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Top 4 Reasons Why Walk Through Attractions Don’t Work

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.

The infamous “NOT AN AMUSEMENT PARK” photo – although they added some really strange “additions” below it – after Six Flags cancelled the “NOT AN AMUSEMENT PARK” campaign.  The smaller additions below it make no sense at all and even add to the confusion with regard to “what” The Power Plant was going to offer once it opened. Copyright The Goddard Group  All Rights Reserved

The infamous “NOT AN AMUSEMENT PARK” photo – although they added some really strange “additions” below it – after Six Flags cancelled the “NOT AN AMUSEMENT PARK” campaign. The smaller additions below it make no sense at all and even add to the confusion with regard to “what” The Power Plant was going to offer once it opened.
Copyright The Goddard Group
All Rights Reserved

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.

Copyright Erebus Haunted House

Copyright Erebus Haunted House

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.  

Six Flags Power Plant

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

Courtesy Mousesteps.com

Courtesy Mousesteps.com

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. 

Swiss Family Treehouse Standby

#2 Capacity

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.  

Swiss Family Treehouse

#1 Pacing

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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Comment Below


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  1. fan51
    Posted April 6, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I wonder who is challenging you since they are not reflected in the comments. I largely agree with your reasons for why Walk Through Attractions Don’t Work, but sometimes they do work. SeaWorld has this model of walk throughs and rides. SeaWorld’s animal exhibits are walk through attractions. It also has a decent supply of themed rides to give the guests more things to do. Power Plant only has two walk throughs and zero rides. What if it has walk throughs with a few extra rides? This will increase park capacity, increase ticket sales, and improve pacing as the crowds are more evenly dispersed.

    The Disneyland model is a bit different. The park is large and it has a decent mix of thrilling and gentle rides. Guests are on their feet all day long. The queues are long. Wanting to sit down for an attraction is natural. Animal Kingdom has walk through animal exhibits although safari is a sit down attraction. Epcot’s Living Seas has a ride in the beginning, but it has the walk through sea life aquariums.

  2. plantaloons
    Posted April 7, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I think as a a “new” attraction in a disney park they may not work, but there are some instances that they can be effective. For example, here in the UK Merlin own and operate Warwick Castle and have opened Dungeon attraction there. Admittedly, Warwick Castle is essentially a full day walk through attraction. But unlike other Dungeon attractions this one works on a timed reservation basis (also at a charge). It rarely sells out and shows start every 15 minutes. It also has the distinction of being the only Dungeon attraction to be set in actual historic castle, (the actual castle dungeon is very small, but does host it’s own attraction at Halloween, which scared the jackanapes out of me). And the finale is also without a doubt the scariest in any of the Dungeons across the UK. It works wellm, because the groups are fairly intimate. Whereas at London and Edinburgh the groups are usually huge (I was one of 32 at Edinburgh on Saturday), which detracts from the scares and atmosphere.

    On the other hand, they were operating a walk through based on the TV show Merlin (which I believed finished at the end of last season), which was absolutely pants.

  3. TheDemko
    Posted May 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I think walkthrough attractions can work, if there are timed sections to be experienced, and if each section has some sort of story giving justification for the party moving on. That’s why the Tut’s Tomb experience at Busch Gardens was great, because every part of the ‘tour’, you found yourself accompanied by a storyteller of sorts. If that sort of thing could be built into the environment, a bit more organically, then the walkthrough experience can work. And if it does truly work, then word of mouth will make that a profitable attraction, since not many other walkthroughs have earned word of mouth recommendations.

    I hate to bring it back to Evermore, because of the whole shutdown thing, but honestly, THAT sounds like the type of ‘walkthrough’ attractions that would work rather well. Instead of telling the story through dumb animatronics while you sit in a run-of-the-mill vehicle… have live actors be the ones telling the stories. Let the guests *experience* the story, rather than just ‘ride the story’.

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