Monday, August 30, 2010

A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 6

Editor's note: This is the 6th part of a series looking back at the park. Don't miss Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, and Part 5.

Summer is winding down, and after traveling and covering the news of a very busy industry I've finally found time to continue my series on the MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park. When we left off we had just finished looking at Tumbleweed Gulch, and we now move onto New Orleans Street.

© Mike Brister

New Orleans Street contained two shows and one premier ride, and was one of the larger themed areas of MGM Grand Adventures. Like most areas the theming was well done, above we see a steam train that was located in the area that was just for show.

© Mike Brister

The Cotton Blossom was a larger riverboat that was parked on the central lagoon that bordered New Orleans Street. Originally the restaurant featured "authentic New Orleans-style food served in the ambiance of the French Quarter." The restaurant lasted until the Sky Screamer was added, at which point it was torn down to make room for the thrill ride.

© Mike Brister

The Magic Screen Theatre sat prominently along New Orleans Street, and featured some very unique entertainment. When the park opened, two different shows shared the venue, Kaleidoscope (a black light magic show) and The Three Stooges (comedy act featuring Stooge look-alikes as well as old video clips of the trio).

The Kaleidoscope show seems like it was a rather interesting combination of different performance techniques. An official description read: "Kaleidoscope is a rousing musical revue that combines black lights, special effects, film and live performance to create a 25 minute extravaganza of high-tech fun." It sounds like it really had a little bit of everything!

© Mike Brister

The Kaleidoscope actually show should be credited with the creation of this series of articles. It's how I ended up being contacted about the park by Mr. Brister! Above are three photos of the show and its props. Notice that King Louie made an appearance during the show.

I'm unsure exactly how long Kaleidoscope and The Three Stooges played at the Magic Screen Theatre, but when I visited in 1997 a Beatles tribute band and a magic show featuring Hans Moretti were playing.

New Orleans Street's only ride was the Grand Canyon Rapids, an attraction that would have fit better in the Western themed area. I'm only okay with maps, but I'm pretty sure New Orleans and the Grand Canyon are pretty far apart.

Regardless, the ride stretched for at least half the length of park, taking up a great deal of the left side of MGM Grand Adventures. Whether or not the thematic setting was correct, the entrance for the ride was to the left of the Magic Screen Theatre, set well within the boundaries of New Orleans Street.

At the core Grand Canyon Rapids was a river rapids ride, provided by Intamin. The rafts each sat 9 riders, but I think that would have been quite a tight fit. Naturally there was plenty of interaction with the water, but you certainly didn't come off the ride soaking wet. It was a long river adventure through the Wild West, and featured very rich theming along the way.

The theming of the attraction was done by R&R Creative Amusement Designs, who also designed the Backlot River Tour. Above are two of the company's concepts for different scenes along Grand Canyon Rapids.

© Mike Brister

And here is a photo that shows a section of the completed attraction, representing part of the first concept drawing above. This was really the only section of the ride that you could clearly see from the midways, as the rest of the ride's path ran behind several buildings and along the park's border.

© Mike Brister

The ending of Grand Canyon Rapids was especially fun. The rafts entered a blasting tunnel that featured an awful lot of dynamite. It was a really explosive finish! When the smoke cleared the rafts came out of the tunnel in the photo above.

These screen caps are from a video that R&R Creative has on their website. To get a better idea of the scenes here's the official description.

"Race along swirling white water rapids in a nine seat inner tubes without tracks! Brave rafters will be whisked away on the wild currents of Wilderness Rapids. Churn through the dangerous foaming water of Flash Flood Gulch. Take cover, there's a gun fight up ahead. Shoot 'em up and shoot on down between towering Canyon Cliffs and the Lost Caverns. Say howdy to Dynamite Sam then hold tight as you explode out of the Blasting Tunnel."

Bing still has an aerial of the attraction loaded on its website, which is a really nice treat. Granted the entire station and ride hardware looks to have been ripped out, but the layout and theming is still there. The station was on the right where the circular path is, followed by the lift hill. After meandering through the trees for a bit the rafts encountered the flooded town, and the first indoor section with the gun fight.

 © Mark de Jong

After that it was into the high canyon walls, and then into two different indoor sections, the caverns and the dynamite finale.

MGM Grand Adventures also featured a large comedic stunt show, named Dueling Pirates. I'm including the show in the New Orleans section, but really it straddled three themed areas and I'm not sure exactly which one was its official home.

The show took place in the 950 seat Pirate's Cove Theatre, which was not fully enclosed but did feature covered seating.

The show's plot focused on Jake the First Mate as he battles to free the princess from the 'bad guy' pirates. Naturally, there was a lot of jokes included with the stunts.

© Mike Brister

© Mike Brister

© Mark de Jong

The stage for the show featured this large ship with a castle type background. The actors used the entire set for the various high-flying stunts. The show was quite good as far as stunt shows go, and if you'd like to see the production there is a video of it available on YouTube.

There is now only one themed area of MGM Grand Adventures left that we haven't taken a look at, and that's Olde England Street. Tucked below New Orleans Street, Olde England served to connect that side of the park with the New York section, completing the "loop."

© Mike Brister

The photo above shows pretty much the entire Olde England Street. There were no rides or attractions in the area, just a Burger King and one retail outlet, named Behind The Scenes Craft Company.

Now that we've come full circle in checking out the park, all that's left is the depressing part of the many changes the park experienced in its last years, and finally its removal. That'll be our last section - coming soon.