After Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990 and became a worthy contender to compete in the theme park capital of the world, a small task force was put together to expand the property. The plan was to build a second gate along with hotels and a central shopping and dining complex. As early as 1991, Rank Entertainment, who owned a major share in Universal’s parks, started exploring concepts that could be used to not only compliment USF, but could offer stiff competition and unique intellectual properties in Orlando.
“Project X” was originally going to exclusively use cartoon characters in its original design. The idea was to combine established characters used in cartoon shorts, children’s books and comics to bring the park to life. Several years before Marvel eventually signed on the dotted line with Universal, ideas were pitched to DC Comics to see if they were interested in expanding their theme park footprint.
Literally a year before Gotham’s best known crime fighter started showing up in Six Flags parks, Universal was interested in creating a Batman themed ride of its own. The Bat Wing was to be the premier roller coaster in Universal’s new Orlando theme park, if not the world. It would feature the first steel dueling track coaster that would wind and weave through three massive show buildings.
At this time Batman Returns, starring Danny DeVito as The Penguin, was in production with Warner Brothers Studios and would be released right around the time these concepts were being developed. Universal was clearly trying to license a very popular property that was a smash hit with the original Batman movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson that was released in 1989.
Before entering the queue, guests would choose which side they wanted to represent: either Batman or the Penguin. Each queue would have been completely unique and lead down to one of two separate loading areas far beneath the streets of Gotham. If your choice was to represent the Dark Knight, that queue would open up to the Batcave where riders would board a flying Batmobile or “BatWing.”
Roller coaster aficionados will be quick to notice that the design is a suspended one and not an inverted track (where rider’s feet dangle). This is because at the time of the pitch, an inverted coaster had not yet debuted. However, it was being designed by B&M for Six Flags.
If guests chose to represent evil, they found themselves in the sewers of Gotham City in the Penguin’s lair.
Notice the guns perched on either side of the front of the “PenGwing Fighter”. The idea was riders were going to soar through Gotham and literally do battle with one another while perched inside these unique ride vehicles.
Once the coasters left the load area they would find themselves both inside and outside of massive show buildings. The tracks would be designed where the coasters would swing right at each other, resulting in several near misses throughout the ride. Is any of this starting to sound familiar yet?
At certain points in the attraction, riders could actually “fire” their weapons at various elements located in the show scenes. The Riddler’s Warehouse, seen above, would have been in all black light. As the guns fired to destroy the warehouse, giant question marks would fall down towards the coaster cars in several near miss moments in the ride.
Unfortunately, DC Comics never inked a deal with Universal and the deal was never sealed, thus The Bat Wing roller coaster never made it off the drawing board. Perhaps this was because they weren’t certain how well the second Batman movie would do at the box office. Or perhaps it was because Six Flags made them a better deal at the time. Most likely, Warner Brothers wasn’t interested in a theme park deal that involved a rival movie studio (yet).
Meanwhile in 1992, Batman: The Ride opened at Six Flags Great America just outside of Chicago as the world’s first inverted roller coaster built by B&M. It has been cloned several times throughout the Six Flags chain and is considered to be one of the greatest achievements in the steel roller coaster industry.
Fast forward to 1999 and Islands of Adventure opens with featuring the world’s first dueling steel roller coaster: Dueling Dragons. Riders could choose to ride either Fire or Ice and soar through the air on the talons of a dragon with three near miss moments in the ride. While there are no signs of the caped crusader left in the attraction, clearly the concept was derived from the original Bat Wing attraction pitched by Gary Goddard and Landmark Entertainment in the early 1990’s.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to The Goddard Group for permission to use the images in this article.