid my age who didn’t know the phrase, “Don’t go into the marsh!” and most importantly, Georgians felt like this little gem was ours. Sadly, over the years the Monster Plantation had fallen into horrible disrepair.
The last time I rode Monster Plantation was in 2004 and it looked terrible.Figures were missing fur, wigs and/or skin and you could see straight through to the fiberglass.
Much of the scenery was covered in dust and many of the speakers were burned out or sounded like the equivalent of a fast food drive through with bad wiring. Six Flags Over Georgia had let this ride go and it was heartbreaking. Luckily, the top brass at Six Flags decided to spend some dough on the ride and after kicking around several concepts to replace the attraction, they decided to not only bring it back to its former glory, but plus it as well.
Gary Goddard Entertainment (who designed the ride originally) was brought back in to make the show look like new again. Not only were the scenes brought back to their original look, the ride was plussed with new special effects.
Every single show scene was stripped down to the walls and rebuilt from the ground up.
All of the fur, skin and often times fiberglass shells of the animatronic figures were completely redone.
For Gary Goddard, having a chance to update the attraction had special meaning. Monster Plantation was the first attraction he designed after leaving Walt Disney Imagineering.
On May 14, 2009, I got the chance to attend a media event at Six Flags Over Georgia. Gone was the old name of Monster Plantation and the ride was being christened as it’s known today: Monster Mansion.
Invited guests were invited to a picnic lunch where we heard opening ceremony speeches from Six Flags brass and Gary Goddard.
Most touching for me was a group of elementary school students who were brought in to entertain the crowd with their own rendition of the ride’s theme song complete with their own puppets they made just for the event.
Admittedly, I teared up during the ceremony. These kids were my age when I first took a trip inside the attraction. Monster Mansion could mean as much to them as it did to me and now they were getting to see it from a fresh perspective.
To appreciate the difference, here is a before and after shot of how the mansion looked before it closed to opening day of Monster Mansion. For those who had never been to Six Flags Over Georgia, this was a new ride to them.
Located within the first show scene is the above picture, a tribute to the first dark ride in that building, Tales of the Okefenokee.
After a few trips through the Monster Mansion, I got to go on a backstage tour with my buddy Taylor Jeffs who served as Creative Director on the new project.All of those times I dreamed about jumping off the boat and running around to see how everything worked as a kid finally came true.
We went everywhere all over that building. While I have had the opportunity to have a dark ride as my personal playground several times, it never gets old.
While I can’t speak to the conditions of how Monster Mansion looks by the time you read this article, I am forever grateful that it was given a second chance. Dark rides are the heartbeat of any theme park and I am so glad Six Flags spent the time and money to allow future generations to experience this gem of an attraction like I did growing up.
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Images Copyright: Theme Park University and Gary Goddard Entertainment