By Andy Guinigundo
Kings Island near Cincinnati, Ohio is my hometown amusement park. I grew up and still reside in the area. I believe all folks deserve a gas tank amusement park to tide them over until they can get to Orlando or other amusement destinations. A gas tank amusement park is a park that one can get to and get home from with a single tank of gas. Kings Island has gone through changes over the years and 2010 is no exception.
In 1972, Kings Island opened with a children’s area that was eventually named Hanna-Barbera Land. You may recall some of the more popular Hanna Barbera characters: Scooby-Doo, Jetsons, Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and others. You may even recall the Brady Bunch episode that featured the Brady kids roaming around the park. Mike Brady, their TV father, was an architect. He was in a meeting with Kings Island executives to unveil new plans. When it came time for the big reveal, it was a poster of Yogi Bear rather than the plans. Hi-jinks ensued. Oh, good times.
The kid coaster in Hanna Barbera Land was initially the Scooby Doo Roller Coaster. I don’t remember specifically riding the coaster at that time. It’s a simple figure-eight woodie with Philadelphia Toboggan Company coaster cars. I do remember climbing on board when it was re-themed as The Beastie. This opened in 1979 to coincide with the opening of the wooden classic coaster The Beast. While the graphics on the cars of The Beast feature body-less clawed paws bound by chains, the red cars of The Beastie showed clawless smaller paws bound by rope. Along with a fresh coast of Beast-red paint for the wood coaster, a tunnel was included at the bottom of the initial hill to complete the theme.
In 2006, the whole area was themed as The Nickelodeon Universe. SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, and The Backyardigans are among Nick’s more popular characters. The same coaster evolved into The Fairly Odd Coaster themed after the The Fairly OddParents cartoon. Pink and purple paint abounded and the tunnel was removed. The kid-coaster count eventually swelled to four including a suspended coaster, a ramp coaster, a little kid coaster and the Fairly Odd Coaster – the most of any children’s themed area in an amusement park. Nickelodeon Universe has won several awards including the last several “Golden Ticket” Awards for the best kid-themed area.
Now, in 2010, the area is getting a complete make-over as Planet Snoopy. The 38-year-old little woodie continues on with yet another fresh coat of paint: baby blue and white this time. The as yet unnamed coaster will continue to thrill the park’s smaller guests, and make memories.
Stay tuned this spring for a complete before and after photo shoot of Planet Snoopy. I photographed the “before” the final weeks of Nicklodeon Universe during Kings Island’s Halloween event.
• Andy Guinigundo is the author of the Out of The Loop column in “Orlando Attractions Magazine”. Out of the Loop keeps you up-to-date with attraction news outside of Central Florida. Andy lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. He grew up frequenting theme parks around Ohio and making trips to Orlando with his family. While for most of the year, he’s out of the Orlando loop, he tries to visit Florida at least once a year.