The Wonderland Years: Wizard’s Fury

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 18th March 2014.

The final ride under my area’s responsibility at Australia’s Wonderland was the Wizard’s Fury, manufactured as the Bayern Kurve in 1973. A toboggan style train, riders would be sent round and round a circular track at 50km/h, passing through a house, presumably the aforementioned wizard’s crib. Part of the original 1985 ride lineup, it was also inherited from Kings Island Amusement Park, Ohio, owned at the time by Wonderland’s parent company, Premier Parks.

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The neat thing about the attraction was that the sixteen toboggans tipped towards the centre during the cycle, giving riders the false perception that they’d be decapitated by the entranceway of the house. Fun, huh?

As an operator, the biggest challenge operating Wizard’s Fury was the noise. It was a really loud ride. Being trapped for hours at a time behind the operating console which was located inside a three sided glass windowed booth usually resulted in headaches and some degree of hearing loss. Ear muff style hearing protection was supplied but I rarely wore them because I couldn’t hear the phone ringing, and it would mess up my hair. Hey,I was a single, reasonable looking guy wearing a disgusting green and white striped uniform for $7 an hour. I needed all the help I could get.

Come to think of it, I must have industrial hearing loss. I am quite partial to the music of Phil Collins. I better call my lawyer.

Despite the attempts to theme the ride as a magical journey through a mysterious dwelling, I always thought that the experience was diminished somewhat by the fact that the house doubled as the ride maintenance workshop. Instead of vials of dry ice bubbling in coloured water and the like, riders instead enjoyed the feast for the eyes which was oily rags, containers of degreaser and spare ride tyres. Mmm, magical.

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Wizard’s Fury was not rainproof either. As soon as the park received a light sprinkling, the slippery ride motor wheels would squeal as they attempted in vain to push the train up the track. Oh dear, time to empty the queue line and call in a 61 Delta, Wonderland code for a ride down due to inclement weather, and my code for kicking back in the booth with my feet up.

Closing the ride at the end of the day was a little tricky too. We were under instruction to finish on time. If the park closed at 5pm, we were required to cut off the queue so that the final riders would go through at 5pm. Unfortunately, with the queue behind me, it was pretty hard to know if crafty guests had snuck onto the line, usually resulting in a late finish with no overtime. Wonderful Wonderland indeed.

Wizard’s Fury was closed in 2002 when the track and carriages succumbed to rust (I did say that the ride wasn’t rainproof). The wizard’s mechanical workshop didn’t go to waste. The site and theming were utilised as the new home for the Galleons Graveyard attraction which was relocated from the defunct Hanna Barbera Land.

Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 22:59  Leave a Comment  
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The Wonderland Years: The Zodiac

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th March 2014.

The Zodiac was not originally part of my area of the rides department at Australia’s Wonderland. Sometime during my employment we inherited this twin arm gondola attraction, originally manufactured in 1974 under the name Star Wheel, from Hanna Barbera Land. Wonderland itself inherited The Zodiac. It was transplanted from its original home at Kings Island Amusement Park in Ohio in 1989. At the time, both Wonderland and Kings Island had the same parent company, Premier Parks. How such a huge ride is transported from one side of the planet to the other is beyond my comprehension. I presume it wasn’t in the overhead compartment.

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Whilst not the most exciting of attractions, it certainly produced its fair share of sick guests, mostly because riders had the ability to spin their gondola by turning a wheel located in the centre. Guests would emerge from their 5 minute captivity in the oversized birdcages and stumble towards the nearest garbage bin or garden bed. Most didn’t make it. As always, a little kitty litter would do the trick, followed by a phone call for some poor sucker from the park services department to attend with a dustpan and brush.

The legend amongst ride staff was that there was once a competition to see how long operators and loaders could hang onto the base legs of the gondolas as they ascended before they had to let go and fall to the ground below, landing safely I assume. Now as a proponent of workplace health and safety, I in no way condone this activity, however, I did try it, just the once. I got maybe 2 metres off the ground before I had to drop away, way too concerned for my ability to walk (and possibly talk) in the future. I hate heights and the idea of falling almost as much as I hate the idea of falling from a height onto concrete. And certainly not for $7 an hour.

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Operating The Zodiac was a boring affair. Stuck up in a raised booth, you had little contact with anyone. Wait for the loader to lock the twelve gondola doors and press two buttons when you received the thumbs up. My boredom was only broken by the occasional visit from my girlfriend at the time (she worked as a character escort) and one of my best mates, Anthony, in the disguise of Fred Flintstone or Captain Caveman. Normally silent when interacting with customers, it was always amusing for me to hear Fred complain about the heat, swear about the smell in the costume, give me a rude gesture and be on his way. Yabba-dabba-don’t-do-that-in-front-of-paying-guests.

From the booth, you had a bird’s eye view of the backstage area of the Hanna Barbera Stage. My favourite moment was catching Play School’s John Hamlin having a cheeky fag whilst only metres away sat hundreds of toddlers awaiting Big Ted and company.

The Zodiac closed with the park in 2004 and is now presumably rusting away in a scrap yard somewhere.

Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 22:56  Comments (1)  
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