It’s happened again. I hope you’re all sitting comfortably. You’ve accidentally started reading my intervention because I have a problem: video essays .
Videos on Youtube about abandoned concepts, discarded projects and attractions that have been replaced and discontinued in theme parks have been plaguing me all over summer. And I am even sure how it all started.
I’ve seemingly had a fascination for theme parks ever since I spent an entire summer locked inside playing ‘Rollercoaster Tycoon 2’ on my parents’ PC. The best part was, of course. designing the roller-coasters but something about the ability to customise the colours of the tracks, picking what music each attraction would play, and selecting what uniforms the management staff wore helped get me completely hooked. From tweaking prices of admission from $11.20 to $11.50 as an experiment to see how much that would impact the massive amounts of debt I’d put my fictional company under, the game grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It’s not like I can say I was good at them but, on reflection, it seems like management simulators formed a gigantic part of my childhood.
These videos, however, are a more recent phenomenon. I’ve not really been the type to watch long-form documentaries, or the TED-Talk lectures that I know a lot of my fellow students enjoy, but video essays have somehow got something else entirely. Every time I see a new thumbnail pop up into my recommended videos I’m compelled to click and find out more.
The content is usually a simple premise. Each one explaining the story behind a ride, attraction or element of a theme park that doesn’t exist anymore, oh, but trust me - that’s just the surface level. These videos delve into the history and origins of these ideas, explaining through whatever research the creators can find, recalling the fascinating motives and troubles the creators or organisations had to endure.
Even better, they cover the background context of whatever era they are taking place in! Some videos have gone back as far as explaining the business of the first type of roller coaster design, or explaining how the market grew for indoor play areas in the 1990s. These videos aren’t just recounting facts that anyone could read on a Wikipedia page, they are complex stories condensed into 20 minutes or less.
As with all stories, these contain a meaning for the viewer. Sometimes the lesson is of a success, or sometimes a failure. Hindsight is filled with stubborness and perseverance and, more often than not, they can be cautionary meanings to be found. Such as what happens when corporate intervention tries to boost footfall and kills original, inspirational ideas.
I had no idea before this craze that almost every section of Disney’s long history with amusement parks has been documented. Believe me, it’s fascinating to see this alternative and highly detailed history. One example would be Disney’s Epcot vision, shown right, started as an entire utopic future that Walt Disney wanted to create instead became a theme park based on the world of tomorrow. Even still, today it’s a lost and strange hybrid of ideas when the original sponsorships left, totally removed from what was originally pitched.
If this has given you any sort of inspiration to hunt these videos out, I’d recommend ‘Defunctland’ created by Kevin Perjurer as a great starting point. Its detailed, self-referential and amusing, but mostly it covers a very unbiased look at the market and context at large.
But for me? I’ve since downloaded an open-source version of Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 called ‘OpenRCT2’, which runs better on my Macbook than it ever did on my gigantic desktop, bathing in this nostalgia hit before it wears out and I’m back to listening to Pop-punk music from 2007 again.