After running four articles on the failed Six Flags Power Plant, I’ve had several people questioning or even challenging one of Gary Goddard’s statements on why walk through attractions don’t work. I’m not going to speak for Gary, but I do agree with him that for the most part, walk through attractions do not work, with a few minor exceptions.
A traditional haunted house, especially as a stand-alone attraction or as part of an event like Halloween Horror Nights, clearly works as a walk through. By putting Guests on their feet, there is no protective shield or security blanket like a ride vehicle or a theater seat to keep them from being vulnerable. Haunts are also the most effective type of walk through for capacity reasons as you learn to scare from behind or the side to keep the Guests moving forward and churning the conga line along.
It also can also be somewhat successful with the right intellectual property behind it. For example, Tarzan’s Treehouse at Disneyland does fairly well due to the popularity of the brand. Between the music and the brand, it draws enough Guests through the attraction to justify its existence. Considering how small of a footprint it takes up, even if it was demolished one day, there could be no other attraction that could fit in that small of a space. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for retail or food and beverage space. (For the record, I am not suggesting this. Please save your hate mail for something more productive.)
Which leads me to my top 4 reasons why walk through attractions don’t work:
#4 They don’t drive ticket sales
Indeed, Tarzan’s Treehouse does bring a lot of Guests through due to it being themed from a popular film, but how many Guests buy a ticket as a result of it being there? Sure, it’s a nice bonus if you’re walking through, but at the end of the day it doesn’t drive sales.
In the case of Six Flags Power Plant, two of the four attractions were interactive walk throughs. Imagine having an indoor theme park with two walk throughs, two theater shows and zero rides. That’s what we are talking about. And while you, the savvy theme park fan that you are, may be a completist and enjoy attractions that you must be on your feet, this is not the norm.
#3 Guests want to sit down
A theme park experience for a typical family is a lot of standing, a lot of walking and a long time being baked in the sun. For parents and children and at the end of the day, it’s draining. No matter how polished a walk through attraction is and regardless of the effects, it will never draw a crowd simply because the very idea of being on your feet is a turn off to most Guests regardless of what the attraction entails.
Even theater attractions that require you to stand like the Timekeeper and other former Circle-Vision films suffered for this very reason. Ask any greeter who worked those shows and they will tell you that as soon as Guests found out they would have to be on their feet, many, many Guests would turn around and not even wait for the next show.
On peak park days, walk through attractions can experience an abnormal surge of traffic and in some cases, creating a small queue. The problem is, the pace can often be extremely slow as the Guests move at the pace of the slowest person. It could be a toddler, someone who is disabled or even a photographer who needs a shot of every square inch of the park.
Regardless, that slow pace can hurt the enjoyment of everyone else who are on their feet and just want to move on to the next scene. In a ride or a theater show, you can design exactly how long the guest will be in a certain area and move them along accordingly based on plot lines. You have no control over when a guest decides to run through or hold up the flow of traffic for everyone else. Just like in a movie, timing and pacing is crucial in telling a story and it’s just not possible for a walk through attraction.
For the record, I personally enjoy attractions like the former King Tut’s Tomb in Busch Gardens Tampa or the Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough at Disneyland. I think they are charming and a break from the noise and crowds you can find in a park. However, I realize that I am a small percentage of the public that doesn’t mind being on my feet and exploring an attraction at my own pace. Your thoughts?
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